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The boatswain threw a leg over the stern-post of the much-battered ship’s boat that lay listed over just beyond the breakers of a rough sea, and cast a glance at the two young men who stood, with hands in pockets, gazing up at the cliffs. Their backs were towards him; they had either not heard, or were disinclined to notice what he had said.
‘Ay, ’twas twenty-six year ago,’ he resumed, in a voice like the note of an organ pipe. ‘We was working between Brisbane and the Solomons, blackbirding and what not; ’twas before your time, young gents, but—-’
‘What’s that you ‘re saying?’ demanded one of the two whose backs he had addressed.
‘I was saying, sir, as how I was in a fix like this ‘ere twenty-seven year ago, or it may be twenty-eight: Ephraim’s got the head for figures. We was working between Brisbane and the Carolines–a tight little schooner she was, light on her heels. You can bear me out, Ephraim?’
‘If so be ’twas the same craft, light and tight she was,’ Ephraim agreed.
‘Well, a tidal wave come along and pitched her clean on to a beach like as this might be–not a beach as you could respect, with bathing-boxes and a promenade, but a narrow strip of a beach, a reg’lar fraud of a beach, under cliffs as high as a church…’
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