HotFreeBooks.com
John Deane of Nottingham - Historic Adventures by Land and Sea
by W.H.G. Kingston
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7
Home - Random Browse

On the 12th of December the Queen published a proclamation for a general fast, which, on Wednesday, 19th January following, was kept with great strictness. The Order in Council also appeared in the Gazette for an advance of wages to the families of those officers and seamen who had perished in the storm, in the same manner as if they had been killed in battle. The House of Commons also addressed Her Majesty upon this melancholy occasion, desiring her to give directions for repairing this loss, and to build such capital ships as she should think fit, and promising to make good the expense at their next meeting. Thus, great as was the loss, the British Navy was restored to that state of efficiency which it is most important that it should ever maintain.

John Deane had a great disappointment in not being able, after all, to leave his ship. As soon as the damages she received in the storm were repaired, she was ordered to rejoin the fleet under Sir George Rooke. That admiral had been directed to convey the Arch-Duke Charles of Austria to Lisbon. Before the fleet had reached Finisterre another violent storm arose, which dispersed the ships and drove them back into the Channel. The tempestuous weather prevented the admiral from sailing before the 5th of February, and on the 15th of the same month he arrived at Lisbon.

A short historical account is now necessary, that the cause of the long war in which England was engaged may be understood. The King of Spain, who died in 1700, declared by his will, real or pretended, the Duke of Anjou, grandson to Louis the Fourteenth, King of the whole Spanish monarchy. The Spaniards, finding themselves threatened with war by the Emperor of Germany, and by England, in conjunction with the United Provinces, delivered themselves up into the hands of France. In consequence, both the Spanish Netherlands and the Duchy of Milan received French garrisons, and the French fleet came to Cadiz. A squadron was also sent to the West Indies, so that the whole Spanish Empire fell into the hands of the French. The Duke of Burgundy then having no children, the King of Spain was likely to succeed to the crown of France, and thus the world saw that a new universal monarchy might possibly arise out of this conjunction. Hence arose the War of Succession in Spain. With the object above mentioned of placing the Duke of Anjou on the throne of Spain, Louis had sacrificed his charming and clever niece, the granddaughter of our King Charles the First and Henrietta Maria to an imbecile husband, the thought of whom was hateful to her, and he also had engaged in a variety of other intrigues with the same object. The Spaniards in general gave the preference to the Arch-Duke Charles, or Don Carlos, who was the legitimate heir of the Spanish monarchy, second son of the Emperor of Austria. The object of Louis was first to secure his own authority over the Dutch; secondly, to injure the trade of England, and also of Holland; and, thirdly, to overthrow Protestantism in all the countries under his influence.

The object of William and the British government, on the other hand, was—first, to exclude Louis from the Netherlands and West Indies; secondly, to prevent the union of France and Spain in the person of the Duke of Anjou or his posterity; and, thirdly, to maintain the Protestant religion wherever it was established, including the Vaudois provinces. With these objects, William had exerted his utmost energies to form the grand alliance of England, Austria, and the States-general against France. To these were afterwards added some of the Italian states and Portugal.

The War of Succession lasted, from first to last, fifteen years. It ended by the accession of the Arch-Duke Don Carlos to the imperial throne of Germany, and Philip the Fifth, Duke of Anjou, was then acknowledged by all European sovereigns King of Spain, on the condition of renouncing all claim to the throne of France for himself and his descendants. The war had now continued for about two years. The chief exploit which had hitherto been performed was the capture of the galleons in the harbour of Vigo, which has already been described. The Arch-Duke, having landed at Lisbon, marched into Spain with a considerable body of troops, but was not able to make any progress for a considerable time. Sir George Rooke, with the fleet, proceeded into the Mediterranean and made an attack on the important, town of Barcelona. The fleet at length anchored in the roads of Tetuan, when, on the 17th of July, Sir George Rooke called a council of war, and placed before the members a plan he had devised for attacking the fortress of Gibraltar. Strong as it was, he believed that there was a prospect of capturing it, having received information that the garrison at that time was but small. It was a place, also, likely to prove of infinite importance during the war then going on, and it was hoped that the attacking this fortress would give a lustre to Queen Anne's armies, and possibly induce the Spaniards to favour the cause of King Charles.

As no time was to be lost, the fleet sailed in consequence of this resolution for Gibraltar, and, prepared for battle, took up a position in the bay on the 21st of July. As the British gazed up on the lofty rock surmounted by cannon, they might well have felt that it would require all their bravery and hardihood to conquer the place.

"It must be ours!" exclaimed John Deane, as he looked up at it while he walked the quarter-deck.

"It shall be!" observed Captain Jumper, who overheard him. "Deane, you shall accompany me on shore; and I hope before the world is much older, you and I shall find ourselves inside those walls."

"Or buried under them," said Deane. "For my part, however, I would as lief be on the top of them."

Meantime the marines, English and Dutch, to the number of eighteen hundred, were landed on the isthmus by which the rock is joined to the mainland, to cut off all communication between the town and the continent.

It was only of late that this fine body of men had been organised and received the name of marines, their duty being especially to serve on board ships. They were under command of the Prince of Hesse. His Highness, having taken post on the isthmus, summoned the governor to surrender, but that brave officer returned an answer, that he would defend the place to the last. On the 22nd, the admiral, at break of day, gave orders that the ships which had been appointed to cannonade the town, under the command of Rear-Admiral Byng and Rear-Admiral Vanderdosen, as also those which were to batter the South Mole Head, commanded by Captain Hicks of the "Weymouth," should arrange themselves accordingly. The wind, however, blowing contrary, they could not get into their places till the day was well-nigh spent. In the meantime, to amuse the enemy, Captain Whitaker was sent in with some boats, and a French privateer of twelve guns was burned at the Old Mole.

