He saw the men leap into the boat. He heard them call to him to come. He shook his head.
“When father bids me, I will go,” he said.
And now the flames were leaping up the masts. The sails were all ablaze. The fire blew hot upon his cheek. It scorched his hair. It was before him, behind him, all around him.
“O father!” he cried, “may I not go now? The men have all left the ship. Is it not time that we too should leave it?”
He did not know that his father was lying in the burning cabin below, that a cannon ball had struck him dead at the very be-gin-ning of the fight. He listened to hear his answer.
“Speak louder, father!” he cried. “I cannot hear what you say.”
Above the roaring of the flames, above the crashing of the falling spars, above the booming of the guns, he fancied that his father’s voice came faintly to him through the scorching air.
“I am here, father! Speak once again!” he gasped.
But what is that?
A great flash of light fills the air; clouds of smoke shoot quickly upward to the sky; and—
Oh, what a ter-rif-ic sound! Louder than thunder, louder than the roar of all the guns! The air quivers; the sea itself trembles; the sky is black.
The blazing ship is seen no more.
There was powder in the hold!
* * * * *
A long time ago a lady, whose name was Mrs. Hemans, wrote a poem about this brave boy Ca-sa-bi-an-ca. It is not a very well written poem, and yet everybody has read it, and thousands of people have learned it by heart. I doubt not but that some day you too will read it. It begins in this way:—
“The boy stood on the
Whence all but him had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.
“Yet beautiful and bright
As born to rule the storm—
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud though childlike form.”
A good many years ago there lived in Italy a little boy whose name was An-to’ni-o Ca-no’va. He lived with his grand-fa-ther, for his own father was dead. His grand-fa-ther was a stone-cut-ter, and he was very poor.
An-to-ni-o was a puny lad, and not strong enough to work. He did not care to play with the other boys of the town. But he liked to go with his grandfather to the stone-yard. While the old man was busy, cutting and trimming the great blocks of stone, the lad would play among the chips. Sometimes he would make a little statue of soft clay; sometimes he would take hammer and chisel, and try to cut a statue from a piece of rock. He showed so much skill that his grandfather was de-light-ed.
“The boy will be a sculp-tor some day,” he said.
Then when they went home in the evening, the grand-moth-er would say, “What have you been doing to-day, my little sculp-tor?”