Great Sea Stories
GREAT SEA STORIES
JOSEPH LEWIS FRENCH
Editor "Great Ghost Stories," "Masterpieces of Mystery,"
"The Best Psychic Stories," etc.
Copyright, 1921, by
All rights reserved
The theme of the sea is heroic—epic. Since the first stirrings of theimagination of man the sea has enthralled him; and since the dawn ofliterature he has chronicled his wanderings upon its vast bosom.
It is one of the curiosities of literature, a fact that old IsaacDisraeli might have delighted to linger over, that there have been nocollectors of sea-tales; that no man has ever, as in the presentinstance, dwelt upon the topic with the purpose of gathering some ofthe best work into a single volume. And yet men have written of thesea since 2500 B.C. when an unknown author set down on papyrus hisaccount of a struggle with a sea-serpent. This account, now in theBritish Museum, is the first sea-story on record. Our modernsea-stories begin properly with the chronicles of the earlynavigators—in many of which there is an unconscious art that none ofour modern masters of fiction has greatly surpassed. For delightfulreading the lover of sea stories is referred to Best's account ofFrobisher's second voyage—to Richard Chancellor's chronicle of thesame period—to Hakluyt, an immortal classic—and to Purchas'"Pilgrimage."
But from the earliest growth of the art of fiction the sea was franklyaccepted as a stirring theme, comparatively rarely handled becausevoyages were fewer then, and the subject still largely unknown. To thegeneral reader it may seem a rather astounding fact that in "RobinsonCrusoe" we have the first classic of this period and in "Colonel Jack"another classic of much the same type. These two stories by theimmortal Defoe may be accepted as the foundation of the sea-tale inliterary art.
A century, however, was to elapse before the sea-tale came into itsown. It was not until a generation after Defoe that Smollett, in"Roderick Random," again stirred the theme into life. Fielding in his"Voyage to Lisbon" had given some account of a personal experience, butin the general category it must be set down as simply episodal.Foster's "Voyages," a translation from the German published in Englandat the beginning of the third quarter of the eighteenth century, acompendium of monumental importance, continued the tradition of Hakluytand Purchas. By this time the sea-power of England had becomesupreme,—Britannia ruled the waves, and a native sea-literature wasthe result. The sea-songs of Thomas Dibdin and other writers were thefirst fruits of this newly created literary nationalism.
Shortly after the beginning of the nineteenth century the sea-writerestablished himself with Michael Scott in "Tom Cringle's Log," aforgotten, but ever-fresh classic. Then came Captain Marryat, who wasto the sea what Dickens and Thackeray were to land folk. America, too,contributed to this literary movement. Even before Marryat, our ownCooper had essayed the sea with a masterly hand, while in "Moby Dick,"as in his other stories, Herman Melville glorified the theme.Continental writers like Victor Hugo and the Hungarian, Maurus Jokal,who had little personal knowledge of the subject, also set their handsto tales of marine adventure.
Such work as this has established a succession which has beencontinuous and progressive ever since. The literature of the sea ofthe past half-century is voluminous, varied and universally known, andwhether in the form of personal adventure, or in purely fictionalshape, it has grown to be an art cultivated with great care by the bestcontemporary writers.
The noble band of singers of the sea, from the days of the Elizabethansto the sublime Swinburne, belongs to another volume. It is the sincerehope of the compiler that the present collection offers undisputableevidence that the prose tradition has been fully sustained and thereader will find in these pages living testimony to the marvelousinterest of the theme—its virility and its beauty.
JOSEPH LEWIS FRENCH.
GREAT SEA STORIES
SPANISH BLOODHOUNDS AND ENGLISH MASTIFFS
From "Westward Ho!" BY CHARLES KINGSLEY
When the sun leaped up the next morning, and the tropic light flashedsuddenly into the tropic day, Amyas was pacing the deck, withdisheveled hair and torn clothes, his eyes red with rage and weeping,his heart full—how can I describe it? Picture it to yourselves, youwho have ever lost a brother; and you who have not, thank God that youknow nothing of his agony. Full of impossible projects, he strode andstaggered up and down, as the ship thrashed and close-hauled throughthe rolling seas. He would go back and burn the villa. He would takeGuayra, and have the life of every man in it in return for hisbrother's. "We can do it, lads!" he shouted. "Drake took Nombre deDios, we can take La Guayra." And every voice shouted, "Yes."
"We will have it, Amyas, and have Frank too, yet," cried Cary; butAmyas shook his head. He knew, and knew not why he knew, that all theports in New Spain would never restore to him that one beloved face.
"Yes, he shall be well avenged. And look there! There is the firstcrop of our vengeance." And he pointed toward the shore, where betweenthem and the now distant peaks of the Silla, three sails appeared, notfive miles to windward.
"There are the Spanish bloodhounds on our heels, the same ships whichwe saw yesterday off Guayra. Back, lads, and welcome them, if theywere a dozen."
