The Book of the Native

by Charles G.D. Roberts


 

The "Laughing Sally"


 

A wind blew up from Pernambuco.
    (Yeo heave ho! the "Laughing Sally"! Hi yeo, heave away!)
A wind blew out of the east-sou’-east
    And boomed at the break of day.

The "Laughing Sally" sped for her life,

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    And a speedy craft was she.
The black flag flew at her top to tell
    How she took toll of the sea.

The wind blew up from Pernambuco;
    And in the breast of the blast

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Came the King’s black ship, like a hound let slip
    On the trail of the "Sally" at last.

For a day and a night, a night and a day;
    Over the blue, blue round,
Went on the chase of the pirate quarry,

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    The hunt of the tireless hound.

"Land on the port bow!" came the cry;
    And the "Sally" raced for the shore,
Till she reached the bar at the river-mouth
    Where the shallow breakers roar.

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She passed the bar by a secret channel,
With clear tide under her keel,—
For he knew the shoals like an open book,
The captain at the wheel.

She passed the bar, she sped like a ghost,

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    Till her sails were hid from view
By the tall, liana’d, unsunned boughs
    O’erbrooding the dark bayou.

At moonrise up to the river-mouth
    Came the King’s black ship of war.

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The red cross flapped in wrath at her peak,
    But she could not cross the bar.

And while she lay in the run of the seas,
    By the grimmest whim of chance
Out of a bay to the north came forth

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    Two battle-ships of France.

On the English ship the twain bore down
    Like wolves that range by night;
And the breaker’s roar was heard no more
    In the thunder of the fight.

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The crash of the broadsides rolled and stormed
    To the "Sally," hid from view
Under the tall, liana’d boughs
    Of the moonless, dark bayou.

A boat ran out for news of the fight,

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    And this was the word she brought—
"The King’s ship fights the ships of France
    As the King’s ships all have fought!"

Then muttered the mate, "I’m a man of Devon!"
    And the captain thundered then—

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"There’s English rope that bides for our necks,
    But we all be English men!"

The "Sally" glided out of the gloom
    And down the moon-white river.
She stole like a gray shark over the bar

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    Where the long surf seethes forever.

She hove to under a high French hull,
    And the red cross rose to her peak.
The French were looking for a fight that night,
    And they hadn’t far to seek.

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Blood and fire on the streaming decks,
    And fire and blood below;
The heat of hell, and the reek of hell,
    And the dead men laid a-row!

And when the stars paled out of heaven

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    And the red dawn-rays uprushed,
The oaths of battle, the crash of timbers,
    The roar of the guns were hushed.

With one foe beaten under his bow,
    The other afar in flight,

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The English captain turned to look
    For his fellow in the fight.

The English captain turned, and stared;—
    For where the "Sally" had been
Was a single spar upthrust from the sea

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    With the red-cross flag serene!

A wind blew up from Pernambuco,—
    (Yeo heave ho! the "Laughing Sally"! Hi yeo, heave away!)
And boomed for the doom of the "Laughing Sally,"
    Gone down at the break of day.

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