This prevailed with them, and cooled their first heat; so they only knocked down twenty or thirty of them, and the rest ran all down between decks to their first places, believing, as we fancied, that we were their first masters come again.
It was a most unaccountable difficulty we had next; for we could not make them understand one word we said, nor could we understand one word ourselves that they said. We endeavoured by signs to ask them whence they came; but they could make nothing of it. We pointed to the great cabin, to the round-house, to the cook-room, then to our faces, to ask if they had no white men on board, and where they were gone; but they could not understand what we meant. On the other hand, they pointed to our boat and to their ship, asking questions as well as they could, and said a thousand things, and expressed themselves with great earnestness; but we could not understand a word of it all, or know what they meant by any of their signs.
We knew very well they must have been taken on board the ship as slaves, and that it must be by some European people too. We could easily see that the ship was a Dutch-built ship, but very much altered, having been built upon, and, as we supposed, in France; for we found two or three French books on board, and afterwards we found clothes, linen, lace, some old shoes, and several other things. We found among the provisions some barrels of Irish beef, some Newfoundland fish, and several other evidences that there had been Christians on board, but saw no remains of them. We found not a sword, gun, pistol, or weapon of any kind, except some cutlasses; and the negroes had hid them below where they lay. We asked them what was become of all the small-arms, pointing to our own and to the places where those belonging to the ship had hung. One of the negroes understood me presently, and beckoned to me to come upon the deck, where, taking my fuzee, which I never let go out of my hand for some time after we had mastered the ship—I say, offering to take hold of it, he made the proper motion of throwing it into the sea; by which I understood, as I did afterwards, that they had thrown all the small-arms, powder, shot, swords, &c., into the sea, believing, as I supposed, those things would kill them, though the men were gone.
After we understood this we made no question but that the ship's crew, having been surprised by these desperate rogues, had gone the same way, and had been thrown overboard also. We looked all over the ship to see if we could find any blood, and we thought we did perceive some in several places; but the heat of the sun, melting the pitch and tar upon the decks, made it impossible for us to discern it exactly, except in the round-house, where we plainly saw that there had been much blood. We found the scuttle open, by which we supposed that the captain and those that were with him had made their retreat into the great cabin, or those in the cabin had made their escape up into the round-house.
But that which confirmed us most of all in what had happened was that, upon further inquiry, we found that there were seven or eight of the negroes very much wounded, two or three of them with shot, whereof one had his leg broken and lay in a miserable condition, the flesh being mortified, and, as our friend William said, in two days more he would have died. William was a most dexterous surgeon, and he showed it in this cure; for though all the surgeons we had on board both our ships (and we had no less than five that called themselves bred surgeons, besides two or three who were pretenders or assistants)—though all these gave their opinions that the negro's leg must be cut off, and that his life could not be saved without it; that the mortification had touched the marrow in the bone, that the tendons were mortified, and that he could never have the use of his leg if it should be cured, William said nothing in general, but that his opinion was otherwise, and that he desired the wound might be searched, and that he would then tell them further. Accordingly he went to work with the leg; and, as he desired that he might have some of the surgeons to assist him, we appointed him two of the ablest of them to help, and all of them to look on, if they thought fit.
William went to work his own way, and some of them pretended to find fault at first. However, he proceeded and searched every part of the leg where he suspected the mortification had touched it; in a word, he cut off a great deal of mortified flesh, in all which the poor fellow felt no pain. William proceeded till he brought the vessels which he had cut to bleed, and the man to cry out; then he reduced the splinters of the bone, and, calling for help, set it, as we call it, and bound it up, and laid the man to rest, who found himself much easier than before.
At the first opening the surgeons began to triumph; the mortification seemed to spread, and a long red streak of blood appeared from the wound upwards to the middle of the man's thigh, and the surgeons told me the man would die in a few hours. I went to look at it, and found William himself under some surprise; but when I asked him how long he thought the poor fellow could live, he looked gravely at me, and said, "As long as thou canst; I am not at all apprehensive of his life," said he, "but I would cure him, if I could, without making a cripple of him." I found he was not just then upon the operation as to his leg, but was mixing up something to give the poor creature, to repel, as I thought, the spreading contagion, and to abate or prevent any feverish temper that might happen in the blood; after which he went to work again, and opened the leg in two places above the wound, cutting out a great deal of mortified flesh, which it seemed was occasioned by the bandage, which had pressed the parts too much; and withal, the blood being at the time in a more than common disposition to mortify, might assist to spread it.
Well, our friend William conquered all this, cleared the spreading mortification, and the red streak went off again, the flesh began to heal, and matter to run; and in a few days the man's spirits began to recover, his pulse beat regular, he had no fever, and gathered strength daily; and, in a word, he was a perfect sound man in about ten weeks, and we kept him amongst us, and made him an able seaman. But to return to the ship: we never could come at a certain information about it, till some of the negroes which we kept on board, and whom we taught to speak English, gave the account of it afterwards, and this maimed man in particular.
We inquired, by all the signs and motions we could imagine, what was become of the people, and yet we could get nothing from them. Our lieutenant was for torturing some of them to make them confess, but William opposed that vehemently; and when he heard it was under consideration he came to me. "Friend," says he, "I make a request to thee not to put any of these poor wretches to torment." "Why, William," said I, "why not? You see they will not give any account of what is become of the white men." "Nay," says William, "do not say so; I suppose they have given thee a full account of every particular of it." "How so?" says I; "pray what are we the wiser for all their jabbering?" "Nay," says William, "that may be thy fault, for aught I know; thou wilt not punish the poor men because they cannot speak English; and perhaps they never heard a word of English before. Now, I may very well suppose that they have given thee a large account of everything; for thou seest with what earnestness, and how long, some of them have talked to thee; and if thou canst not understand their language, nor they thine, how can they help that? At the best, thou dost but suppose that they have not told thee the whole truth of the story; and, on the contrary, I suppose they have; and how wilt thou decide the question, whether thou art right or whether I am right? Besides, what can they say to thee when thou askest them a question upon the torture, and at the same time they do not understand the question, and thou dost not know whether they say ay or no?"
It is no compliment to my moderation to say I was convinced by these reasons; and yet we had all much ado to keep our second lieutenant from murdering some of them, to make them tell. What if they had told? He did not understand one word of it; but he would not be persuaded but that the negroes must needs understand him when he asked them whether the ship had any boat or no, like ours, and what was become of it.
But there was no remedy but to wait till we made these people understand English, and to adjourn the story till that time. The case was thus: where they were taken on board the ship, that we could never understand, because they never knew the English names which we give to those coasts, or what nation they were who belonged to the ship, because they knew not one tongue from another; but thus far the negro I examined, who was the same whose leg William had cured, told us, that they did not speak the same language as we spoke, nor the same our Portuguese spoke; so that in all probability they must be French or Dutch.
Then he told us that the white men used them barbarously; that they beat them unmercifully; that one of the negro men had a wife and two negro children, one a daughter, about sixteen years old; that a white man abused the negro man's wife, and afterwards his daughter, which, as he said, made all the negro men mad; and that the woman's husband was in a great rage; at which the white man was so provoked that he threatened to kill him; but, in the night, the negro man, being loose, got a great club, by which he made us understand he meant a handspike, and that when the same Frenchman (if it was a Frenchman) came among them again, he began again to abuse the negro man's wife, at which the negro, taking up the handspike, knocked his brains out at one blow; and then taking the key from him with which he usually unlocked the handcuffs which the negroes were fettered with, he set about a hundred of them at liberty, who, getting up upon the deck by the same scuttle that the white men came down, and taking the man's cutlass who was killed, and laying hold of what came next them, they fell upon the men that were upon the deck, and killed them all, and afterwards those they found upon the forecastle; that the captain and his other men, who were in the cabin and the round-house, defended themselves with great courage, and shot out at the loopholes at them, by which he and several other men were wounded, and some killed; but that they broke into the round-house after a long dispute, where they killed two of the white men, but owned that the two white men killed eleven of their men before they could break in; and then the rest, having got down the scuttle into the great cabin, wounded three more of them.
