Lost in the Storm
As soon as the boat was clear of the bay Andy put up the sail. It was a pretty brown one, like the sails of all the other fishing-boats of the village. It billowed out in the breeze, and the boat sped along. The boys shipped the oars.
"I'll steer," said Tom, and he took the tiller. The sail flapped, and spray flew up from under the bows of the boat. It was lovely.
"We go north-east," said Andy. "Can you steer by the sun, Tom?"
"Of course," said Tom, who had learnt to tell ti?e time almost to the half-hour by looking to see exactly where the sun was. "I'm going right, aren't I, Andy? And I make it about half-past seven by the sun."
"It's twenty-past seven," said Jill, looking at her watch. She whispered something to Mary, who giggled.
"What are you giggling at?" asked Tom.
"Tell you in a minute," said Jill. The boat flew on over the green water, and the spray whipped off the sea, and fell cool and silvery on the children.
"Golly!" said Tom, in half a minute. "I am hungry. What time are we going to have breakfast?"
The twins burst into squeals of laughter. "That's what we whispered about just now!" said Jill. "I said to Mary "I guess the next thing Tom says will be that he's hungry and what about breakfast." And sure enough you did."
Tom laughed. "Well, I guess you feel the same," he said. "Go on down into the little cabin and see what you can get for our breakfast. Andy and I are busy."
The girls went into the tiny cabin, which was crammed full of then- food and other belongings. "What shall we have for breakfast?" said Jill. "What about pine-apple chunks—and these hard-boiled eggs Mrs. Andrews did for us yesterday evening—and some Nestle's milk—and chocolate?"
It was a most peculiar breakfast, but the four children thought it was lovely. They had three loaves of bread with them, and some butter, and they dabbed the butter on to chunks of bread, took the eggs in then-hand and bit first at the egg and then at the bread. Jill put a paper of salt down on the deck for them to dip the eggs into.
"Fathead!" said Tom, as the wind promptly blew away paper, salt, and all. "As if the sea isn't salt enough already without adding more salt to it! Is there any more?"
There was some in a tin, and as this didn't blow away the children had plenty. There was fresh water in a barrel, and every orie dipped in a cup and had a drink.
"That was a fine breakfast," said Tom. "I could do with it all over again."
"I'm going to take off my jersey and skirt," said Jill. Tin simply cooking!"
"So am I," said Mary. The boys felt hot too, for the sun was now pouring down fiercely. Tom took off his jersey, but Andy didn't remove his. He always kept this on, whatever the weather was.
"This is simply gorgeous," said Jill, lying on a rug on the deck, feeling the spray splash on her hot face and arms every now and again. "How I do love to feel the boat bobbing up and down, up and down all the time! Can I have a turn at the tiller soon, Tom?"
"Everybody can," said Tom. "It's a grand feeling to Sit here and guide the flying boat. How the wind is getting up! The sail is billowing out like the wings of a bird."
The sailing-boat simply flew over the water. "We shall be at Little Island before three o'clock if we go on like this," said Andy.
"I'm so hot in the sun," said Jill. She was sheltered where she lay, and felt hardly any wind. "I wish I could be dragged behind the boat on a rope, in the cool water."
The morning slid on. The sun rose higher and higher and at noon it was so hot that every one put on sun-hats. The wind was still strong and whipped the tops from the waves as the boat flew along.
"It's past noon," said Tom. "What about.»
"A spot of lunch!" chanted every one, knowing exactly what Tom was going to say.
"I'm more thirsty than hungry," said Jill. "What are you looking worried about, Andy?"
"Queer colour the sky is getting over yonder," said Andy, nodding his head to the west.
They all looked. "It's sort of coppery," said Tom.
"There's a storm blowing up," said Andy, sniffing the air like a dog. "I can smell it."
Andy always said he could smell a storm, and he was always right. The children looked anxiously towards the west. "Shall we get to the island before it comes?" asked Jill. "A storm is all very well to read about in a book—but I don't really want to be in one out on the open sea."
