"The Pirate Island"
A Story of the South Pacific.
The Wreck on the “Gunfleet.”
It was emphatically “a dirty night.” The barometer had been slowly but persistently falling during the two previous days; the dawn had been red and threatening, with a strong breeze from S.E.; and as the short dreary November day waxed and waned this strong breeze had steadily increased in strength until by nightfall it had become a regular “November gale,” with frequent squalls of arrowy rain and sleet, which, impelled by the furious gusts, smote and stung like hail, and cleared the streets almost as effectually as a volley of musketry would have done.
It was not fit for a dog to be out of doors. So said Ned Anger as he entered the snug bar-parlour of the “Anchor” at Brightlingsea, and drawing a chair close up to the blazing fire of wreck-wood which roared up the ample chimney, flung himself heavily down thereon to await the arrival of the “pint” which he had ordered as he passed the bar.
“And yet there’s a many poor souls as has to be out in it, and as is out in it,” returned the buxom hostess, entering at the moment with the aforesaid pint upon a small tray. “It’s to be hoped as none of ’em won’t meet their deaths out there among the sands this fearful night,” she added, as Ned took the glass from her, and deposited his “tuppence” in the tray in payment therefor.
A sympathetic murmur of concurrence went round the room in response to this philanthropic wish, accompanied in some instances by doubtful shakes of the head.
“Ay, ay, we all hope that,” remarked Dick Bird—“Dicky Bird” was the name which had been playfully bestowed upon him by his chums, and by which he was generally known—“we all hopes that; but I, for one, feels uncommon duberous about it. There’s hardly a capful of wind as blows but what some poor unfort’nate craft leaves her bones out there,”—with a jerk of the thumb over his shoulder to seaward,—“and mostly with every wreck there’s some lives lost. I say, mates, I s’pose there’s somebody on the look-out?”