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Jo's Boys

Chapter 11: Emil's Thanksgiving
The Brenda was scudding along with all sail set to catch the rising wind, and
everyone on board was rejoicing, for the long voyage was drawing towards an
'Four weeks more, Mrs Hardy, and we'll give you a cup of tea such as you never
had before,' said second mate Hoffmann, as he paused beside two ladies sitting
in a sheltered corner of the deck.
'I shall be glad to get it, and still gladder to put my feet on solid ground,'
answered the elder lady, smiling; for our friend Emil was a favourite, as well he
might be, since he devoted himself to the captain's wife and daughter, who were
the only passengers on board.
'So shall I, even if I have to wear a pair of shoes like Chinese junks. I've tramped
up and down the deck so much, I shall be barefooted if we don't arrive soon,'
laughed Mary, the daughter, showing two shabby little boots as she glanced up
at the companion of these tramps, remembering gratefully how pleasant he had
made them.
'Don't think there are any small enough in China,' answered Emil, with a sailor's
ready gallantry, privately resolving to hunt up the handsomest shoes he could
find the moment he landed.
'I don't know what you would have done for exercise, dear, if Mr Hoffmann had
not made you walk every day. This lazy life is bad for young people, though it
suits an old body like me well enough in calm weather. Is this likely to be a gale,
think ye?' added Mrs Hardy, with an anxious glance at the west, where the sun
was setting redly.
'Only a capful of wind, ma'am, just enough to send us along lively,' answered
Emil, with a comprehensive glance aloft and alow.
'Please sing, Mr Hoffmann, it's so pleasant to have music at this time. We shall
miss it very much when we get ashore,' said Mary, in a persuasive tone which
would have won melody from a shark, if such a thing were possible.
Emil had often blessed his one accomplishment during these months, for it
cheered the long days, and made the twilight hour his happiest time, wind and
weather permitting. So now he gladly tuned his pipe, and leaning on the taffrail
near the girl, watched the brown locks blowing in the wind as he sang her
favourite song:
'Give me freshening breeze, my boys, A white and swelling sail, A ship that cuts
the dashing waves, And weathers every gale. What life is like a sailor's life, So
free, so bold, so brave? His home the ocean's wide expanse, A coral bed his
Just as the last notes of the clear, strong voice died away, Mrs Hardy suddenly
exclaimed: 'What's that?' Emil's quick eye saw at once the little puff of smoke
coming up a hatchway where no smoke should be, and his heart seemed to
stand still for an instant as the dread word 'Fire!' flashed through his mind. Then
he was quite steady, and strolled away saying quietly: