During this week the Nancy Bell sailed along the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. She went inside of Martha’s Vineyard, through Vineyard Sound, in company with a great fleet of coasters; but when they passed Gay Head, and turned to the westward into Long Island Sound, the Nancy was headed towards the lonely light-house on Montauk Point, the extreme end of Long Island. From here her course was for the Cape May lightship on the New Jersey coast, and for some time she was out of sight of land.
So they sailed, day after day, ever southward, and towards the warmth which was to make Mr. Elmer well again.
Although Mark was very ill all this time, Ruth was as bright and well as though she were on land. This was very mortifying to her brother; but “Captain Li,” who went in to see him every day, comforted him by telling him of old sailors he had known who were always sea-sick for the first few days of every voyage they undertook.
The schooner was off Cape Hatteras before Mark felt able to leave his berth. At last, one evening when the sea was very quiet, “Captain Li” said, “Come, Mark, I want you to turn out and go on deck to see the last of Hatteras Light. You know Cape Hatteras is one of the worst capes along our entire Atlantic coast, and is probably the one most dreaded by sailors. When coming home from the West Indies, they sing an old song which begins:
“’Now if the Bermudas
let you pass,
Then look for Cape Hatteras.’”
Slowly dressing, with the captain’s aid, Mark, feeling very weak, but free from the horrible sickness from which he had suffered so long, managed to get out on deck. He was astonished at the change that one week’s sailing southward had made in the general appearance of things. When he was last on deck, it and the rigging were covered with snow and ice. Now not a particle of either was to be seen, and the air was mild and pleasant. A new moon hung low in the western sky, and over the smooth sea the schooner was rippling along merrily, under every stitch of canvas that she could spread.
Mark received a warm welcome from his father, mother, and Ruth, who were all on deck, but had not expected to see him there that evening.
“Quick, Mark! Look! Hatteras is ’most gone,” said Ruth, pointing, as she spoke, to a little twinkle of light so far astern that it seemed to rest on the very waters. Half an hour later the captain said, “Now let’s go below, where it is warmer; and if you care to hear it, I will spin you a yarn of Hatteras Light.”
“Yes, indeed,” said Ruth and Mark together.
“By all means; a story is just the thing,” said Mr. and Mrs. Elmer, also together, at which they all laughed, hooked little fingers, and wished.
When they had made themselves comfortable in the cabin, Mark being allowed to occupy the lounge on account of his recent illness, the captain began as follows: