GREAT SEA STORIES
JOSEPH LEWIS FRENCH
Editor "Great Ghost Stories," "Masterpieces of Mystery," "The Best Psychic Stories," etc.
Copyright, 1921, by
All rights reserved
Spanish Bloodhounds and English Mastiffs From "Westward Ho!" By CHARLES KINGSLEY
The Club-Hauling of the Diomede From "Peter Simple." By CAPTAIN FREDERICK MARRYAT
The Cruise of the Torch From "Tom Cringle's Log." By MICHAEL SCOTT
The Merchantman and the Pirate From "Hard Cash." By CHARLES READE
The Mutiny of the Bounty From "Chamber's Miscellany." ANONYMOUS
The Wreck of the Royal Caroline From "The Red Rover." By JAMES FENNIMORE COOPER
The Capture of the Great White Whale From "Moby Dick." By HERMAN MELVILLE
The Corvette Claymore From "Ninety-three." By VICTOR HUGO
The Merchants' Cup From "Broken Stowage." By DAVID W. BONE
A Storm and a Rescue From "The Wreck of the Grosvenor." By W. CLARK RUSSELL
The Sailor's Wife From "An Iceland Fisherman." By PIERRE LOTI
The Salving of the Yan-Shan From "In Blue Waters." By H. DE VERE STACKPOOLE
The Derelict Neptune From "Spun Gold." By MORGAN ROBERTSON
The Terrible Solomons From "South Sea Tales." By JACK LONDON
El Dorado From "A Tarpaulin Muster." By JOHN MASEFIELD
Song sung by labor gang.
The theme of the sea is heroic—epic. Since the first stirrings of the imagination of man the sea has enthralled him; and since the dawn of literature he has chronicled his wanderings upon its vast bosom.
It is one of the curiosities of literature, a fact that old Isaac Disraeli might have delighted to linger over, that there have been no collectors of sea-tales; that no man has ever, as in the present instance, dwelt upon the topic with the purpose of gathering some of the best work into a single volume. And yet men have written of the sea since 2500 B.C. when an unknown author set down on papyrus his account of a struggle with a sea-serpent. This account, now in the British Museum, is the first sea-story on record. Our modern sea-stories begin properly with the chronicles of the early navigators—in many of which there is an unconscious art that none of our modern masters of fiction has greatly surpassed. For delightful reading the lover of sea stories is referred to Best's account of Frobisher's second voyage—to Richard Chancellor's chronicle of the same period—to Hakluyt, an immortal classic—and to Purchas' "Pilgrimage."
But from the earliest growth of the art of fiction the sea was frankly accepted as a stirring theme, comparatively rarely handled because voyages were fewer then, and the subject still largely unknown. To the general reader it may seem a rather astounding fact that in "Robinson Crusoe" we have the first classic of this period and in "Colonel Jack" another classic of much the same type. These two stories by the immortal Defoe may be accepted as the foundation of the sea-tale in literary art.
A century, however, was to elapse before the sea-tale came into its own. It was not until a generation after Defoe that Smollett, in "Roderick Random," again stirred the theme into life. Fielding in his "Voyage to Lisbon" had given some account of a personal experience, but in the general category it must be set down as simply episodal. Foster's "Voyages," a translation from the German published in England at the beginning of the third quarter of the eighteenth century, a compendium of monumental importance, continued the tradition of Hakluyt and Purchas. By this time the sea-power of England had become supreme,—Britannia ruled the waves, and a native sea-literature was the result. The sea-songs of Thomas Dibdin and other writers were the first fruits of this newly created literary nationalism.
Shortly after the beginning of the nineteenth century the sea-writer established himself with Michael Scott in "Tom Cringle's Log," a forgotten, but ever-fresh classic. Then came Captain Marryat, who was to the sea what Dickens and Thackeray were to land folk. America, too, contributed to this literary movement. Even before Marryat, our own Cooper had essayed the sea with a masterly hand, while in "Moby Dick," as in his other stories, Herman Melville glorified the theme. Continental writers like Victor Hugo and the Hungarian, Maurus Jokal, who had little personal knowledge of the subject, also set their hands to tales of marine adventure.
Such work as this has established a succession which has been continuous and progressive ever since. The literature of the sea of the past half-century is voluminous, varied and universally known, and whether in the form of personal adventure, or in purely fictional shape, it has grown to be an art cultivated with great care by the best contemporary writers.
The noble band of singers of the sea, from the days of the Elizabethans to the sublime Swinburne, belongs to another volume. It is the sincere hope of the compiler that the present collection offers undisputable evidence that the prose tradition has been fully sustained and the reader will find in these pages living testimony to the marvelous interest of the theme—its virility and its beauty.
JOSEPH LEWIS FRENCH.
GREAT SEA STORIES
SPANISH BLOODHOUNDS AND ENGLISH MASTIFFS
From "Westward Ho!" BY CHARLES KINGSLEY
When the sun leaped up the next morning, and the tropic light flashed suddenly into the tropic day, Amyas was pacing the deck, with disheveled hair and torn clothes, his eyes red with rage and weeping, his heart full—how can I describe it? Picture it to yourselves, you who have ever lost a brother; and you who have not, thank God that you know nothing of his agony. Full of impossible projects, he strode and staggered up and down, as the ship thrashed and close-hauled through the rolling seas. He would go back and burn the villa. He would take Guayra, and have the life of every man in it in return for his brother's. "We can do it, lads!" he shouted. "Drake took Nombre de Dios, we can take La Guayra." And every voice shouted, "Yes."
"We will have it, Amyas, and have Frank too, yet," cried Cary; but Amyas shook his head. He knew, and knew not why he knew, that all the ports in New Spain would never restore to him that one beloved face.
"Yes, he shall be well avenged. And look there! There is the first crop of our vengeance." And he pointed toward the shore, where between them and the now distant peaks of the Silla, three sails appeared, not five miles to windward.
"There are the Spanish bloodhounds on our heels, the same ships which we saw yesterday off Guayra. Back, lads, and welcome them, if they were a dozen."
There was a murmur of applause from all around; and if any young heart sank for a moment at the prospect of fighting three ships at once, it was awed into silence by the cheer which rose from all the older men, and by Salvation Yeo's stentorian voice.
"If there were a dozen, the Lord is with us, who has said, 'One of you shall chase a thousand.' Clear away, lads, and see the glory of the Lord this day."
"Amen!" cried Cary; and the ship was kept still closer to the wind.
Amyas had revived at the sight of battle. He no longer felt his wounds or his great sorrow as he bustled about the deck; and ere a quarter of an hour had passed, his voice cried firmly and cheerfully as of old—
"Now, my masters, let us serve God, and then to breakfast, and after that clear for action."
Jack Brimblecombe read the dally prayers, and the prayers before a fight at sea, and his honest voice trembled, as, in the Prayer for all Conditions of Men (In spite of Amyas's despair), he added, "and especially for our dear brother Mr. Francis Leigh, perhaps captive among the idolaters;" and so they rose.
"Now, then," said Amyas, "to breakfast. A Frenchman fights best fasting, a Dutchman drunk, an Englishman full, and a Spaniard when the devil is in him, and that's always."
"And good beef and the good cause are a match for the devil," said Cary. "Come down, captain; you must eat too."
Amyas shook his head, took the tiller from the steersman, and bade him go below and fill himself. Will Cary went down, and returned in five minutes with a plate of bread and beef, and a great jack of ale, coaxed them down Amyas's throat, as a nurse does with a child, and then scuttled below again with tears hopping down his face.
Amyas stood still steering. His face was grown seven years older in the last night. A terrible set calm was on him. Woe to the man who came across him that day!
"There are three of them, you see, my masters," said he, as the crew came on deck again. "A big ship forward, and two galleys astern of her. The big ship may keep; she is a race ship, and if we can but recover the wind of her, we will see whether our height is not a match for her length. We must give her the slip, and take the galleys first."
"I thank the Lord," said Yeo, "who has given so wise a heart to so young a general; a very David and Daniel, saving his presence, lads. Silas Staveley, smite me that boy over the head, the young monkey; why is he not down at the powder-room door?"
And Yeo went about his gunnery, as one who knew how to do it, and had the most terrible mind to do it thoroughly, and the most terrible faith that it was God's work.
So all fell to; and though there was comparatively little to be done, the ship having been kept as far as could be in fighting order all night, yet there was "clearing of decks, lacing of nettings, making of bulwarks, fitting of waistcloths, arming of tops, tallowing of pikes, slinging of yards, doubling of sheets and tacks." Amyas took charge of the poop, Cary of the forecastle, and Yeo, as gunner, of the main-deck, while Drew, as master, settled himself in the waist; and all was ready, and more than ready, before the great ship was within two miles of them.
She is now within two musket-shots of the Rose, with the golden flag of Spain floating at her poop; and her trumpets are shouting defiance up the breeze, from a dozen brazen throats, which two or three answer lustily from the Rose, from whose poop flies the flag of England, and from her fore the arms of Leigh and Cary side by side, and over them the ship and bridge of the good town of Bideford. And then Amyas calls—
"Now, silence trumpets, waits, play up! 'Fortune my foe!' and God and the Queen be with us!"
Whereon (laugh not, reader, for it was the fashion of those musical, as well as valiant days) up rose that noble old favorite of good Queen Bess, from cornet and sackbut, fife and drum; while Parson Jack, who had taken his stand with the musicians on the poop, worked away lustily at his violin.
"Well played, Jack; thy elbow flies like a lamb's tail," said Amyas, forcing a jest.
"It shall fly to a better fiddle-bow presently, sir, and I have the luck—"
"Steady, helm!" said Amyas. "What is he after now?"
The Spaniard, who had been coming upon them right down the wind under a press of sail, took in his light canvas.
"He don't know what to make of our waiting for him so bold," said the helmsman.
"He does though, and means to fight us," cried another. "See, he is hauling up the foot of his mainsail: but he wants to keep the wind of us."
