By S. B. Beckett

"There was an old and quiet man,
And by the fire sat he;
And now, said he, to you I'll tell
Things passing strange that once befell
A ship upon the sea."—Mary Howitt.

"There she is, Ricardo," said I to my friend, as we reached the end of the pier, in Havana, while the Dart lay about half a mile off the shore,—"what think you of her?"

"Beautiful!—a more symmetrical craft never passed the Moro!"

So thought I, and my heart responded with a thrill of pride to the sentiment. How saucy she looked, with her gay streamers abroad upon the winds, and the red-striped flag of the Union floating jauntily at the main peak—with her lofty masts tapering away, till, relieved against the blue abyss, they were apparently diminished to the size of willow wands, while the slight ropes that supported the upper spars seemed, from the pier, like the fairy tracery of the spider. Although surrounded by ships, xebecs, brigantines, polacres, galleys and galliots from almost every clime in christendom, she stood up conspicuously among them all, an apt representative of the land whence she came! But let us take a nearer view of the beauty. The hull was long, low, and at the bows almost as sharp as the missile after which she was named. From the waist to the stern she tapered away in the most graceful proportions, and she had as lovely a run as ever slid over the dancing billows. Light and graceful as a sea-bird, she rocked on the undulating water. But her rig!—herein, to my thinking, was her chiefest beauty—every thing pertaining to it was so exact, so even and so tanto. Besides the sail usually carried by man-of-war schooners, she had the requisite appertenances for a royal and flying kite, or sky-sail, which, now that she was in port, were all rigged up. Not another vessel of her class in the navy could spread so much canvas to the influence of old Boreas as the Dart.

Her armament consisted of one long brass twenty-four pounder, mounted on a revolving carriage midships, and six twelve-pound carronades. Add to this a picked crew of ninety men, with the redoubtable Jonathan West as our captain, Mr. Dacre Dacres as first, and your humble servant, Ahasuerus Hackinsack, as second lieutenant, besides a posse of minor officers and middies,—and you may form a faint idea of the Dart.

Bidding adieu to my friend, I jumped into the pinnace waiting, and in a few minutes stood on her quarter deck.

But it will be necessary for me to explain for what purpose the Dart was here. She had been dispatched by government to cruise among the Leeward Islands, and about Cape St. Antonio, in quest of a daring band of pirates, who, trusting to their superior prowess and the fleetness of their vessel, a schooner called the Sea-Sprite, had long scourged the merchantmen of the Indian seas with impunity. Cruiser after cruiser had been sent out to attack them in vain. She had invariably escaped, until at length, in reality, they were left for awhile, the undisputed 'rulers of the waves,' as they vauntingly styled themselves. It was said of the Sea-Sprite, that she was as fleet as the winds, and as mysterious in her movements; and her master spirit, the fierce Juan Piesta, was as wily and fierce a robber, as ever prowled upon the western waters. Indeed, so wonderful and various had been his escapes, that many of the Spaniards, and the lower orders of seamen in general, believed him to be leagued with the Powers of Darkness!

But the Dart had been fitted up for the present cruise expressly on account of her matchless speed, and our captain, generally known in the service by the significant appellation of Old Satan West, was, in situations where fighting or peril formed any part of the story, a full match for his namesake.

After cruising about the western extremity of Cuba, for nearly a month, to no purpose, we bore away for the southern coast of St. Domingo, and at the time my story opens, were off Jacquemel. The morning was heralded onward by troops of clouds, of the most brilliant and burning hues—deep crimson ridges—fire-fringed volumes of purple, hanging far in the depths of the mild and beautiful heaven—long, rose-tinted and golden plumes, stretching up from the horizon to the zenith,—forming altogether a most gorgeous and magnificent spectacle, while, to complete the pageant, the sun, just rising from his ocean lair, shed a flood of glaring light far over the restless expanse toward us, and every rope and spar of our vessel, begemmed with bright dew-drops, flashed and twinkled in his beams, like the jeweled robes of a princely bride.

"Fore top there! what's that away in the wake o' the sun?" called out Mr. Dacres.

"A drifting spar, I believe, Sir—but the sun throws such a glare on the water I cannot see plainly."

I looked in the direction pointed out, and saw a dark object tumbling about on the fiery swell, like an evil spirit in torment. We altered our course and stood away toward it. It turned out to be a boat, apparently empty, but on a nearer inspection we perceived a man lying under its thwarts, whose pale, lank features and sunken eye bespoke him as suffering the last pangs of starvation. My surprise can better be imagined than described, on discovering in the unfortunate man a highly loved companion of my boyhood, Frederick Percy! He was transferred from his miserable quarters to a snug berth on board of the Dart, and in a few hours, by the judicious management of our surgeon, was resuscitated, so as to be able to come on deck.

His story may be told in a few words. He had been travelling in England—while there had married a beautiful, but friendless orphan. Soon after this occurrence he embarked in one of his father's ships for Philadelphia, intending to touch at St. Domingo city, and take in a freight. But, three days before, when within a few hours' sail of their destined port, they had fallen in with a piratical schooner, which, after a short struggle, succeeded in capturing them. While protecting his wife from the insults of the bucaneers, he received a blow in the temple, which deprived him of his senses; and when he awoke to consciousness it was night, wild and dark, and he was tossing on the lone sea, without provisions, sail or oars, as we had found him. For three days he had not tasted food. Poor fellow! his anxiety as to the fate of his wife almost drove him to distraction.

This circumstance assured us that we were on the right trail of the marauder whom we sought. We continued beating up the coast till noon, when the breeze died away into a stark calm, and we lay rolling on the long glassy swell, about ten leagues from the St. Domingo shore. The sun was intensely powerful, glowing through the hazy atmosphere, directly over our heads, like a red-hot cannon ball; and the far-stretching main was as sultry and arid as the sands of an African desert. To the north, the cloud-topped mountains of St. Domingo obstructed our view, looming through the blue haze to an immense height—presenting to as the aspect of huge, flat, shadowy walls; and one need have taxed his imagination but lightly, to fancy them the boundaries dividing us from a brighter and a better clime. The depths of the ocean were as translucent as an unobscured summer sky, and far beneath us we could distinguish the dolphins and king-fish, roaming leisurely about, or darting hither and thither as some object attracted their pursuit; while nearer its surface the blue element was alive with myriads of minor nondescripts, riggling, flouncing and lazily moving up and down,—probably attracted by the shade of our dark hull.

The men having little else to do, obtained from the captain permission to fish. Directly they had hauled in a dozen or more of the most ill-favored, shapeless, unchristian-looking articles I ever clapped eyes on, which, when I came from aft, were dancing their death jigs on the forecastle-deck, much to the diversion of the captain's black waiter, Essequibo.

"Halloo!—this way, blackey!" shouted an old tar to the merry African, who, by the way, was a kind of reference table for the whole crew—"Egad! Billy, look here,—what do you call this comical looking devil that has helped himself to my hook? Why! his body is as long as the articles of discipline, and his mouth almost as long as his body!—your own main-hatch-way is not a circumstance to it!"

"Him be one gar fish—ocium gar!—he no good for eat," answered the black with a grin that drew the corners of his mouth almost back to his ears, so that, to appearance, small was the hinge that kept brain and body together.

At the sight the querist dropped the fish, exclaiming with feigned wonder, "By all that's crooked, an even bet!—ar'n't your mouth made ov injy rubber, Billy!"

"Good ting to hab de larsh mout, Misser Mongo,—eat de more—lib de longer," said Billy.

"Screw your blinkers this way, Jack Simpson, there's a prize for you," said another, as he dragged a huge lump-headed, bull-eyed, tail-less mass out of the water, with fins protruding, like thorns, from every part of his body!—"Guess he's one of the fighting cocks down below, seeing his spurs!—any how, he's well armed,—I'll be keel-hauled, if he don't look like the beauty that we saw carved out on the Frencher's stern, with the Neptune bestride it, in Havana, barin' he wants a tail! Han't he a queer un?—but how in natur do you suppose he makes out to steer without a rudder?"

"Steer wid he head turn behin' him!" answered Seignor Essequibo, bursting into a chuckling laugh—mightily tickled with the struggles of the ungainly monster,—"Che, che, che!—him sea-dragum—catch um plenty on de cos ob Barbado. Take care ob him horn!"

"Yo, heave, ho! Shaint Pathrick, an' it's me what's caught a whale!" drawled out a brawny Patlander, while he tugged and sweated to heave in his prize.

"My gorra! you hook one barracouter!" cried Billy, as his eye caught a glimpse of the big fish curveting in the water at the end of Paddy's line,—"Bes' fish in de worl'!—good for make um chowder—good for fry—for ebery ting,—me help you pull him in, Massa Coulan," and without further ado, he laid hold of the line. The beautiful fish was hauled in, and consigned to the custody of the cook.

"Stave in my bulwarks, if this 'ere dragon-fish ha'n't stuck one of his horns into my foot an inch deep!" roared an old marine,—"Hand me that sarving mallet, snow ball, I'll see if I can't give him a hint to behave better!"

"Hurrah!—here comes an owl-fish, I reckon;" shouted a merry wight of a tar, from the land of wooden nutmegs,—"specimen of the salt-water owl! Lord, look at his teeth—how he grins!—What are you laughing at, my beauty?"

"Le diable! une chouette dans la mer?" exclaimed a little wizen-pated Frenchman, who had seated himself astraddle of the cathead.—"Vel, Monsieur Vagastafsh, comment nommez vous dish petit poisson?"

"Poison! No, Monsheer, I rather guess there han't the least bit o' poison in natur about that ere young shark!" replied Wagstaff, "though for that matter a shark's worse'n poison."

"I not mean poison—I say poisson—fish."

"O, poison fish—yes, I know—you'll find plenty of them on the Bahamy copper banks. I always gets the cook to put a piece of silver in the boilers, when we grub on fish in them ere parts."

"O, mon dieu! le rashcalle hash bitez mon vum almos' off! Sacré, vous ingrat, to treatez me so like, when I am feed you wis de bon dîner!"

My attention was called away from this scene of hilarity, by the voice of the watch in the fore-top, announcing a sail in sight.

A faint indefinable speck could be seen in the quarter designated, fluttering on the bosom of the blue sea like a drift of foam. With the aid of the glass we made it out to be the topsail of a schooner, so distant that her hull and lower sails were below the brim of the horizon. Her canvas had probably just been unloosed to the breeze, which was directly after seen roughening the face of the broad, smooth expanse as it swept down toward us.

"That glass, Mr. Waters—she is standing toward us, and by the gods of war! the cut of her narrow flying royal, looks marvellously like that of our friend, the Sea-Sprite!" said the captain, while the blood flashed over his bald forehead, like 'heat lightning' over a summer cloud; "Mr. Hackinsack, see that every thing is ready for a chase."

The broad sails were unloosed and sheeted close home. Directly the wind was with us, and we were bowling along under a press of canvas.

"Now, quartermaster, look to your sails as closely, as you would watch one seeking your life." Another squint through the glass. "Ha! they have suspected us, and are standing in toward the land, jam on the wind;—let them look to it sharply; it must be a fleet pair of heels that can keep pace with the Dart,—though to say the least of yonder cruiser, she is no laggard!"

After pacing the deck some ten minutes, he again hove short and lifted the glass to his eye.

"By heavens! the little witch still holds her way with us!—Have the skysail set, and rig out the top-gallant-studd'n'sail!"

Every one on board was now eager in the chase. The orders were obeyed almost as soon as given. Our proud vessel, under the press of sail, absolutely flew over the water, haughtily tossing the rampant surges from her sides, while her bows were buried in a roaring and swirling sheet of foam, and a broad band of snow stretched far over the dark blue waste astern, showing a wake as strait as an arrow. She was careened down to the breeze, so that her lower studd'n'sail-boom every moment dashed a cloud of spray from the romping billows, and her lee rail was at times under water. Her masts curved and whiffled beneath the immense piles of canvas, like a stringed bow.

"She walks the waters bravely," said the captain, casting a glance of exultation at the distended sails and bending spars, and then at our arrowy wake.—"But, by Jupiter, the chase still almost holds her way with us. We need more sail aft. Bear a hand, my men, and run up the ringtail."

"That will answer,—a dolphin would have a sweat to beat us in this trim!"

"Well, Mr Percy, is yonder dasher the craft that pillaged your ship, and sent you cruising about the ocean in that bit of a cockle-shell, think you?"

"That is the pirate schooner—I cannot mistake her," replied Percy, who stood with his flashing eyes rivetted on the vessel, and his fingers impatiently working about the hilt of his cutlass, while his brow was darkened with an intense desire of revenge.

Three hours passed, and we had gained within a league of the noble looking craft. She was heeled down to the breeze, so that owing to the 'bagging' of her lower sails, her hull was almost hidden from sight. Like a snowy cloud, she darted along the revelling waters, the sunbeams basking on her wide-spread wings, and the sprightly billows flashing and surging around her bows. Never saw I an object more beautiful.

