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Sea StoriesFate Of Seven Sailors Who Were Left On The Island Of St Maurice
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The Cruise Of The Torch
Heligoland light--north and by west--so many leagues--wind
baffling--weather hazy--Lady Passengers on deck for the first time.
Arrived in the Downs--ordered by signal from the guardship to proceed
to Portsmouth. Arrived at Spithead--ordered to fit to receive a
general officer, and six pieces of field artillery, and a Spanish
Ecclesiastic, the Canon of ------. Plenty of great guns, at any
rate--a regular park of artillery.
Received General ------ and his wife, and aide-de-camp, and two
poodle-dogs, one white man-servant, one black ditto, and the Canon of
------, and the six nine-pound field-pieces, and sailed for the Cove of
It was blowing hard as we stood in for the Old Head of Kinsale--pilot
boat breasting the foaming surge like a sea gull--_Carrol Cove_ in her
tiny mainsail--pilot jumped into the main channel--bottle of rum swung
by the lead line into the boat--all very clever.
Ran in, and anchored under Spike Island. A line-of-battle ship, three
frigates, and a number of merchantmen at anchor--men-of-war lovely
craft--bands playing--a good deal of the pomp and circumstances of war.
Next forenoon, Mr. Treenail, the second lieutenant, sent for me.
"Mr. Cringle," said he, "you have an uncle in Cork, I believe?"
I said I had.
"I am going there on duty to-night; I daresay, if you asked the captain
to let you accompany me, he would do so." This was too good an offer
not to be taken advantage of. I plucked up courage, made my bow, asked
leave, and got it; and the evening found my friend the lieutenant, and
myself, after a ride of three hours, during which I, for one, had my
bottom sheathing grievously rubbed, and a considerable botheration at
crossing the Ferry at Passage, safe in our inn at Cork. I soon found
out that the object of my superior officer was to gain information
amongst the crimp shops, where ten men who had run from one of the West
Indiamen, waiting at Cove for convoy, were stowed away, but I was not
let further into the secret; so I set out to pay my visit, and after
passing a pleasant evening with my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Job Cringle,
the lieutenant dropped in upon us about nine o'clock. He was heartily
welcomed; and under the plea of our being obliged to return to the ship
early next morning, we soon took leave, and returned to the inn. As I
was turning into the public room, the door was open, and I could see it
full of blowsy-faced monsters, glimmering and jabbering, through the
midst of hot brandy grog and gin twist; with poodle Benjamins, and
greatcoats, and cloaks of all sorts and sizes, steaming on their pegs,
with Barcelonas and comforters, and damp travelling caps of seal-skin,
and blue cloth, and tartan, arranged above the same. Nevertheless,
such a society in my juvenile estimation, during my short _escapade_
from the middy's berth, had its charms, and I was rolling in with a
tolerable swagger, when Mr. Treenail pinched my arm.
"Mr. Cringle, come here into my room."
From the way in which he spoke, I imagined, in my innocence, that his
room was at my elbow; but no such thing--we had to ascend a long, and
not over-clean staircase, to the fourth floor, before we were shown
into a miserable little double-bedded room. So soon as we had entered,
the lieutenant shut the door.
"Tom," said he, "I have taken a fancy to you, and therefore I applied
for leave to bring you with me; but I must expose you to some danger,
and I will allow, not altogether in a very creditable way either. You
must enact the spy for a short space."
I did not like the notion, certainly, but I had little time for
"Here," he continued--"here is a bundle." He threw it on the floor.
"You must rig in the clothes it contains, and make your way into the
celebrated crimp-shop in the neighborhood, and pick up all the
information you can regarding the haunts of the pressable men at Cove,
especially with regard to the ten seamen who have run from the West
Indiaman we left below. You know the Admiral has forbidden pressing at
Cork, so you must contrive to frighten the blue jackets down to Cove,
by representing yourself as an apprentice of one of the merchant
vessels, who had run from his indentures, and that you had narrowly
escaped from a press-gang this very night _here_."
I made no scruples, but forthwith arrayed myself in the slops contained
in the bundle; in a pair of shag trousers, red flannel shirt, coarse
blue cloth jacket, and no waistcoat.
"Now," said Mr. Treenail, "stick a quid of tobacco in your cheek, and
take the cockade out of your hat; or stop, leave it, and ship this
striped woollen night cap--so--and come along with me."
We left the house, and walked half a mile down the _Quay_.
Presently we arrived before a kind of low grog-shop--a bright lamp was
flaring in the breeze at the door, one of the panes of the glass of it
Before I entered, Mr. Treenail took me to one side--"Tom, Tom Cringle,
you must go into this crimp-shop; pass yourself off for an apprentice
of the _Guava_, bound for Trinidad, the ship that arrived just as we
started, and pick up all the knowledge you can regarding the
whereabouts of the men, for we are, as you know, cruelly ill manned,
and must replenish as we best may." I entered the house, after having
agreed to rejoin my superior officer so soon as I considered I had
obtained my object. I rapped at the inner door, in which there was a
small unglazed aperture cut, about four inches square; and I now, for
the first time, perceived that a strong glare of light was cast into
the lobby, where I stood, by a large argand with a brilliant reflector,
that, like a magazine lantern, had been mortised into the bulkhead, at
a height of about two feet above the door in which the spy-hole was
cut. My first signal was not attended to: I rapped again, and, looking
round, I noticed Mr. Treenail flitting backwards and forwards across
the doorway, in the rain, his pale face and his sharp nose, with the
sparkling drop at the end on't, glancing in the light of the lamp. I
heard a step within, and a very pretty face now appeared at the wicket.
"Who are you saking here, an' please ye?"
"No one in particular, my dear; but if you don't let me in, I shall be
lodged in jail before five minutes be over."
"I can't help that, young man," said she; "but where are ye from,
"Hush--I am run from the _Guava_, now lying at the Cove."
"Oh," said my beauty, "come in"; and she opened the door, but still
kept it on the chain in such a way, that although, by bobbing, I
creeped and slid in beneath it, yet a common-sized man could not
possibly have squeezed himself through. The instant I entered, the
door was once more banged to, and the next moment I was ushered into
the kitchen, a room about fourteen feet square, with a well-sanded
floor, a huge dresser on one side, and over against it a respectable
show of pewter dishes in racks against the wall. There was a long
stripe of a deal table in the middle of the room--but no tablecloth--at
the bottom of which sat a large, bloated, brandy, or rather whisky
faced savage, dressed in a shabby greatcoat of the hodden grey worn by
the Irish peasantry, dirty swandown vest, and greasy corduroy breeches,
worsted stockings, and well-patched shoes; he was smoking a long pipe.
Around the table sat about a dozen seamen, from whose wet jackets and
trousers the heat of the blazing fire, that roared up the chimney, sent
up a smoky steam that cast a halo round a lamp which depended from the
roof, and hung down within two feet of the table, stinking abominably
of coarse whale oil. They were, generally speaking, hardy,
weather-beaten men, and the greater proportion half, or more than half,
drunk. When I entered, I walked up to the landlord.
