The Remarkable Wreck Of The Thomas Hyke

It was half-past one by the clock in the office of the Registrar of

Woes. The room was empty, for it was Wednesday, and the Registrar

always went home early on Wednesday afternoons. He had made that

arrangement when he accepted the office. He was willing to serve his

fellow-citizens in any suitable position to which he might be

called, but he had private interests which could not be neglected.

He belonged to his countr
, but there was a house in the country

which belonged to him; and there were a great many things

appertaining to that house which needed attention, especially in

pleasant summer weather. It is true he was often absent on

afternoons which did not fall on the Wednesday, but the fact of his

having appointed a particular time for the furtherance of his

outside interests so emphasized their importance that his associates

in the office had no difficulty in understanding that affairs of

such moment could not always be attended to in a single afternoon of

the week.

But although the large room devoted to the especial use of the

Registrar was unoccupied, there were other rooms connected with it

which were not in that condition. With the suite of offices to the

left we have nothing to do, but will confine our attention to a

moderate-sized room to the right of the Registrar's office, and

connected by a door, now closed, with that large and handsomely

furnished chamber. This was the office of the Clerk of Shipwrecks,

and it was at present occupied by five persons. One of these was the

clerk himself, a man of goodly appearance, somewhere between

twenty-five and forty-five years of age, and of a demeanor such as

might be supposed to belong to one who had occupied a high position

in state affairs, but who, by the cabals of his enemies, had been

forced to resign the great operations of statesmanship which he had

been directing, and who now stood, with a quite resigned air,

pointing out to the populace the futile and disastrous efforts of

the incompetent one who was endeavoring to fill his place. The Clerk

of Shipwrecks had never fallen from such a position, having never

occupied one, but he had acquired the demeanor referred to without

going through the preliminary exercises.

Another occupant was a very young man, the personal clerk of the

Registrar of Woes, who always closed all the doors of the office of

that functionary on Wednesday afternoons, and at other times when

outside interests demanded his principal's absence, after which he

betook himself to the room of his friend the Shipwreck Clerk.

Then there was a middle-aged man named Mathers, also a friend of the

clerk, and who was one of the eight who had made application for a

subposition in this department, which was now filled by a man who

was expected to resign when a friend of his, a gentleman of

influence in an interior county, should succeed in procuring the

nomination as congressional Representative of his district of an

influential politician, whose election was considered assured in

case certain expected action on the part of the administration

should bring his party into power. The person now occupying the

subposition hoped then to get something better, and Mathers,

consequently, was very willing, while waiting for the place, to

visit the offices of the department and acquaint himself with its


A fourth person was J. George Watts, a juryman by profession, who

had brought with him his brother-in-law, a stranger in the city.

The Shipwreck Clerk had taken off his good coat, which he had worn

to luncheon, and had replaced it by a lighter garment of linen, much

bespattered with ink; and he now produced a cigar-box, containing

six cigars.

"Gents," said he, "here is the fag end of a box of cigars. It's not

like having the pick of a box, but they are all I have left."

Mr. Mathers, J. George Watts, and the brother-in-law each took a

cigar with that careless yet deferential manner which always

distinguishes the treatee from the treator; and then the box was

protruded in an offhand way toward Harry Covare, the personal clerk

of the Registrar; but this young man declined, saying that he

preferred cigarettes, a package of which he drew from his pocket. He

had very often seen that cigar-box with a Havana brand, which he

himself had brought from the other room after the Registrar had

emptied it, passed around with six cigars, no more nor less, and he

was wise enough to know that the Shipwreck Clerk did not expect to

supply him with smoking-material. If that gentleman had offered to

the friends who generally dropped in on him on Wednesday afternoon

the paper bag of cigars sold at five cents each when bought singly,

but half a dozen for a quarter of a dollar, they would have been

quite as thankfully received; but it better pleased his deprecative

soul to put them in an empty cigar-box, and thus throw around them

the halo of the presumption that ninety-four of their imported

companions had been smoked.

The Shipwreck Clerk, having lighted a cigar for himself, sat down in

his revolving chair, turned his back to his desk, and threw himself

into an easy cross-legged attitude, which showed that he was

perfectly at home in that office. Harry Covare mounted a high stool,

while the visitors seated themselves in three wooden arm-chairs. But

few words had been said, and each man had scarcely tossed his first

tobacco-ashes on the floor, when some one wearing heavy boots was

heard opening an outside door and entering the Registrar's room.

Harry Covare jumped down from his stool, laid his half-smoked

cigarette thereon, and bounced into the next room, closing the door

after him. In about a minute he returned, and the Shipwreck Clerk

looked at him inquiringly.

"An old cock in a pea-jacket," said Mr. Covare, taking up his

cigarette and mounting his stool. "I told him the Registrar would be

here in the morning. He said he had something to report about a

shipwreck, and I told him the Registrar would be here in the

morning. Had to tell him that three times, and then he went."

"School don't keep Wednesday afternoons," said Mr. J. George Watts,

with a knowing smile.

"No, sir," said the Shipwreck Clerk, emphatically, changing the

crossing of his legs. "A man can't keep grinding on day in and out

without breaking down. Outsiders may say what they please about it,

but it can't be done. We've got to let up sometimes. People who do

the work need the rest just as much as those who do the looking on."

"And more too, I should say," observed Mr. Mathers.

"Our little let-up on Wednesday afternoons," modestly observed Harry

Covare, "is like death--it is sure to come; while the let-ups we get

other days are more like the diseases which prevail in certain

areas--you can't be sure whether you're going to get them or not."

The Shipwreck Clerk smiled benignantly at this remark, and the rest

laughed. Mr. Mathers had heard it before, but he would not impair

the pleasantness of his relations with a future colleague by hinting

that he remembered it.

"He gets such ideas from his beastly statistics," said the Shipwreck


"Which come pretty heavy on him sometimes, I expect," observed Mr.


"They needn't," said the Shipwreck Clerk, "if things were managed

here as they ought to be. If John J. Laylor"--meaning thereby the

Registrar--"was the right kind of a man you'd see things very

different here from what they are now. There'd be a larger force."

"That's so," said Mr. Mathers.

"And not only that, but there'd be better buildings and more

accommodations. Were any of you ever up to Anster? Well, take a run

up there some day, and see what sort of buildings the department has

there. William Q. Green is a very different man from John J. Laylor.

You don't see him sitting in his chair and picking his teeth the

whole winter, while the Representative from his district never says

a word about his department from one end of a session of Congress to

the other. Now if I had charge of things here, I'd make such changes

that you wouldn't know the place. I'd throw two rooms off here, and

a corridor and entrance-door at that end of the building. I'd close

up this door"--pointing toward the Registrar's room--"and if John J.

Laylor wanted to come in here he might go round to the end door like

other people."

The thought struck Harry Covare that in that case there would be no

John J. Laylor, but he would not interrupt.

"And what is more," continued the Shipwreck Clerk, "I'd close up

this whole department at twelve o'clock on Saturdays. The way things

are managed now, a man has no time to attend to his own private

business. Suppose I think of buying a piece of land, and want to go

out and look at it, or suppose any one of you gentlemen were here

and thought of buying a piece of land and wanted to go out and look

at it, what are you going to do about it? You don't want to go on

Sunday, and when are you going to go?"

Not one of the other gentlemen had ever thought of buying a piece of

land, nor had they any reason to suppose that they ever would

purchase an inch of soil unless they bought it in a flower-pot; but

they all agreed that the way things were managed now there was no

time for a man to attend to his own business.

"But you can't expect John J. Laylor to do anything," said the

Shipwreck Clerk.

However, there was one thing which that gentleman always expected

John J. Laylor to do. When the clerk was surrounded by a number of

persons in hours of business, and when he had succeeded in

impressing them with the importance of his functions and the

necessity of paying deferential attention to himself if they wished

their business attended to, John J. Laylor would be sure to walk

into the office and address the Shipwreck Clerk in such a manner as

to let the people present know that he was a clerk and nothing else,

and that he, the Registrar, was the head of that department. These

humiliations the Shipwreck Clerk never forgot.

There was a little pause here, and then Mr. Mathers remarked:

"I should think you'd be awfully bored with the long stories of

shipwrecks that the people come and tell you."

He hoped to change the conversation, because, although he wished to

remain on good terms with the subordinate officers, it was not

desirable that he should be led to say much against John J. Laylor.

"No, sir," said the Shipwreck Clerk, "I am not bored. I did not come

here to be bored, and as long as I have charge of this office I

don't intend to be. The long-winded old salts who come here to

report their wrecks never spin out their prosy yarns to me. The

first thing I do is to let them know just what I want of them; and

not an inch beyond that does a man of them go, at least while I am

managing the business. There are times when John J. Laylor comes in,

and puts in his oar, and wants to hear the whole story; which is

pure stuff and nonsense, for John J. Laylor doesn't know anything

more about a shipwreck than he does about--"

"The endemies in the Lake George area," suggested Harry Covare.

