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Drawing over the sliding cover of the cabin passage-way, we were in a comparatively comfortable situation. A light was soon obtained, by means of a flint and steel, when I had an opportunity of observing the countenances of the crew. The captain, having great confidence in the strength of his vessel, was more collected than the rest; but his faith was greatly diminished, whenever a quick succession of heavy seas ground the vessel with such force upon the bottom, that it seemed impossible for any materials, united by human means, long to hold together. The terror of most of the crew could not be concealed, as they stood shivering and dripping with cold and wet, clinging to a berth or pillar, to keep themselves upright, amidst falling stoves, tables, chairs, trunks, barrels, etc. I confess, I was not a little surprised at the change which had come over these men in so short a time. I had fancied that persons inured to danger, by continued exposure to it, were entirely free from fear; but these hardy sailors, by the subdued tone of their voices, half-choked utterance, and lamentations over their helpless condition, showed that a near prospect of death was to them any thing but a matter of indifference.
Caged in our narrow cabin, exposed to all the violence of the breakers, during a protracted storm, and entirely ignorant of our whereabout, our situation may be easily conceived. The reef of breakers upon which we were rocking and grinding, was truly terra incognita. Perchance it was one of those fearful shoals that make far out to sea, whence there is no hope of escape. Ever and anon some of the crew would venture upon deck, and strain their eyes in the vain endeavor to pierce the surrounding darkness. Their reports varied, as hope or fear held the supremacy. One thought, while the rain slackened for a moment, and wind and wave raged less furiously, that he could discern, in the 'dim obscure,' something blacker than the rest, which he guessed' was land. Another could see no sign of land; we were far at sea; and, with the thought that he should never again see his distant home, he threw himself into a berth, exclaiming, in the bitterness of his soul, that he would die there! The most philosophical of the crew, was the cook, a long, lank, limping negro, named Nuby, who sat demurely in a corner, patiently awaiting the course of events. When asked if he was not alarmed, he replied: 'Me ben wreck before, cap'n; twice in de West Indies; but 't want half so bad as dis bout!'
When confined to a bed of sickness, I have often thought the nighthours moved slowly on; that the hand of the great time-piece must have been reversed, for some inscrutable purpose, and that the blessed light of day would never again break upon my vision. But now, penned up in a narrow inclosure; protected from the sea only by a few planks, that threatened every moment to separate; surrounded by night, and storm, and darkness;' the moments 'waned slowly' indeed. The Captain assured us we could not be far from land, and that at day-break we must receive assistance from the residents near the beach. With this hope, we looked eagerly forward to the first gray hue of morning. At last the hour for day arrived, but it brought small increase of light. The water, meanwhile, had been gaining upon us very fast, and we were soon compelled to retreat to the deck.
We all huddled together near the windlass, as the safest spot we could find. A few hundred yards under our lee, stretched a line, resembling a dark thread, drawn out upon the water. This was land! We looked toward it with longing eyes, in the hope of discovering tokens of assistance. Meantime the storm raged on. The sea still broke over the vessel with undiminished force; but as it struck 'aft,' its power was well nigh spent before it reached us. So soon as there was sufficient light to enable us to see what we were about, the crew turned to the boat that hung over the taffrail. It was in the worst possible situation for us, as the waves broke directly over the spot where it was suspended. While we were yet eyeing it wistfully, it was dashed to pieces, where it hung, by the force of the sea, and its fragments floated by us toward the beach. No signs of aid appearing, we began to consider the expediency of going ashore on a bale of cotton. To test the safety of the conveyance, we threw overboard a bale, which floated off like a cork; but, instead of going toward the beach, it was borne by the current, at the rate of eight or ten knots an hour, in a parallel line with the land! As the breakers struck it endwise, it would turn over and over like a whirligig, and sometimes rise convulsively quite out of the water. It was presently driven on the beach, at the distance of about a quarter of a mile. We deemed it best to wait a little longer, before attempting to reach terra firma by a similar process.
There they are! there they are!' exultingly shouted one of the crew. All eyes were directed toward the land. A few black spots appeared moving along the beach. These grew more distinct as they drew nearer, until it was evident that they were men, running hurriedly toward us. Our hearts beat at the sight, although we were ignorant whether they were friends or foes, Jews or Gentiles, land pirates, or hostile savages. They ran down to the edge of the surf, at the nearest point, held up their hands, and made all sorts of signs, not one of which could we understand. We inferred, however, that they were willing to aid us. A long rope was fastened to a spar, which was cast overboard, in the hope that it would drift ashore; but it floated off the entire length of the line, without nearing the land. It was drawn back, and a bale of cotton substituted in its place, which was in like manner borne onward by the current that swept along the beach. Sometimes it seemed rapidly approaching the shore; but as the waves swept back to the sea, the under-tow' carried the bale with it. We drew it in several times, and gave it a new start, by throwing it more advantageously. At last, borne forward by a rapid succession of breakers, that 'knew no retiring ebb,' it came within the reach of one of the men, who had adventured far into the surf for the purpose. With the aid of the others, it was soon high on the
Now came the tug! They were obliged to draw in the slack,' before it could be of any service to us in reaching land. The current was so strong, that the rope formed nearly a parallel line with the shore. While they were yet pulling lustily, the sky suddenly grew dark; the rain poured down with increased impetuosity; the gale became a perfect tornado; the vessel, from bow to taffrail, was literally smothered with water. I crouched under the ship's side, covered
my head with my cloak, and as the billows rolled over me, calmly awaited my fate.
During this paroxysm of the storm, the fore-topsail-yard was broken asunder near the middle, and the ponderous parts, more fearful than the sword of Damocles, dangled over our heads by the ropes that sustained them, threatening every instant to fall and crush us. The topsail itself was torn into a hundred ribbons. The foremast creaked and bent, and evinced strong tokens of going by the board.' The danger, on every hand, was indeed most imminent. I relinquished my position near the windlass, and crept over the confused deck, toward the cabin. Before I reached it, my cloak was stripped from off me by the wind, and I was thrown prostrate by a terrific wave; and on recovering, and reaching the companion-way, I found the cabin full of water. The men whose approach had given us so much delight, were no longer to be seen upon the beach; and the bale of cotton was floating at the end of the line, as far from the shore as ourselves.
It was now high noon. My feet and hands were benumbed with cold. There was no fairer prospect of getting ashore than at daybreak. The air began to sharpen; and if we remained in our present position all day and night, we should inevitably freeze to death, if we chanced to be so fortunate as to escape drowning. There lay the land, only a hundred or two yards off; but between us and the desired haven, there was a great gulf fixed!'
'I am going ashore!' exclaimed a young Welsh sailor, whose manly daring and intrepidity had won my admiration on more than one occasion before. Scarcely were the words out of his mouth, ere he fastened a rope to the extreme end of the flying-jib-boom, and swung off into the sea. Watching the moment, he dropped into the water after a wave had retired, and the first that overtook him drove him nearer to the land. We all bent over the bow, and watched his course with intense anxiety. On the success or failure of his undertaking, our own safety mainly depended. At times he would sink from our view, but his head was soon again visible above the billows. He took with him neither rope nor plank, preferring the unrestrained freedom of his limbs, to the aid which they might have afforded.
He was successful. In a short time, we saw him throwing out his arms with joy, and shaking himself on the beach. Stimulated by the result of this experiment, the mate immediately followed his example, and reached the shore in safety. Feeling, for my part, no very particular disinclination to going ashore, I disencumbered myself of my cloak, ran out to the end of the jib-boom, dropped into the water, and in a short time stood beside them, on good old mother Earth! Very grateful was I to heaven for my escape. The remainder of the crew reached the shore, one at a time, in like manner, in the course of a couple of hours thereafter.
For the benefit of the curious,' I should add, that the beach upon which we found ourselves, was that of a low, uninhabited island, adjacent to a point of land called, by sailors, Chink-tink,' but which the people who get up charts write, with more propriety, 'CHINCO
E. H. T.
THE PEASANT-BARD' TO ALPHA.
'NEARLY all my little pieces have been written in my mind, while my hands were engaged in the avocations of the farm. How well I remember the localities of each! One was composed while stacking corn; another was sung while sitting beneath an apple-tree, the fruit of which I came to gather, with the sack about my shoulders, to screen me from a piercing north wind. Indeed, the winds have strung my humble lyre, and the birds have tuned it.' LETTER TO THE EDITOR.
THE LIFE OF WASHINGTON. BY JARED SPARKS. In one volume, octavo.
THE admirable biographical sketch with which our great annalist has prefaced that national monument, his edition of the 'Writings of Washington,' is now separated from the larger work, and issued by itself, with such additions as seemed necessary to its completeness. The beautiful volume, rivalling in paper and in letterpress the recent works of PRESCOTT and BANCROFT, bears a stamp of conscious workmanship; nay, looks as if it were proud to have seen the light in the cradle of liberty, within hail of the hero's head-quarters, of Boston and of Bunker-Hill. The world indeed moves on apace; and Time, in the moment of agony, or the hour of pleasure, when both have passed, seems like an enchanter, whose passion and nature are change; whose wand has empire over events and destinies, but is defied by the human spirit, which with the breath of life is transmitted immutable through ages; for, sixty years after Washington, from Cambridge, directed the movements of the American army, then besieging the British in Boston, one of the ensuing generation, a faithful historian and impartial biographer, aided by the numerous records of his actions, which the hero seems purposely to have bequeathed to his country, indites his life, amidst the scenes of his early glory; in presence of the very trees and hills, among which then arose the weather-beaten tent of the continental, and where now, from a thousand free and happy hearths, the peaceful smoke ascends to heaven. For ten years and more, Mr. SPARKS has dwelt at Cambridge, and toiled unremittingly at the pious work of rescuing from forgetfulness the memories of our forefathers. In that space of time, more authentic materials of history, more illuminated questiones vexata, more of biography and of verified narrative, have left his hand, than perhaps any other man has gathered in a life. And he who, in the face of the tumultuous cares and interests of this ardent generation, invites them, when the future seems within their reach, to pause and contemplate the past, and, unmoved by their thirst or their indifference, holds history up to their view, is no ordinary chronicler of events.
The work before us is adorned with fourteen plates, which, as we glance through its pages, may not inaptly serve to illustrate the epochs in WASHINGTON's career. The frontispiece is Mount Vernon, the charming nucleus of his fondest hopes, the oasis on which his eye ever dwelt, when the war was hottest, and the prospect gloomiest, as a resting place, when his labors should end. In this very anticipation, may we see that he put his whole trust in the favorable issue of the contest, and never doubted the attainment of that liberty, without which he would have preferred death, a thousand times, to inactivity. Next comes our hero at the age of forty; a face full of determination and benignity; a tall and manly form; the unconscious future liberator of his native land. The hour of danger is nigh; and he who is shortly to lead a great nation to independence, seems hardly to suspect his destiny. Already had his name been honorably mingled in the sad history of Braddock's fate, and bestowed