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Afloat And Ashore by James Fenimore Cooper

Part 4 out of 10

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notes, of which he now seemed as anxious to be rid, as I had
previously fancied he was sorry to see go--"_you_ will do me the
favour to accept of this small token of my gratitude."

"It is quite impossible, sir," I answered, respectfully. "We are not
exactly what we seem, and you are probably deceived by our
roundabouts; but we are the first and second officers of a
letter-of-marque."

At the word "officers," the Major drew back his hand, and hastily
apologised. He did not understand us even then, I could plainly see;
but he had sufficient sagacity to understand that his money would not
be accepted. We were invited to sit down, and the conversation
continued.

"Master Miles, there," resumed Marble, "has an estate, a place called
Clawbonny, somewhere up the Hudson; and he has no business to be
sailing about the world in jacket and trowsers, when he ought to be
studying law, or trying his hand at college. But as the old cock
crows, the young 'un l'arns; his father was a sailor before him, and I
suppose that's the reason on't."

This announcement of my position ashore did me no harm, and I could
see a change in the deportment of the whole family--not that it had
ever treated me haughtily, or even coldly; but it now regarded me as
more on a level with itself. We remained an hour with the Mertons, and
I promised to repeat the call before we sailed. This I did a dozen
times, at least; and the Major, finding, I suppose, that he had a
tolerably well-educated youth to deal with, was of great service in
putting me in a better way of seeing London. I went to both theatres
with the family, taking care to appear in a well-made suit of London
clothes, in which I made quite as respectable a figure as most of the
young men I saw in the streets. Even Emily smiled when she first saw
me in my long-togs, and I thought she blushed. She was a pretty
creature; gentle and mild in her ordinary deportment, but full of fire
and spirit at the bottom, as I could see by her light, blue, English
eye. Then she had been well-educated; and, in my young ignorance of
life, I fancied she knew more than any girl of seventeen I had ever
met with. Grace and Lucy were both clever, and had been carefully
taught by Mr. Hardinge; but the good divine could not give two girls,
in the provincial retirement of America, the cultivation and
accomplishments that were within the reach of even moderate means in
England. To me, Emily Merton seemed a marvel in the way of
attainments; and I often felt ashamed of myself, as I sat at her side,
listening to the natural and easy manner in which she alluded to
things, of which I then heard for the first time.

CHAPTER XI.

"Boatswain!"
"Here, master: what cheer?"
"Good: speak to the mariners; fall to 't
Yarely, or we run ourselves aground: bestir, bestir."
_Tempest._

As Captain Williams wished to show me some favour for the manner in
which I had taken care of the brig, he allowed me as much time ashore
as I asked for. I might never see London again; and, understanding I
had fallen into good company, he threw no obstacle in the way of my
profiting by it. So careful was he, indeed, as to get one of the
consul's clerks to ascertain who the Mertons were, lest I should
become the dupe of the thousands of specious rogues with which London
abounds. The report was favourable, giving us to understand that the
Major had been much employed in the West Indies, where he still held a
moderately lucrative, semi-military appointment, being then in England
to settle certain long and vexatious accounts, as well as to take
Emily, his only child, from school. He was expected to return to the
old, or some other post, in the course of a few months. A portion of
this I gleaned from Emily herself, and it was all very fairly
corroborated by the account of the consul's clerk. There was no doubt
that the Mertons were persons of respectable position; without having
any claims, however, to be placed very high. From the Major, moreover,
I learned he had some American connexions, his father having married
in Boston.

For my part, I had quite as much reason to rejoice at the chance which
threw me in the way of the Mertons, as they had. If I was instrumental
in saving their lives, as was undeniably the case, they taught me more
of the world, in the ordinary social sense of the phrase, than I had
learned in all my previous life. I make no pretensions to having seen
London society; that lay far beyond the reach of Major Merton himself,
who was born the son of a merchant, when merchants occupied a much
lower position in the English social scale than they do to-day, and
had to look to a patron for most of his own advancement. But, he was a
gentleman; maintained the notions, sentiments, and habits of the
caste; and was properly conscious of my having saved his life when it
was in great jeopardy. As for Emily Merton, she got to converse with
me with the freedom of a friend; and very pleasant it was to hear
pretty thoughts expressed in pretty language, and from pretty lips. I
could perceive that she thought me a little rustic and provincial; but
I had not been all the way to Canton to be brow-beaten by a cockney
girl, however clever and handsome. On the whole--and I say it without
vanity, at this late day--I think the impression left behind me, among
these good people, was favourable. Perhaps Clawbonny was not without
its influence; but, when I paid my last visit, even Emily looked
sorrowful, and her mother was pleased to say they should all miss me
much. The Major made me promise to hunt him up, should I ever be in
Jamaica, or Bombay; for one of which places he expected to sail
himself, with his wife and daughter, in the course of a few months. I
knew he had had one appointment, thought he might receive another, and
hoped everything would turn out for the best.

The Crisis sailed on her day; and she went to sea from the Downs, a
week later, with a smacking southerly wind. Our Philadelphians turned
out a noble set of fellows; and we had the happiness of beating an
English sloop-of-war, just as we got clear of the channel, in a fair
trial of speed. To lessen our pride a little, a two-decker that was
going to the Mediterranean, treated us exactly in the same manner,
only three days later. What made this last affair more mortifying, was
the fact that Marble had just satisfied himself, and all hands, that,
a sloop-of-war being the fastest description of vessel, and we having
got the better of one of them, it might be fairly inferred we could
outsail the whole British navy. I endeavoured to console him, by
reminding him that "the race was not always to the swift." He growled
out some sort of an answer, denouncing all sayings, and desiring to
know out of what book I had picked up that nonsense.

I have no intention of dwelling on every little incident that occurred
on the long road we were now travelling. We touched at Madeira, and
landed an English family that went there for the benefit of an
invalid; got some fruit, fresh meat and vegetables, and sailed
again. Our next stopping-place was Rio, whither we went for letters
from home, the captain being taught to expect them. The ship's letters
were received, and they were filled with eulogiums on our good
conduct, having been written after the arrival of _la Dame de
Nantes;_ but great was my disappointment on finding there was not
even a scrawl for myself.

Our stay at Rio was short, and we left port with a favourable slant of
wind, running as far north as 50 degrees, in a very short time. As we drew
near to the southern extremity of the American continent, however, we
met with heavy weather and foul winds. We were now in the month that
corresponds to November in the northern hemisphere, and had to double
The Horn at that unpropitious season of the year, going
westward. There is no part of the world of which navigators have given
accounts so conflicting, as of this celebrated passage. Each man
appears to have described it as he found it, himself, while no two
seem to have found it exactly alike. I do not remember to have ever
heard of calms off Cape Horn; but light winds are by no means
uncommon, though tempests are undoubtedly the predominant
characteristic. Our captain had already been round four times, and he
held the opinion that the season made no difference, and that it was
better to keep near the land. We shaped our course accordingly for
Staten Land, intending to pass through the Straits of Le Maire and hug
the Horn, as close as possible, in doubling it. We made the Falkland
Islands, or West Falkland rather, just as the sun rose, one morning,
bearing a little on our weather-quarter, with the wind blowing heavily
at the eastward. The weather was thick, and, what was still worse,
there was so little day, and no moon, that it was getting to be
ticklish work to be standing for a passage as narrow as that we aimed
at. Marble and I talked the matter over, between ourselves, and wished
the captain could be persuaded to haul up, and try to go to the
eastward of the island, as was still possible, with the wind where it
was. Still, neither of us dared propose it; I, on account of my youth,
and the chief-mate, as he said, on account of "the old fellow's
obstinacy." "He likes to be poking about in such places," Marble
added, "and is never so happy as when he is running round the ocean in
places where it is full of unknown islands, looking for sandal wood,
and beche-la-mar! I'll warrant you, he'll give us a famous time of it,
if he ever get us up on the North-West Coast." Here the consultation
terminated, we mates believing it wiser to let things take their
course.

I confess to having seen the mountains on our weather-quarter
disappear, with melancholy forebodings. There was little hope of
getting any observation that day; and to render matters worse, about
noon, the wind began to haul more to the southward. As it hauled, it
increased in violence, until, at midnight, it blew a gale; the
commencement of such a tempest as I had never witnessed in any of my
previous passages at sea. As a matter of course, sail was reduced as
fast as it became necessary, until we had brought the ship down to a
close-reefed main-top-sail, the fore-top-mast staysail, the
fore-course, and the mizen-staysail. This was old fashioned Canvass;
the more recent spencer being then unknown.

Our situation was now far from pleasant. The tides and currents, in
that high latitude, run with great velocity; and, then, at a moment
when it was of the greatest importance to know precisely where the
ship was, we were left to the painful uncertainty of conjecture, and
theories that might be very wide of the truth. The captain had nerve
enough, notwithstanding, to keep on the larboard tack until daylight,
in the hope of getting in sight of the mountains of Terra del
Fuego. No one, now, expected we should be able to fetch through the
Straits; but it would be a great relief to obtain a sight of the land,
as it would enable us to get some tolerably accurate notions of our
position. Daylight came at length, but it brought no certainty. The
weather was so thick, between a drizzling rain, sea-mist and the
spray, that it was seldom we could see a league around us, and
frequently not half a mile. Fortunately, the general direction of the
eastern coast of Terra del Fuego, is from north-west to south-east,
always giving us room to ware off shore, provided we did not
unexpectedly get embarrassed in some one of the many deep indentations
of that wild and inhospitable shore.

Captain Williams showed great steadiness in the trying circumstances
in which we were placed. The ship was just far enough south to render
it probable she could weather Falkland Islands, on the other tack,
could we rely upon the currents; but it would be ticklish work to
undertake such a thing, in the long, intensely dark nights we had, and
thus run the risk of finding ourselves on a lee shore. He determined,
therefore, to hold on as long as possible, on the tack we were on,
expecting to get through another night, without coming upon the land,
every hour now giving us the hope that we were drawing near to the
termination of the gale. I presume he felt more emboldened to pursue
this course by the circumstance that the wind evidently inclined to
haul little by little, more to the southward, which was not only
increasing our chances of laying past the islands, but lessened the
danger from Terra del Fuego.

Marble was exceedingly uneasy during that second night. He remained
on deck with me the whole of the morning watch; not that he distrusted
my discretion in the least, but because he distrusted the wind and the
land. I never saw him in so much concern before, for it was his habit
to consider himself a timber of the ship, that was to sink or swim
with the craft.

"Miles," said he, "you and I know something of these 'bloody
currents,' and we know they take a ship one way, while she looks as
fiercely the other as a pig that is dragged aft by the tail. If we had
run down the 50th degree of longitude, now, we might have had plenty
of sea-room, and been laying past the Cape, with this very wind; but,
no, the old fellow would have had no islands in that case, and he
never could be happy without half-a-dozen islands to bother him."

"Had we run down the 50th degree of longitude," I answered, "we should
have had twenty degrees to make to get round the Horn; whereas, could
we only lay through the Straits of Le Maire, six or eight of those
very same degrees would carry us clear of everything."

"Only lay through the Straits of Le Maire, on the 10th November, or
what is the same thing in this quarter of the world, of May, and with
less than nine hours of day-light! And such day-light, too! Why, our
Newfoundland fogs, such stuff as I used to eat when a youngster and a
fisherman, are high noon to it! Soundings are out of the question
hereabouts; and, before one has hauled in the deep-sea, with all its
line out, his cut-water may be on a rock. This ship is so weatherly
and drags ahead so fast, that we shall see _terra firma_ before
any one has a notion of it. The old man fancies, because the coast of
Fuego trends to the north-west, that the land will fall away from us,
as fast as we draw towards it. I hope he may live long enough to
persuade all hands that he is right!"

Marble and I were conversing on the forecastle at the time, our eyes
turned to the westward, for it was scarcely possible for him to look
in any other direction, when he interrupted himself, by shouting
out--"hard up with the helm--spring to the after-braces, my lads--man
mizen-staysail downhaul!" This set everybody in motion, and the
captain and third-mate were on deck in a minute. The ship fell off, as
soon as we got the mizen-staysail in, and the main-topsail
touching. Gathering way fast, as she got the wind more aft, her helm
threw her stern up, and away she went like a top. The fore-topmast
staysail-sheet was tended with care, and yet the cloth emitted a sound
like the report of a swivel, when the sail first filled on the other
tack. We got the starboard fore-tack forward, and the larboard sheet
aft, by two tremendously severe drags, the blocks and bolts seeming
fairly to quiver, as they felt the strains. Everything succeeded,
however, and the Crisis began to drag off from the coast of Terra del
Fuego, of a certainty; but to go whither, no one could precisely
tell. She headed up nearly east, the wind playing about between
south-and-by-east, and south-east-and-by-south. On that course, I own
I had now great doubt whether she could lay past the Falkland Islands,
though I felt persuaded we must be a long distance from them. There
was plenty of time before us to take the chances of a change.

As soon as the ship was round, and trimmed by the wind on the other
tack, Captain Williams had a grave conversation with the chief-mate,
on the subject of his reason for what he had done. Marble maintained
he had caught a glimpse of the land ahead--"Just as you know I did of
la Dame de Nantes, Captain Williams," he continued, "and seeing there
was no time to be lost, I ordered the helm hard up, to ware off
shore." I distrusted this account, even while it was in the very
process of coming out of the chief mate's mouth, and Marble afterwards
admitted to me, quite justly; but the captain either was satisfied, or
thought it prudent to seem so. By the best calculations I afterwards
made, I suppose we must have been from fifteen to twenty leagues from
the land when we wore ship; but, as Marble said, when he made his
private confessions, "Madagascar was quite enough for me, Miles,
without breaking our nose on this sea-gull coast; and there may be
'bloody currents' on this side of the Cape of Good Hope, as well as on
the other. We've got just so much of a gale and a foul wind to
weather, and the ship will do both quite as well with her head to the
eastward, as with her head to the westward."

All that day the Crisis stood on the starboard tack, dragging through
the raging waters as it might be by violence; and just as night shut
in again, she wore round, once more, with her head to the westward. So
far from abating, the wind increased, and towards evening we found it
necessary to furl our topsail and fore-course. Mere rag of a sail as
the former had been reduced to, with its four reefs in, it was a
delicate job to roll it up. Neb and I stood together in the bunt, and
never did I exert myself more than on that occasion. The foresail,
too, was a serious matter, but we got both sails in without losing
either. Just as the sun set, or as night came to increase the darkness
of that gloomy day, the fore-topmast-staysail went out of the
bolt-rope, with a report that was heard all over the ship;
disappearing in the mist, like a cloud driving in the heavens. A few
minutes later, the mizen-staysail was hauled down in order to prevent
it from travelling the same road. The jerks even this low canvass
occasionally gave the ship, made her tremble from her keel to her
trucks.

