Read CHAPTER THIRTY TWO of Masterman Ready The Wreck of the "Pacific", free online book, by Frederick Marryat, on

The bleating of the kids woke them the next morning earlier than usual.  The weather was again fine, and the sun shining brightly, and Ready turned out Nanny and her progeny.  They had an excellent breakfast of fried fish, and then Mr Seagrave, Ready, and William went out to their work:  the two first took down the tents, and spread the canvas on the ground, that it might be well dried, while William went in pursuit of the fowls, which had not been seen for a day or two.  After half-an-hour’s search in the cocoa-nut grove, he heard the cock crow, and soon afterwards found them all.  He threw them some split peas, which he had brought with him.  They were hungry enough and followed him home to the house, where he left them and went to join Ready and his father.

“William,” said Ready, “I think, now that we have spread out the tents, we will, if Mr Seagrave approves, all set to at once and knock up a fowl-house; it won’t be more than a day’s job, and then the creatures will have a home.  There are four very thick cocoa-nut trees close to the house; we will build it under them; it will be a good job over.”  Mr Seagrave assented, and they set immediately to work.  There were many thin poles left, the tops of the cocoa-nut trees which had been cut down to build the house; these they nailed to the trunks of the four trees, so as to make a square, and then they ran up rafters for a pitched roof.

“Now, sir, this is only rough work; we will first put up a perch or two for them, and then close in the side, and thatch the roof with cocoa-nut branches; but there’s Juno taking in the dinner, so we’ll finish it afterwards.”

After their meal the work was renewed; Mr Seagrave collected the branches while William and Ready worked upon the sides and roof, and before the evening closed in, the fowl-house was complete.  William enticed the fowls down to it with some more split peas, and then walked away.

“Now, sir, the creatures will soon find their way in; and by and by, when I have time, I’ll make a door to the entrance.”

“And now,” said William, “I think we had better roll up the canvas of the tents; we have had a splendid day, and may not be so fortunate to-morrow.”

“Very true; we will get them housed, and stow them away under the bed-places; there is plenty of room.”  By the time that they had folded up the canvas, and William had brought in Nanny and the kids, the sun had set, and they went into the house.  Ready was requested to go on with his history, which he did as follows: ­

“I said last night that I determined to run away from school and go to sea, but I did not tell you how I managed it.  I had no chance of getting out of the school unperceived, except after the boys were all put to bed.  The room that I slept in was at the top of the house ­the doors I knew were all locked; but there was a trap-door which led out on the roof, fastened by a bolt inside, and a ladder leading up to it; and I determined that I would make my escape by that way.  As soon as all the other boys were fast asleep, I arose and dressed myself very quietly, and then left the room.

“The moon shone bright, which was lucky for me, and I gained the trap-door without any noise.  I had some difficulty in forcing it up, as it was heavy for a boy of my age; but I contrived to do so at last, and gained the roof of the house.  I then began looking about me, to see how I was to get to the ground, and after walking to and fro several times, I decided that I could slip down by a large water-pipe; it was so far detached from the bricks, that I could get my small fingers round it.  I climbed over the parapet, and, clinging to the pipe firmly with my hands and knees, I slid down, and arrived at the bottom in safety.”

“It’s a wonder you did not break your neck, Ready,” observed Mrs Seagrave.

“It was, indeed, ma’am.  As soon as I was landed in the flowerbed, which was below, I hastened to the iron gates at the entrance, and soon climbed up and got to the other side into the road.  I started as fast as I could towards the port, and when I arrived at the wharf, I perceived that a vessel had her topsails loose, and meant to take advantage of the ebb-tide which had just made; the men were singing `Yo heave yo,’ getting the anchor up; and as I stood watching, almost making up my mind that I would swim off to her, I perceived that a man pushed off in her jolly-boat, and was sculling to a post a little higher up, where a hawser had been made fast; I ran round, and arrived there before he had cast off the rope; without saying a word, I jumped into the boat.

“`What do you want, youngster?’ said the seaman.

“`I want to go to sea,’ said I, breathless; `take me on board ­pray do.’

“`Well,’ said he, `I heard the captain say he wanted an apprentice, and so you may come.’

“He sculled the boat back again to the vessel, and I climbed up her side.

“`Who are you?’ said the captain.

“I told him that I wanted to go to sea.

“`You are too little and too young.’

“`No, I am not,’ replied I.

“`Why, do you think that you dare go aloft?’

“`I’ll show you,’ replied I; and I ran up the rigging like a cat, and went out at the topgallant yard-arm.

“When I came down, the captain said, `Well, I think you’ll make a sharp seaman by and by; so I’ll take you, and, as soon as I get to London, I’ll bind you apprentice.’

“The ship, which was a collier, was soon out of port, and before the day had dawned I found myself on the wide ocean, which was hereafter to be my home.

“As soon as the hurry and confusion were over, I was examined by the captain, who appeared to me to be a very rough, harsh man; indeed, before the day was over I almost repented of the step which I had taken, and when I sat down cold and wet upon some old sail at night, the thoughts of my mother, and what distress I should occasion her, for the first time rushed into my mind, and I wept bitterly; but it was too late then.  I have often thought, Mr Seagrave, that the life of hardship which I have since gone through has been a judgment on me for my cruelty to my mother, in leaving her the way I did.  It broke her heart; a poor return, William, for all her care and kindness!  God forgive me!”

Old Ready left off for some little time, and the remainder of the party kept silence.  Then he said ­“I’ll leave off now, if you please:  I don’t feel inclined to go on; my heart is full when I recall that foolish and wicked deed of mine.”