Alas the day!—a maniac she was from that hour. She was the only daughter of the murdered master of the ship, and never awoke, in her unclouded reason, to the fearful consciousness of her own dishonour and her parent's death.
The Torch captured the schooner, and we left the privateer's men at Barbadoes to meet their reward, and several of the merchant sailors were turned over to the guardship, to prove the facts in the first instance, and to serve his Majesty as impressed men in the second,—but scrimp measure of justice to the poor ship's crew.
Anchored at Carlisle Bay, Barbadoes. Town seemed built of cards—black faces—showy dresses of the negroes—dined at Mr. C——'s—capital dinner—little breeze-mill at the end of the room, that pumped a solution of salpetre [Transcriber's note: saltpetre?] and water into a trough of tin, perforated with small holes, below which, and exposed to the breeze, were ranged the wine and liqueurs, all in cotton bags; the water then flowed into a well, where the pump was stepped, and thus was again pumped up and kept circulating.
Landed the artillery, the soldiers, officers, and the Spanish Canon—discharged the whole battery.
Next morning, weighed at day-dawn, with the trade for Jamaica, and soon lost sight of the bright blue waters of Carlisle Bay, and the smiling fields and tall cocoanut trees of the beautiful island. In a week after we arrived off the east end of Jamaica; and that same evening, in obedience to the orders of the admiral on the windward Island station, we hove to in Bull Bay, in order to land despatches, and secure our tithe of the crews of the merchant-vessels bound for Kingston, and the ports to leeward, as they passed us. We had fallen in with a pilot canoe of Morant Bay with four negroes on board, who requested us to hoist in their boat, and take them all on board, as the pilot schooner to which they belonged had that morning bore up for Kingston, and left instructions to them to follow her in the first vessel appearing afterwards. We did so, and now, as it was getting dark, the captain came up to Mr. Treenail.
"Why, Mr. Treenail, I think we had better heave to for the night, and in this case I shall want you to go in the cutter to Port Royal to deliver the despatches on board the flag-ship.
"I don't think the admiral will be at Port Royal, sir," responded the lieutenant; "and, if I might suggest, those black chaps have offered to take me ashore here on the Palisadoes, a narrow spit of land, not above one hundred yards across, that divides the harbour from the ocean, and to haul the canoe across, and take me to the agent's house in Kingston, who will doubtless frank me up to the pen where the admiral resides, and I shall thus deliver the letters, and be back again by day-dawn."
"Not a bad plan," said old Deadeye; "put it in execution, and I will go below and get the despatches immediately."
The canoe was once more hoisted out; the three black fellows, the pilot of the ship continuing on board, jumped into her alongside.
"Had you not better take a couple of hands with you, Mr. Treenail?" said the skipper.
"Why, no, sir, I don't think I shall want them; but if you will spare me Mr. Cringle I will be obliged, in case I want any help."
We shoved off, and as the glowing sun dipped under Portland Point, as the tongue of land that runs out about four miles to the southward, on the western side of Port Royal harbour, is called, we arrived within a hundred yards of the Palisadoes. The surf, at the particular spot we steered for, did not break on the shore in a rolling curling wave, as it usually does, but smoothed away under the lee of a small sandy promontory that ran out into the sea, about half a cable's length to windward, and then slid up the smooth white sand without breaking, in a deep clear green swell, for the space of twenty yards, gradually shoaling, the colour becoming lighter and lighter until it frothed away in a shallow white fringe, that buzzed as it receded back into the deep green sea, until it was again propelled forward by the succeeding billow.
"I say, friend Bungo, how shall we manage? You don't mean to swamp us in a shove through that surf, do you?" said Mr. Treenail.
"No fear, massa, if you and toder leetle man-of-war buccra only keep dem seat when we rise on de crest of de swell dere."
We sat quiet enough. Treenail was coolness itself, and I aped him as well as I could. The loud murmur, increasing to a roar, of the sea, was trying enough as we approached, buoyed on the last long undulation.
"Now sit still, massa, bote."
We sank down into the trough, and presently were hove forwards with a smooth sliding motion up on the beach—until grit, grit, we stranded on the cream-coloured sand, high and dry.
"Now, jomp, massa, jomp."
We leapt with all our strength, and thereby toppled down on our noses; the sea receded, and before the next billow approached we had run the canoe twenty yards beyond high-water mark.
It was the work of a very few minutes to haul the canoe across the sand-bank, and to launch it once more in the placid waters of the harbour of Kingston. We pulled across towards the town, until we landed at the bottom of Hanover Street; the lights from the cabin windows of the merchantmen glimmering as we passed, and the town only discernible from a solitary sparkle here and there. But the contrast when we landed was very striking. We had come through the darkness of the night in comparative quietness; and in two hours from the time we had left the old Torch, we were transferred from her orderly deck to the bustle of a crowded town.
One of our crew undertook to be the guide to the agent's house. We arrived before it. It was a large mansion, and we could see lights glimmering in the ground-floor; but it was gaily lit up aloft. The house itself stood back about twenty feet from the street, from which it was separated by an iron railing.
We knocked at the outer gate, but no one answered. At length our black guide found out a bell-pull, and presently the clang of a bell resounded throughout the mansion. Still no one answered. I pushed against the door, and found it was open, and Mr. Treenail and myself immediately ascended a flight of six marble steps, and stood in the lower piazza, with the hall, or vestibule, before us. We entered. A very well-dressed brown woman, who was sitting at her work at a small table, along with two young girls of the same complexion, instantly rose to receive us.
"Beg pardon," said Mr. Treenail, "pray, is this Mr. ———'s house?"
"Yes, sir, it is."
"Will you have the goodness to say if he be at home?"
"Oh yes, sir, he is dere upon dinner wid company," said the lady.
"Well," continued the lieutenant, "say to him, that an officer of his Majesty's sloop Torch is below, with despatches for the admiral."
"Surely, sir,—surely," the dark lady continued; "Follow me, sir; and dat small gentleman [Thomas Cringle, Esquire, no less!]—him will better follow me too."
We left the room, and turning to the right, landed in the lower piazza of the house, fronting the north. A large clumsy stair occupied the eastermost end, with a massive mahogany balustrade, but the whole affair below was very ill lighted. The brown lady preceded us; and, planting herself at the bottom of the staircase, began to shout to some one above—
"Toby!—Toby!—buccra gentlemen arrive, Toby." But no Toby responded to the call.
"My dear madam," said Treenail, "I have little time for ceremony. Pray usher us up into Mr. ———'s presence."
"Den follow me, gentlemen, please."
Forthwith we all ascended the dark staircase until we reached the first landing-place, when we heard a noise as of two negroes wrangling on the steps above us.
"You rascal!" sang out one, "take dat; larn you for teal my wittal!"—then a sharp crack, as if he had smote the culprit across the pate; whereupon, like a shot, a black fellow, in a handsome livery, trundled down, pursued by another servant with a large silver ladle in his hand, with which he was belabouring the fugitive over his flint-hard skull, right against our hostess, with the drumstick of a turkey in his hand, or rather in his mouth.
"Top, you tief!—top, you tief!—for me piece dat," shouted the pursuer.
"You dam rascal!" quoth the dame. But she had no time to utter another word, before the fugitive pitched, with all his weight, against her; and at the very moment another servant came trundling down with a large tray full of all kinds of meats—and I especially remember that two large crystal stands of jellies composed part of his load—so there we were regularly capsized, and caught all of a heap in the dark landing-place, halfway up the stair; and down the other flight tumbled our guide, with Mr. Treenail and myself, and the two blackies on the top of her, rolling in our descent over, or rather into, another large mahogany tray which had just been carried out, with a tureen of turtle soup in it, and a dish of roast-beef, and platefuls of land-crabs, and the Lord knows what all besides.
The crash reached the ear of the landlord, who was seated at the head of his table in the upper piazza, a long gallery about fifty feet long by fourteen wide, and he immediately rose and ordered his butler to take a light. When he came down to ascertain the cause of the uproar. I shall never forget the scene.
There was, first of all, mine host, a remarkably neat personage, standing on the polished mahogany stair, three steps above his servant, who was a very well-dressed respectable elderly negro, with a candle in each hand; and beneath him, on the landing-place, lay two trays of viands, broken tureens of soup, fragments of dishes, and fractured glasses, and a chaos of eatables and drinkables, and table gear scattered all about, amidst which lay scrambling my lieutenant and myself, the brown housekeeper, and the two negro servants, all more or less covered with gravy and wine dregs. However, after a good laugh, we gathered ourselves up, and at length we were ushered on the scene. Mine host, after stifling his laughter the best way he could, again sat down at the head of his table, sparkling with crystal and wax-lights, while a superb lamp hung overhead. The company was composed chiefly of naval and military men, but there was also a sprinkling of civilians, or muftees, to use a West India expression. Most of them rose as we entered, and after they had taken a glass of wine, and had their laugh at our mishap, our landlord retired to one side with Mr. Treenail, while I, poor little middy as I was, remained standing at the end of the room, close to the head of the stairs. The gentleman who sat at the foot of the table had his back towards me, and was not at first aware of my presence. But the guest at his right hand, a happy-looking, red-faced, well-dressed man, soon drew his attention towards me. The party to whom I was thus indebted seemed a very jovial-looking personage, and appeared to be well known to all hands, and indeed the life of the party, for, like Falstaff, he was not only witty in himself, but the cause of wit in others.
The gentleman to whom he had pointed me out immediately rose, made his bow, ordered a chair, and made room for me beside himself, where, the moment it was known that we were direct from home, such a volley of questions was fired off at me that I did not know which to answer first. At length, after Treenail had taken a glass or two of wine, the agent started him off to the admiral's pen in his own gig, and I was desired to stay where I was until he returned.
The whole party seemed very happy, my boon ally was fun itself, and I was much entertained with the mess he made when any of the foreigners at table addressed him in French or Spanish. I was particularly struck with a small, thin, dark Spaniard, who told very feelingly how the night before, on returning home from a party to his own lodgings, on passing through the piazza, he stumbled against something heavy that lay in his grass-hammock, which usually hung there. He called for a light, when, to his horror, he found the body of his old and faithful valet lying in it, dead and cold, with a knife sticking under his fifth rib—no doubt intended for his master. The speaker was Bolivar. About midnight, Mr. Treenail returned, we shook hands with Mr. ———, and once more shoved off; and, guided by the lights shown on board the Torch we were safe home again by three in the morning, when we immediately made sail, and nothing particular happened until we arrived within a day's sail of New Providence. It seemed that, about a week before, a large American brig, bound from Havana to Boston had been captured in this very channel by one of our men-of-war schooners, and carried into Nassau; out of which port, for their own security, the authorities had fitted a small schooner, carrying six guns and twenty-four men. She was commanded by a very gallant fellow—there is no disputing that—and he must needs emulate the conduct of the officer who had made the capture; for in a fine clear night, when all the officers were below rummaging in their kits for the killing things they should array themselves in on the morrow, so as to smite the Fair of New Providence to the heart at a blow—Whiss—a shot flew over our mast-head.
"A small schooner lying to right ahead, sir," sang out the boatswain from the forecastle.
Before we could beat to quarters, another sang between our masts. We kept steadily on our course, and as we approached our pigmy antagonist, he bore up. Presently we were alongside of him.
"Heave to," hailed the strange sail; "heave to, or I'll sink you." The devil you will, you midge, thought I.
The captain took the trumpet—"Schooner, ahoy"—no answer—"D—n your blood, sir, if you don't let everything go by the run this instant, I'll fire a broadside. Strike, sir, to his Britannic Majesty's sloop Torch."
The poor fellow commanding the schooner had by this time found out his mistake, and immediately came on board, where, instead of being lauded for his gallantry, I am sorry to say he was roundly rated for his want of discernment in mistaking his Majesty's cruiser for a Yankee merchantman. Next forenoon we arrived at Nassau.
In a week after we again sailed for Bermuda, having taken on board ten American skippers, and several other Yankees, as prisoners of war.
For the first three days after we cleared the Passages, we had fine weather—wind at east-south-east; but after that it came on to blow from the north-west, and so continued without intermission during the whole of the passage to Bermuda. On the fourth morning after we left Nassau, we descried a sail in the south-east quarter, and immediately made sail in chase. We overhauled her about noon; she hove to, after being fired at repeatedly; and, on boarding her, we found she was a Swede from Charleston, bound to Havre-de-Grace. All the letters we could find on board were very unceremoniously broken open, and nothing having transpired that could identify the cargo as enemy's property, we were bundling over the side, when a nautical-looking subject, who had attracted my attention from the first, put in his oar.
"Lieutenant," said he, "will you allow me to put this barrel of New York apples into the boat as a present to Captain Deadeye, from Captain ——— of the United States navy?"
Mr. Treenail bowed, and said he would; and we shoved off and got on board again, and now there was the devil to pay, from the perplexity old Deadeye was thrown into, as to whether, here in the heat of the American war, he was bound to take this American captain prisoner or not. I was no party to the councils of my superiors, of course, but the foreign ship was finally allowed to continue her course.
The next day I had the forenoon watch; the weather had lulled unexpectedly nor was there much sea, and the deck was all alive, to take advantage of the fine blink, when the man at the mast-head sang out—"Breakers right ahead, sir."
"Breakers!" said Mr. Splinter, in great astonishment. "Breakers!—why, the man must be mad! I say, Jenkins——"
"Breakers close under the bows," sang out the boatswain from forward.
"The devil!" quoth Splinter, and he ran along the gangway, and ascended the forecastle, while I kept close to his heels. We looked out ahead, and there we certainly did see a splashing, and boiling, and white foaming of the ocean, that unquestionably looked very like breakers. Gradually, this splashing and foaming appearance took a circular whisking shape, as if the clear green sea, for a space of a hundred yards in diameter, had been stirred about by a gigantic invisible spurtle, until everything hissed again; and the curious part of it was, that the agitation of the water seemed to keep ahead of us, as if the breeze which impelled us had also floated it onwards. At length the whirling circle of white foam ascended higher and higher, and then gradually contracted itself into a spinning black tube, which wavered about for all the world like a gigantic loch-leech held by the tail between the finger and thumb, while it was poking its vast snout about in the clouds in search of a spot to fasten on.
"Is the boat-gun on the forecastle loaded?" said Captain Deadeye.
"It is, sir."
"Then luff a bit—that will do—fire."
The gun was discharged, and down rushed the black wavering pillar in a watery avalanche, and in a minute after the dark heaving billows rolled over the spot whereout it arose, as if no such thing had ever been.
This said troubling of the waters was neither more nor less than a waterspout, which again is neither more nor less than a whirlwind at sea, which gradually whisks the water round and round, and up and up, as you see straws so raised, until it reaches a certain height, when it invariably breaks. Before this I had thought that waterspout was created by some next to supernatural exertion of the power of the Deity, in order to suck up water into the clouds, that they, like the wine-skins in Spain, might be filled with rain.
The morning after, the weather was clear and beautiful, although the wind blew half a gale. Nothing particular happened until about seven o'clock in the evening. I had been invited to dine with the gunroom officers this day, and every thing was going on smooth and comfortable, when Mr. Splinter spoke. "I say, master, don't you smell gunpowder?"
"Yes, I do," said the little master, "or something deuced like it."
To explain the particular comfort of our position, it may be right to mention that the magazine of a brig sloop is exactly under the gunroom. Three of the American skippers had been quartered on the gunroom mess, and they were all at table. Snuff, snuff, smelled one, and another sniffled,—"Gunpowder, I guess, and in a state of ignition."
"Will you not send for the gunner, sir?" said the third. Splinter did not like it, I saw, and this quailed me.
The captain's bell rang. "What smell of brimstone is that, steward?"
"I really can't tell," said the man, trembling from head to foot; "Mr. Splinter has sent for the gunner, sir."
"The devil!" said Deadeye, as he hurried on deck. We all followed. A search was made.
"Some matches have caught in the magazine," said one.
"We shall be up and away like sky-rockets," said another.
Several of the American masters ran out on the jib-boom, coveting the temporary security of being so far removed from the seat of the expected explosion, and all was alarm and confusion, until it was ascertained that two of the boys, little sky-larking vagabonds, had stolen some pistol cartridges, and had been making lightning, as it is called, by holding a lighted candle between the fingers, and putting some loose powder into the palm of the hand, then chucking it up into the flame. They got a sound flogging, on a very unpoetical part of their corpuses, and once more the ship subsided into her usual orderly discipline. The northwester still continued, with a clear blue sky, without a cloud overhead by day, and a bright cold moon by night. It blew so hard for the three succeeding days, that we could not carry more than close-reefed topsails to it, and a reefed foresail. Indeed, towards six bells in the forenoon watch of the third day, it came thundering down with such violence, and the sea increased so much, that we had to hand the foretopsail.
This was by no means an easy job. "Ease her a bit," said the first lieutenant,—"there—shake the wind out of her sails for a moment, until the men get the canvas in"——whirl, a poor fellow pitched off the lee foreyardarm into the sea. "Up with the helm—heave him the bight of a rope." We kept away, but all was confusion, until an American midshipman, one of the prisoners on board, hove the bight of a rope at him. The man got it under his arms, and after hauling him along for a hundred yards at the least—and one may judge of the velocity with which he was dragged through the water, by the fact that it took the united strain of ten powerful men to get him in—he was brought safely on board, pale and blue, when we found that the running of the rope had crushed in his broad chest, below his arms, as if it had been a girl's waist, indenting the very muscles of it and of his back half an inch deep. He had to be bled before he could breathe, and it was an hour before the circulation could be restored, by the joint exertions of the surgeon and gunroom steward, chafing him with spirits and camphor, after he had been stripped and stowed away between the blankets in his hammock.
The same afternoon we fell in with a small prize to the squadron in the Chesapeake, a dismantled schooner, manned by a prize crew of a midshipman and six men. She had a signal of distress, an American ensign, with the union down, hoisted on the jury-mast, across which there was rigged a solitary lug-sail. It was blowing so hard that we had some difficulty in boarding her, when we found she was a Baltimore pilot-boat-built schooner, of about 70 tons burden, laden with flour, and bound for Bermuda. But three days before, in a sudden squall, they had carried away both masts short by the board, and the only spar which they had been able to rig, was a spare topmast which they had jammed into one of the pumps—fortunately she was as tight as a bottle—and stayed it the best way they could. The captain offered to take the little fellow who had charge of her, and his crew and cargo, on board, and then scuttle her; but no—all he wanted was a cask of water and some biscuit; and having had a glass of grog, he trundled over the side again, and returned to his desolate command. However, he afterwards brought his prize safe into Bermuda.
