But men were aloft, close-reefing, and preparing to furl the foretopsail, when a heavy sea struck the ship, and a sudden squall laid her over on her beam-ends almost. The sudden jerk carried away the topmast backstays. There was no rolling tackle on the topsailyard, which jerked violently as the ship fell over, and the mast snapped just above the parrell.
The moment, therefore, that the sun was hidden we proceeded to make our preparations for the welcome change, beginning by striking the awning, following this by clewing up and furling the mizen topsail, and winding up by close-reefing the fore and main topsails.
I remember once, in close-reefing the main topsail, the captain had given his orders from the quarter-deck and sent us aloft.
They had succeeded in close-reefing the topsails, and were hurrying down the rigging. The mate came close to the captain's side and said, "Did you see, sir, the way them men on the mainyard were scramblin' down?"
Close-reefing the foresail, we got it ready to hoist as a square sail; the rest of the spars we lashed fore and aft on either side, while we cut up the mainsail and raised the gunwale a foot or more all round to help keep out the water. We also, as far as we could, covered in the after-part of the little craft. While we were thus engaged the boys were pumping and baling.
Johnny's anticipations prove right, for the anxious commander, after gazing twice or thrice to windward, again consulting his barometer, looking six or eight times at his watch in as many minutes, to learn how many hours of daylight are yet above the horizon, and perhaps also stealing a professional opinion from his first lieutenant, an officer probably of much more technical experience than himself, decides upon close-reefing.
"Damn you!" raged Mad Jack to the quarter-masters; "hard down hard down, I say, and be damned to you!" Contrary orders! but Mad Jack's were obeyed. His object was to throw the ship into the wind, so as the better to admit of close-reefing the top-sails. But though the halyards were let go, it was impossible to clew down the yards, owing to the enormous horizontal strain on the canvas.