After all these repetitions it was not likely that any mistake would occur; and the discipline of the ship required every officer and seaman who received a material order, especially in regard to the helm or the course, to repeat it, and thus make sure that it was not misunderstood.
It was Sunday; and no study was required, or work performed, except the necessary ship’s duty. Morning prayers had been said, as usual, and there was to be divine service in the steerage, forenoon and afternoon, for all who could possibly attend; and this rule excepted none but the watch on deck. By this system, the quarter watch on duty in the forenoon, attended in the afternoon; those who were absent at morning prayers were always present at the evening devotions; and blow high or blow low, the brief matin and vesper service were never omitted, for young men in the midst of the sublimity and the terrors of the ocean could least afford to be without the daily thought of God, “who plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.”
Every man and boy in the ship was watching the speck on the watery waste, which the glass had revealed to be a dismasted, and perhaps sinking ship. The incident created an intense interest, and was calculated to bring out the finer feelings of the students. They were full of sympathy for her people, and the cultivation of noble and unselfish sentiments, which the occasion had already called forth, and was likely to call forth in a still greater degree, was worth the voyage over the ocean; for there are impressions to be awakened by such a scene which can be garnered in no other field.
THE WRECK OF THE SYLVIA.
The people in the dismasted ship had discovered the Young America, as it appeared from the efforts they were using to attract her attention. The booming of a gun was occasionally heard from her, but she was yet too far off to be distinctly seen.
On the forecastle of the Academy Ship were two brass guns, four-pounders, intended solely for use in making signals. They had never been fired, even on the Fourth of July, for Mr. Lowington would not encourage their use among the boys. On the present occasion he ordered Peaks, the boatswain, to fire twice, to assure the ship in distress that her signals were heard.
The top-gallant sails were set, and the speed of the ship increased as much as possible; but the heavy sea was not favorable to rapid progress through the water. At four bells, when all hands but the second part of the port watch were piped to attend divine service in the steerage, the Young America was about four miles distant from the dismasted vessel. She was rolling and pitching heavily, and not making more than two or three knots an hour.
Notwithstanding the impatience of the crew, and their desire to be on deck, where they could see the wreck, the service on that Sunday forenoon was especially impressive. Mr. Agneau prayed earnestly for those who were suffering by the perils of the sea, and that those who should draw near unto them in the hour of their danger, might be filled with the love of God and of man, which would inspire them to be faithful to the duties of the occasion.