The weather still continued very rough, but we saw nothing until the second evening after this. The forenoon had been even more boisterous than any of the preceding, and we were all fagged enough with "make sail," and "shorten sail," and "all hands," the whole day through; and as the night fell, I found myself, for the fourth time, in the maintop. The men had just lain in from the maintopsail yard, when we heard the watch called on deck,—"Starboard watch, ahoy!"—which was a cheery sound to us of the larboard, who were thus released from duty on deck, and allowed to go below.
The men were scrambling down the weather shrouds, and I was preparing to follow them, when I jammed my left foot in the grating of the top, and capsized on my nose. I had been up nearly the whole of the previous night, and on deck the whole of the day, and actively employed too, as during the greater part of it it blew a gale. I stooped down in some pain, to see what had bolted me to the grating; but I had no sooner extricated my foot, than, over-worked and over-fatigued as I was, I fell over in the soundest sleep that ever I have enjoyed before or since, the back of my neck resting on a coil of rope, so that my head hung down within it.
The rain all this time was beating on me, and I was drenched to the skin. I must have slept for four hours or so, when I was awakened by a rough thump on the side from the stumbling foot of the captain of the top, the word having been passed to shake a reef out of the topsails, the wind having rather suddenly gone down. It was done; and now broad awake, I determined not to be caught napping again, so I descended, and swung myself in on deck out of the main rigging, just as Mr. Treenail was mustering the crew at eight bells. When I landed on the quarterdeck, there he stood abaft the binnacle, with the light shining on his face, his glazed hat glancing, and the rain-drop sparkling at the brim of it. He had noticed me the moment I descended.
"Heyday, Master Cringle, you are surely out of your watch. Why, what are you doing here, eh?"
I stepped up to him, and told him the truth, that, being overfatigued, I had fallen asleep in the top.
"Well, well, boy," said he, "never mind, go below, and turn in; if you don't take your rest, you never will be a sailor."
"But what do you see aloft?" glancing his eye upwards, and all the crew on deck, as I passed them, looked anxiously up also amongst the rigging, as if wondering what I saw there, for I had been so chilled in my snoose, that my neck, from resting in the cold on the coil of rope, had become stiffened and rigid to an intolerable degree; and although, when I first came on deck, I had, by a strong exertion, brought my caput to its proper bearings, yet the moment I was dismissed by my superior officer, I for my own comfort was glad to conform to the contraction of the muscle, whereby I once more strayed along the deck, glowering up into the heavens, as if I had seen some wonderful sight there.
"What do you see aloft?" repeated Mr. Treenail, while the crew, greatly puzzled, continued to follow my eyes, as they thought, and to stare up into the rigging.
"Why, sir, I have thereby got a stiff neck—that's all, sir."
"Go and turn in at once, my good boy—make haste, now; tell our steward to give you a glass of hot grog, and mind your hand that you don't get sick."
I did as was desired, swallowed the grog, and turned in; but I could not have been in bed above an hour, when the drum beat to quarters, and I had once more to bundle out on the cold wet deck, where I found all excitement. At the time I speak of, we had been beaten by the Americans in several actions of single ships, and our discipline improved in proportion as we came to learn, by sad experience, that the enemy was not to be undervalued. I found that there was a ship in sight, right ahead of us—apparently carrying all sail. A group of officers were on the forecastle with night-glasses, the whole crew being stationed in dark clusters round the guns at quarters. Several of the American skippers were forward amongst us, and they were of opinion that the chase was a man-of-war, although our own people seemed to doubt this. One of the skippers insisted that she was the Hornet, from the unusual shortness of her lower masts, and the immense squareness of her yards. But the puzzle was, if it were the Hornet, why she did not shorten sail. Still this might be accounted for, by her either wishing to make out what we were before she engaged us, or she might be clearing for action. At this moment a whole cloud of studdingsails were blown from the yards as if the booms had been carrots; and to prove that the chase was keeping a bright look-out, she immediately kept away, and finally bore up dead before the wind, under the impression, no doubt, that she would draw ahead of us, from her gear being entire, before we could rig out our light sails again.
And so she did for a time, but at length we got within gunshot. The American masters were now ordered below, the hatches were clapped on, and the word passed to see all clear. Our shot was by this time flying over and over her, and it was evident she was not a man-of-war. We peppered away—she could not even be a privateer; we were close under her lee quarter, and yet she had never fired a shot; and her large swaggering Yankee ensign was now run up to the peak, only to be hauled down the next moment. Hurrah! a large cotton-ship from Charlestown to Bordeaux—prize to H.M.S. Torch!
She was taken possession of, and proved to be the Natches, of four hundred tons burden, fully loaded with cotton.
By the time we got the crew on board, and the second-lieutenant, with a prize crew of fifteen men, had taken charge, the weather began to lour again, nevertheless we took the prize in tow, and continued on our voyage for the next three days, without anything particular happening. It was the middle watch, and I was sound asleep, when I was startled by a violent jerking of my hammock, and a cry "that the brig was amongst the breakers." I ran on deck in my shirt, where I found all hands, and a scene of confusion such as I never had witnessed before. The gale had increased, yet the prize had not been cast off, and the consequence was, that by some mismanagement or carelessness, the swag of the large ship had suddenly hove the brig in the wind, and taken the sails aback. We accordingly fetched stern way, and ran foul of the prize, and there we were, in a heavy sea, with our stern grinding against the cotton-ship's high quarter.
The mainboom, by the first rasp that took place after I came on deck, was broken short off, and nearly twelve feet of it hove right in over the taffrail; the vessels then closed, and the next rub ground off the ship's mizzen channel as clean as if it had been sawed away. Officers shouting, men swearing, rigging cracking, the vessels crashing and thumping together, I thought we were gone, when the first lieutenant seized his trumpet—"Silence, men; hold your tongues, you cowards, and mind the word of command!"
The effect was magical.—"Brace round the foreyard—round with it; set the jib—that's it—fore-top-mast staysail—haul—never mind if the gale takes it out of the bolt-rope"—a thundering flap, and away it flew in truth down to leeward, like a puff of white smoke.—"Never mind, men, the jib stands. Belay all that—down with the helm, now—don't you see she has stern way yet? Zounds! we shall be smashed to atoms if you don't mind your hands, you lubbers—main-topsail sheets let fly—there she pays off, and has headway once more—that's it: right your helm, now—never mind his spanker-boom, the fore-stay will stand it: there—up with helm, sir—we have cleared him—hurrah!" And a near thing it was too, but we soon had everything snug; and although the gale continued without any intermission for ten days, at length we ran in and anchored with our prize in Five-Fathom Hole, off the entrance to St. George's Harbour.
It was lucky for us that we got to anchor at the time we did, for that same afternoon one of the most tremendous gales of wind from the westward came on that I ever saw. Fortunately it was steady and did not veer about, and having good ground-tackle down, we rode it out well enough. The effect was very uncommon; the wind was howling over our mast-heads, and amongst the cedar bushes on the cliffs above, while on deck it was nearly calm, and there was very little swell, being a weather shore; but half a mile out at sea all was white foam, and the tumbling waves seemed to meet from north and south, leaving a space of smooth water under the lee of the island, shaped like the tail of a comet, tapering away, and gradually roughening and becoming more stormy, until the roaring billows once more owned allegiance to the genius of the storm.
There we rode, with three anchors ahead, in safety through the night; and next day, availing of a temporary lull, we ran up and anchored off the Tanks. Three days after this, the American frigate President was brought in by the Endymion and the rest of the squadron.
I went on board, in common with every officer in the fleet, and certainly I never saw a more superb vessel; her scantling was that of a seventy-four, and she appeared to have been fitted with great care. I got a week's leave at this time, and, as I had letters to several families, I contrived to spend my time pleasantly enough.
Bermuda, as all the world knows, is a cluster of islands in the middle of the Atlantic. There are Lord knows how many of them, but the beauty of the little straits and creeks which divide them no man can describe who has not seen them. The town of St. George's, for instance, looks as if the houses were cut out of chalk; and one evening the family where I was on a visit proceeded to the main island, Hamilton, to attend a ball there. We had to cross three ferries, although the distance was not above nine miles, if so far. The 'Mudian women are unquestionably beautiful—so thought Thomas Moore, a tolerable judge, before me. By the by, touching this 'Mudian ball, it was a very gay affair—the women pleasant and beautiful; but all the men, when they speak, or are spoken to, shut one eye and spit;—a lucid and succinct description of a community.
The second day of my sojourn was fine—the first fine day since our arrival—and with several young ladies of the family, I was prowling through the cedar wood above St. George's, when a dark good-looking man passed us; he was dressed in tight worsted net pantaloons and Hessian boots, and wore a blue frockcoat and two large epaulets, with rich French bullion, and a round hat. On passing, he touched his hat with much grace, and in the evening I met him in society. It was Commodore Decatur. He was very much a Frenchman in manner, or, I should rather say, in look, for although very well bred, he, for one ingredient, by no means possessed a Frenchman's volubility; still, he was an exceedingly agreeable and very handsome man.
The following day we spent in a pleasure cruise amongst the three hundred and sixty-five Islands, many of them not above an acre in extent—fancy an island of an acre in extent!—with a solitary house, a small garden, a red-skinned family, a piggery, and all around clear deep pellucid water. None of the islands, or islets, rise to any great height, but they all shoot precipitously out of the water, as if the whole group had originally been one huge platform of rock, with numberless grooves subsequently chiselled out in it by art.
We had to wind our way amongst these manifold small channels for two hours, before we reached the gentleman's house where we had been invited to dine; at length, on turning a corner, with both lateen sails drawing beautifully, we ran bump on a shoal; there was no danger, and knowing that the 'Mudians were capital sailors, I sat still. Not so Captain K——-, a round plump little homo,—"Shove her off, my boys, shove her off." She would not move, and thereupon he, in a fever of gallantry, jumped overboard up to the waist in full fig; and one of the men following his example, we were soon afloat. The ladies applauded, and the captain sat in his wet breeks for the rest of the voyage, in all the consciousness of being considered a hero. Ducks and onions are the grand staple of Bermuda, but there was a fearful dearth of both at the time I speak of—a knot of young West India merchants, who, with heavy purses and large credits on England, had at this time domiciled themselves in St. George's, to batten on the spoils of poor Jonathan, having monopolised all the good things of the place. I happened to be acquainted with one of them, and thereby had less reason to complain; but many a poor fellow, sent ashore on duty, had to put up with but Lenten fare at the taverns. At length, having refitted, we sailed in company with the Rayo frigate, with a convoy of three transports, freighted with a regiment for New Orleans, and several merchantmen for the West Indies.
"The still vexed Bermoothes"—I arrived at them in a gale of wind, and I sailed from them in a gale of wind. What the climate may be in the summer I don't know; but during the time I was there it was one storm after another.
We sailed in the evening with the moon at full, and the wind at west-north-west. So soon as we got from under the lee of the land the breeze struck us, and it came on to blow like thunder, so that we were all soon reduced to our storm staysails; and there we were, transports, merchantmen, and men-of-war, rising on the mountainous billows one moment, and the next losing sight of everything but the water and sky in the deep trough of the sea, while the seething foam was blown over us in showers from the curling manes of the roaring waves. But overhead, all this while, it was as clear as a lovely winter moon could make it, and the stars shone brightly in the deep blue sky; there was not even a thin fleecy shred of cloud racking across the moon's disc. Oh, the glories of a northwester!
But the devil seize such glory! Glory, indeed! with a fleet of transports, and a regiment of soldiers on board! Glory! why, I daresay five hundred rank and file, at the fewest, were all cascading at one and the same moment,—a thousand poor fellows turned outside in, like so many pairs of old stockings. Any glory in that? But to proceed.
Next morning the gale still continued, and when the day broke there was the frigate standing across our bows, rolling and pitching, as she tore her way through the boiling sea, under a close-reefed main-topsail and reefed foresail, with top-gallant-yards and royal masts, and everything that could be struck with safety in war-time, down on deck. There she lay, with her clear black bends, and bright white streak, and long tier of cannon on the maindeck, and the carronades on the quarterdeck and forecastle grinning through the ports in the black bulwarks, while the white hammocks, carefully covered by the hammock-cloths, crowned the defences of the gallant frigate fore and aft, as she delved through the green surge—one minute rolling and rising on the curling white crest of a mountainous sea, amidst a hissing snowstorm of spray, with her bright copper glancing from stem to stern, and her scanty white canvas swelling aloft, and twenty feet of her keel forward occasionally hove into the air and clean out of the water, as if she had been a sea-bird rushing to take wing—and the next, sinking entirely out of sight—hull, masts, and rigging—behind an intervening sea, that rose in hoarse thunder between us, threatening to overwhelm both us and her. As for the transports, the largest of the three had lost her foretopmast, and had bore up under her foresail; another was also scudding under a close-reefed fore-topsail; but the third or head-quarter ship was still lying to windward, under her storm staysails. None of the merchant vessels were to be seen, having been compelled to bear up in the night, and to run before it under bare poles.
At length, as the sun rose, we got before the wind, and it soon moderated so far that we could carry reefed topsails and foresail; and away we all bowled, with a clear, deep, cold, blue sky, and a bright sun overhead, and a stormy leaden-coloured ocean with whitish green-crested billows, below. The sea continued to go down, and the wind to slacken, until the afternoon, when the commodore made the signal for the Torch to send a boat's crew, the instant it could be done with safety, on board the dismasted ship to assist in repairing damages and in getting up a jury-foretopmast.
The damaged ship was at this time on our weather-quarter; we accordingly handed the fore-topsail, and presently she was alongside. We hailed her, that we intended to send a boat on board, and desired her to heave-to, as we did, and presently she rounded to under our lee. One of the quarter-boats was manned, with three of the carpenter's crew, and six good men over and above her complement; but it was no easy matter to get on board of her, let me tell you, after she had been lowered, carefully watching the rolls, with four hands in. The moment she touched the water, the tackles were cleverly unhooked, and the rest of us tumbled on board, shin leather growing scarce, when we shoved off. With great difficulty, and not without wet jackets, we, the supernumeraries, got on board, and the boat returned to the Torch. The evening when we landed in the lobster-box, as Jack loves to designate a transport, was too far advanced for us to do anything towards refitting that night; and the confusion and uproar and numberless abominations of the crowded craft, were irksome to a greater degree than I expected, after having been accustomed to the strict and orderly discipline of a man-of-war. The following forenoon the Torch was ordered by signal to chase in the south-east quarter, and, hauling out from the fleet, she was soon out of sight.
THE MERCHANTMAN AND THE PIRATE
From "Hard Cash," BY CHARLES READE
North Latitude 23 1/2, Longitude East 113; the time March of this same year; the wind southerly; the port Whampoa in the Canton River. Ships at anchor reared their tall masts, here and there; and the broad stream was enlivened and colored by junks and boats of all sizes and vivid hues, propelled on the screw principle by a great scull at the stern, with projecting handles for the crew to work; and at times a gorgeous mandarin boat, with two great glaring eyes set in the bows, came flying, rowed with forty paddles by an armed crew, whose shields hung on the gunwale and flashed fire in the sunbeams; the mandarin, in conical and buttoned hat, sitting on the top of his cabin calmly smoking Paradise, alias opium, while his gong boomed and his boat flew fourteen miles an hour, and all things scuttled out of his celestial way. And there, looking majestically down on all these water ants, the huge Agra, cynosure of so many loving eyes and loving hearts in England, lay at her moorings; homeward bound.
Her tea not being yet on board, the ship's hull floated high as a castle, and to the subtle, intellectual, doll-faced, bolus-eyed people, that sculled to and fro, busy as bees, though looking forked mushrooms, she sounded like a vast musical shell: for a lusty harmony of many mellow voices vibrated in her great cavities, and made the air ring cheerily around her. The vocalists were the Cyclops, to judge by the tremendous thumps that kept clean time to their sturdy tune. Yet it was but human labor, so heavy and so knowing, that it had called in music to help. It was the third mate and his gang completing his floor to receive the coming tea chests. Yesterday he had stowed his dunnage, many hundred bundles of light flexible canes from Sumatra and Malacca; on these he had laid tons of rough saltpetre, in 200 lb. gunny-bags: and was now mashing it to music, bags and all. His gang of fifteen, naked to the waist, stood in line, with huge wooden beetles, called commanders, and lifted them high and brought them down on the nitre in cadence with true nautical power and unison, singing as follows, with ponderous bump on the last note in each bar:—
And so up to fifteen, when the stave was concluded with a shrill "Spell, oh!" and the gang relieved streaming with perspiration. When the saltpetre was well mashed, they rolled ton waterbutts on it, till the floor was like a billiard table. A fleet of chop boats then began to arrive, so many per day, with the tea chests. Mr. Grey proceeded to lay the first tier on his saltpetre floor, and then built the chests, tier upon tier, beginning at the sides, and leaving in the middle a lane somewhat narrower than a tea chest. Then he applied a screw jack to the chests on both sides, and so enlarged his central aperture, and forced the remaining tea chests in; and behold the enormous cargo packed as tight as ever shopkeeper packed a box—19,806 chests, 60 half chests, 50 quarter chests.
While Mr. Grey was contemplating his work with singular satisfaction, a small boat from Canton came alongside, and Mr. Tickell, midshipman, ran up the side, skipped on the quarter-deck, saluted it first, and then the first mate; and gave him a line from the captain, desiring him to take the ship down to Second Bar—for her water—at the turn of the tide.
Two hours after receipt of this order the ship swung to the ebb. Instantly Mr. Sharpe unmoored, and the Agra began her famous voyage, with her head at right angles to her course; for the wind being foul, all Sharpe could do was to set his topsails, driver, and jib, and keep her in the tide way, and clear of the numerous craft, by backing or filling as the case required; which he did with considerable dexterity, making the sails steer the helm for the nonce: he crossed the Bar at sunset, and brought to with the best bower anchor in five fathoms and a half. Here they began to take in their water, and on the fifth day the six-oared gig was ordered up to Canton for the captain. The next afternoon he passed the ship in her, going down the river, to Lin Tin, to board the Chinese admiral for his chop, or permission to leave China. All night the Agra showed three lights at her mizzen peak for him, and kept a sharp lookout. But he did not come: he was having a very serious talk with the Chinese admiral; at daybreak, however, the gig was reported in sight: Sharpe told one of the midshipmen to call the boatswain and man the side. Soon the gig ran alongside; two of the ship's boys jumped like monkeys over the bulwarks, lighting, one on the main channels, the other on the mid-ship port, and put the side ropes assiduously in the captain's hands; he bestowed a slight paternal smile on them, the first the imps had ever received from an officer, and went lightly up the sides. The moment his foot touched the deck, the boatswain gave a frightful shrill whistle; the men at the sides uncovered, the captain saluted the quarter-deck, and all the officers saluted him, which he returned, and stepping for a moment to the weather side of his deck, gave the loud command, "All hands heave anchor." He then directed Mr. Sharpe to get what sail he could on the ship, the wind being now westerly, and dived into his cabin.
The boatswain piped three shrill pipes, and "All hands up anchor" was thrice repeated forward, followed by private admonitions, "Rouse and bitt!" "Show a leg!" etc., and up tumbled the crew with "homeward bound" written on their tanned faces.
(Pipe.) "Up all hammocks!"
In ten minutes the ninety and odd hammocks were all stowed neatly in the netting, and covered with a snowy hammock cloth; and the hands were active, unbitting the cable, shipping the capstan bars, etc.
"All ready below, sir," cried a voice.
"Man the bars," returned Mr. Sharpe from the quarter-deck. "Play up, fifer. Heave away!"
Out broke the merry fife with a rhythmical tune, and tramp, tramp, tramp went a hundred and twenty feet round and round, and, with brawny chests pressed tight against the capstan bars, sixty fine fellows walked the ship up to her anchor, drowning the fife at intervals with their sturdy song, as pat to their feet as an echo:
Heave with a will ye jolly boys, Heave around: We're off from Chainee, jolly boys, Homeward bound.
"Short stay apeak, sir," roars the boatswain from forward.
"Unship the bars. Way aloft. Loose sails. Let fall!"
The ship being now over her anchor, and the topsails set, the capstan bars were shipped again, the men all heaved with a will, the messenger grinned, the anchor was torn out of China with a mighty heave, and then run up with a luff tackle and secured; the ship's head cast to port:
"Up with a jib! man the topsail halyards! all hands make sail!" Round she came slow and majestically; the sails filled, and the good ship bore away for England.
She made the Bogue forts in three or four tacks, and there she had to come to again for another chop, China being a place as hard to get into as Heaven, and to get out of as—Chancery. At three P. M. she was at Macao, and hove to four miles from the land, to take in her passengers.
A gun was fired from the forecastle. No boats came off. Sharpe began to fret: for the wind, though light, had now got to the N.W., and they were wasting it. After a while the captain came on deck, and ordered all the carronades to be scaled. The eight heavy reports bellowed the great ship's impatience across the water, and out pulled two boats with the passengers. While they were coming, Dodd sent and ordered the gunner to load the carronades with shot, and secure and apron them. . . .
The Agra had already shown great sailing qualities: the log was hove at sundown and gave eleven knots; so that with a good breeze abaft few fore-and-aft-rigged pirates could overhaul her. And this wind carried her swiftly past one nest of them at all events; the Ladrone Isles. At nine P. M. all the lights were ordered out. Mrs. Beresford had brought a novel on board, and refused to comply; the master-at-arms insisted; she threatened him with the vengeance of the Company, the premier, and the nobility and gentry of the British realm. The master-at-arms, finding he had no chance in argument, doused the glim—pitiable resource of a weak disputant—then basely fled the rhetorical consequences.
The northerly breeze died out, and light variable winds baffled the ship. It was the 6th April ere she passed the Macclesfield Bank in latitude 16. And now they sailed for many days out of sight of land; Dodd's chest expanded: his main anxiety at this part of the voyage lay in the state cabin; of all the perils of the sea none shakes a sailor like fire. He set a watch day and night on that spoiled child.
On the 1st of May they passed the great Nantuna, and got among the Bornese and Malay Islands: at which the captain's glass began to sweep the horizon again: and night and day at the dizzy foretop-gallant-masthead he perched an eye.
They crossed the line in longitude 107, with a slight breeze, but soon fell into the Dolddrums. A dead calm, and nothing to do but kill time. . . .
After lying a week like a dead log on the calm but heaving waters came a few light puffs in the upper air and inflated the topsails only: the ship crawled southward, the crew whistling for wind.
At last, one afternoon, it began to rain, and after the rain came a gale from the eastward. The watchful skipper saw it purple the water to windward, and ordered the topsails to be reefed and the lee ports closed. This last order seemed an excess of precaution; but Dodd was not yet thoroughly acquainted with his ship's qualities: and the hard cash round his neck made him cautious. The lee ports were closed, all but one, and that was lowered. Mr. Grey was working a problem in his cabin, and wanted a little light and a little air, so he just dropped his port; but, not to deviate from the spirit of his captain's instructions, he fastened a tackle to it; that he might have mechanical force to close it with should the ship lie over.
Down came the gale with a whoo, and made all crack. The ship lay over pretty much, and the sea poured in at Mr. Grey's port. He applied his purchase to close it. But though his tackle gave him the force of a dozen hands, he might as well have tried to move a mountain: on the contrary, the tremendous sea rushed in and burst the port wide open. Grey, after a vain struggle with its might, shrieked for help; down tumbled the nearest hands, and hauled on the tackle in vain. Destruction was rushing on the ship, and on them first. But meantime the captain, with a shrewd guess at the general nature of the danger he could not see, had roared out, "Slack the main sheet!" The ship righted, and the port came flying to, and terror-stricken men breathed hard, up to their waists in water and floating boxes. Grey barred the unlucky port, and went aft, drenched in body, and wrecked in mind, to report his own fault. He found the captain looking grim as death. He told him, almost crying, what he had done, and how he had miscalculated the power of the water.
Dodd looked and saw his distress. "Let it be a lesson sir," said he, sternly. "How many ships have been lost by this in fair weather, and not a man saved to tell how the craft was fooled away?"
"Captain, bid me fling myself over the side, and I'll do it."
"Humph! I'm afraid I can't afford to lose a good officer for a fault he—will—never—repeat."
It blew hard all night and till twelve the next day. The Agra showed her weak point: she rolled abominably. A dirty night came on. At eight bells Mr. Grey touched by Dodd's clemency, and brimful of zeal, reported a light in Mrs. Beresford's cabin. It had been put out as usual by the master-at-arms; but the refractory one had relighted it.
"Go and take it away," said Dodd.
Soon screams were heard from the cabin. "Oh! mercy! mercy! I will not be drowned in the dark."
Dodd, who had kept clear of her so long, went down and tried to reassure her.
"Oh, the tempest! the tempest!" she cried. "AND TO BE DROWNED IN THE DARK!"
"Tempest? It is blowing half a gale of wind; that is all."
"Half a gale! Ah, that is the way you always talk to us ladies. Oh, pray give me my light, and send me a clergyman!"
Dodd took pity, and let her have her light, with a midshipman to watch it. He even made her a hypocritical promise that, should there be one grain of danger, he would lie to; but said he must not make a foul wind of a fair one for a few lurches. The Agra broke plenty of glass and crockery though with her fair wind and her lee lurches.
Wind down at noon next day, and a dead calm.
At two P.M. the weather cleared; the sun came out high in heaven's centre; and a balmy breeze from the west.
At six twenty-five, the grand orb set calm and red, and the sea was gorgeous with miles and miles of great ruby dimples: it was the first glowing smile of southern latitude. The night stole on so soft, so clear, so balmy, all were loth to close their eyes on it: the passengers lingered long on deck, watching the Great Bear dip, and the Southern Cross rise, and overhead a whole heaven of glorious stars most of us have never seen, and never shall see in this world. No belching smoke obscured, no plunging paddles deafened; all was musical; the soft air sighing among the sails; the phosphorescent water bubbling from the ship's bows; the murmurs from little knots of men on deck subdued by the great calm: home seemed near, all danger far; Peace ruled the sea, the sky, the heart: the ship, making a track of white fire on the deep, glided gently yet swiftly homeward, urged by snowy sails piled up like alabaster towers against a violet sky, out of which looked a thousand eyes of holy tranquil fire. So melted the sweet night away.
Now carmine streaks tinged the eastern sky at the water's edge: and that water blushed; now the streaks turned orange, and the waves below them sparkled. Thence splashes of living gold flew and settled on the ship's white sails, the deck, and the faces; and with no more prologue, being so near the line, up came majestically a huge, fiery, golden sun, and set the sea flaming liquid topaz.
Instantly the lookout at the foretop-gallant-masthead hailed the deck below.
"STRANGE SAIL! RIGHT AHEAD!"
The strange sail was reported to Captain Dodd, then dressing in his cabin. He came soon after on deck and hailed the lookout: "Which way is she standing?"
