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his orders, saying that his life was the last and least consideration ; and they were obliged to obey, leaving the ship in as orderly a manner as if they were going ashore in harbor. But they were so benumbed with cold, that many were unable to climb the rock, and were swept off by the waves, among them the lieutenant. Captain Baker last of all joined his crew, and it was then discovered that they were at no great distance from the land, but that the tide was rising, and that the rock on which they stood would assuredly be covered at high water, and the heavy mist and lonely coast gave scarcely a hope that help would come ere the slowly rising waters must devour them.
Still there was no murmur, and again the gallant boatswain, who still held the rope, volunteered to make an effort to save his comrades. With a few words of earnest prayer, he secured the rope round his waist, struggled hard with the waves, and reached the shore, whence he sent back the news of his safety by a loud cheer to his comrades.
There was now a line of rope between the shore and the rock, just long enough to reach from one to the other when held by a man at each end. The only hope of safety lay in working a desperate passage along this rope to the land. The spray was already beating over those who were crouched on the rock, but not a man moved till called by name by Captain Baker, and then it is recorded that not one, so summoned, stirred till he had used his best entreaties to the captain to take his place ; but the captain had but one reply, — “ I will never leave the rock until every soul is safe.”
Forty-four stout sailors had made their perilous way to shore. The forty-fifth looked round and saw a poor woman lying helpless, almost lifeless, on the rock, unable to move. He took her in one arm, and with the other clung to the rope. Alas! the double
weight was more than the much-tried rope could bear ; it broke half-way, and the poor woman and the sailor were both swallowed in the eddy. Captain Baker and three seamen remained, utterly cut off from hope or help. The men in best condition hurried off in search of help, found a farm-house, obtained a rope, and hastened back; but long ere their arrival, the waters had flowed above the head of the brave and faithful captain. All the crew could do was, with full hearts, to write a most touching letter to an officer, who had once sailed with them in the Drake, to entreat him to represent their captain's conduct to the Lords of the Admiralty. “In fact,” said the letter, “during the whole business he proved himself a man, whose name and last conduct ought ever to be held in the highest estimation, by a crew who feel it their duty to ask, from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that which they otherwise have not the means of obtaining ; that is, a public and lasting record of the lion-hearted, generous, and very unexampled way in which our late noble commander sacrificed his life, in the evening of the 23d of June.” This letter was signed by the whole surviving crew of the Drake, and in consequence, a tablet in the dockyard chapel at Portsmouth commemorates the heroism of Captain Charles Baker.
No wonder that the newly-escaped crew, who had watched the grave, resolute face, and heard the calm, firm answers, felt as if such bravery were unexampled, and yet — thanks to Him, who braced the hearts of our seamen - it is such fortitude as has been repeated again and again upon broken ships, and desolate rocks, and freezing icebergs, among wild winds and wilder waves.
From the cold fogs of Newfoundland, let us turn to one of the most beautiful of all the tracts of old ocean, that of the Carribean Sea, where the intense
blue of the tropical sky is reflected in a sea of still deeper blue, sparkling and dimpling under the full power of the sunbeams, and broken by the wooded islands, forming the most exquisite summer scenery in the world.
But these most beautiful of seas are also the most treacherous. This is the especial home of the hurricane, and of brief furious squalls, that rise almost without warning, except from slight indications in the sky, which only an experienced eye can detect; and from the sudden sinking of the mercury in the barometer; but this often does not take place till so immediately before the storm, that there is barely a minute in which to prepare a vessel for an encounter with this most terrific of her enemies.
In these seas, in the August of 1826, the little schooner Magpie, was cruising, under the command of a young lieutenant named Edward Smith, in search of a piratical vessel, which had for some time been the terror of the western shores of the island of Cuba. The 26th had been a remarkably sultry day, and towards evening the Magpie lay bécalmed off the Colorados rocks, when, at about eight o'clock, a slight breeze sprung up from the west, and the sails were spread, but in less than an hour the wind shifted to the southward, and a small dark lurid vapor was seen under the moon. This was the well-known signal of coming peril, and instantly Mr. Smith was summoned on deck, the sails furled, and the vessel made as ready as human skill could make her for her deadly encounter. The cloud was rapidly increasing, and for a few seconds there was a perfect stillness, till upon this came a rushing, roaring sound, distant at first, but, in the space of a breath, nearer and nearer; while the sea, still as a lake elsewhere, was before the black wall that moved headlong on, lashed into one white sheet of foam, flying up like flakes of snow. It was upon them! Íhe lieutenant's voice was heard calling to cut away the masts; but even then the ship was on her side, and in a few seconds more she was gone from beneath the crew! A gunner's mate, named Meldrum, saw for one moment, by the light of a vivid flash of lightning, the faces of his comrades struggling in the water, then he swam clear of the eddy made by the sinking ship, found something floating, and grasping at it, obtained first one oar and then another. The gust, having done its work, had rushed upon its way, and the sea was as still and calm as if its late fury had been only a dream.
Meldrum listened breathlessly for some sign of his shipmates, and presently, to his great relief, heard a voice asking if any one was near.
It was that of Mr. Smith, who, with six more, was clinging to a boat which had floated up clear of the ship. So many rushed to her in their first joy, that she at once capsized, and though all the ship's company, twentyfour in number, were clinging to her, some were stretched across the keel, and she was thus of course utterly useless except as a float.
Mr. Smith ordered them all to quit their position, and allow her to be righted. They obeyed, and he then placed two in her to bale out the water with their hats, directing the others to support themselves by hanging round the gunwales till the boat could be lightened enough to admit them. Just as the baling had commenced, one of the men cried out that he saw the fin of a shark, and the horror of becoming a prey to the monster made the men forget everything; they struggled to get into the boat, and upset it again ! Again, however, the lieutenant's firmness prevailed, the boat was righted, and he bade the men splash the water with their legs by way of frightening away the enemy. All went on well, and at length the boat was able to hold four men, — morning had come, and hope with it, when at about ten o'clock, the cry, “A shark! a shark !”
was renewed, and at least fifteen of these creatures were among them. Once more, in the panic, the boat was overturned, but after the first moment, the calm, unflinching voice of Edward Smith recalled the men to their resolution ; the boat was righted, the two men replaced, and the others still hung outside, where the sharks, at first in a playful mood, came rubbing against the men, and even passing over the boat. At last a cry of agony came from one of the men, whose leg had been seized by a shark, and blood once tasted, there was little more hope ; yet still Smith kept his men steady, as holding by the stern, he cheered the balers, and exhorted the rest to patience till the boat could safely hold them. But the monsters closed on their prey ; shriek after shriek and reddening water showed when one after another was torn from the boat, and at last but six remained, when, as the lieutenant looked into the boat for a second, he ceased splashing, and at that moment one leg was bitten off. Still, in order not to startle his men, he endured the anguish without a cry or moan, and they were not aware of what had happened till the other limb was seized by the ravenous teeth, when, with a groan he could not repress, his hands quitted their hold. Two of the men were in time to grasp him and lift him into the boat, and there, mangled and convulsed with agony as he lay, he still turned his whole mind to the safety of his crew. Calling to him a lad named Wilson, whom, as the youngest and therefore the most sheltered from danger, he thought the most likely to survive, he desired him to tell the Admiral that he was going to Cape Ontario in search of the pirate when the disaster occurred. “ Tell him,” he added, “that my men have done their duty, and that no blame is attached to them. I have but one favor to ask, and that is, that he will promote Meldrum to be a gunner.”
He then shook each man by the hand and bade