"Yes; or any other part of his business," said the Shipwreck Clerk;

"and when he takes it into his head to interfere, all business stops

till some second mate of a coal-schooner has told his whole story

from his sighting land on the morning of one day to his getting

ashore on it on the afternoon of the next. Now I don't put up with

any such nonsense. There's no man living that can tell me anything

about shipwrecks. I've never been to sea myself, but that's not

necessary; and if I had gone, it's not likely I'd been wrecked. But

I've read about every kind of shipwreck that ever happened. When I

first came here I took care to post myself upon these matters,

because I knew it would save trouble. I have read 'Robinson Crusoe,'

'The Wreck of the "Grosvenor,"' 'The Sinking of the "Royal George,"'

and wrecks by water-spouts, tidal waves, and every other thing which

would knock a ship into a cocked hat, and I've classified every sort

of wreck under its proper head; and when I've found out to what

class a wreck belongs, I know all about it. Now, when a man comes

here to report a wreck, the first thing he has to do is just to shut

down on his story, and to stand up square and answer a few questions

that I put to him. In two minutes I know just what kind of shipwreck

he's had; and then, when he gives me the name of his vessel, and one

or two other points, he may go. I know all about that wreck, and I

make a much better report of the business than he could have done if

he'd stood here talking three days and three nights. The amount of

money that's been saved to our taxpayers by the way I've

systematized the business of this office is not to be calculated in


The brother-in-law of J. George Watts knocked the ashes from the

remnant of his cigar, looked contemplatively at the coal for a

moment, and then remarked:

"I think you said there's no kind of shipwreck you don't know


"That's what I said," replied the Shipwreck Clerk.

"I think," said the other, "I could tell you of a shipwreck, in

which I was concerned, that wouldn't go into any of your classes."

The Shipwreck Clerk threw away the end of his cigar, put both his

hands into his trousers pockets, stretched out his legs, and looked

steadfastly at the man who had made this unwarrantable remark. Then

a pitying smile stole over his countenance, and he said: "Well, sir,

I'd like to hear your account of it; and before you get a quarter

through I can stop you just where you are, and go ahead and tell the

rest of the story myself."

"That's so," said Harry Covare. "You'll see him do it just as sure

pop as a spread rail bounces the engine."

"Well, then," said the brother-in-law of J. George Watts, "I'll tell

it." And he began:

* * * * *

"It was just two years ago the 1st of this month that I sailed for

South America in the 'Thomas Hyke.'"

At this point the Shipwreck Clerk turned and opened a large book at

the letter T.

"That wreck wasn't reported here," said the other, "and you won't

find it in your book."

"At Anster, perhaps?" said the Shipwreck Clerk, closing the volume

and turning round again.

"Can't say about that," replied the other. "I've never been to

Anster, and haven't looked over their books."

"Well, you needn't want to," said the clerk. "They've got good

accommodations at Anster, and the Registrar has some ideas of the

duties of his post, but they have no such system of wreck reports as

we have here."

"Very like," said the brother-in-law. And he went on with his story.

"The 'Thomas Hyke' was a small iron steamer of six hundred tons, and

she sailed from Ulford for Valparaiso with a cargo principally of


"Pig-iron for Valparaiso?" remarked the Shipwreck Clerk. And then he

knitted his brows thoughtfully, and said, "Go on."

"She was a new vessel," continued the narrator, "and built with

water-tight compartments; rather uncommon for a vessel of her class,

but so she was. I am not a sailor, and don't know anything about

ships. I went as passenger, and there was another one named William

Anderson, and his son Sam, a boy about fifteen years old. We were

all going to Valparaiso on business. I don't remember just how many

days we were out, nor do I know just where we were, but it was

somewhere off the coast of South America, when, one dark night--with

a fog besides, for aught I know, for I was asleep--we ran into a

steamer coming north. How we managed to do this, with room enough on

both sides for all the ships in the world to pass, I don't know; but

so it was. When I got on deck the other vessel had gone on, and we

never saw anything more of her. Whether she sunk or got home is

something I can't tell. But we pretty soon found that the 'Thomas

Hyke' had some of the plates in her bow badly smashed, and she took

in water like a thirsty dog. The captain had the forward water-tight

bulkhead shut tight, and the pumps set to work, but it was no use.

That forward compartment just filled up with water, and the 'Thomas

Hyke' settled down with her bow clean under. Her deck was slanting

forward like the side of a hill, and the propeller was lifted up so

that it wouldn't have worked even if the engine had been kept going.

The captain had the masts cut away, thinking this might bring her up

some, but it didn't help much. There was a pretty heavy sea on, and

the waves came rolling up the slant of the deck like the surf on the

sea-shore. The captain gave orders to have all the hatches battened

down so that water couldn't get in, and the only way by which

anybody could go below was by the cabin door, which was far aft.