"Yo ho, my young un! whence and whither bound, my hearty?"
"The first don't signify much to you," said I, "seeing I have
wherewithal in my locker to pay my shot; and as to the second, of that
hereafter; so, old boy, let's have some grog, and then say if you can
ship me with one of them colliers that are lying alongside the quay?"
"My eye, what a lot of brass that small chap has!" grumbled mine host.
"Why, my lad, we shall see to-morrow morning; but you gammons so about
the rhino, that we must prove you a bit; so, Kate, my dear,"--to the
pretty girl who had let me in--"score a pint of rum against----Why,
what is your name?"
"What's that to you?" rejoined I, "let's have the drink, and don't
doubt but the shiners shall be forthcoming."
"Hurrah!" shouted the party, most of them now very tipsy. So the rum
was produced forthwith, and as I lighted a pipe and filled a glass of
swizzle, I struck in, "Messmates, I hope you have all shipped?"
"No, we han't," said some of them.
"Nor shall we be in any hurry, boy," said others.
"Do as you please, but I shall, as soon as I can, I know; and I
recommend all of you making yourselves scarce to-night, and keeping a
"Why, boy, why?"
"Simply because I have just escaped a press-gang, by bracing sharp up
at the corner of the street, and shoving into this dark alley here."
This called forth another volley of oaths and unsavoury exclamations,
and all was bustle and confusion, and packing up of bundles, and
settling of reckonings.
"Where," said one of the seamen,--"where do you go to, my lad?"
"Why, if I can't get shipped to-night, I shall trundle down to Cove
immediately, so as to cross at Passage before daylight, and take my
chance of shipping with some of the outward-bound that are to sail, if
the wind holds, the day after to-morrow. There is to be no pressing
when the blue Peter flies at the fore--and that was hoisted this
afternoon, I know, and the foretopsail will be loose to-morrow.
"D--n my wig, but the small chap is right," roared one.
"I've a bloody great mind to go down with him," stuttered another,
after several unavailing attempts to weigh from the bench, where he had
brought himself to anchor.
"Hurrah!" yelled a third, as he hugged me, and nearly suffocated me
with his maudlin caresses, "I trundles wid you too, my darling, by the
"Have with you, boy--have with you," shouted half-a-dozen other voices,
while each stuck his oaken twig through the handkerchief that held his
bundle, and shouldered it, clapping his straw or tarpaulin hat, with a
slap on the crown, on one side of his head, and staggering and swaying
about under the influence of the potfen, and slapping his thigh, as he
bent double, laughing like to split himself, till the water ran over
his cheeks from his drunken half-shut eyes, while jets of tobacco-juice
were squirting in all directions.
I paid the reckoning, urging the party to proceed all the while, and
indicating Pat Doolan's at the Cove as a good rendezvous; and,
promising to overtake them before they reached Passage, I parted
company at the corner of the street, and rejoined the lieutenant.
Next morning we spent in looking about the town--Cork is a fine
town--contains seventy thousand inhabitants _more_ or _less_--safe in
that--and three hundred thousand pigs, driven by herdsmen, with coarse
grey greatcoats. The pigs are not so handsome as those in England,
where the legs are short, and tails curly; here the legs are long, the
flanks sharp and thin, and tails long and straight.
All classes speak with a deuced brogue, and worship graven images;
arrived at Cove to a late dinner--and here follows a great deal of
nonsense of the same kind.
By the time it was half-past ten o'clock, I was preparing to turn in,
when the master at arms called down to me,--
"Mr. Cringle, you are wanted in the gunroom."
I put on my jacket again, and immediately proceeded thither, and on my
way I noticed a group of seamen, standing on the starboard gangway,
dressed in pea-jackets, under which, by the light of a lantern, carried
by one of them, I could see they were all armed with pistols and
cutlass. They appeared in great glee, and as they made way for me, I
could hear one fellow whisper, "There goes the little beagle." When I
entered the gunroom, the first lieutenant, master, and purser, were
sitting smoking and enjoying themselves over a glass of cold grog--the
gunner taking the watch on deck--the doctor was piping anything but
mellifluously on the double flagolet, while the Spanish priest, and
aide-de-camp to the general, were playing at chess, and wrangling in
bad French. I could hear Mr. Treenail rumbling and stumbling in his
stateroom, as he accoutred himself in a jacket similar to those of the
armed boat's crew whom I had passed, and presently he stepped into the
gunroom, armed also with cutlass and pistol.
"Mr. Cringle, get ready to go in the boat with me, and bring your arms
I now knew whereabouts I was, and that my Cork friends were the quarry
at which we aimed. I did as I was ordered, and we immediately pulled
on shore, where, leaving two strong fellows in charge of the boat, with
instructions to fire their pistols and shove off a couple of
boat-lengths should any suspicious circumstances indicating an attack
take place, we separated, like a pulk of Cossacks coming to the charge,
but without the _hourah_, with orders to meet before Pat Doolan's door,
as speedily as our legs could carry us. We had landed about a cable's
length to the right of the high precipitous bank--up which we stole in
straggling parties--on which that abominable congregation of the most
filthy huts ever pig grunted in is situated, called the Holy Ground.
Pat Doolan's domocile was in a little dirty lane, about the middle of
the village. Presently ten strapping fellows, including the
lieutenant, were before the door, each man with his stretcher in his
hand. It was very tempestuous, although moonlight, night, occasionally
clear, with the moonbeams at one moment sparkling brightly in the small
ripples on the filthy puddles before the door, and one the gem-like
water drops that hung from the eaves of the thatched roof, and lighting
up the dark statue-like figures of the men, and casting their long
shadows strongly against the mud wall of the house; at another, a black
cloud, as it flew across her disk, cast everything into deep shade;
while the only noise we heard was the hoarse dashing of the distant
surf, rising and falling on the fitful gusts of the breeze. We tried
the door. It was fast.
"Surround the house, men," said the lieutenant in a whisper. He rapped
loudly. "Pat Doolan, my man, open the door, will ye?" No answer. "If
you don't, we shall make free to break it open, Patrick, dear."
All this while the light of a fire, or of candles, streamed through the
joints of the door. The threat at length appeared to have the desired
effect. A poor decrepit old man undid the bolt and let us in. "_Ohon
a ree_! _Ohon a ree_! What make you all this boder for--come you to
help us to wake poor ould Kate there, and bring you the whisky wid you?"
"Old man, where is Pat Doolan?" said the lieutenant.
"Gone to borrow whisky, to wake ould Kate, there;--the howling will
begin whenever Mother Doncannon and Misthress Conolly come over from
Middleton, and I look for dem every minute."
