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A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood

That Mr Perry gave orders for the two graves to be dug


"Most

extraordinary!" commented Perry. "And I presume nobody saw anything, either immediately before you went adrift or afterwards--no boat, or anything of that kind, I mean--to account for the affair?"

"No," answered Purchase, "nothing. Yet I was not only wide-awake and on the alert myself, but I took care that the anchor watch should be so also; for I felt the responsibility of having such a ship as the _Psyche_ to take care of, with only twenty hands, all told, to help me."

"Of course," agreed the skipper. "And did you succeed in getting everybody ashore safely?"

"Yes, thank God!" answered Purchase fervently. "We are all safe and sound, and very little the worse for our adventure, thus far."

"Ah! that at least is good news," remarked Perry. "Well," he continued, "there is one very melancholy duty demanding our immediate attention, Mr Purchase, namely, the interment of Captain Harrison and the other poor fellow who fell during the attack upon the barracoon to-day. I will see about that matter personally, by choosing a suitable spot and getting the graves dug, for we shall soon have the darkness upon us. Meanwhile, you will be good enough to get tents rigged and such other preparations made as may be possible for the comfort of all hands, and especially the wounded, during the coming night; for we have all had a very trying day, and it is

imperative that we should secure a good night's rest. Mr Fortescue, come with me, if you please."

Now, during the progress of the foregoing conversation the boat party had not been idle; for, as soon as the fact of the wreck had become known to them, Mr Hoskins, the third lieutenant, seeing how matters stood, had grappled with the situation by causing the guns, ammunition, and stores of all kinds to be landed from the boats, and the craft themselves to be hauled up high and dry upon the beach on the river-side of the sand spit; and then, leading his men over the ridge, to where the others were at work upon the salving of wreckage from the surf, he had detailed a party to pick out from among the pile of heterogeneous articles such things as were most needed to meet our more immediate wants, and carry or drag them up the slope to the spot which Henderson, the surgeon, had already selected as the most suitable spot for a camp.

It was toward this party that Mr Perry and I now directed our steps; and when we had joined it the skipper, picking out a dozen of the most handy men, gave them instructions to provide themselves with tools of some sort suitable for the purpose of digging a couple of graves in the loose, yielding sand above the level of high-water mark; and while they were doing this, under my supervision, my companion wandered away by himself in search of a suitable site for the graves. As a matter of fact there was very little in the nature of choice, the entire spit, or at least that portion of it which we occupied, consisting of loose sand, sparsely covered, along the ridge and far a few yards on either side of it, with a kind of creeper with thick, tough, hairy stems and large, broad leaves, the upper surface of which bristled with hairy spicules about a quarter of an inch long. This plant, it was evident, bound the otherwise loose drifts and into a sufficiently firm condition to resist the perpetual scouring action of the wind; it was in this portion of the spit, therefore, that Mr Perry gave orders for the two graves to be dug; and presently my little gang of twelve were busily engaged in scooping out two holes, some twenty feet apart, to serve as graves. They were obliged to work with such tools as came to hand, and these consisted of splintered pieces of plank, the boats' balers, and some wooden buckets that had come ashore.


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