"Can't say, sir. Can't see her move any."
Dodd ordered the boatswain to pipe to breakfast; and taking his deck glass went lightly up to the foretop-gallant-mast-crosstrees. Thence, through the light haze of a glorious morning, he espied a long low schooner, lateen-rigged, lying close under Point Leat, a small island about nine miles distant on the weather bow; and nearly in the Agra's course then approaching the Straits of Gaspar, 4 Latitude S.
"She is hove to," said Dodd, very gravely.
At eight o'clock, the stranger lay about two miles to windward; and still hove to.
By this time all eyes were turned upon her, and half a dozen glasses. Everybody, except the captain, delivered an opinion. She was a Greek lying to for water: she was a Malay coming north with canes, and short of hands: she was a pirate watching the Straits.
The captain leaned silent and sombre with his arms on the bulwarks, and watched the suspected craft.
Mr. Fullalove joined the group, and levelled a powerful glass, of his own construction. His inspection was long and minute, and, while the glass was at his eye, Sharpe asked him half in a whisper, could he make out anything?
"Wal," said he, "the varmint looks considerably snaky." Then, without moving his glass, he let drop a word at a time, as if the facts were trickling into his telescope at the lens, and out at the sight. "One—two—four—seven, false ports."
There was a momentary murmur among the officers all round. But British sailors are undemonstrative: Colonel Kenealy, strolling the deck with a cigar, saw they were watching another ship with maritime curiosity, and making comments; but he discerned no particular emotion nor anxiety in what they said, nor in the grave low tones they said it in. Perhaps a brother seaman would though.
The next observation that trickled out of Fullalove's tube was this: "I judge there are too few hands on deck, and too many—white—eyeballs—glittering at the portholes."
"Confound it!" muttered Bayliss, uneasily; "how can you see that?"
Fullalove replied only by quietly handing his glass to Dodd. The captain, thus appealed to, glued his eye to the tube.
"Well, sir; see the false ports, and the white eyebrows?" asked Sharpe, ironically.
"I see this is the best glass I ever looked through," said Dodd doggedly, without interrupting his inspection.
"I think he is a Malay pirate," said Mr. Grey.
Sharpe took him up very quickly, and, indeed, angrily: "Nonsense! And if he is, he won't venture on a craft of this size."
"Says the whale to the swordfish," suggested Fullalove, with a little guttural laugh.
The captain, with the American glass at his eye, turned half round to the man at the wheel: "Starboard!"
"Starboard it is."
"Steer South South East."
"Ay, ay, sir." And the ship's course was thus altered two points.
This order lowered Dodd fifty per cent in Mr. Sharpe's estimation. He held his tongue as long as he could: but at last his surprise and dissatisfaction burst out of him, "Won't that bring him out on us?"
"Very likely, sir," replied Dodd.
"Begging your pardon, captain, would it not be wiser to keep our course, and show the blackguard we don't fear him?"
"When we do? Sharpe, he has made up his mind an hour ago whether to lie still, or bite; my changing my course two points won't change his mind; but it may make him declare it; and I must know what he does intend, before I run the ship into the narrows ahead."
"Oh, I see," said Sharpe, half convinced.
The alteration in the Agra's course produced no movement on the part of the mysterious schooner. She lay to under the land still, and with only a few hands on deck, while the Agra edged away from her and entered the straits between Long Island and Point Leat, leaving the schooner about two miles and a half distant to the N.W.
Ah! The stranger's deck swarms black with men.
His sham ports fell as if by magic, his guns grinned through the gaps like black teeth; his huge foresail rose and filled, and out he came in chase.
The breeze was a kiss from Heaven, the sky a vaulted sapphire, the sea a million dimples of liquid, lucid, gold. . . .
The way the pirate dropped the mask, showed his black teeth, and bore up in chase, was terrible: so dilates and bounds the sudden tiger on his unwary prey. There were stout hearts among the officers of the peaceful Agra; but danger in a new form shakes the brave; and this was their first pirate: their dismay broke out in ejaculations not loud but deep. . . .
"Sharpe," said Dodd, in a tone that conveyed no suspicion of the newcomer, "set the royals, and flying jib.—Port!"
"Port it is," cried the man at the helm.
"Steer due South!" And, with these words in his mouth, Dodd dived to the gun deck.
By this time elastic Sharpe had recovered the first shock; and the order to crowd sail on the ship galled his pride and his manhood; he muttered, indignantly, "The white feather!" This eased his mind, and he obeyed orders briskly as ever. While he and his hands were setting every rag the ship could carry on that tack, the other officers, having unluckily no orders to execute, stood gloomy and helpless, with their eyes glued, by a sort of sombre fascination, on that coming fate. . . .
Realize the situation, and the strange incongruity between the senses and the mind in these poor fellows! The day had ripened its beauty; beneath a purple heaven shone, sparkled, and laughed a blue sea, in whose waves the tropical sun seemed to have fused his beams; and beneath that fair, sinless, peaceful sky, wafted by a balmy breeze over those smiling, transparent, golden waves, a bloodthirsty Pirate bore down on them with a crew of human tigers; and a lady babble babble babble babble babble babble babbled in their quivering ears.
But now the captain came bustling on deck, eyed the loftier sails, saw they were drawing well, appointed four midshipmen in a staff to convey his orders; gave Bayliss charge of the carronades, Grey of the cutlasses, and directed Mr. Tickell to break the bad news gently to Mrs. Beresford, and to take her below to the orlop deck; ordered the purser to serve out beef, biscuit, and grog to all hands, saying, "Men can't work on an empty stomach: and fighting is hard work;" then beckoned the officers to come round him. "Gentlemen," said he, confidentially, "in crowding sail on this ship I had no hope of escaping that fellow on this tack, but I was, and am, most anxious to gain the open sea, where I can square my yards and run for it, if I see a chance. At present I shall carry on till he comes up within range: and then, to keep the Company's canvas from being shot to rags, I shall shorten sail; and to save ship and cargo and all our lives, I shall fight while a plank of her swims. Better to be killed in hot blood than walk the plank in cold."
The officers cheered faintly: the captain's dogged resolution stirred up theirs. . . .
"Shorten sail to the taupsles and jib, get the colors ready on the halyards, and then send the men aft. . . ."
Sail was no sooner shortened, and the crew ranged, than the captain came briskly on deck, saluted, jumped on a carronade, and stood erect. He was not the man to show the crew his forebodings.
(Pipe.) "Silence fore and aft."
"My men, the schooner coming up on our weather quarter is a Portuguese pirate. His character is known; he scuttles all the ships he boards, dishonors the women, and murders the crew. We cracked on to get out of the narrows, and now we have shortened sail to fight this blackguard, and teach him not to molest a British ship. I promise, in the Company's name, twenty pounds prize money to every man before the mast if we beat him off or out manoeuvre him; thirty if we sink him; and forty if we tow him astern into a friendly port. Eight guns are clear below, three on the weather side, five on the lee; for, if he knows his business, he will come up on the lee quarter: if he doesn't, that is no fault of yours nor mine. The muskets are all loaded, the cutlasses ground like razors—"
"We have got women to defend—"
"A good ship under our feet, the God of justice overhead, British hearts in our bosoms, and British colors flying—run 'em up!—over our heads." (The ship's colors flew up to the fore, and the Union Jack to the mizzen peak.) "Now lads, I mean to fight this ship while a plank of her (stamping on the deck) swims beneath my foot and—WHAT DO YOU SAY?"
The reply was a fierce "hurrah!" from a hundred throats, so loud, so deep, so full of volume, it made the ship vibrate, and rang in the creeping-on pirate's ears. Fierce, but cunning, he saw mischief in those shortened sails, and that Union Jack, the terror of his tribe, rising to a British cheer; he lowered his mainsail, and crawled up on the weather quarter. Arrived within a cable's length, he double reefed his foresail to reduce his rate of sailing nearly to that of the ship; and the next moment a tongue of flame, and then a gash of smoke, issued from his lee bow, and the ball flew screaming like a seagull over the Agra's mizzen top. He then put his helm up, and fired his other bow-chaser, and sent the shot hissing and skipping on the water past the ship. This prologue made the novices wince. Bayliss wanted to reply with a carronade; but Dodd forbade him sternly, saying, "If we keep him aloof we are done for."
The pirate drew nearer, and fired both guns in succession, hulled the Agra amidships, and sent an eighteen pound ball through her foresail. Most of the faces were pale on the quarter-deck; it was very trying to be shot at, and hit, and make no return. The next double discharge sent one shot smash through the stern cabin window, and splintered the bulwark with another, wounding a seaman slightly.
"LIE DOWN FORWARD!" shouted Dodd, through his trumpet. "Bayliss, give him a shot."
The carronade was fired with a tremendous report, but no visible effect. The pirate crept nearer, steering in and out like a snake to avoid the carronades, and firing those two heavy guns alternately into the devoted ship. He hulled the Agra now nearly every shot.
The two available carronades replied noisily, and jumped as usual; they sent one thirty-two pound shot clean through the schooner's deck and side; but that was literally all they did worth speaking of.
"Curse them!" cried Dodd; "load them with grape! They are not to be trusted with ball. And all my eighteen-pounders dumb! The coward won't come alongside and give them a chance."
