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For a while the power of the lightning seemed to quench the wind almost, and one continuous roar of thunder rang around the darkness. Then, with a bellow, the wind sprang forth (like a wild bull out of a mountain), and shattered the rain and drowned the thunder, and was lord of everything. Under its weight the flat sea quivered, and the crests flew into foam, and the scourge upon the waters seemed to beat them all together. The whirlwinds were now past and done with, and a violent gale begun, and in the burst and change of movement there appeared a helpless ship.
As the gale set to its work, and the sea arose in earnest, and the lightning drifted off into the scud of clouds, I saw, as plain as a pikestaff, that the ship must come ashore, and go to pieces very likely, before one could say “Jack Robinson.” She had been on the Sker-weather sands already, and lost her rudder and some of her sternpost, as the lift of the water showed ; and now there was nothing left on board her of courage or common seamanship. The truth of it was, although of course I could not know it then, that nearly all the ship's company acted as was to be expected from a lot of foreigners; that is to say, if such they were. They took to the boats in a kind of panic when first she struck among the sands in the whirlwind which began the storm. There could have been then no great sea running, only quiet rollers; and being but two miles off the shore, they hoped, no doubt, to land well enough, after leaving the stupid negroes and the helpless passengers to the will of Providence.
* From The Maid of Sker,
However, before they had rowed a mile, with the flood-tide making eastward, one of the boats was struck by lightning, and the other caught in a whirl vorago (as the Spaniards call it), and not a soul ever came to land, and scarcely any bodies. Both these accidents were seen from Porthcawl Point by Sandy Macraw through a telescope ; and much as he was mine enemy, I do him the justice to believe it; partly because he could look for no money from any lies in the matter, and still more because I have heard that some people said that they saw him see it.
But to come back to this poor ship. The wind, though blowing madly enough (as a summer gale is often hotter for a while than a winter one), had not time and sweep as yet to raise any very big rollers. The sea was sometimes beaten flat, and then cast up in hillocks; but the mighty march of waters fetched by a tempest from the Atlantic was not come, and would not come in a veering storm like this. For it takes a gale of at least three tides, such as we never have in summer, to deliver the true buffet of the vast Atlantic.
Nevertheless the sea was nasty and exceeding vicious; and the wind more madly wild, perhaps, than when it has full time to blow; in short, the want of depth and power was made up by rage and spite; and for a ship not thoroughly sound and stanch in all her timbers it had been better, perhaps, to rise and fall upon long billows, with a chance of casting high and dry, than to be twirled round and plucked at, thrown on beam-ends, and taken aback, as this hapless craft was being, in the lash of rocky waters and the drift of gale and scud.
By this time she was close ashore, and not a man (except myself) to help or even pity her. All around her was wind and rocks, and a mad sea rushing under her. The negroes, crouching in the scuppers, or clinging to the masts and rails, or rolling over one another in their want of pluck and skill, seemed to shed their blackness on the snowy spray and curdled foam, like cuttle-fish in a lump of froth. Poor things! they are grieved to die as much, perhaps, as any white man; and my heart was overcome, in spite of all I know of them.
The ship had no canvas left, except some tatters of the fore-topsail, and a piece of the main royals; but she drifted broadside on, I daresay five or six knots an hour. She drew too much water, unluckily, to come into Pool Tavan at that time of the tide, even if the mouth had been wide enough; but crash she went on a ledge of rocks thoroughly well known to me, every shelf of which was a razor. Half a cable's length below the entrance to Pool Tavan, it had the finest steps and stairs for congers and for lobsters, whenever one could get at it in a low spring-tide; but the worst of beaks and barbs for a vessel to strike upon at half-flow, and with a violent sea, and a wind as wild as Bedlam.
With the pressure of these, she lay so much to leeward before striking (and perhaps her cargo had shifted) that the poor blackies rolled down the deck like pickling walnuts on a tray; and they had not even the chance of dying each in his own direction.
I was forced to shut my eyes; till a grey squall came, and caught her up, as if she had been a humming-top, and flung her (as we drown a kitten) into the mashing waters.
R. D. Blackmore.
HAMISH and Duncan Cameron returned to the yacht.
“Will you go ashore now, Sir Keith ?” the old man said.
"Oh, no; I am not going ashore yet. It is not yet time to run away, Hamish.”
He spoke in a friendly and pleasant fashion, though Hamish, in his increasing alarm, thought it no proper time for jesting. They hauled the gig up to the davits, however, and again the yacht lay in dead silence in this little bay.
From Macleod of Dare,
The evening grew to dusk; the only change visible in the spectral world of pale yellow-white mist was the appearance in the sky of a number of small detached, bulbous-looking clouds of a dusky blue-grey. They had not drifted hither, for there was no wind. They had only appeared : They were absolutely motionless.
But the heat and suffocation in this atmosphere became almost insupportable. The men, with bare heads, and jerseys unbuttoned at the neck, were continually going to the cask of fresh water beside the windlass. Nor was there any change when the night came on. If anything, the night was hotter than the evening had been. They awaited in silence what might come of this ominous calm.
Hamish came aft.
"I beg your pardon, Sir Keith," said he, “but I have put up the side-lights, in case there is a chance of our getting away; and I am thinking we will have an anchor-watch to-night."
“You will have no anchor-watch to-night," Macleod answered slowly, from out of the darkness. "I will be all the anchor-watch you will need, Hamish, until the morning."
“You, sir!" Hamish cried. "I have been waiting to take you ashore! and surely it is ashore that you are going !”
Just as he had spoken, there was a sudden sound that all the world seemed to stand still to hear. It was a low, murmuring sound of thunder; but it was so remote as to be almost inaudible. The next moment an awful thing occurred. The two