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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 2 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v2].
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CHAPTER XXIV [sic]. A Storm and a Wreck.

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It was late in the fall, and the steamboat was
crowded with Southerners, returning to their rice
fields and cotton plantations, after having spent
the warm months at the north; there were also
many adventurers going in search of wealth, and
many invalids going in search of health at the
south. But they were all lively, and we left the
Hook behind us with colors flying and music playing,
as though we were bound on a holiday excursion.
When the sun went down, however, the
hilarity of some of the observing among the passengers
was in a measure checked, by the almost
certain indication which the sky presented of a
coming storm. For myself, I watched a thermometer
which hung in the companion way, and
although I perceived it fell suddenly, I had no
fears, for the boat was new; it had been pronounced
staunch and sea-worthy by those who pretended
to be knowing in such matters; and I knew it
would be an easy matter to make a port if it should
be necessary. And so having commended my soul
to God, and invoked his protection, I lay down to

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rest. But the wind continued to increase, and before
morning the boat had worked so hard as to
cause her to leak; but still there was no serious
cause for alarm. Some of the passengers, who had
never been at sea before, began to grow fearful,
and they begged the captain to put back, or to
make a port, until the storm should be over; but
I could not endure the thought of being retarded
in my progress, and I begged him to proceed, for
I could see no danger; he was an old sailor, and
having encountered many harder storms than this
threatened to be, he listened to my persuasions,
and laughed at the fears of the others, and avowed
his determination to proceed on his voyage at all
hazards. So we continued on our course that day;
but the next day the storm increased, the leak, or
leaks, grew worse and worse, and fear and consternation
were visible in every countenance. The
boat was slightly constructed, and we began to be
convinced that green and white paint are very indifferent
substitutes for strong oak ribs and stout
hanging knees. Owing to her very great length,
and the weight of her machinery, she worked very
heavily; every sea that struck her apparently
opened another seam, and at every revolution of
the wheels, some part of the machinery gave way.
It was with great difficulty that the fires were kept

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up, and almost every man on board was engaged
in helping to bale the water out of the hold. It was
a dismal day. But the distracted passengers heeded
neither the storm, the cold, nor the wet, but
weary and exhausted though they were, they gave
all their strength to assist in freeing themselves
from the dangers which threatened them; the fear
of death took possession of their hearts, and urged
them to deeds which they never knew before they
were capable of performing.

Night began to approach, and with its dark shadows
came darker fears, that we should never more
look upon the light of another day. The wind
continued to increase, and even the captain began
to show signs of fear, storm-nurtured though
he was, and familiar as he had been all his life
with the ways of the winds and the waves; the
shrieks and groans of the afflicted wretches
around him, and the dismal creaking and cracking
and snapping of beams and stanchions, made
his heart quake.

Soon after dark, one of the wheel ropes parted,
and before it could be spliced, or a tiller shipped,
the boat broached to, and shipped an overwhelming
sea, which carried away the wheel-house,
filled the hold half full of water, and completely
extinguished the fires. We were now

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completely at the mercy of the winds and waves;
the pitchy darkness of the night was only relieved
by the white foam of the sea, as it broke
around us and over us, which enabled me to
catch a glimpse of the haggard faces of the poor
creatures who crowded the decks, as the dim
phosphorescent light shone on them; the wind
liad continued to increase in violence until it blew
so hard, it was difficult to hear those speak who
stood close by my side. For my own part, I gave
up all hope; but others, those who were the first
to fear, now that destruction appeared inevitable,
would not believe that they could be lost; they
still looked up to the captain, and trusted in his
experience; but their hold on him was soon let
go, for he was too good a sailor not to know that
our situation was hopeless, and he took up his
speaking trumpet, and announced the dread tidings
through its brazen throat. “In another
hour,” he said, “the boat will either be at the
bottom or on the beach.” A loud and bitter wail,
rising above the howling wind and the roaring
waters, followed this announcement; and many
leaped overboard in the agony of their fears, and
some put heavy weights in their pockets, that
when they should be in the water, their struggles
might soon be at an end.

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“If there is a parson on board,” roared the
captain, through his speaking trumpet, “he
might about as well pray for us, and be quick
about it too, for he will soon have his mouth full
of salt water.” But no one answered this invitation
of the captain; and as I was composed and
calm, having a glorious hope of peace beyond
this life, I felt called upon to say something to
those about me. I therefore secured myself by
clinging to the railing round the main mast, and
raising my voice as loud as I could, I succeeded
in arresting the attention of a few. The precise
words that I made use of, I do not now remember,
but they were something like the following: “In
a few short moments, my dear fellow sufferers, we
shall all be enshrouded in the white foam of these
heaving waves, which are now roaring and dashing
around us, as if impatient of the merciful delay
which keeps us from them. I know the
thoughts which fill your minds now; they are
of eternity, and of Him who inhabits eternity; for
what other thoughts can enter the mind at a time
like this. Our bodies are sure to be lost; our
souls may be saved. There is one hope on which
we may rest, and but one. We cannot be saved
by our own good deeds now, for there is no time
left for their performance. Charity will avail

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nothing now, for there are none here in want of
the little we have to bestow; we cannot do good
to those who have injured us; they are not here
to be witnesses of our obedience. If, then, we
are to be saved, it must be by the righteousness
of another, and not of ourselves. God has promised
that all who believe shall be saved; have
faith, then, in Christ, his son, by whose righteousness
we may secure our salvation. Believe
and repent; there is no time to demur; if you
have objections to urge to this plan of redemption,
they must remain unanswered until the
dread reality itself shall silence all doubts. Do
not despair; although the time is short, it is long
enough for repentance; remember the thief on
the cross, who, as his life's blood gushed from
his heart, with his heart believed, and was saved.”

