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SKETCHES BY A SAILOR.
“ And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land.” — ACTS, xxvii. 44.
THE “ Intrepid” was as fine a vessel of her class as ever swam the seas, and no better seaman, or more honest fellow, than Captain Robertson, ever trod a ship's deck.
I was one of nine passengers that embarked in her at Calcutta, for England; and from the hour of our sailing, almost, to the final catastrophe I purpose relating, fate seemed to dog our trackless path with relentless spite and malevolence.
Before we reached the British Channel we might have said with truth, that
“ Many a hard gale encountered had we,
Strange climates, and all kinds of weather."
Hardly was the anchor stowed, and sail made on the ship, when old Æolus began to play his tricks, and continued to buffet us during the whole voyage.
A typhoon in the Bay of Bengal, the tail of a hurricane off Mauritius, a nor'-wester at the Cape, heavy squalls on the Line, half a gale of wind near the Western Isles, and a whole spout in the Bay of Biscay, were amongst the chief favours we had to thank him for; whilst calms and baffling winds were not wanting to complete our discomfort. But with a stanch and good sea-boat, a skilful captain, and active crew, we cared little for wind or weather, and “ did not strain a rope-yarn,” as Mr. Gillies, the mate, often informed us, during the whole of our battles with the elements, fierce as they undoubtedly were.
I'm not superstitious, not I; but it is certain we sailed on a Friday. Could that be the cause of our disasters ? or were they owing to the presence of that odious black cat?
Our party in the cabin, besides the captain, mate, and surgeon, consisted of Mr., Mrs., and Miss ;- no, I'll give no names, I will not stir up unpleasant recollections.
Mr. F. and his wife and sisters, then, let me call them. There were also Captain R., and his wife ; Lieutenants L. and V., of the Bengal Native Infantry; Mr. B., of Her Majesty's —th regiment; and myself.
Next to obtaining an agreeable companion for the voyage of life, a set of agreeable fellowvoyagers, on a passage of some months' duration, is a blessing not to be lightly esteemed. I was very fortunate in this particular, and we could sing
· Sigh not for summer flowers ;
Our sunshine is within."
In all our storms we could retire below and find cheerful, pleasant companions, to lighten our cares and beguile the tedious hours.
The constantly recurring excitement, indeed, of battling with the breeze had its charm for many of us, which was heightened by the fine and striking contrast exhibited between storm and calm;— the ocean, at one time lashed to fury, its huge waves towering to the skies, raised far above the deck of our stout ship, and seeming every moment about to roll over her and whelm her in the great deep; yet gently lifting her, as a tender mother would her child, and leaving her scathless amidst the clash and turmoil of the elements;- the more distant waves seeming as though they would scale
heaven itself, like the Babylonish tower of old, and then, like it, arrested in their course, bursting into a crest of white froth, as in impotent rage and despair, and sinking amidst the mass of waters;
anon a gust of wind, more furious than the rest, levelling for a moment the swelling surface of the angry ocean, and blending sea and sky in one confused sheet of foam and mist; at another time the sea presenting one vast plain of glossy smoothness and deepest azure, and reflecting, as in a huge polished mirror, the hull, sails, and cordage of the vessel, as she rolled listlessly on its surface; whilst, in place of “clouds and thick darkness,” the sun shone brilliantly in its meridian splendour, without so much as a passing scud to dim its fiery rays.
In these circumstances I often repeated to myself those beautiful lines of a modern poet, —
“ The winds are all hushed, and the billows at rest,
They sleep like the passions in infancy's breast,
What, indeed, can be more typical of man's career, from the cradle to the grave, than the restless and ever-changing ocean? its gentle morning breeze, its mid-day gales and tempests, its evening lull, its night's deep calm ?