There was no vestige of any living thing in the miserable hovel, except
the old fellow. On two low trestles, in the middle of the floor, lay a
coffin with the lid on, on the top of which was stretched the dead body
of an old emaciated woman in her graveclothes, the quality of which was
much finer than one could have expected to have seen in the midst of
the surrounding squalidness. The face of the corpse was uncovered, the
hands were crossed on the breast, and there was a plate of salt on the
An iron cresset, charged with coarse rancid oil, hung from the roof,
the dull smoky red light flickering on the dead corpse, as the breeze
streamed in through the door and numberless chinks in the walls, making
the cold, rigid, sharp features appear to move, and glimmer, and gibber
as it were, from the changing shades. Close to the head there was a
small door opening into an apartment of some kind, but the coffin was
placed so near it that one could pass between the body and the door.
"My good man," said Treenail to the solitary mourner, "I must beg leave
to remove the body a bit, and have the goodness to open that door."
"Door, yere honour! It's no door o' mine--and it's not opening that
same that old Phil Carrol shall busy himself wid."
"Carline," said Mr. Treenail, quick and sharp, "remove the body." It
"Cruel heavy the old dame is, sir, for all her wasted appearance," said
one of the men.
The lieutenant now ranged the press-gang against the wall fronting the
door, and stepping into the middle of the room, drew his pistol and
cocked it. "Messmates," he sang out, as if addressing the skulkers in
the other room, "I know you are here; the house is surrounded--and
unless you open that door now, by the powers, but I'll fire slap into
you!" There was a bustle, and a rumbling tumbling noise within. "My
lads, we are now sure of our game," sang out Treenail, with great
animation; "sling that clumsy bench there." He pointed to an oaken
form about eight feet long and nearly three inches thick. To produce a
two-inch rope, and junk it into three lengths, and rig the battering
ram, was the work of an instant. "One, two, three,"--and bang the door
flew open, and there were our men stowed away, each sitting on the top
of his bag, as snug as could be, although looking very much like
condemned thieves. We bound eight of them, thrusting a stretcher
across their backs, under their arms, and lashing the fins to the same
by good stout lanyards, we were proceeding to stump our prisoners off
to the boat, when, with the innate deviltry that I have inherited, I
know not how, but the original sin of which has more than once nearly
cost me my life, I said, without addressing my superior officer, or any
one else directly, "I should like now to scale my pistol through that
coffin. If I miss, I can't hurt the old woman; and an eyelet hole in
the coffin itself will only be an act of civility to the worms."
I looked towards my superior officer, who answered me with a knowing
shake of the head. I advanced, while all was silent as death--the
sharp click of the pistol lock now struck acutely on my own ear. I
presented, when--crash--the lid of the coffin, old woman and all, was
dashed off in an instant, the corpse flying up in the air, and then
falling heavily on the floor, rolling over and over, while a tall
handsome fellow, in his striped flannel shirt and blue trousers, with
the sweat pouring down over his face in streams, sat up in the shell.
"All right," said Mr. Treenail; "help him out of his berth."
He was pinioned like the rest, and forthwith we walked them all off to
the beach. By this time there was an unusual bustle in the Holy
Ground, and we could hear many an anathema--curses not loud but
deep--ejaculated from many a half-opened door as we passed along. We
reached the boat, and time it was we did, for a number of stout
fellows, who had followed us in a gradually increasing crowd until they
amounted to forty at the fewest, now nearly surrounded us, and kept
closing in. As the last of us jumped into the boat, they made a rush,
so that if we had not shoved off with the speed of light, I think it
very likely that we should have been overpowered. However, we reached
the ship in safety, and the day following we weighed, and stood out to
sea with our convoy.
It was a very large fleet, nearly three hundred sail of merchant
vessels--and a noble sight truly.
A line-of-battle ship led, and two frigates and three sloops of our
class were stationed on the outskirts of the fleet, whipping them in,
as it were. We made Madeira in fourteen days, looked in, but did not
anchor; superb island--magnificent mountains--white town,--and all very
fine, but nothing particular happened for three weeks. One fine
evening (we had by this time progressed into the trades, and were
within three hundred miles of Barbadoes) the sun had set bright and
clear, after a most beautiful day, and we were bowling along right
before it, rolling like the very devil; but there was no moon, and
although the stars sparkled brilliantly, yet it was dark, and as we
were the sternmost of the men-of-war, we had the task of whipping in
the sluggards. It was my watch on deck. A gun from the commodore, who
showed a number of lights. "What is that, Mr. Kennedy?" said the
captain to the old gunner. "The commodore has made the night-signal
for the sternmost ships to make more sail and close, sir." We repeated
the signal and stood on, hailing the dullest of the merchantmen in our
neighbourhood to make more sail, and firing a musket-shot now and then
over the more distant of them. By-and-by we saw a large West Indiamen
suddenly haul her wind and stand across our bows.
"Forward there!" sung out Mr. Splinter; "stand by to fire a shot at
that fellow from the boat gun if he does not bear up. What can he be
after? Sergeant Armstrong"--to a marine, who was standing close by him
in the waist--"get a musket and fire over him."
It was done, and the ship immediately bore up on her course again; we
now ranged alongside of him on his larboard quarter.
"Ho, the ship, ahoy!"--"Hillo!" was the reply. "Make more sail, sir,
and run into the body of the fleet, or I shall fire into you: why don't
you, sir, keep in the wake of the commodore?" No answer. "What meant
you by hauling your wind just now, sir?"
"Yesh, yesh," at length responded a voice from the merchantman.
"Something wrong here," said Mr. Splinter. "Back your maintopsail,
sir, and hoist a light at the peak; I shall send a boat on board of
you. Boatswain's mate, pipe away the crew of the jolly-boat." We also
hove to, and were in the act of lowering down the boat, when the
officer rattled out--"Keep all fast with the boat; I can't comprehend
that chap's manoeuvres for the soul of me. He has not hove to." Once
more we were within pistol-shot of him. "Why don't you heave to, sir?"
Presently we could perceive a confusion and noise of struggling on
board, and angry voices, as if people were trying to force their way up
the hatches from below; and a heavy thumping on the deck, and a
creaking of the blocks, and rattling of the cordage, while the mainyard
was first braced one way, and then another, as if two parties were
striving for the mastery. At length a voice hailed distinctly--"we are
captured by a----." A sudden sharp cry, and a splash overboard, told
of some fearful deed.
"We are taken by a privateer or pirate," sung out another voice. This
was followed by a heavy crunching blow, as when the spike of a
butcher's axe is driven through a bullock's forehead deep into the
By this time all hands had been called, and the word had been passed to
clear away two of the foremost carronades on the starboard side, and to
load them with grape.
"On board there--get below, all you of the English crew, as I shall
fire with grape," sung out the captain.
The hint was now taken. The ship at length came to the wind--we
rounded to, under her lee--and an armed boat, with Mr. Treenail, and
myself, and sixteen men, with cutlasses, were sent on board.
We jumped on deck, and at the gangway Mr. Treenail stumbled and fell
over the dead body of a man, no doubt the one who had hailed last, with
his skull cloven to the eyes, and a broken cutlass-blade sticking in
the gash. We were immediately accosted by the mate, who was lashed
down to a ring-bolt close by the bits, with his hands tied at the
wrists by sharp cords, so tightly that the blood was spouting from
beneath his nails.
"We have been surprised by a privateer schooner, sir; the lieutenant of
her, and several men, are now in the cabin."
"Where are the rest of the crew?"
"All secured in the forecastle, except the second-mate and boatswain,
the men who hailed you just now; the last was knocked on the head, and
the former was stabbed and thrown overboard."
We immediately released the men, eighteen in number, and armed them
with boarding-pikes. "What vessel is that astern of us?" said Treenail
to the mate. Before he could answer, a shot from the brig fired at the
privateer showed she was broad awake. Next moment Captain Deadeye
hailed. "Have you mastered the prize crew, Mr. Treenail?" "Ay, ay,
sir." "Then bear up on your course, and keep two lights hoisted at
your mizzen-peak during the night, and blue Peter at the maintopsail
yardarm when the day breaks: I shall haul my wind after the suspicious
sail in your wake."
Another shot, and another, from the brig--the time between each flash
and the report increasing with the distance. By this the lieutenant
has descended to the cabin, followed by his people, while the merchant
crew once more took charge of the ship, crowding sail into the body of
I followed him close, pistol and cutlass in hand, and I shall never
forget the scene that presented itself when I entered. The cabin was
that of a vessel of five hundred tons, elegantly fitted up; the panels
filled with crimson cloth, edged with gold mouldings, with superb
damask hangings before the stern windows and the side berths, and
brilliantly lighted up by the two large swinging-lamps hung from the
deck above, which were reflected from, and multiplied in, several
plate-glass mirrors in the panels. In the recess, which in cold
weather had been occupied by the stove, now stood a splendid grand
piano, the silk in the open work above the keys corresponding with the
crimson cloth of the panels; it was open, a Leghorn bonnet with a green
veil, a parasol, and two long white gloves, as if recently pulled off,
lay on it, with the very mould of the hands in them.
The rudder case was particularly beautiful; it was a richly carved and
gilded palm-tree, the stem painted white and Interlaced with golden
fretwork, like the lozenges of a pineapple, while the leaves spread up
and abroad on the roof.
The table was laid for supper, with cold meat, and wine, and a
profusion of silver things, all sparkling brightly: but it was in great
disorder, wine spilt, and glasses broken, and dishes with meat upset,
and knives, and forks, and spoons, scattered all about. She was
evidently one of those London West Indiamen, on board of which I knew
there was much splendour and great comfort. But, alas, the hand of
lawless violence had been there. The captain lay across the table,
with his head hanging over the side of it next to us, and unable to
help himself, with his hands tied behind his back, and a gag in his
mouth; his face purple from the blood running to his head, and the
white of his eyes turned up, while his loud stertorous breathing but
too clearly indicated the rupture of a vessel on the brain.
He was a stout portly man, and although we released him on the instant,
and had him bled, and threw water on his face, and did all we could for
him, he never spoke afterwards, and died in half an hour.
Four gentlemanly-looking men were sitting at table, lashed to their
chairs, pale and trembling, while six of the most ruffian-looking
scoundrels I ever beheld stood on the opposite side of the table in a
row fronting us, with the light from the lamps shining full on them.
Three of them were small but very square mulattoes; one was a South
American Indian, with the square high-boned visage and long, lank,
black glossy hair of his caste. These four had no clothing besides
their trousers, and stood with their arms folded, in all the calmness
of desperate men caught in the very fact of some horrible atrocity,
which they knew shut out every hope of mercy. The two others were
white Frenchmen, tall, bushy-whiskered, sallow desperadoes, but still,
wonderful to relate, with, if I may so speak, the manners of gentlemen.
One of them squinted, and had a hare-lip, which gave him a horrible
expression. They were dressed in white trousers and shirts, yellow
silk sashes round their waists, and a sort of blue uniform jackets,
blue Gascon caps, with the peaks, from each of which depended a large
bullion tassel, hanging down on one side of their heads. The whole
party had apparently made up their minds that resistance was vain, for
their pistols and cutlasses, some of them bloody, had all been laid on
the table, with the butts and handles towards us, contrasting horribly
with the glittering equipage of steel, and crystal, and silver things,
on the snow-white damask tablecloth. They were immediately seized and
ironed, to which they submitted in silence. We next released the
passengers, and were overpowered with thanks, one dancing, one crying,
one laughing, and another praying. But, merciful Heaven! what an
object met our eyes! Drawing aside the curtain that concealed a sofa
fitted into a recess, there lay, more dead than alive, a tall and most
beautiful girl, her head resting on her arm, her clothes disordered and
torn, blood on her bosom, and foam on her mouth, with her long dark
hair loose and dishevelled, and covering the upper part of her deadly
pale face, through which her wild sparkling black eyes, protruding from
their sockets, glanced and glared with the fire of a maniac's, while
her blue lips kept gibbering an incoherent prayer one moment, and the
next imploring mercy, as if she had still been in the hands of those
who knew not the name; and anon, a low hysterical laugh made our very
blood freeze in our bosoms, which soon ended in a long dismal yell, as
she rolled off the couch upon the hard deck, and lay in a dead faint.
Alas the day!--a maniac she was from that hour. She was the only
daughter of the murdered master of the ship, and never awoke, in her
unclouded reason, to the fearful consciousness of her own dishonour and
her parent's death.
The _Torch_ captured the schooner, and we left the privateer's men at
Barbadoes to meet their reward, and several of the merchant sailors
were turned over to the guardship, to prove the facts in the first
instance, and to serve his Majesty as impressed men in the second,--but
scrimp measure of justice to the poor ship's crew.
Anchored at Carlisle Bay, Barbadoes. Town seemed built of cards--black
faces--showy dresses of the negroes--dined at Mr. C----'s--capital
dinner--little breeze-mill at the end of the room, that pumped a
solution of salpetre [Transcriber's note: saltpetre?] and water into a
trough of tin, perforated with small holes, below which, and exposed to
the breeze, were ranged the wine and liqueurs, all in cotton bags; the
water then flowed into a well, where the pump was stepped, and thus was
again pumped up and kept circulating.
Landed the artillery, the soldiers, officers, and the Spanish
Canon--discharged the whole battery.
Next morning, weighed at day-dawn, with the trade for Jamaica, and soon
lost sight of the bright blue waters of Carlisle Bay, and the smiling
fields and tall cocoanut trees of the beautiful island. In a week
after we arrived off the east end of Jamaica; and that same evening, in
obedience to the orders of the admiral on the windward Island station,
we hove to in Bull Bay, in order to land despatches, and secure our
tithe of the crews of the merchant-vessels bound for Kingston, and the
ports to leeward, as they passed us. We had fallen in with a pilot
canoe of Morant Bay with four negroes on board, who requested us to
hoist in their boat, and take them all on board, as the pilot schooner
to which they belonged had that morning bore up for Kingston, and left
instructions to them to follow her in the first vessel appearing
afterwards. We did so, and now, as it was getting dark, the captain
came up to Mr. Treenail.
"Why, Mr. Treenail, I think we had better heave to for the night, and
in this case I shall want you to go in the cutter to Port Royal to
deliver the despatches on board the flag-ship.
"I don't think the admiral will be at Port Royal, sir," responded the
lieutenant; "and, if I might suggest, those black chaps have offered to
take me ashore here on the _Palisadoes_, a narrow spit of land, not
above one hundred yards across, that divides the harbour from the
ocean, and to haul the canoe across, and take me to the agent's house
in Kingston, who will doubtless frank me up to the pen where the
admiral resides, and I shall thus deliver the letters, and be back
again by day-dawn."
"Not a bad plan," said old Deadeye; "put it in execution, and I will go
below and get the despatches immediately."
The canoe was once more hoisted out; the three black fellows, the pilot
of the ship continuing on board, jumped into her alongside.
"Had you not better take a couple of hands with you, Mr. Treenail?"
said the skipper.
"Why, no, sir, I don't think I shall want them; but if you will spare
me Mr. Cringle I will be obliged, in case I want any help."
We shoved off, and as the glowing sun dipped under Portland Point, as
the tongue of land that runs out about four miles to the southward, on
the western side of Port Royal harbour, is called, we arrived within a
hundred yards of the _Palisadoes_. The surf, at the particular spot we
steered for, did not break on the shore in a rolling curling wave, as
it usually does, but smoothed away under the lee of a small sandy
promontory that ran out into the sea, about half a cable's length to
windward, and then slid up the smooth white sand without breaking, in a
deep clear green swell, for the space of twenty yards, gradually
shoaling, the colour becoming lighter and lighter until it frothed away
in a shallow white fringe, that buzzed as it receded back into the deep
green sea, until it was again propelled forward by the succeeding
"I say, friend Bungo, how shall we manage? You don't mean to swamp us
in a shove through that surf, do you?" said Mr. Treenail.
"No fear, massa, if you and toder leetle man-of-war buccra only keep
dem seat when we rise on de crest of de swell dere."
We sat quiet enough. Treenail was coolness itself, and I aped him as
well as I could. The loud murmur, increasing to a roar, of the sea,
was trying enough as we approached, buoyed on the last long undulation.
"Now sit still, massa, bote."
We sank down into the trough, and presently were hove forwards with a
smooth sliding motion up on the beach--until grit, grit, we stranded on
the cream-coloured sand, high and dry.
"Now, jomp, massa, jomp."
We leapt with all our strength, and thereby toppled down on our noses;
the sea receded, and before the next billow approached we had run the
canoe twenty yards beyond high-water mark.
It was the work of a very few minutes to haul the canoe across the
sand-bank, and to launch it once more in the placid waters of the
harbour of Kingston. We pulled across towards the town, until we
landed at the bottom of Hanover Street; the lights from the cabin
windows of the merchantmen glimmering as we passed, and the town only
discernible from a solitary sparkle here and there. But the contrast
when we landed was very striking. We had come through the darkness of
the night in comparative quietness; and in two hours from the time we
had left the old _Torch_, we were transferred from her orderly deck to
the bustle of a crowded town.
One of our crew undertook to be the guide to the agent's house. We
arrived before it. It was a large mansion, and we could see lights
glimmering in the ground-floor; but it was gaily lit up aloft. The
house itself stood back about twenty feet from the street, from which
it was separated by an iron railing.
We knocked at the outer gate, but no one answered. At length our black
guide found out a bell-pull, and presently the clang of a bell
resounded throughout the mansion. Still no one answered. I pushed
against the door, and found it was open, and Mr. Treenail and myself
immediately ascended a flight of six marble steps, and stood in the
lower piazza, with the hall, or vestibule, before us. We entered. A
very well-dressed brown woman, who was sitting at her work at a small
table, along with two young girls of the same complexion, instantly
rose to receive us.
"Beg pardon," said Mr. Treenail, "pray, is this Mr. ------'s house?"
"Yes, sir, it is."
"Will you have the goodness to say if he be at home?"
"Oh yes, sir, he is dere upon dinner wid company," said the lady.
"Well," continued the lieutenant, "say to him, that an officer of his
Majesty's sloop _Torch_ is below, with despatches for the admiral."
"Surely, sir,--surely," the dark lady continued; "Follow me, sir; and
dat small gentleman [Thomas Cringle, Esquire, no less!]--him will
better follow me too."
We left the room, and turning to the right, landed in the lower piazza
of the house, fronting the north. A large clumsy stair occupied the
eastermost end, with a massive mahogany balustrade, but the whole
affair below was very ill lighted. The brown lady preceded us; and,
planting herself at the bottom of the staircase, began to shout to some
"Toby!--Toby!--buccra gentlemen arrive, Toby." But no Toby responded
to the call.
"My dear madam," said Treenail, "I have little time for ceremony. Pray
usher us up into Mr. ------'s presence."
"Den follow me, gentlemen, please."
Forthwith we all ascended the dark staircase until we reached the first
landing-place, when we heard a noise as of two negroes wrangling on the
steps above us.
"You rascal!" sang out one, "take dat; larn you for teal my
wittal!"--then a sharp crack, as if he had smote the culprit across the
pate; whereupon, like a shot, a black fellow, in a handsome livery,
trundled down, pursued by another servant with a large silver ladle in
his hand, with which he was belabouring the fugitive over his
flint-hard skull, right against our hostess, with the drumstick of a
turkey in his hand, or rather in his mouth.
"Top, you tief!--top, you tief!--for me piece dat," shouted the pursuer.
"You dam rascal!" quoth the dame. But she had no time to utter another
word, before the fugitive pitched, with all his weight, against her;
and at the very moment another servant came trundling down with a large
tray full of all kinds of meats--and I especially remember that two
large crystal stands of jellies composed part of his load--so there we
were regularly capsized, and caught all of a heap in the dark
landing-place, halfway up the stair; and down the other flight tumbled
our guide, with Mr. Treenail and myself, and the two blackies on the
top of her, rolling in our descent over, or rather into, another large
mahogany tray which had just been carried out, with a tureen of turtle
soup in it, and a dish of roast-beef, and platefuls of land-crabs, and
the Lord knows what all besides.
The crash reached the ear of the landlord, who was seated at the head
of his table in the upper piazza, a long gallery about fifty feet long
by fourteen wide, and he immediately rose and ordered his butler to
take a light. When he came down to ascertain the cause of the uproar.
I shall never forget the scene.
There was, first of all, mine host, a remarkably neat personage,
standing on the polished mahogany stair, three steps above his servant,
who was a very well-dressed respectable elderly negro, with a candle in
each hand; and beneath him, on the landing-place, lay two trays of
viands, broken tureens of soup, fragments of dishes, and fractured
glasses, and a chaos of eatables and drinkables, and table gear
scattered all about, amidst which lay scrambling my lieutenant and
myself, the brown housekeeper, and the two negro servants, all more or
less covered with gravy and wine dregs. However, after a good laugh,
we gathered ourselves up, and at length we were ushered on the scene.
Mine host, after stifling his laughter the best way he could, again sat
down at the head of his table, sparkling with crystal and wax-lights,
while a superb lamp hung overhead. The company was composed chiefly of
naval and military men, but there was also a sprinkling of civilians,
or _muftees_, to use a West India expression. Most of them rose as we
entered, and after they had taken a glass of wine, and had their laugh
at our mishap, our landlord retired to one side with Mr. Treenail,
while I, poor little middy as I was, remained standing at the end of
the room, close to the head of the stairs. The gentleman who sat at
the foot of the table had his back towards me, and was not at first
aware of my presence. But the guest at his right hand, a
happy-looking, red-faced, well-dressed man, soon drew his attention
towards me. The party to whom I was thus indebted seemed a very
jovial-looking personage, and appeared to be well known to all hands,
and indeed the life of the party, for, like Falstaff, he was not only
witty in himself, but the cause of wit in others.
The gentleman to whom he had pointed me out immediately rose, made his
bow, ordered a chair, and made room for me beside himself, where, the
moment it was known that we were direct from home, such a volley of
questions was fired off at me that I did not know which to answer
first. At length, after Treenail had taken a glass or two of wine, the
agent started him off to the admiral's pen in his own gig, and I was
desired to stay where I was until he returned.
The whole party seemed very happy, my boon ally was fun itself, and I
was much entertained with the mess he made when any of the foreigners
at table addressed him in French or Spanish. I was particularly struck
with a small, thin, dark Spaniard, who told very feelingly how the
night before, on returning home from a party to his own lodgings, on
passing through the piazza, he stumbled against something heavy that
lay in his grass-hammock, which usually hung there. He called for a
light, when, to his horror, he found the body of his old and faithful
valet lying in it, _dead_ and cold, with a knife sticking under his
fifth rib--no doubt intended for his master. The speaker was Bolivar.
About midnight, Mr. Treenail returned, we shook hands with Mr. ------,
and once more shoved off; and, guided by the lights shown on board the
_Torch_ we were safe _home_ again by three in the morning, when we
immediately made sail, and nothing particular happened until we arrived
within a day's sail of New Providence. It seemed that, about a week
before, a large American brig, bound from Havana to Boston had been
captured in this very channel by one of our men-of-war schooners, and
carried into Nassau; out of which port, for their own security, the
authorities had fitted a small schooner, carrying six guns and
twenty-four men. She was commanded by a very gallant fellow--there is
no disputing that--and he must needs emulate the conduct of the officer
who had made the capture; for in a fine clear night, when all the
officers were below rummaging in their kits for the killing things they
should array themselves in on the morrow, so as to smite the Fair of
New Providence to the heart at a blow--_Whiss_--a shot flew over our
"A small schooner lying to right ahead, sir," sang out the boatswain
from the forecastle.
Before we could beat to quarters, another sang between our masts. We
kept steadily on our course, and as we approached our pigmy antagonist,
he bore up. Presently we were alongside of him.
"Heave to," hailed the strange sail; "heave to, or I'll sink you." The
devil you will, you midge, thought I.
The captain took the trumpet--"Schooner, ahoy"--no answer--"D--n your
blood, sir, if you don't let everything go by the run this instant,
I'll fire a broadside. Strike, sir, to his Britannic Majesty's sloop
The poor fellow commanding the schooner had by this time found out his
mistake, and immediately came on board, where, instead of being lauded
for his gallantry, I am sorry to say he was roundly rated for his want
of discernment in mistaking his Majesty's cruiser for a Yankee
merchantman. Next forenoon we arrived at Nassau.
In a week after we again sailed for Bermuda, having taken on board ten
American skippers, and several other Yankees, as prisoners of war.
For the first three days after we cleared the Passages, we had fine
weather--wind at east-south-east; but after that it came on to blow
from the north-west, and so continued without intermission during the
whole of the passage to Bermuda. On the fourth morning after we left
Nassau, we descried a sail in the south-east quarter, and immediately
made sail in chase. We overhauled her about noon; she hove to, after
being fired at repeatedly; and, on boarding her, we found she was a
Swede from Charleston, bound to Havre-de-Grace. All the letters we
could find on board were very unceremoniously broken open, and nothing
having transpired that could identify the cargo as enemy's property, we
were bundling over the side, when a nautical-looking subject, who had
attracted my attention from the first, put in his oar.
"Lieutenant," said he, "will you allow me to put this barrel of New
York apples into the boat as a present to Captain Deadeye, from Captain
------ of the United States navy?"
Mr. Treenail bowed, and said he would; and we shoved off and got on
board again, and now there was the devil to pay, from the perplexity
old Deadeye was thrown into, as to whether, here in the heat of the
American war, he was bound to take this American captain prisoner or
not. I was no party to the councils of my superiors, of course, but
the foreign ship was finally allowed to continue her course.
The next day I had the forenoon watch; the weather had lulled
unexpectedly nor was there much sea, and the deck was all alive, to
take advantage of the fine _blink_, when the man at the mast-head sang
out--"Breakers right ahead, sir."
"Breakers!" said Mr. Splinter, in great astonishment. "Breakers!--why,
the man must be mad! I say, Jenkins----"
"Breakers close under the bows," sang out the boatswain from forward.
"The devil!" quoth Splinter, and he ran along the gangway, and ascended
the forecastle, while I kept close to his heels. We looked out ahead,
and there we certainly did see a splashing, and boiling, and white
foaming of the ocean, that unquestionably looked very like breakers.
Gradually, this splashing and foaming appearance took a circular
whisking shape, as if the clear green sea, for a space of a hundred
yards in diameter, had been stirred about by a gigantic invisible
_spurtle_, until everything hissed again; and the curious part of it
was, that the agitation of the water seemed to keep ahead of us, as if
the breeze which impelled us had also floated it onwards. At length
the whirling circle of white foam ascended higher and higher, and then
gradually contracted itself into a spinning black tube, which wavered
about for all the world like a gigantic _loch-leech_ held by the tail
between the finger and thumb, while it was poking its vast snout about
in the clouds in search of a spot to fasten on.
"Is the boat-gun on the forecastle loaded?" said Captain Deadeye.
"It is, sir."
"Then luff a bit--that will do--fire."
The gun was discharged, and down rushed the black wavering pillar in a
watery _avalanche_, and in a minute after the dark heaving billows
rolled over the spot whereout it arose, as if no such thing had ever
This said troubling of the waters was neither more nor less than a
waterspout, which again is neither more nor less than a whirlwind at
sea, which gradually whisks the water round and round, and up and up,
as you see straws so raised, until it reaches a certain height, when it
invariably breaks. Before this I had thought that waterspout was
created by some next to supernatural exertion of the power of the
Deity, in order to suck up water into the clouds, that they, like the
wine-skins in Spain, might be filled with rain.
The morning after, the weather was clear and beautiful, although the
wind blew half a gale. Nothing particular happened until about seven
o'clock in the evening. I had been invited to dine with the gunroom
officers this day, and every thing was going on smooth and comfortable,
when Mr. Splinter spoke. "I say, master, don't you smell gunpowder?"
"Yes, I do," said the little master, "or something deuced like it."
To explain the particular comfort of our position, it may be right to
mention that the magazine of a brig sloop is exactly under the gunroom.
Three of the American skippers had been quartered on the gunroom mess,
and they were all at table. Snuff, snuff, smelled one, and another
sniffled,--"Gunpowder, I guess, and in a state of ignition."
"Will you not send for the gunner, sir?" said the third. Splinter did
not like it, I saw, and this quailed me.
The captain's bell rang. "What smell of brimstone is that, steward?"
"I really can't tell," said the man, trembling from head to foot; "Mr.
Splinter has sent for the gunner, sir."
"The devil!" said Deadeye, as he hurried on deck. We all followed. A
search was made.
"Some matches have caught in the magazine," said one.
"We shall be up and away like sky-rockets," said another.
Several of the American masters ran out on the jib-boom, coveting the
temporary security of being so far removed from the seat of the
expected explosion, and all was alarm and confusion, until it was
ascertained that two of the boys, little sky-larking vagabonds, had
stolen some pistol cartridges, and had been making lightning, as it is
called, by holding a lighted candle between the fingers, and putting
some loose powder into the palm of the hand, then chucking it up into
the flame. They got a sound flogging, on a very unpoetical part of
their corpuses, and once more the ship subsided into her usual orderly
discipline. The northwester still continued, with a clear blue sky,
without a cloud overhead by day, and a bright cold moon by night. It
blew so hard for the three succeeding days, that we could not carry
more than close-reefed topsails to it, and a reefed foresail. Indeed,
towards six bells in the forenoon watch of the third day, it came
thundering down with such violence, and the sea increased so much, that
we had to hand the foretopsail.
This was by no means an easy job. "Ease her a bit," said the first
lieutenant,--"there--shake the wind out of her sails for a moment,
until the men get the canvas in"----whirl, a poor fellow pitched off
the lee foreyardarm into the sea. "Up with the helm--heave him the
bight of a rope." We kept away, but all was confusion, until an
American midshipman, one of the prisoners on board, hove the bight of a
rope at him. The man got it under his arms, and after hauling him
along for a hundred yards at the least--and one may judge of the
velocity with which he was dragged through the water, by the fact that
it took the united strain of ten powerful men to get him in--he was
brought safely on board, pale and blue, when we found that the running
of the rope had crushed in his broad chest, below his arms, as if it
had been a girl's waist, indenting the very muscles of it and of his
back half an inch deep. He had to be bled before he could breathe, and
it was an hour before the circulation could be restored, by the joint
exertions of the surgeon and gunroom steward, chafing him with spirits
and camphor, after he had been stripped and stowed away between the
blankets in his hammock.
The same afternoon we fell in with a small prize to the squadron in the
_Chesapeake_, a dismantled schooner, manned by a prize crew of a
midshipman and six men. She had a signal of distress, an American
ensign, with the union down, hoisted on the jury-mast, across which
there was rigged a solitary lug-sail. It was blowing so hard that we
had some difficulty in boarding her, when we found she was a Baltimore
pilot-boat-built schooner, of about 70 tons burden, laden with flour,
and bound for Bermuda. But three days before, in a sudden squall, they
had carried away both masts short by the board, and the only spar which
they had been able to rig, was a spare topmast which they had jammed
into one of the pumps--fortunately she was as tight as a bottle--and
stayed it the best way they could. The captain offered to take the
little fellow who had charge of her, and his crew and cargo, on board,
and then scuttle her; but no--all he wanted was a cask of water and
some biscuit; and having had a glass of grog, he trundled over the side
again, and returned to his desolate command. However, he afterwards
brought his prize safe into Bermuda.
The weather still continued very rough, but we saw nothing until the
second evening after this. The forenoon had been even more boisterous
than any of the preceding, and we were all fagged enough with "make
sail," and "shorten sail," and "all hands," the whole day through; and
as the night fell, I found myself, for the fourth time, in the maintop.
The men had just lain in from the maintopsail yard, when we heard the
watch called on deck,--"Starboard watch, ahoy!"--which was a cheery
sound to us of the larboard, who were thus released from duty on deck,
and allowed to go below.
The men were scrambling down the weather shrouds, and I was preparing
to follow them, when I jammed my left foot in the grating of the top,
and capsized on my nose. I had been up nearly the whole of the
previous night, and on deck the whole of the day, and actively employed
too, as during the greater part of it it blew a gale. I stooped down
in some pain, to see what had bolted me to the grating; but I had no
sooner extricated my foot, than, over-worked and over-fatigued as I
was, I fell over in the soundest sleep that ever I have enjoyed before
or since, the back of my neck resting on a coil of rope, so that my
head hung down within it.
The rain all this time was beating on me, and I was drenched to the
skin. I must have slept for four hours or so, when I was awakened by a
rough thump on the side from the stumbling foot of the captain of the
top, the word having been passed to shake a reef out of the topsails,
the wind having rather suddenly gone down. It was done; and now broad
awake, I determined not to be caught napping again, so I descended, and
swung myself in on deck out of the main rigging, just as Mr. Treenail
was mustering the crew at eight bells. When I landed on the
quarterdeck, there he stood abaft the binnacle, with the light shining
on his face, his glazed hat glancing, and the rain-drop sparkling at
the brim of it. He had noticed me the moment I descended.
"Heyday, Master Cringle, you are surely out of your watch. Why, what
are you doing here, eh?"
I stepped up to him, and told him the truth, that, being overfatigued,
I had fallen asleep in the top.
"Well, well, boy," said he, "never mind, go below, and turn in; if you
don't take your rest, you never will be a sailor."
"But what do you see aloft?" glancing his eye upwards, and all the crew
on deck, as I passed them, looked anxiously up also amongst the
rigging, as if wondering what I saw there, for I had been so chilled in
my snoose, that my neck, from resting in the cold on the coil of rope,
had become stiffened and rigid to an intolerable degree; and although,
when I first came on deck, I had, by a strong exertion, brought my
_caput_ to its proper bearings, yet the moment I was dismissed by my
superior officer, I for my own comfort was glad to conform to the
contraction of the muscle, whereby I once more strayed along the deck,
_glowering_ up into the heavens, as if I had seen some wonderful sight
"What do you see aloft?" repeated Mr. Treenail, while the crew, greatly
puzzled, continued to follow my eyes, as they thought, and to stare up
into the rigging.
"Why, sir, I have thereby got a stiff neck--that's all, sir."
