CHAPTER I. FAREWELL TO OLD ENGLAND.

About 10.30 a.m., the cry of 'Sail on the port beam!' caused general excitement, and in a few minutes every telescope and glass in the ship had been brought to bear upon the object which attracted our attention, and which was soon pronounced to be a wreck. Orders were given to starboard the helm, and to steer direct for the vessel; and many were the conjectures hazarded, and the questions asked of the fortunate holders of glasses. 'What is she?' 'Is there any one on board?' 'Where does she come from?' 'Can you read her name?' 'Does she look as if she had been long abandoned?' Soon we were near enough to send a boat's crew on board, whilst we watched their movements anxiously from the bridge. We could now read her name - the 'Carolina' - surmounted by a gorgeous yellow decoration on her stern. She was of between two and three hundred tons burden, and was painted a light blue, with a red streak. Beneath her white bowsprit the gaudy image of a woman served as a figure-head. The two masts had been snapped short off about three feet from the deck, and the bulwarks were gone, only the covering board and stanchions remaining, so that each wave washed over and through her. The roof and supports of the deck-house and the companions were still left standing, but the sides had disappeared, and the ship's deck was burst up in such a manner as to remind one of a quail's back.

We saw the men on board poking about, apparently very pleased with what they had found; and soon our boat returned to the yacht for some breakers,[1] as the 'Carolina' had been laden with port wine and cork, and the men wished to bring some of the former on board. I changed my dress, and, putting on my sea boots, started for the wreck.

[Footnote 1: Small casks, used for carrying water in boats, frequently spelt barricos, evidently from the time of the old Spanish navigators.]

We found the men rather excited over their discovery. The wine must have been very new and very strong, for the smell from it, as it slopped about all over the deck, was almost enough to intoxicate anybody. One pipe had already been emptied into the breakers and barrels, and great efforts were made to get some of the casks out whole; but this was found to be impossible, without devoting more time to the operation than we chose to spare. The men managed to remove three half-empty casks with their heads stove in, which they threw overboard, but the full ones would have required special appliances to raise them through the hatches. It proved exceedingly difficult to get at the wine, which was stowed underneath the cork, and there was also a quantity of cabin bulkheads and fittings floating about, under the influence of the long swell of the Atlantic. It was a curious sight, standing on the roof of the deck-house, to look into the hold, full of floating bales of cork, barrels, and pieces of wood, and to watch the sea surging up in every direction, through and over the deck, which was level with the water's edge. I saw an excellent modern iron cooking-stove washing about from side to side; but almost every other moveable article, including spars and ropes, had apparently been removed by previous boarders.

It would have delayed us too long to tow the vessel into the nearest port, 375 miles distant, or we might have claimed the salvage money, estimated by the experts at 1,500_l. She was too low in the water for it to be possible for us, with our limited appliances, to blow her up; so we were obliged to leave her floating about as a derelict, a fertile source of danger to all ships crossing her track. With her buoyant cargo, and with the trade winds slowly wafting her to smoother seas, it may probably be some years before she breaks up. I only hope that no good ship may run full speed on to her, some dark night, for the 'Carolina' would prove almost as formidable an obstacle as a sunken rock.

Tom was now signalling for us to go on board again, and for a few minutes I was rather afraid we should have had a little trouble in getting the men off, as their excitement had not decreased; but after a trifling delay and some rather rough play amongst themselves, they became steady again, and we returned to the yacht with our various prizes.

A 'Mother Carey's chicken' hovered round the wreck while we were on board, and followed us to the 'Sunbeam;' and although a flat calm and a heavy swell prevailed at the time, we all looked upon our visitor as the harbinger of a breeze. In this instance, at least, the well-known sailor's superstition was justified; for, before the evening, the wind sprang up, and 'fires out and sails up' was the order of the day. We were soon bowling merrily along at the rate of seven knots an hour, while a clear starlight night and a heavy dew gave promise of a fine morrow.

Friday, July 14th. - We still have a light wind, right aft, accompanied by a heavy roll from the westward, which makes it impossible to sit anywhere with comfort, and difficult even to read. By 6 a.m. the sun had become very powerful, though its heat was tempered by the breeze, which gradually increased throughout the day, until, having set all our fore-and-aft canvas, as well as our square sails, we glided steadily along, in delightful contrast to the uneasy motion of the morning, and of the past few days. Under the awning - with the most heavenly blue sky above, and the still darker clear blue sea beneath, stretching away in gentle ripples as far as the eye could reach - it was simply perfect.