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[VOL. 2, 1846.
The Gagle's Nest ; or, The Lone Star of the Wiest.
BY THE EDITOR.
IN WHICH OUR HERO APPEARS UNDER VERY
pipes—we except the passenger-convers. ing and speculating on the probable result of all this delay, or watching in silence the
lazy wreaths of vapour which rose and fell During one of those really gorgeous and from their long puffs, or were borne away superb days which the traveller meets with by the factitious breeze caused by the moat times in the Gulf of Mexico, a small but tion of the sails. They were seated some well-rigged schooner lay becalmed upon on the trunk, some on the deck, leaning its ever-vexed waters, which spread on all listlessly over the low black bulwarks, sides without sign of land to break the mo- with countenances plainly betokening an notony of the scene. It was towards the anxiety for action, and great disrelish for latter end of the summer of 1835, or in their present position. what is so expressively called the fall of “Rather discouraging, Monsieur Grigthe year—a period at which calms are of non,” exclaimed the passenger,
6 three rare occurrence, and, in general, preceding weeks out from New Orleans, a dead calm, bad weather. The sky was for the time, very little provender, and at least an hunhowever, of that intense blue which is pe- dred miles from Matagorda." culiar to the tropics, and was unshadowed “ Develeesh provok-ing,” replied the by a single cloud, the sun shining with all Frenchman, shrugging his shoulders, “put its dazzling brightness upon the smooth tish tam culf is nevere vid hout de sacre but slightly heaving billows, that appeared calme. Mais! vat ish dat on de vatere? to bask in a flood of heat, which, spread- Von tortue-de-mer as I am lif.” ing from aloft a few degrees only from Instantly bustle and activity was the perpendicular, scorched the vessel's deck, order of the day, the boat was lowered and rendered walking upon it somewhat from astern and brought alongside, and unpleasant, even with shoes, as the pitch- the captain and crew jumped in, despite ed seams became liquid beneath the burn. the remonstrances of the passenger, who ing glow, which warped the very planks. warned them that the wind was about to It was, we have said, calm; indeed, not a rise. breath of air was stirring, and but for the “ Bah! bah! Monsieur Blake, dere is no long swell, remnant of wind past or sign vind can come so quick I not see him,” exof wind to come, one would have thought claimed the laughing and light-hearted that upon that spot the cold northern, or Gaul, as he sat hinuself in the stern-sheets hot and suffocating south-easter, had never of his' boat, " but you keep a look hout blown.
hall the vhile.” The huge mainsail and foresail of the • Never fear, Monsieur Grignon," anschooner, as well as the lighter gaff top- swered the passenger ; “I see mischief sails, were squared to meet the slightest brewing in the south-east, and shall be on breeze, but at present in vain, the craft the alert.” rising and falling with the motion of the Four vigorous arms soon bore the dinsea, and turning round towards every ghy to a distance in chase of the turtle, point of the compass. The captain, a pas which about half a mile off lay asleep on senger, and the crew, composed of four the face of the water-the captain and his men, all stood aft, smoking their short men pursuing their object with all the vi
vacity and thoughtlessness of French sai. very brief notice, sailed from Liverpool to lors, who on sea and land, in all parts of New Orleans, where finding the Dame the world, keep up the character of their Blanche, Captain Grignon, about to start country.
for Matagorda, he had taken passage, furThe young man who remained on the nished with credentials and letters of inschooner's deck rose with a dissatisfied troduction from friends in the United air, scanned the horizon in every direction, States to several of the leading men who lit an elegant German pipe, and then sciz- had brought about the Texan declaration ing the tiller stood ready for any emer- of independence, letters and credentials gency which might happen, well satisfied equally invaluable with the usual run of that his energies would shortly be called such documents. into action, though he in reality expected Meeting with contrary winds, and nunothing save a stiff breeze, which made merous calms ensuing, they had been alhim attempt no alteration in the craft's ready three weeks out, and were at the canvas, a complicated undertaking indeed moment we speak of in lat. 27deg. 50m. N., for one man.
long. 95 deg. 30m. W., and consequently Edward Blake, such was his name, was about a hundred miles from their destinahabited in the jacket, cap, and well-fitting tion. The calm to which we alluded in pantaloons of a midshipman in the English the opening paragraph had already been navy, a costume which peculiarly became of considerable duration, the wind having his stature and form. He was about the died away on the previous evening, and it middle height, rather more slight than being now about midday. Nothing can be corpulent, though so nicely did he balance conceived more vexatious and annoying between the two as to be sometimes called than a calm at sea, excepting it be a storm stout; with a profusion of dark curls, a of such a serious nature as to place life in straight nose, a peculiarly well-shaped jeopardy; otherwise I would always premouth, while an incipient moustache offer half a gale of wind to no wind at all. great promise garnishing his upper lip No matter how excellent your fare, how completed the outline of his personal ap- agreeable your company, how complete pearance. His mental qualities it is our and entertaining your library, one always province in these pages to develope. is anxious to get to the end of a sea vo
Edward Blake had entered on board an yage; while, therefore, you go ahead, everyEnglish man-of-war at the usual age. The thing is delightful—the society of your son of a respectable private gentleman of fellow passengers is all that could be wishmoderate fortune, he possessed no friends ed; such pleasant aspirations for the future powerful enough to ensure his promotion, a are dwelt upon, such reminiscences, sad, fact which had not come home to him with tender, and merry, of the past. But let a full force until a few years of naval ex- calm ensue, and at once one is irritable, perience had rendered him more thought- snappish, and out of sorts. Your dinner ful than before; the idea having once is detestable, your cigar cheerless, your struck him, however, his temperament be- best friend fussy, even the young widow ing quick and hasty, he became convinced who sits opposite at table rises ten seasons that advancement was hopeless in his na- in the scale of years, and is no longer intive country. The conclusion was some- teresting. Sir Walter is serious, Sir Edwhat illogical, since men do certainly rise ward a bore, and even the inimitable Rato the highest rank in our service by me- belais himself would hardly make you rit alone, and why not Edward Blake, laugh. The deck is your sole resource, who, strange to say, believed himself and there on such occasions will be found beyond hope of redemption the last of officers, passengers, and crew, watching his race.
The above notion having once the appearance of the heavens in every dientered his head, nothing could eradicate rection. A cloud no bigger than a man's it. While under the influence of these head rises, and it is instantly decided that feelings, he received a communication from wind is coming from thence, but no, it is a a friend who had emigrated to America a false alarm, and the whole mass of the short time before, and who informed him ship’s inhabitants return to their pristine that an immediate outbreak was contem- sullenness. Presently, however, the breeze plated between Texas and Mexico, a navy rises, the sails fill, the bow parts the yieldwas in active preparation, and finally that ing waves, man's love of locomotion is if he felt disposed to register himself on satisfied, the destined port is felt to be the books of the young republic, a com- nearer every minute, and all is once more mission would be given him, with good cheerful and smiling. pay, and the prospect of rapid promotion. Whether Edward Blake felt all this I No more was wanted to inflame the hopes know not, but he sat quietly on the comand desires of an ardent and sanguine panion, his hand resting on the tiller, now mind like that of Blake, and at the age of watching the motions of his associates, and nincteen he quitted his native land on a now the various signs of a coming breeze, which showed themselves in the heavens the waves, increasing each instant in force and upon the waters. At a considerable and hollowness, boiled beneath, and the distance, the long billows appeared slight- schooner, which never, under such a press ly agitated, a bank rose, the smooth shin- of sail and in such a breeze, had walked ing and silvery appearance of the slumber- the waters, rose, and fell, and pitched and ing ocean was darkened-it was a south- laid over, in the most extraordinary and east wind moving rapidly over the face of unprecedented manner. The labour at the the deep. In a few minutes a slight air helm was immense: it was port and starfanned the cheek of the young sailor, the board, hard up and hard down at each molazy sails swelled, and the craft was gen- ment, in the earnest endeavour to keep tly' in motion before the breeze. Blake right before the wind; then a huge and now naturally turned his eyes in search of combing wave, as the vessel came up unthe crew
