Accordingly, the next morning the women, with eleven men, five young boys, and two good big girls, came to our camp. Before they came quite to us, the women called aloud, and made an odd screaming noise to bring us out; and accordingly we came out, when two of the women, showing us what we had given them, and pointing to the company behind, made such signs as we could easily understand signified friendship. When the men advanced, having bows and arrows, they laid them down on the ground, scraped and threw sand over their heads, and turned round three times with their hands laid up upon the tops of their heads. This, it seems, was a solemn vow of friendship. Upon this we beckoned them with our hands to come nearer; then they sent the boys and girls to us first, which, it seems, was to bring us more cakes of bread and some green herbs to eat, which we received, and took the boys up and kissed them, and the little girls too; then the men came up close to us, and sat them down on the ground, making signs that we should sit down by them, which we did. They said much to one another, but we could not understand them, nor could we find any way to make them understand us, much less whither we were going, or what we wanted, only that we easily made them understand we wanted victuals; whereupon one of the men, casting his eyes about him towards a rising ground that was about half a mile off, started up as if he was frighted, flew to the place where they had laid down their bows and arrows, snatched up a bow and two arrows, and ran like a racehorse to the place. When he came there, he let fly both his arrows, and comes back again to us with the same speed. We, seeing he came with the bow, but without the arrows, were the more inquisitive; but the fellow, saying nothing to us, beckons to one of our negroes to come to him, and we bid him go; so he led him back to the place, where lay a kind of deer, shot with two arrows, but not quite dead, and between them they brought it down to us. This was for a gift to us, and was very welcome, I assure you, for our stock was low. These people were all stark naked.
The next day there came about a hundred men to us, and women making the same awkward signals of friendship, and dancing, and showing themselves very well pleased, and anything they had they gave us. How the man in the wood came to be so butcherly and rude as to shoot at our men, without making any breach first, we could not imagine; for the people were simple, plain, and inoffensive in all our other conversation with them.
From hence we went down the banks of the little river I mentioned, and where, I found, we should see the whole nation of negroes, but whether friendly to us or not, that we could make no judgment of yet.
The river was no use to us, as to the design of making canoes, a great while; and we traversed the country on the edge of it about five days more, when our carpenters, finding the stream increased, proposed to pitch our tents, and fall to work to make canoes; but after we had begun the work, and cut down two or three trees, and spent five days in the labour, some of our men, wandering further down the river, brought us word that the stream rather decreased than increased, sinking away into the sands, or drying up by the heat of the sun, so that the river appeared not able to carry the least canoe that could be any way useful to us; so we were obliged to give over our enterprise and move on.
In our further prospect this way, we marched three days full west, the country on the north side being extraordinary mountainous, and more parched and dry than any we had seen yet; whereas, in the part which looks due west, we found a pleasant valley running a great way between two great ridges of mountains. The hills looked frightful, being entirely bare of trees or grass, and even white with the dryness of the sand; but in the valley we had trees, grass, and some creatures that were fit for food, and some inhabitants.
We passed by some of their huts or houses, and saw people about them, but they ran up into the hills as soon as they saw us. At the end of this valley we met with a peopled country, and at first it put us to some doubt whether we should go among them, or keep up towards the hills northerly; and as our aim was principally as before, to make our way to the river Niger, we inclined to the latter, pursuing our course by the compass to the N.W. We marched thus without interruption seven days more, when we met with a surprising circumstance much more desolate and disconsolate than our own, and which, in time to come, will scarce seem credible.
We did not much seek the conversing, or acquainting ourselves with the natives of the country, except where we found the want of them for our provision, or their direction for our way; so that, whereas we found the country here begin to be very populous, especially towards our left hand, that is, to the south, we kept at the more distance northerly, still stretching towards the west.
In this tract we found something or other to kill and eat, which always supplied our necessity, though not so well as we were provided in our first setting out; being thus, as it were, pushing to avoid a peopled country, we at last came to a very pleasant, agreeable stream of water, not big enough to be called a river, but running to the N.N.W., which was the very course we desired to go.
On the farthest bank of this brook, we perceived some huts of negroes, not many, and in a little low spot of ground, some maize, or Indian corn, growing, which intimated presently to us, that there were some inhabitants on that side less barbarous than what we had met with in other places where we had been.
As we went forward, our whole caravan being in a body, our negroes, who were in the front, cried out, that they saw a white man! We were not much surprised at first, it being, as we thought, a mistake of the fellows, and asked them what they meant; when one of them stepped to me, and pointing to a hut on the other side of the hill, I was astonished to see a white man indeed, but stark naked, very busy near the door of his hut, and stooping down to the ground with something in his hand, as if he had been at some work; and his back being towards us, he did not see us.
I gave notice to our negroes to make no noise, and waited till some more of our men were come up, to show the sight to them, that they might be sure I was not mistaken; and we were soon satisfied of the truth, for the man, having heard some noise, started up, and looked full at us, as much surprised, to be sure, as we were, but whether with fear or hope, we then knew not.
As he discovered us, so did the rest of the inhabitants belonging to the huts about him, and all crowded together, looking at us at a distance, a little bottom, in which the brook ran, lying between us; the white man, and all the rest, as he told us afterwards, not knowing well whether they should stay or run away. However, it presently came into my thoughts, that if there were white men among them, it would be much easier to make them understand what we meant as to peace or war, than we found it with others; so tying a piece of white rag to the end of a stick, we sent two negroes with it to the bank of the water, carrying the pole up as high as they could; it was presently understood, and two of their men and the white man came to the shore on the other side.
However, as the white man spoke no Portuguese, they could understand nothing of one another but by signs; but our men made the white man understand that they had white men with them too, at which they said the white man laughed. However, to be short, our men came back, and told us they were all good friends, and in about an hour four of our men, two negroes, and the black prince, went to the river-side, where the white man came to them.
They had not been half a quarter of an hour, but a negro came running to me, and told me the white man was Inglese, as he called him; upon which I ran back, eagerly enough, you may be sure, with him, and found, as he said, that he was an Englishman; upon which he embraced me very passionately, the tears running down his face. The first surprise of his seeing us was over before we came, but any one may conceive it by the brief account he gave us afterwards of his very unhappy circumstances, and of so unexpected a deliverance, such as perhaps never happened to any man in the world, for it was a million to one odds that ever he could have been relieved; nothing but an adventure that never was heard or read of before could have suited his case, unless Heaven, by some miracle that never was to be expected, had acted for him.
He appeared to be a gentleman, not an ordinary-bred fellow, seaman, or labouring man; this showed itself in his behaviour in the first moment of our conversing with him, and in spite of all the disadvantages of his miserable circumstances.
He was a middle-aged man, not above thirty-seven or thirty-eight, though his beard was grown exceedingly long, and the hair of his head and face strangely covered him to the middle of his back and breast; he was white, and his skin very fine, though discoloured, and in some places blistered, and covered with a brown blackish substance, scurfy, scaly, and hard, which was the effect of the scorching heat of the sun; he was stark naked, and had been so, as he told us, upwards of two years.
He was so exceedingly transported at our meeting with him, that he could scarce enter into any discourse at all with us that day; and when he could get away from us for a little, we saw him walking alone, and showing all the most extravagant tokens of an ungovernable joy; and even afterwards he was never without tears in his eyes for several days, upon the least word spoken by us of his circumstances, or by him of his deliverance.
We found his behaviour the most courteous and endearing I ever saw in any man whatever, and most evident tokens of a mannerly, well-bred person appeared in all things he did or said, and our people were exceedingly taken with him. He was a scholar and a mathematician; he could not speak Portuguese indeed, but he spoke Latin to our surgeon, French to another of our men, and Italian to a third.
He had no leisure in his thoughts to ask us whence we came, whither we were going, or who we were; but would have it always as an answer to himself, that to be sure, wherever we were a-going, we came from Heaven, and were sent on purpose to save him from the most wretched condition that ever man was reduced to.
