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Chapter XXIII

A Night Long Passed.

“All night the booming minute gun
Had peal'd along the deep,
And mournfully the rising sun
Look'd o'er the tide-worn ship,

—Felicia Hemans.

The clouds gathered black upon the horizon, now rolling upwards, now enveloping the rising waves; the wind sobbed—then was hushed—then rose again; the vessel tossed and creaked, and all was bustle and dismay; they furled her sails; they prepared with all promptitude for the coming hurricane. Dark, yet darker, grew the sky, only illumined by streaks of lurid lightning; and the rush of the waters gained strength, and mingled their sounds with the rolling of thunder.

Clinging to the sofas in the saloon were two men—one deadly pale and emaciated, with the fumes of gin yet clinging around him; the other was sun-browned and calmer.

“Mr. Calder!” said the first.

“Well—what now?”

“We'll be wrecked, Sir! we'll surely be wrecked!”

An oath replied to him.

“Don't swear now,” said the other, timidly.

“Craven heart, is swearing the blackest crime we have to answer for? We will yet make a fortune in San Francisco.”

“I'll go home, if ever I live over this night.”

“Won't you join me in the place we arranged?”

“No: I could not keep a gaming-house there.”

  ― 135 ―

“You think so now. Hark! how the wind blows! I say, Kil—I mean Wilkins, I wish I were ashore.”

The other groaned and cowered over the railing he clung to. The vessel creaked, and heaved, and tossed; the waves broke above her, and rent her masts from their places; and the cries of sailors carried overboard mingled with “the war of elements,” and the crashing of timber.

“Great God, have mercy on us! I have been a great sinner! Have mercy on me! Oh, my poor old mother!”

There was the gurgling of water, the vessel staggered, then sank, amidst one cry of agony and horror; and the foam-capped billows rolled over her, and the storm raged as before; and thus they recorded her in the California papers—

“Loss of the ‘Salt Wave.’—Captain James reports having picked up, after a terrific storm, which he encountered off ——, a fire-bucket, painted green, and, in white letters on it, the words ‘Salt Wave.’ It is feared this well-known trader must have foundered, and all hands perished.”

“Further particulars.—Captain Grey, of the ‘Mary,’ has handed the authorities a small japan case, containing papers picked up in latitude ——, after the storm of ——, chiefly memoranda of money transactions between two persons, named Peter Blackmore and Richard Kilby. Neither of these names agree with the passenger list which had been forwarded by one of the ship owners to a partner here, and which has kindly been handed us for publication; fears are therefore entertained that a second vessel has been lost. Passengers per ‘Salt Wave:’ —Captain Smith, Gilbert Calder, John Wilkins, &c.”

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