THE CHRISTMAS WRECK
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON
"Well, sir," said old Silas, as he gave a
preliminary puff to the pipe he had just
lighted, and so satisfied himself that the
draught was all right, "the wind's a-comin',
an' so's Christmas. But it's no use bein'
in a hurry fur either of 'em, fur sometimes
they come afore you want 'em, anyway."
Silas was sitting in the stern of a small
sailing-boat which he owned, and in which
he sometimes took the Sandport visitors out
for a sail, and at other times applied to
its more legitimate but less profitable use,
that of fishing. That afternoon he had taken
young Mr. Nugent for a brief excursion on
that portion of the Atlantic Ocean which
sends its breakers up on the beach of Sandport.
But he had found it difficult, nay, impossible,
just now, to bring him back, for the wind
had gradually died away until there was not
a breath of it left. Mr. Nugent, to whom
nautical experiences were as new as the very
nautical suit of blue flannel which he wore,
rather liked the calm. It was such a relief
to the monotony of rolling waves. He took
out a cigar and lighted it, and then he
"I can easily imagine how a wind might come
before you sailors might want it, but I don't
see how Christmas could come too soon."
"It come wunst on me when things couldn't 'a'
looked more onready fur it," said Silas.
"How was that?" asked Mr. Nugent, settling
himself a little more comfortably on the hard
thwart. "If it's a story, let's have it.
This is a good time to spin a yarn."
"Very well," said old Silas. "I'll spin her."
The bare-legged boy whose duty it was to stay
forward and mind the jib came aft as soon as
he smelt a story, and took a nautical position,
which was duly studied by Mr. Nugent, on a bag
of ballast in the bottom of the boat.
"It's nigh on to fifteen year ago," said Silas,
"that I was on the bark Mary Auguster, bound
for Sydney, New South Wales, with a cargo of
canned goods. We was somewhere about longitood
a hundred an' seventy, latitood nothin', an'
it was the twenty-second o' December, when we
was ketched by a reg'lar typhoon which blew
straight along, end on, fur a day an' a half.
It blew away the storm-sails. It blew away
every yard, spar, shroud, an' every strand o'
riggin', an' snapped the masts off close to
the deck. It blew away all the boats. It
blew away the cook's caboose, an' everythin'
else on deck. It blew off the hatches, an'
sent 'em spinnin' in the air about a mile to
leeward. An' afore it got through, it washed
away the cap'n an' all the crew 'cept me an'
two others. These was Tom Simmons, the second
mate, an' Andy Boyle, a chap from the Adirondack
Mount'ins, who'd never been to sea afore.
As he was a landsman, he ought, by rights, to
'a' been swep' off by the wind an' water,
consid'rin' that the cap'n an' sixteen good
seamen had gone a'ready. But he had hands
eleven inches long, an' that give him a grip
which no typhoon could git the better of.
Andy had let out that his father was a miller
up there in York State, an' a story had got
round among the crew that his gran'father an'
great-gran'father was millers, too; an' the
way the fam'ly got such big hands come from
their habit of scoopin' up a extry quart or
two of meal or flour fur themselves when
they was levellin' off their customers'
measures. He was a good-natered feller,
though, an' never got riled when I'd tell
him to clap his flour-scoops onter a halyard.
"We was all soaked, an' washed, an' beat,
an' battered. We held on some way or other
till the wind blowed itself out, an' then we
got on our legs an' began to look about us
to see how things stood. The sea had washed
into the open hatches till the vessel was
more'n half full of water, an' that had sunk
her so deep that she must 'a' looked like a
canal-boat loaded with gravel. We hadn't
had a thing to eat or drink durin' that whole
blow, an' we was pretty ravenous. We found
a keg of water which was all right, and a box
of biscuit which was what you might call
softtack, fur they was soaked through an'
through with sea-water. We eat a lot of them
so, fur we couldn't wait, an' the rest we
spread on the deck to dry, fur the sun was
now shinin' hot enough to bake bread. We
couldn't go below much, fur there was a
pretty good swell on the sea, an' things was
floatin' about so's to make it dangerous.
But we fished out a piece of canvas, which
we rigged up ag'in' the stump of the mainmast
so that we could have somethin' that we could
sit down an' grumble under. What struck us
all the hardest was that the bark was loaded
with a whole cargo of jolly things to eat,
which was just as good as ever they was, fur
the water couldn't git through the tin cans
in which they was all put up, an' here we was
with nothin' to live on but them salted biscuit.
There wasn't no way of gittin' at any of the
ship's stores, or any of the fancy prog, fur
everythin' was stowed away tight under six
or seven feet of water, an' pretty nigh all
the room that was left between decks was filled
up with extry spars, lumber, boxes, an' other
floatin' stuff. All was shiftin', an' bumpin',
an' bangin' every time the vessel rolled.
"As I said afore, Tom was second mate, an'
I was bo's'n. Says I to Tom, 'The thing we've
got to do is to put up some kind of a spar with
a rag on it fur a distress flag, so that we'll
lose no time bein' took off.' 'There's no use
a-slavin' at anythin' like that,' says Tom,
'fur we've been blowed off the track of traders,
an' the more we work the hungrier we'll git,
an' the sooner will them biscuit be gone.'
"Now when I heared Tom say this I sot still
an' began to consider. Bein' second mate, Tom
was, by rights, in command of this craft. But
it was easy enough to see that if he commanded
there'd never be nothin' fur Andy an' me to
do. All the grit he had in him he'd used up in
holdin' on durin' that typhoon. What he wanted
to do now was to make himself comfortable till
the time come for him to go to Davy Jones's
locker--an' thinkin', most likely, that Davy
couldn't make it any hotter fur him than it was
on that deck, still in latitood nothin' at all,
fur we'd been blowed along the line pretty nigh
due west. So I calls to Andy, who was busy
turnin' over the biscuits on the deck. 'Andy,'
says I, when he had got under the canvas, 'we's
goin' to have a 'lection fur skipper. Tom,
here, is about played out. He's one candydate,
an' I'm another. Now, who do you vote fur?
An' mind yer eye, youngster, that you don't
make no mistake.' 'I vote fur you,' says Andy.
'Carried unanermous!' says I. 'An' I want you
to take notice that I'm cap'n of what's left
of the Mary Auguster, an' you two has got to
keep your minds on that, an' obey orders.'
If Davy Jones was to do all that Tom Simmons
said when he heared this, the old chap would
be kept busier than he ever was yit. But I
let him growl his growl out, knowin' he'd
come round all right, fur there wasn't no
help fur it, consid'rin' Andy an' me was two
to his one. Pretty soon we all went to work,
an' got up a spar from below, which we rigged
to the stump of the foremast, with Andy's
shirt atop of it.
"Them sea-soaked, sun-dried biscuit was pretty
mean prog, as you might think, but we eat so
many of 'em that afternoon, an' 'cordingly
drank so much water, that I was obliged to
put us all on short rations the next day.
'This is the day afore Christmas,' says Andy
Boyle, 'an' to-night will be Christmas eve,
an' it's pretty tough fur us to be sittin'
here with not even so much hardtack as we
want, an' all the time thinkin' that the
hold of this ship is packed full of the
gayest kind of good things to eat.' 'Shut
up about Christmas!' says Tom Simmons.
'Them two youngsters of mine, up in Bangor,
is havin' their toes and noses pretty nigh
froze, I 'spect, but they'll hang up their
stockin's all the same to-night, never thinkin'
that their dad's bein' cooked alive on a
empty stomach.' 'Of course they wouldn't
hang 'em up,' says I, 'if they knowed what a
fix you was in, but they don't know it, an'
what's the use of grumblin' at 'em fur bein'
a little jolly?' 'Well,' says Andy 'they
couldn't be more jollier than I'd be if I
could git at some of them fancy fixin's
down in the hold. I worked well on to a
week at 'Frisco puttin' in them boxes, an'
the names of the things was on the outside
of most of 'em; an' I tell you what it is,
mates, it made my mouth water, even then,
to read 'em, an' I wasn't hungry, nuther,
havin' plenty to eat three times a day.
