“The captain’s body was washed up on the beach, and a week from that day we took it and the news of his death together to his wife in New York.
“Since then I have always felt easier when I have left Hatteras Light well astern, as we have for this time, at any rate. Well, there’s eight bells, and I must be on deck, so good-night to you all, and pleasant dreams.”
“Is there any such thing as a ‘death-light’ that warns people of coming disaster?” asked Ruth of her father, when the captain had left them.
“No, my dear,” he answered, “there is not. The St. Elmo’s light, or St. Elmo’s fire, is frequently seen in tropical seas, though rarely as far north as Cape Hatteras; and as it is generally accompanied by cyclones or hurricanes, sailors have come to regard it as an omen of evil. It is not always followed by evil consequences, however, and to believe that it foretells death is as idle and foolish as superstitions of all kinds always are.”
A wreck on the Florida reef.
After leaving Hatteras not another evidence of land was seen by the passengers of the Nancy Bell for three days. At last one afternoon “Captain Li” pointed out and called their attention to a slender shaft rising apparently from the sea itself, far to the westward. He told them that it was the light-house at Jupiter Inlet, well down on the coast of Florida, and they regarded it with great interest, as giving them their first glimpse of the land that was so soon to be their home.
The weather had by this time become very warm and instead of wearing the thick clothing with which they had started, the Elmers found the very thinnest of their last summer’s things all that they could bear.
Mark had almost forgotten his sea-sickness, and spent much of his time with Jan Jansen, who taught him to make knots and splices, to box the compass and to steer. Both Mark and Ruth were tanned brown by the hot sun, and Mr. Elmer said the warmth of the air had already made a new man of him.
Before the light but steady trade-wind, that kept the air deliciously cool, the Nancy Bell ran rapidly down the coast and along the great Florida Reef, which, for two hundred miles, bounds that coast on the south.
Captain Drew stood far out from the reef, being well aware of the strong currents that set towards it from all directions, and which have enticed many a good ship to her destruction. Others, however, were not so wise as he, and at daylight one morning the watch on deck sang out,
“Wreck off the starboard bow!”
This brought all hands quickly on deck, and, sure enough, about five miles from them they saw the wreck looming high out of the water, and evidently stranded. As her masts, with their crossed yards, were still standing, “Captain Li” said she must have struck very easily, and stood a good chance of being saved if she could only be lightened before a blow came that would roll a sea in on her.