The Christmas Wreck by Frank Stockton
"Well, sir," said old Silas, as he gave a preliminary puff to the pipe
he had just lighted, and so satisfied himself that the draught was all
right, "the wind's a-comin', an' so's Christmas. But it's no use bein'
in a hurry fur either of 'em, fur sometimes they come afore you want
Silas was sitting in the stern of a small sailing-boat which he owned,
and in which he sometimes took the Sandport visitors out for a sail,
and at other times applied to its more legitimate but less profitable
use, that of fishing. That afternoon he had taken young Mr. Nugent for
a brief excursion on that portion of the Atlantic Ocean which sends its
breakers up on the beach of Sandport. But he had found it difficult,
nay, impossible, just now, to bring him back, for the wind had
gradually died away until there was not a breath of it left. Mr.
Nugent, to whom nautical experiences were as new as the very nautical
suit of blue flannel which he wore, rather liked the calm. It was such
a relief to the monotony of rolling waves. He took out a cigar and
lighted it, and then he remarked:
"I can easily imagine how a wind might come before you sailors might
want it, but I don't see how Christmas could come too soon."
"It come wunst on me when things couldn't `a' looked more onready fur
it," said Silas.
"How was that?" asked Mr. Nugent, settling himself a little more
comfortably on the hard thwart. "If it's a story, let's have it. This
is a good time to spin a yarn."
"Very well," said old Silas. "I'll spin her."
The bare-legged boy whose duty it was to stay forward and mind the jib
came aft as soon as he smelt a story, and took a nautical position,
which was duly studied by Mr. Nugent, on a bag of ballast in the bottom
of the boat.
"It's nigh on to fifteen year ago," said Silas, "that I was on the bark
Mary Auguster, bound for Sydney, New South Wales, with a cargo of
canned goods. We was somewhere about longitood a hundred an' seventy,
latitood nothin', an' it was the twenty-second o' December, when we was
ketched by a reg'lar typhoon which blew straight along, end on, fur a
day an' a half. It blew away the storm-sails. It blew away every
yard, spar, shroud, an' every strand o' riggin', an' snapped the masts
off close to the deck. It blew away all the boats. It blew away the
cook's caboose, an' everythin' else on deck. It blew off the hatches,
an' sent 'em spinnin' in the air about a mile to leeward. An' afore it
got through, it washed away the cap'n an' all the crew 'cept me an' two
others. These was Tom Simmons, the second mate, an' Andy Boyle, a chap
from the Adirondack Mount'ins, who'd never been to sea afore. As he
was a landsman, he ought, by rights, to 'a' been swep' off by the wind
an' water, consid'rin' that the cap'n an' sixteen good seamen had gone
a'ready. But he had hands eleven inches long, an' that give him a grip
which no typhoon could git the better of. Andy had let out that his
father was a miller up there in York State, an' a story had got round
among the crew that his granfather an' great-gran'father was millers,
too; an' the way the fam'ly got such big hands come from their habit of
scoopin' up a extry quart or two of meal or flour fur themselves when
they was levellin' off their customers' measures. He was a
good-natered feller, though, an' never got riled when I'd tell him to
clap his flour-scoops onter a halyard.
"We was all soaked, an' washed, an' beat, an' battered. We held on
some way or other till the wind blowed itself out, an' then we got on
our legs an' began to look about us to see how things stood. The sea
had washed into the open hatches till the vessel was more'n half full
of water, an' that had sunk her, so deep that she must 'a' looked like
a canal-boat loaded with gravel. We hadn't had a thing to eat or drink
durin' that whole blow, an' we was pretty ravenous. We found a keg of
water which was all right, and a box of biscuit which was what you
might call softtack, fur they was soaked through an' through with
sea-water. We eat a lot of them so, fur we couldn't wait, an' the rest
we spread on the deck to dry, fur the sun was now shinin' hot enough to
bake bread. We couldn't go below much, fur there was a pretty good
swell on the sea, an' things was floatin' about so's to make it
dangerous. But we fished out a piece of canvas, which we rigged up
ag'in' the stump of the mainmast so that we could have somethin' that
we could sit down an' grumble under. What struck us all the hardest
was that the bark was loaded with a whole cargo of jolly things to eat,
which was just as good as ever they was, fur the water couldn't git
through the tin cans in which they was all put up, an' here we was with
nothin' to live on but them salted biscuit. There wasn't no way of
gittin' at any of the ship's stores, or any of the fancy prog, fur
everythin' was stowed away tight under six or seven feet of water, an'
pretty nigh all the room that was left between decks was filled up with
extry spars, lumber, boxes, an' other floatin' stuff. All was
shiftin', an' bumpin', an' bangin' every time the vessel rolled.
"As I said afore, Tom was second mate, an' I was bo's'n. Says I to
Tom, `The thing we've got to do is to put up some kind of a spar with a
rag on it fur a distress flag, so that we'll lose no time bein' took
off.' `There's no use a-slavin' at anythin' like that,' says Tom, `fur
we've been blowed off the track of traders, an' the more we work the
hungrier we'll git, an' the sooner will them biscuit be gone.'
"Now when I heared Tom say this I sot still an' began to consider.
Bein' second mate, Tom was, by rights, in command of this craft. But
it was easy enough to see that if he commanded there'd never be nothin'
fur Andy an' me to do. All the grit he had in him he'd used up in
holdin' on durin' that typhoon. What he wanted to do now was to make
himself comfortable till the time come for him to go to Davy Jones's
locker—an' thinkin', most likely, that Davy couldn't make it any
hotter fur him than it was on that deck, still in latitood nothin' at
all, fur we'd been blowed along the line pretty nigh due west. So I
calls to Andy, who was busy turnin' over the biscuits on the deck.
`Andy,' says I, when he had got under the canvas, `we's goin' to have a
'lection fur skipper. Tom, here, is about played out. He's one
candydate, an' I'm another. Now, who do you vote fur? An' mind yer
eye, youngster, that you don't make no mistake.' `I vote fur you' says
Andy. `Carried unanermous!' says I. `An' I want you to take notice
that I'm cap'n of what's left of the Mary Auguster, an' you two has got
to keep your minds on that, an' obey orders.' If Davy Jones was to do
all that Tom Simmons said when he heared this, the old chap would be
kept busier than he ever was yit. But I let him growl his growl out,
knowin' he'd come round all right, fur there wasn't no help fur it,
consid'rin' Andy an' me was two to his one. Pretty soon we all went to
work, an' got up a spar from below, which we rigged to the stump of the
foremast, with Andy's shirt atop of it.
"Them sea-soaked, sun-dried biscuit was pretty mean prog, as you might
think, but we eat so many of 'em that afternoon, an' 'cordingly drank
so much water, that I was obliged to put us all on short rations the
next day. `This is the day afore Christmas,' says Andy Boyle, `an'
to-night will be Christmas eve, an' it's pretty tough fur us to be
sittin' here with not even so much hardtack as we want, an' all the
time thinkin' that the hold of this ship is packed full of the gayest
kind of good things to eat.' `Shut up about Christmas!' says Tom
Simmons. `Them two youngsters of mine, up in Bangor, is havin' their
toes and noses pretty nigh froze, I 'spect, but they'll hang up their
stockin's all the same to-night, never thinkin' that their dad's bein'
cooked alive on a empty stomach.' `Of course they wouldn't hang 'em
up,' says I, if they knowed what a fix you was in, but they don't know
it, an' what's the use of grumblin' at 'em fur bein' a little jolly?'
