CHAPTER VIII  "S-H-E-N-A-N-D-O-A-H"

    He had slept an hour and more when he was brought to his senses by a thin and prolonged shriek. It was Emmeline in a nightmare, or more properly a day-mare, brought on by a meal of sardines and the haunting memory of the gibbly gobbly-ums. When she was shaken (it always took a considerable time to bring her to, from these seizures) and comforted, the mast was restepped.

    As Mr. Button stood with his hand on the spar looking round him before going aft with the sheet, an object struck his eye some three miles ahead. Objects rather, for they were the masts and spars of a small ship rising from the water. Not a vestige of sail, just the naked spars. It might have been a couple of old skeleton trees jutting out of the water for all a landsman could have told.

    He stared at this sight for twenty or thirty seconds without speaking, his head projected like the head of a tortoise. Then he gave a wild "Hurroo! "

    "What is it, Paddy?" asked Dick.

    "Hurroo!" replied Button. "Ship ahoy! ship ahoy! Lie to till I be afther boardin' you. Sure, they are lyin' to--divil a rag of canvas on her--are they aslape or dhramin'? Here, Dick, let me get aft wid the sheet; the wind'll take us up to her quicker than we'll row."

    He crawled aft and took the tiller; the breeze took the sail, and the boat forged ahead.

    "Is it daddy's ship?" asked Dick, who was almost as excited as his friend.

   "I dinno; we'll see when we fetch her."

   "Shall we go on her, Mr. Button?" asked Emmeline.

   "Ay will we, honey."

   Emmeline bent down, and fetching her parcel from under the seat, held it in her lap.

   As they drew nearer, the outlines of the ship became more apparent. She was a small brig, with stump topmasts, from the spars a few rags of canvas fluttered. It was apparent soon to the old sailor's eye what was amiss with her.

   "She's derelick, bad cess to her! " he muttered; "derelick and done for--just me luck!"

   "I can't see any people on the ship," cried Dick, who had crept forward to the bow. "Daddy's not there."

    The old sailor let the boat off a point or two, so as to get a view of the brig more fully; when they were within twenty cable lengths or so he unstepped the mast and took to the sculls.

    The little brig floated very low on the water, and presented a mournful enough appearance; her running rigging all slack, shreds of canvas flapping at the yards, and no boats hanging at her davits. It was easy enough to see that she was a timber ship, and that she had started a butt, flooded herself and been abandoned.

    Paddy lay on his oars within a few strokes of her. She was floating as placidly as though she were in the harbour of San Francisco; the green water showed in her shadow, and in the green water waved the tropic weeds that were growing from her copper. Her paint was blistered and burnt absolutely as though a hot iron had been passed over it, and over her taffrail hung a large rope whose end was lost to sight ill the water.

    A few strokes brought them under the stern. The name of the ship was there in faded letters, also the port to which she belonged. "Shenandoah. Martha's Vineyard."

    "There's letters on her," said Mr. Button. "But I can't make thim out. I've no larnin'."

   "I can read them," said Dick.

   "So c'n I," murmured Emmeline.

   "S-H-E-N-A-N-D-O-A H," spelt Dick.

   "What's that?" enquired Paddy.

   "I don't know," replied Dick, rather downcastedly.

   "There you are!" cried the oarsman in a disgusted manner, pulling the boat round to the starboard side of the brig. "They pritind to tache letters to childer in schools, pickin' their eyes out wid book-readin', and here's letters as big as me face an' they can't make hid or tail of them--be dashed to book-readin'!

    The brig had old-fashioned wide channels, regular platforms; and she floated so low in the water that they were scarcely a foot above the level of the dinghy.

    Mr. Button secured the boat by passing the painter through a channel plate, then, with Emmeline and her parcel in his arms or rather in one arm, he clambered over the channel and-passed her over the rail on to the deck. Then it was Dick's turn, and the children stood waiting whilst the old sailor brought the beaker of water, the biscuit, and the tinned stuff on board.

    It was a place to delight the heart of a boy, the deck of the *Shenandoah*; forward right from the main hatchway it was laden with timber. Running rigging lay loose on the deck in coils, and nearly the whole of the quarter-deck was occupied by a deck-house. The place had a delightful smell of sea-beach, decaying wood, tar, and mystery. Bights of buntline and other ropes were dangling from above, only waiting to be swung from. A bell was hung just forward of the foremast. In half a moment Dick was forward hammering at the bell with a belaying pin he had picked from the deck.

    Mr. Button shouted to him to desist; the sound of the bell jarred on his nerves. It sounded like a summons, and a summons on that deserted craft was quite out of place. Who knew what mightn't answer it in the way of the supernatural?

    Dick dropped the belaying pin and ran forward. He took the disengaged hand, and the three went aft to the door of the deck-house. The door was open, and they peeped in.

    The place had three windows on the starboard side, and through the windows the sun was shining in a mournful manner. There was a table in the middle of the place. A seat was pushed away from the table as if someone had risen in a hurry. On the table lay the remains of a meal, a teapot, two teacups, two plates. On one of the plates rested a fork with a bit of putrifying bacon upon it that some one had evidently been conveying to his mouth when something had happened. Near the teapot stood a tin of condensed milk, haggled open. Some old salt had just been in the act of putting milk in his tea when the mysterious something had occurred. Never did a lot of dead things speak so eloquently as these things spoke.

