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topsail once more, and getting the spinnaker to the bowsprit-end again.
This additional canvas had the effect of increasing our speed to fully sixteen knots; and the alteration of our course produced a corresponding and very agreeable change in the motion of the yacht; the quick jerky plunge of a vessel digging into a head sea being exchanged for a long easy swinging roll, which was far more conducive to comfort, especially as we now enjoyed the added luxury of a dry deck.
Three days passed utterly devoid of incident, except that the wind gradually hauled far enough aft to enable us to shift our spinnaker from the bowsprit-end to the starboard side; and once more we were flying along upon with the wind nearly dead fair, and every stitch of canvas spread that we had the means of packing upon the little craft.
With our low hull, we must have presented the appearance of a snow-white pyramid, gliding, unsupported, over the surface of the ocean. On the morning of the fourth day, as I came upon
deck at seven bells to relieve Bob, whilst he looked after breakfast, the old fellow said, “Here, Harry, your eyes are younger than mine; what d'ye make this out to be away here broad upon our starboard bow ?”
I looked in the direction indicated, and saw what appeared to be the stumps of three spars just showing above the horizon. I took the glass, and went aloft as far as the crosstrees, and from that “coign of 'vantage” made out that they were the lower-masts of a full-rigged ship of considerable size; for I could see the three lower yards with long streamers of canvas fluttering from them.
The topmasts were carried away close to the caps and hung over the side, with topgallantmasts, yards, sails, etc., still attached, a great tangled mass of wreck.
There was no signal of distress flying on board so far as I could see, so I concluded that the vessel was derelict ; but as it would not take us very much out of our way, and as we were in no great hurry, I resolved to haul up and take a nearer look at her.
Accordingly, having advised Bob of what I had seen and of my intention, we took in the spinnaker and gaff-topsail, lowered the topmast, and then hauled
for the stranger. An hour afterwards we were near enough to make out that she was a most beautiful craft of about eighteen hundred tons register, with very little the matter with her apparently, except that she had been dismasted, doubtless in some sudden squall.
We saw but one boat at her davits, and that was the one at her starboard quarter, which had been smashed completely in two by the wreck of the mizzen-topmast in its fall; we therefore concluded that the crew, seized by an unaccountable panic, had left her.
We were within a quarter of a mile of the vessel, when a solitary figure, that of a female, appeared upon her lofty poop. She no sooner saw us approaching than she waved her handkerchief to us vehemently, to which we responded by waving our hats; when, seeing that her signal had been observed, she sank down upon the lid of the skylight, and seemed to give way to a violent flood of tears.
“Why, me if it don't look as if the mean cowardly crew have been and desarted the poor thing,” exclaimed Bob with unusual vehemence, as we noticed that the figure never moved as though to direct the attention of others to our approach.
" It looks very like it," I replied ; " but we shall soon see. It will be an awkward matter to board, however, with all that wreck dangling about to leeward. Stand by to ease the jibsheet up, as I put the helm down.”
Another minute, and we were hove to on the ship’s lee quarter, as near as we dared approach.
The young girl (for such we now saw her to be) had by this time so far recovered her composure as to rise up once more and approach the lee side of the deck.
Taking off my hat, and making my best bow, I hailed : “ Are
all alone on board there?" “Yes, oh yes,” she replied, in the sweetest voice I had ever heard; “I have been quite alone for more than a week. Pray, pray do not go away and leave me again, sir. I have been nearly mad, and I shall die if I remain alone here much longer.”
“ Make your mind quite easy, my dear young lady," I replied ; "we certainly will not leave you, come what may But it will be very difficult for us to get on board, with those spars swaying about; and the attempt to do so may occupy much time. But do not suffer the slightest apprehension ; we will get you off the wreck somehow, never fear.
After all,” I remarked, half to her and half to Bob, “I believe the quickest way out of the difficulty will be for me to jump overboard and swim alongside; there are plenty of ropes-ends hanging over the side to help me on board.”
" Oh no, sir!” she exclaimed eagerly ; "indeed you must do nothing of the kind. There is an immense shark down there,” pointing under the counter ; "he has scarcely left the ship a moment since the sailors went away.”
This was awkward. There seemed no chance of being able to get on board to leeward, the