WHEREIN WILLIS THE PILOT PROVES “IRREFRAGABLY” THAT EPHEMERIDES DIE OF CONSUMPTION AND HOME-SICKNESS—THE CANOE AND ITS YOUNG ONES—THE SEARCH AFTER THE SLOOP—FOUND—THE SWORD-FISH—FLOATING ATOMS—ADMIRAL SOCRATES.
When they had come within a short distance of the bay, Jack thought he saw a large black creature moving in the bushes that lined the shore.
“A sea monster!” he cried, levelling his musket; “I discovered it, and have the right to the first shot.”
“No, sir,” said Fritz, whose keen eye was a sort of locomotive telescope, “I object to that, for I do not want you to kill or wound my canoe.”
“Nonsense, it moves.”
“Whether it moves or not, we shall all see by and by; but do you not observe this monster’s young ones gambolling by its side?”
“Which proves I am right, unless you mean to say your canoe has been hatching,” and Jack again levelled his rifle.
“Don’t fire, it is the hat and jacket of Willis!”
“What!” exclaimed Ernest, “is the Pilot a triton then, that he could dispense with the canoe?”
“Well, yes, unless the canoe has found its way back of its own accord, which would indeed make it an intelligent creature.”
“The Pilot has evidently reached Shark’s Island by swimming, in spite of surf and breakers—a feat almost without a parallel.”
“Bah!” said Ernest, parodying Jack’s witticism about the oars, “what does a pilot care about surf and breakers?”
Strongly moored in a creek of the Jackal River, and protected by a bluff, forming a screen between it and the sea, the pinnace had in no way suffered from the storm.
The swell was so violent, that they had a world of trouble in making the island; as they approached, Willis, who had made a speaking-trumpet by joining his hands round his mouth, was roaring out alternately, “starboard,” “larboard,” “hard-a-port,” just as if these terms had not been Hebrew to the impromptu mariners.
At last, tired of holloaing, “Stop a bit,” he said, “I shall find a quicker way;” with that he threw himself directly into the sea, and cut through the waves towards them as if his arms had been driven by a steam engine.
Arrived on board, he gave a vigorous turn to the tiller, laid hold of the sheet, let out a reef here, took in another there; the pinnace was soon completely at his command, and behaved admirably; true, she pitched furiously, and the gunwale was under water at every plunge. He headed along the coast till the point beyond which Fritz had first observed the Nelson was fairly doubled; some days before this point was called Cape Deliverance, it was now, perhaps, about to acquire the term of Cape Disappointment, but for the moment its future designation was in embryo.
Leaping on the poop, Willis carefully scanned the horizon as the boat rose upon the summit of the waves; but seeing nothing, he at last leapt down again with an expression of rage that, under other circumstances, would have been irresistibly comic. Abandoning the direction of the pinnace, he went and sat down on a bulk-head, and covered his face with his hands, in an attitude of profound desolation.