Harper's Young People, April 27, 1880 An Illustrated Weekly

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Excerpt A "WHITE SQUALL." Hurrah for the Mediterranean! Hurrah for the tideless sea! with its sunny skies and sparkling waters, blue and bright as ever, while English moors and German forests are being buried in snow by a bitter January storm! Well might one think that these handsome, olive-cheeked, barefooted fellows in red caps and blue shirts, who cruise about this "summer sea" in their trim little lateen-rigged fruit boats, must be the happiest men alive. Yet there was once an English sailor who, plunging into a raw Channel fog on his return from a twelvemonth's cruise in the Mediterranean, rubbed his hands, and cried, gleefully, "Ah, this is what I calls weather! None o' yer lubberly blue skies here!" Frank, having seen for himself that the Straits of Gibraltar are thirteen miles wide, instead of being (as he had always thought) no broader than the East River, was prepared for surprises; but he could not help staring a little when Herrick told him that this bright, beautiful, glassy sea is at times one of the stormiest in the world, and that many a good ship has gone down there like a bullet, "as you'll see afore long, mayhap," added the old sailor, warningly. The sunset that evening, however, seemed to contradict him point-blank. It was so magnificent that even the careless sailors, used as most of them were to the glories of the Southern sky, stood still to admire it, and pronounced it "the finest show they'd ever seen, by a long way." Not a cloud above, not a ripple below; the steamer's track lay across the glassy water like a broad belt of light. All was so calm, so clear, so bright, that it was hard to tell where the sea ended and the sky began. The ship seemed to be floating in the centre of a vast bubble. Suddenly the sun plunged below the horizon like a red-hot ball, and a deep voice muttered in Frank's ear, "We're a-goin' to catch it!" At that moment, as if to bear out this gloomy prophecy, the boatswain's hoarse call was heard: "Stand by topsail sheets and halyards! Man the down-hauls! Clear away, and make all snug!" Instantly all was bustle and activity. While some stripped the yards and clewed up the sails, others battened down the hatches, looked to the lashings of the boats, and made everything fast. Still, though he strained his eyes to the utmost, not the least sign of a storm could Frank see, and at last he whispered to Herrick, "How can they tell that it's going to be rough?" "The glass is falling, lad, and that's always enough for a sailor; but there'll be more'n that afore long. Ay, sure enough—see yonder!" A streak of pale phosphorescent mist had just appeared on the port bow, which spread and spread till it blotted out sea and sky, and all was one dim, impenetrable pall. From the far distance came a strange, ghostly whisper, while the sea-birds, which had hitherto kept close to the vessel, flew away with dismal shrieks. "Below there!" roared the boatswain. "Tumble up there, smart!" Up flew the men, each darting at once to his own post—and not an instant too soon....
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