T HE raft was now just a little island of dim light in the midst of the soft velvety darkness of the night. As they looked out over the bay their eyes were blinded by the flares and they could see little but the lights of other fishing craft and their sparkling reflections in the dark water. There was no moon, and the clouds' hid the stars.
At last Felix shaded his eyes with his hand and, peering out into the darkness, tried to get his bearings.
"I can't tell just where we are," he said. "But the
fish are still coming in well. They follow the lights."
He had scarcely finished speaking, when a sudden gust
of wind slapped the
"I don't like the looks of this," said Felix. "The wind is blowing in from the China Sea."
Even the Twins knew that the terrible typhoons which
sometimes sweep over the Islands were apt to come from
that direction and they shivered with fear. Almost at
once the sea was churned to foam, and
Then came a flash of lightning and a fearful crash of thunder, and Dingo crawled under the shelter with his tail curled so far under him that his hind legs curled with it.
Now the rain began, and the children and their mother
followed Dingo into the tiny
Felix sank down at their feet, threw an arm over the six legs sticking out from under the thatch, and with his other hand clung to the frail support of the hut.
The rain came down in torrents, and the wretched family could do nothing but hold to the raft as best they could and pray with all their might. They could not even speak to one another, and, indeed, what was there to say? They knew very well that at any moment they might be swept away into the raging sea. For some time they lay quivering with terror and with cold, for they were now wet to the skin, and the wind blew on them in chilling blasts. The flares sputtered and went out, and they felt the shudder of the raft as the baskets slid about bumping into each other and into their shelter. Then the baskets tipped over, and Felix, with despair, felt his wonderful catch of fish slide past him in a slimy stream into the sea. The crabs crawled over him and he could not move. The little stove shot by and was gone, and the next wave carried away the thatch of the hut, leaving only the upright supports to which they clung.
It seemed they could endure no more, for there is a limit even to terror, yet the next moment the raft itself seemed to sink beneath them and for an instant they were afloat upon a wave which swept every movable thing, except themselves, before it into the sea. They felt the raft rise up under them again and then once more the waters surged over them. They clung together in a desperate heap, and each time when the wave had passed, were surprised to find themselves still clinging to their frail support. They knew that bamboo would never sink but the raft might at any moment be dashed to pieces by the waves and there was no possibility of swimming in such angry waters.
For three terrible hours the storm raged. They learned to hold their breath when a wave broke over them and breathe again when it had passed. Otherwise they might have been drowned even though they still clung to the raft.
At last the wind quieted a little, and the rain slackened, but it made little difference to them, for the waves still threw them about as if the raft were no more than a floating chip.
For three hours more they plunged and dipped and rolled with the heaving waters, and it was not until a long red streak in the eastern sky proclaimed the dawn that even Felix could lift his head enough to look about them.
The long red streak like a crack in the sky showed the rugged line of a range of hills far away on the horizon to the eastward. In the west Felix could trace the hills of Bataan showing faintly against the dark sky, and he knew that they were floating about in the middle of Manila Bay.
Felix gave Petra's ankle a pull, and a mass of wet, soggy clothes heaved a little, and she, too, raised herself on one elbow.
"The children," gasped Felix, "they are alive?"
Petra nodded. She was almost too spent to speak.
"They clutched my hands all night," she whispered. She rose to her knees with difficulty, and bent her head close to the heads of Ramon and Rita to be sure they were really breathing.
"Let them be," she whispered. "They are either asleep or unconscious." She looked out over the wastes of water and shivered.
"If we are to drown after all, it will be as well not to rouse them," she said. She crossed herself, murmuring a prayer, and sank down again.
"Hold fast to the children and to the raft," said Felix to his wife. "It doesn't pitch quite so much now, and I am going to let go of you."
Petra clutched him. "Let us all die together if need be," she moaned. "If you try to move about you will be dashed into the sea."
Felix did not answer. He was already on his hands and
knees, and, in spite of her efforts to hold him back,
he began to crawl toward the bamboo net poles, which
were still standing. Petra shuddered and covered her
eyes. She could not bear to see him swept away. Felix
reached the front of the raft and, seizing the bamboo
both hands, managed to pull himself to his feet. He
hoped that possibly some boat might see their plight
and rescue them, but there was no boat in sight. He
looked about on the raft. There was not a thing left
upon it but themselves and Dingo.
On the pole the white signal hung limp in the sultry air. One hour passed, two, three; still Felix sat grimly watching, watching, and saw no sign. Petra and the children still lay in a stupor.
In the east, far away across the waste of waters, he now saw a cloud of smoke. "That must be Manila," he said to himself.
Again he searched the whole horizon, and this time—oh, joy!—in the west, like an echo from the clouds above the city, a thin wisp of smoke rose against the sky. He gave a great shout, and Petra roused herself.
"Look, look," cried Felix, pointing to the wisp of smoke. "It's a steamer going from Bataan to Manila. There are steamers that cross the bay every day loaded with fish. We are right in its course. If only we can make them see us!"
He pulled the rope frantically up and down, and his shirt flapped up and down with it. Hope put new life into Petra. She roused the children. Dingo sat up, too, and barked.
The water was now quiet enough so they ventured to crawl about a little, and they sat up in the middle of the raft, clinging together.
"They are too far away to see us yet, but I'll keep moving the shirt up and down, anyway," cried Felix. "Sit up as tall as you can, so it will be easier for them to see us."
The steamer came nearer. They could see its black hull grow larger and larger as it approached. It seemed to them that they watched it for hours, and still there was no sign that they were seen. The suspense grew unbearable.
"If they don't see us they may run over us," cried Felix. "We are right in their path."
"They must see us," moaned Petra, and she and the children waved their arms frantically, while Felix flew his white signal and Dingo barked.
On and on came the boat. Then, suddenly, there was a
fearful blast from the whistle, the beating of the
engine slowed down and a row of heads appeared above
Felix was the last to leave the wreck, and when he, too, stood on the deck with his family safe about him, his heart was so filled with thankfulness that there was no room in it for grief over the loss of his raft. They watched it tossing about on the waves, as the engines started up and the steamer went on its way to Manila and the terrible night was left behind them like a bad dream. The Captain was a little man with a yellow skin, thick black hair, and a wide mouth which cracked wider still in a friendly grin as he looked at the forlorn group.
"Well," he said, "I've often fished in Manila Bay, but never have had such a haul as this in my life. What in the world did you think you were doing so far out on that raft?"
Felix told him their story. "Hum," said the Captain. "It's lucky that this boat is loaded with fruit and vegetables." He turned to one of the deck hands.
"Go bring them anything that can be eaten raw," he said, "and be quick about it."
"And oh, please, some water," said Petra.
The man disappeared and in a few moments
returned with a basket of mangoes,
pineapples, and bananas, which he placed
before them on the deck. He also brought
water in a large gourd. When they had
eaten and drunk, and their clothes were
dried in the sun, they began to feel much
more cheerful. They were alive, well, and
together. That was much to be thankful for, but their
plight was still serious. They were a long way from
home, without money or means of getting any. How in the
world were they to get back to the