Page images
PDF
EPUB

No tomb shall e'er plead to remembrance for thee,
Or redeem form or fame from the merciless

surge; But the white foam of waves shall thy winding sheet be,

And winds in the midnight of winter thy dirge.

On a bed of green sea flowers thy limbs shall be laid,

Around thy white bones the red coral shall grow; Of thy fair yellow locks threads of amber be made,

And every part suit to thy mansion below.

Days, months, years, and ages shall circle away,

And still the vast waters above thee shall roll; Earth loses thy pattern forever and aye ;

O sailor boy! sailor boy! peace to thy soul !

DEFINITIONS. — Hăm'mock, a hanging or swinging bed, usually made of netting or hempen cloth. Trăns'port, ecstasy, rapture. Im pēarled' (pro. im pērled'), decorated with pearls, or with things resembling pearls. 'Lăr'umş (an abbreviation of alarums, for alarms), affrights, terrifies. Dirġe, funeral music.

A CHASE IN THE ENGLISH CHANNEL.

By James FENIMORE COOPER.

The ship which the American frigate had now to oppose was a vessel of near her own size and equipage ; and when Griffith looked at her again, he perceived that she had made her preparations to assert her equality in manful fight.

Her sails had been gradually reduced to the usual quantity, and, by certain movements on her decks, the lieutenant and his constant attendant, the Pilot, well understood that she only wanted to lessen the distance a few hundred yards to begin the action.

“ Now spread everything," whispered the stranger.

Griffith applied the trumpet to his mouth, and shouted, in a voice that was carried even to his enemy, “Let fall -out with your booms - sheet home — hoist away of everything!”

The inspiring cry was answered by a universal bustle. Fifty men flew out on the dizzy heights of the different spars, while broad sheets of canvas rose as suddenly along the masts as if some mighty bird were spreading its wings. The Englishman instantly perceived his mistake, and he answered the artifice by a roar of artillery. Griffith watched the effects of the broadside with an absorbing interest as the shot whistled above his head; but when he perceived his masts untouched, and the few unimportant ropes only that were cut, he replied to the uproar with a burst of pleasure.

A few men were, however, seen clinging with wild frenzy to the cordage, dropping from rope to rope, like wounded birds fluttering through a tree, until they fell heavily into the ocean, the sullen ship sweeping by them in a cold indifference. At the next instant, the spars and masts of their enemy exhibited a display of men similar to their own, when Griffith again placed the trumpet to his mouth, and shouted aloud, “ Give it to them ; drive them from their yards, boys ; scatter them with your grape; unreeve their rigging !

The crew of the American wanted but little encouragement to enter on this experiment with hearty good will, and the close of his cheering words was uttered amid the deafening roar of his own cannon.

The Pilot had, however, mistaken the skill and readiness of their foe; for, notwithstanding the disadvantageous circum

stances under which the Englishman increased his sail, the duty was steadily and dexterously performed.

The two ships were now running rapidly on parallel lines, hurling at each other their instruments of destruction with furious industry, and with severe and certain loss to both, though with no manifest advantage in favor of either.

Both Griffith and the Pilot witnessed, with deep concern, this unexpected defeat of their hopes; for they could not conceal from themselves that each moment lessened their velocity through the water, as the shot of the enemy stripped the canvas from the yards, or dashed aside the lighter spars in their terrible progress.

“ We find our equal here,” said Griffith to the stranger. “The ninety is heaving up again like a mountain ; and if we continue to shorten sail at this rate, she will soon be down upon us !”

“You say true, sir,” returned the Pilot, musing, “ the man shows judgment as well as spirit; but

He was interrupted by Merry, who rushed from the forward part of the vessel, his whole face betokening the eagerness of his spirit and the importance of his intelligence.

“ The breakers !” he cried, when nigh enough to be heard amid the din ; “we are running dead on a ripple, and the sea is white not two hundred yards ahead.”

The Pilot jumped on a gun, and, bending to catch a glimpse through the smoke, he shouted, in those clear, piercing tones, that could be even heard among the roaring of the cannon :

“Port, port your helm ! we are on the Devil's Grip ! Pass up the trumpet, sir; port your helm, fellow ! give it to them, boys - give it to the proud English dogs !”

NEW MCGUF. FIFTH - 5 65

Griffith unhesitatingly relinquished the symbol of his rank, fastening his own firm look on the calm but quick eye of the Pilot, and gathering assurance from the high confidence he read in the countenance of the stranger. The seamen were too busy with their cannon and the rigging to regard the new danger; and the frigate entered one of the dangerous passes of the shoals, in the heat of a severely contested battle.

The wondering looks of a few of the older sailors glanced at the sheets of foam that flew by them, in doubt whether the wild gambols of the waves were occasioned by the shot of the enemy, when suddenly the noise of cannon was succeeded by the sullen wash of the disturbed element, and presently the vessel glided out of her smoky shroud, and was boldly steering in the center of the narrow passages.

For ten breathless minutes longer the Pilot continued to hold an uninterrupted sway, during which the vessel ran swiftly by ripples and breakers, by streaks of foam and darker passages of deep water, when he threw down his trumpet and exclaimed :

“ What threatened to be our destruction has proved our salvation. Keep yonder hill crowned with wood one point open from the church tower at its base, and steer east and by north; you will run through these shoals on that course in an hour, and by so doing you will gain five leagues of your enemy, who will have to double their trail.”

Every officer in the ship, after the breathless suspense of uncertainty had passed, rushed to those places where a view might be taken of their enemies. The ninety was still steering boldly onward, and had already approached

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »