Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

CXXIIL—AMONG THE SHOALS.

THE confident assurances which Griffith had given to the pilot, respecting the qualities of his vessel and his own ability to manage her, were fully realized by the result. The helm was no sooner put a-lee than the huge ship bore up gallantly against the wind, and, dashing directly through the waves, threw the foam high into the air, as she looked boldly into the very eye of the wind; and then, yielding gracefully to its power, she fell off on the other tack, with her head pointed from those dangerous shoals that she had so recently approached with such terrifying velocity. The heavy yards swung round, as if they had been vanes to indicate the currents of the'air, and in a few moments the frigate again moved with stately progress through the water, leaving the rocks and shoals behind her on one side of the bay, but advancing towards those that offered equal danger on the other.

2. During this time the sea was becoming more agitated, and the violence of the wind was gradually increasing. The latter no longer whistled amid the cordage of the vessel, but it seemed to howl surlily as it passed the complicated machinery that the frigate obtruded on its path. An endless succession of white surges rose above the heavy billows, and the very air was glittering with the light that was disengaged from the ocean.

3. The ship yielded each moment more and more before the storm, and, in less than half an hour from the time that she had lifted her anchor, she was driven along with tremendous fury, by the full power of a gale of wind. Still the hardy and experienced mariners, who directed her movements, held her to the course that was necessary to their preservation; and still Griffith gave forth, when directed by their unknown pilot, those orders that turned her in the narrow channel where safety was alone to be •found.

4. So far the performance of his duty appeared easy to the stranger, and he gave the required directions in those still, calm tones that formed so remarkable a contrast to the responsibility of his situation. But when the land was becoming dim in distance as well as darkness, and the agitated sea was only to be discovered as it swept by them in foam, he broke in upon the monotonous roaring of the tempest with the sounds of his voice, seeming to shake off his apathy and rouse himself to the occasion.

5. "Now is the time to watch her closely, Mr. Griffith," he cried: "here we get the true tide and the real danger. Place the best quartermaster of your ship in those chains, and let an officer stand by him, and see that he gives us the right water.''

6. "I will take that office on myself," said the captain; "pass a light into the weather main chains."

7. "Stand by your braces!" exclaimed the pilot, with startling quickness. "Heave away that lead."

8. These preparations taught the crew to expect the crisis, and every officer and man stood in fearful silence at his assigned station, awaiting the issue of the trial. Even the quartermaster gave out his orders to the men at the wheel in deeper and hoarser tones than usual, as if anxious not to disturb the quiet and order of the vessel.

9. While this deep expectation pervaded the frigate, the piercing cry of the leadsman, as he called, "By the mark seven !" rose above the tempest, crossed over the decks, and seemed to pass away to leeward, borne on the blast like the warnings of some water spirit.

10. "Tis well," returned the pilot, calmly; "try it again."

The short pause was succeeded by another crv: "And a half-five!"

"She shoals! she shoals!" exclaimed Griffith; "keep her a good full."

11. "Ay! you must hold the vessel in command now," said the pilot, with those cool tones that are most appall\

ing in critical moments, because they seem to denote most preparation and care.

12. The third call of " By the deep four!" was followed by a prompt direction from the stranger to tack.

Griffith seemed to emulate the coolness of the pilot in issuing the necessary orders to execute this maneuver.

13. The vessel rose slowly from the inclined position into which she had been forced by the tempest, and the sails were shaking violently, as if to release themselves from confinement, while the ship stemmed the billows, when the well-known voice of the sailing master was heard shouting from the forecastle, " Breakers! breakers, dead ahead!"

14. This appalling sound seemed yet to be lingering about the ship, when a second voice cried, "Breakers on our lee-bow!"

15. "We are in a bight of the shoals, Mr. Gray," said the commander. "She loses her way; perhaps an anchor might hold her."

16. "Clear away that best bower," shouted Griffith through his trumpet.

"Hold on!" cried the pilot, in a voice that reached the very hearts of all who heard him; "hold on everything."

17. The young man turned fiercely to the daring stranger who thus defied the discipline of his vessel, and at once demanded, "Who is this that dares countermand my orders? Is it not enough that you run the ship into danger, but you must interfere to keep her there? If another word—"

18. "Peace, Mr. Griffith," interrupted the captain, bending from the rigging, his gray locks blowing about in the wind, and adding a look of wildness to the haggard care that he exhibited by the light of his lantern; "yield the trumpet to Mr. Gray; he alone can save us."

19. Griffith threw his speaking-trumpet on the deck, and as he walked proudly away, muttered, in bitterness of feeling, "Then all is lost indeed; and among the rest, the foolish hopes with which I visited this coast."

20. There was, however, no time for reply; the ship had been rapidly running into the wind, and as the efforts of the crew were paralyzed by the contradictory orders they heard, she gradually lost her way, and in a few seconds all her sails were taken aback.

21. Before the crew understood their situation, the pilot had applied the trumpet to his mouth, and, in a voice that rose above the tempest, he thundered forth his orders. Each command was given distinctly, and with a precision that showed him to be master of his profession. The helm was kept fast, the head-yards swung up heavily against the wind, and the vessel was soon whirling round on her heel, with a retrograde movement.

22. Griffith was too much of a seaman not to perceive that the pilot had seized, with a perception almost intuitive, the only method that promised to extricate the vessel from her situation. He was young, impetuous, and proud; but he was also generous. Forgetting his resentment and his mortification, he rushed forward among the men, and by his presence and .example added certainty to the experiment.

23. The ship fell off slowly before the gale, and bowed her yards nearly to the water, as she felt the blast pouring its fury on her broadside; while the surly waves beat violently against her stern, as if in reproach at departing from her usual manner of moving.

24. The voice of the pilot, however, was still heard, steady and calm, and yet so clear and high as to reach every ear; and the obedient seamen whirled the yards at his bidding, in despite of the tempest, as if they handled the toys of childhood. The beautiful fabric, obedient to her government, threw her bows up gracefully towards the wind again, and as her sails were trimmed, moved out from amongst the dangerous shoals, in which she had been embayed, as steadily and swiftly as she had approached them.

J. F. Cooper.

CXXIV.—APOSTROPHE TO THE OCEAN. i.

EOLL on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean—roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin—his control
Stops with the shore;—upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man's ravage, save his own,

When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncomned, and unknown.

Ii. The armaments which thunderstrike the walls

Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake, And monarchs tremble in their capitals;

The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make

Their clay creator the vain title take Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war,—

These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,

They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar

Alike the Armada's pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.

in. Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee—

Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage,^what are they'! Thy waters washed them power when they were free,

And many a tyrant since; their shores obey

The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay Has dried up realms to deserts:—not so thou,

Unchangeable, save to thy wild waves' play—

Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow—

Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now.

Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,

Calm or convulsed—in breeze or gale or storm,
Tcing the pole, or in the torrid clime

« ForrigeFortsæt »