"Let him try, then," quoth Amyas. "Keep her closer still. Let no one fire till we are about. Man the starboard guns; to starboard, and wait, all small arm men. Pass the order down to the gunner, and bid all fire high, and take the rigging."
Bang went one of the Spaniard's bow guns, and the shot went wide. Then another and another, while the men fidgeted about, looking at the priming of their muskets, and loosened their arrows in the sheaf.
"Lie down, men, and sing a psalm. When I want you I'll call you. Closer still, if you can, helmsman, and we will try a short ship against a long one. We can sail two points nearer the wind than he."
As Amyas had calculated, the Spaniard would gladly enough have stood across the Rose's bows, but knowing the English readiness dare not for fear of being raked; so her only plan, if she did not intend to shoot past her foe down to leeward, was to put her head close to the wind, and wait for her on the same tack.
Amyas laughed to himself. "Hold on yet awhile. More ways of killing a cat than choking her with cream. Drew, there, are your men ready?"
"Ay, ay, sir!" and on they went, closing fast with the Spaniard, till within a pistol-shot.
"Ready about!" and about she went like an eel, and ran upon the opposite tack right under the Spaniard's stern. The Spaniard, astonished at the quickness of the maneuver, hesitated a moment, and then tried to get about also, as his only chance; but it was too late, and while his lumbering length was still hanging in the wind's eye, Amyas's bowsprit had all but scraped his quarter, and the Rose passed slowly across his stern at ten yards' distance.
"Now, then!" roared Amyas. "Fire, and with a will! Have at her, archers: have at her, muskets all!" and in an instant a storm of bar and chain-shot, round and canister, swept the proud Don from stem to stern, while through the white cloud of smoke the musket-balls, and the still deadlier clothyard arrows, whistled and rushed upon their venomous errand. Down went the steersman, and every soul who manned the poop. Down went the mizzen topmast, in went the stern-windows and quarter-galleries; and as the smoke cleared away, the golden flag of Spain, which the last moment flaunted above their heads, hung trailing in the water. The ship, her tiller shot away, and her helmsman killed, staggered helplessly a moment, and then fell up into the wind.
"Well done, men of Devon!" shouted Amyas, as cheers rent the welkin.
"She has struck," cried some, as the deafening hurrahs died away.
"Not a bit," said Amyas. "Hold on, helmsman, and leave her to patch her tackle while we settle the galleys."
On they shot merrily, and long ere the armada could get herself to rights again, were two good miles to windward, with the galleys sweeping down fast upon them.
And two venomous-looking craft they were, as they shot through the short chopping sea upon some forty oars apiece, stretching their long sword-fish snouts over the water, as if snuffing for their prey. Behind this long snout, a strong square forecastle was crammed with soldiers, and the muzzles of cannon grinned out through port-holes, not only in the sides of the forecastle, but forward in the line of the galley's course, thus enabling her to keep up a continual fire on a ship right ahead.
The long low waist was packed full of the slaves, some five or six to each oar, and down the center, between the two banks, the English could see the slave-drivers walking up and down a long gangway, whip in hand. A raised quarter-deck at the stern held more soldiers, the sunlight flashing merrily upon their armor and their gun-barrels; as they neared, the English could hear plainly the cracks of the whips, and the yells as of wild beasts which answered them; the roll and rattle of the oars, and the loud "Ha!" of the slaves which accompanied every stroke, and the oaths and curses of the drivers; while a sickening musky smell, as of a pack of kenneled hounds, came down the wind from off those dens of misery. No wonder if many a young heart shuddered as it faced, for the first time, the horrible reality of those floating hells, the cruelties whereof had rung so often in English ears from the stories of their own countrymen, who had passed them, fought them, and now and then passed years of misery on board of them. Who knew but what there might be English among those sun-browned, half-naked masses of panting wretches?
"Must we fire upon the slaves?" asked more than one, as the thought crossed him.
"Spare them all you can, in God's name: but if they try to run us down, rake them we must, and God forgive us."
The two galleys came on abreast of each other, some forty yards apart. To out-maneuver their oars as he had done the ship's sails, Amyas knew was impossible. To run from them was to be caught between them and the ship.
He made up his mind, as usual, to the desperate game.
"Lay her head up in the wind, helmsman, and we will wait for them."
They were now within musket-shot, and opened fire from their bow-guns; but, owing to the chopping sea, their aim was wild. Amyas, as usual, withheld his fire.
The men stood at quarters with compressed lips, not knowing what was to come next. Amyas, towering motionless on the quarter-deck, gave his orders calmly and decisively. The men saw that he trusted himself, and trusted him accordingly.
The Spaniards, seeing him wait for them, gave a shout of joy—was the Englishman mad? And the two galleys converged rapidly, intending to strike him full, one on each bow.
They were within forty yards—another minute, and the shock would come. The Englishman's helm went up, his yards creaked round, and gathering way, he plunged upon the larboard galley.
"A dozen gold nobles to him who brings down the steersman!" shouted Cary, who had his cue.
And a flight of arrows from the forecastle rattled upon the galley's quarter-deck.
Hit or not hit, the steersman lost his nerve, and shrank from the coming shock. The galley's helm went up to port, and her beak slid all but harmless along Amyas's bow; a long dull grind, and then loud crack on crack, as the Rose sawed slowly through the bank of oars from stem to stern, hurling the wretched slaves in heaps upon each other; and ere her mate on the other side could swing round to strike him in his new position, Amyas's whole broadside, great and small, had been poured into her at pistol-shot, answered by a yell which rent their ears and hearts.
"Spare the slaves! Fire at the soldiers!" cried Amyas; but the work was too hot for much discrimination; for the larboard galley, crippled but not undaunted, swung round across his stern, and hooked herself venomously on to him.
It was a move more brave than wise; for it prevented the other galley from returning to the attack without exposing herself a second time to the English broadside; and a desperate attempt of the Spaniards to board at once through the stern-ports and up the quarter was met with such a demurrer of shot and steel that they found themselves in three minutes again upon the galley's poop, accompanied, to their intense disgust, by Amyas Leigh and twenty English swords.
Five minutes' hard cutting, hand to hand, and the poop was clear. The soldiers in the forecastle had been able to give them no assistance, open as they lay to the arrows and musketry from the Rose's lofty stern. Amyas rushed along the central gangway, shouting in Spanish, "Freedom to the slaves! death to the masters!" clambered into the forecastle, followed close by his swarm of wasps, and set them so good an example how to use their stings that in three minutes more there was not a Spaniard on board who was not dead or dying.
"Let the slaves free!" shouted he. "Throw us a hammer down, men. Hark! there's an English voice!"
There is indeed. From amid the wreck of broken oars and writhing limbs, a voice is shrieking in broadest Devon to the master, who is looking over the side.
"Oh, Robert Drew! Robert Drew! Come down, and take me out of hell!"
"Who be you, in the name of the Lord?"
"Don't you mind William Prust, that Captain Hawkins left behind in the Honduras, years and years agone? There's nine of us aboard, if your shot hasn't put 'em out of their misery. Come down, if you've a Christian heart, come down!"
Utterly forgetful of all discipline, Drew leaps down hammer in hand, and the two old comrades rush into each other's arms.
Why make a long story of what took but five minutes to do? The nine men (luckily none of them wounded) are freed, and helped on board, to be hugged and kissed by old comrades and young kinsmen; while the remaining slaves, furnished with a couple of hammers, are told to free themselves and help the English. The wretches answer by a shout; and Amyas, once more safe on board again, dashes after the other galley, which has been hovering out of reach of his guns: but there is no need to trouble himself about her; sickened with what she has got, she is struggling right up wind, leaning over to one side, and seemingly ready to sink.
"Are there any English on board of her?" asks Amyas, loth to lose the chance of freeing a countryman.
"Never a one, sir, thank God."
So they set to work to repair damages; while the liberated slaves, having shifted some of the galley's oars, pull away after their comrade; and that with such a will that in ten minutes they have caught her up, and careless of the Spaniard's fire, boarded her en masse, with yells as of a thousand wolves. There will be fearful vengeance taken on those tyrants, unless they play the man this day.
And in the meanwhile half the crew are clothing, feeding, questioning, caressing those nine poor fellows thus snatched from living death; and Yeo, hearing the news, has rushed up on deck to welcome his old comrades, and—
"Is Michael Heard, my cousin, here among you?"
Yes, Michael Heard is there, white-headed rather from misery than age; and the embracings and questionings begin afresh.
"Where is my wife, Salvation Yeo?"
"With the Lord."
"Amen!" says the old man, with a short shudder. "I thought so much; and my two boys?"
"With the Lord."
The old man catches Yeo by the arm.
"How, then?" It is Yeo's turn to shudder now.
"Killed in Panama, fighting the Spaniards; sailing with Mr. Oxeham; and 'twas I led 'em into it. May God and you forgive me!"
"They couldn't die better, cousin Yeo."
The old man covers his face with his hands for a while.
"Well, I've been alone with the Lord these fifteen years, so I must not whine at being alone awhile longer—'twon't be long."
"Put this coat on your back, uncle," says some one.
"No; no coats for me. Naked came I into the world, and naked I go out of it this day, if I have a chance. You'm better go to your work, lads, or the big one will have the wind of us yet."
"So she will," said Amyas, who had overheard; but so great is the curiosity of all hands that he has some trouble in getting the men to quarters again; indeed, they only go on condition of parting among themselves with them the newcomers, each to tell his sad and strange story. How after Captain Hawkins, constrained by famine, had put them ashore, they wandered in misery till the Spaniards took them; how, instead of hanging them (as they at first intended), the Dons fed and clothed them, and allotted them as servants to various gentlemen about Mexico, where they throve, turned their hands (like true sailors) to all manner of trades, and made much money; so that all went well, until the fatal year 1574, when, much against the minds of many of the Spaniards themselves, that cruel and bloody Inquisition was established for the first time in the Indies; and how from that moment their lives were one long tragedy; how they were all imprisoned for a year and a half, racked again and again, and at last adjudged to receive publicly, on Good Friday, 1575, some three hundred, some one hundred stripes, and to serve in the galleys for six or ten years each; while as the crowning atrocity of the Moloch sacrifice, three of them were burnt alive in the market-place of Mexico.
