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The current off the Isle of Pines sets strongly to the east: so the Clorinda kept close inshore, to cheat it. They passed Cape Corrientes — looking, when first sighted, like two hummocks in the sea: they passed Holandes Point, known as False C. Antonio: but were prevented for some time, as Captain Marpole told in his letter, from rounding the true one. For to attempt C. Antonio in a Norther is to waste your labor.

They lay-to in sight of that long, low, rocky, treeless promontory in which the great island of Cuba terminates, and waited. They were so close that the fisherman’s hut on its southern side was clearly discernible.

For the children, those first few days at sea had flashed by like a kind of prolonged circus. There is no machine invented for sober purposes so well adapted also to play as the rigging of a ship: and the kindly captain, as Mrs. Thornton had divined, was willing to give them a lot of freedom. First came the climbing of a few rungs of the ratlines in a sailor’s charge: higher each time, till John attained a gingerly touching of the yard: then hugged it: then straddled it. Soon, running up the ratlines and prancing on the yard (as if it were a mere table-top) had no further thrill for John or Emily either. (To go out on the yard was not allowed.)

But when the ratlines had palled, the most lasting joy undoubtedly lay in that network of footropes and chains and stays which spreads out under and on each side of the bowsprit. Here, familiarity only bred content. Here, in fine weather, one could climb or be stilclass="underline" stand, sit, hang, swing, or lie: now this end up, now that: and all with the cream of the blue sea being whipt up for one’s own especial pleasure, almost within touching distance: and the big white wooden lady (Clorinda herself), bearing the whole vessel so lightly on her back, her knees in the hubble-bubble, her cracks almost filled up with so much painting, vaster than any living lady, as a constant and unannoying companion.

In the midst there was a kind of spear, its haft set against the under-side of the bowsprit, its point perpendicularly down towards the water — the dolphin-striker. Here it was that the old monkey (who had the Sore tail) loved to hang, by the mere stub which was all a devouring cancer had left him, chattering to the water. He took no notice of the children, nor they of him: but both parties grew attached to each other, for all that.

— How small the children all looked, on a ship, when you saw them beside the sailors! It was as if they were a different order of beings! Yet they were living creatures just the same, full of promise.

John , with his downy, freckled face, and general round energeticalness.

Emily , with her huge palm-leaf hat, and colorless cotton frock tight over her minute impish erect body: her thin, almost expressionless face: her dark gray eyes contracted to escape the blaze, yet shining as it were in spite of themselves: and her really beautiful lips, that looked almost as if they were sculptured.

Margaret Fernandez , taller (as midgets go: she was just thirteen), with her square white face and tangled hair, her elaboratish clothes.

Her little brother Harry , by some throw-back for all the world like a manikin Spaniard.

And the smaller Thorntons: Edward , mouse-colored, with a general mousy (but pleasing) expression: Rachel , with tight short gold curls and a fat pink face (John’s coloring watered down): and last of all Laura , a queer mite of three with heavy dark eyebrows, and blue eyes, a big head-top and a receding chin — as if the Procreative Spirit was getting a little hysterical by the time it reached her. A silver-age conception, Laura’s, decidedly.

When the Norther blew itself out, it soon fell away almost dead calm. The morning they finally rounded Cape San Antonio was hot, blazing hot. But it is never stuffy at sea: there is only this disadvantage, that while on land a shady hat protects you from the sun, at sea nothing can protect you from that second sun which is mirrored upwards from the water, strikes under all defenses, and burns the unseasoned skin from all your undersides. Poor John! His throat and chin were a blistered red.

From the point itself there is a whitish bank in two fathoms, bowed from north to north-east. The outer side is clean and steep-to, and in fine weather one can steer along it by eye. It ends in Black Key, a rock standing out of the water like a ship’s hull. Beyond that lies a channel, very foul and difficult to navigate: and beyond that again the Coloradoes Reef begins, the first of a long chain of reefs following the coast in a north-easterly direction as far as Honde Bay, two-thirds the way to Havana. Within the reefs lies the intricate Canal de Guaniguanico, of which this channel is the westernmost outlet, with its own rather dubious little ports. But ocean traffic, needless to say, shuns the whole box of tricks: and the Clorinda advisedly stood well away to the northward, keeping her course at a gentle amble for the open Atlantic.

John was sitting outside the galley with the sailor called Curtis, who was instructing him in the neat mystery of a Turk’s-head. Young Henry Marpole was steering. Emily was messing around — not talking, just being by him.

As for the other sailors, they were all congregated in a ring, up in the bows, so that one saw nothing but their backs. But every now and then a general guffaw, and a sudden surging of the whole group, showed they were up to something or other.

John presently tiptoed forward, to see what it might be. He thrust his bullet-head among their legs, and worked his way in till he had as good a view as the earliest comer.

He found they had got the old monkey, and were filling him up with rum. First they gave him biscuit soaked in it: then they dipped rags in a pannikin of the stuff, and squeezed them into his mouth. Then they tried to make him drink direct: but that he would not do — it only wasted a lot of spirit.

John felt a vague horror at all this: though of course he did not guess the purpose behind it.

The poor brute shivered and chattered, rolled his eyes, spluttered. I suppose it must have been an excruciatingly funny sight. Every now and then he would seem altogether overcome by the spirit. Then one of them would lay him on the top of an old beef barrel — but hey presto, he would be up like lightning, trying to streak through the air over their heads. But he was no bird: they caught him each time, and set to work to dope him again.

As for John, he could no more have left the scene now than Jacko the monkey could.

It was astonishing what a lot of spirit the wizened little brute could absorb. He was drunk, of course: hopelessly, blindly, madly drunk. But he was not paralytic, not even somnolent: and it seemed as if nothing could overcome him. So at last they gave up the attempt. They fetched a wooden box, and cut a notch in the edge. Then they put him on the barrel-top, and clapped the box over him, and after much maneuvering his gangrenous tail was made to come out through the notch. Anesthetized or not, the operation on him was to proceed. John stared, transfixed, at that obscene wriggling stump which was all one could see of the animaclass="underline" and out of the corner of his eye he could see at the same time the uproarious operators, the tar-stained knife.

But the moment the blade touched flesh, with an awful screech the mommet contrived to fling off his cage — leapt on the surgeon’s head — leapt from there high in the air — caught the forestay — and in a twinkling was away and up high in the forerigging.

Then began the hue and cry. Sixteen men flinging about in lofty acrobatics, all to catch one poor old drunk monkey. For he was drunk as a lord, and sick as a cat. His course varied between wild and hair-raising leaps (a sort of inspired gymnastics), and doleful incompetent reelings on a taut rope which threatened at every moment to catapult him into the sea. But even so they could never quite catch him.