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A Meeting At Sea by Robert Wilson

It seems like a long, long while ago since Uncle Joseph told it to me as a recollection of his youthful days; and as Uncle Joseph was then no longer young, it must have been long, long ago that it happened. It was dull work sitting day after day on the hard benches and listening to lectures on therapeutics and anatomy which I had already heard twice verbatim—for I was a third-course student—and it was scarcely more entertaining to sit alone in my cozy little chamber and pore over the dry details of my medical textbooks. How often would my gaze wander through the attic-window to rest upon the broad blue bosom of the Ashley, and watch the course of the rippling current which flashed and glistened in the October sunlight! It was very hard to fix my mind upon the contra-indications of calomel and the bromides while the snowy gulls were circling gracefully over the gliding waters, and the noisy crows were leading my thoughts across the stream to the island thickets where I knew the wild-deer lay. I remember how I used to interpret their cawing into mocking laughter because I had no wings to follow them into those shady fastnessess, which were filled by my hunter's fancy with all kinds of temptations to manly sport. And then, just as I was about to turn; with a great effort from the alluring scene, there would be a sudden commotion among the distant wavelets, and a huge white mass would flash for a moment in the sunshine as the enormous devil-fish of the Carolina waters would spring into the air in his unwieldy gambols, and fall again with a mighty splash into his native element.

"Then you had better have had your study-hours at night." I am sure that's what you are thinking. I thought so too, and put the thought into practice; but then it would be moonlight sometimes, and the white beams would shimmer on the water, and the regular beat and dash of the oars would come to my ears in time with the wild, chanting melody of the boatmen's song. That was just the way of it on the night when I heard this story; and when my cigar had burned out and the autumn air had begun to chill me with its fresh, crisp breath, I said to myself, "It's of no use. I'll shut the old book and spend an hour with Uncle Joseph."

The moon did not have it all her own way that night, notwithstanding her tempting brightness. There was a threatening scud over the harbor to the eastward, and the freshening sea-breeze brought an occasional warning murmur from the breakers on the distant bar. By the time I had made all my little arrangements and stepped out on the quiet street, I found my light waterproof quite comfortable, and prudently went back for a moment to exchange my night-cane for an umbrella. When I reached the end of my walk the cold rain was already beginning to fall, and the wind was gustily hurrying round the corners of the streets and rattling the loose tin upon the housetops. A very few minutes elapsed between my three raps with the old-fashioned brass knocker and the appearance of the neat-looking servant who opened the door. But I may as well use the brief opportunity to tell you that Uncle Joseph was not my uncle at all, and that my habit of calling him so had grown out of a long intimacy with certain nephews and nieces who were very dear to the old gentleman's heart. They were all scattered now—the older girls married and gone, the younger away at school, and the two boys, my childhood and boyhood friends, completing their professional education at a foreign university. But still I loved to visit Uncle Joseph, and he always had a warm and kindly welcome for me. None knew better than he the kind of entertainment most likely to please a young friend and attract him from places of idle amusement; and I knew that a well-timed evening-call at his bachelor home meant a dozen or two of oysters, a glass of old brown sherry, a fragrant cigar and an hour's chat which was often instructive and never prosy.

On that particular night the oysters were fried to exactly the right shade of brown, and the delicate "mill-pond" flavor, so well known to every Charleston taste, was especially fine; the old sherry—just two glasses of it apiece-seemed milder and warmer and richer than ever before; and the havanas never seemed so fragrant. These were not limited, for Uncle Joseph smoked only in the evening, and he liked to keep an open box within reach of his hand. A little fire would have been more cheerful, but it was hardly late enough in the season, and we made out very well for a cozy evening by drawing our easy-chairs to the sides of the little centre-table, and getting the cigar-box and ash-holder at a convenient distance between us.

Uncle Joseph was not eccentric, nor was there anything extravagant in the general style of his housekeeping; but the furniture of this little sitting-room was unique, and could not have been duplicated for a very large sum of money. It required a close degree of observation to discover that several articles in common use were really specimens of rare virtu, and everything indicated that the owner had been a traveler, fond of collecting mementos of the distant lands which he had visited; but whether his travels had been those of a mercantile sea-captain or of a wandering gentleman of leisure would have been hard to determine. There was a neat walnut bookcase with well-filled shelves, on the top of which stood a large glass case containing a huge stuffed albatross, and just opposite was a small but exquisitely-carved Venetian cabinet adorned with grotesque heads of men and animals, and surmounted by a small square case in which was a beautifully-mounted specimen of the little spotted brown owl of Greece, the species so common among the ruins of the Acropolis. On the mantelpiece were a small bronze clock, a quaint Chinese teapot and a pair of delicately-flowered Sèvres vases. On the table the engraved tooth of a sperm whale did duty as a paper-weight, a miniature gondola held an inkstand and pens, and a sprig of red coral with a sabre-shaped ivory blade formed the most beautiful paper-knife I ever saw. A single oil-painting hung on the wall—a finely-executed marine representing two stately ships becalmed near each other on a glassy sea under the glare of a tropical sun—and in a corner, resting upon a light stand, the top of which was a charming Florentine mosaic, was a polished brass box containing a ship's compass. I had been from boyhood familiar with all these things, but I never tired of looking at them, especially at the albatross and the owl—the former so suggestive of Coleridge and the unfathomable depths of the far-away Indian Ocean, and the latter always leading my thoughts away back to the fierce-eyed Athene and her Homeric compeers.

Uncle Joseph got up and unlocked the Venetian cabinet to put away the decanter, his invariable habit as soon as the second glass was filled. As he did so there was a clink as of glass against glass, and the old gentleman hastily took out a small, dusty black bottle, examined it with great care and returned it with evident relief: "I was afraid I had carelessly broken the last bottle of that precious Constantia which I brought with me from the Cape of Good Hope. It is strange that no soil will grow that wine but that of one little vineyard under the South African sun."

"Uncle Joseph, you never told me anything about your voyages. But what are you keeping that wine for?" "To drink a welcome home to Joe when he returns from Europe next month. You must dine with us the day after he gets back. Will has still another year at Göttingen."

"Nothing would give me more pleasure."

"You spoke of my voyages just now: have you never heard the story of my early life?"

"Never, Uncle Joseph," I answered eagerly. "Can't you tell me all about it to-night?"

"Well, perhaps I may. That bottle of wine suggested memories of a singular and sad incident, and the sound of that storm without recalls it all as if it were yesterday. It happened on the homeward passage when I made my last voyage to the Cape, and I have never since looked at that Constantia without thinking of it."

The old gentleman walked across the room and gazed long and earnestly at the picture of the ships; then he seemed to find something very interesting in the compass-box on the stand; then he locked the cabinet, and lighting a cigar stretched himself back in his easy-chair, and smoked for a while with closed eyes. I sat thoughtful and silent until he roused himself with a slight effort: "Draw a chair for your feet, Frank, and take a fresh cigar: you'll find them very mild. Go to sleep if I get prosy when fairly wound off on my yarn. I am going to begin at the very starting-place.

"Of course you know I am an Englishman, for you were quite old enough, when you first knew us all at Stewart's hotel on Broad street, to remember now all about it. The children were then in mourning for their dear mother, but lately dead, and had just come over to make their home with me. My father was a clergyman, possessed of an independent fortune and holding a comfortable living in a sea-coast town some twenty miles from Liverpool, where I was born four years after my only brother. There were only the two of us, and my earliest recollections are connected with the dangerous and mischievous pranks which John and I used to play in and upon the waters of the Irish Sea. I always was fond of John, as I believe he was of me, but he was a domineering fellow, never satisfied unless he had the lead in everything: very dull at his books, but quite handsome, even when a lad, and having a certain smartness about him which was very taking. He was the elder son, and the favorite of my father, though my mother never showed any partiality between us. John never treated me well. Heaven knows, I have no unkind thoughts of him for it now, poor fellow! but I wish to tell you the whole story exactly as it was. I was a fair scholar, and generally had my own tasks to do, and John's also. I worked out all his hard sums and problems, construed his Virgil while I was only reading Caesar, and often wrote his Greek exercise when I was almost too sleepy to keep my eyes open. The consequence was that my own lessons were often neglected, and if I got a caning for my failure, I had no sympathy from John, although it was the price I paid for his good mark."

"It was confoundedly mean of him," I remarked, knocking the ashes from my cigar. But Uncle Joseph did not notice the interruption.

"In short, I was John's fag at school, though not at all a willing one, and the situation was quietly accepted for me at home. My father was singularly blind to my brother's faults. His ambition was to purchase the patronage of his living and have John succeed to it; but we both preferred paddling about in the salt water, and holding a sheet in the fishermen's smacks with a stiff norther after us, to studying our catechism or making Hebrew letters. We were both expert and fearless swimmers, with good wind and strong limbs. In after years I remember well a wager which I lost at Honolulu to remain under water as long as a famous Kanacka diver: I rose just four seconds before him. When I was thirteen I could cast a line, manage a spritsail, pull an oar or handle a tiller as well as any boy on the north coast of England. John was equally fond of the water, but his constant habit of putting the heavy work on me prevented his becoming as good a practical sailor as I was. No man can make a good sea-captain who has not had plenty of experience in splicing sheet-ropes and climbing shrouds. In our vacations we had plenty of pocket-money and went about pretty much as we pleased; and we frequently ran down the coast to Liverpool on board some of the small vessels which sailed from our bay. On these trips we often amused ourselves with the masters' instruments, which were rough and simple enough. John had a good weather-eye, and could take an observation as well as any old salt, but he never had patience to use a logarithm table, and I always did the calculations. It was only amusement for me then, but served me many a good turn afterward. Well, things went on in this way for several years, and meantime my home was not pleasant to me. I grew restless and dissatisfied under the restraints and mortifications of my secondary position; and, besides, as the younger son I knew I should have to make my own way in the world. Our mother had gone to her rest, John's domineering ways had grown on him, and my father, absorbed in his parochial and literary work, and more wrapped up in his eldest son than ever, seemed to have no definite plans for my future."

Uncle Joseph's cigar had gone out, and he had not noticed it until now. He struck a match and relit it, and smoked thoughtfully and in silence for several minutes. The wind had fallen, and the rain, which had been driving against the windows, was now coming down heavily with a steady, monotonous splash.

"About this time an event took place which has left a lasting impression upon my life. The old physician who had held the village practice for forty years died suddenly of apoplexy, and his successor was a gentleman of high culture—an Oxford wrangler, it was said—about forty years of age, with a daughter of sixteen, an only child. Of course the first time I saw her at church I fell desperately in love: boys always do that with a new face. She was a sprightly girl, with soft blue eyes, dark hair, fair complexion, white teeth, a lithe figure and a smiling, roguish mouth."

Uncle Joseph seemed to be talking to himself, not to me, and I thought he started when I exclaimed, "Why, Jane might have sat for that picture! You describe her exactly as she was when I saw her last, just before she left home for St. Mary's Hall."

"So she might, Frank, but I was not thinking of her then. The doctor's daughter was not a bit romantic, and her name was just plain Ellen Jones. But boys will be boys. It was not a week before I found that John was as much in love as I was, and he was soon paying marked attentions to the young lady. I knew at once, from long experience, that my chance was gone; and indeed it was only a boyish fancy with me, after all, for I was too young to think of marrying.

"One day we had an adventure which I often think of now when I look at that picture hanging there. Two of the fishermen had bought new boats, about the same size, but differing somewhat in rig and model, and there was much talk about their respective sailing qualities. A stiff breeze was blowing and some ugly clouds were gathering to seaward, but John proposed that we should try the boats for a short sail, and with the owners' consent we pushed off to round the outer buoy and back as a test of speed. The boats had each a single spritsail, but I felt sure that John's carried too much canvas and would not behave well in a gale. We soon got them on the wind, and were sailing pretty evenly together when I heard the muttering of distant thunder. A moment more and the sails were flapping heavily, everything was still as death, but the white-caps were plain enough to what had been the leeward a short time before. We were a good mile from shore, and I called out to John to look out for flaws, and put my boat about on a homeward tack. Without a moment's warning the gale burst upon us, and as my own boat bowed gracefully to the wind and threw the water from her bows, I saw John's mast quiver and bend as a large sea swept over the gunwale and drenched him from head to foot. 'Let go your sheet!' I shouted, 'and luff her up into the wind.' But instead of doing so, he hauled powerfully upon the swelling sail, put his helm hard down, and the next moment the boat was tossing bottom up, and John was struggling in the seething waters. I had no fears for his life, for he was a powerful and skillful swimmer, and this was not the first upset for either of us; but I never was so deeply impressed before by John's bad seamanship. He gained the boat without difficulty, and clambered on to the upturned bottom, so that I had time to let go my sheet and double-reef my sail. I then bore down on him and took him aboard, and the two of us had little trouble in righting his boat and towing her ashore. I have mentioned the incident only because I always connect it in my mind with what happened long years afterward.

"Six months after this our father died, and John wished to be married at once. But Ellen, although she could not hide her attachment to him, steadily refused to engage herself on account of her invalid mother, whose only and devoted attendant she was. Fickleness was not one of my brother's faults, and he was true and steady in his love for the girl—how true and steady I never knew until I learned it from himself in my ship's cabin on the broad Atlantic. I found myself with a few thousand pounds and a careless guardian, from whom it was not difficult to get the money into my own hands. In a few weeks I left home for Liverpool, and I have never seen my native town since that day."

Uncle Joseph paused to light a fresh cigar, and then opened the cabinet and filled the two glasses again. It was the only time I ever knew him to do such a thing.

"Of course I looked naturally to the water, and saw for the first time a prospect of gratifying my boyish longing for the sea. My funds were sufficient to enable me to purchase a pretty staunch little barque and part interest in her cargo of Wedgwood and Sheffield ware, and I sailed in her as a passenger for Naples and a market. It was a foolish venture, but my friends cared just enough about me to assist me in carrying out my plans, while none gave me serious advice. It turned out well, however, and my profits were quite large. Two other voyages, one to New York and the other to Valparaiso, turned out equally well, and meantime I was using my opportunities to study navigation practically under the direction of my master, an old and able seaman. My ambition was to command my own ship and carry my own cargo, a common thing in those days, when the merchant marine of England was generally officered by men who were the peers in every respect of those who held her naval commissions. I had some prudence, however, and therefore chartered my barque and sailed her as master two short voyages to Bremen and Amsterdam with the best under-officers I could secure. Having now full confidence in myself, I sold out, bought a fine new American ship, filled her with an assorted cargo, and cleared for Rio and the South Pacific. I was now twenty-six years old, and it was eight years since I had been at Liverpool, and ten since I had heard anything of John. After my father's death his old spirit had shown itself very offensively toward me, and we had parted in anger."

I saw that my old friend was deeply moved by the memories recalled by this part of his story, and partly as a relief to him and partly to gratify my curiosity, I asked him if any of the articles which adorned the room were mementoes of these voyages.

"Every one of them has a story," he replied. "I myself caught that albatross in the Straits of Magellan with a dolphin-line trolling astern. I should have let him go again, but he beat himself to death before we could get out the hook, and I amused myself by preparing and mounting the skin. That paper-knife has a sad history. I had it made in London. The blade is cut from a walrus's tooth given to me by a whaling-captain at Hawaii, and I bought the coral which forms the handle from a diver whom I saw bring it up on the Corsican coast. He made a wager with one of my crew that he could bring up another piece of equal value by diving from the ship, went over, and was seized by a shark as he reached the surface. I heard the cry of horror from the men, and rushed to the ship's side just in time to see the water crimson with his blood.

"In the spring of 1832 I accepted a very advantageous offer for charter, and with several passengers sailed for Cape Town on what proved to be my last voyage (excepting the return trip) as a ship-master. We had rough weather most of the way out, and a long passage, but nothing occurred which would interest you now. The season was a disastrous one to shipping on that route, and before leaving the Cape I had the vessel thoroughly overhauled, and was fortunate enough to secure three or four good seamen to make up a full crew. My first officer was an old salt, a strict disciplinarian, but kind to the men and a favorite with them all. Like most of his class, he was given to profanity in private conversation, but he never swore at the men, and always encouraged them at their work with cheery words. The weather was lovely when we sailed for home, and continued so until we were four days out. The ordinary routine of a master's duty was simple enough, and I had plenty of leisure for watching the beautiful Cape pigeons which followed the ship's wake, my favorite amusement when tired of reading. We were a little out of the common track of vessels in those seas, and sighted very few sail, none of which passed within hail. On the morning of the fifth day out I indulged myself a little, having been up quite late the night before studying the charts, and it being the first mate's watch, a man in whom I had great confidence. When I turned out I found the ship becalmed. We were not yet in the calm latitudes, and I did not altogether like the looks of the weather. The sea was as smooth as an immense expanse of blue steel; there was a long, low swell, like the memory of yesterday's breeze, but not a ripple could be detected by the glass in any quarter; the sky had an almost coppery glow, and the sun blazed down with a force which made all the seams of the deck-planks sticky with melting pitch. Still, the barometer was rising, and there was nothing to indicate danger. Although competent to perform skillfully all the duties of my profession, I had not, as you know, that long experience which alone can give a seaman thorough knowledge of all his perils even before they are apparent. I felt no apprehensions, therefore; and when I saw how Mr. Kelson was overhauling every rope and sail and spar, and making everything snug alow and aloft, I only congratulated myself on having an officer who kept the men too busy to get into mischief, and lost no opportunity for putting and keeping everything in order."

I now knew that Uncle Joseph was "fairly wound off" on his yarn, for I never before had heard him use so many sea-phrases. All of them I did not fully understand, but he was evidently thinking very little of me, and did not stop to explain.

"It was about four bells when the lookout in the cross-trees sung out, 'Sail ho!'

"'Where away?' I asked.

"'Broad on the port-beam," was the answer.

"I made out the vessel with my glass very easily from the deck, but paid no more attention to the matter until I came up from breakfast, an hour later. Not a ripple was stirring, nor a ghost of a breath of wind, but the two ships were several miles nearer, and evidently approaching, though their relative position was somewhat different. She was slowly drifting on one current, and we as slowly on another diagonally across her track. The stranger was a large Clyde-built ship, and carried far more canvas than was necessary in a calm, but I thought she might be drying her sails. I was waiting for her to get within hail, but her captain anticipated me and hailed first.

"'Ship ahoy!' came over the water, 'What ship is that?'

"The Ariadne, Alford master, from Cape Town for Portsmouth. What ship is that?' I replied.

"'The Ellen, Alford master, from Liverpool for Cape Town. Will send a boat aboard with letters for home.'

"The coincidence of names had evidently not been noticed, or produced no impression. But I saw it all in a moment, and I had to grasp the mizzen-backstay to keep from falling. My brother John, whom I had not seen or heard from for nearly fifteen years, had drifted across my way on the vast and pathless ocean! Ah, how often since have I asked myself if a Providence could be clearer—if this, with all its consequences to my after-life, could have been had not He who keepeth the winds as His treasures and measures the oceans in the hollow of His hand so ordered it for the furtherance of His own wise and beneficent will! Not a thought of anger toward my brother crossed my mind—not a solitary harsh memory of the past. My heart yearned to him with a tender and womanly love, and the only shade on the brightness of my joy was the slight doubt whether he would feel thus toward me. The order had already been passed on the Ellen to lower away a boat, and my voice sounded husky and unnatural as I shouted back an invitation to her master to board me in person. I recognized John with the aid of my glass as he returned a hearty 'Ay, ay!' and dropped lightly from the futtock-shrouds into the boat. In ten minutes he lay alongside of my vessel, and in two more stood upon the deck. I remember well how my heart beat and my tongue refused its office as he stepped forward to greet his stranger host; how he stopped suddenly as if frozen to the deck when he looked full in my face; how his whole frame trembled and his cheeks grew ashy pale as he almost whispered, 'Joseph?'


"And then we were clasped in each other's arms and sobbed like children, while each hid his face on his brother's shoulder.

"Kelson told me afterward how the rough seamen gazed at us for a while in astonishment, and then, with a delicacy of feeling which even such unrefined natures can sometimes exhibit, moved quietly off and left us unobserved; but I forgot for a while that there was any one else on the ship besides my new-found brother and myself. It was full five minutes before either of us could utter a word, and then, after a few brief expressions of surprise and pleasure, John sent word to his  first officer that he would spend the day on the Ariadne, and giving our orders to keep the ships together, which was easy enough now that both were in the same current, we retired together to my cabin.

"That day was, I honestly believe, the brightest and happiest of my life. Not a word was said by either of us in reference to any jar or unpleasantness in the past—not a reproach for long and unfraternal negligence through all these years of separation. Each listened eagerly to the story of the other's life, questioned closely for every minute detail, sympathized with every slight misfortune, and expressed a hearty pleasure in every incident of happiness or success. I learned how John had passed a year after my departure in uncertainty as to his plans for the future, and in the vain effort to break the resolution of Ellen Jones. Then he purchased a vessel, as I had done, and crossing the ocean ran for two years between New York and the West Indian ports. His career was not as fortunate as mine had been, and when, after eight years of a seaman's adventurous life, he was rewarded for his faithful devotion by the hand of the woman whom he loved, he was no richer than my father had left him. Ellen had made two voyages with him—one just after their marriage, and one two years later, after their baby died. John lost money on this last trip, but was steadily repairing his fortunes when, about a year before our meeting, he lost his ship and cargo off the coast of Newfoundland, barely escaping with his crew by the assistance of a fishing-vessel which had answered their signal of distress. This misfortune had reduced him to very straitened circumstances, and he had left his wife with five little ones at home, hoping for a successful venture in this voyage to the Cape, every guinea of his capital having been invested in a half interest in the Ellen and her cargo. There was nothing to require our attention, as our ships were lying as still and motionless, but for the drift, as if riding at anchor in a road-stead; so we talked together until the steward announced dinner, and after that adjourned to the after-deck with a box of cigars and a bottle of wine, where we resumed our conversation. The weather continued unchanged, and I shall never forget the quiet happiness of those hours as we sat under the awning looking at the Cape pigeons and schools of flying-fish, and chatting about the pleasant memories of our boyish days. It was near sunset when John Alford asked me to signal his boat, and soon afterward he left the Ariadne. We both expected the wind to rise during the night, but intended keeping our ships together until next day, and so made all our arrangements for signaling, so that we might not part company in the darkness.

"When I went below I met Kelson at the cabin door. 'The barometer's taken a start downward, sir,' said he: 'we shall have nasty weather before morning.'

"'It is very likely,' I answered, 'but I think the old ship can stand some weather. Set the watches with two good men in each, and have everything snug for a blow.'

"'Ay, ay, sir!' answered the careful fellow: 'all that's done already. I've seen these South Atlantic calms before now. The sails are all clewed up and the useless spars sent down: the boats are secured, the movables all double lashed, and the storm-staysails made ready to bend on.'