The history of the party was not likely to improve the good feeling of the crew towards the Spanish ship which was two miles to leeward of them, and which must be fought with, or fled from, before a quarter of an hour was past. So, kneeling down upon the deck, as many a brave crew in those days did in like case, they "gave God thanks devoutly for the favor they had found," and then with one accord, at Jack's leading, sang one and all the ninety-fourth Psalm:
"Oh, Lord, thou dost revenge all wrong; Vengeance belongs to thee," etc.
And then again to quarters; for half the day's work, or more than half, still remained to be done; and hardly were the decks cleared afresh, and the damage repaired as best it could be, when she came ranging up to leeward, as closehauled as she could.
She was, as I said, a long flushed-decked ship of full five hundred tons, more than double the size, in fact, of he Rose, though not so lofty in proportion; and many a bold heart beat loud, and no shame to them, as she began firing away merrily, determined, as all well knew, to wipe out in English blood the disgrace of her late foil.
"Never mind, my merry masters," said Amyas, "she has quantity and we quality."
"That's true," said one, "for one honest man is worth two rogues."
"And one culverin three of their footy little ordnance," said another. "So when you will, captain, and have at her."
"Let her come abreast of us, and don't burn powder. We have the wind, and can do what we like with her. Serve the men out a horn of ale all round, steward, and all take your time."
So they waited five minutes more, and then set to work quietly, after the fashion of English mastiffs, though, like those mastiffs, they waxed right mad before three rounds were fired, and the white splinters (sight beloved) began to crackle and fly.
Amyas, having, as he had said, the wind, and being able to go nearer it than the Spaniard, kept his place at easy point-blank range for his two-eighteen-pounder culverins, which Yeo and his mate worked with terrible effect.
"We are lacking her through and through every shot," said he. "Leave the small ordnance alone yet awhile, and we shall sink her without them."
"Whing, whing," went the Spaniard's shot, like so many humming-tops, through the rigging far above their heads; for the ill-constructed ports of those days prevented the guns from hulling an enemy who was to windward, unless close alongside.
"Blow, jolly breeze," cried one, "and lay the Don over all thou canst.—What the murrain is gone, aloft there?"
Alas! a crack, a flap, a rattle; and blank dismay! An unlucky shot had cut the foremast (already wounded) in two, and all forward was a mass of dangling wreck.
"Forward, and cut away the wreck!" said Amyas, unmoved. "Small arm men, be ready. He will be aboard of us in five minutes!"
It was true. The Rose, unmanageable from the loss of her head-sail, lay at the mercy of the Spaniard; and the archers and musqueteers had hardly time to range themselves to leeward, when the Madre Dolorosa's chains were grinding against the Rose's, and grapples tossed on board from stem to stern.
"Don't cut them loose!" roared Amyas. "Let them stay and see the fun! Now, dogs of Devon, show your teeth, and hurrah for God and the Queen!"
And then began a fight most fierce and fell: the Spaniards, according to their fashion, attempted to board: the English, amid fierce shouts of "God and the Queen!" "God and St. George for England!" sweeping them back by showers of arrows and musquet balls, thrusting them down with pikes, hurling grenades and stink-pots from the tops; while the swivels on both sides poured their grape, and bar, and chain, and the great main-deck guns, thundering muzzle to muzzle, made both ships quiver and recoil, as they smashed the round shot through and through each other.
So they roared and flashed, fast clenched to each other in that devil's wedlock, under a cloud of smoke beneath the cloudless tropic sky; while all around, the dolphins gamboled, and the flying-fish shot on from swell to swell, and the rainbow-hued jellies opened and shut their cups of living crystal to the sun.
So it raged for an hour or more, till all arms were weary, and all tongues clove to the mouth. And sick men, rotting with scurvy, scrambled up on deck, and fought with the strength of madness: and tiny powder-boys, handing up cartridges from the hold, laughed and cheered as the shots ran past their ears; and old Salvation Yeo, a text upon his lips, and a fury in his heart as of Joshua or Elijah in old time, worked on, calm and grim, but with the energy of a boy at play. And now and then an opening in the smoke showed the Spanish captain, in his suit of black steel armor, standing cool and proud, guiding and pointing, careless of the iron hail, but too lofty a gentleman to soil his glove with aught but a knightly sword-hilt: while Amyas and Will, after the fashion of the English gentlemen, had stripped themselves nearly as bare as their own sailors, and were cheering, thrusting, hewing, and hauling, here, there, and everywhere, like any common mariner, and filling them with a spirit of self-respect, fellow-feeling, and personal daring, which the discipline of the Spaniards, more perfect mechanically, but cold and tyrannous, and crushing spiritually, never could bestow. The black-plumed Senor was obeyed; but the golden-locked Amyas was followed, and would have been followed through the jaws of hell.
The Spaniards, ere five minutes had passed, poured en masse into the Rose's waist: but only to their destruction. Between the poop and forecastle (as was then the fashion) the upper-deck beams were left open and unplanked, with the exception of a narrow gangway on either side; and off that fatal ledge the boarders, thrust on by those behind, fell headlong between the beams to the main-deck below, to be slaughtered helpless in that pit of destruction, by the double fire from the bulkheads fore and aft; while the few who kept their footing on the gangway, after vain attempts to force the stockades on poop and forecastle, leaped overboard again amid a shower of shot and arrows. The fire of the English was as steady as it was quick.
Thrice the Spaniards clambered on board, and thrice surged back before that deadly hail. The decks on both sides were very shambles; and Jack Brimblecombe, who had fought as long as his conscience would allow him, found, when he turned to a more clerical occupation, enough to do in carrying poor wretches to the surgeon, without giving that spiritual consolation which he longed to give, and they to receive. At last there was a lull in that wild storm. No shot was heard from the Spaniard's upper-deck.
Amyas leaped into the mizzen rigging and looked through the smoke. Dead men he could descry through the blinding veil, rolled in heaps, laid flat; dead men and dying; but no man upon his feet. The last volley had swept the deck clear; one by one had dropped below to escape that fiery shower: and alone at the helm, grinding his teeth with rage, his mustachios curling up to his very eyes, stood the Spanish captain.
Now was the moment for a counter stroke. Amyas shouted for the boarders, and in two minutes more he was over the side, and clutching at the Spaniard's mizzen rigging.
What was this? The distance between him and the enemy's side was widening. Was she sheering off? Yes—and rising, too, growing bodily higher every moment, as if by magic. Amyas looked up in astonishment and saw what it was. The Spaniard was heeling fast over to leeward away from him. Her masts were all sloping forward, swifter and swifter—the end was come, then!
"Back! in God's name back, men! She is sinking by the head!" And with much ado some were dragged back, some leaped back—all but old Michael Heard.
With hair and beard floating in the wind, the bronzed naked figure, like some weird old Indian fakir, still climbed on steadfastly up the mizzen-chains of the Spaniard, hatchet in hand.
"Come back, Michael! Leap while you may!" shouted a dozen voices. Michael turned—
"And what should I come back for, then, to go home where no one knoweth me? I'll die like an Englishman this day, or I'll know the reason why!" and turning, he sprang in over the bulwarks, as the huge ship rolled up more and more, like a dying whale, exposing all her long black hulk almost down to the keel, and one of her lower-deck guns as if in defiance exploded upright into the air, hurling the ball to the very heavens.
In an instant it was answered from the Rose by a column of smoke, and the eighteen-pound ball crashed through the bottom of the defenseless Spaniard.
"Who fired! Shame to fire on a sinking ship!"
"Gunner Yeo, sir," shouted a voice from the maindeck. "He's like a madman down here."
"Tell him if he fires again, I'll put him in irons, if he were my own brother. Cut away the grapples aloft, men. Don't you see how she drags us over? Cut away, or we shall sink with her."
They cut away, and the Rose, released from the strain, shook her feathers on the wave-crest like a freed sea-gull, while all men held their breaths.
Suddenly the glorious creature righted herself, and rose again, as if in noble shame, for one last struggle with her doom. Her bows were deep in the water, but her after-deck still dry. Righted: but only for a moment, long enough to let her crew come pouring wildly up on deck, with cries and prayers, and rush aft to the poop, where, under the flag of Spain, stood the tall captain, his left hand on the standard-staff, his sword pointed in his right.
"Back men!" they heard him cry, "and die like valiant mariners."
Some of them ran to the bulwarks, and shouted "Mercy! We surrender!" and the English broke into a cheer and called to them to run her alongside.
"Silence!" shouted Amyas. "I take no surrender from mutineers. Senor," cried he to the captain, springing into the rigging and taking off his hat, "for the love of God and these men, strike! and surrender a buena guerra."
The Spaniard lifted his hat and bowed courteously, and answered. "Impossible, Senor. No guerra is good which stains my honor."
"God have mercy on you, then!"
"Amen!" said the Spaniard, crossing himself.
She gave one awful lunge forward, and dived under the coming swell, hurling her crew into the eddies. Nothing but the point of her poop remained, and there stood the stern and steadfast Don, cap-a-pie in his glistening black armor, immovable as a man of iron, while over him the flag, which claimed the empire of both worlds, flaunted its gold aloft and upwards in the glare of the tropic noon.
"He shall not carry that flag to the devil with him; I will have it yet, if I die for it!" said Will Cary, and rushed to the side to leap overboard, but Amyas stopped him.
"Let him die as he lived, with honor."
