The Settlers, A Tale of Virginia, by William H G Kingston.
A book of moderate length, six and a half hours to read aloud, in which we meet several persons well known to our history books, such as the Indian Princess, Pocahontas. Lots of activity. Dated in Jacobean times.
THE SETTLERS, A TALE OF VIRGINIA, BY WILLIAM H G KINGSTON.
The abode of Captain Amyas Layton overlooked the whole of Plymouth Sound. It stood on the eastern side near its northern end, on the wood-covered heights which rise above that magnificent estuary. From the windows could be seen the town of Plymouth, with its inner harbour, on which floated many a stout bark of varied rig and size; some engaged in the coasting trade, others just arrived from foreign voyages, and others destined to carry the flag of England to far-off lands. In front of the house had been set up a tall flagstaff, which the captain was wont on high days and holidays to deck with gay banners, or at other times to employ in making signals to vessels in the Sound. The grounds were surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge, above which was a gateway adorned with curiously carved images once serving as the figure-heads of two Spanish galleys. The house itself, constructed chiefly of a framework of massive timber, filled in with stone or brick, had no pretensions to architectural beauty, albeit its wide, projecting eaves, its large chimneys, and latticed windows, with its neat, well-kept garden full of gay flowers, gave it a picturesque and quaint appearance. Above the low wall on the inner side of the moat, was planted a battery of brass cannon, elaborately ornamented, and evidently also taken from the Spaniards; though they were placed there as trophies of victories won rather than for use. In truth, the old seaman's dwelling, full as it was of many other warlike engines, had no pretensions to the character of a fortress; it had been his fancy to gather within its walls the spoils of many a hard-fought fight to remind him of days gone by, especially when he had sailed out of Plymouth Sound in his stout bark in company with the gallant Lord Howard, Drake, Frobisher, Hawkins, and other brave seamen whose names are known to fame, to make fierce onslaught on the vaunting Spaniards, as their proud Armada swept up the Channel. The porch at the front entrance was adorned with Spanish handiwork—a portion of the stern-gallery of the huge Saint Nicholas; while at each corner of the building were fixed other parts of that mighty galleon, or of some other ship of the many which had been, by God's good providence, delivered into the hands of those whom the haughty Spaniards came vainly threatening to enslave.
The house contained a good-sized dining-hall. At one end was a broad fireplace, and mantelpiece supported by richly carved figures, also taken from the stern-gallery of a Spanish bark. Above it appeared the model of the Golden Lion, the captain's own ship. The walls were adorned with breastplates and morions, swords and matchlocks, huge pistols, with other weapons of curious form, and three banners captured from the foe, regarded by the captain as the chiefest of his trophies. Here, too, were also bows and arrows, spears and clubs, and various implements, remembrances of the last voyage he had made to America.
The captain was walking to and fro in the shade. In his hand was a long pipe with a huge bowl, from which he ever and anon sucked up a mouthful of smoke, which, as he again puffed it out, rose in light wreaths above his head. Sometimes, as he sent them forth slowly, now from one side of his mouth, now from the other, as a ship fires her broadsides at her foes, he would stop and gaze at the vanishing vapour, his thoughts apparently wandering to distant times and regions far away, now taking a glance down the Sound to watch for any tall ship which might be coming up from the westward, now looking along the road.
His countenance, though that of a man still hale and hearty, showed signs of many a hard fight with human foes and fierce storms, as far as it could be distinguished amid the curling locks which hung down from beneath the low-crowned hat adorned by a single feather, and the bushy beard and long mustachios still but slightly grizzled. His doublet and cloak were richly embroidered, though the gold lace was somewhat tarnished; his breeches, fastened at the knee, were of ample proportions, while boots of buskin form encased his feet. A man of war from his youth, though enjoying his ease, he even now wore girded to his side his trusty sword without which he was never known to stir outside his door.
At length he stopped; as his eye glanced along the road leading from Plymouth. "Marry, who can those be coming up the hill?" he said to himself. "They seem to be making for this—a well-grown youth and a youngster—by their habits and appearance they are I judge of gentle birth." As he spoke, the captain advanced towards the gateway to give the young strangers a welcome, should it be their purpose to pay him a visit. The elder was of a tall and graceful figure, with delicate features, a slight moustache appearing on his lip; his habit, that of a gallant of the day, though modest and free from extravagance.
The younger was of a stronger build; his countenance exhibiting a bold and daring spirit, full of life and animation, and not wanting in good-humour.
"Whom seek you, young sirs?" asked the old seaman, as the youths drew near.
"One Captain Amyas Layton, an please you, sir," answered the elder of the two. "We were told in Plymouth town, where we arrived last night on horseback from Dartmouth, that we should find his residence in this direction; and if I mistake not, we stand even now before him."
"You are right in your conjectures, young sirs," answered Captain Layton; "I am the man you seek, and whoever you are and whatever your object, believing it to be an honest one, I give you greeting. Enter, for after your walk this warm summer's day you need rest and refreshment; the first you may take at once—the second you shall have as soon as my daughter Cicely returns from Plymouth, whither she has gone a-marketing, with our servant Barnaby, on our old nag Sampson, which I called after a Spanish carvel I sank out yonder—but of that anon. Come in."
The captain, without waiting to make further inquiries of the strangers, led the way into the hall, where he bade them take their seats in two carved oak chairs on either side of the fireplace—albeit the warmth of the day permitted not a fire to be burning there. The young men, removing their beavers, obeyed him.
"Though more substantial fare be wanting, I can serve you with a stoup of Canary, young sirs; and your walk, judging by my own taste, will render such acceptable," said the captain. Assuring him that they were in no way fatigued, they declined the wine on the plea of the early hour, and their not having been in the habit of drinking aught except a glass of ale at dinner or supper.
"A prudent custom for those not advanced in life," he observed; "and now, young sirs, to what cause am I indebted for this visit?"
"We have a long story to narrate, kind sir," answered the elder youth, "and we would first, tell you our names, and whence we come; which, in your hospitable kindness, you have not yet inquired. We are the sons of your old shipmate Captain Vaughan Audley, who, it has been supposed for the last ten years or more, perished among those who formed the first settlement in Virginia, planted by the brave Sir Walter Raleigh. For that long period our dear mother, notwithstanding the reports which reached her, has never altogether abandoned the hope that he might be alive; and though compelled to assume widow's weeds, she has remained faithful to his memory and refused again to wed."
"A true wife and honest woman, such as I delight to honour," observed the captain; "but alack! I received too certain news of my old comrade's death to make me doubt that he had passed away to that better land where we all hope to meet."
"Truly, our mother, notwithstanding her expressions to the contrary, had begun to believe the same," answered the young man; "when about ten days gone by, there came to the gate of our house near Dartmouth, where we have lived since our father's departure, a seaman somewhat advanced in life, whose pallid face spoke of sickness, and his tattered garments of poverty long suffered. His name, he told us, was Richard Batten. He had wandered, he said, over all parts of the known globe; but though his pockets had been often filled with Spanish gold, they had again been quickly emptied through his own folly, and the greed of pretended friends; gambling, drinking, and other similar pursuits being his bane. He now begged a crust and a draught of beer, or even of water, with leave to lie down in an outhouse that he might rest his weary limbs. We listened to his sad tale, and being sure that he spoke the truth, invited him into the house and placed before him a hearty meal, to which, however, he seemed scarcely able to do justice, so far gone was he with sickness. Still the little he ate revived him, and he talked on with my brother Gilbert here—a ready listener. At first he spoke only of voyages made long ago, but at length he told him of one he had lately performed across the Atlantic in a ship to obtain sassafras, and trade with the natives of Virginia. The name immediately aroused Gilbert's attention, who called me to listen to what the seaman was saying. He had sailed in April from Milford Haven, on board the Speedwell, Captain Martin Pring, a ship of about fifty tons, the year after our present King James came to the throne, and in company with her went the Discoverer, bark of the same size, commanded by Captain Brown. They were victualled for eight months, and laden with all sorts of apparel, gewgaws and baubles proper to trade with the inhabitants of the country whither they were going. Arriving off the coast of Virginia in June, they entered a great gulf, where they found people on both sides, with whom they had much intercourse. Here they were engaged in loading their bark with sassafras, much to their satisfaction.
"Batten, however, while searching for sassafras, having wandered away from his companions, thinking to return, got yet farther from them, and at length, overcome with fatigue, fell asleep. On awaking he found that it was night. When daylight returned, clouds covered the sky, and, still thinking to get back to the ship, he went on all day, but again failed to see the great river in which she rode.
"Having his gun and ammunition, he was able to shoot some birds and animals, and with the fruits he found growing on the trees he sustained life. Thus for three days more he wandered up and down, till he at length reached the river; when to his dismay, he could nowhere see the ship. Having no doubt that she had sailed, he now set off along the shore, hoping to overtake her in case she had brought up at any other place. He was pushing on bravely, when he saw before him a large party of Indians; to fight with them was useless—he held out his hand, which the chief took, and showed by signs that he would be his friend. He tried to inquire for the ship, but the Indians made him understand that she had gone away and that it was best for him to remain with them. He thought so likewise, and agreed to live with them, and to hunt and fish as they did.
"After some time they set off up the country, where larger game was to be found. Having husbanded his powder, as long as that lasted he was able to shoot several deer; but when that was gone, and he could no longer help the Indians, they treated him with less kindness than at first. This made him resolve to try and escape; he had got some distance from their camp, when he encountered another party of Indians, of a different tribe to those with whom he had been living. They carried him off a long way through the woods, till they reached their camp, when he was taken before their chief. A council was held, as he supposed, to decide whether he was to live or to be put to death. He was fully expecting to die, when a person whom he had not before seen appeared, and addressed him. On looking up at the stranger's face, greatly to his surprise he saw that he was a white man. Batten inquired whom he was.
"'A heart-broken exile—one who can feel for you,' was the answer; 'but fear not for your life—for that I will plead, as I have interest with the chief, though for years I have been kept a prisoner without hope of escape.'
"Who think you, Captain Layton, was the stranger who now spoke to Batten? He was no other than our father, Captain Vaughan Audley, who sailed with Sir Richard Grenville, Mr Dane, and Mr Cavendish on board the Roebuck with many other ships in company. When Sir Richard returned to England, our father had remained with upwards of a hundred men with Governor Dane at Roanoke, where they fixed their abode and built a fort. The Indians, who had hitherto been friendly, formed, however, a league against them. They were expecting assistance from England, when one night the fort was stormed; most of the people were put to the sword, but the life of our father was preserved by a chief whom he had befriended when, on a former occasion, that chief had fallen into the hands of the English. The chief, carrying him to his canoe, concealed him from his companions and conveyed him far away up the river. Here landing, he concealed him in his own wigwam, where he was cured of his hurts; but our father had not from that time seen a white face till he met with Batten.
"Batten's life, as our father promised, was saved; though the Indians showed otherwise but little regard for him, and this made him wish to escape should he have the opportunity. He told his purpose to our father, and promised, should he succeed, to carry home the intelligence to his friends of his being alive. Some time afterwards, Batten said, he managed to escape from the Indians, when he made his way towards the seashore. Lying hid in a thick bush for fear of being discovered by the natives, he one day caught sight of a party of Englishmen advancing at no great distance off. Delighted at the thoughts of meeting his countrymen, he was about to rush out of his place of concealment, when he saw a large body of Indians coming towards them. He waited to see the result, when to his horror the Indians drew their bows, and before the strangers were aware of their danger, every man among them was pierced by an arrow. Some fell dead; others drew their swords; but with terrific war-whoops the Indians, setting on them, killed the whole with their tomahawks.
"Batten gave up all hopes of saving his life, but, wishing to put off the fatal moment, he remained concealed till near nightfall, when the Indians cutting off the scalps of the slain, went away inland, singing a song of triumph. He now stole out of his hiding-place, and ran on all night, intending to build a raft and make his way along the coast, when just at day-break, as he reached the shore, great was his joy to discover an English boat with two men in her. He rushed towards them, and gave an account of the way he had seen the Englishmen murdered. No sooner did they hear this than they shoved off from the shore and pulled with all their might down the river. For several days they continued toiling, till they reached their bark, the Sally Rose which lay some way down towards its mouth; but the master, on hearing that the pilot and all the officers had been killed, forthwith weighed anchor, and, setting sail, stood for England. The Sally Rose sprang a leak, and scarcely could she be kept afloat till, coming up Channel, they entered the port of Dartmouth. Here landing, Batten was making his way without a groat in his pocket to London, when Providence directed him to our door.
"On hearing this strange narrative, I sent Gilbert to fetch our mother and sister Lettice, who listened to it with breathless interest; and getting such answers as we could from the seaman to the questions put to him, we were all convinced that he had given us a faithful account, and that our father was really alive. We now earnestly consulted with him what to do; not forgetting to seek for guidance from on high as to the best means for recovering our father. Gilbert was for setting out forthwith, taking Batten as his companion, and getting on board the first ship sailing for America; but even had our mother agreed to Gilbert's proposal, it was impracticable, as the old sailor was becoming worse and worse. We sent for the apothecary, and did all we could to restore his waning strength; but all was in vain, and before the next day was over he had breathed his last.
"We were now much troubled, for the means on which we had depended for discovering our father had thus been lost. We had no one with whom to consult; we talked and talked, but could come to no conclusion. 'We will pray to God for guidance,' said our mother, 'we will now, my children, go to rest; and to-morrow morning we will meet, with the hope that light will be afforded us to direct our course.'
"Her first words the following morning when she entered the parlour were: 'Praise be to God—he has not left me any longer in doubt what to do—I have bethought me of Captain Amyas Layton, who resides not far from Plymouth. He and your father have often been shipmates, and he is among the oldest of his friends, and will give you sound advice on the subject. I would wish you to set out forthwith for Plymouth, and to place the whole matter before him. Tell him that I will expend all my means towards fitting out a ship to send to Virginia with trustworthy persons to search for your father. It may be, though, for the love Captain Layton bore him, that he will afford further means if necessary for the purpose.'"
"That will I right gladly," exclaimed the captain, starting up, and taking three or four paces between the chairs in which the young brothers were sitting—first looking at one and then at the other; "you two are Audleys—I recognise your father's features in both your countenances. There are few men whose memory I hold in greater love or esteem, and I will not say that to recover him I would hazard half my fortune, for the whole of it I would gladly give to bring him back, and old as I am, will sail forth myself in command of a ship to Virginia should a younger man of sufficient experience be wanting. You, young sir, I perceive by your dress and looks, have not been to sea; or you would be the proper person to sail in search of the missing one."
"No, sir," answered Vaughan, "but I have been for some time a student at Cambridge, where I have diligently studied mathematics, and being well acquainted with the mode by which ships are navigated, although I am ignorant of the duties of a seaman, I might, with the aid of a sailing master, be able without difficulty to reach the country of which Batten told us. Gilbert has already made two voyages to the Thames, and one as far as the Firth of Forth, so that he is not altogether ignorant of sea affairs, and lacks not willingness for the purpose."
"So I should judge," observed the captain, casting an approving look at Gilbert; "I like your spirit, young man; and you may trust to me that I will do all I can to forward your views. Had my son Roger been at home, the matter might quickly have been arranged; but he has long been gone on a voyage to the East Indies with Sir Edward Michaelbourn, on board the Tiger, a stout ship, in which Captain John Davis sailed as pilot. There went also a pinnace named the Tiger's Whelp. I would the good ship were back again, for Roger is my only son, and his sister Cicely begins to fret about him."
"Gladly would I serve under your son, should he before long return and be willing to sail for Virginia," replied Vaughan.
"Would you be as willing to serve under me, young sir?" asked the captain, glancing from under his shaggy eyebrows at Vaughan; "for verily, should not Roger soon come back, I should be greatly inclined to fit out a stout ship, and take Cicely on board and all my household goods, and to settle down in the New World. Cicely has her brother's spirit, and will be well pleased to engage in such a venture; as I will promise her to leave directions for Roger to join us should he return after we have sailed."
"I could desire nothing better, Captain Layton," answered the young man; "our mother will indeed rejoice to hear that you have been so ready to comply with her request. What you propose far surpasses her expectations."
Captain Amyas Layton had been a man of action all his life, and age had not quenched his ardour. While pacing up and down, his thoughts were rapidly at work; every now and then he addressed his young guests, evidently turning over in his mind the various plans which suggested themselves.
"My old shipmate Captain George Weymouth is now in England," he said, "I will write to learn his opinion. I have another friend, Captain Bartholomew Gosnell. I know not if he has again sailed since his last voyage to America; if not, I will find him out. He will, to a certainty, have useful information to give us."
Thus the captain ran over the names of various brave commanders, who had at different times visited the shores of North America. He counted much also, he said, on Captain John Davis, who had sailed along those coasts; though he had gained his chief renown in the northern seas, amid the ice-mountains which float there throughout the year—his name having been given to those straits through which he passed into that region of cold. Vaughan and Gilbert had been listening attentively to all he said, desiring to report the same to their mother and Lettice, when the sound of a horse's hoofs were heard in the paved yard by the side of the house.
"Here comes Cicely with Barnaby, and we shall ere long have dinner, for which I doubt not, my young friends, you will be ready," observed the captain.
Gilbert acknowledged that his appetite was becoming somewhat keen; but Vaughan made no remark. He was of an age to watch with some interest for the appearance of Mistress Cicely Layton, though of her existence he had not heard till her father mentioned her.
He had not long to wait before a side-door opened, and a young damsel with straw hat on head and riding-habit fitting closely to a graceful form, entered the hall. She turned a surprised glance at the strangers, and then gave an inquiring one at her father, who forthwith made known their guests to her as the sons of an old friend; on which she put forth her hand and frankly welcomed them. The colour of her cheek heightened slightly as Vaughan, with the accustomed gallantry of the day, pressed her hand to his lips, and especially as his eyes met hers with a glance of admiration in them which her beauty had inspired. Truly, Cicely Layton was a maiden formed in nature's most perfect mould—at least, so thought Vaughan Audley. Gilbert also considered her a very sweet girl, though not equal in all respects to his sister Lettice, who was fairer and somewhat taller and more graceful; but then Gilbert always declared that Lettice was perfection itself.
Having delivered certain messages she had brought from Plymouth for her father, Cicely addressed a few remarks to the young gentlemen; then, saying that she must go to prepare for serving up the dinner, which, as it was near noon, ought soon to be on the table, she dropped a courtesy and left the room. Each time the door opened, Vaughan turned his eyes in that direction, expecting to see Mistress Cicely enter; but first came a waiting-maid to spread a damask table-cloth of snowy whiteness, and then came Barnaby Toplight with knives and forks; then Becky came back with plates. "This must be she," thought Vaughan; but no—it was Barnaby again with a huge covered dish, followed by Becky with other viands.
At length the door again opened, and Mistress Cicely tripped in, her riding-dress laid aside. She was habited in silken attire, her rich tresses falling back from her fair brow, her neck surrounded by a lace ruff of wondrous whiteness. The captain having said grace, desired his guests to fall to on the viands placed before them; though Vaughan seemed often to forget to eat, while conversing with Mistress Cicely; Gilbert meantime finding ample subject for conversation with her father.
Dinner occupied no great length of time, though the captain insisted on his friends sitting with him to share a bottle of Canary, which he ordered Barnaby to bring from the cellar, that they might drink success to their proposed voyage to Virginia. The young men then rose, offering to return to Plymouth, but their host would on no account hear of it, declaring that they must remain till he could see certain friends in Plymouth with whom he desired to consult about their projected voyage. They without hesitation accepted his proffered hospitality; possibly the satisfaction the elder felt in Mistress Cicely's company might have assisted in deciding him to remain, instead of returning home. Indeed, he considered it would be better to wait, that he might carry some certain information to his mother as to the progress made in the matter.
In the evening Mistress Cicely invited him to stroll forth into the neighbouring woods, beneath whose shade the sea-breeze which rippled the surface of the Sound might be fully enjoyed. Their conversation need not be repeated; for Cicely talked much of her gallant brother, and was sure that Master Audley would be well pleased to make his acquaintance when he should return from the East Indies. "Though, alack! I know not when that will be," she added, with a sigh.
The captain and Gilbert followed, talking on various interesting subjects. The captain was highly pleased with Gilbert, who reminded him greatly of his father.
"I knew him when he was no older than you are," observed the former. "A right gallant youth he was. Already he had been in two or more battles, and had made two voyages to the Spanish main. He married young, and I thought would have given up the ocean; but, like many others, was tempted to go forth in search of fortune, intending, I believe, that your mother should follow when he had founded a home for her in the Western World."
"I have heard my mother say, sir," said Gilbert, "that my father was but twenty-five when he sailed for Virginia, leaving me an infant, and my brother and sister still small children; so that even my brother has no recollection of his appearance."
The captain had led Gilbert to a knoll, a favourite resort, whence he could gaze over the Sound far away across its southern entrance. He pulled out his pipe and tobacco-pouch from his capacious pocket, and began, as was his wont, to smoke right lustily, giving utterance with deliberation, at intervals, as becomes a man thus employed, to various remarks touching the matter in hand. He soon found that Gilbert, young as he was, possessed a fair amount of nautical knowledge, and was not ignorant of the higher branch of navigation, which he had studied while at home, with the assistance of his brother Vaughan.
"You will make a brave seaman, my lad, if Heaven wills that your life is preserved," observed Captain Layton; "all you want is experience, and on the ocean alone can you obtain that."
"Had it not been for the unwillingness of my mother to part with me, I should have gone ere this on a long voyage," answered Gilbert. "It was not without difficulty that she would consent to my making the short trips of which I have told you; though now that I have a sacred duty to perform, she will allow me to go. As we were unable to obtain the exact position of the region where Batten met our father, we must expect to encounter no small amount of difficulty and labour before we discover him."
"We must search for the crew of the vessel in which Batten returned, for they may be able to give us the information we require," observed the captain; and he further explained how he proposed setting about making the search.
While he had been speaking, Gilbert's eye had been turned towards the south-west. "Look there, sir!" he exclaimed, suddenly; "I have been for some time watching a ship running in for the Sound, and I lately caught sight of a smaller one following her."
"I see them, my lad; they are standing boldly on, as if they well knew the port," said the captain. "I fear lest my hopes may mock me, but this is about the time I have been expecting my son, who sailed with John Davis for India, to return, unless any unexpected accident should have delayed them. Those two ships are, as far as I can judge at this distance, the size of the Tiger and the Tiger's Whelp."
Still the captain sat on, yet doubting whether he was right. The ships rapidly approached, for the wind was fresh and fair. Now they came gliding up the Sound, the larger leading some way ahead of the smaller. The captain, as he watched them, gave expression to his hopes and doubts.
"See! see! sir," exclaimed Gilbert, whose eyes were unusually sharp; "there is a flag at the mainmast-head of the tall ship. On it I discern the figure of a tiger, and if I mistake not, the smaller bears one of the same description."
"Then there can be no doubt about the matter," exclaimed Captain Layton. "We will at once return home. Go find your brother and my daughter; tell them the news, and bid them forthwith join us."
While the captain walked on to the house, Gilbert went, as he was directed, in search of Vaughan and Cicely. They, too, had been seated on a bank some way further on, watching the ships, but neither had suspected what they were. Indeed, so absorbed were they in their own conversation, that they had not even observed Gilbert's approach. Cicely started when she heard his voice, and on receiving the intelligence he brought, rose quickly, and, accompanied by the brothers, hastened homewards.
"The news seems almost too good to be true; but, alack!" she added, with a sigh, as if the thought had just struck her, "suppose he is not on board—what a blow will it be to my poor father! Roger is his only son; and he has ever looked forward with pride to the thought of his becoming a great navigator like Sir Francis Drake or Sir Thomas Cavendish."
Vaughan endeavoured to reassure her.
"My fears are foolish and wrong," said Cicely; "but if you knew how we love him, and how worthy he is of our love, you would understand my anxious fears as to his safety."
"I can understand them, and sympathise with you fully," said Vaughan. His reply seemed to please her.
On reaching the house, they found that the captain had already gone down to the beach, where his boat lay; and, his anxiety not allowing him to wait for the young men, he had rowed off to the headmost ship, which had now come to an anchor, the crew being busily engaged in furling sails. Poor Cicely had thus a still longer time to wait till her anxiety was relieved, or till she might learn the worst. She insisted on going down to the beach, to which Vaughan and Gilbert accompanied her. At length the captain's skiff was seen to leave the side of the ship. He had gone by himself, but now they discovered, when the skiff got nearer the shore, another person, who stood up and waved a handkerchief. Cicely clasped her hands, then cried out with joy, "It is Roger! it is Roger!" and presently, the boat reaching the shore, Roger leaped out, and his sister was clasped in his arms.
Releasing herself, she introduced him to Vaughan and Gilbert, of whom he had already heard from his father, as well as the object of their visit. "And so, young sirs, you have work cut out for me, I understand, and intend not to let the grass grow under my feet," he exclaimed, in a hearty tone. "All I can say is that I am ready to follow my father's wishes in the matter."
"I am truly thankful to you, sir," replied Vaughan, as he and Roger shook hands; and looking in each other's faces, they both thought, "we shall be friends." Vaughan admired Roger's bold and manly countenance, possessing, as it did, a frank and amiable expression; his well-knit frame showing him to be the possessor of great strength; while Roger thought Vaughan a noble young fellow, of gentle breeding.
The young men having assisted in securing the skiff, the party returned to the house, where Roger gave them a brief account of his voyage, for the captain was eager to know how it had fared with him.
They had, however, matter of more pressing importance to talk about, and before they retired to rest that night, their plans for the future had been discussed, and some which were afterwards carried out had been determined on.
Vaughan and Gilbert consented to remain with their friends another day, on condition that Roger Layton would accompany them to their home, in order to explain more fully than they could do the plans he and his father proposed. In truth, Vaughan was not sorry for the opportunity afforded him of enjoying more of Cicely's society, and he knew Mistress Audley did not expect their speedy return. Roger undertook afterwards to proceed to London to search for the Sally Rose, a bark of fifty tons, in which Batten had returned home, and which Vaughan had learnt had gone round to the Thames.
The more Captain Layton talked over the matter, the more his ancient ardour revived. "Cicely, girl, wilt thou go with me?" he exclaimed. "I cannot leave thee behind; and yet I should fret if these young gallants were away searching for my brave friend and I were to remain on shore, like a weather-beaten old hulk, unfit for further service."
"Where you go, I will go, my father, as you wish it," answered Cicely; "whether in Old England, or in New England across the ocean, there, if you make your home, will I gladly abide with you."
"Well said, girl, well said," exclaimed the captain; "come, let me give thee a buss for thy dutiful love—but I will not force thy inclinations."
The next day the captain, mounted on his horse Sampson, set off for Plymouth, the distance being too great for him to walk, in order to call on some of his seafaring acquaintances, and to make inquiries regarding vessels in the port of Plymouth and elsewhere, fit for a voyage to America. Roger and Gilbert accompanied him on foot, but Master Vaughan pleaded that, as he knew naught of naval affairs, he could be of no service, and would prefer remaining to study the captain's sea journals and some books on navigation, with the prospect of afterwards taking a stroll with Mistress Cicely when she should have completed her household duties for the day.
"As you like it," said the captain; "Cicely will bring you the books, and pens and paper, should you wish to take notes of what you read."
Cicely thought Vaughan's plan a very proper one, and it is possible that she hastened through her household duties with even more than her usual alacrity, active as she always was.
The captain, with his son and Gilbert, called on several persons, including among them some shipbuilders and shipowners, from one of whom they learnt that the Rainbow, a stout bark of a hundred tons burthen, lay in the harbour, having a short time before returned from the only voyage she had made to the Levant, her timbers and plankings sound, her tacklings and sails in perfect order; moreover that, in two weeks or so, she might be got ready for sea. On going onboard, the captain and his son were well pleased with the Rainbow's appearance, though of opinion that her tackling and sails required renewing, and that the necessary repairs would take longer than her owner had stated. The captain, as has been said, was a man of action; having satisfied himself as to the fitness of the vessel, on returning on shore he concluded the purchase, with such deductions as were considered just by her owner, Master Holdfast, who, knowing him to be a man of substance as well as a man of honour, was content to abide his time with regard to payment.
The next day found Vaughan and Gilbert, accompanied by Roger Layton, on their way to the neighbourhood of Dartmouth. Lettice, who had been anxiously waiting for their return, seeing them come over the hill in the distance, hastened down to the gate to receive them. After bestowing on her an affectionate embrace, they introduced Roger as the son of their friend Captain Layton, returned from the Indies, who was ready to sail forth again in search of their father. It is needless to say that he received a warm welcome from Mistress Audley, as well as from Lettice. Roger had thought his sister Cicely was as near perfection as a damsel could reach, but he could not help acknowledging that Lettice Audley was her superior.
Mistress Audley was anxious to hear Captain Layton's opinion and what plans he proposed. "He is, indeed, a true, generous friend," she exclaimed, when Roger told her that his father had actually purchased a stout ship in which he was about to sail in the hopes of recovering her husband.
"But the first thing we have to do is to ascertain, more exactly than we now know, the part of the country to which he has been carried," observed Roger. "I therefore propose setting off at once to London, to learn, from those with whom the seaman Richard Batten returned, the place where they received him on board; and then, with your leave, Mistress Audley, I will come back here to make our final arrangements. Do you yourself propose accompanying your sons? or will you remain here with your daughter till we have concluded our search, and returned, as I hope, successful?"
"I cannot so far restrain my anxiety as to remain at a distance while others are engaged in the search, and if a way is opened out to us, my daughter Lettice and I have resolved to proceed to Virginia," answered Mistress Audley.
"You are a brave lady, truly," exclaimed Roger; "my sister Cicely purposes going for the sake of being with our father, and it would be an honour and satisfaction if you would take a passage on board his ship."
Mistress Audley expressed her gratitude, and said she would consult her son Vaughan on the subject.
Roger Layton did not attempt to conceal the admiration he felt for Lettice Audley, and he would gladly have remained another day could he have found sufficient excuse. Duty had, however, always been his guiding star, and he accordingly the next morning at daybreak was ready to depart. He had taken leave of Mistress Audley and Lettice the night before, but when the morning came Lettice was in the parlour to serve him with breakfast, and he enjoyed some minutes of her society before her brothers made their appearance. They came down booted and spurred, prepared to accompany him part of the way. He promised not to spare his good steed; but even so, he could not hope to be back much within a fortnight, and soon after that time he expected that the Rainbow would be ready for sea, and he thus could not remain more than a day at Mistress Audley's on his way to Plymouth.
In the evening Vaughan and Gilbert returned home. As they reached the gate, they were surprised to see two stout horses, held by a groom, standing before it. They inquired who had arrived. "Your worships' cousin, master Harry Rolfe and a stranger, a stout and comely gentleman, who has the air and speech of a sea-captain—though he may be, judging by his looks, some great lord," answered the groom.
"Poor Harry! I thought after the unkind treatment as he called it which he received from our sister, that he would not come back again to this house—but I shall be glad to see him," observed Vaughan to his brother.
As they entered the parlour, they found their mother and Lettice with the two gentlemen who had just arrived. Their cousin, Harry Rolfe, whose appearance was much in his favour, sprang from his seat to greet them, and introduced his companion as Captain John Smith, "With whom, in the company of many other right worshipful gentlemen, I am about to sail for Virginia," he added. "I could not quit England without coming to bid you farewell: for it may be my lot, as it has been that of many others, not to return."
Mistress Audley sighed as he spoke. "Pardon me, kind aunt, for the inadvertence of my expression," he exclaimed.
"You are thinking of our father," said Gilbert; "but we have had news that he is still alive, and you will, I know, gladly join us in searching for him."
Captain Smith on this made inquiries regarding the subject of which they were speaking, and such information as they possessed was given him. He listened attentively, and promised to use all the means in his power in searching for Captain Audley. His words greatly raised Mistress Audley's spirits; for he was evidently a man who would carry out whatever he purposed. Already advancing towards middle life, he possessed an eagle eye, a determined expression of countenance, and a strongly-knit figure capable of enduring fatigue and hardship.
Harry Rolfe further informed his relations that he and Captain Smith were on their way to join their ship, the Hector, at Plymouth, into which port she and several others were to put before proceeding on their voyage. The countenance of Harry Rolfe brightened as he heard that his relatives purposed proceeding to Virginia; but Lettice turning away her head as he expressed his pleasure at the thoughts of their coming, he looked disappointed and grieved. Mistress Audley, as in courtesy bound, invited her visitors to remain to supper; but they excused themselves on the plea that they must hasten on in case their ship should arrive at Plymouth, and expected to sleep some ten miles further on their road. Taking their leave, therefore, they proceeded on their journey.
Mistress Audley was naturally agitated with many doubts and fears as to the propriety of proceeding. She herself was ready to encounter any dangers or hardships for the purpose of encouraging the search for her husband, and for the sake of sooner meeting him, but she doubted whether it was right to expose her young daughter Lettice to such risk; while her eldest son, though without him she could not proceed, would be drawn away from his studies at Cambridge and from the career he had chosen; but her children were unanimous in their desire to go to Virginia, and Lettice declared that even without such a motive she would willingly undertake the voyage.
She had a near neighbour, Captain Massey White, once Governor so called of Virginia, though there had been few men to govern, and those very ungovernable. He was now advanced in life and broken in health. Him she consulted: he spoke cautiously. If the new adventurers acted wisely they might succeed. The country was of exceeding richness, and the natives, though savage, might be won over. He could not advise a wife against seeking her husband, though many dangers must be encountered. To him the subject brought sad recollection. His only daughter and her husband, Ananias Dane, with their infant, a little girl, had been slaughtered with many others by the Indians, their only other child, their son Oliver, happily escaping, having been left with his grandame in England when they went to the colony. Oliver Dane, a boy of spirit and intelligence some years younger than Gilbert, was a frequent visitor at the house of Mistress Audley and a great favourite of hers. She pitied him also, for his grandfather could but ill manage him or afford him the amusements suited to his age. He, like many boys of those days, was longing to go to sea—to visit strange countries, and to engage in the adventures of which he often heard from the mariners he met with in Dartmouth. The result of her conversation with Captain White strengthened the resolution of Mistress Audley to proceed to Virginia. When young Dane heard of it, he was mad to go also. He begged Vaughan, who had a great liking for the lad, to take him. He had no need to ask Gilbert, who declared that they would not leave him behind.
Mistress Audley and Lettice were pleased at the thoughts of having him with them.
Strange to say, the old man was willing to part with him. He must ere long go into the world to seek his fortune, and he could not be placed under better superintendence than that of Vaughan Audley, for whom he had a high esteem, and who would afford him instruction and watch over his interests. It was thus settled, to the great delight of Oliver Dane, after much more had been said than need be repeated, that he should accompany Mistress Audley and her family to Virginia.
Such of their goods as they considered likely to be of use, were packed up in fitting packages for stowage on board ship, and such other arrangements for the disposal of their property as were deemed necessary were made with the help of a trustworthy lawyer at Dartmouth. Seeing that the task was new to all of them, it was only just accomplished when Roger Layton arrived from London, accompanied by two men, Ben Tarbox and Nicholas Flowers by name, who had belonged to the Sally Rose, in which Richard Batten had escaped from Virginia. They were both willing to return to the country, and gave so circumstantial an account of the part they had visited, and were so certain that they could find their way to it again, that Roger had no doubt about the matter. Vaughan, who examined them much as a lawyer would a witness, was well satisfied on that score, but not so in other respects with one of the men, Nicholas Flowers, whom he set down in his mind from the first as an arrant rogue. Of Ben Tarbox Vaughan formed a better opinion, that he was an honest fellow, with a fair amount of wits.
Roger brought also a letter from Sir George Summers, to whom he had been introduced in London, and who had known and esteemed Captain Audley, offering to give a passage to Mistress Audley and her family on board the Sea Venture, which ship was about to sail from the Thames, and to come round to Plymouth, where she was to be joined by seven others, so the letter stated, though their names were not mentioned. Sir George was most kind and pressing; for the regard he bore her husband, he assured Mistress Audley that she should be put to no expense, and as the ship was large and well-found, she might hope to have a prosperous voyage, with fewer discomforts than are the lot generally of those who tempt the dangers of the sea.
"For Sir George's offer we should indeed be thankful," observed Mistress Audley, when she came to the end of the letter; "it seems like the guiding of Providence, and we are in duty bound not to refuse it."
To this Roger could raise no objection, though he confessed that he was disappointed at not having Mistress Audley and her daughter as passengers on board the Rainbow. They would, however, sail in company, and in calm weather he might hope to pay them a visit, and at all events they would meet at the end of their voyage. Roger found a letter waiting him from his father, stating that the Rainbow was nearly ready for sea, and advising that Mistress Audley and her family should come round by water from Dartmouth, as the easiest means of transporting their goods. Roger was glad of this opportunity of remaining longer in the company of Mistress Lettice, and of offering that assistance which his experience enabled him to give. He at once hastened to Dartmouth, where he engaged a pinnace with eight rowers, the master of which undertook, the sea being calm, to carry them to Plymouth between sunrise and sunset.
There were many tears shed by those on whom Mistress Audley and Lettice had bestowed kindness, as they set out from the home they were leaving, probably for ever, mounted on pillions; the pack-horses with their goods following in a long line. Mistress Audley rode behind Vaughan, and Lettice sat on the horse with her younger brother, beside whom rode Roger Layton, while Oliver Dane on his grandfather's nag—seldom now bestrode by the old man—trotted up now to one party, now to the other, but found Vaughan more ready to talk than was Roger, who had ears only for what Mistress Lettice might please to say. Thus they proceeded till they reached Dartmouth, close to which lay the pinnace Roger had hired. The goods were placed on board that evening, that they might sail without hindrance at dawn on the following morning.
The calm harbour lay in deepest shade, although the summits of the rocks on the western side were already tinged with the rays of the rising sun, as the pinnace, propelled by eight stout rowers, glided out towards the blue sea, rippled over by a gentle breeze from the eastward. The pinnace coasted along the rocky shore till the long, low point of the Start was rounded, when, altering her course, she steered for Plymouth Sound, keeping well inside that fearful rock, the Eddystone, on which many a bark has left her shattered ribs. Roger talked much to Lettice as he sat by her side. He told her of the voyages he had made, of his last ship, when their brave pilot, that renowned navigator, John Davis, with many of his followers, was treacherously slain by the crew of a Chinese ship they had captured,—Roger himself, with a few fighting desperately, having alone regained their boat as the Chinaman, bursting into flame, blew up, all on board perishing. Lettice gasped for breath as she listened to the tale; then Roger changed the subject and told her of the wonderful islands of the East, with their spice-groves and fragrant flowers; of the curious tea-plant; of the rich dresses of the natives; of the beautiful carved work and ornaments of all sorts which he had brought home.
"I have had them placed in my father's house, and they will please you to look at, Mistress Lettice," he observed; "for it may be some days before the fleet sails, and as my father could not bring himself to part with his house, it will afford you a home while you remain at Plymouth."
Gilbert and Oliver Dane were interested listeners to Roger's tales, though the descriptions of battles fought and hair-breadth escapes produced a very different effect in them; while she trembled and turned pale, they only longed to have been with Roger, and looked forward to the opportunity some day of imitating him.
Both wind and tide had favoured the voyagers, and before sunset the pinnace lay at anchor directly in front of Captain Layton's house. The captain had seen them coming, and with Cicely beside him was on the shore to welcome them. With becoming gallantry he pressed Mistress Audley's hand to his lips, while he bestowed a kiss on Lettice's fair brow, telling her how glad he was to greet her father's daughter. Cicely then took her hand, and led her towards the house, while the captain assisted Mistress Audley up the steep ascent.
The captain having well calculated the time they would arrive, a handsome repast was already laid in the hall, to which the superior officers of the Rainbow, and some of those of gentle birth intending to go passengers by her, were invited. Three of the other vessels destined to form the fleet had arrived, but the admiral's ship, the Sea Venture, had not yet come round from the Thames. The time was spent by the young people with much satisfaction to themselves, and so well pleased was Mistress Audley with Cicely that when Vaughan told her that he wished to make her his wife, she did not object to his pledging his troth, though she warned him that the present was not a time to take upon himself the cares of a wife and family, and that all his thoughts must be employed in the sacred duty in which he was engaged.
At length a tall ship was seen sailing up the harbour with gay flags flying from the mastheads. The other vessels as she approached saluted her with their guns; the captain, who was on the watch, pronounced her to be the Sea Venture, the ship of the good admiral, Sir George Summers, commanded by Captain Newport, with Sir Thomas Gates, the new Governor of Virginia, on board. Soon after she dropped anchor the admiral's barge was seen leaving the ship, and Captain Layton went down to beg that he would remain at his house till the fleet was ready to sail. Sir George, whose shipmate he had formerly been, was well pleased to accept his offer; Mistress Audley had thus an early opportunity of thanking the admiral for his generous offer.
"The thanks are due from me, Mistress Audley, that you condescend to take passage with your family on board my ship," he answered, with proper gallantry.
Mistress Audley told Sir George of Captain Layton's desire that she should sail on board his ship. "I will not act the hypocrite, and say that I am sorry to deprive him of the pleasure," answered Sir George, "and having gained your promise to sail on board my ship, I intend to keep you to it."
Sir George was accompanied by several cabin boys, one of whom he brought on shore, and introduced as the son of his old friend, that brave sea-captain and good knight, Sir Edward Fenton, lately deceased. Ned Fenton, who was now going for his first voyage, and Gilbert soon became fast friends, and were well pleased to find that they were to continue together. The remainder of the passengers of the fleet now arrived, most of whom were gentlemen of good family, though of broken fortunes—a class ill fitted for the work before them; while the remainder were artisans far more likely to succeed than the former in a new colony.
At length the whole of the fleet to which the Rainbow was joined gathered in the Sound, and a brave appearance they presented as seen from the windows of the captain's house, their flags flying and their sails hanging in the brails ready to sheet home as soon as the admiral should give the signal to weigh anchor. The wind, however, continued blowing from the westward, and eager as they were to depart, the admiral knew that it would be useless to proceed to sea when no progress could be made towards their destination.
Gilbert and Oliver spent most of their time on board the Sea Venture, to which, through the kindness of Sir George Summers, they had been appointed as officers, that they might receive wages from the company; but Vaughan, who had no fancy for a sea-life, found ample occupation on shore in attending on Mistress Cicely, while she had no objection to be so attended. She consenting to his proposal of marriage, he had spoken to her father. "I would not desire a more worthy son-in-law," answered the captain; "but she and you are young, and can afford to wait till we have founded our new settlement, and have houses to dwell in, and lands we can call our own to cultivate. You may deem me unkind; but I were more unkind to grant your request, judging as I do what is best for you both. A sea voyage, even though you are in different ships, will not cool your love, and if, as I am sure will be the case, some months hence you are of the same mind, your mother and, as I hope, your father also agreeing thereto, I will no longer prohibit your marriage."
Thus Vaughan and Cicely, as many other young people have had to do, had to wait patiently, looking forward with hope to the future.
At length a gun was fired from the admiral's ship,—the signal for the fleet to weigh anchor. It was at once repeated by a whole salvo from Captain. Layton's battery, discharged according to the captain's directions by Barnaby, who had been left as guardian of the house and property, the owner deeming it possible that he might some day return to his own home. The wind had veered round to the north-east, and blew a fresh breeze, which it was hoped would speedily waft them across the ocean. The Sea Venture took the lead, the Rainbow following close astern, and the other vessels in their different order of sailing. Thus the fleet glided on. The blue Lizard, growing dimmer and dimmer; sank beneath the ocean; the Land's End was lost to sight, and the fleet, guided by the wondrous compass, sped onward, chasing the sun in its course. For several days the wind continued fair, the ocean calm, and all on board looked forward to a speedy termination of their voyage. Audley watched with interest the Rainbow as she kept her course, sometimes drawing close enough to enable him to see Mistress Cicely on her deck. It is possible that her young mate might have done his best, by pressing on sail, to keep her there, in order that he himself might have the satisfaction of seeing Mistress Lettice, with her mother and other ladies seated on the high poop of the admiral's ship, under an awning spread to shelter them; for the wind being light and aft, the sun beat down with no slight force, and few would willingly have remained long exposed to its burning rays. The sea, just crisped over with wavelets, glittered brightly, and ever and anon huge fish rose to the surface and gambolled round the ships, wondering what strange monsters had come to invade their watery domain. Gilbert, Oliver, and Fenton were in the mean time busying themselves about their duties. Gilbert had undertaken to instruct his younger companions in such nautical knowledge as he possessed: Ned was an apt pupil, and he hoped to do no discredit to the name of his honoured father.
"I had expected on coming to sea to meet the huge waves towering as high as the mastheads, and strong winds, and thunder and lightning; but the life we lead in this calm weather is so pleasant and easy that I should soon grow weary of it," observed Fenton.
"Wait a bit," answered Gilbert; "my experience is not very great, but I can tell you that the ocean is not always in its present humour, and that we may have another account to give before we reach the shores of Virginia."
Still the fine weather continued; and at length so completely did the wind fall that the ships lay rolling their sides slowly to and fro, their tall masts reflected in the mirror-like ocean, it being necessary even for the boats to be lowered to keep them apart. The opportunity was taken by many to visit each other's ships. Vaughan went with his brother on board the Rainbow, and Mistress Cicely welcomed him in a way which made him wish that he might continue the voyage with her; but he remembered that his mother and sister were on board the Sea Venture, and that duty required him to be with them, that, should any mishap occur, he might be at his post to protect them as far as he had the power. Roger Layton received a similar welcome from Lettice; although he had not spoken to her, she was perfectly well acquainted with the state of his heart, and knowing that he was equally well acquainted with hers, she remained satisfied that God would order all for the best. Mistress Audley was well pleased with the young sailor; she had discerned his good qualities, and the wealth he would inherit from his father was sufficient for the position in life she desired for her daughter. There is an old saying that "the course of true love never did run smooth;" in this instance it seemed, however, that the proverb was not to prove a correct one.
As darkness was coming on, the admiral ordered the boats to return to their respective ships, and the lights in the lanterns on the stern of the Sea Venture were kindled for the guidance of the fleet at night. Towards morning there was a change in the weather. Dark clouds were chasing each other rapidly across the sky; the sea, of a leaden hue, tossed and tumbled with foaming crests; the seamen were busy aloft furling sails, and the ships, which had hitherto kept close together, now, for safety's sake, separated widely. The wind whistled in the shrouds; the waves dashed against the lofty sides of the Sea Venture, whose fortunes we must now follow. Still the stout ship kept her course, under reduced canvas.
"I told you, Ned, that it was not always calm and sunshine," observed Gilbert, while he and his friends clung to the weather-bulwarks as the ship plunged into the heavy seas. "I wonder how the other ships are faring? Let us climb into the main-rigging and see."
Fenton, Oliver, and he did as proposed, and holding on to the shrouds they gazed over the storm-tossed ocean. Every instant the wind was increasing in strength, and the waves in height, amid which the other ships were seen tossing and tumbling, thrown, as it were from sea to sea, with but a small amount of canvas to steady them, and even then it seemed as much as they could bear.
"I wonder which is the Rainbow," continued Gilbert; "Vaughan and Lettice will be watching her with no small anxiety. See, there they stand on the poop-deck, straining their eyes towards the ship they suppose to be her: truly, I should grieve were any misfortune to happen to those on board."
"So should I," said Fenton; "but it is a hard matter to make out which is the Rainbow, though I thought that I could distinguish her from the rest."
Every moment the gale increased, and the seas rose higher and higher; six strong men were at the helm, but even then with difficulty could the ship be steered. The sails were closely furled, with the exception of a small foretopsail, and away the stout ship flew—now dipping into one sea, the foaming crest of which came rushing over the deck, now rising to the summit of another. Still Lettice, with her brother's arm round her waist to secure her, stood on the poop; her face was pale, though not with alarm for herself or those with her so much as for the Rainbow, for she naturally thought "if such is the buffeting our large ship is receiving, what must be the condition of so small a bark as the Rainbow," towards which ship her and her brother's eyes were cast, as they supposed. Those who could have distinguished one ship from the other were busy in attending to their respective duties.
Gilbert and his messmates still kept their post; they, too, were watching, as they believed, the Rainbow, which was endeavouring, as it seemed, to set more canvas, to bear up for the Admiral. Now she appeared sinking into the deep trough of the sea, now tossed up helplessly to the summit of another, again to descend, when her hull could scarcely be distinguished amid the masses of foam which danced madly round her. As she lay deep down in the watery valley a huge sea rolled over her deck, and she did not rise again on the other side. A cry escaped from the three lads: "She's gone! she's gone!"—echoed by many on deck.
Lettice, with straining eyes, gazed at the spot where the ship had been. Vaughan, his heart torn with anguish, endeavoured to support her, but could ill restrain his own feelings, believing as he did that Cicely had perished. The admiral had seen what had occurred, and with gentle force conveyed her to the cabin, where she could receive from her mother that comfort she needed so much; while the governor with friendly sympathy, taking Vaughan's arm, endeavoured to calm his agitation and prevent him from madly leaping into the sea.
"Oh, steer the ship to their assistance! We must go and help them," shouted Vaughan, not knowing what he said.
"The attempt were vain," said the captain; "long ere we could reach the spot where yonder ship has gone down, all who were on board her will have perished;" and he made a sign to the governor, and others standing round to carry the young man below. They succeeded, Vaughan moving like one in a dream. The admiral assured Lettice and her brother that it was possible the ship they had seen go down was not the Rainbow, for though small compared to their own ship, she was a stout, well-built bark, and might contend successfully with even a worse storm than was then blowing; adding that one of the vessels seen in the distance bore a great resemblance to her; indeed, by every means in his power, he endeavoured to restore their spirits. He was compelled, however, soon to leave them, to attend to the navigation of the ship. He and Captain Newport held an earnest consultation, for the fierce storm, instead of giving signs of abating, was hourly gaining strength.
The wind, which first came from the north-east, now shifted suddenly round, greatly increasing the height of the seas, and fearfully straining the labouring vessel.
Night coming on, the other ships were lost to sight; no one could tell in what direction they had gone. Those who were inclined to look at matters in the darkest light believed that they had foundered. Not for a moment did the brave admiral leave the deck. Now, the rain pouring down, all was pitchy darkness; and then suddenly a vivid flash of lightning showed the whole deck, and the pallid faces of the crew—for even the stoutest-hearted looked pale; and well they might, for the raging seas threatened every instant to engulf them. Few men surrounded by such horrors can face death unappalled.
Thus that dreadful night passed on. But matters had not come to the worst; the admiral sat on the deck, conning the ship, endeavouring with all the nautical skill he possessed, in which no man surpassed him, to keep her before the wind. The carpenter, who had been below to sound the well, rushed up, a flash of lightning exhibiting his countenance pale as death. "We've sprung a fearful leak, sir," he exclaimed; "it's my belief that the oakum is washed out of the seams, for already the water is rising above the ballast."
"Then hasten with your crew, search out where the worst leaks exist, and strive to stop them," said the admiral, calmly; "man the pumps, and let others be told off with buckets to bale out the water. We must not give way to despair; often have men been in a worse condition on board ship, and by persevering efforts have preserved their lives."
The determined way in which the admiral spoke somewhat restored the confidence of the crew; some with lanterns in their hands crept into the wings on either side of the ship, close to the ribs, searching every corner, and listening attentively to discover the place where the water entered. Others, like galley-slaves, stripped to the waist, went to the pumps, and worked away with that desperate energy which men exhibit when they believe that their lives depend on the efforts they are making. Several of the leaks were found, but still the water came rushing in on all sides. The carpenter again reported that it was still rising, and, from the quantities of bread brought up, that the chief leak must be in the bread-room. Here he once more made search, but failed to discover the spot at which the water entered. The officers of all ranks exerting themselves to the utmost, the men followed their example, while the passengers offered to labour with them. Vaughan Audley found the task he, with others, had undertaken, a great relief to his grief and anxiety; with Gilbert and young Fenton, he was working now away at the pumps; now he was standing one of the line formed to pass the buckets up from below. Even the women desired to take their share in the work. All on board were divided into three parties—while one party laboured at the pumps, or passed up the buckets for an hour at a time, the others, exhausted by their exertions, lay down to rest. An officer stood ready to give the signal as soon as the time arrived for the working party to be relieved.
Daylight at length returned, but showed no improvement in the weather; the wind blew as furiously as ever. Not for a moment had the brave admiral left his post. Just before noon a prodigious sea came rolling towards the ship, and, breaking over her bow, washed fore and aft, filling her from the hatches up to the spar-deck. For some time it appeared impossible that she could shake herself clear of the mass of water, which, as it rushed aft, dashed the men from the helm, forcing the tiller out of their hands, and tossed them helplessly from side to side. It seemed a wonder that none were carried overboard or received mortal injury. The admiral, too, was thrown from his seat and, as were several officers round him, cast with his face on the deck. Still, while endeavouring to recover himself, he shouted to others of the crew, who flew to the helm and prevented the ship from broaching to. Though she was running at the time under bare poles at the rate of scarcely less than eight knots an hour, for a moment the violence of the shock stopped her way, and many thinking that she had struck on a rock, shouted out, "We are lost! we are lost!"
"Not yet, my brave fellows," cried the admiral; "while there is life there is hope! The ship is still swimming: all hands to their stations."
Another voice was heard clear and clarion-toned amid the howling of the storm, as the voices of God's ministers should sound at all times:—"Turn to Him who calmed the tempest on the sea of Galilee. Why are ye affrighted, oh ye of little faith? Trust to Him all powerful to save, not your frail bodies only from the perils of the deep, but your immortal souls from just condemnation. Turn ye, turn ye! why will ye die? He calls to you; He beseeches you. Trust to Him! trust to Him!"
He who spoke was the good chaplain, Master Hunt, who had been ceaselessly supporting the sorely-tried ones below with words of comfort from the book of life, and who had now come on deck to perform his duty to the fainting crew.
The men, thus encouraged, returned to their duty, and worked away with the same vigour as before. Even during this fearful time neither Vaughan nor Gilbert had quitted the pump at which they were labouring. Though Vaughan, believing that Cicely was lost, cared little for life, yet he thought of his mother and sister, and felt that it was his duty at all events to labour for their sakes.
"Don't give way brother," cried Gilbert, "our mother has often said that God watches over us, and if it is His good will He can preserve us even now. The carpenter has just stopped another leak, and I heard him say that he hoped the rest might be got at. We may be thankful that we have strength to work."
"Spell, oh!" was soon after this cried, and a fresh party hurrying from the cabins and from the more sheltered spots where they had thrown themselves down to rest, came to relieve those who had been working for the last hour. Thus two days went by, but the storm abated not; no land was in sight; few indeed on board knew whither they were driving; all they could do was to labour on, and then to lie down in order to gain fresh strength for renewed labours. Sometimes the wind came from the north; then shifted to the north-east, often in an instant veering two or three points, and almost half round the compass. The brave admiral did his best to steer west by south, but that was no easy matter. In spite of all on board, as the water was still increasing, he gave orders to lighten the ship by throwing overboard numerous casks of beer, oil, cider and wine, which to those who loved their liquor was sadly trying; but just then life to them was dearer than aught else. The hold being filled, scarcely any fresh water or beer could be got at, nor could a fire be lighted in the cook-room to dress their meat. Thus, thirsty and famished, the crew had to toil from day to day, while such refreshment as sleep could have afforded was well-nigh denied them.
All this time three pumps were kept working, and not for a moment did they cease baling out with their buckets, barricoes, and kettles. Still, notwithstanding their utmost exertions, the ship had now ten feet of water in her hold, and had they for a single watch ceased to pump, she must have foundered. At length the admiral gave the order to heave overboard the guns; it was a desperate remedy, for should the ship survive the gale and an enemy be met with, she must helplessly yield; a greater trial to her brave crew than any they had encountered. One after one, the tackles cast off, the guns were sent plunging into the ocean. Relieved of their weight, the ship floated somewhat more buoyantly.
"We have done our best," exclaimed the brave admiral. "One more resource remains to us, we must cut away the masts."
All knew that this was indeed a desperate remedy, for the huge ship would thus float a mere log on the water, waiting if, by God's good providence, some other vessel might bear down to their relief. But of that there was little prospect; still their lives might thus be prolonged a few short hours, and true men know that it is their duty to struggle to the last, and trust to God for their preservation.
All this time no observation had been taken, for neither was the sun to be seen by day, nor the stars by night. Gilbert and Fenton, with young Oliver, had after their exertions turned in for a short time: even the howling of the tempest, the dashing of the waves, and the terrible condition of the shattered ship did not prevent them from sleeping. Summoned by the boatswain's hoarse cry, they again hastened on deck to attend to their duty. The admiral was there, and as they were standing near him, they saw him gaze up at the main-mast head.
"Gilbert, Gilbert, what can that be?" exclaimed Oliver.
Gilbert looked in the direction his messmate pointed, and there he saw a small round light, like a faint tremulous star, streaming along and sparkling brightly, now bursting into a blaze, now resuming its round form; sometimes running up and down the shrouds, now along the main-yard to the very end, there remaining for an instant, and then returning as if about to settle on the mast-head, then again descending once more to perform the same journey as before. The eyes of all on deck were directed towards it; some exclaimed that it was the demon of the storm come to warn them that their minutes were numbered.
"My friends," cried the admiral, "if it were an evil spirit it would not come to warn men to prepare for death. To my mind it is of the same nature as the lightning, but harmless. Several times before have I seen it, and on each occasion the storm has shortly after broken. If sent for any purpose, it is to encourage us to persevere, and to assure us that ere long the wind will abate, and we shall gain the mastery over our ship. To the pumps, my friends, to the pumps! and keep the buckets moving."
The admiral's brave words restored new life to the well-nigh exhausted crew; once more the pumps were worked vigorously, and the buckets were passed rapidly from below. At dawn the admiral himself was seen ascending the rigging. For a few minutes he remained at the masthead; then he waved his hat, and shouted, "Land! land!" At that joyful cry many who had fallen asleep in the cabins or other sheltered parts of the ship, overcome with fatigue, were aroused, and hurrying on deck, gazed anxiously towards the shore on which they hoped to find that safety denied to them by the ocean. Again they went to the pumps, and once more set to work to bale with buckets, barricoes, and kettles, endeavouring to keep the ship afloat till a place of safety should be reached.
The admiral remained still longer watching the distant shore, towards which he ordered the ship to be steered. As she approached, numerous small islands were seen ahead: the sight revived the spirits of all on board. The leadsman was ordered to sound as the ship ran on; first thirteen fathoms of water were found, then seven. Some spoke of anchoring, but the admiral, though he would gladly have saved the ship, knew full well that she would not float many hours longer. Again he ascended the mast, and looking out saw a spot between two high rocks, towards which he ordered the helmsman to steer. The foresail only was set, to prevent the ship from striking with too great force. The passengers and crew were collected on deck; still to the last the pumps were kept going, and the buckets were worked, lest she might founder even before she could reach the shore. It was now known that they had arrived at the stormy Bermoothes, or as some call them the "Devil's Islands," owing to the fearful storms which rage round them, and the numerous dangers they present to navigators.
Islands, many hundreds in number, extended three or four leagues on either side of the one towards which the ship's course was directed. Trees could now be discerned on it waving to and fro in the wind: but as the ship sped on the force of the waves decreased, and as she gradually got under the shelter of the islands, the water became sufficiently smooth to encourage the hope that she would not go to pieces when she should strike the shore. But then the crew asked each other "were they about to be thrown on a desolate island, where neither food nor water could be found?"
The admiral had descried two high rocks at a short distance apart, near which the water seemed smoother than at any other part. He now directed the course of the ship towards it; not a moment was to be lost, for the water was rapidly rising higher and higher in the hold. He warned those on deck to beware, lest the ship striking suddenly, the masts might fall and crush those below them. Vaughan on this led Mistress Audley and his sister back into the cabin, but Gilbert declared that as an officer he must run the risk of whatever might happen. All waited with suspense for the expected shock; the minutes seemed hours; every instant the objects on shore became more and more distinct—the rocks, the beach, the trees beyond, and here and there gentle slopes; but no mountains, or even hills worthy of the name.
Vaughan endeavoured to encourage his mother and Lettice, as well as the other ladies and children. Presently there came a grating sound, but the ship glided on till she finally stopped, and then there came a shout, "We are safe! we are safe!" Vaughan, on rushing on deck found that the ship had glided on to a sandbank, while the shore of an island appeared little more than half a mile away, offering an easy landing to the storm-tossed voyagers. Thanksgivings arose from many a heart on board for their preservation; but others, it must be owned, thought only how they might most quickly get on shore.
The admiral forthwith ordered the boats to be lowered, directing Captain Newport to summon those by name who were to go in them. The governor, as was right, went in the first, with all the women and children. As no signs of natives had been seen, it was not feared that opposition would be met with; nevertheless, the smaller boats were sent first to pilot the way. Vaughan and two other gentlemen passengers were requested to accompany the governor, in order to assist in taking care of the ladies. They were watched with some anxiety as they took their departure.
The passage to the shore was accomplished without difficulty, and the boats entered a beautiful little bay, with a sandy beach, where the passengers easily landed. "Let us return thanks to Heaven for our preservation," exclaimed the good chaplain, as they stepped on shore; when all kneeling down, led by one who prayed not only with the lips but with his whole heart, they lifted up their voices to Him to whose mighty arm they gratefully acknowledged their preservation alone was due. The boats being immediately sent back to the ship, in a few trips the whole of those on board were landed. As there was still sufficient daylight, the boats were then again despatched to bring away provisions, as well as the carpenter's tools and other articles of the greatest necessity, including some sails for tents, that the ladies and the governor and the other older persons might have shelter for the night. The rest, by cutting down branches, made huts for themselves, with beds of leaves; and thus, as soon as supper had been taken—the first quiet meal they had enjoyed since the storm began—the whole of the worn-out crew and passengers lay down to sleep, with the exception of those told off to keep watch. Probably, ere many minutes were over, the weary sentries also closed their eyes. But a God of mercy watched over the shipwrecked company, and no harm befell them.
The next morning being calm and beautiful, the boats were sent off to bring more provisions and other articles which could be saved from the wreck. Thus they were employed all day, while those who remained on shore, when not unloading the boats, were engaged in erecting huts. A day of toil was succeeded by another night of rest; all worked willingly under the able directions of the governor, the admiral, and Captain Newport. To assist in the more rapid landing of the cargo, a raft was constructed, and in a short time everything the ship contained was taken out of her. This being done, she was completely unrigged, when the sails and ropes and spars were landed. They then proceeded to pull the ship herself to pieces for the purpose of building another vessel in which to continue the voyage to Virginia, should no assistance be sent from thence in the mean time to them. It was a task of great labour, but the admiral setting the example, and working himself as hard as any of the men, the others were fain to labour also. Gilbert, young Dane, and Fenton acted as his assistants, and were proud of the praises he bestowed upon them for their diligence and perseverance. Vaughan worked as hard on shore, assisting the governor, who superintended the erection of the storehouse, and the huts in which all might find shelter; and in a short time a village sprang up.
The ladies were not idle, doing their best to fit up their own houses and those of their friends. Under other circumstances Lettice and Vaughan would have been contented and happy; but the dreadful thought that the Rainbow had been lost, in spite of the assurances of the admiral, constantly occurred to them. Mistress Audley did her best to comfort her daughter, but the rose left Lettice's cheek, though she sought for strength to support her sorrow, whence strength alone can be obtained.
The shipwrecked party were now settled in safety on the island. They had reason to be thankful that they had escaped the fearful perils of the sea; but they had no wish to remain where they were: Virginia was their destination, and thither they desired to proceed. They looked anxiously for the arrival of one of the ships of the squadron, which they hoped might be sent to search for them. No ship, however, made her appearance, and the indefatigable admiral accordingly set to work to improve the long-boat by raising the sides, and decking her over, and also by fitting her with masts and sails and oars.
In the mean time the officers turned their attention to the procuring of food for the settlement. Several seines had been brought in the ship; a sandy beach, free from rocks, afforded a favourable place for drawing them, though, as yet, they knew not what fish the sea would supply. The two small boats were brought round to the spot, and the seine was cast. With no slight eagerness, the greater number of the colonists stood on the shore, watching the success of the undertaking. The officers, as well as the men, assisted in drawing the net; as it approached the shore, the fins and tails of innumerable fish were seen splashing above the surface. Shouts of satisfaction rose from the spectators: the seamen, led by the admiral himself, rushed in, regardless of a wetting, to seize the fish, which were endeavouring to escape over the net, and fifty men or more were now floundering about, each grasping one or more of the struggling creatures. In their eagerness, several toppled over on their noses, and had to be picked up by their companions to be saved from drowning. Some came triumphantly to land, dragging huge fish, many pounds in weight, by the gills; several received severe bites from the sharp teeth of the fish, into whose mouths they had incautiously thrust their hands. Not a few scampered out, declaring that there were sharks or other monsters among the shoal, which had attacked their legs. Among the most eager were Gilbert, Fenton, and Oliver Dane. The three youths on all occasions bore each other company, and after each of them had secured a fish large enough to feed a dozen hungry men or more, Fenton and Oliver were seen coming out with an enormous one held fast by the gills, which, in consequence of its vehement struggles, they could with difficulty land. On the net being at length hauled up, enough fish were secured to feed the party for several days, besides those which had first been taken. Among them were numerous lobsters, crabs, and crawfish, which, it was conjectured, were the creatures the seamen had declared had bitten their legs. Here was an additional reason for thankfulness, for while the sea so plentifully supplied food, there need be no fear of hunger. In the holes of the rocks, salt in abundance was also found, with which the fish could be preserved, so as to afford provision at times when the tempestuous weather might prevent the seine being drawn. Still, fish alone would not be sufficient to feed the people, and parties were therefore sent out to search for such other food as nature might have provided. Vaughan with his brother, young Dane, and Fenton, honest Ben Tarbox, and two other men, formed one of the parties; the admiral, Captain Newport, and two of the lieutenants, leading others.
They had examined, as far as their eyes could serve them, the surrounding islands, but could see no smoke nor other signs of inhabitants; nor did they discover the slightest trace of wild beasts. From the masses of white foam which they saw breaking over the rocks in all directions, they rightly judged that reefs and shoals abounded, and that no ship could approach the group, except on the side on which they had providentially been cast.
Vaughan and Gilbert wished their mother and sister good-bye, promising to be back soon: they felt confident that they would be in no danger, while the governor remained to keep the rough seamen in order. As they walked along, great numbers of small birds, of various species, were met with. Oliver happened to be whistling while stopping to look about him, when, greatly to his surprise and that of his companions, a flock of small birds came down and alighted on the branches close to their heads.
"Stop," said Vaughan; "we must not frighten them, and see what they will do."
Oliver continued to whistle, holding out his hand, when half a dozen of the birds or more hopped off the branches and perched on his arm, looking up into his face, as if wondering whence the notes they heard proceeded. The rest of the party, imitating his example, and whistling loudly, several other flights of birds came round them, resting, without the slightest appearance of fear, on their heads and shoulders.
"'Twere a pity to abuse the confidence of the little feathered innocents," observed Vaughan, "though I fear much, before long, they will find out the treachery of man, and have to rue their simplicity."
"An it please you, sir, it is very likely, if we grow hungry," remarked Ben Tarbox; "but I for one wouldn't hurt them now, though I might be pretty sharp set."
"Keep to your resolve, my friend, and persuade your mates to be equally humane," said Vaughan.
As they moved on, the birds flew away to the surrounding trees, but followed them wherever they went. They had not got far, when Fenton, who was a little ahead, cried out, "A bear! a bear!" and immediately fired.
"I missed him," he exclaimed, as Vaughan and Gilbert joined him.
"I doubt much whether the animal you saw was a bear," said Vaughan, as they got up to the spot, examining the ground where Fenton declared he had seen the creature. "Observe these berries, and the way the soil has been turned up: a bear would have climbed the tree from which they have fallen; whereas, it is evident that an animal with a long snout has been feeding here. That tree is the palmetto, which, I have heard from those who have been in the West Indies, yields a cabbage most delicious to eat; these berries are also sweet and wholesome. By taking the trouble to climb to the summit, we may procure an ample supply of vegetables; and see! there are many other trees of the same species. As we shall have no difficulty in finding them again, we will go on in search of the animal you saw; and, should our guns not prove faithless, we may hope to find some meat for dinner."
They now proceeded more cautiously, when, coming to the edge of an open glade, they saw before them a herd of thirty or more swine feeding at a short distance. Creeping along under shelter of the bushes, they got close enough to fire. Vaughan selected one animal, Gilbert and Fenton aimed at two others. Firing together, three hogs fell dead on the ground. Here was a prize worth obtaining; Tarbox and the other men, who understood cutting up a pig, were soon busily engaged in the operation, while the gentlemen continued their search farther on. Great was their delight to discover pear-trees bearing ripe fruit, and at a little distance a grove of mulberry-trees, some with white, others with red fruit.
"In what a curious way the leaves are rolled round," observed Gilbert, examining them; "why, each contains a little conical ball, I verily believe, of silk."
"Yes, indeed, they are silk-worms," said Vaughan; "there are enough here to supply the looms of France for many a day; and if we can collect, and can manage to unwind them, we may send home a quantity certain to yield a rich return. We will carry back a supply of the fruit, which will be welcomed by our mother and sister."
Gilbert and his companions quickly wove a couple of baskets of some long grass which grew near, and filled them with mulberries and a few cocoons of the silk-worms to exhibit to their friends. They did not forget also to stuff their pockets full of pears. Well pleased with the result of their excursion, they returned to the settlement.
The admiral, who set an example of activity to all the rest, undertook an expedition to visit the neighbouring islands, giving leave to Gilbert and Fenton to accompany him. As they pulled along, they saw a number of birds flying towards a small island. On landing, they discovered a vast number of eggs, the size of hens' eggs, which had been laid upon the sand, the heat of which apparently assisted to hatch them. The birds were so tame that they allowed the men to come among them without moving, so that they could be knocked down with sticks. In a short time a thousand birds were caught, and as many eggs, so that the boat was loaded almost to her gunwale. Here was a further supply of welcome food, adding to the variety of that already obtained. One night, the boats returning from an expedition, the crews landed on an island to cook their supper, when, greatly to their surprise, they found themselves surrounded by birds which perched on their heads and arms, so as to almost cover them, many flying directly into the fire. Notwithstanding the shouts and laughter of the men, the birds came in still greater numbers, apparently attracted as much by the noise as the light, while they answered the shouts by a curious hooting; from which reason, and from their blindness, the men called them sea-owls. After this, the boats were frequently sent over, and by simply waving, a firebrand, sea-fowls invariably collected round them, so that they in a short time could kill as many with their sticks as would fill the boats.
Not far off from the settlement was a sandy beach. Gilbert and his ever-constant companions were one evening returning homewards, when they caught sight of a creature crawling out of the sea. They hid themselves to watch what it would do; another and another followed, when, making their way up to a dry part of the beach, they were seen to stir up the sand, and to remain for some time at the spot. Vast numbers of others followed, and continued coming, till darkness prevented their being distinguished. Although neither of the lads had seen turtles, they guessed what they were, and, rushing out of their hiding-place, were quickly in their midst, endeavouring to catch some of them; but the creatures bit at their legs, and they, not knowing the art of turning them on their backs, were dragged along by those they caught hold of till they were nearly carried into the water. At length they gave up the attempt.
On their arrival at the settlement, they told what they had seen, when they were heartily laughed at for not having turned over the turtles. The next morning many of the men went out, and returned laden with turtles' eggs, which they had found in the sand. The following evening the turtles were not allowed much quiet, for the men, having armed themselves with long sticks, hid in the surrounding bushes, and as soon as the turtles had crawled on to the beach they set upon them, and before the frightened creatures could escape, some two score or more were turned on their backs, and in that condition were dragged to the settlement. It was on a Saturday night, and the next Sabbath morning good Master Hunt, the chaplain, failed not to remark on the kindness of Providence in thus supplying them so abundantly with wholesome food. The service being over, all the cooks, with many assistants, making up the greater part of the inhabitants, were busy in dressing the turtle, some making soup, others stews—indeed, of every mess there was far more than the men, albeit large eaters with voracious appetites, could consume.
Thus the settlement was amply supplied by Providence with all that people could desire. In truth, it might have proved a perfect paradise, had not, alas! the evil dispositions of the men broken out to render it like other spots of this sinful earth.
The admiral finding that no ship arrived from Virginia, despatched the long-boat under the command of Henry Raven, the master's mate, to that settlement, a distance, as he calculated of a hundred and forty leagues. He promised, should he arrive safely at his destination, to return immediately with a large vessel, capable of carrying all the party. Many prayers were uttered for his safe arrival and return, as he sailed away. Vaughan did not fail to write to Captain Layton, as he also did to Cicely; but, as he wrote, he stopped often and groaned in spirit. Was she for whom these lines were intended still alive to read them? "God is good; God is merciful; He orders all things for the best; His will be done," he said calmly. Then he wrote on: he told of his deep anxiety, his agonising fears; but he spoke also of his hopes, of his trust in One all-powerful to save, of his eager desire ere long to reach Virginia. Lettice likewise wrote to her, giving many messages to Roger, to whom she would fain herself have written, had the so-doing been allowable. What she said need not be repeated. It may be supposed that the long separation the young people were doomed to endure was trying in the extreme. Mistress Audley also felt great disappointment at being thus prevented from instituting the search for her husband, though she confided in Captain Layton that he would use all the means in his power to discover his friend, had he, as she prayed, escaped shipwreck; and as she, with others, looked out day by day for the arrival of the expected ship from Virginia, she could not help believing that her husband would be on board. She, like the rest, was doomed to disappointment. Two moons went by and no ship appeared. Had Master Raven arrived, he would surely have returned by this time, and fears were entertained that he and his companions must have been lost.