The rounded top of Ashingdon hill seemed to tower higher than its wont, and close at hand, beyond the swampy meadows to our left, and I wondered that Cnut had not chosen that for his camping ground, though maybe it would have been less well placed for reaching the ships, owing to some shoaling of water that did not suit them.
"Put me down," she said at length, as she saw the water shoaling. It was hip deep to me, but waist deep to her; and I felt her shudder as she caught its chill. Her little hand gripped tight to mine. By this time the others had also descended from the snag. I saw old Auberry plunging methodically along, at his side Mrs. McGovern, clasping the hand of her son. "Come on here, you boy," she said.
The hands in the chains were kept heaving the lead, which showed that the brig was slowly shoaling her water. At length she was hove-to, and two boats were lowered. Their own lieutenant, Hemming, who had escaped with them from a sinking slaver, volunteered to take charge of one of them, and Evans, the second lieutenant of the brig, went in the other.
Isn't there a buoy near the end of the breakwater?" "Yes, a red spar buoy." "What's the depth just inside?" "Four fathoms, shoaling to one." "Good enough. We'll drop anchor just around the breakwater and train the searchlight across the channel. I don't believe, though, they intend to run out again before morning.
This place was only some sixty miles to the northward of Mombassa; and all the arrangements for our landing having been completed, and `old Hankey Pankey' settled his plan of operations with Captain Oliver of the Merlin, we did not hurry on the passage to Malindi, timing ourselves to arrive about daybreak, casting anchor in front of the town, as near in as we could get without shoaling our water, at Six Bells in the morning watch to the minute.
In his dark den he could still hear the gulls wailing, although the tug had passed the major portion of the shoaling pilchards. There also came to him the constant creaking of the dock, the slow dull recurrence of the ground swell against her bow. The boy's mind centered fretfully on his lost medicine chest. No doubt it was stolen, and he began wondering which of the crew had taken it.
"I'm glad to think it will be a soft bottom if we run aground." They went on, keeping, so far as they could judge, midway between reef and beach, but after a time the lead showed shoaling water and Jake used the boathook instead. Then the sky cleared and a half-moon came out, and they saw haze and the loom of trees outshore of them.
Five minutes later another sounding was taken and proved that the water was gradually shoaling. At thirty fathoms Pete ordered the anchor let go and a last sounding taken. Before the lead flew he rubbed a little tallow into the saucer, and this, when it came up, was full of sand, mud, and shells, telling the sort of bottom under the schooner.
Inveresk, a few miles below that city, is the site of an ancient Roman port, and if we suppose the sea at high water to have washed the foot of the heights on which the town stood, the tide would have ascended far up the valley of the Esk, and would have made the mouth of that river a safe and commodious harbour; whereas, had it been a shoaling estuary, as at present, it is difficult to see how the Romans should have made choice of it as a port.
If she misses stays and broaches to, We're all" then with a shout, "Huray! huray! Avast! belay! Take in more sail! Lord, what a gale! Ho, boy, haul taut on the hind mule's tail!" "Ho! lighten ship! ho! man the pump! Ho, hostler, heave the lead!" "A quarter-three! 'tis shoaling fast! Three feet large! t-h-r-e-e feet! Three feet scant!" I cried in fright "Oh, is there no retreat?"