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Afloat And Ashore by James Fenimore Cooper

Part 2 out of 10

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a round of activity as that of a house. This kept us all busy until
night, when the watches were told off and set. I was in the larboard,
or chief-mate's watch, having actually been chosen by that
hard-featured old seaman, the fourth man he named; an honour for which
I was indebted to the activity I had already manifested aloft. Rupert
was less distinguished, being taken by the captain for the
second-mate's watch, the very last person chosen. That night
Mr. Marble dropped a few hints on the subject, which let me into the
secret of these two selections. "You and I will get along well
together, I see that plainly, Miles," he said, "for there's
quicksilver in your body. As for your friend in t'other watch, it's
all as it should be; the captain has got one hand the most, and such
as he is, he is welcome to him. He'll blacken more writing paper this
v'y'ge, I reckon, than he'll tar down riggin'." I thought it odd,
however, that Rupert, who had been so forward in all the preliminaries
of our adventure, should fall so far astern in its first practical
results.

It is not my intention to dwell on all the minute incidents of this,
my first voyage to sea, else would it spin out the narrative
unnecessarily, and render my task as fatiguing to the reader, as it
might prove to myself. One occurrence, however, which took place three
days out, must be mentioned, as it will prove to be connected with
important circumstances in the end. The ship was now in order, and was
at least two hundred leagues from the land, having had a famous run
off the coast, when the voice of the cook, who had gone below for
water, was heard down among the casks, in such a clamour as none but a
black can raise, with all his loquacity awakened.

"There's _two_ niggers at that work!" exclaimed Mr. Marble,
after listening an instant, glancing his eye round to make certain the
mulatto steward was not in the discussion. "No _one_ darkey ever
could make all that outcry. Bear a hand below, Miles, and see if
Africa has come aboard us in the night."

I was in the act of obeying, when Cato, the cook, was seen rising
through the steerage-hatch, dragging after him the dark poll of
another black, whom he had gripped by the wool. In an instant both
were on deck, when, to my astonishment, I discovered the agitated
countenance of Nebuchadnezzar Clawbonny. Of course the secret was out,
the instant the lad's glistening features were recognised.

Neb, in a word, had managed to get on board the ship before she hauled
out into the stream, and lay concealed among the water-casks, his
pockets crammed with ginger-bread and apples, until discovered by the
cook, in one of his journeys in quest of water. The food of the lad
had been gone twenty-four hours, and it is not probable the fellow
could have remained concealed much longer, had not this discovery
taken place. The instant he was on deck, Neb looked eagerly around to
ascertain how far the ship had got from the land, and, seeing nothing
but water on every side of him, he fairly grinned with delight. This
exasperated Mr. Marble, who thought it was adding insult to injury,
and he gave the lad a cuff on the ear that would have set a white
reeling. On Neb, however, this sharp blow produced no effect, falling
as it did on the impregnable part of his system.

"Oh! you're a nigger, be you?" exclaimed the mate, waxing warmer and
warmer, as he: fancied himself baffled by the other's powers of
endurance. "Take that, and let us see if you're full-blooded!"

A smart rap on the shin accompanying these words, Neb gave in on the
instant. He begged for mercy, and professed a readiness to tell all,
protesting he was not "a runaway nigger"--a term the mate used while
applying the kicks.

I now interfered, by telling Mr. Marble, with all the respect due from
a green hand to a chief-mate, who Neb really was, and what I supposed
to be his motives for following me to the ship. This revelation cost
me a good deal in the end, the idea of Jack's having a "waiting-man"
on board giving rise to a great many jokes at my expense, during the
rest of the voyage. Had I not been so active, and so _willing,_ a
great source of favour on board a ship, it is probable these jokes
would have been much broader and more frequent. As it was, they
annoyed me a good deal; and it required a strong exercise of all the
boyish regard I really entertained for Neb, to refrain from turning-to
and giving him a sound threshing for his exploit, at the first good
occasion. And yet, what was his delinquency compared to my own? He had
followed his master out of deep affection, blended somewhat, it is
true, with a love of adventure; while, in one sense, I had violated
all the ties of the heart, merely to indulge the latter passion.

The captain coming on deck, Neb's story was told, and, finding that no
wages would be asked in behalf of this athletic, healthy, young negro,
he had no difficulty in receiving him into favour. To Neb's great
delight, he was sent forward to take his share on the yards and in the
rigging, there being no vacancy for him to fill about the camboose, or
in the cabin. In an hour the negro was fed, and he was regularly
placed in the starboard-watch. I was rejoiced at this last
arrangement, as it put the fellow in a watch different from my own,
and prevented his officious efforts to do my work. Rupert, I
discovered, however, profited often by his zeal, employing the willing
black on every possible occasion. On questioning Neb, I ascertained
that he had taken the boat round to the Wallingford, and had made use
of a dollar or two I had given him at parting, to board in a house
suitable to his colour, until the ship was ready for sea, when he got
on board, and stowed himself among the water-casks, as mentioned.

Neb's apparition soon ceased to be a subject of discourse, and his
zeal quickly made him a general favourite. Hardy, strong, resolute,
and accustomed to labour, he was early of great use in all the heavy
drags; and aloft, even, though less quick than a white would have
been, he got to be serviceable and reasonably expert. My own
progress--and I say it without vanity, but simply because it was
true--was the subject of general remark. One week made me familiar
with the running gear; and, by that time, I could tell a rope by its
size, the manner in which it led, and the place where it was belayed,
in the darkest night, as well as the oldest seaman on board. It is
true, my model-ship had prepared the way for much of this expertness;
but, free from all seasickness, of which I never had a moment in my
life, I set about learning these things in good earnest, and was fully
rewarded for my pains. I passed the weather-earing of the
mizen-top-sail when we had been out a fortnight, and went to those of
the fore and main before we crossed the line. The mate put me forward
on all occasions, giving me much instruction in private; and the
captain neglected no opportunity of giving me useful hints, or
practical ideas. I asked, and was allowed to take my regular trick at
the wheel, before we got into the latitude of St. Helena; and from
that time did my full share of seaman's duly on board, the nicer work
of knotting, splicing, &c., excepted. These last required a little
more time; but I am satisfied that, in all things but judgment, a
clever lad, who has a taste for the business, can make himself a very
useful and respectable mariner in six months of active service.

China voyages seldom produce much incident. If the moment of sailing
has been judiciously timed, the ship has fair winds much of the way,
and generally moderate weather. To be sure, there are points on the
long road that usually give one a taste of what the seas sometimes
are; but, on the whole, a Canton voyage, though a long one, cannot be
called a rough one. As a matter of course, we had gales, and squalls,
and the usual vicissitudes of the ocean, to contend with, though our
voyage to Canton might have been called quiet, rather than the
reverse. We were four months under our canvass, and, when we anchored
in the river, the clewing up of our sails, and getting from beneath
their shadows, resembled the rising of a curtain on some novel scenic
representation. John Chinaman, however, has been so often described,
particularly of late, that I shall not dwell on his peculiarities.
Sailors, as a class, are very philosophical, so far as the
peculiarities and habits of strangers are concerned, appearing to
think it beneath the dignity of those who visit all lands, to betray
wonder at the novelties of any. It so happened that no man on board
the John, the officers, steward and cook excepted, had ever doubled
the Cape of Good Hope before this voyage; and yet our crew regarded
the shorn polls, slanting eyes, long queues, clumsy dresses, high
cheek-bones, and lumbering shoes, of the people they now saw for the
first time, with just as much indifference as they would have
encountered a new fashion at home. Most of them, indeed, had seen, or
fancied they had seen, much stranger sights in the different countries
they had visited; it being a standing rule, with Jack to compress
everything that is wonderful into the "last voyage"--that in which he
is engaged for the present time being usually set down as
common-place, and unworthy of particular comment. On this principle,
_my_ Canton excursion _ought_ to be full of marvels, as it
was the progenitor of all that I subsequently saw and experienced as a
sailor. Truth compels me to confess, notwithstanding, that it was one
of the least wonderful of all the voyages I ever made, until near its
close.

We lay some months in the river, getting cargo, receiving teas,
nankins, silks and other articles, as our supercargo could lay hands
on them. In all this time, we saw just as much of the Chinese as it is
usual for strangers to see, and not a jot more. I was much up at the
factories, with the captain, having charge of his boat; and, as for
Rupert, he passed most of his working-hours either busy with the
supercargo ashore, or writing in the cabin. I got a good insight,
however, into the uses of the serving-mallet, the fid, marlinspike and
winch, and did something with the needle and palm. Marble was very
good to me, in spite of his nor-west face, and never let slip an
occasion to give a useful hint. I believe my exertions on the
outward-bound passage fully equalled expectations, and the officers
had a species of pride in helping to make Captain Wallingford's son
worthy of his honourable descent. I had taken occasion to let it be
known that Rupert's great-grandfather had been a man-of-war captain;
but the suggestion was met by a flat, refusal to believe it from
Mr. Kite, the second-mate, though Mr. Marble remarked it _might_
be so, as I admitted that both his father and grandfather had been, or
were, in the Church. My friend seemed fated to achieve nothing but the
glory of a "barber's clerk."

Our hatches were got on and battened down, and we sailed for home
early in the spring of 1798. The ship had a good run across the China
Sea, and reached the Indies in rather a short passage. We had cleared
all the islands, and were fairly in the Indian Ocean, when an
adventure occurred, which was the first really worthy of being related
that we met in the whole voyage. I shall give it, in as few words as
possible.

We had cleared the Straits of Sunda early in the morning, and had made
a pretty fair run in the course of the day, though most of the time in
thick weather. Just as the sun set, however, the horizon became clear,
and we got a sight of two small sail seemingly heading in towards the
coast of Sumatra, proas by their rig and dimensions. They were so
distant, and were so evidently steering for the land, that no one gave
them much thought, or bestowed on them any particular attention. Proas
in that quarter were usually distrusted by ships, it is true; but the
sea is full of them, and far more are innocent than are guilty of any
acts of violence. Then it became dark soon after these craft were
seen, and night shut them in. An hour after the sun had set, the wind
fell to a light air, that just kept steerage-way on the ship.
Fortunately, the John was not only fast, but she minded her helm, as a
light-footed girl turns in a lively dance. I never was in a
better-steering ship, most especially in moderate weather.

Mr. Marble had the middle watch that night, and of course I was on
deck from midnight until four in the morning. It proved misty most of
the watch, and for quite an hour we had a light drizzling rain. The
ship, the whole time, was close-hauled, carrying royals. As everybody
seemed to have made up his mind to a quiet night, one without any
reefing or furling, most of the watch were sleeping about the decks,
or wherever they could get good quarters, and be least in the way. I
do not know what kept me awake, for lads of my age are apt to get all
the sleep they can; but I believe I was thinking of Clawbonny, and
Grace, and Lucy; for the latter, excellent girl as she was, often
crossed my mind in those days of youth and comparative innocence.
Awake I was, and walking in the weather-gangway, in a sailor's
trot. Mr. Marble, he I do believe was fairly snoozing on the
hen-coops, being, like the sails, as one might say, barely "asleep."
At that moment I heard a noise, one familiar to seamen; that of an oar
falling in a boat. So completely was my mind bent on other and distant
scenes, that at first I felt no surprise, as if we were in a harbour
surrounded by craft of various sizes, coming and going at all
hours. But a second thought destroyed this illusion, and I looked
eagerly about me. Directly on our weather-bow, distant perhaps a
cable's length, I saw a small sail, and I could distinguish it
sufficiently well to perceive it was a proa. I sang out "Sail ho! and
close aboard!"

Mr. Marble was on his feet in an instant. He afterwards told me that
when he opened his eyes, for he admitted this much to me in
confidence, they fell directly on the stranger. He was too much of a
seaman to require a second look, in order to ascertain what was to be
done. "Keep the ship away--keep her broad off!" he called out to the
man at the wheel. "Lay the yards square--call all hands, one of you
--Captain Robbins, Mr. Kite, bear a hand up; the bloody proas are
aboard us!" The last part of this call was uttered in a loud voice,
with the speaker's head down the companion-way. It was heard plainly
enough below, but scarcely at all on deck.

In the mean time, everybody was in motion. It is amazing how soon
sailors are wide awake when there is really anything to do! It
appeared to me that all our people mustered on deck in less than a
minute, most of them with nothing on but their shirts and
trowsers. The ship was nearly before the wind, by the time I heard the
captain's voice; and then Mr. Kite came bustling in among us forward,
ordering most of the men to lay aft to the braces, remaining himself
on the forecastle, and keeping me with him to let go the sheets. On
the forecastle, the strange sail was no longer visible, being now
abaft the beam; but I could hear Mr. Marble swearing there were two of
them, and that they must be the very chaps we had seen to leeward, and
standing in for the land, at sunset. I also heard the captain calling
out to the steward to bring him a powder-horn. Immediately after,
orders were given to let fly all our sheets forward, and then I
perceived that they were waring ship. Nothing saved us but the prompt
order of Mr. Marble to keep the ship away, by which means, instead of
moving towards the proas, we instantly began to move from
them. Although they went three feet to our two, this gave us a moment
of breathing time.

As our sheets were all flying forward, and remained so for a few
minutes, it gave me leisure to look about. I soon saw both proas, and
glad enough was I to perceive that they had not approached materially
nearer. Mr. Kite observed this also, and remarked that our movements
had been so prompt as "to take the rascals aback." He meant, they did
not exactly know what we were at, and had not kept away with us.

At this instant, the captain and five or six of the oldest seamen
began to cast loose all our starboard, or weather guns, four in all,
and sixes. We had loaded these guns in the Straits of Banca, with
grape and canister, in readiness for just such pirates as were now
coming down upon us; and nothing was wanting but the priming and a hot
logger-head. It seems two of the last had been ordered in the fire,
when we saw the proas at sunset; and they were now in excellent
condition for service, live coals being kept around them all night by
command. I saw a cluster of men busy with the second gun from forward,
and could distinguish the captain pointing it.

"There cannot well be any mistake, Mr. Marble?" the captain observed,
hesitating whether to fire or not.

"Mistake, sir? Lord, Captain Robbins, you might cannonade any of the
islands astarn for a week, and never hurt an honest man. Let 'em have
it, sir; I'll answer for it, you do good."

This settled the matter. The loggerhead was applied, and one of our
sixes spoke out in a smart report. A breathless stillness
succeeded. The proas did not alter their course, but neared us
fast. The captain levelled his night-glass, and I heard him tell Kite,
in a low voice, that they were full of men. The word was now passed to
clear away all the guns, and to open the arm-chest, to come at the
muskets and pistols. I heard the rattling of the boarding-pikes, too,
as they were cut adrift from the spanker-boom, and fell upon the
deck. All this sounded very ominous, and I began to think we should
have a desperate engagement first, and then have all our throats cut
afterwards.

I expected now to hear the guns discharged in quick succession, but
they were got ready only, not fired. Kite went aft, and returned with
three or four muskets, and as many pikes. He gave the latter to those
of the people who had nothing to do with the guns. By this time the
ship was on a wind, steering a good full, while the two proas were
just abeam, and closing fast. The stillness that reigned on both sides
was like that of death. The proas, however, fell a little more astern;
the result of their own manoeuvring, out of all doubt, as they moved
through the water much faster than the ship, seeming desirous of
dropping into our wake, with a design of closing under our stern, and
avoiding our broad-side. As this would never do, and the wind
freshened so as to give us four or five knot way, a most fortunate
circumstance for us, the captain determined to tack while he had
room. The John behaved beautifully, and came round like a top. The
proas saw there was no time to lose, and attempted to close before we
could fill again; and this they would have done with ninety-nine ships
in a hundred. The captain knew his vessel, however, and did not let
her lose her way, making everything draw again as it might be by
instinct. The proas tacked, too, and, laying up much nearer to the
wind than we did, appeared as if about to close on our lee-bow. The
question was, now, whether we could pass them or not before they got
near enough to grapple. If the pirates got on board us, we were
hopelessly gone; and everything depended on coolness and judgment. The
captain behaved perfectly well in this critical instant, commanding a
dead silence, and the closest attention to his orders.

I was too much interested at this moment to feel the concern that I
might otherwise have experienced. On the forecastle, it appeared to us
all that we should be boarded in a minute, for one of the proas was
actually within a hundred feet, though losing her advantage a little
by getting under the lee of our sails. Kite had ordered us to muster
forward of the rigging, to meet the expected leap with a discharge of
muskets, and then to present our pikes, when I felt an arm thrown
around my body, and was turned in-board, while another person assumed
my place. This was Neb, who had thus coolly thrust himself before me,
in order to meet the danger first. I felt vexed, even while touched
with the fellow's attachment and self-devotion, but had no time to
betray either feeling before the crews of the proas gave a yell, and
discharged some fifty or sixty matchlocks at us. The air was full of
bullets, but they all went over our heads. Not a soul on board the
John was hurt. On our side, we gave the gentlemen the four sixes, two
at the nearest and two at the sternmost proa, which was still near a
cable's length distant. As often happens, the one seemingly farthest
from danger, fared the worst. Our grape and canister had room to
scatter, and I can at this distant day still hear the shrieks that
arose from that craft! They were like the yells of fiends in anguish.
The effect on that proa was instantaneous; instead of keeping on after
her consort, she wore short round on her heel, and stood away in our
wake, on the other tack, apparently to get out of the range of our
fire.

I doubt if we touched a man in the nearest proa. At any rate, no noise
proceeded from her, and she came up under our bows fast. As every gun
was discharged, and there was not time to load them, all now depended
on repelling the boarders. Part of our people mustered in the waist,
where it was expected the proa would fall alongside, and part on the
forecastle. Just as this distribution was made, the pirates cast their
grapnel. It was admirably thrown, but caught only by a ratlin. I saw
this, and was about to jump into the rigging to try what I could do to
clear it, when Neb again went ahead of me, and cut the ratlin with his
knife. This was just as the pirates had abandoned sails and oars, and
had risen to haul up alongside. So sudden was the release, that twenty
of them fell over by their own efforts. In this state the ship passed
ahead, all her canvass being full, leaving the proa motionless in her
wake. In passing, however, the two vessels were so near, that those
aft in the John distinctly saw the swarthy faces of their enemies.

We were no sooner clear of the proas than the order was given, "ready
about!" The helm was put down, and the ship came into the wind in a
minute. As we came square with the two proas, all our larboard guns
were given to them, and this ended the affair. I think the nearest of
the rascals got it this time, for away she went, after her consort,
both running off towards the islands. We made a little show of
chasing, but it was only a feint; for we were too glad to get away
from them, to be in earnest. In ten minutes after we tacked the last
time, we ceased firing, having thrown some eight or ten round-shot
after the proas, and were close-hauled again, heading to the
south-west.

It is not to be supposed we went to sleep again immediately. Neb was
the only man on board who did, but he never missed an occasion to eat
or sleep. The captain praised us, and, as a matter of course in that
day, he called all hands to "splice the main-brace." After this, the
watch was told to go below, as regularly as if nothing had happened.
As for the captain himself, he and Mr. Marble and Mr. Kite went prying
about the ship to ascertain if anything material had been cut by what
the chief-mate called "the bloody Indian matchlocks." A little
running-rigging had suffered, and we had to reeve a few new ropes in
the morning; but this terminated the affair.

I need hardly say, all hands of us were exceedingly proud of our
exploit. Everybody was praised but Neb, who, being a "nigger," was in
some way or other overlooked. I mentioned his courage and readiness
to Mr. Marble, but I could excite in no one else the same respect for
the poor fellow's conduct, that I certainly felt myself. I have since
lived long enough to know that as the gold of the rich attracts to
itself the gold of the poor, so do the deeds of the unknown go to
swell the fame of the known. This is as true of nations, and races,
and families, as it is of individuals; poor Neb belonging to a
proscribed colour, it was not in reason to suppose he could ever
acquire exactly the same credit as a white man.

"Them darkies do sometimes blunder on a lucky idee," answered
Mr. Marble to one of my earnest representations, "and I've known chaps
among 'em that were almost as knowing as dullish whites; but
everything out of the common way with 'em is pretty much chance. As
for Neb, however, I will say this for him; that, for a nigger, he
takes things quicker than any of his colour I ever sailed with. Then
he has no sa'ce, and that is a good deal with a black. White sa'ce is
bad enough; but that of a nigger is unbearable."

Alas! Neb. Born in slavery, accustomed to consider it arrogance to
think of receiving even his food until the meanest white had satisfied
his appetite, submissive, unrepining, laborious and obedient--the
highest eulogium that all these patient and unobtrusive qualities
could obtain, was a reluctant acknowledgment that he had "no sa'ce."
His quickness and courage saved the John, nevertheless; and I have
always said it, and ever shall.

A day after the affair of the proas, all hands of us began to
brag. Even the captain was a little seized with this mania; and as for
Marble, he was taken so badly, that, had I not known he behaved well
in the emergency, I certainly should have set him down as a
Bobadil. Rupert manifested this feeling, too, though I heard he did
his duty that night. The result of all the talk was to convert the
affair into a very heroic exploit; and it subsequently figured in the
journals as one of the deeds that illustrate the American name.

From the time we were rid of the proas, the ship got along famously
until we were as far west as about 52 degrees, when the wind came
light from the southward and westward, with thick weather. The captain
had been two or three times caught in here, and he took it into his
head that the currents would prove more favourable, could he stand in
closer to the coast of Madagascar than common. Accordingly, we brought
the ship on a bowline, and headed up well to the northward and
westward. We were a week on this tack, making from fifty to a hundred
miles a day, expecting hourly to see the land. At length we made it,
enormously high mountains, apparently a long distance from us, though,
as we afterwards ascertained, a long distance inland; and we continued
to near it. The captain had a theory of his own about the currents of
this part of the ocean, and, having set one of the peaks by compass,
at the time the land was seen, he soon convinced himself, and
everybody else whom he tried to persuade, Marble excepted, that we
were setting to windward with visible speed. Captain Robbins was a
well-meaning, but somewhat dull man; and, when dull men, become
theorists, they usually make sad work with the practice.

Ail that night we stood on to the northward and westward, though
Mr. Marble had ventured a remonstrance concerning a certain head-land
that was just visible, a little on our weather-bow. The captain
snapped his fingers at this, however; laying down a course of
reasoning, which, if it were worth anything, ought to have convinced
the mate that the weatherly set of the current would carry us ten
leagues to the southward and westward of that cape, before morning. On
this assurance, we prepared to pass a quiet and comfortable night.

I had the morning watch, and when I came on deck, at four, there was
no change in the weather. Mr. Marble soon appeared, and he walked into
the waist, where I was leaning on the weather-rail, and fell into
discourse. This he often did, sometimes so far forgetting the
difference in our stations _afloat_--not _ashore_; _there_ I had
considerably the advantage of him--as occasionally to call me "sir." I
always paid for this inadvertency, however, it usually putting a stop
to the communications for the time being. In one instance, he took
such prompt revenge for this implied admission of equality, as
literally to break off short in the discourse, and to order me, in his
sharpest key, to go aloft and send some studding-sails on deck, though
they all had to be sent aloft again, and set, in the course of the
same watch. But offended dignity is seldom considerate, and not always
consistent.

"A quiet night, Master Miles"--_this_ the mate _could_ call
me, as it implied superiority on his part--"A quiet night, Master
Miles," commenced Mr. Marble, "and a strong westerly current,
accordin' to Captain Robbins. Well, to my taste gooseberries are
better than currents, and _I'd_ go about. That's my manner of
_generalizing_."

"The captain, I suppose, sir, from that, is of a different opinion?"

"Why, yes, somewhatish,--though I don't think he knows himself exactly
what his own opinion is. This is the third v'y'ge I've sailed with the
old gentleman, and he is half his time in a fog or a current. Now,
it's his idee the ocean is full of Mississippi rivers, and if one
could only find the head of a stream, he might go round the world in
it. More particularly does he hold that there is no fear of the land
when in a current, as a stream never sets on shore. For my part, I
never want any better hand-lead than my nose."

"Nose, Mr. Marble?"

"Yes, nose, Master Miles. Haven't you remarked how far we smelt the
Injees, as we went through the islands?"

"It is true, sir, the Spice Islands, and all land, they say--"

"What the devil's that?" asked the mate, evidently startled at
something he _heard_, though he appeared to _smell_ nothing,
unless indeed it might be a rat.

"It sounds like water washing on rocks, sir, as much as anything I
ever heard in my life!"

"Ready about!" shouted the mate. "Run down and call the captain,
Miles--hard a-lee--start everybody up, forward."

A scene of confusion followed, in the midst of which the captain,
second-mate, and the watch below, appeared on deck. Captain Robbins
took command, of course, and was in time to haul the after-yards, the
ship coming round slowly in so light a wind. Come round she did,
however, and, when her head was fairly to the southward and eastward,
the captain demanded an explanation. Mr. Marble did not feel disposed
to trust his nose any longer, but he invited the captain to use his
ears. This all hands did, and, if sounds could be trusted, we had a
pretty lot of breakers seemingly all around us.

"We surely can go out the way we came in, Mr. Marble?" said the
captain, anxiously.

"Yes, sir, if there were no _current_; but one never knows where
a bloody current will carry him in the dark."

"Stand by to let go the anchor!" cried the captain. "Let run and clew
up, forward and aft. Let go as soon as you're ready, Mr. Kite."

Luckily, we had kept a cable bent as we came through the Straits, and,
not knowing but we might touch at the Isle of France, it was still
bent, with the anchor fished. We had talked of stowing the latter
in-board, but, having land in sight, it was not done. In two minutes
it was a-cock-bill, and, in two more, let go. None knew whether we
should find a bottom; but Kite soon sang out to "snub," the anchor
being down, with only six fathoms out. The lead corroborated this, and
we had the comfortable assurance of being not only among breakers, but
just near the coast. The holding-ground, however, was reported good,
and we went to work and rolled up all our rags. In half an hour the
ship was snug, riding by the stream, with a strong current, or tide,
setting exactly north-east, or directly opposite to the captain's
theory. As soon as Mr. Marble had ascertained this fact, I overheard
him grumbling about something, of which I could distinctly understand
nothing but the words "Bloody cape--bloody current."

CHAPTER V.

"They hurried us aboard a bark;
Bore us some leagues to sea; where they prepared
A rotten carcass of a boat, not rigg'd,
Nor tackle, sail, nor mast: the very rats
Instinctively had girt us--"
_Tempest._

The hour that succeeded in the calm of expectation, was one of the
most disquieting of my life. As soon as the ship was secured, and
there no longer remained anything to do, the stillness of death
reigned among us; the faculties of every man and boy appearing to be
absorbed in the single sense of hearing--the best, and indeed the
only, means we then possessed of judging of our situation. It was now
apparent that we were near some place or places where the surf was
breaking on land; and the hollow, not-to-be-mistaken bellowings of the
element, too plainly indicated that cavities in rocks frequently
received, and as often rejected, the washing waters. Nor did these
portentous sounds come from one quarter only, but they seemed to
surround us; now reaching our ears from the known direction of the
land, now from the south, the north-east, and, in fact, from every
direction. There were instances when these moanings of the ocean
sounded as if close under our stern, and then again they came from
some point within a fearful proximity to the bows.

Happily the wind was light, and the ship rode with a moderate strain
on the cable, so as to relieve us from the apprehension of immediate
destruction. There was a long, heavy ground-swell rolling in from, the
south-west, but, the lead giving us, eight fathoms, the sea did not
break exactly where we lay; though the sullen washing that came to our
ears, from time to time, gave unerring notice that it was doing so
quite near us, independently of the places where it broke upon
rocks. At one time the captain's impatience was so goading, that he
had determined to pull round the anchorage in a boat, in order to
anticipate the approach of light; but a suggestion from Mr. Marble
that he might unconsciously pull into a roller, and capsize, induced
him to wait for day.

The dawn appeared at last, after two or three of the longest hours I
remember ever to have passed. Never shall I forget the species of
furious eagerness with which we gazed about us. In the first place, we
got an outline of the adjacent land; then, as light diffused itself
more and more into the atmosphere, we caught glimpses of its
details. It was soon certain we were within a cable's length of
perpendicular cliffs of several hundred feet in height, into whose
caverns the sea poured at times, producing those frightful, hollow
moanings, that an experienced ear can never mistake. This cliff
extended for leagues in both directions, rendering drowning nearly
inevitable to the shipwrecked mariner on that inhospitable
coast. Ahead, astern, outside of us, and I might almost say all around
us, became visible, one after another, detached ledges, breakers and
ripples; so many proofs of the manner in which Providence had guided
us through the hours of darkness.

By the time the sun appeared, for, happily, the day proved bright and
clear, we had obtained pretty tolerable notions of the critical
situation in which we were placed by means of the captain's theory of
currents. The very cape that we were to drift past, lay some ten
leagues nearly dead to windward, as the breeze then was; while to
leeward, far as the eye could reach, stretched the same inhospitable,
barrier of rock as that which lay on our starboard quarter and beam.
Such was my first introduction to the island of Madagascar; a portion
of the world, of which, considering its position, magnitude and
productions, the mariners of Christendom probably know less than of
any other. At the time of which I am writing, far less had been
learned of this vast country than is known to-day, though the
knowledge of even our own immediate contemporaries is of an
exceedingly limited character.

Now that the day had returned, the sun was shining on us cheerfully,
and the sea looked tranquil and assuring, the captain became more
pacified. He had discretion enough to understand that time and
examination were indispensable to moving the ship with safety; and he
took the wise course of ordering the people to get their breakfasts,
before he set us at work. The hour that was thus employed forward, was
passed aft in examining the appearance of the water, and the positions
of the reefs around the ship. By the time we were through, the captain
had swallowed his cup of coffee and eaten his biscuit; and, calling
away four of the most athletic oarsmen, he got into the jolly-boat,
and set out on the all-important duty of discovering a channel
sea-ward. The lead was kept moving, and I shall leave the party thus
employed for an hour or more, while we turn our attention in-board.

Marble beckoned me aft, as soon as Captain Robbins was in the boat,
apparently with a desire to say something in private. I understood the
meaning of his eye, and followed him down into the steerage, where all
that was left of the ship's water was now stowed, that on deck having
been already used. The mate had a certain consciousness about him that
induced great caution, and he would not open his lips until he had
rummaged about below some time, affecting to look for a set of blocks
that might be wanted for some purpose or other, on deck. When this had
lasted a little time, he turned short round to me, and let out the
secret of the whole manoeuvre.

"I'll tell you what, Master Miles," he said, making a sign with a
finger to be cautious, "I look upon this ship's berth as worse than
that of a city scavenger. We've plenty of water all round us, and
plenty of rocks, too. If we knew the way back, there is no wind to
carry us through it, among these bloody currents, and there's no harm
in getting ready for the worst. So do you get Neb and the
gentleman"--Rupert was generally thus styled in the ship--"and clear
away the launch first. Get everything out of it that don't belong
there; after which, do you put these breakers in, and wait for further
orders. Make no fuss, putting all upon orders, and leave the rest to
me."

I complied, of course, and in a few minutes the launch was
clear. While busy, however, Mr. Kite came past, and desired to know
"what are you at there?" I told him 'twas Mr. Marble's orders, and the
latter gave his own explanation of the matter.

"The launch may be wanted," he said, "for I've no notion that
jolly-boat will do to go out as far as we shall find it necessary to
sound. So I am about to ballast the launch, and get her sails ready;
there's no use in mincing matters in such a berth as this."

Kite approved of the idea, and even went so far as to suggest that it
might be well enough to get the launch into the water at once, by way
of saving time. The proposition was too agreeable to be rejected, and,
to own the truth, all hands went to work to get up the tackles with a
will, as it is called. In half an hour the boat was floating
alongside the ship. Some said she would certainly be wanted to carry
out the stream-anchor, if for nothing else; others observed that half
a dozen boats would not be enough to find all the channel we wanted;
while Marble kept his eye, though always in an underhand way, on his
main object. The breakers we got in and stowed, filled with
_fresh_ water, by way of ballast. The masts were stepped, the
oars were put on board, and a spare compass was passed dawn, lest the
ship might be lost in the thick weather, of which there was so much,
just in that quarter of the world. All this wars said and done so
quietly, that nobody took the alarm; and when the mate called out, in
a loud voice, "Miles, pass a bread-bag filled and some cold grub into
that launch--the men may be hungry before they get back," no one
seemed to think more was meant than was thus openly expressed. I had
my private orders, however, and managed to get quite a hundred-weight
of good cabin biscuit into the launch, while the cook was directed to
fill his coppers with pork. I got some of the latter _raw_ into
the boat, too; _raw_ pork being food that sailors in no manner
disdain. They say it eats like chestnuts.

In the mean time, the captain was busy in his exploring expedition, on
the return from which he appeared to think he was better rewarded than
has certainly fallen to the lot of others employed on another
expedition which bears the same name. He was absent near two hours,
and, when he got back, it was to renew his theory of what Mr. Marble
called his "bloody currents."

"I've got behind the curtain, Mr. Marble," commenced Captain Robbins,
before he was fairly alongside of the ship again, whereupon Marble
muttered "ay! ay! you've got behind the rocks, too!" "It's all owing
to an eddy that is made in-shore by the main current, and we have
stretched a _leetle_ too far in."

Even I thought to myself, what would have become of us had we
stretched a _leetle_ further in! The captain, however, seemed
satisfied that he could carry the ship out, and, as this was all we
wanted, no one was disposed to be very critical. A word was said about
the launch, which the mate had ordered to be dropped astern, out of
the way, and the explanation seemed to mystify the captain. In the
meanwhile, the pork was boiling furiously in the coppers.

All hands were now called to get the anchor up. Rupert and I went
aloft to loosen sails, and we staid there until the royals were
mast-headed. In a very few minutes the cable was up and down, and then
came the critical part of the whole affair. The wind was still very
light, and it was a question whether the ship could be carried past a
reef of rocks that now began to show itself above water, and on which
the long, heavy rollers, that came undulating from the south-western
Atlantic, broke with a sullen violence that betrayed how powerful was
the ocean, even in its moments of slumbering peacefulness. The rising
and falling of its surface was like that of some monster's chest, as
he respired heavily in sleep.

Even the captain hesitated about letting go his hold of the bottom,
with so strong a set of the water to leeward, and in so light a
breeze. There was a sort of bight on our starboard bow, however, and
Mr. Marble suggested it might be well to sound in that direction, as
the water appeared smooth and deep. To him it looked as if there were
really an eddy in-shore, which might hawse the ship up to windward six
or eight times her length, and thus more than meet the loss that must
infallibly occur in first casting her head to seaward. The captain
admitted the justice of this suggestion, and I was one of those who
were told to go in the jolly-boat on this occasion. We pulled in
towards the cliffs, and had not gone fifty yards before we struck an
eddy, sure enough, which was quite as strong as the current in which
the ship lay. This was a great advantage, and so much the more,
because the water was of sufficient depth, quite up to the edge of the
reef which formed the bight, and thus produced the change in the
direction of the set. There was plenty of room, too, to handle the
ship in, and, all things considered, the discovery was extremely
fortunate. In the bottom of the bight we should have gone ashore the
previous night, had not our ears been so much better than our noses.

As soon as certain of the facts, the captain pulled back to the ship,
and gladdened the hearts of all on board with the tidings. We now
manned the handspikes cheerily, and began to heave. I shall never
forget the impression made on me by the rapid drift of the ship, as
soon as the anchor was off the bottom, and her bows were cast
in-shore, in order to fill the sails. The land was so near that I
noted this drift by the rocks, and my heart was fairly in my mouth for
a few seconds. But the John worked beautifully, and soon gathered
way. Her bows did not not strike the eddy, however, until we got
fearful evidence of the strength of the true current, which had set us
down nearly as low as the reef outside, to windward of which it was
indispensable for us to pass. Marble saw all this, and he whispered
me to tell the cook to pass the pork into the launch at once--hot to
mind whether it were particularly well done, or not. I obeyed, and had
to tend the fore-sheet myself, for my pains, when the order was given
to "ready about."

The eddy proved a true friend, but it did not carry us up much higher
than the place where we had anchored, when it became necessary to
tack. This was done in season, on account of our ignorance of all the
soundings, and we had soon got the John's head off-shore
again. Drawing a short distance ahead, the main-top-sail was thrown
aback, and the ship allowed to drift. In proper time, it was filled,
and we got round once more, looking into the bight. The manoeuvre was
repeated, and this brought us up fairly under the lee of the reef, and
just in the position we desired to be. It was a nervous instant, I
make no doubt, when Captain Robbins determined to trust the ship in
the true current, and run the gauntlet of the rocks. The passage
across which we had to steer, before we could possibly weather the
nearest reef was about a cable's length in width, and the wind would
barely let us lay high enough to take it at right-angles. Then the air
was so light, that I almost despaired of our doing anything.

Captain Robbins put the ship into the current with great judgment. She
was kept a rap-full until near the edge of the eddy, and then her helm
was put nearly down, all at once. But for the current's acting, in one
direction, on her starboard bow, and the eddy's pressing, in the
other, on the larboard quarter, the vessel would have been taken
aback; but these counteracting forces brought her handsomely on her
course again, and that in a way to prevent her falling an inch to
leeward.

Now came the trial. The ship was kept a rap-full, and she went
steadily across the passage, favoured, perhaps, by a little more
breeze than had blown most of the morning. Still, our leeward set was
fearful, and, as we approached the reef, I gave all up. Marble screwed
his lips together, and his eyes never turned from the weather-leeches
of the sails. Everybody appeared to me to be holding his breath, as
the ship rose on the long ground-swells, sending slowly ahead the
whole time. We passed the nearest point of the rocks on one of the
rounded risings of the water, just touching lightly as we glided by
the visible danger. The blow was light, and gave little cause for
alarm. Captain Robbins now caught Mr. Marble by the hand, and was in
the very act of heartily shaking it, when the ship came down very much
in the manner that a man unexpectedly lights on a stone, when he has
no idea of having anything within two or three yards of his feet. The
blow was tremendous, throwing half the crew down; at the same instant,
all three of the topmasts went to leeward.

One has some difficulty in giving a reader accurate notions of the
confusion of so awful a scene. The motion of the vessel was arrested
suddenly, as it might be by a wall, and the whole fabric seemed to be
shaken to dissolution. The very next roller that came in, which would
have undulated in towards the land but for us, meeting with so large a
body in its way, piled up and broke upon our decks, covering
everything with water. At the same time, the hull lifted, and, aided
by wind, sea and current, it set still further on the reef, thumping
in a way to break strong iron bolts, like so many sticks of
sealing-wax, and cracking the solid live-oak of the floor-timbers as
if they were made of willow. The captain stood aghast! For one moment
despair was painfully depicted in his countenance; then he recovered
his self-possession and seamanship. He gave the order to stand by to
carry out to windward the stream-anchor in the launch, and to send a
kedge to haul out by, in the jolly-boat. Marble answered with the
usual "ay, ay, sir!" but before he sent us into the boats, he ventured
to suggest that the ship had bilged already. He had heard timbers
crack, about which he thought there could be no mistake. The pumps
were sounded, and the ship had seven feet water in her hold. This had
made in about ten minutes. Still the captain would not give up. He
ordered us to commence throwing the teas overboard, in order to
ascertain, if possible, the extent of the injury. A place was broken
out in the wake of the main-hatch, and a passage was opened down into
the lower-hold, where we met the water. In the mean time, a South-Sea
man we had picked up at Canton, dove down under the lee of the bilge
of the ship. He soon came back and reported that a piece of sharp rock
had gone quite through the planks. Everything tending to corroborate
this, the captain called a council of all hands on the quarter-deck,
to consult as to further measures.

A merchantman has no claim on the services of her crew after she is
hopelessly wrecked. The last have a lien in law, on the ship and
cargo, for their wages; and it is justly determined that when this
security fails, the claim for services ends. It followed, of course,
that as soon as the John was given over, we were all our own masters;
and hence the necessity for bringing even Neb into the consultation.
With a vessel of war it would have been different. In such a case, the
United States pays for the service, ship or no ship, wreck or no
wreck; and the seaman serves out his term of enlistment, be this
longer or shorter. Military discipline continues under all
circumstances.

Captain Robbins could hardly speak when we gathered round him on the
forecastle, the seas breaking over the quarter-deck in a way to render
that sanctuary a very uncomfortable berth. As soon as he could command
himself, he told us that the ship was hopelessly lost. How it had
happened, he could not very well explain himself, though he ascribed
it to the fact that the currents did not run in the direction in
which, according to all sound reasoning, they ought to run. This part
of the speech was not perfectly lucid, though, as I understood our
unfortunate captain, the laws of nature, owing to some inexplicable
influence, had departed, in some way or other, from their ordinary
workings, expressly to wreck the John. If this were not the meaning of
what he said, I did not understand this part of the address.

The captain was much more explicit after he got out of the current. He
told us that the island of Bourbon was only about four hundred miles
from where we then were, and he thought it possible to go that
distance, find some small craft, and come back, and still save part of
the cargo, the sails, anchors, &c. &c. We might make such a trip of it
as would give us all a lift, in the way of salvage, that might prove
some compensation for our other losses. This sounded well, and it had
at least the effect to give us some present object for our exertions;
it also made the danger we all ran of losing our lives, less
apparent. To land on the island of Madagascar, in that day, was out of
the question. The people were then believed to be far less civilized
than in truth they were, and had a particularly bad character among
mariners. Nothing remained, therefore, but to rig the boats, and make
immediate dispositions for our departure.

Now it was that we found the advantage of the preparations already
made. Little remained to be done, and that which was done, was much
better done than if we had waited until the wreck was half full of
water, and the seas were combing in upon her. The captain took charge
of the launch, putting Mr. Marble, Rupert, Neb, myself and the cook,
into the jolly-boat, with orders to keep as close as possible to
himself. Both boats had sails, and both were so arranged as to row in
calms, or head-winds. We took in rather more than our share of
provisions and water, having two skillful caterers in the chief-mate
and cook; and, having obtained a compass, quadrant, and a chart, for
our portion of the indispensables, all hands were ready for a start,
in about two hours after the ship had struck.

It was just noon when we cast off from the wreck, and stood directly
off the land. According to our calculations, the wind enabled us to
run, with a clean full, on our true course. As the boats drew out into
the ocean, we had abundant opportunities of discovering how many
dangers we had escaped; and, for my own part, I felt deeply grateful,
even then, as I was going out upon the wide Atlantic in a mere shell
of a boat, at the mercy we had experienced. No sooner were we fairly
in deep water, than the captain and mate had a dialogue on the subject
of the currents again. Notwithstanding all the difficulties his old
theory had brought him into, the former remained of opinion that the
true current set to windward, and that we should so find it as soon as
we got a little into the offing; while the mate was frank enough to
say he had been of opinion, all along, that it ran the other way. The
latter added that Bourbon was rather a small spot to steer for, and it
might be better to get into its longitude, and then find it by
meridian observations, than to make any more speculations about
matters of which we knew nothing.

The captain and Mr. Marble saw things differently, and we kept away
accordingly, when we ought to have luffed all we could. Fortunately
the weather continued moderate, or our little boat would have had a
bad time of it. We outsailed the launch with ease, and were forced to
reef in order not to part company. When the sun set, we were more than
twenty miles from the land, seeing no more of the coast, though the
mountains inland were still looming up grandly in the distance. I
confess, when night shut in upon us, and I found myself on the wide
ocean, in a boat much smaller than that with which I used to navigate
the Hudson, running every minute farther and farther into the watery
waste, I began to think of Clawbonny, and its security, and quiet
nights, and well-spread board, and comfortable beds in a way I had
never thought of either before. As for food, however, we were not
stinted; Mr. Marble setting us an example of using our teeth on the
half boiled pork, that did credit to his philosophy. To do this man
justice, he seemed to think a run of four hundred miles in a
jolly-boat no great matter, but took everything as regularly as if
still on the deck of the John. Each of us got as good a nap as our
cramped situations would allow.

The wind freshened in the morning, and the sea began to break. This
made it necessary to keep still more away, to prevent filling at
times, or to haul close up, which might have done equally well. But
the captain preferred the latter course, on account of the current. We
had ticklish work of it, in the jolly-boat, more than once that day,
and were compelled to carry a whole sail in order to keep up with the
launch, which beat us, now the wind had increased. Marble was a
terrible fellow to carry on everything, ship or boat, and we kept our
station admirably, the two boats never getting a cable's length
asunder, and running most of the time within hail of each other. As
night approached, however, a consultation was held on the subject of
keeping in company. We had now been out thirty hours, and had made
near a hundred and fifty miles, by our calculation. Luckily the wind
had got to be nearly west, and we were running ahead famously, though
it was as much as we could do to keep the jolly-boat from filling. One
hand was kept bailing most of the time, and sometimes all four of us
were busy. These matters were talked over, and the captain proposed
abandoning the jolly-boat altogether, and to take us into the launch,
though there was not much vacant space to receive us. But the mate
resisted this, answering that he thought he could take care of our
boat a while longer, at least. Accordingly, the old arrangement was
maintained, the party endeavouring to keep as near together as
possible.

About midnight it began to blow in squalls, and two or three times we
found it necessary to take in our sails, our oars, and pull the boat
head to sea, in order to prevent her swamping. The consequence was,
that we lost sight of the launch, and, though we always kept away to
our course as soon as the puffs would allow, when the sun rose we saw
nothing of our late companions. I have sometimes thought Mr. Marble
parted company on purpose, though he seemed much concerned next
morning when he had ascertained the launch was nowhere to be
seen. After looking about for an hour, and the wind moderating, we
made sail close on the wind; a direction that would soon have taken us
away from the launch, had the latter been close alongside when we
first took it. We made good progress all this day, and at evening,
having now been out fifty-four hours, we supposed ourselves to be
rather more than half-way on the road to our haven. It fell calm in
the night, and the next morning we got the wind right aft. This gave
us a famous shove, for we sometimes made six and seven knots in the
hour. The fair wind lasted thirty hours, during which time we must
have made more than a hundred and fifty miles, it falling nearly calm
about an hour before dawn, on the morning of the fourth day
out. Everybody was anxious to see the horizon that morning, and every
eye was turned to the east, with intense expectation, as the sun
rose. It was in vain; there was not the least sign of land
visible. Marble looked sadly disappointed, but he endeavoured to cheer
us up with the hope of seeing the island shortly. We were then heading
due east, with a very light breeze from the north-west. I happened to
stand up in the boat, on a thwart, and, turning my face to the
southward, I caught a glimpse of something that seemed like a hummock
of land in that quarter. I saw it but for an instant; but, whatever it
was, I saw it plain enough. Mr. Marble now got on the thwart, and
looked in vain to catch the same object. He said there was no land in
that quarter--could be none--and resumed his seat to steer to the
eastward, a little north. I could not be easy, however, but remained
on the thwart until the boat lifted on a swell higher than common, and
then I saw the brown, hazy-looking spot on the margin of the ocean
again. My protestations now became so earnest, that Marble consented
to stand for an hour in the direction I pointed out to him. "One hour,
boy, I will grant you, to shut your mouth," the mate said, taking out
his watch, "and that you need lay nothing to my door hereafter." To
make the most of this hour, I got my companions at the oars, and we
all pulled with hearty good-will. So much importance did I attach to
every fathom of distance made, that we did not rise from our seats
until the mate told us to stop rowing, for the hour was up. As for
himself, he had not risen either, but kept looking behind him to the
eastward, still hoping to see land somewhere in that quarter.

My heart beat violently as I got upon the thwart, but there lay my
hazy object, now never dipping at all. I shouted "land ho!" Marble
jumped up on a thwart, too and no longer disputed my word. It was
land, he admitted, and it must be the island of Bourbon, which we had
passed to the northward, and must soon have given a hopelessly wide
berth. We went to the oars again with renewed life, and soon made the
boat spin. All that day we kept rowing, until about five in the
afternoon, when we found ourselves within a few leagues of the island
of Bourbon, where we were met by a fresh breeze from the southward,
and were compelled to make sail. The wind was dead on end, and we made
stretches under the lee of the island, going about as we found the sea
getting to be too heavy for us, as was invariably the case whenever we
got too far east or west. In a word, a lee was fast becoming
necessary. By ten, we were within a mile of the shore, but saw no
place where we thought it safe to attempt a landing in the dark; a
long, heavy sea setting in round both sides of the island, though the
water did not break much where we remained. At length the wind got to
be so heavy, that we could not carry even our sail double-reefed, and
we kept two oars pulling lightly in, relieving each other every
hour. By daylight it blew tremendously, and glad enough were we to
find a little cove where it was possible to get ashore. I had then
never felt so grateful to Providence as I did when I got my feet on
_terra-firma_.