Our men pitching their camp on the bank of a little river opposite to him, he began to inquire what store of provisions we had, and how we proposed to be supplied. When he found that our store was but small, he said he would talk with the natives, and we should have provisions enough; for he said they were the most courteous, good-natured part of the inhabitants in all that part of the country, as we might suppose by his living so safe among them.
The first things this gentleman did for us were indeed of the greatest consequence to us; for, first, he perfectly informed us where we were, and which was the properest course for us to steer; secondly, he put us in the way how to furnish ourselves effectually with provisions; and thirdly, he was our complete interpreter and peacemaker with all the natives, who now began to be very numerous about us, and who were a more fierce and politic people than those we had met with before; not so easily terrified with our arms as those, and not so ignorant as to give their provisions and corn for our little toys, such as, I said before, our artificer made; but as they had frequently traded and conversed with the Europeans on the coast, or with other negro nations that had traded and been concerned with them, they were the less ignorant and the less fearful, and consequently nothing was to be had from them but by exchange for such things as they liked.
This I say of the negro natives, which we soon came among; but as to these poor people that he lived among, they were not much acquainted with things, being at the distance of above 300 miles from the coast; only that they found elephants' teeth upon the hills to the north, which they took and carried about sixty or seventy miles south, where other trading negroes usually met them, and gave them beads, glass, shells, and cowries, for them, such as the English and Dutch and other traders furnish them with from Europe.
We now began to be more familiar with our new acquaintance; and first, though we made but a sorry figure as to clothes ourselves, having neither shoe, or stocking, or glove, or hat among us, and but very few shirts, yet as well as we could we clothed him; and first, our surgeon having scissors and razors, shaved him, and cut his hair; a hat, as I say, we had not in all our stores, but he supplied himself by making himself a cap of a piece of a leopard-skin, most artificially. As for shoes or stockings, he had gone so long without them that he cared not even for the buskins and foot-gloves we wore, which I described above.
As he had been curious to hear the whole story of our travels, and was exceedingly delighted with the relation, so we were no less to know, and pleased with, the account of his circumstances, and the history of his coming to that strange place alone, and in that condition which we found him in, as above. This account of his would indeed be in itself the subject of an agreeable history, and would be as long and diverting as our own, having in it many strange and extraordinary incidents; but we cannot have room here to launch out into so long a digression: the sum of his history was this:—
He had been a factor for the English Guinea Company at Sierra Leone, or some other of their settlements which had been taken by the French, where he had been plundered of all his own effects, as well as of what was entrusted to him by the company. Whether it was that the company did not do him justice in restoring his circumstances, or in further employing him, he quitted their service, and was employed by those called separate traders, and being afterwards out of employ there also, traded on his own account; when, passing unwarily into one of the company's settlements, he was either betrayed into the hands of some of the natives, or, somehow or other, was surprised by them. However, as they did not kill him, he found means to escape from them at that time, and fled to another nation of the natives, who, being enemies to the other, entertained him friendly, and with them he lived some time; but not liking his quarters or his company, he fled again, and several times changed his landlords: sometimes was carried by force, sometimes hurried by fear, as circumstances altered with him (the variety of which deserves a history by itself), till at last he had wandered beyond all possibility of return, and had taken up his abode where we found him, where he was well received by the petty king of the tribe he lived with; and he, in return, instructed them how to value the product of their labour, and on what terms to trade with those negroes who came up to them for teeth.
As he was naked, and had no clothes, so he was naked of arms for his defence, having neither gun, sword, staff, or any instrument of war about him, no, not to guard himself against the attacks of a wild beast, of which the country was very full. We asked him how he came to be so entirely abandoned of all concern for his safety? He answered, that to him, that had so often wished for death, life was not worth defending; and that, as he was entirely at the mercy of the negroes, they had much the more confidence in him, seeing he had no weapons to hurt them. As for wild beasts, he was not much concerned about that, for he scarce ever went from his hut; but if he did, the negro king and his men went all with him, and they were all armed with bows and arrows, and lances, with which they would kill any of the ravenous creatures, lions as well as others; but that they seldom came abroad in the day; and if the negroes wander anywhere in the night, they always build a hut for themselves, and make a fire at the door of it, which is guard enough.
We inquired of him what we should next do towards getting to the seaside. He told us we were about one hundred and twenty English leagues from the coast, where almost all the European settlements and factories were, and which is called the Gold Coast; but that there were so many different nations of negroes in the way, that it was ten to one if we were not either fought with continually, or starved for want of provisions; but that there were two other ways to go, which, if he had had any company to go with him, he had often contrived to make his escape by. The one was to travel full west, which, though it was farther to go, yet was not so full of people, and the people we should find would be so much the civiller to us, or be so much the easier to fight with; or that the other way was, if possible, to get to the Rio Grande, and go down the stream in canoes. We told him, that was the way we had resolved on before we met with him; but then he told us there was a prodigious desert to go over, and as prodigious woods to go through, before we came to it, and that both together were at least twenty days' march for us, travel as hard as we could.
We asked him if there were no horses in the country, or asses, or even bullocks or buffaloes, to make use of in such a journey, and we showed him ours, of which we had but three left. He said no, all the country did not afford anything of that kind.
He told us that in this great wood there were immense numbers of elephants; and upon the desert, great multitudes of lions, lynxes, tigers, leopards, &c.; and that it was to that wood and that desert that the negroes went to get elephants' teeth, where they never failed to find a great number.
We inquired still more, and particularly the way to the Gold Coast, and if there were no rivers to ease us in our carriage; and told him, as to the negroes fighting with us, we were not much concerned at that; nor were we afraid of starving, for if they had any victuals among them, we would have our share of it; and, therefore, if he would venture to show us the way, we would venture to go; and as for himself, we told him we would live and die together—there should not a man of us stir from him.
He told us, with all his heart, if we resolved it, and would venture, we might be assured he would take his fate with us, and he would endeavour to guide us in such a way as we should meet with some friendly savages who would use us well, and perhaps stand by us against some others, who were less tractable; so, in a word, we all resolved to go full south for the Gold Coast.
The next morning he came to us again, and being all met in council, as we may call it, he began to talk very seriously with us, that since we were now come, after a long journey, to a view of the end of our troubles, and had been so obliging to him as to offer to carry him with us, he had been all night revolving in his mind what he and we all might do to make ourselves some amends for all our sorrows; and first, he said, he was to let me know that we were just then in one of the richest parts of the world, though it was really otherwise but a desolate, disconsolate wilderness; "for," says he, "there is not a river but runs gold—not a desert but without ploughing bears a crop of ivory. What mines of gold, what immense stores of gold, those mountains may contain, from whence these rivers come, or the shores which these waters run by, we know not, but may imagine that they must be inconceivably rich, seeing so much is washed down the stream by the water washing the sides of the land, that the quantity suffices all the traders which the European world send thither." We asked him how far they went for it, seeing the ships only trade upon the coast. He told us that the negroes on the coast search the rivers up for the length of 150 or 200 miles, and would be out a month, or two, or three at a time, and always come home sufficiently rewarded; "but," says he, "they never come thus far, and yet hereabouts is as much gold as there." Upon this he told us that he believed he might have gotten a hundred pounds' weight of gold since he came thither, if he had employed himself to look and work for it; but as he knew not what to do with it, and had long since despaired of being ever delivered from the misery he was in, he had entirely omitted it. "For what advantage had it been to me," said he, "or what richer had I been, if I had a ton of gold dust, and lay and wallowed in it? The richness of it," said he, "would not give me one moment's felicity, nor relieve me in the present exigency. Nay," says he, "as you all see, it would not buy me clothes to cover me, or a drop of drink to save me from perishing. It is of no value here," says he; "there are several people among these huts that would weigh gold against a few glass beads or a cockle-shell, and give you a handful of gold-dust for a handful of cowries." N.B.—These are little shells which our children call blackamoors' teeth.
When he had said thus he pulled out a piece of an earthen pot baked hard in the sun. "Here," says he, "is some of the dirt of this country, and if I would I could have got a great deal more;" and, showing it to us, I believe there was in it between two and three pounds weight of gold-dust, of the same kind and colour with that we had gotten already, as before. After we had looked at it a while, he told us, smiling, we were his deliverers, and all he had, as well as his life, was ours; and therefore, as this would be of value to us when we came to our own country, so he desired we would accept of it among us; and that was the only time that he had repented that he had picked up no more of it.
I spoke for him, as his interpreter, to my comrades, and in their names thanked him; but, speaking to them in Portuguese, I desired them to defer the acceptance of his kindness to the next morning; and so I did, telling him we would further talk of this part in the morning; so we parted for that time.
When he was gone I found they were all wonderfully affected with his discourse, and with the generosity of his temper, as well as the magnificence of his present, which in another place had been extraordinary. Upon the whole, not to detain you with circumstances, we agreed that, seeing he was now one of our number, and that as we were a relief to him in carrying him out of the dismal condition he was in, so he was equally a relief to us, in being our guide through the rest of the country, our interpreter with the natives, and our director how to manage with the savages, and how to enrich ourselves with the wealth of the country; that, therefore, we would put his gold among our common stock, and every one should give him as much as would make his up just as much as any single share of our own, and for the future we would take our lot together, taking his solemn engagement to us, as we had before one to another, that we would not conceal the least grain of gold we found one from another.
In the next conference we acquainted him with the adventures of the Golden River, and how we had shared what we got there, so that every man had a larger stock than he for his share; that, therefore, instead of taking any from him, we had resolved every one to add a little to him. He appeared very glad that we had met with such good success, but would not take a grain from us, till at last, pressing him very hard, he told us, that then he would take it thus:—that, when we came to get any more, he would have so much out of the first as should make him even, and then we would go on as equal adventurers; and thus we agreed.
He then told us he thought it would not be an unprofitable adventure if, before we set forward, and after we had got a stock of provisions, we should make a journey north to the edge of the desert he had told us of, from whence our negroes might bring every one a large elephant's tooth, and that he would get some more to assist; and that, after a certain length of carriage, they might be conveyed by canoes to the coast, where they would yield a very great profit.
I objected against this on account of our other design we had of getting gold-dust; and that our negroes, who we knew would be faithful to us, would get much more by searching the rivers for gold for us than by lugging a great tooth of a hundred and fifty pounds weight a hundred miles or more, which would be an insufferable labour to them after so hard a journey, and would certainly kill them.
He acquiesced in the justice of this answer, but fain would have had us gone to see the woody part of the hill and the edge of the desert, that we might see how the elephants' teeth lay scattered up and down there; but when we told him the story of what we had seen before, as is said above, he said no more.
We stayed here twelve days, during which time the natives were very obliging to us, and brought us fruits, pompions, and a root like carrots, though of quite another taste, but not unpleasant neither, and some guinea-fowls, whose names we did not know. In short, they brought us plenty of what they had, and we lived very well, and we gave them all such little things as our cutler had made, for he had now a whole bag full of them.
On the thirteenth day we set forward, taking our new gentleman with us. At parting, the negro king sent two savages with a present to him of some dried flesh, but I do not remember what it was, and he gave him again three silver birds which our cutler helped him to, which I assure you was a present for a king.
We travelled now south, a little west, and here we found the first river for above 2000 miles' march, whose waters run south, all the rest running north or west. We followed this river, which was no bigger than a good large brook in England, till it began to increase its water. Every now and then we found our Englishman went down as it were privately to the water, which was to try the land; at length, after a day's march upon this river, he came running up to us with his hands full of sand, and saying, "Look here." Upon looking we found that a good deal of gold lay spangled among the sand of the river. "Now," says he, "I think we may begin to work;" so he divided our negroes into couples and set them to work, to search and wash the sand and ooze in the bottom of the water where it was not deep.
In the first day and a quarter our men all together had gathered a pound and two ounces of gold or thereabouts, and as we found the quantity increased the farther we went, we followed it about three days, till another small rivulet joined the first, and then searching up the stream, we found gold there too; so we pitched our camp in the angle where the rivers joined, and we diverted ourselves, as I may call it, in washing the gold out of the sand of the river, and in getting provisions.
Here we stayed thirteen days more, in which time we had many pleasant adventures with the savages, too long to mention here, and some of them too homely to tell of, for some of our men had made something free with their women, which, had not our new guide made peace for us with one of their men at the price of seven fine bits of silver, which our artificer had cut out into the shapes of lions, and fishes, and birds, and had punched holes to hang them up by (an inestimable treasure), we must have gone to war with them and all their people.
All the while we were busy washing gold-dust out of the rivers, and our negroes the like, our ingenious cutler was hammering and cutting, and he was grown so dexterous by use that he formed all manner of images. He cut out elephants, tigers, civet cats, ostriches, eagles, cranes, fowls, fishes, and indeed whatever he pleased, in thin plates of hammered gold, for his silver and iron were almost all gone.
At one of the towns of these savage nations we were very friendly received by their king, and as he was very much taken with our workman's toys, he sold him an elephant cut out of a gold plate as thin as a sixpence at an extravagant rate. He was so much taken with it that he would not be quiet till he had given him almost a handful of gold-dust, as they call it; I suppose it might weigh three-quarters of a pound; the piece of gold that the elephant was made of might be about the weight of a pistole, rather less than more. Our artist was so honest, though the labour and art were all his own, that he brought all the gold and put it into our common stock; but we had, indeed, no manner of reason in the least to be covetous, for, as our new guide told us, we that were strong enough to defend ourselves, and had time enough to stay (for we were none of us in haste), might in time get together what quantity of gold we pleased, even to an hundred pounds weight each man if we thought fit; and therefore he told us, though he had as much reason to be sick of the country as any of us, yet if we thought to turn our march a little to the south-east, and pitch upon a place proper for our headquarters, we might find provisions plenty enough, and extend ourselves over the country among the rivers for two or three years to the right and left, and we should soon find the advantage of it.
The proposal, however good as to the profitable part of it, suited none of us, for we were all more desirous to get home than to be rich, being tired of the excessive fatigue of above a year's continual wandering among deserts and wild beasts.
However, the tongue of our new acquaintance had a kind of charm in it, and used such arguments, and had so much the power of persuasion, that there was no resisting him. He told us it was preposterous not to take the fruit of all our labours now we were come to the harvest; that we might see the hazard the Europeans run with ships and men, and at great expense, to fetch a little gold, and that we, that were in the centre of it, to go away empty-handed was unaccountable; that we were strong enough to fight our way through whole nations, and might make our journey afterward to what part of the coast we pleased, and we should never forgive ourselves when we came to our own country to see we had 500 pistoles in gold, and might as easily have had 5000 or 10,000, or what we pleased; that he was no more covetous than we, but seeing it was in all our powers to retrieve our misfortunes at once, and to make ourselves easy for all our lives, he could not be faithful to us, or grateful for the good we had done him, if he did not let us see the advantage we had in our hands; and he assured us he would make it clear to our own understanding, that we might in two years' time, by good management and by the help of our negroes, gather every man a hundred pounds weight of gold, and get together perhaps two hundred ton of teeth; whereas, if once we pushed on to the coast and separated, we should never be able to see that place again with our eyes, or do any more than sinners did with heaven,—wish themselves there, but know they can never come at it.
Our surgeon was the first man that yielded to his reasoning, and after him the gunner; and they too, indeed, had a great influence over us, but none of the rest had any mind to stay, nor I neither, I must confess; for I had no notion of a great deal of money, or what to do with myself, or what to do with it if I had it. I thought I had enough already, and all the thoughts I had about disposing of it, if I came to Europe, was only how to spend it as fast as I could, buy me some clothes, and go to sea again to be a drudge for more.
However, he prevailed with us by his good words at last to stay but for six months in the country, and then, if we did resolve to go, he would submit; so at length we yielded to that, and he carried us about fifty English miles south-east, where we found several rivulets of water, which seemed to come all from a great ridge of mountains, which lay to the north-east, and which, by our calculation, must be the beginning that way of the great waste, which we had been forced northward to avoid.
