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pay, from the perplexity old Deadeye was thrown into, as to whether, here in the heat of the American war, he was bound to take this American captain prisoner or not. I was no party to the councils of my superiors, of course, but the foreign ship was finally allowed to continue her course.
The next day I had the forenoon watch; the weather had lulled unexpectedly nor was there much sea, and the deck was all alive, to take advantage of the fine blink, when the man at the mast-head sang out—"Breakers right ahead, sir."
"Breakers !” said Mr. Splinter, in great astonishment. "Breakers !-why, the man must be mad! I say, Jenkins
"Breakers close under the bows,” sang out the boatswain from forward.
"The devil!" quoth Splinter, and he ran along the gangway, and ascended the forecastle, while I kept close to his heels. We looked out ahead, and there we certainly did see a splashing, and boiling, and white foaming of the ocean, that unquestionably looked very like breakers. Gradually, this splashing and foaming appearance took a circular whisking shape, as if the clear green sea, for a space of a hundred yards in diameter, had been stirred about by a gigantic invisible spurtle, until everything hissed again; and the curious part of it was, that the agitation of the water seemed to keep ahead of us, as if the breeze which impelled us had also floated it onwards. At length the whirling circle of white foam ascended higher and higher, and then gradually contracted itself into a spinning black tube, which wavered about for all the world like a gigantic loch-leech held by the tail between the finger and thumb, while it was poking its vast snout about in the clouds in search of a spot to fasten on.
"Is the boat-gun on the forecastle loaded ?” said Captain Deadeye.
“It is, sir."
The gun was discharged, and down rushed the black wavering pillar in a watery avalanche, and in a minute after the dark heaving billows rolled over the spot whereout it arose, as if no such thing had ever been.
This said troubling of the waters was neither more nor less than a waterspout, which again is neither more nor less than a whirlwind at sea, which gradually whisks the water round and round, and up and up, as you see straws so raised, until it reaches a certain height, when it invariably breaks. Before this I had thought that waterspout was created by some next to supernatural exertion of the power of the Deity, in order to suck up water into the clouds, that they, like the wine-skins in Spain, might be filled with rain.
The morning after, the weather was clear and beautiful, although the wind blew half a gale. Nothing particular happened until about seven o'clock in the evening. I had been invited to dine with the gunroom officers this day, and every thing was going on smooth and comfort. able, when Mr. Splinter spoke. “I say, master, don't you smell gunpowder ?”
“Yes, I do," said the little master, “or something deuced like it."
To explain the particular comfort of our position, it may be right to mention that the magazine of a brig sloop is exactly under the gunroom. Three of the American skippers had been quartered on the gunroom mess, and they were all at table. Snuft, snuft, smelled one, and another sniffled, “ Gunpowder, I guess, and in a state of ignition."
“Will you not send for the gunner, sir?" said the
third. Splinter did not like it, I saw, and this quailed me.
The captain's bell rang. “What smell of brimstone is that, steward?”.
"I really can't tell,” said the man, trembling from head to foot; “ Mr. Splinter has sent for the gunner, sir."
“The devil!” said Deadeye, as he hurried on deck. We all followed. A search was made.
“Some matches have caught in the magazine," said one.
“We shall be up and away like sky-rockets,” said another.
Several of the American masters ran out on the jibboom, coveting the temporary security of being so far removed from the seat of the expected explosion, and all was alarm and confusion, until it was ascertained that two of the boys, little sky-larking vagabonds, had stolen some pistol cartridges, and had been making lightning, as it is called, by holding a lighted candle between the fingers, and putting some loose powder into the palm of the hand, then chucking it up into the flame. They got a sound flogging, on a very unpoetical part of their corpuses, and once more the ship subsided into her usual orderly discipline. The northwester still continued, with a clear blue sky, without a cloud overhead by day, and a bright cold moon by night. It blew so hard for the three succeeding days, that we could not carry more than closereefed topsails to it, and a reefed foresail. Indeed, towards six bells in the forenoon watch of the third day, it came thundering down with such violence, and the sea increased so much, that we had to hand the foretopsail.
This was by no means an easy job. “Ease her a bit," said the first lieutenant,—“there—shake the wind out of her sails for a moment, until the men get the canvas in" - whirl, a poor fellow pitched off the lee foreyardarm
into the sea. “Up with the helm — heave him the bight of a rope.” We kept away, but all was confusion, until an American midshipman, one of the prisoners on board, hove the bight of a rope at him. The man got it under his arms, and after hauling him along for a hundred yards at the least — and one may judge of the velocity with which he was dragged through the water, by the fact that it took the united strain of ten powerful men to get him in - he was brought safely on board, pale and blue, when we found that the running of the rope had crushed in his broad chest, below his arms, as if it had been a girl's waist, indenting the very muscles of it and of his back half an inch deep. He had to be bled before he could breathe, and it was an hour before the circulation could be restored, by the joint exertions of the surgeon and gunroom steward, chafing him with spirits and camphor, after he had been stripped and stowed away between the blankets in his hammock.
The same afternoon we fell in with a small prize to the squadron in the Chesapeake, a dismantled schooner, manned by a prize crew of a midshipman and six men. She had a signal of distress, an American ensign, with the union down, hoisted on the jury-mast, across which there was rigged a solitary lug-sail. It was blowing so hard that we had some difficulty in boarding her, when we found she was a Baltimore pilot-boat-built schooner, of about 70 tons burden, laden with flour, and bound for Bermuda. But three days before, in a sudden squall, they had carried away both masts short by the board, and the only spar which they had been able to rig, was a spare topmast which they had jammed into one of the pumps - fortunately she was as tight as a bottle — and stayed it the best way they could. The captain offered to take the little fellow who had charge of her, and his crew and cargo, on board, and then scuttle her; but no — all he wanted was a cask of water and some biscuit; and having had a glass of grog, he trundled over the side again, and returned to his desolate command. However, he afterwards brought his prize safe into Bermuda.
The weather still continued very rough, but we saw nothing until the second evening after this. The forenoon had been even more boisterous than any of the preceding, and we were all fagged enough with “make sail,” and “shorten sail,” and “all hands," the whole day through; and as the night fell, I found myself, for the fourth time, in the maintop. The men had just lain in from the maintopsail yard, when we heard the watch called on deck, — "Starboard watch, ahoy!” — which was a cheery sound to us of the larboard, who were thus released from duty on deck, and allowed to go below.
The men were scrambling down the weather shrouds, and I was preparing to follow them, when I jammed my left foot in the grating of the top, and capsized on my nose. I had been up nearly the whole of the previous night, and on deck the whole of the day, and actively employed too, as during the greater part of it it blew a gale. I stooped down in some pain, to see what had bolted me to the grating; but I had no sooner extricated my foot, than, over-worked and over-fatigued as I was, I fell over in the soundest sleep that ever I have enjoyed before or since, the back of my neck resting on a coil of rope, so that my head hung down within it.
The rain all this time was beating on me, and I was drenched to the skin. I must have slept for four hours or so, when I was awakened by a rough thump on the side from the stumbling foot of the captain of the top, the word having been passed to shake a reef out of the topsails, the wind having rather suddenly gone down. It was done; and now broad awake, I determined not to be caught napping again, so I descended, and swung myself