So on October 30, at six in the morning, after being commended to God by Mr. Paz, we worked out of Savannah-la-Mar, and, having gained an offing with a light breeze, hoisted all her bits of canvas, even to a light jib-topsail we found on board—chiefly, I think, to impress her late owner, whom we could descry on the shore, watching us. He had steadfastly refused to believe us capable of handling a boat, whereas of our party Plinny and Mr. Goodfellow were the only landlubbers. Miss Belcher could take the helm with the best of us, and indeed it was reported of her that she had on more than one occasion played helmswoman to a run of goods upon her own Cornish estate. Mr. Jack Rogers had once owned a yacht and suffered from tedium; now, as a foremast hand, he was enjoying himself amazingly.
But the pride above all prides was Captain Branscome’s. After many years he trod a deck again, commander of his own ship; and the bearing of the man was that of a prince restored after long exile to his kingdom. Courteous as ever to the ladies, to the rest of us he behaved as a master, noble but severe, unwearied in explaining the least minutiae of seamanship, inexorable in seeing that his smallest instruction was obeyed. Mr. Rogers at the end of the first day confided to me that he had much ado to refrain from touching his forelock whenever he heard the skipper’s voice.
I shall not be believed if I say that in all the five days of our voyage Captain Branscome never snatched a wink of sleep. Doubtless he did sleep, between whiles; but doubtless also no one saw him do it.
It was daybreak or thereabouts on the morning of November 5—and a faint light coming through the decklight over the fo’c’s’le—when I, that had kept the middle watch and was now snoring in my bunk, sat up at a touch on my shoulder, and stared, rubbing my eyes, into the dim face of Mr. Goodfellow.
“Skipper wants you on deck,” he announced. “We’ve lifted something on the starboard bow, and he swears ’tis the Island.”
WE ANCHOR OFF THE ISLAND.
The word fetched me out of my bunk like a shot from a gun. I ran past him, scrambled up the fo’c’s’le ladder, and gained the deck in time to see Miss Belcher emerge from the after-companion upon the dawn, her hair in a “bun,” her bare feet thrust into loose felt slippers, her form wrapped in a Newmarket overcoat closely buttoned over her robe de nuit.
“The Island, ma’am!” announced Captain Branscome from the helm; and, turning there by the fo’c’s’le hatch and following the gesture of his hand, I descried a purplish smear on the southern horizon. To me it looked but a low-lying cloud or a fogbank.