`Well,' says Andy `they couldn't be more jollier than I'd be if I could
git at some of them fancy fixin's down in the hold. I worked well on
to a week at 'Frisco puttin' in them boxes, an' the names of the things
was on the outside of most of 'em; an' I tell you what it is, mates, it
made my mouth water, even then, to read 'em, an' I wasn't hungry,
nuther, havin' plenty to eat three times a day. There was roast beef,
an' roast mutton, an' duck, an' chicken, an' soup, an' peas, an' beans,
an' termaters, an' plum-puddin', an' mince-pie—' `Shut up with your
mince-pie!' sung out Tom Simmons. `Isn't it enough to have to gnaw on
these salt chips, without hearin' about mince-pie?' `An' more'n that'
says Andy, `there was canned peaches, an' pears, an' plums, an'
"Now these things did sound so cool an' good to me on that br'ilin'
deck that I couldn't stand it, an' I leans over to Andy, an' I says:
`Now look-a here; if you don't shut up talkin' about them things what's
stowed below, an' what we can't git at nohow, overboard you go!' `That
would make you short-handed,' says Andy, with a grin. `Which is more'n
you could say,' says I, `if you'd chuck Tom an' me over'—alludin' to
his eleven-inch grip. Andy didn't say no more then, but after a while
he comes to me, as I was lookin' round to see if anything was in sight,
an' says he, `I spose you ain't got nothin' to say ag'in' my divin'
into the hold just aft of the foremast, where there seems to be a bit
of pretty clear water, an' see if I can't git up somethin'?' `You kin
do it, if you like,' says I, `but it's at your own risk. You can't
take out no insurance at this office.' `All right, then,' says Andy;
`an' if I git stove in by floatin' boxes, you an' Tom'll have to eat
the rest of them salt crackers.' `Now, boy,' says I,—an' he wasn't
much more, bein' only nineteen year old,—`you'd better keep out o'
that hold. You'll just git yourself smashed. An' as to movin' any of
them there heavy boxes, which must be swelled up as tight as if they
was part of the ship, you might as well try to pull out one of the Mary
Auguster's ribs.' `I'll try it,' says Andy, `fur to-morrer is
Christmas, an' if I kin help it I ain't goin' to be floatin' atop of a
Christmas dinner without eatin' any on it.' I let him go, fur he was a
good swimmer an' diver, an' I did hope he might root out somethin' or
other, fur Christmas is about the worst day in the year fur men to be
starvin' on, an' that's what we was a-comin' to.
"Well, fur about two hours Andy swum, an' dove, an' come up blubberin',
an' dodged all sorts of floatin' an' pitchin' stuff, fur the swell was
still on. But he couldn't even be so much as sartin that he'd found
the canned vittles. To dive down through hatchways, an' among broken
bulkheads, to hunt fur any partiklar kind o' boxes under seven foot of
sea-water, ain't no easy job. An' though Andy said he got hold of the
end of a box that felt to him like the big uns he'd noticed as havin'
the meat-pies in, he couldn't move it no more'n if it had been the
stump of the foremast. If we could have pumped the water out of the
hold we could have got at any part of the cargo we wanted, but as it
was, we couldn't even reach the ship's stores, which, of course, must
have been mostly sp'iled anyway, whereas the canned vittles was just as
good as new. The pumps was all smashed or stopped up, for we tried
'em, but if they hadn't 'a' been we three couldn't never have pumped
out that ship on three biscuit a day, an' only about two days' rations
"So Andy he come up, so fagged out that it was as much as he could do
to get his clothes on, though they wasn't much, an' then he stretched
himself out under the canvas an' went to sleep, an' it wasn't long
afore he was talkin' about roast turkey an' cranberry sass, an'
punkin-pie, an' sech stuff, most of which we knowed was under our feet
that present minnit. Tom Simmons he just b'iled over, an' sung out:
`Roll him out in the sun an' let him cook! I can't stand no more of
this!' But I wasn't goin' to have Andy treated no sech way as that,
fur if it hadn't been fur Tom Simmons' wife an' young uns, Andy'd been
worth two of him to anybody who was consid'rin' savin' life. But I
give the boy a good punch in the ribs to stop his dreamin', fur I was
as hungry as Tom was, an' couldn't stand no nonsense about Christmas
"It was a little arter noon when Andy woke up, an' he went outside to
stretch himself. In about a minute he give a yell that made Tom an' me
jump. `A sail!' he hollered. `A sail!' An' you may bet your life,
young man, that 'twasn't more'n half a second afore us two had scuffled
out from under that canvas, an' was standin' by Andy. `There she is!'