"We'll do our best," said Andy. "The little boat can't go faster than she's going now. As it is the sail is almost splitting with the wind!"
The sea turned a strange colour, a kind of blue-brown. "It's caused by the reflection of that funny sky," said Jill, half nervous. "I say! It's queer being out here on the sea, miles away from land, with the sea and the sky doing odd things like this."
Then an even stranger thing happened. The wind, which had been blowing very strongly indeed, dropped completely. One moment it was blowing the children's hair straight back, as they faced the west—the next there was not a breath of air. The sea fell calm and oily. The little fishing-boat stopped running in front of the wind, and rode silently over the waves, as if she were at anchor.
"I say! That's funny," said Tom. "Not a bit of breeze now! Andy, we'll never get to the island if we don't get some wind. Shall we row?"
"No," said Andy, his face rather pale under its dark brown. "No, Tom. You'll get plenty of wind in a minute—more than we want. We must take in some of the sail. The ship will heel right over if we let her have all this sail when next the wind gets up. There's going to be a gale. I can hear it coming."
There was a queer humming noise in the air that seemed to come from nowhere at all. Then an enormous purple cloud blew up from the west and completely covered the sun. The world went dark, and great spots of rain fell.
"It's coming now," said Andy. "Help me with the sail, Tom. Take the tiller, Jill. Keep her heading the way we've been going. Pull, Tom, pull."
They pulled at the big brown sail—but before they had done what they wanted to the storm broke. A great crash of thunder came from the black cloud, and a flash of lightning split the sky in half.
And then the gale came. Tom and the girls had never, never imagined there could be such a wind. They could not hear themselves speak unless they shouted. Andy yelled to the girls:
"Get down into the cabin, quick, and shut the door and stay there."
"Oh, let's be here," cried Jill. But Andy looked so stern and commanding that they did not dare to disobey. They almost fell into the cabin and shut the door Outside the wind seemed to get a voice—a voice that howled and wailed and lashed the sea into enormous waves that sent the little boat half-over every time. Tins and everything else began to fall about. The girls picked them up and put them where they could not fall.
There was a crash as the packet of records fell down. "Blow!" cried Jill. "They'll all be broken!"
So they were—all but one. It was very sad The girls carefully put the one whole record into a safe place and wondered what the boys would say when they knew. But it couldn't be helped.
Up above, on the deck, the two boys struggled with the wind and the sea. Tom had had no time to get into his jersey, so all he had on was a bathing-suit and shorts. He shivered as wave after wave splashed on him. and the wind whipped by.
The deck was wet and slippery. The dark-green waves raced by, and the boat climbed up one steep wave after another, and slid down the other side, only to climb up another enormous wave again. Up and down, up and down she went, whilst Andy struggled with the sail.
"What are you trying to do?" yelled Tom, who was at the tiller.
"Take in all the sail," shouted back Andy. "We can't go on like this. We'll be over."
But he didn't need to bother—for suddenly the sail ripped itself off the mast, flapped wildly for a second and then sped away into the sky. It was gone! Only a little rag was left, wriggling madly in the wind. The boat slowed down at once, for it no longer had the sail to take it along. But even the little rag of sail that was left was enough to take it at a good speed over the waves. Andy said nothing. He took the tiller with Tom, and together the boys faced "the storm. Thunder rolled around and crashed in the skies. Lightning flickered and lighted up the vast heaving waste of grey-black sea. Stinging rain fell every now and again, and the boys bent their heads to it and shut their eyes. The wind lashed them and the spray whipped them. If this was an adventure, there was a great deal too much of it!
"Do you think we're all right, Andy?" shouted Tom. "Are we near the island?"
"I reckon we've passed it!" yelled back Andy. "At the rate we've been going we'd have been there by now. Goodness knows where we are!"
Tom stared at Andy in silence. Passed the island! A storm behind them! No sail! Whatever were they going to do?