This work of stopping up all openings in the deck was a dangerous

business, for the decks sloped right down into the water, and if

anybody had slipped, away he'd have gone into the ocean, with

nothing to stop him; but the men made a line fast to themselves, and

worked away with a good will, and soon got the deck and the house

over the engine as tight as a bottle. The smoke-stack, which was

well forward, had been broken down by a spar when the masts had been

cut, and as the waves washed into the hole that it left, the captain

had this plugged up with old sails, well fastened down. It was a

dreadful thing to see the ship a-lying with her bows clean under

water and her stern sticking up. If it hadn't been for her

water-tight compartments that were left uninjured, she would have

gone down to the bottom as slick as a whistle. On the afternoon of

the day after the collision the wind fell, and the sea soon became

pretty smooth. The captain was quite sure that there would be no

trouble about keeping afloat until some ship came along and took us

off. Our flag was flying, upside down, from a pole in the stern; and

if anybody saw a ship making such a guy of herself as the 'Thomas

Hyke' was then doing, they'd be sure to come to see what was the

matter with her, even if she had no flag of distress flying. We

tried to make ourselves as comfortable as we could, but this wasn't

easy with everything on such a dreadful slant. But that night we

heard a rumbling and grinding noise down in the hold, and the slant

seemed to get worse. Pretty soon the captain roused all hands and

told us that the cargo of pig-iron was shifting and sliding down to

the bow, and that it wouldn't be long before it would break through

all the bulkheads, and then we'd fill and go to the bottom like a

shot. He said we must all take to the boats and get away as quick as

we could. It was an easy matter launching the boats. They didn't

lower them outside from the davits, but they just let 'em down on

deck and slid 'em along forward into the water, and then held 'em

there with a rope till everything was ready to start. They launched

three boats, put plenty of provisions and water in 'em, and then

everybody began to get aboard. But William Anderson and me and his

son Sam couldn't make up our minds to get into those boats and row

out on the dark, wide ocean. They were the biggest boats we had, but

still they were little things enough. The ship seemed to us to be a

good deal safer, and more likely to be seen when day broke, than

those three boats, which might be blown off, if the wind rose,

nobody knew where. It seemed to us that the cargo had done all the

shifting it intended to, for the noise below had stopped; and,

altogether, we agreed that we'd rather stick to the ship than go off

in those boats. The captain he tried to make us go, but we wouldn't

do it; and he told us if we chose to stay behind and be drowned it

was our affair and he couldn't help it; and then he said there was a

small boat aft, and we'd better launch her, and have her ready in

case things should get worse and we should make up our minds to

leave the vessel. He and the rest then rowed off so as not to be

caught in the vortex if the steamer went down, and we three stayed

aboard. We launched the small boat in the way we'd seen the others

launched, being careful to have ropes tied to us while we were doing

it; and we put things aboard that we thought we should want. Then we

went into the cabin and waited for morning. It was a queer kind of a

cabin, with a floor inclined like the roof of a house; but we sat

down in the corners, and were glad to be there. The swinging lamp

was burning, and it was a good deal more cheerful in there than it

was outside. But, about daybreak, the grinding and rumbling down

below began again, and the bow of the 'Thomas Hyke' kept going down

more and more; and it wasn't long before the forward bulkhead of the

cabin, which was what you might call its front wall when everything

was all right, was under our feet, as level as a floor, and the lamp

was lying close against the ceiling that it was hanging from. You

may be sure that we thought it was time to get out of that. There

were benches with arms to them fastened to the floor, and by these

we climbed up to the foot of the cabin stairs, which, being turned

bottom upward, we went down in order to get out. When we reached the

cabin door we saw part of the deck below us, standing up like the

side of a house that is built in the water, as they say the houses

in Venice are. We had made our boat fast to the cabin door by a long

line, and now we saw her floating quietly on the water, which was

very smooth and about twenty feet below us. We drew her up as close

under us as we could, and then we let the boy Sam down by a rope,

and after some kicking and swinging he got into her; and then he

took the oars and kept her right under us while we scrambled down by

the ropes which we had used in getting her ready. As soon as we were

in the boat we cut her rope and pulled away as hard as we could; and

when we got to what we thought was a safe distance we stopped to

look at the 'Thomas Hyke.' You never saw such a ship in all your

born days. Two thirds of the hull was sunk in the water, and she was

standing straight up and down with the stern in the air, her rudder

up as high as the topsail ought to be, and the screw propeller

looking like the wheel on the top of one of these windmills that

they have in the country for pumping up water. Her cargo had shifted

so far forward that it had turned her right upon end, but she

couldn't sink, owing to the air in the compartments that the water

hadn't got into; and on the top of the whole thing was the distress

flag flying from the pole which stuck out over the stern. It was

broad daylight, but not a thing did we see of the other boats. We'd

supposed that they wouldn't row very far, but would lay off at a

safe distance until daylight; but they must have been scared and

rowed farther than they intended. Well, sir, we stayed in that boat

all day and watched the 'Thomas Hyke'; but she just kept as she was

and didn't seem to sink an inch. There was no use of rowing away,

for we had no place to row to; and besides, we thought that passing

ships would be much more likely to see that stern sticking high in

the air than our little boat. We had enough to eat, and at night two

of us slept while the other watched, dividing off the time and

taking turns to this. In the morning there was the 'Thomas Hyke'