On the 23rd, soon after break of day, the ships being all placed in their stations, the admiral gave the signal for beginning the cannonade; and now the guns opened with a furious fire. The shot, like hail, flew against the Spanish batteries. The British seamen firing as fast as they could load, in five or six hours upwards of fifteen thousand shot were calculated to have been discharged against the town, and the enemy were driven from their guns, especially at the South Mole Head. Seeing this, the admiral sent an order to Captain Whitaker to attack the town with all the boats of the fleet. In the meantime, however, Captain Jumper, who saw what was necessary to be done, and Captain Hicks, who both lay next the Mole, had pushed on shore with their pinnaces and some other boats before the rest could come up. John Deane and two other lieutenants accompanied their captain. They, rushing forward as British seamen always will do when led by their officers, took possession of the fort with great bravery, but not without sustaining a considerable loss. As they, with swords and pistols in their hands, were rushing on, suddenly a fearful noise was heard. The earth seemed to lift up beneath their feet, and forty men and two lieutenants were carried up, fearfully burned and shattered. The survivors, among whom was John Deane, undaunted by this disaster, fought their way on and took possession of the grand platform, where they remained until reinforced by a body of seamen who had come in the boats under Captain Whitaker. The whole body then advanced and took a redoubt half-way between the Mole and the town, possessing themselves also of many of the enemy's cannon. The admiral then sent in a letter to the governor, and at the same time a message to the Prince of Hesse, directing him to send a peremptory summons, which His Highness accordingly did.

While this was taking place, John Deane, who had previously surveyed the rock, got leave from Captain Juniper to lead a body of men up a part of the cliff which the Spaniards had never thought it possible any human beings could climb. Deane, however, had often scrambled over the nearly perpendicular rock on which Nottingham Castle stands, and up its old rugged towers which yet remain. He had no lack of volunteers, with two or three midshipmen, ready to accompany him. Stealing away unperceived by the enemy, they got to the foot of the cliff. With their pistols in their belts and swords between their teeth they commenced the perilous ascent. Many who saw them thought they would never succeed, but they had resolved to persevere. Slowly but surely they proceeded up, hanging on by each craggy projection, aided by the shrubs which here and there grew from between the crevices of the rock. At length, when one after the other they reached the summit, they saw before them a chapel filled with women, with a vast number of others coming in and going out of it. These poor creatures had come out of the town, prompted by their superstitious notions, to implore the protection of the Virgin, to whom the chapel was dedicated. Jack and his followers, springing forward, threw themselves between the chapel and the road which led to the town. By gestures more than by words, he endeavoured to persuade the frightened matrons and damsels that he and his followers would do them no harm. With difficulty, however, he could make them understand this, though he signified by signs that they were all to get inside the chapel again. Their fears were somewhat overcome when they found that no insult was offered to any of them. He allowed, however, one of them to go back into the town to inform the governor that they had fallen into the hands of the English. The governor, finding that the forts were in possession of the English and that a large number of women had also fallen into their hands, consented to agree to the terms proposed by Admiral Rooke. Hostages were accordingly exchanged, and the capitulation being concluded, the Prince of Hesse marched into the town in the evening and took possession of the land and North Mole gates and the outworks. The Spanish troops were allowed to march out with all the honours of war, and provisions for a six days' march. Such inhabitants and soldiers who were willing to take an oath of fidelity to Don Carlos the Third were allowed to remain. The Spaniards were also to discover all their magazines of powder and other ammunition or provision and arms in the city. All subjects of the French King were, however, excluded from any part of the terms of this capitulation.

The town was found to be extremely strong, with a hundred guns mounted facing the sea and the narrow pass towards the land. It was well supplied with ammunition, but the garrison consisted of only a hundred and fifty men. However, in the opinion of officers who examined the works, fifty men might have defended them against thousands, so it was acknowledged that the attack made by the seamen was brave almost beyond example.

The British lost sixty men killed, including two lieutenants and one master, and two hundred and sixteen wounded, including one captain, seven lieutenants, and a boatswain. It is but justice to the naval part of the expedition to remark that as this design was contrived by the admiral, so it was executed entirely by the seamen, and therefore the whole honour of it was due to them. Nothing, indeed, could have enabled the seamen to take the place but the cannonading of it in a way which obliged the Spaniards to quit their posts.

After leaving as many men as could be spared to garrison the place, under the command of the Prince of Hesse, the fleet sailed for Tetuan, in order to take in wood and water. Immediately the fleet had watered, it stood out again towards Gibraltar, when on the lath of August about noon, the enemy's fleet and galleys were discovered to the westward, near Cape Malaga, going free. The allied fleet accordingly bore after them in a line of battle. On the morning of the 13th of August they were within three leagues of the French, and then brought to, with their heads to the south, the wind being east, and lay in a posture to receive them. In the English line, Sir George Rooke, with Rear-Admirals Byng and Dilkes, were in the centre. Sir Cloudesley Shovel and Sir John Leake led the van, and Vice-Admiral Calemburg and Rear-Admiral Vanderdosen commanded the ships in the rear.

The English fleet consisted of forty-five ships of the line, and eighteen smaller vessels. The Dutch had only twelve ships of the line, while the French fleet consisted of fifty ships of the line, eight frigates, and eleven smaller vessels, the line-of-battle ships alone carrying 3530 guns, while the English ships together only carried 3154 guns, and the Dutch ships about 1000 guns.

Though the French endeavoured at first to avoid the battle, yet they had the advantage over the combined fleet, as they were superior in force, and all their ships were clean and fully manned. They had also the advantage of fighting on the coast, and near a harbour of their ally, and had the benefit of a large number of galleys. The confederates, on the contrary, besides being away from any friendly port, were thinly manned, and had a great deficiency of stores and provisions, while the foulness of their ships was greatly to their prejudice in the day of battle. Notwithstanding this they were eager for the engagement.

The action which was about to commence was likely to prove of far more importance than any in which Deane had hitherto engaged, and his heart beat high as he saw the ships of England bear down upon the enemy. His own ship the "Lennox" was among those under the command of the brave Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel.

