Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/266

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

shipman to fetch news from the pumps. The ship was filling with water despite all their labor. The sea broke halfway up the quarterdeck, filled one of the cutters upon the booms and tore her all to fragments. The ship lying almost upon her beam ends and not attempting to right again. Word from below that the water had gained so fast they could no longer stand to the pumps. I said to Sir Hyde:

"This is no time, sir, to think of saving the masts. Shall we cut away?"

"Aye, Archer, as fast as you can."

I accordingly went into the chains with a pole-axe to cut away the lanyards; the boatswain went to leeward, and the carpenters stood by the mast. We were already when a very violent sea broke right on board of us, carried away everything that was left on deck, filled the ship with water, the main and mizzen-masts went, the ship righted but was in the last struggle of sinking under us. As soon as we could shake our heads above water Sir Hyde exclaimed:

"We are gone at last, Archer,—foundered at sea."

"Yes, sir. And the Lord have mercy upon us."

The unlucky crew of the Phoenix frigate, more than three hundred souls, had behaved with disciplined fortitude. The captain, who had commanded her for six years, knew his ship and her people, and they had stood the test. In this weltering chaos of wind and sea, which extended far over the Caribbean, twelve other ships went down, all of them flying the white ensign of the Royal Navy, and more than three thousand seamen perished.