he shouted, `not a mile to win'ard.' I give one look, an' then I sings
out: `'Tain't a sail! It's a flag of distress! Can't you see, you
land-lubber, that that's the Stars and Stripes upside down?' `Why, so
it is,' says Andy, with a couple of reefs in the joyfulness of his
voice. An' Tom he began to growl as if somebody had cheated him out of
half a year's wages.
"The flag that we saw was on the hull of a steamer that had been
driftin' down on us while we was sittin' under our canvas. It was
plain to see she'd been caught in the typhoon, too, fur there wasn't a
mast or a smoke-stack on her. But her hull was high enough out of the
water to catch what wind there was, while we was so low sunk that we
didn't make no way at all. There was people aboard, and they saw us,
an' waved their hats an' arms, an' Andy an' me waved ours; but all we
could do was to wait till they drifted nearer, fur we hadn't no boats
to go to 'em if we'd wanted to.
"`I'd like to know what good that old hulk is to us,' says Tom Simmons.
`She can't take us off.' It did look to me somethin' like the blind
leadin' the blind. But Andy he sings out: `We'd be better off aboard
of her, fur she ain't water-logged, an', more'n that, I don't s'pose
her stores are all soaked up in salt water.' There was some sense in
that, an' when the steamer had got to within half a mile of us, we was
glad to see a boat put out from her with three men in it. It was a
queer boat, very low an' flat, an' not like any ship's boat I ever see.
But the two fellers at the oars pulled stiddy, an' pretty soon the boat
was 'longside of us, an' the three men on our deck. One of 'em was the
first mate of the other wreck, an' when he found out what was the
matter with us, he spun his yarn, which was a longer one than ours.
His vessel was the Water Crescent, nine hundred tons, from 'Frisco to
Melbourne, an' they had sailed about six weeks afore we did. They was
about two weeks out when some of their machinery broke down, an' when
they got it patched up it broke ag'in, worse than afore, so that they
couldn't do nothin' with it. They kep' along under sail for about a
month, makin' mighty poor headway till the typhoon struck 'em, an' that
cleaned their decks off about as slick as it did ours, but their
hatches wasn't blowed off, an' they didn't ship no water wuth
mentionin', an' the crew havin' kep' below, none of 'em was lost. But
now they was clean out of provisions an' water, havin' been short when
the breakdown happened, fur they had sold all the stores they could
spare to a French brig in distress that they overhauled when about a
week out. When they sighted us they felt pretty sure they'd git some
provisions out of us. But when I told the mate what a fix we was in
his jaw dropped till his face was as long as one of Andy's hands.
Howsomdever, he said he'd send the boat back fur as many men as it
could bring over, an' see if they couldn't git up some of our stores.
Even if they was soaked with salt water, they'd be better than nothin'.
Part of the cargo of the Water Crescent was tools an' things fur some
railway contractors out in Australier, an' the mate told the men to
bring over some of them irons that might be used to fish out the
stores. All their ship's boats had been blowed away, an' the one they
had was a kind of shore boat for fresh water, that had been shipped as
part of the cargo, an' stowed below. It couldn't stand no kind of a
sea, but there wasn't nothin' but a swell on, an' when it come back it
had the cap'n in it, an' five men, besides a lot of chains an' tools.