There was roast beef, an' roast mutton, an'
duck, an' chicken, an' soup, an' peas, an'
beans, an' termaters, an' plum-puddin', an'
mince-pie--' 'Shut up with your mince-pie!'
sung out Tom Simmons. 'Isn't it enough to
have to gnaw on these salt chips, without
hearin' about mince-pie?' 'An' more'n that,'
says Andy, 'there was canned peaches, an'
pears, an' plums, an' cherries.'
"Now these things did sound so cool an' good
to me on that br'ilin' deck that I couldn't
stand it, an' I leans over to Andy, an' I
says: 'Now look-a here; if you don't shut
up talkin' about them things what's stowed
below, an' what we can't git at nohow,
overboard you go!' 'That would make you
short-handed,' says Andy, with a grin.
'Which is more'n you could say,' says I,
'if you'd chuck Tom an' me over'--alludin'
to his eleven-inch grip. Andy didn't say
no more then, but after a while he comes
to me, as I was lookin' round to see if
anything was in sight, an' says he, 'I
s'pose you ain't got nothin' to say ag'in'
my divin' into the hold just aft of the
foremast, where there seems to be a bit
of pretty clear water, an' see if I can't
git up somethin'?' 'You kin do it, if you
like,' says I, 'but it's at your own risk.
You can't take out no insurance at this
office.' 'All right, then,' says Andy;
'an' if I git stove in by floatin' boxes,
you an' Tom'll have to eat the rest of
them salt crackers.' 'Now, boy,' says
I,--an' he wasn't much more, bein' only
nineteen year old,--'you'd better keep
out o' that hold. You'll just git yourself
smashed. An' as to movin' any of them
there heavy boxes, which must be swelled
up as tight as if they was part of the ship,
you might as well try to pull out one of
the Mary Auguster's ribs.' 'I'll try it,'
says Andy, 'fur to-morrer is Christmas,
an' if I kin help it I ain't goin' to be
floatin' atop of a Christmas dinner without
eatin' any on it.' I let him go, fur he
was a good swimmer an' diver, an' I did
hope he might root out somethin' or other,
fur Christmas is about the worst day in
the year fur men to be starvin' on, an'
that's what we was a-comin' to.
"Well, fur about two hours Andy swum, an'
dove, an' come up blubberin', an' dodged
all sorts of floatin' an' pitchin' stuff,
fur the swell was still on. But he couldn't
even be so much as sartin that he'd found
the canned vittles. To dive down through
hatchways, an' among broken bulkheads, to
hunt fur any partiklar kind o' boxes under
seven foot of sea-water, ain't no easy job.
An' though Andy said he got hold of the
end of a box that felt to him like the big
uns he'd noticed as havin' the meat-pies
in, he couldn't move it no more'n if it
had been the stump of the foremast. If
we could have pumped the water out of the
hold we could have got at any part of the
cargo we wanted, but as it was, we couldn't
even reach the ship's stores, which, of
course, must have been mostly sp'iled
anyway, whereas the canned vittles was
just as good as new. The pumps was all
smashed or stopped up, for we tried 'em,
but if they hadn't 'a' been we three
couldn't never have pumped out that ship
on three biscuit a day, an' only about
two days' rations at that.
"So Andy he come up, so fagged out that
it was as much as he could do to get his
clothes on, though they wasn't much, an'
then he stretched himself out under the
canvas an' went to sleep, an' it wasn't
long afore he was talkin' about roast
turkey an' cranberry sass, an' punkin-pie,
an' sech stuff, most of which we knowed
was under our feet that present minnit.
Tom Simmons he just b'iled over, an' sung
out: 'Roll him out in the sun an' let him
cook! I can't stand no more of this!'
But I wasn't goin' to have Andy treated
no sech way as that, fur if it hadn't
been fur Tom Simmons' wife an' young uns,
Andy'd been worth two of him to anybody
who was consid'rin' savin' life. But I
give the boy a good punch in the ribs to
stop his dreamin', fur I was as hungry as
Tom was, an' couldn't stand no nonsense
about Christmas dinners.