A wild figure sprang out of the mass of sailors who struggled and shrieked amid the foam, and rushed upward at the Spaniard. It was Michael Heard. The Don, who stood above him, plunged his sword into the old man's body: but the hatchet gleamed, nevertheless: down went the blade through the headpiece and through head; and as Heard sprang onward, bleeding, but alive, the steel-clad corpse rattled down the deck into the surge. Two more strokes, struck with the fury of a dying man, and the standard-staff was hewn through. Old Michael collected all his strength, hurled the flag far from the sinking ship, and then stood erect one moment and shouted, "God save Queen Bess!" and the English answered with a "Hurrah!" which rent the welkin.
Another moment and the gulf had swallowed his victim, and the poop, and him; and nothing remained of the Madre Dolorosa but a few floating spars and struggling wretches, while a great awe fell upon all men, and a solemn silence, broken only by the cry
"Of some strong swimmer in his agony."
And then, suddenly collecting themselves, as men awakened from a dream, half-a-dozen desperate gallants, reckless of sharks and eddies, leaped overboard, swam towards the flag, and towed it alongside in triumph.
"Ah!" said Salvation Yeo, as he helped the trophy up over the side; "ah! it was not for nothing that we found poor Michael! He was always a good comrade. And now, then, my masters, shall we inshore again and burn La Guayra?"
"Art thou never glutted with Spanish blood, thou old wolf?" asked Will Cary.
"Never, sir," answered Yeo.
"To St. Jago be it," said Amyas, "if we can get there: but—God help us!"
And he looked round sadly enough; while no one needed that he should finish his sentence, or explain his "but."
The fore-mast was gone, the main-yard sprung, the rigging hanging in elf-locks, the hull shot through and through in twenty places, the deck strewn with the bodies of nine good men, besides sixteen wounded down below; while the pitiless sun, right above their heads, poured down a flood of fire upon a sea of glass.
And it would have been well if faintness and weariness had been all that was the matter; but now that the excitement was over, the collapse came; and the men sat down listlessly and sulkily by twos and threes upon the deck, starting and wincing when they heard some poor fellow below cry out under the surgeon's knife; or murmuring to each other that all was lost. Drew tried in vain to rouse them, telling them that all depended on rigging a jury-mast forward as soon as possible. They answered only by growls; and at last broke into open reproaches. Even Will Cary's volatile nature, which had kept him up during the fight gave way, when Yeo and the carpenter came aft, and told Amyas in a low voice—
"We are hit somewhere forward, below the waterline, sir. She leaks a terrible deal, and the Lord will not vouchsafe to us to lay our hands on the place, for all our searching."
"What are we to do now, Amyas, in the devil's name?" asked Cary, peevishly.
"What are we to do, in God's name, rather," answered Amyas in a low voice. "Will, Will, what did God make you a gentleman for, but to know better than those poor fickle fellows forward, who blow hot and cold at every change of weather!"
"I wish you'd come forward and speak to them, sir," said Yeo, who had overheard the last words, "or we shall get nought done."
Amyas went forward instantly.
"Now then, my brave lads, what's the matter here, that you are all sitting on your tails like monkeys?"
"Ugh!" grunts one. "Don't you think our day's work has been long enough yet, captain?"
"You don't want us to go in to La Guayra again, sir? There are enough of us thrown away already, I reckon, about that wench there."
"Best sit here, and sink quietly. There's no getting home again, that's plain."
"Why were we brought out here to be killed."
"For shame, men!" cries Yeo, "murmuring the very minute after the Lord has delivered you from the Egyptians."
Now I do not wish to set Amyas up as better, thank God, than many and many a brave and virtuous captain in her Majesty's service at this very day: but certainly he behaved admirably under that trial. Drake had trained him, as he trained many another excellent officer, to be as stout in discipline and as dogged of purpose, as he himself was: but he had trained him also to feel with and for his men, to make allowances for them, and to keep his temper with them, as he did this day. Amyas's conscience smote him (and his simple and pious soul took the loss of his brother as God's verdict on his conduct), because he had set his own private affection, even his own private revenge, before the safety of his ship's company and the good of his country.
"Ah," said he to himself, as he listened to his men's reproaches, "if I had been thinking, like a loyal soldier, of serving my queen, and crippling the Spaniard, I should have taken that great bark three days ago, and in it the very man I sought!"
So "choking down his old man," as Yeo used to say, he made answer cheerfully—
"Pooh! pooh! brave lads! For shame, for shame! You were lions half-an-hour ago; you are not surely turned sheep already! Why, but yesterday evening you were grumbling because I would not run in and fight those three ships under the batteries of La Guayra, and now you think it too much to have fought them fairly out at sea? Nothing venture, nothing win; and nobody goes birdnesting without a fall at times. If any one wants to be safe in this life, he'd best stay at home and keep his bed; though even there who knows but the roof might fall through on him?"
"Ah, it's all very well for you, captain," said some grumbling younker, with a vague notion that Amyas must be better off than he because he was a gentleman. Amyas's blood rose.
"Yes, sirrah! Do you fancy that I have nothing to lose? I who have adventured in this voyage all I am worth, and more; who, if I fall, must return to beggary and scorn? And if I have ventured rashly, sinfully, if you will, the lives of any of you in my own private quarrel, am I not punished? Have I not lost——?"
His voice trembled and stopped there, but he recovered himself in a moment.
"Pish! I can't stand here chattering. Carpenter! an ax! and help me to cast these spars loose. Get out of my way, there! lumbering the scuppers up like so many moulting fowls! Here, all old friends, lend a hand! Pelican's men, stand by your captain! Did we sail round the world for nothing?"
This last appeal struck home, and up leaped half-a-dozen of the old Pelicans, and set to work at his side manfully to rig the jury-mast.
"Come along!" cried Cary to the malcontents; "we're raw longshore fellows, but we won't be outdone by any old sea-dog of them all." And setting to work himself, he was soon followed by one and another, till order and work went on well enough.
"And where are we going, when the mast's up?" shouted some saucy hand from behind.
"Where you daren't follow us alone by yourself, so you had better keep us company," replied Yeo.
"I'll tell you where we are going, lads," said Amyas, rising from his work. "Like it or leave it as you will, I have no secrets from my crew. We are going inshore there to find a harbor, and careen the ship."
There was a start and a murmur.
"Inshore! Into the Spaniards' mouths?"
"All in the Inquisition in a week's time."
"Better stay here, and be drowned."
"You're right in that last," shouts Cary. "That's the right death for blind puppies. Look you! I don't know in the least where we are, and I hardly know stem from stern aboard ship; and the captain may be right or wrong—that's nothing to me; but this I know, that I am a soldier, and will obey orders; and where he goes, I go; and whosoever hinders me must walk up my sword to do it."
Amyas pressed Cary's hand, and then—
"And here's my broadside next, men. I'll go nowhere, and do nothing without the advice of Salvation Yeo and Robert Drew; and if any man in the ship knows better than these two, let him up, and we'll give him a hearing. Eh, Pelicans?"
There was a grunt of approbation from the Pelicans; and Amyas returned to the charge.
"We have five shots between wind and water, and one somewhere below. Can we face a gale of wind in that state, or can we not?"
"Can we get home with a leak in our bottom?"
"Come along now! Here's the wind again round with the sun, and up to the northwest. In shore with her."
Sulkily enough, but unable to deny the necessity, the men set to work, and the vessel's head was put toward the land; but when she began to slip through the water, the leak increased so fast that they were kept hard at work at the pumps for the rest of the afternoon.
The current had by this time brought them abreast of the bay of Higuerote. As they ran inward, all eyes were strained greedily to find some opening in the mangrove belt: but none was to be seen for some time. The lead was kept going; and every fresh heave announced shallower water.
"We shall have very shoal work of those mangroves, Yeo," said Amyas; "I doubt whether we shall do aught now, unless we find a river's mouth."
"If the Lord thinks a river good for us, sir, he'll show us one." So on they went, keeping a southeast course, and at last an opening in the mangrove belt was hailed with a cheer from the older hands, though the majority shrugged their shoulders, as men going open-eyed to destruction.
Of the mouth they sent in Drew and Cary with a boat, and watched anxiously for an hour. The boat returned with a good report of two fathoms of water over the bar, impenetrable forests for two miles up, the river sixty yards broad, and no sign of man. The river's banks were soft and sloping mud, fit for careening.
"Safe quarters, sir," said Yeo, privately, "as far as Spaniards go. I hope in God it may be as safe from fevers."
"Beggars must not be choosers," said Amyas. So in they went.
They towed the ship up about half-a-mile to a point where she could not be seen from the seaward; and there moored her to the mangrove-stems. Amyas ordered a boat out, and went up the river himself to reconnoiter. He rowed some three miles, till the river narrowed suddenly, and was all but covered in by the interlacing boughs of mighty trees. There was no sign that man had been there since the making of the world.
He dropped down the stream again, thoughtfully and sadly. How many years ago was it that he had passed this river's mouth? Three days. And yet how much had passed in them! Don Guzman found and lost—Rose found and lost—a great victory gained, and yet lost—perhaps his ship lost—above all, his brother lost.
Lost! O God, how should he find his brother?
Some strange bird out of the woods made mournful answer—"Never, never, never!"
How should he face his mother?
"Never, never, never!" walled the bird again; and Amyas smiled bitterly, and said "Never!" likewise.
The night mist began to steam and wreath upon the foul beer-colored stream. The loathy floor of liquid mud lay bare beneath the mangrove forest. Upon the endless web of interarching roots great purple crabs were crawling up and down. They would have supped with pleasure upon Amyas's corpse; perhaps they might sup on him after all; for a heavy sickening graveyard smell made his heart sink within him, and his stomach heave; and his weary body, and more weary soul, gave themselves up helplessly to the depressing influence of that doleful place. The black bank of dingy leathern leaves above his head, the endless labyrinth of stems and withes (for every bough had lowered its own living cord, to take fresh hold of the foul soil below); the web of roots, which stretched away inland till it was lost in the shades of evening—all seemed one horrid complicated trap for him and his; and even where, here and there, he passed the mouth of a lagoon, there was no opening, no relief—nothing but the dark ring of mangroves. Wailing sadly, sad-colored mangrove-hens ran off across the mud into the dreary dark. The hoarse night-raven, hid among the roots, startled the voyagers with a sudden shout, and then all was again silent as a grave. The loathy alligators lounging in the slime lifted their horny eyelids lazily, and leered upon him as he passed with stupid savageness. Lines of tall herons stood dimly in the growing gloom, like white fantastic ghosts, watching the passage of the doomed boat. All was foul, sullen, weird as witches' dream. If Amyas had seen a crew of skeletons glide down the stream behind him, with Satan standing at the helm, he would scarcely have been surprised. What fitter craft could haunt that Stygian flood?
