Read CHAPTER XXI. of Lost in the Fog, free online book, by James De Mille, on

Scott’s Bay and Old Bennie. ­His two Theories. ­Off to the desert Island. ­Landing. ­A Picnic Ground. ­Gloom and Despair of the Explorers. ­All over. ­Sudden Summons.

It was on Wednesday evening that the Antelope passed from the sunshine and beauty of Digby Basin out into the fog and darkness of the Bay of Fundy.  The tide was falling, and, though the wind was in their favor, yet their progress was somewhat slow.  But the fact that they were moving was of itself a consolation.  In spite of Captain Corbet’s declared preference for tides and anchors, and professed contempt for wind and sails, the boys looked upon these last as of chief importance, and preferred a slow progress with the wind to even a more rapid one by means of so unsatisfactory a method of travel as drifting.

At about nine on the following morning, the Antelope reached a little place called Wilmot Landing, where they went on shore and made the usual inquiries with the usual result.  Embarking again, they sailed on for the remainder of that day, and stopped at one or two places along the coast.

On the next morning (Friday) they dropped anchor in front of Hall’s Harbor ­a little place whose name had become familiar to them during their memorable excursion to Blomidon.  Here they met with the same discouraging answer to their question.

“Wal,” said Captain Corbet, “we don’t seem to meet with much success to speak of ­do we?”

“No,” said Bart, gloomily.

“I suppose your pa’ll be sendin schooners over this here same ground.  ’Tain’t no use, though.”

“Where shall we go next?”

“Wal, we’ve ben over the hull bay mostly; but thar’s one place, yet, an that we’ll go to next.”

“What place is that?”

“Scott’s Bay.

“My idée is this,” continued Captain Corbet:  “We’ll finish our tower of inspection round the Bay of Fundy at Scott’s Bay.  Thar won’t be nothin more to do; thar won’t remain one single settlement but what we’ve called at, ’cept one or two triflin places of no ’count.  So, after Scott’s Bay, my idée is to go right straight off to old Minas.  Who knows but what he’s got on thar somewhar?”

“I don’t see much chance of that.”

“Why not?”

“Because, if he had drifted into the Straits of Minas, he’d manage to get ashore.”

“I don’t see that.”

“Why, it’s so narrow.”

Narrer?  O, it’s wider’n you think for; besides, ef he got stuck into the middle of that thar curn’t, how’s he to get to the shore? an him without any oars?  Answer me that.  No, sir; the boat that’ll drift down Petticoat Jack into the bay, without gettin ashore, ’ll drift up them straits into Minas jest the same.”

“Well, there does seem something in that.  I didn’t think of his drifting down the Petitcodiac.”

“Somethin?  Bless your heart! ain’t that everythin?”

“But do you think there’s really a chance yet?”

“A chance?  Course thar is.  While thar’s life thar’s hope.”

“But how could he live so long?”

“Why shouldn’t he?”

“He might starve.”

“Not he.  Didn’t he carry off my box o’ biscuit?”

“Think of this fog.”

“O, fog ain’t much.  It’s snow an cold that tries a man.  He’s tough, too.”

“But he’s been so exposed.”

“Exposed?  What to?  Not he.  Didn’t he go an carry off that olé sail?”

“I cannot help thinking that it’s all over with him?”

“Don’t give him up; keep up; cheer up.  Think how we got hold of olé Solomon after givin him up.  I tell you that thar was a good sign.”

“He’s been gone too long.  Why, it’s going on a fortnight?”

“Wal, what o’ that ef he’s goin to turn up all right in the end?  I tell you he’s somewhar.  Ef he ain’t in the Bay of Fundy, he may be driftin off the coast o’ Maine, an picked up long ago, an on his way home now per steamer.”

Bart shook his head, and turned away in deep despondency, in which feeling all the other boys joined him.  They had but little hope now.  The time that had elapsed seemed to be too long, and their disappointments had been too many.  The sadness which they had felt all along was now deeper than ever, and they looked forward without a ray of hope.

On Friday evening they landed at Scott’s Bay, and, as old Bennie Griggs’s house was nearest, they went there.  They found both the old people at home, and were received with an outburst of welcome.  Captain Corbet was an old acquaintance, and made himself at home at once.  Soon his errand was announced.

Bennie had the usual answer, and that was, that nothing whatever had been heard of any drifting boat.  But he listened with intense interest to Captain Corbet’s story, and made him tell it over and over again, down to the smallest particular.  He also questioned all the boys very closely.

After the questioning was over, he sat in silence for a long time.  At last he looked keenly at Captain Corbet.

“He’s not ben heard tell of for about twelve days?”


“An it’s ben ony moderate weather?”

“Ony moderate, but foggy.”

“O, of course.  Wal, in my ’pinion, fust an foremust, he ain’t likely to hev gone down.”

“That thar’s jest what I say.”

“An he had them biscuit?”

“Yes ­a hull box.”

“An the sail for shelter?”


“Wal; it’s queer.  He can’t hev got down by the State o’ Maine; for, ef he’d got thar, he’d hev sent word home before this.”

“Course he would.”

Old Bennie thought over this for a long time again, and the boys watched him closely, as though some result of vital importance hung upon his final decision.

“Wal,” said Bennie at last, “s’posin that he’s alive, ­an it’s very likely, ­thar’s ony two ways to account for his onnat’ral silence.  Them air these: ­

“Fust, he may hev got picked up by a timber ship, outward bound to the old country.  In that case he may be carried the hull way acrost.  I’ve knowed one or two sech cases, an hev heerd of severial more.

“Second.  He may hev drifted onto a oninhabited island.”

“An oninhabited island?” repeated Captain Corbet.


“Wal,” said Captain Corbet; after a pause, “I’ve knowed things stranger than that.”

“So hev I.”

“Air thar any isle of the ocean in particular that you happen to hev in your mind’s eye now?”

“Thar air.”


Île Haute.”

“Wal, now, railly, I declar ­ef I wan’t thinkin o’ that very spot myself.  An I war thinkin, as I war a comin up the bay, that that thar isle of the ocean was about the only spot belongin to this here bay that hadn’t been heerd from.  An it ain’t onlikely that them shores could a tale onfold that mought astonish some on us.  I shouldn’t wonder a mite.”

“Nor me,” said Bennie, gravely.

“It’s either a timber ship, or a desert island, as you say, ­that’s sartin,” said Captain Corbet, after further thought, speaking with strong emphasis.  “Thar ain’t a mite o’ doubt about it; an which o’ them it is air a very even question.  For my part, I’d as soon bet on one as t’other.”

“I’ve heerd tell o’ several seafarin men that’s got adrift, an lit on that thar isle,” said Bennie, solemnly.

“Wal, so hev I; an though our lad went all the way from Petticoat Jack, yet the currents in thar wandorins to an fro could effectooate that thar pooty mighty quick, an in the course of two or three days it could land him high an dry on them thar sequestrated shores.”

“Do you think there is any chance of it?” asked Bruce, eagerly, directing his question to Bennie.

“Do I think?  Why, sartin,” said Bennie, regarding Bruce’s anxious face with a calm smile.  “Hain’t I ben a expoundin to you the actool facts?”

“Well, then,” cried Bart, starting to his feet, “let’s go at once.”

“Let’s what?” asked Captain Corbet.

“Why, hurry off at once, and get to him as soon as we can.”

“An pray, young sir, how could we get to him by leavin here jest now?”

“Can’t we go straight to Île Haute?”

“Scacely.  The tide’ll be agin us, an the wind too, till nigh eleven.”

Bart gave a deep sigh.

“But don’t be alarmed.  We’ll go thar next, an as soon as we can.  You see we’ve got to go on into Minas Basin.  Now we want to leave here so as to drop down with the tide, an then drop up with the flood tide into Minas Bay.  I’ve about concluded to wait here till about three in the mornin.  We’ll drop down to the island in about a couple of hours, and’ll hev time to run ashore, look round, and catch the flood tide.”

“Well, you know best,” said Bart, sadly.

“I think that’s the only true an rational idée,” said Bennie.  “I do, railly; an meantime you can all get beds here with me, an you can hev a good bit o’ sleep before startin.”

This conversation took place not long after their arrival.  The company were sitting in the big old kitchen, and Mrs. Bennie was spreading her most generous repast on the table.

After a bounteous supper the two old men talked over the situation until bedtime.  They told many stories about drifting boats and rafts, compared notes about the direction of certain currents, and argued about the best course to pursue under certain very difficult circumstances, such, for example, as a thick snow-storm, midnight, a heavy sea, and a strong current setting upon a lee shore, the ship’s anchor being broken also.  It was generally considered that the situation was likely to be unpleasant.

At ten o’clock Bennie hurried his guests to their beds, where they slept soundly in spite of their anxiety.  Before three in the morning he awaked them, and they were soon ready to reembark.

It was dim morning twilight as they bade adieu to their hospitable entertainers, and but little could be seen.  Captain Corbet raised his head, and peered into the sky above, and sniffed the sea air.

“Wal, railly,” said he, “I do declar ef it don’t railly seem as ef it railly is a change o’ weather ­it railly doos.  Why, ain’t this rich?  We’re ben favored at last.  We’re agoin to hev a clar day.  Hooray!”

The boys could not make out whether the captain’s words were justified or not by the facts, but thought that they detected in the air rather the fragrance of the land than the savor of the salt sea.  There was no wind, however, and they could not see far enough out on the water to know whether there was any fog or not.

Bennie accompanied them to the boat, and urged them to come back if they found the boys and let him rest in Scott’s Bay.  But the fate of that boy was so uncertain, that they could not make any promise about it.

It was a little after three when the Antelope weighed anchor, and dropped down the bay.

There was no wind whatever.  It was the tide only that carried them down to their destination.  Soon it began to grow lighter, and by the time that they were half way, they saw before them the dark outline of the island, as it rose from the black water with its frowning cliffs.