"It was a little arter noon when Andy
woke up, an' he went outside to stretch
himself. In about a minute he give a
yell that made Tom an' me jump. 'A sail!'
he hollered. 'A sail!' An' you may bet
your life, young man, that 'twasn't more'n
half a second afore us two had scuffled
out from under that canvas, an' was standin'
by Andy. 'There she is!' he shouted,
'not a mile to win'ard.' I give one look,
an' then I sings out: ''Tain't a sail!
It's a flag of distress! Can't you see,
you land-lubber, that that's the Stars
and Stripes upside down?' 'Why, so it
is,' says Andy, with a couple of reefs
in the joyfulness of his voice. An' Tom
he began to growl as if somebody had
cheated him out of half a year's wages.
"The flag that we saw was on the hull of
a steamer that had been driftin' down on
us while we was sittin' under our canvas.
It was plain to see she'd been caught in
the typhoon, too, fur there wasn't a mast
or a smoke-stack on her. But her hull was
high enough out of the water to catch what
wind there was, while we was so low sunk
that we didn't make no way at all. There
was people aboard, and they saw us, an'
waved their hats an' arms, an' Andy an'
me waved ours; but all we could do was to
wait till they drifted nearer, fur we hadn't
no boats to go to 'em if we'd wanted to.
"'I'd like to know what good that old hulk
is to us,' says Tom Simmons. 'She can't
take us off.' It did look to me somethin'
like the blind leadin' the blind. But
Andy he sings out: 'We'd be better off
aboard of her, fur she ain't water-logged,
an', more'n that, I don't s'pose her stores
are all soaked up in salt water.' There
was some sense in that, an' when the steamer
had got to within half a mile of us, we was
glad to see a boat put out from her with
three men in it. It was a queer boat, very
low an' flat, an' not like any ship's boat
I ever see. But the two fellers at the oars
pulled stiddy, an' pretty soon the boat was
'longside of us, an' the three men on our
deck. One of 'em was the first mate of the
other wreck, an' when he found out what was
the matter with us, he spun his yarn, which
was a longer one than ours. His vessel was
the Water Crescent, nine hundred tons, from
'Frisco to Melbourne, an' they had sailed
about six weeks afore we did. They was
about two weeks out when some of their
machinery broke down, an' when they got it
patched up it broke ag'in, worse than afore,
so that they couldn't do nothin' with it.
They kep' along under sail for about a
month, makin' mighty poor headway till the
typhoon struck 'em, an' that cleaned their
decks off about as slick as it did ours,
but their hatches wasn't blowed off, an'
they didn't ship no water wuth mentionin',
an' the crew havin' kep' below, none of
'em was lost. But now they was clean out
of provisions an' water, havin' been short
when the breakdown happened, fur they had
sold all the stores they could spare to a
French brig in distress that they overhauled
when about a week out. When they sighted
us they felt pretty sure they'd git some
provisions out of us. But when I told the
mate what a fix we was in his jaw dropped
till his face was as long as one of Andy's
hands. Howsomdever, he said he'd send the
boat back fur as many men as it could bring
over, an' see if they couldn't git up some
of our stores. Even if they was soaked with
salt water, they'd be better than nothin'.
Part of the cargo of the Water Crescent was
tools an' things fur some railway contractors
out in Australier, an' the mate told the men
to bring over some of them irons that might
be used to fish out the stores. All their
ship's boats had been blowed away, an' the
one they had was a kind of shore boat for
fresh water, that had been shipped as part
of the cargo, an' stowed below. It couldn't
stand no kind of a sea, but there wasn't
nothin' but a swell on, an' when it come
back it had the cap'n in it, an' five men,
besides a lot of chains an' tools.
"Them fellers an' us worked pretty nigh the
rest of the day, an' we got out a couple
of bar'ls of water, which was all right,
havin' been tight bunged, an' a lot of
sea-biscuit, all soaked an sloppy, but we
only got a half-bar'l of meat, though three
or four of the men stripped an' dove fur
more'n an hour. We cut up some of the meat
an' eat it raw, an' the cap'n sent some
over to the other wreck, which had drifted
past us to leeward, an' would have gone
clean away from us if the cap'n hadn't
had a line got out an' made us fast to
it while we was a-workin' at the stores.