For the first time, I now witnessed a tempest at sea. Gales, and
pretty hard ones, I had often seen; but the force of the wind on this
occasion, as much exceeded that in ordinary gales of wind, as the
force of these had exceeded that of a whole-sail breeze. The seas
seemed crushed, the pressure of the swooping atmosphere, as the
currents of the air went howling over the surface of the ocean, fairly
preventing them from rising; or, where a mound of water did appear, it
was scooped up and borne off in spray, as the axe dubs inequalities
from the log. In less than an hour after it began to blow the hardest,
there was no very apparent swell--the deep breathing of the ocean is
never entirely stilled--and the ship was as steady as if hove half
out, her lower yard-arms nearly touching the water, an inclination at
which they remained as steadily as if kept there by purchases. A few
of us were compelled to go as high as the futtock-shrouds to secure
the sails, but higher it was impossible to get. I observed that when I
thrust out a hand to clutch anything, it was necessary to make the
movement in such a direction as to allow for lee-way, precisely as a
boat quarters the stream in crossing against a current. In ascending
it was difficult to keep the feet on the ratlins, and in descending,
it required a strong effort to force the body down towards the centre
of gravity. I make no doubt, had I groped my way up to the
cross-trees, and leaped overboard my body would have struck the water,
thirty or forty yards from the ship. A marlin-spike falling from
either top, would have endangered no one on deck.

When the day returned, a species of lurid, sombre light was diffused
over the watery waste, though nothing was visible but the ocean and
the ship. Even the sea-birds seemed to have taken refuge in the
caverns of the adjacent coast, none re-appearing with the dawn. The
air was full of spray, and it was with difficulty that the eye could
penetrate as far into the humid atmosphere as half a mile. All hands
mustered on deck, as a matter of course, no one wishing to sleep at a
time like that. As for us officers, we collected on the forecastle,
the spot where danger would first make itself apparent, did it come
from the side of the land. It is not easy to make a landsman
understand the embarrassments of our situation. We had had no
observations for several days, and had been moving about by dead
reckoning, in a part of the ocean where the tides run like a
mill-tail, with the wind blowing a little hurricane. Even now, when
her bows were half submerged, and without a stitch of canvass exposed,
the Crisis drove ahead at the rate of three or four knots, luffing as
close to the wind as if she carried after-sail. It was Marble's
opinion that, in such smooth water, do all we could, the vessel would
drive towards the much-dreaded land again, between sun and sun of that
short day, a distance of from thirty to forty miles. "Nor is this all,
Miles," he added to me, in an aside, "I no more like this 'bloody
current,' than that we had over on the other side of the pond, when we
broke our back on the rocks of Madagascar. You never see as smooth
water as this, unless when the wind and current are travelling in the
same direction." I made no reply, but there all four of us, the
captain and his three mates, stood looking anxiously into the vacant
mist on our lee-bow, as if we expected every moment to behold our
homes. A silence of ten minutes succeeded, and I was still gazing in
the same direction, when by a sort of mystic rising of the curtain, I
fancied I saw a beach of long extent, with a dark-looking waste of low
bottom extending inland, for a considerable distance. The beach did
not appear to be distant half a knot, while the ship seemed to glide
along it, as compared with visible objects on shore, at a rate of six
or eight miles the hour. It extended, almost in a parallel line with
our course, too, as far as could be seen, both astern and ahead.

"What a strange delusion is this!" I thought to myself, and turned to
look at my companions, when I found all looking, one at the other, as
if to ask a common explanation.

"There is no mistake here," said captain Williams, quietly. "That is
_land_, gentlemen."

"As true as the gospel," answered Marble, with the sort of steadiness
despair sometimes gives. "What is to be done, sir?"

"What _can_ be done, Mr. Marble?--We have not room to ware, and,
of the two, there seems, so far as I can judge more sea-room ahead
than astern."

This was so apparent, there was no disputing it. We could still see
the land, looking low, chill, and of the hue of November; and we could
also perceive that ahead, if anything, it fell off a little towards
the northward, while astern it seemingly stretched in a due line with
our course. That we passed it with great velocity, too, was a
circumstance that our eyes showed us too plainly to admit of any
mistake. As the ship was still without a rag of sail, borne down by
the wind as she had been for hours, and burying to her hawse-holes
forward, it was only to a racing tide, or current of some sort, that
we could be indebted for our speed. We tried the lead, and got bottom
in six fathoms!

The captain and Marble now held a serious consultation; That the ship
was entering some sort of an estuary was certain, but of what depth,
how far favoured by a holding ground, or how far without any anchorage
at all, were facts that defied our inquiries. We knew that the land
called Terra del Fuego was, in truth, a cluster of islands,
intersected by various channels and passages, into which ships had
occasionally ventured, though their navigation had never led to any
other results than some immaterial discoveries in geography. That we
were entering one of these passages, and under favourable
circumstances, though so purely accidental, was the common belief; and
it only remained to look out for the best anchorage, while we had
day-light. Fortunately, as we drove into the bay, or passage, or what
ever it was, the tempest lifted less spray from the water, and, owing
to this and other causes, the atmosphere gradually grew clearer. By
ten o'clock, we could see fully a league, though I can hardly say that
the wind blew less fiercely than before. As for sea, there was none,
or next to none; the water being as smooth as in a river.

The day drew on, and we began to feel increased uneasiness at the
novelty of our situation. Our hope and expectation were to find some
anchorage; but to obtain this it was indispensable also to find a
lee. As the ship moved forward, we still kept the land in view, on our
starboard hand, but that was a lee, instead of a weather shore; the
last alone could give our ground-tackle any chance, whatever, in such
a tempest. We were drawing gradually away from this shore, too, which
trended more northerly, giving us additional sea-room. The fact that
we were in a powerful tide's way, puzzled us the most. There was but
one mode of accounting for the circumstance. Had we entered a bay, the
current must have been less, and it seemed necessary there should be
some outlet to such a swift accumulation of water. It was not the mere
rising of the water, swelling in an estuary, but an arrow-like
glancing of the element, as it shot through a pass. We had a proof of
this last fact, about eleven o'clock, that admitted of no dispute.
Land was seen directly ahead, at that hour, and great was the panic it
created. A second look, however, reassured us, the land proving to be
merely a rocky islet of some six or eight acres in extent. We gave it
a berth, of course, though we examined closely for an anchorage near
it, as we approached. The islet was too low and too small to make any
lee, nor did we like the looks of the holding-ground. The notion of
anchoring there was consequently abandoned; but we had now some means
of noting our progress. The ship was kept a little away, in order to
give this island a berth, and the gale drove her through the water at
the rate of seven or eight knots. This, however, was far from being
our whole speed, the tide sweeping us onward at a furious rate, in
addition. Even Captain Williams thought we must be passing that rock
at the rate of fifteen knots!

It was noon, and there was no abatement in the tempest, no change in
the current, no means of returning, no chance of stopping; away we
were driven, like events ruled by fate. The only change was the
gradual clearing up of the atmosphere, as we receded from the ocean,
and got farther removed from its mists and spray. Perhaps the power of
the gale had, in a small degree, abated, by two o'clock, and it would
have been possible to carry some short sail; but there being no sea to
injure us, it was unnecessary, and the ship continued to drive ahead,
under bare poles. Night was the time to dread.

