Chapter 13 | How to Bale a Boat | Yussuf the Guide

Chapter Thirteen.

“Hah!” ejaculated Mr Burne, after they had made a hearty meal, seated upon the warm sands. “I don’t know that I like my biscuit sopped, and there was more salt than I cared for, but really I don’t feel as if I had done so very badly. Another taste of that wine, Preston. Hah! well, we might have been worse off.”

This was the general opinion, for matters looked better now, and a discussion arose as to what they were to do next; whether they were to travel along the coast till they came to some village, or, as Yussuf suggested, try to get the boat baled out and righted, and once more make for Ansina.

Yussuf declared that they were undoubtedly on the western coast of Cyprus, but he could not tell them how far they might have to journey, and it would be terrible work for Lawrence, who was too weak to walk far, so the Muslim’s suggestion was received; and its wisdom was endorsed by the action of the Greeks, who had carried their skipper down to the boat and seated him upon the sands.

“We are three strong men against two now,” Yussuf had said, “for we will not count the wounded master, or the young effendi here. The men shall empty the boat of water, and they shall take us across to the coast.”

“But suppose another storm should come?” said Mr Burne.

“If another storm should come we should meet it like men, effendi,” said the Turk gravely. “That white squall last night saved our lives, for I was mastered.”

“And so was I,” said the professor. “You are right, Yussuf; but we must not let ourselves be surprised again. I had no business to sleep.”

“We should not have been surprised if yon Greek dog had not struck me down when he was pretending to be asleep by the helm. But see, effendi, he is ordering them to try and empty the boat. Let us go down and help.”

The remains of the food were placed in the basket, which was carried down and left in the sun to dry, not far from where the Greek skipper was seated, holding his wounded leg.

The tide there was very slight, but still it was falling, and this helped them in their plans.

The two Greeks were hard at work with the spar, using it as a lever; and twice over they obtained so good a purchase that they raised the submerged side just above the water, but it slipped back directly.

The professor did not hesitate, but said a few words to Yussuf, who handed his loaded pistol to Lawrence, tucked up his garment, and waded into the water at once along with Mr Preston.

“Humph! just as they were getting so nice and dry,” said Mr Burne. “Well, when one is in Cyprus, one must act like a Cypriote, eh, Lawrence, my lad? I say, fancy one of my clients seeing me doing this.”

He took off his coat, and rolled up his shirt-sleeves, nodding laughingly at Lawrence.

“Look here, my boy,” he said, “if that Greek rascal there moves, just you go up and shoot him somewhere. Don’t kill him, but we cannot stand any of his nonsense now.”

The two Greek sailors stared as the three travellers came wading to them, and seemed disposed to leave off their task; but Yussuf gave them their orders direct from Mr Preston, who made them get out some pieces of board and cut loose a couple of spars.

The result of this was that one of the long spars was securely lashed by their aid to the top of the principal mast which acted as a lever, when all took hold of the spar and pushed upwards. By this means the side of the boat was raised a foot or so, and could not sink back, for the free end of the spar rested on the sand. Then another foot was gained, the end of the spar being dragged along, and so on and on, till from being where it was lashed to the top of the mast, quite an obtuse angle of the widest, it was by degrees worked into a right angle, and by that time the submerged bulwark was quite out of the water, and the keel touched the bottom and kept them from moving the boat any farther.

The next thing to be done was to bale out the enormous quantity of water within, and there was no bucket or anything of the kind; but the professor was equal to the occasion. There was a small box in the big provision basket and the biscuit tin. These were emptied at once, and the two sailors set to work baling, while, as soon as it was possible, an attempt was made to get something serviceable out of the little cabin.

The search was vain, but just then one of the sailors took out his knife, left the biscuit tin with which he was baling, and going forward thrust down his knife-armed hand, and cut free a good-sized cask which was lashed there for the purpose of holding water.

This floated up directly, and when the man had got so far, he stood holding on and looking at it.

