MacMillan's Reading Books eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 344 pages of information about MacMillan's Reading Books.
of its flappings above the roar of the gale, and the mountains of surf which made the rocks ring beneath our feet;—­and how we stood silent, shuddering, expecting every moment to see whirled into the sea from the plunging yards one of those same tiny black specks, in each one of which was a living human soul, with sad women praying for him at home!  And then how they tried to get her head round to the wind, and disappeared instantly in a cloud of white spray—­and let her head fall back again—­and jammed it round again, and disappeared again—­and at last let her drive helplessly up the bay, while we kept pace with her along the cliffs; and how at last, when she had been mastered and fairly taken in tow, and was within two miles of the pier, and all hearts were merry with the hopes of a prize which would make them rich, perhaps, for years to come—­one-third, I suppose, of the whole value of her cargo—­how she broke loose from them at the last moment, and rushed frantically in upon those huge rocks below us, leaping great banks of slate at the blow of each breaker, tearing off masses of ironstone which lie there to this day to tell the tale, till she drove up high and dry against the cliff, and lay, like an enormous stranded whale, grinding and crashing herself to pieces against the walls of her adamantine cage.  And well I recollect the sad records of the log-book which was left on board the deserted ship; how she had been waterlogged for weeks and weeks, buoyed up by her timber cargo, the crew clinging in the tops, and crawling down, when they dared, for putrid biscuit-dust and drops of water, till the water was washed overboard and gone; and then notice after notice, “On this day such an one died,” “On this day such an one was washed away”—­the log kept up to the last, even when there was only that to tell, by the stern business-like merchant skipper, whoever he was; and how at last, when there was neither food nor water, the strong man’s heart seemed to have quailed, or perhaps risen, into a prayer, jotted down in the log—­“The Lord have mercy on us!”—­and then a blank of several pages, and, scribbled with a famine-shaken hand, “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth;”—­and so the log and the ship were left to the rats, which covered the deck when our men boarded her.  And well I remember the last act of that tragedy; for a ship has really, as sailors feel, a personality, almost a life and soul of her own; and as long as her timbers hold together, all is not over.  You can hardly call her a corpse, though the human beings who inhabited her, and were her soul, may have fled into the far eternities; and so we felt that night, as we came down along the woodland road, with the north-west wind hurling dead branches and showers of crisp oak-leaves about our heads; till suddenly, as we staggered out of the wood, we came upon such a picture as it would have baffled Correggio, or Rembrandt himself, to imitate.  Under a wall was a long tent of sails and spars, filled with Preventive men,
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MacMillan's Reading Books from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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