« ÎnapoiContinuă »
beam-ends, and every thing on board, not secured in the strongest manner, was pitched with great force to leeward.
A scene of fearful grandeur was presented. The sky was of a murky, leaden hue, and appeared to bend over the ship in a nearer and narrower arch, binding the ocean in so small a round, that the eye could trace, through the whole circle, the line where the sickly looking heaven rested on the sea. The air was thick and heavy; and the water, covered with driving snow-like foam, seemed to be packed and flattened down by the fury of the blast, which scattered its billows into spray as cutting as the sleet of a December storm.
The wind howled and screamed through the rigging with an appalling sound, that might be likened to the shrieks and wailings of angry fiends; and the ship fled before the tempest, like an affrighted thing, with a velocity that piled the water in a huge bank around her bows, and sent it off, whirling and sparkling, in lines of dazzling whiteness, soon lost in the general hue of the ocean, which resembled a wild waste of drifting snow.
For more than an hour did the Active flee along in this way, like a wild horse foaming and stretching at his utmost speed, driven onward in the van of the tempest, and exposed to its fiercest wrath. At length, the first fury of the gale passed away, and the wind, though still raging tempestuously, swept over her with less appalling force. The ocean, now, as if to revenge itself for its constrained inactivity, roused from its brief repose, and swelled into billows that rolled and
chased each other with the wild glee of ransomed demons. Wave upon wave, in multitudinous confusion, came roaring in from astern; and their white crests, leaping, and sparkling, and hissing, formed a striking feature in the scene. The wind, fortunately, issued from the right point, and drove the Active toward her place of destination.
The dun pall of clouds, which from the commencement of the gale had totally overspread the heavens, except in the quarter whence the blast proceeded, now began to give way, and a reddish light shone out here and there, in long horizontal streaks, like the glow of expiring coals between the bars of a furnace. Though the first dreadful violence of the storm was somewhat abated, it still raved with too much fierceness and power to admit of any relaxation of vigilance. The commander himself still retained the trumpet, and every officer stood in silence at his station, clinging to whatever might assist him to maintain his difficult footing
“ Light, oh!" cried the look-out on one of the catheads.
“ Where away?" demanded the captain. "Dead ahead."
6 What does it look like, and how far off ?" shouted the captain in a loud and earnest. voice.
"A large vessel lying to under bare poles - starboard your helm, sir, quick--hard a-starboard, or you will fall aboard of her!"
This startling intelligence was hardly communicated, before the vessel descried from aloft loomed suddenly into sight from deck through the thick weather to lee
ward. Her dusk and shadowy form seemed to rise up from the ocean, so suddenly did it open to view, as the driving mist was scattered for a moment. She lay right athwart the Active's bows, and almost under her fore-foot — as it seemed while she pitched into the trough of an enormous sea — and the Active rode on the ridge of the succeeding wave, which curled above the chasm, as if to overwhelm the vessel beneath.
“Starboard your helm, quarter-master! hard a-starboard!" cried the commander of the Active, in a tone of startling energy.
These orders were promptly obeyed, but it was too late for them to avail. The wheel, in the hands of four stout and experienced seamen, was forced swiftly round, and the effect of the rudder was assisted by a pull of the starboard braces; but in such a gale, and under bare poles, the helm exerted but little power over the driving and ponderous mass. She had headed off hardly a point from her course when she was taken up by a prodigious surge, and borne onward with fearful velocity. The catastrophe was now inevitable. In an instant the two ships fell together, their massive timbers crashing with the fatal force of the concussion. A wild shriek ascended from the deck of the stranger, and woman's shrill voice mingled with the sound.
All was now confusion and uproar on board both vessels. The Active had struck the stranger broad on the bows, while the bowsprit of the latter, rụshing in between the fore-mast and the starboard fore-rigging of the Active, had snapped her chains and stays, and torn up the bolts and chain-plates, as if they had been thread and wire. Staggering back from the shock,
she was carried to some distance by a refluent wave, which suddenly subsiding, she gave such a heavy lurch to port that the foremast — now, wholly unsupported on the starboard side - snapped short off, like a a withered twig, and fell with a loud plash into the ocean.
In the meanwhile another furious billow lifted the vessel on its crest, and the two ships closed again, like gladiators, faint and stunned, but still compelled to do battle. The bows of the stranger this time drove heavily against the bends of the Active just abaft her main-rigging, and her bowsprit darted quivering in over the bulwarks, as if it were the arrowy tongue of some huge sea monster. . At this instant a wild sound of agony, between a shriek and a groan, was heard in that direction, and those who turned to ascertain its cause saw, as the vessels again separated, a human body, swinging and writhing at the stranger's bowsprit head.
The vessel heaved up into the moonlight, and showed the face of poor Vangs, the quarter-master, his back apparently crushed and broken, but his arms clasped. round the spar, to which he appeared to cling with convulsive tenacity. The bowsprit had caught him on its end as it ran in over the Active's side, and driving against the mizzen-mast, deprived the poor wretch of all power to rescue himself from the dreadful situation. While a hundred eyes were fastened in a gaze of horror on the impaled seaman; thus dangling over the boiling ocean, the strange ship again reéled forward, as if to renew the terrible encounter. But her motion was now slow and laboring.
She was evidently settling by the head; she paused in mid career, gave a heavy drunken lurch to starboard, till her topmasts whipped against the rigging of her antagonist, then rising slowly on the ridge of the next wave, she plunged head foremost, and disappeared forever. One shriek of horror and despair rose through the storm one wild delirious shriek! The waters swept over the drowning wretches, and hushed their gurgling cry. Then all was still all but the rush and whirl of waves as they were sucked into the vortex, and the voice of the storm which howled its wild dirge above the spot.
THE sun of the morning,
Unclouded and bright,
With lustre and light,
New bliss may impart;
And softness of heart