Signal Lantern

At the top of the mast of his own Mora a huge lantern blazed to be the guiding star of the whole navy. William now went on board; the trumpet sounded, and the voice of the herald announced the Duke's last orders before setting sail. The ships were to keep as near together as might be, and to follow closely after the beacon-light of his own ship. When they were well out to sea, they were to rest a while in the dead hour of the night, till the signals speaking alike to the eye and ear had again issued the ducal commands from the ducal vessel. The fleet set sail; the vessels halted and rested as the Duke had ordered. But before daybreak the trumpet again sounded from the Mora, and the lantern again blazed at her mast. The ships again set sail; but the ship which carried William and his fortunes, guided by the skilful hand of her pilot Stephen, far outstripped all her followers. It is plain that one reason for the special fleetness of William's ship was that she was one of the few vessels in the fleet which were unencumbered by horses. The day was now dawning, and the ducal ship was alone. At the Duke's bidding a sailor climbed the mast to see whether any of the other vessels were in sight. But the morning light as yet showed him nothing on all sides but the sea and the sky. The Duke ordered a halt; the anchor was cast, and William, as if in his own house, ordered a plentiful breakfast to be served up. The rich contents of one of the casks of wine were not forgotten; and William in cheerful mood bade his men be of good heart and assured them that their comrades would soon overtake them; God, in whose cause they were setting forth, would watch over the safety of all the host. The sailor was again sent to the masthead, and he could now say that four ships were in sight. Before long he saw such a multitude that their masts looked like a forest upon the waves. The heart of William was lifted up in thankfulness. The south wind still blew; in the morning light the lantern was no longer needed. --Freeman

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