Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the sunny shores of Candia ; now he paced with anxious step an Arctic beach, begirt by a dark ocean, lashed by sleepless tempests. Often he pictured to himself his noble vessel as she left the shores of Candia, and frequently his imagination would present in startling contrast the sinking of his hopes and ship. Then he thought of his dying crew, and with a more solemn feeling of those who were dead. He had led them from their homes ; he saw them dying now ; what could he do ? Often he knelt in prayer on the lonely beach, for his bold heart yet hoped for deliverance.

In the meantime, their situation assumed a more alarming aspect ; scarcely one could move from the fires made of the planks cast up by the sea, whilst the volumes of smoke from the sodden wood inflamed the eyes of all to such a degree that it was feared blindness would precede death. Death, too, was active amongst them. In a few days only thirteen remained alive, and these were too feeble to bury the dead. An ominous sullenness began to take possession of each—their mutual woes chilling instead of nourishing sympathy. Quirino alone preserved his fortitude entire, and endeavoured by every means to dispel the fatal melancholy of his men. never visibly downcast, for this might have paralyzed every effort ; but often in the stillness of the long nights the hopelessness of his position would present itself. In what part of the world was he cast? Was it beyond the visits of human kind? These were questions which the geographical knowledge of the adventurous Italian did not enable him to answer. But in the depth of his hopelessness some hope arose. Whilst searching for seaweeds some of the crew discovered a ruined hut, and near it the tracks of oxen. Such appearances proved that they were still within the circle of human beings ; every one exulted in the hope of meeting with deliverance, and all slept that night with happy hearts.

This discovery happened on the eleventh day of their abode upon the island. Eager search was now made by the famished men to discover further traces of human beings, and many an eye wandered over the dark sea for the sight of a sail. But this joy was transient, no further cause for hope appeared, and the last day of January found the survivors plunged into utter hopelessness. The intensity of the frost, constant storms, and want of food, had reduced the physical

He was

energy of each to that point where Death places his mark.

We have now to record one of those striking, though perhaps not rare events, which attest the singular influence of dreams on the destiny of man. It happened that a young herdsman in a neighbouring island had lost his heifers ; he dreamed one night that the missing animals had crossed a certain shallow place at low water to the Saints' Rock. On awaking he mentioned the dream to his father and brother. All started for the “ Saints,” in a boat. Arriving there they beheld with surprise the smoke of a fire, and were amazed by the sight of some famine-stricken men crawling towards them. The herdsmen could only speak Dutch, and were therefore unable to understand the Venetians ; but the signs of misery and death were not to be mistaken. Having no provisions in their boat, they determined to return to their island for succour, taking with them two of the strangers. The priest of the place, a Dominican monk, assembled the islanders, and, on Candlemas-day, six boats, headed by the priest, arrived at the “ Saints,” and received the surviving crew of Quirino's lost vessel.

They also took up the unburied dead, and committed them, with funeral solemnities, to the earth. Eleven alone remained to enjoy the hospitality of their benefactors, who had been sent as by a voice from Heaven to their aid. The island to which Quirino was removed is that named Rost in modern maps. It lies at the southern extremity of the Luffoden group, about seventy miles from the Norwegian coast. The simple manners and ready hospitality of these

remote islanders attest the moral influence which in such early times must have penetrated into these almost inaccessible and sea-girt rocks. Each family eagerly pressed their aid upon the half dead mariners, and regarded its acceptance as an honour. In this friendly place, Quirino and his men were entertained till May 14th, when they departed for Drontheim, having been at Rost three months and twenty days. Arrived at Drontheim, the rescued mariners attended a thanksgiving service in the church of St. Olave, and spread far and wide the details of their marvellous deliverance. Leaving Drontheim on June 9th, they travelled to the Danish port of Ladèse, whence three of the crew departed for Venice; and shortly after, the