"Them fellers an' us worked pretty nigh the rest of the day, an' we got
out a couple of bar'ls of water, which was all right, havin' been tight
bunged, an' a lot of sea-biscuit, all soaked an sloppy, but we only got
a half-bar'l of meat, though three or four of the men stripped an' dove
fur more'n an hour. We cut up some of the meat an' eat it raw, an' the
cap'n sent some over to the other wreck, which had drifted past us to
leeward, an' would have gone clean away from us if the cap'n hadn't had
a line got out an' made us fast to it while we was a-workin' at the
"That night the cap'n took us three, as well as the provisions we'd got
out, on board his hull, where the 'commodations was consid'able better
than they was on the half-sunk Mary Auguster. An' afore we turned in
he took me aft an' had a talk with me as commandin' off'cer of my
vessel. `That wreck o' yourn,' says he, `has got a vallyble cargo in
it, which isn't sp'iled by bein' under water. Now, if you could get
that cargo into port it would put a lot of money in your pocket, fur
the owners couldn't git out of payin' you fur takin' charge of it an'
havin' it brung in. Now I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll lie by you,
an' I've got carpenters aboard that'll put your pumps in order, an'
I'll set my men to work to pump out your vessel. An' then, when she's
afloat all right, I'll go to work ag'in at my vessel—which I didn't
s'pose there was any use o' doin', but whilst I was huntin' round
amongst our cargo to-day I found that some of the machinery we carried
might be worked up so's to take the place of what is broke in our
engine. We've got a forge aboard, an' I believe we can make these
pieces of machinery fit, an' git goin' ag'in. Then I'll tow you into
Sydney, an' we'll divide the salvage money. I won't git nothin' fur
savin' my vessel, coz that's my business, but you wasn't cap'n o'
yourn, an' took charge of her a-purpose to save her, which is another
"I wasn't at all sure that I didn't take charge of the Mary Auguster to
save myself an' not the vessel, but I didn't mention that, an' asked
the cap'n how he expected to live all this time.
"`Oh, we kin git at your stores easy enough,' says he, when the water's
pumped out.' `They'll be mostly sp'iled,' says I. `That don't matter'
says he. `Men'll eat anything when they can't git nothin' else.' An'
with that he left me to think it over.
"I must say, young man, an' you kin b'lieve me if you know anything
about sech things, that the idee of a pile of money was mighty temptin'
to a feller like me, who had a girl at home ready to marry him, and who
would like nothin' better'n to have a little house of his own, an' a
little vessel of his own, an' give up the other side of the world
altogether. But while I was goin' over all this in my mind, an'
wonderin' if the cap'n ever could git us into port, along comes Andy
Boyle, an' sits down beside me. `It drives me pretty nigh crazy,' says
he, `to think that to-morrer's Christmas, an' we've got to feed on that
sloppy stuff we fished out of our stores, an' not much of it, nuther,
while there's all that roast turkey an' plum-puddin' an' mince-pie
a-floatin' out there just afore our eyes, an' we can't have none of
it.' `You hadn't oughter think so much about eatin', Andy,' says
I,`but if I was talkin' about them things I wouldn't leave out canned
peaches. By George! On a hot Christmas like this is goin' to be, I'd
be the jolliest Jack on the ocean if I could git at that canned fruit.'
`Well, there's a way,' says Andy, `that we might git some of 'em. A
part of the cargo of this ship is stuff far blastin' rocks—ca'tridges,
'lectric bat'ries, an' that sort of thing; an' there's a man aboard
who's goin' out to take charge of 'em. I've been talkin' to this
bat'ry man, an' I've made up my mind it'll be easy enough to lower a
little ca'tridge down among our cargo an' blow out a part of it.' `What
'u'd be the good of it,' says I, `blowed into chips?' `It might smash
some,' says he, `but others would be only loosened, an' they'd float up
to the top, where we could git 'em, specially them as was packed with
pies, which must be pretty light.' `Git out, Andy,' says I, `with all
that stuff!' An' he got out.
