Oldalképek
PDF

TALES OF THE SKA.

THE BRIDE AND WIDOW.

BY HAWSER MARTINGALE.

The Rhip Philistine, commanded by Nathaniel Percy, sailed one afternoon in the month of July, from Long Wharf, in the port of Boston, bound to London. Besides the regular officers and crew, there were two passengers on board—Colonel Charles Talbot, an English gentleman of fortune, and his lovely and interesting bride, who had shone in the brilliant circles of fashion, under her maiden name of Louisa Carleton, as a star of the first magnitude.

Indeed, they were a lovely and interesting pair, and seemed designed by nature for each other. Colonel Talbot was about twenty-six years of age, tall and muscular, yet symmetrical in his proportions, and graceful in his movements. His features were bold and striking, and almost constantly lighted up with a smile of kindness and good humor. He was one of those men we not unfrequently meet with, who seem formed to make friends wherever they may be, and whose frankness, vivacity, and gallantry, are particularly calculated to win the favor of the gentler sex.

His bride was not more than nineteen years of age, and singularly beautiful. Her features were regular, and her figure was faultless. But her most fascinating charms consisted in her spirituelle expression—in the air of intelligence which reigned in her countenance—in the evidence of a soul, which beamed from her bright black eyes. She seemed the very personification of goodness, purity, and truth; and she loved her husband with a deep and enduring affection.

And her love was returned. They had but just entered on the threshold of matrimony, and beheld nothing around them but fruits and flowers; the grapes, without their intoxicating properties, and the roses without thorns. They saw before them, in Fancy's magic glass, a long and brilliant career of never-fading joys. They found a paradise in each other's society, and little thought that shadows, clouds, and darkness, would ever rest upon their Eden.

The first part of the passage was prosperous. The gales were auspicious, and rapidly did the good ship glide onward towards her destined port. The accommodations were convenient—the captain was a worthy man, and a good seaman, and exerted himself to contribute to the comfort of his passengers— the air was invigorating—and hardly an hour passed that some new scene, or object, or incident, was not presented, of a character to

[ocr errors]

attract their attenti^ or awaken their curiosity and admirifion. In the early hours of the night, wh^n the gentle breeze hardly filled the sail0/- and the moon shone upon the ocean, and upon the lofty sails, and spars, and hull of the ship, with a lustre which is never witnessed on land, and the broad expanse arouryd them seemed like a vast ocean of molten silver, the happy couple, hand in hand, would pace the deck, their souls attuned in harmony, while silently contemplating the grand and beautiful scene around them.

And thus a fortnight rolled away, and the ship had accomplished more than half the distance across the Atlantic—yet nothing had occurred to disturb the tranquillity of the newly married pair, or furnish any practical illustration of what are often spoken of as the " perils of the seas." Louisa, one afternoon, laughingly declared to Captain Percy, that the stories which were so often told of "waves mountain high," "furious hurricanes," and "fatal shipwrecks," were, she believed, mere tales of fiction, invented to gain the sympathy of the landsmen—that for her own part, she would as willingly be on the sea as on the land, so far as danger was concerned.

Captain Percy shook his head. "Fair lady," said he, "you have not yet reached the English channel; and although this season is not generally considered a boisterous one, yet we sometimes have heavy weather on the Atlantic in the month of August. From my heart I wish that when you are safe, a few weeks hence, in the midst of your kindred on the shores of Old England, you may be able to repeat the sentiment which you have just uttered."

A few days after this, when the ship was in the longitude of the Western Islands, one pleasant afternoon, Charles Talbot went on deck alone—Louisa, complaining of a slight head-achp, had retired to her state-room, and Captain Percy, having pledged his passengers in several glasses of "good old Madeira," —a dangerous custom which prevailed in those degenerate days—became rather drowsy, and having turned mto his berth, was snoring away, as if for a wager. Talbot paced the quarter deck for a few minutes, when his attention was attracted by the riotous conduct of some of Mother Carey's Chickens, which were screaming, and struggling, and fighting with each other, in the wake of the ship, for some tit bits which the cook had thrown overboard. The Colonel was a keen sportsman, and he prided himself on his dexterity as a marksman—and while he gazed upon those harmless birds, some evil spirit whispered in his ear that there was a chance for a capital shot! With all the infatuation of a sportsman, who seems to re

joice in an opportunity to destroy life, even when such an act can procure him no benefit, he acted from the impulse, without reflection—without taking counsel of his reason or benevolence—and hastened down the cabin stairs for his fowling-piece. The chief mate, Mr. Downing, hailed him when he came on deck, and asked him what he was going to shoot.

"I intend to knock over one or two of those Mother Carey's Chickens," he replied.

"I hope not," said Mr. Downing.

"Why?" inquired Talbot.

"No good will come of it," rejoined the mate. "Ever since I have been at sea, and that is some five and twenty years, it has always been considered a bad sign to kill a Mother Carey's Chicken. The sailor's never do it . They believe it will bring bad luck— and even when these birds are driven on board, tired out in a gale of wind, as is sometimes the case, they treat them with great care and tenderness."

"Pho! nonsense!" exclaimed Talbot. "Mr. Downing.," 1 did not think you would cherish such superstitious notions. There's no more ill-luck in shooting a Mother Carey's Chicken, than in shooting a plover or a curlew." And almost in an instant, on seeing several of these birds hovering over some attractive substance floating on the water, he raised his gun to his shoulder and drew the trigger. Three of the inoffensive animals fell lifeless on the surface of the ocean, and the remainder, apparently much terrified, flew rapidly away, uttering the plaintive cry of "kee-re-kee-kee! kee-re-kee-kee.'"

"A good shot, considering the distance!" exclaimed Talbot, in a triumphant tone.

"I'm not Eo sure of that!" croaked out an old Triton near him, Bob Buntline by name, who was at the helm—and whose countenance exhibited unequivocal signs of consternation. "I'm afraid, sir, that you'll rue the day that you fired that shot. Perhaps we shall, all of us, rue it."

'' What do you mean, Bob?" said Talbot.

"You surely cannot be so weak as to believe that any harm can ensue from shooting two or three birds on the wide ocean!"

"But, recollect, Mr. Talbot, those birds are Mother Carey's Chickens! I have seen them killed before to-day—but I have always found that the murder was soon afterwards fearfully avenged."

Louisa had hastened on deck at the report of the gun—and had heard the remarks of j Bob Buntline. "What is the matter. Charles?" she inquired in a tone of much agitation. "What have you doneV

"Nothing which should give you a moment's uneasiness, my bright one," said he with a smile. "I have only shot two or three

of those petrels, which have been flying about us and making an unusual clamor— and some of our good friends here seem to think that I have committed a crime—and that a terrible penalty will be exacted! Ha! ha! ha!"

"How could you, Charles, have (he heart to shoot those beautiful innocent birds, which seemed so happy?" gently asked the tenderhearted girl, looking reproachingly in the face of her husband.

Talbot felt abashed at this gentle rebuke from the lips of the being whom he so deeply loved. He felt that, like an unthinking boy, he had committed a wanton act of cruelty.

"I hardly know why I did it," said he; "But I believe a true sportsman is one of the most selfish and heartless of beings. With a good fowling-piece at his elbow, he can hardly resist the temptation to try his skill as a marksman on every wild bird he meets with on the sea or land. But, Louisa, I will give you a guarrantee that I will not hurt your feelings again in this way, during the passage; and saying this, the young man gaily tossed the fowling-piece, which he still held in his hand, into the sea.

He was rewarded by a look which he estimated as far more valuable than all the guns that "Jo Manton" ever made. Arm in arm they descended into the cabin, and in a few minutes the fate of the poor birds were forgotten by the happy pair.

But it was not so in the forecastle. The attention of all hands had been directed to the subject—and alarm was expressed in strong characters on the hard features of the tars. Bob Buntline was quite eloquent on the subject, and pointed out with much clearness and force, the evil consequences which would inevitably ensue from the cold-blooded murder of Mother Carey's Chickens. There was a long consultation among the men while they sat around their kid of hard beef, and sipped their respective portions of a darklooking, ill flavored beverage, by courtesy called tea, upon the possibility of doing something to counteract the effects of the dreadful curse which they felt was upon them—and a bluff-looking Dutch sailor, who had been several voyages from Amsterdam toBatavia, declared that he knew a charm which possessed a wonderfully counteracting effect—and it was determined that this charm should be concocted and carried into effect on the following day.

That evening the sun disappeared beneath the waters from an unclouded sky, and soon after the etherial canopy seemed studded with stars sparkling with the brilliancy of diamonds—the wind continued lightfrom the northward—the ship proceeded gracefully on her way at the rate of four or five knots—

and every man on board predicted pleasant
and moderate weather for at least twenty-
four hours longer. Even Bob Buntline, as
he cast a suspicious glance around the hori-
zon, at eight o'clock, before he went below,
admitted that there were no grounds for ap-
. prehending any immediate evils. "But I'll
tell you what," said the old croaker, "we
shall have to pay for killing these Mother
Carey's Chickens before we get fairly across
the big pond—mark my words!"

The second mate, Mr. Nelson, had the first watch, from eight to twelve o'clock. The captain and the passengers retired about ten o'clock, without again alluding to the subject of the birds. It was about six bells, or eleven o'clock, when the attention of Mr. Nelson, who was a vigilant officer, was attracted by the appearance of some faint flashes of lightning in the west. In a short time they became more frequent and vivid; but at least half an hour elapsed before he saw the semblance of a cloud. At length a dark mass appeared rising from the horizon, having a distinct outline, and emitting every few minutes flashes and streams of lightning, which illuminated the whole face of heaven. The cloud rapidly increased in magnitude, and it was now evident that a fearful Squall was rising in the west. • It was about seven bells, or half past eleven, when Mr. Nelson went below to rouse the captain, who hastened immediately on deck; for he was one of those shipmasters who are always ready, by day or by night, to rush on deck at a moment's warning, whenever the situation of the ship may require their presence. When he reached the deck, the low muttering sound of distant thunder was beginning to be heard.

"It is coming, sure enough!" said he. "Muster all hands!" And in a moment after, the unpleasant sound of " All Hands Ahoy! Squall Ho !" aroused the sleepers from their state of forgetfulness.

"Take in the top-mast and top-gallant studding-sails!" shouted Captain Percy to the chief mate—" and be handy about it. We have no time to spare! Clue up the royals and top-gallant sails, and furl them at once."

The men saw the dark cloud, and the lightnings which it vomited forth; they heard the rumbling of the thunder, and went to work in earnest. The light sails were soon taken in—the courses were hauled up—the spanker was furled—the jib was hauled down and handed—and before eight bidls were struck, the Philistine was moving gently along, under her three top-sails and foretop-rnast stay-sail.

The squall had now approached much nearer the ship—the well-defined edge of the cloud had nearly reached the zenith; and be-'

neath it, to the westward, was dark, absolutely black, excepting when lighted up by the electric fluid, which flashed forth with startling brilliancy almost every moment. But in the zenith, and all around to the eastward, as far as the horiz' n, not a cloud, or even a haze was to be seen—the stars still shone with unusual splendor. But the dark cloud marched onward with terrific speed— passed the zeniih—and soon began to settle down towards the eastern horizon; and the stunning sounds of "Heaven's artillery" burst upon the ears of the mariners from the dark and funereal-looking canopy above them.

The top-sails were now clewed down on the cap—the reef-tackles hauled out, and the bunt-lines hauled up; and the men were standing by the braees, ready to brace up or square away the yards, whenever the squall should strike the ship; but the wind, which had been blowing a gentle breeze from the northward had now died Way, and the ship had lost all steerage way,'and had fallen off" to the south-west, and lay rolling in the trough of the sea. This was truly an awful moment—but the scene, could it have been idivested of all idea of danger, was full of majjestic beauty and sublimity; and had it not been for the alarming occurrence which had taken place the previous afternoon, it would not have excited any emotion in the bosoms of the hardy crew of the Philistine. But superstitious fear is frequently contagious, and each of the seamen had imbibed a goodly portion of the apprehensions so eloquently expressed by Bob Buntline, and looked upon the approach of the hurrienne as a prelude to some melancholy disaster. They silently and promptly performed the duties exacted by their officers—but the lightning flashed upon unquiet countenances, and upon pallid cheeks.

After the dark clouds had rolled over their heads, and had nearly obscured every one of the lamps of heaven, a few large drops of rajn fell heavily on the deck, and Captain Percy looked eagerly to windward, in order to get the earliest intimation of the furious rush of wind which was so anxiously expected. Suddenly a sound was heard in the distance, as of the roar of the waves when dashing upon craggy rocks. It was continuous, and every moment grew louder.

"It is coming!" exclaimed the captain, with unusual energy. "Be careful with your helm, Charley! And stand by the braces, men, ready to work with a will!"

"All ready, sir!" said Mr. Downing, the chief mate, in a quiet, but gruff voice.

The squall struck the ship! The wind came with a rush and blew with terrible violence, resembling in its fury the hurricanes the force of the electric shock, which had deck. A plank was placed across the gun

of the Windward Islands, or the typhoons of the East India seas. The Philistine at this moment was unfortunately lying with her yards sharply braced up on the starboard tack. The wind came from about three or four points on the starboard bow, and took her top-sails aback. The captain, aware of the imminent danger of the ship's position, and believing that he could not "box her off," shouted aloud, as she came head to the wind, to brace, round the after yards, and to put the helm hard-a-starboard. But, owing to the howling of the storm, and the tremendous peals of thunder, his orders were not understood, and confusion reigned throughout the deck—and if they had been promptly executed, they could hardly have improved the condition of the ship. The Philistine was now in irons, and rapidly gathering sternway!

At this critical juncture, the rain fell in torrents, and the violence of the wind tore the sails from the gaskets which had confined them to the yards or booms, and they were fluttering and streaming in the blast. The lightning was now incessant—if blinded the eyes of the hardy mariners, who began to think that indeed their last hour was at hand the thunder was heard in crashing peals, and sometimes resembled the vol/ies poured forth from the ranks of a well-disciplined regiment of soldiers, and sometimes the angry and stunning broadsides of a ship of the line—and the peals seemed to reverberate from the walls of blackness, within which they were enclosed.

At this instant, while the water was rushing into the cabin windows with great velocity, Colonel Talbot, who had bepn aroused from his sleep by this dreadful battle of the elements, rushed up the companion-way, bearing in his arms the fainting form of his lovely wife. He reached the deck—but had hardly time to note the condition of the ship, or to realize the horrors of the scene around him, when a thunderbolt struck the. mainlop-rnast and shivered it to atoms—a ball of fire was seen to descend to the deck, and there exploded with a deafening report! Nearly every person on deck was struck down or partially stunned by the shock!

During this time, occupying hardly a minute, while the water had filled the cabin, and was actually rushing over the taffrail, the action of the helm, it being hard a-starboard, caused the ship to fall off to the northward, and the top-sails shivered, and split into shreds. The ship thus lost her sternway, when she appeared to be on the very point of going to the bottom stern-foremost.

The officers and men soon recovered from

produced on them only a temporary effect. They felt that the crisis was passed. The wind had now somewhat abated of its violence, and the fury of the tempest had evidently passed away; the ship was put before the wind, and although the lightnings still hissed, and the thunders howled, and the rain poured down in torrents, and the sails were blown from the yards, and the masts were badly crippled, yet all conviction of actual danger was over.

The officers and men now, prompted by those kind feelings which are proverbially an attribute of the sailor, and which seldom cease to operate even in the most alarming emergencies, hastened to raise from the deck Colonel Talbot and his interesting wife. They were lying clasped in each other's arms, beneath the lee-quarter-rail! The bodies of this unfortunate couple were immediately conveyed into the cabin, and every means in the power of Captain Percy to restore them to consciousness, was tried. In the case of the lady, they were found successful—-for she was unscathed by the electric fluid !—but the brave and noble-hearted Talbot was no more! The bolt had fallen upon hiin—the strong man was in an instant bereft of his strength and his life! And Louisa Carlton—the gay, the beautiful, the joyous, had become, in less than one short month, a wife and a widow!

I shall not attempt to describe her feelings at this heart-rending event. They can be imagined by those who cherish sympathy for the afflicted. But in the midst of her sorrows, Louisa had one source of consolation—she regarded the blow which her happiness had received, as a dispensation of an over-ruling Providence—and she bore her sorrows with true Christian fortitude. But when, on the following day, she was told by Captain Percy that the remains of her husband must be committed to the deep, she remonstrated with tears against this arrangement, and entreated him to convey the body to England, that it might receive Christian burial. He convinced her, however, that this could not be done—and preparations were made for the funeral services on the next afternoon.

