The mariners narrowly watched the smallest movements of their vessel. Not a man left her deck, for hours. The superstitious awe, which had taken such deep hold of the untutored faculties of the chief mate, had not been slow to extend its influence to the meanest of her crew. Even the accident which had befallen their former Commander, and the sudden and mysterious manner in which the young officer, who now trod the quarter-deck, so singularly firm and calm, under circumstances deemed so imposing, had their influence in heightening the wild impression The impunity with which the “Caroline” bore such a press of canvas, under the circumstances in which she was placed, added to their kindling admiration; and, ere Wilder had determined, in his own mind, on the powers of his ship, in comparison with those of the vessel that so strangely hung in the horizon, he was himself becoming the subject of unnatural and revolting suspicions to his own crew.
name of truth,
Are ye fantastical, or that indeed
Which outwardly ye show?”—Macbeth.
The division of employment that is found in Europe, and which brings, in its train, a peculiar and corresponding limitation of ideas, has never yet existed in our country. If our artisans have, in consequence been less perfect in their several handicrafts, they have ever been remarkable for intelligence of a more general character. Superstition is however, a quality that seems indigenous to the ocean. Few common mariners are exempt from its influence, in a greater or less degree; though it is found to exist, among the seamen of different people, in forms that are tempered by their respective national habits and peculiar opinions. The sailor of the Baltic has his secret rites, and his manner of propitiating the gods of the wind; the Mediterranean mariner tears his hair, and kneels before the shrine of some impotent saint, when his own hand might better do the service he implores; while the more skilful Englishman sees the spirits of the dead in the storm, and hears the cries of a lost messmate in the gusts that sweep the waste he navigates. Even the better instructed and still more reasoning American has not been able to shake entirely off the secret influence of a sentiment that seems the concomitant of his condition.
There is a majesty, in the might of the great deep that has a tendency to keep open the avenues of that dependant credulity which more or less besets the mind of every man, however he may have fortified his intellect by thought. With the firmament above him, and wandering on an interminable waste of water, the less gifted seaman is tempted, at every step of his pilgrimage, to seek the relief of some propitious omen. The few which are supported by scientific causes give support to the many that have their origin only in his own excited and doubting temperament. The gambols of the dolphin, the earnest and busy passage