"Go and turn in at once, my good boy--make haste, now; tell our steward
to give you a glass of hot grog, and mind your hand that you don't get
I did as was desired, swallowed the grog, and turned in; but I could
not have been in bed above an hour, when the drum beat to quarters, and
I had once more to bundle out on the cold wet deck, where I found all
excitement. At the time I speak of, we had been beaten by the
Americans in several actions of single ships, and our discipline
improved in proportion as we came to learn, by sad experience, that the
enemy was not to be undervalued. I found that there was a ship in
sight, right ahead of us--apparently carrying all sail. A group of
officers were on the forecastle with night-glasses, the whole crew
being stationed in dark clusters round the guns at quarters. Several
of the American skippers were forward amongst us, and they were of
opinion that the chase was a man-of-war, although our own people seemed
to doubt this. One of the skippers insisted that she was the _Hornet_,
from the unusual shortness of her lower masts, and the immense
squareness of her yards. But the puzzle was, if it were the _Hornet_,
why she did not shorten sail. Still this might be accounted for, by
her either wishing to make out what we were before she engaged us, or
she might be clearing for action. At this moment a whole cloud of
studdingsails were blown from the yards as if the booms had been
carrots; and to prove that the chase was keeping a bright look-out, she
immediately kept away, and finally bore up dead before the wind, under
the impression, no doubt, that she would draw ahead of us, from her
gear being entire, before we could rig out our light sails again.
And so she did for a time, but at length we got within gunshot. The
American masters were now ordered below, the hatches were clapped on,
and the word passed to see all clear. Our shot was by this time flying
over and over her, and it was evident she was not a man-of-war. We
peppered away--she could not even be a privateer; we were close under
her lee quarter, and yet she had never fired a shot; and her large
swaggering Yankee ensign was now run up to the peak, only to be hauled
down the next moment. Hurrah! a large cotton-ship from Charlestown to
Bordeaux--prize to H.M.S. _Torch_!
She was taken possession of, and proved to be the _Natches_, of four
hundred tons burden, fully loaded with cotton.
By the time we got the crew on board, and the second-lieutenant, with a
prize crew of fifteen men, had taken charge, the weather began to lour
again, nevertheless we took the prize in tow, and continued on our
voyage for the next three days, without anything particular happening.
It was the middle watch, and I was sound asleep, when I was startled by
a violent jerking of my hammock, and a cry "that the brig was amongst
the breakers." I ran on deck in my shirt, where I found all hands, and
a scene of confusion such as I never had witnessed before. The gale
had increased, yet the prize had not been cast off, and the consequence
was, that by some mismanagement or carelessness, the swag of the large
ship had suddenly hove the brig in the wind, and taken the sails aback.
We accordingly fetched stern way, and ran foul of the prize, and there
we were, in a heavy sea, with our stern grinding against the
cotton-ship's high quarter.
The mainboom, by the first rasp that took place after I came on deck,
was broken short off, and nearly twelve feet of it hove right in over
the taffrail; the vessels then closed, and the next rub ground off the
ship's mizzen channel as clean as if it had been sawed away. Officers
shouting, men swearing, rigging cracking, the vessels crashing and
thumping together, I thought we were gone, when the first lieutenant
seized his trumpet--"Silence, men; hold your tongues, you cowards, and
mind the word of command!"
The effect was magical.--"Brace round the foreyard--round with it; set
the jib--that's it--fore-top-mast staysail--haul--never mind if the
gale takes it out of the bolt-rope"--a thundering flap, and away it
flew in truth down to leeward, like a puff of white smoke.--"Never
mind, men, the jib stands. Belay all that--down with the helm,
now--don't you see she has stern way yet? Zounds! we shall be smashed
to atoms if you don't mind your hands, you lubbers--main-topsail sheets
let fly--there she pays off, and has headway once more--that's it:
right your helm, now--never mind his spanker-boom, the fore-stay will
stand it: there--up with helm, sir--we have cleared him--hurrah!" And
a near thing it was too, but we soon had everything snug; and although
the gale continued without any intermission for ten days, at length we
ran in and anchored with our prize in Five-Fathom Hole, off the
entrance to St. George's Harbour.
It was lucky for us that we got to anchor at the time we did, for that
same afternoon one of the most tremendous gales of wind from the
westward came on that I ever saw. Fortunately it was steady and did
not veer about, and having good ground-tackle down, we rode it out well
enough. The effect was very uncommon; the wind was howling over our
mast-heads, and amongst the cedar bushes on the cliffs above, while on
deck it was nearly calm, and there was very little swell, being a
weather shore; but half a mile out at sea all was white foam, and the
tumbling waves seemed to meet from north and south, leaving a space of
smooth water under the lee of the island, shaped like the tail of a
comet, tapering away, and gradually roughening and becoming more
stormy, until the roaring billows once more owned allegiance to the
genius of the storm.
There we rode, with three anchors ahead, in safety through the night;
and next day, availing of a temporary lull, we ran up and anchored off
the Tanks. Three days after this, the American frigate _President_ was
brought in by the Endymion and the rest of the squadron.
I went on board, in common with every officer in the fleet, and
certainly I never saw a more superb vessel; her scantling was that of a
seventy-four, and she appeared to have been fitted with great care. I
got a week's leave at this time, and, as I had letters to several
families, I contrived to spend my time pleasantly enough.
Bermuda, as all the world knows, is a cluster of islands in the middle
of the Atlantic. There are Lord knows how many of them, but the beauty
of the little straits and creeks which divide them no man can describe
who has not seen them. The town of St. George's, for instance, looks
as if the houses were cut out of chalk; and one evening the family
where I was on a visit proceeded to the main island, Hamilton, to
attend a ball there. We had to cross three ferries, although the
distance was not above nine miles, if so far. The 'Mudian women are
unquestionably beautiful--so thought Thomas Moore, a tolerable judge,
before me. By the by, touching this 'Mudian ball, it was a very gay
affair--the women pleasant and beautiful; but all the men, when they
speak, or are spoken to, shut one eye and spit;--a lucid and succinct
description of a community.
The second day of my sojourn was fine--the first fine day since our
arrival--and with several young ladies of the family, I was prowling
through the cedar wood above St. George's, when a dark good-looking man
passed us; he was dressed in tight worsted net pantaloons and Hessian
boots, and wore a blue frockcoat and two large epaulets, with rich
French bullion, and a round hat. On passing, he touched his hat with
much grace, and in the evening I met him in society. It was Commodore
Decatur. He was very much a Frenchman in manner, or, I should rather
say, in look, for although very well bred, he, for one ingredient, by
no means possessed a Frenchman's volubility; still, he was an
exceedingly agreeable and very handsome man.
The following day we spent in a pleasure cruise amongst the three
hundred and sixty-five Islands, many of them not above an acre in
extent--fancy an island of an acre in extent!--with a solitary house, a
small garden, a red-skinned family, a piggery, and all around clear
deep pellucid water. None of the islands, or islets, rise to any great
height, but they all shoot precipitously out of the water, as if the
whole group had originally been one huge platform of rock, with
numberless grooves subsequently chiselled out in it by art.
We had to wind our way amongst these manifold small channels for two
hours, before we reached the gentleman's house where we had been
invited to dine; at length, on turning a corner, with both lateen sai
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