The land was now fully in sight—a stern and rock-bound coast, against which the breakers dashed with maddening violence, and for half a mile from the shore, the water was one conflicting waste of snowy surf and billow. No signs of inhabitants, on either hand, as far as the eye could view, were discernible. The long range of stern, solitary mountains arose from the waves, and towered away till lost in the clouds. Their sides, save where some splintered cliff lifted its gray peaks in the day, were clothed with thick forests, among which the tufted palm and wild cinnamon stood up conspicuously, like sentinels looking afar over the wide waste of blue. Here and there a torrent could be traced, leaping from crag to cliff, seeming, as it blazed in the fierce sun-light, to run liquid fire; and gorgeous masses of wild creepers and tangled undergrowth hung down over the embattled heights, swaying and flaunting in the gale, like the banners and streamers of an encamped army.

Not the slightest chance for harbor or anchorage could be discovered along the whole iron-bound coast, yet the gallant little Sea-sprite held steadily on her course, steering broad for the base of the mountains.

"Why, in the name of madness, is the fellow driving in among the breakers?" muttered our captain;—"Thinks he to escape by running into danger? By Mars, and if I mistake not, he shall have peril to his heart's content, ere nightfall!"

But fate willed that we should be disappointed; for just as every thing had been arranged to treat the bucaneer with a fist full of grape and canister, one of those sudden tempests, so common to the West Indies in the autumn months, was upon us. A vast, black, conglomerated volume of vapor swung against the mountain summits, and curled heavily down over the cliffs. Brilliant scintillations were darting from its shadowy borders, and the zigzag lightnings were playing about it, and licking its ragged folds like the tongues of an evil spirit! Suddenly it burst asunder, and a burning gleam—a wide conflagration, as if the very earth had exploded—flashed over the hills, accompanied with a peal of thunder that made the broad ocean tremble, and our deck quiver under us, like a harpooned grampus in his death gasp! The electric fluid upheaved and hurled to fragments an immense peak near the summit of the mountains, and huge masses of rock, with thunderous din, and amid clouds of dust, smoke and fire, came bounding and racing down from crag to crag, uprooting the tall cedars, and dashing to splinters the firm iron-wood trees, as though they had been but reeds—sweeping a wide path of ruin through the thick forests, and shivering to atoms and dust the loose rocks that obstructed their career, till, with a whirring bound, they plunged from a beetling cliff into the sea, causing the tortured water to send up a cloud of mist and spray. All on board were struck aghast at the blinding brilliancy of the flash and its terrible effects.

We were aroused to a sense of our situation, by the clear, sonorous voice of Satan West, whom nothing pertaining to earth could daunt, calling all hands to take in sail.

Instantly the trade-wind ceased, and a fearful, death-like silence ensued. This was of short duration; hardly were our sails stowed close, when we saw the trees on shore drawn upwards, twisted off and rent to pieces, while a dense mass of leaves and broken branches whirled over the land; and a wild, deep, wailing sound, as of rushing wings, filled the air, foretelling the onset of the whirlwind.

"The hurricane is upon us!—helm hard aweather!" thundered the captain.

But the Dart was already lying on her beam-ends, heaving, groaning and quivering throughout every timber, in the fierce embrace of the tremendous blast! After its first overpowering shock, however, the gallant craft slowly recovered, and by dint of the strenuous exertions of our men, she was got before the gale. Away she sprang, like a frighted thing, over the tormented and whitening surges, completely shrouded in foam and spray. A dense cloud, murky as midnight, spread over the face of the heavens, where a moment before, naught met the gazer's eye, save the fleecy mackerel-clouds, drifting afar through its cerulean halls. The blue lightnings gleamed, the thunder boomed and rattled, the black billows shook their flashing manes, the whole firmament was in an uproar; and amid the wild rout, our little Dart, as a dry leaf in the autumn winds, was borne about, a very plaything in the eddying whirls of the frantic elements.

The tempest was as short lived as it was sudden, and, as the schooner had sustained no material injury, directly after it had abated she was under sail again. When the rain cleared up in shore, every eye sought eagerly for the pirate craft.

She had vanished!

Nothing met our view but the tossing and tumbling surges, and the breaker-beaten coast. If ever old Satan West was taken aback, it was then. His brow darkened, and a shadow of unutterable disappointment passed over his countenance.

"Gone!—By all that is mysterious and wonderful—gone!" he muttered to himself,—"escaped from my very grasp! Can there be truth in the wild tales told of her? No, no!—idiot to harbor the thought for a moment—she has foundered!"

But this was hardly probable, as not the slightest vestige of her remained about the spot.

Poor Percy, too, was the picture of despair. His hat had been blown away by the hurricane; and his hair tossed rudely in the wind, as he stood in the main-chains, gazing with the wildness of a maniac over the uproarous waters.

"The lovers of the marvelous would here find enough to fatten upon, I ween," said Dacres, composedly helping himself to a quid of tobacco. "What think you is to come next? for I hardly think the play ends with actors and all being spirited away in a thunder gust!"

I was interrupted in my reply by the energetic exclamations of the captain, who had been gazing seaward, over the quarter-rail.

"Yes, by all the imps in purgatory, it is that devil-leagued pirate," burst from his lips; and at the same moment the cry of Sail O! was heard from the forward watch.

A long-sparred vessel could be seen, relieved against the black bank of clouds, that were crowding down the horizon. Surprise was imaged on every countenance, and when the order was passed to crowd on all sail in pursuit, a murmur of disapprobation ran through the whole crew. However, such was their respect for the regulations of the service, and so great their dread of old Satan West, that no one dared demur openly. Again the Dart was bounding over the waves in pursuit of the stranger, which had confirmed our suspicions as to her character, by hoisting all sail and endeavoring to escape us.

But here likewise we were disappointed. She proved to be a Baltimore clipper, and had endeavored to run away from us, taking us for the same craft we had supposed her to be.

After parting from the Baltimorean, we ran in; and as the evening fell, anchored under the land, sheltered from the waves by a little rocky promontory. It was my turn to take the evening watch. Our wearied crew were soon lost in sleep, and all was hushed into repose, if I except the shrill, rasping voices of the green lizards, the buzzing and humming of the numerous insects on shore, and the occasional, long-drawn creak, creak of the cable, as the schooner swung at her anchor. The evening was mild and beautiful. The moon, attended by one bright, beautiful planet, was on her wonted round through the heavens, and the far expanse of ocean, reflecting her effulgence, seemed to roll in billows of molten silver beneath the gentle night-wind, which swept from the land, fragrant with the breath of wild-flowers and spicy shrubs.

Little Ponto, the royal reefer, lay on a gun carriage near me. This boy, whom, when on a former cruise, I had rescued from a Turkish Trader, was a favorite with all on board. Although, in person, effeminate and beautiful as a girl, and possessing the strong affections of the weaker sex, he still was not wanting in that high courage and energy which constitutes the pride of manhood. He was an orphan, and with the exception of a sister and aunt, who were living together in England, there was not, in the wide world, one being with whom he could claim relationship. When very young, he had been entrusted to the charge of the friendly captain of a merchant ship, bound to Smyrna, for the purpose of improving his health. But the vessel never reached her destined port. She was captured by an Algerine rover, and the boy made prisoner. It was from the worst of slavery that I had rescued him, and ever after the occurrence his gratitude toward me knew no bounds. He appeared to be contented and happy in his present situation, save when his thoughts reverted to his lone sister. Then the tears would spring into his eyes, and he would talk to me of her beauty and goodness, till I was almost in love with the pure being which his glowing descriptions had conjured to my mind. I loved that boy as a brother, and he returned my affection with a fervor, equalling that of a trusting woman.

As I leaned against the companion-way, absorbed in pleasant dreams of my far home, a touch on the shoulder aroused me. I turned and Percy stood by my side. The beauty of the evening had soothed his wild and agitated feelings. He spoke of his wife with touching regret, as if certain that she was lost to him forever. For nearly an hour he stood gazing on the moon's bright attendant, as if he fancied it her home.

At length he disappeared below, and again Ponto, who seemed to be wrapped in a deep revery, was my only companion. We had remained several minutes in silence, when suddenly, as if it had dropped from the clouds, a female form appeared far above us, on a precipitous bluff that leaned out over the deep, on which the solitary moonlight slept in unobstructed brightness. The form advanced so near the brink of the fearful crag, that we could even distinguish the color of her drapery as it fluttered in the wind. By the motion of her arms she seemed beckoning us on shore; then, as if despairing to attract our attention, she looked fearfully about, and the next moment a strain of exquisite melody came floating down to us, like a voice from heaven. We remained breathless, and could almost distinguish the words.

The strain terminated in a startling cry, and with a frantic gesture the figure tore a crimson scarf from her neck, and shook it wildly on the winds; at the same moment the dark form of a man leaped out on the cliff. There was a short struggle, with reiterated shrieks of 'help! help! help!' in a voice of agony, and all disappeared in the deep shadow of another rock.

Ponto, who at the first burst of the song, had started up and grasped my arm with a degree of wild energy I had never witnessed in him before, now suddenly released his hold, and with a single bound plunged into the sea. So lost was I in amazement at the whole scene, that for a moment I remained undecided what course to pursue; then, not wishing to alarm the ship, I ordered Waters, the midshipman of the watch, to jump into the boat with a few of the men, and pull after him.

The head of my little favorite soon became visible in the moonlight. With a vigorous arm he struck out for the shore, and was immediately hid in the deep shadow of its mural cliffs. A moment, and I again saw him on the beetling rocks, whence the female had just disappeared; then he, too, was lost in the darkness.

Waters, after being absent in the boat about half an hour, returned without having discovered the least sign of the fugitive. Hour after hour I awaited the return of my adventurous boy, filled with painful anxiety.

As the night deepened, the clouds, which during the day had slumbered on the mountain battlements, as if held in awe by the majesty of the burning sun, rolled slowly down the steeps and gradually spread out on the sea, enveloping us in their humid embrace. A denser mist I never saw; my thin clothing was soon wet through and clinging to me like steel to a magnet, and we were completely lost in darkness. As I paced the deck, not willing to go below while my young favorite was in peril, Waters tapped me on the shoulder.

"Did you notice any thing then, Mr. Hackinsack? I thought I heard a splash in the water, like the dip of an oar."

"Some fish, I suppose, Waters."

"I think not, Sir; besides, just now I saw a dark object gliding slowly across our bow in the mist, which I then took for a drifting log."

I walked round the deck and peered into the fog on every side, but could discover nothing. I listened; all was silent save the tweet, tweet, of the lizards and the roar of the surf, as it beat on the rocks astern. Presently old Benjamin Ramrod, the gunner, came aft.

"I wish this infernal fog would clear up!" said he, "for the last half hour, I have heard strange noises about us! I am much mistaken, or we are surrounded by enemies of some sort or other. When that shining apparition arose from the bluff there, and began to beckon to us, I said to myself, some accident is going to happen before many hours, and you see if my pro'nostics ar'n't true. Minded you how, by her sweet voice, she lured that poor boy, Ponto, overboard?—and even I, who may say I've had some experience in such matters, began to feel a queerish sensation, as I harkened to her witchery. Many a poor sailor has lost his life by listening to their lonesome-like songs. I remember once when I was on the coast of Africa, in a gold-dust and ivory trader, we heard the water-wraiths and mermaids singing to each other all night long, and the very next day our ship was driven upon the rocks in a white squall, and wrecked, and only myself and a Congo nigger escaped alive, out of a crew of twenty-three!—It strikes me, too," he continued, after listening a moment, "that we shall have a storm before morning; the fog seems to be brushing by us, and the noise of the breakers on shore grows terribly loud. I would give all the prize-money I ever gained to be out of the place, with good sea-room, a flowing sheet, and our bows turned toward home—no good ever came of fighting these pirate imps.—Heaven help us! what is that?" he exclaimed with a start, as a tall, white form shot up, a few rods under our stern, seen but dimly through the fog.

The fact flashed upon me at once; our cable had been cut; it was the spray of the breakers rebounding from the shore. The best bower anchor was instantly let go, which brought us up; not however till we had drifted within a cable's length of the breakers, which ramped and roared all the night with maddening violence, as if eager to engulf us. The alarm was given, and in a few minutes every thing was prepared for any emergency that might occur.

I ordered Ramrod to clap a charge of grape into one of the bow-chasers and let drive at the first object that came in sight. As I gave the order the dip of oars could be plainly distinguished, receding from our bows. Benjamin did not wait to see the marauders, but fired in the direction of the sound. The fog was swept away before the mouth of the gun, to some distance, and I caught a glimpse of a boat filled with men. A deep groan told that the gun had been rightly directed.

There was now no doubt that we were surrounded by enemies. It was only by the foreboding watchfulness of the gunner that we were prevented from going ashore, where, doubtless, the pirates expected to have obtained an easy victory over us.

