« PreviousContinue »
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.
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 sipking, at times, in the
Now observe the hummock, 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."
Let us tack again !” exclaimed the lieutenant. The pilot shook his head, as he replied, “ There is no more tacking or box-hauling to be done to-night. We have barely room to pass out of the shoals on this course, and, if we can weather the Devil's Grip,' we clear their outermost point—but if not, as I said before, there is but an alternative."
“If we had beaten out the way we entered,” exclaimed Griffith, we should have done well."
Say, also, if the tide would have let us done so," returned the pilot, calmly. Gentlemen, we must be prompt; we have but a mile to go, and the ship appears to fly. That topsail is not enough to keep her up to the wind; we want both gib and mainsail.”
“ 'Tis a perilous thing to loosen canvas in such a tempest!” observed the doubtful captain.
“ It must be done,” returned the collected stranger; we perish without See! the light already touches the edge of the hummock; the sea casts us to leeward !”
" It shall be done !" cried Griffith, seizing the trumpet from the band of the pilot.
The orders of the lieutenant were executed almost as soon as issued,
and, every thing being ready, the enormous folds of the mainsail were trusted loose to the blast. There was an instant when the result was doubtful; the tremendous threshing of the heavy sails seeming to bid defiance to all restraint, shaking the ship to her centre; but art and strength prevailed, and gradually the canvas was distended, and, bellying as it filled, was drawn down to its usual place by the power
of a hundred men. The vessel yielded to this immense addition of force, and bowed before it like a reed bending to a breeze. But the success of the measure was announced by a joyful cry from the stranger that seemed to burst from his inmost soul.
She feels it! she springs her luff! observe," he said, “ the light opens from the hummock already; if she will only bear her canvas, we shall go clear !”
A report like that of a cannon interrupted his exclamation, and something resembling a white cloud was seen drifting before the wind from the head of the ship, till it was driven into the gloom far to leeward.
“ 'Tis the gib blown from the bolt-ropes,” said the commander of the frigate. “This is no time to spread light duck-but the mainsail may stand it yet."
“ The sail would laugh at a tornado," returned the lieutenant; “but that mast springs like a piece of steel."
“ Silence all!” cried the pilot. “Now, gentlemen, we shall soon know our fate. Let her luft-luff
you can. This warning effectually closed all discourse, and the hardy mariners, knowing that they had already done all in the power of man to insure their safety, stood in breathless anxiety awaiting the result. short distance ahead of them, the whole ocean was white with foam, and the waves, instead of rolling on in regular succession, appeared to be tossing about in mad gambols. A single streak of dark billows, not half a cable's length in width, could be discerned running into this chaos of water; but it was soon lost to the eye amid the confusion of the disturbed element. Along this narrow path the vessel moved more heavily than before, being brought so near the wind as to keep her sails touching. The pilot silently proceeded to the wheel, and with his own hands he undertook the steerage of the ship No noise proceeded from the frigate to interrupt the horrid tumult of the ocean, and she entered the channel among the breakers with the silence of a
desperate calmness. Twenty times, as the foam rolled atvay to leeward, the crew were on the eve of uttering their joy, as they supposed the vessel past the danger; but breaker after breaker would still rise before them, following each other into the general mass to check their exultation. Occasionally the fluttering of the sails would be heard ; and when the looks of the startled seamen were turned to the wheel, they beheld the stranger grasping its spokes, with his quick eye glancing from the water to the canvas. At length the ship reached a point where she appeared to be rushing directly into the jaws of destruction, when suddenly her course was changed, and her head receded rapidly from the wind. At the same instant the voice of the pilot was heard shouting—"Square away the yards in mainsail."
A general burst from the crew echoed, " Square away the yards!" and quick as thought the frigate was seen gliding along the channel before the wind. The eye had hardly time to dwell on the foam, which seemed like clouds driving in the heavens, and directly the gallant vessel issued from her perils, and rose and fell on the heavy waves of the
213.—THE PAGE'S SCENES IN PHILASTER.
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER. [The Page's Scenes in · Philaster' have been held unsurpassed in tender delicacy. It is difficult to quote a scene or scenes from Beaumont and Fletcher, without being offended by some inherent grossness, which is here happily wanting. The date of the first play of these dramatists is 1607. Francis Beaumont was born in 1586, and died in 1615. John Fletcher was born in 1576, and died in 1625.)
The story of Philaster' is that of a rightful heir to a throne falling in love with the daughter of the usurper. Their affection is disturbed by jealousies excited by a designing woman, and encouraged by the tyrannical king, but the lovers are finally happy and triumphant. The Page is a lady in disguise, in love with Philaster. Charles Lamb says, “For many years after the date of Philaster's first exhibition on the stage, scarce a play can be found without one of these women pages in it, following in the train of some pre-engaged lover, calling on the gods to bless her happy rival.”
Philaster tells the princess Arethusa how his page became known to him :
Philaster. I have a boy sent by the gods,
Bellario, the page, is told by Philaster that he has preferred him to the service of the princess :
Phi. And thou shalt find her honourable, boy;
Bellario. Sir, you did take me up when I was nothing,
Phi. But, boy, it will prefer thee; thou art young,
Bell. - In that small time that I have seen the world,
Phi. Why, gentle boy, I find no fault at all
Bell. Sir, if I have made
Phi. Thy love doth plead so prettily to stay,