Although we were some miles distant, the light from the burning mountain cast a lurid glare on the hull and rigging of the schooner; and as we looked at each other, our faces shone as if formed of some red-hot metal rather than of flesh, while the whole expanse of sea between us and the land seemed a mass of molten copper. An artist would have delighted to paint the wondering countenances of the seamen, some still full of doubts and fears; the various attitudes in which they stood transfixed; the many tints of their skins, from the dark hues of the Javanese and Malays, in their picturesque costume, to the fair colour of the Europeans, in the ordinary dress in which English and American seamen delight, now blended into one line.
All this time the loud reports continued to be heard; but knowing their cause, they no longer appeared to us like those of cannon. Almost as suddenly as the awful spectacle had been exhibited to our eyes, it was once more obscured by the dense masses of cinders, and even of stone, which filled the sky and fell around us.
The wind returned, as before, from the east; and, to avoid the fiery shower, we stood away to the northward. It was in vain to hope to escape it altogether. The stones which fell decreased in size, but the ashes came as thick as before, and the explosions continued at intervals. To what had at first appeared so terrific, we had now got accustomed, and the fears even of the most superstitious of the seamen subsided; but still the Javanese were not to be dissuaded from the belief that some wonderful change was to take place in the affairs of their country. We put an awning over the deck to shelter ourselves somewhat from the ashes; but the finer portion drove under it, and filled every crevice, while we kept the people constantly employed in shovelling them overboard. Thus hours passed on, till we began to think that we should never again see the bright light of the sun.
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.
For a whole night longer we lay exposed to the shower of ashes; and though we were standing away from their source, they in no perceptible way diminished in density. At length, at the hour the sun should appear once more in the east, a light gleamed forth, the ashes grew less dense, and daylight once more gladdened our eyes. On examining the ashes, they had the appearance of calcined pumice-stone, nearly of the colour of wood ashes. In many places on the deck they lay a foot thick. They were perfectly tasteless, and had no smell of sulphur, though there was a slight burnt odour from them. We now stood back towards Sumbawa, as, with the wind from the eastward, it was the only course we could steer. As we approached it, we saw right ahead a shoal several miles in length, with several black rocks on it.
Van Graoul was puzzled in the extreme. "I never heard of that shoal before," he observed; and, on examining the chart, none was marked down.
The lead gave us no bottom where we then were. The shoal, we agreed, must have been thrown up by the earthquake. We stood on till we were within half a mile of it, and then Fairburn lowered a boat and went to examine it. He pulled on till the boat, instead of grounding as we expected, went into the midst of it. It proved to be a complete mass of pumice-stone floating on the sea, some inches in depth, with great numbers of trees and logs, which had the appearance of having been burnt and shivered by lightning. We passed several similar floating islands; and on one occasion got so completely surrounded by a mass of ashes, that we had no little difficulty in forcing our way through it, fearful every instant of encountering some log which might injure the vessel. At last the Tomboro mountain hove in sight. We passed it about six miles off. The summit was not visible, being enveloped in clouds of smoke and ashes. The sides were, in several places, still smoking, evidently from the lava which had flowed down them not yet having cooled; and one large stream was discernible from the smoke arising from it, and which had reached all the way from the summit to the sea. Beating along the coast, we entered a bay where there was good anchorage, and on going on shore we heard sad accounts of the ruin the irruption had caused. The whirlwind had destroyed whole villages, rooted up trees, and thrown the vessels and prahus at anchor in the harbour on the shore, aided by the sea, which rose at the same time; while the ashes had ruined the crops, and the stones, and rocks, and streams of lava had killed many thousands of the inhabitants. Afterwards I learned that the explosions had been heard at Sumatra, 970 miles from Tomboro, and that the ashes had fallen thickly near Macasa, 217 miles from the mountain. The unfortunate inhabitants of the island suffered afterwards greatly from famine, their yearly supply of food being totally lost.
The wind coming more from the northward, we shaped our course for Dilli, in Timor, on the chance of there hearing of the Emu. We kept a constant look-out night and day for her, but not a sail hove in sight. In five days we reached Dilli, which is a Portuguese settlement on the north-west coast of Timor. A Portuguese naval officer boarded us in the outer roads, and piloted us through a narrow channel to the inner roads. It is a wretched-looking place; and the houses, small, dirty, and ruinous, were scattered without any order or symmetry in all directions. Van Graoul, who could speak Portuguese, landed with me, as I wished to pay my respects to the Governor. On each side of the town were two half-ruinous forts, on which were mounted some old iron guns of small calibre. The sentinels were but a quarter clothed, and certainly not in uniform, for not two were alike. The only point in which most agreed, was in being destitute of shoes. Some had one shoe and a boot, others had sandals, and others wore wisps of straw wrapped round their feet, but the greater number stood on their bare soles. Many were without jackets, some had no trousers, a sort of kilt serving the purpose, made of every variety of material. Military hats or caps were a rarity. Some left their bare heads exposed to the sun; others covered them with handkerchiefs, straw hats, or mere turbans of straw; while the greatest number of their muskets had no locks, the only serviceable arms which all possessed being a long knife or dagger, stuck in a belt by their sides.
The Governor was taking his siesta when we arrived, and we had to walk up and down in the sun, in front of his dwelling, a miserable tumble-down cottage, for two hours, before any one ventured to arouse him. At length we were admitted into his presence. We found him sitting in a room without a matting; a few chairs and benches forming its only furniture. He was rubbing his eyes as we entered, as if not yet awake, and in a sleepy tone he inquired our business. What Van Graoul told him I do not know; but his manner instantly became very polite, and bowing towards me, he motioned me to be seated. Van Graoul, who acted as interpreter, said he would be happy to do anything I wished; that if the Emu came into the harbour, he should have the satisfaction of blowing her to pieces; that he had heard of her depredations, but that no Portuguese cruisers had met with her, or her fate would have been sealed; that he would supply me with cattle and provisions, or anything from his stores; and that if I happened to have a fancy to purchase any slaves, he should be happy to do a little business in that way also. I found afterwards that the Governor and all the government officers trafficked in slaves, and that some fitted out vessels to run to the Australian coasts, or to those of New Guinea, to pick up a supply for their market.
In addition to the slave trade, a commerce is carried on in wax and sandal-wood, which the natives are forced to deliver up at a small and almost nominal price. The Governor and his officials allow no one else but themselves to embark in trade, greatly to the disgust of the natives and Chinese, who expressed a strong wish to be freed from the yoke of such a people. This information was received from Van Graoul, who was a Dutchman, it must be remembered, and certainly prejudiced against the Portuguese. We parted, however, on excellent terms. I sent the Governor a box of cigars; and he in return sent us off some sheep and shaddocks.
We now steered for the Dutch settlement of Coupang, to the south of Timor. As we sailed along the coast, we observed a number of ridges of lofty mountains, some of which appeared to be a great distance in the interior. The country behind Coupang rises to the height of five hundred feet, the higher hills being covered with woods, the lower with cocoa-nut trees. On a cliff above the town is the fort of Concordia, and near it a brook, just deep enough to float small prahus for a few yards. East of it is the town, which consists of two principal streets, running parallel with the beach for about a quarter of a mile, with two small irregular streets crossing them. The houses near the sea are simply small shops, belonging to Chinese. Behind the town is an open space of grass, shaded by fine tamarind trees, with the Governor's house on one side; and some roads run up thence to some good houses belonging to Europeans, and to some clusters of huts inhabited by Malays. While we were there, the stream was always occupied by people either bathing or washing their clothes. I remember also a valley full of cocoa-nut trees, bamboos, bananas, and tamarinds; but beyond, the country had somewhat of an arid appearance. The current coin of the country was of copper, called a doit, the value of one sixth of a penny. By my notes, I see that I entered a schoolhouse, where a very intelligent man was instructing a large number of Malay children in the Christian religion, and in useful knowledge, with, I understood, most satisfactory success. The native Timorese are a frizzle-haired race, who live in rude huts, roofed with palm-leaves, attend but little to agriculture, and are addicted to cutting off the heads of their enemies in battle, and carrying them away as trophies like the Dyaks of Borneo.
The Governor received me very politely; and, from the inquiries he enabled me to make, I felt very certain that the Emu had visited the place at the time described by the Chinese pedlar Chin Fi. What had afterwards become of her no one knew. There were rumours, however, that a suspicious sail had been seen in the neighbourhood of the Serwatty and Tenimber Islands, while others spoke of the Arru Islands, and the western coast of New Guinea. For want of better information to guide us, we resolved accordingly to cruise among them, and to prosecute our inquiries of the inhabitants. A large part of the population of the Serwatty and Tenimber Islands have, through the instrumentality of the Dutch missionaries, become Christians.
The first place we touched at was the island of Kessa, at an anchorage not far from the chief village, called Mama. As the people are much addicted to trade with all the neighbouring islands, I was in hopes that we might here possibly gain the information I required. We were much amused with the costume in which the people assembled to attend church the day we were there. Some wore old-fashioned coats with wide sleeves and broad skirts; others garments of the same description, but of a more modern cut; while the remainder were clad in long black kaligas, or loose coats, the usual dress of native Christians. The costume of those who were clad in the old-fashioned coats, was completed by short breeches, shoes with enormous buckles, and three-cornered hats. Many of the women wore old Dutch chintz gowns, or jackets, the costume of the remainder being the native sarong and kabya. The heads of the women were adorned with ornaments of gold and precious stones; but the men wore their long hair simply confined with a tortoise-shell comb. They appeared a very simple-minded, amiable people. I was much struck by the course of instruction adopted at the schools, where all the children under ten years of age assembled to learn the rudiments of Christianity, and reading and writing. Yet these people, we in England should call savages. Can we boast that the children of our poor are so well cared for?
We could here gain no intelligence of the Emu, so we again sailed. At another island we touched at, called Lette, we found one portion of the aborigines converted to Christianity; and the remainder, who were still heathens, serving them willingly as persons of a superior order. The people are tall and well formed, with light brown complexions, pointed noses, high foreheads, hair black, though rendered yellow by rubbing in a composition of lime. It is confined by a bamboo comb. The men wear no other clothing than a piece of cloth made from the bark of a tree wrapped round the waist. The women, in addition, wear a sort of kabya, or short gown, open in front. They worship a wooden idol in human shape, placed on a square heap of stones, under a large tree in the centre of the village. We were visited by a number of chiefs, who came in lightly constructed prahus, with high stems and sterns, and awnings of palm-leaves raised over them. One of their chiefs was clad after the fashion of the seventeenth century. He wore a large wig, a three-cornered hat, short breeches, with large knee-buckles, and a coat with wide sleeves, ruffles, and spacious skirts, while on his feet he had high shoes with heavy silver buckles. He was evidently perfectly satisfied that he was in the fashion. During a stroll I took into the interior, I observed a number of bees' nests hanging from the branches of the high trees, some of which were more than two feet in circumference. The wax and honey are collected with very little difficulty; and the bees, when driven from their nests, generally build another on the same tree.
It will be impossible for me to mention a tenth part of the curious sights we saw, or the number of places we visited. For several weeks we were engaged in running from island to island, among the numerous groups which are to be found between Java and the coast of New Guinea. At length we reached the Arru Islands, and entered the port of Dobbo, which is a place of considerable trade with the neighbouring countries, and much frequented by the Bugis and Macassars of Celebes.
These islands export a considerable quantity of trepang, tortoise-shell, edible birds' nests, and pearls. The trepang is a sort of sea-slug, which is dried and used by the Chinese to make soup. The edible birds' nests are of a glutinous nature, and with but little taste, and are used for thickening soup. They are considered a great delicacy. The chief food of the people is the pith of the sago tree. The chief man among them is called Orang Kaya. Their prahus are seventy feet long; their greatest beam not being more than ten feet, and they sit very low on the water. The mass of the people are heathens; but some have been converted to Mahommedanism, and many to Christianity, the good effects of which are visible in their conduct.
I invited a number of the chiefs to come on board, and had a feast prepared for them, as Van Graoul considered that it would be the very best way to gain their friendship, and to obtain the information I required. We had a table spread on deck, and an awning stretched over it. Fairburn sat at one end, and I at the other; and Van Graoul was placed at the centre, to act as interpreter for us both. They ate prodigiously, and each man drank enough arrack to intoxicate any three Europeans, without appearing to feel the slightest ill effects from the spirit. All of us made speeches, which were, without doubt, very complimentary; and when words failed us we supplied their places with signs and gesticulations, which did infinitely better, as they were far more generally understood. At the conclusion of a toast I ordered the guns to be fired to give it due effect, when so surprised were our guests with the unexpected sound, that up they jumped as if electrified: some went overboard, not knowing what was to follow; others hid themselves under the table, and the rest tried to find their way below. They were, however, in no way offended, when they discovered that no one was hurt. The clothes of those who had been in the water were speedily dried, and perfect harmony was restored.
We lay here for some days, in order to refresh the crew, and to supply ourselves with wood, water, and fresh provisions. I will not say that I began to despair of falling in with the Emu; but I was much disappointed in not finding her. I had now been many months engaged in the search, and was still as far as ever, I supposed, from the success I wished for. We expected the last of our stores on board during the day, and should immediately have sailed, when one morning a vessel was observed in the offing, standing towards the island. We were curious to know what she could be, and were watching her approach. Van Graoul made her out to be a brig; and as she drew near, we saw that she was a small, low black vessel, with the American ensign flying at her peak. My heart beat with an extraordinary sensation of doubt and fear, as I saw her.
"Fairburn," I exclaimed, touching his shoulder, "what do you think of that craft? Does she not answer the description of the Emu?"
"Indeed she does," he answered; "but she may not be the Emu; and if she is, your friends may not be on board her."
"We will speedily learn," I exclaimed. "Let us get under weigh, and go out and meet her."
"Wait a bit," observed Van Graoul. "Her people do not know who we are. Let her come in and drop her anchor; and when her people go on shore to amuse themselves, then we will go on board and see who they have got below."
I at once saw the wisdom of this advice, and acceded to it.
There was a fine breeze, and the stranger came boldly on with all sails set. We, being close under the shore, and our hull being hidden by a spit of land, could see her without being ourselves discovered. There were two harbours where we lay, an outer and an inner one; and we were in hopes that she would come into the inner one and be entrapped. To our great satisfaction, an Arrapara pilot went out to meet her; and we knew he would conduct her into the inner harbour. It was a beautiful sight watching her as she skimmed along the surface, looking larger and larger as she approached.
"What do you think of her now? She must be the Emu!" I exclaimed.
"She may be," said Van Graoul; "but stop till we get her within range of our guns."
She came quite close. With our glasses we could even distinguish the people on board. Some of our crew declared that she was the very brig which had so strangely escaped from us among the Pater Nosters. On she came under full sail. We were in hopes that she would come directly into the harbour, when just as she approached it her helm was put down, her yards braced up, her foresail backed to the mast; and while she lay to, a boat, which was lowered and manned, was seen to pull towards the shore.
"Ah, she does not like to come where she may meet honest people," observed Van Graoul. "That looks suspicious."
The boat was a large gig, pulled by six oars. She came in, we thought, to reconnoitre.
"Now, what do you think of seizing the boat, and holding the people as hostages till they deliver up the ladies?" exclaimed Fairburn. "If she is honest, we shall run the risk of being accused of committing an act of piracy; but if she is the Emu, our object may thus easily be obtained."
"By all means; let us seize her. I would run every risk," I answered.
"Yes; we will catch her, if we can," answered Van Graoul.
Our boats were accordingly lowered and commanded. Fairburn commanded one, and Barlow another, and I took a third, with the intention of endeavouring to cut her off, and capture her without bloodshed. We lay in wait, eager for the word to shove off and go in chase. If we found that we were mistaken, there would be no harm done. The people in the boat would be a little astonished, and angry perhaps at being taken for pirates; but the importance of the object was worth the risk, and must serve as our excuse. We got a spring also on our cable, and every preparation was made to get under weigh in an instant, and to make sail in chase, should the brig appear to have taken the alarm. Van Graoul remained on board in command; and a hand was stationed aloft to watch the progress of the boat. Our intention was, not to seize her till the last moment before her people landed, or while half were in the boat and the others actually stepping on shore. On she came—those in her evidently either confident in their innocence, or unconscious of an enemy being near them. The hull of the schooner lay concealed from any one in the outer part of the harbour. Even were she seen, appearing to be quietly at anchor, with no one on her decks, she might, we hoped, fail to excite suspicion. As the boat advanced, we slipped round on the opposite side of the schooner to conceal ourselves from her sight. Her crew bent manfully to their oars. In a short time longer we hoped she would be in our power. The plan arranged was, that Fairburn and Barlow were to pull directly for her, while I was to proceed down towards the mouth of the harbour to intercept her, should she attempt to pull back before they reached her. At first, we hoped that her people would not suspect that we had any intention of interfering with them. She now had got so far up, that Van Graoul could see her from the deck; and he, with his glass in his hand, was the only person that appeared.
"She comes on bravely," he exclaimed. "Pull away, my lads. Ah, you pull well! We shall soon know what you are made of." He was silent for a moment. "Ah! she has ceased pulling!" he cried. "They are suspicious of something. Ah, they are pulling round! It is the Emu's boat. Off they go again to the vessel. After her; and you may give way, my lads, in earnest."
There was no necessity for another order; we shoved off in a moment, and the men bending to their oars, away we all three went in chase. At first, the stranger's boat was pulling leisurely enough; but when we were discovered, her crew gave way with all their strength, as if their lives depended on it. This alone would have convinced us that the brig was the Emu; they probably suspecting the schooner to belong to the Dutch navy. As we dashed out, we now saw to our chagrin, that the pirate's boat, for so I will call her, was ahead of us; that is, she was nearer towards the mouth of the harbour by the time we got into the fairway, while the brig, which had tacked, had now stood over to the opposite side to which we were. This gave her a great advantage. We cheered on our men, and they indeed gave way with a will. I never had felt so excited. My great object seemed near of attainment, should Eva and Mrs Clayton be on board the brig, and should we succeed in capturing the boat. Every nerve was strained to the utmost. I was influenced by the most powerful of feelings, and my crew zealously entered into them. The pirates were working for their liberties and their lives. The water flew hissing from the bows of the boat, and leaped in spray from the blades of our oars as they clove the surface.
"Give way, my lads! give way!" was the cry we all uttered. "Give way; we are gaining on them. Huzza! huzza!"
It was, however, a question whether we were really gaining on them. Our excitement made us fancy we were. We were armed all this time, it must be remembered; but we could not venture to fire on the boat, for although we had no doubt that the brig in the offing was the Emu, and that she belonged to her, we had not the proof the law requires. The moment Van Graoul saw the pirate's boat turn tail, he slipped his cable, and, making sail, stood after us. We had thus two chances. If the boat got on board the brig before we could overtake her, we might still follow in the schooner with a prospect of success. The boat held her own. It became a matter of great doubt whether we should overtake her. An oar might break, or one of her crew might give in. If we could have fired, we should probably have stopped her, by wounding one or more people. As it was, we had our speed alone to depend on. "Give way! give way, my lads!" I heard Fairburn and Barlow shouting. "Huzza! we are gaining on them! huzza! huzza!"
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.