"But the idees he'd put into my head didn't git out, an' as I laid on
my back on the deck, lookin' up at the stars, they sometimes seemed to
put themselves into the shape of a little house, with a little woman
cookin' at the kitchin fire, an' a little schooner layin' at anchor
just off shore. An' then ag'in they'd hump themselves up till they
looked like a lot of new tin cans with their tops off, an' all kinds of
good things to eat inside, specially canned peaches—the big white
kind, soft an' cool, each one split in half, with a holler in the
middle filled with juice. By George, sir! the very thought of a tin
can like that made me beat my heels ag'in the deck. I'd been mighty
hungry, an' had eat a lot of salt pork, wet an' raw, an' now the very
idee of it, even cooked, turned my stomach. I looked up to the stars
ag'in, an' the little house an' the little schooner was clean gone, an'
the whole sky was filled with nothin' but bright new tin cans.
"In the mornin' Andy he come to me ag'in. `Have you made up your
mind,' says he, `about gittin' some of them good things fur Christmas
dinner?' `Confound you!' says I, `you talk as if all we had to do was
to go an' git 'em.' `An' that's what I b'lieve we kin do,' says he,
`with the help of that bat'ry man.' `Yes,' says I, `an' blow a lot of
the cargo into flinders, an' damage the Mary Auguster so's she couldn't
never be took into port.' An' then I told him what the cap'n had said
to me, an' what I was goin' to do with the money. `A little
ca'tridge,' says Andy, `would do all we want, an' wouldn't hurt the
vessel, nuther. Besides that, I don't b'lieve what this cap'n says
about tinkerin' up his engine. 'Tain't likely he'll ever git her
runnin' ag'in, nor pump out the Mary Auguster, nuther. If I was you
I'd a durned sight ruther have a Christmas dinner in hand than a house
an' wife in the bush.' `I ain't thinkin' o' marryin' a girl in
Australier,' says I. An' Andy he grinned, an' said I wouldn't marry
nobody if I had to live on sp'iled vittles till I got her.
"A little arter that I went to the cap'n an' I told him about Andy's
idee, but he was down on it. `It's your vessel, an' not mine,' says
he, `an' if you want to try to git a dinner out of her I'll not stand
in your way. But it's my 'pinion you'll just damage the ship, an' do
nothin'.' Howsomdever, I talked to the bat'ry man about it, an' he
thought it could be done, an' not hurt the ship, nuther. The men was
all in favor of it, fur none of 'em had forgot it was Christmas day.
But Tom Simmons he was ag'in' it strong, fur he was thinkin' he'd git
some of the money if we got the Mary Auguster into port. He was a
selfish-minded man, was Tom, but it was his nater, an' I s'pose he
couldn't help it.
"Well, it wasn't long afore I began to feel pretty empty an' mean, an'
if I'd wanted any of the prog we got out the day afore, I couldn't have
found much, fur the men had eat it up nearly all in the night. An' so
I just made up my mind without any more foolin', an' me an' Andy Boyle
an' the bat'ry man, with some ca'tridges an' a coil of wire, got into
the little shore boat, an' pulled over to the Mary Auguster. There we
lowered a small ca'tridge down the main hatchway, an' let it rest down
among the cargo. Then we rowed back to the steamer, uncoilin' the wire
as we went. The bat'ry man clumb up on deck, an' fixed his wire to a
'lectric machine, which he'd got all ready afore we started. Andy an'
me didn't git out of the boat. We had too much sense fur that, with
all them hungry fellers waitin' to jump in her. But we just pushed a
little off, an' sot waitin', with our mouths awaterin', fur him to
touch her off. He seemed to be a long time about it, but at last he
did it, an' that instant there was a bang on board the Mary Auguster
that made my heart jump. Andy an' me pulled fur her like mad, the
others a-hollerin' arter us, an' we was on deck in no time. The deck
was all covered with the water that had been throwed up. But I tell
you, sir, that we poked an' fished about, an' Andy stripped an' went
down an' swum all round, an' we couldn't find one floatin' box of
canned goods. There was a lot of splinters, but where they come from
we didn't know. By this time my dander was up, an' I just pitched
around savage. That little ca'tridge wasn't no good, an' I didn't
intend to stand any more foolin'. We just rowed back to the other
wreck, an' I called to the ba'try man to come down, an' bring some
bigger ca'tridges with him, fur if we was goin' to do anything we might
as well do it right. So he got down with a package of bigger ones, an'
jumped into the boat. The cap'n he called out to us to be keerful, an'
Tom Simmons leaned over the rail an' swored; but I didn't pay no
'tention to nuther of 'em, an' we pulled away.
