After The Hurricane
DON PEDRO PINTO, Mexican fisherman on the coast of Yucatan, lived in a small hut on the border of Lake Santa Cruz, in the island of Cozumel. He had dwelt solitary on this island for nearly three years, holding little or no communication with either white men or Indians. The fearful hurricane that had blown across his island preventing him from going to sea for fish and turtles for the past three days, had now died away. Sweet was the air of the forest with odors of a thousand flowers and vines, and bright shone the sun on the waves at the mouth of the bay as he drew his canoe from under its shelter of palm branches and pushed it over the silver sand that bordered the water. Placing in it his net and lines, his turtle peg, some provisions and water, he paddled slowly out from shore, Indian fashion, facing the bows.
This is perhaps the loveliest lake to the eye that lies in any island of that western Caribbean Sea. It is about two miles in length, and a mile in width, its deep pearl-blue water circled by a belt of snow-white sand, and enclosed by a wall of forest trees displaying all the varied beauty of the tropic wilderness.
Standing at his door, Don Pedro could view its entire length and breadth; could see at a glance the myriads of sea-birds that hovered over its surface, and the black forms of deer and wild hogs that roamed the beach on the other side. These, his only neighbors, did not disturb his meditations that morning as he paddled easily down towards the point where the lake connected with the sea, now hidden by great abrupt cliffs. As he rounded this promontory the roaring of the sea broke upon his ears, telling him that though the storm had subsided, the waters of the ocean had not, and his little canoe presently began to toss lightly upon water agitated by the rolling waves outside. He saw that he could not venture in his frail craft ; that his fishing must be confined to the lake.
Looking about for a choice spot, something beneath the cliff at the farther wall of the narrow entrance arrested his attention.
" Santa Maria!" muttered he in Spanish, his mother tongue. " Santa Maria ! that looks like a good boat for me."
Swiftly plying his paddle, he was soon alongside it r indulging in the prospect of now being able to go turtling in any weather, since so large and strong a boat as this appeared to be, had been cast up especially for him bythe waves. Reaching over to grasp the rail, his eye fell on an object lying across a thwart that caused him to exclaim in horror, and cross himself. " Ah ! Mother of Mercy! There's a poor boy who must have perished in last night's gale."
Clambering into the boat, he found an oar lashed inside, and with this he brought his capture up the bay near his hut. Running the boat upon the sand, he gently lifted out its occupant, bore him up the bank beneath a palm-tree, and softly laid him down.
" Pobrecito ! poor little one ! " exclaimed he in pity. " To think thou art so young ! To think that thou should be borne ashore only to be buried ! Thou seem'st a gentle lad, and might have been bon camerado with poor Don Pedro ! "
He sat down beside the boy. He took one of his hands, and scanned the pallid face from which the dark hair fell away wet and heavy.
" As though he might be asleep," he muttered. " It is strange his eyes should be closed. When people are drowned their eyes are always open. How many have I looked into, staring wide at me from the waves ! And his hand, it is not very cold ; it is all but warm. Do I dare think he is alive ? It is not. possible ; yet I can fancy that his eyelids move. Ah, Dios, they do move!"
Don Pedro wasted no more time in words. He flew to his hut for restoratives. There could be no assistance, no advice. But Don Pedro needed none. He knew the very moment when a flush of color should come into the cheeks ; he could time the faint gasps of breath ; he paused for the slow opening of the great brown eyes that looked up into his so wonderingly as though for the first time they were gazing upon the world. Then the eyelids drooped, and a deep sleep fell at once upon the boy.
"All is right," murmured Don Pedro.
He proceeded at once to remove him to his own bed of moss and palm leaves ; to take off his wet clothes, and wrap him in warm garments.
Soon the brown eyes opened once more ; this time a troubled soul looked through, sorely perplexed. The pale lips framed a question :
" Are you my father ? "
Now Don Pedro though he spoke only Spanish and the language of Yucatan, had often visited the English settlement of Belize, and understood much of the English tongue. It was an uncertain idea that this strange voice now conveyed to him, yet after some thought he grasped and understood the question ; but he could not reply in English. Taking the feeble hand in his, he answered slowly in his own language :
"St, su padre!" yes, I am your father.
" He has been given to me by the sea," reasoned the fisherman. " He shall henceforth be my son. So I am his father."
But a look of doubt deepened on the lad's face. Don Pedro saw he had not been understood. He bowed his head upon his hands and murmured a touching prayer :
" Padre mio, I beseech thee give me a language that can be comprehended by this my son, given to me by the sea ! "
There was a common language at command. Unconsciously, Don Pedro gave expression to it in the stronggrasp of his hand and the tender light that played on his usually grave and sad face. The boy understood. He felt a father's protection.
" Where am I ? " was his next question.
After pondering awhile, Don Pedro answered with careful distinctness :
An expression of astonishment now took the place of doubt. He let his mind wander back to the chipcharts. He slowly recalled the position of an island named Cozumel.
" What ! " said he, trying to rise, " am I so near the coast of Yucatan ? "
" Si yes cerca de near Yucatan," responded Don Pedro. Slowly the boy's lips moved. He meant to speak aloud ; but Don Pedro heard no sound. The boy rehearsed the past only to his own consciousness :
" Ah, yes ; it was that great wave hanging over us ! It crushed down and swept us all into the sea, and I was dashed into the boat that hung over the stern. I suppose I clung to the seat. Probably I drifted. I have been picked up, I suppose, story-book fashion. Where are the others ? " he cried suddenly and audibly. " I ought to see about it at once ! See here ! there are several besides me ; let us set out at once."
Vainly trying to rise, he sank back with a groan, and, turning his face to the wall, wrestled with the anguish of full recollection.
Don Pedro was in despair. He could catch only a fragment of the boy's meaning. But he gathered that he had been wrecked on the southern reef, and that there were others in need of assistance. He walked the floor, pulling at his long white beard, devoutly wishing again that there was some common language between him and the boy.
The reader has already concluded that Don Pedro's patient was no other than our adventurous Mark Styler. The first great sea that toppled over the Dappled Diver swept him into the longboat hanging by its davits ; the second freed the boat from its fastenings and flung her over the reef into a sheltered lagoon, where she floated, beyond the reach of the breakers, and drifted finally, with the unconscious occupant, against the northern point forming the entrance to the lake. (See map.)
By the time Mark had awakened from the heavy sleep into which he fellat length, it was noon. The sun hung above the lake, a ball of fire above a glowing mirror. Don Pedro, meantime, had resolved upon a visit to the wreck, which he knew must lie near. He was only waiting for a word with the boy. Now that he had wakened, he brought him a great green cocoanut full of cool delicious water; and after drinking it, Mark felt so much better that he insisted upon rising and setting forth at once.
Don Pedro protested ; made him understand that the sun was too hot, the distance too far, the excitement too great ; that he would be back by sunset. But the coast-bred New England boy laughed at the idea of being unmanned by a night's wetting. He rose and shook himself, staggered for a moment, and then in expressive^ pantomime demanded his clothes. Don Pedro, cheered with the young man's energy, fished up some old garments from a battered seachest. In these Mark was soon dressed, and they set out.
Don Pedro carried a great wicker haversack upon his shoulders, in which he had placed cooked provisions and some stimulants. Each had a large stick, and Don Pedro buckled about his waist a broad leather belt full of cartridges, with a pistol and long knife.
By referring to the map, the reader will notice that Don Pedro's hut was set down on the shore of a little bay on the west side of the lake, and that between it and the sea or open channel where the wreck occurred, there was but a narrow strip of land, covered with dense forest. Through this forest Don Pedro had long since opened a path ; for the wreck of the Diver was not the first that had happened on that reef ; in fact, he depended more upon what the sea cast up to him, than upon the fish and turtle he drew out of it ; and it was his custom to visit the point once a week every Sunday and this he had done for years, accumulating in his weekly excursions much valuable spoil. Evidence of this might be seen in the furnishings of his hut, and he had another cabin at the reefs where he stored whatever he could not move to the house by the lake.
The path was about two miles in length, and led on through deep woods where underfoot was white coral rock, and overhead a dense canopy of leaves. Don Pedro strode ahead with his great knife, cutting away the vines that had fallen across the trail since his last visit,and in spite of the solemn errand upon which they were bound, and his own weakness, Mark felt a sense of joy and courage as he followed, inhaling the delicious forest odors. He was half bewildered by the strange forms of vegetation. Long vines hung from great trees, dropping suddenly from out the maze of branches above, without visible root or support ; and these coiled about each other, intertwined and hung with giant ferns and long mosses. Through these vines, and from tree to tree, darted bright-colored birds, the whole forest musical with their song and chatter.
At sight of these Mark felt stir a pulse of his old ambition. He longed to begin his commission for the museum that moment. But how could he work ? His gun and ammunition were lost; so was the money that had been paid him in advance. But he cheered up presently; partly from the DON PEDRO'S HUT. Yankee consciousness of a birthright of good luck, and partly from a tingling of strength and vim along vein, nerve and sinew.
The freshness of the great green sea-washed region was like balm and wine. Hungrily, thirstily, he took great draughts of these subtle restoratives. Confident that a way would be opened to his work, even as one had been for his escape from the sea, he followed Don Pedro, watching for the first glimpse of the sea.
After an hour or so the trees became smaller, the forest more open, dwindling to low bushes, then came in sight the sand dunes ; and at the same time the roaring of the sea burst upon their ears. Anxiously, without a word, they climbed the last sand-hillock and looked off upon the open water. Below were the reefs, from which the breakers were tossing sheets of foam, and between were quiet lagoons filled with sea-mosses and bright-banded fish.
" Is there nothing, not a spar left of the vessel? " said Mark to himself.
The next moment there loomed up the battered hulk of the Divet without masts, rigging gone, but standing bolt upright on the edge of a reef of coral. Her entire hull was out of water, and he saw that a pathway of coral led out and nearly reached her. He started on a run clown the bank, but Don Pedro, partly by signs and partly by words, halted him.
" Stay here till I go and examine. It is better, because I know the coast."
Mark understood. Much against his will he remained on the sand. His heart beat so wildly that at last he sat down. In a short time he was to know whether any remained of the crew, or whether he was a lone castaway. It seemed only a half-mile to the wreck, but Don Pedro proceeded slowly, the coral points were so sharp and so slimy with seaweed ; and Mark's gaze was divided between him as he picked his way and the forlorn hulk, so pitiful in its helpless condition.
Once as his eyes rested upon the vessel, he fancied he saw a wreath of smoke rise into the air amidships. Rubbing his eyes, he looked again. This time he was sure. A thin column of smoke rose straight up in the still air. He could not contain himself. He shouted to Don Pedro :
" Hullo ! Hurrah ! hurrah ! "
The Mexican looked back. Following the direction of Mark's hand, he too saw the smoke, and waved his arms as token of it. Mark rushed down the bank and out upon the coral strand, though Don Pedro waved him back. But he kept on ; and he paid the penalty of disobedience too, for as he reached the Mexican, he found him bending above a startling, sorrowful sight one of the Dappled Diver's crew stretched out cold and stiff, one hand clinging to the seaweed, and his vacant eyes rolled up to the sky.
It was from an apprehension of this very thing, and from a doubt of his strength to stand the shock, that Don Pedro had cautioned him to await his return. Now he had the grim satisfaction of seeing the wilful boy's face grow ghastly, and his legs weaken so that he must have fallen but for an outstretched arm.
" Now you go back," entreated Don Pedro ; " there'll be more."
" No," persisted Mark. " I go on. I can endure now, if I find them all. I must reach the vessel ; there there is at least one man alive."
Taking him by the hand, Don Pedro led the way, muttering prayers ; and finally they reached a point whence their voices might reach the ears of whoever might be on board.
" Ship ahoy ! " shouted Mark ; but his voice was not the clear clarion it was when he could make a person hear distinctly across the old North farm. It must have fallen far short of the mark.
Then Don Pedro joined in with a wild, grim Mexican sort of " Hullo ! "
It answered the purpose, though addressed to Yankee ears. They heard a faint answering shout, like an echo ; but it was not an echo, for soon a head appeared above the rail, and then the figure of a man with wildly waving arms ; and they heard joyful, though unintelligible, shouts.
And now another figure joined the first. Mark made a telescope of his hand. He thought he recognized Tom Bolton, their cook. A little later he was sure, for no other man or boy would have stood on his head for joy, and waved his legs instead of his arms.
Soon they got near enough to hear one another's calls. Then they learned that the two were Tom Bolton and Mr. Walker, the mate.
"Where are the others ? " called Mark.
"Gone! every one !" shouted Mr. Walker. "Can you get us ? "
They had reached the limit of the reef. Between them and the vessel lay an open channel nearly sixty feet wide. Mark looked doubtful. " Hold on ! " shouted the mate. " I can bring you aboard, if you can't bring us ashore."
