(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

While in the town of Newport, Rhode Island, Harry Wilder saw in the outer harbor a ship, the Dolphin, which interested him greatly. He decided to try to secure a berth on her for himself and his two friends, Dick Fid and Scipio Africa, a black sailor. His determination was strengthened after meeting a stranger who in effect dared him to try to obtain a berth there. That night, the three men rowed out to the ship lying at anchor, in order to give the vessel a closer inspection. Hailed by the watch on deck, Wilder went aboard her. There he learned that he had been expected and that if he were interested in sailing with her, he might go to see the captain. The captain was the mysterious, mocking stranger whom Wilder had met that afternoon in the town. Before Wilder signed on as a member of the ship’s crew, however, the captain revealed the true nature of the ship and admitted that he himself was the Red Rover, the scourge of the sea. Wilder, who had formerly been an officer in the British Navy, was given the post of second in command. He persuaded the captain to sign on Dick and Scipio as well. He then returned to shore to settle his affairs in the town. The other two men remained aboard the Dolphin.

At the same time, the Royal Caroline, a merchantman trading along the coast and between the colonies and England, lay in the inner harbor ready to embark on the following day. Two ladies, Gertrude Grayson and her governess, Mrs. Wyllys, were to take passage on her to Charleston, South Carolina, Gertrude’s home. Wilder met the ladies as if by chance and tried to dissuade them from sailing aboard the Royal Caroline. He hinted that the Royal Caroline was unsafe, but his words were discredited by an old seaman who insisted that there was nothing wrong with the ship. The ladies decided to sail in spite of Wilder’s warnings. Then the master of the Royal Caroline fell from a cask and broke his leg, and a new captain had to be found immediately. The Red Rover sent a message ordering Wilder to apply for the vacant position. He did and was immediately hired.

The voyage of the Royal Caroline began with difficulties which continued as time went on. They were not long out of port when a ship was sighted on the horizon. It continued to keep its distance in approximately the same position, so that all aboard the Royal Caroline suspected that it was following them. In trying to outdistance the other ship, Wilder put on all sail possible, in spite of the threatening weather. A storm struck the ship and left her foundering in heavy seas. When Wilder commanded the crew to man the pumps, they refused and deserted the sinking ship in one of the boats. Only Wilder and the two women were left aboard the helpless Royal Caroline. Hoping to make land, they embarked in a longboat, but the wind blew them out to sea. They were sighted and picked up by the Dolphin.

Gertrude and Mrs. Wyllys were not long aboard the Dolphin before the true state of affairs became apparent to the women in spite of the kindly...

(The entire section is 1229 words.)