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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/165

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PORTENTOSUM MARE.

Had a local pilot been on board the "Matutina," he could have warned them of their fresh peril. In place of a pilot, they had their instinct. In situations of extreme danger men are endowed with second sight. Without knowing exactly what awaited them, they approached the spot with horror. How could they double that cape? They had no means of doing it. Just as they had seen, first the Caskets, then Ortach, loom up before them, they now saw the point of Alderney, all of steep rock. It was like a number of giants rising up one after another to offer them battle. Charybdis and Scylla make but two; the Caskets, Ortach, and Alderney make three. The phenomenon of the horizon, invaded by the rocks, was again repeated with the grand monotony of the deep. The battles of the ocean have the same sublime tautology as the combats of Homer. Each wave, as they neared it, added twenty cubits to the apparent cape, already greatly magnified by the mist; the fast decreasing distance seemed to render destruction more and more inevitable. They were on the edge of the seething current already! The first ripple that seized them would drag them in; another wave surmounted, and all would be over!

Suddenly the hooker was driven back, as if by a blow from a Titan's fist. The wave reared up under the vessel and fell back, throwing the waif back in its mane of foam. The "Matutina," thus impelled, drifted away from Alderney. She was again on the open sea. Whence had come the succour? From the wind. The breath of the storm had changed its direction. The wave had made them its toy; now it was the wind's turn. They had saved themselves from the Caskets. Off Ortach it was the wave which had been their friend; now it was the wind. The wind had suddenly veered from north to south. A sou'-wester had succeeded the nor'-wester.