We had been cruising along the coast, and sometimes anchoring for about five weeks, when the captain of the sloop of war was promoted from this fleeting world to a better. I was, in consequence, appointed as her captain, being in my ninth year as lieutenant when I obtained my promotion. I parted company with the frigate shortly afterwards, and anchored off Accrah. A canoe soon came off with an invitation from the Governor requesting my company to dinner. I accepted it and went on shore, where I was received by a young man who was more merchant than soldier, but who had command of the fort which commanded the roadstead and the town. He informed me that a little distance from the town was a large lagoon or lake in which were frequently found four or more large tame alligators. "For," added he, "although the natives often suffer from their depredations, and once one of their children was devoured by one of these reptiles, they hold them sacred, and they are 'fetiched' or made holy." "I should much like to see one," said I. "I will," answered he, "send for one of the Cabaceers, or head men of the town, and we shall soon know if there are any in the neighbourhood." A quarter of an hour had elapsed when in came a grave-looking black man dressed in blue serge, with a gold-headed long cane in his hand, the badge of his office. He informed the Governor there was a large alligator at the bottom of the lake, and that if he would provide him with a white fowl and a bottle of rum, his people might possibly lure him out. About an hour expired when we heard a bustle not far distant, and a man came to apprise us that the alligator was in the town, that a marabout, or priest, was ready to fetich it, and only waited for us. We had not proceeded more than twelve yards from the fort when we saw the reptile, which was about eighteen feet long, in full trot after a man who held the unfortunate fowl destined to be the victim. As soon as we approached he turned short round. The reptile, with his upper jaw nearly thrown on the back of his head, was some time in turning, owing to its length and the shortness of its legs, and was again in chase of the man who held the fowl. The marabout now came after it, and when close to its tail, threw the rum over it, mumbling some strange sounds. It was then considered sacred, and death would have been the punishment of those who hurt it. Before it came to the margin of the lagoon, the man with the poor fowl, which was more than half-dead with fright, slackened his pace, and threw it into the alligator's mouth. The reptile then made for the water, sank to the bottom, and ate the miserable bird. We returned to dinner, which consisted of a hearty welcome, some excellent fish, fowl soup, boiled fowl with ham, and a roasted saddle of kid, with yams and plantains, pine-apples and oranges, madeira and sherry. In the evening I took leave of my hospitable host and repaired on board, and the following morning put to sea.
After cruising for six weeks in chase of the wind—for we saw nothing during that period except two slave ships from Liverpool, from whom we procured a few indifferent potatoes—we again anchored off Cape Coast. I went on shore and paid my respects to the Governor, General Tourenne, in a new character. I had once dined with him when lieutenant of the frigate; he did not recollect me, but requested me whenever I was disposed to take up my residence at the Castle, and to consider it my home during the time I remained on the station. "The Ashantee, or Assentee nation have," continued he, "been very troublesome of late and have declared war against the Fantee nation, who are under our protection, as it is through them all the commerce along the coast takes place, and of this, the Ashantees, who are the inland nation, wish to partake. Your being in the roads will in some measure check them." I promised to visit the roads as often as my other duties would permit me, and if necessary assist with the marines.
WEST COAST ADVENTURES.
Cruise along West African coast—Dine with Danish consul at Cape Coast Castle—Ordered to Sierra Leone—A trip inland—We proceed to the Los Islands—A trip up the River Pongo—Quell disturbance on a slaver—A dinner with a native prince—His presents.
After remaining a few days, during which time nothing transpired that required our presence, we again weighed and sailed along the coast towards the Bight of Benin. We experienced frequent calms with much squally weather, attended with vivid lightning and heavy rain. Finding a current setting round the bight to the eastward, we were obliged to carry a press of sail to act against it, and were nearly three weeks working up from Cape St. Paul's to Dix Cove, where we anchored. On this part of the coast, particularly Dix Cove, you may land without the assistance of a canoe, as the surf is not so rolling or so high. There is a small English settlement here, which I visited, and dined with the principal settler. The town is small and not worth a description. We procured a quantity of oranges and cocoanuts, and I had the opportunity of witnessing the native dancing. A tom-tom, or rough kind of long drum, is beaten by two men, to the noise of which (for it was anything but music) they keep time. The dancers, particularly the women, appeared by their gestures and movements to be in a state of delirium; they certainly were much excited, and kept up such a continued howl that I soon took my departure.
As I turned round I came in contact with a most pitiable object—a sickly, dead-white coloured native. I had heard of such beings, but had never seen one. He was about five feet five inches high, and very thin; his features were rather more prominent than those of a negro, his eyes were very small, very weak, and of a reddish hue. He appeared by his manner to be an idiot. He held out his hands to me in a supplicating manner. I gave him a small piece of money; he looked earnestly in my face, and mixed with the crowd. On returning to the town I passed three females with different coloured ochres smeared over their bodies. On inquiry, I found they were subject to fever and ague, and the application of different earths was their best mode of treating this complaint. Three weeks afterwards we again visited Cape Coast Roads, where we found the frigate, who had lost the marine officer and several of the seamen. Whenever the surgeon reported five men on the sick list in harbour I immediately put to sea, and to amuse the crew we got up some pantomimes. They were ridiculous enough, but they answered the purpose and kept all hands in good humour. The consequence was that we did not lose one man during the four months we were on the coast.
I received orders from the captain of the frigate to repair to Sierra Leone and proceed to the West Indies with the slave ships as soon as they were ready. We had now been more than two months on this station without capturing anything, and we were much pleased with the order to change. On taking leave of the Governor, he told me he had had a palaver with the King of the Ashantees, whom he described as a fine, high-spirited young man. "I have been trying," said he, "to prevail on him to make peace with the Fantees. The King's answer to my request was brief and positive. 'What,' asked he, 'is your most sacred oath?' 'We swear by our God,' I replied. 'Then,' said the king of the savages, 'I swear by an Englishman's God that instead of making peace with the Fantee nation I will exterminate the whole race.' 'Not those under the protection of the British flag?' said I. 'Yes,' returned he, 'all, and without exception.' 'Then if you do persist in so fatal a purpose, you must take the consequences, for I also swear that if you or any of your people come in a hostile manner within reach of our guns, I will shoot every one of you.' He gave me a look of fierce defiance, and informed me by the interpreter that the palaver was over. On which I took my leave, not highly pleased. You are going to leave us, I understand," said he. "I much regret it, for we have just made your acquaintance, and I should like to have continued it." I acknowledged the compliment, which I believe was sincere. "To-morrow," continued he, "I am invited to dine at the Danish settlement. The Governor is a very good kind of man, well-informed, and hospitable. Would you like to accompany me? He speaks English, and I am sure would feel flattered by your visit."
I consented, and at four o'clock in the afternoon on the following day I was at the Castle, where eight stout black men, with palanquins, were ready to carry us. I found this mode of travelling very easy and agreeable. The hammock in which I reclined was made of a long grass, stained with several colours; two of the bearers carried it on their shoulders by a pole, the other two sang songs, kept off the mosquitoes and sunflies by whisking about a branch of a cocoanut tree over the hammock, and occasionally relieved the others. On our journey we paid a short visit and took Schnapps with the Governor of a Dutch settlement, who saluted us with his four guns (all he had), and in so doing knocked down some of the parapet of his fort, which dismounted half of them. My bearers were so frightened by the report that they let me fall. As their fears soon subsided, and I was not hurt, we continued our journey. About three-quarters of an hour brought us within sight of Cronenburg Castle, the Danish settlement, when we were met by a set of wild black men, who called themselves men of war. They had a leathern case containing a musket cartridge hanging from the cartilage of their noses. This gave them the appearance of having large moustachios, and if they did not look very warlike, they looked ridiculously savage. They kept constantly charging and firing muskets, without any order, in honour of our visit.
We at length entered the great gate, and were ushered, by two black lacqueys in livery, into a large hall, which, for Africa, was tolerably furnished. The Danish Governor, who was dressed in a blue embroidered coat, soon made his appearance. He was a portly person, with much good humour in his countenance. At six we sat down to dinner, which was abundant, and, for the first time, I eat some kous-kous, or palm nut soup. I thought it excellent, and the pepper pot was magnificent—so a Frenchman would have said had he been one of the party. My old acquaintance, goat's flesh, did not make its appearance, but instead we had not badly-flavoured mutton—which, to tell you a secret, was not very tender. We remained until half-past nine o'clock, when we took our departure. The men of war with their cartridge moustachios saluted us by firing their muskets, the wadding of which struck me and my palanquin, for which I did not thank them, as a bit of the wadding burnt my cheek.
On reaching the Castle at Cape Coast I was so wearied that I was almost too lazy to undress. I slept soundly, and ate a late breakfast, took a final leave of the good General (who made me a present of a fine pointer), repaired on board the frigate, whose captain was tormented with the blue devils; he requested me to remain until the following day, when, as he had chased them away by a few glasses of his favourite beverage—good stiff grog—and there was no further hope of posting myself into the frigate, I ordered the anchor to be tripped, and we soon made the sparkling, transparent wave curl like an old maid's wig before us.