remainder, eight in number, embarked for England September 14th, and reached Ely in eight days. Quirino proceeded with his party towards London, by way of Cambridge, where he rested for a few days. Whilst here he was observed to be a constant worshipper at the daily services so numerous in the University Town, and during one of thesc his demeanour attracted the attention of a Benedictine monk, who accosted the Venetian and received a brief account of his adventures. The monk finding Quirino's funds exhausted, gave him, in “the name of God,” sixteen crowns, and promised to visit him at Venice, in the course of a pilgrimage to the IIoly Land, which the Benedictine was then contemplating. We know not whether Quirino and the monk ever again met ; but the aid afforded to the former was most opportune, and enabled him to proceed at once towards the capital. In a short time the Italians reached London, where most of them remained two months, supported by the hospitality of merchants acquainted with Quirino. After this period some departed on religious pilgrimages, hoping thus to deepen their feelings of gratitude to God for their great escape. Quirino judged it best to journey directly for Venice, where, upon his arrival, the tale of his perils was the marvel of the Rialto. Many a friend received him as one risen from the dead, so strong was the belief that he and all his crew had perished.

Thus ended this mercantile adventure of Quirino, presenting at the beginning an enthusiastic, confident man, aiming at the accomplishment of his plan, and exhibiting at the close the same man chastened and disappointed, but still unbroken in spirit, and preserving, amidst the wreck of his hopes, a noble patience.

III.

THE SAILOR IN THE BURNING SHIP;

OR,

ADVENTURES OF THE CAPTAIN AND CREW OF THE NEW HORN,

A DUTCH SHIP DESTROYED BY FIRE IN THE INDIAN OCEAN IN 1619.

BURNING ship in the midst of a lonely sea presents to the imagination one of the most fearful scenes in which man can be placed. The dan

gers of shipwreck when a vessel is suddenly dashed on the roaring breakers, or buried by an avalanche wave, may be as great; but it can scarcely give those terrible impressions which the sailor must feel as inch by inch the fiery circle closes upon him.

That moment when the crew give up all hopes of saving their burning vessel, when through every outlet the whirling flames rush with the screaming noise so peculiar to a conflagration, when above the black cloud spreads, and below the inextinguishable furnace crackling to charcoal the stout timbers, presents death to the mind in a terrible form, then “ shrink the timid and stand still the brave.

The destruction of the New Horn, a Dutch ship, by fire, in the South Sea, presents one instance of this fearful nature. This vessel sailed from the coast of Holland in the latter end of December, 1618, with a crew of two hundred and six men, under the command of Captain Bontekoe ; her destination was Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indian

possessions. Nothing of great interest happened till near the completion of their voyage. The straits of Sunda, between

[ocr errors]

Sumatra and Java, were in sight of the rejoicing crew, when an event occurred which overthrew every hope of a successful termination to the voyage. The cry of “Fire” was heard from below ; the captain ran to the spot, and found a torrent of flame rushing from the bung-hole of a brandy cask, and the panic-stricken steward endeavouring to quench the fire by pouring water into the vessel. In a short time their efforts seemed to have succeeded, the flame disappeared, and the captain had time to ascertain the cause of the accident. The steward had dropped a spark from a candle into the bung-hole of the cask from which he was drawing brandy for the crew. Had the matter ended here, the New Horn might never have filled a place in naval chronicles ; her voyage would most probably have ended happily, and her hull at length quietly rotted in some Dutch dock-yard. But the small spark dropped by the careless steward had not yet done its work. The captain was forgetting the accident, and his irritation passing away, when once more the alarm of fire ran along the decks ; the fatal cask had again blazed, and, exploding, communicated the flames to every substance around. A heap of coals under the burning brandy had taken fire, and threw out an intense heat upon the combustible materials in the ship’s hold. Two most dangerous elements were now at hand ; a large stowage of brandy, consisting of four piles of casks, was lodged immediately above the burning coal, whilst a vast quantity of powder was in the magazine. The safest course was to throw the powder overboard with all speed, as whilst it remained none of the crew could work with the coolness so requisite in their condition : the constant dread of explosion paralyzed effort. A clearheaded and decided man might now have saved both ship and crew by instantly getting rid of the powder. The captain had not the power to do this, and appealed to the supercargo, who refused on the plea that if the powder were destroyed the ship would be helpless should an enemy appear. Thus a real and present evil was partly heightened in order to provide against a mere contingency. Quickly the fury of the fire proved more than a match for the efforts of man; the hold became a furnace, the flames rushed up the rigging and whirled in eddies round the tall masts of the solitary ship. To remove the powder was now desired by the supercargo

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »