The Gold Brick
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This was the scene commanded from the deck of a New England brig, lying in the harbor of Port au Prince, on one of those terrible nights in the end of the last century, when the horrible passions that had rioted through France, like wild beasts ravening for blood, fled across seas and fired themselves anew in the hot life of the tropics.
The contrast between the stillness of the harbor, where the starlight fell smilingly, and the waters rippled like kisses around the vessels, and that demon riot on the shore, was awful. To lie so near, with death shrieks cutting the air every instant, with murderous yells chasing them, like fiends, was enough to drive men mad. The iron-hearted New England sailors on that deck, grew restive as caged lions, while the tumult swelled louder and louder around them. The young captain turned white as he took short marches up and down the deck. The men drew close together, eyeing each other with fierce glances. A word from the captain would have sent them headlong into the massacre, in a wild effort to save the women and children, whose shrieks, even from the distance, drove them frantic.
But what could they do?—a handful of men against thousands on thousands of brutalized blacks, swarming in that doomed city. It was terrible to remain, but madness to go. The captain ground his teeth and clenched his hands in the agony of this restraint. Every cry that reached the ship pierced him like a sword; every fresh gleam of light quivering across the waters seemed to lure him to the rescue.