"That night the cap'n took us three, as
well as the provisions we'd got out, on
board his hull, where the 'commodations
was consid'able better than they was on
the half-sunk Mary Auguster. An' afore
we turned in he took me aft an' had a
talk with me as commandin' off'cer of my
vessel. 'That wreck o' yourn,' says he,
'has got a vallyble cargo in it, which
isn't sp'iled by bein' under water. Now,
if you could get that cargo into port it
would put a lot of money in your pocket,
fur the owners couldn't git out of payin'
you fur takin' charge of it an' havin'
it brung in. Now I'll tell you what I'll
do. I'll lie by you, an' I've got
carpenters aboard that'll put your pumps
in order, an' I'll set my men to work to
pump out your vessel. An' then, when
she's afloat all right, I'll go to work
ag'in at my vessel--which I didn't s'pose
there was any use o' doin', but whilst I
was huntin' round amongst our cargo to-day
I found that some of the machinery we
carried might be worked up so's to take
the place of what is broke in our engine.
We've got a forge aboard, an' I believe
we can make these pieces of machinery fit,
an' git goin' ag'in. Then I'll tow you
into Sydney, an' we'll divide the salvage
money. I won't git nothin' fur savin' my
vessel, coz that's my business, but you
wasn't cap'n o' yourn, an' took charge of
her a-purpose to save her, which is another
"I wasn't at all sure that I didn't take
charge of the Mary Auguster to save myself
an' not the vessel, but I didn't mention
that, an' asked the cap'n how he expected
to live all this time.
"'Oh, we kin git at your stores easy enough,'
says he, when the water's pumped out.'
'They'll be mostly sp'iled,' says I. 'That
don't matter' says he. 'Men'll eat anything
when they can't git nothin' else.' An'
with that he left me to think it over.
"I must say, young man, an' you kin b'lieve
me if you know anything about sech things,
that the idee of a pile of money was mighty
temptin' to a feller like me, who had a
girl at home ready to marry him, and who
would like nothin' better'n to have a little
house of his own, an' a little vessel of his
own, an' give up the other side of the world
altogether. But while I was goin' over all
this in my mind, an' wonderin' if the cap'n
ever could git us into port, along comes
Andy Boyle, an' sits down beside me. 'It
drives me pretty nigh crazy,' says he, 'to
think that to-morrer's Christmas, an' we've
got to feed on that sloppy stuff we fished
out of our stores, an' not much of it, nuther,
while there's all that roast turkey an'
plum-puddin' an' mince-pie a-floatin' out
there just afore our eyes, an' we can't have
none of it.' 'You hadn't oughter think so
much about eatin', Andy,' says I,'but if I
was talkin' about them things I wouldn't
leave out canned peaches. By George! On
a hot Christmas like this is goin' to be,
I'd be the jolliest Jack on the ocean if I
could git at that canned fruit.' 'Well,
there's a way,' says Andy, 'that we might
git some of 'em. A part of the cargo of
this ship is stuff fur blastin' rocks--ca'tridges,
'lectric bat'ries, an' that sort of thing;
an' there's a man aboard who's goin' out to
take charge of 'em. I've been talkin' to
this bat'ry man, an' I've made up my mind
it'll be easy enough to lower a little
ca'tridge down among our cargo an' blow
out a part of it.' 'What 'u'd be the good
of it,' says I, 'blowed into chips?' 'It
might smash some,' says he, 'but others
would be only loosened, an' they'd float
up to the top, where we could git 'em,
specially them as was packed with pies,
which must be pretty light.' 'Git out,
Andy,' says I, 'with all that stuff!' An'
he got out.