At the distance of about three wittingly, in the wind, swept across the quarters of a mile ahead, they were seen deck, and casting our hero from the helm, pulling smartly for the schooner; and nearly pitched him overboard. The Blake, therefore, using every caution, schooner, meanwhile, left to its own guidsteered the vessel towards them, the breeze ance, broached to, lay down almost on its increasing every instant, until it became a beam ends, and the topmasts and topsails matter of certainty that a storm was about parted from the lower mast. In an instant to follow the treacherous calm. The wind, however Edward Blake had regained his feet indeed, already blew in powerful gusts, and seized the tiller, when, by a desperate dense clouds began to pass over the face of exertion of strength, he once more brought the heavens, and it was not without great the craft before the wind, somewhat eased anxiety that Blake neared his comrades, by the loss of the canvas just mentioned. who appeared ready to seize a rope which Still, as the topsails had not been entirely towed astern, resting meanwhile on their carried away, and yet hung by the sheets oars in the course of the craft. Five mi- and halyards, their loud and discordant nutes elapsed, and it blew a strong gale of flapping was to be heard even above the wind, the schooner labouring heavily, every roar of the tempest, and expecting they rag being set, and Blake being obliged to would demolish the lower masts, Blake deremain at the helm, as to have left it and termined to cut them from their fastenlet go the halyards would have been to ings. Watching carefully for an instant have given the Dame Blanche to the mer- for a slight diminution in the force of the cy of the wind and waves. Rising and wind, our hero left the helm, just as the sinking, and rising and sinking again on sails were shaking on the larboard side, the furious and boiling billows, the schoo- jammed the tiller hard aport, left the helm, ner under her heavy press of canvas may and let go the topsail sheets and halyard.3, have been said to have flown rather than and away went topmasts, topsails, sheets, to have sailed; and presently a blast more and halyards, blocks, and hooks and eyes, heavy and impetuous than any preceding overboard. Quick as lightning he regained one, sent her bows under, the masts bend- the helm, put it slightly a-starboard, and ing and quivering like a whip handle, and then, half kneeling on the deck, slippery the vessel appearing to plunge into a deep with the salt spray, gazed around on the and awful chasm to rise no more; as, how- terrible scene which presented itself. ever, Blake felt the blast diminish in force, In an indescribably short space of time and could see through the dense volume of the sky had been covered by one dense spray which played around him, he gazed mass of black clouds, which completely abroad, and found himself alone on the hid the sun, and presented the appearface of the deep, not a sign, not a vestige ance of coming night; an atmosphere of remained of the boat or one of his compa- damp fog encircled the schooner, the sea nions.
foaming, roaring, swelling, heaving, and To be alone, is, of all things, the most sinking, exhibited a tremendous fury; the overwhelming to man. Society in joy and wind shrieked and howled through the sorrow is his desire, and joy is increased, rigging as if a thousand demons had been sadness decreased, by communion with his let loose, while the vessel itself, now plungfellows. But to be left thus rudely, the ing into the hissing waves, now rising aloft, one solitary object on which the fury of the astonished him by its vitality amid the elements was to wreck itself, one man in a almost chaotic state of the elements, which huge unwieldly machine on the wide sea, appeared about to resolve themselves into to combat with death, was inconceivably their original state of being. Willingly awful. Nothing, therefore, can be imagined would Blake have eased the Dame Blanche, or described more dreadful than the state by lowering the mainsail, but the momenof mind in which Blake was now thrown; tary lull which enabled him to let loose five human beings having perished under the topsail halyards was passed, and did his eyes, and no other prospect remaining not occur again. A choking heat too was for himself. The mad wind roared above, just now experienced, the very air appear. ed full of poison, and the wind at times British barque, marking their admiration seenied ready to hurl him from the deck, of his courage, and Blake's heart swelled while the blast taking effect upon his body, with strange emotions as he remarked that rendered his skin hot, feverish, and un- even the female passengers had ventured comfortable.
on deck to gaze upon the gallant and apSuddenly an object caught his eye, parently doomed young sailor, who wore which, for a short time, divided his atten- the dress of an English officer, which, more tion, though he did not cease to watch the than all, puzzled and interested the old helm with the greatest care and assiduity. ex-quarter-master who commanded the A barque, her royal yards sent down, her barque. The friendly vessel had only kept top-gallant sails furled, her courses up, her up with Blake by his manœuvring, and he spencer, gaff-topsails, jib, and flying jib no longer attempting to remain beside his snugly, stowed, was seen standing towards larger companion, and she hauling up her him, close on a wind, under treble-reefed main course, and drawing àft her starboard top-sails, storm stay-sail and spanker, which sheets, they parted, and our hero was once moderate allowance of sail was even too more alone on the face of the deep. much for the occasion, as when Blake first Hour after hour passed by, when, prenoticed her she was lying with heș starboard sently, by the sudden increase of the gloom, covering board evidently under water, the our hero considered that night must be larboard side rearing its huge black sur- coming on. Presently deep darkness coface aloft, and almost showing, as it rose vered the face of the waters, and alone in and fell, her whole copper, down to the this raging wilderness of waves the schooner very keel. She neared him rapidly, evi- prirsued its way, cutting through the lidently striving to get as much to windward quid hollow masses which reared themas possible in order to speak the schooner, selves to oppose his progress. The howl. and as he saw her English colours run up to ing of the wind appeared more terrible, the the gaff, his eyes were almost suffused with clamour of the waves more furious, when, tears as he gazed, perhaps for the last suddenly, a bright flash of lightning poured time, on that banner which was associated its brilliant and meteoric light upon the with so many dear recollections. Every waters, showing the outline of every rope, man, and she was crowded with passengers, and the whole features of a wild and terwas clinging to the rigging and watching rible scene-a scene which is rarely gazed the singular spectacle afforded them; the upon by mortal eyes; when once gazed captain, meanwhile, stood erect on the upon, however, never to be forgotten! A companion, holding with one hand to the storm at sea, when life and hope, death cabin, which was built above deck, and and despair, are ideas of vague and indewith the other grasping his speaking- terminate signification—when we are contrumpet.
scious that our efforts are vain, when we "What craft is that?" roared he, making know that we are helpless, that all rests himself heard above the howling of the with One whose whisper stills the fiercest tempest, as Blake shot under his stern. war of the mightiest tempest. A storm at
“ La Dame Blanche, of New Orleans. All sea, when a faithless and senseless plank hands drowned !” shrieked Edward Blake, of oak is all between us and eternity, is not but his voice was borne uselessly on the to be erased from the mind by any subseblast, it never reached its destination.
We speak from experience. In another instant the barque was be- For Blake there was but one point of atfore the wind, her spanker and staysail in, traction, and that was a low jagged black standing after the smaller craft. The in- line ahead, which, as flash succeeded flash, tention of the captain was, evidently, to became at each instant of time more dismake an effort to save Blake, but to the tinct. daring and undaunted young midshipman “And now,” said he fervently, as he it appeared that to get alongside the ship grasped the obedient tiller still more ener. was a useless risk, though with the addi- getically than ever, “I have overcome the tion of his square mainsail his comrade on raging tempest thus much, but by far the the ocean was keeping up with him. greatest danger is at hand; He alone, who
“Can I help you?” bellowed the jolly- has till now saved me, can bear me harmlooking English sailor in command, having less through it," and casting a somewhat once more resort to his speaking trumpet. stern look on high, he gradually allowed
Blake rose, holding fast the tiller, giv- his features to relax into calmness and ing his vessel now and then a dig into some placidity. The young sailor sent up an inhollow wave to lessen the rapidity of his ward prayer. What a time, what a place! own motion, and waving his cap in the air, Could it be unheard? “So soon!" muttered pointed, with a shake of the head, to the he, as dashing amid a species of whirlpool boiling waves between them, and then re- of breakers, a huge crested wave swept the sumed his former position. A loud and deck, sufficiently betokening bis proximity prolonged cheer burst from the crew of the to land; “so soon, now for it then.”