standing stern up just as before. There was a long swell on the

ocean now, and she'd rise and lean over a little on each wave, but

she'd come up again just as straight as before. That night passed as

the last one had, and in the morning we found we'd drifted a good

deal farther from the 'Thomas Hyke'; but she was floating just as

she had been, like a big buoy that's moored over a sandbar. We

couldn't see a sign of the boats, and we about gave them up. We had

our breakfast, which was a pretty poor meal, being nothing but

hardtack and what was left of a piece of boiled beef. After we'd sat

for a while doing nothing, but feeling mighty uncomfortable, William

Anderson said, 'Look here, do you know that I think we would be

three fools to keep on shivering all night, and living on hardtack

in the daytime, when there's plenty on that vessel for us to eat and

to keep us warm. If she's floated that way for two days and two

nights, there's no knowing how much longer she'll float, and we

might as well go on board and get the things we want as not.' 'All

right,' said I, for I was tired doing nothing; and Sam was as

willing as anybody. So we rowed up to the steamer, and stopped close

to the deck, which, as I said before, was standing straight up out

of the water like the wall of a house. The cabin door, which was the

only opening into her, was about twenty feet above us, and the ropes

which we had tied to the rails of the stairs inside were still

hanging down. Sam was an active youngster, and he managed to climb

up one of these ropes; but when he got to the door he drew it up and

tied knots in it about a foot apart, and then he let it down to us,

for neither William Anderson nor me could go up a rope hand over

hand without knots or something to hold on to. As it was, we had a

lot of bother getting up, but we did it at last; and then we walked

up the stairs, treading on the front part of each step instead of

the top of it, as we would have done if the stairs had been in their

proper position. When we got to the floor of the cabin, which was

now perpendicular like a wall, we had to clamber down by means of

the furniture, which was screwed fast, until we reached the

bulkhead, which was now the floor of the cabin. Close to this

bulkhead was a small room which was the steward's pantry, and here

we found lots of things to eat, but all jumbled up in a way that

made us laugh. The boxes of biscuits and the tin cans and a lot of

bottles in wicker covers were piled up on one end of the room, and

everything in the lockers and drawers was jumbled together. William

Anderson and me set to work to get out what we thought we'd want,

and we told Sam to climb up into some of the state-rooms--of which

there were four on each side of the cabin--and get some blankets to

keep us warm, as well as a few sheets, which we thought we could rig

up for an awning to the boat; for the days were just as hot as the

nights were cool. When we'd collected what we wanted, William

Anderson and me climbed into our own rooms, thinking we'd each pack

a valise with what we most wanted to save of our clothes and things;

and while we were doing this Sam called out to us that it was

raining. He was sitting at the cabin door looking out. I first

thought to tell him to shut the door so's to keep the rain from

coming in; but when I thought how things really were, I laughed at

the idea. There was a sort of little house built over the entrance

to the cabin, and in one end of it was the door; and in the way the

ship now was the open doorway was underneath the little house, and

of course no rain could come in. Pretty soon we heard the rain

pouring down, beating on the stern of the vessel like hail. We got

to the stairs and looked out. The rain was falling in perfect

sheets, in a way you never see except round about the tropics. 'It's

a good thing we're inside,' said William Anderson, 'for if we'd been

out in this rain we'd been drowned in the boat.' I agreed with him,

and we made up our minds to stay where we were until the rain was

over. Well, it rained about four hours; and when it stopped, and we

looked out, we saw our little boat nearly full of water, and sunk so

deep that if one of us had stepped on her she'd have gone down,

sure. 'Here's a pretty kittle of fish,' said William Anderson;

'there's nothing for us to do now but to stay where we are.' I

believe in his heart he was glad of that, for if ever a man was

tired of a little boat, William Anderson was tired of that one we'd

been in for two days and two nights. At any rate, there was no use

talking about it, and we set to work to make ourselves comfortable.

We got some mattresses and pillows out of the state-rooms, and when

it began to get dark we lighted the lamp--which we had filled with

sweet-oil from a flask in the pantry, not finding any other

kind--and we hung it from the railing of the stairs. We had a good

night's rest, and the only thing that disturbed me was William

Anderson lifting up his head every time he turned over and saying

how much better this was than that blasted little boat. The next

morning we had a good breakfast, even making some tea with a

spirit-lamp we found, using brandy instead of alcohol. William

Anderson and I wanted to get into the captain's room--which was near

the stern and pretty high up--so as to see if there was anything

there that we ought to get ready to save when a vessel should come

along and pick us up; but we were not good at climbing, like Sam,

and we didn't see how we could get up there. Sam said he was sure he

had once seen a ladder in the compartment just forward of the

bulkhead, and as William was very anxious to get up to the captain's

room, we let the boy go and look for it. There was a sliding door in

the bulkhead under our feet, and we opened this far enough to let

Sam get through; and he scrambled down like a monkey into the next

compartment, which was light enough, although the lower half of it,

which was next to the engine-room, was under the water-line. Sam

actually found a ladder with hooks at one end of it, and while he

was handing it up to us--which was very hard to do, for he had to

climb up on all sorts of things--he let it topple over, and the end

with the iron hooks fell against the round glass of one of the

port-holes. The glass was very thick and strong, but the ladder came

down very heavy and shivered it. As bad luck would have it, this

window was below the water-line, and the water came rushing in in a

big spout. We chucked blankets down to Sam for him to stop up the

hole, but 'twas of no use; for it was hard for him to get at the

window, and when he did the water came in with such force that he

couldn't get a blanket into the hole. We were afraid he'd be drowned

down there, and told him to come out as quick as he could. He put up

the ladder again, and hooked it on to the door in the bulkhead, and

we held it while he climbed up. Looking down through the doorway, we

saw, by the way the water was pouring in at the opening, that it

wouldn't be long before that compartment was filled up; so we shoved

the door to and made it all tight, and then said William Anderson,

'The ship'll sink deeper and deeper as that fills up, and the water

may get up to the cabin door, and we must go and make that as tight

as we can.' Sam had pulled the ladder up after him, and this we

found of great use in getting to the foot of the cabin stairs. We

shut the cabin door, and locked and bolted it; and as it fitted

pretty tight, we didn't think it would let in much water if the ship

sunk that far. But over the top of the cabin stairs were a couple of

folding doors, which shut down horizontally when the ship was in its

proper position, and which were only used in very bad, cold weather.

These we pulled to and fastened tight, thus having a double

protection against the water. Well, we didn't get this done any too

soon, for the water did come up to the cabin door, and a little

trickled in from the outside door and through the cracks in the

inner one. But we went to work and stopped these up with strips from

the sheets, which we crammed well in with our pocket-knives. Then we

sat down on the steps and waited to see what would happen next. The

doors of all the state-rooms were open, and we could see through the

thick plate-glass windows in them, which were all shut tight, that

the ship was sinking more and more as the water came in. Sam climbed

up into one of the after state-rooms, and said the outside water was

nearly up to the stern; and pretty soon we looked up to the two

portholes in the stern, and saw that they were covered with water;

and as more and more water could be seen there, and as the light

came through less easily, we knew that we were sinking under the

surface of the ocean. 'It's a mighty good thing,' said William

Anderson, 'that no water can get in here.' William had a hopeful

kind of mind, and always looked on the bright side of things; but I

must say that I was dreadfully scared when I looked through those

stern windows and saw water instead of sky. It began to get duskier

and duskier as we sank lower and lower; but still we could see

pretty well, for it's astonishing how much light comes down through

water. After a little while we noticed that the light remained about

the same; and then William Anderson he sings out, 'Hooray, we've

stopped sinking!' 'What difference does that make?' says I. 'We must

be thirty or forty feet under water, and more yet, for aught I

know.' 'Yes, that may be,' said he; 'but it is clear that all the

water has got into that compartment that can get in, and we have

sunk just as far down as we are going.' 'But that don't help

matters,' said I; 'thirty or forty feet under water is just as bad

as a thousand as to drowning a man.' 'Drowning!' said William; 'how

are you going to be drowned? No water can get in here.' 'Nor no air,

either,' said I; 'and people are drowned for want of air, as I take

it.' 'It would be a queer sort of thing,' said William, 'to be

drowned in the ocean and yet stay as dry as a chip. But it's no use

being worried about air. We've got air enough here to last us for

ever so long. This stern compartment is the biggest in the ship, and

it's got lots of air in it. Just think of that hold! It must be

nearly full of air. The stern compartment of the hold has got

nothing in it but sewing-machines. I saw 'em loading her. The

pig-iron was mostly amidships, or at least forward of this

compartment. Now, there's no kind of a cargo that'll accommodate as

much air as sewing-machines. They're packed in wooden frames, not

boxes, and don't fill up half the room they take. There's air all

through and around 'em. It's a very comforting thing to think the

hold isn't filled up solid with bales of cotton or wheat in bulk.'

It might be comforting, but I couldn't get much good out of it. And

now Sam, who'd been scrambling all over the cabin to see how things

were going on, sung out that the water was leaking in a little again

at the cabin door and around some of the iron frames of the windows.

'It's a lucky thing,' said William Anderson, 'that we didn't sink

any deeper, or the pressure of the water would have burst in those

heavy glasses. And what we've got to do now is to stop up all the

cracks. The more we work the livelier we'll feel.' We tore off more

strips of sheets and went all round, stopping up cracks wherever we

found them. 'It's fortunate,' said William Anderson, 'that Sam found

that ladder, for we would have had hard work getting to the windows

of the stern state-rooms without it; but by resting it on the bottom

step of the stairs, which now happens to be the top one, we can get

to any part of the cabin.' I couldn't help thinking that if Sam

hadn't found the ladder it would have been a good deal better for

us; but I didn't want to damp William's spirits, and I said nothing.

"And now I beg your pardon, sir," said the narrator, addressing the

Shipwreck Clerk, "but I forgot that you said you'd finish this story

yourself. Perhaps you'd like to take it up just here?"

The Shipwreck Clerk seemed surprised, and had apparently forgotten

his previous offer. "Oh no," said he, "tell your own story. This is

not a matter of business."

"Very well, then," said the brother-in-law of J. George Watts, "I'll

go on. We made everything as tight as we could, and then we got our

supper, having forgotten all about dinner, and being very hungry. We

didn't make any tea and we didn't light the lamp, for we knew that

would use up air; but we made a better meal than three people sunk

out of sight in the ocean had a right to expect. 'What troubles me

most,' said William Anderson, as he turned in, 'is the fact that if

we are forty feet under water our flagpole must be covered up. Now,

if the flag was sticking out, upside down, a ship sailing by would

see it and would know there was something wrong.' 'If that's all

that troubles you,' said I, 'I guess you'll sleep easy. And if a

ship was to see the flag, I wonder how they'd know we were down

here, and how they'd get us out if they did!' 'Oh, they'd manage

it,' said William Anderson; 'trust those sea-captains for that.' And

then he went to sleep. The next morning the air began to get mighty

disagreeable in the part of the cabin where we were, and then

William Anderson he says, 'What we've got to do is to climb up into

the stern state-rooms, where the air is purer. We can come down here

to get our meals, and then go up again to breathe comfortable.' 'And

what are we going to do when the air up there gets foul?' says I to

William, who seemed to be making arrangements for spending the

summer in our present quarters. 'Oh, that'll be all right,' said he.

