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"The south wind blew,
And from its open mouth
Belched forth tremendous gusts
That waked the waters from their slumbers,
Dashing them into angry waves
That threatened all before them."
A ROUGH PASSAGE.
THE captain had arrived at an age where he had just as lief take things leisurely as to hurry, and it was fifteen minutes, or more, before he had put up his lunch, and lit his pipe, and then we went down to the boat-house and launched the boat. It was larger than ours, and I was glad to make the change, as it would not cramp us so much in rowing.
Our "collateral," as some of the lumbermen term their baggage, was transferred from the one we had come in, and in a few moments more we were afloat. Jack and I grasped the oars, a pair each, and the old captain, seating himself in the stern, took the paddle to steer with.
The lake was still smooth, and the rising sun had taken the sharpness out of the air, so that we soon found it warm work rowing. After passing Ship Island we took off our coats and vests, and settled down to business.
Reaching Metalluc Point, we rested on our oars for a few moments to catch a last glimpse of the lovely lake that lay bathed in the beauty of an autumnal sunlight, fringed with a border of reflected colors from the magnificent forests that swept back from its shores. Then, dipping a cup into the pure nectar on which we floated, we appeased our thirst, and again bent to our oars.
"I'd like ter have some o' them city fellers who come down here fishin' see the lake this mornin'," puffed Captain Cole between the whiffs of his pipe; "it's as purty as a picter."
"You're right," chimed in Jack; "it's a handsome sight."
We passed swiftly through the Narrows, and as we reached the lower end we began to feel a freshening breeze.
"Guess there's a purty good south wind on the lower lake," said Captain Cole, as he squinted in that direction.
"Yes, and some sea with it," I replied, as our boat, shooting around Portland Point, began to pitch into it, and send the spray in a shower over the bow.
"I'll be hanged if the lake isn't white" exclaimed Jack, as he took a look over his shoulder, and noticed the long rollers curling gracefully over, and sending a sheet of white foam before them.
"Let me row now," said Captain Cole; "I'm gettin' a leetle stiff handling this ere paddle."
"Well, you can change with Jack," I suggested.
"No, sir," replied Jack; "I had rather row than steer, and, besides, we need a good hand at the wheel, — paddle, I mean, — for it will be confounded rough before we get over to the Middle Dam."
I accordingly changed seats with Captain Cole, and Spot followed me. Spot was a Scotch terrier who had been at the lakes with me all summer, and who enjoyed boating and tramping in the woods fully as well as his master.
Jack pulled the bow oars, and he held the boat up to the wind while the captain and I changed places, or attempted to do so.
As I arose to my feet an enormous roller struck the boat broadside on, and carried her up skyward. I lost my balance, and as our craft swept down in the trough of the sea I went out into the angry waters of the lake in anything but a dignified manner.
I was not hurt any, although the boat drifted over the hole I had made in the lake, but I was very disagreeably surprised. The first thought that occurred to me, as the waters closed over my head, was the fact that I could not swim a stroke, and I wondered how far the boat would be from me when I arose to the surface.
Down, down, down I went, in my excited state I thought a mile or more; but, with a clue regard for truth, I am willing to take off a few feet. Scientific men may say that drowning is an easy death. I deny it. I wonder if they were ever half-drowned before they gave their opinion. The ringing in my ears, the pressure on my head, and the choking sensation in my throat before I thought of closing my mouth, were perfectly awful. I never shall forget them while I live. To add to this the water was as cold as ice, and, with all my clothing on, I seemed to weigh a ton. I cannot seem to remember when I began to rise, but I opened my eyes just as my head came above water, and saw the boat about ten feet from me. My cap had gone adrift, and I shook my head to clear the water from my eyes, and sang out "Boat ahoy!" to the top of my voice, and then tried to swim. My experiments in this line were decided failures, and I should certainly have sank the second time had not Jack and the captain been on the lookout for me, and pulled toward me the moment my head appeared above water. In spite of all my efforts I was gradually going down again, when the bow of the boat came within my reach, and, making a last desperate plunge, I succeeded in grasping the gunwale of the boat in my left hand.
The moment I had a good grip on the boat I was as cool as a girl is to her lover when he is chanting the praises of her rival. Telling the captain and Jack to be careful that the boat did not upset, I worked my way along to the stern, and then, with the captain's aid, climbed in.
"By gracious, Captain!" exclaimed Jack, "you gave me an awful shock I knew you could not swim, and I was afraid you would be drowned."
"A man who is born to be hanged, you know," I replied, with a poor attempt at a joke; but my teeth chattered so that I could not finish the sentence, and I settled back in the stern seat, and picked up the paddle.
"Did ye swaller much water?" queried Captain Cole.
"Enough to last me all winter; and now give way, for I shall freeze if I don't take some exercise."
I have never drank a drop of spirituous liquors in my life, to my remembrance; but if a flask of whiskey had been among the "ship's stores" about the time that I came out of the lake I believe I should have been strongly tempted to have seen what virtue, if any, there was in a good square drink.
As the captain and Jack gave way I dipped the paddle into the water, and headed for the sand-beach above the old Middle Dam Camp.
And now commenced a struggle with wind and wave that was anything but child's play. The wind steadily increased in power, and the waves in size, until it was all we could do to make the least head-way. As the huge rollers bore down upon us, threatening to engulf us, I would luff a little so that the boat would ride the wave quartering; but still I could not prevent our getting thoroughly drenched with spray, and quite a body of water would occasionally come into the boat, making bailing fully as important a business as steering. Between the two I had my hands full, and Spot, who had received two or three duckings, crawled behind my legs for protection. I was sorry to have my companions get wet, but the showers of spray were nothing to me after my bath in the lake.
"Well, this is a leetle rough'n I ever saw it on this lake;" bawled Captain Cole, for it was impossible to make each other hear unless we yelled at the top of our voices.
"It's as rough as I want to see it, and a good deal wetter," howled Jack, as a big roller struck on the port bow of the boat and deluged him with spray.
"We are right in the worst of it," I exclaimed, for we were now opposite Jackson Point, which was on our starboard quarter, and we were exposed to the full fury of the wind as it swept up from the South Arm.
It was not a time for much talking, and I paddled and bailed alternately for dear life, while my two companions bent to the oars with a will.
"You're a good Samaritan, Captain," grinned Jack, as he watched my efforts to free the boat of water.
"Why?" I questioned, not seeing the force of his remark.
"Because you are going bail for us; "and he winked his left eye, and opened his mouth wide enough to have swallowed a country flapjack.
"You ought to have six months for that," I asserted, and then I let the boat fall off a little and catch a wave just right to give him a good ducking.
"Confound you!" roared Jack, spitting the water from his mouth; "you did that purposely."
I put on my most innocent look, and shook my head, but I could see that Jack doubted me.
Little by little we gained on our landing. One minute the boat high up on the top of a roller, the next in the bottom of a gulf, with a wall of water on each side that we could not see over.
I had crossed the lake a great many times, but never had I seen a harder wind or rougher sea than this, and I felt thankful when, after an hour's hard work, we had got within a few rods of the, shore.
We found the waves rolling up on the beach ahead of us in a manner that threatened to capsize the boat if we were not careful in making a landing.
"What do you think of it, Captain?" asked Jack, who had been inspecting the shore over his shoulder. " I don't think we can be any wetter than we are now," I replied; "so let's go in on the top of a wave and the moment the boat touches bottom jump over the side and run her up out of the way of the surf before she has time to fill, as she certainly will if we are not quick."
We steadied the boat on the water a few fathoms from shore, and in a moment there came a tremendous roller, that lifted our craft and shot her ahead like an arrow. "In oars!" I cried, and as I felt the first touch of her keel I yelled "Jump!" and, suiting the action to the word, over we went, the dog following us, and, catching hold of the boat by the gunwales, ran her high and dry before a wave could break into her.
"That was a lively pull, that last two miles," said Jack, as he picked up his gun, and emptied the water out of the barrels.
"A little exciting," I returned; "but suppose we take our things up to camp."
Our luggage was light, as I had sent all my baggage and better clothing out to Andover the week before. We had with us a double-barrelled gun, a Smith & Wesson seven-shooter, a supply of ammunition, a drinking-cup, matches, a luncheon, a dull axe, a game-bag, and our overcoats.
I had suggested to Jack the advisability of grinding our axe before we left the Upper Dam, but he thought we would not need to use it until we reached Upton, and could do it there,— a neglect that caused us some trouble that night.
We deposited our things on the piazza, and then tried the different doors of the camp to see if anybody was there. But the house was empty, and the doors were all fastened. So we stripped without further delay, rung the water out of our clothing, then put it on, and ate our luncheon, or rather that part of it that had not been destroyed by the water washing into the boat.
"How do ye feel now, Cap'n? Have ye got warmed up?" queried Captain Cole, as he joined us on the piazza.
"Oh, yes; I am all right now, thank you, and none the worse I hope for my bath."
"Wall, if yer don't get cold yer all right. But I tell ye, I felt frightened when ye went over into that big sea; I snum I did."
"Shall you go directly back, Captain Cole?" I asked.
"Not while it blows the way it does now," he returned, smiling, as he puffed away at his pipe; "this wind will go down some by three o'clock, and then I can crawl out by the p'int, and get a little lee, then head nearly straight up the lake. I tell you a boat would make bad weather of it out there now; "and the captain glanced across the lake with eyes that were open to its perils.
"Then we shall have to leave you, for it is quite a tramp from here to Upton, and we want to get through the woods before dark. Take this for your trouble," and I handed him a bill. "I hope you will get back all right."
"Don't worry about me. Good luck to you," he said, as we shook hands and left him; "hope you will fetch Upton before dark."