"But the idees he'd put into my head didn't
git out, an' as I laid on my back on the
deck, lookin' up at the stars, they sometimes
seemed to put themselves into the shape of
a little house, with a little woman cookin'
at the kitchin fire, an' a little schooner
layin' at anchor just off shore. An' then
ag'in they'd hump themselves up till they
looked like a lot of new tin cans with their
tops off, an' all kinds of good things to
eat inside, specially canned peaches--the
big white kind, soft an' cool, each one
split in half, with a holler in the middle
filled with juice. By George, sir! the
very thought of a tin can like that made
me beat my heels ag'in the deck. I'd been
mighty hungry, an' had eat a lot of salt
pork, wet an' raw, an' now the very idee
of it, even cooked, turned my stomach.
I looked up to the stars ag'in, an' the
little house an' the little schooner was
clean gone, an' the whole sky was filled
with nothin' but bright new tin cans.
"In the mornin' Andy he come to me ag'in.
'Have you made up your mind,' says he,
'about gittin' some of them good things
fur Christmas dinner?' 'Confound you!'
says I, 'you talk as if all we had to do
was to go an' git 'em.' 'An' that's what
I b'lieve we kin do,' says he, 'with the
help of that bat'ry man.' 'Yes,' says I,
'an' blow a lot of the cargo into flinders,
an' damage the Mary Auguster so's she
couldn't never be took into port.' An'
then I told him what the cap'n had said
to me, an' what I was goin' to do with the
money. 'A little ca'tridge,' says Andy,
'would do all we want, an' wouldn't hurt
the vessel, nuther. Besides that, I don't
b'lieve what this cap'n says about tinkerin'
up his engine. 'Tain't likely he'll ever
git her runnin' ag'in, nor pump out the
Mary Auguster, nuther. If I was you I'd
a durned sight ruther have a Christmas
dinner in hand than a house an' wife in
the bush.' 'I ain't thinkin' o' marryin'
a girl in Australier,' says I. An' Andy
he grinned, an' said I wouldn't marry
nobody if I had to live on sp'iled vittles
till I got her.
"A little arter that I went to the cap'n
an' I told him about Andy's idee, but he
was down on it. 'It's your vessel, an'
not mine,' says he, 'an' if you want to
try to git a dinner out of her I'll not
stand in your way. But it's my 'pinion
you'll just damage the ship, an' do nothin'.'
Howsomdever, I talked to the bat'ry man
about it, an' he thought it could be done,
an' not hurt the ship, nuther. The men
was all in favor of it, fur none of 'em
had forgot it was Christmas day. But
Tom Simmons he was ag'in' it strong, fur
he was thinkin' he'd git some of the
money if we got the Mary Auguster into
port. He was a selfish-minded man, was
Tom, but it was his nater, an' I s'pose
he couldn't help it.
"Well, it wasn't long afore I began to
feel pretty empty an' mean, an' if I'd
wanted any of the prog we got out the
day afore, I couldn't have found much,
fur the men had eat it up nearly all in
the night. An' so I just made up my mind
without any more foolin', an' me an' Andy
Boyle an' the bat'ry man, with some
ca'tridges an' a coil of wire, got into
the little shore boat, an' pulled over
to the Mary Auguster. There we lowered
a small ca'tridge down the main hatchway,
an' let it rest down among the cargo.
Then we rowed back to the steamer,
uncoilin' the wire as we went. The
bat'ry man clumb up on deck, an' fixed
his wire to a 'lectric machine, which
he'd got all ready afore we started.
Andy an' me didn't git out of the boat.
We had too much sense fur that, with
all them hungry fellers waitin' to jump
in her. But we just pushed a little
off, an' sot waitin', with our mouths
awaterin', fur him to touch her off.
He seemed to be a long time about it,
but at last he did it, an' that instant
there was a bang on board the Mary
Auguster that made my heart jump.