"When I got aboard the Mary Auguster, I says to the bat'ry man: `We
don't want no nonsense this time, an' I want you to put in enough
ca'tridges to heave up somethin' that'll do fur a Christmas dinner. I
don't know how the cargo is stored, but you kin put one big ca'tridge
'midship, another for'ard, an' another aft, an' one or nuther of 'em
oughter fetch up somethin'.' Well, we got the three ca'tridges into
place. They was a good deal bigger than the one we fust used, an' we
j'ined 'em all to one wire, an' then we rowed back, carryin' the long
wire with us. When we reached the steamer, me an' Andy was a-goin' to
stay in the boat as we did afore, but the cap'n sung out that he
wouldn't allow the bat'ry to be touched off till we come aboard.
`Ther's got to be fair play,' says he. `It's your vittles, but it's my
side that's doin' the work. After we've blasted her this time you two
can go in the boat an' see what there is to git hold of, but two of my
men must go along.' So me an' Andy had to go on deck, an' two big
fellers was detailed to go with us in the little boat when the time
come, an' then the bat'ry man he teched her off.
"Well, sir, the pop that followed that tech was somethin' to remember.
It shuck the water, it shuck the air, an' it shuck the hull we was on.
A reg'lar cloud of smoke an' flyin' bits of things rose up out of the
Mary Auguster; an' when that smoke cleared away, an' the water was all
b'ilin' with the splash of various-sized hunks that come rainin' down
from the sky, what was left of the Mary Auguster was sprinkled over the
sea like a wooden carpet fur water-birds to walk on.
"Some of the men sung out one thing, an' some another, an' I could hear
Tom Simmons swear; but Andy an' me said never a word, but scuttled down
into the boat, follered close by the two men who was to go with us.
Then we rowed like devils fur the lot of stuff that was bobbin' about
on the water, out where the Mary Auguster had been. In we went among
the floatin' spars and ship's timbers, I keepin' the things off with an
oar, the two men rowin', an' Andy in the bow.
"Suddenly Andy give a yell, an' then he reached himself for'ard with
sech a bounce that I thought he'd go overboard. But up he come in a
minnit, his two 'leven-inch hands gripped round a box. He sot down in
the bottom of the boat with the box on his lap an' his eyes screwed on
some letters that was stamped on one end. `Pidjin-pies!' he sings out.
`'Tain't turkeys, nor 'tain't cranberries but, by the Lord Harry, it's
Christmas pies all the same!' After that Andy didn't do no more work,
but sot holdin' that box as if it had been his fust baby. But we kep'
pushin' on to see what else there was. It's my 'pinion that the
biggest part of that bark's cargo was blowed into mince-meat, an' the
most of the rest of it was so heavy that it sunk. But it wasn't all
busted up, an' it didn't all sink. There was a big piece of wreck with
a lot of boxes stove into the timbers, and some of these had in 'em
beef ready b'iled an' packed into cans, an' there was other kinds of
meat, an' dif'rent sorts of vegetables, an' one box of turtle soup. I
looked at every one of 'em as we took 'em in, an' when we got the
little boat pretty well loaded I wanted to still keep on searchin'; but
the men they said that shore boat 'u'd sink if we took in any more
cargo, an' so we put back, I feelin' glummer'n I oughter felt, fur I
had begun to be afeared that canned fruit, sech as peaches, was heavy,
an' li'ble to sink.
