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· 14. Griffith gazed after him in wonder, while the pilot slowly paced the quarter-deck, and then, rousing from his trance, gave forth the cheering order that called each man to his station, to perform the desired evolution. The confident assurances which the young officer had given to the pilot, respecting the qualities of his vessel and his own ability to manage her, were fully realized by the result.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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 experiunced 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 alone safety was to be found.
18. 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 alone was 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.
19. “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.”
“I will take that office on myself,” said the captain ; "pass a light into the weather main-chains."
“Stand by your braces!” exclaimed the pilot with startling quickness. “Heave away that lead !”
20. 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, at the cun, gave out the 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..
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 appeared to pass away to leeward, borne on the blast like thi warnings of some water spirit.
“ 'Tis well,” returned the pilot, calmly; “try it again.”
21. The short pause was succeeded by another cry, “ and a half five!”
“She shoals! she shoals !” exclaimed Griffith ; “keep her a good full.”
“Ay! you must hold the vessel in command,” said the pilot, with those cool tones that are most appalling in critical moments, because they seem to denote most preparation and care. Tho third call,“ 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.
SANDERS' UNION SERIES
SANDERS' UNION SERIES
ESCAPE OF THE FRIGATE (Continued).
J. FENIMORE COOPER. 1. The vesse: 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 their 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 !”
This appalling sound seemed yet to be lingering about the ship, when a second voice cried
“Breakers on our lee-bow !"
“We are in a bite of the shoals, Mr. Gray,” cried the commander. “She loses her way; perhaps, an anchor might hold her.”
“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!”
2. The young man turned fiercely to the daring stranger, who thus defied the discipline of his vessel, and at once demanded
“Who is it that dares to 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—”
“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: ne alone can save us.”
3. 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.”
There was, however, no time for reply; the ship had been rapidly runnino into the wind, and, as the efforts of the crew
were paralyzed by the contradictory orders they had heard, she gradually lost her way, and, in a few seconds, all her sails were taken aback.
4. 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 headyards swung up heavily against the wind, and the vessel was soon whirling round on her heel, with a retrograde movement.
5. 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. 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.
6. 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 their childhood. When the ship had fallen off dead before the wind, her head. sails were shaken, her after-yards trimmed, and her helm shifted, before she had time to run upon the danger that had threatened as well to leeward as to windward. 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.
7. A moment of breathless astonishment succeeded the accomplishment of this nice maneuver, but there was no time for the usual expressions of surprise. The stranger still held the trumpet, and continued to lift his voice amid the howlings of
the blast, whenever prudence or skill required any change in the management of the ship. For an hour longer there was a fearful struggle for their preservation, the channel becoming at each step more complicated, and the shoals thickening around the mariners on every side.
8. The lead was cast rapidly, and the quick eye of the pilot seemed to pierce the darkness with a keenness of vision that exceeded human power. It was apparent to all in the vessel, that they were under the guidance of one who understood the navigation thoroughly, and their exertions kept pace with their reviving confidence. Again and again the frigate appeared to be rushing blindly on shoals where the sea was covered with foam, and where destruction would have been as sudden as it was certain, when the clear voice of the stranger was heard warning them of the danger, and inciting them to their duty.
9. The vessel was implicitly yielded to his government; and, during those anxious moments, when she was dashing the waters aside, throwing the spray over her enormous yards, each ear would listen eagerly for those sounds that had obtained a command over the crew, that can only be acquired, under such circumstances, by great steadiness and consummate skill. The ship was recovering from the inaction of changing her course, in one of those critical tacks that she had made so often, when the pilot, for the first time, addressed the commander of the frigate, who still continued to superintend the all-important duty of the leadsman.
10. “Now is the pinch,” he said ; "and, if the ship behaves well, we are safe; but, if otherwise, all we have yet done, will be useless.” The veteran seaman whom he addressed left the chains at this portentous notice, and, calling to his first lieutenant, required of the stranger an explanation of his warning.
“See you yon light on the southern headland ?” returned the pilot; "you may know it from the star near it-by its sinking, at times, in the ocean. Now observe the hommock, a little north of it, looking like a shadow in the horizon—'tis a hill far inland. If we keep that light open from the hill, we shall do well-but if not, we surely go to pieces.”