That, after this, the gunner of the ship having secured himself in the gun-room, one of his men hauled up the long-boat close under the stern, and putting into her all the arms and ammunition they could come at, got all into the boat, and afterwards took in the captain, and those that were with him, out of the great cabin. When they were all thus embarked, they resolved to lay the ship aboard again, and try to recover it. That they boarded the ship in a desperate manner, and killed at first all that stood in their way; but the negroes being by this time all loose, and having gotten some arms, though they understood nothing of powder and bullet, or guns, yet the men could never master them. However, they lay under the ship's bow, and got out all the men they had left in the cook-room, who had maintained themselves there, notwithstanding all the negroes could do, and with their small-arms killed between thirty and forty of the negroes, but were at last forced to leave them.
They could give me no account whereabouts this was, whether near the coast of Africa, or far off, or how long it was before the ship fell into our hands; only, in general, it was a great while ago, as they called it; and, by all we could learn, it was within two or three days after they had set sail from the coast. They told us that they had killed about thirty of the white men, having knocked them on the head with crows and handspikes, and such things as they could get; and one strong negro killed three of them with an iron crow, after he was shot twice through the body; and that he was afterwards shot through the head by the captain himself at the door of the round-house, which he had split open with the crow; and this we supposed was the occasion of the great quantity of blood which we saw at the round-house door.
The same negro told us that they threw all the powder and shot they could find into the sea, and they would have thrown the great guns into the sea if they could have lifted them. Being asked how they came to have their sails in such a condition, his answer was, "They no understand; they no know what the sails do;" that was, they did not so much as know that it was the sails that made the ship go, or understand what they meant, or what to do with them. When we asked him whither they were going, he said they did not know, but believed they should go home to their own country again. I asked him, in particular, what he thought we were when we first came up with them? He said they were terribly frighted, believing we were the same white men that had gone away in their boats, and were come again in a great ship, with the two boats with them, and expected they would kill them all.
This was the account we got out of them, after we had taught them to speak English, and to understand the names and use of the things belonging to the ship which they had occasion to speak of; and we observed that the fellows were too innocent to dissemble in their relation, and that they all agreed in the particulars, and were always in the same story, which confirmed very much the truth of what they said.
Having taken this ship, our next difficulty was, what to do with the negroes. The Portuguese in the Brazils would have bought them all of us, and been glad of the purchase, if we had not showed ourselves enemies there, and been known for pirates; but, as it was, we durst not go ashore anywhere thereabouts, or treat with any of the planters, because we should raise the whole country upon us; and, if there were any such things as men-of-war in any of their ports, we should be as sure to be attacked by them, and by all the force they had by land or sea.
Nor could we think of any better success if we went northward to our own plantations. One while we determined to carry them all away to Buenos Ayres, and sell them there to the Spaniards; but they were really too many for them to make use of; and to carry them round to the South Seas, which was the only remedy that was left, was so far that we should be no way able to subsist them for so long a voyage.
At last, our old, never-failing friend, William, helped us out again, as he had often done at a dead lift. His proposal was this, that he should go as master of the ship, and about twenty men, such as we could best trust, and attempt to trade privately, upon the coast of Brazil, with the planters, not at the principal ports, because that would not be admitted.
We all agreed to this, and appointed to go away ourselves towards the Rio de la Plata, where we had thought of going before, and to wait for him, not there, but at Port St Pedro, as the Spaniards call it, lying at the mouth of the river which they call Rio Grande, and where the Spaniards had a small fort and a few people, but we believe there was nobody in it.
Here we took up our station, cruising off and on, to see if we could meet any ships going to or coming from the Buenos Ayres or the Rio de la Plata; but we met with nothing worth notice. However, we employed ourselves in things necessary for our going off to sea; for we filled all our water-casks, and got some fish for our present use, to spare as much as possible our ship's stores.
William, in the meantime, went away to the north, and made the land about the Cape de St Thomas; and betwixt that and the isles De Tuberon he found means to trade with the planters for all his negroes, as well the women as the men, and at a very good price too; for William, who spoke Portuguese pretty well, told them a fair story enough, that the ship was in scarcity of provisions, that they were driven a great way out of their way, and indeed, as we say, out of their knowledge, and that they must go up to the northward as far as Jamaica, or sell there upon the coast. This was a very plausible tale, and was easily believed; and, if you observe the manner of the negroes' sailing, and what happened in their voyage, was every word of it true.
By this method, and being true to one another, William passed for what he was—I mean, for a very honest fellow; and by the assistance of one planter, who sent to some of his neighbour planters, and managed the trade among themselves, he got a quick market; for in less than five weeks William sold all his negroes, and at last sold the ship itself, and shipped himself and his twenty men, with two negro boys whom he had left, in a sloop, one of those which the planters used to send on board for the negroes. With this sloop Captain William, as we then called him, came away, and found us at Port St Pedro, in the latitude of 32 degrees 30 minutes south.
Nothing was more surprising to us than to see a sloop come along the coast, carrying Portuguese colours, and come in directly to us, after we were assured he had discovered both our ships. We fired a gun, upon her nearer approach, to bring her to an anchor, but immediately she fired five guns by way of salute, and spread her English ancient. Then we began to guess it was friend William, but wondered what was the meaning of his being in a sloop, whereas we sent him away in a ship of near 300 tons; but he soon let us into the whole history of his management, with which we had a great deal of reason to be very well satisfied. As soon as he had brought the sloop to an anchor, he came aboard of my ship, and there he gave us an account how he began to trade by the help of a Portuguese planter, who lived near the seaside; how he went on shore and went up to the first house he could see, and asked the man of the house to sell him some hogs, pretending at first he only stood in upon the coast to take in fresh water and buy some provisions; and the man not only sold him seven fat hogs, but invited him in, and gave him, and five men he had with him, a very good dinner; and he invited the planter on board his ship, and, in return for his kindness, gave him a negro girl for his wife.
This so obliged the planter that the next morning he sent him on board, in a great luggage-boat, a cow and two sheep, with a chest of sweetmeats and some sugar, and a great bag of tobacco, and invited Captain William on shore again; that, after this, they grew from one kindness to another; that they began to talk about trading for some negroes; and William, pretending it was to do him service, consented to sell him thirty negroes for his private use in his plantation, for which he gave William ready money in gold, at the rate of five-and-thirty moidores per head; but the planter was obliged to use great caution in the bringing them on shore; for which purpose he made William weigh and stand out to sea, and put in again, about fifty miles farther north, where at a little creek he took the negroes on shore at another plantation, being a friend's of his, whom, it seems, he could trust.
This remove brought William into a further intimacy, not only with the first planter, but also with his friends, who desired to have some of the negroes also; so that, from one to another, they bought so many, till one overgrown planter took 100 negroes, which was all William had left, and sharing them with another planter, that other planter chaffered with William for ship and all, giving him in exchange a very clean, large, well-built sloop of near sixty tons, very well furnished, carrying six guns; but we made her afterwards carry twelve guns. William had 300 moidores of gold, besides the sloop, in payment for the ship; and with this money he stored the sloop as full as she could hold with provisions, especially bread, some pork, and about sixty hogs alive; among the rest, William got eighty barrels of good gunpowder, which was very much for our purpose; and all the provisions which were in the French ship he took out also.
This was a very agreeable account to us, especially when we saw that William had received in gold coined, or by weight, and some Spanish silver, 60,000 pieces of eight, besides a new sloop, and a vast quantity of provisions.
We were very glad of the sloop in particular, and began to consult what we should do, whether we had not best turn off our great Portuguese ship, and stick to our first ship and the sloop, seeing we had scarce men enough for all three, and that the biggest ship was thought too big for our business. However, another dispute, which was now decided, brought the first to a conclusion. The first dispute was, whither we should go. My comrade, as I called him now, that is to say, he that was my captain before we took this Portuguese man-of-war, was for going to the South Seas, and coasting up the west side of America, where we could not fail of making several good prizes upon the Spaniards; and that then, if occasion required it, we might come home by the South Seas to the East Indies, and so go round the globe, as others had done before us.