At about 10 o'clock, when nearly half-gunshot from the enemy, the French set all their sails at once, and seemed to intend to stretch ahead and weather the English fleet. Admiral Shovel, on discovering the enemy's intention, hauled his wind, and Sir George Rooke, seeing what would be the consequence if the van was intercepted, bore down upon the enemy with the rest of the confederate fleet, and put out the signal for a fight, which was immediately begun by Admiral Shovel. The battle raged with great fury on both sides till about two in the afternoon, when the enemy's van gave way. The Dutch engaged the enemy with the greatest courage and alacrity, and being provided with ammunition, continued firing something later than the rest, but night coming on put a stop to the engagement. Several of the French ships were compelled to quit the fight, long before it was over, to repair damages, some of them to stop leaks which would otherwise have caused them to founder. The French main body being very strong, and several ships of the admiral's and Rear-Admirals Byng and Dilke's divisions being also forced to go out of the line for want of shot, the battle fell very heavily on the admiral's own ship the "Saint George," as also on the "Shrewsbury." This being observed by Sir Cloudesley Shovel, he, like a good and valiant officer, immediately backed astern and endeavoured to reinforce the admiral. This act of valour and of good seamanship had two useful effects. First it drew several of the enemy's ships from the British centre, which was so hard pressed by a great superiority of strength and numbers, and secondly it drove them at length out of the line, for after they had felt the effects of the guns of others of the ships of Sir Cloudesley Shovel's division, which were astern of him, they considered it more prudent not to advance along his broadside. Being clean and better sailers, they set their split-sails, and with their boats ahead, towed away from him, without giving him the opportunity of exchanging a single broadside with them.

There can be no doubt that the British would have gained a complete victory had they not have been in want of shot. This had been expended by the vast number of guns fired at Gibraltar, though every ship had been furnished with twenty-five rounds the day before the battle, which would have been sufficient had they got as near the enemy as the admiral intended. As it was, every ship had expended her ammunition before night.

In the centre of the line a furious action was going on. The "Serieux," a ship in the French admiral's division commanded by Monsieur Champmelin, however, boarded the "Monk," an English ship commanded by Captain Mills. He, with great activity and courage, every time cleared the deck of the enemy, and made them at last bear away. The same French commander had his ship afterwards so disabled that he was obliged with others to quit the line. Captain Jumper also added laurels to those he had already gained, by engaging with his single ship three of the enemy's; and on this occasion, as he had done at Gibraltar, John Deane especially distinguished himself. Captain Jumper shook him by the hand, and thanking him for the aid he had afforded, promised him that he would not rest till he had recommended him for promotion to the admiral.

About seven in the evening, one of the French admiral's seconds advanced out of the line, and began a closer engagement with the "Saint George," commanded by Captain Jennings; but, although the "Saint George" had already suffered much, the French ship met with such rough treatment that she had great difficulty in rejoining the line, after the loss of both her captains and many of her men.

Among the actions of other brave commanders, that of the gallant Earl of Dursley, commander of the "Boyne," an eighty-gun ship, must be mentioned. He was but twenty-three years of age, yet he gave numerous instances of his undaunted courage, steady resolution, and prudent conduct.

The battle ended at the close of the day, when the enemy escaped with the help of their galleys to leeward. In the night the wind shifted to the north, and in the morning to the west, which placed the enemy on the weather side of the confederates. Their fleet lay by all day within three leagues of the French. At night the latter stood away to the northward. The English lost 687 men killed, and 1632 wounded. The loss of the French was a Rear-Admiral, five captains, and a number of other officers killed with 150 wounded, and upwards of 3000 men killed or wounded. Sir Cloudesley Shovel afterwards declared that this engagement was the most desperate that had ever taken place between two fleets in his time. Scarcely a ship escaped without being obliged to shift one of her masts, and many of them all.



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

HOME AGAIN—ANOTHER BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT.

Soon after the battle which has been described the fleet once more returned to England. The admirals and many of the captains were presented to Queen Anne, who complimented them on the actions in which they had been engaged. Among the officers who received promotion was John Deane, who was raised to the rank of captain. At length, as he was now without a ship, he was able to set forward to pay his long-promised visit to his home. In those days the post was very irregular on shore, and sailors often went many years without receiving letters from home. Such had been John Deane's case, and he still remained in ignorance of all the events which had taken place among those he loved since his departure. One thing had troubled him greatly; it was at not hearing of the arrival of Elizabeth and her faithful guardian, Mistress Pearson. He had gained a large amount of prize-money, which the agent at Portsmouth, where he landed, promised to remit to him at Nottingham. He took with him only a sum sufficient for his journey and to supply his wants while he expected to remain on shore. He met with no adventure during his journey. The number of loose characters who had infested the roads in the early days of King William's reign, had been drawn away to fight the battles of their country, either under Marlborough or at sea, and few highwaymen were to be met with in any part of the country. Deane would gladly have turned aside to go to Norwich; but it was greatly out of his way, and he felt that it was his duty in the first place to visit his own father and mother. He could scarcely restrain his eagerness as he passed over the Trent bridge once more, and took his way through the well-known streets which led to the market-place. It was early in the day, but no one knew him in his richly-laced coat, his countenance well bronzed by sun and wind, and his whiskers and beard of no mean growth. At length he stopped before the door of the old house and threw himself from his horse, calling to a boy passing at the moment to hold it. Not till then did it occur to him how long he had been absent, and what great changes might have taken place. His heart sank, for he expected almost to see his mother hurrying to the door, with his old father's fine countenance peering behind her; but the door remained closed, and he had to knock more than once before it was opened. His voice trembled as he inquired of the serving-damsel who opened the door whether Mr and Mistress Deane were at home.

"Ay," was the answer, "they are in the parlour at the back of the house."

He pushed past her and hurried on. The old gentleman and lady rose from their seats as he threw open the door, at first not knowing him.

"To what cause do we owe the honour of this visit, sir?" said old Mr Deane, taking Jack to be an intruder, or one of the officers quartered in the town engaged in a frolic.

"He is our son—our son Jack!" exclaimed Mistress Deane, who, knowing him at a second glance, threw her arms round his neck.

Old Mr Deane hurried forward, and grasping his hand, almost wrung it off. Then his mother bestowed her kisses on his bronzed cheeks.