Andy an' me pulled fur her like mad,
the others a-hollerin' arter us, an'
we was on deck in no time. The deck
was all covered with the water that
had been throwed up. But I tell you,
sir, that we poked an' fished about,
an' Andy stripped an' went down an'
swum all round, an' we couldn't find
one floatin' box of canned goods. There
was a lot of splinters, but where they
come from we didn't know. By this time
my dander was up, an' I just pitched
around savage. That little ca'tridge
wasn't no good, an' I didn't intend to
stand any more foolin'. We just rowed
back to the other wreck, an' I called
to the ba'try man to come down, an'
bring some bigger ca'tridges with him,
fur if we was goin' to do anything we
might as well do it right. So he got
down with a package of bigger ones, an'
jumped into the boat. The cap'n he
called out to us to be keerful, an' Tom
Simmons leaned over the rail an' swored;
but I didn't pay no 'tention to nuther
of 'em, an' we pulled away.
"When I got aboard the Mary Auguster, I
says to the bat'ry man: 'We don't want
no nonsense this time, an' I want you to
put in enough ca'tridges to heave up
somethin' that'll do fur a Christmas
dinner. I don't know how the cargo is
stored, but you kin put one big ca'tridge
'midship, another for'ard, an' another
aft, an' one or nuther of 'em oughter
fetch up somethin'.' Well, we got the
three ca'tridges into place. They was
a good deal bigger than the one we fust
used, an' we j'ined 'em all to one wire,
an' then we rowed back, carryin' the
long wire with us. When we reached the
steamer, me an' Andy was a-goin' to
stay in the boat as we did afore, but
the cap'n sung out that he wouldn't
allow the bat'ry to be touched off till
we come aboard. 'Ther's got to be fair
play,' says he. 'It's your vittles, but
it's my side that's doin' the work.
After we've blasted her this time you
two can go in the boat an' see what
there is to git hold of, but two of my
men must go along.' So me an' Andy had
to go on deck, an' two big fellers was
detailed to go with us in the little boat
when the time come, an' then the bat'ry
man he teched her off.
"Well, sir, the pop that followed that
tech was somethin' to remember. It shuck
the water, it shuck the air, an' it shuck
the hull we was on. A reg'lar cloud of
smoke an' flyin' bits of things rose up
out of the Mary Auguster; an' when that
smoke cleared away, an' the water was all
b'ilin' with the splash of various-sized
hunks that come rainin' down from the sky,
what was left of the Mary Auguster was
sprinkled over the sea like a wooden
carpet fur water-birds to walk on.
"Some of the men sung out one thing, an'
some another, an' I could hear Tom Simmons
swear; but Andy an' me said never a word,
but scuttled down into the boat, follered
close by the two men who was to go with us.
Then we rowed like devils fur the lot of
stuff that was bobbin' about on the water,
out where the Mary Auguster had been. In
we went among the floatin' spars and ship's
timbers, I keepin' the things off with an
oar, the two men rowin', an' Andy in the
"Suddenly Andy give a yell, an' then he
reached himself for'ard with sech a bounce
that I thought he'd go overboard. But up
he come in a minnit, his two 'leven-inch
hands gripped round a box. He sot down in
the bottom of the boat with the box on his
lap an' his eyes screwed onsome letters that
was stamped on one end. 'Pidjin-pies!' he
sings out. ''Tain't turkeys, nor 'tain't
cranberries but, by the Lord Harry, it's
Christmas pies all the same!' After that
Andy didn't do no more work, but sot holdin'
that box as if it had been his fust baby.
But we kep' pushin' on to see what else
there was. It's my 'pinion that the biggest
part of that bark's cargo was blowed into
mince-meat, an' the most of the rest of it
was so heavy that it sunk. But it wasn't
all busted up, an' it didn't all sink.
There was a big piece of wreck with a lot
of boxes stove into the timbers, and some
of these had in 'em beef ready b'iled an'
packed into cans, an' there was other kinds
of meat, an' dif'rent sorts of vegetables,
an' one box of turtle soup. I looked at
every one of 'em as we took 'em in, an'
when we got the little boat pretty well
loaded I wanted to still keep on searchin';
but the men they said that shore boat 'u'd
sink if we took in any more cargo, an' so
we put back, I feelin' glummer'n I oughter
felt, fur I had begun to be afeared that
canned fruit, sech as peaches, was heavy,
an' li'ble to sink.
