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itself upon them that the vessel is on fire, each and all panic-stricken rush to the spot where it was discovered. They are somewhat reassured, however, when a little smoke oozing up from below is all that is visible.
The effect was different upon the crew; terrible as is that cry it is one of duty, and when were true sons of Neptune ever deaf to that call ?
The captain hastens to the spot, and aware how much depends upon himself, is perfectly collected and cool. Turning from the half-raised hatchway down which he has been peering to the eager seamen round, he calmly orders them to rig the fire-pumps. Some of the crew have anticipated the command, and already the hose has been unrolled and is laid along the decks. Half-a-dozen men have clambered upon the bulwarks and are drawing water in buckets, so that not a moment shall be lost, for they understand the awful danger, and are aware how much under the blessing of God depends upon their exertions. With the expedition of a welldisciplined ship's crew the command is obeyed, the pumps are adjusted and manned. To get at the fire, which has been burning unnoticed probably for hours, the hatches must be raised. This is no sooner done and a free ingress of air allowed, than the smouldering mass is fanned into a flame, and already, though but a few minutes have elapsed since the first alarm was given, a forked tongue of fire darts upwards, entwining itself high around the mainmast, and scorching many a stalwart arm extended to do battle with it.
Every man on board has volunteered; and nobly, determinedly sustained is the struggle that ensues.
All not otherwise employed have formed themselves into rows, and are busily engaged passing buckets in quick succession from over the ship's side. There is no need of exhortation to the most strenuous exertions, no need of reminder of the horrible fate imminent to so many precious lives. The fast increasing roar from below, the wreaths of flame and dense masses of smoke floating aft as the vessel, head to wind, stems onward
at a good fourteen knots, clearly show how urgent the necessity to check the rapid progress of the fire, and at the same time to push forward to their goal.
Spirits are brought up, and plentifully, yet judiciously, distributed
Choked by the smoky heat, gang after gang is overcome at the pumps, and the captain compelled again and again to change hands;" still they are kept going. None dream of surrendering while anything can be done; the men heroically working-working until the perspiration starts from every pore, until each muscle is strained to its utmost, until the veins stand out like blood-twined cords upon each sooty brow, and one after another sinks back exhausted, but to have his place immediately filled by a messmate.
The mainmast is so burnt as to nod with every lurch of the vessel, and the flames ever on the increase are bursting through the deck round the hatches, and seem to laugh madly at any puny efforts to oppose them. Undaunted, the pumps yet ply until the hose, burnt piecemeal to within a few feet of where they stand, will no longer carry a stream to the fire, but emits an almost useless vomit upon deck only to return again as quickly to the sea.
The fire has now reached the engine- room, and the men are driven from it. The pressure in the boilers, increasing almost to bursting point, causes a terrific escape of steam from the safety valves in spite of their having been weighted down. The engines respond, spinning the paddles round with wonderful velocity. The ship is tearing on at twenty knots per hour. Another lurch and the mast totters; it recovers itself, but only a moment afterwards, with a thundering crash, to part, carrying with it the mizen. A despairing yell, and pumpers and pumps are alike involved in a burning chaos, to be succeeded, when the masts have cleared, by a yearning abyss of flame covering all amidships.
The captain, still calm, in spite of the numerous tears
and entreaties, questions and ejaculations with which on all sides he is beset, sees that if he can but keep the helm hard up for three-quarters of an hour the vessel, instead of driving straight onwards, as she is is now doing, will, by taking a diagonal course, run ashore. But how is he to accomplish this? The fire, as the ship speeds rapidly on, is driven over the stern so near the wheel that it seems impossible for any one to remain there. How then is this to be accomplished ? How is it, in the midst of this difficulty, when its achievement seems almost hopeless, that the Almighty power and loving kindness of a Divine being are manifest in providing for every emergency ?