We remained on the island a week, hoping to see the launch and her
crew; but neither appeared. Then we got a passage to the Isle of
France, on arriving at which place we found the late gale was
considered to have been very serious. There was no American consul in
the island, at that time; and Mr. Marble, totally without credit or
means, found it impossible to obtain a craft of any sort to go to the
wreck in. We were without money, too, and, a homeward-bound Calcutta
vessel coming in, we joined her to work our passages home, Mr. Marble
as dickey, and the rest of us in the forecastle. This vessel was
called the Tigris, and belonged to Philadelphia. She was considered
one of the best ships out of America, and her master had a high
reputation for seamanship and activity. He was a little man of the
name of Digges, and was under thirty at the time I first knew him. He
took us on board purely out of a national feeling, for his ship was
strong-handed without us, having thirty-two souls, all told, when he
received us five. We afterwards learned that letters sent after the
ship had induced Captain Digges to get five additional hands in
Calcutta, in order to be able to meet the picaroons that were then
beginning to plunder American vessels, even on their own coast, under
the pretence of their having violated certain regulations made by the
two great belligerents of the day, in Europe. This was just the
commencement of the _quasi_ war which broke out a few weeks later
with France.

Of all these hostile symptoms, however, I then knew little and cared
less. Even Mr. Marble had never heard of them and we five joined the
Tigris merely to get passages home, without entertaining second
thoughts of running any risk, further than the ordinary dangers of the
seas.

The Tigris sailed the day we joined her, which was the third after we
reached Mauritius, and just fifteen days after we had left the
wreck. We went to sea with the wind at the southward, and had a good
run off the island, making more than a hundred miles that afternoon
and in the course of the night. Next morning, early, I had the watch,
and an order was given to set top-gallant studding-sails. Rupert and I
had got into the same watch on board this vessel, and we both went
aloft to reeve the gear. I had taken up the end of the halyards, and
had reeved them, and had overhauled the end down, when, in raising my
head, I saw two small lug-sails on the ocean, broad on our
weather-bow, which I recognised in an instant for those of the John's
launch. I cannot express the feeling that came over me at that sight.
I yelled, rather than shouted, "Sail ho!" and then, pushing in, I
caught hold of a royal-backstay, and was on deck in an instant. I
believe I made frantic gestures to windward, for Mr. Marble, who had
the watch, had to shake me sharply before I could let the fact be
known.

As soon as Marble comprehended me, and got the bearings of the boat,
he hauled down all the studding-sails, braced sharp up on a wind, set
the mainsail, and then sent down a report to Captain Digges for
orders. Our new commander was a humane man, and having been told our
whole story, he did not hesitate about confirming all that had been
done. As the people in the launch had made out the ship some time
before I saw the boat, the latter was running down upon us, and, in
about an hour, the tiny sails were descried from the deck. In less
than an hour after this, our mainyard swung round, throwing the
topsail aback, and the well-known launch of the John rounded-to close
under our lee; a rope was thrown, and the boat was hauled alongside.

Everybody in the Tigris was shocked when we came to get a look at the
condition of the strangers. One man, a powerful negro, lay dead in the
bottom of the boat; the body having been kept for a dreadful
alternative, in the event of his companions falling in with no other
relief. Three more of the men were nearly gone, and had to be whipped
on board as so many lifeless bales of goods. Captain Robbins and Kite,
both athletic, active men, resembled spectres, their eyes standing out
of their heads as if thrust from their sockets by some internal foe;
and when we spoke to them, they all seemed unable to answer. It was
not fasting, or want of food, that had reduced them to this state, so
much as want of water. It is true, they had no more bread left than
would keep body and soul together for a few hours longer; but of water
they had tasted not a drop for seventy odd hours! It appeared that,
during the gale, they had been compelled to empty the breakers to
lighten the boat, reserving only one for their immediate wants. By
some mistake, the one reserved was nearly half-empty at the time; and
Captain Robbins believed himself then so near Bourbon, as not to go on
an allowance until it was too late. In this condition had they been
searching for the island quite ten days, passing it, but never hitting
it. The winds had not favoured them, and, the last few days, the
weather had been such as to admit of no observation. Consequently,
they had been as much out of their reckoning in their latitude, as in
their longitude.

A gleam of intelligence, and I thought of pleasure, shot athwart the
countenance of Captain Robbins, as I helped him over the Tigris's
side. He saw I was safe. He tottered as he walked, and leaned heavily
on me for support. I was about to lead him aft, but his eye caught
sight of a scuttlebutt, and the tin-pot on its head. Thither he went,
and stretched out a trembling hand to the vessel. I gave him the pot
as it was, with about a wine-glass of water in it This he swallowed at
a gulp, and then tottered forward for more. By this time Captain
Digges joined us, and gave the proper directions how to proceed. All
the sufferers had water in small quantities given them, and it is
wonderful with what expressions of delight they received the grateful
beverage. As soon as they understood the necessity of keeping it as
long as possible in their mouths, and on their tongues, before
swallowing it, a little did them a great deal of good. After this, we
gave them some coffee, the breakfast being ready, and then a little
ship's biscuit soaked in wine. By such means every man was saved,
though it was near a month before all were themselves again. As for
Captain Robbins and Kite, they were enabled to attend to duty by the
end of a week, though nothing more was exacted of them than they chose
to perform.

CHAPTER VI.

"The yesty waves
Confound and swallow navigation up."
_Macbeth._

Poor Captain Robbins! No sooner did he regain his bodily strength,
than he began to endure the pain of mind that was inseparable from the
loss of his ship. Marble, who, now that he had fallen to the humbler
condition of a second-mate, was more than usually disposed to be
communicative with me, gave me to understand that our old superior had
at first sounded Captain Digges on the subject of proceeding to the
wreck, in order to ascertain what could be saved; but the latter had
soon convinced him that a first-rate Philadelphia Indiaman had
something else to do besides turning wrecker. After a pretty broad
hint to this effect, the John, and all that was in her, were abandoned
to their fate. Marble, however, was of opinion that the gale in which
the launch came so near being lost, must have broken the ship entirely
to pieces, giving her fragments to the ocean. We never heard of her
fate, or recovered a single article that belonged to her.

Many were the discussions between Captain Robbins and his two mates,
touching the error in reckoning that had led them so far from their
course. In that day, navigation was by no means as simple a thing as
it has since become. It is true, lunars were usually attempted in
India and China ships; but this was not an every-day affair, like the
present morning and afternoon observations to obtain the time, and, by
means of the chronometer, the longitude. Then we had so recently got
clear of the islands, as to have no great need of any extraordinary
head-work; and the "bloody currents" had acted their pleasure with us
for eight or ten days before the loss of the ship. Marble was a very
good navigator, one of the best I ever sailed with, in spite of the
plainness of his exterior, and his rough deportment; and, all things
considered, he treated his old commander with great delicacy,
promising to do all he could, when he got home, to clear the matter
up. As for Kite, he knew but little, and had the discretion to say but
little. This moderation rendered our passage all the more agreeable.

The Tigris was a very fast ship, besides being well-found. She was a
little larger than the John, and mounted twelve guns, nine-pounders.
In consequence of the additions made to her crew, one way and another,
she now mustered nearer fifty than forty souls on board. Captain
Digges had certain martial tastes, and, long before we were up with
the Cape, he had us all quartered and exercised at the guns. He, too,
had had an affair with some proas, and he loved to converse of the
threshing he had given the rascals. I thought he envied us our
exploit, though this might have been mere imagination on my part, for
he was liberal enough in his commendations. The private intelligence
he had received of the relations between France and America, quickened
his natural impulses; and, by the time we reached St. Helena, the ship
might have been said to be in good fighting order for a merchantman.
We touched at this last-mentioned island for supplies, but obtained no
news of any interest. Those who supplied the ship could tell us
nothing but the names of the Indiamen who had gone out and home for
the last twelvemonth, and the prices of fresh meat and vegetables.
Napoleon civilized them, seventeen years later.

We had a good run from St. Helena to the calm latitudes, but these
last proved calmer than common. We worried through them after a while,
however, and then did very well until we got in the latitude of the
Windward Islands. Marble one day remarked to me that Captain Digges
was standing closer to the French island of Guadaloupe than was at all
necessary or prudent, if he believed in his own reports of the danger
there existed to American commerce, in this quarter of the ocean.

I have lived long enough, and have seen too much of men and things, to
fancy my country and countrymen right in all their transactions,
merely because newspapers, members of congress, and fourth of July
orators, are pleased to affirm the doctrine. No one can go much to sea
without reading with great distrust many of the accounts, in the
journals of the day, of the grievous wrongs done the commerce of
America by the authorities of this or that port, the seizure of such a
ship, or the imprisonment of some particular set of officers and
men. As a rule, it is safer to assume that the afflicted parties
deserve all that has happened to them, than to believe them
immaculate; and, quite likely, much more, too. The habit of receiving
such appeals to their sympathies, renders the good people of the
republic peculiarly liable to impositions of this nature; and the
mother who encourages those of her children who fetch and carry, will
be certain to have her ears filled with complaints and tattle.
Nevertheless, it is a fact beyond all dispute, that the commerce of
the country was terribly depredated on by nearly all the European
belligerents, between the commencement of the war of the French
revolution and its close. So enormous were the robberies thus
committed on the widely extended trade of this nation, under one
pretence or another, as to give a colouring of retributive justice, if
not of moral right, to the recent failures of certain States among us
to pay their debts. Providence singularly avenges all wrongs by its
unerring course; and I doubt not, if the facts could be sifted to the
bottom, it would be found the devil was not permitted to do his work,
in either case, without using materials supplied by the sufferers, in
some direct or indirect manner, themselves. Of all the depredations on
American trade just mentioned, those of the great sister republic, at
the close of the last century, were among the most grievous, and were
of a character so atrocious and bold, that I confess it militates
somewhat against my theory to admit that France owns very little of
the "suspended debt;" but I account for this last circumstance by the
reparation she in part made, by the treaty of 1831. With England it is
different. She drove us into a war by the effects of her orders in
council and paper blockades, and compelled us to expend a hundred
millions to set matters right. I should like to see the books
balanced, not by the devil, who equally instigated the robberies on
the high seas, and the "suspension" or "repudiation" of the State
debts; but by the great Accountant who keeps a record of all our deeds
of this nature, whether it be to make money by means of cruising
ships, or cruising scrip. It is true, these rovers encountered very
differently-looking victims, in the first place; but it is a somewhat
trite remark, that the aggregate of human beings is pretty much the
same in all situations. There were widows and orphans as much
connected with the condemnation of prizes, as with the prices of
condemned stock; and I do not see that fraud is any worse when carried
on by scriveners and clerks with quills behind their ears, than when
carried on by gentlemen wearing cocked hats, and carrying swords by
their sides. On the whole, I am far from certain that the
account-current of honesty is not slightly--honesty very _slightly_
leavens either transaction--in favour of the non-paying States, as men
do sometimes borrow with good intentions, and fail, from inability, to
pay; whereas, in the whole course of my experience, I never knew a
captor of a ship who intended to give back any of the prize-money, if
he could help it. But, to return to my adventures.

We were exactly in the latitude of Guadaloupe, with the usual breeze,
when, at daylight, a rakish-looking brig was seen in chase. Captain
Digges took a long survey of the stranger with his best glass, one
that was never exhibited but on state occasions, and then he
pronounced him to be a French cruiser; most probably a privateer. That
he was a Frenchman, Marble affirmed, was apparent by the height of his
top-masts, and the shortness of his yards; the upper spars, in
particular, being mere apologies for yards. Everybody who had any
right to an opinion, was satisfied the brig was a French cruiser,
either public or private.

The Tigris was a fast ship, and she was under top-mast and top-gallant
studding-sails at the time, going about seven knots. The brig was on
an easy bowline, evidently looking up for our wake, edging off
gradually as we drew ahead. She went about nine knots, and bade fair
to close with us by noon. There was a good deal of doubt, aft, as to
the course we ought to pursue. It was decided in the end, however, to
shorten sail and let the brig come up, as being less subject to
cavils, than to seem to avoid her. Captain Digges got out his last
letters from home, and I saw him showing them to Captain Robbins, the
two conning them over with great earnestness. I was sent to do some
duty near the hencoops, where they were sitting, and overheard a part
of their conversation. From the discourse, I gathered that the
proceedings of these picaroons were often equivocal, and that
Americans were generally left in doubt, until a favourable moment
occurred for the semi-pirates to effect their purposes. The party
assailed did not know when or how to defend himself, until it was too
late.

"These chaps come aboard you, sometimes, before you're aware of what
they are about," observed Captain Robbins.

"I'll not be taken by surprise in that fashion," returned Digges,
after a moment of reflection. "Here, you Miles, go forward and tell
the cook to fill his coppers with water, and to set it boiling as fast
as he can; and tell Mr. Marble I want him aft. Bear a hand, now,
youngster, and give them a lift yourself."

Of course I obeyed, wondering what the captain wanted with so much hot
water as to let the people eat their dinners off cold grub, rather
than dispense with it; for this was a consequence of his decree. But
we had not got the coppers half-filled, before I saw Mr. Marble and
Neb lowering a small ship's engine from the launch, and placing it
near the galley, in readiness to be filled. The mate told Neb to screw
on the pipe, and then half a dozen of the men, as soon as we got
through with the coppers, were told to fill the engine with
sea-water. Captain Digges now came forward to superintend the
exercise, and Neb jumped on the engine, flourishing the pipe about
with the delight of a "nigger." The captain was diverted with the
black's zeal, and he appointed him captain of the firemen on the spot.

"Now, let us see what you can do at that forward dead eye, darky,"
said Captain Digges, laughing. "Take it directly on the strap. Play
away, boys, and let Neb try his hand."

It happened that Neb hit the dead-eye at the first jet, and he showed
great readiness in turning the stream from point to point, as
ordered. Neb's conduct on the night of the affair with the proas had
been told to Captain Digges, who was so well pleased with the fellow's
present dexterity, as to confirm him in office. He was told to stick
by the engine at every hazard. Soon after, an order was given to clear
for action. This had an ominous sound to my young ears, and, though I
have no reason to suppose myself deficient in firmness, I confess I
began to think again of Clawbonny, and Grace, and Lucy; ay, and even
of the mill. This lasted but for a moment, however, and, as soon as I
got at work, the feeling gave me no trouble. We were an hour getting
the ship ready, and, by that time, the brig was within half a mile,
luffing fairly up on our lee-quarter. As we had shortened sail, the
privateer manifested no intention of throwing a shot to make us
heave-to. She seemed disposed to extend courtesy for courtesy.

The next order was for all hands to go to quarters. I was stationed in
the main-top, and Rupert in the fore. Our duties were to do light
work, in the way of repairing damages; and the captain, understanding
that we were both accustomed to fire-arms, gave us a musket a-piece,
with orders to blaze away as soon as they began the work below. As we
had both stood fire once, we thought ourselves veterans, and proceeded
to our stations, smiling and nodding to each other as we went up the
rigging. Of the two, my station was the best, since I could see the
approach of the brig, the mizen-top-sail offering but little
obstruction to vision after she got near; whereas the main-top-sail
was a perfect curtain, so far as poor Rupert was concerned. In the way
of danger, there was not much difference as to any of the stations on
board, the bulwarks of the ship being little more than plank that
would hardly stop a musket-ball; and then the French had a reputation
for firing into the rigging.

As soon as all was ready, the captain sternly ordered silence. By this
time the brig was near enough to hail. I could see her decks quite
plainly, and they were filled with men. I counted her guns, too, and
ascertained she had but ten, all of which seemed to be lighter than
our own. One circumstance that I observed, however, was suspicious.
Her forecastle was crowded with men, who appeared to be crouching
behind the bulwarks, as if anxious to conceal their presence from the
eyes of those in the Tigris. I had a mind to jump on a back-stay and
slip down on deck, to let this threatening appearance be known; but I
had heard some sayings touching the imperative duty of remaining at
quarters in face of the enemy, and I did not like to desert my
station. Tyroes have always exaggerated notions both of their rights
and their duties, and I had not escaped the weakness. Still, I think
some credit is due for the alternative adopted. During the whole
voyage, I had kept a reckoning, and paper and pencil were always in my
pocket, in readiness to catch a moment to finish a day's work. I wrote
as follows on a piece of paper, therefore, as fast as possible, and
dropped the billet on the quarter-deck, by enclosing a copper in the
scrawl, _cents_ then being in their infancy. I had merely
written--"The brig's forecastle is filled with armed men, hid behind
the bulwarks!" Captain Digges heard the fall of the copper, and
looking up--nothing takes an officer's eyes aloft quicker than to find
anything coming out of a top!--he saw me pointing to the paper. I was
rewarded for this liberty by an approving nod. Captain Digges read
what I had written, and I soon observed Neb and the cook filling the
engine with boiling water. This job was no sooner done than a good
place was selected on the quarter-deck for this singular implement of
war, and then a hail came from the brig.

"Vat zat sheep is?" demanded some one from the brig.

"The Tigris of Philadelphia, from Calcutta _home_. What brig is
_that_?"

"_La Folie--corsair Francais_. From vair you come?"

"From Calcutta. And where are _you_ from?"

"Guadaloupe. Vair you go, eh?"

"Philadelphia. Do not luff so near me; some accident may happen."

"Vat you call '_accident_?' Can nevair hear, eh? I will come
_tout pres_."

"Give us a wider berth, I tell you! Here is your jib boom nearly foul
of my mizen-rigging."

"Vat mean zat, bert' vidair? eh! _Allons, mes enfants, c'est le
moment_!"

"Luff a little, and keep his spar clear," cried our captain. "Squirt
away, Neb, and let us see what you can do!"

The engine made a movement, just as the French began to run out on
their bowsprit, and, by the time six or eight were on the heel of the
jib-boom, they were met by the hissing hot stream, which took them
_en echelon_, as it might be, fairly raking the whole line. The
effect was instantaneous. Physical nature cannot stand excessive heat,
unless particularly well supplied with skin; and the three leading
Frenchmen, finding retreat impossible, dropped incontinently into the
sea, preferring cold water to hot--the chances of drowning, to the
certainty of being scalded. I believe all three were saved by their
companions in-board, but I will not vouch for the fact. The remainder
of the intended boarders, having the bowsprit before them, scrambled
back upon the brig's forecastle as well as they could, betraying, by
the random way in which their hands flew about, that they had a
perfect consciousness how much they left their rear exposed on the
retreat. A hearty laugh was heard in all parts of the Tigris, and the
brig, putting her helm hard up, wore round like a top, as if she were
scalded herself.[*]

[Footnote *: This incident actually occurred in the war of 1798]

We all expected a broadside now; but of that there was little
apprehension, as it was pretty certain we carried the heaviest
battery, and had men enough to work it. But the brig did not fire, I
suppose because we fell off a little ourselves, and she perceived it
might prove a losing game. On the contrary, she went quite round on
her heel, hauling up on the other tack far enough to bring the two
vessels exactly _dos a dos_. Captain Digges ordered two of the
quarter-deck nines to be run out of the stern-ports; and it was well
he did, for it was not in nature for men to be treated as our friends
in the brig had been served, without manifesting certain signs of
ill-humour. The vessels might have been three cables' lengths asunder
when we got a gun. The first I knew of the shot was to hear it plunge
through the mizen-top-sail, then it came whistling through my top,
between the weather-rigging and the mast-head, cutting a hole through
the main-top-sail, and, proceeding onward, I heard it strike something
more solid than canvass. I thought of Rupert and the fore-top in an
instant, and looked anxiously down on deck to ascertain if he were
injured.

"Fore-top, there!" called out Captain Digges. "Where did that shot
strike?"

"In the mast-head," answered Rupert, in a clear, firm voice. "It has
done no damage, sir."

"Now's your time, Captain Robbing--give 'em a reminder."

Both our nines were fired, and, a few seconds after, three cheers
arose from the decks of our ship. I could not see the brig, now, for
the mizen-top-sail; but I afterwards learned that we had shot away her
gaff. This terminated the combat, in which the glory was acquired
principally by Neb. They told me, when I got down among the people
again, that the black's face had been dilated with delight the whole
time, though he stood fairly exposed to musketry, his mouth grinning
from ear to ear. Neb was justly elated with the success that attended
this exhibition of his skill, and described the retreat of our enemies
with a humour and relish that raised many a laugh at the discomfited
privateersman. It is certain that some of the fellows must have been
nearly parboiled.

I have always supposed this affair between la Folie and the Tigris to
have been the actual commencement of hostilities in the _quasi_
war of 1798-9 and 1800. Other occurrences soon supplanted it in the
public mind; but we of the ship never ceased to regard the adventure
as one of great national interest. It did prove to be a nine days'
wonder in the newspapers.

From this time, nothing worthy of being noted occurred, until we
reached the coast. We had got as high as the capes of Virginia, and
were running in for the land, with a fair wind, when we made a ship
in-shore of us. The stranger hauled up to speak us, as soon as we were
seen. There was a good deal of discussion about this vessel, as she
drew near, between Captain Digges and his chief-mate. The latter said
he knew the vessel, and that it was an Indiaman out of Philadelphia,
called the Ganges, a sort of sister craft to our own ship; while the
former maintained, if it were the Ganges at all, she was so altered as
scarcely to be recognised. As we got near, the stranger threw a shot
under our fore-foot, and showed an American pennant and ensign.
Getting a better look at her, we got so many signs of a vessel-of-war
in our neighbour, as to think it wisest to heave-to, when the other
vessel passed under our stern, tacked, and lay with her head-yards
aback, a little on our weather-quarter. As she drew to windward, we
saw her stern, which had certain national emblems, but no name on it.
This settled the matter. She was a man-of-war, and she carried the
American flag! Such a thing did not exist a few months before, when we
left home, and Captain Digges was burning with impatience to know
more. He was soon gratified.

"Is not that the Tigris?" demanded a voice, through a trumpet, from
the stranger.

"Ay, ay! What ship is that?"

"The United States' Ship Ganges, Captain Dale; from the capes of the
Delaware, bound on a cruise. You're welcome home, Captain Digges; we
may want some of your assistance under a cockade."

Digges gave a long whistle, and then the mystery was out. This proved
to be the Ganges, as stated, an Indiaman bought into a new navy, and
the first ship-of-war ever sent to sea under the government of the
country, as it had existed since the adoption of the constitution,
nine years before. The privateers of France had driven the republic
into an armament, and ships were fitting out in considerable numbers;
some being purchased, like the Ganges, and others built expressly for
the new marine. Captain Digges went on board the Ganges, and, pulling
an oar in his boat, I had a chance of seeing that vessel also. Captain
Dale, a compact, strongly-built, seaman-like looking man, in a blue
and white uniform, received our skipper with a cordial shake of the
hand, for they had once sailed together, and he laughed heartily when
he heard the story of the boarding-party and the hot water. This
respectable officer had no braggadocia about him, but he intimated
that it would not be long, as he thought, before the rovers among the
islands would have their hands full. Congress was in earnest, and the
whole country was fairly aroused. Whenever that happens in America, it
is usually to take a new and better direction than to follow the
ordinary blind impulses of popular feelings. In countries where the
masses count for nothing, in the every-day working of their systems,
excitement has a tendency to democracy; but, among ourselves, I think
the effect of such a condition of things is to bring into action men
and qualities that are commonly of little account, and to elevate,
instead of depressing, public sentiment.