About ten minutes after this incident I was startled by the faint voice of Ponto, hailing me from under the schooner's side. I joyfully lowered the man-ropes, and immediately had the adventurous boy beside me, on the quarter-deck. He grasped my hand, and I felt him tremble all over with eagerness.

"You heard that song; the voice was that of my own sister! That shriek, too, was hers; do you wonder that I leaped overboard? I scarcely know how I reached the rock from which she was dragged. I climbed up and up, in the direction I supposed they must have taken, until I gained the very summit of one of the hills. I looked down, and as it were floating in the haze, many feet below me, saw the face of a rock reddened by the blaze of a fire opposite. I clambered from cliff to cliff, clinging to the branches of the trees, and letting myself down by the mountain creepers that hung like thick drapery over the descent, till all at once I dropped over the very mouth of a deep cavern. A massy vine fell in heavy festoons down over the rugged pillars that formed its portal. Securing a foothold among its tendrils, concealed by its luxuriant foliage, I bent over and looked in. A large party of fierce-looking men, with pistols in their belts and cutlasses lying by them, were seated round a rude table, feasting and making merry over their wine beakers. I paid little attention to them, for against the rough wall was an old woman, and leaning upon her—as I live, it is true—was my own, my beautiful sister, she whom I had left in England! I thought my heart would have choked me, as I looked upon her pale, sorrowful face, and heard her low sobs. In my tremor the vine shook; some loose stones were started, and went clattering down into the very mouth of the cavern. Two of the pirates sprang up, and seizing a flaming brand, rushed out. The red blaze flashed over her face as they passed, and I heard them threaten her with a terrible fate, if they were discovered through her means. At the first start of the rocks I drew back into the vines, where I remained breathless and still, while they scanned the recesses of the crag. 'We were mistaken, Jacopo,' at length said one of them, 'it was probably a guana, drawn hither by the fire.' Satisfied that no one was near, they returned to their comrades, who ridiculed them for their temerity.

"Again I listened, and heard them plan to cut the cable of the Dart, and run her into the breakers. If they failed in this attempt, they were to haul the Sea-Sprite out of her hiding place and leave the coast, trusting, with the aid of the fresh land-breeze, to get beyond pursuit before day-break.—The mist had come on, and knowing it impossible to reach the Dart over the rough precipices in time to give you warning, I remained in my concealment, undecided what course to pursue, when I saw a party of the pirates leave the cavern to go to their boats. Perceiving beneath me, on the bough of a wild tamarind, sundry articles of clothing, similar to those worn by the bucaneers, a bold thought occurred to me. When they had gone beyond the light from the cave, I cautiously lowered myself down, and drawing on a jacket and one of the caps, jumped with them into the boat, no one in the darkness suspecting me.

"To appearance we were in the very heart of the mountains. I am certain that rocks and foliage were piled up all around us.—After a short row we passed through what seemed to be a deep chasm, between two crags, which must have been very high, as the darkness between them was almost palpable, and in a few moments we were riding over the long swell of the open sea. We groped about in the mist for some time, till the position of the Dart was ascertained by the chafing noise of one of her booms, when, gliding softly up, with their sharp knives they cut her cable, and she began to drift astern. The strictest silence was enjoined upon us all, so that had I moved or made the least noise, as I had intended, my life had been the forfeit. However, I had just made up my mind to run all hazards, when the flame of the gun gleamed through the fog. One of the pirates fell dead in the bottom of the boat, and in the hurried stir which this produced, I contrived to slip into the water.

"Now let me conjure you to take measures for the rescue of my poor sister. How she came into their power is a mystery. But my heart will break if she is not soon freed from these lawless men."

I informed the captain of Ponto's discovery, but he saw at once that it would be madness to attempt any thing in our present situation, with sunken rocks around us, the breakers astern, and a thick mist wrapping all in obscurity.

At last, after a night of the most wearisome watching, the day dawned, and the mists returned to their mountain fastnesses. Burning for a brush with the desperadoes, we towed the Dart out of her critical situation and got her under sail. The launch and cutter were ordered out, but here we were at fault. The morning sunlight slept calmly on the forest clad ridges and gray cliffs, and every irregularity and indentation of the shore were strongly shadowed forth; but not the least sign of harbor or anchorage could be seen, except under the rocky promontory we had just left, and every thing looked as forsaken and solitary as a creation's birth. However, not doubting that we should be able to sift the mystery, the boats put off, with full and well-armed crews, and on nearing the shore discovered a narrow inlet, that wound in between the two lofty cliffs, the one projecting out with a magnificent curve, so as entirely to conceal the channel until we approached within a few rods of the shore.

"We've got on the right scent of the old fox now, I think," said Waters.

"Speak low, gentlemen; if discovered we may meet with a reception here not altogether so agreeable—I don't like the appearance of those grave looking fellows, yonder," said Dacres, pointing to four cannon mounted on a low parapet, with their muzzles bearing directly toward us.

"Why, the place is as silent as a grave-yard," muttered the old cockswain of the cutter.

We advanced softly up the inlet, and found it to branch out into a broad basin. Here was explained the mystery of the Sea-Sprite's sudden disappearance; this was the Pirate's Retreat, and from their escaping hither and into similar resorts known only to themselves, arose the many wild stories that were abroad respecting their supernatural prowess. Fifty well armed men might have defended the place against five hundred assailants, as there was only one point, the inlet, susceptible of an attack. The entrance was not more than thirty feet in width—only sufficient for one vessel to enter at a time; but the water was bold and deep, with a sandy bottom. An enormous cavern yawned at the farther extremity of the basin, which Ponto immediately recognized as that where the pirates held their revel the previous night. But now the place was evidently deserted; the Sea-Sprite had made her escape.

The crew of the barge were despatched on shore to explore the premises, while we, as a corps-de-reserve, lay on our oars, with fire-arms loaded, ready for any emergency. While waiting I had an opportunity of surveying the magnificent scene around me. We lay in the deep shadow of a beetling precipice of such immense altitude, that the snow-white morning clouds, as they floated onward, like messengers from heaven, swept its summit. Thousands of gray sea-birds were sailing around their eyries, along its dark craggy sides far above us, while its hollow recesses reverberated their shrill cries, till to our ears they sounded like one continued scream. The cliffs all around were tumbled about in the most chaotic confusion, as if they had been upheaved by some tremendous throe of nature. Stinted forest trees and brush wood, with here and there a wild locust or banana, had gained a footing in the seams and fissures of the crags, and thick masses of the lusty mountain creepers, intertwined with wild flowering jessamin and grenadilla, fell in gorgeous festoons down the embattled heights, draping their rough projections in robes of the most magnificent woof. Nearly opposite was a yawning ravine, filled with myriads of huge, shattered trees, ragged stumps, loose stones and gravel, which probably had been swept from the mountains, by the foaming torrents that rush down to the sea in the rainy months. The desolation of this scene was in a measure relieved by the quick springing vegetation that had found sustenance among the decayed trunks, and in the black earth that still adhered to the matted roots; so that green foliage, and wild flowers of the most brilliant dies in sumptuous profusion, were waving and nodding over prostrate trees, which perchance a year before, had stood up in the pride of primeval lustihood, on the mountain ridges. Further back, beyond this gorge, the sloping steeps were clothed with dark waving forests, stretching up their sides, till they faded into the blue haze resting on the mountain summits. The freshness of early day had not yet been dissipated. Among the undergrowth and brakes, on the tips of the tall, sweeping guinea grass, and in the cups of the wild flowers, the pure dews hung in glittering globules, sparkling with brilliant prismatic tints, as they flashed back the glances of the rising sun. Calmness and repose reigned over the unequalled sublimities of the place; and although the billows were madly beating and roaring against the outer base of the crescent-like promontory, within, the water was silent and unruffled by a breath, reflecting in its depths the wild and gorgeous array of rock and verdure around, almost as unwavering as reality itself; and had it not been for the tiny wavelets that rippled up a small sandy beach, adorning the water's edge with a narrow frill of foam, its likeness to a broad sheet of glass had been perfect.

At length, after the premises had been thoroughly reconnoitered, the crew of the cutter were permitted to go on shore. They were soon revelling amidst the costly merchandize and the luxuries, with which the cavern was gorged.

"Holloa, Price!" said Waters to a fellow mid, as he came out of the cave, dragging an old hag of a woman after him, apparently much against her will; "I've found the presiding goddess of the place. Isn't she a Venus?"

"Wenus indeed!" echoed the old beldame, "take that, young madcap, and larn better how to treat a lady!" administering a thwack on his ear that sent him staggering a rod from her.

Waters gathered himself together, and a general laugh took place at his expense.

"A fair representative of the amorous goddess—quite liberal with her love pats!" said Price in a tantalizing tone.

"Confound the old hag," muttered the discomfited mid, "if it were not a waste of good powder and ball, I'd make a riddle of her in the twinkling of a grog-can!"

This female and one man, found wounded and languishing on his pallet, were the only denizens of the place.

"Croesus! what hav'nt we here?" exclaimed Price, glancing over the medley of rich merchandize heaped together in one of the apartments of the huge cavern; "boxes of silks and satins, sashes, ribbons, lace, tortoise shell!—whew!—I say, Waters, what heathen are these pirates to let such a profusion of pretty gewgaws lay here, which ought to be setting off the fairy forms of the Spanish lasses! Now there's as handsome a piece of trumpery as one often sees," tying a delicate crimson silk manta about him—"as I'm a sinner I'll carry that home to Nell Gray!—Ha! Burgundy wine?

Is the gush of bright wine;
'Tis the life, 'tis the breath of the soul,
'Tis the—the—

"Odds! but I must quicken my memory, and clear my pipes with a can of the critter to get into the spirit of song!"

He drew a beaker from the cask and took a deep draught.

"Capital, by Bacchus!" he exclaimed, smacking his lips,—"Try it, Waters, these fellows fare like princes."

"Bear a hand, Mr. Price, and don't set the men a bad example," thundered the first lieutenant, who had stationed himself as a sentinel outside.

In the meantime the men had not been idle. The sight of such a profusion of riches, all at their own mercy, had turned their brains, and the confusion that prevailed among the silks and finery would have rivalled that of a London milliner's shop on a gala day.

But the voice of the lieutenant, as if by magic, restored them to order, and Waters ordered the most costly of the goods to be carried to the boats.

"An 'ai'nt it Roary McGran 'as found a nest o 'the shiners," exclaimed a son of Erin, as he emerged, covered with dirt, from a small, deep cavity at the inmost extremity of the cavern, dragging after him a large bag of doubloons,—"'Ai'nt them the beauties, Misther Waters?—its what they're as plenty there as paraites in a parson's cellar."

Half a dozen similar bags were brought to light; besides which more than a score of boxes containing rix dollars, and a great many parcels of coin of different nations, silver and gold, tied up in old pieces of canvas, were discovered.

"Some sport in sacking such a fortress as this," observed Price,—"no blood and plenty of booty! By Jove, though, what a confounded pity it is we hav'nt a ship of some size, that we might load her with these silken goods? Our share of the prize money would be a fortune to us."

While the men were ransacking the cavern, I had climbed by a narrow foot-path to the top of a lofty bluff. A small telescope, found in a hollow that had been worked in the rock, assured me that this served as a look-out station. It commanded a wide view of the surrounding ocean, now tenanted only by the sun-beam and solitude, if I except the presence of the Dart, which sat lilting on the glittering swell, with her white wings outspread, like a huge sea-bird stretching his pinions for flight.

The boats shoved off, loaded gunwale deep with gold and silver, ivory, tortoise-shell and the most choice of the merchandise found in the cavern, and in fifteen minutes all was safely secured on board the schooner. After a short consultation it was agreed to run the Dart into the Pirates' Retreat, and there await the return of the Sea-Sprite, deeming that the bucaneers would scarcely be long absent from the chief depository of their treasures. She was soon safely anchored in the basin. A lookout was stationed at the mouth of the inlet, while Ponto and Percy undertook, with the consent of the captain, the task of watching from the cliff. Waters was then sent with a party of the men to explore the cavern more thoroughly, and before noon there was not a chink nor cranny of the place which had not been thrice overhauled. Immense treasures, in gold, silver and jewelry, were brought to light.

Toward the latter part of the afternoon, Percy gave the signal agreed upon for an approaching vessel, and directly after made his appearance on the beach, informing us that they had examined her carefully, and that there could be no mistaking her—it was the Sea-Sprite.

"Strange!" said the captain; "I knew that they were brave—fearless to desperation, but I did not expect to see them show such fool-hardiness. However, they shall meet with a welcome reception. Mr. Dacres, see that all the men are on board, and have things put to rights for a brush. If I mistake not, there will be desperate work ere the rascal receives his deserts."

In a few minutes every thing was ready; the boats were got out forward, and the Dart was towed to the mouth of the inlet, remaining concealed.