The stranger brig seeing her boat pursued, tacked again and stood towards the shore. As she drew near the mouth of the harbour, she must also have observed the Fraulein running out after us; and this must have given her an idea of how matters were going on. The people in the boat, in the meantime, either from seeing help so near at hand, or from growing weary, relaxed their efforts, and we were now evidently coming up with her. There seemed, indeed, a good chance of our reaching her before she got alongside the brig. Had we before had any doubt of the character of the stranger, he soon left us none; for, seeing his boat hard pressed, by keeping away for an instant he brought his broadside to bear, and let fly four guns at us.
"Is that your game!" exclaimed Fairburn. "We know you then, my fine fellow." Standing up for an instant, he levelled a musket at the boat, and fired. The shot struck her, but we could not see if any one was wounded; and the shot had the effect of exciting the people to fresh exertions.
They found that we were in earnest, and were not likely to be stopped in our object by fear of consequences. They once more drew ahead of us, and in three or four minutes we had the mortification of seeing them run alongside the brig, and leap on her deck, her way being scarcely stopped. The falls were hooked on, and the boat was hoisted up.
We darted on. "A few more strokes and we shall be on board!" I shouted to my men. Fairburn and Barlow in like planner urged on their people. The brig had not yet again quite fetched away. An ominous silence was kept on her decks. The heads only of those who had hoisted in the boat were seen, and they and her crew disappeared as soon as the work was done, and the yards were braced up. A solitary figure stood at the helm. He was almost motionless, except that his bands moved the spokes of the wheel, and his eyes were turned aloft looking at the sails as they filled with the breeze.
Fairburn had again loaded his musket. He had observed the helmsman. He lifted up his piece and fired. I expected to see the brig fly up into the wind; but when the smoke cleared away, there stood the silent helmsman at his post, in the same attitude as before, and apparently uninjured.
"Give way, my lads, and we shall be on board her!" we shouted. A few strokes more, and our wish would have been accomplished; but just as I on the starboard side, and Fairburn on the port, were hooking on to the main-chains, a strong puff of wind filled the sail, the boat-hooks dropped in the water, and the black brig shot away from between us, while I fancied that I heard a shout of derisive laughter issuing from her decks. I fully expected that she would have revenged herself by firing at us, but not another shot was discharged. Silently and calmly she glided on, like a spirit of evil on the water. The helmsman stood at his post; but as yet no one else had appeared. Every instant the breeze freshened, and she rapidly flew away from us.
We now turned our attention to the schooner, which Van Graoul was endeavouring to bring up to us; but although there was a strong wind outside the harbour, she as yet felt but little of it. This, of course, gave the Emu, if Emu she was, a great start. It was, indeed, trying to me to see the mysterious vessel once more elude my grasp, at the very moment when I hoped to learn the fate of those so dear to me.
"We will pull back into the harbour, so as to get on board where there is no wind, and not to stop her way when once she feels it," cried Fairburn; and we acted on his judicious advice.
Shortly after we had hoisted in our boats, the Fraulein got clear of the harbour, and bending over to the breeze, which now with full force filled her sails, she flew like an arrow after the chase. The stranger had by this time got about two miles ahead; a distance, however, which, with the fast-sailing qualities of the Fraulein, might easily be passed over. It were vain to attempt a description of my feelings as I walked the deck, while in pursuit of the pirate.
"We must overtake her," I exclaimed. "She cannot again escape us."
"Don't be too sure," observed Van Graoul. "She has slipped away from us before, and may do so again."
She was then standing on a bowline to the northward, away from the land. We did not fire, for our shot would not have reached her; and thus silently, but with eager haste, we pursued our course. All hands were on deck, watching her anxiously; the crew standing together in knots, and discussing the strangeness of her appearance. The greater number were assembled and Dick Harper, their favourite oracle. He shook his head very wisely when asked his opinion.
"Do you see, shipmates," he observed, "she got away once from us when we thought we had hold of her; so there's no reason why she shouldn't slip out of our sight again. To my mind, there's no depending on those sort of chaps."
The answer was a careful one; and it was by making such that he had gained so much credit among his shipmates, for he was never proved to be wrong; and when he predicted what afterwards occurred, he always took care that the fact should be well-known on all sides.
My feelings, as I watched the stranger, were, of course, far more intense than those of my officers or crew; and so eagerly did I watch, that I fancied I could note every inch we gained or lost in the chase, as the wind alternately favoured one or the other of us. Of one thing I felt very certain, that since we had had a fair start we had materially gained upon her. Fairburn was of the same opinion.
Van Graoul only shook his head, and said, "Wait a bit; better never to be sure."
Still on we flew—the water bubbling and hissing under the bows of the schooner as she clove her way through. Though the wind was strong, there was, at the same time, little sea. The two miles had now been decreased to one and a half, by Fairburn's and my computation; and we hoped soon to be able to get a shot at the chase to bring down some of her spars.
"Yes," said Van Graoul, when he heard us expressing that hope; "if we can bring down some of her spars, remember she can bring down some of ours, so that we are not the nearer on that account."
The Dutchman took care that we should never become over sanguine in our expectations.
The steward brought me my dinner on deck. I ate it standing; for I was far too anxious to go below, or to remove my eyes from the chase.
The afternoon was drawing on; but we had still two hours or more of daylight, and we had reason to expect before that to come up with her at the rate we were then going.
"We are coming up with her hand over hand," I heard Barlow observe to Fairburn.
"I think so too; but what do you make of that dark line away there to windward?" was the response. "I see that we must be quick about it."
The remark drew my attention to the point indicated, and there I saw what looked like a long thin black cloud, hanging just above the water on the verge of the horizon.
Just at that moment Van Graoul went up to Fairburn. "I think we may have a chance of winging her, if we fire steadily," he said.
"We'll try it, at all events. But I hope that it will not calm the breeze," said Fairburn, issuing orders to get the long gun ready.
The gun was pointed so as to clear the rigging. Fairburn himself looked along the sight, and the vessel being kept away, as it bore on the schooner, he fired.
The shot was well aimed. It certainly reached the brig, and must have gone beyond her; but whether she was struck or not we could not tell, for on she sailed as before. Again the gun was loaded. We expected that she would have returned the fire; but she appeared perfectly unconscious of our presence.
"Aim high, Fairburn; aim high," I exclaimed with an agitated voice, thinking of those who might be on board. The gun was elevated accordingly, and the shot flew between the rigging of the brig, going through her fore-topsail, but doing apparently no further damage. As we had to keep away when we fired, we somewhat lost ground: so Van Graoul proposed that we should get somewhat nearer before we tried another shot; and to this Fairburn agreed.
Fairburn, it must be remembered, was the fighting captain. On we went, every instant gaining on the chase. We felt sure now of overtaking her, and prepared ourselves for the fierce contest which we knew must ensue before the pirates would yield. The arm-chests were opened, pistols were loaded and primed, muskets got ready, and cutlasses buckled on. Each man armed himself for the combat, and got ready in his own fashion.
So eager were we in our preparations, and in watching the chase, that we had paid but little attention to the dark low cloud I before spoke of. It now appeared much increased in depth, and rapidly advanced towards us.
"There is wind in that," exclaimed Fairburn. "Stand by to clew up and haul down everything, my lads; but we must hold on as long as we can, and try and get another shot at the enemy before the squall catches us."
Each man flew to his station at the halyards and clew-lines, while the crew of the long gun got ready to fire. There was now no time to spare. As fast as it could be loaded it was discharged. A loud huzza arose from the people. The main-topsail yard of the brig was shot away.
"Another such shot, and she will be ours," I exclaimed.
Onward came the dark cloud. The pirates seemed to think it time to stop us; and, luffing up, they let fly their broadside at us. We returned it with a will. Just then down came the squall; the dark cloud appeared ahead; and the brig, seeming to rush into it, was speedily lost to sight, to the last moment firing and receiving our fire in return.
What became of her we could not tell; and with dread I contemplated what might be her fate. The squall struck us with terrific force. The gallant crew were staunch: while some let fly the halyards and tacks and sheets, others brailed up and hauled down the canvas; but the blast triumphed over all our strength and skill. Over went the schooner, till she lay helplessly on her beam-ends. It was a scene of confusion and horror difficult to describe; the stoutest trembled, and thought their last hour was come. I saw Fairburn rush to the mainmast—a glittering axe was in his hand.
"What! must we cut away our masts?" I exclaimed, feeling how helpless we should be left.
"There is no remedy for it, I fear," he answered; and the axe hung gleaming in his hands.
"Hold! hold!" shouted Van Graoul. "There is a lull; up with the helm."
The order was obeyed.
"She rights! she rights!" was the joyful exclamation from all hands.
Once again the schooner was on an even keel, and flying before the blast, through the thick obscurity which surrounded her. But where was the chase? No one could tell. The squall soon subsided; when it did so, we hauled our wind, but the thick mist continued, and although we might have been close to the stranger, we could not have seen her.
Dick Harper shook his head most sagaciously, and with no little inward satisfaction. "I knowed it would be so," he said. "For how, do ye see, messmates, could it be otherwise?"
At length next morning, as the sun rose high in the sky, the mist cleared off; and with eagerness I hurried aloft to learn if the chase was anywhere to be seen. But as I looked round the horizon, the line where the sea and sky met was unbroken; not a sail was in sight, and, disappointed and dispirited, I returned on deck.
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.
I find that I am getting on so slowly with my narrative, and have so many adventures to tell, that omitting a number of events of less interest to my readers, I must sketch rapidly the history of several months which passed after the last escape of the Emu.