Yussuf had seized the biscuit tin, and was baling so as to lose no time, but the professor waded to the sailor, tossed the cask over, and following it, dragged it out on to the sandy shore, where the sea-water with which it was now filled ran gurgling out of the big bung-hole.

While it was emptying the professor walked some little distance to where a few pieces of rock were lying, and securing one weighing about half a hundredweight, he brought it back, set the cask up, and dashed in its head.

This made a baling implement of wonderful power, as soon as it was floated back and lifted into the boat. Certainly it took two men to use it, but the professor called to Yussuf to give the baling tin back to the Greek, and come to his side, and then Christian and Muslim set to work, stripping to it and displaying energy that made the Greeks work the harder in spite of the burning sun. For seizing the cask, as he stood waist-deep, the professor depressed and sank it, and as soon as it was full, he and Yussuf raised it between them till the edge was against the low side of the boat, and then they tilted it, sending its contents into the sea.

It was slow and terribly laborious work, but at the end of an hour the amount they had discharged was something tremendous, and after a rest for refreshment, the baling went on till, towards evening, the felucca was afloat once more, and riding to a little anchor cast out upon the shore.

There was still a great deal more water in her, but everyone was wearied out, and the professor gave the word for a cessation of labour, when some more provision was secured, with wine, and fairly distributed, when the Greeks encamped by their skipper, and the travellers went up close to the rocks, where a little thread of delicious fresh water trickled down and lost itself in the sand.

This was a treasure to the travellers, and at the professor’s desire Yussuf filled the biscuit tin, and took it to the Greeks, who, however, only laughed and said they preferred the wine.

The deliriously warm evening was spent in drying the wet garments in the heated sand, and in resting. The professor, who seemed a good deal fagged by his exertions, would hardly hear of sleeping, but was exceedingly anxious about Lawrence, who, however, seemed to be none the worse for the past night’s exposure, the warmth of the day and the rest he had had having recouped him to a wonderful extent. Mr Burne, too, though he had worked very hard, declared that he never felt better, and after smoking a cigar, which he took as a sandwich between two layers of snuff, preparations were made for the night, it being decided to lie down early and rise at daybreak, when a couple more hours’ work would, it was considered, make the felucca in a condition to sail at any time.

The professor insisted upon Yussuf lying down at once to get the first rest, so as to be roused up towards midnight to take the watch.

He consented rather unwillingly, and then the point had to be settled who should have the pistol and take the first watch.

The professor wished to commence, but Mr Burne was so indignant and insisted so sternly that the pistol was handed to him, after Yussuf had been asleep for about a couple of hours, and then Mr Preston and Lawrence sought their sandy couches, and lay for a little while listening to the soft murmur of the sea, and watching the brilliant stars in the dark sky and in the purply black water, while with regular and slow beat, like a sentry, Mr Burne walked up and down, pistol in hand.

Lawrence lay awake long enough to hear the professor’s deep breathing, and his muttering of something once or twice. Then he lay gazing at the old lawyer, thinking how comical it was, and what a change from Guilford Street in busy London, till it all seemed to be dim and strange and dreamlike.

Then it really was dreamlike, for, though the old lawyer was still marching up and down before Lawrence’s mental vision, it seemed to him that he had swollen out to ten times his natural size, and that he was not walking to and fro between him and the sea, but in front of the railings in Bloomsbury, and that, to prevent his making a noise and disturbing the sleepers, he had wound list all about his boots, which now made not a sound upon the pavement.

To and fro, to and fro he seemed to go, till his head swelled and swelled and no longer appeared to be a head, but a great rough grenadier’s cap, and it was no longer Mr Burne, but one of the sentries in front of the British Museum, who marched, and marched, and marched, till he marched right out of sight, and all was blank as a deep, deep sleep is sometimes, from which the lad started into wakefulness just before dawn, upon hearing the professor say loudly:

“Eh? What? Is it time?”