"Yes, it's Jack—I know him now!" exclaimed the old gentleman, drawing back a pace, that he might look at him from head to foot. "Well, thou art grown into a brave lad, Jack," he said, looking at him affectionately.

And now Jack was seated between the two old people, who scarcely would allow him to ask any questions, so eager were they to hear his adventures. It was some time, therefore, before he could learn what had become of the rest of the family.

"And how is sister Polly and her husband, Tom Dovedale? It seems an age since the day they were spliced."

"They live six doors off, and are wonderfully flourishing, for from morning to night they do little else than 'laugh and grow fat,'" was the answer.

"And Jasper, where is he?" was the next question.

"The father of two fine cherubs, and Alethea as beautiful and cheerful as ever. He is a fortunate fellow, your brother Jasper. Cousin Nat now lives with him, and has given him up all his business, so that Jasper is the leading physician in the town, and, on my word, he bears his honours bravely, and is in no way behind cousin Nat in the estimation of the townspeople and neighbourhood. At first I feared that Jasper and Alethea would not have got on very smoothly together. She, as you remember, was a warm Jacobite, as was her poor father, but Jasper argued the matter so well with her, that he soon brought her over, and she became as loyal a subject of King William as any to be found within the realm. Had it not been, indeed, for her marriage to Jasper, it would have gone hard with her, for poor Harwood was so implicated in the plot against King William, that his property would have been confiscated. Cousin Nat and other friends, however, so earnestly petitioned the Government, that it was preserved for the sake of his daughter, and Jasper, after poor Harwood's death, became the Squire of Harwood Grange."

"And have you heard from Kate and Dainsforth, mother?" asked Jack. He had another question which he was eager to ask, but he wished first to inquire about his own family.

"Oh, yes! they're flourishing in their new plantation; and glowing are the accounts which they send us of the country. It must be a wonderful place, and although the free Government we now enjoy makes fewer people wish to go over there, yet many are tempted, from time to time, from the accounts they receive from their friends settled there."

Jack's next inquiry was about Mr Gournay at Norwich. He could only learn that a foreign lady and gentleman were residing at his house, but not a word about Elizabeth could they tell him. He concluded that they alluded to Monsieur and Madame de Mertens, but they were not aware even that they had a daughter, nor could they give him any account of the arrival of their supposed daughter.

Jack's visit to Jasper and Alethea and to cousin Nat must be briefly passed over.

Having spent a few days at Nottingham he became eager to visit Norwich. He found Will Brinsmead, who, in spite of his age, continued his journeys through the country, about to set off in that direction. Will begged that he would give him the honour of his company, but Jack laughingly assured him, that though he should have great delight in talking over old days, his eagerness to reach Norwich would not allow him to jog along behind the cattle. He, however, rode a few miles with him, when just as the old man was beginning one of his lectures on the "Pilgrim's Progress," Jack, shaking him warmly by the hand, pushed on his steed in advance of the herd.

On making himself known to Mr Gournay, he was received in the kindest way by him and his wife; but Jack's astonishment and disappointment was very great when he found that they had not received the accounts he had sent home of his discovery of Elizabeth, and of her proposed return with Mistress Pearson, under charge of Captain Davis, to England. Monsieur and Madame de Mertens were residing, he found, in a small house in Norwich, and they also had not received either his letter or one from Captain Davis. His heart sank within him. What was he now to do? The more he had of late thought of Elizabeth, the more completely he found that she had entwined herself round his heart, and he had anticipated the delight of meeting her again and receiving her as his bride from the hands of her parents. All these delightful visions had now vanished. Monsieur and Madame de Mertens received him with every expression of regard and affection.

"I can never forget the important service you rendered me in restoring to me my husband," said Madame de Mertens, "and I feel sure that, had it been in your power, you would have brought back to me my child. Even now I have a hope that you may possibly restore her to me."

Jack spent some time with his friends, and finally came to the resolution of returning to the West Indies, in order to make inquiries about Elizabeth and Dame Pearson.

"I will first go to the Admiralty and ascertain where the 'Venus' frigate now is, and then I will communicate with Captain Davis," said Deane. "Should he be unable to give me the information I desire, I will immediately set off on my projected voyage."

Captain Deane had been invited to return to Mr Gournay's to supper. On entering the house, the excellent quaker met him with a letter in his hand.

"I have just received this," he said, "from your brother-in-law Giles Dainsforth. He mentions a curious circumstance which occurred some time ago, which may tend to solve the mystery concerning the fate of Elizabeth de Mertens and her friend. He writes me word that information had been received in the plantation of the wreck of a ship on an island off the American coast, with several passengers, among whom were said to be some ladies. A small boat which had left the island, had, after a long voyage, the people undergoing great hardships, reached the mainland. They had come in the hopes of obtaining relief for those left behind. As soon as the information was received, a meeting of the inhabitants of Philadelphia was held, and it was resolved to send out a vessel for the rescue of the sufferers. Unfortunately, friend Giles does not mention the name of the vessel or the passengers, except casually he refers to the loss of a queen's ship."

This was indeed important information. It raised Captain Deane's hopes of the possibility of discovering Elizabeth; at the same time he was well aware that there were many probabilities of the wreck being that of some other vessel.

"Friend Dainsforth is very anxious that we should send out a vessel with a cargo of which he may dispose. It is a business in which I myself am not willing to enter," observed Mr Gournay; "but thou mayest find friends in Nottingham who will be more ready to engage in the speculation, and being thyself a seaman of experience, thou mightest take the command of it. It will be far better for thee than following the occupation of fighting, in which thou hast been engaged."

The plan thus suggested by Mr Gournay was much in accordance with Jack's taste. He, however, made up his mind in the first instance to go to London, that he might make inquiries as to the fate of the "Venus." If she had left the West Indies, and had not since been heard of, or if it was supposed that she had been cast away, he would then have very little doubt of her being the ship of which Giles Dainsforth spoke; but if, on the contrary, she had returned to England, or been sent to some other station, he would then only suppose that the wreck alluded to in the letter must be that of another ship, and thus proceeding to Pennsylvania would in no way forward the great object he had in view. Mr Gournay having fully agreed with him in the wisdom of his plans, after he had bidden farewell to Monsieur and Madame de Mertens, he set off on his visit to London.

