Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/19

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13
THE GULF.

while our vessel had full ten feet draught, she must consequently be unloaded before she could enter the river. Further, that where we lay, as well as on the whole shelterless and iron-bound coast to the north and south, no vessel could maintain its ground, should any of the prevailing winds arise. In addition, it was whispered about the vessel, that no inconsiderable quantity of contraband goods were concealed on board, and that a recent change in the custom house of Tampico, combined with the bad name which the Halcyon had already acquired, would probably bring the vessel and all on board into difficulty, in this semi-barbarous country, where law was but imperfectly understood, and still more imperfectly administered.


Moreover, the eyes and ears of some of us on board were witnesses of much calculated to throw a yet darker veil over the future.

Lovely as the weather had been for some time, the signs of a coming change had gradually thickened upon us. The deep blue of the southern sky had of late, occasionally, towards evening, been flickered with one or two light vapoury and feathery clouds, like the tail of a wild horse, or of a comet, seemingly balanced over our heads in the upper regions of the atmosphere. The cessation of the steady breeze, the fluctuating calm of the preceding day, the superabundant dews, and more than all, the restless swell now heaving upon the shore from the depths of the gulf, had all betokened to the practised eye and long experience of De Vignes, the near approach of a norte, one of the most dreaded of those violent winds which agitate this land-locked and deceitful sea; and while others were dreaming of land, he was evidently thinking of storm and tempest, and was preparing for it accordingly. Our chain cable was fitted with a buoy, and arrangements made to slip it at a moment's warning. Before he went to his repose, the topmasts and yards were lowered, every sail on board double reefed, and the decks cleared as far as it was possible to clear them.

With the approach of morning, driving bodies of cold