THE CLUB-HAULING OF THE DIOMEDE
From "Peter Simple," BY CAPTAIN FREDERICK MARRYAT
We continued our cruise along the coast, until we had run down into the Bay of Arcason, where we captured two or three vessels, and obliged many more to run on shore. And here we had an instance showing how very important it is that the captain of a man-of-war should be a good sailor, and have his ship in such discipline as to be strictly obeyed by his ship's company. I heard the officers unanimously assert, after the danger was over, that nothing but the presence of mind which was shown by Captain Savage could have saved the ship and her crew. We had chased a convoy of vessels to the bottom of the bay: the wind was very fresh when we hauled off, after running them on shore; and the surf on the beach even at that time was so great, that they were certain to go to pieces before they could be got afloat again. We were obliged to double-reef the topsails as soon as we hauled to the wind, and the weather looked very threatening. In an hour afterwards, the whole sky was covered with one black cloud, which sank so low as nearly to touch our mast-heads, and a tremendous sea, which appeared to have risen up almost by magic, rolled in upon us, setting the vessel on a dead lee shore. As the night closed in, it blew a dreadful gale, and the ship was nearly buried with the press of canvas which she was obliged to carry: for had we sea-room, we should have been lying-to under storm staysails; but we were forced to carry on at all risks, that we might claw off shore. The sea broke over us as we lay in the trough, deluging us with water from the forecastle, aft, to the binnacles; and very often as the ship descended with a plunge, it was with such force that I really thought she would divide in half with the violence of the shock. Double breechings were rove on the guns, and they were further secured with tackles; and strong cleats nailed behind the trunnions; for we heeled over so much when we lurched, that the guns were wholly supported by the breechings and tackles, and had one of them broken loose it must have burst right through the lee side of the ship, and she must have foundered. The captain, first lieutenant, and most of the officers, remained on deck during the whole of the night; and really, what with the howling of the wind, the violence of the rain, the washing of the water about the decks, the working of the chain-pumps, and the creaking and groaning of the timbers, I thought that we must inevitably have been lost; and I said my prayers at least a dozen times during the night, for I felt it impossible to go to bed. I had often wished, out of curiosity, that I might be in a gale of wind; but I little thought it was to have been a scene of this description, or anything half so dreadful. What made it more appalling was, that we were on a lee shore, and the consultations of the captain and officers, and the eagerness with which they looked out for daylight, told us that we had other dangers to encounter besides the storm. At last the morning broke, and the look-out man upon the gangway called out, "Land on the lee beam!" I perceived the master dash his feet against the hammock-rails, as if with vexation, and walk away without saying a word, looking very grave.
"Up there, Mr. Wilson," said the captain to the second lieutenant, "and see how far the land trends forward, and whether you can distinguish the point." The second lieutenant went up the main-rigging, and pointed with his hand to about two points before the beam.
"Do you see two hillocks, inland?"
"Yes, sir," replied the second lieutenant.
"Then it is so," observed the captain to the master, "and if we weather it we shall have more sea-room. Keep her full, and let her go through the water; do you hear, quartermaster?"
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Thus, and no nearer, my man. Ease her with a spoke or two when she sends; but be careful, or she'll take the wheel out of your hands."
It really was a very awful sight. When the ship was in the trough of the sea, you could distinguish nothing but a waste of tumultuous water; but when she was borne up on the summit of the enormous waves, you then looked down, as it were, upon a low, sandy coast, close to you, and covered with foam and breakers. "She behaves nobly," observed the captain, stepping aft to the binnacle, and looking at the compass; "if the wind does not baffle us, we shall weather." The captain had scarcely time to make the observation, when the sails shivered and flapped like thunder. "Up with the helm; what are you about, quartermaster?"
"The wind has headed us, sir," replied the quartermaster, coolly.
The captain and master remained at the binnacle watching the compass; and when the sails were again full, she had broken off two points, and the point of land was only a little on the lee-bow.
"We must wear her round, Mr. Falcon. Hands, wear ship—ready, oh, ready."
"She has come up again," cried the master, who was at the binnacle.
"Hold fast there a minute. How's her head now?"
"N.N.E., as she was before she broke off, sir."
"Pipe belay," said the captain. "Falcon," continued he, "if she breaks off again we may have no room to wear; indeed, there is so little room now, that I must run the risk. Which cable was ranged last night—the best bower?"
"Jump down, then, and see it double-bitted and stoppered at thirty fathoms. See it well done—our lives may depend upon it."
The ship continued to hold her course good; and we were within half a mile of the point, and fully expected to weather it, when again the wet and heavy sails flapped in the wind, and the ship broke off two points as before. The officers and seamen were aghast, for the ship's head was right on to the breakers. "Luff now, all you can, quartermaster," cried the captain. "Send the men aft directly. My lads, there is no time for words—I am going to club-haul the ship, for there is no room to wear. The only chance you have of safety is to be cool, watch my eye, and execute my orders with precision. Away to your stations for tacking ship. Hands by the best bower anchor. Mr. Wilson, attend below with the carpenter and his mates, ready to cut away the cable at the moment that I give the order. Silence there, fore and aft. Quartermaster, keep her full again for stays. Mind you ease the helm down when I tell you." About a minute passed before the captain gave any further orders. The ship had closed-to within a quarter-mile of the beach, and the waves curled and topped around us, bearing us down upon the shore, which presented one continued surface of foam, extending to within half a cable's length of our position. The captain waved his hand in silence to the quartermaster at the wheel, and the helm was put down. The ship turned slowly to the wind, pitching and chopping as the sails were spilling. When she had lost her way, the captain gave the order, "Let go the anchor. We will haul all at once, Mr. Falcon," said the captain. Not a word was spoken; the men went to the fore brace, which had not been manned; most of them knew, although I did not, that if the ship's head did not go round the other way, we should be on shore, and among the breakers, in half a minute. I thought at the time that the captain had said that he would haul all the yards at once, there appeared to be doubt or dissent on the countenance of Mr. Falcon; and I was afterwards told that he had not agreed with the captain; but he was too good an officer, and knew that there was no time for discussion, to make any remark: and the event proved that the captain was right. At last the ship was head to wind, and the captain gave the signal. The yards flew round with such a creaking noise, that I thought the masts had gone over the side, and the next moment the wind had caught the sails; and the ship, which for a moment or two had been on an even keel, careened over to her gunwale with its force. The captain, who stood upon the weather hammock-rails, holding by the main-rigging, ordered the helm a-midships, looked full at the sails, and then at the cable, which grew broad upon the weather-bow, and held the ship from nearing the shore. At last he cried, "Cut away the cable!" A few strokes of the axes were heard, and then the cable flew out of the hawse-hole in a blaze of fire, from the violence of the friction, and disappeared under a huge wave, which struck us on the chesstree, and deluged us with water fore and aft. But we were now on the other tack, and the ship regained her way, and we had evidently increased our distance from the land.
"My lads," said the captain to the ship's company, "you have behaved well, and I thank you; but I must tell you honestly that we have more difficulties to get through. We have to weather a point of the bay on this tack. Mr. Falcon, splice the main-brace, and call the watch. How's her head, quartermaster?"
"S.W. by S. Southerly, sir."
"Very well; let her go through the water;" and the captain, beckoning to the master to follow him, went down into the cabin. As our immediate danger was over, I went down into the berth to see if I could get anything for breakfast, where I found O'Brien and two or three more.
"By the powers, it was as nate a thing as ever I saw done," observed O'Brien: "the slightest mistake as to time or management, and at this moment the flatfish would have been dubbing at our ugly carcasses. Peter, you're not fond of flatfish, are you, my boy? We may thank Heaven and the captain, I can tell you that, my lads; but now, where's the chart, Robinson? Hand me down the parallel rules and compasses, Peter; they are in the corner of the shelf. Here we are now, a devilish sight too near this infernal point. Who knows how her head is?"
"I do, O'Brien: I heard the quartermaster tell the captain S.W. by S. Southerly."
"Let me see," continued O'Brien, "variation 2 1/4—leeway—rather too large an allowance of that, I'm afraid; but, however, we'll give her 2 1/2 points; the Diomede would blush to make any more, under any circumstances. Here—the compass—now, we'll see;" and O'Brien advanced the parallel rule from the compass to the spot where the ship was placed on the chart. "Bother! you see, it's as much as she'll do to weather the other point now, on this tack, and that's what the captain meant when he told us we had more difficulty. I could have taken my Bible oath that we were clear of everything, if the wind held."
"See what the distance is, O'Brien," said Robinson. It was measured, and proved to be thirteen miles. "Only thirteen miles; and if we do weather, we shall do very well, for the bay is deep beyond. It's a rocky point, you see, just by way of variety. Well, my lads, I've a piece of comfort for you, anyhow. It's not long that you'll be kept in suspense, for by one o'clock this day you'll either be congratulating each other upon your good luck, or you'll be past praying for. Come, put up the chart, for I hate to look at melancholy prospects; and, steward, see what you can find in the way of comfort." Some bread and cheese, with the remains of yesterday's boiled pork, were put on the table, with a bottle of rum, procured at the time they "spliced the main brace," but we were all too anxious to eat much, and one by one returned on deck to see how the weather was, and if the wind at all favored us. On deck the superior officers were in conversation with the captain, who expressed the same fear that O'Brien had in our berth. The men, who knew what they had to expect, were assembled in knots, looking very grave, but at the same time not wanting in confidence. They knew that they could trust to the captain, as far as skill or courage could avail them; and sailors are too sanguine to despair, even at the last moment. As for myself, I felt such admiration for the captain, after what I had witnessed that morning, that, whenever the idea came over me, that in all probability I should be lost in a few hours, I could not help acknowledging how much more serious it was that such a man should be lost to his country. I do not intend to say that it consoled me, but it certainly made me still more regret the chances with which we were threatened.