At the next discharge the pirate chipped the mizzen mast, and knocked a sailor into dead pieces on the forecastle. Dodd put his helm down ere the smoke cleared, and got three carronades to bear, heavily laden with grape. Several pirates fell, dead or wounded, on the crowded deck, and some holes appeared in the foresail; this one interchange was quite in favor of the ship.
But the lesson made the enemy more cautious; he crept nearer, but steered so adroitly, now right astern, now on the quarter, that the ship could seldom bring more than one carronade to bear, while he raked her fore and aft with grape and ball.
In this alarming situation, Dodd kept as many of the men below as possible; but, for all he could do four were killed and seven wounded.
Fullalove's word came too true: it was the swordfish and the whale: it was a fight of hammer and anvil; one hit, the other made a noise. Cautious and cruel, the pirate hung on the poor hulking creature's quarters and raked her at point blank distance. He made her pass a bitter time. And her captain! To see the splintering hull, the parting shrouds, the shivered gear, and hear the shrieks and groans of his wounded; and he unable to reply in kind! The sweat of agony poured down his face. Oh, if he could but reach the open sea, and square his yards, and make a long chase of it; perhaps fall in with aid. Wincing under each heavy blow, he crept doggedly, patiently on, towards that one visible hope.
At last, when the ship was cloven with shot, and peppered with grape, the channel opened: in five minutes more he could put her dead before the wind.
No. The pirate, on whose side luck had been from the first, got half a broadside to bear at long musket shot, killed a midshipman by Dodd's side, cut away two of the Agra's mizzen shrouds, wounded the gaff: and cut the jib stay; down fell the powerful sail into the water, and dragged across the ship's forefoot, stopping her way to the open sea she panted for, the mates groaned; the crew cheered stoutly, as British tars do in any great disaster; the pirates yelled with ferocious triumph, like the devils they looked.
But most human events, even calamities, have two sides. The Agra being brought almost to a standstill, the pirate forged ahead against his will, and the combat took a new and terrible form. The elephant gun popped, and the rifle cracked, in the Agra's mizzen top, and the man at the pirate's helm jumped into the air and fell dead: both Theorists claimed him. Then the three carronades peppered him hotly; and he hurled an iron shower back with fatal effect. Then at last the long 18-pounders on the gun-deck got a word in. The old Niler was not the man to miss a vessel alongside in a quiet sea; he sent two round shot clean through him; the third splintered his bulwark, and swept across his deck.
"His masts! fire at his masts!" roared Dodd to Monk, through his trumpet; he then got the jib clear, and made what sail he could without taking all the hands from the guns.
This kept the vessels nearly alongside a few minutes, and the fight was hot as fire. The pirate now for the first time hoisted his flag. It was black as ink. His crew yelled as it rose: the Britons, instead of quailing, cheered with fierce derision: the pirate's wild crew of yellow Malays, black chinless Papuans, and bronzed Portuguese, served their side guns, 12-pounders, well and with ferocious cries; the white Britons, drunk with battle now, naked to the waist, grimed with powder, and spotted like leopards with blood, their own and their mates', replied with loud undaunted cheers, and deadly hail of grape from the quarterdeck; while the master gunner and his mates loading with a rapidity the mixed races opposed could not rival, hulled the schooner well between wind and water, and then fired chain shot at her masts, as ordered, and began to play the mischief with her shrouds and rigging. Meantime, Fullalove and Kenealy, aided by Vespasian, who loaded, were quietly butchering the pirate crew two a minute, and hoped to settle the question they were fighting for; smooth-bore v. rifle: but unluckily neither fired once without killing; so "there was nothing proven."
The pirate, bold as he was, got sick of fair fighting first; he hoisted his mainsail and drew rapidly ahead, with a slight bearing to windward, and dismounted a carronade and stove in the ship's quarter-boat, by way of a parting kick.
The men hurled a contemptuous cheer after him; they thought they had beaten him off. But Dodd knew better. He was but retiring a little way to make a more deadly attack than ever: he would soon wear, and cross the Agra's defenceless bows, to rake her fore and aft at pistol-shot distance; or grapple, and board the enfeebled ship two hundred strong.
Dodd flew to the helm, and with his own hands put it hard aweather, to give the deck guns one more chance, the last, of sinking or disabling the Destroyer. As the ship obeyed, and a deck gun bellowed below him, he saw a vessel running out from Long Island, and coming swiftly up on his lee quarter.
It was a schooner. Was she coming to his aid?
Horror! A black flag floated from her foremast head.
While Dodd's eyes were staring almost out of his head at this death-blow to hope, Monk fired again; and just then a pale face came close to Dodd's, and a solemn voice whispered in his ear: "Our ammunition is nearly done!"
Dodd seized Sharpe's hand convulsively, and pointed to the pirate's consort coming up to finish them; and said, with the calm of a brave man's despair, "Cutlasses! and die hard!"
At that moment the master gunner fired his last gun. It sent a chain shot on board the retiring pirate, took off a Portuguese head and spun it clean into the sea ever so far to windward, and cut the schooner's foremast so nearly through that it trembled and nodded, and presently snapped with a loud crack, and came down like a broken tree, with the yard and sail; the latter overlapping the deck and burying itself, black flag and all, in the sea; and there, in one moment, lay the Destroyer buffeting and wriggling—like a heron on the water with its long wing broken—an utter cripple.
The victorious crew raised a stunning cheer.
"Silence!" roared Dodd, with his trumpet. "All hands make sail!"
He set his courses, bent a new jib, and stood out to windward close hauled, in hopes to make a good offing, and then put his ship dead before the wind, which was now rising to a stiff breeze. In doing this he crossed the crippled pirate's bows, within eighty yards; and sore was the temptation to rake him; but his ammunition being short, and his danger being imminent from the other pirate, he had the self-command to resist the great temptation.
He hailed the mizzen top: "Can you two hinder them from firing that gun?"
"I rather think we can," said Fullalove, "eh, colonel?" and tapped his long rifle.
The ship no sooner crossed the schooner's bows than a Malay ran forward with a linstock. Pop went the colonel's ready carbine, and the Malay fell over dead, and the linstock flew out of his hand. A tall Portuguese, with a movement of rage, snatched it up, and darted to the gun; the Yankee rifle cracked, but a moment too late. Bang! went the pirate's bow-chaser, and crashed into the Agra's side, and passed nearly through her.
"Ye missed him! Ye missed him!" cried the rival theorist, joyfully. He was mistaken: the smoke cleared, and there was the pirate captain leaning wounded against the mainmast with a Yankee bullet in his shoulder, and his crew uttering yells of dismay and vengeance. They jumped, and raged, and brandished their knives and made horrid gesticulations of revenge; and the white eyeballs of the Malays and Papuans glittered fiendishly; and the wounded captain raised his sound arm and had a signal hoisted to his consort, and she bore up in chase, and jamming her fore lateen flat as a board, lay far nearer the wind than the Agra could, and sailed three feet to her two besides. On this superiority being made clear, the situation of the merchant vessel, though not so utterly desperate as before Monk fired his lucky shot, became pitiable enough. If she ran before the wind, the fresh pirate would cut her off: if she lay to windward, she might postpone the inevitable and fatal collision with a foe as strong as that she had only escaped by a rare piece of luck; but this would give the crippled pirate time to refit and unite to destroy her. Add to this the failing ammunition, and the thinned crew!
Dodd cast his eyes all around the horizon for help.
The sea was blank.
The bright sun was hidden now; drops of rain fell, and the wind was beginning to sing; and the sea to rise a little.
"Gentlemen," said he, "let us kneel down and pray for wisdom, in this sore strait."
He and his officers kneeled on the quarter-deck. When they rose, Dodd stood rapt about a minute; his great thoughtful eye saw no more the enemy, the sea, nor anything external; it was turned inward. His officers looked at him in silence.
"Sharpe," said he, at last, "there must be a way out of them with such a breeze as this is now; if we could but see it."
"Ay, if," groaned Sharpe.
Dodd mused again.
"About ship!" said he, softly, like an absent man.
"Ay, ay, sir!"
"Steer due north!" said he, still like one whose mind was elsewhere.
While the ship was coming about, he gave minute orders to the mates and the gunner, to ensure co-operation in the delicate and dangerous manoeuvres that were sure to be on hand.
The wind was W.N.W.: he was standing north: one pirate lay on his lee beam stopping a leak between wind and water, and hacking the deck clear of his broken masts and yards. The other fresh, and thirsting for the easy prey, came up to weather on him and hang on his quarter, pirate fashion.
When they were distant about a cable's length, the fresh pirate, to meet the ship's change of tactics, changed his own, luffed up, and gave the ship a broadside, well aimed but not destructive, the guns being loaded with ball.
Dodd, instead of replying immediately, put his helm hard up and ran under the pirate's stern, while he was jammed up in the wind, and with his five eighteen-pounders raked him fore and aft, then paying off, gave him three carronades crammed with grape and canister; the almost simultaneous discharge of eight guns made the ship tremble, and enveloped her in thick smoke; loud shrieks and groans were heard from the schooner; the smoke cleared; the pirate's mainsail hung on deck, his jib-boom was cut off like a carrot and the sail struggling; his foresail looked lace, lanes of dead and wounded lay still or writhing on his deck and his lee scuppers ran blood into the sea. Dodd squared his yards and bore away.