"As soon as we had got our boxes aboard,
four fresh men put out in the boat, an'
after a while they come back with another
load. An' I was mighty keerful to read
the names on all the boxes. Some was
meat-pies, an' some was salmon, an' some
was potted herrin's, an' some was lobsters.
But nary a thing could I see that ever had
growed on a tree.
"Well, sir, there was three loads brought
in altogether, an' the Christmas dinner
we had on the for'ard deck of that steamer's
hull was about the jolliest one that was
ever seen of a hot day aboard of a wreck
in the Pacific Ocean. The cap'n kept good
order, an' when all was ready the tops was
jerked off the boxes, and each man grabbed
a can an' opened it with his knife. When
he had cleaned it out, he tuk another
without doin' much questionin' as to the
bill of fare. Whether anybody got pidjin-pie
'cept Andy, I can't say, but the way we
piled in Delmoniker prog would 'a' made
people open their eyes as was eatin' their
Christmas dinners on shore that day. Some
of the things would 'a' been better cooked
a little more, or het up, but we was too
fearful hungry to wait fur that, an' they
was tiptop as they was.
"The cap'n went out afterwards, an' towed
in a couple of bar'ls of flour that was
only part soaked through, an' he got some
other plain prog that would do fur future
use. But none of us give our minds to
stuff like this arter the glorious Christmas
dinner that we'd quarried out of the Mary
Auguster. Every man that wasn't on duty
went below and turned in fur a snooze--all
'cept me, an' I didn't feel just altogether
satisfied. To be sure, I'd had an A1
dinner, an', though a little mixed, I'd
never eat a jollier one on any Christmas
that I kin look back at. But, fur all that,
there was a hanker inside o' me. I hadn't
got all I'd laid out to git when we teched
off the Mary Auguster. The day was blazin'
hot, an' a lot of the things I'd eat was
pretty peppery. 'Now,' thinks I, 'if there
had been just one can o' peaches sech as I
seen shinin' in the stars last night!' An'
just then, as I was walkin' aft, all by
myself, I seed lodged on the stump of the
mizzenmast a box with one corner druv down
among the splinters. It was half split
open, an' I could see the tin cans shinin'
through the crack. I give one jump at it,
an' wrenched the side off. On the top
of the first can I seed was a picture of
a big white peach with green leaves.
That box had been blowed up so high that
if it had come down anywhere 'cept among
them splinters it would 'a' smashed itself
to flinders, or killed somebody. So fur
as I know, it was the only thing that fell
nigh us, an' by George, sir, I got it!
When I had finished a can of 'em I hunted
up Andy, an' then we went aft an' eat some
more. 'Well,' says Andy, as we was a-eatin',
'how d'ye feel now about blowin' up your
wife, an' your house, an' that little
schooner you was goin' to own?'
"'Andy,' says I, 'this is the joyfulest
Christmas I've had yit, an' if I was to
live till twenty hundred I don't b'lieve
I'd have no joyfuler, with things comin'
in so pat; so don't you throw no shadders.'
"'Shadders!' says Andy. 'That ain't me.
I leave that sort of thing fur Tom Simmons.'
"'Shadders is cool,' says I, 'an' I kin
go to sleep under all he throws.'
"Well, sir," continued old Silas, putting
his hand on the tiller and turning his face
seaward, "if Tom Simmons had kept command
of that wreck, we all would 'a' laid there
an' waited an' waited till some of us was
starved, an' the others got nothin' fur it,
fur the cap'n never mended his engine, an'
it wasn't more'n a week afore we was took
off, an' then it was by a sailin' vessel,
which left the hull of the Water Crescent
behind her, just as she would 'a' had to
leave the Mary Auguster if that jolly old
Christmas wreck had been there.
"An' now, sir," said Silas, "d'ye see that
stretch o' little ripples over yander,
lookin' as if it was a lot o' herrin'
turnin' over to dry their sides? Do you
know what that is? That's the supper wind.
That means coffee, an' hot cakes, an' a bit
of br'iled fish, an' pertaters, an' p'r'aps,
if the old woman feels in a partiklar good
humor, some canned peaches--big white uns,
cut in half, with a holler place in the
middle filled with cool, sweet juice."
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~