I was extremely pleased with the manly, benevolent countenance of
Captain Dale, and had half a desire to ask leave to join his ship on
the spot. If that impulse had been followed, it is probable my future
life would have been very different from what it subsequently
proved. I should have been rated a midshipman, of course; and, serving
so early, with a good deal of experience already in ships, a year or
two would have made me a lieutenant, and, could I have survived the
pruning of 1801, I should now have been one of the oldest officers in
the service. Providence directed otherwise; and how much was lost, or
how much gained, by my continuance in the Tigris, the reader will
learn as we proceed.

As soon as Captain Digges had taken a glass or two of wine with his
old acquaintance, we returned to our own ship, and the two vessels
made sail; the Ganges standing off to the northward and eastward,
while we ran in for the capes of the Delaware. We got in under Cape
May, or within five miles of it, the same evening, when it fell nearly
calm. A pilot came off from the cape in a row-boat, and he reached us
just at dark. Captain Robbins now became all impatience to land, as it
was of importance to him to be the bearer of his own bad
news. Accordingly, an arrangement having been made with the two men
who belonged to the shore-boat, our old commander, Rupert and myself,
prepared to leave the ship, late as it was. We two lads were taken for
the purpose of manning two additional oars, but were to rejoin the
ship in the bay, if possible; if not, up at town. One of the
inducements of Captain Robbins to be off, was the signs of northerly
weather. It had begun to blow a little in puffs from the north-west;
and everybody knew, if it came on to blow seriously from that quarter,
the ship might be a week in getting up the river, her news being
certain to precede her. We hurried off accordingly, taking nothing
with us but a change of linen, and a few necessary papers.

We got the first real blast from the north-west in less than five
minutes after we had quitted the Tigris's side, and while the ship was
still visible, or, rather, while we could yet see the lights in her
cabin-windows, as she fell off before the wind. Presently the lights
disappeared, owing, no doubt, to the ship's luffing again. The
symptoms now looked so threatening, that the pilot's men proposed
making an effort, before it was too late, to find the ship; but this
was far easier said than done. The vessel might be spinning away
towards Cape Henlopen, at the rate of six or seven knots; and, without
the means of making any signal in the dark, it was impossible to
overtake her. I do believe that Captain Robbins would have acceded to
the request of the men, had he seen any probability of succeeding; as
it was, there remained no alternative but to pull in, and endeavour to
reach the land. We had the light on the cape as our beacon, and the
boat's head was kept directly for it, as the wisest course for us to
pursue.

Changes of wind from south-east to north-west are very common on the
American coast. They are almost always sudden; sometimes so much so,
as to take ships aback; and the force of the breeze usually comes so
early, as to have produced the saying that a "nor'-wester comes
butt-end foremost." Such proved to be the fact in our case. In less
than half an hour after it began to blow, the wind would have brought
the most gallant ship that floated to double-reefed topsails, steering
by, and to reasonably short-canvass, running large. We may have pulled
a mile in this half hour, though it was by means of a quick stroke and
great labour. The Cape May men were vigorous and experienced, and they
did wonders; nor were Rupert and I idle; but, as soon as the sea got
up, it was as much as all four of us could do to keep steerage-way on
the boat. There were ten minutes, during which I really think the boat
was kept head to sea by means of the wash of the waves that drove
past, as we barely held her stationary.

Of course, it was out of the question to continue exertions that were
as useless as they were exhausting. We tried the expedient, however,
of edging to the northward, with the hope of getting more under the
lee of the land, and, consequently, into smoother water; but it did no
good. The nearest we ever got to the light must have considerably
exceeded a league. At length Rupert, totally exhausted, dropped his
oar, and fell panting on the thwart. He was directed to steer, Captain
Robbins taking his place. I can only liken our situation at that
fearful moment to the danger of a man who is clinging to a cliff its
summit and safety almost in reach of his hand, with the consciousness
that his powers are fast failing him, and that he must shortly go
down. It is true, death was not so certain by our abandoning the
effort to reach the land, but the hope of being saved was faint
indeed. Behind us lay the vast and angry Atlantic, without an inch of
visible land between us and the Rock of Lisbon. We were totally
without food of any sort, though, luckily, there was a small breaker
of fresh water in the boat. The Cape May men had brought off their
suppers with them, but they had made the meal; whereas the rest of us
had left the Tigris fasting, intending to make comfortable suppers at
the light.

At length Captain Robbins consulted the boatmen, and asked them what
they thought of our situation. I sat between these men, who had been
remarkably silent the whole time, pulling like giants. Both were
young, though, as I afterwards learned, both were married; each having
a wife, at that anxious moment, waiting on the beach of the cape for
the return of the boat. As Captain Robbins put the question, I turned
my head, and saw that the man behind me, the oldest of the two, was in
tears. I cannot describe the shock I experienced at this sight. Here
was a man accustomed to hardships and dangers, who was making the
stoutest and most manly efforts to save himself and all with him, at
the very moment, so strongly impressed with the danger of our
situation, that his feelings broke forth in a way it is always
startling to witness, when the grief of man is thus exhibited in
tears. The imagination of this husband was doubtless picturing to his
mind the anguish of his wife at that moment, and perhaps the long days
of sorrow that were to succeed. I have no idea he thought of himself,
apart from his wife: for a finer, more manly resolute fellow, never
existed, as he subsequently proved, to the fullest extent.

It seemed to me that the two Cape May men had a sort of desperate
reluctance to give up the hope of reaching the land. We were a strong
boat's crew, and we had a capital, though a light boat; yet all would
not do. About midnight, after pulling desperately for three hours, my
strength was quite gone, and I had to give up the oar. Captain Robbins
confessed himself in a very little better state, and, it being
impossible for the boatmen to do more than keep the boat stationary,
and that only for a little time longer, there remained no expedient
but to keep off before the wind, in the hope of still falling in with
the ship. We knew that the Tigris was on the starboard tack when we
left her, and, as she would certainly endeavour to keep as close in
with the land as possible, there was a remaining chance that she had
wore ship to keep off Henlopen, and might be heading up about
north-north-east, and laying athwart the mouth of the bay. This left
us just a chance--a ray of hope; and it had now become absolutely
necessary to endeavour to profit by it.

The two Cape May men pulled the boat round, and kept her just ahead of
the seas, as far as it was in their power; very light touches of the
oars sufficing for this, where it could be done at all. Occasionally,
however, one of those chasing waves would come after us, at a racer's
speed, invariably breaking at such instants, and frequently
half-filling the boat. This gave us new employment, Rupert and myself
being kept quite half the time bailing. No occupation, notwithstanding
the danger, could prevent me from looking about the cauldron of angry
waters, in quest of the ship. Fifty times did I fancy I saw her, and
as often did the delusive idea end in disappointment. The waste of
dark waters, relieved by the gleaming of the combing seas, alone met
the senses. The wind blew directly down the estuary, and, in crossing
its mouth, we found too much swell to receive it on our beam, and were
soon compelled, most reluctantly though it was, to keep dead away to
prevent swamping. This painful state of expectation may have lasted
half an hour, the boat sometimes seeming ready to fly out of the
water, as it drifted before the gale, when Rupert unexpectedly called
out that he saw the ship!

There she was, sure enough, with her head to the northward and
eastward, struggling along through the raging waters, under her fore
and main-top-sails, close-reefed, and reefed courses, evidently
clinging to the land as close as she could, both to hold her own and
to make good weather. It was barely light enough to ascertain these
facts, though the ship was not a cable's length from us when first
discovered. Unfortunately, she was dead to leeward of us, and was
drawing ahead so fast as to leave the probability she would forereach
upon us, unless we took to all our oars. This was done as soon as
possible, and away we went, at a rapid rate, aiming to shoot directly
beneath the Tigris's lee-quarter, so as to round-to under shelter of
her hull, there to receive a rope.

We pulled like giants. Three several times the water slapped into us,
rendering the boat more and more heavy; but Captain Bobbins told us to
pull on, every moment being precious. As I did not look
round--_could_ not well, indeed--I saw no more of the ship until
I got a sudden glimpse of her dark hull, within a hundred feet of us,
surging ahead in the manner in which vessels at sea seem to take
sudden starts that carry them forward at twice their former apparent
speed. Captain Robbins had begun to hail, the instant he thought
himself near enough, or at the distance of a hundred yards; but what
was the human voice amid the music of the winds striking the various
cords, and I may add _chords_, in the mazes of a square-rigged
vessel's hamper, accompanied by the base of the roaring ocean!
Heavens! what a feeling of despair was that, when the novel thought
suggested itself almost simultaneously to our minds, that we should
not make ourselves heard! I say simultaneously, for at the same
instant the whole five of us set up a common, desperate shout to alarm
those who were so near us, and who might easily save us from the most
dreadful of all deaths--starvation at sea. I presume the fearful
manner in which we struggled at the oars diminished the effect of our
voices, while the effort to raise a noise lessened our power with the
oars. We were already to leeward of the ship, though nearly in her
wake, and our only chance now was to over take her. The captain called
out to us to pull for life or death, and pull we did. So frantic were
our efforts, that I really think we should have succeeded, had not a
sea come on board us, and filled us to the thwarts. There remained no
alternative but to keep dead away, and to bail for our lives.

I confess I felt scalding tears gush down my cheeks, as I gazed at the
dark mass of the ship just before it was swallowed up in the gloom.
This soon occurred, and then, I make no doubt, every man in the boat
considered himself as hopelessly lost. We continued to bail,
notwithstanding; and, using hats, gourds, pots and pails, soon cleared
the boat, though it was done with no other seeming object than to
avert immediate death. I heard one of the Cape May men pray. The name
of his wife mingled with his petitions to God. As for poor Captain
Robbins, who had so recently been in another scene of equal danger in
a boat, he remained silent, seemingly submissive to the decrees of
Providence.

In this state we must have drifted a league dead before the wind, the
Cape May men keeping their eyes on the light, which was just sinking
below the horizon, while the rest of us were gazing seaward in ominous
expectation of what awaited us in that direction, when the hail of
"Boat ahoy!" sounded like the last trumpet in our ears. A schooner
was passing our track, keeping a little off, and got so near as to
allow us to be seen, though, owing to a remark about the light which
drew all eyes to windward, not a soul of us saw her. It was too late
to avert the blow, for the hail had hardly reached us, when the
schooner's cut-water came down upon our little craft, and buried it in
the sea as if it had been lead. At such moments men do not think, but
act. I caught at a bob-stay, and missed it. As I went down into the
water, my hand fell upon some object to which I clung, and, the
schooner rising at the next instant, I was grasped by the hair by one
of the vessel's men. I had hold of one of the Cape May men's legs.
Released from my weight, this man was soon in the vessel's head, and
he helped to save me. When we got in-board, and mustered our party it
was found that all had been saved but Captain Robbins. The schooner
wore round, and actually passed over the wreck of the boat a second
time; but our old commander was never heard of more!

CHAPTER VII.

"Oh! forget not the hour, when through forest and vale
We returned with our chief to his dear native halls!
Through the woody Sierra there sigh'd not a gale,
And the moonbeam was bright on his battlement walls;
And nature lay sleeping in calmness and light,
Round the house of the _truants_, that rose on our sight."
MRS. HEMANS.

We had fallen on board an eastern coaster, called the Martha
Wallis. bound from James' River to Boston, intending to cross the
shoals. Her watch had seen us, because the coasters generally keep
better look-outs than Indiamen; the latter, accustomed to good
offings, having a trick of letting their people go to sleep in the
night-watches. I made a calculation of the turns on board the Tigris,
and knew it was Mr. Marble's watch when we passed the ship; and I make
no question he was, at that very moment, nodding on the hencoops--a
sort of trick he had. I cannot even now understand, however, why the
man at the wheel did not hear the outcry we made. To me it appeared
loud enough to reach the land.

Sailors ordinarily receive wrecked mariners kindly. Our treatment on
board the Martha Wallis was all I could have desired, and the captain
promised to put us on board the first coaster she should fall in with,
bound to New York. He was as good as his word, though not until more
than a week had elapsed. It fell calm as soon as the north-wester blew
its pipe out, and we did not get into the Vineyard Sound for nine
days. Here we met a craft the skipper knew, and, being a regular
Boston and New York coaster, we were put on board her, with a
recommendation to good treatment The people of the Lovely Lass
received us just as we had been received on board the Martha Wallis;
all hands of us living aft, and eating codfish, good beef and pork,
with duff (dough) and molasses, almost _ad libitum_. From this
last vessel we learned all the latest news of the French war, and how
things were going on in the country. The fourth day after we were put
on board this craft, Rupert and I landed near Peck's Slip, New York,
with nothing on earth in our possession, but just in what we
stood. This, however, gave us but little concern--I had abundance at
home, and Rupert was certain of being free from want, both through me
and through his father.