There was, now, but one opinion among us, and that was this:--we
thought the ship had entered one of the passages that intersect Terra
del Fuego, and that there was the chance of soon finding a lee, as
these channels were known to be very irregular and winding. To run in
the night seemed impossible; nor was it desirable, as it was almost
certain we should be compelled to return by the way we had entered, to
extricate ourselves from the dangers of so intricate a navigation.
Islands began to appear, moreover, and we had indications that the
main passage itself, was beginning to diminish in width. Under the
circumstances, therefore, it was resolved to get everything ready, and
to let go two anchors, as soon as we could find a suitable spot.
Between the hours of two and four, the ship passed seventeen islets,
some of them quite near; but they afforded no shelter. At last, and it
was time, the sun beginning to fall very low, as we could see by the
waning light, we saw an island of some height and size ahead, and we
hoped it might afford us a lee. The tide had changed too, and that was
in our favour. Turning to windward, however, was out of the question,
since we could carry no sail, and the night was near. Anchor, then, we
must, or continue to drive onward in the darkness, sheered about in
all directions by a powerful adverse current. It is true, this current
would have been a means of safety, by enabling us to haul up from
rocks and dangers ahead, could we carry any canvass; but it still blew
too violently for the last. To anchor, then, it was determined.

I had never seen so much anxiety in Captain Williams's countenance, as
when he was approaching the island mentioned. There was still light
enough to observe its outlines and shores, the last appearing bold and
promising. As the island itself may have been a mile in circuit, it
made a tolerable lee, when close to it. This was then our object, and
the helm was put to starboard as we went slowly past, the tide
checking our speed. The ship sheered into a sort of roadstead--a very
wild one it was--as soon as she had room. It was ticklish work, for no
one could tell how soon we might hit a rock; but we went clear,
luffing quite near to the land, where we let go both bowers at the
same instant. The ship's way had been sufficiently deadened, by
throwing her up as near the wind as she could be got, and there was no
difficulty in snubbing her. The lead gave us seven fathoms, and this
within pistol-shot of the shore. We knew we were temporarily safe. The
great point was to ascertain how the vessel would tend, and with how
much strain upon her cables. To everybody's delight, it was found we
were in a moderate eddy, that drew the ship's stern from the island,
and allowed her to tend to the wind, which still had a fair range from
her top-sail yards to the trucks. Lower down, the tempest scuffled
about, howling and eddying, and whirling first to one side, and then
to the other, in a way to prove how much its headlong impetuosity was
broken and checked by the land. It is not easy to describe the relief
we felt at these happy chances. It was like giving foothold to some
wretch who thought a descent of the precipice was inevitable.

The ship was found to ride easily by one cable, and the hands were
sent to the windlass to heave up the other anchor, as our lead told
us, we had rocks beneath us, and the captain was afraid of the
chafing. The larboard-bower anchor was catted immediately, and there
it was left suspended, with a range of cable overhauled, in readiness
to let go at a moment's notice. After this, the people were told to
get their suppers. As for us officers, we had other things to think
of. The Crisis carried a small quarter-boat, and this was lowered into
the water, the third-mate and myself manned its oars, and away we went
to carry the captain round the ship, in order that he might ascertain
the soundings, should it be necessary to get under way in the
night. The examination was satisfactory, on all points but one; that
of the holding-ground; and we returned to the vessel, having taken
good care to trust ourselves in neither the wind nor the current. An
anchor-watch was set, with a mate on deck, four hours and four hours,
and all hands turned in.

I had the morning watch. What occurred from seven o'clock (the captain
keeping the dog-watches himself,) until a few minutes before four, I
cannot tell in detail, though I understood generally, that the wind
continued to blow in the same quarter, though it gradually diminished
in violence, getting down to something like a mere gale, by midnight.
The ship rode more easily; but, when the flood came in, there was no
longer an eddy, the current sucking round each side of the island in a
very unusual manner. About ten minutes before the hour when it was my
regular watch on deck, all hands were called; I ran on deck, and found
the ship had struck adrift, the cable having parted. Marble had got
the vessel's head up to the wind, under bare poles as before, and we
soon began to heave in the cable. It was found that the mischief had
been done by the rocks, the strands being chafed two-thirds
through. As soon as the current took the vessel's hull with force, the
cable parted. We lost our anchor, of course, for there was no
possible way of getting back to the island at present, or until the
ebb again made.

It wanted several hours of day, and the captain called a council. He
told us, he made no doubt that the ship had got into one of the Terra
del Fuego passages, guided by Providence; and, as he supposed we must
be almost as far south as Staten Land, he was of opinion we had made
an important discovery! Get back we could not, so long as the wind
held where it was, and he was disposed to make sail, and push the
examination of the channel, as far as circumstances would
allow. Captain Williams had a weakness on this point, that was amiable
and respectable perhaps, but which hardly comported with the objects
and prudence of a trading ship-master. We were not surprised,
therefore, at hearing his suggestion; and, in spite of the danger,
curiosity added its impulses to our other motives of acquiescing. We
could not get back as the wind then was, and we were disposed to move
forward. As for the dangers of the navigation, they seemed to be
lessening as we advanced, fewer islands appearing ahead, and the
passage itself grew wider. Our course, however, was more to the
southward bringing the ship close up by the wind, once more.

The morning promised to be lighter than we had found the weather for
several days, and we even experienced some benefit from the moon. The
wind, too, began to back round to the eastward again, as we approached
the dawn; and we got the three top-sails, close-reefed, the
fore-course, and a new fore-top-mast stay-sail, on the ship. At length
day appeared, and the sun was actually seen struggling among dark
masses of wild-looking, driving clouds. For the first time since we
entered those narrow waters, we now got a good look around us. The
land could be seen in all directions.

The passage in which we found the Crisis, at sunrise on the morning of
the second of these adventurous days, was of several leagues in width;
and bounded, especially on the north, by high, precipitous mountains,
many of which were covered with snow. The channel was unobstructed;
and not an island, islet, or rock, was visible. No impediment to our
proceeding offered, and we were still more encouraged to push on. The
course we were steering was about south-south-west, and the captain
predicted we should come out into the ocean to the _westward_ of
the Straits of Le Maire, and somewhere near the Cape itself. We should
unquestionably make a great discovery! The wind continued to back
round, and soon got to be abaft the beam. We now shook our reefs out,
one after another, and we had whole topsails on the vessel by nine
o'clock. This was carrying hard, it must be owned; but the skipper was
determined to make hay while the sun shone. There were a few hours,
when I think the ship went fifteen knots by the land, being so much
favoured by the current. Little did we know the difficulties towards
which we were rushing!

Quite early in the day, land appeared ahead, and Marble began to
predict that our rope was nearly run out. We were coming to the bottom
of a deep bay. Captain Williams thought differently; and when he
discovered a narrow passage between two promontories, he triumphantly
predicted our near approach to the Cape. He had seen some such shape
to the mountains inland, in doubling the Horn, and the hill-tops
looked like old acquaintances. Unfortunately we could not see the sun
at meridian, and got no observation. For several hours we ran
south-westerly, in a passage of no great width, when we came to a
sudden bend in our course, which led us away to the north-west. Here
we still had the tide with us, and we then all felt certain that we
had reached a point where the ebb must flow in a direction contrary to
that in which we had found it, in the other parts of the passage. It
followed, that we were now halfway through to the ocean, though the
course we were steering predicted a sinuous channel. We were certainly
not going now towards Cape Horn.

Notwithstanding the difficulties and doubts which beset us, Captain
Williams packed on the ship, determined to get ahead as fast as he
could, while there was light. It no longer blew a gale, and the wind
was hauling more to the southward again. It soon got to be right aft,
and before sunset it had a little westing in it. Fortunately, it
moderated, and we set our main-sail and top-gallant-sails. We had
carried a lower and top-mast studding-sails nearly all day. The worst
feature in our situation, now, was the vast number of islands, or
islets, we met. The shore on each side was mountainous and rude, and
deep indentations were constantly tempting us to turn aside. But,
rightly judging that the set of the tide was a lair index to the true
course, the captain stood on.