A rude coffin was constructed by the second mate, Mr. Nelson, of some pine boards, and at the botWm were deposited several nine-pound shot, and other metallic substances, for the purpose of sinking the coffin when it was launched into the deep. At. eight bells in the afternoon, all hands were called, and the ship was hove to. After Louisa had taken a last sad look at the features of her husband, the cover of the coffin was nailed down, and it was borne upon the wale near the gangway, and on the outer end the coffin was deposited. The crew had now assembled, with thoughtful countenances and saddened hearts— and thither Louisa was conducted by Captain Percy, to witness the solemn rites of consigning the body of her husband to the deep. She was clad in a robe of spotless whitp, the chosen color for a bridal array. Ah '. she little thought, when with a buoyant heart she left her native land, under the protection of one who had a claim for all her affection, that in less than a little month, from the time she plighted her fate at the nuptial altar, she would require funeral weeds.

Captain Percy now took the Prayer Book, and read in a clear and distinct tone, the solemn and impressive "Burial Service of the Church of England." As he concluded, he gave a sign to Mr. Downing—and the inner portion of the plank was raised high in the air, and the coffin slipped gently off the farther end into the water, and quickly disappeared beneath the surface. At this moment a flock of petrels, that had been silently following the ship all day, set up a loud cry of "kee-re-kee-kee > kee-re-kee-kee.'" as if in exultation over the spectacle they had witnessed. And when the yards were braced up, and the ship agam proceeded on her course, these strange birds were long seen hovering over the spot where the waters had divided to receive the mortal remains of poor Talbot— and their clamorous screams and shouts grated harshly on the ear!

At sunset, while the crew were assembled in groups on the forecnstle, and conversing in broken whispers of the melancholy event which had taken place, old Bob Buntline, stretching out his gaunt and brawny arm, and pointing towards the west, exclaimed, "I knew it would be so. I never saw it fail. There's something mysterious in the nature of these birds, which never visit the land, but hatch their young under their wings, and are found in every part of the Atlantic. Who ever kills one in wantonness, is sure to rue it bitterly before the lapse of many days. Col. Talbot was a noble fellow, and would have made a first-rate seaman if he had chosen the occupation of a mariner. But it is a great pity that he could not resist the temptation to shoot Mother Carey's Chickens. And now, shipmates, you may rely upon it, that we xhall have pood luck for the remainder of the voyage.'"

With this assurance, the countenances of the crew brightened up—the "doctor" brought from the galley their tea—and while seated around their evening meal, the worthy tars recovered their usual spirits, and cracked their jokes along with their biscuit, and sea

soned their salt junk with choice and pangent specimens of genuine salt of another flavor.

But there was one on board that ship whose buoyant spirits had departed, never to be restored—whose hopes were blighted, even whem they were most strongly excited —and who suffered, in tears and in silence, the effects of a shock which brought her to an early grave.

Written for the Ladies' Garland.

MOUNT ETNA.

BY MR8. M. L. GARDINER.

On fair Sicily's sea-girt isle,

Mount Etna rears with horrid glare

Its fire-capp'd head; no joy or smile,
Is seen among the lava there.

From day to day, from night to night,
The fires volcanic meet the eye;

Dense clouds of smoke bedim the sight,
And wrap in gloom the azure sky.

The thunders loud are heard afar

By stortn-rock'd sailors, as they sweep

In their frail hark, their airy car,
Over the blue expansive deep.

The isle to its foundation shakes

With Etna's deep and rumbling fire;

Each beast, and bird, with terror quakes,
But knows not whither to retire.

The peasant in his vine-clad cot,
Resting in sweet oblivious sleep,

Starts, as he views the fatal spot

Where waves of fire in madness leap!

Rushing with force from Etna's base,
And burying in a sea of flame

Each living thing of form or trace,
A shapeless wreck without a name.

Etna still heaves from every side,
And spouts her boiling lava high;

Spreading dismay and ruin wide,
Sprinkling with loam the vaulted sky.

Nature stands trembling and aghast!

Eyeing this awful scene of gloom, All shuddering at the burning blast.

Which sweeps her to a firey tomb.

Burn on! thou mighty funeral pyre!

Burn—till a fiercer flame shall rise And thy broad sheets of liquid fire.

Mingle with the enkindled skies.

Sag Harbor, L. /., 1843.

« ElőzőTovább »