    One could conjure it all up. The skipper, most likely, had finished his tea, and the mate was hard at work at his, when the leak had been discovered, or some derelict had been run into, or whatever it was had happened--happened.

    One thing was evident, that since the abandonment of the brig she had experienced fine weather, else the things would not have been left standing so trimly on the table.

    Mr. Button and Dick entered the place to prosecute enquiries, but Emmeline remained at the door. The charm of the old brig appealed to her almost as much as to Dick, but she had a feeling about it quite unknown to him. A ship where no one was had about it suggestions of "other things."

    She was afraid to enter the gloomy deckhouse, and afraid to remain alone outside; she compromised matters by sitting down on the deck. Then she placed the small bundle beside her, and hurriedly took the rag-doll from her pocket, into which it was stuffed head down, pulled its calico skirt from over its head, propped it up against the coaming of the door, and told it not to be afraid.

    There was not much to be found in the deck-house, but aft of it were two small cabins like rabbit hutches, once inhabited by the skipper and his mate. Here there were great findings in the way of rubbish. Old clothes, old boots, an old top-hat of that extraordinary pattern you may see in the streets of Pernambuco, immensely tall, and narrowing towards the brim. A telescope without a lens, a volume of Hoyt, a nautical almanac, a great bolt of striped flannel shirting, a box of fish hooks. And in one corner--glorious find!--a coil of what seemed to be ten yards or so of black rope.

    "Baccy, begorra! " shouted Pat, seizing upon his treasure. It was pigtail. You may see coils of it in the tobacconists' windows of seaport towns. A pipe full of it would make a hippopotamus vomit, yet old sailors chew it and smoke it and revel in it.

    "We'll bring all the lot of the things out on deck, and see what's worth keepin' an' what's worth leavin'," said Mr Button, taking an immense armful of the old truck; whilst Dick, carrying the top-hat, upon which he had instantly seized as his own special booty, led the way.

    "Em," shouted Dick, as he emerged from the doorway, "see what I've got!"

    He popped the awful-looking structure over his head. It went right down to his shoulders.

   Emmeline gave a shriek.

   "It smells funny," said Dick, taking it off and applying his nose to the inside of it--"smells like an old hair brush. Here, you try it on."

    Emmeline scrambled away as far as she could, till she reached the starboard bulwarks, where she sat in the scupper, breathless and speechless and wide-eyed. She was always dumb when frightened (unless it were a nightmare or a very sudden shock), and this hat suddenly seen half covering Dick frightened her out of her wits. Besides, it was a black thing, and she hated black things - black cats, black horses; worst of all, black dogs.

    She had once seen a hearse in the streets of Boston, an old-time hearse with black plumes, trappings and all complete. The sight had nearly given her a fit, though she did not know in the least the meaning of it.

    Meanwhile Mr. Button was conveying armful after armful of stuff on deck. When the heap was complete, he sat down beside it in the glorious afternoon sunshine, and lit his pipe.

    He had searched neither for food or water as yet; content with the treasure God had given him, for the moment the material things of life were forgotten. And, indeed, if he had searched he would have found only half a sack of potatoes in the caboose, for the lazarette was awash, and the water in the scuttle-butt was stinking.

    Emmeline, seeing what was in progress, crept up, Dick promising not to put the hat on her, and they all sat round the pile.

    "Thim pair of brogues," said the old man, holding a pair of old boots up for inspection like an auctioneer, "would fetch half a dollar any day in the wake in any sayport in the world. Put them beside you, Dick, and lay hold of this pair of britches by the ends of em'--stritch them."

    The trousers were stretched out, examined and approved of, and laid beside the boots.

    "Here's a tiliscope wid wan eye shut," said Mr. Button, examining the broken telescope and pulling it in and out like a concertina. "Stick it beside the brogues; it may come in handy for somethin'. Here's a book"--tossing the nautical almanac to the boy. "Tell me what it says."

    Dick examined the pages of figures hopelessly.

   "I can't read 'em," said Dick; "it's numbers."

   "Buzz it overboard," said Mr. Button.

   Dick did what he was told joyfully, and the proceedings resumed.

   He tried on the tall hat, and the children laughed. On her old friend's head the thing ceased to have terror for Emmeline.

   She had two methods of laughing. The angelic smile before mentioned--a rare thing--and, almost as rare, a laugh in which she showed her little white teeth, whilst she pressed her hands together, the left one tight shut, and the right clasped over it.

    He put the hat on one side, and continued the sorting, searching all the pockets of the clothes and finding nothing. When he had arranged what to keep, they flung the rest overboard, and the valuables were conveyed to the captain's cabin, there to remain till wanted.

    Then the idea that food might turn up useful as well as old clothes in their present condition struck the imaginative mind of Mr. Button, and he proceeded to search.

    The lazarette was simply a cistern full of sea water; what else it might contain, not being a diver, he could not say. I n the copper of the caboose lay a great lump of putrifying pork or meat of some sort. The harness cask contained nothing except huge crystals of salt. All the meat had been taken away. Still, the provisions and water brought on board from the dinghy would be sufficient to last them some ten days or so, and in the course of ten days a lot of things might happen.

    Mr. Button leaned over the side. The dinghy was nestling beside the brig like a duckling beside a duck; the broad channel might have been likened to the duck's wing half extended. He got on the channel to see if the painter was safely attached. Having made all secure, he climbed slowly up to the main-yard arm, and looked round upon the sea.


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