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“ He'll be mighty angry,” said Ben.
“He'll be a bit uneasy about us young chaps,” laughed Jack. “ But we're old enough to do something now for ourselves, and not be kept back by—"
“Ha! what's that?” exclaimed Ben, starting as the vessel suddenly struck against something unseen, which caused a shock which almost threw the boy off his feet.
“I say, we've gone bump on the sunken rock which the buoy was set to warn us off !” cried Jack, looking with some alarm at a great shining black object, something like a barrel, which rocked up and down on the waves.
It was the boys' turn to be a bit uneasy,” and Ben turned pale ; while again, more faintly from afar, the father's shout was heard over the waters. “Never mind, no harm done; we've passed the dangerous place, we've left the black buoy behind us !” cried Jack. “We'll soon come up to the mackerel shoal ; just get the net ready, will ye, I fancy I see yonder the silvery gleam of the fish!”
No harm done !—was it so ? There is ever harm done, there is ever grief won, when we cut the cable of conscience !
Still on, on went the vessel, in the course of self-will, over the green rolling waves. But suddenly Ben cried out in alarm, “I say, Jack, there's water coming in fast! Just look here,—the bottom of the boat's like a well; and don't you hear the gurgle ?”
“ There's a leak somewhere in the craft!” exclaimed Jack, a shade of anxiety coming over his bold sunburnt face. “That there sunken rock must have knocked a hole in her side!”
“ Let's get back to the shore as fast as we can !” cried Ben.
“Father will thrash us !” muttered Jack.
“ Never mind that, I'd rather be thrashed than drowned !” exclaimed Ben. “The water is coming in faster and faster! Let's make for the shore ! let's make for the shore !”. • The thing was more easily said than done. The two boys had been able to set the little vessel on her dangerous course, but it was quite a different matter to turn her round, and steer her back in the teeth of the wind; and all the more so as she was getting water-logged, as seamen term it,—that is to say, very heavy from the quantity of water within her.
“Let's work the pump-quick! quick!” cried Jack, who had not lost his presence of mind, and remembered the means sometimes employed by his father to bale out water.
The boys rushed to the pump; they worked it with all their might and main, till the toil-drops streamed down their faces, and their arms ached, and they gasped for breath from the violence of the efforts which they were making. But the sea-water came in faster than they could pump it out. The fisherman's sons grew weary, but the green gurgling water, which was rising higher and higher in the hold, never could tire. The struggle was an unequal one indeed, and it soon became only too clear that it could not be a long one.
“She's settling !—we'll go down !” exclaimed Jack. “ And in sight of shore !” groaned his brother.
“ It's all my doing," muttered Jack. “I would that I'd hacked my hand off afore I'd touched that cable!”
“ Father's looking on!” cried poor Ben, making another despairing effort to work the pump.
In dismay, in misery, the father stood on the shore, watching the Wild-bird. Carp knew but too well what had happened; he saw the peril of his boys, and he had no power to help them. They were much too far away for him to be able to distinguish their faces, but he could see two figures, looking not much larger than bees; he marked that these figures were in violent action, and in terror he observed that the hull of the smack was sinking lower and lower down to the level of the. water.
“She's gone !—they're lost !” Who can tell the anguish of that cry from the lips of a parent, as hull, sail, mast, all disappeared under the water, and only the waves were sparkling over the spot where once the white wing of the Wild-bird had glanced in the sunshine! There was nothing now but that cry to tell that beneath these bright waves had perished two young beings, who not an hour before had set sail full of life and hope and spirit..
This story is a kind of parable of what, alas ! has too often happened on the wide sea of life..
Dear reader (I now especially address myself to boys), it may seem to you to be pleasant to follow your own will and get your own way, and manly to break from restraint; but fearful, often fatal, peril lies before those who take self-will and pride for their guides, and who get loose from the moorings of duty by cutting the cable of conscience.