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"The water rises from minute to minute," he said; "it is doubtful whether the dyke on the west coast can stand; if the water rises one foot higher it will overflow, and the town is lost. Misfortune enough has come already," he went on; "your father has sent the boatman Lorenzo to the ferry quay to seek for tidings of the Johanna-Mary. His wife, from terror on his account, has had a premature confinement, and lies a maniac on the floor of their cottage. The neighbours have tied her down to try and save her life.”
In hot haste the Pastor's three daughters gathered together a few valuables, and hurried with the children, through the dusk and storm, to their father's house. Here a consultation was being held as to whether any attempts made to save the town could be successful. The dyke was a quarter of a mile long. The danger lay, not in its bursting from the strain of water, but in its overflowing.
The night came on apace, the most horrible night which, for more than a hundred years, had spread its veil over the Baltic coast. The sea roared, the forest trees crashed together, great oaks and beeches were uprooted, and in falling split and tore up the hardy pines. The minutes seemed years, help was nowhere to be obtained. The telegraph wires had early in the evening proved useless; insulation had ceased. Thus midnight drew near, when there came a sudden knocking at the Pastor's door. The fisherman who had been posted on the Downs came in pale and trembling. "The sea," he said, "is tearing away the Downs, the first hill is quite gone, and a ship is in sight close to the shore."
'A ship, a ship!" like an electric spark the cry runs round. "To the Downs, to the Downs!" In an instant the apparatus for saving the drowning was got into a state of preparation, and all present hastened to the shore, led by the Pastor. In the distance, about four hundred paces off, loomed, through the darkness and through the snow and rain, a large schooner. She was stranded and half overturned, the waves dashed over her, and only the masts rose above the sea. Her torn canvas whirled wildly in the storm, but on the top of the masts a dark something was discernible. "The crew," whispered a voice in horror, "they have climbed the masts and have bound themselves on to them." The wind drove these frail refuges hither and thither, they bent till it seemed as though they touched the raging flood, and then rose again, and with them rose and fell, in this horrible game, the miserable men who clung to them.
No possible aid could be given, and yet the fishermen looked around instinctively for their boats, but oh, horror! not one was to be seen, the sea had swallowed all up without exception. An indescribable sensation of despair settled upon all hearts. An old sailor stretched out his sinewy arm raging and blaspheming against the water, “Oh, cursed sea," he cried, oh, cursed sea!" Another broke out into an insane and horrid laugh, "Ha," he cried, "see how it roars, and hisses, and foams. So much the better, long live the sea, hurrah!" Some wrung their hands in despair and rushed wildly down the hill to meet the waves. Some stood in silent awe and horror. Hours passed, but the situation remained the same. The watchers on the hills had however grown silent. There were no more words of blasphemy or of cursing uttered. All had gathered round the old man, who sank on his knees and prayed. His white hair fluttered in the wind as he cried, 'Oh Thou all-merciful GOD, Who rulest the raging of the winds and waves, look down in pity on these Thy servants, now in such distress. If it is Thy will that they should now meet with a watery grave on this coast, make an end, O LORD, oh, make an end!"
Just then a faint streak of dawn enlightened the scene a little. “Oh, merciful GOD! it is indeed the Johanna-Mary. My husband, my dear husband," cried the Pastor's eldest daughter in mind.
"It is indeed the Johanna-Mary," cried one after another of the spectators, and then arose again and again the bitter lamentations, My sons, my son, my only son," from the mourning fathers.
"O LORD, make an end, oh, make an end!" entreated the weeping Pastor. But the end was not yet. The forester put his glass to his eye as the morning light grew brighter, and then with a shriek of despair let it fall from his hand and roll down into the raging flood. He had recognised both his dearly-loved sons. A little longer and a wave rose mountains high and broke over the Johanna-Mary, and then at last the prayer was answered, the end had come. All trace of
the ship had disappeared.
Just then a cry was heard, "Come back to the town, hasten; the dyke is broken, the water is in the forest, the town will be destroyed."
Truly a terrible sight met their eyes as they returned. The water swept in masses through the village, carrying with it trees and houses,
cattle and stalls. And still the flood rose. In the church a number of the poor sufferers gathered, seeking comfort in prayer. The hurricane raged outside. Dogs howled, cattle uttered moans of distress, great trees fell. Where the water had not swept away the houses it now began to pour in at the windows, and the terrified inhabitants fled for refuge to the garrets, or on the roofs, from which came down a hundred cries for aid, which none could give.
Tables, chairs, beds, and benches swam through the streets. Some sufferers took refuge in the trees that were still standing, and clutched despairingly at the branches. A cradle swept by with a baby in it. A brave fisherman caught it as it passed, and drew it up on dry land. The child was wet through, but still slept quietly. A man hung on by one arm to the rafter of a ruined house, his feet getting a slippery footing on a fallen tree; under his other arm he held a splendidly bound Bible. It was a gift sent him at the celebration of his golden wedding by some valued friends. Suddenly there appeared a new cause of distress. The storm drove a Dutch schooner over the hills into the town; it touched a cottage in its course, and at once the house disappeared. The waves then dashed the ship between two great trees, where it remained jammed fast. Those who had been in the cottage, a man, his wife, and two children, sank with their dwelling, and a few minutes later their corpses floated amongst the débris of their possessions. Another house has gone now, and with it four women, who struggled long with the waves before they became their prey. A little hastily constructed raft goes by, with two children on it; they might reach yon high ground, but a wave carries them in another direction. The wife of the boatman Lorenzo is swept by; her newly-born babe is clasped in her arms. Both are drowned together. There was a small house near the Church and Parsonage : an aged pair lived together in it. As the water rose they at last took refuge on the roof, and called, like so many more, thence for help; but none could aid, and so the distressed husband and wife sank on their knees, and then through the storm rose the hymn dear to German hearts, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," (A strong tower is our GOD.) The sufferers, gathered round the old Pastor, heard the song, and with steady voices joined in and swelled the sound of praise. Can it be that the strain went up to heaven through the roar of the storm? The cock on the church spire goes round just then with a sudden "swish," and the storm from the north-east changes to one from the
south, which drives the raging water out from the land as fast as it had driven it in.
The clock over the church door struck one in the afternoon. A strain of music came from the organ, worshippers gathered, and prayers and thanks arose to Him to whom the winds and the waves are subject. Two hours later and scarce a breath of air shook the forest. The survivors helped and comforted each other to the best of their ability amid the sad and melancholy ruins of their former pros perous and happy village. It so happened that the Parsonage had suffered but little, comparatively speaking, in the universal destruction, it and the church being on higher ground than the other buildings. The wedding feast still lay spread upon the tables, the doors and windows were still wreathed with evergreens. But what a sad and melancholy day for a wedding. The old Pastor however would not allow the ceremony to be deferred. This was the only wish he expressed, and they obeyed. Having united his daughter Elsie to the maimed officer he said he was weary, and would rest. He lay back in his chair, leaned his head upon the cushion, and fell asleep, to wake no more in this life.
SUGGESTED BY THE VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT OF THE SISK-Y-ON MOUNTAINS, WHICH SEPARATE OREGON FROM NORTH
CALIFORNIA, U. S.
WE started at the break of day,
Great Sisk-y-on towered; frowning down
Her solitude molest: and on
To where just like a small grey thread,
And through "the golden gates," where lies
A mingled flood, there meeting waves
Of men, and ships, and fishes rare;
How far away inland, wild eyes
Have gazed upon her shrinking face;
From which, though blushless, still she ran :
Heaped up this gold, in banks and bars;
Dame Nature had to riot run,