Nautilus eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 90 pages of information about Nautilus.
knew he should get a whipping when he reached home, but that was of less consequence.  Anyhow, she was an old vessel, and now the captain would get a new ship—­a fine one, full rigged, with new sails as white as snow; and on his next voyage he would take him, the boy John, in place of the faithless mate, and they would sail away, away, down the river and far across the ocean, and then,—­then he would hear the sound of the sea.  After all, you never could hear it in the river, though that was, oh, so much better than nothing!  But the things that the shells meant when they whispered, the things that the wind said over and over in the pine trees, those things you never could know until you heard the real sound of the real sea.

The child rose and stretched himself wearily.  He had had a happy time, but it was over now; he must leave the water, which he cared more for than for anything in the world,—­must leave the water and go back to the small close house, and go to bed, and dream no more dreams.  Ah! when would some one come,—­no play hero, but a real one, in a white-sailed ship, and carry him off, never to set foot on shore again?

He turned to go, for the shadows were falling, and already a fog had crept up the river, almost hiding the brown, swiftly-flowing water; yet before leaving the wharf he turned back once more and looked up and down, with eyes that strove to pierce the fog veil,—­eager, longing eyes of a child, who hopes every moment to see the doors open into fairy-land.

And lo! what was this that he saw?  What was this that came gliding slowly, silently out of the dusk, out of the whiteness, itself whiter than the river fog, more shadowy than the films of twilight?  The child held his breath, and his heart beat fast, fast.  A vessel, or the ghost of a vessel?  Nearer and nearer it came, and now he could see masts and spars, sails spread to catch the faint breeze, gleaming brass-work about the decks.  A vessel, surely; yet,—­what was that?  The fog lifted for a moment, or else his eyes grew better used to the dimness, and he saw a strange thing.  On the prow of the vessel, which now was seen to be a schooner, stood a figure; a statue, was it?  Surely it was a statue of bronze, like the Soldiers’ Monument, leaning against the mast, with folded arms.

Nearer!  Fear seized the boy, for he thought the statue had eyes like real eyes, and he saw them move, as if looking from right to left; the whites glistened, the dark balls rolled from side to side.  The child stood still, feeling as if he had called up this phantom out of his own thoughts; perhaps in another minute it would fade away into the fog, as it had come, and leave only the flowing tide and the shrouded banks on either side!

Nearer! and now the bronze figure lifted its arm, slowly, silently, and pointed at the boy.  But this was more than flesh and blood could stand; little John uttered a choking cry, and turning his back on the awful portent, ran home as fast as he could lay foot to ground.  And on seeing this the bronze figure laughed, and its teeth glistened, even as the eyes had done.

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Nautilus from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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