The boys looked at it in silence.  It seemed, indeed, a hopeless place to search in for signs of poor Tom.  How could he ever get ashore in such a place as this, so far out of the line of his drift; or if he had gone ashore there, how could he have lived till now?  Such were the gloomy and despondent thoughts that filled the minds of all, as they saw the vessel drawing nearer and still nearer to those frowning cliffs.

As they went on the wind grew stronger, and they found that it was their old friend ­the sou-wester.  The light increased, and they saw a fog cloud on the horizon, a little beyond Île Haute.  Captain Corbet would not acknowledge that he had been mistaken in his impressions about a change of weather, but assured the boys that this was only the last gasp of the sou-wester, and that a change was bound to take place before evening.  But though the fog was visible below Île Haute, it did not seem to come any nearer, and at length the schooner approached the island, and dropped anchor.

It was about half past four in the morning, and the light of day was beginning to be diffused around, when they reached their destination.  As it was low tide, they could not approach very near, but kept well off the precipitous shores on the south side of the island.  In the course of her drift, while letting go the anchor, she went off to a point about half way down, opposite the shore.  Scarce had her anchor touched bottom, than the impatient boys were all in the boat, calling on Captain Corbet to come along.  The captain and Wade took the oars.

It was a long pull to the shore, and, when they reached it, the tide was so low that there remained a long walk over the beach.  They had landed about half way down the island, and, as they directed their steps to the open ground at the east end, they had a much greater distance to traverse than they had anticipated.  As they walked on, they did not speak a word.  But already they began to doubt whether there was any hope left.  They had been bitterly disappointed as they came near and saw no sign of life.  They had half expected to see some figure on the beach waiting to receive them.  But there was no figure and no shout of joy.

At length, as they drew nearer to the east end, and the light grew brighter, Bart, who was in advance, gave a shout.

They all hurried forward.

Bart was pointing towards something.

It was a signal-staff, with something that looked like a flag hoisted half mast high.

Every heart beat faster, and at once the wildest hopes arose.  They hurried on over the rough beach as fast as possible.  They clambered over rocks, and sea-weed, and drift-wood, and at length reached the bank.  And still, as they drew nearer, the signal-staff rose before them, and the flag at half mast became more and more visible.

Rushing up the bank towards this place, each trying to outstrip the others, they hurried forward, full of hope now that some signs of Tom might be here.  At length they reached the place where Tom had been so long, and here their steps were arrested by the scene before them.

On the point arose the signal-staff, with its heavy flag hanging down.  The wind was now blowing, but it needed almost a gale to hold out that cumbrous canvas.  Close by were the smouldering remains of what had been a huge fire, and all around this were chips and sticks.  In the immediate neighborhood were some bark dishes, in some of which were shrimps and mussels.  Clams and lobsters lay around, with shells of both.

Not far off was a canvas tent, which looked singularly comfortable and cosy.

Captain Corbet looked at all this, and shook his head.

“Bad ­bad ­bad,” he murmured, in a doleful tone.  “My last hope, or, rayther, one of my last hopes, dies away inside of me.  This is wuss than findin’ a desert place.”

“Why?  Hasn’t he been here?  He must have been here,” cried Bart.  “These are his marks.  I dare say he’s here now ­perhaps asleep ­in the camp.  I’ll go ­”

“Don’t go ­don’t ­you needn’t,” said Captain Corbet, with a groan.  “You don’t understand.  It’s ben no pore castaway that’s come here ­no pore driftin lad that fell upon these lone and desolate coasts.  No ­never did he set foot here.  All this is not the work o’ shipwracked people.  It’s some festive picnickers, engaged in whilin away a few pleasant summer days.  All around you may perceive the signs of luxoorious feastin.  Here you may see all the different kind o’ shellfish that the sea produces.  Yonder is a luxoorious camp.  But don’t mind what I say.  Go an call the occoopant, an satisfy yourselves.”

Captain Corbet walked with the boys over to the tent.  His words had thrown a fresh dejection over all.  They felt the truth of what he said.  These remains spoke not of shipwreck, but of pleasure, and of picnicking.  It now only remained to rouse the slumbering owner of the tent, and put the usual questions.

Bart was there first, and tapped at the post.

No answer.

He tapped again.

Still there was no answer.

He raised the canvas and looked in.  He saw the mossy interior, but perceived that it was empty.  All the others looked in.  On learning this they turned away puzzled.

“Wal, I thought so,” said Captain Corbet.  “They jest come an go as the fancy takes ’em.  They’re off on Cape d’Or to-day, an back here to-morrer.”

As he said this he seated himself near the tent, and the boys looked around with sad and sombre faces.

It was now about half past five, and the day had dawned for some time.  In the east the fog had lifted, and the sun was shining brightly.

“I told you thar’d be a change, boys,” said the captain.

As he spoke there came a long succession of sharp, shrill blasts from the fog horn of the Antelope, which started every one, and made them run to the rising ground to find out the cause.