We were three tedious weeks before we reached Sierra Leone, owing to what sailors term "Irish hurricanes"—when the wind is perpendicular, or, in plain English, no wind at all. On landing, I met the Governor, Mr. Ludlow, who had kindly come to welcome me, and begged that I would consider the Fort my home. I made suitable acknowledgments, and accompanied him to his house, which was convenient, tolerably cool, and comfortable. He showed me a clean, cool room, which he was pleased to call my sleeping room. I found him an amiable and good person, and was happy and proud of his acquaintance. He told me he intended to make an excursion into the interior, in order to discover the source of a water-fall, and invited me to be one of the party, to which, as I was naturally fond of voyages of discovery, I willingly consented.
The day after, at daybreak, we started, the Governor and myself in palanquins with awnings and mosquito nets. We were thirty-five in party, including twenty-four black pioneers, the captain of whom was an intelligent white man. We cut a path through an immense large forest, which boasted some noble-looking cotton, manchineel and iron trees, and a red tree something resembling the bastard mahogany. Although we had penetrated and ascended more than half-way up one of the Mountains of Lions, we discovered nothing living but a variety of beautifully-plumaged birds, which, unused to the intrusion of other bipeds, uttered most discordant screams. After a fatiguing march, in which we were directed by a pocket compass, we descried a small rivulet. We followed its course for some time, and at length arrived at the base of a stupendous rock from which it issued. We, by calculation, were distant at this time from the town nineteen miles, nearly seven of which we had cut through the forest. We all took refreshment and drank His Majesty's health, first in wine and then in a crystal draught from the spring. In returning we kept on the bank of the rivulet until it swelled into a small river. The ground then became thickly beset with jungle and swampy.
By five o'clock in the afternoon we arrived at the fall, which, by measurement, was one hundred and seven feet perpendicular, and about forty-two wide without a break—it was a beautiful sight. We dined on a large rock about a quarter of a mile from its base, and even at that distance our clothes were damp from its spray. We discovered a large rock of granite from which issued a small stream of water that became tributary to that of the fall. We also saw two brown monkeys, one of which was shot. Some of the blacks brought it with them; it was of the small kind, and they told me it was good eating.
We arrived at the Fort at three o'clock the next morning, when I was suddenly attacked with a severe headache and a violent fit of the bile. As this was nothing new to me, I kept myself quiet, and Nature was my best physician. The slave convoy for the West Indies, I found, consisted of three ships and a brig, with about eleven hundred slaves. As the rice season was backward, I was petitioned by the merchants to postpone the convoy a fortnight, to which I consented, and made a short cruise off the Los Islands, where I anchored and made an excursion up the Rio Pongo. I passed a small English settlement near its mouth, not fortified, at which I landed, and was informed that a slave ship belonging to Bristol was in a state of mutiny, and that her surgeon was confined in irons. As she was lying about twenty miles farther up the river, and we had to pull that distance under a burning sun, I thought it no joke. However, as there was no alternative, we made up our minds to bear it, and reached her after a fatiguing four hours' pull. I found her a rakish-looking vessel with her boarding netting triced up. On gaining her deck I inquired for her captain. "He is on shore," was the answer. "Who are you?" said I to the spokesman. "The chief mate," returned he. "Turn your hands up and let me see what sort of stuff you are made of. You look very privateerish outside." Nine men made their appearance, some of whom looked sickly. "These are not all your crew; where are the remainder?" "On shore, sir?" "Where is the surgeon?" "On shore also." "Show me the ship's papers." "The captain has them." "Now," said I, "I tell you what, Master Mate, I am going on shore to have some conversation with the African Prince Lawrence, and if your captain and surgeon are not with me at the chieftain's house in half an hour after I land, I will put an officer and men on board your ship, and if everything I have heard against his conduct is not cleared up to my satisfaction, I will carry her to Jamaica."
The river at this beautiful place, for the country appeared green and fresh and ornamented with a profusion of lofty palm and cocoanut trees, was much wider than at its mouth. On landing, a number of the natives had assembled on the shore to view us as sea-monsters or curiosities, as they had never seen two men-of-war's boats at their settlement before. The prince's son, who was among them, came up to me. He was dressed in a white linen jacket and trousers, with a white English hat. He spoke tolerable English. He requested me to go to his father's house, which was a long, low, whitewashed building, with a four-pounder sticking out of a kind of window at one end of it, and before it was a mud battery of four more four-pounders in bad repair. On being introduced to him I found he also spoke English. He asked me the occasion of my visit. I acquainted him, when he, without ceremony, summoned one of the cabaceers, or principal men, and desired him to find the captain of the slave-ship and bring him with him. "I dine at three o'clock," said he; "I hope you will favour me with your company." I accepted the invitation. This prince's appearance was like that of an European, his features were regular and pleasing. He informed me his father was an Arabian chief, but that he was born on the spot where he now resided, and that he had married one of the native king's daughters. He had two sons; the eldest was with him, and the other in England for his education. "I am very partial to the English," added he, "and should like to go to England, but that is impossible." Our conversation was interrupted by the entrance of the native magistrate with the master of the slave-ship, a sharp-looking, rather slight man. He pulled off his hat. "I understand, sir, that you wish to speak with me." "I most assuredly do," answered I. "Have you brought the ship's papers and the surgeon with you?" "I have the first about me," saying this he took them from his coat-pocket and gave them to me. "As for the surgeon," said he, "he has behaved infamously and ungratefully. I paid his lodgings at Bristol, and if he had not come with me he must have starved or have been put in prison." "This," answered I, "is your concern and not mine. I want to know where he is." "He is in a house about a quarter of a mile off, where I intend keeping him until I am ready for sea, for he has also made a mutiny in the ship and the greater part of the men have gone on shore without leave." "I have only one order to give," said I, "and that is that you show my lieutenant and two marines, whom I will send with you, where you have confined the surgeon." He reluctantly consented, and in about an hour the lieutenant and his party returned with an emaciated, tall young man. He had been confined in irons and fed on bread and water, with sometimes a few vegetables.
As it was too long a story for me to investigate, I left it to be discussed by the proper authorities on the ship's arrival at Jamaica. I had the men who had left the ship brought before me. They refused to join her again until I told them that if they did not I would impress the whole of them. Five of the best of them immediately stepped forward and begged to enter. As there were fourteen others I accepted them. The others returned to the ship on the captain promising to use them well and to overlook all past grievances. The papers were regular, which I returned, admonishing him at the same time to be more considerate in his conduct to his men. A dinner was sent to the boats' crews by the prince, and I desired the midshipmen to entertain the surgeon, who had expressed a wish to join our ship.
After all this much ado about something, I was ready for my dinner, and in a quarter of an hour it was announced by the blowing of a conch. In passing through a large hall I found myself surrounded by coal-coloured gentlemen of all grades, one of whom wished to look at my dirk. He examined it very closely; it appeared to take his fancy as it was silver gilt, but as I did not take the hint, and was very hungry, I took it from him and hastened into the dining-room. The dinner was laid out on a large table on trestles; all the dishes were covered with cones made of cane and stained different colours. The table was also covered with light cane mats; altogether it had a very pretty effect. The eatables consisted of fowls stewed to death, ducks and buffalo, and an abundance of rice, which was served up with every dish. My favourite dish, pepper-pot, was much in request, and I could, by a sly peep, see some of the Massa Blackies use their fingers instead of their spoons. Roasted plantain was eaten instead of bread; palm-wine and grog were the principal beverages, although the prince, the lieutenant and myself drank two bottles of madeira which I had brought in the boat. The princess was amiability itself; she was very black, very fat and very good-natured. After dinner we walked round the mansion. In one of the yards the young prince showed us a black ostrich, which was considered a rarity. It stood with its neck erect, and was about eleven feet high to the crown of its head. Its eyes were fierce and resembled rubies.
At six o'clock I took my leave of the chieftain and his wife. On entering the boat, I found a milch cow and calf, two dozen ducks, and a dozen fowls, besides bows and quivers filled with arrows, a variety of fruits, and some tiger skins. He had also, at parting, presented me with a gold ring weighing four ounces. I was overpowered with his disinterested kindness, and sent him some rum and gunpowder. Before I left the place I obtained from the master of the slave-ship an order, payable at Jamaica, for the surgeon's salary and wages of the seamen who had entered. We got on board the same evening. The next morning I visited the largest of the Los or Loes Islands, which, I presume, in days of yore had been created by a volcanic eruption. I struck off some of the rock which contained iron, and had a ringing sound, and on rubbing it together it smelt of sulphur. There were a few small houses on the island inhabited by fishermen, who appeared as poor as Job's stable-boy.
WITH SLAVE CONVOY.
Return to Sierra Leone—Dinner party aboard—Sail with convoy of five slave-ships—How the slaves were obtained—Arrive Barbadoes—Sail for Tobago and Trinidad—Visit Pitch Lake—To Jamaica—Cruising off Cuba—Futile attempt on two Spanish privateers—Capture small Spanish privateer—Return to Jamaica—Arrange exchange with captain of home-going ship—A challenge to Spanish corvette declined by the latter.
Finding little and seeing less, I repaired on board and made sail for Sierra Leone, where we anchored next morning. I went on shore and dined with the Governor, and the day following received an invitation to a dinner from the principal merchants, which I accepted, and was introduced to the native king who had sold the settlement to the English. He was dressed in an embroidered blue silk coat, white satin waistcoat and inexpressibles, with a gold-laced cocked hat and a pair of heavy ammunition shoes. He wore no stockings, he was old and ugly, and his shins were sharp and curved. I gave him an invitation to dine on board, which he declined. Before we sailed, I joined a picnic party to Bence Island, which is situated about fourteen miles up the river from Free Town. We dined there very pleasantly, and one of the merchants made me a present of a collection of insects and handsome shells, in return for which I sent him some views. The 21st of October falling on the day before our departure, I asked the Governor, the officers of the regiment, and the merchants to dine on board. We dressed the ship and decorated the quarter-deck. At five o'clock we sat down to a dinner, consisting of all the delicacies of Sierra Leone and the ship's provision. Port and madeira circulated freely, and the company began to get in high spirits; and as there were two white ladies, wives of the two military commanding officers, who accompanied their husbands, a dance was proposed on the quarter-deck. The only musicians we could muster were the marine drummer, ship's fifer, and my steward, who performed on the clarionet. I opened the ball with the Honourable Mrs. Forbes, and was followed by most of the others, until it became too ridiculous, as few knew anything about dancing. Before confusion became rife I proposed singing. My steward sung in the style of Incledon, and he was much applauded; and one of the marines, after the manner of Braham—he also had his share of applause and encores. Punch was now the order of the night, and, after laying in a good stock, they all ordered their canoes and paddled on shore, huzzaing the whole time. The Governor had taken his departure in one of the ship's boats some time before, to avoid the uproar. I shall not mention the toasts that were given; as we were all loyal and true, they were the quintessence of loyalty. The morning before sailing I breakfasted at the Fort. The convoy, consisting of five sail, were ready. I bid an affectionate farewell to the Governor, who had been uniformly kind, and I was soon on board, where I found a note from the Honourable Captain Forbes, and one from the Governor. The first was to beg I would accept some excellent bacon, a beautiful live fawn, and some cane mats. The last was accompanied by a fine crown bird, which stood five feet high, two dozen fowls, and some Muscovy ducks. My feelings were quite overcome by so much genuine kindness, and I shall ever retain it in grateful recollection, and I have real pleasure in recording it in this narrative.
I must not omit to inform my readers that during the time I was at Bence Island, which was the great mart for slave dealing, forty of those unfortunate beings arrived, most of them half famished. The principal merchant, who was a mulatto, told me that the greater part of them had been pledged for rice, which is the principal food in Africa, that they had not been redeemed at the time appointed, and in consequence had become the property of those who supplied the food. The remainder were those taken prisoners in the skirmishes occasioned by their trespassing on each other's ground, particularly on the rice patches when the grain was nearly ripe. A black woman offered me her son, a boy about eleven years of age, for a cob—about four-and-sixpence. I gave her the money, and advised her to keep her son. Poor thing! she stared with astonishment, and instantly gave me one of her earrings, which was made of small shells. It was like the widow's mite, all she had to bestow. We were soon under sail, and next morning Africa was as a dream; it was no longer seen.
During the passage in fine weather I myself or some of the officers visited the Guinea men, and found them orderly and clean, and the slaves healthy. On the seventh week we arrived at Barbadoes, saw Lady Rodney, Sally Neblet, and several more of the true Barbadian born, drawling, dignity ladies, who entreated in no very dignified manner to "hab de honour for wash for massa captain." I gave the preference to the relict of Lord Rodney, as she was the oldest acquaintance, and remembered me when I was "a lilly piccaninny midshipman." I paid my respects to the Admiral, Sir Alex. Cochrane, who asked me to dinner, where I met the Governor and some more bigwigs. The Admiral's secretary, Maxwell, who appeared to have a snug berth in the country, requested me to dine with him the day after, and he sent a kittereen, or one-horse gig, for me. I met at dinner some brother officers and a few military men. Our entertainment did credit to the donor, who appeared a hospitable, frank kind of man. In the evening I went on board, and next morning received a chest of money for the troops at Tobago. At noon we cheered the flagship and sailed. On the evening of the following day we anchored at Tobago, got rid of the soldiers' money, and sailed next morning for Trinidad, which we made the same evening, but owing to the strong current opposing us through the Boca Chien, or, as it is otherwise called, the Great Dragon's Mouth, we did not gain the anchorage before noon on the following day.
On opening a sealed order I had received from the Commander-in-Chief at Barbadoes I found I was to take on board some casks of lime juice for the men of the hospitals of Jamaica. Thinks I to myself, this is what Mr. Hume would have, in the Commons House, called jobbery, and a poor kind of job it turned out; for, on inspecting the lime juice at Port Royal, some of it was condemned as unfit for use. The two days I remained at Trinidad I dined with the Governor, Sir Thos. Heslip, who was urbanity itself. I visited the pitch lake at this place, which is a most extraordinary phenomenon. I remarked several large chasms in it, where small fish were enjoying themselves. I was told by the officer who accompanied me that the pitch could not be applied to any use. Whilst we were looking at it one of the smaller chasms, or rents, closed with a bubbling noise, and the water above it appeared as if boiling. At daylight on the third day I sailed with the convoy for Jamaica, and anchored at Port Royal. The day after I waited on the Admiral at the Pen, where I dined, and met a number of my brother officers, whose conversation after dinner was principally respecting their ships. As the ship I commanded was healthy I was, if possible, determined to keep her so, and I requested permission to sail on a long cruise as soon as we were refitted. The Pen, or the Government House, where the Admiral resides, is about three short miles from Greenwich. It is enclosed in a park, and the views from it are extensive and beautiful. Some of my former parti-coloured beauties of Port Royal had gone on the other tack—that is, they had taken up their everlasting abode among the land crabs on the Palisades, and as I partook of those crustaceous fish I very possibly might have eaten some part of them. If I did, I thought them very good.
The yellow fever was making rapid strides on board the squadron. It fortunately did not reach us, and we sailed on the tenth day after our arrival. My cruising ground was between the north side of Jamaica and Cuba. I frequently sighted the Moro Castle at the entrance of the river where I was formerly taken prisoner and sent to the town of St. Jago. The good Spanish Governor's kindness held a lively recollection in my memory, but the captain of an American vessel who had sailed from thence the day before I fell in with him, informed me that he was numbered with the dead. Peace to his "manes." We had been out a fortnight when one afternoon we fell in with two large Spanish schooner privateers. They were to windward, and standing for St. Jago. "Now," thought I, "if I can get you once under our guns, I will pay off old scores." The sea breeze was fresh, and we were closing fast. They at first, I believe, took us for an American, as I had hoisted the Yankee colours. When they came nearly within gun-shot they, unfortunately for us, saw their mistake, and hauled in for the shore. I tacked, and had got within gun-shot of them, when the lower fort of the Moro opened its fire on us, one of the shot passing through the main top-sail. They also fired, and their shot went over us. Finding the breeze lulling, and that we had no hope of capturing them, I gave them our passing broadsides, and as one of them yawed, I had reason to believe some of our shot took effect. The battery gave us a parting salute without doing us injury, when, as the evening was closing, and the enemy's vessels had run into the mouth of the river, I was obliged to haul off.
After blockading the mouth of the river for ten days without the slightest prospect of success, I anchored at Montego Bay, and procured fresh beef for the crew. During the two days I remained at anchor I was invited, with some of my officers, to the ball given by the inhabitants. It was well attended, and I was agreeably surprised to meet so many of my fair countrywomen, some of whom were handsome and still in their teens. I soon became acquainted with several respectable families, and if my heart had not been in safe keeping in beloved England by a still more beloved being, I fear I should have lost it. Montego Bay is well fortified, and the town and its background, consisting of several ranges of hills and mountains, form a rich and pleasing picture. On the morning of the third day we sailed, and were soon on our former cruising ground. Off Ochre Bay we started a small Spanish privateer, which ran into a creek. I sent the boats armed in pursuit of her, and after a smart contest of a quarter of an hour, in which the gunner and one of the men were wounded, they brought her out. The crew had landed and taken her gun—a six-pounder—with them, which did the mischief to our boats. The gun they threw into deep water, after having spiked it. She was a small schooner, about seventy-five tons. I kept her as a tender, put an eighteen-pound carronade, a master's mate, and twenty men on board her, and a few days afterwards she captured a very pretty schooner coming round Cape Mayzi.
