The Spaniards, in revenge, sent out an Indian, on an inflated horse hide, to the pirates' ship the Trinity. This Indian thrust some oakum and brimstone between the rudder and the sternpost, and "fired it with a match." The sternpost caught fire and sent up a prodigious black smoke, which warned the pirates that their ship was ablaze.
The steersman's long sweep lay along the deck; running it aft through its ring in the sternpost, and pushing with all her strength against the stones astern, she added her mite to keep the boat headed off. Garth observing, shouted his approval; and Natalie's heart waxed big in her breast. Inch by inch, then foot by foot, they won their painful way along the lee shore.
Every cruiser and battleship was rammed in the sternpost; not very hard, but with sufficient force to crumple up the sternpost, and disable the rudder and the propellers, and with such precision was this done, that, until the signals of distress began to flash, the uninjured ships and the nearest of those engaged in the battle were under the impression that orders had been given for the Reserve to move south.
One sailor saw a shot come in a port, glide along the gun, and strike the man at the breach full in the breast, killing him instantly. The "Kearsarge," too, was receiving some pretty heavy blows, but her iron armor protected her vulnerable parts. One shell lodged in her sternpost, but failed to explode. Had it burst, the "Kearsarge's" fighting would have been over.
Here the Spaniards first met with the anana, or pineapple, with the fragrance and flavour of which they were delighted. In another house was the sternpost of a vessel, probably part of a wreck driven across from the coast of Africa.
We had been well aft, and the falling masthead and yard had not reached us, though it had been too near to be pleasant. Maybe the end of the yard, as it fell, missed me by a foot or so. But though Gerda's face was pale, and her eyes wide with the terror of the wreck, she never screamed or let go her hold of the sternpost to which she had been clinging. She was a sea king's daughter.
"In order to steer this boat to port or starboard, in short, to make turns on a horizontal plane, I use an ordinary, wide-bladed rudder that's fastened to the rear of the sternpost and worked by a wheel and tackle.
He reduced the speed to thirty knots, rose for a moment till the conning-tower was just above the water, took his bearings, sank, called for full speed, and in four minutes the ram crashed into the Alger's stern, carried away her sternpost and rudder, and smashed her propellers. The Ithuriel passed on as if she had hit a log of wood and knocked it aside.
Another Confederate shell burst in the hammock nettings and started a fire, which was easily extinguished. A third lodged in the sternpost, but failed to explode. Had it done so, its effect would have been terrific. The damage done by the other shells was insignificant. A far different story was told on the Confederate cruiser.
He stood beside me at the window with one in the uniform of a naval captain, and we looked, all three of us, at that which few might behold unmoved. "She's a beauty!" said the Captain. "She's all speed and grace from cutwater to sternpost." "I've been building ships for sixty-odd years and we never launched a better!" said the Master Builder. As for me I was dumb.