As at Lucknow, when so many hundreds were in imminent danger of being subjected to the most horrible deaths and cruelty, when hope was almost o'er, a Henry Havelock was raised to accomplish such superhuman feats, and so nobly meet the requirements of the moment; so here, when there was but a shallow hope between the life or death of so many, a John Maynard was not searched for in vain. He had watched the progress of events; he saw what was wanting, and manfully resolved that, forlorn as was the hope, and almost certain as was death to the perpetrator of the scheme, it should not remain untried. “Get for’ard, get for'ard every one of you !” he cried; and as all instinctively obeyed, John Maynard stations himself at the helm.
The captain, passengers, and crew all crowd to the front part of the ship as far from the flames as they can get. Three-quarters of an hour must elapse before they can reach the shore, and oh! what an age does that short time seem to look forward to, and what little expectation have they of surviving it! They look back-the whole midships is one mass of flame, as that mighty element, in an apparently inexhaustible manner, rushes up from below, dealing destruction around, and so fast approaching their very feet. All huddle as closely together as they could get in their endeavours to escape the fearful heat. They cannot see the stern
of the vessel, and anxious lest their only hope should be driven from his post the captain applies the speaking trumpet to his mouth. “John Maynard, ahoy !" “Ay, ay, sir!" “ Are you at the helin, John ?” “Ay, ay, sir !"
Round revolve the paddles, but quick as is their motion, slow indeed does it seem to those anxious hearts. Yet slowly as the time seems to go, still it does progress, and, lengthy as each minute appears, still minute after minute elapses.
Now, a fearful suspicion is whispered among the crowd; they are afraid that the boiler of the engine will burst. As this circulates among them the terror it produces is fearful, and many can, with difficulty, be prevented from putting an end to their fears of the one element by casting themselves into a not less merciless one.
Minute after minute as it elapses brings with it in nearer and rearer proximity to their very persons that fearful monster the raging flame. It is impossible to get more forward; and there as they stand, those who have the misfortune to be nearest, for the most part the weakest and more delicate, are now almost in contact with it. Still round revolve the paddles. It is a race of life; each turn brirgs them nearer the shore, but still allows time for the approach of the fire ; and now as the greater part of the time has elapsed, and the crisis arrives, their hopes and frantic prayers for deliverance are all absorbed in the death-like struggle of each to force himself further forward away from the fearful agony to which from actual contact with the fire they are now suffering. A few minutes more, and should they continue in their present course the vessel will be on shore; but should they not do so—should John Maynard be compelled to release his hold of the helm the current will carry them out again, and all must either be burnt to death or drowned. The captain sees this, and fully sensible of the momentous importance of the next few minutes, again applies the speaking trumpet.
" John Maynard, ahoy!” “Ay, ay, sir !" "Are you at the helm, John ?” “Ay, ay, sir!" “Can you hold on five minutes longer, John ?” “By God's help I'll try, sir !" Still round revolved the paddles. Five minutes and they will be on shore. But what hope is there of this ? John Maynard is still at the helm. He is literally surrounded by the flame; still his heroic determination wavers not. The flames encircle his very body, still he grasps the helm. One arm hangs uselessly by his side; all the hair is burnt from his head. His clothes fall in pieces from his blackened and charred body. The soles of his shoes curl upwards. An unfathomable darkness comes before his very eyes still he holds on, for there, as with one hand he grasps the wheel, with that one limb he holds tottering on the verge of the precipice of eternity the souls of four hundred human beings.
A terrific shock is felt throughout the vessel as, with her keel grating on the beach, she runs high and dry upon the shore. They are aground! they are aground ! God be praised ! every man, woman, and child on board that ship were saved as the shrivelled remains of John Maynard fell over the stern, and were launched into eternity.
[It is due to Mr. J. B. Gough, the celebrated temperance orator, to say that the facts of this true narrative are such as I remember from hearing him describe the event in one of his orations five or six years ago.-S. G.)
THE TWO PICTURES.
J. G. WHITTIER.
In sky and wave the white clouds swam,
Through gaps of leafy green