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were on the deck, and walked deliberately and steadily in to the mast. He stopped an instant, just at the small of the spar, to look back at Drewett, who was saying something to pacify his mother; and I observed that, as he stood with his heels in a line, the toes nearly met underneath the boom, which his feet grasped something in the manner of talons. A deep sigh reached my ear as Neb bounded lightly on deck, and I knew whence it came by the exclamation of
As for Neb, he advanced with his prize which he offered to Lucy with one of his best bows, but in a way to show he was not conscious of having performed any unusual exploit. Lucy handed the box to Chloe, without averting her eyes from Drewett, in whose situation she manifested a good deal more concern than I liked, or fancied he deserved.
“ Thank you, Mr. Drewett,” she said, affecting to think the box had been recovered altogether by his address; “it is now safe, and there is no longer any necessity for your coming here. Let Mr. Wallingford do what he says,' I had mentioned in a low voice, the practica
bility of my own scheme—“ and return to your own sloop.”
But two things now interposed to the execution of this very simple expedient.
The first was Drewett's pride, blended with a little obstinacy'; and the other was the “ Albon-ny ” skipper's pride, blended with a good deal of obstinacy. The first did not like to retreat, after Neb had so clearly demonstrated it was no great matter to walk on the boom ; and the latter, soured by the manner in which we had outsailed him, and fancying Andrew had deserted to get on board a faster vessel, resented the whole by sheering away from us to the distance of a hundred yards. I saw that there remained but a single expedient, and set about adopting it without further delay.
“ Take good hold of the lift, Mr. Drewett, and steady yourself with both hands ; ease away the peak halyards to tauten that lift a little more forward. Now one of you stand by to ease off the guy handsomely, and the rest come aft to the main-sheet. Look out for yourself, Mr. Drewett; we are about to haul in the boom, when it will be a small matter to get you in upon
the taffrail. Stand by to luff handsomely, so as to keep the boom as steady as possible.”
But Drewett clamorously protested against our doing anything of the sort. He was getting used to his situation, and intended to come in Neb-fashion, in a minute more. All he asked was not to be hurried.
No, no, no; touch nothing, I entreat of you, Captain Wallingford,” he said, earnestly. “ If that black can do it, surely I ought to do it too." “ But the black has claws, and you
none, sir: then he is a sailor, and used to such things, and
you are none, sir. Moreover, he was barefooted, while you have got on stiff, and, I dare say, slippery boots."
“ Yes, the boots are an encumbrance. If I could only throw them off, I should do well enough. As it is, however, I hope to have the honour of shaking you by the hand, Miss Hardinge, without the disgrace of being helped.”
Mr. Hardinge here expostulated, but all in vain ; for I saw plainly enough Drewett was highly excited, and that he was preparing for a start. These signs were now so apparent that all of us united our voices in remonstrances; and Lucy said imploringly to me, “ Do not let him move, Miles. I have heard him
I have heard him say he cannot swim."
It was too late. Pride, mortified vanity, obstinacy, love, or what you will, rendered the young man deaf, and away he went, abandoning the lift, his sole protection. I saw, the moment he quitted his grasp, that he would never reach the mast, and made my arrangements accordingly. I called to Marble to stand by to luff; and, just as the words passed my lips, a souse into the water told the whole story. The first glance at poor Drewett’s frantic manner of struggling told me that Lucy was really aware of his habits, and that he could not swim. I was in light duck, jacket and trowers, with seaman's pumps ;
and placing a foot on the rail, I alighted alongside of the drowning young man, just as he went under. Well assured he would re-appear, I waited for that, and presently I got a view of his hair, within reach of my arm, and I grasped it, in a way to turn him on his back, and bring his face uppermost. At this moment the sloop was gliding away from us, Marble having instantly put the helm hard down, in order to round-to. As I afterwards learned, the state of the case was no sooner understood in the other sloop than the Albon-ny men gave in, and imitated the Wallingford
There was no time for reflection. As soon as Drewett's hair was in my grasp, I raised his head from the water, by an effort that forced me under it, to let him catch his breath; and then relaxed the power by which it had been done to come up myself. I had done this to give him a moment to recover his recollection, in the hope he would act reasonably; and I now desired him to lay his two hands on my shoulders, permit his body to sink as low as possible, and breathe, and trust the rest to me.
If the person in danger can be made to do this, an ordinarily good swimmer could tow him a mile, without any unusual effort. But the breathing spell afforded to Drewett had the effect just to give him strength to struggle madly for existence, without aiding his reason. On the land he would have been nothing in my hands; but in the water the merest boy may become formidable. God forgive me if I do him injustice ! but I have sometimes thought since, that Drewett was perfectly conscious who I was, and that he gave some vent to his jealous distrust of Lucy's feelings towards me. This may be all imagina