The night that followed was one of the most anxious I ever passed. We
were tempted to anchor a dozen times, in some of the different bays,
of which we passed twenty; but could not make up our minds to risk
another cable. We met the flood a little after sunset, and got rid of
it before morning. But the wind kept hauling, and at last it brought
us fairly on a taut bow-line; under top-gallant-sails, however. We
had come too far to recede, or now would have been the time to turn
round, and retrace our steps. But we hoped every moment to reach some
inclination south, again, that would carry us into the open sea. We
ran a vast many chances of shipwreck, passing frightfully near several
reefs; but the same good Providence which had so far protected us,
carried us clear. Never was I so rejoiced as when I saw day returning.

We had the young ebb, and a scant wind, when the sun rose next day. It
was a brilliant morning, however, and everybody predicted an
observation at noon. The channel was full of islands, still, and other
dangers were not wanting; but, as we could see our way, we got through
them all safely. At length our course became embarrassed, so many
large islands, with passages between them, offering on different
sides. One headland, however, lay before us; and, the ship promising
to weather it, we held on our way. It was just ten o'clock as we
approached this cape, and we found a passage westward that actually
led into the ocean! All hands gave three cheers as we became certain
of this fact, the ship tacking as soon as far enough ahead, and
setting seaward famously with the tide.

Captain Williams now told us to get our quadrants, for the heavens
were cloudless, and we should have a horizon in time for the sun. He
was anxious to get the latitude of our discovery. Sure enough, it so
fell out, and we prepared to observe; some predicting one parallel,
some another. As for the skipper himself, he said he thought we were
still to the eastward of the Cape; but he felt confident that we had
come out to the westward of Le Maire. Marble was silent; but he had
observed, and made his calculations, before either of the others had
commenced the last. I saw him scratch his head, and go to the chart
which lay on the companionway. Then I heard him shout--

"In the Pacific, by St. Kennebunk!"--he always swore by this pious
individual when excited--"We have come through the Straits of Magellan
without knowing it!"

CHAPTER XII.

"Sound trumpets, ho!--weigh anchor--loosen sail--
The seaward-flying banners chide delay;
As if't were heaven that breathes this kindly gale,
Our life-like bark beneath it speeds away.--"
PINKNEY.

The stout ship Crisis had, like certain persons, done a good thing
purely by chance, Had her exploit happened in the year 1519, instead
of that of 1800, the renowned passage we had just escaped from would
have been called the Crisis Straits, a better name than the mongrel
appellation it now bears; which is neither English, nor Portuguese.
The ship had been lost, like a man in the woods, and came out nearer
home, than those in her could have at all expected. The "bloody
currents" had been at the bottom of the mistake, though this time they
did good, instead of harm. Any one who has been thoroughly lost on a
heath, or in a forest, or, even in a town, can comprehend how the head
gets turned on such occasions, and will understand the manner in which
we had mystified ourselves.

I shall remember the feelings of delight with which I looked around
me, as the ship passed out into the open ocean, to my dying day. There
lay the vast Pacific, its long, regular waves rolling in towards the
coast, in mountain-like ridges, it is true, but under a radiant sun,
and in a bright atmosphere. Everybody was cheered by the view, and
never did orders sound more pleasant in my ears, than when the captain
called out, in a cheerful voice, "to man the weather braces." This
command was given the instant it was prudent; and the ship went
foaming past the last cape with the speed of a courser. Studding-sails
were then set, and, when the sun was dipping, we had a good offing,
were driving to the northward under everything we could carry, and had
a fair prospect of an excellent run from the neighbourhood of Terra
del Fuego, and its stormy seas.

It is not my intention to dwell on our passage along the western coast
of South America. A voyage to the Pacific was a very different thing
in the year 1800, however, from what it is to-day. The power of Spain
was then completely in the ascendant, intercourse with any nation but
the mother country, being strictly prohibited. It is true, a species
of commerce, that was called the "forced trade on the Spanish Main"
existed under that code of elastic morals, which adapts the maxim of
"your purse or your life" to modern diplomacy, as well as to the
habits of the highwayman. According to divers masters in the art of
ethics now flourishing among ourselves, more especially in the
atmosphere of the journals of the commercial communities, the people
that "_can_ trade and _won't_ trade, _must be made to trade_." At the
commencement of the century, your mercantile moralists were far less
manly in the avowal of their sentiments, though their practices were
in no degree wanting in the spirit of our more modern theories. Ships
were fitted out, armed, and navigated, on this just principle, quite
as confidently and successfully as if the tongue had declared all that
the head had conceived.

Guarda-Costas were the arguments used, on the other side of this
knotty question, by the authorities of Spain; and a very insufficient
argument, on the whole, did they prove to be. It is an old saying,
that vice is twice as active as virtue; the last sleeping, while the
former is hard at work. If this be true of things in general, it is
thrice true as regards smugglers and custom-house officers. Owing to
this circumstance, and sundry other causes, it is certain that English
and American vessels found the means of plundering the inhabitants of
South America, at the period of which I am writing, without having
recourse to the no longer reputable violence of Dampier, Wood, Rogers,
or Drake. As I feel bound to deal honestly with the reader, whatever I
may have done by the Spanish laws, I shall own that we made one or two
calls, as we proceeded north, shoving ashore certain articles
purchased in London, and taking on board dollars, in return for our
civility. I do not know whether I am bound, or not, to apologize for
my own agency in these irregular transactions--regular, would be quite
as apposite a word--for, had I been disposed to murmur, it would have
done my morals no good, nor the smuggling any harm. Captain Williams
was a silent man, and it was not easy to ascertain precisely what he
_thought_ on the subject of smuggling; but, in the way of
_practice_, I never saw any reason to doubt that he was a firm
believer in the doctrine of Free Trade. As for Marble, he put me in
mind of a certain renowned editor of a well-known New York journal,
who evidently thinks that all things in heaven and earth, sun, moon,
and stars, the void above and the caverns beneath us, the universe, in
short, was created to furnish materials for newspaper paragraphs; the
worthy mate, just as confidently believing that coasts, bays, inlets,
roadsteads and havens, were all intended by nature, as means to run
goods ashore wherever the duties, or prohibitions, rendered it
inconvenient to land them in the more legal mode. Smuggling, in his
view of the matter, was rather more creditable than the regular
commerce, since it required greater cleverness.

I shall not dwell on the movements of the Crisis, for the five months
that succeeded her escape from the Straits of Magellan. Suffice it to
say, that she anchored at as many different points on the coast; that
all which came up the main-hatch, went ashore; and all that came over
the bulwarks, was passed down into the run. We were chased by
_guarda-costas_ seven times, escaping from them on each occasion,
with ease; though we had three little running fights. I observed that
Captain Williams was desirous of engaging these emissaries of the law,
as easily as possible, ordering us to fire altogether at their
spars. I have since thought that this moderation proceeded from a
species of principle that is common enough--a certain half-way code of
right and wrong--which encouraged him to smuggle, but which caused him
to shrink from taking human life. Your half-way rogues are the bane of
honesty.

After quitting the Spanish coast, altogether, we proceeded north, with
the laudable intention of converting certain quantities of
glass-beads, inferior jack-knives, frying-pans, and other homely
articles of the same nature, into valuable furs. In a word, we shaped
our course for that district which bids fair to set the mother and
daughter by the ears, one of these days, unless it shall happen to be
disposed of _a la Texas_, or, what is almost as bad, _a la
Maine_, ere long. At that time the whole north-west coast was
unoccupied by white men, and I felt no scruples about trading with the
natives who presented themselves with their skins as soon as we had
anchored, believing that they had the best right to the country and
its products. We passed months in this traffic, getting, at every
point where we stopped, something to pay us for our trouble.

We went as far north as 53 degrees, and that is pretty much all I ever knew
of our last position. At the time, I thought we had anchored in a bay
on the main land, but I have since been inclined to think it was in
one of the many islands that line that broken coast. We got a very
secure berth, having been led to it by a native pilot who boarded us
several leagues at sea, and who knew enough English to persuade our
captain that he could take us to a point where sea-otter skins might
be had for the asking. Nor did the man deceive us, though a more
unpromising-looking guide never had charge of smuggling Christians. He
carried us into a very small bay, where we found plenty of water,
capital holding-ground, and a basin as smooth as a dock. But one
wind--that which blew from the north-west--could make any impression
on it, and the effects of even that were much broken by a small island
that lay abreast of the entrance; leaving good passages, on each side
of it, out to sea. The basin itself was rather small, it is true, but
it did well enough for a single ship. Its diameter may have been three
hundred yards, and I never saw a sheet of natural water that was so
near a circle. Into a place like this, the reader will imagine, we did
not venture without taking the proper precautions. Marble was sent in
first, to reconnoitre and sound, and it was on his report that Captain
Williams ventured to take the ship in.

At that time, ships on the North-West Coast had to use the greatest
precautions against the treachery and violence of the natives. This
rendered the size of our haven the subject of distrust; for, lying in
the middle of it, where we moored, we were barely an arrow's flight
from the shore, in every direction but that which led to the narrow
entrance. It was a most secure anchorage, as against the dangers of
the sea, but a most insecure one as against the dangers of the
savages. This we all felt, as soon as our anchors were down; but,
intending to remain only while we bartered for the skins which we had
been told were ready for the first ship that should offer, we trusted
to vigilance as our safeguard in the interval.

I never could master the uncouth sounds of the still more uncouth
savages of that distant region. The fellow who carried us in had a
name of his own, doubtless, but it was not to be pronounced by a
Christian tongue, and he got the _sobriquet_ of the Dipper from
us, owing to the manner in which he ducked at the report of our
muskets, which had been discharged by Marble merely with the intention
to renew the cartridges. We had hardly got into the little basin,
before the Dipper left us, returning in an hour, however, with a canoe
loaded to the water's edge, with beautiful skins, and accompanied by
three savages as wild-looking, seemingly as fierce, and certainly as
avaricious as he was himself. These auxiliaries, through various
little circumstances, were known among us that same afternoon, by the
several appellations of Smudge, Tin-pot, and Slit-nose. These were not
heroic names, of a certainty, but their owners had as little of the
heroic in their appearance, as usually falls to the lot of man in the
savage state. I cannot tell the designation of the tribes to which
these four worthies belonged, nor do I know any more of their history
and pursuits than the few facts which came under my own immediate
observation. I did ask some questions of the captain, with a view to
obtain a few ideas on this subject, but all he knew was, that these
people put a high value on blankets, beads, gun-powder, frying-pans,
and old hoops, and that they set a remarkably low price on sea-otter
skins, as well as on the external coverings of sundry other
animals. An application to Mr. Marble was still less successful,
being met by the pithy answer that he was "no naturalist, and knew
nothing about these critturs, or any wild beasts, in general."
Degraded as the men certainly were, however, we thought them quite
good enough to be anxious to trade with them. Commerce, like misery,
sometimes makes a man acquainted with strange bed-fellows.

I had often seen our own Indians after they had become degraded by
their intercourse with the whites and the use of rum, but never had I
beheld any beings so low in the scale of the human race, as the
North-Western savages appeared to be. They seemed to me to be the
Hottentots of our own continent. Still they were not altogether
without the means of commanding our respect. As physical men they were
both active and strong, and there were gleams of ferocity about them,
that all their avarice and art could not conceal. I could not
discover in their usages, dress, or deportment, a single trace of that
chivalrous honour which forms so great a relief to the well-established
cruelty of the warrior of our own part of the continent. Then, these
sea-otter dealers had some knowledge of the use of fire-arms, and were
too well acquainted with the ships of us civilized men to have any
superstitious dread of our power.

The Dipper, and his companions, sold us one hundred and thirty-three
sea-otter skins the very afternoon we anchored. This, of itself, was
thought to be a sufficient reward for the trouble and risk of coming
into this unknown basin. Both parties seemed pleased with the results
of the trading, and we were given to understand that, by remaining at
anchor, we might hope for six or eight times our present number of
skins. Captain Williams was greatly gratified with the success with
which he had already met, and having found that all the Dipper had
promised came true, he determined to remain a day or two, in his
present berth, in order to wait for more bargains. This resolution was
no sooner communicated to the savages than they expressed their
delight, sending off Tin-pot and Slit-nose with the intelligence,
while the Dipper and Smudge remained in the ship, apparently on terms
of perfect good-fellowship with everybody on board. The gentry of the
North-West Coast being flagrant thieves, however, all hands had orders
to keep a good look-out on our two guests, Captain Williams expressing
his intention to flog them soundly, should they be detected in any of
their usual light-fingered dexterity.

Marble and myself observed that the canoe, in which the messengers
left us, did not pull out to sea, but that it entered a small stream,
or creek, that communicated with the head of the bay. As there was no
duty on board, we asked the captain's permission to explore this spot;
and, at the same time, to make a more thorough examination of our
haven, generally. The request being granted, we got into the yawl,
with four men, all of us armed, and set out on our little
expedition. Smudge, a withered, grey-headed old Indian, with muscles
however that resembled whip-cord, was alone on deck, when this
movement took place. He watched our proceedings narrowly, and, when he
saw us descend into the boat, he very coolly slipped down the ship's
side, and took his place in the stern-sheets, with as much quiet
dignity as if he had been captain. Marble was a good deal of a ship's
martinet in such matters, and he did not more than half like the
familiarity and impudence of the procedure.

"What say you, Miles," he asked, a little sharply, "shall we take this
dried ourang-outang ashore with us, or shall we try to moisten him a
little, by throwing him overboard'!"

"Let him go, by all means, Mr. Marble. I dare say the man wishes to be
of use, and he has only a bad manner of showing it."

"Of use! He is worth no more than the carcase of a whale that has been
stripped of its blubber. I say, Miles, there would be no need of the
windlass to heave the blanket off of this fish!"

This professional witticism put Marble in good humour with himself,
and he permitted the fellow to remain. I remember the thoughts that
passed through my mind, as the yawl pulled towards the creek, on that
occasion, as well as if it had all occurred yesterday. I sat looking
at the semi-human being who was seated opposite, wondering at the
dispensation of Divine Providence which could leave one endowed with a
portion of the ineffable; nature of the Deity, in a situation so
degraded. I had seen beasts in cages that appeared to me to be quite
as intelligent, and members of the diversified family of human
caricatures, or of the baboons and monkeys, that I thought were quite
as agreeable objects to the eye. Smudge seemed to be almost without
ideas. In his bargains, he had trusted entirely to the vigilance of
the Dipper, whom we supposed to be some sort of a relation; and the
articles he received in exchange for his skins, failed to arouse in
his grim, vacant countenance, the smallest signs of pleasure. Emotion
and he, if they had been acquainted, now appeared to be utter
strangers to each other; nor was this apathy in the least like the
well-known stoicism of the American Indian; but had the air of
downright insensibility. Yet this man assuredly had a soul, a spark of
the never-dying flame that separates man from all the other beings of
earth!