The Sea-Sprite, which could be seen from the outer edge of the rocks, stood gallantly in, driving a drift of snow before her, till within about a mile of the shore; when, as if she had discovered some signs of our presence, she wore round, hoisted her studd'n'sails, and stood away in a south-westerly direction.

"Pull away cheerily," said the captain to the men in the boats, who had lain on their oars in readiness.

Slowly the Dart emerged from her hiding place—the sails were squared round so as to present their broad surfaces to the wind, and away she darted in swift pursuit, like an eagle in quest of his prey. A stern chase is proverbially a long one; so it proved in this instance. The wind was light, and although we hung out every rag of sail, the sun was sinking beyond the sea when we approached within gun-shot of the rover. Not a soul could be seen on her decks,—she was worked as if by magic.

"Mr. Ramrod," said the captain, "clap a round shot into the long-tom, and let us see if we cannot make them show some signs of life."

Benjamin loaded the gun, and having got it poised to his fancy, applied the match. Away whizzed the iron messenger. The chips flew from the stern of the rover, and a swarm of grizzly heads, belonging to bona fide bodies, popped up above the bulwarks, and then settled down again, like so many wild sea-fowl disturbed in their nests.

"Well done, Benjamin!—I see you have not lost any of your skill for lack of practice."

The pirate, at length finding it impossible to escape us, shortened sail.

"Now my men," said the captain, "to your duty!—let every gun be double-shotted—a round shot and grape!"

By a well-timed manoeuvre, we ranged up under her stern. Our men stood with their arms extended, ready to apply their lighted matches.

"Fire!" thundered Satan West.

A storm of flame burst from our side, and the Dart reeled half out of water under the recoil of the overloaded guns. The iron shower raked the pirate fore and aft, hurling those deadly missiles, the splinters, in every direction, and doing terrible execution on their decks. Two more such broad-sides would have sent her to the bottom.

"Helm aweather—jam hard!" roared the captain.

"Ay, ay, sir!"—and we wore round so as to present our other broad-side to the enemy.

While this manoeuvre was going on, the bows of the Sea-Sprite had fallen off in the wind, so as to bring us side by side, within half pistol shot. She returned the fire with a vengeance, and several of our brave tars fell wounded or slain to the deck.

"Ready! blaze away!"—but the sound of our captain's voice was lost in the thunder of the heavy ordnance.

The battle now commenced in real earnest. The cannon bellowed, small arms rattled, the combatants yelled, the dying groaned, the iron thunder-bolt crashed, riving the vessel's oaken timbers, and a dense sulphur-cloud overspread the scene of furious commotion, so that we fought with an invisible enemy. We could see nothing save the streaming lightning of the cannon, or the fiend-like figures that worked our aftermost guns, begrimmed with powder and blood, stripped nearly naked, and sweltering in their eager toil. As the smoke occasionally lifted, however, the battered bulwarks of the enemy, and the glimmering streaks along her black waist, showed that our fire had been rightly directed; and the irregularity with which it was returned, told the confusion that prevailed on her decks. Several times we attempted to run her aboard, but they discovered our intentions in time to avoid us.

At length a discharge from the well-directed gun of old Benjamin, took effect in her fore-top. The topmast came thundering down with all its rigging, over the foresail. Having thus lost the benefit of her head sail, she rounded to, and her jib-boom came in contact with our fore rigging.

"Now is our time!—into her, boarders!" roared Dacres, leaping upon the pirate's forecastle deck.

But the order was useless—they were already hard on his track. A close and desperate struggle now took place. Pistols cracked, sabres gleamed, and deadly blows were dealt on either side, till a rampart of the slain and wounded was raised high between the furious combatants. Gloomy and dark as an arch-fiend, the pirate leader raged among his men, urging them on with threats and curses, in a voice of thunder, and sweeping down all opposition before his dripping blade. But Dacres, backed by his well-trained boarders, received them on the points of their pikes, with a coolness and bravery that made them recoil upon each other, like surges from a rock-ribbed coast. Thus the fight continued with various success, till the attention of the bucaneers was arrested by an unearthly shout in the rear, and the tall figure of Percy was seen, laying about him with whirlwind impetuosity, his long, untrimmed hair flying wildly in the commotion of the atmosphere, his features working with the madness that controlled him, and his dilated eyes flashing with a fierce, unnatural fire upon his opponents. All quailed before him. Wherever his merciless arm fell there was an instant vacancy. Although a score of cutlasses were glancing, meteor-like, around his person, as if by a spell, he remained uninjured. At length his eye detected the pirate leader. Dashing aside all before him, with one bound he was at his side. The fierce chief started in amazement at the sight of him whom he supposed many a league from the spot, if not dead, but quickly recovered his stern and gloomy bearing.

"Monster! where is she?" shouted Percy.

"Ask the sharks!" replied the captain, lunging at him with his sabre.

These were his last words. Percy, quick as thought, drew a pistol from his belt and fired into his face! He fell heavily to the deck, and the combatants closed around him, as tempest-waves close over a foundering ship!

The pirates, now that their leader was slain, fought with less spirit, and the victory was soon decided in our favor. Sooth to say, it was dearly earned; and many who sought the battle with a quickened pulse, and eager for the strife, were that evening consigned to the waves. Of all the pirate's crew, consisting of nearly a hundred men, but thirteen remained unharmed. Heavens!—what a ghastly spectacle her decks presented! Fifty stalwart forms lay there, stiffened in death, or writhing in the agony of their deep wounds, severed and mangled in every way imaginable; and so slippery was the main deck that we could hardly cross it, while the sea all around was died with the red waters of life, that gushed in a continuous stream from her scuppers.

On the forecastle deck, where the last desperate struggle had taken place, I recognized many of our own crew among the lifeless heaps. Poor old Ramrod, the gunner, lay there, with the black blood trickling over his swarthy brow, from a bullet hole in his temple. He had died while the might of battle was yet upon him—and the fierce scowl which he darted at his foes, still remained on his rigid features. His hand, even in the agonies of death, had not relinquished its firm grasp on his cutlass, and the gigantic form of a swart pirate, with his skull cloven down, close at hand, showed that it had been swayed to some purpose. Poor Benjamin! I could have wept over him. He had been in the service from his earliest days, and the scars of many a sanguinary fight were visible upon his muscular arms, and on his bronzed and powerful chest. My brave boy, Ponto, was there also, hanging pale and wounded over the britch of the bow gun. He had followed me when we boarded, like a young tiger robbed of his mate. Although faint and helpless with the loss of blood, which belched at every heave of his bosom, from a deep sabre wound in his shoulder, and which had completely saturated his checked shirt and his duck pantaloons, yet his firmness was unshaken. I ordered one of our men to take charge of him, until he could be looked to by the surgeon. "Not yet," faintly exclaimed the generous child, pointing to Mengs, the boatswain, who lay wounded over a coil of the cable, with three or four grim looking bucaneers stretched dead across his chest, the blood from their wounds streaming into his face and neck,—"look to him first, he may be suffocated."

