فصل 09

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فصل 09

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  • زمان مطالعه 7 دقیقه
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CHAPTER NINE

Penguin Island

Our boat, at last, was finished.

It looked a clumsy thing, but it did our hearts good to see it. Its planks were of chestnut, and its keel made from a small tree which had a branch growing at the proper angle about ten feet up its stem. The planks were nailed to the keel with wooden pegs, driven hard through holes that we had bored through the timber with a length of red-hot hoop-iron. The oars we blocked out roughly with the axe; then we smoothed them down with the knife.

It was a bright clear morning when we first launched the boat upon the lagoon. The sea was like a sheet of glass, and in its depths shone the brilliant corals. We rowed and fished for an hour or two and found that the boat handled surprisingly well.

“The next thing,” said Jack, “is to make a mast and sail. I’ll see to the mast and you two can collect coconut cloth for the sail. Let’s get to work.”

In three days we had set up the mast and sail. The sail was made of a number of oblong pieces of cloth that we had sewn together with our needle. It worked perfectly, and we cruised about over the lagoon, fishing, and watching for hours the brightly coloured fish that swam among the corals and seaweed.

Soon after we’d finished the boat, we were sitting on the rocks at Spouting Cliff, and talking about a sail we planned to make to Penguin Island, on the very next day. As we sat there I noticed a dark line, like a low cloud or fogbank, on the seaward horizon. The day was fine, though cloudy, and the seas breaking on the reef were no higher than usual. We thought a storm might be brewing, and kept our eyes on that strange dark line that seemed to draw nearer without spreading up over the sky. It moved swiftly, but there was no sound till it reached an island out at sea. At its touch a cloud of white foam burst in spray that rose high in the air. There was a loud roar and then, for the first time, we realized that we were calmly gazing at a monster wave, sweeping in towards us. We sprang to our feet.

“Run!” Jack shouted. “Quickly-get on high ground!”

We raced towards a hill that rose behind us, and scrambled to its summit. There we turned, wide-eyed and panting, in time to see the great wave strike the reef.

It burst right over with a roar like thunder, then rolled on towards the shore. Its great crest seemed to rear higher and higher, and then, with a crash that shook the solid rocks, it fell. In that moment it seemed as if all the earth had been blown up with water. We were stunned and confused by the shock, and blinded by flying spray. The wave swept across the beach and dashed into the woods, smashing down trees and bushes in its headlong course.

As soon as the water had flowed back, we tore down the hill, afraid that our camp might have been swept away, and that our boat, which we had pulled up on to the beach, might have been utterly destroyed. The camp, we found, was safe, for the wave had not flowed that far, though there were torn-up bushes and tangled heaps of seaweed only a few feet from the entrance.

Our next thought was for the boat. We hurried down to the beach and found that it was gone.

We started towards the woods, our eyes searching everywhere for some sign of the missing boat. Then Peterkin gave a shout.

“Jack! What sort of fruit is that growing on top of that bush there?”

We stared and saw our boat perched upside-down on the top of a large bush. Luckily it was not damaged in any way, though it was hard work to get it out of the bush and down to the sea again.

The weather next morning was so good, and the sea so quiet, that we made up our minds to sail across to Penguin Island as we had planned. We rowed over the lagoon towards the outlet in the reef, and slipped between the two green islets that guarded the entrance. We shipped some water in the surf, but then found ourselves floating smoothly enough on a long oily swell.

We had about twenty miles to go. Rowing was hard work, but after we had covered a mile or two a breeze got up, so we spread our sail and flew merrily over the waves.

As we drew close to the island, we were much amused by the antics of the penguins as they strutted to and fro, or marched in ranks like soldiers.

There were thousands of them on the rock, and we pulled in and lay there for more than an hour watching the habits of these curious birds.

It was late afternoon when we turned away from the island. We had made up our minds to camp for the night on another smaller island on which we could see a few coconut trees growing, about two miles off.

The sky darkened as we went. Before we were half-way the breeze had freshened until it was blowing a gale, and the waves began to rise against the boat so that she took in water, and it was all we could do to keep afloat.

We at last realized that we could never make the island. Jack put the boat around and called for the sail to be hoisted, to run back to Penguin Island. “If we can get there, we’ll at least have shelter,” he said.

Even as he spoke the wind shifted and began to blow so much against us that it was clear that it would not be easy to beat up for the island.

“You’ll have to take in sail,” Jack shouted above the wind.

Peterkin and I hurried to obey. We had the sail down in a moment but were then struck by a sudden squall that left the boat half full of water. I started baling, while Peterkin again raised a corner of the sail.

Several minutes passed. When I had finished baling, I sat up and stared around me. In that moment the awful truth dawned upon me. It would be impossible for us to reach Penguin Island. Our small and leaky boat was being swept out into the ocean.

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