But my head lay another way. I had been in the East Indies, and had entertained a notion ever since that, if we went thither, we could not fail of making good work of it, and that we might have a safe retreat, and good beef to victual our ship, among my old friends the natives of Zanzibar, on the coast of Mozambique, or the island of St Lawrence. I say, my thoughts lay this way; and I read so many lectures to them all of the advantages they would certainly make of their strength by the prizes they would take in the Gulf of Mocha, or the Red Sea, and on the coast of Malabar, or the Bay of Bengal, that I amazed them.
With these arguments I prevailed on them, and we all resolved to steer away S.E. for the Cape of Good Hope; and, in consequence of this resolution, we concluded to keep the sloop, and sail with all three, not doubting, as I assured them, but we should find men there to make up the number wanting, and if not, we might cast any of them off when we pleased.
We could do no less than make our friend William captain of the sloop which, with such good management, he had brought us. He told us, though with much good manners, he would not command her as a frigate; but, if we would give her to him for his share of the Guinea ship, which we came very honestly by, he would keep us company as a victualler, if we commanded him, as long as he was under the same force that took him away.
We understood him, so gave him the sloop, but upon condition that he should not go from us, and should be entirely under our command. However, William was not so easy as before; and, indeed, as we afterwards wanted the sloop to cruise for purchase, and a right thorough-paced pirate in her, so I was in such pain for William that I could not be without him, for he was my privy counsellor and companion upon all occasions; so I put a Scotsman, a bold, enterprising, gallant fellow, into her, named Gordon, and made her carry twelve guns and four petereroes, though, indeed, we wanted men, for we were none of us manned in proportion to our force.
We sailed away for the Cape of Good Hope the beginning of October 1706, and passed by, in sight of the Cape, the 12th of November following, having met with a great deal of bad weather. We saw several merchant-ships in the roads there, as well English as Dutch, whether outward bound or homeward we could not tell; be it what it would, we did not think fit to come to an anchor, not knowing what they might be, or what they might attempt against us, when they knew what we were. However, as we wanted fresh water, we sent the two boats belonging to the Portuguese man-of-war, with all Portuguese seamen or negroes in them, to the watering-place, to take in water; and in the meantime we hung out a Portuguese ancient at sea, and lay by all that night. They knew not what we were, but it seems we passed for anything but really what we was.
Our boats returning the third time loaden, about five o'clock next morning, we thought ourselves sufficiently watered, and stood away to the eastward; but, before our men returned the last time, the wind blowing an easy gale at west, we perceived a boat in the grey of the morning under sail, crowding to come up with us, as if they were afraid we should be gone. We soon found it was an English long-boat, and that it was pretty full of men. We could not imagine what the meaning of it should be; but, as it was but a boat, we thought there could be no great harm in it to let them come on board; and if it appeared they came only to inquire who we were, we would give them a full account of our business, by taking them along with us, seeing we wanted men as much as anything. But they saved us the labour of being in doubt how to dispose of them; for it seems our Portuguese seamen, who went for water, had not been so silent at the watering-places as we thought they would have been. But the case, in short, was this: Captain —— (I forbear his name at present, for a particular reason), captain of an East India merchant-ship, bound afterwards for China, had found some reason to be very severe with his men, and had handled some of them very roughly at St Helena; insomuch, that they threatened among themselves to leave the ship the first opportunity, and had long wished for that opportunity. Some of these men, it seems, had met with our boat at the watering-place, and inquiring of one another who we were, and upon what account, whether the Portuguese seamen, by faltering in their account, made them suspect that we were out upon the cruise, or whether they told it in plain English or no (for they all spoke English enough to be understood), but so it was, that as soon as ever the men carried the news on board, that the ships which lay by to the eastward were English, and that they were going upon the account, which, by they way, was a sea term for a pirate; I say, as soon as ever they heard it, they went to work, and getting all things ready in the night, their chests and clothes, and whatever else they could, they came away before it was day, and came up with us about seven o'clock.
When they came by the ship's side which I commanded we hailed them in the usual manner, to know what and who they were, and what their business. They answered they were Englishmen, and desired to come on board. We told them they might lay the ship on board, but ordered they should let only one man enter the ship till the captain knew their business, and that he should come without any arms. They said, Ay, with all their hearts.
We presently found their business, and that they desired to go with us; and as for their arms, they desired we would send men on board the boat, and that they would deliver them all to us, which was done. The fellow that came up to me told me how they had been used by their captain, how he had starved the men, and used them like dogs, and that, if the rest of the men knew they should be admitted, he was satisfied two-thirds of them would leave the ship. We found the fellows were very hearty in their resolution, and jolly brisk sailors they were; so I told them I would do nothing without our admiral, that was the captain of the other ship; so I sent my pinnace on board Captain Wilmot, to desire him to come on board. But he was indisposed, and being to leeward, excused his coming, but left it all to me; but before my boat was returned, Captain Wilmot called to me by his speaking-trumpet, which all the men might hear as well as I; thus, calling me by my name, "I hear they are honest fellows; pray tell them they are all welcome, and make them a bowl of punch."
As the men heard it as well as I, there was no need to tell them what the captain said; and, as soon as the trumpet had done, they set up a huzza, that showed us they were very hearty in their coming to us; but we bound them to us by a stronger obligation still after this, for when we came to Madagascar, Captain Wilmot, with consent of all the ship's company, ordered that these men should have as much money given them out of the stock as was due to them for their pay in the ship they had left; and after that we allowed them twenty pieces of eight a man bounty money; and thus we entered them upon shares, as we were all, and brave stout fellows they were, being eighteen in number, whereof two were midshipmen, and one a carpenter.
It was the 28th of November, when, having had some bad weather, we came to an anchor in the road off St Augustine Bay, at the south-west end of my old acquaintance the isle of Madagascar. We lay here awhile and trafficked with the natives for some good beef; though the weather was so hot that we could not promise ourselves to salt any of it up to keep; but I showed them the way which we practised before, to salt it first with saltpetre, then cure it by drying it in the sun, which made it eat very agreeably, though not so wholesome for our men, that not agreeing with our way of cooking, viz., boiling with pudding, brewis, &c., and particularly this way, would be too salt, and the fat of the meat be rusty, or dried away so as not to be eaten.
This, however, we could not help, and made ourselves amends by feeding heartily on the fresh beef while we were there, which was excellent, good and fat, every way as tender and as well relished as in England, and thought to be much better to us who had not tasted any in England for so long a time.
Having now for some time remained here, we began to consider that this was not a place for our business; and I, that had some views a particular way of my own, told them that this was not a station for those who looked for purchase; that there were two parts of the island which were particularly proper for our purposes; first, the bay on the east side of the island, and from thence to the island Mauritius, which was the usual way which ships that came from the Malabar coast, or the coast of Coromandel, Fort St George, &c., used to take, and where, if we waited for them, we ought to take our station.
But, on the other hand, as we did not resolve to fall upon the European traders, who were generally ships of force and well manned, and where blows must be looked for; so I had another prospect, which I promised myself would yield equal profit, or perhaps greater, without any of the hazard and difficulty of the former; and this was the Gulf of Mocha, or the Red Sea.
I told them that the trade here was great, the ships rich, and the Strait of Babelmandel narrow; so that there was no doubt but we might cruise so as to let nothing slip our hands, having the seas open from the Red Sea, along the coast of Arabia, to the Persian Gulf, and the Malabar side of the Indies.
I told them what I had observed when I sailed round the island in my former progress; how that, on the northernmost point of the island, there were several very good harbours and roads for our ships; that the natives were even more civil and tractable, if possible, than those where we were, not having been so often ill-treated by European sailors as those had in the south and east sides; and that we might always be sure of a retreat, if we were driven to put in by any necessity, either of enemies or weather.
They were easily convinced of the reasonableness of my scheme; and Captain Wilmot, whom I now called our admiral, though he was at first of the mind to go and lie at the island Mauritius, and wait for some of the European merchant-ships from the road of Coromandel, or the Bay of Bengal, was now of my mind. It is true we were strong enough to have attacked an English East India ship of the greatest force, though some of them were said to carry fifty guns; but I represented to him that we were sure to have blows and blood if we took them; and, after we had done, their loading was not of equal value to us, because we had no room to dispose of their merchandise; and, as our circumstances stood, we had rather have taken one outward-bound East India ship, with her ready cash on board, perhaps to the value of forty or fifty thousand pounds, than three homeward-bound, though their loading would at London be worth three times the money, because we knew not whither to go to dispose of the cargo; whereas the ships from London had abundance of things we knew how to make use of besides their money, such as their stores of provisions and liquors, and great quantities of the like sent to the governors and factories at the English settlements for their use; so that, if we resolved to look for our own country ships, it should be those that were outward-bound, not the London ships homeward.
All these things considered, brought the admiral to be of my mind entirely; so, after taking in water and some fresh provisions where we lay, which was near Cape St Mary, on the south-west corner of the island, we weighed and stood away south, and afterwards S.S.E., to round the island, and in about six days' sail got out of the wake of the island, and steered away north, till we came off Port Dauphin, and then north by east, to the latitude of 13 degrees 40 minutes, which was, in short, just at the farthest part of the island; and the admiral, keeping ahead, made the open sea fair to the west, clear of the whole island; upon which he brought to, and we sent a sloop to stand in round the farthest point north, and coast along the shore, and see for a harbour to put into, which they did, and soon brought us an account that there was a deep bay, with a very good road, and several little islands, under which they found good riding, in ten to seventeen fathom water, and accordingly there we put in.
However, we afterwards found occasion to remove our station, as you shall hear presently. We had now nothing to do but go on shore, and acquaint ourselves a little with the natives, take in fresh water and some fresh provisions, and then to sea again. We found the people very easy to deal with, and some cattle they had; but it being at the extremity of the island, they had not such quantities of cattle here. However, for the present we resolved to appoint this for our place of rendezvous, and go and look out. This was about the latter end of April.
Accordingly we put to sea, and cruised away to the northward, for the Arabian coast. It was a long run, but as the winds generally blow trade from the S. and S.S.E. from May to September, we had good weather; and in about twenty days we made the island of Socotra, lying south from the Arabian coast, and E.S.E. from the mouth of the Gulf of Mocha, or the Red Sea.
Here we took in water, and stood off and on upon the Arabian shore. We had not cruised here above three days, or thereabouts, but I spied a sail, and gave her chase; but when we came up with her, never was such a poor prize chased by pirates that looked for booty, for we found nothing in her but poor, half-naked Turks, going a pilgrimage to Mecca, to the tomb of their prophet Mahomet. The junk that carried them had no one thing worth taking away but a little rice and some coffee, which was all the poor wretches had for their subsistence; so we let them go, for indeed we knew not what to do with them.
The same evening we chased another junk with two masts, and in something better plight to look at than the former. When we came on board we found them upon the same errand, but only that they were people of some better fashion than the other; and here we got some plunder, some Turkish stores, a few diamonds in the ear-drops of five or six persons, some fine Persian carpets, of which they made their saffras to lie upon, and some money; so we let them go also.
We continued here eleven days longer, and saw nothing but now and then a fishing-boat; but the twelfth day of our cruise we spied a ship: indeed I thought at first it had been an English ship, but it appeared to be an European freighted for a voyage from Goa, on the coast of Malabar, to the Red Sea, and was very rich. We chased her, and took her without any fight, though they had some guns on board too, but not many. We found her manned with Portuguese seamen, but under the direction of five merchant Turks, who had hired her on the coast of Malabar of some Portugal merchants, and had laden her with pepper, saltpetre, some spices, and the rest of the loading was chiefly calicoes and wrought silks, some of them very rich.
We took her and carried her to Socotra; but we really knew not what to do with her, for the same reasons as before; for all their goods were of little or no value to us. After some days we found means to let one of the Turkish merchants know, that if he would ransom the ship we would take a sum of money and let them go. He told me that if I would let one of them go on shore for the money they would do it; so we adjusted the value of the cargo at 30,000 ducats. Upon this agreement, we allowed the sloop to carry him on shore, at Dofar, in Arabia, where a rich merchant laid down the money for them, and came off with our sloop; and on payment of the money we very fairly and honestly let them go.
Some days after this we took an Arabian junk, going from the Gulf of Persia to Mocha, with a good quantity of pearl on board. We gutted him of the pearl, which it seems was belonging to some merchants at Mocha, and let him go, for there was nothing else worth our taking.
We continued cruising up and down here till we began to find our provisions grow low, when Captain Wilmot, our admiral, told us it was time to think of going back to the rendezvous; and the rest of the men said the same, being a little weary of beating about for above three months together, and meeting with little or nothing compared to our great expectations; but I was very loth to part with the Red Sea at so cheap a rate, and pressed them to tarry a little longer, which at my instance they did; but three days afterwards, to our great misfortune, understood that, by landing the Turkish merchants at Dofar, we had alarmed the coast as far as the Gulf of Persia, so that no vessel would stir that way, and consequently nothing was to be expected on that side.
I was greatly mortified at this news, and could no longer withstand the importunities of the men to return to Madagascar. However, as the wind continued still to blow at S.S.E. by S., we were obliged to stand away towards the coast of Africa and the Cape Guardafui, the winds being more variable under the shore than in the open sea.
Here we chopped upon a booty which we did not look for, and which made amends for all our waiting; for the very same hour that we made land we spied a large vessel sailing along the shore to the southward. The ship was of Bengal, belonging to the Great Mogul's country, but had on board a Dutch pilot, whose name, if I remember right, was Vandergest, and several European seamen, whereof three were English. She was in no condition to resist us. The rest of her seamen were Indians of the Mogul's subjects, some Malabars and some others. There were five Indian merchants on board, and some Armenians. It seems they had been at Mocha with spices, silks, diamonds, pearls, calico, &c., such goods as the country afforded, and had little on board now but money in pieces of eight, which, by the way, was just what we wanted; and the three English seamen came along with us, and the Dutch pilot would have done so too, but the two Armenian merchants entreated us not to take him, for that he being their pilot, there was none of the men knew how to guide the ship; so, at their request, we refused him; but we made them promise he should not be used ill for being willing to go with us.
We got near 200,000 pieces of eight in this vessel; and, if they said true, there was a Jew of Goa, who intended to have embarked with them, who had 200,000 pieces of eight with him, all his own; but his good fortune, springing out of his ill fortune, hindered him, or he fell sick at Mocha, and could not be ready to travel, which was the saving of his money.
There was none with me at the taking this prize but the sloop, for Captain Wilmot's ship proving leaky, he went away for the rendezvous before us, and arrived there the middle of December; but not liking the port, he left a great cross on shore, with directions written on a plate of lead fixed to it, for us to come after him to the great bays at Mangahelly, where he found a very good harbour; but we learned a piece of news here that kept us from him a great while, which the admiral took offence at; but we stopped his mouth with his share of 200,000 pieces of eight to him and his ship's crew. But the story which interrupted our coming to him was this. Between Mangahelly and another point, called Cape St Sebastian, there came on shore in the night an European ship, and whether by stress of weather or want of a pilot I know not, but the ship stranded and could not be got off.
We lay in the cove or harbour, where, as I have said, our rendezvous was appointed, and had not yet been on shore, so we had not seen the directions our admiral had left for us.
Our friend William, of whom I have said nothing a great while, had a great mind one day to go on shore, and importuned me to let him have a little troop to go with him, for safety, that they might see the country. I was mightily against it for many reasons; but particularly I told him he knew the natives were but savages, and they were very treacherous, and I desired him that he would not go; and, had he gone on much farther, I believe I should have downright refused him, and commanded him not to go.
But, in order to persuade me to let him go, he told me he would give me an account of the reason why he was so importunate. He told me, the last night he had a dream, which was so forcible, and made such an impression upon his mind, that he could not be quiet till he had made the proposal to me to go; and if I refused him, then he thought his dream was significant; and if not, then his dream was at an end.
His dream was, he said, that he went on shore with thirty men, of which the cockswain, he said, was one, upon the island; and that they found a mine of gold, and enriched them all. But this was not the main thing, he said, but that the same morning he had dreamed so, the cockswain came to him just then, and told him that he dreamed he went on shore on the island of Madagascar, and that some men came to him and told him they would show him where he should get a prize which would make them all rich.
These two things put together began to weigh with me a little, though I was never inclined to give any heed to dreams; but William's importunity turned me effectually, for I always put a great deal of stress upon his judgment; so that, in short, I gave them leave to go, but I charged them not to go far off from the sea-coast; that, if they were forced down to the seaside upon any occasion, we might perhaps see them, and fetch them off with our boats.
They went away early in the morning, one-and-thirty men of them in number, very well armed, and very stout fellows; they travelled all the day, and at night made us a signal that all was well, from the top of a hill, which we had agreed on, by making a great fire.
Next day they marched down the hill on the other side, inclining towards the seaside, as they had promised, and saw a very pleasant valley before them, with a river in the middle of it, which, a little farther below them, seemed to be big enough to bear small ships; they marched apace towards this river, and were surprised with the noise of a piece going off, which, by the sound, could not be far off. They listened long, but could hear no more; so they went on to the river-side, which was a very fine fresh stream, but widened apace, and they kept on by the banks of it, till, almost at once, it opened or widened into a good large creek or harbour, about five miles from the sea; and that which was still more surprising, as they marched forward, they plainly saw in the mouth of the harbour, or creek, the wreck of a ship.
The tide was up, as we call it, so that it did net appear very much above the water, but, as they made downwards, they found it grow bigger and bigger; and the tide soon after ebbing out, they found it lay dry upon the sands, and appeared to be the wreck of a considerable vessel, larger than could be expected in that country.
After some time, William, taking out his glass to look at it more nearly, was surprised with hearing a musket-shot whistle by him, and immediately after that he heard the gun, and saw the smoke from the other side; upon which our men immediately fired three muskets, to discover, if possible, what or who they were. Upon the noise of these guns, abundance of men came running down to the shore from among the trees; and our men could easily perceive that they were Europeans, though they knew not of what nation; however, our men hallooed to them as loud as they could, and by-and-by they got a long pole, and set it up, and hung a white shirt upon it for a flag of truce. They on the other side saw it, by the help of their glasses, too, and quickly after our men see a boat launch off from the shore, as they thought, but it was from another creek, it seems; and immediately they came rowing over the creek to our men, carrying also a white flag as a token of truce.
It is not easy to describe the surprise, or joy and satisfaction, that appeared on both sides, to see not only white men, but Englishmen, in a place so remote; but what then must it be when they came to know one another, and to find that they were not only countrymen but comrades, and that this was the very ship that Captain Wilmot, our admiral, commanded, and whose company we had lost in the storm at Tobago, after making an agreement to rendezvous at Madagascar!
They had, it seems, got intelligence of us when they came to the south part of the island, and had been a-roving as far as the Gulf of Bengal, when they met Captain Avery, with whom they joined, took several rich prizes, and, amongst the rest, one ship with the Great Mogul's daughter, and an immense treasure in money and jewels; and from thence they came about the coast of Coromandel, and afterwards that of Malabar, into the Gulf of Persia, where they also took some prize, and then designed for the south part of Madagascar; but the winds blowing hard at S.E. and S.E. by E., they came to the northward of the isle, and being after that separated by a furious tempest from the N.W., they were forced into the mouth of that creek, where they lost their ship. And they told us, also, that they heard that Captain Avery himself had lost his ship also not far off.
When they had thus acquainted one another with their fortunes, the poor overjoyed men were in haste to go back to communicate their joy to their comrades; and, leaving some of their men with ours, the rest went back, and William was so earnest to see them that he and two more went back with them, and there he came to their little camp where they lived. There were about a hundred and sixty men of them in all; they had got their guns on shore, and some ammunition, but a good deal of their powder was spoiled; however, they had raised a fair platform, and mounted twelve pieces of cannon upon it, which was a sufficient defence to them on that side of the sea; and just at the end of the platform they had made a launch and a little yard, and were all hard at work, building another little ship, as I may call it, to go to sea in; but they put a stop to this work upon the news they had of our being come in.
When our men went into their huts, it was surprising, indeed, to see the vast stock of wealth they had got, in gold and silver and jewels, which, however, they told us was a trifle to what Captain Avery had, wherever he was gone.
It was five days we had waited for our men, and no news of them; and indeed I gave them over for lost, but was surprised, after five days' waiting, to see a ship's boat come rowing towards us along shore. What to make of it I could not tell, but was at least better satisfied when our men told me they heard them halloo and saw them wave their caps to us.
In a little time they came quite up to us; and I saw friend William stand up in the boat and make signs to us; so they came on board; but when I saw there were but fifteen of our one-and-thirty men, I asked him what had become of their fellows. "Oh," says William, "they are all very well; and my dream is fully made good, and the cockswain's too."
This made me very impatient to know how the case stood; so he told us the whole story, which indeed surprised us all. The next day we weighed, and stood away southerly to join Captain Wilmot and ship at Mangahelly, where we found him, as I said, a little chagrined at our stay; but we pacified him afterwards with telling him the history of William's dream, and the consequence of it.
In the meantime the camp of our comrades was so near Mangahelly, that our admiral and I, friend William, and some of the men, resolved to take the sloop and go and see them, and fetch them all, and their goods, bag and baggage, on board our ship, which accordingly we did, and found their camp, their fortifications, the battery of guns they had erected, their treasure, and all the men, just as William had related it; so, after some stay, we took all the men into the sloop, and brought them away with us.
It was some time before we knew what was become of Captain Avery; but after about a month, by the direction of the men who had lost their ship, we sent the sloop to cruise along the shore, to find out, if possible, where they were; and in about a week's cruise our men found them, and particularly that they had lost their ship, as well as our men had lost theirs, and that they were every way in as bad a condition as ours.
It was about ten days before the sloop returned, and Captain Avery with them; and this was the whole force that, as I remember, Captain Avery ever had with him; for now we joined all our companies together, and it stood thus:—We had two ships and a sloop, in which we had 320 men, but much too few to man them as they ought to be, the great Portuguese ship requiring of herself near 400 men to man her completely. As for our lost, but now found comrade, her complement of men was 180, or thereabouts; and Captain Avery had about 300 men with him, whereof he had ten carpenters with him, most of which were taken aboard the prize they had taken; so that, in a word, all the force Avery had at Madagascar, in the year 1699, or thereabouts, amounted to our three ships, for his own was lost, as you have heard; and never had any more than about 1200 men in all.
It was about a month after this that all our crews got together, and as Avery was unshipped, we all agreed to bring our own company into the Portuguese man-of-war and the sloop, and give Captain Avery the Spanish frigate, with all the tackles and furniture, guns and ammunition, for his crew by themselves; for which they, being full of wealth, agreed to give us 40,000 pieces of eight.
It was next considered what course we should take. Captain Avery, to give him his due, proposed our building a little city here, establishing ourselves on shore, with a good fortification and works proper to defend ourselves; and that, as we had wealth enough, and could increase it to what degree we pleased, we should content ourselves to retire here, and bid defiance to the world. But I soon convinced him that this place would be no security to us, if we pretended to carry on our cruising trade; for that then all the nations of Europe, and indeed of that part of the world, would be engaged to root us out; but if we resolved to live there as in retirement, and plant in the country as private men, and give over our trade of pirating, then, indeed, we might plant and settle ourselves where we pleased. But then, I told him, the best way would be to treat with the natives, and buy a tract of land of them farther up the country, seated upon some navigable river, where boats might go up and down for pleasure, but not ships to endanger us; that thus planting the high ground with cattle, such as cows and goats, of which the country also was full, to be sure we might live here as well as any men in the world; and I owned to him I thought it was a good retreat for those that were willing to leave off and lay down, and yet did not care to venture home and be hanged; that is to say, to run the risk of it.
Captain Avery, however he made no positive discovery of his intentions, seemed to me to decline my notion of going up into the country to plant; on the contrary, it was apparent he was of Captain Wilmot's opinion, that they might maintain themselves on shore, and yet carry on their cruising trade too; and upon this they resolved. But, as I afterwards understood, about fifty of their men went up the country, and settled themselves in an inland place as a colony. Whether they are there still or not, I cannot tell, or how many of them are left alive; but it is my opinion they are there still, and that they are considerably increased, for, as I hear, they have got some women among them, though not many; for it seems five Dutch women and three or four little girls were taken by them in a Dutch ship, which they afterwards took going to Mocha; and three of those women, marrying some of these men, went with them to live in their new plantation. But of this I speak only by hearsay.
As we lay here some time, I found our people mightily divided in their notions; some were for going this way, and some that, till at last I began to foresee they would part company, and perhaps we should not have men enough to keep together to man the great ship; so I took Captain Wilmot aside, and began to talk to him about it, but soon perceived that he inclined himself to stay at Madagascar, and having got a vast wealth for his own share, had secret designs of getting home some way or other.
I argued the impossibility of it, and the hazard he would run, either of falling into the hands of thieves and murderers in the Red Sea, who would never let such a treasure as his pass their hands, or of his falling into the hands of the English, Dutch, or French, who would certainly hang him for a pirate. I gave him an account of the voyage I had made from this very place to the continent of Africa, and what a journey it was to travel on foot.
In short, nothing could persuade him, but he would go into the Red Sea with the sloop, and where the children of Israel passed through the sea dry-shod, and, landing there, would travel to Grand Cairo by land, which is not above eighty miles, and from thence he said he could ship himself, by the way of Alexandria, to any part of the world.
I represented the hazard, and indeed the impossibility, of his passing by Mocha and Jiddah without being attacked, if he offered it by force, or plundered, if he went to get leave; and explained the reasons of it so much and so effectually, that, though at last he would not hearken to it himself, none of his men would go with him. They told him they would go anywhere with him to serve him, but that this was running himself and them into certain destruction, without any possibility of avoiding it, or probability of answering his end. The captain took what I said to him quite wrong, and pretended to resent it, and gave me some buccaneer words upon it; but I gave him no return to it but this: that I advised him for his advantage; that if he did not understand it so, it was his fault, not mine; that I did not forbid him to go, nor had I offered to persuade any of the men not to go with him, though it was to their apparent destruction.
However, warm heads are not easily cooled. The captain was so eager that he quitted our company, and, with most part of his crew, went over to Captain Avery, and sorted with his people, taking all the treasure with him, which, by the way, was not very fair in him, we having agreed to share all our gains, whether more or less, whether absent or present.
Our men muttered a little at it, but I pacified them as well as I could, and told them it was easy for us to get as much, if we minded our hits; and Captain Wilmot had set us a very good example; for, by the same rule, the agreement of any further sharing of profits with them was at an end. I took this occasion to put into their heads some part of my further designs, which were, to range over the eastern sea, and see if we could not make ourselves as rich as Mr Avery, who, it was true, had gotten a prodigious deal of money, though not one-half of what was said of it in Europe.
Our men were so pleased with my forward, enterprising temper, that they assured me that they would go with me, one and all, over the whole globe, wherever I would carry them; and as for Captain Wilmot, they would have nothing more to do with him. This came to his ears, and put him into a great rage, so that he threatened, if I came on shore, he would cut my throat.
I had information of it privately, but took no notice of it at all; only I took care not to go unprovided for him, and seldom walked about but in very good company. However, at last Captain Wilmot and I met, and talked over the matter very seriously, and I offered him the sloop to go where he pleased, or, if he was not satisfied with that, I offered to take the sloop and leave him the great ship; but he declined both, and only desired that I would leave him six carpenters, which I had in our ship more than I had need of, to help his men to finish the sloop that was begun before we came thither, by the men that lost their ship. This I consented readily to, and lent him several other hands that were useful to them; and in a little time they built a stout brigantine, able to carry fourteen guns and 200 men.
What measures they took, and how Captain Avery managed afterwards, is too long a story to meddle with here; nor is it any of my business, having my own story still upon my hands.
We lay here, about these several simple disputes, almost five months, when, about the latter end of March, I set sail with the great ship, having in her forty-four guns and 400 men, and the sloop, carrying eighty men. We did not steer to the Malabar coast, and so to the Gulf of Persia, as was first intended, the east monsoons blowing yet too strong, but we kept more under the African coast, where we had the wind variable till we passed the line, and made the Cape Bassa, in the latitude of four degrees ten minutes; from thence, the monsoons beginning to change to the N.E. and N.N.E., we led it away, with the wind large, to the Maldives, a famous ledge of islands, well known by all the sailors who have gone into those parts of the world; and, leaving these islands a little to the south, we made Cape Comorin, the southernmost land of the coast of Malabar, and went round the isle of Ceylon. Here we lay by a while to wait for purchase; and here we saw three large English East India ships going from Bengal, or from Fort St George, homeward for England, or rather for Bombay and Surat, till the trade set in.
We brought to, and hoisting an English ancient and pendant, lay by for them, as if we intended to attack them. They could not tell what to make of us a good while, though they saw our colours; and I believe at first they thought us to be French; but as they came nearer to us, we let them soon see what we were, for we hoisted a black flag, with two cross daggers in it, on our main-top-mast head, which let them see what they were to expect.
We soon found the effects of this; for at first they spread their ancients, and made up to us in a line, as if they would fight us, having the wind off shore, fair enough to have brought them on board us; but when they saw what force we were of, and found we were cruisers of another kind, they stood away from us again, with all the sail they could make. If they had come up, we should have given them an unexpected welcome, but as it was, we had no mind to follow them; so we let them go, for the same reasons which I mentioned before.
But though we let them pass, we did not design to let others go at so easy a price. It was but the next morning that we saw a sail standing round Cape Comorin, and steering, as we thought, the same course with us. We knew not at first what to do with her, because she had the shore on her larboard quarter, and if we offered to chase her, she might put into any port or creek, and escape us; but, to prevent this, we sent the sloop to get in between her and the land. As soon as she saw that, she hauled in to keep the land aboard, and when the sloop stood towards her she made right ashore, with all the canvas she could spread.
The sloop, however, came up with her and engaged her, and found she was a vessel of ten guns, Portuguese built, but in the Dutch traders' hands, and manned by Dutchmen, who were bound from the Gulf of Persia to Batavia, to fetch spices and other goods from thence. The sloop's men took her, and had the rummaging of her before we came up. She had in her some European goods, and a good round sum of money, and some pearl; so that, though we did not go to the gulf for the pearl, the pearl came to us out of the gulf, and we had our share of it. This was a rich ship, and the goods were of very considerable value, besides the money and the pearl.
We had a long consultation here what we should do with the men, for to give them the ship, and let them pursue their voyage to Java, would be to alarm the Dutch factory there, who are by far the strongest in the Indies, and to make our passage that way impracticable; whereas we resolved to visit that part of the world in our way, but were not willing to pass the great Bay of Bengal, where we hoped for a great deal of purchase; and therefore it behoved us not to be waylaid before we came there, because they knew we must pass by the Straits of Malacca, or those of Sunda; and either way it was very easy to prevent us.
While we were consulting this in the great cabin, the men had had the same debate before the mast; and it seems the majority there were for pickling up the poor Dutchmen among the herrings; in a word, they were for throwing them all into the sea. Poor William, the Quaker, was in great concern about this, and comes directly to me to talk about it. "Hark thee," says William, "what wilt thou do with these Dutchmen that thou hast on board? Thou wilt not let them go, I suppose," says he. "Why," says I, "William, would you advise me to let them go?" "No," says William, "I cannot say it is fit for thee to let them go; that is to say, to go on with their voyage to Batavia, because it is not for thy turn that the Dutch at Batavia should have any knowledge of thy being in these seas." "Well, then," says I to him, "I know no remedy but to throw them overboard. You know, William," says I, "a Dutchman swims like a fish; and all our people here are of the same opinion as well as I." At the same time I resolved it should not be done, but wanted to hear what William would say. He gravely replied, "If all the men in the ship were of that mind, I will never believe that thou wilt be of that mind thyself, for I have heard thee protest against cruelty in all other cases." "Well, William," says I, "that is true; but what then shall we do with them?" "Why," says William, "is there no way but to murder them? I am persuaded thou canst not be in earnest." "No, indeed, William," says I, "I am not in earnest; but they shall not go to Java, no, nor to Ceylon, that is certain." "But," says William, "the men have done thee no injury at all; thou hast taken a great treasure from them; what canst thou pretend to hurt them for?" "Nay, William," says I, "do not talk of that; I have pretence enough, if that be all; my pretence is, to prevent doing me hurt, and that is as necessary a piece of the law of self-preservation as any you can name; but the main thing is, I know not what to do with them, to prevent their prating."
While William and I were talking, the poor Dutchmen were openly condemned to die, as it may be called, by the whole ship's company; and so warm were the men upon it, that they grew very clamorous; and when they heard that William was against it, some of them swore they should die, and if William opposed it, he should drown along with them.
But, as I was resolved to put an end to their cruel project, so I found it was time to take upon me a little, or the bloody humour might grow too strong; so I called the Dutchmen up, and talked a little with them. First, I asked them if they were willing to go with us. Two of them offered it presently; but the rest, which were fourteen, declined it. "Well, then," said I, "where would you go?" They desired they should go to Ceylon. No, I told them I could not allow them to go to any Dutch factory, and told them very plainly the reasons of it, which they could not deny to be just. I let them know also the cruel, bloody measures of our men, but that I had resolved to save them, if possible; and therefore I told them I would set them on shore at some English factory in the Bay of Bengal, or put them on board any English ship I met, after I was past the Straits of Sunda or of Malacca, but not before; for, as to my coming back again, I told them I would run the venture of their Dutch power from Batavia, but I would not have the news come there before me, because it would make all their merchant-ships lay up, and keep out of our way.
It came next into our consideration what we should do with their ship; but this was not long resolving; for there were but two ways, either to set her on fire, or to run her on shore, and we chose the last. So we set her foresail with the tack at the cat-head, and lashed her helm a little to starboard, to answer her head-sail, and so set her agoing, with neither cat or dog in her; and it was not above two hours before we saw her run right ashore upon the coast, a little beyond the Cape Comorin; and away we went round about Ceylon, for the coast of Coromandel.
We sailed along there, not in sight of the shore only, but so near as to see the ships in the road at Fort St David, Fort St George, and at the other factories along that shore, as well as along the coast of Golconda, carrying our English ancient when we came near the Dutch factories, and Dutch colours when we passed by the English factories. We met with little purchase upon this coast, except two small vessels of Golconda, bound across the bay with bales of calicoes and muslins and wrought silks, and fifteen bales of romals, from the bottom of the bay, which were going, on whose account we knew not, to Acheen, and to other ports on the coast of Malacca. We did not inquire to what place in particular; but we let the vessels go, having none but Indians on board.
In the bottom of the bay we met with a great junk belonging to the Mogul's court, with a great many people, passengers as we supposed them to be: it seems they were bound for the river Hooghly or Ganges, and came from Sumatra. This was a prize worth taking indeed; and we got so much gold in her, besides other goods which we did not meddle with—pepper in particular—that it had like to have put an end to our cruise; for almost all my men said we were rich enough, and desired to go back again to Madagascar. But I had other things in my head still, and when I came to talk with them, and set friend William to talk with them, we put such further golden hopes into their heads that we soon prevailed with them to let us go on.
My next design was to leave all the dangerous straits of Malacca, Singapore, and Sunda, where we could expect no great booty, but what we might light on in European ships, which we must fight for; and though we were able to fight, and wanted no courage, even to desperation, yet we were rich too, and resolved to be richer, and took this for our maxim, that while we were sure the wealth we sought was to be had without fighting, we had no occasion to put ourselves to the necessity of fighting for that which would come upon easy terms.
We left, therefore, the Bay of Bengal, and coming to the coast of Sumatra, we put in at a small port, where there was a town, inhabited only by Malays; and here we took in fresh water, and a large quantity of good pork, pickled up and well salted, notwithstanding the heat of the climate, being in the very middle of the torrid zone, viz., in three degrees fifteen minutes north latitude. We also took on board both our vessels forty hogs alive, which served us for fresh provisions, having abundance of food for them, such as the country produced, such as guams, potatoes, and a sort of coarse rice, good for nothing else but to feed the swine. We killed one of these hogs every day, and found them to be excellent meat. We took in also a monstrous quantity of ducks, and cocks and hens, the same kind as we have in England, which we kept for change of provisions; and if I remember right, we had no less than two thousand of them; so that at first we were pestered with them very much, but we soon lessened them by boiling, roasting, stewing, &c., for we never wanted while we had them.
My long-projected design now lay open to me, which was to fall in amongst the Dutch Spice Islands, and see what mischief I could do there. Accordingly, we put out to sea the 12th of August, and passing the line on the 17th, we stood away due south, leaving the Straits of Sunda and the isle of Java on the east, till we came to the latitude of eleven degrees twenty minutes, when we steered east and E.N.E., having easy gales from the W.S.W. till we came among the Moluccas, or Spice Islands.
We passed those seas with less difficulty than in other places, the winds to the south of Java being more variable, and the weather good, though sometimes we met with squally weather and short storms; but when we came in among the Spice Islands themselves we had a share of the monsoons, or trade-winds, and made use of them accordingly.
The infinite number of islands which lie in these seas embarrassed us strangely, and it was with great difficulty that we worked our way through them; then we steered for the north side of the Philippines, when we had a double chance for purchase, viz., either to meet with the Spanish ships from Acapulco, on the coast of New Spain, or we were certain not to fail of finding some ships or junks of China, who, if they came from China, would have a great quantity of goods of value on board, as well as money; or if we took them going back, we should find them laden with nutmegs and cloves from Banda and Ternate, or from some of the other islands.
We were right in our guesses here to a tittle, and we steered directly through a large outlet, which they call a strait, though it be fifteen miles broad, and to an island they call Dammer, and from thence N.N.E. to Banda. Between these islands we met with a Dutch junk, or vessel, going to Amboyna: we took her without much trouble, and I had much ado to prevent our men murdering all the men, as soon as they heard them say they belonged to Amboyna: the reasons I suppose any one will guess.
We took out of her about sixteen ton of nutmegs, some provisions, and their small-arms, for they had no great guns, and let the ship go: from thence we sailed directly to the Banda Island, or Islands, where we were sure to get more nutmegs if we thought fit. For my part, I would willingly have got more nutmegs, though I had paid for them, but our people abhorred paying for anything; so we got about twelve ton more at several times, most of them from shore, and only a few in a small boat of the natives, which was going to Gilolo. We would have traded openly, but the Dutch, who have made themselves masters of all those islands, forbade the people dealing with us, or any strangers whatever, and kept them so in awe that they durst not do it; so we could indeed have made nothing of it if we had stayed longer, and therefore resolved to be gone for Ternate, and see if we could make up our loading with cloves.
Accordingly we stood away north, but found ourselves so entangled among innumerable islands, and without any pilot that understood the channel and races between them, that we were obliged to give it over, and resolved to go back again to Banda, and see what we could get among the other islands thereabouts.
The first adventure we made here had like to have been fatal to us all, for the sloop, being ahead, made the signal to us for seeing a sail, and afterwards another, and a third, by which we understood she saw three sail; whereupon we made more sail to come up with her, but on a sudden were gotten among some rocks, falling foul upon them in such a manner as frighted us all very heartily; for having, it seems, but just water enough, as it were to an inch, our rudder struck upon the top of a rock, which gave us a terrible shock, and split a great piece off the rudder, and indeed disabled it so that our ship would not steer at all, at least not so as to be depended upon; and we were glad to hand all our sails, except our fore-sail and main-topsail, and with them we stood away to the east, to see if we could find any creek or harbour where we might lay the ship on shore, and repair our rudder; besides, we found the ship herself had received some damage, for she had some little leak near her stern-post, but a great way under water.
By this mischance we lost the advantages, whatever they were, of the three sail of ships, which we afterwards came to hear were small Dutch ships from Batavia, going to Banda and Amboyna, to load spice, and, no doubt, had a good quantity of money on board.
Upon the disaster I have been speaking of you may very well suppose that we came to an anchor as soon as we could, which was upon a small island not far from Banda, where, though the Dutch keep no factory, yet they come at the season to buy nutmegs and mace. We stayed there thirteen days; but there being no place where we could lay the ship on shore, we sent the sloop to cruise among the islands, to look out for a place fit for us. In the meantime we got very good water here, some provisions, roots, and fruits, and a good quantity of nutmegs and mace, which we found ways to trade with the natives for, without the knowledge of their masters, the Dutch.
At length our sloop returned; having found another island where there was a very good harbour, we ran in, and came to an anchor. We immediately unbent all our sails, sent them ashore upon the island, and set up seven or eight tents with them; then we unrigged our top-masts, and cut them down, hoisted all our guns out, our provisions and loading, and put them ashore in the tents. With the guns we made two small batteries, for fear of a surprise, and kept a look-out upon the hill. When we were all ready, we laid the ship aground upon a hard sand, the upper end of the harbour, and shored her up on each side. At low water she lay almost dry, so we mended her bottom, and stopped the leak, which was occasioned by straining some of the rudder irons with the shock which the ship had against the rock.
Having done this, we also took occasion to clean her bottom, which, having been at sea so long, was very foul. The sloop washed and tallowed also, but was ready before us, and cruised eight or ten days among the islands, but met with no purchase; so that we began to be tired of the place, having little to divert us but the most furious claps of thunder that ever were heard or read of in the world.
We were in hopes to have met with some purchase here among the Chinese, who, we had been told, came to Ternate to trade for cloves, and to the Banda Isles for nutmegs; and we would have been very glad to have loaded our galleon, or great ship, with these two sorts of spice, and have thought it a glorious voyage; but we found nothing stirring more than what I have said, except Dutchmen, who, by what means we could not imagine, had either a jealousy of us or intelligence of us, and kept themselves close in their ports.
I was once resolved to have made a descent at the island of Dumas, the place most famous for the best nutmegs; but friend William, who was always for doing our business without fighting, dissuaded me from it, and gave such reasons for it that we could not resist; particularly the great heats of the season, and of the place, for we were now in the latitude of just half a degree south. But while we were disputing this point we were soon determined by the following accident:—We had a strong gale of wind at S.W. by W., and the ship had fresh way, but a great sea rolling in upon us from the N.E., which we afterwards found was the pouring in of the great ocean east of New Guinea. However, as I said, we stood away large, and made fresh way, when, on the sudden, from a dark cloud which hovered over our heads, came a flash, or rather blast, of lightning, which was so terrible, and quivered so long among us, that not I only, but all our men, thought the ship was on fire. The heat of the flash, or fire, was so sensibly felt in our faces, that some of our men had blisters raised by it on their skins, not immediately, perhaps, by the heat, but by the poisonous or noxious particles which mixed themselves with the matter inflamed. But this was not all; the shock of the air, which the fracture in the clouds made, was such that our ship shook as when a broadside is fired; and her motion being checked, as it were at once, by a repulse superior to the force that gave her way before, the sails all flew back in a moment, and the ship lay, as we might truly say, thunder-struck. As the blast from the cloud was so very near us, it was but a few moments after the flash that the terriblest clap of thunder followed that was ever heard by mortals. I firmly believe a blast of a hundred thousand barrels of gunpowder could not have been greater to our hearing; nay, indeed, to some of our men it took away their hearing.
It is not possible for me to describe, or any one to conceive, the terror of that minute. Our men were in such a consternation, that not a man on board the ship had presence of mind to apply to the proper duty of a sailor, except friend William; and had he not run very nimbly, and with a composure that I am sure I was not master of, to let go the fore-sheet, set in the weather-brace of the fore-yard, and haul down the top-sails, we had certainly brought all our masts by the board, and perhaps have been overwhelmed in the sea.
As for myself, I must confess my eyes were open to my danger, though not the least to anything of application for remedy. I was all amazement and confusion, and this was the first time that I can say I began to feel the effects of that horror which I know since much more of, upon the just reflection on my former life. I thought myself doomed by Heaven to sink that moment into eternal destruction; and with this peculiar mark of terror, viz., that the vengeance was not executed in the ordinary way of human justice, but that God had taken me into His immediate disposing, and had resolved to be the executer of His own vengeance.
Let them alone describe the confusion I was in who know what was the case of [John] Child, of Shadwell, or Francis Spira. It is impossible to describe it. My soul was all amazement and surprise. I thought myself just sinking into eternity, owning the divine justice of my punishment, but not at all feeling any of the moving, softening tokens of a sincere penitent; afflicted at the punishment, but not at the crime; alarmed at the vengeance, but not terrified at the guilt; having the same gust to the crime, though terrified to the last degree at the thought of the punishment, which I concluded I was just now going to receive.
But perhaps many that read this will be sensible of the thunder and lightning, that may think nothing of the rest, or rather may make a jest of it all; so I say no more of it at this time, but proceed to the story of the voyage. When the amazement was over, and the men began to come to themselves, they fell a-calling for one another, every one for his friend, or for those he had most respect for; and it was a singular satisfaction to find that nobody was hurt. The next thing was to inquire if the ship had received no damage, when the boatswain, stepping forward, found that part of the head was gone, but not so as to endanger the bowsprit; so we hoisted our top-sails again, hauled aft the fore-sheet, braced the yards, and went our course as before. Nor can I deny but that we were all somewhat like the ship; our first astonishment being a little over, and that we found the ship swim again, we were soon the same irreligious, hardened crew that we were before, and I among the rest.
As we now steered, our course lay N.N.E., and we passed thus, with a fair wind, through the strait or channel between the island of Gilolo and the land of Nova Guinea, when we were soon in the open sea or ocean, on the south-east of the Philippines, being the great Pacific, or South Sea, where it may be said to join itself with the vast Indian Ocean.
As we passed into these seas, steering due north, so we soon crossed the line to the north side, and so sailed on towards Mindanao and Manilla, the chief of the Philippine Islands, without meeting with any purchase till we came to the northward of Manilla, and then our trade began; for here we took three Japanese vessels, though at some distance from Manilla. Two of them had made their market, and were going home with nutmegs, cinnamon, cloves, &c., besides all sorts of European goods, brought with the Spanish ships from Acapulco. They had together eight-and-thirty ton of cloves, and five or six ton of nutmegs, and as much cinnamon. We took the spice, but meddled with very little of the European goods, they being, as we thought, not worth our while; but we were very sorry for it soon after, and therefore grew wiser upon the next occasion.
The third Japanese was the best prize to us; for he came with money, and a great deal of gold uncoined, to buy such goods as we mentioned above. We eased him of his gold, and did him no other harm, and having no intention to stay long here, we stood away for China.
We were at sea above two months upon this voyage, beating it up against the wind, which blew steadily from the N.E., and within a point or two one way or other; and this indeed was the reason why we met with the more prizes in our voyage.