The House Under the Sea A Romance

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ISBN: N/A
Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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CHAPTER I

IN WHICH JASPER BEGG MAKES KNOWN THE PURPOSE OF HIS VOYAGE TO THE PACIFIC OCEAN, AND HOW IT CAME ABOUT THAT HE COMMISSIONED THE STEAM-SHIP SOUTHERN CROSS THROUGH PHILIPS, WESTBURY, AND CO.

Many gentlemen have asked me to write the story of Ken's Island, and in so far as my ability goes, that I will now do. A plain seaman by profession, one who has had no more education than a Kentish grammar school can give him, I, Jasper Begg, find it very hard to bring to other people's eyes the wonderful things I have seen or to make all this great matter clear as it should be clear for a right understanding. But what I know of it, I will here set down; and I do not doubt that the newspapers and the writers will do the rest.

Now, it was upon the third day of May in the year 1899, at four bells in the first dog watch, that Harry Doe, our boatswain, first sighted land upon our port-bow, and so made known to me that our voyage was done. We were fifty-three days out from Southampton then; and for fifty-three days not a man among the crew of the Southern Cross had known our proper destination, or why his skipper, Jasper Begg, had shipped him to sail for the Pacific Ocean. A pleasure voyage, the papers said; and some remembered that I had been in and out of private yachts ever since I ran away from school and booked with Skipper Higg, who sailed Lord Kanton's schooner from the Solent; but others asked themselves what pleasure took a yacht's skipper beyond the Suez, and how it came about that a poor man like Jasper Begg found the money to commission a 500-ton tramp through Philips, Westbury, and Co., and to deal liberally with any shipmate who had a fancy for the trip. These questions I meant to answer in my own time. A hint here and there of a lady in whose interest the voyage was undertaken kept the crew quiet, if it did not please its curiosity. Mister Jacob, my first officer, and Peter Bligh (who came to me because he said I was the only man who kept him away from the drink) guessed something if they knew little. They had both served under me in Ruth Bellenden's yacht; neither had forgotten that Ruth Bellenden's husband sailed eastward for the wedding trip. If they put their heads together and said that Ruth Bellenden's affairs and the steam-ship Southern Cross were not to be far apart at the end of it, I don't blame them. It was my business to hold my tongue until the land was sighted, and so much I did for Ruth Bellenden's sake.

Well, it was the third day of May, at four bells in the first dog watch, when Harry Doe, the boatswain, sighted land on the port-bow, and came abaft with the other hands to hear what I had got to say to him. Mr. Jacob was in his bunk then, he being about to take the first watch, and Peter Bligh, who walked the bridge, had rung down for half-speed by the time I came out with my glass for the first view of the distant island. We were then, I must tell you at a rough reckoning, in longitude 150 east of Greenwich, by about 30 north; and my first thought was that we might have sighted the Ganges group, as many a ship sailing from 'Frisco to Japan; but when I had looked at the land a little while, and especially at a low spur of rocks to the northward, I knew that this was truly the Ken Archipelago, and that our voyage was done....