Jack felt very differently from what he did before on his first visit to the metropolis in company with Long Sam. He was now a captain in the navy, with an honourable name, and money in his pocket. On going to the Admiralty, however, he could gain no satisfactory information regarding the "Venus" or Captain Davis. One of the clerks told him that he believed she was still in the West Indies. Another that she had been captured by the enemy. A third, of whom in his despair he made further inquiries, told him that she had been sunk; and another, that she was on her passage home. He had just left the office, and was taking his way disconsolately along the street, when he met an old shipmate.

"My dear fellow," he exclaimed, "you did not employ a golden key, I suspect, to unlock the mystery! Just go back with a doubloon in your band, and cross the palm of Master Dick Greedifist, and you will soon find that he knows more about the matter than you supposed."

Jack, though indignant that such a proceeding should be necessary, did as he was advised.

"Oh, certainly, Captain Deane!" answered Dick. "It was about the 'Venus' you were inquiring. Oh, ah, let me see! she was ordered home in 1702, and immediately afterwards the order was countermanded and she remained on the station for some time longer. Since then, she was sent to visit the plantations on the mainland of North America; and, in consequence of her not having been heard of for some time, it is feared that she must have met with some disaster. As soon as she had executed her mission she was to return home; and I know that some months ago she was expected."

This was all the information Jack required. He did not tell Master Greedifist the opinion he had formed of him, but, hastening out of the office, took his way to his inn. Jack as has been seen was a man of action. He took care of the minutes, well knowing that the hours would take care of themselves. As soon as he had sufficiently fortified the inner man, he again mounted his horse, and leaving all the wonders of London unvisited, spurred back northward towards Nottingham.

At the inn where he rested the first night of his journey, he wrote an account of the information he had gained to his friends at Norwich, saying that he proposed carrying out the plan suggested by Giles Dainsforth, and that as soon as he could make the arrangements he hoped to sail in a galley for Pennsylvania. On reaching home he found that Dainsforth had expressed the same opinion to his friends at Nottingham. He had, therefore, little difficulty in inducing them to join in a speculation for the purchase of a galley, to be freighted with goods suitable for the plantations, he himself having the command of her. Having made all the preliminary arrangements, he was about to start for London, when he received information from Mr Gournay that a galley admirably suited for his object was about to be launched at Lynn Regis. Scarcely had the letter been read, when Jack was on horseback, and spurring forward to that town. He was not disappointed in the appearance of the vessel. She was stoutly built, and roomy, capable of carrying a large cargo. As she reached the water she was named the "Nottingham Galley." John Deane, whose manners were such as to gain the confidence of his fellow-men, soon found a hardy crew to man her. By the time she was ready for sea, he had obtained a considerable share of his prize-money. His brother Jasper, his cousin Nat, and his father, with several other influential persons at Nottingham, took shares in the speculation. It would be impossible to follow Deane in his various journeys backwards and forwards to Norwich, Lynn, and Nottingham, while the galley was getting ready for sea. At length, having received a part of her cargo on board, sent from Norwich and Nottingham, and other places to the west, he made sail for the Thames, where he was to receive the remainder.



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

ADVENTURE IN THE "NOTTINGHAM GALLEY"—SHIPWRECK.

Captain John Deane had now launched forth in a new character, that of a merchant adventurer, especially honoured in those days, as it deserved to be. The merchant adventurers a century and a half ago were the promoters of civilisation, the founders of kingdoms, while they were generally distinguished by their courage, perseverance, and honourable conduct. The "Nottingham Galley" had a crew of forty men, and she mounted twenty guns, with which her captain hoped to defend her against any enemies she might encounter. He had hitherto been a successful man, and he began to think that it would never be his lot to be otherwise.

The voyage was prosperous till the "Nottingham Galley" was within fifty leagues of the American coast. A furious gale then sprang up, and thick weather came on, so that no observations could be taken. Deane endeavoured to bring the ship to, that he might keep off the coast till the weather should moderate. In vain, however, did he make the attempt. The after-masts were carried away; and now the ship could only run before the gale, it being feared every moment that the seas which came roaring up astern would break on board. He hoped, however, that the weather might moderate before they reached the entrance of the Delaware river, up which the galley was bound. Vain hope! The darkness of night came on, and instead of moderating, the gale increased. The crew, hardy as they were, clung to the bulwarks and the shrouds, expecting that every moment would be their last. Still the fury of the tempest increased. The wind whistled through the shrouds, and the seas raged up alongside. A loud roar was heard ahead. "Breakers! breakers!" shouted the crew. The next instant there came a fearful crash. The helpless galley was driven forward amid the rocks. The seas swept over her. Many were washed away, or dashed furiously against the rocks. Deane felt himself lifted up by a sea which dashed against the devoted vessel. He suspected that the fate which had overtaken many of his crew would now be his. Onward the sea bore him. He struck out, struggling bravely for life. His feet touched the hard sand, and the next instant he was thrown high upon the beach. He staggered forward, and before the following sea had reached him he had escaped from its clutches. The despairing shrieks of his crew reached his ears. In vain he endeavoured to render them assistance. He rescued two, however, at the risk of being himself thrown back into the foaming surges. Three others had been thrown as he had been on shore.

When morning at length broke, they were the only survivors of the gallant band which had manned the "Nottingham Galley." Captain Deane's first thought was, that possibly this might be the very island on which the "Venus" had been cast away, supposing it to be an island, of which he was not yet sure. A vague feeling that even now Elizabeth and Mistress Pearson might be living on it, induced him immediately to set forth to explore the country. He had not gone far before in front of him he saw several huts, constructed evidently out of the wreck of a vessel. He hurried on, eager to communicate with the inhabitants whom he expected to find within them. As he reached the huts, however, he soon saw by the open doors and the silence which reigned on every side, that they were deserted. On searching around, however, he discovered signs that they had been inhabited by a considerable number of persons. One of the huts, built at a short distance from the others, was constructed in a better style. It was closed by a door placed on hinges, and there was a window which could be closed by a shutter. He lifted the latch. There were two neat bed-places within, and on the table some small shreds of silk, and a few other articles such as were used by females met his sight. This then might possibly have been the abode of Elizabeth. He looked eagerly around with tender interest, in the hope of finding some sign by which he might ascertain the truth. All the articles of value had been removed, but still it was evident that the hut had been abandoned somewhat suddenly. At length he found an object sticking between the crib and the wall, as if it had fallen down between them. It was a book. He opened it eagerly. On the blank page at the commencement were the letters "E.P." He had no longer any doubt that it was the property of Elizabeth. He placed it in his bosom and continued the search. There could be no doubt then, that the vessel which Giles Dainsforth had mentioned as being on the point of sailing in search of the shipwrecked crew had reached the place, and carried them off in safety. For this he was truly thankful, delighted as he would have been to have found Elizabeth still there, as he had almost expected to do.

On his return he told his companions what he had discovered. Their spirits revived as they began to hope that some vessel might pass that way, and carry them to the plantation. As they gazed, however, on the ocean, covered with foaming billows, their condition seemed perilous indeed. Of the ship herself, not a plank clung together, though the beach was strewed with various articles which had formed her cargo. One of her boats too had been cast ashore, without receiving any material damage. Deane immediately summoned his men around him, and pointed out to them the necessity of saving whatever provisions were washed on shore. By this time the gale had considerably abated, and they were enabled to drag up several casks and cases containing food, which they so much required. In the same way, numerous bales and other articles which had formed the cargo of the ship were saved. They found themselves on an uninhabited island of small extent, which seemed likely to afford them but scanty means of subsistence. In the far distance could be seen a long blue ridge of land, which Deane knew must be the continent. Their great requirement however was water, for without it their stores and flour would have availed them but little. They therefore immediately set about searching for it, and at length a slight moisture was found oozing out from beneath the roots of a large tree. After eagerly scraping away the earth with their hands for some time, the hole they had formed was filled with a small portion of the precious liquid. This encouraged them to hope that a sufficient supply might be obtained, and with better heart than they had hitherto possessed they took their first meal on the island.

On examining the boat, Captain Deane was of opinion that if repaired, she would carry them to the mainland: but as yet there were no tools found by which this could be accomplished. Thus were all their hopes of escaping frustrated. Their life on the island was that of most shipwrecked mariners. Even when partaking of their meals, they could not but feel that their store of provisions would in time come to an end, and that thus, unless relieved, famine would overtake them at last. Several days passed by, when as two of their number were wandering along the shore a chest was seen fixed between two rocks. Summoning their companions, not without difficulty they waded towards it. It was found to be a carpenter's chest. After considerable labour they contrived to break it open, when to their great joy they discovered within it a supply of tools and nails, with iron hoops and other necessary articles.

They now eagerly set to work to repair their boat, but as none of them were carpenters they found it a more difficult task than they had expected. Spars and oars and sails had also to be formed. No one, however, was idle, and they made up by diligence what they wanted in skill. The boat was at last launched and moored between the rocks. All the provisions they could collect, with a supply of water in such casks as would hold it were placed on board. They had left the island astern when a sail appeared in sight, rapidly approaching them from the east. Deane, supposing she was some vessel bound up the Delaware for Philadelphia, hove to, purposing if such was the case to take a passage in her, instead of risking the voyage in their open boat, still imperfectly repaired. As she drew nearer, she was seen to be a large ship carrying several guns, yet she wanted the trim appearance of a man-of-war. No colours were flying at her mast-head or peak, and altogether her appearance did not satisfy Captain Deane. It was now, however, too late to avoid her. Already the boat must have been seen by those on board. Still Deane thought it more prudent to fill his sails, and to stand away towards the opening which he took to be the mouth of the river of which he was in search. A shot from the ship told him that he had been discovered. It was the signal also for him again to heave to. In a short time the ship got up to the boat, and a voice from her decks hailed, ordering those in the boat to sheer alongside and to come on board. There was no use attempting to disobey this order, as they were already under the ship's guns. Having secured the boat alongside, Deane and his men stepped on deck. From the appearance of the officers and the number of men composing the mongrel-looking crew on board, who seemed to be of all countries and of all shades of colour, the thought at once occurred to Captain Deane that the vessel was a pirate.

"What have you been about, and where are you going?" asked a man who stepped forward from among the people on board. Though considerably older, and knocked about by climate and hardship, Deane had little difficulty in recognising his former acquaintance Pearson. The pirate captain looked at him two or three times, but if he had recognised him for a moment, he soon seemed to have altered his opinion. Jack felt that the best plan, whether he was right or wrong in his conjectures, was to tell the whole truth of himself. Pearson seemed interested in hearing Nottingham spoken of, and it made him give another glance at Deane.

"Ah well, my man," he said, "we wish you no harm, but we can allow no vessel to proceed to the new plantations."

"That's a hard rule, sir," answered Jack, "as we are likely enough to starve on the island we have just left, and if we remain at sea we shall perish in the next gale that comes on."

"You have your remedy," said the pirate captain. "You may join our brave crew. You shall be an officer on board, and your men shall share with the rest."

"We cannot accept your offer," answered Deane; "and perhaps for old acquaintance' sake, Master Pearson, you will grant my request?"

The pirate captain started on hearing himself thus addressed.

"Who are you?" he asked, looking again hard at Deane.

"One you knew in his youth, and who has never ceased to wish you well," answered Jack. "You have served one sovereign—I have fought under the flag of another. Do you know me now?"

"Yes, indeed I do; though you are greatly changed from the stripling you were when I knew you," answered Pearson, stretching out his hand. "I wish you well, for I thought you a brave and honest youth, and I am thankful to find you took your own course. Now, as I believe you to be unchanged, the promise I ask you to make, if I allow you to proceed, is—that you will not give information of my vessel being off the coast."

Deane was rather perplexed what answer to make.

"No," he answered at last; "I wish you no harm; at the same time, I cannot allow any honest trader to fall into your hands. Now hear me, Master Pearson. My object in coming out here is to carry home two persons in whom you were once greatly interested: the little Elizabeth whom you protected in her youth, and your own wife, whom I am sure you once loved. I throw myself, therefore, on your generosity."

Pearson seemed greatly agitated for some minutes.

"I will not interfere with you," he answered. "I cannot force that poor lady to undergo the hardships into which I once led her, and I will therefore leave her to your kindness and charity. I would that I could accompany you, but I cannot desert my comrades. But the time may come ere long, that I may enable them to secure their own safety, and I will then, if I still have the means, endeavour to visit Pennsylvania."

Much on the same subject passed between the two former acquaintances. The pirates' ship towed the boat to the mouth of the Delaware, when the latter cast off and stood up the river, while the pirate proceeded again towards the ocean.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

PENNSYLVANIA—RETURN HOME—LAST ADVENTURES AND CONCLUSION.

Captain Deane and his companions had a prosperous voyage up the Delaware, and in two days the buildings of the new city appeared in sight, standing at the junction of the Delaware and the Schuylkill. The Delaware is a noble stream, and the Schuylkill is as broad at its mouth as the Thames is at Woolwich. The banks of the great river above which the town was laid out were bold and high, the air pure and wholesome, while the neighbouring lands were free from swamps. Altogether the site was one admirably fitted for the purpose of a great city. Clay for making bricks was found on the spot, and quarries of good stone abounded within a few miles. Already the city was laid out according to the design of its sagacious founder, but as yet, although a considerable number of houses had been erected near to each other, forming streets, many were only scattered about here and there, according as the owners had purchased their town lots. Two streets, one of them facing a magnificent row of red pines, were planned to front the rivers. The great public thoroughfare alone separated the houses from the banks. It was arranged that these streets were to be connected by the High Street, a magnificent avenue perfectly straight and a hundred feet in width, to be adorned with trees and gardens. At a right angle with the High Street a broad street of equal width was to cut the city in two from north to south. It was thus divided into four sections. In the exact centre of the city, a large square of ten acres was reserved for the advantage of the public, and in the middle of each quarter a smaller square of eight acres was set apart for the same purpose. Eight streets, each fifty feet wide, were to be built parallel to the High Street, and twenty of the same width parallel to the rivers. Mr Penn's great object was to give a rural appearance to the houses of his new city. The boat reached the shore before a large building, which from the sign-board swinging in front of it, on which a large blue anchor was painted, was known to be a house of entertainment Deane and his companions, hauling up their boat, hastened towards it, as he hoped there to obtain the information as to where Giles Dainsforth and his sister were to be found. This building was then one of the most important in the province. It was not only a beer-house, but an exchange, a corn-market, and a post-office. It was formed of large rafters of wood, the interstices being filled with bricks, which had been brought in the vessels from England, in the same manner as houses to be found in Cheshire, and some built in the Tudor and Stuart periods. Already a magnificent quay of three hundred feet in length had been formed by the side of the river, and there were also stone houses with pointed roofs, and balconies, and porches, in different parts. Although in some portions of the city pine-trees and pine-stumps still remained, altogether upwards of a thousand houses had been erected. Among them was a large building devoted to the purposes of a public school or college. A printing-press had long been established in the city by William Bradford, a native of Leicester, who had accompanied Mr Penn in the "Welcome." Deane had, however, but little inclination to view the city until he had found his way to the house of his sister and brother-in-law. He had no great difficulty in discovering it, for Giles Dainsforth was already well-known as a man of mark, as sagacious, steady, and industrious men are sure to be in a new settlement.

"There is friend Dainsforth's house," said a worthy citizen to whom Deane addressed himself; and he saw before him a fine and substantial stone building, with a broad verandah surrounded by trees and flowering shrubs. A gentle voice reached his ears, singing an air he knew well. The door stood open and he entered. Passing through the house, he saw seated on a lawn, beneath the shade of the building, three ladies, while the same number of young children played about them. The nearest he recognised as his sister Kate, though grown into more matronly proportions than when he last had seen her. Near her was a fair girl. He required not a second glance to convince him that she was Elizabeth. He hurried forward, forgetting how he might startle them. A cry of delight escaped Elizabeth as she advanced to meet him. In another minute he found himself in the arms of his sister, while a sob of joy escaped from her companion's bosom.

"He's come! he's come!" she exclaimed; "I knew he would find us out."

The third lady was Mistress Pearson. She looked careworn and aged, as if her life had well-nigh come to an end.

Their history was soon told. When at length Captain Davis was ordered to visit the plantations, previous to returning to England, he obtained permission to receive them on board and to convey them home. When the ship was cast away, they, with a few only of the crew, had been rescued. The captain, however, although he was the last to leave the ship, had also been saved. Deane had fortunately told Elizabeth of the marriage of Giles Dainsforth to his sister, and of their intention of settling in Pennsylvania. On their arrival, therefore, at Philadelphia, hearing his name, she made herself known to him, and it was thus that she and Mistress Pearson became inmates of his house.

In a short time Giles Dainsforth himself, accompanied by Captain Davis, arrived at the house, and a happy party were soon assembled round the supper-table. Deane heard a great deal of the flourishing condition of the plantation, and of its vast internal resources. He heard, too, from Dainsforth, that the settlers had resolved not to allow the importation of slaves into the colony. They had established it because they themselves loved freedom, and they were resolved to employ free men alone in the cultivation of their lands. He also heard that the whole territory had been purchased from the native tribes, and that not the life of a single red man had been taken away by the settlers since their arrival in the country. From the first, they had lived on the most friendly terms with the native tribes. This was indeed glorious news, especially in those days, when the traffic in negroes was looked upon as lawful, and when in most instances might made right in all parts of the world. Altogether the account which Deane received of the colony was so favourable that he could not help longing to come and settle in it. He had, however, promised to bring Elizabeth back to her parents, and poor Mistress Pearson also was very anxious to lay her bones in her native land. Captain Davis likewise desired to return home on the first opportunity, that he might stand his trial for the loss of his ship, which he considered himself in honour bound to do. Deane, however, resolved not to run the risk of again being separated from Elizabeth. She having no legal guardian, he instituted himself as such, and then gave himself permission to marry her, which she, nothing loath, consented to do forthwith. The marriage was celebrated with such religious and legal ceremonies as were then considered sufficient in Philadelphia. Colonel Markham, the acting governor, being one of the witnesses. Jack and his bride, accompanied by Captain Davis and his sister, soon afterwards embarked on board a stout ship sailing for England. They arrived safely in London, whence Jack wrote to Norwich to announce his safe return.

A few days were spent in the great city, that Elizabeth might recruit her strength after her voyage. During his stay there, he met with an old brother officer, Captain Bertrand, who, hailing him with pleasure, told him that he was the very man he was looking out for.

"I have taken service," he said, "with the permission of the British Government, under the Czar of Russia, the Great Peter, for such he is indeed. You will remember his labouring as a shipwright in England not many years since, to gain a knowledge of ship-building He is now constructing a large fleet, and he is anxious to secure the services of a number of active and intelligent officers like yourself. What do you say? I can promise you handsome pay, and the command of a line-of-battle ship."

Deane replied that he must think about it, as he had only lately married a wife, and had no inclination to leave her.

"Oh, you must bring her with you!" was the answer. "You can establish her in the new city the Czar is building on the Neva; and, depend upon it, you will have no long cruises to make. Foreign officers can be found; but he will have a difficulty in making seamen out of his serfs. Free men only are fit to become seamen, in my opinion."

Captain Deane begged that his friend would give him his address, and should he determine to accept his offer, after he had visited his friends, he would communicate with him. Leaving the unhappy Mistress Pearson with her brother, Deane set forward in a coach with his bride for Norwich. He had fortunately been able to procure the balance of prize-money due to him while he was in London, which amounted to a considerable sum, and he was thus, in spite of his heavy loss in the "Nottingham Galley," no longer crippled by want of means.

Words can scarcely describe the joy with which Madame de Mertens and her husband received their long-lost daughter. Though she had grown from a young child into a woman, they immediately recognised her, while the trinkets she had preserved prevented them having any doubt about the matter. After spending some time at Norwich, and receiving great kindness from the excellent Mr Gournay and his lady, the young couple repaired to Nottingham.

The loss of the "Nottingham Galley," however, caused Jack to be more coolly received by his friends than he had anticipated. In vain he tried to explain to them that they should find fault with the elements more than with him for the ill-success of their speculation. He undertook, if it was their wish, to command another galley, and to embark all his property in the enterprise. To this, however, none of them would agree. Yet there were two of his friends who received him in a different manner to the rest—his sister Polly and his sister-in-law Alethea. Prosperity had not improved his brother Jasper, and he appeared to be more bitter than any of the family who suffered from the wreck of the galley. A reconciliation was however at last brought about by cousin Nat and Polly. Jack had been dining at the house of his sister and her husband, where he met Jasper, to whose house in Fletcher-gate he agreed to walk in the evening. On their way, some remarks made by Dr Jasper irritated John Deane, as he considered them unfair and unjust, and angry words were heard by some of the passers-by, uttered by him to his brother. They reached the door together. A flight of stone steps led to it from the street. Unhappily, at this moment the doctor repeated the expressions which had justly offended the captain, who declared that he would not allow himself to be addressed in so injurious a manner. As he spoke he pushed impatiently past his brother, who at that moment stumbled down the steps. The doctor fell; and as Captain Deane stooped to lift him up, to his horror, he found that he was dead! Rumour, with her hundred tongues, forthwith spread the report that the fire-eating captain had killed his brother. The verdict however of the jury who sat to decide the case was, that Dr Jasper Deane had died by the visitation of God. Still Captain Deane was conscious of the angry feelings which had excited his bosom at the moment, and he felt that the mark of Cain was upon his forehead. He could no longer remain at home, and though those who loved him best knew of his innocence, and did their utmost to console him, he determined to leave the country. He accordingly wrote to Captain Bertrand, accepting his offer of a naval command under the Czar of Russia; and in a short time he and Elizabeth sailed for the Baltic. He rendered great assistance in organising the navy of that wonderful man Peter the Great, and after serving with much credit for a few years, he returned to England.

Captain Deane had during this time found a number of friends, and by their means he was soon afterwards appointed English consul at Ostend, where he lived with his wife Elizabeth till they were both advanced in life. As an elderly couple they came back to Nottingham once more, and went to live in the sweet village of Wilford, on the opposite side of the silvery Trent. It was the peaceful green retreat that had beckoned him back to England from many a scene of foreign grandeur, and smiled across many a time of tumult and of battle. He and his wife both loved the Dutch home where they had so long lived, and when he built a house for himself in a thorough English village, he constructed it in the Dutch style, which indeed in his early youth had been the very height of fashion. Next to his own, behind the same trim garden and row of silvery poplars, he built one also for his sister Polly, who was then a widow. Alethea, after the death of her husband, had returned to Harwood Grange with her children, and devoted herself to them, endeavouring so to bring them up that they might love and serve God. She by this time had also gone to her rest; so also had most of those who have been mentioned in the previous history. Mistress Pearson did not live long after her return to England, and she was saved the misery of hearing the tragical death of her husband, who, with all his faults, had at all events loved her. In a desperate action with a Queen's ship, he with all his crew had been blown up, shortly after Deane had encountered him at the mouth of the Delaware.

The tomb of John Deane, Captain RN, and of Elizabeth his wife, is to be seen on a little green promontory above the sparkling Trent and near the chancel of the parish church, where sweet strains of music, accompanying the sound of human voices and the murmurs of the river, are wont to mingle in harmonious hymns of prayer and praise. A more fitting spot in which to await in readiness for the last hour of life than Wilford can scarcely be imagined, nor a sweeter place than its church-yard in which the mortal may lie down to rest from toil till summoned by the last trump to rise and put on immortality.

THE END.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7
Home - Random Browse