The basin in which the Crisis lay was entirely fringed with
forest. The trees in most places even overhung the water, forming an
impenetrable screen to everything inland, at the season when they were
in leaf. Not a sign of a habitation of any sort was visible; and, as
we approached the shore, Marble remarked that the savages could only
resort to the place at the moments when they had induced a ship to
enter, in order to trade with them.

"No--no," added the mate, turning his head in all directions, in order
to take a complete survey of the bay; "there are no wigwams, or
papooses, hereabouts. This is only a trading-post; and luckily for us,
it is altogether without custom-house officers."

"Not without smugglers, I fancy, Mr. Marble, if contriving to get
other people's property without their knowledge, can make a
smuggler. I never saw a more thorough-looking thief than the chap we
have nick-named the Dipper. I believe he would swallow one of our
iron spoons, rather than not get it!"

"Ay, there's no mistake about him, 'Master Mile,' as Neb calls
you. But this fellow here, hasn't brains enough to tell his own
property from that of another man. I would let him into our
bread-lockers, without any dread of his knowing enough to eat. I never
saw such a vacancy in a human form; a down-east idiot would wind him
up in a trade, as handily as a pedlar sets his wooden clocks in
motion."

Such was Marble's opinion of the sagacity of Mr. Smudge; and, to own
the truth, such, in a great measure, was my own. The men laughed at
the remarks--seamen are a little apt to laugh at chief-mates' wit--and
their looks showed how thoroughly they coincided with us in
opinion. All this time, the boat had been pushing ahead, and it soon
reached the mouth of the little creek.

We found the inlet deep, but narrow and winding. Like the bay itself,
it was fringed with trees and bushes, and this in a way to render it
difficult to get a view of anything on the land; more especially as
the banks were ten or fifteen feet in height. Under the circumstances,
Marble proposed that we should land on both sides of the creek, and
follow its windings on foot, for a short distance, in order to get a
better opportunity to reconnoitre. Our dispositions were soon
made. Marble and one of the boat's crew, each armed, landed on one
side of the inlet, while Neb and myself, similarly provided, went
ashore on the other. The two remaining men were ordered to keep
abreast of us in the boat, in readiness to take us on board again, as
soon as required.

"Leave that Mr. Smudge in the boat, Miles," Marble called out across
the creek, as I was about to put foot on the ground. I made a sign to
that effect to the savage, but when I reached the level ground on the
top of the bank, I perceived the fellow was at my elbow. It was so
difficult to make such a creature understand one's wishes, without the
aid of speech, that, after a fruitless effort or two to send him back
by means of signs, I abandoned the attempt, and moved forward, so as
to keep the whole party in the desired line. Neb offered to catch the
old fellow in his arms, and to carry him down to the yawl; but I
thought it more prudent to avoid anything like violence. We proceeded,
therefore, accompanied by this escort.

There was nothing, however, to excite alarm, or awaken distrust. We
found ourselves in a virgin forest, with all its wildness, dampness,
gloomy shadows, dead and fallen trees, and unequal surface. On my side
of the creek, there was not the smallest sign of a foot-path; and
Marble soon called out to say, he was equally without any evidences of
the steps of man. I should think we proceeded quite a mile in this
manner, certain that the inlet would be a true guide on our return. At
length a call from the boat let us know there was no longer water
enough to float it, and that it could proceed no farther. Marble and
myself descended the banks at the same moment, and were taken in,
intending to return in the yawl. Smudge glided back to his old place,
with his former silence.

"I told you to leave the ourang-outang behind," Marble carelessly
observed, as he took his own seat, after assisting in getting the boat
round, with its head towards the bay. "I would rather have a
rattlesnake for a pet, than such a cub."

"It is easier said than done, sir. Master Smudge stuck to me as close
as a leech."

"The fellow seems all the better for his walk--I never saw him look
half as amiable as he does at this moment."

Of course this raised a laugh, and it induced me to look round. For
the first time, I could detect something like a human expression in
the countenance of Smudge, who seemed to experience some sensation a
little akin to satisfaction.

"I rather think he had taken it into his head we were about to desert
the coppers," I remarked, "and fancied he might lose his supper. Now,
he must see we are going back, he probably fancies he will go to bed
on a full stomach."

Marble assented to the probability of this conjecture, and the
conversation changed. It was matter of surprise to us that we had met
no traces of anything like a residence near the creek, not the
smallest sign of man having been discovered by either. It was
reasonable to expect that some traces of an encampment, at least,
would have been found. Everybody kept a vigilant look-out at the
shore as we descended the creek; but, as on the ascent, not even a
foot-print was detected.

On reaching the bay, there being still several hours of day-light, we
made its entire circuit, finding nowhere any proof of the former
presence of man. At length, Marble proposed pulling to the small
wooded island that lay a little without the entrance of the haven,
suggesting that it was possible the savages might have something like
an encampment there, the place being more convenient as a look-out
into the offing, than any point within the bay itself. In order to do
this, it was necessary to pass the ship; and we were hailed by the
captain, who wished to know the result of our examinations. As soon as
he learned our present object, he told us to come alongside, intending
to accompany us to the island in person. On getting into the boat,
which was small and a little crowded by the presence of Smudge,
Captain Williams made a sign for that personage to quit the yawl. He
might as well have intimated as much to one of the thwarts! Laughing
at the savage's stupidity, or obstinacy, we scarce knew which to term
it, the boat was shoved off, and we pulled through the entrance, two
hundred yards outside perhaps, until our keel grated against the low
rocks of this islet.

There was no difficulty in landing; and Neb, who preceded the party,
soon gave a shout, the proof that he had made some discovery. Every
man among us now looked to his arms, expecting to meet an encampment
of savages; but we were disappointed. All that the negro had
discovered were the unequivocal traces of a former bivouac; and,
judging from a few of the signs, that of no very recent
occupation. The traces were extensive, covering quite half of the
interior of the island; leaving an extensive curtain of trees and
bushes, however, so as completely to conceal the spot from any eyes
without. Most of the trees had been burnt down, as we at first
thought, in order to obtain fuel; but, farther examination satisfied
us, that it had been done as much by accident, as by design.

At first, nothing was discovered in this encampment, which had every
appearance of not having been extensively used for years, though the
traces of numerous fires, and the signs of footsteps, and a spring in
the centre, indicated the recent occupation, of which I have just
spoken. A little further scrutiny, however, brought to light certain
objects that we did not note without much wonder and concern. Marble
made the first discovery. It was impossible for seamen to mistake the
object, which was the head of a rudder, containing the tiller-hole,
and which might have belonged to a vessel of some two hundred and
fifty, or three hundred tons. This set all hands of us at work, and,
in a few minutes we found, scattered about, fragments of plank,
top-timbers, floor-timbers, and other portions of a ship, all more or
less burnt, and stripped of every particle of metal. Even the nails
had been drawn by means of perseverance and labour. Nothing was left
but the wood, which proved to be live-oak, cedar and locust, the
proofs that the unfortunate craft had been a vessel of some value. We
wanted no assurance of this, however, as none but a North-West trader
could well have got as high up the coast, and all vessels of that
class were of the best description. Then the locust, a wood unknown to
the ship-builders of Europe, gave us the nearly certain assurance that
this doomed craft had been a countryman.

At first, we were all too much occupied with our interesting discovery
to bethink us of Smudge. At length, I turned to observe its effect on
the savage. He evidently noted our proceedings; but his feelings, if
the creature had any, were so deeply buried beneath the mask of
dullness, as completely to foil my penetration. He saw us take up
fragment after fragment, examine them, heard us converse over them,
though in a language he could not understand, and saw us throw them
away, one after another, with seemingly equal indifference. At length
he brought a half-burned billet to the captain, and held it before his
eyes, as if he began to feel some interest in our proceedings. It
proved to be merely a bit of ordinary wood, a fragment of one of the
beeches of the forest that lay near an extinguished pile; and the act
satisfied us all, the fellow did not comprehend the reason of the
interest we betrayed. He clearly knew nothing of the strange vessel.