"No, no, youngster," murmured the hardy Briton, "I'd do very well till my turn comes, if I had this ugly looking craft cast off from my gun-deck, and a can of water stowed away in my cable tier!"

After the prisoners were secured, I sought the cabin, where I had ordered Ponto to be carried. It was a richly garnished room, with berth hangings of crimson damask and amber colored silk, a gorgeous carpet from the looms of Brussels, and furniture in keeping. Opposite the companion-way hung a superb picture of the virgin mother and her infant, and over it a golden crucifix, while beneath, on a rose wood table, lay a guitar, implements for sketching, and various articles for female employ and amusement. Indeed, one might have supposed himself entering the boudoir of a delicate Spanish belle, rather than the domicil of a lawless rover. This I remember but from the glance of a moment. My attention was drawn to the occupants of the place. There lay my wounded boy, by the side of a silken sofa-couch, his face buried in the garments of a female stretched lifeless upon it, and over them bent the tall form of Percy, gazing upon the group with a fixed, vacant stare, which told that suffering could wring his soul no longer—desolation and madness had come upon him. His attitude, the expression of his features, and the low, convulsive sobs and broken murmurs of the boy, at once explained the scene. The one had found a wife, the other a sister, in that inanimate form. I advanced nearer, in hopes that life might not be altogether extinct. The sight was appalling, but beautiful. The pale, dead face, upon which the mellow radiance of sunset streamed through the sky-light, was lovely as a seraph's. Her eyes were closed as if in sleep; the long braids of her bright hair lay undisturbed upon her marble forehead, and there was no appearance of violence, save where the dress of sea-green silk had been torn back from her bosom, as if in her dying agonies, displaying a dark puncture, as of a grape-shot, just below the snowy swell of the throat, from which the crimson blood oozed, slowly trickling down over her white and rounded shoulder. She had probably been killed by our first raking broad-side.

"Fire! fire!" shouted a dozen voices on deck. I sprang up the companion-way. The fore-hatch had been removed, and a dense volume of smoke was rolling up from below. A glance was sufficient to show that no effort of ours could save the vessel, and preparations were speedily made to rescue the wounded, and abandon her to her fate. It being impossible for me to leave my duty on deck, I sent a trusty Hibernian to rescue my helpless boy and to inform Percy of our situation. He returned with a rueful countenance.

"Ochone! Mr. Hackinsack," said the tender hearted fellow, "it almost made the salt wather come intil my een, to see the poor man and the beautiful kilt leddy,—an' whin I tould 'em as how the schooner was burnin' and would be blown to Jerico in a twinklin' all he said was to give me a terrible, ferocious-like scowl and point with a loaded pistol to the companion; so I took his mainin' an' left 'em."

Two other messengers, sent to take him away by force, met with no better success.

The flames were ready to burst out on every side, and from each chink and crevice around the hatches—which had been replaced and barred down—the smoke was darting up with the force of vapour from a steam engine. The deck had become so heated that it was painful to stand upon it—the fire was fast progressing towards the run, where the magazine was situated. Thrice had the order been given to quit the burning vessel, but I could not forsake my friend without one more effort to rescue him from the terrible fate that awaited him, if left behind. He still held the loaded pistol in his hand and sternly forbade my approach. Poor Ponto had fainted from grief and loss of blood, and lay across his sister's body. I sprang forward and raised him in my arms, regardless of the maniac's threats. The pistol banged in my ear, but fortunately the ball passed over me as I stooped, and I regained the companion-way without injury. By this time, he had drawn another from his belt.

"Put away the pistol, and come with me," I urged,—"the vessel is on fire and will soon be blown to atoms."

He looked at me with a grim stare for a moment, then burst into an idiotic laugh. That wild laugh is still ringing in my brain. "Ha! ha! ha!—Fire? fire? here it is, wreathing and coiling!—here! here!" dashing his hand against his forehead.

Perceiving that it was vain to reason with his madness, and fearing for the life of the wounded boy in my arms, I reluctantly left the hapless man to his fate.

The boat had already put off for the last time, but I succeeded in prevailing upon them to return, and leaping in, soon reached the Dart in safety.

The night set in wild and black as Death. Disparted and ragged masses of cloud were rushing over the face of the heavens, where once and again, the soaring moon, and that same bright, solitary star, would show their calm faces through the reeling rack, apparently flying from this scene of turmoil and death. The increasing wind howled mournfully through the rigging, and our battered hull staggered along the inky main writhing and shuddering on the heave of the surge like a weary, wounded thing.

We followed in the track of the burning vessel as she fled along before the gale, awaiting in breathless suspense the consummation of her wild career. The black smoke, interfulgent with tortuous tongues of lurid fire, rolled in immense volumes over her!—the red flames darted up her masts, along the spars and rigging, and gushed in swirling sheets from her ports and bulwarks, while in their fierce gleams, the billows that ramped and raved about her, glowed like a huge seething cauldron of molten iron, and the gloomy clouds that lowered above were tinged in their ragged borders, as with blood. Occasionally the jarring thunder of her cannon, as they became heated to explosion, announced to us the progress of the insidious destroyer.

But a still more thrilling spectacle awaited us. In the height of the conflagration, the hapless Percy, bearing his dead wife in his arms, emerged as it were from the very midst of the flames, and took a stand on the companion-way. So strongly was the tall, dark-figure relieved against the glowing element, that his slightest gesture could not escape our scrutiny. While with one arm he spanned the waist of the supple corse, which apparently struggled to escape from his grasp, he waved the other on high as if exulting in the whirl and commotion around him. He seemed like the minister of some dark rite of heathenism, preparing to offer up a victim to the Moloch of his superstition.

At length arrived the dreadful moment! The black hull seemed to be lifted bodily out of the water. A volume of smoke burst over her like the first eruption of a volcano! A spire of flame shot up to the heavens, filling the firmament with burning fragments, while the clouds that overhung the sea, were torn and scattered by the tremendous concussion. A crash followed—a deep, bellowing boom, as if the solid globe had split asunder!—then all was darkness—dreary, void, silent as death!