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Across the Spanish Main by Harry Collingwood

And the Stag Royal was ready for careening


The

_Tiger_ and the _Stag Royal_ were therefore swung broadside-on to the beach. The anchors were then taken ashore in the boats and carried up the beach to above high-water mark, where they were buried in deep holes dug in the sand, with timbers laid lengthwise upon them to prevent them from being dragged out again when the strain was put on the cables.

The holes were then filled up and the sand heaped high above them, to get as much weight as possible upon the anchors, and to allow more purchase.

Then from the cables attached to the anchors themselves, at a distance of about twelve feet before they disappeared into the sand, a spring of stout manila rope was led, and fastened securely to a palm-tree at the edge of the brushwood in a direct line with the ship and the anchor, thus affording a doubly secure purchase when the time came to heave on the cable and haul the vessels up on the beach.

Roger and Harry had been sent ashore by Cavendish to take part in this work, as he wished them to get an insight into every part of the duties of a sailor, and thus make themselves two useful members of the crew, for the captain could not afford to carry any man who was not thoroughly proficient, the capacity of his ships being too small to afford accommodation to mere idlers.

The lads were, however, very quick to learn, and very anxious to master all the

details of their profession, and therefore never complained, whatever the duty that was assigned to them. They thus increased their knowledge and efficiency very quickly, and Cavendish had no grounds for regret that he had taken them on board his ship.

The anchor belonging to the flag-ship had been taken ashore and securely buried, and the cable, with the rope attached, bent on to the anchor, and the _Stag Royal_ was ready for careening. The seamen then tramped off along the beach to where the anchor for the _Tiger_ had been brought ashore and laid on the sand, and proceeded with their preparations for careening that craft also.

They had begun to dig the hole in the sand in which to deposit the anchor, when Roger's attention was attracted by a sound of rustling in the wood behind them. He looked round, and perceived that for a considerable distance along the beach the foliage appeared to be moving to and fro, as though stirred by a slight breeze. Yet, so far as he could tell, down there on the beach, there was no wind at all stirring, nor had there been a breath of air all the morning; the atmosphere, in fact, was so still, and withal so heavy, that a thunder-storm was anticipated.

Another circumstance that he noted was that this peculiar movement in the bush extended only from just beyond where the seamen were now occupied to a point a trifle beyond where they had been at work a few minutes before, fixing the anchor of the flagship. Everywhere else the foliage was absolutely without movement of any kind, as it had been during the whole of the morning.

Much perplexed how to account for this singular phenomenon, he stood gazing at the moving foliage, and wondering what it could portend.

The movement seemed to be confined to the one place only, but as he gazed the motion suddenly ceased, and all was quiet as before.

He looked round to see if any of the other men had observed anything, but they were all much too intent on the work in hand to take notice of anything else; and his friend Harry was just as busy as the rest of the men. He therefore dismissed the matter from his mind, thinking that his eyes might perhaps have deceived him, and set to work again with the other men.


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