712 A STORY FROM THE SAND-DUNES
wind blew more sharply; it was cutting and cold: and when they went back over the sand-hills, sand and little pointed stones blew into their faces. The waves reared themselves up with their white crowns of foam, and the wind cut off their crests, flinging the foam far around.
The evening came on. In the air was a swelling roar, moaning and complaining like a troop of despairing spirits, that sounded above the hoarse rolling of the sea, although the fisher's little hut was on the very margin. The sand rattled against the window-panes, and every now and then came a violent gust of wind, that shook the house to its foundations. It was dark, but towards midnight the moon would rise.
The air became clearer, but the storm swept in all its force over the perturbed sea. The fisher people had long gone to bed, but in such weather there was no chance of closing an eye. Presently there was a knocking at the window, and the door was opened, and a voice said :
' There 's a great ship fast stranded on the outermost reef.'
In a moment the fisher people had sprung from their beds and hastily arrayed themselves.
The moon had risen, and it was light enough to make the surrounding objects visible to those who could open their eyes for the blinding clouds of sand. The violence of the wind was terrible, and only by creeping forward between the gusts was it possible to pass among the sandhills ; and now the salt spray flew up from the sea like down, while the ocean foamed like a roaring cataract towards the beach. It required a practised eye to descry the vessel out in the offing. The vessel was a noble brig. The billows now lifted it over the reef, three or four cables' length out of the usual channel. It drove towards the land, struck against the second reef, and remained fixed.
To render assistance was impossible ; the sea rolled fairly in upon the vessel, making a clean breach over her. Those on shore fancied they heard the cries for help from on board, and could plainly descry the busy useless efforts made by the stranded crew. Now a wave came rolling onward, falling like a rock upon the bowsprit and tearing it from the brig. The stern was lifted high above the flood.