"'Then we shall only have to keep a good lookout, and if it blows, let it blow. Give the watches strict orders not to lose the Ellen, Mr. Kelson.'

"'Ay, ay, sir! The Lord grant it isn't a cyclone! I don't like 'em.'

"It was about nine o'clock that night that I heard a light ripple against the ship's side, and a moment after the creaking of the yards as the rising breeze moved them slightly. I at once went on deck, and my first glance showed me how fortunate I was in having such a first officer as Kelson. The night was as black as pitch: the wind came in little puffs and flaws, and then for a moment would die away altogether. There was a low, ominous murmur in the distance like the sighing of a pine forest, and now and then the faint muttering of thunder. Suddenly there was a sharp, jagged flash which seemed to run halfway round the horizon, followed instantly by a rattling peal like a running fire of field-pieces. A silence and a stillness followed this opening overture like that of the valley of death. I sprang to the pilot-house and seized the wheel, for I knew everything would depend upon that, but as yet there was neither lee nor weather side, for it was impossible to guess from what quarter the wind would strike us. There was a brief period of suspense, which seemed to me an hour long, the dead silence broken only by the cheery ring of Kelson's voice giving his orders with a promptness and decision which was sweet music to my ears. A moment more and the whole sky was one blaze of dazzling light; in a second of time I saw with almost supernatural distinctness every rope and spar, every brace and shroud of the ship; I saw the illimitable black expanse of water on the port side, and the Ellen, a mile distant on the starboard bow, her outlines as sharply defined as in a silhouette; I saw the figures of men ascending her shrouds, and with utter amazement I saw that her topsails were set. But as I glanced away from her I saw a dark wall of water on our starboard beam, crested with glittering foam and twenty feet or more in height, bearing right down upon us.

"'Hard a-lee!' came the voice of Kelson, drowned in a crash of thunder which words are powerless to describe, and as the good ship swung round responsive to the touch of her helm, all was again Egyptian darkness, and the wind rushed upon us with the howl and roar of a thousand hungry wild beasts. The Ariadne answered her helm like a tender-mouthed colt, but she was not quick enough for the enormous sea which the next moment broke on her starboard quarter. The decks were deluged with water, which must have swamped the ship had not every hatch been securely battened; the starboard quarter-boat was crushed like an egg-shell, and swept from her davits with the wreck of the bulwarks, which were stove in like a cigar-box; the masts bent like reeds and quivered to the keelson, and the strong mizzen storm-staysails burst with the report of a twelve-pounder. The Ariadne careened until her lee-earrings dipped into the sea, but righted herself as she came before the wind, and rose like a duck on the back of the angry swells. It was a fearful night, and every incident of it is photographed indelibly on my memory. There was not a rag of canvas on the ship except her heavy main-staysail, and yet one after another the topmasts splintered and fell, hampering the lower rigging and littering the deck with the wreck, the broken royals making terrible work as they whipped about in the storm; but it was utterly impossible to cut them loose. Well, it's getting late, and I must hurry to the end of my story. The storm lasted about three hours, and then the wind fell almost as suddenly as it rose.

"When daylight came there was no trace of the tremendous commotion of the night except the heavy swell of the wearied sea. We had weathered the gale in safety, and although the Ariadne was dreadfully battered and her rigging badly cut up, there was no damage which we were not able to repair sufficiently well to continue our voyage."

Uncle Joseph paused as if he had no more to say. I waited a moment, and then ventured to ask, "How did the Ellen get through it?"

"When the sun rose clear I swept the horizon with my glass, but she was not in sight. She has never been heard of since."

Again the old gentleman paused, but this time I dared not break the silence. At last he dropped the stump of his cigar into the ash-holder and said, "I never made but one more voyage after that, and that was to bring John's orphans to Charleston after their mother's death."