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THE STAR OF THE WEST.
AM had first attracted my attention at Laota Landing. It was here, as the big river packet pushed her nose close in towards the quay, that I first saw the little coal-black deck hand and his huge "culu'd" companion jump from her bow to fasten a line ashore. A second later they were clinging desperately to the end of their rope, while the current of the Mississippi caught our steamer and quickly swung her down stream. Inch by inch she dragged them along breathless from their exertions, till at last, on the very edge of the landing, Sam gasped,
"T-t-t-t-t-taint no use," and the rope, slipping from their hands, fell with a splash into the river.
In reply to the torrent of oaths from the captain he looked up with an air of injured innocence so laughable that I decided to make his acquaintance as soon as possible. Accordingly, one evening soon after this, with the aid of the second mate, I succeeded in drawing him into the pleasant occupation of "swoppin' ya'ns," as we lounged on one of the cotton bales of the lower deck.
"Dee Dolphin wuz atakin' feed tuh dee Union boys 'roun' Vicksbu'g 'bout '63 an' we met dee Stah ob dee West. Cap'n Geo'ge wuz mighty jealous ob huh. Dee Dolphin wa'n't a dooce spot tuh huh. She wuz dat fas'! Well dee Stah wuz adriftin' towa'ds dee Rebel fo'ts, wheel-shaf' busted an jes' as helpless! Massa Geo'ge jes' lock hisse'f into dee Dolphin's pilot-house an' steah straight fo' huh. When dee Star seed he wuz agoin' tuh ram huh dey jes' up wid dey guns an let fly. Cap'n Geo'ge jes' chuckled away lahk a divil. Fust I knowed we smashed into dee Stah. Nex' moment we wuz abackin' off. Jes' lef' dee men tuh get tuh lan' bes' dey could. An' she a Union boat, too!
"Nevah done nothing tuh Cap'n. In cou't he sez he b'lieved it wuz a Rebel boat an' atryin' tuh git him whah dee Rebel guns could knock him sky-high. Whut did dey shoot at him fo'?
"He had tuh tie dee Dolphin up. No'un'd give him nothin' tuh tote no moah. Jined dee Rebels an' ain't bin 'roun' yeah sence. He jes' went crazy fo' a time when he had dee chance tuh sink dee Stah. Cap'n ob dee Stah went plumb crazy, too. Built a boat somewhah 'roun' yeah. Made it out ob drif’wood. Dey sez he jes' 'magines he's navigatin'. When dee rivah floods dem mud flats he,-Almos' tuh Vicksbu'g, ah Vow. Whut's dis Cap'n's name? Massa Geo'ge? Ah knowed he looked lahk him. Didn' get a good look at him at St. Louis. Yes sah, time ah wuz amovin'. Thank yuh sah."
Very thoughtfully we climbed to the upper deck. There was a slight mist hanging over the river, through which the full moon above us shone down in dancing flakes of gold on the water. The dim outline of a bank against the yellow glow of the lights of Vicksburg in the distance was the only thing to tell us that the greyish curtain did not cover a limitless stretch of water. But now a long, glowing, yellow arm began to move up and down the river. It was the searchlight picking out the path for us. All else was dim in the half darkness.
Suddenly the mate grasped my arm. The searchlight was fixed on a dim, white object some distance down stream. As we approached it slowly took form before my eyes, a skeleton ship. The next instant someone rushed towards us and fell on the deck just at my feet. It was Sam.
"Massa," he gasped, and I saw by the flicker of the lantern the white circles of his eyes gleaming with fear. "Dee Stah," he managed to stammer.
His fear was catching. The quivering of the deck under the throb of the engine, the mist, pale yellow in the moonlight, the brilliant arm of the searchlight, which just before were so natural, seemed now to lend a ghostly mystery to the world about us. Shadows, here and there, perhaps of the imagination, added to charm the sense into hearing the whisper of ghostly trees along the river bank. It was a world of silent, shapeless, shadows into which the moonlight passed, blended, yet hardly disappeared. Who could tell where on
that horizon the glow of the lights of Vicksburg ended or the greyish shadows began? The shadow and the dim lights were one and the chill of the river air seemed but the clammy touch of that vaporous veil. It was a night such that, in spite of our surroundings, we seemed to be in a vast solitude; though the throb of the engines mingling inseparably with the quiver of the deck beat on our ears, yet there seemed to be a strange silence about us. And still above the silence I almost thought I heard the soft gurgle of the river struggling against the bow and the noisy splash of the sheets of spray which the great wheel spurned backward into the angry, foaming mass behind; while the mist, tossed high into the air and mysteriously melting into the fog about us, seemed but part of the restless, half-imagined silence.
