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“Look out, boys, or we shall never fetch the ship again!”

“Why, what’s the matter?”

“Matter enough; we’re ever so far from her, and there’s a storm brewing. Just look to the westward and see what a bank the sun is setting in.”

Sure enough, a lurid, red sun was setting in a bank of heavy, black clouds, which had already obscured his lower half, and the surface of which was flecked with little, white, fleecy dots, moving rapidly, which looked as if the port-holes of some giant craft had been opened and her guns fired.

In an open boat were I, Sam Hawse, and the two speakers, my companions, Tom Arbor and Bill Seaman, and a mile and a half or two miles away lay a ship with her upper sails furled, courses hauled up, and topsails lowered on the cap, while the surface of the sea was like glass, though a long, heavy swell was rolling up from the westward, heralding the approach of the storm of which the clouds pointed out by Tom Arbor were the visible harbingers.

The ship was the Golden Fleece, a clipper barque; and we were three boys belonging to her, and had on this the third day of continuous and stark calms been sent away to try our hands at turning a turtle, of which some had been seen floating on the surface, and had already been successful in securing two; and going on in search of others, we had got farther from the Golden Fleece than either we wished or intended.

“See there,” continued Tom; “it’s all hands aboard the barky. The skipper he sees what’s coming, and ain’t a-goin’ to be caught napping. Come, we must give way and get aboard as soon as we may; he’ll be in no pleasant temper, and the mate or bos’n will give us a rope’s-ending for supper.”

Besides the fear of the reception which awaited us, we saw the truth of what Tom said, and bent to our oars with all our strength.

Before, however, we had covered half the distance which lay between us and the Golden Fleece, the clouds had risen and obscured the heavens, and we could feel faint, chill puffs of air fanning our cheeks.

“Give way, lads,” cried Tom, who was pulling stroke, “or we shall never reach her; and in a cockle-shell like this we can never live out a storm such as is coming on.”

Bill and I needed no urging, and if possible pulled harder than before; but suddenly Tom’s oar broke in half, and he fell on his back in the bottom of the boat.

Bill, astonished at this, let go his oar, and it fell overboard and drifted astern...

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