My time being expired, I bore up for Jamaica with my two prizes, and arrived at Port Royal on the second day. My health, which had been delicate since leaving Africa, began to decline, and I was tormented with a rash, particularly in my face, which affected my eyesight. I had, at different periods, been twelve years on the West India station, and I thought I had had a sufficient share of a torrid zone. The Admiral, hearing of my indisposition, invited me for change of air to the Pen. This kindness, however, did but little good to my health. One morning, as I was strolling in the Park, calling the crown bird I had given to the Admiral, and feeding him and some Curacoa birds which were his companions, I was accosted by the captain of a sloop of war who was ordered to take a convoy of mahogany ships from Honduras to England, and in the course of conversation he mentioned that he understood I intended to give up my ship and invalid. "Whoever informed you that I intended to invalid," I replied, "must have laboured under a gross mistake. I would rather go to 'Kingdom come' quietly than run from my post." "Well," said he, "be it so, but if the Admiral were to consent to your exchanging with me, as I am almost a Johnny Newcome in this part of the world, and you are an old standard, would this accord with your way of thinking?" "As I am so unwell," returned I, "it certainly is a great temptation, but we must both have the Admiral's opinion and consent, and I will give you an answer in two days, provided I do not get better, and Fishly, the builder, shall give me his opinion respecting your sloop, whether Government, on my arrival in England, will consider her an effective ship."
He met me at the builder's at Port Royal the following day, when the latter assured me the ship's repairs would be comparatively trifling, and that he was certain, as those class of vessels were much wanted in the Channel, she would be kept in commission. Three days afterwards we effected the exchange, and I sailed to cruise again off Cuba for six weeks. Working up against a fiery sea breeze tries the minds of those on board as well as the rigging, masts and yards of His Majesty's ships. A few top-masts sprung and yards carried away are trifles, and you may think yourself fortunate if it does not happen to a lower mast. We looked into Tiberoon, crossed over to Cape St. Nicholas Mole, beat up between the island of Tortuga and the larger island, overhauled the Grange and Cape Francois, took a small row-boat with six swivels and fourteen sharp-looking, smutty-coloured gentlemen, destroyed her, and bore up for the north side of Cuba, where we captured a small Balaker schooner, who informed us that a Spanish corvette of eighteen guns was lying at Barracow. I immediately proceeded off that port, and finding the information correct, sent her a challenge, and that I should remain three days waiting for her. I might as well have sent my defiance to the Eddystone lighthouse. She sent word that I might remain three years if I chose. The harbour was difficult to enter, and well fortified, otherwise her three years would not have been three hours before we were alongside of her. I remained a week watching her movements, which, by-the-bye, were no movements at all except that she had struck her top-masts and hauled further inshore. Finding hope, respecting her, hopeless, and our cruise at its last gasp, I stood close in and fired a gun unshotted by way of showing our contempt, which probably the Spaniards laughed at, and made sail once more for Jamaica.
HOME WITH MAHOGANY.
My new ship—Sail for Belize—Native and alligator—Sail for England with convoy of ships—Hear of peace being signed between Spain and England—Arrive in England—Paid off at Sheerness—Return home—Tired of country life—Apply for ship—Appointed to H.M.S. Apelles.
The sloop of war I now commanded was a fine sixteen-gun brig carrying twenty-four-pound-carronades, with a crew of one hundred and twenty as fine men as any in the fleet. They had been some time together, and only wished for an opportunity of making the splinters fly out of a Frenchman's side, and hauling down his tricoloured piece of bunting. I found on my reaching Port Royal that Admiral Rowley had arrived to supersede Admiral Dacres. In the afternoon I dined with both Admirals, and met the Duke of Manchester, who was a fine-looking man, but unfortunately had a nervous affection of the head. He asked me several questions respecting the different islands, and appeared amused by my description of them. After we had refitted we sailed for Honduras, the Admiral first taking from me the master, without appointing another, for which I did not thank him. We made the Swan Islands, which are small, uninhabited, and surrounded by a reef of coral, and on the morning of the third day anchored off the town at the mouth of the Belize river. Colonel Drummond, who was the commanding officer, received us very civilly, and requested I would dine with him as often as I could. A deputation of the merchants waited on me to say the convoy would be ready in a fortnight. I dined frequently at the military mess, and found the officers generally gentlemanly. I gave two parties on board, but as I had no music there was no dancing. We revelled in Calepache and Calapee, and I think some of the city aldermen would have envied us the mouthfuls of green fat we swallowed. I made an excursion up the river with Colonel Drummond in a scow, a flat boat so called, or rather float, and slept at a pavilion he had on the bank of it. I shall never forget my nocturnal visitors, the bull-frogs, who, sans facon, jumped about the room as if dancing a quadrille, not to my amusement but their own, making a most unmusical noise to the tune of something like, "Pay your debts, pay your debts, pay your debts." After the third croak they paused, probably to give time for everybody to become honest. I made daily excursions to the neighbouring quays, and picked up a quantity of beautiful shells.
Dining one day with Colonel Drummond, I remarked that the black servant who stood near me had a piebald neck, and mentioned it as something singular. "Why," said the Colonel, "thereby hangs a very curious tale, and not a pleasant one to him, poor fellow. He is a native of Panama, and formerly was employed to float rafts of mahogany down the Belize river. He is an expert canoe-man and something of a carpenter, and as he was a free man I took him into my household. At my request he related to me the cause of those white marks on his neck. It was thus. As he and another black man were floating down the river on a large raft of mahogany, it being Sunday he wished to bathe, and jumped into the river for that purpose. As he was swimming after the raft, which was close to the mangroves, and had nearly reached it, a large alligator seized him by the neck. He roared most piteously; the animal, either alarmed at the noise he made, or wishing to have a more convenient grip, threw him up, and in so doing he fortunately fell on the raft. His companion bound up his wounds, which were deep, and soon after he arrived at Belize he was sent to the hospital, when, on his recovery, he became my servant." "It was a most providential escape," exclaimed I. "Indeed it was," replied the Colonel, "and so he thinks himself." On reaching the ship in the evening I found a beautiful mahogany canoe alongside, and on entering my cabin the steward brought me a glass globe containing two Panama tortoises, which, when full-grown, are richly marked and not larger than a crown piece. The native name of these pretty animals is chinqua. They were a present from Captain Bromley. At the time appointed, seven vessels, deeply laden with mahogany, were ready for sea. I spent the last day on shore, dined at the military mess, bade adieu to all my red-coat friends, and the following morning got under weigh with my haystack convoy for England.
We doubled Cape Antonio on the third day, and when off the Havannah we perceived a frigate standing out of the harbour. We concluded she was Spanish. I consulted the officers respecting the probability of taking her by laying her alongside and boarding her. They thought it might be effected. I turned the hands up and acquainted them of my intention. Three hearty cheers was the response. We prepared for action, and stood towards her. We were three gunshots from her when it fell calm, as well as dusk, and about an hour afterwards a large boat came near us. We presumed she was a Spanish gunboat, and had taken us for a merchant vessel. I let her come alongside, having the marines ready to give them a reception when they boarded, and to quietly disarm and hand them down the hatchway. The first man who came up was a lieutenant of our service. "Hulloa, sir, how is this, and where have you come from?" said I. "From the Melpomene," replied he, "the frigate you see off the Havannah." "This is a terrible disappointment," resumed I. "We had made up our minds to board and, if possible, carry that frigate, supposing her Spanish." "Why, sir," said he, "we yesterday carried the disagreeable news to the Governor of Cuba of a Spanish peace, and seeing you with a convoy, Captain Parker despatched me with some letters for England, if you will have the goodness to take charge of them." "Willingly," replied I, "and pray acquaint him with our mortification."
He shortly after left us, and we proceeded through the Gulf with the convoy. Nothing of any importance transpired during our passage of nine long, tedious weeks, when we anchored in the Downs, where I got rid of all our snail-sailing mahogany haystacks. The three days we lay in the Downs I took up my quarters at the "Hoop and Griffin." Bread and butter, with delicious oysters, were my orders of the day, but, alas, my former pretty maid was no longer there. She was married, had children, and I sincerely hope was happy. On the same floor, the father-in-law to the First Lord of the Admiralty, with his daughter and niece, had taken up their abode for a few days on their return journey to London from a tour in Wales. Before I was acquainted with this information, seeing a carriage at the door and an old gentleman with two ladies alight from it, I asked the waiter who they were. He answered he did not know, but that they had arrived yesterday and that the gentleman appeared much out of spirits, and one of the ladies very much out of health. The purser had been dining with me, and we were enjoying our wine, when I said to the waiter, in a half-joking manner, "Give my compliments to the old gentleman, and request him to hand himself in, that we may have a look at him." He fulfilled his commission, although I did not intend he should do so, to the letter, and in walked a stately, gentlemanly-looking man, about seventy. He gave us a look that appeared to say, "Surely this is some mistake, I know you not." On perceiving his embarrassment I advanced towards him, and begged, although there was some little mistake, that if he were not engaged, he would do me the favour to take a glass of wine. "I see," said he, "you are officers of the navy," and without further hesitation, sat down and became quite cheerful. In the course of conversation he informed me that he had tried the air of Wales for the benefit of his daughter, who was married to a captain in the navy, and that his other daughter was married to Lord Mulgrave, First Lord of the Admiralty. I told him we had come from the West Indies and were going to sail for Sheerness in the morning; that if he thought his daughter would like to go so far on her journey by sea, instead of by land, my cabin was entirely at his service. He thanked me cordially, but declined it. After finishing a brace of decanters of wine he took his leave, first giving me his address in London. A month afterwards I heard of his death.