He disappeared, was gone for a few minutes, then came in sight again with a coil of line. To one end of this he tied a heavy lead. " Now stand from under ! "
He whirled the lead about his head, then let fly the coil, which straightened out, reached across the channel and well up upon the coral. " Pull in the slack," he cried.
Mark and Don Pedro pulled until they brought up from the water the end of a heavy rope which the mate had bent on to the line.
" That's the talk," he shouted again ; "now make the cable fast about one of them rocks some ways from the shore."
This done, the mate and Tom took several turns about the capstan, and soon drew the cable tight as a drumhead.
" Three Swiss Family Robinson cheers for our suspension bridge ! " cried Tom. " Let's see how she works ! "
Before the mate could prevent, he had darted over the side, and swarmed across the rope-bridge like a monkey across a grape-vine between trees.
" How are you, Mark, old fellow ? " he demanded eagerly, as the two boys grasped each other by the hand. " I'm mighty glad to see you, 'specially " and here he looked as sorrowful as was possible to Tom Bolton " 'specialty's the mate and I thought we was all there was left. Come aboard, and see how snug we're fixed, you and your friend here. What's the old chap's name anyway ? Don't-ee he speak-ee English ? "
" Easy, Tom," said Mark, feeling the enlivening effect of his presence, and smiling. " He understands sufficient English for you to have a care in what you say; as for his name, I don't know what it is yet myself."
" No matter ; good feller, anyhow ; saved your life, did he ?
"Old gentleman, if you're a friend of Mark's you're my friend too. Shake-ee now, shake-ee ! "
Don Pedro smiled, much amused at this odd, rosy, plump specimen of a boy, and gave Tom's hand a hearty grip.
" Now come aboard, both of you ! " cried Tom, "and hallo! look at that shark! And there's a dozen more taking up their stations right under the rope. This 'ere bridge is a leetle nearer the water than I'd like for the first few feet from shore."
" Oh, I'll go ahead if you say fear's the word, Tom," said Mark ; and lightly climbing the rope, he was soon over the rail with his hands in the horny palms of the mate. Don Pedro after signing Tom to be careful, which Tom mimicked behind his back in very excess of high spirits, also reached the vessel's side in safety; and after they were aboard Tom shouted out that he was going to cruise along shore a little, to see what he could pick up.
The old Dappled Diver decks were desolate enough.
" You can see what a pickle we're in," said the mate ; " not a loose piece of plank left big enough to swim by, let alone make a raft of. Howsoever, if you hadn't hove in sight when you did, we should have up anchor and made a lay for land to-morrow ; for though the Diver's high and dry now, the fust west wind'll likely drift her out to sea. You see how she's fixed sot right into a cradle in the reef, and can't budge an inch long's the wind holds the way 'tis ; but when the wind changes, then look out, says I."
Mark asked for an account of the wreck from shipboard standpoint, and Mr. Walker sat down to spin the dark yarn.
"Well, Mark," said he, "you see that big wave just knocked everybody over like tenpins, and every single soul that was on deck was washed overboard. After that the waves weakened, till finally they throwed us on to the reef just far enough to be out of reach of the M'ust ones, and there we sot, jest as safe as if we was shored up on the stocks ; you see everything had gone by the board a long time before, and there wa'n't nothing to topple her over no masts nor riggin'."
" But where were you all this time, mate ? "
" I was below ; I said to Captain Bowker, said I, 'Cap'n, it's my opinion we're better off below, for whatever comes, we can't do no good on deck.' That was a few minutes before that wave hit us ; but he up and said that his duty was on deck, and if he'd got to die he'd be found with his hand on the wheel ; and so I s'pose he was, poor fellow !
"I went below and got into my bunk. The next thing I know'd I heerd an , awful screeching, and the vessel heeled over a minute, and then there was a lull, and the water came pouring into the cabin till it was half-way up to my bunk. But I lay there till mighty near daylight, when not seein' the water gainin', I ventured to wade to the cabin stairs, and put my head up outside. ' Ahoy on deck there ! ' says I. There wa'n't no answer. ' Anybody alive ? ' says I. There wa'n't no sound except the dash of the waves against the counter, and the wailin' of the wind. I tell ye I felt* scared. The blood kind o' settled 'round my heart, and I fell down on the deck, and I tried to pray. Says I : 'O Lord, am I the only living thing aboard this vessel ? Every one that went is a better man than I be why did you leave me ? ' Then I sot there till daylight."
