“That face of his I
do remember well;
Yet, when I saw it last, it was besmear’d
As black as Vulcan, in the smoke of war.”
What You Will.
From the moment when the Coquette fired her first gun, to the moment when the retiring boats became invisible, was just twenty minutes. Of this time, less than half had been occupied by the incidents related, in the ship. Short as it was in truth, it seemed to all engaged but an instant. The alarm was over, the sound of the oars had ceased, and still the survivors stood at their posts, as if expecting the attack to be renewed. Then came those personal thoughts, which had been suspended in the fearful exigency of such a struggle. The wounded began to feel their pain, and to be sensible of the danger of their injuries; while the few, who had escaped unhurt, turned a friendly care on their shipmates. Ludlow as often happens with the bravest and most exposed, had escaped without a scratch; but he saw by the drooping forms around him, which were no longer sustained by the excitement of battle, that his triumph was dearly purchased.
“Send Mr. Trysail to me;” he said, in a tone that had little of a victor’s exultation. “The land breeze has made, and we will endeavor to improve it, and get inside the cape, lest the morning light give us more of these Frenchmen.”
The order for ‘Mr. Trysail!’ ‘the captain calls the master!’ passed in a low call from mouth to mouth, but it was unanswered. A seaman told the expecting young commander, that the surgeon desired his presence forward. A gleaming of lights and a little group at the foot of the fore-mast, was a beacon not to be mistaken. The weatherbeaten master was in the agony; and his medical attendant had just risen from a fruitless examination of his wounds, as Ludlow approached.
“I hope the hurt is not serious?” hurriedly whispered the alarmed young sailor to the surgeon, who was coolly collecting his implements, in order to administer to some more promising subject. “Neglect nothing that your art can suggest.”
“The case is desperate, Captain Ludlow,” returned the phlegmatic surgeon; “but if you have a taste for such things, there is as beautiful a case for amputation promised in the fore-topman whom I have had sent below, as offers once in a whole life of active practice!”
“Go, go—” interrupted Ludlow, half pushing the unmoved man of blood away, as he spoke; “go, then, where your services are needed.”
The other cast a glance around him, reproved his attendant, in a sharp tone, for unnecessarily exposing the blade of some ferocious-looking instrument to the dew, and departed.
“Would to God, that some portion of these injuries had befallen those who are younger and stronger!” murmured the captain, as he leaned over the dying master. “Can I do aught to relieve thy mind, my old and worthy shipmate?”