I had never parted with the gold given me by Lucy, however. When we
got into the boat to land at the cape, I had put on the belt in which
I kept this little treasure, and it was still round my body. I had
kept it as a sort of memorial of the dear girl who had given it to me;
but I now saw the means of making it useful, without disposing of it
altogether. I knew that the wisest course, in all difficulties, was
to go at once to head-quarters. I asked the address of the firm that
owned, or rather _had_ owned the John, and proceeded to the
counting-house forthwith. I told my story, but found that Kite had
been before me. It seems that the Tigris got a fair wind, three days
after the blow, that carried her up to the very wharves of
Philadelphia, when most of the John's people had come on to New York
without delay. By communications with the shore at the cape, the pilot
had learned that his boat had never returned, and our loss was
supposed to have inevitably occurred. The accounts of all this were in
the papers, and I began to fear that the distressing tidings might
have reached Clawbonny. Indeed, there were little obituary notices of
Rupert and myself in the journals, inserted by some hand piously
employed, I should think, by Mr. Kite. We were tenderly treated,
considering our _escapade_; and _my_ fortune and prospects
were dwelt on with some touches of eloquence that might have been
spared.

In that day, however, a newspaper was a very different thing from what
it has since become. Then, journals were created merely to meet the
demand, and news was given as it actually occurred; whereas, now, the
competition has produced a change that any one can appreciate, when it
is remembered to what a _competition in news_ must infallibly
lead. In that day, our own journals had not taken to imitating the
worst features of the English newspapers--talents and education are
not yet cheap enough in America to enable them to imitate the
best--and the citizen was supposed to have some rights, as put in
opposition to the press. The public sense of right had not become
blunted by familiarity with abuses, and the miserable and craven
apology was never heard for not enforcing the laws, that nobody cares
for what the newspapers say. Owing to these causes, I escaped a
thousand lies about myself, my history, my disposition, character and
acts. Still, I was in print; and I confess it half-frightened me to
see my death announced in such obvious letters, although I had
physical evidence of being alive and well.

The owners questioned me closely about the manner in which the John
was lost, and expressed themselves satisfied with my answers. I then
produced my half-joes, and asked to borrow something less than their
amount on their security. To the latter part of the proposition,
however, these gentlemen would not listen, forcing a check for a
hundred dollars on me, desiring that the money might be paid at my own
convenience. Knowing I had Clawbonny, and a very comfortable income
under my lee, I made no scruples about accepting the sum, and took my
leave.

Rupert and I had now the means of equipping ourselves neatly, though
always in sailor guise. After this was done, we proceeded to the
Albany basin, in order to ascertain whether the Wallingford were down
or not. At the basin we learned that the sloop had gone out that very
forenoon, having on board a black with his young master's effects; a
lad who was said to have been out to Canton with young Mr.
Wallingford, and who was now on his way home, to report all the sad
occurrences to the family in Ulster. This, then, was Neb, who had got
thus far back in charge of our chests, and was about to return to
slavery.

We had been in hopes that we might possibly reach Clawbonny before the
tidings of our loss. This intelligence was likely to defeat the
expectation; but, luckily, one of the fastest sloops on the river, a
Hudson packet, was on the point of sailing, and, though the wind held
well to the northward, her master thought he should be able to turn up
with the tides, as high as our creek, in the course of the next
eight-and-forty hours. This was quite as much as the Wallingford could
do, I felt well persuaded; and, making a bargain to be landed on the
western shore, Rupert and I put our things on board this packet, and
were under way in half an hour's time.

So strong was my own anxiety, I could not keep off the deck until we
had anchored on account of the flood; and much did I envy Rupert, who
had coolly turned in as soon as it was dark, and went to sleep. When
the anchor was down, I endeavoured to imitate his example. On turning
out next morning, I found the vessel in Newburgh Bay, with a fair
wind. About twelve o'clock I could see the mouth of the creek, and the
Wallingford fairly entering it, her sails disappearing behind the
trees, just as I caught sight of them. As no other craft of her size
ever went up to that landing, I could not be mistaken in the vessel.

By getting ashore half a mile above the creek, there was a farm-road
that would lead to the house by a cut so short, as nearly to bring us
there as soon as Neb could possibly arrive with his dire, but false
intelligence. The place was pointed out to the captain, who had
extracted our secret from us, and who good-naturedly consented to do
all we asked of him. I do think he would have gone into the creek
itself, had it been required. But we were landed, with our bag of
clothes--one answered very well for both--at the place I have
mentioned, and, taking turn about to shoulder the wardrobe, away we
went, as fast as legs could carry us. Even Rupert seemed to feel on
this occasion, and I do think he had a good deal of contrition, as he
must have recollected the pain he had occasioned his excellent father,
and dear, good sister.

Clawbonny never looked more beautiful than when I first cast eyes on
it, that afternoon. There lay the house in the secure retirement of
its smiling vale, the orchards just beginning to lose their blossoms;
the broad, rich meadows, with the grass waving in the south wind,
resembling velvet; the fields of corn of all sorts; and the cattle, as
they stood ruminating, or enjoying their existence in motionless
self-indulgence beneath the shade of trees, seemed to speak of
abundance and considerate treatment. Everything denoted peace, plenty
and happiness. Yet this place, with all its blessings and security,
had I wilfully deserted to encounter pirates in the Straits of Sunda,
shipwreck on the shores of Madagascar, jeopardy in an open boat off
the Isle of France, and a miraculous preservation from a horrible
death on my own coast!

At no great distance from the house was a dense grove, in which Rupert
and I had, with our own hands, constructed a rude summer-house, fit to
be enjoyed on just such an afternoon as this on which we had
returned. When distant from it only two hundred yards, we saw the
girls enter the wood, evidently taking the direction of the seat. At
the same moment I caught a glimpse of Neb moving up the road from the
landing at a snail's pace, as if the poor fellow dreaded to encounter
the task before him. After a moment's consultation, we determined to
proceed at once to the grove, and thus anticipate the account of Neb,
who must pass so near the summer-house as to be seen and
recognised. We met with more obstacles than we had foreseen or
remembered, and when we got to a thicket close in the rear of the
bench, we found that the black was already in the presence of his two
"young mistresses."

The appearance of the three, when I first caught a near view of them,
was such as almost to terrify me. Even Neb, whose face was usually as
shining as a black bottle, was almost of the colour of ashes. The poor
fellow could not speak, and, though Lucy was actually shaking him to
extract an explanation, the only answer she could get was tears. These
flowed from Neb's eyes in streams, and at length the fellow threw
himself on the ground, and fairly began to groan.

"Can this be shame at having run away?" exclaimed Lucy, "or does it
foretell evil to the boys?"

"He knows nothing of _them_, not having been with them--yet, I
am terrified."

"Not on my account, dearest sister," I cried aloud; "here are Rupert
and I, God be praised, both in good health, and safe."

I took care to remain hid, as I uttered this, not to alarm more than
one sense at a time; but both the girls shrieked, and held out their
arms. Rupert and I hesitated no longer, but sprang forward. I know not
how it happened, though I found, on recovering my self-possession,
that I was folding Lucy to my heart, while Rupert was doing the same
to Grace. This little mistake, however, was soon rectified, each man
embracing his own sister, as in duty bound, and as was most decorous.
The girls shed torrents of tears, and assured us, again and again,
that this was the only really happy moment they had known since the
parting on the wharf, nearly a twelvemonth before. Then followed looks
at each other, exclamations of surprise and pleasure at the changes
that had taken place in the appearance of all parties, and kisses and
tears again, in abundance.

As for Neb, the poor fellow was seen in the road, whither he had fled
at the sound of my voice, looking at us like one in awe and
doubt. Being satisfied, in the end, of our identity, as well as of our
being in the flesh, the negro again threw himself on the ground,
rolling over and over, and fairly yelling with delight. After going
through this process of negro excitement, he leaped up on his feel,
and started for the house, shouting at the top of his voice, as if
certain the good intelligence he brought would secure his own pardon--
"Master Miles come home!--Master Miles come home!"

In a few minutes, quiet was sufficiently restored among us four, who
remained at the seat, to ask questions, and receive intelligible
answers. Glad was I to ascertain that the girls had been spared the
news of our loss. As for Mr. Hardinge, he was well, and busied, as
usual, in discharging the duties of his holy office. He had told Grace
and Lucy the name of the vessel in which we had shipped, but said
nothing of the painful glimpse he had obtained of us, just as we
lifted our anchor, to quit the port. Grace, in a solemn manner, then
demanded an outline of our adventures. As Rupert was the spokesman on
this occasion, the question having been in a manner put to him as
oldest, I had an opportunity of watching the sweet countenances of the
two painfully interested listeners. Rupert affected modesty in his
narration, if he did not feel it, though I remarked that he dwelt a
little particularly on the shot which had lodged so near him, in the
head of the Tigris's foremast. He spoke of the whistling it made as it
approached, and the violence of the blow when it struck. He had the
impudence, too, to speak of my good-luck in being on the other side of
the top, when the shot passed through my station; whereas I do believe
that the shot passed nearer to me than it did to himself. It barely
missed me, and by all I could learn Rupert was leaning over by the
top-mast rigging when it lodged. The fellow told his story in his own
way, however, and with so much unction that I observed it made Grace
look pale. The effect on Lucy was different. This excellent creature
perceived my uneasiness, I half suspected, for she laughed, and,
interrupting her brother, told him, "There--that's enough about the
cannon-ball; now let us hear of something else." Rupert coloured, for
he had frequently had such frank hints from his sister, in the course
of his childhood; but he had too much address to betray the vexation I
knew he felt.

To own the truth, my attachment for Rupert had materially lessened
with the falling off of my respect. He had manifested so much
selfishness during the voyage--had shirked so much duty, most of which
had fallen on poor Neb--and had been so little of the man, in
practice, whom he used so well to describe with his tongue--that I
could no longer shut my eyes to some of his deficiencies of character.
I still liked him; but it was from habit, and perhaps because he was
my guardian's son, and Lucy's brother. Then I could not conceal from
myself that Rupert was not, in a rigid sense, a lad of truth. He
coloured, exaggerated, glossed over and embellished, if he did not
absolutely invent. I was not old enough then to understand that most
of the statements that float about the world are nothing but truths
distorted, and that nothing is more rare than unadulterated fact; that
truths and lies travel in company, as described by Pope in his Temple
of Fame, until--

"This or that unmixed, no mortal e'er shall find."

In this very narration of our voyage, Rupert had left false
impressions on the minds of his listeners, in fifty things. He had
made far more of both our little skirmishes, than the truth would
warrant, and he had neglected to do justice to Neb in his account of
each of the affairs. Then he commended Captain Robbins's conduct in
connection with the loss of the John, on points that could not be
sustained, and censured him for measures that deserved praise. I knew
Rupert was no seaman--was pretty well satisfied, by this time, he
never would make one--but I could not explain all his obliquities by
referring them to ignorance. The manner, moreover, in which he
represented himself as the principal actor, on all occasions, denoted
so much address, that, while I felt the falsity of the impressions he
left, I did not exactly see the means necessary to counteract them. So
ingenious, indeed, was his manner of stringing facts and inferences
together, or what _seemed_ to be facts and inferences, that I
more than once caught myself actually believing that which, in sober
reality, I knew to be false. I was still too young, not quite
eighteen, to feel any apprehensions on the subject of Grace; and was
too much accustomed to both Rupert and his sister, to regard either
with any feelings very widely different from those which I entertained
for Grace herself.

As soon as the history of our adventures and exploits was concluded,
we all had leisure to observe and comment on the alterations that time
had made in our several persons. Rupert, being the oldest, was the
least changed in this particular. He had got his growth early, and
was only a little spread. He had cultivated a pair of whiskers at sea,
which rendered his face a little more manly--an improvement, by the
way--but, the effects of exposure and of the sun excepted, there was

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