"But where was Tom all this time ?"
"Well, I'll tell ye: Tom was asleep ! "
" Asleep ! How could he sleep through all that terrible night ? "
" That's what I say. But sleep he did. Blamed if he didn't sleep through the hull on't. And the fust thing I know'd was his comin' up and layin' his hand on my shoulder, and a-sayin', ' Seems to me, mate, they's a good deal of water in the cabin,' says he. And when I looked up, amazed that there had somebody been alive all that time in the vessel, he says, says he, ' Mate, where's the rest of us ? '
" And then I answered and said, ' Tom, there ain't no rest of us now; we're all there is? He dropped down on the bitts there as though he'd been struck by a marlinespike. There we both sot without sayin' a word till noon. Bymeby Tom up and picks himself up kinder slowly, and says he, ' Mate, I reckon we've got to have somethin' to eat. I'll rummage the caboose.' Then I see there wa'n't no use settin' there. I gathered myself together and hunted round for -something to make a fire; and we'd jest got our breakfast, and had time to bail the heft of the water out of the cabin when you diskivered us. Go below and take a look ? Invite your chum, if you like. Mexican, ain't he ? What d'you say his name was ? "
" You know as well as I, for I haven't heard him Siay, and don't know how to ask him."
"Just so. But all these fellers speak Spanish, and when I was on the Spanish Main I learnt to jabber that. Now you just lay back and listen. Here goes :
" I say Seenor, parlez vous Espanol, hey ? "
" You no speaky English lettly bit, hey ? "
" No, Seuor."
" Understandy some, hey ? "
" Si, Senor, comprendo unpoco" (Yes, sir, I understand a little.)
" Well then, you don't mind tellin' me your name, do you ?' "
" Como ? " (How ?)
" Your name ; can't you tell us what your daddy calls you to hum ? "
" Ah, usted quiere mi nombre ? " (You wish to know my name ?) " To soy " (I am) " Pedro Pinto, a su disposition" (At your service.)
" There, now you're talkin' ! Well, Mark, he calls himself Pedro Pinto. Pedro is Peter, and to do the correct thing, we oughter call him Don Pedro, or Mr. Peter. Well, Don Pedro, I'm mighty glad to see you, though we have come on to you rather sudding. There, Mark, I guess I've done the business up kinder slick; come below now.
THE MEXICAN' WAS THE FIRST TO ACT.
"You see everything jest about as you left it," continued the mate cheerfully, as they descended the cabin stairs and passed into the wet and dismal rooms. " 'Bout the same, only 'tain't. Here's thechronometer, jist as Captain strapped it up to take with him. Well, he's gone himself, but he didn't take no timepiece. Here's all his charts and papers and cur'os'ties that he's been a-savin' for his wife and children, poor things ! All this property and all there is movable aboard, I've got to make myself responsible for to the owners and underwriters. What's yourn, you take. Nobody knows if I'll ever git away home to render an account at all. Here's your room, and here's your chist and box; guess you'd better git 'em up on deck, and take out what's in 'em, and dry 'em in the sun ; guess your powder's pooty wet by this time, and your gun some rusty. It's nigh onto sunset, but and if you an' Don Pedro'll take hold, we'll git out what we can. Here we air on deck ; to-night we'll stretch a awning, and sleep here. Wonder what's become of Tom 'bout dark ; ought to be here."
As if in reply, Tom's voice reached them ringing out from the water edge to which the rope-bridge was stretched : " Help ! help ! "
Rushing to the rail, they saw Tom struggling in the water, clinging to the slackened cable.
" Help. ! " he cried. " The sharks are after me! "
In the thickening twilight, they saw three ghostly white bodies gliding through the water towards the spot where poor Tom was splashing, his bocfv half submerged. It seemed a hopeless case, for there was nothing at hand to throw at the sharks, and if one descended the rope to grasp the boy, it would only slacken the more and plunge him the deeper. Mark turned white. Was the most terrible incident of all sea-life stories to come true under his very eyes ? The Mexican was the first to act. Motioning the mate to the capstan to tighten the cable, he took his long bright knife between his teeth, and swinging over the rail, crept cautiously along the rope.
He drew nearer and nearer, but he was fully a rod away when the leading shark turned over on his back and glided beneath the boy with open mouth set with white and glistening teeth.