I could say no more; the water beat in my face
with such violence, I could not utter another
word; but the captain again took up his speaking
trumpet, and called out, “you hear the news
there, men; so bear a hand, and take the gentleman's

A loud, long, continued roar, different from
that caused by the wind and the sea, now broke
upon the ear, and an appearance to leeward like a

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high white bank, seen dimly through the darkness,
revealed the cause; it was the breakers. Our
small boats had been stove in at the commencement
of the storm, and we were possessed of no
possible means of escape. Feeling certain that
my time was come, and that I must very soon enter
on that state of existence for which I had an
undimmed hope of being prepared by the atonement
of one who is mighty to save, I strove to
give myself up to solemn reflections and prayer,
but my voice was drowned in the roar of the elements,
and my attention was continually excited
by the sufferings and appeals of those about me.
A woman who was going, with two infant children,
to meet her husband at the south, had been seated
all the night upon deck, with her two little ones
clasped to her breast, seemingly unconscious of the
storm which beat upon her head. It was wonderful
to see one so slight and delicate in her frame,
capable of such great endurance. But now when
the cry went round that we were approaching the
breakers, fear or despair roused her, and leaving
her children upon the deck, she caught hold of
my arms as I passed her, and shrieked wildly. I
tried to sooth her, but in vain; I spoke to her of
her children, but still she clung to me, and raved
fearfully. Suddenly the shrill voices of her little

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ones caught her ear, and she released her hold of
my arm, and I never saw her again. A young
man rushed out of the cabin with a life-preserver
in his hand, and throwing it towards me, he ran
to the after part of the boat, and him I never saw

The boat soon struck and heeled over towards
the beach, and every sea that broke over her bore
away part of our number. I looked about for the
man who had thrown me his life-preserver, but I
could not find him, and so I fastened it under my
arms, and climbed up to the top of the belfry, where
the waves broke with less force. Many of the
passengers, the captain among the number, lashed
themselves to the taffrail, but the third or fourth
breach that the sea made over us carried away the
stern part of the boat, and they were seen no more.
Knowing that certain destruction would be the
consequence of lashing myself to the wreck, I determined
to make an attempt to reach the shore,
before my strength should be exhausted by exposure.
I leaped overboard, and as I struck out my
arms, I felt confident of reaching the shore. Every
wave carried me nearer and nearer; I barely kept
myself afloat, reserving my strength for an effort
when I should reach the shore, knowing the difficulty
of keeping a footing on the beach when the

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water receded. At length I was thrown upon the
strand, but as I was not expecting it, before I
could recover myself, I was drawn back into the
breakers, my eyes and mouth filled with sand.
Again I was thrown upon the beach, and succeeded
in keeping a hold, but before I could crawl away
another wave broke over me, the treacherous sand
sunk from beneath me, and I was again drawn
back, exhausted and almost spent. But the next
wave took me upon its breast, and threw me high
upon the beach; as it receded, I made a desperate
effort, and succeeded in clinging to the bank of
sand; the next wave broke short over me, and before
another came, I had time to crawl away to a
place of safety. I looked back upon the sea, but
I could perceive nothing but the white foam.
There was no one near me. I listened, but I could
hear nothing but the roar of the waves. Daylight
was just beginning to break, and I was anxious to
look for help for my companions, but cold and
over-exertion had exhausted my powers; I tried to
stand, but my head reeled, and I fell senseless to
the earth.

I slept sound and long, but I was at length
roused by the sound of familiar voices; they
seemed to come from a long way off, as though

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they were speaking to me from the past, or calling
me into the future; but, partly opening my eyes,
I perceived there were well known forms bending
over me. I was in bed. My head burned dreadfully,
and I felt sore and feverish. I thought I
had just awoke, after the attack which was made
upon me by the assassin, when I was on my way
to Mr. Marisett's house. What horrible dreams
had in a brief space rushed through my mind!
Could it be possible that such a lapse of time had
been compressed into a moment. How vivid my
dreams had been. I still thought I could hear the
shriek of my seeming dream-companions struggling
with the fierce waves. Surely I had not
been dreaming. I opened my eyes again—Georgiana
and her uncle were both near me. Yes, it
was a dream that had frightened me. But where
was good Mrs. Butler; it was not like her to be
absent when I was sick. I called for her, and
Georgiana uttered a piercing shriek; I was frightened,
and said, or tried to say: “don't be alarmed,
Miss De Lancy, it is only a flesh wound, I am not
dangerously hurt.” But the exertion was too
great, and I sunk into forgetfulness again.

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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 2 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v2].
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