'It don't do to be extravagant with air any more than with anything

else. When we've used up all there is in this cabin, we can bore

holes through the floor into the hold and let in air from there. If

we're economical, there'll be enough to last for dear knows how

long.' We passed the night each in a state-room, sleeping on the end

wall instead of the berth, and it wasn't till the afternoon of the

next day that the air of the cabin got so bad we thought we'd have

some fresh; so we went down on the bulkhead, and with an auger that

we found in the pantry we bored three holes, about a yard apart, in

the cabin floor, which was now one of the walls of the room, just as

the bulkhead was the floor, and the stern end, where the two round

windows were, was the ceiling or roof. We each took a hole, and I

tell you it was pleasant to breathe the air which came in from the

hold. 'Isn't this jolly?' said William Anderson. 'And we ought to be

mighty glad that that hold wasn't loaded with codfish or soap. But

there's nothing that smells better than new sewing-machines that

haven't ever been used, and this air is pleasant enough for

anybody.' By William's advice we made three plugs, by which we

stopped up the holes when we thought we'd had air enough for the

present. 'And now,' says he, 'we needn't climb up into those awkward

state-rooms any more. We can just stay down here and be comfortable,

and let in air when we want it.' 'And how long do you suppose that

air in the hold is going to last?' said I. 'Oh, ever so long,' said

he, 'using it so economically as we do; and when it stops coming out

lively through these little holes, as I suppose it will after a

while, we can saw a big hole in this flooring and go into the hold

and do our breathing, if we want to.' That evening we did saw a hole

about a foot square, so as to have plenty of air while we were

asleep; but we didn't go into the hold, it being pretty well filled

up with machines; though the next day Sam and I sometimes stuck our

heads in for a good sniff of air, though William Anderson was

opposed to this, being of the opinion that we ought to put ourselves

on short rations of breathing so as to make the supply of air hold

out as long as possible. 'But what's the good,' said I to William,

'of trying to make the air hold out if we've got to be suffocated in

this place after all?' 'What's the good?' says he. 'Haven't you

enough biscuits and canned meats and plenty of other things to eat,

and a barrel of water in that room opposite the pantry, not to speak

of wine and brandy if you want to cheer yourself up a bit, and

haven't we good mattresses to sleep on, and why shouldn't we try to

live and be comfortable as long as we can?' 'What I want,' said I,

'is to get out of this box. The idea of being shut up in here down

under the water is more than I can stand. I'd rather take my chances

going up to the surface and swimming about till I found a piece of

the wreck, or something to float on.' 'You needn't think of anything

of that sort,' said William, 'for if we were to open a door or a

window to get out, the water'd rush in and drive us back and fill up

this place in no time; and then the whole concern would go to the

bottom. And what would you do if you did get to the top of the

water? It's not likely you'd find anything there to get on, and if

you did you wouldn't live very long floating about with nothing to

eat. No, sir,' says he, 'what we've got to do is to be content with

the comforts we have around us, and something will turn up to get us

out of this; you see if it don't.' There was no use talking against

William Anderson, and I didn't say any more about getting out. As

for Sam, he spent his time at the windows of the state-rooms

a-looking out. We could see a good way into the water--farther than

you would think--and we sometimes saw fishes, especially porpoises,

swimming about, most likely trying to find out what a ship was doing

hanging bows down under the water. What troubled Sam was that a

swordfish might come along and jab his sword through one of the

windows. In that case it would be all up, or rather down, with us.

Every now and then he'd sing out, 'Here comes one!' And then, just

as I'd give a jump, he'd say, 'No, it isn't; it's a porpoise.' I

thought from the first, and I think now, that it would have been a

great deal better for us if that boy hadn't been along. That night

there was a good deal of motion to the ship, and she swung about and

rose up and down more than she had done since we'd been left in her.

'There must be a big sea running on top,' said William Anderson,

'and if we were up there we'd be tossed about dreadful. Now the

motion down here is just as easy as a cradle; and, what's more, we

can't be sunk very deep, for if we were there wouldn't be any motion

at all.' About noon the next day we felt a sudden tremble and shake

run through the whole ship, and far down under us we heard a

rumbling and grinding that nearly scared me out of my wits. I first

thought we'd struck bottom; but William he said that couldn't be,

for it was just as light in the cabin as it had been, and if we'd

gone down it would have grown much darker, of course. The rumbling

stopped after a little while, and then it seemed to grow lighter

instead of darker; and Sam, who was looking up at the stern windows

over our heads, he sung out, 'Sky!' And, sure enough, we could see

the blue sky, as clear as daylight, through those windows! And then

the ship she turned herself on the slant, pretty much as she had

been when her forward compartment first took in water, and we found

ourselves standing on the cabin floor instead of the bulkhead. I was

near one of the open state-rooms, and as I looked in there was the

sunlight coming through the wet glass in the window, and more

cheerful than anything I ever saw before in this world. William

Anderson he just made one jump, and, unscrewing one of the

state-room windows, he jerked it open. We had thought the air inside

was good enough to last some time longer; but when that window was

open and the fresh air came rushing in, it was a different sort of

thing, I can tell you. William put his head out and looked up and

down and all around. 'She's nearly all out of water,' he shouted,

'and we can open the cabin door!' Then we all three rushed at those

stairs, which were nearly right side up now, and we had the cabin

doors open in no time. When we looked out we saw that the ship was

truly floating pretty much as she had been when the captain and crew

left her, though we all agreed that her deck didn't slant as much

forward as it did then. 'Do you know what's happened?' sung out

William Anderson, after he'd stood still for a minute to look around

and think. 'That bobbing up and down that the vessel got last night

shook up and settled down the pig-iron inside of her, and the iron

plates in the bow, that were smashed and loosened by the collision,

have given way under the weight, and the whole cargo of pig-iron has

burst through and gone to the bottom. Then, of course, up we came.

Didn't I tell you something would happen to make us all right?'

"Well, I won't make this story any longer than I can help. The next

day after that we were taken off by a sugar-ship bound north, and we

were carried safe back to Ulford, where we found our captain and the

crew, who had been picked up by a ship after they'd been three or

four days in their boats. This ship had sailed our way to find us,

which, of course, she couldn't do, as at that time we were under

water and out of sight.

"And now, sir," said the brother-in-law of J. George Watts to the

Shipwreck Clerk, "to which of your classes does this wreck of mine


"Gents," said the Shipwreck Clerk, rising from his seat, "it's four

o'clock, and at that hour this office closes."