Before twelve o'clock the rocky point which we so much dreaded was in sight, broad on the lee bow; and if the low sandy coast appeared terrible, how much more did this, even at a distance. The captain eyed it for some minutes in silence, as if in calculation.
"Mr. Falcon," said he, at last, "we must put the mainsail on her."
"She never can bear it, sir."
"She must bear it," was the reply. "Send the men aft to the mainsheet. See that careful men attend the bunt-lines."
The mainsail was set, and the effect of it upon the ship was tremendous. She careened over so that her lee channels were under the water; and when pressed by a sea, the lee side of the quarter-deck and gangway were afloat. She now reminded me of a goaded and fiery horse, mad with the stimulus applied; not rising as before, but forcing herself through whole seas, and dividing the waves, which poured in one continual torrent from the forecastle down upon the decks below. Four men were secured to the wheel—the sailors were obliged to cling to prevent being washed away—the ropes were thrown in confusion to leeward—the shot rolled out of the lockers, and every eye was fixed aloft, watching the masts, which were expected every moment to go over the side. A heavy sea struck us on the broadside, and it was some moments before the ship appeared to recover herself; she reeled, trembled, and stopped her way, as if it had stupefied her. The first lieutenant looked at the captain, as if to say, "This will not do." "It is our only chance," answered the captain to the appeal. That the ship went faster through the water, and held a better wind, was certain; but just before we arrived at the point the gale increased in force. "If anything starts we are lost, sir," observed the first lieutenant again.
"I am perfectly well aware of it," replied the captain, in a calm tone; "but, as I said before, and as you must now be aware, it is our only chance. The consequence of any carelessness or neglect in the fitting and securing of the rigging will be felt now; and this danger, if we escape it, ought to remind us how much we have to answer for if we neglect our duty. The lives of a whole ship's company may be sacrificed by the neglect or incompetence of an officer when in harbor. I will pay you the compliment, Falcon, to say, that I feel convinced that the masts of the ship are as secure as knowledge and attention can make them."
The first lieutenant thanked the captain for his good opinion, and hoped that it would not be the last compliment which he paid him.
"I hope not, too; but a few minutes will decide the point."
The ship was now within two cables' lengths of the rocky point; some few of the men I observed to clasp their hands, but most of them were silently taking off their jackets, and kicking off their shoes, that they might not lose a chance of escape provided the ship struck.
"'Twill be touch and go, indeed, Falcon," observed the captain (for I had clung to the belaying pins, close to them for the last half-hour that the mainsail had been set). "Come aft, you and I must take the helm. We shall want nerve there, and only there, now."
The captain and first lieutenant went aft, and took the fore-spokes of the wheel, and O'Brien, at a sign made by the captain, laid hold of the spokes behind him. An old quartermaster kept his station at the fourth. The roaring of the seas on the rocks, with the howling of the wind, were dreadful; but the sight was more dreadful than the noise. For a few minutes I shut my eyes, but anxiety forced me to open them again. As near as I could judge, we were not twenty yards from the rocks, at the time that the ship passed abreast of them. We were in the midst of the foam, which boiled around us; and as the ship was driven nearer to them, and careened with the wave, I thought that our main yard-arm would have touched the rock; and at this moment a gust of wind came on, which laid the ship on her beam-ends, and checked her progress through the water, while the accumulating noise was deafening. A few moments more the ship dragged on, another wave dashed over her and spent itself upon the rocks, while the spray was dashed back from them, and returned upon the decks. The main rock was within ten yards of the counter, when another gust of wind laid us on our beam-ends, the foresail and mainsail split, and were blown clean out of the bolt-ropes—the ship righted, trembling fore and aft. I looked astern:—the rocks were to windward on our quarter, and we were safe. I thought at the time that the ship, relieved of her courses, and again lifting over the waves, was not a bad similitude of the relief felt by us all at that moment; and, like her, we trembled as we panted with the sudden reaction, and felt the removal of the intense anxiety which oppressed our breasts.
The captain resigned the helm, and walked aft to look at the point, which was now broad on the weather-quarter. In a minute or two, he desired Mr. Falcon to get new sails up and bend them, and then went below to his cabin. I am sure it was to thank God for our deliverance: I did most fervently, not only then, but when I went to my hammock at night. We were now comparatively safe—in a few hours completely so; for, strange to say, immediately after we had weathered the rocks, the gale abated, and before morning we had a reef out of the topsails.
THE CRUISE OF THE TORCH
From "Tom Cringle's Log," BY MICHAEL SCOTT
Heligoland light—north and by west—so many leagues—wind baffling—weather hazy—Lady Passengers on deck for the first time.
Arrived in the Downs—ordered by signal from the guardship to proceed to Portsmouth. Arrived at Spithead—ordered to fit to receive a general officer, and six pieces of field artillery, and a Spanish Ecclesiastic, the Canon of ———. Plenty of great guns, at any rate—a regular park of artillery.
Received General ——— and his wife, and aide-de-camp, and two poodle-dogs, one white man-servant, one black ditto, and the Canon of ———, and the six nine-pound field-pieces, and sailed for the Cove of Cork.
It was blowing hard as we stood in for the Old Head of Kinsale—pilot boat breasting the foaming surge like a sea gull—Carrol Cove in her tiny mainsail—pilot jumped into the main channel—bottle of rum swung by the lead line into the boat—all very clever.
Ran in, and anchored under Spike Island. A line-of-battle ship, three frigates, and a number of merchantmen at anchor—men-of-war lovely craft—bands playing—a good deal of the pomp and circumstances of war. Next forenoon, Mr. Treenail, the second lieutenant, sent for me.
"Mr. Cringle," said he, "you have an uncle in Cork, I believe?"
I said I had.
"I am going there on duty to-night; I daresay, if you asked the captain to let you accompany me, he would do so." This was too good an offer not to be taken advantage of. I plucked up courage, made my bow, asked leave, and got it; and the evening found my friend the lieutenant, and myself, after a ride of three hours, during which I, for one, had my bottom sheathing grievously rubbed, and a considerable botheration at crossing the Ferry at Passage, safe in our inn at Cork. I soon found out that the object of my superior officer was to gain information amongst the crimp shops, where ten men who had run from one of the West Indiamen, waiting at Cove for convoy, were stowed away, but I was not let further into the secret; so I set out to pay my visit, and after passing a pleasant evening with my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Job Cringle, the lieutenant dropped in upon us about nine o'clock. He was heartily welcomed; and under the plea of our being obliged to return to the ship early next morning, we soon took leave, and returned to the inn. As I was turning into the public room, the door was open, and I could see it full of blowsy-faced monsters, glimmering and jabbering, through the midst of hot brandy grog and gin twist; with poodle Benjamins, and greatcoats, and cloaks of all sorts and sizes, steaming on their pegs, with Barcelonas and comforters, and damp travelling caps of seal-skin, and blue cloth, and tartan, arranged above the same. Nevertheless, such a society in my juvenile estimation, during my short escapade from the middy's berth, had its charms, and I was rolling in with a tolerable swagger, when Mr. Treenail pinched my arm.
"Mr. Cringle, come here into my room."
From the way in which he spoke, I imagined, in my innocence, that his room was at my elbow; but no such thing—we had to ascend a long, and not over-clean staircase, to the fourth floor, before we were shown into a miserable little double-bedded room. So soon as we had entered, the lieutenant shut the door.
"Tom," said he, "I have taken a fancy to you, and therefore I applied for leave to bring you with me; but I must expose you to some danger, and I will allow, not altogether in a very creditable way either. You must enact the spy for a short space."
I did not like the notion, certainly, but I had little time for consideration.
"Here," he continued—"here is a bundle." He threw it on the floor. "You must rig in the clothes it contains, and make your way into the celebrated crimp-shop in the neighborhood, and pick up all the information you can regarding the haunts of the pressable men at Cove, especially with regard to the ten seamen who have run from the West Indiaman we left below. You know the Admiral has forbidden pressing at Cork, so you must contrive to frighten the blue jackets down to Cove, by representing yourself as an apprentice of one of the merchant vessels, who had run from his indentures, and that you had narrowly escaped from a press-gang this very night here."
I made no scruples, but forthwith arrayed myself in the slops contained in the bundle; in a pair of shag trousers, red flannel shirt, coarse blue cloth jacket, and no waistcoat.
"Now," said Mr. Treenail, "stick a quid of tobacco in your cheek, and take the cockade out of your hat; or stop, leave it, and ship this striped woollen night cap—so—and come along with me."
We left the house, and walked half a mile down the Quay.
Presently we arrived before a kind of low grog-shop—a bright lamp was flaring in the breeze at the door, one of the panes of the glass of it being broken.
Before I entered, Mr. Treenail took me to one side—"Tom, Tom Cringle, you must go into this crimp-shop; pass yourself off for an apprentice of the Guava, bound for Trinidad, the ship that arrived just as we started, and pick up all the knowledge you can regarding the whereabouts of the men, for we are, as you know, cruelly ill manned, and must replenish as we best may." I entered the house, after having agreed to rejoin my superior officer so soon as I considered I had obtained my object. I rapped at the inner door, in which there was a small unglazed aperture cut, about four inches square; and I now, for the first time, perceived that a strong glare of light was cast into the lobby, where I stood, by a large argand with a brilliant reflector, that, like a magazine lantern, had been mortised into the bulkhead, at a height of about two feet above the door in which the spy-hole was cut. My first signal was not attended to: I rapped again, and, looking round, I noticed Mr. Treenail flitting backwards and forwards across the doorway, in the rain, his pale face and his sharp nose, with the sparkling drop at the end on't, glancing in the light of the lamp. I heard a step within, and a very pretty face now appeared at the wicket.
"Who are you saking here, an' please ye?"
"No one in particular, my dear; but if you don't let me in, I shall be lodged in jail before five minutes be over."
"I can't help that, young man," said she; "but where are ye from, darling!"
"Hush—I am run from the Guava, now lying at the Cove."
"Oh," said my beauty, "come in"; and she opened the door, but still kept it on the chain in such a way, that although, by bobbing, I creeped and slid in beneath it, yet a common-sized man could not possibly have squeezed himself through. The instant I entered, the door was once more banged to, and the next moment I was ushered into the kitchen, a room about fourteen feet square, with a well-sanded floor, a huge dresser on one side, and over against it a respectable show of pewter dishes in racks against the wall. There was a long stripe of a deal table in the middle of the room—but no tablecloth—at the bottom of which sat a large, bloated, brandy, or rather whisky faced savage, dressed in a shabby greatcoat of the hodden grey worn by the Irish peasantry, dirty swandown vest, and greasy corduroy breeches, worsted stockings, and well-patched shoes; he was smoking a long pipe. Around the table sat about a dozen seamen, from whose wet jackets and trousers the heat of the blazing fire, that roared up the chimney, sent up a smoky steam that cast a halo round a lamp which depended from the roof, and hung down within two feet of the table, stinking abominably of coarse whale oil. They were, generally speaking, hardy, weather-beaten men, and the greater proportion half, or more than half, drunk. When I entered, I walked up to the landlord.
"Yo ho, my young un! whence and whither bound, my hearty?"
"The first don't signify much to you," said I, "seeing I have wherewithal in my locker to pay my shot; and as to the second, of that hereafter; so, old boy, let's have some grog, and then say if you can ship me with one of them colliers that are lying alongside the quay?"
"My eye, what a lot of brass that small chap has!" grumbled mine host. "Why, my lad, we shall see to-morrow morning; but you gammons so about the rhino, that we must prove you a bit; so, Kate, my dear,"—to the pretty girl who had let me in—"score a pint of rum against——Why, what is your name?"
"What's that to you?" rejoined I, "let's have the drink, and don't doubt but the shiners shall be forthcoming."
"Hurrah!" shouted the party, most of them now very tipsy. So the rum was produced forthwith, and as I lighted a pipe and filled a glass of swizzle, I struck in, "Messmates, I hope you have all shipped?"
"No, we han't," said some of them.
"Nor shall we be in any hurry, boy," said others.
"Do as you please, but I shall, as soon as I can, I know; and I recommend all of you making yourselves scarce to-night, and keeping a bright look-out."
"Why, boy, why?"
"Simply because I have just escaped a press-gang, by bracing sharp up at the corner of the street, and shoving into this dark alley here."
This called forth another volley of oaths and unsavoury exclamations, and all was bustle and confusion, and packing up of bundles, and settling of reckonings.
"Where," said one of the seamen,—"where do you go to, my lad?"
"Why, if I can't get shipped to-night, I shall trundle down to Cove immediately, so as to cross at Passage before daylight, and take my chance of shipping with some of the outward-bound that are to sail, if the wind holds, the day after to-morrow. There is to be no pressing when the blue Peter flies at the fore—and that was hoisted this afternoon, I know, and the foretopsail will be loose to-morrow.
"D—n my wig, but the small chap is right," roared one.
"I've a bloody great mind to go down with him," stuttered another, after several unavailing attempts to weigh from the bench, where he had brought himself to anchor.
"Hurrah!" yelled a third, as he hugged me, and nearly suffocated me with his maudlin caresses, "I trundles wid you too, my darling, by the piper!"
"Have with you, boy—have with you," shouted half-a-dozen other voices, while each stuck his oaken twig through the handkerchief that held his bundle, and shouldered it, clapping his straw or tarpaulin hat, with a slap on the crown, on one side of his head, and staggering and swaying about under the influence of the potfen, and slapping his thigh, as he bent double, laughing like to split himself, till the water ran over his cheeks from his drunken half-shut eyes, while jets of tobacco-juice were squirting in all directions.
I paid the reckoning, urging the party to proceed all the while, and indicating Pat Doolan's at the Cove as a good rendezvous; and, promising to overtake them before they reached Passage, I parted company at the corner of the street, and rejoined the lieutenant.
Next morning we spent in looking about the town—Cork is a fine town—contains seventy thousand inhabitants more or less—safe in that—and three hundred thousand pigs, driven by herdsmen, with coarse grey greatcoats. The pigs are not so handsome as those in England, where the legs are short, and tails curly; here the legs are long, the flanks sharp and thin, and tails long and straight.
All classes speak with a deuced brogue, and worship graven images; arrived at Cove to a late dinner—and here follows a great deal of nonsense of the same kind.
By the time it was half-past ten o'clock, I was preparing to turn in, when the master at arms called down to me,—
"Mr. Cringle, you are wanted in the gunroom."
I put on my jacket again, and immediately proceeded thither, and on my way I noticed a group of seamen, standing on the starboard gangway, dressed in pea-jackets, under which, by the light of a lantern, carried by one of them, I could see they were all armed with pistols and cutlass. They appeared in great glee, and as they made way for me, I could hear one fellow whisper, "There goes the little beagle." When I entered the gunroom, the first lieutenant, master, and purser, were sitting smoking and enjoying themselves over a glass of cold grog—the gunner taking the watch on deck—the doctor was piping anything but mellifluously on the double flagolet, while the Spanish priest, and aide-de-camp to the general, were playing at chess, and wrangling in bad French. I could hear Mr. Treenail rumbling and stumbling in his stateroom, as he accoutred himself in a jacket similar to those of the armed boat's crew whom I had passed, and presently he stepped into the gunroom, armed also with cutlass and pistol.
"Mr. Cringle, get ready to go in the boat with me, and bring your arms with you."
I now knew whereabouts I was, and that my Cork friends were the quarry at which we aimed. I did as I was ordered, and we immediately pulled on shore, where, leaving two strong fellows in charge of the boat, with instructions to fire their pistols and shove off a couple of boat-lengths should any suspicious circumstances indicating an attack take place, we separated, like a pulk of Cossacks coming to the charge, but without the hourah, with orders to meet before Pat Doolan's door, as speedily as our legs could carry us. We had landed about a cable's length to the right of the high precipitous bank—up which we stole in straggling parties—on which that abominable congregation of the most filthy huts ever pig grunted in is situated, called the Holy Ground. Pat Doolan's domocile was in a little dirty lane, about the middle of the village. Presently ten strapping fellows, including the lieutenant, were before the door, each man with his stretcher in his hand. It was very tempestuous, although moonlight, night, occasionally clear, with the moonbeams at one moment sparkling brightly in the small ripples on the filthy puddles before the door, and one the gem-like water drops that hung from the eaves of the thatched roof, and lighting up the dark statue-like figures of the men, and casting their long shadows strongly against the mud wall of the house; at another, a black cloud, as it flew across her disk, cast everything into deep shade; while the only noise we heard was the hoarse dashing of the distant surf, rising and falling on the fitful gusts of the breeze. We tried the door. It was fast.
"Surround the house, men," said the lieutenant in a whisper. He rapped loudly. "Pat Doolan, my man, open the door, will ye?" No answer. "If you don't, we shall make free to break it open, Patrick, dear."
All this while the light of a fire, or of candles, streamed through the joints of the door. The threat at length appeared to have the desired effect. A poor decrepit old man undid the bolt and let us in. "Ohon a ree! Ohon a ree! What make you all this boder for—come you to help us to wake poor ould Kate there, and bring you the whisky wid you?"
"Old man, where is Pat Doolan?" said the lieutenant.
"Gone to borrow whisky, to wake ould Kate, there;—the howling will begin whenever Mother Doncannon and Misthress Conolly come over from Middleton, and I look for dem every minute."
There was no vestige of any living thing in the miserable hovel, except the old fellow. On two low trestles, in the middle of the floor, lay a coffin with the lid on, on the top of which was stretched the dead body of an old emaciated woman in her graveclothes, the quality of which was much finer than one could have expected to have seen in the midst of the surrounding squalidness. The face of the corpse was uncovered, the hands were crossed on the breast, and there was a plate of salt on the stomach.
An iron cresset, charged with coarse rancid oil, hung from the roof, the dull smoky red light flickering on the dead corpse, as the breeze streamed in through the door and numberless chinks in the walls, making the cold, rigid, sharp features appear to move, and glimmer, and gibber as it were, from the changing shades. Close to the head there was a small door opening into an apartment of some kind, but the coffin was placed so near it that one could pass between the body and the door.
"My good man," said Treenail to the solitary mourner, "I must beg leave to remove the body a bit, and have the goodness to open that door."
"Door, yere honour! It's no door o' mine—and it's not opening that same that old Phil Carrol shall busy himself wid."
"Carline," said Mr. Treenail, quick and sharp, "remove the body." It was done.
"Cruel heavy the old dame is, sir, for all her wasted appearance," said one of the men.
The lieutenant now ranged the press-gang against the wall fronting the door, and stepping into the middle of the room, drew his pistol and cocked it. "Messmates," he sang out, as if addressing the skulkers in the other room, "I know you are here; the house is surrounded—and unless you open that door now, by the powers, but I'll fire slap into you!" There was a bustle, and a rumbling tumbling noise within. "My lads, we are now sure of our game," sang out Treenail, with great animation; "sling that clumsy bench there." He pointed to an oaken form about eight feet long and nearly three inches thick. To produce a two-inch rope, and junk it into three lengths, and rig the battering ram, was the work of an instant. "One, two, three,"—and bang the door flew open, and there were our men stowed away, each sitting on the top of his bag, as snug as could be, although looking very much like condemned thieves. We bound eight of them, thrusting a stretcher across their backs, under their arms, and lashing the fins to the same by good stout lanyards, we were proceeding to stump our prisoners off to the boat, when, with the innate deviltry that I have inherited, I know not how, but the original sin of which has more than once nearly cost me my life, I said, without addressing my superior officer, or any one else directly, "I should like now to scale my pistol through that coffin. If I miss, I can't hurt the old woman; and an eyelet hole in the coffin itself will only be an act of civility to the worms."
I looked towards my superior officer, who answered me with a knowing shake of the head. I advanced, while all was silent as death—the sharp click of the pistol lock now struck acutely on my own ear. I presented, when—crash—the lid of the coffin, old woman and all, was dashed off in an instant, the corpse flying up in the air, and then falling heavily on the floor, rolling over and over, while a tall handsome fellow, in his striped flannel shirt and blue trousers, with the sweat pouring down over his face in streams, sat up in the shell.
"All right," said Mr. Treenail; "help him out of his berth."
He was pinioned like the rest, and forthwith we walked them all off to the beach. By this time there was an unusual bustle in the Holy Ground, and we could hear many an anathema—curses not loud but deep—ejaculated from many a half-opened door as we passed along. We reached the boat, and time it was we did, for a number of stout fellows, who had followed us in a gradually increasing crowd until they amounted to forty at the fewest, now nearly surrounded us, and kept closing in. As the last of us jumped into the boat, they made a rush, so that if we had not shoved off with the speed of light, I think it very likely that we should have been overpowered. However, we reached the ship in safety, and the day following we weighed, and stood out to sea with our convoy.
It was a very large fleet, nearly three hundred sail of merchant vessels—and a noble sight truly.
A line-of-battle ship led, and two frigates and three sloops of our class were stationed on the outskirts of the fleet, whipping them in, as it were. We made Madeira in fourteen days, looked in, but did not anchor; superb island—magnificent mountains—white town,—and all very fine, but nothing particular happened for three weeks. One fine evening (we had by this time progressed into the trades, and were within three hundred miles of Barbadoes) the sun had set bright and clear, after a most beautiful day, and we were bowling along right before it, rolling like the very devil; but there was no moon, and although the stars sparkled brilliantly, yet it was dark, and as we were the sternmost of the men-of-war, we had the task of whipping in the sluggards. It was my watch on deck. A gun from the commodore, who showed a number of lights. "What is that, Mr. Kennedy?" said the captain to the old gunner. "The commodore has made the night-signal for the sternmost ships to make more sail and close, sir." We repeated the signal and stood on, hailing the dullest of the merchantmen in our neighbourhood to make more sail, and firing a musket-shot now and then over the more distant of them. By-and-by we saw a large West Indiamen suddenly haul her wind and stand across our bows.
"Forward there!" sung out Mr. Splinter; "stand by to fire a shot at that fellow from the boat gun if he does not bear up. What can he be after? Sergeant Armstrong"—to a marine, who was standing close by him in the waist—"get a musket and fire over him."
It was done, and the ship immediately bore up on her course again; we now ranged alongside of him on his larboard quarter.
"Ho, the ship, ahoy!"—"Hillo!" was the reply. "Make more sail, sir, and run into the body of the fleet, or I shall fire into you: why don't you, sir, keep in the wake of the commodore?" No answer. "What meant you by hauling your wind just now, sir?"
"Yesh, yesh," at length responded a voice from the merchantman.
"Something wrong here," said Mr. Splinter. "Back your maintopsail, sir, and hoist a light at the peak; I shall send a boat on board of you. Boatswain's mate, pipe away the crew of the jolly-boat." We also hove to, and were in the act of lowering down the boat, when the officer rattled out—"Keep all fast with the boat; I can't comprehend that chap's manoeuvres for the soul of me. He has not hove to." Once more we were within pistol-shot of him. "Why don't you heave to, sir?" All silent.
Presently we could perceive a confusion and noise of struggling on board, and angry voices, as if people were trying to force their way up the hatches from below; and a heavy thumping on the deck, and a creaking of the blocks, and rattling of the cordage, while the mainyard was first braced one way, and then another, as if two parties were striving for the mastery. At length a voice hailed distinctly—"we are captured by a——." A sudden sharp cry, and a splash overboard, told of some fearful deed.
"We are taken by a privateer or pirate," sung out another voice. This was followed by a heavy crunching blow, as when the spike of a butcher's axe is driven through a bullock's forehead deep into the brain.
By this time all hands had been called, and the word had been passed to clear away two of the foremost carronades on the starboard side, and to load them with grape.
"On board there—get below, all you of the English crew, as I shall fire with grape," sung out the captain.
The hint was now taken. The ship at length came to the wind—we rounded to, under her lee—and an armed boat, with Mr. Treenail, and myself, and sixteen men, with cutlasses, were sent on board.
We jumped on deck, and at the gangway Mr. Treenail stumbled and fell over the dead body of a man, no doubt the one who had hailed last, with his skull cloven to the eyes, and a broken cutlass-blade sticking in the gash. We were immediately accosted by the mate, who was lashed down to a ring-bolt close by the bits, with his hands tied at the wrists by sharp cords, so tightly that the blood was spouting from beneath his nails.
"We have been surprised by a privateer schooner, sir; the lieutenant of her, and several men, are now in the cabin."
"Where are the rest of the crew?"
"All secured in the forecastle, except the second-mate and boatswain, the men who hailed you just now; the last was knocked on the head, and the former was stabbed and thrown overboard."
We immediately released the men, eighteen in number, and armed them with boarding-pikes. "What vessel is that astern of us?" said Treenail to the mate. Before he could answer, a shot from the brig fired at the privateer showed she was broad awake. Next moment Captain Deadeye hailed. "Have you mastered the prize crew, Mr. Treenail?" "Ay, ay, sir." "Then bear up on your course, and keep two lights hoisted at your mizzen-peak during the night, and blue Peter at the maintopsail yardarm when the day breaks: I shall haul my wind after the suspicious sail in your wake."
Another shot, and another, from the brig—the time between each flash and the report increasing with the distance. By this the lieutenant has descended to the cabin, followed by his people, while the merchant crew once more took charge of the ship, crowding sail into the body of the fleet.
I followed him close, pistol and cutlass in hand, and I shall never forget the scene that presented itself when I entered. The cabin was that of a vessel of five hundred tons, elegantly fitted up; the panels filled with crimson cloth, edged with gold mouldings, with superb damask hangings before the stern windows and the side berths, and brilliantly lighted up by the two large swinging-lamps hung from the deck above, which were reflected from, and multiplied in, several plate-glass mirrors in the panels. In the recess, which in cold weather had been occupied by the stove, now stood a splendid grand piano, the silk in the open work above the keys corresponding with the crimson cloth of the panels; it was open, a Leghorn bonnet with a green veil, a parasol, and two long white gloves, as if recently pulled off, lay on it, with the very mould of the hands in them.
The rudder case was particularly beautiful; it was a richly carved and gilded palm-tree, the stem painted white and Interlaced with golden fretwork, like the lozenges of a pineapple, while the leaves spread up and abroad on the roof.
The table was laid for supper, with cold meat, and wine, and a profusion of silver things, all sparkling brightly: but it was in great disorder, wine spilt, and glasses broken, and dishes with meat upset, and knives, and forks, and spoons, scattered all about. She was evidently one of those London West Indiamen, on board of which I knew there was much splendour and great comfort. But, alas, the hand of lawless violence had been there. The captain lay across the table, with his head hanging over the side of it next to us, and unable to help himself, with his hands tied behind his back, and a gag in his mouth; his face purple from the blood running to his head, and the white of his eyes turned up, while his loud stertorous breathing but too clearly indicated the rupture of a vessel on the brain.
He was a stout portly man, and although we released him on the instant, and had him bled, and threw water on his face, and did all we could for him, he never spoke afterwards, and died in half an hour.
Four gentlemanly-looking men were sitting at table, lashed to their chairs, pale and trembling, while six of the most ruffian-looking scoundrels I ever beheld stood on the opposite side of the table in a row fronting us, with the light from the lamps shining full on them. Three of them were small but very square mulattoes; one was a South American Indian, with the square high-boned visage and long, lank, black glossy hair of his caste. These four had no clothing besides their trousers, and stood with their arms folded, in all the calmness of desperate men caught in the very fact of some horrible atrocity, which they knew shut out every hope of mercy. The two others were white Frenchmen, tall, bushy-whiskered, sallow desperadoes, but still, wonderful to relate, with, if I may so speak, the manners of gentlemen. One of them squinted, and had a hare-lip, which gave him a horrible expression. They were dressed in white trousers and shirts, yellow silk sashes round their waists, and a sort of blue uniform jackets, blue Gascon caps, with the peaks, from each of which depended a large bullion tassel, hanging down on one side of their heads. The whole party had apparently made up their minds that resistance was vain, for their pistols and cutlasses, some of them bloody, had all been laid on the table, with the butts and handles towards us, contrasting horribly with the glittering equipage of steel, and crystal, and silver things, on the snow-white damask tablecloth. They were immediately seized and ironed, to which they submitted in silence. We next released the passengers, and were overpowered with thanks, one dancing, one crying, one laughing, and another praying. But, merciful Heaven! what an object met our eyes! Drawing aside the curtain that concealed a sofa fitted into a recess, there lay, more dead than alive, a tall and most beautiful girl, her head resting on her arm, her clothes disordered and torn, blood on her bosom, and foam on her mouth, with her long dark hair loose and dishevelled, and covering the upper part of her deadly pale face, through which her wild sparkling black eyes, protruding from their sockets, glanced and glared with the fire of a maniac's, while her blue lips kept gibbering an incoherent prayer one moment, and the next imploring mercy, as if she had still been in the hands of those who knew not the name; and anon, a low hysterical laugh made our very blood freeze in our bosoms, which soon ended in a long dismal yell, as she rolled off the couch upon the hard deck, and lay in a dead faint.