"As soon as we had got our boxes aboard, four fresh men put out in the
boat, an' after a while they come back with another load. An' I was
mighty keerful to read the names on all the boxes. Some was meat-pies,
an' some was salmon, an' some was potted herrin's, an' some was
lobsters. But nary a thing could I see that ever had growed on a tree.
"Well, sir, there was three loads brought in altogether, an' the
Christmas dinner we had on the for'ard deck of that steamer's hull was
about the jolliest one that was ever seen of a hot day aboard of a
wreck in the Pacific Ocean. The cap'n kept good order, an' when all
was ready the tops was jerked off the boxes, and each man grabbed a can
an' opened it with his knife. When he had cleaned it out, he tuk
another without doin' much questionin' as to the bill of fare. Whether
anybody got pidjin-pie 'cept Andy, I can't say, but the way we piled in
Delmoniker prog would 'a' made people open their eyes as was eatin'
their Christmas dinners on shore that day. Some of the things would
'a' been better cooked a little more, or het up, but we was too fearful
hungry to wait fur that, an' they was tiptop as they was.
"The cap'n went out afterwards, an' towed in a couple of bar'ls of
flour that was only part soaked through, an' he got some other plain
prog that would do fur future use. But none of us give our minds to
stuff like this arter the glorious Christmas dinner that we'd quarried
out of the Mary Auguster. Every man that wasn't on duty went below and
turned in fur a snooze—all 'cept me, an' I didn't feel just altogether
satisfied. To be sure, I'd had an A1 dinner, an', though a little
mixed, I'd never eat a jollier one on any Christmas that I kin look
back at. But, fur all that, there was a hanker inside o' me. I hadn't
got all I'd laid out to git when we teched off the Mary Auguster. The
day was blazin' hot, an' a lot of the things I'd eat was pretty
peppery. `Now,' thinks I, `if there had been just one can o' peaches
sech as I seen shinin' in the stars last night!' An' just then, as I
was walkin' aft, all by myself, I seed lodged on the stump of the
mizzenmast a box with one corner druv down among the splinters. It was
half split open, an' I could see the tin cans shinin' through the
crack. I give one jump at it, an' wrenched the side off. On the top
of the first can I seed was a picture of a big white peach with green
leaves. That box had been blowed up so high that if it had come down
anywhere 'cept among them splinters it would 'a' smashed itself to
flinders, or killed somebody. So fur as I know, it was the only thing
that fell nigh us, an' by George, sir, I got it! When I had finished a
can of 'em I hunted up Andy, an' then we went aft an' eat some more.
`Well,' says Andy, as we was a-eatin', `how d'ye feel now about blowin'
up your wife, an' your house, an' that little schooner you was goin' to
"`Andy,' says I, `this is the joyfulest Christmas I've had yit, an' if
I was to live till twenty hundred I don't b'lieve I'd have no joyfuler,
with things comin' in so pat; so don't you throw no shadders.'
"`Shadders!' says Andy. `That ain't me. I leave that sort of thing
fur Tom Simmons.'
"`Shadders is cool,' says I, `an' I kin go to sleep under all he
"Well, sir," continued old Silas, putting his hand on the tiller and
turning his face seaward, "if Tom Simmons had kept command of that
wreck, we all would 'a' laid there an' waited an' waited till some of
us was starved, an' the others got nothin' fur it, fur the cap'n never
mended his engine, an' it wasn't more'n a week afore we was took off,
an' then it was by a sailin' vessel, which left the hull of the Water
Crescent behind her, just as she would 'a' had to leave the Mary
Auguster if that jolly old Christmas wreck had been there.
"An' now, sir," said Silas, "d'ye see that stretch o' little ripples
over yander, lookin' as if it was a lot o' herrin' turnin' over to dry
their sides? Do you know what that is? That's the supper wind. That
means coffee, an' hot cakes, an' a bit of br'iled fish, an' pertaters,
an' p'r'aps, if the old woman feels in a partiklar good humor, some
canned peaches—big white uns, cut in half, with a holler place in the
middle filled with cool, sweet juice."