There was a murmur of applause from all around; and if any young heartsank for a moment at the prospect of fighting three ships at once, itwas awed into silence by the cheer which rose from all the older men,and by Salvation Yeo's stentorian voice.
"If there were a dozen, the Lord is with us, who has said, 'One of youshall chase a thousand.' Clear away, lads, and see the glory of theLord this day."
"Amen!" cried Cary; and the ship was kept still closer to the wind.
Amyas had revived at the sight of battle. He no longer felt his woundsor his great sorrow as he bustled about the deck; and ere a quarter ofan hour had passed, his voice cried firmly and cheerfully as of old—
"Now, my masters, let us serve God, and then to breakfast, and afterthat clear for action."
Jack Brimblecombe read the dally prayers, and the prayers before afight at sea, and his honest voice trembled, as, in the Prayer for allConditions of Men (In spite of Amyas's despair), he added, "andespecially for our dear brother Mr. Francis Leigh, perhaps captiveamong the idolaters;" and so they rose.
"Now, then," said Amyas, "to breakfast. A Frenchman fights bestfasting, a Dutchman drunk, an Englishman full, and a Spaniard when thedevil is in him, and that's always."
"And good beef and the good cause are a match for the devil," saidCary. "Come down, captain; you must eat too."
Amyas shook his head, took the tiller from the steersman, and bade himgo below and fill himself. Will Cary went down, and returned in fiveminutes with a plate of bread and beef, and a great jack of ale, coaxedthem down Amyas's throat, as a nurse does with a child, and thenscuttled below again with tears hopping down his face.
Amyas stood still steering. His face was grown seven years older inthe last night. A terrible set calm was on him. Woe to the man whocame across him that day!
"There are three of them, you see, my masters," said he, as the crewcame on deck again. "A big ship forward, and two galleys astern ofher. The big ship may keep; she is a race ship, and if we can butrecover the wind of her, we will see whether our height is not a matchfor her length. We must give her the slip, and take the galleys first."
"I thank the Lord," said Yeo, "who has given so wise a heart to soyoung a general; a very David and Daniel, saving his presence, lads.Silas Staveley, smite me that boy over the head, the young monkey; whyis he not down at the powder-room door?"
And Yeo went about his gunnery, as one who knew how to do it, and hadthe most terrible mind to do it thoroughly, and the most terrible faiththat it was God's work.
So all fell to; and though there was comparatively little to be done,the ship having been kept as far as could be in fighting order allnight, yet there was "clearing of decks, lacing of nettings, making ofbulwarks, fitting of waistcloths, arming of tops, tallowing of pikes,slinging of yards, doubling of sheets and tacks." Amyas took charge ofthe poop, Cary of the forecastle, and Yeo, as gunner, of the main-deck,while Drew, as master, settled himself in the waist; and all was ready,and more than ready, before the great ship was within two miles of them.
She is now within two musket-shots of the Rose, with the golden flagof Spain floating at her poop; and her trumpets are shouting defianceup the breeze, from a dozen brazen throats, which two or three answerlustily from the Rose, from whose poop flies the flag of England, andfrom her fore the arms of Leigh and Cary side by side, and over themthe ship and bridge of the good town of Bideford. And then Amyascalls—
"Now, silence trumpets, waits, play up! 'Fortune my foe!' and God andthe Queen be with us!"
Whereon (laugh not, reader, for it was the fashion of those musical, aswell as valiant days) up rose that noble old favorite of good QueenBess, from cornet and sackbut, fife and drum; while Parson Jack, whohad taken his stand with the musicians on the poop, worked away lustilyat his violin.
"Well played, Jack; thy elbow flies like a lamb's tail," said Amyas,forcing a jest.
"It shall fly to a better fiddle-bow presently, sir, and I have theluck—"
"Steady, helm!" said Amyas. "What is he after now?"
The Spaniard, who had been coming upon them right down the wind under apress of sail, took in his light canvas.
"He don't know what to make of our waiting for him so bold," said thehelmsman.
"He does though, and means to fight us," cried another. "See, he ishauling up the foot of his mainsail: but he wants to keep the wind ofus."
"Let him try, then," quoth Amyas. "Keep her closer still. Let no onefire till we are about. Man the starboard guns; to starboard, andwait, all small arm men. Pass the order down to the gunner, and bidall fire high, and take the rigging."
Bang went one of the Spaniard's bow guns, and the shot went wide. Thenanother and another, while the men fidgeted about, looking at thepriming of their muskets, and loosened their arrows in the sheaf.
"Lie down, men, and sing a psalm. When I want you I'll call you.Closer still, if you can, helmsman, and we will try a short shipagainst a long one. We can sail two points nearer the wind than he."
As Amyas had calculated, the Spaniard would gladly enough have stoodacross the Rose's bows, but knowing the English readiness dare notfor fear of being raked; so her only plan, if she did not intend toshoot past her foe down to