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Then we entered the crowded festal room,
Where laughter and song were high;
And smiled in a rose-bud nigh.
But his breath went up on the fragrant air,
And he singled out his prey;
And said, “ 'T will be mine to day!'
We rode on the glance of the morning ray,
To the home where Love had smiled;
By the couch of her first-born child.
And his chilling breath glazed the half-closed eye,
As he stilled the throbbing heart,
As he hastened to depart.
Then we fled to the city's erowded street,
To the race and storm of life,
As he mingled in the strife.
When the last faint light of departing day
Had with crimson touched the sea,
On the tempest's pinion free.
And he paused where the gallant ship so gay
Sunk down, 'neath the foaming wave;
The shriek of the seaman brave !
As I saw him shake from his silvery wing,
The ocean's glittering foam,
And I sought once more my home.
And again I heard that fearful laugh,
Like a fallen angel's sigh,
Where the summer breezes fly.
And my soul in that long and powerful flight
No longer sought to share :
With the snow-white bird of prayer.
For I knew I had been with the conqueror DEATH
On his strange and tireless way;
On the chords of my spirit play.
Day dawned, and I woke from the thrilling dream;
T'he vision had passed away,
AN HOUR ON L A KE ST. PETER.
"Are all aboard ? — quick ! all ashore! Heave off the bo’line ! Lively there! haul in the plank! cried Captain A-, of the good steamer S - The short, sharp ring of our engine-bell was heard as the last words were spoken; the ever-noisy sailors, with their strange Franco-Canadian patois, ' made the air vocal with sweet sounds,' mixed as it was with German, French, and Irish cries for lost wives, luggage and children. Amidst it all, like some huge wounded monster of the deep, the engine heaved and groaned; the wheels moved round, the mass of wood and iron seemed a thing of life and will; and a few minutes having passed, the wharf, the crowd which had come down to gaze or say farewell, and at last the town, were lost to view.
As the boat went on, the loud confusion gradually gave way to order; and the sailors, clustering in groups, told of hair-breadth 'scapes by flood and'— town; while the immigrants, who had not realized their golden dreams of this hemisphere, were cursing it for their mishaps, and going to their native land again. The cabin passengers were chatting in small groups, or promenading in the balmy air of a June evening, while some few were smoking on the forward-deck, among the sailors, horses, immigrants and freight, with which that deck was nearly filled.
The night wore on; the moon had hid its modest face behind a cloud; star after star sparkled its last and disappeared, until there were none left in Heaven. The belles and beaux, and business-men from time to time slipped off to bed ; and the “Fat Gentleman,' who made each group he joined the evening through, a laughing-chorus, with his sunny, ruddy face, and the broad humor he had put in every motion, word and look — last though far from least soon followed them. Being left alone with my own 'sweet and bitter fancies,' I listened for a time to the monotonous heaving of the steam-monster below, and feeling no fatigue, took a travelling companion from my pocket, and read. An hour passed on; the words grew less and less distinct; the book fell from my hands; and I was dreaming too.
*AND there was darkness and wo, and the cry thereof went up to heaven.'
Mon Dieu, nous somnes mort!' was shrieked beside me, as I was awakened by a noise like loudest thunder; a crash, a crushing, which appeared to tear the boat apart; and for the instant, what was under me
sank rapidly. The first quick thoughts which flashed upon my brain were, that the boilers had burst, blown out the bottom of the boat, and we were going down! With a deep sinking feeling at my heart, which stopped its beatings for the and a belief that all was over now, I looked about to see from whence destruction was to come; but neither splinters, fire, nor steam appeared.
Among the passengers confusion at once reigned supreme; for all the decks were crowded as by magic with all sorts of people ; dressed, half-dressed, and undressed too; some screaming, some inquiring. The French-Canadians, whom danger always frightens, first embraced each other frantically, then uttered prayers, cries, shrieks, and made night hideous with their noisy fears. I hastened forward, asking by the way the cause of all this noise; but “Ah mon Dieu ! Je ne sais pas, Monsieur,' was all they answered me. I looked across the bulwarks, but the sky was dark, the water darker, and neither light nor shore was visible. Then passing to the other side, I pressed my way between the crew and passengers, whom fear had made half mad : the same • blackness of darkness' met my bewildered gaze. From thence, proceeding aft, I glanced upon the boilers as I passed; but they were whole, and the bright fire burned steadily within. Passing on through the dense crowd, to the steamer's side, the sad reality burst on my sight in all its horrors, like a night-mare dream of Hades. Chance, accident, or wilfulness, had brought the largest steamer on the lake in contact with us. There she lay within some fifty feet, her deck all dark with frantic people, and going down so rapidly that we could see her sink: the waves already touched her lower deck.
A large batteau, which would have held some fifty men, with seven in it, had already reached our steamer, from the sinking boat; indeed they were all trying to reach it, as the sole ark of their salvation.' The excitement at our gangway was intense. How could it well be otherwise, with some two hundred human beings dying as it were within our grasp, whose outlines could be dimly seen, as they sprang into the other boats, or rushed from side to side in wild confusion.
Our engine-bell now rang; the wheels went round, and we were leaving them behind. The thought flashed through the mind, 'We too are sinking, and are running for our lives ;' and such was the fact. For a moment they gazed upon each other's faces, and silence came upon them like a spell.
Not so with those upon the other boat. They heard, in the sharp ring of our engine-bell, the knell of all their hopes. Around them were the waves; no shore was visible; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.' Then there went up from that mass of sinking souls to Heaven a cry? a scream? a shriek? No, none of these; they hardly make an echo to the sound. It was a death-wail !- long, and loud, and deep, with echoes of an infinite despair in every varying note. I closed my ears against the sound, and tried to close my soul to all the awful thoughts which thronged upon it; but they would not keep away; and images of sinking hundreds filled the imagination. Babes clinging to their mothers struggling in the waves; old men going down with the death-gurgle in their throats; women shrill-shrieking in despair, as the
last wave went over them; the fierce encounter, between those whom danger had made fiends, for some frail hope ; a bench, a chair; the death-grasp as they sunk and died together; all this, and all the mass of thoughts which flashes on and lights up the excited soul at such a time, and which none can conceive who has not lived through similar scenes, filled my distracted mind, as though it were a many-sided glass, and on the instant mirrored all things there.
I hastened to the other side of the saloon, to avoid both sight and hear. ing. The wail grew less and less distinct; a few moments more, and the last echo died upon the air.
Now came those fearful cries which tell of the imminent deadly breach.' • The pumps ! the pumps ! throw overboard the freight !' — and with good will were they responded to. Bales, boxes, packages, and engine wood were soon on their winding way to the Atlantic. Thus passed some thirty minutes : the boat was gradually sinking, and the cabins were half-filled with water; when Captain A again threw out the lead, and passed the welcome word that we were safe, the water being there but deep enough to come up to the upper deck. He lowered our only boat at once, and sent some trusty hands to seek the wretches we had left behind.
All now were safe ; and it was curious to look in the deserted cabin, half-filled up with water, and see the sofas, chairs, and tables, with lighted candles still upon them, floating quietly about, while on the upper deck the engineers and sailors, ladies, eniigrants and gentlemen, sat side by side upon the single seat which ran all round the promenade.
Return we for a moment to the evening before. •The Fat Gentleman,' of mirthful memory, affected by the mirth and beef and ale of previous hours, soon fell asleep; and feeling restless during the night, turned over on the other side ; when, what was his surprise to feel cold water in his berth! Starting from his bed, he saw that the cabin was filled with water as high up as his berth; the furniture was floating round, with lighted candles upon the tables, and no human being near. He sprang up, puzzled and frightened ; jumped from his narrow couch, aad fast as his unwieldy limbs would carry him, waddled through the water to the cabin stairs, thence to the deck, and onward to the promenade stair-case.
The crew and passengers were conversing quietly over the past event, (for although the boat was gradually going down, it was in shallow water, and they knew that all was safe,) when lo! as if coming through the deck planks, a bald head was seen, like Gilpin's, without hat or wig, and with a face ludicrously distorted with fear and wonder, followed by a massive pair of shoulders, and a huge round body, with a single garment clinging to its sides ; and lastly, a pair of naked feet were planted on the deck. It was the 'Fat Gentleman,' who running over the deck as fast as he could move, cried out, Oh! captain ! captain! Where's
the captain ? Captain! the boat 's a-sinkin'! Having passed through the rows of ladies, sailors, gentlemen, and servants, he found the captain, who calmed his fears, and suggested that he had got up too hur. riedly to pay a due attention to his toilet ; but it was now too late to *call spirits from the vasty deep,' for his boots, pantaloons and coat were in the cabin, where the expertest diver could not reach them. One however lent him a pair of stockings, another a pair of drawers, which reached some two-thirds round his fair proportions, and another lent him a shawl and handkerchief, of which he made an extempore coat and hat; and so remained upon the cold wet deck: but notwithstanding all this, his fun soon came again, and he succeeded in making some few forget that their fellows were drowning a few miles away.
Our steamer by this time was well down in the lake, the lower deck being even with it; the wheels went slowly round, as she dragged her slow length along ; the engine heaved and groaned as if it were a dying thing. In a few moments more the water reached the boilers, putting out the fires; and we struck the bottom of the lake with two feet of water on the lower deck, the shore some two miles off, but still invisible in the darkness.
We had still considerable excitement, but of a different character, except with two old ladies and an Irish laborer, who could not divest themselves of their fears, but walked hurriedly about, exclaiming to each one they met: “We're sinking! we shall be drowned ! You are de. ceiving us; we're going down! Oh dear! oh dear!' As for the others, they sat or stood in groups, telling the story over again; but those who attracted most attention were the five who had left the other steamer and saved themselves in a large boat which would have held fifty persons. Seeing one of them with a thin face, a pair of light red whiskers, between which a pipe was hanging down, while frequent puffs of smoke rose from between his bloodless lips, I spoke to him:
• I believe you, Sir, are from the other steamer ?' · Yes.'
• You had a very large batteau; was it not possible to have saved more of those unfortunate people ?'
Necessity, Sir, necessity; they might have jumped in and sunk us all. The first law of nature, Sir, self-preservation.'
Might ? True; but were you conscious at the moment what you did, or had the excitement made you desperate ?'
• No; we knew what we were at; but do n't you think they will be saved ? I left four children and my wife behind !
I looked to see if he was serious; but the same dull stolidity was in his face. Four children and your wife! And you left them there to drown, while you were in an almost empty boat !
• The others cut the ropes in two; but do n't you think they will be saved ?'
I hope so; yes, they had more boats, and many things to float on ; they may be saved; all, possibly. Well, if they're lost, it can't be helped ; but
say the boat, that will be raised ? the things on board will all be saved ? he asked, eagerly.
There's little doubt of that; but why?'