In vain we searched for her for several days, but not a trace of her could we find; not a spar nor a plank to show that she had gone down when she disappeared from our sight in the squall. We were then, it must be remembered, in the neighbourhood of the Arru Islands. We cruised along the coast of New Guinea, off which we thought the Emu might be prowling. It was curious, that though we were out of sight of land, on several occasions a number of birds, towards the evening, came on board to roost. They appeared to be land birds. The colours of some were very beautiful, and in many we could trace a resemblance to our small ducks, magpies, and larks. We also encountered daily a vast number of a species of whale, which collected round the schooner, and watching her as if they thought her some strange fish. One day they had collected in more than usual numbers, and while I watched them swimming round and round the vessel, their huge backs now and then appearing above the water, I could not help thinking that they were holding a consultation together in contemplation of an attack on us. Sometimes they would swim directly at the vessel, and then diving under her, appear at the other side. I got my rifle, intending to have a shot at one of them; though I must own that I think it very wrong to kill animals without an object, when they can be of no use to any one, merely for the sake of trying one's dexterity as a marksman on them.
"You had better not," observed Van Graoul, when he saw what I was about to do. "They may take it ill, and revenge themselves." I thought he was joking, as he was, in part, and so, loading my rifle, I fired at a huge fellow, whose back appeared at a little distance off. Whether the ball entered his skin or glanced off, I could not tell; for he sunk immediately, and I was preparing for another shot, when he, or one of his fellows, rose on the opposite side. There he remained, spouting for a minute or so, and then down he dived, and directly afterwards we felt a blow on the keel, which almost shook the masts out of the vessel, and sent some of the people sprawling on deck. The crew jumped about with dismay, thinking the schooner was sinking, and Ungka rushed to Hassan and hugged him round the neck, as if he was resolved to be drowned with him.
"I told you so," said Van Graoul. "They are not fellows to be played with."
No real damage was done; nor did the whales renew the attack. I suspect the fellow hurt his back too much to try the same trick again.
No tidings of the Emu were to be gained; and weary of looking for her in that direction, we stood to the westward, towards the island of Celebes, to the south of Ceram. We had had a fine breeze all the day; but as the evening drew on, it fell considerably; and when the sun sunk beneath the water, it became perfectly calm. The night was hot, and I remained long on deck in earnest conversation with Fairburn. He was endeavouring to console and encourage me; for I own that at times I almost began to despair of the success of my undertaking. There was a moon in the heavens in the early part of the night; but that also set, and I was thinking of turning in, when I observed a bright light in the sky to the westward, and on watching it attentively, it appeared as if it arose from some large fire close down to the water. Fairburn remarked it also.
"Can it be a burning mountain?" I asked; "or do you think the natives of any island thereabouts have been creating a blaze for their amusement?"
"There is no burning mountain or any island in that direction," he answered. "See, it rises higher and higher, till the ruddy glare extends over the whole sky! It can be but from one cause."
"What is that?" I asked.
"A ship on fire," he replied. "I have witnessed such a sight before, and have no doubt about it."
"Unhappy people!" I exclaimed; "we must try and help them."
"I fear that with this calm we shall be unable to get near them in time to be of any use," said Fairburn. "If a breeze were to spring up, we may save those who may take to their boats or secure themselves on rafts."
For a long time we watched the burning vessel, for such we were persuaded was before us; and earnestly we prayed for a breeze to carry us to the rescue of our fellow-beings, whoever they might be. We calculated that the ship was about nine or ten miles off, so that, with a good wind, we might hope to get up to her in rather more than an hour. At length a breeze fanned our cheeks, our sails filled, and we began to move rapidly through the dark and silent sea. As we drew near the fire, we saw that we were not mistaken in our conjectures; for before us appeared a large brig, with her masts still standing, but flames were blazing up around them, running along the yards and burning the canvas and rigging, while the whole hull seemed a mass of fire, fore and aft. As we were looking, first one mast tottered, and was followed directly by the other, and, amid an outburst of sparks, they fell hissing into the sea. The flames then seemed to triumph still more furiously than before. We looked in vain for any boats, or planks, or rafts, on which any of the crew might be floating. The whole sea around was lighted up; but the flames shone alone on the dancing waves. We were yet some way off; we therefore sailed on with the intention of getting as close as we could without danger to ourselves, to render any aid in our power. We passed the time in discussing what the vessel could be, and by what means she could have caught fire.
"With the extraordinary carelessness seamen too often are guilty of, it is surprising that ships do not oftener catch fire than is the case," said Fairburn. "Such is the fate of many of those which are never again heard of. Probably the destruction of this vessel arises from the same cause."
"Is it not often the custom of pirates, after they have robbed a vessel, to set her on fire to avoid discovery?" I asked casually. I scarcely know why I put the question, except that my thoughts were naturally running on the Emu.
"Oh yes, it may be so," said Van Graoul, who heard the observation; "but still I don't think it."
"What do you say? Suppose it is the Emu herself," remarked Barlow thoughtlessly.
"Heaven forbid!" I ejaculated. "Remember who I fancy is on board."
"Oh sir, I do not mean to say that I have any reason to suppose that yonder vessel is the Emu," he replied, seeing the pain the idea gave me. "She looks a much larger craft, and higher out of the water."
When we got close to the burning wreck, we hove-to to windward, and had our boats ready to lower in case we should perceive any living beings either on board or in the water. We soon saw, however, that on the deck of the brig there was not a spot, on which a person could stand free from the raging flames. I also attentively examined her, as did Fairburn; and to my infinite relief we were persuaded that she was altogether a totally different vessel from the Emu, for she was much longer and higher out of the water,—indeed, a large merchantman; and from her build we judged her to be Spanish. As I was examining the vessel, I observed, through the flames which were surrounding them, that the boats were still hanging to the davits. The circumstance was extraordinary, and we could only account for it, by supposing that the fire had burst forth so suddenly that the crew had not time to lower them, or that some other means of escape had been afforded them. We had not long to consider the point, and to arrive at the conclusion, before the flames had completely consumed the deck and sides, rendered peculiarly combustible by the heat of the climate; and, after raging for a few minutes with renewed fury, the hull sunk gradually from our sight, and the fiery furnace was quenched by the waves as they leaped triumphantly over it. Though we had seen no living beings, we still could not but suppose that some of the passengers or crew must have escaped, and were at no great distance. I was very unwilling, therefore, to leave the spot till we had ascertained the fact; and I resolved accordingly to remain hove-to till the morning. We fired a gun at intervals to attract the attention of any of the people; but hour after hour passed away, and no answer was made. The sun at last arose. A few charred planks and spars were floating near us, showing that we had kept one position during the night; but we could see no boat or raft. Look-outs were sent aloft to scan the ocean around.
They had not been long at their posts, during which time the daylight had been increasing, before one hailed the deck to report a sail right away to windward.
"What is she, do you think?" asked Fairburn.
"A square-rigged craft; her topgallant sails just show above the water," was the answer.
Directly after, the other look-out hailed, to say that he saw a speck, or some similar object, floating to leeward. Our glasses were turned towards it; and Fairburn, mounting to the crosstrees, reported that he saw a human figure hanging to it. Nothing else appearing, we instantly bore down to the spot. As we approached it, we observed that there indeed was a man attached to a hen-coop; but whether he was dead or alive it was difficult to say, as he did not move or make any sign. A boat was instantly lowered, and Fairburn jumping into it, the man was soon brought on board.
"He has still life in him, I think," said Fairburn, as he placed him on deck; "but I suspect he has met with some foul usage. See what a gash he has got across the temple; and here is a bullet-hole through his arm, or I am much mistaken."
I had not yet looked at the countenance of the wounded man. We got a mattress, and carefully carried him down into the cabin, where he was placed under the skylight on a sofa, so as to obtain sufficient air. I saw at once, by his appearance and dress, which was what any landsman might wear on board ship, that he was not a seaman; and I suspected, moreover, that he was a gentleman; not of course that, whatever his rank, we should have made any difference in our treatment of him. We had him stripped and wrapped in blankets, and then well rubbed; and we soon had the satisfaction of seeing the livid appearance of his skin wear off, and after several deep respirations, his features lost their sharp contraction, and his lips began to move, and he opened his eyes. He then looked steadfastly at me, and a smile of satisfaction played round his mouth, while he made a strong effort to speak. As he did so, I felt almost certain that I recognised the well-known countenance of my old school-fellow, John Prior. The idea had before flashed across my mind; but I had failed to see any likeness between my friend and the half-drowned stranger who was brought on board. I now, however, had little doubt on the subject.
"Prior, old fellow," I exclaimed, "I know it is you. But don't speak or agitate yourself; you shall tell me everything by and by when you get well, which you soon will, I know."
I took his hand as I spoke, and by the warm pressure he gave me in return, I felt very certain that I was not mistaken. The discovery, as may be supposed, did not lessen my zeal in the recovery of the wounded man.
Van Graoul, who had a very fair knowledge of surgery, and a sufficient modesty not to attempt more than his skill would warrant, after a careful examination of the wounds, pronounced them not dangerous; and making up a dose from the medicine chest, Prior swallowed it, and soon afterwards had gained sufficient strength to speak and sit up. Van Graoul had charged me to let him say only a few words, to give me any information which may be on his mind, and then to urge him to go to rest. The first word he uttered was my name.
"It is all very strange, indeed," he said. "But it is indeed a satisfaction to be with you, Seaworth, though I cannot tell how it has all occurred."
I told him how we had been attracted to the spot by the burning vessel, and picked him out of the water, urging him not to say more than was necessary at the moment.
"Ah, now I remember," he answered. "We were attacked by a pirate—a treacherous, cowardly pirate. They took us by surprise. We fought, however; but most of the crew were killed; some were carried off, I believe. I was knocked down below after being wounded, and supposed to be dead or dying. I was left to be burnt by the miscreants. I was only stunned, and soon recovering, I gained the deck just as they left it. The idea of being burned to death was too horrid to be endured. The boats were all destroyed, there was no time to make a raft; so, casting loose a hen-coop, I lowered it into the water, and lashed myself to it, trusting that Providence would find some means of preserving me; or, at all events, that I might thus enjoy a longer time to offer up my prayers to Heaven, and to prepare for death. It was an awful time, Seaworth; but I did not feel unhappy. I never possessed greater reliance in God's mercy. I trusted that, if He did not think fit to preserve my life, He would, through the merits of our Saviour, lead me to a glorious immortality in the next. I had no fear, strange as it may seem, I assure you."
"I should have said that of you, Prior, believe me," I replied. "But I must not let you talk more now. I have one question first to ask before I impose silence. What sort of a craft was the vessel which attacked you?"
"A low black brig; and her crew seemed of all nations," he replied.
"I thought so," I exclaimed. "It was the Emu, and she it is which is still in sight."
I instantly sent for Fairburn,—for he had left me with my friend alone,—and told him my suspicions. He had entertained the same opinion; and I found that, with all sail set, we were once wore again in chase of the mysterious craft which had so often escaped us.
Arranging Prior in a comfortable posture, I watched him till he fell asleep, his placid countenance, notwithstanding the dangers he had been in, showing a mind at rest and nerves unshaken. I found, on going on deck, that we had already risen the sails of the stranger above the horizon from the deck; and as we had the whole day before us, with a fair breeze, there was every probability of coming up with her. Should we overtake her, we had now, with Prior as a witness, stronger proofs than ever of her misdeeds. She had, however, so often escaped us, that I must own even I was not very sanguine of the result, and the crew, guided by the opinion of Dick Harper, were still less so. All the forenoon the chase continued. We were gaining on her certainly, but at the same time we were a long way from her; and early in the afternoon, the land appeared to the north-west, towards which she had altered her course.
When Van Graoul saw this, he shook his head. "So I did think," he remarked. "That craft is not to be caught so easily. If what is said of her is true, there is a worse fate for her in store than we have prepared for her."
Though the remark was made without reflection, I believe, I could not help thinking that there was much truth in it. Vengeance, far greater and more sure than the hand of man could inflict, would assuredly overtake the evil-doers.
The land we were approaching was of moderate height, thickly covered with trees, broken into headlands and promontories, and with numerous clusters of islands, and reefs, and rocks off it. Van Graoul knew it well, so that we boldly approached it. It became a question with us whether the pirates, seeing themselves so hard pressed, contemplated running the brig on shore, or whether they purposed taking up a position in one of the inlets of the coast, where they could defend themselves without risk of loss, should we attack them.
We, as before, outsailed them, proving that the Fraulein was the fastest vessel of the two; and yet no one on board but believed that the Emu would again escape us. She stood boldly in towards the shore, evidently well acquainted with it. We followed, with the lead going; there was, however, a good depth of water. When she had got within a quarter of a mile of the coast, she ran along it, and we kept after her. A headland, running a long way into the sea, appeared before us; she rounded it, and was concealed from our sight by the trees which covered it to the very edge of the water. We stood on, expecting again to see her, when we also had got round it. We had almost reached it, when, by standing too close in, we got becalmed, and for half an hour made but little progress. This we knew would, of course, give the Emu a great advantage. At last, however, the breeze again filled our sails, and we were able to get round the point. As we did so, we saw the brig a long way ahead, now standing somewhat off the land. We continued the chase, and quickly made up for the distance we had lost. This day was, however, far spent, and it was already growing dusk before we approached her. My heart beat quick with the expectation of what was to occur. When we got her within range of our long gun, we began to fire at her rigging, more effectually to prevent her escaping. To our surprise, instead of returning the fire, or standing away from us, she rounded to and backed her main-top-sail till we ran alongside.
"There is something odd here," remarked Van Graoul; "I cannot make it out."
"Nor I," said Fairburn. "There is some treachery, I fear."
"What brig is that?" I asked, through the speaking-trumpet.
"The Neversink, John Jenkins, master, from Boston, with a cargo of notions," was the answer.
"Lower a boat, and come on board, then," I hailed.
There was apparently some little demur; but soon a boat was lowered, and with four hands in her, and a man in the stern-sheets, she came alongside. The man, without hesitation, stepped on board, followed by three others. By the light of a lantern, held to show him the way, he seemed a decent, respectable sort of a person, dressed in the usual costume of a merchant skipper, with a swallow-tailed coat, and a straw hat.
"Well, I calculate I have made a mistake," he exclaimed, squirting out a stream of tobacco juice, when he found himself confronted by Fairburn, Van Graoul, and me. "I thought I was on board a Dutch man-of-war schooner; but you won't be hard upon a poor fellow, now, will you, gentleman? The cargo is all mine, and it's worth but little to you; and if you take it, or anything happens to me, I shall leave my disconsolate wife and small family destitute—I shall indeed." And Captain Jenkins began to cry and wring his hands.
"Why, pardon me if you don't like the term, but I took you for pirates, gentlemen—pirates and robbers."
"Dat is a good joke," said Van Graoul; "why, we thought you were de same. And I am not quite certain that he is not," he whispered in my ear.
He had, in the meantime, got a boat ready; and Barlow, with four hands, pulled on board the brig. While he was away, we kept Captain Jenkins in conversation, nor did he seem in any degree disconcerted at the departure of the boat, which he must have observed. When Barlow returned, he reported that the brig, though about the size and build of what we supposed the Emu to be, was, to all appearance, an honest merchantman, without anything suspicious about her. The captain said that he had come to trade with the natives in those parts; that he had just got out of harbour, and he had seen no vessel during the day till he had observed us rounding the point. His story was so plausible that we were compelled to believe him: and after he had taken a good supper with us, washed down by a bottle of wine, he returned on board, declaring that we were first-rate fellows, whether we were pirates or not. The next morning we commenced a strict scrutiny of the coast in search of the Emu; and for several days we followed it up, but in vain, and once more I was obliged to confess that I was as far from success as ever.
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.
Resolved never to abandon the pursuit in which I was engaged, although so often disappointed at the very moment that I thought success secure, I continued cruising in every direction, among the numberless rich and beautiful islands of the Eastern Archipelago. My friend Prior was for a considerable time confined to the cabin. His wounds, and long immersion in the water, had caused him to suffer much, and during many days he appeared to be hovering between life and death. When he was sufficiently recovered to speak without risk, he told me that his father having lost the greater part of his fortune, he had resolved to enter on a mercantile career, in the hopes of redeeming it; with that object he had come out to the East, and having been sent, by the house in which he was engaged, to Manilla, he took his passage in a Spanish merchantman. One day they observed a dark low brig hovering near them; but her appearance did not cause much alarm, as she was small and seemed unarmed. The first watch was nearly over, and it had become almost calm, when they were startled by seeing a vessel with long sweeps gliding up towards them. Those on deck instantly flew to their arms to defend themselves; but before the watch below and the passengers in the cabin could be aroused from their sleep, or made aware of their danger, the brig was alongside. Her character was soon made known to them. A band of fierce pirates rushed on board, and with their cutlasses and pistols cut down and shot every one they met, whether armed or not. Prior, and some of the other passengers, and a few of the crew, fought till they were overpowered by numbers, and were all cut down and disabled. How he had escaped I already knew. He supposed that the pirates, after rifling the ship and murdering the crew, had set her on fire to escape detection, or, perhaps, from a mere wantonness in cruelty. He said that he was very certain that he should be able to recognise the leader and several of his followers. Prior was unchanged from what he had been as a boy,—wise beyond his years, yet full of life and spirits, and possessing a vast fund of information; he was a most delightful companion.
It now having become absolutely necessary to refit the schooner, as well as to refresh the crew, and to get fresh stores of provisions, we entered the harbour of Amboyna, the residence of the Dutch Governor of the Moluccas. Amboyna is an island to the south of Ceram, over the whole of which the Dutch maintain their sway. The island produces cloves and other spices in abundance; the climate is tolerably healthy, and there are a good many Dutch residents. The Governor treated me and my companions with the greatest attention, appearing most anxious to forward my views by every means in his power. The sago tree grows here to a large size, eighteen inches in diameter. The pith forms the chief food of the inhabitants; and it is calculated that one tree will subsist a family for a month or six weeks. The tree being felled is secured in a horizontal position, when an opening being cut in the upper surface, the pith is scooped out as required.
I never lost an opportunity of questioning people of all sorts, to learn the movements of the Emu; and from a Bugis trader belonging to Celebes, I heard that some time before, a vessel answering her description had been seen to the north of that island; and also, as some piracies had been committed in the neighbourhood of the Philippine Islands, I suspected that she had gone to cruise among the Spanish settlements in the northern part of the Archipelago.
On leaving Amboyna, we accordingly shaped our course in that direction. Some months had now passed away since Prior had been my companion. His presence supported me much; and whenever I began to despond, he raised my spirits and encouraged me to persevere. He reminded me that often when, from want of trust in Providence, we fancy ourselves furthest from the consummation of our just hopes, God has arranged, by some inscrutable means, to bring about their fulfilment.
"He has given you health, and strength, and courage, and means, to follow up the pursuit thus far," Prior used to observe. "Why, then, fancy that success is never to occur."
Although now recovered sufficiently to find his way to Manilla, he refused to quit me till I had succeeded in my enterprise. The last shore we had seen was that of Jilolo, after passing through the Molucca passage, when one forenoon, we not expecting to fall in with any land, the look-out hailed that an island was in sight on the starboard bow. As we drew near, we found that though small, it was of considerable elevation, and apparently surrounded with coral reefs. We were about to pass it at some distance, when Fairburn, who had been examining it with his glass, said that he saw something which looked like a flag flying at the highest point. It instantly occurred to us that it must be a signal of distress, made by some shipwrecked seamen, probably; and we therefore steered nearer to the island, to examine it more minutely.
We were now convinced that we were right in our conjectures, when, on getting close in, we saw that it was a piece of striped linen—a shirt, apparently—fastened to two spars lashed together, and stuck in a heap of stones. The rock, which seemed about a couple of miles in circumference, was surrounded by coral reefs, outside of which we hove the schooner to. A boat was then lowered, in which Prior, Fairburn and I, with a crew of four hands, pulled towards the shore.
We had some little difficulty in finding our way through the reefs; but a passage at last being discovered, we landed on a soft sandy beach. We met with a spring of fresh water, and there were cocoa-nut trees, and several other tropical fruits growing in the lower part of the island; but the summit of the hill was totally bare of vegetation. As yet we had seen no signs of inhabitants; but we were curious to discover what other traces they had left behind them besides the flag-staff, or to view their remains should death have overtaken them here.
We wandered round the base of the rock, which seemed the cone of some extinct volcano, before we could find the means of ascent, so steep and rugged were its sides. At last we found a winding pathway, evidently trodden by the foot of man, by which we could easily get to the top. We followed each other in single file, Fairburn leading, having our arms in our hands; for, though there was little chance of our requiring them on this occasion, we made a point of always being prepared in case of a surprise, so many having lost their lives among the treacherous natives of those regions from neglecting this precaution. The summit of the rock was broken into a number of separate peaks, there being very little even ground. The largest space was that on which the flag-staff was erected. To this spot the pathway led up, showing that it had been the most frequently visited by the occupants of the island. There were other less defined pathways leading in different directions about the hill. Prior called our attention to the fact that they were all very narrow; from which he argued that one person alone had formed them; and from the principal one being so much trod, that he had for a long time resided on the island.
A heap of stones had been raised up to a considerable height, into which the flag-staff had been fixed; they were all small, such as one man could lift, and were mostly broken off from the surrounding cliffs. The flag-staff was formed of a boat's spreet and an oar lashed together. From the splintered butt-end of a spar, we judged that the flag-staff had been blown down, and broken off. By the way the piece of coloured cotton had been fastened together, it showed that great care had been taken to make it form as large a surface as possible. There was, however, nothing to prove how long a time had passed since the person who erected the flag-staff had gone away; and supposing that it might have been many weeks before, somewhat disappointed, we proposed to return on board the schooner. We were on the point of descending the rock, when Fairburn, who had been hunting about, picked up the fragment of a cocoa-nut.
"See!" he exclaimed, holding it up; "the fruit is perfectly fresh, and the shell cannot have been broken many hours; so, probably, there is some one still on the island."
"Perhaps, sir, it is some savage; and he is hiding from us," remarked one of the men.
"No, no," said Fairburn; "a savage would not have planted that flag-staff."
While we were still standing discussing the point, Fairburn had followed up one of the slightly-marked tracks across the rocks, of which I have spoken. He had got some way off, when for a minute he disappeared behind a point of rock. He then again came in sight, and beckoned us to follow him. We scrambled along over the broken rocks, till we reached the spot where we had last seen him; but he was gone. For an instant a feeling of dread came over me, for I fancied that he had fallen over a precipice, which appeared on one side. Just then I heard his voice, as if addressing another person. The amazement was great, when, turning the angle of the rock, I found myself in front of a shallow cavern, and saw him bending over the body of a man reclining on a bed of leaves in the further part of it. He beckoned me to enter. I did so, and approached the spot.
"Here is a poor fellow in the last stage of a violent fever," he said. "He is very weak; but perhaps food and care may bring him round. He spoke to me just now rationally enough; but, see, he off again."
The sick man looked like an Englishman or an American; and Fairburn said that he had spoken English perfectly. He was dressed in a jacket made of dark-blue silk, his shirt was of the finest linen, and he had a rich sash round his waist; but the cut of his shoes was that of an ordinary seaman. A fine plaited straw hat lay by his side; and his hair, which was thick and curling, was already considerably grizzled.
"He has been shipwrecked, and is probably the only survivor of the crew," I remarked. "We must try and get him on board without delay."
While I was making these remarks, it occurred to me that a draught of cold water might revive him; and remembering the spring we had passed, I set off to procure some in a bamboo drinking-cup we had in the boat. Meeting Prior, he turned back with me, and having observed some limes, he gathered some to squeeze into the water. We quickly returned, one of the men carrying a small breaker of water. On entering the cavern with the draught, I was glad to find that the sick man had again returned to consciousness. I put the cup to his lips, and as soon as he had tasted its contents, he drank them eagerly off, and then showed by signs that he wished for more. Prior had been engaged in squeezing more limes. He now approached nearer with them. I saw him start when he saw the stranger, and look earnestly at him; but he did not say a word, and kneeling down by his side, Prior gave him the refreshing draught he had prepared. It instantly had the effect of reviving the sick man, who looked up, and their eyes met. The latter, after staring with an amazed and inquiring look, let his head again drop, and appeared to be endeavouring to conceal his countenance with his hands, while Prior, taking me by the shoulder, led me out of the cavern. When we had got beyond hearing he stopped.
"Seaworth," he said, "who do you think is the man who lies there, on the point of death it would appear? Prepare yourself to hear, for you cannot guess. He is no other than the leader of the pirates who attacked my ship—the person who wounded me—the man of whom you are in search—the captain of the Emu. I recognised him at once; for we fought hand to hand, and there are some countenances which are impressed in a few moments on the memory. He, I suspect, for the same reason remembered me; for I believe I pressed him hard, and had not one of his companions come to his assistance, I should have taken his life. I tell you this at once, that you may be prepared how to act. He may have it in his power to communicate important information; but if we are not cautious in our proceedings, he may refuse to say anything."
I was so astonished at what I had heard, that I could scarcely collect my thoughts sufficiently to answer.
"What would you advise me to do?" I asked. "He may tell me of Eva but, alas! where can she be?"
"Trust that Providence has protected her," he answered solemnly. "But go and speak to him calmly and soothingly. There is, I fear, but little time to lose ere he will be called to his account."
Following Prior's advice, I entered the cavern, and knelt down by the side of the sick man. He seemed resolved not to utter a word, and had returned no answers to the questions as to how he felt himself, which Fairburn, who was still ignorant as to who he was, was putting to him. It struck me that he might be more inclined to speak to one person alone; I therefore requested Fairburn to quit the cabin, and to prepare some more lime-juice and water. I then turned to the pirate.
"I have to beg you to listen to me," I began, speaking in a calm, low voice. "In an extraordinary manner I have learned who you are; but though I believe you have inflicted the greatest injury on me, my religion has taught me to forgive my enemies. I therefore, from my heart, most sincerely, as far as I have the power, forgive you; nor will I in any way seek to revenge myself on you. I will now tell you who I am. My name is Mark Seaworth, and I am the brother of a little girl whom you have long had in your power. I therefore entreat you, as the best amends you can make me, to tell me where she is, and to afford me the means of recovering her and the lady who was with her."
"I did not know such a feeling existed in this dark world," he muttered, rather to himself than as if answering me. "He forgives me without exacting any promise. Alas! he knows not what he has to forgive."
"I forgive you from my heart, as I hope for forgiveness for my transgressions, when I stand in the presence of God; and I will pray that He too will forgive you for yours, even though you had inflicted a thousand injuries on me."
"This is very wonderful—very wonderful indeed," muttered the sick man. "I never heard of such a thing."
"It is the religion Christ came into the world to teach mankind," I answered. "He sets us the example, by promising forgiveness to the greatest of sinners who believe in Him, and who put their faith in Him, even at the tenth hour, like the thief on the cross. He tells us also to pray for our enemies; then, surely, I am but following his commands when I forgive you. I would say more of these things to you—I would entreat you to believe in that merciful Saviour, and to pray to Him for forgiveness; but I am a brother; I earnestly long to discover my lost sister, and I must first beg you to tell me all you know of her."
"Sir, you have strangely moved me," said the pirate, in a hoarse voice, turning his countenance towards me. "I own that I am the man you suppose, the pirate, Richard Kidd, as great a wretch as one who, years ago, bore that name. You tell me that you forgive me; but if you knew the injury I have inflicted on you for years back, I doubt that you could do so."
"For years back!" I answered, in astonishment. "I do not understand you; yet I say, whatever the injury, I am bound to forgive you, and with God's assistance I do so. But my sister? Tell me of my sister."
"Then, sir, you are such a Christian as I remember, when a boy, I was told men should be; but you are the first I ever met. You would learn what has become of the little girl, Eva Seaworth, as she was called. Alas! I cannot tell you. The only good action I ever in my life attempted has been frustrated. I had preserved your little sister from all injury, and intended to have restored her to her friends in safety, when I lost her."
"Explain, explain," I cried in a tone of agony. "Do not you know where she is?"
"Indeed I do not," was the answer. It struck a chill into my heart; and a stranger coming in would have found it difficult to say which of the two was the dying man.
"Can you give me no clue—can you not conjecture where she is?" I at length asked.
"Indeed I cannot, sir," he answered. "I have no reason to suppose her dead; but I am utterly unable to tell you where she now is."
"What! my sweet little sister! you deserted her!—wretch!" I cried, scarcely knowing what I said, and wringing my hands with the bitterness of heart. The next moment I regretted the exclamation.
"You wrong me there," said the pirate. "I deeply mourn for her loss, as you will understand shortly. But my time is short. I have resolved to give you some important information I possess respecting you; and as your companions may be useful, as witnesses of what I say, call them back. I will endeavour to make what little recompense I can, for some of what I may look on as the smallest of my many crimes; and then I will get you to talk to me about that religion I have so long neglected. I must give you something of my history; for, strange as you may deem it, it is much mixed up with yours."
"What!" I exclaimed, interrupting him, with astonishment, "your history mixed up with mine! Can you give an account of who I am?"
"Indeed I can, sir; and may put you in the way of regaining rights, of which you have long been deprived. But hasten, summon your friends; you have no time, I feel, to lose."
I rushed out, with my heart throbbing, and full of amazement, to call Prior and Fairburn. Before I returned, and before he could impart the information so important to me, the pirate might have breathed his last; yet my sad disappointment regarding the uncertainty of my sister's fate prevented me feeling the satisfaction I should otherwise have experienced at thus being on the point of gaining the information I had all my life so eagerly desired. My friends speedily followed me, as much astonished as I was; and kneeling round the dying man, while Prior took out his tablet to make notes if required, we listened to the following strange story, which, with many interruptions, he narrated to us.
CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.
"I was born and bred in the State of New York. My father I never knew. My mother was kind and good; but she yielded to the dictates of her heart rather than to those of her judgment. She over-indulged me; she neglected to root out the bad seeds Satan is always striving to sow in the heart of man; and they grew up and flourished, till they brought me to what I now am. I was of a roving, unsettled disposition. I required excitement. I believe that I might, with care, have been led into the right way, but that care was wanting. I was fond of excitement; when I could not obtain it in reality, I sought it in fiction, and therefore eagerly devoured all books which could satisfy my craving; but never did I look into one which would confer any real benefit upon me.
"The adventures of robbers and pirates delighted me most, and the history of a man, whose name I by chance bore, had a fatal influence on my destiny. I thought him a hero, and fancied it would be a grand thing to become like him.
"It did not occur to me, that the stories about him were mostly false; that the book was a fiction, dressed up to please the vicious palate of the uneducated public, and that the man himself was a miserable wretch, little better than a brute, who dared not think of the past or contemplate the future. What he was I am too well able to tell, from knowing what I myself now am. I was well educated; but my knowledge was ignorance. I soon grew weary of the trammels of home, and fancying that I should have greater licence afloat, with a vague notion that I would imitate some of the heroes of my imagination, I, without even wishing my mother farewell, ran away to sea. I had no difficulty in finding a ship; and if Satan himself had wished to choose one for me, he would not have fixed on a craft where I could more certainly have learned to follow his ways. The master set an example of wickedness, in which the crew willingly followed; and thus I grew up among the scenes of the grossest vice. It was not long before I engaged in transactions considered criminal by the laws. My companions and I succeeded so well without detection, that the rascally merchants, who had employed us, engaged us on several occasions for a similar object. At last our practices were suspected; and I was warned not to return to my native place. I accordingly took a berth on board a ship bound for India. Arrived there, I deserted, and joined an opium clipper. I soon got tired of that life, for there was some little danger at times, the excitement was but trifling, and the discipline was stricter than I liked. I got back, at length, to India, where there was much fighting going forward with the native princes; and European recruits being wanted, I enlisted, pretending I was an Englishman.
"I gained some credit for bravery, though, being discovered on a pillaging expedition, I narrowly escaped a severe punishment. I went by the name of 'the sailor', in the regiment to which I belonged; and having, while in liquor, described some of my adventures, my character was pretty well-known, not only to my comrades, but to some of my officers, as it appeared. It was not long before my conduct brought me into trouble. I escaped narrowly with my life, and was turned out of my regiment without a farthing in my pocket. I was wandering about the streets of Calcutta, considering what I should next do, when one evening, as it was growing dark, I observed a person watching me. He followed me to a secluded place, and when no one was in sight, he came up, and, addressing me by name, told me if I wanted a job which would put money in my pocket, to come to a certain house in two hours' time, binding me by an oath not to mention the circumstance to any one. I went at the time agreed on, and was shown by a servant into a room, where, soon afterwards, I was joined by a young officer, whom I knew to be a gambler and a man of ruined fortune. I therefore guessed that he wanted me to perform some desperate piece of work or other for him. 'Well, what is it you want of me?' I asked, in rather a sulky mood, for somehow or other I did not like the gentleman; and, bad as I was, I felt rather degraded in being employed by him; but yet my fortunes were too low, to allow me to be nice in what I undertook. He looked rather astonished at my manner; but recovering himself, he said, 'I want you to manage a very delicate affair for me, Kidd; and if you do so, I intend to pay you well.' 'What do you call well?' I asked calmly. 'Why, I propose giving you two hundred pounds down, and fifty pounds a year for your life, if you remain faithful,' he answered. 'You must swear to me that you will not betray me, and that no threats or bribes shall move you.' I took the oath he prescribed. He then said, 'You must know that there are two children, now in the East, who are about to be sent home to their friends in England. Both their parents are dead, and they stand between my father and a large property. If they come of age, it will be theirs, and while they live he cannot enjoy it. Now, understand, I do not want you to murder the children; we must have nothing of that sort on our consciences; but you must manage to get hold of them, and bear them away where they shall be no more heard of. I leave you to form the plan, and to carry it out, only let me know the result. Will you undertake the work?' I told him that I would. 'Well, then,' he continued, 'the children are now in the Mauritius; their names are Marmaduke and Ellen Seaton. You will have time to reach them before they sail; and you must contrive to get a berth on board the ship they go by. It is whispered that you have contrived to cast away a ship or so, when you were well paid for it. Perhaps the same turn may serve you now.'
"The plan was soon arranged. The directions for finding out the children were given me, and, putting fifty pounds into my hands for my expenses, he told me to start off at once, and to come back to him when the matter was settled. I reached the Mauritius without difficulty, and found that the children, under charge of an Indian nurse, were to proceed by the Penguin, a small free-trader, touching there on her homeward voyage. In aid of my plan, the second mate had died, so I applied for and obtained the berth; besides which I fell in with two seamen who had been with me before, when a ship I sailed in was lost by my means. I opened my project to them, and they promised to assist me. The nurse was devotedly attached to the children and by nursing them, and being attentive to her, I soon won her confidence. I found, however, much more difficulty than I expected in my attempt to wreck the vessel. The captain was a good navigator, and very attentive to his duty, as was the first mate; so that when, during my watch on deck at night, I got the ship steered a wrong course, in the hopes of edging her in on the African coast, I was very soon detected. I laid the blame on the helmsman, one of my accomplices, who stoutly asserted that he had been steering a proper course. I again tried to effect my object; but the captain had, it appeared, a compass above his head, in his own cabin, and being awake, discovered the attempt.
"I made every plausible excuse I could think of, but I felt that I was suspected, and dared not venture to play the same trick again. I had, however, another resource, which, dangerous as it was, I determined to risk. You may well start with horror. It was nothing less than to set the ship on fire. I then intended with my comrades to carry off the nurse and children to the coast of Africa, and to dispose of them to some of the African chiefs a little way in the interior, where no white man was ever likely to fall in with them. One night, the wind being from the westward, I managed to set fire to a quantity of combustible matter among the cargo. I waited till the alarm was given, and then, hurrying to the Indian nurse and the children, told her that, if she would trust to me, I would save her. My men had been prepared, and instantly lowered a boat, in which she and her charges were placed with two of my accomplices. I had a chart, with a few nautical instruments, my money, and some provisions, all ready; having thrown a keg of water and a few biscuits into the boat, I hurried forward to my cabin to get them. The flames had burned much faster than I expected, and while I was in my cabin, just about to return aft to the boat, they had reached, it appeared, the magazine. Suddenly a dreadful noise was heard; I felt myself lifted off my feet, and then I lost all consciousness of what was occurring. At length I found myself clinging to a mass of floating wreck, and in almost total darkness. I could discover no boat near me. I hailed; but no one answered. Oh, the horrors of that night! It is impossible to picture them. A laughing fiend kept whispering in my ear that I had caused all this havoc, that I had destroyed the lives of so many of my fellow-creatures, and that I should not miss my reward. Daylight came, and I was alone on the wild waters. A shattered portion of the mainmast and main-top buoyed me up, and a bag of biscuits I had had on my arm still hung there. I ate mechanically. The sun came out with fiery heat and scorched my unprotected head, and I had no water to quench my burning thirst. Thus for three days I lay drifting, I knew not where, expecting every moment to be my last, and a prey to my own bitter recollections. Then conscience for a time usurped its sway; and I believe, had I fallen into good hands I might have repented; but it was not to be so. A vessel at length hove in sight. I had just strength left to wave my hand to show that I was alive. I was taken on board; not that feelings of compassion dwelt in the bosoms of her crew, but they saw my white skin, and thought that I might be useful in navigating their evil-employed craft, for fever had thinned their numbers. She was a slaver, and had some four hundred human beings groaning in chains beneath her confined decks.
"I speedily recovered, and assuming a bold, independent manner, I soon gained considerable influence over the crew, who were composed of Spaniards, Portuguese, Mulattoes, and desperadoes from every country in Europe. My companions found me so useful that they would not part with me, so I sailed in the vessel for the next voyage. She was a large brig, well armed. Slaving alone was too tame for us. If we fell in with a merchantman, we plundered her; and instead of going on the coast for slaves, we lay in wait for the smaller vessels returning home, when we used to take the slaves out of them, sometimes paying them in goods, and sometimes, if we were not afraid of detection, refusing them any recompense, and threatening to sink them if they dared to complain. For two years I remained in the slave brig without being able to leave her. I had no dislike to the work, and our gains were very large; but I was anxious to get back to India to secure the reward which had been promised me. It may seem strange that I should be eager after a sum which was paltry, compared to what I was now making; but I did not like to lose what I considered my right, gained, too, with so much risk and crime.
"Fortune did not always favour us. We were captured by an English ship of war; and clear evidence of our guilt being brought forward, I, with several of the officers and crew, was sentenced to be hung at Sierra Leone. The sum of my iniquities was not yet full. Two of my companions, confined with me, formed a plan for escaping; and, as my knowledge of English would be useful, they invited me to join them.
"We succeeded; and after going through incredible hardships and dangers, in travelling down the coast, under which one of our number sunk, the survivor and I got on board a slaver, and reached the Brazils. I was here very nearly recognised by the master of a Brazilian craft we had plundered; so, with my Spanish comrade, I worked my way to India. When I arrived, I made inquiries for the officer who had employed me, and was to pay me my reward. He was dead; and I found that I had lost the fruits of my crime.
"The children, I felt convinced, had been lost in the burning ship; and with the proof of her destruction, I contemplated going to England, and claiming the price agreed on for this work from the officer's father, who, I doubted not, was enjoying the fortune which should have been theirs. Each time, however, that I attempted to go, I was prevented; once I had actually got part of the way, when I was wrecked at the Cape of Good Hope; and all the time I had my misgivings about going. First, that I might be recognised by those who knew me as a pirate; and then, after all, that the old gentleman would refuse to acknowledge my claims. A poor rogue, I knew, would have but little chance with a rich one. He had not tempted me to commit the crime, and might probably defy scrutiny. I speak of myself as poor; for, not withstanding all the sums I had possessed, not a dollar remained. Ill-gotten wealth speedily disappears, and leaves only a curse behind. Years passed away, when, at the port of Macao, in China, I took a berth as first mate on board the American brig Emu, trading in the Indian Seas.
"A lady, who was reputed to have great wealth with her, and a little girl, whom I supposed to be her child, came on board as passengers to Singapore. Two of the crew were my former comrades. I sounded the rest, and found that they had no scruples about joining me in any project I might propose. The prospect of possessing the lady's dollars was too tempting to be resisted. The master, we feared, would not join us. To make sure, he was shot, and thrown overboard; and I took the command. I have perpetrated so many crimes, that I can speak of murder as of a common occurrence."
"But what became of my sister and Mrs Clayton?" I exclaimed as the pirate had got thus far in his narrative.
"I took them from the first under my charge," he answered. "I treated the lady with care; because I hoped that if I were captured, she might intercede for me, and assist in preserving my life. It was not for some time that I discovered who the little girl was. I had won her confidence; for in her presence I always felt myself a better man, and more than once I had resolved to repent, and obeying my mother's earnest prayers, to return home to lead a virtuous life; but my evil passions had got too strong a hold of me, and my good resolutions were speedily broken.
"One day little Eva told me that she had been picked up in a boat at sea; and she afterwards showed me a gold chain and locket which had been found round her neck. I remembered it perfectly; and when she told me that she had a brother, and I considered that the initials of the names were the same, I had not the slightest doubt that I had discovered the children who were supposed to have been lost at sea. It at once occurred to me that I might turn the circumstance to my own advantage; and I resolved to return to England, and to put her in the way of regaining her rights. I knew that there was a great risk, but the romance and adventure pleased me; and when I told her that I had the means of serving you and her, she vowed that she would never consent to see me punished for anything that had occurred, and that she was certain that you also, and Sir Charles Plowden, would protect me.
"When I proposed to go to England, my crew would not hear of it. They had been disappointed in their share of Mrs Clayton's property; and they declared that they must have the ship full of booty before they would go into harbour, and that if I would not consent I should share the fate of the master.
"We were tolerably successful, and for a long time no ship of war appeared inclined to molest us; at length your schooner appeared, and on two or three occasions nearly came up with us. I should have fought you, and might have beaten you off; but when, after some time, I learned who you were, which information I gained by going in disguise to some of the Dutch settlements where you had touched, I was anxious to avoid you. I had a notion that if I attempted further to injure you, the attempt would recoil on my own head. During this time your young sister was tolerably contented on board. I did my best to amuse her, for I truly was fond of the child, and she little knew how bad we were.
"Mrs Clayton, however, suffered much, and her health and strength soon gave way. She prayed me to set her and Eva on shore; but I dared not do so, lest they might betray me; and I had my own reasons, which I have told you, for keeping the little girl with me. At last the poor lady sunk beneath her sorrows. Even my fierce crew pitied her; and, when too late, they would have set her on shore. She died, and we buried her at sea. I thought I should have lost the poor little girl also, her grief was so great. I did my best to comfort her, and she somewhat recovered her spirits.
"There is an uninhabited island in these seas, not far from this, where we used to go to take in wood and water, and to refit the vessel when necessary. Some months ago we went there, and having safely moored the schooner in a snug harbour, carried some of her guns on shore, with the intention, on the following day, of conveying all her stores, for the purpose of heaving her down to give her a thorough overhaul. We erected tents and huts, and all the crew went to live on shore. Eva remained on board, to be more out of harm's way; for on such occasions they were apt to get drunk, and quarrel, and sometimes to discharge their fire-arms at each other. Our movements, it appeared, had been watched by the scouts of a pirate fleet of Malays. While the greater part of the people were sleeping on shore, not suspecting danger, a number of armed prahus pulled into the harbour, and, undiscovered, they got alongside the brig. Before any alarm was given, most of the fellows who remained on board were krissed, and the lighter and most valuable portion of our cargo was carried off. Two or three of our men managed to jump overboard and to swim on shore, unperceived by the Malays. Fortunately, we had our boats with us, and instantly manning them, we pulled off to the brig. We had everything to fight for; for if we lost her, we were undone. We succeeded in surprising our enemies before they had time to cut the cables, or to set her on fire. Some we cut down, others we drove back to their vessels, and others into the water. So fierce was our attack, that they must have fancied that we mustered many more men than we actually did; and casting off their prahus, they swept them out of the harbour. Not a living being was found on board; the bodies of the men were still there, but your little sister, my good angel, was gone. I almost went mad when I made the discovery. I hoped, at first, that she might have concealed herself in the vessel, but I searched for her in vain. Nothing that could have occurred could have so moved me. I vowed that I would search for her in every direction, and would kill every Malay I met till I found her. After this I grew worse than ever, and more fierce and cruel. Even my own people were afraid of me.
"We had lost so many men, that it was necessary to be careful till we had recruited ourselves. We at last attacked a large Spanish brig. Some of her crew volunteered to join us; the rest shared the fate of many of our victims. We set her on fire and left her. We found an immense booty on board her; and it was necessary to repair to our island to share it. The people quarrelled with me about the division. I was also anxious to cruise among the Sooloo Islands, and to visit other places to which I thought little Eva might have been carried. To this they were opposed, instigated by the new hands. I grew furious, and blew out the brains of one of the ringleaders. It silenced them for the moment; but that night I found myself bound hand and foot, and that the brig was under weigh. After being at sea about a week, I was landed on this rock. I had no means of judging whereabouts it was. I was put on shore at night, and the brig made sail again at night. They left me neither arms, ammunition, nor food. At first I thought I should die; but I found ample means of existence, and I resolved to live to be revenged on those who had thus ill-used me. I felt all the time like a caged hyena, and used to walk about the island, thinking how I could escape. With some spars washed on shore I made the flag-staff you saw; but I could take no other measures, for I had no tools to construct a boat or even a raft. At last fever overtook me, and reduced me to the condition in which I now am.
"Such is a short outline of my history; but I have more to say to you. Some papers, to prove the claims of the children, kept in a tin case, were entrusted to the faithful nurse, who had charge of them. I got these papers from her, and they were in my pocket when I set the ship on fire, and I have ever since preserved them, thinking they might be of some use to me. I now return them, as they are of great importance to you."
The dying pirate ceased his strange narrative. Prior and Fairburn at once got him to give the names and addresses of people, and several dates, and other particulars, which were afterwards of the greatest importance to me. I was so overcome and astonished at what I had heard, that I should have neglected to have done so. I eagerly received the case, for I longed to learn who I was, which I supposed the papers in it would inform me; but my desire to attend to the dying man would not then allow me to look at them.
He might have done me much injury, but he had been kind to Eva; and on that account I almost forgot that he was a pirate, and looked upon him as a friend. Had he been even my enemy, at that moment I would not have deserted him. The tin case I entrusted to Prior, and begged him to give it me when we returned on board; and I then sat myself down by the side of the pirate. He intimated that he could talk, and listen to me better alone.
"I shall not keep you long, sir," he observed. "As the sun sets, my spirit too will take its flight. Alas, to what region must it be bound! Oh, who would commit sin, if they remembered what anguish they were preparing for themselves at their last moments!"
Thinking that some medicine might be of use to him, I proposed carrying him on board but he entreated to be left where he was.
"I am not afraid that you would betray me," he said, with a ghastly smile; "I wish that the gibbet could make atonement for my sins, or that the gold I have robbed could buy masses for my soul, as the cunning priests of Rome tell their dupes it would do, but it is of no use. I shall not live to see another day; and if I can be saved, it must be through the unspeakable mercy of the great Saviour, of whom you are telling me."
Still believing that he might live longer than he supposed, I begged my friends to return on board, as it wanted still two hours to sunset, and to bring some food and medicine, while I remained with the unhappy man. As there could be no risk in my being left alone, from the island being uninhabited, they yielded to my request, and immediately set off down the hill to rejoin the boat.
It was a lovely evening. The cavern wherein I sat, by the side of the dying pirate, looked towards the west. Above our head and round us were the dark rocks; below, a mass of the rich and varied foliage of the tropics, between which was seen a strip of yellow sand and a line of coral reefs; and beyond, the calm blue sea, on which the sun was shining in full radiance from the unclouded sky. At a little distance off was my little schooner, with her sails idly flapping against the masts, now lying perfectly becalmed. There I sat, and humbly strove to show the dying pirate the way to seek forgiveness of his God.