Almost unconsciously I noted the captain as he stood clutching the spokes of the steering wheel. He was leaning forward, motionless, spellbound, straining to see the spectre before him. I felt rather than saw the terror in his face, hidden as it was in the shadows of the pilot house, but I knew it was there. More distinct grew the form of the skeleton ship, the greyish lines, frail and unsubstantial, in relief against the darkness behind them; yet seeming to be a part of it and to melt away into it. Was she moving or,but no smoke comes from the funnels; there is no answering whistle and,—yes, is that a tree trunk standing out against her bow? Does she move at will on the river and through the forest or is it seen through the phantom hull?
Suddenly I saw the Captain whirl the wheel hard to port, and straight toward that silent silhouette of shadows, seeming no more than a form fancied from the mist, we swept. With a loud cry the mate sprang toward the door of the pilot-house. It was locked, and his only answer, hardly heard above the pounding of the engines, was a fiendish chuckle. Powerless, we stood waiting for we knew not what. Would this thing melt into mist as our prow met its side? Would we slip through an unresisting film or would it, like the will-o'-the-wisp, glide just beyond our reach? Breathlessly we watched as nearer and nearer towered the
shadowy spectre, and still on we sped. A few rods more and unconsciously, in that tense wait, we braced ourselves for the shock, yet not half expecting any resistance. A crash, and down upon the deck we were hurled. All seemed pandemonium; then even the throbbing of the steamer ceased. The engines had stopped.
For an instant a quiver ran through the deck. Then all was quiet. I lay there in the pulsing silence that followed, half expecting something beyond human knowledge. In my mind even yet,—that ghostly shape filled me with worse than fear,-terror of the supernatural. At last I raised myself, hardly in expectation of seeing the mass of wreckage of the skeleton ship floating down the river, but hoping. Half expecting to see nothing before me save the shadows, yet trembling lest still that spectre be standing there, I looked. For a minute all was blurred before my eyes. Then through the mist I saw the ghostly ship again, cold, silent, unharmed. It seemed to be almost the image of that fearful sight that I carried in my mind.
Suddenly there came the noise of many feet as the deckhands rushed up from below. Men struggled madly, pushing, pulling, fighting their way; no one knew whither. No one cared if only he could escape that spectre. Back and forth, trampling and being trampled on, each for himself in that mad, nameless terror, and the darkness of the fog shut in on the sight. Some unnoticed leaped into the river, others in a frenzy fought their way to the boats; while above and just beyond it all stood the phantom ship, dimmer and more indistinct in the mist, while the pale light of the moon grew paler and the greyish darkness darker.
It was some time before order was at last restored and the day had already begun to break. There on the shore just beyond where we had run aground stood that skeleton ship and on her deck of "drif'-wood", her crazy captain.
Then at last we broke into the pilot-house. On the floor lay "Cap'n Geo'ge", the dull light of early morning softening the terror of his glassy eyes, which seemed still to be seeking the spectre of the rival ship, though the hand that had never ceased to clutch the wheel was cold and motionless. Walter Richardson.
EDVARD GRIEG, THE TONE POET OF NORWAY.
OTH have lived amid the brief, white nights, the chilly climate, the rugged, awful scenery of the NorthGrieg and Ibsen. Both are mystics and, as Northmen, melancholic, but how mild and gentle the melancholy of the former, how stern, severe, almost pessimistic that of the latter. The art of Grieg is a sheer play of form, color, imagery, with its primary aim beauty and melody; that of Ibsen pays the tax to beauty by its vivid symbolism. The one makes dance the colors of the Northern lights, the birds and butterflies, sings of nature in her various moods; the other lays bare the struggle of souls in passion and doubt and wrath. Ibsen might be compared with Wagner, to Grieg he forms a direct contrast. The delicate beauty of Grieg's music is unique, but its limitations are extreme. It is as fair as a flower and as fragile. It is, in short, the effluence of a personality graceful, romantic, gifted with all gentle qualities of nature, but lacking in the more virile powers, in the broad vision, the epic magnanimity, the massive force of Ibsen.
Of this personality as it is manifested in the outward appearance of the man, we have an account by M. Ernest Closson. "Grieg is small, thin and narrow-shouldered," he writes. "His body, which is like a child's, is always in motion—the movements short, lively, singularly jerky, and angular, each step shaking the whole body and hitching the shoulders as if he limped. The head, which looks massive. on so small a body, is intelligent and very handsome, with long grayish hair thrown back, thin face, smooth shaven chin, short, thick mustache, small but full nose and eyes!— eyes superb, green, gray, in which one can fancy one catches a glimpse of Norway with its melancholy fjords and its luminous mists. His gaze is serious, wonderfully soft, with a peculiar expression, at once worn, tentative and childishly naïve. The entire effect is of kindness, gentleness, candor