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Fire Island Being the Adventures of Uncertain Naturalists in an Unknown Track   By: (1831-1909)

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Fire Island, by George Manville Fenn.

This is good vintage Fenn, with dreadful situation following dreadful situation, and the heroes (mostly) managing to get out of it somehow. Right up to the last chapter the reader never knows how the problems that throw themselves upon a little group of naturalists and the sailors that brought them to the island on which all these frightening events occur, will be solved. NH




"Do I think it would be wise to put on a life belt, Mr Lane?"


The words were shouted into the ear of one of the speakers, and yelled back as, like others about the vessel, they clung to the side, now to be raised high, now to be plunged down again, as the Planet , with only a rag or two of storm canvas set, rode over a huge wave and seemed as if turned into some new and ponderous kind of diving apparatus about to seek the wonders at the bottom of the eastern seas. But after her tremendous plunge right into a hollow she rose again, shook off the water which deluged the deck and staggered on.

Just then a dimly seen figure sidled up to the two speakers, held on tightly, and shouted

"I say, Mr Rimmer, isn't that man steering very wildly?"

"Who's to steer tamely, sir, in a sea like this? Man has enough to do to keep from being washed overboard."

The newcomer nodded and took a fresh grip of the top of the bulwark as a sea came over the bows again, and swept along the deck, leaving them breathless and panting, with the water streaming from oilskin and mackintosh.

"Don't you want to put on a life belt, too?" shouted the first speaker, as in the darkness of that terrible night his words seemed to be snatched away as soon as uttered.

"Yes; it would be safer; where are they?"

"Bah! Nonsense! Look down there. Suppose you had on a life belt, what could you do in such a sea? You'd both be knocked to pieces or have the breath choked out of you in five minutes. Stick to the ship while you can. That's good advice."

"Is there any danger?" shouted the young man who was nearest the last speaker.

"Of course there is. No one could be in such a tornado without being in danger."

"But shall we be wrecked?" asked the fresh comer.

"Heaven only knows, sir. We're all amongst the islands and reefs, and if one of them is in our way nothing can save us."

No words were spoken then for some time, and every man on board the Planet brig, which after a short stay at Singapore was off on a voyage of discovery along the coast of New Guinea, clung to bulwark, shroud and stay, or sheltered himself the best way he could from the waves which, like the wind, seemed ready to pluck them from their hold.

Everything possible in the way of navigation had been done when the frightful storm came on, after scant warning in the way of a falling barometer. Then nothing was left for the unfortunates on board but to hold on and wait for the end of the hurricane as they were swept along swiftly in its course.

Three days before, they had been sailing gently within sight of the towering volcanoes of Java. Now, as Mr Rimmer, the chief mate, said, they were "anywhere," the wind having veered round as if blowing in a vast circle, and all government of the brig being pretty well at an end.

Matters had been bad enough while it was daylight. When darkness came on the little hope which had remained was pretty well quenched; and Oliver Lane began to think of the home in England that he might never see again, and of how different the reality of the expedition was from all that he had pictured in his rather vivid imagination.

When the trip was planned, and he obtained permission to join it through the influence of his father, a famous naturalist, he saw himself sailing amid glorious islands, with gorgeous tropical foliage hanging over seas of intense blue, glittering like precious stones in the burning sunshine; coral reefs seen through transparent water with their groves of wondrous seaweeds, and fish of brilliant tints flashing their scale armour as they swam here and there... Continue reading book >>

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