فصل 01

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فصل 01

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  • زمان مطالعه 5 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

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CHAPTER ONE

The Wreck

For three days and nights our ship had driven before the storm, and now the end was near. Death looked us in the face.

There could be no doubt of that. The ship was breaking up. The first blast of the gale had carried away two of our masts: the frightful walls of water that came sweeping across the Pacific Ocean had torn off our rudder and left us at the mercy of wind and waves. Everything had been swept off the decks except one small boat, and we had been blown far out of our course. I knew that we might find ourselves among dangerous coral reefs-and I, Ralph Rover, fifteen years old and mad about the sea, was terribly afraid.

Then, at the dawn of the third day, there came a cry from the look-out:

“Land! Land ahead!”

I tried to peer through the sheeted rain. Its drops struck at me like bullets. I had never dreamed it could blow so hard. The wind was a screaming fury that rushed in through my mouth and strangled me as I faced it…

And then the ship rose on a mountainous wave, and I saw the dark mass of land that lay ahead. It was an island, encircled by a reef of pounded coral on which the waves were breaking in a fury of flying foam. There was calm water within the reef, but I could see only one narrow opening into the lagoon. My heart sank. We had no chance of winning through without a rudder.

I felt hopeless.

I turned my head and stared at the two boys who clung to the rigging beside me. There were three of us serving as apprentices on board the Arrow: Jack Martin, a tall, strong lad of eighteen, Peterkin Gay, who was little and quick and funny, and about fourteen years old, and myself. Even in that awful moment, Jack’s face showed no sign of fear, though Peterkin looked sick and scared, and there were tears of pain in his eyes from the hard slaps of wind and spray, and the long driving spears of rain.

Above the roar of the gale I heard the captain give a shout. “It’s all up with us, lads! Stand by to launch the boat! We’ll be on the rocks any minute now!”

Jack grabbed hold of my arm.

“Never mind the boat!” he screamed in my ear. “It’s sure to upset in this. When I give the word, make a dash for it and grab that big oar in the bows. If it’s driven over the breakers we might get to the shore.”

I shouted an answer, and clung on, as a great wall of water caught the ship, tilted her over at a crazy angle, and flung her towards the reef. I looked at the white waves that lashed the reef and boiled against its rocks, and had little hope of coming through alive.

Things happened quickly.

Wind and the heaving seas were shoving the Arrow towards the reef. I saw the men standing by the boat and the captain beside them giving orders. The reef was very close, and a tremendous wave was rushing towards us.

“Now!” Jack yelled.

We clawed our way towards the bows, clinging to the rigging, and sobbing for air as we leaned into the wind. The wave fell on the deck with a crash like thunder. A rush of water went over my head. As I clung desperately to the rigging, the ship struck; the foremast broke off close to the deck and went over the side, carrying the boat and men with it. I saw the sea churned to flying foam; I had a glimpse of black heads and up flung arms silhouetted against the frothing white of the waves, and then all of them vanished.

We three ran towards the bow to lay hold of our oar. It was entangled with the wreck, and Jack seized an axe to cut it free. A lurch of the ship made him miss the ropes and he struck the axe deep into the oar. Another wave washed it clear of the wreck. We all seized hold of it. Wind and water caught it and whirled it away, and the next instant we were struggling in the wild sea.

I felt myself lifted and driven through the air, and then I dropped like a stone. A rush of salt water went over my head. I was drowning. I could no longer breathe. Again the waves lifted me and hurled me forward. I crashed down and something struck my head a heavy blow. I pitched headfirst into a watery darkness.

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