The following morning we sailed, and arrived at Sheerness next day, when I received orders to pay off the ship, in consequence of her being iron-fastened and wanting so much repair. She was afterwards sold out of the Service. I need not say I was much disappointed, and thought the builder at Port Royal something of an old woman, and only fit for superannuation. I found one of my old captains commissioner at this place, to whom I gave a turtle, a pig, and a bag of bread dust, for he thought one without the other useless, and for which he did not even invite me to his house. "Oh, what is friendship but a name that lulls the fool to sleep," etc. On the sixth day the ship was put out of commission and myself out of full pay. I took a postchaise with my light luggage, and I arrived in the evening at my dear home, kissed my wife and all the women I could meet with that were worth the trouble, sat myself down in a snug elbow-chair near a comfortable English fire, told a long, tough yarn about mountains of sugar and rivers of rum, bottle-nosed porpoises, sharks, grampuses, and flying-fish, until I fell sound asleep, but, however, not so sound to prevent my hearing my best end of the ship whispering to someone to put more coals on the fire, and roast a chicken for my supper, and then she added, with her dear, musical, soft voice, "Dear fellow! How sound he sleeps. I hope he will awake quite refreshed, and eat his supper with a good appetite. How rejoiced I am he is once more at home." I could have jumped up and hugged her, but I thought it better to enjoy my sleep. If this narrative meets the eye of a bachelor sailor I could wish him to splice himself to such another clean-looking frigate as my wife, but mind, not without he has a purse well filled with the right sort, and as long at least as the maintop bowline, or two cables spliced on end. Love is very pretty, very sentimental, and sometimes very romantic, but love without rhino is bewildering misery.
When I awoke next morning I scarcely could believe my senses, it appeared too much happiness. The elite of the village favoured me with calls and congratulations, as well as invitations to tea and petit soupers, with a seasoning of scandal. I in return entertained them occasionally with a few King's yarns, which, my gentle reader, are not tarred, and are what the seamen vulgarly call rogue's yarns, so called because one or more are twisted in large ropes and cables made in the King's dockyards, to distinguish them from those made in the merchants' yards, and should they be embezzled or clandestinely sold, the rogue's or white yarn is evidence against the possessor. I had been some months on shore when I began to get tired of looking at green fields and grass combers, and longed to be once more on the salt seas. My family had increased to seven boys and girls, and I thought it criminal to be longer idle, and, after many applications, Mr. Yorke, the First Lord of the Admiralty, favoured me with an appointment to command a sloop of war on the Downs station.
I joined her in the cold, uncomfortable month of December. The weather was remarkably severe, and it was five days before I could get a launch to put me on board her. At length I made my footing on the quarter-deck. The first lieutenant received me and informed me the captain was unwell in the cabin, but that he wished to see me. I descended into a complete den, filled with smoke and dirt. The first object I perceived looming through the dense vapour was the captain's nose, which was a dingy red. His linen was the colour of chocolate, his beard had, I presumed, a month's growth. I informed him of my errand, to which he answered with something like a growl. As it was impossible to remain in the cabin without a chance of being suffocated, I begged him, if he possibly could, to accompany me to the quarter-deck. He followed me with a slow step. I expressed my wish to have my commission read. He then gave orders to the first lieutenant to turn the hands up. After this ceremony I took the command, made a short speech to the crew, in which I assured them they should have every indulgence the Service afforded. I then turned to my predecessor, and asked him when he wished to leave the ship. He informed me that to-morrow would suit him. I gave the necessary orders and went on shore. The admiral, Sir G. Campbell, received me very kindly, and invited me to dinner, where I met Lady C., the admiral's wife, a ladylike, pleasant person. The dinner party consisted of brother officers. The admiral was a quiet, gentlemanly, pleasing man, and a distinguished and good officer. As I sat next him he was kind enough to inform me that the captain of the sloop I superseded was considered out of his mind, that the officers had represented to him that the discipline on board her was worse than on a privateer, and that he would neither punish for insubordination nor have the decks washed. "In consequence of which," continued the Admiral, "I was obliged to order a Court of Inquiry. The report was to his disadvantage; he was advised to go on shore, to which, after some hesitation, he consented, and another captain was applied for. You have superseded him, and I make no doubt you will soon make her once more a man-of-war." I thanked him for his kind communication, and assured him that zeal on my part should not be wanting to make her equal to one of his best cruisers. On rejoining the ship, as I had been the first lieutenant for five years in former ships, I told the officers I wished to make my own observation on the men's conduct, and I would endeavour to effect a reform when I found it necessary. The officers, with the exception of the master, who was a rough, practical seaman, were gentlemanly, well-informed men, and I was not surprised at their wishing to get rid of their insane chief, although, in any other case, it might have proved to them a difficult and probably a dangerous experiment. A few days afterwards I called on him. I found him in small lodgings in an obscure part of the town. I was accompanied by Captain J., an old messmate of his in former times. He neither knew us nor asked us to take a seat. He had a large loaf under his left arm, and in his right hand a dinner knife. He appeared to wear the same chocolate-coloured chemise and beard, his stockings were down over his shoes, and his clothes all over flue. We wished him health and happiness, to which he returned no answer, but began cutting his loaf. The people of the house told us he would neither wash himself nor take his clothes off when going to bed, but that he was perfectly quiet. I understood, before I sailed, that his sister had come from the north of England to stay with him, and that she had been of great use to him.
Sent to watch the French flotilla off Boulogne—Monotonous duty—Return to Sheerness to refit—Story of Billy Culmer—More cruising off Boulogne—Return to England.
On the ninth day after joining, we sailed to cruise off Boulogne. The vessel I now commanded was a brig sloop of fourteen 24-pounders, the ship's company by no means a bad set, and in the course of the cruise I had the satisfaction of seeing them alert, clean and obedient. This was in a great measure owing to the officers, who, when supported, were firm, discriminating and encouraging. The consequence was that during the time I commanded her there was only one desertion in eighteen months, and the cat did not see daylight once in three months. I found off Boulogne another cruiser watching the French privateers and Bonaparte's boast—the flotilla. The captain of her was a Job's comforter. He told me he was both sick and sorry to be on such a wear-and-tear, monotonous, do-nothing station, that he had been out two months without effecting anything, that he had frequently had the enemy's privateers under his guns, but that the run was so short, they were always sure of escaping. "One morning," said he, "about five months ago, I had got within musket-shot of one of those vagabonds, and had been sure of him, when a shell fired from Cape Grisnez fell directly down the main hatchway, bedded in one of the water-casks, and shortly after exploded, without, fortunately, doing more mischief than destroying a few more casks and splintering the beams and deck without wounding a man. I was in consequence reluctantly obliged to give up the chase, but not before I had taken ample revenge. In tacking I gave her all the larboard broadside, and not a vestige of her was to be seen: but," continued he, "I hear of their taking prizes; but where the devil do they carry them to?" "Not into Boulogne or Calais," replied I. "Havre and Cherbourg are the ports to sell them in." "Then why," said he, "do they keep so many of us on this station and so few to the westward?" "I presume it is," I replied, "because this being the narrowest part of the Channel, there is more risk of our vessels being captured, and you know all the old women, with the Mayor and Aldermen, would petition the Admiralty to have the fleet back again to watch that frightful bugbear the half-rotten flotilla, which sometimes prevents them from taking their night's rest. And it is very probable that, was this station neglected, our vessels would be cut out from the Downs." "I never dreamed of that," answered he. "It's all right, and if I can only take six of their privateers, or about twenty of their flotilla, I will not say a word more."
I remained out nearly three months, watching the flotilla and the privateers. We sometimes anchored just beyond range of their shells, and frequently when the wind was light hauled the trawl, and were richly rewarded by a quantity of fine fish. I was at length relieved by another cruiser, and again anchored in the Downs. We were a fortnight refitting, during which time I dined several times at the admiral's table, where I had the pleasure of meeting Sir R. Strachan, Sir P. Durham, and several other distinguished officers. One day, after dinner, the characters of several eccentric officers were the subject of conversation.
"I make no doubt," said a veteran captain, "that most of the present company recollect a man by the name of Billy Culmer, a distant relation of Lord Hood's. He was a short time one of my lieutenants, and was between thirty and forty years of age before he obtained his commission. The next time I dined with Lord Hood, who was then one of the Admirals in the Channel Fleet, I was determined to request his lordship to give me a brief outline of his history, which was nearly this. Shall I proceed, Lady Campbell?" "Oh, by all means, Captain M."
"'The Culmers were distantly related to me by marriage,' said his lordship. 'Billy, as he was always called, was sent to me when I hoisted my pendant as master and commander. He unfortunately had lost an eye when a boy in one of his freaks, for they could do nothing with him at home. When he came on board I was not prepossessed in his favour; his manners were rough and bearish, although he had some redeeming qualities, for he was straightforward and frank. After being with me about two years, he said he was tired of being a midshipman, and requested me to obtain his discharge into the merchant service. I remonstrated with him to no purpose. To prevent his deserting, which he declared he would do, I procured his discharge, and he entered on board a West India ship going to Jamaica. I had lost sight of this extraordinary being for more than eight years,' continued his lordship, 'when, as I was standing on the platform at Portsmouth, waiting for a boat from the frigate I commanded, I was much surprised to see Billy Culmer, in a dirty sailor's dress, a few yards from me. He perceived me, and pulled off his hat. "Hulloa!" said I, "Billy; where have you come from? I understood you were dead." "Not so hard up as that, sir," replied he. "I am d——d." "Explain yourself," said I. "Why," said he, "I am d——d in the King's service, for I shall never be able to enter it again, in consequence of my folly in requesting you to get me discharged." "I probably may have interest enough, Billy, to get you once more on the quarter-deck if you will promise me faithfully to remain steady." "I promise you solemnly I will," replied he. "Then meet me at the admiral's office to-morrow at ten o'clock," returned I. "And I suppose, from your appearance, you are pretty well aground. Here is something that will keep your body and soul together." He made a leg and took his departure.' But I am afraid, Lady Campbell, you have had enough of this rigmarole story, for it is rather a long one, and to those who know nothing of the man it may not be an interesting one." "Why, Captain M.," said Lady Campbell, "as the weather is disagreeable, and we do not intend to take a drive this evening, we may as well hear about Billy Culmer as anybody else. Do you not think so, Admiral?" The admiral, who appeared more inclined for a nap than to listen to a long-spun yarn, I verily believe, wished the narrator and the subject of his narration at the masthead together. However, he nodded assent, and the story went on.
"'On speaking to the admiral, Billy was again under my command,' resumed his lordship, 'and was appointed mate of the hold. When I was promoted to my flag, Billy and I parted company, for he had followed me steadily from the frigate to a ship of the line. As soon as he had served his six years, I sent for him and told him he must go to London to pass his examination. "You must excuse me, my lord," was his answer; "I would rather remain the oldest midshipman than the youngest lieutenant," and he persisted in this whim for more than three years. At the end of that period the ship he belonged to arrived at Spithead, and he came on board me to pay his respects. "Well," said I, "Culmer, will you now pass your examination, or are you determined to die the oldest midshipman in the service?" "I have been thinking of it," was his reply, "but I have no money to carry me to London." "That," said I, "I will give you. And if you can mount a horse, I will procure that also." In a few days Billy started for London, where he arrived a week after, having sold my horse on the road, without informing me of his having done so. When he made his appearance before the Commissioners at Somerset Place, they were all younger than himself, and one of them had been a mid in the same ship where he was mate. This last addressed him, and in a half comic, half serious manner, said: "Well, Mr. Culmer, I make no doubt you are well prepared for your examination." "And who the devil put you there," answered Billy sharply, "to pass one who taught you to be something of a sailor? Do you remember the colting I gave you when you were a youngster in my charge? But I never could beat much seamanship into you. So you are to examine me, are you?" The two other commissioners, who knew the whimsical character of the person before them, called him to order, and requested he would answer some questions, as he could not obtain his certificate without doing so. "Begin," said Billy, turning his quid and hitching up his trousers. "You are running into Plymouth Sound in a heavy gale from the S.E.; how would you proceed in coming to an anchor? Your top-gallant masts are supposed to be on deck." "I would first furl all and run under the storm forestay sail, unfid the topmasts going in, and have a long range of both bower cables on deck, and the sheet anchor ready. On coming to the proper anchorage I would let go the best bower and lower the topmasts as she tended head to wind; veer away half a cable and let go the small bower; veer away on both cables until the best bower splice came to the hatchway. I should then half a whole cable on one and half a cable on the other."
"'"The gale increases, and there is a heavy scud, and you find both anchors are coming home. What then?"
"'"Then I would veer to one and a half on the best and a whole on the other."
"'"In snubbing the best bower, it parts in the splice. What then?"
"'"What then?" exclaimed Billy sharply, for he began to be tired of being interrogated respecting a part of seamanship he thought he knew better than themselves. "Why," replied he, taking a fresh quid of tobacco, "I would let go the sheet anchor."
"'"But," interrupted the elder Commissioner, "there is not, in consequence of having dragged the bower anchors, room to veer more than a few fathoms before you tail on the Hoe; consequently your sheet anchor, being only under foot, will be of little or no use, and the strain being on the small bower, it soon after parts."
"'"What humbug!" cried Billy, who could not contain himself longer. "I tell you, gentlemen, what I would do. I would let her go on shore and be d——d, and wish you were all on board her."
"'"Sit down, Mr. Culmer," said the second Commissioner, "and calm yourself. We shall leave you a short time. Probably we may ask you a few more questions."
"'"Hem!" muttered Billy, and he scratched his head. After an interval of half an hour, the Commissioner who had been his former messmate, entered with his certificate.
"'"I have much pleasure," said he, "in having the power to present you your passing certificate, and I hope your speedy promotion will follow. Do you stay long in London?"
"'"Only to have a cruise in Wapping and to see St. Paul's and the Monument," returned Billy, "and then I shall make all sail for Portsmouth."
"'"Have you any shot in your locker?" asked Captain T. "As much as will serve this turn," replied Billy, "for Lord Hood has sent me an order for ten pounds on his banker." "Good afternoon, Culmer," said the former. "I wish you your health." "Thank you," replied Billy; "the same to you; but give me more sea-room next time you examine me, and do not let me tail on the Hoe."' Billy, through the interest of Lord Hood, was quickly installed lieutenant, but died shortly afterwards."
"Well," said the admiral's lady, "I think, Captain M., had I known this Billy Culmer, as you call him, I certainly should have made a pet of him."
"I am afraid, my dear," answered the Admiral, who appeared relieved now the story was at an end, "you would have found him very pettish." The admiral's play on the word produced a smile.
A young captain who sat near Lady Campbell asked her if she had ever heard of a captain who was, in consequence of his extravagant behaviour, called "Mad Montague?" "Pray, my dear," cried the Admiral, who appeared terrified at the idea of another story, "let us have our coffee."
The hint was sufficient, we sipped our beverage and chasse, and departed in peace.
Being ready for sea we left the Downs, and in a few hours were off our old cruising ground to watch the terrible flotilla and the privateers, which were principally lugger-rigged and carried long guns of different calibres, with from fifty to seventy-five men. Some few had ten or fourteen guns, besides swivels. The vessels forming the flotilla consisted of praams, ship-rigged, and brigs carrying one or two eighteen or twenty-four pounders, and the largest a thirty-two pounder (with sixty or ninety men), all of them flat-bottomed. They sometimes, when the wind blew fresh from the westward, ran down in squadrons close in shore, under the protection of their batteries, to Calais. One Sunday I chased twenty-seven and made the shot tell among some of them, until the pilots warned me that if I stood further in they would give up charge of the ship. I chased them, with the exception of one, who ran aground near Calais, into that port. In hauling off after giving them a few more shot, their battery favoured us with one which struck us between wind and water. As the shells were now falling plentifully around us, I thought it prudent to make more sail, as one of the shells had gone through the foretop-sail. Our force generally consisted of three sloops of war to watch Boulogne, the senior officer being the commodore, but in spite of all our vigilance the privateers crept along shore under cover of the night without being seen, and they sometimes tantalized us by anchoring outside, but so close in and under their batteries that it was impossible to get at them in that position. We, one morning at daybreak, captured a row-boat with twenty-two men, armed with swivels and muskets. We had disguised the ship so much that she took us for a merchantman, and before she discovered her mistake was within pistol-shot. Three months had now expired, which had been passed much in the same manner as the last cruise, when a cutter came out to order us into the Downs.
THE SAME WEARY ROUND.
Leave to return home for four days—Visit of the Duke of Clarence—Again off Boulogne—Down Channel with a convoy—Boulogne once more—Refit at Plymouth—Return Boulogne—Run aground on French coast—Part of crew escape in boats—Author and nineteen men remain on board.
On our arrival, in consequence of the vessel wanting material repairs, we were desired to repair to Sheerness. The commander-in-chief at this ill-flavoured town was a King John's man, four feet something without his shoes, and so devoted to the reading of the Scriptures that he sometimes carried that sacred book under his arm. Some ill-natured people said he understood little of its doctrines, as he was too cross and unsociable to be a good Christian. Be that as it may he gave me leave, whilst the ship was refitting, to go home for four days. Where is the man who does not, after he has been absent from his family for nearly ten months, yearn to be with a fond wife and half a house full of dear children once more. During the short period I was at home, I thought myself in the seventh heaven. Alas, the time flew away on rapid wings. How soon our joy is changed to sorrow. I tore myself from the house that contained my dearest treasures, and was soon again among tar jackets and tar barrels. The admiral appeared satisfied with my punctuality, but he did not invite me to dinner, and as he did not I repaired to the principal inn with a few brother officers, and ordered some fish and a boiled leg of mutton and mashed turnips. "It is very extraordinary, gentlemen," replied the head waiter when we mentioned the articles we wished for dinner. "There are thirteen different naval parties in the house, and they have all ordered the same. But," added he, "I am not at all surprised, for our mutton is excellent." The following morning the signal was made for all captains to repair to the dockyard to receive the Duke of Clarence. At one o'clock he arrived in the commissioner's yacht from Chatham. I had the honour of being presented to him first, as I happened to be nearest. He asked me a few questions of no importance, and then passed on to another officer. He inspected the yard and the troops, we all following him. As he was afterwards to breakfast, or rather lunch, with Commissioner Lobb, the latter was considerate enough to invite us all to meet him, and a curious kind of meeting it was. The distinguished and illustrious admiral was very chatty, and appeared from the manner of his eating to be sharp set. The little Admiral of the Port did not, for some reason, attend. His friends said he ought to have given the refreshment instead of the commissioner, but it was not his fashion. I was not sorry when the Duke took his departure, as his presence brought everything to a standstill.
In a week's time we were ready for sea, and I left Sheerness, the little hospitable admiral, and all its contents without shedding one tear. Off Margate the pilot had the kindness to bump us on shore, but as the tide was making, the vessel was soon afloat without receiving any injury. His wife had predicted this in her preceding night's dream, and he, silly man, had not sense enough to give up his turn to another pilot. On arriving in the Downs, I was ordered next day to repair to my old tiresome cruising ground, where, during a period of three long, lingering months, we cruised, anchored, fished, and frequently on Sundays engaged the old women's terror, the flotilla. We also took a chasse maree laden with plaster of Paris. As I imagined I should gratify the honest people at Dover, particularly the female part, who might be twisting their papillotes and talking scandal for want of other amusement, by sending in a vessel with the English flag flying above the French, I was determined to do so, although I knew she would scarcely pay her condemnation. A few days afterwards I received a note from the prize agent to request I would not send in anymore of the same description, as there was a balance of six pounds against us for Proctor's fees, etc. Thinks I to myself, how odd. So, as the sailor says, after venturing life and limb in capturing an enemy's vessel, I am to pay for taking her. D——n me, Jack, that's too bad. I'll write to Joseph Hume to bring it before the House of Commons. I know he is a great reformer and a sailor's friend, although he terms them a dead weight.
We were at the end of our cruise relieved, and anchored again in the Downs, where I was informed Sir G. Campbell had been relieved by Sir Thos. Foley, his counterpart in worth and gallantry.
I waited on the gallant admiral, left my card on Lady Lucy, and was invited to dinner. The admiral, as he is well known, and considered one of our most distinguished officers, I need not describe. His lady was a lively, hospitable, agreeable person, and I often reflect on the many pleasant hours I passed at the admiral's house. I understand she is now a saint and is very charitable. Generally speaking, I do not admire saints. They are too pure to mix with this sinful world, and are not fond of sailors. A fortnight passed away when we once more sighted our anchors, and the day after that eye-sore Boulogne. Our occupation was much the same as the last cruise, except that I was ordered shortly after I sailed to take charge of a large convoy outward bound, and to proceed with them as far as Portsmouth. On my arrival there I went on shore and waited on the admiral, Sir R. Curtis, whom I found walking, what he termed his long-shore quarter-deck, the platform. He was a little, shrewd man, and knew a handspike from a capstan bar. I informed him from whence I came, and that I had fulfilled my orders respecting the convoy. I then presented him the necessary papers belonging to my own ship. "Come with me to my office," was the order. In going there we had to pass part of the market, where the admiral was well-known. He conversed in passing with several pretty market girls, and chucked them under the chin. "Ho, ho!" thought I. On breaking the seal of the envelope of the papers I had given him, he said, "I find all perfectly in order. How long have you been a commander?" I informed him. "Your seniors," returned he, "may blush and take your correctness for a pattern." I made my bow. "You will sail to-morrow for your station," continued he. "Foley is a good fellow, and I will not detain you longer than that time, so that you may take prizes for him. There will be a knife and fork at my table at five o'clock, where, if you are not engaged, I hope to see you." He then withdrew. If I had not known this gallant officer's character as a courtier, I should have been highly flattered by his compliments. Had anyone else stood in my shoes, his language would most likely have been the same. However, it put me in good humour, for who is there that does not like to be commended and sometimes flattered? At the admiral's table I met his amiable daughter, who did not appear in health, and some old brother officers.
At daylight I robbed Spithead of some of its mud, and was soon in sight of detested Boulogne, and of its, if possible, more hated flotilla; and I almost believe that if our men could have caught some of its crew they would have eaten them alive. This cruise we assisted, as the French say, in taking one of their privateers, the prize-money of which gave soap to the ship's company for the next cruise; what other good we did I say not. At the expiration of another three months, His Majesty's sloop's anchors once more bit the mud in the Downs. On my going on shore to the admiral's office, I was informed that I was to repair to Plymouth and there refit. I was, as Sir R. Strachan said in his despatch, "delighted." I hoped we should be ordered to the Mediterranean. I dined with the admiral, and the day after we tore the anchors from their unwilling bed and made all sail. As I passed the coast near Boulogne I made my bow and wished it good-bye, I hoped for ever. On the fourth day we graced Plymouth Sound. I made my bow to the commander-in-chief, Sir R. Calder, who asked me, with some surprise, where I came from, and what I did at Plymouth. I produced my order, etc. "This is a mistake of some of the offices; I have no orders respecting you. However, as you are here, I suppose we must make good your defects, and, notwithstanding that you have taken us by surprise, I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing you at six o'clock to dinner."
I repaired on board with a pilot and brought the vessel into Hamoaze. At the appointed time I waited on the admiral. The dinner I thought passed off heavily. There were no ladies to embellish the table, and after coffee I went on board. Next morning I waited on the commissioner, Fanshaw, who received me very graciously, as I was known to several of his family. As the vessel was to be docked and fresh coppered, we were hulked, and I took lodgings on shore, where the commissioner did me the honour of calling on me and requested me to dine with him the following day. The dinner party consisted of another brother officer, his own family, who were very amiable, and myself. During the fortnight I remained here, as I was well acquainted with several families, I contrived to pass my time very agreeably.
I expected every hour orders to fit foreign, but, oh! reader, judge of my mortification when the admiral informed me I was to go back from whence I came in a few days, and take with me a heavy-laden convoy. My mind had been filled with Italian skies and burnished golden sunsets, ladies with tender black eyes, Sicilian coral necklaces, tunny-fish and tusks. I was to give up all these and to return to that never-to-be-forgotten, good-for-nothing rotten flotilla, to see Dover pier, the lighthouse, and the steeple of Boulogne, to cross and re-cross from one to the other to provoke an appetite. If I had had interest enough I would have changed the Board of Admiralty for having sent me to Plymouth on a fool's errand. My thoughts were bitter and seven fathoms deep. Again I cruised, like an armadillo on a grassplat, there and back again. After our usual time we again disturbed the mud, and most likely a number of fish, by letting go our anchors in the Downs, I little thought for the last time. How blind is man to future events, and fortunate it is he is so!
On the ninth day His Majesty's brig was again dividing the water and making it fly to the right and left in delicate wavy curls. We wished Boulogne, Bonaparte, and his flotilla burnt to a cinder during this cruise; we were generally at anchor off that detested place, and took nothing, for there was nothing to take. On Sunday we were usually firing at the flotilla as they anchored outside the pier, but so close to it that I fear our shot made little impression. At this time they were erecting a column on the heights, on which, we understood from the fishing-boats, an equestrian statue of that great dethroner, Bonaparte, was to be placed. A large division of the army of England, as they chose to call themselves, were encamped round it. We occasionally anchored at Dungeness for a few hours to procure fresh beef and vegetables. Our cruise was nearly terminated when the sloop of war, whose captain was senior to myself, made my signal. On repairing on board her, he informed me that a division of the flotilla was to run along shore for Cherbourg that night, and that it was necessary to keep the vessels as close in shore as possible, in order to intercept them.
I again joined my ship and remained on deck until midnight in the hope of encountering these bugbears, and making them pay dearly for all the trouble they had given us; but, alas! how futile is the expectation of man! I had gone to my cabin and thrown myself on the sofa, and fallen into a canine slumber—that is, one eye shut and the other open—when I heard a confused kind of rumbling noise, and soon afterwards the officer of the watch tumbled down the hatchway and called out to me that the ship was aground on the French coast, but that the fog, which had come on about an hour after I quitted the deck, was so dense that the land could not be seen. I had only taken off my coat and shoes. I was immediately on deck, where I saw, to my sorrow and amazement, my commanding officer hard and fast about half pistol-shot from us. I asked the pilots, whose carelessness had done us this favour, what time of tide it was. "The infant ebb of the spring," was the comfortable answer. "I wish you were both hanged," I replied. "So be it," responded the officers. During this period we were not idle; the boats were got out as well as an anchor astern, and the sails hove aback, the water started, the pumps set going, guns thrown overboard over the bows as well as shot, but all our efforts proved fruitless—you might as well have tried to start the Monument; and, to conclude this distressing and disastrous scene, a heavy battery began pouring its shot into the vessel I commanded, she being the nearest, and the fort not more than an eighth of a mile from us on the edge of a cliff. A boat came from the sloop to request that I would make preparations to blow up my vessel and quit her with the crew. "Sooner said than done," replied I to the officer sent; "my boats will not carry the whole of us, and however I may wish to go to heaven in a hurry, probably those who are obliged to remain may not be willing to bear me company." As the vessel began to heel over towards the battery, I ordered the boats to be manned, and all left the ship except nineteen men and myself, who had the felicity to be fired at like rabbits, as the enemy had now brought some field-pieces to bear on us. Our rigging was soon shot away and our sails cut into ribbons. At length away went the lower masts a little above the deck, while about two hundred men were pegging away at us with muskets. To make our happiness supreme, the sloop of war which had been set on fire and abandoned, blew up, and set us partially in a blaze, and while we were endeavouring to extinguish it the enemy took the cowardly advantage of wounding the purser, gunner, and two seamen, as well as myself, though only slightly. We had now fallen so much on the side that we stood with our feet on the combings of the hatchways, with our backs against the deck. What a charming sight, as my Lady Dangerfield might have said, to see four heavy guns from the battery, three field-pieces, and about two hundred soldiers firing at a nearly deserted vessel, and endeavouring to pick off and send to "Kingdom come" the unfortunate few of her crew who remained. The captain of the other sloop, finding I was not in the boats, pulled back in a gallant manner under a most galling fire to entreat me to come into his boat. This I declined, as I could not in justice leave those who were obliged to remain behind. Finding he could not prevail on me to leave, he joined the other boats and proceeded to England, where, happily, they all arrived in the evening. We had now been aground about four hours, and the enemy had amused himself by firing at us for about two hours and a half.(6)
Taken prisoner, and removed to Boulogne gaol—Asked to dinner by General Lemaroix—News of Perceval's assassination—Parole refused—Marched to Montreuil-sur-Mer—On to Hesdin; being footsore, author insists on having a carriage—Drives to Arras.
When the tide had receded sufficiently for the enemy to board us without wetting their delicate feet, about one hundred and fifty disgraced our decks. About thirty of these civil gentlemen, principally officers, paid a visit to my cabin without asking permission. The wine, of which I had ten dozen on board, was their first object, which I make no doubt they found suited their palate, as they drank it with much zest. My clothes, spyglasses, knives and forks, as well as the crockery-ware, were seized on in turn; and it appeared by their smirking looks and lively conversation that all they had achieved was perfectly to their satisfaction, and that instead of plundering a few ship-wrecked sufferers they had only been asked to a fete given by me. The commanding officer of these brave and honest men desired us to go on shore, where we were met by another officer, who ordered us to the guard-house near the battery, and an hour afterwards we marched for Boulogne, which was four miles distant, escorted by about forty of our tormentors. On our arrival we had the unexpected happiness of being lodged in the common gaol, cooped up in a dirty tiled room of twelve feet by eight, with a small well-grated window. "Well," said I to the doctor, who had remained behind to dress the wounded, "what will the marines say to this? The sailors will never believe it." Whilst we were prosing with our elbows on our knees and our chins on our thumbs, looking very dolefully at each other, the ill-looking man who had locked us up made his appearance with a servant in a rich livery, who asked in French for the commandant. I stood up and said I was that person, on which he presented me with the following note:—
"Le General Comte Lemaroix, Aide de Camp de sa Majeste l'Empereur et Roi, Commandant en Chef le Camp de Boulogne, etc, prie Monsieur Hoffeman, officier, de lui faire l'honneur de venir diner avec lui aujourd'hui, lundi, a 4 heures.
"Now," said I, "doctor," addressing my surgeon, "you are my senior in age and I think in experience; be my mentor on this occasion. In the first place, I have no inclination to go, for I am too sulky; in the second, I am wet and dirty." "Oh, do go, sir!" they all exclaimed. "It may better our situation, and we may have our parole." "On your account I will accept the invitation," said I. As I had no writing implements I sent a verbal answer in the affirmative, and made myself as much an Adonis as I was able. At the appointed hour the same servant and two gendarmes made their appearance, and from the gaol to the general's house I appeared, to judge by the people staring at me, to be the lion of the day. On my arrival I was ushered into the general's presence. The Comte Lemaroix, who was about forty years of age, was of a pleasing manner and countenance. He informed me he was sorry for my misfortune, but it was the fortune of war. I apologised for my dress, which was as wretched as my thoughts. At this time a young man in the French naval uniform came to me and asked me how I was. I remembered him as one of the officers sent to capture us. He spoke indifferent English, and as my knowledge of the French language was slight, I was glad to pair off with him. At the dinner-table were ten officers and one lady. I was seated on the left side of the Comte. I cut a sorry figure among so many smart and star-coated men. The dinner was plentiful and good, and everybody chatty and in good humour, in which I could not help, notwithstanding my situation, taking a part. After we had taken our coffee I naturally concluded I should be on parole. When I took my leave the captain in the navy and another officer said they would walk with me as it was dusk, and I presumed we were going to an inn—but, oh, horror of horrors! I was conducted to the prison from whence I came. They there wished me good-night, and I wished them at the devil. Next morning, after a restless night on a bed of straw, we were awakened by the grim, hard-featured gaoler who had been kind enough to lock us up. He asked the doctor if we wished to have breakfast, and if we could pay for it; he answered in the affirmative. This turnkey gentleman informed us that our first admiral, Mons. Poncevan, had been killed by an assassin. This report puzzled all our wise heads. An hour afterwards our cafe-au-lait entered, and with it the principal gaoler, or, as he was called, Mons. le Gouverneur. He was a stout, square-built man, and gave us an inquisitive look. The doctor, who was an Irishman and our interpreter, asked him the news, and if he were ever at Cork. "No," answered he, "I never was in America! but," said he, "I understand that your Prime Minister, Mr. Piercevell, has been shot by an assassin." He meant Mr. Percival. We were sorry to hear such bad news, as Mr. Percival was certainly a loss to his country and his large family. However, it did not destroy our appetite for breakfast. The considerate governor only charged us as much more for it as we should have paid at the best coffee-house in the town.
After two days of durance vile I was visited by three very wise-looking men, who, I understood, were some sort of lawyers. One of them produced a printed paper, and asked me if I were acquainted with its contents. I answered, "No." "Do you know for what purpose they were intended, for we have more than thirty of them which were found on board your ship?" I answered as before. "This appears very extraordinary that you, as captain of the ship where they were found, should not know they were on board her." "It may be so," I answered with indifference. "You may think it a trifle," said one of them, "but it may, without it is satisfactorily explained, prove in the end very serious to you." "Indeed," returned I, "that will be still more extraordinary. Probably it may be the means of a change of residence, for I cannot be worse off than where I am at present." "Monsieur chooses to be pleasant, but he must give us some account of these papers before we leave him." One of them then translated their contents. As I had never heard of them before I was rather struck with their purport, which was to create a counter-revolution, and cause that English-loving man, Bonaparte, to be dethroned. "Doctor," said I, "do you know anything about these terrible papers?" "Very little," replied he. "They were, I believe, in circulation about two years ago, in Mr. Pitt's time, and they were called his projects, for he loved Napoleon with all his heart." "Pray," said I, turning to the commissioner who had the longest and most snuffy nose, and who had translated the paper, "in what part of the vessel were these projects found?" "In the second cabin," was his answer. He meant the gun-room, where the officers slept and messed. "What is their date?" "1808." "Come," resumed I, "I think you will not shoot me this time. I did not join the ship until 1810, when they were never given into my charge. Now, gentlemen, you may either remain or depart; no more answers or explanation will I give." They grouped into the corner of the room, and after taking a pinch of snuff with a few shrugs of their shoulders and some whispering, took their leave.
Soon after the turnkey appeared with another worthy person as interpreter, and to whom I was to pay three francs a day and give him a dinner. I remonstrated, and said the doctor was my interpreter. "Bah, bah!" said the fellow, and marched out of the room, the door of which he locked. This person, whom the turnkey had so unceremoniously introduced, had, it appeared, been sent for by the gouverneur, as he chose to understand we wished to have "un maitre de la langue Francaise," who could act as interpreter when required. The poor man, who appeared as if he had fallen from a balloon, apologised for the intrusion, which he said did not lie with him, he had been sent for and came, but that when the turnkey unlocked the door he would withdraw. "No," said I, "as you are here and you speak good English," which he did, "I will, if you have a grammar, take a lesson in French, and you may come every day during our stay in this abominable place, which I suppose will not be long." He pulled a grammar from his pocket, and I began with the verbs. "I intend sending a letter to the Comte Lemaroix. Will you," said I to him, "take it for me?" "Willingly," replied he. I drew it up, and he translated it. It was to request that myself and officers might have our parole, but as day after day rolled on I do not think he received it, as my request was not complied with.