Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/267

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Maritime disasters were apt to occur on a tremendous scale in those olden days when ships sailed in fleets and convoys.

It was not ordained that the brave and dogged ship's company of the Phoenix should be entirely swallowed by the sea. While they fought the last fight for life in the broken, sinking hulk, the keel thumped and ground along the back of a reef. Lieutenant Archer and Captain Sir Hyde Parker were floundering about together and had given themselves up for lost. The lieutenant was filled with reflections profoundly religious, as well as with salt water, and he took pains to expound them at length in writing to his mother, and these were a great solace, no doubt, to the good woman who waited for infrequent tidings in a home of green England. Sir Hyde Parker was swearing and spluttering at his men who were crying, "Lord have mercy on us!"

"Keep to the quarter-deck, my boys, when she goes to pieces," he yelled. "’T is your best chance."

The shattered remnants of the frigate were being flailed upon the Cuban reef, but the boatswain and the carpenter rallied volunteers who cut away the foremast, which dragged five men to their death when it fell. All this was in the black, bewildering