Storm Ship Of The Hudson





It was noised about New Amsterdam, two hundred years ago, that a round

and bulky ship flying Dutch colors from her lofty quarter was careering

up the harbor in the teeth of a north wind, through the swift waters of

an ebbing tide, and making for the Hudson. A signal from the Battery to

heave to and account for herself being disregarded, a cannon was trained

upon her, and a ball went whistling through her cloudy and imponderable

mass, for timbers she had none. Some of the sailor-folk talked of mirages

that rose into the air of northern coasts and seas, but the wise ones put

their fingers beside their noses and called to memory the Flying

Dutchman, that wanderer of the seas whose captain, having sworn that he

would round Cape Horn in spite of heaven and hell, has been beating to

and fro along the bleak Fuegian coast and elsewhere for centuries, being

allowed to land but once in seven years, when he can break the curse if

he finds a girl who will love him. Perhaps Captain Vanderdecken found

this maiden of his hopes in some Dutch settlement on the Hudson, or

perhaps he expiated his rashness by prayer and penitence; howbeit, he

never came down again, unless he slipped away to sea in snow or fog so

dense that watchers and boatmen saw nothing of his passing. A few old

settlers declared the vessel to be the Half Moon, and there were some who

testified to seeing that identical ship with Hudson and his spectre crew

on board making for the Catskills to hold carouse.



This fleeting vision has been confounded with the storm ship that lurks

about the foot of the Palisades and Point-no-Point, cruising through

Tappan Zee at night when a gale is coming up. The Hudson is four miles

wide at Tappan, and squalls have space enough to gather force; hence,

when old skippers saw the misty form of a ship steal out from the shadows

of the western hills, then fly like a gull from shore to shore, catching

the moonlight on her topsails, but showing no lanterns, they made to

windward and dropped anchor, unless their craft were stanch and their

pilot's brains unvexed with liquor. On summer nights, when falls that

curious silence which is ominous of tempest, the storm ship is not only

seen spinning across the mirror surface of the river, but the voices of

the crew are heard as they chant at the braces and halyards in words

devoid of meaning to the listeners.





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