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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/149

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just before in full sail and almost formidable in her speed, was now helpless; all her evolutions were uncertain and executed at random; she yielded passively and like a log to the capricious fury of the waves.

The howling of the wind became more and more frightful. The bell on the sea rang despairingly, as if tolled by a weird hand. The "Matutina" drifted like a cork at the mercy of the waves. She sailed no longer,—she merely floated; every moment she seemed about to turn over on her back, like a dead fish. The good condition and perfectly water-tight state of the hull alone saved her from this disaster. Below the waterline not a plank had started; there was not a cranny, chink, nor crack; and she had not a single drop of water in the hold. This was lucky, as the pump, being out of order, was useless. The hooker pitched and rolled frightfully in the seething billows. The vessel had throes as of sickness, and seemed to be trying to belch forth the unhappy crew. Helpless they clung to the rigging, to the transoms, to the shank painters, to the gaskets, to the broken planks (the protruding nails of which tore their hands), to the warped riders, and to all the rugged projections on the stumps of the masts. From time to time they listened: the tolling of the bell came over the waters fainter and fainter,—one might have supposed that too was in distress. Finally the sound died away altogether.

Where were they,—at what distance from the buoy? The sound of the bell had frightened them; its silence terrified them. The northwester drove them forward in perhaps a fatal course. They felt themselves wafted on by maddened and ever-recurring gusts of wind. The wreck sped forward in the darkness. There is nothing more fearful than being hurried forward blindfold.