Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/141

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
113
NIX ET NOX.

ning of boreal storms is silent. What is sometimes said of the cat, "It swears," may be applied to this lightning. It is a menace proceeding from a mouth half open, and strangely inexorable. The snow-storm is a storm blind and dumb; when it has passed, the ships also are often blind and the sailors dumb.

To escape from such danger is difficult. It would be wrong, however, to consider shipwreck inevitable. The Danish fishermen of Disco and the Balesin; the seekers of black whales; Hearn, steering towards Behring Strait to discover the mouth of Coppermine River; Hudson, Mackenzie, Vancouver, Ross, Dumont d'Urville,—all underwent almost at the pole itself the wildest hurricanes, and escaped out of them.

It was into this description of tempest that the hooker had entered, triumphant and under full sail. Frenzy against frenzy. When Montgomery, escaping from Rouen, drove his galley, with all the force of its oars, against the chain barring the Seine at La Bouille, he showed similar effrontery. The "Matutina" sailed on fast; she keeled over so much under her sails that at times she was at an angle of fifteen degrees with the sea; but her well-rounded keel adhered to the water as if glued to it. The keel resisted the grasp of the hurricane; the lantern at the prow still cast its light ahead. The clouds settled down more and more upon the sea around the hooker. Not a gull, not a sea-mew, was to be seen,—nothing but snow. The expanse of waves was becoming contracted and terrible; only three or four gigantic billows were visible. Now and then a tremendous flash of copper-coloured lightning broke out from behind the heavy masses of clouds on the horizon and in the zenith. This sudden burst of vermilion-flame showed the immense size and blackness of the clouds; while the brief illumination of ocean to which the first layer of