Here we found the country barren enough, but yet we had by his direction plenty of food; for the savages round us, upon giving them some of our toys, as I have so often mentioned, brought us in whatever they had; and here we found some maize, or Indian wheat, which the negro women planted, as we sow seeds in a garden, and immediately our new provider ordered some of our negroes to plant it, and it grew up presently, and by watering it often, we had a crop in less than three months' growth.
As soon as we were settled, and our camp fixed, we fell to the old trade of fishing for gold in the rivers mentioned above, and our English gentleman so well knew how to direct our search, that we scarce ever lost our labour.
One time, having set us to work, he asked if we would give him leave, with four or five negroes, to go out for six or seven days to seek his fortune, and see what he could discover in the country, assuring us whatever he got should be for the public stock. We all gave him our consent, and lent him a gun; and two of our men desiring to go with him, they took then six negroes with them, and two of our buffaloes that came with us the whole journey; they took about eight days' provision of bread with them, but no flesh, except about as much dried flesh as would serve them two days.
They travelled up to the top of the mountains I mentioned just now, where they saw (as our men afterwards vouched it to be) the same desert which we were so justly terrified at when we were on the farther side, and which, by our calculation, could not be less than 300 miles broad and above 600 miles in length, without knowing where it ended.
The journal of their travels is too long to enter upon here. They stayed out two-and-fifty days, when they brought us seventeen pound and something more (for we had no exact weight) of gold-dust, some of it in much larger pieces than any we had found before, besides about fifteen ton of elephants' teeth, which he had, partly by good usage and partly by bad, obliged the savages of the country to fetch, and bring down to him from the mountains, and which he made others bring with him quite down to our camp. Indeed, we wondered what was coming to us when we saw him attended with above 200 negroes; but he soon undeceived us, when he made them all throw down their burdens on a heap at the entrance of our camp.
Besides this, they brought two lions' skins, and five leopards' skins, very large and very fine. He asked our pardon for his long stay, and that he had made no greater a booty, but told us he had one excursion more to make, which he hoped should turn to a better account.
So, having rested himself and rewarded the savages that brought the teeth for him with some bits of silver and iron cut out diamond fashion, and with two shaped like little dogs, he sent them away mightily pleased.
The second journey he went, some more of our men desired to go with him, and they made a troop of ten white men and ten savages, and the two buffaloes to carry their provisions and ammunition. They took the same course, only not exactly the same track, and they stayed thirty-two days only, in which time they killed no less than fifteen leopards, three lions, and several other creatures, and brought us home four-and-twenty pound some ounces of gold-dust, and only six elephants' teeth, but they were very great ones.
Our friend the Englishman showed us that now our time was well bestowed, for in five months which we had stayed here, we had gathered so much gold-dust that, when we came to share it, we had five pound and a quarter to a man, besides what we had before, and besides six or seven pound weight which we had at several times given our artificer to make baubles with. And now we talked of going forward to the coast to put an end to our journey; but our guide laughed at us then. "Nay, you can't go now," says he, "for the rainy season begins next month, and there will be no stirring then." This we found, indeed, reasonable, so we resolved to furnish ourselves with provisions, that we might not be obliged to go abroad too much in the rain, and we spread ourselves some one way and some another, as far as we cared to venture, to get provisions; and our negroes killed us some deer, which we cured as well as we could in the sun, for we had now no salt.
By this time the rainy months were set in, and we could scarce, for above two months, look out of our huts. But that was not all, for the rivers were so swelled with the land-floods, that we scarce knew the little brooks and rivulets from the great navigable rivers. This had been a very good opportunity to have conveyed by water, upon rafts, our elephants' teeth, of which we had a very great pile; for, as we always gave the savages some reward for their labour, the very women would bring us teeth upon every opportunity, and sometimes a great tooth carried between two; so that our quantity was increased to about two-and-twenty ton of teeth.
As soon as the weather proved fair again, he told us he would not press us to any further stay, since we did not care whether we got any more gold or no; that we were indeed the first men he ever met with in his life that said they had gold enough, and of whom it might be truly said, that, when it lay under our feet, we would not stoop to take it up. But, since he had made us a promise, he would not break it, nor press us to make any further stay; only he thought he ought to tell us that now was the time, after the land-flood, when the greatest quantity of gold was found; and that, if we stayed but one month, we should see thousands of savages spread themselves over the whole country to wash the gold out of the sand, for the European ships which would come on the coast; that they do it then, because the rage of the floods always works down a great deal of gold out of the hills; and, if we took the advantage to be there before them, we did not know what extraordinary things we might find.
This was so forcible, and so well argued, that it appeared in all our faces we were prevailed upon; so we told him we would all stay: for though it was true we were all eager to be gone, yet the evident prospect of so much advantage could not well be resisted; that he was greatly mistaken, when he suggested that we did not desire to increase our store of gold, and in that we were resolved to make the utmost use of the advantage that was in our hands, and would stay as long as any gold was to be had, if it was another year.
He could hardly express the joy he was in on this occasion; and the fair weather coming on, we began, just as he directed, to search about the rivers for more gold. At first we had but little encouragement, and began to be doubtful; but it was very plain that the reason was, the water was not fully fallen, or the rivers reduced to their usual channel; but in a few days we were fully requited, and found much more gold than at first, and in bigger lumps; and one of our men washed out of the sand a piece of gold as big as a small nut, which weighed, by our estimation—for we had no small weights—almost an ounce and a half.
This success made us extremely diligent; and in little more than a month we had altogether gotten near sixty pound weight of gold; but after this, as he told us, we found abundance of the savages, men, women, and children, hunting every river and brook, and even the dry land of the hills for gold; so that we could do nothing like then, compared to what we had done before.
But our artificer found a way to make other people find us in gold without our own labour; for, when these people began to appear, he had a considerable quantity of his toys, birds, beasts, &c., such as before, ready for them; and the English gentleman being the interpreter, he brought the savages to admire them; so our cutler had trade enough, and, to be sure, sold his goods at a monstrous rate; for he would get an ounce of gold, sometimes two, for a bit of silver, perhaps of the value of a groat; nay, if it were iron and if it was of gold, they would not give the more for it; and it was incredible almost to think what a quantity of gold he got that way.
In a word, to bring this happy journey to a conclusion, we increased our stock of gold here, in three months' stay more, to such a degree that, bringing it all to a common stock, in order to share it, we divided almost four pound weight again to every man; and then we set forward for the Gold Coast, to see what method we could find out for our passage into Europe.
There happened several remarkable incidents in this part of our journey, as to how we were, or were not, received friendly by the several nations of savages through which we passed; how we delivered one negro king from captivity, who had been a benefactor to our new guide; and now our guide, in gratitude, by our assistance, restored him to his kingdom, which, perhaps, might contain about 300 subjects; how he entertained us; and how he made his subjects go with our Englishmen, and fetch all our elephants' teeth which we had been obliged to leave behind us, and to carry them for us to the river, the name of which I forgot, where we made rafts, and in eleven days more came down to one of the Dutch settlements on the Gold Coast, where we arrived in perfect health, and to our great satisfaction. As for our cargo of teeth, we sold it to the Dutch factory, and received clothes and other necessaries for ourselves, and such of our negroes as we thought fit to keep with us; and it is to be observed, that we had four pound of gunpowder left when we ended our journey. The negro prince we made perfectly free, clothed him out of our common stock, and gave him a pound and a half of gold for himself, which he knew very well how to manage; and here we all parted after the most friendly manner possible. Our Englishman remained in the Dutch factory some time, and, as I heard afterwards, died there of grief; for he having sent a thousand pounds sterling over to England, by the way of Holland, for his refuge at his return to his friends, the ship was taken by the French and the effects all lost.
The rest of my comrades went away, in a small bark, to the two Portuguese factories, near Gambia, in the latitude of fourteen; and I, with two negroes which I kept with me, went away to Cape Coast Castle, where I got passage for England, and arrived there in September; and thus ended my first harvest of wild oats; the rest were not sowed to so much advantage.
I had neither friend, relation, nor acquaintance in England, though it was my native country; I had consequently no person to trust with what I had, or to counsel me to secure or save it; but, falling into ill company, and trusting the keeper of a public-house in Rotherhithe with a great part of my money, and hastily squandering away the rest, all that great sum, which I got with so much pains and hazard, was gone in little more than two years' time; and, as I even rage in my own thoughts to reflect upon the manner how it was wasted, so I need record no more; the rest merits to be concealed with blushes, for that it was spent in all kinds of folly and wickedness. So this scene of my life may be said to have begun in theft, and ended in luxury; a sad setting-out, and a worse coming home.
About the year —— I began to see the bottom of my stock, and that it was time to think of further adventures; for my spoilers, as I call them, began to let me know, that as my money declined, their respect would ebb with it, and that I had nothing to expect of them further than as I might command it by the force of my money, which, in short, would not go an inch the further for all that had been spent in their favour before.
This shocked me very much, and I conceived a just abhorrence of their ingratitude; but it wore off; nor had I met with any regret at the wasting so glorious a sum of money as I brought to England with me.
I next shipped myself, in an evil hour to be sure, on a voyage to Cadiz, in a ship called the ——, and in the course of our voyage, being on the coast of Spain, was obliged to put into the Groyn, by a strong southwest wind.
Here I fell into company with some masters of mischief; and, among them, one, forwarder than the rest, began an intimate confidence with me, so that we called one another brothers, and communicated all our circumstances to one another. His name was Harris. This fellow came to me one morning, asking me if I would go on shore, and I agreed; so we got the captain's leave for the boat, and went together. When we were together, he asked me if I had a mind for an adventure that might make amends for all past misfortunes. I told him, yes, with all my heart; for I did not care where I went, having nothing to lose, and no one to leave behind me.
He then asked me if I would swear to be secret, and that, if I did not agree to what he proposed, I would nevertheless never betray him. I readily bound myself to that, upon the most solemn imprecations and curses that the devil and both of us could invent.
He told me, then, there was a brave fellow in the other ship, pointing to another English ship which rode in the harbour, who, in concert with some of the men, had resolved to mutiny the next morning, and run away with the ship; and that, if we could get strength enough among our ship's company, we might do the same. I liked the proposal very well, and he got eight of us to join with him, and he told us, that as soon as his friend had begun the work, and was master of the ship, we should be ready to do the like. This was his plot; and I, without the least hesitation, either at the villainy of the fact or the difficulty of performing it, came immediately into the wicked conspiracy, and so it went on among us; but we could not bring our part to perfection.
Accordingly, on the day appointed, his correspondent in the other ship, whose name was Wilmot, began the work, and, having seized the captain's mate and other officers, secured the ship, and gave the signal to us. We were but eleven in our ship, who were in the conspiracy, nor could we get any more that we could trust; so that, leaving the ship, we all took the boat, and went off to join the other.
Having thus left the ship I was in, we were entertained with a great deal of joy by Captain Wilmot and his new gang; and, being well prepared for all manner of roguery, bold, desperate (I mean myself), without the least checks of conscience for what I was entered upon, or for anything I might do, much less with any apprehension of what might be the consequence of it; I say, having thus embarked with this crew, which at last brought me to consort with the most famous pirates of the age, some of whom have ended their journals at the gallows, I think the giving an account of some of my other adventures may be an agreeable piece of story; and this I may venture to say beforehand, upon the word of a pirate, that I shall not be able to recollect the full, no, not by far, of the great variety which has formed one of the most reprobate schemes that ever man was capable to present to the world.
I that was, as I have hinted before, an original thief, and a pirate, even by inclination before, was now in my element, and never undertook anything in my life with more particular satisfaction.
Captain Wilmot (for so we are now to call him) being thus possessed of a ship, and in the manner as you have heard, it may be easily concluded he had nothing to do to stay in the port, or to wait either the attempts that might be made from the shore, or any change that might happen among his men. On the contrary, we weighed anchor the same tide, and stood out to sea, steering away for the Canaries. Our ship had twenty-two guns, but was able to carry thirty; and besides, as she was fitted out for a merchant-ship only, she was not furnished either with ammunition or small-arms sufficient for our design, or for the occasion we might have in case of a fight. So we put into Cadiz, that is to say, we came to an anchor in the bay; and the captain, and one whom we called young Captain Kidd, who was the gunner, [landed,] and some of the men who could best be trusted, among whom was my comrade Harris, who was made second mate, and myself, who was made a lieutenant. Some bales of English goods were proposed to be carried on shore with us for sale, but my comrade, who was a complete fellow at his business, proposed a better way for it; and having been in the town before, told us, in short, that he would buy what powder and bullet, small-arms, or anything else we wanted, on his own word, to be paid for when they came on board, in such English goods as we had there. This was much the best way, and accordingly he and the captain went on shore by themselves, and having made such a bargain as they found for their turn, came away again in two hours' time, and bringing only a butt of wine and five casks of brandy with them, we all went on board again.
The next morning two barcos longos came off to us, deeply laden, with five Spaniards on board them, for traffic. Our captain sold them good pennyworths, and they delivered us sixteen barrels of powder, twelve small rundlets of fine powder for our small-arms, sixty muskets, and twelve fusees for the officers; seventeen ton of cannon-ball, fifteen barrels of musket-bullets, with some swords and twenty good pair of pistols. Besides this, they brought thirteen butts of wine (for we, that were now all become gentlemen, scorned to drink the ship's beer), also sixteen puncheons of brandy, with twelve barrels of raisins and twenty chests of lemons; all which we paid for in English goods; and, over and above, the captain received six hundred pieces of eight in money. They would have come again, but we would stay no longer.
From hence we sailed to the Canaries, and from thence onward to the West Indies, where we committed some depredation upon the Spaniards for provisions, and took some prizes, but none of any great value, while I remained with them, which was not long at that time; for, having taken a Spanish sloop on the coast of Carthagena, my friend made a motion to me, that we should desire Captain Wilmot to put us into the sloop, with a proportion of arms and ammunition, and let us try what we could do; she being much fitter for our business than the great ship, and a better sailer. This he consented to, and we appointed our rendezvous at Tobago, making an agreement, that whatever was taken by either of our ships should be shared among the ship's company of both; all which we very punctually observed, and joined our ships again, about fifteen months after, at the island of Tobago, as above.
We cruised near two years in those seas, chiefly upon the Spaniards; not that we made any difficulty of taking English ships, or Dutch, or French, if they came in our way; and particularly, Captain Wilmot attacked a New England ship bound from the Madeiras to Jamaica, and another bound from New York to Barbados, with provisions; which last was a very happy supply to us. But the reason why we meddled as little with English vessels as we could, was, first, because, if they were ships of any force, we were sure of more resistance from them; and, secondly, because we found the English ships had less booty when taken, for the Spaniards generally had money on board, and that was what we best knew what to do with. Captain Wilmot was, indeed, more particularly cruel when he took any English vessel, that they might not too soon have advice of him in England; and so the men-of-war have orders to look out for him. But this part I bury in silence for the present.
We increased our stock in these two years considerably, having taken 60,000 pieces of eight in one vessel, and 100,000 in another; and being thus first grown rich, we resolved to be strong too, for we had taken a brigantine built at Virginia, an excellent sea-boat, and a good sailer, and able to carry twelve guns; and a large Spanish frigate-built ship, that sailed incomparably well also, and which afterwards, by the help of good carpenters, we fitted up to carry twenty-eight guns. And now we wanted more hands, so we put away for the Bay of Campeachy, not doubting we should ship as many men there as we pleased; and so we did.
Here we sold the sloop that I was in; and Captain Wilmot keeping his own ship, I took the command of the Spanish frigate as captain, and my comrade Harris as eldest lieutenant, and a bold enterprising fellow he was, as any the world afforded. One culverdine was put into the brigantine, so that we were now three stout ships, well manned, and victualled for twelve months; for we had taken two or three sloops from New England and New York, laden with flour, peas, and barrelled beef and pork, going for Jamaica and Barbados; and for more beef we went on shore on the island of Cuba, where we killed as many black cattle as we pleased, though we had very little salt to cure them.
Out of all the prizes we took here we took their powder and bullet, their small-arms and cutlasses; and as for their men, we always took the surgeon and the carpenter, as persons who were of particular use to us upon many occasions; nor were they always unwilling to go with us, though for their own security, in case of accidents, they might easily pretend they were carried away by force; of which I shall give a pleasant account in the course of my other expeditions.
We had one very merry fellow here, a Quaker, whose name was William Walters, whom we took out of a sloop bound from Pennsylvania to Barbados. He was a surgeon, and they called him doctor; but he was not employed in the sloop as a surgeon, but was going to Barbados to get a berth, as the sailors call it. However, he had all his surgeon's chests on board, and we made him go with us, and take all his implements with him. He was a comic fellow indeed, a man of very good solid sense, and an excellent surgeon; but, what was worth all, very good-humoured and pleasant in his conversation, and a bold, stout, brave fellow too, as any we had among us.
I found William, as I thought, not very averse to go along with us, and yet resolved to do it so that it might be apparent he was taken away by force, and to this purpose he comes to me. "Friend," says he, "thou sayest I must go with thee, and it is not in my power to resist thee if I would; but I desire thou wilt oblige the master of the sloop which I am on board to certify under his hand, that I was taken away by force and against my will." And this he said with so much satisfaction in his face, that I could not but understand him. "Ay, ay," says I, "whether it be against your will or no, I'll make him and all the men give you a certificate of it, or I'll take them all along with us, and keep them till they do." So I drew up a certificate myself, wherein I wrote that he was taken away by main force, as a prisoner, by a pirate ship; that they carried away his chest and instruments first, and then bound his hands behind him and forced him into their boat; and this was signed by the master and all his men.
Accordingly I fell a-swearing at him, and called to my men to tie his hands behind him, and so we put him into our boat and carried him away. When I had him on board, I called him to me. "Now, friend," says I, "I have brought you away by force, it is true, but I am not of the opinion I have brought you away so much against your will as they imagine. Come," says I, "you will be a useful man to us, and you shall have very good usage among us." So I unbound his hands, and first ordered all things that belonged to him to be restored to him, and our captain gave him a dram.
"Thou hast dealt friendly by me," says he, "and I will be plain with thee, whether I came willingly to thee or not. I shall make myself as useful to thee as I can, but thou knowest it is not my business to meddle when thou art to fight." "No, no," says the captain, "but you may meddle a little when we share the money." "Those things are useful to furnish a surgeon's chest," says William, and smiled, "but I shall be moderate."
In short, William was a most agreeable companion; but he had the better of us in this part, that if we were taken we were sure to be hanged, and he was sure to escape; and he knew it well enough. But, in short, he was a sprightly fellow, and fitter to be captain than any of us. I shall have often an occasion to speak of him in the rest of the story.
Our cruising so long in these seas began now to be so well known, that not in England only, but in France and Spain, accounts had been made public of our adventures, and many stories told how we murdered the people in cold blood, tying them back to back, and throwing them into the sea; one half of which, however, was not true, though more was done than is fit to speak of here.
The consequence of this, however, was, that several English men-of-war were sent to the West Indies, and were particularly instructed to cruise in the Bay of Mexico, and the Gulf of Florida, and among the Bahama islands, if possible, to attack us. We were not so ignorant of things as not to expect this, after so long a stay in that part of the world; but the first certain account we had of them was at Honduras, when a vessel coming in from Jamaica told us that two English men-of-war were coming directly from Jamaica thither in quest of us. We were indeed as it were embayed, and could not have made the least shift to have got off, if they had come directly to us; but, as it happened, somebody had informed them that we were in the Bay of Campeachy, and they went directly thither, by which we were not only free of them, but were so much to the windward of them, that they could not make any attempt upon us, though they had known we were there.
We took this advantage, and stood away for Carthagena, and from thence with great difficulty beat it up at a distance from under the shore for St. Martha, till we came to the Dutch island of Curacoa, and from thence to the island of Tobago, which, as before, was our rendezvous; which, being a deserted, uninhabited island, we at the same time made use of for a retreat. Here the captain of the brigantine died, and Captain Harris, at that time my lieutenant, took the command of the brigantine.
Here we came to a resolution to go away to the coast of Brazil, and from thence to the Cape of Good Hope, and so for the East Indies; but Captain Harris, as I have said, being now captain of the brigantine, alleged that his ship was too small for so long a voyage, but that, if Captain Wilmot would consent, he would take the hazard of another cruise, and he would follow us in the first ship he could take. So we appointed our rendezvous to be at Madagascar, which was done by my recommendation of the place, and the plenty of provisions to be had there.
Accordingly, he went away from us in an evil hour; for, instead of taking a ship to follow us, he was taken, as I heard afterwards, by an English man-of-war, and being laid in irons, died of mere grief and anger before he came to England. His lieutenant, I have heard, was afterwards executed in England for a pirate; and this was the end of the man who first brought me into this unhappy trade.
We parted from Tobago three days after, bending our course for the coast of Brazil, but had not been at sea above twenty-four hours, when we were separated by a terrible storm, which held three days, with very little abatement or intermission. In this juncture Captain Wilmot happened, unluckily, to be on board my ship, to his great mortification; for we not only lost sight of his ship, but never saw her more till we came to Madagascar, where she was cast away. In short, after having in this tempest lost our fore-topmast, we were forced to put back to the isle of Tobago for shelter, and to repair our damage, which brought us all very near our destruction.
We were no sooner on shore here, and all very busy looking out for a piece of timber for a topmast, but we perceived standing in for the shore an English man-of-war of thirty-six guns. It was a great surprise to us indeed, because we were disabled so much; but, to our great good fortune, we lay pretty snug and close among the high rocks, and the man-of-war did not see us, but stood off again upon his cruise. So we only observed which way she went, and at night, leaving our work, resolved to stand off to sea, steering the contrary way from that which we observed she went; and this, we found, had the desired success, for we saw him no more. We had gotten an old mizzen-topmast on board, which made us a jury fore-topmast for the present; and so we stood away for the isle of Trinidad, where, though there were Spaniards on shore, yet we landed some men with our boat, and cut a very good piece of fir to make us a new topmast, which we got fitted up effectually; and also we got some cattle here to eke out our provisions; and calling a council of war among ourselves, we resolved to quit those seas for the present, and steer away for the coast of Brazil.
The first thing we attempted here was only getting fresh water, but we learnt that there lay the Portuguese fleet at the bay of All Saints, bound for Lisbon, ready to sail, and only waited for a fair wind. This made us lie by, wishing to see them put to sea, and, accordingly as they were with or without convoy, to attack or avoid them.
It sprung up a fresh gale in the evening at S.W. by W., which, being fair for the Portugal fleet, and the weather pleasant and agreeable, we heard the signal given to unmoor, and running in under the island of Si—-, we hauled our mainsail and foresail up in the brails, lowered the topsails upon the cap, and clewed them up, that we might lie as snug as we could, expecting their coming out, and the next morning saw the whole fleet come out accordingly, but not at all to our satisfaction, for they consisted of twenty-six sail, and most of them ships of force, as well as burthen, both merchantmen and men-of-war; so, seeing there was no meddling, we lay still where we were also, till the fleet was out of sight, and then stood off and on, in hopes of meeting with further purchase.
It was not long before we saw a sail, and immediately gave her chase; but she proved an excellent sailer, and, standing out to sea, we saw plainly she trusted to her heels—that is to say, to her sails. However, as we were a clean ship, we gained upon her, though slowly, and had we had a day before us, we should certainly have come up with her; but it grew dark apace, and in that case we knew we should lose sight of her.
Our merry Quaker, perceiving us to crowd still after her in the dark, wherein we could not see which way she went, came very dryly to me. "Friend Singleton," says he, "dost thee know what we are a-doing?" Says I, "Yes; why, we are chasing yon ship, are we not?" "And how dost thou know that?" says he, very gravely still. "Nay, that's true," says I again; "we cannot be sure." "Yes, friend," says he, "I think we may be sure that we are running away from her, not chasing her. I am afraid," adds he, "thou art turned Quaker, and hast resolved not to use the hand of power, or art a coward, and art flying from thy enemy."
"What do you mean?" says I (I think I swore at him). "What do you sneer at now? You have always one dry rub or another to give us."
"Nay," says he, "it is plain enough the ship stood off to sea due east, on purpose to lose us, and thou mayest be sure her business does not lie that way; for what should she do at the coast of Africa in this latitude, which should be as far south as Congo or Angola? But as soon as it is dark, that we would lose sight of her, she will tack and stand away west again for the Brazil coast and for the bay, where thou knowest she was going before; and are we not, then, running away from her? I am greatly in hopes, friend," says the dry, gibing creature, "thou wilt turn Quaker, for I see thou art not for fighting."
"Very well, William," says I; "then I shall make an excellent pirate." However, William was in the right, and I apprehended what he meant immediately; and Captain Wilmot, who lay very sick in his cabin, overhearing us, understood him as well as I, and called out to me that William was right, and it was our best way to change our course, and stand away for the bay, where it was ten to one but we should snap her in the morning.
Accordingly we went about-ship, got our larboard tacks on board, set the top-gallant sails, and crowded for the bay of All Saints, where we came to an anchor early in the morning, just out of gunshot of the forts; we furled our sails with rope-yarns, that we might haul home the sheets without going up to loose them, and, lowering our main and fore-yards, looked just as if we had lain there a good while.
In two hours afterwards we saw our game standing in for the bay with all the sail she could make, and she came innocently into our very mouths, for we lay still till we saw her almost within gunshot, when, our foremost gears being stretched fore and aft, we first ran up our yards, and then hauled home the topsail sheets, the rope-yarns that furled them giving way of themselves; the sails were set in a few minutes; at the same time slipping our cable, we came upon her before she could get under way upon the other tack. They were so surprised that they made little or no resistance, but struck after the first broadside.
We were considering what to do with her, when William came to me. "Hark thee, friend," says he, "thou hast made a fine piece of work of it now, hast thou not, to borrow thy neighbour's ship here just at thy neighbour's door, and never ask him leave? Now, dost thou not think there are some men-of-war in the port? Thou hast given them the alarm sufficiently; thou wilt have them upon thy back before night, depend upon it, to ask thee wherefore thou didst so."
"Truly, William," said I, "for aught I know, that may be true; what, then, shall we do next?" Says he, "Thou hast but two things to do: either to go in and take all the rest, or else get thee gone before they come out and take thee; for I see they are hoisting a topmast to yon great ship, in order to put to sea immediately, and they won't be long before they come to talk with thee, and what wilt thou say to them when they ask thee why thou borrowedst their ship without leave?"
As William said, so it was. We could see by our glasses they were all in a hurry, manning and fitting some sloops they had there, and a large man-of-war, and it was plain they would soon be with us. But we were not at a loss what to do; we found the ship we had taken was laden with nothing considerable for our purpose, except some cocoa, some sugar, and twenty barrels of flour; the rest of her cargo was hides; so we took out all we thought fit for our turn, and, among the rest, all her ammunition, great shot, and small-arms, and turned her off. We also took a cable and three anchors she had, which were for our purpose, and some of her sails. She had enough left just to carry her into port, and that was all.
Having done this, we stood on upon the Brazil coast, southward, till we came to the mouth of the river Janeiro. But as we had two days the wind blowing hard at S.E. and S.S.E., we were obliged to come to an anchor under a little island, and wait for a wind. In this time the Portuguese had, it seems, given notice over land to the governor there, that a pirate was upon the coast; so that, when we came in view of the port, we saw two men-of-war riding just without the bar, whereof one, we found, was getting under sail with all possible speed, having slipped her cable on purpose to speak with us; the other was not so forward, but was preparing to follow. In less than an hour they stood both fair after us, with all the sail they could make.
Had not the night come on, William's words had been made good; they would certainly have asked us the question what we did there, for we found the foremost ship gained upon us, especially upon one tack, for we plied away from them to windward; but in the dark losing sight of them, we resolved to change our course and stand away directly for sea, not doubting that we should lose them in the night.
Whether the Portuguese commander guessed we would do so or no, I know not; but in the morning, when the daylight appeared, instead of having lost him, we found him in chase of us about a league astern; only, to our great good fortune, we could see but one of the two. However, this one was a great ship, carried six-and-forty guns, and an admirable sailer, as appeared by her outsailing us; for our ship was an excellent sailer too, as I have said before.
When I found this, I easily saw there was no remedy, but we must engage; and as we knew we could expect no quarter from those scoundrels the Portuguese, a nation I had an original aversion to, I let Captain Wilmot know how it was. The captain, sick as he was, jumped up in the cabin, and would be led out upon the deck (for he was very weak) to see how it was. "Well," says he, "we'll fight them!"
Our men were all in good heart before, but to see the captain so brisk, who had lain ill of a calenture ten or eleven days, gave them double courage, and they went all hands to work to make a clear ship and be ready. William, the Quaker, comes to me with a kind of a smile. "Friend," says he, "what does yon ship follow us for?" "Why," says I, "to fight us, you may be sure." "Well," says he, "and will he come up with us, dost thou think?" "Yes," said I, "you see she will." "Why, then, friend," says the dry wretch, "why dost thou run from her still, when thou seest she will overtake thee? Will it be better for us to be overtaken farther off than here?" "Much as one for that," says I; "why, what would you have us do?" "Do!" says he; "let us not give the poor man more trouble than needs must; let us stay for him and hear what he has to say to us." "He will talk to us in powder and ball," said I. "Very well, then," says he, "if that be his country language, we must talk to him in the same, must we not? or else how shall he understand us?" "Very well, William," says I, "we understand you." And the captain, as ill as he was, called to me, "William's right again," says he; "as good here as a league farther." So he gives a word of command, "Haul up the main-sail; we'll shorten sail for him."
Accordingly we shortened sail, and as we expected her upon our lee-side, we being then upon our starboard tack, brought eighteen of our guns to the larboard side, resolving to give him a broadside that should warm him. It was about half-an-hour before he came up with us, all which time we luffed up, that we might keep the wind of him, by which he was obliged to run up under our lee, as we designed him; when we got him upon our quarter, we edged down, and received the fire of five or six of his guns. By this time you may be sure all our hands were at their quarters, so we clapped our helm hard a-weather, let go the lee-braces of the maintop sail, and laid it a-back, and so our ship fell athwart the Portuguese ship's hawse; then we immediately poured in our broadside, raking them fore and aft, and killed them a great many men.
The Portuguese, we could see, were in the utmost confusion; and not being aware of our design, their ship having fresh way, ran their bowsprit into the fore part of our main shrouds, as that they could not easily get clear of us, and so we lay locked after that manner. The enemy could not bring above five or six guns, besides their small-arms, to bear upon us, while we played our whole broadside upon him.
In the middle of the heat of this fight, as I was very busy upon the quarter-deck, the captain calls to me, for he never stirred from us, "What the devil is friend William a-doing yonder?" says the captain; "has he any business upon, deck?" I stepped forward, and there was friend William, with two or three stout fellows, lashing the ship's bowsprit fast to our mainmast, for fear they should get away from us; and every now and then he pulled a bottle out of his pocket, and gave the men a dram to encourage them. The shot flew about his ears as thick as may be supposed in such an action, where the Portuguese, to give them their due, fought very briskly, believing at first they were sure of their game, and trusting to their superiority; but there was William, as composed, and in as perfect tranquillity as to danger, as if he had been over a bowl of punch, only very busy securing the matter, that a ship of forty-six guns should not run away from a ship of eight-and-twenty.
This work was too hot to hold long; our men behaved bravely: our gunner, a gallant man, shouted below, pouring in his shot at such a rate, that the Portuguese began to slacken their fire; we had dismounted several of their guns by firing in at their forecastle, and raking them, as I said, fore and aft. Presently comes William up to me. "Friend," says he, very calmly, "what dost thou mean? Why dost thou not visit thy neighbour in the ship, the door being open for thee?" I understood him immediately, for our guns had so torn their hull, that we had beat two port-holes into one, and the bulk-head of their steerage was split to pieces, so that they could not retire to their close quarters; so I gave the word immediately to board them. Our second lieutenant, with about thirty men, entered in an instant over the forecastle, followed by some more with the boatswain, and cutting in pieces about twenty-five men that they found upon the deck, and then throwing some grenadoes into the steerage, they entered there also; upon which the Portuguese cried quarter presently, and we mastered the ship, contrary indeed to our own expectation; for we would have compounded with them if they would have sheered off: but laying them athwart the hawse at first, and following our fire furiously, without giving them any time to get clear of us and work their ship; by this means, though they had six-and-forty guns, they were not able to fight above five or six, as I said above, for we beat them immediately from their guns in the forecastle, and killed them abundance of men between decks, so that when we entered they had hardly found men enough to fight us hand to hand upon their deck.
The surprise of joy to hear the Portuguese cry quarter, and see their ancient struck, was so great to our captain, who, as I have said, was reduced very weak with a high fever, that it gave him new life. Nature conquered the distemper, and the fever abated that very night; so that in two or three days he was sensibly better, his strength began to come, and he was able to give his orders effectually in everything that was material, and in about ten days was entirely well and about the ship.
In the meantime I took possession of the Portuguese man-of-war; and Captain Wilmot made me, or rather I made myself, captain of her for the present. About thirty of their seamen took service with us, some of which were French, some Genoese; and we set the rest on shore the next day on a little island on the coast of Brazil, except some wounded men, who were not in a condition to be removed, and whom we were bound to keep on board; but we had an occasion afterwards to dispose of them at the Cape, where, at their own request, we set them on shore.
Captain Wilmot, as soon as the ship was taken, and the prisoners stowed, was for standing in for the river Janeiro again, not doubting but we should meet with the other man-of-war, who, not having been able to find us, and having lost the company of her comrade, would certainly be returned, and might be surprised by the ship we had taken, if we carried Portuguese colours; and our men were all for it.
But our friend William gave us better counsel, for he came to me, "Friend," says he, "I understand the captain is for sailing back to the Rio Janeiro, in hopes to meet with the other ship that was in chase of thee yesterday. Is it true, dost thou intend it?" "Why, yes," says I, "William, pray why not?" "Nay," says he, "thou mayest do so if thou wilt." "Well, I know that too, William," said I, "but the captain is a man will be ruled by reason; what have you to say to it?" "Why," says William gravely, "I only ask what is thy business, and the business of all the people thou hast with thee? Is it not to get money?" "Yes, William, it is so, in our honest way." "And wouldest thou," says he, "rather have money without fighting, or fighting without money? I mean which wouldest thou have by choice, suppose it to be left to thee?" "O William," says I, "the first of the two, to be sure." "Why, then," says he, "what great gain hast thou made of the prize thou hast taken now, though it has cost the lives of thirteen of thy men, besides some hurt? It is true thou hast got the ship and some prisoners; but thou wouldest have had twice the booty in a merchant-ship, with not one quarter of the fighting; and how dost thou know either what force or what number of men may be in the other ship, and what loss thou mayest suffer, and what gain it shall be to thee if thou take her? I think, indeed, thou mayest much better let her alone."
"Why, William, it is true," said I, "and I'll go tell the captain what your opinion is, and bring you word what he says." Accordingly in I went to the captain and told him William's reasons; and the captain was of his mind, that our business was indeed fighting when we could not help it, but that our main affair was money, and that with as few blows as we could. So that adventure was laid aside, and we stood along shore again south for the river De la Plata, expecting some purchase thereabouts; especially we had our eyes upon some of the Spanish ships from Buenos Ayres, which are generally very rich in silver, and one such prize would have done our business. We plied about here, in the latitude of —— south, for near a month, and nothing offered; and here we began to consult what we should do next, for we had come to no resolution yet. Indeed, my design was always for the Cape de Bona Speranza, and so to the East Indies. I had heard some flaming stories of Captain Avery, and the fine things he had done in the Indies, which were doubled and doubled, even ten thousand fold; and from taking a great prize in the Bay of Bengal, where he took a lady, said to be the Great Mogul's daughter, with a great quantity of jewels about her, we had a story told us, that he took a Mogul ship, so the foolish sailors called it, laden with diamonds.
I would fain have had friend William's advice whither we should go, but he always put it off with some quaking quibble or other. In short, he did not care for directing us neither; whether he made a piece of conscience of it, or whether he did not care to venture having it come against him afterwards or no, this I know not; but we concluded at last without him.
We were, however, pretty long in resolving, and hankered about the Rio de la Plata a long time. At last we spied a sail to windward, and it was such a sail as I believe had not been seen in that part of the world a great while. It wanted not that we should give it chase, for it stood directly towards us, as well as they that steered could make it; and even that was more accident of weather than anything else, for if the wind had chopped about anywhere they must have gone with it. I leave any man that is a sailor, or understands anything of a ship, to judge what a figure this ship made when we first saw her, and what we could imagine was the matter with her. Her maintop-mast was come by the board about six foot above the cap, and fell forward, the head of the topgallant-mast hanging in the fore-shrouds by the stay; at the same time the parrel of the mizzen-topsail-yard by some accident giving way, the mizzen-topsail-braces (the standing part of which being fast to the main-topsail shrouds) brought the mizzen-topsail, yard and all, down with it, which spread over part of the quarter-deck like an awning; the fore-topsail was hoisted up two-thirds of the mast, but the sheets were flown; the fore-yard was lowered down upon the forecastle, the sail loose, and part of it hanging overboard. In this manner she came down upon us with the wind quartering. In a word, the figure the whole ship made was the most confounding to men that understood the sea that ever was seen. She had no boat, neither had she any colours out.
When we came near to her, we fired a gun to bring her to. She took no notice of it, nor of us, but came on just as she did before. We fired again, but it was all one. At length we came within pistol-shot of one another, but nobody answered nor appeared; so we began to think that it was a ship gone ashore somewhere in distress, and the men having forsaken her, the high tide had floated her off to sea. Coming nearer to her, we ran up alongside of her so close that we could hear a noise within her, and see the motion of several people through her ports.
Upon this we manned out two boats full of men, and very well armed, and ordered them to board her at the same minute, as near as they could, and to enter one at her fore-chains on the one side, and the other amidships on the other side. As soon as they came to the ship's side, a surprising multitude of black sailors, such as they were, appeared upon deck, and, in short, terrified our men so much that the boat which was to enter her men in the waist stood off again, and durst not board her; and the men that entered out of the other boat, finding the first boat, as they thought, beaten off, and seeing the ship full of men, jumped all back again into their boat, and put off, not knowing what the matter was. Upon this we prepared to pour in a broadside upon her; but our friend William set us to rights again here; for it seems he guessed how it was sooner than we did, and coming up to me (for it was our ship that came up with her), "Friend," says he, "I am of opinion that thou art wrong in this matter, and thy men have been wrong also in their conduct. I'll tell thee how thou shalt take this ship, without making use of those things called guns." "How can that be, William?" said I. "Why," said he, "thou mayest take her with thy helm; thou seest they keep no steerage, and thou seest the condition they are in; board her with thy ship upon her lee quarter, and so enter her from the ship. I am persuaded thou wilt take her without fighting, for there is some mischief has befallen the ship, which we know nothing of."
In a word, it being a smooth sea, and little wind, I took his advice, and laid her aboard. Immediately our men entered the ship, where we found a large ship, with upwards of 600 negroes, men and women, boys and girls, and not one Christian or white man on board.
I was struck with horror at the sight; for immediately I concluded, as was partly the case, that these black devils had got loose, had murdered all the white men, and thrown them into the sea; and I had no sooner told my mind to the men, but the thought so enraged them that I had much ado to keep my men from cutting them all in pieces. But William, with many persuasions, prevailed upon them, by telling them that it was nothing but what, if they were in the negroes' condition, they would do if they could; and that the negroes had really the highest injustice done them, to be sold for slaves without their consent; and that the law of nature dictated it to them; that they ought not to kill them, and that it would be wilful murder to do it.