The ship rushed down the wind, leaving the schooner staggered and all abroad. But not for long; the pirate wore and fired his bow chasers at the now flying Agra, split one of the carronades in two, and killed a Lascar, and made a hole in the foresail; this done, he hoisted his mainsail again in a trice, sent his wounded below, flung his dead overboard, to the horror of their foes, and came after the flying ship, yawning and firing his bow chasers. The ship was silent. She had no shot to throw away. Not only did she take these blows like a coward, but all signs of life disappeared on her, except two men at the wheel, and the captain on the main gangway.
Dodd had ordered the crew out of the rigging, armed them with cutlasses, and laid them flat on the forecastle. He also compelled Kenealy and Fullalove to come down out of harm's way, no wiser on the smooth-bore question than they went up.
The great patient ship ran environed by her foes; one destroyer right in her course, another in her wake, following her with yells of vengeance, and pounding away at her—but no reply.
Suddenly the yells of the pirates on both sides ceased, and there was a moment of dead silence on the sea.
Yet nothing fresh had happened.
Yes, this had happened: the pirates to windward, and the pirates to leeward, of the Agra, had found out, at one and the same moment, that the merchant captain they had lashed, and bullied, and tortured, was a patient but tremendous man. It was not only to rake the fresh schooner he had put his ship before the wind, but also by a double, daring, master-stroke to hurl his monster ship bodily on the other. Without a foresail she could never get out of his way. Her crew had stopped the leak, and cut away and unshipped the broken foremast, and were stepping a new one, when they saw the huge ship bearing down in full sail. Nothing easier than to slip out of her way could they get the foresail to draw; but the time was short, the deadly intention manifest, the coming destruction swift. After that solemn silence came a storm of cries and curses, as their seamen went to work to fit the yard and raise the sail; while their fighting men seized their matchlocks and trained the guns. They were well commanded by an heroic able villian. Astern the consort thundered; but the Agra's response was a dead silence more awful than broadsides.
For then was seen with what majesty the enduring Anglo-Saxon fights.
One of the indomitable race on the gangway, one at the foremast, two at the wheel, conned and steered the great ship down on a hundred matchlocks, and a grinning broadside, just as they would have conned and steered her into a British harbor.
"Starboard!" said Dodd, in a deep calm voice, with a motion of his hand.
"Starboard it is."
The pirate wriggled ahead a little. The man forward made a silent signal to Dodd.
"Port!" said Dodd, quietly.
"Port it is."
But at this critical moment the pirate astern sent a mischievous shot, and knocked one of the men to atoms at the helm.
Dodd waved his hand without a word, and another man rose from the deck, and took his place in silence, and laid his unshaking hand on the wheel stained with that man's warm blood whose place he took.
The high ship was now scarce sixty yards distant: she seemed to know: she reared her lofty figurehead with great awful shoots into the air.
But now the panting pirates got their new foresail hoisted with a joyful shout: it drew, the schooner gathered way, and their furious consort close on the Agra's heels just then scourged her deck with grape.
"Port!" said Dodd, calmly.
"Port it is."
The giant prow darted at the escaping pirate. That acre of coming canvas took the wind out of the swift schooner's foresail; it flapped: oh, then she was doomed! . . . CRASH! the Indiaman's cut-water in thick smoke beat in the schooner's broadside: down went her masts to leeward like fishing-rods whipping the water; there was a horrible shrieking yell; wild forms leaped off on the Agra, and were hacked to pieces almost ere they reached the deck—a surge, a chasm in the ear, filled with an instant rush of engulfing waves, a long, awful, grating, grinding noise, never to be forgotten in this world, all along under the ship's keel—and the fearful majestic monster passed on over the blank she had made, with a pale crew standing silent and awestruck on her deck; a cluster of wild heads and staring eyeballs bobbing like corks in her foaming wake, sole relic of the blotted-out Destroyer; and a wounded man staggering on the gangway, with hands uplifted and staring eyes.
NARRATIVE OF THE MUTINY OF THE BOUNTY
From "Chamber's Miscellany," ANONYMOUS
About the year 1786, the merchants and planters interested in the West India Islands became anxious to introduce an exceedingly valuable plant, the bread-fruit tree, into these possessions, and as this could best be done by a government expedition, a request was preferred to the crown accordingly. The ministry at the time being favorable to the proposed undertaking, a vessel, named the Bounty, was selected to execute the desired object. To the command of this ship Captain W. Bligh was appointed, Aug. 16, 1787. The burden of the Bounty was nearly two hundred and fifteen tons. The establishment of men and officers for the ship was as follows:—1 lieutenant to command, 1 master, 1 boatswain, 1 gunner, 1 carpenter, 1 surgeon, 2 master's mates, 2 midshipmen, 2 quarter-masters, 1 quarter-master's mate, 1 boatswain's mate, 1 gunner's mate, 1 carpenter's mate, 1 carpenter's crew, 1 sailmaker, 1 armourer, 1 corporal, 1 clerk and steward, 23 able seamen—total, 44. The addition of two men appointed to take care of the plants, made the whole ship's crew amount to 46. The ship was stored and victualled for eighteen months.
Thus prepared, the Bounty set sail on the 23d of December, and what ensued will be best told in the language of Captain Bligh.
Monday, 27th April 1789.—The wind being northerly in the evening, we steered to the westward, to pass to the south of Tofoa. I gave directions for this course to be continued during the night. The master had the first watch, the gunner the middle watch, and Mr. Christian the morning watch.
Tuesday, 25th.—Just before sunrising, while I was yet asleep, Mr. Christian, with the master-at-arms, gunner's mate, and Thomas Burkitt, seaman, came into my cabin, and seizing me, tied my hands with a cord behind my back, threatening me with instant death if I spoke or made the least noise. I, however, called as loud as I could, in hopes of assistance; but they had already secured the officers who were not of their party, by placing sentinels at their doors. There were three men at my cabin door, besides the four within; Christian had only a cutlass in his hand, the others had muskets and bayonets. I was pulled out of bed, and forced on deck in my shirt, suffering great pain from the tightness with which they had tied my hands. I demanded the reason of such violence, but received no other answer than abuse for not holding my tongue. The master, the gunner, the surgeon, Mr. Elphinstone, master's mate, and Nelson, were kept confined below, and the fore-hatchway was guarded by sentinels. The boatswain and carpenter, and also the clerk, Mr. Samuel, were allowed to come upon deck. The boatswain was ordered to hoist the launch out, with a threat if he did not do it instantly to take care of himself.
When the boat was out, Mr. Hayward and Mr. Hallett, two of the midshipmen, and Mr. Samuel, were ordered into it. I demanded what their intention was in giving this order, and endeavored to persuade the people near me not to persist in such acts of violence; but it was to no effect. Christian changed the cutlass which he had in his hand for a bayonet that was brought to him, and holding me with a strong grip by the cord that tied my hands, he with many oaths threatened to kill me immediately if I would not be quiet; the villains round me had their pieces cocked and bayonets fixed. Particular people were called on to go into the boat, and were hurried over the side, whence I concluded that with these people I was to be set adrift. I therefore made another effort to bring about a change, but with no other effect than to be threatened with having my brains blown out.
The boatswain and seamen who were to go in the boat were allowed to collect twine, canvas, lines, sails, cordage, an eight-and-twenty-gallon cask of water, and Mr. Samuel got a hundred and fifty pounds of bread, with a small quantity of rum and wine, also a quadrant and compass; but he was forbidden, on pain of death, to touch either map, ephemeris, book of astronomical observations, sextant, time-keeper, or any of my surveys or drawings.
The officers were next called upon deck, and forced over the side into the boat, while I was kept apart from every one abaft the mizzen-mast.
Isaac Martin, one of the guard over me, I saw had an inclination to assist me, and, as he fed me with shaddock (my lips being quite parched), we explained our wishes to each other by our looks; but this being observed, Martin was removed from me. He then attempted to leave the ship, for which purpose he got into the boat; but with many threats they obliged him to return. The armorer, Joseph Coleman, and two of the carpenters, M'Intosh and Norman, were also kept contrary to their inclination; and they begged of me, after I was astern in the boat, to remember that they declared that they had no hand in the transaction. Michael Byrne, I am told, likewise wanted to leave the ship.
It appeared to me that Christian was some time in doubt whether he should keep the carpenter or his mates; at length he determined on the latter, and the carpenter was ordered into the boat. He was permitted, but not without some opposition, to take his tool-chest. The officers and men being in the boat, they only waited for me, of which the master-at-arms informed Christian; who then said, "Come, Captain Bligh, your officers and men are now in the boat, and you must go with them; if you attempt to make the least resistance, you will instantly be put to death:" and without further ceremony, with a tribe of armed ruffians about me, I was forced over the side, where they untied my hands. Being in the boat, we were veered astern by a rope. A few pieces of pork were thrown to us, and some clothes, also four cutlasses; and it was then that the armorer and carpenters called out to me to remember that they had no hand in the transaction. After having undergone a great deal of ridicule, and having been kept some time to make sport for these unfeeling wretches, we were at length cast adrift in the open ocean.