In walking around this deserted encampment, the traces of a pathway to
the shore were found. They were too obvious to be mistaken, and led us
to the water in the passage opposite to that by which the Crisis had
been carried in by the Dipper, and at a point that was not in view
from her present anchorage. Here we found a sort of landing, and many
of the heavier pieces of the wreck; such as it had not been thought
necessary to haul up to the fires, having no metal about them. Among
other things of this sort, was a portion of the keel quite thirty feet
long, the keelson bolts, keelson, and floor-timbers all attached. This
was the only instance in which we discovered any metal; and this we
found, only because the fragment was too strong and heavy to be
manageable. We looked carefully, in all directions, in the hope of
discovering something that might give us an insight into the nature of
the disaster that had evidently occurred, but, for some time without
success. At length I strolled to a little distance from the landing,
and took a seat on a flat stone, which had been placed on the living
rock that faced most of the island, evidently to form a
resting-place. My seat proved unsteady, and in endeavouring to adjust
it more to my mind, I removed the stone, and discovered that it rested
on a common log-slate. This slate was still covered with legible
writing, and I soon had the whole party around me, eager to learn the
contents. The melancholy record was in these precise words: viz.--

"The American brig Sea-Otter, John Squires, master, _coaxed_ into
this bay, June 9th, 1797, and seized by savages, on the morning of the
11th. Master, second-mate, and seven of the people killed on the
spot. Brig gutted first, then hauled up _here_, and burnt to the
water's edge for the iron. David King, first-mate, and six others,
viz., George Lunt, Henry Webster, Stephen Stimpson and John Harris,
seamen, Bill Flint, cook, and Peter Doolittle, boy, still living, but
God only knows what is to be our fate. I shall put this slate beneath
the stone I now sit on, in the hope it may one day let our friends
learn what has happened."--

We looked at each other, astounded. Both the captain and Marble
remembered to have heard that a brig in this trade, called the
Sea-Otter, was missing; and, here, by a communication that was little
short of miraculous, we were let into the secret of her disappearance.

"_Coaxed_ in--" repeated the captain, running his eye over the
writing, which had been thus singularly preserved, and that, in a
situation where one would think it might have been discovered a
thousand times.--"Yes, yes--I now begin to understand the whole
matter. If there were any wind, gentlemen, I would go to sea this very
night."

"That would be hardly worth our while, Captain Williams," the
chief-mate answered, "since we are now on our guard, and I feel pretty
certain that there are no savages in our neighbourhood. So far, the
Dipper and his friends have traded with us fairly enough, and it is
likely they have more skins to dispose of. This chap, whom the people
have christened Smudge, takes matters so coolly, that I hardly think
he knows anything about the Sea-Otter, which may have been cut off by
another gang, altogether."

There was good reason in these remarks, and they had their effect on
the captain. The latter, however, determined to put Smudge to the
proof, by showing him the slate, and otherwise bringing him under such
a cross-examination as signs alone could effect. I dare say, an
indifferent spectator would have laughed at witnessing our efforts to
confound the Indian. We made grimaces, pointed, exclaimed, hallooed,
swore, and gesticulated in vain. Smudge was as unmoved at it all, as
the fragment of keel to which he was confronted. The fellow either did
not, or would not understand us. His stupidity defied our tests; and
Marble gave the matter up in despair, declaring that "the beast knows
nothing of anything, much less of the Sea-Otter." As for the slate, he
did not seem to have the smallest notion what such a thing meant.

We returned to the ship, carrying with us the slate, and the report of
our discoveries. All hands were called, and the captain made us a
speech. It was sufficiently to the point, though it was not in the
least, of the "God-like" character. We were told how ships were lost
by the carelessness of their crews; reminded we were on the North-West
Coast, where a vessel with a few boxes of beads and bales of blankets,
to say nothing of her gunpowder, firearms, and metals, was as
valuable, as a vessel laden with gold dust would be in one of our own
ports. Vigilance, while on watch, and obedience to the orders of the
vessel, in the event of an alarm, were the principal things dwelt
on. By observing these two great requisites, we should all be safe
enough; whereas, by disregarding them, we should probably share the
fate of the people of the brig, of which we had just discovered some
of the remains.

I will confess, I passed an uncomfortable night. An unknown enemy is
always a formidable enemy; and I would rather have fought three
_guarda-costas_ at once, than lie where we did, in a bay as
smooth as a looking-glass, surrounded by forests as silent as a
desert, and in a well-armed ship, that was prepared at all points, to
meet her foes, even to her boarding-nettings.

Nothing came of it all. The Dipper and Smudge eat their supper with
the appetites of injured innocence, and slept like tops. If guilty, we
all agreed that they must be utterly destitute of consciences. As for
ourselves, we were on the alert until near morning, the very moment
when the danger would probably be the greatest, provided there were
any at all; and then weariness overcame all who were not on the
look-out, and some who were. Still, nothing happened. The sun returned
to us in due season, gilding the tree-tops with its beams; our little
bay began to bask in its glory, and with the cheerfulness that usually
accompanies such a scene, vanished most of our apprehensions for the
moment. A night of reflection had quieted our fears, and we all woke
up next morning, as indifferent to the fate of the Sea-Otter, as was
at all decent.

CHAPTER XIII.

"The monarch mind--the mystery of commanding,
The godlike power--the art Napoleon,
Of winning, fettering, moulding, wielding, banding
The hearts of millions, till they move as one;
Thou hast it."
HALLECK--_Red Jacket_.

Smudge and the Dipper behaved admirably all next day. Beef, pork and
bread--those great desiderata of life, which the European is apt to
say form the _primum mobile_ of American existence--seemed to
engross their thoughts; and when they were not eating, they were busy
with sleep. At length we grew ashamed of watching such mere animals,
and turned our thoughts to other subjects. We had understood the
Dipper, that eight-and-forty hours must elapse before we might expect
to see any more skins; and Captain Williams, passing from alarm to
extreme security, determined to profit by a lovely day, and send down,
or rather strip, all three of the top-masts, and pay some necessary
attention to their rigging. At nine o'clock, accordingly, the hands
were turned-to, and before noon the ship was pretty thoroughly _en
deshabille_. We sent as little down as possible, keeping even the
top-sail-yards aloft, though without their lifts or braces, steadying
them by guys; but the top-masts were lowered as far as was found
possible, without absolutely placing the lower yards on the
hammock-cloths. In a word, we put the ship in the most unmanageable
position, without absolutely littering our decks. The security of the
haven, and the extreme beauty of the weather, emboldened the captain
to do this; apprehension of every sort appearing to have quite taken
leave of him.

The work proceeded merrily. We had not only a strong crew, but we had
a good crew; and our Philadelphians were in their element, the moment
there was a question of the rigging. By sunset, the chafes were
examined, and parcelled, and served anew; and the top-mast rigging was
all got up and put over the mast-heads again, and everything was ready
to sway upon in the morning. But an uncommonly active day required a
good night's rest; and the people were all ordered to turn in, as soon
as they had supped. The ship was to be left to the vigilance of the
captain and the three mates, during the night.

The anchor-watch was set at eight, and ran from two hours, to two
hours. My turn commenced at midnight, and was to last until two;
Marble succeeding me from two until four, when all hands were to be
called to get our sticks aloft. When I turned out at twelve, I found
the third-mate conversing, as well as he could, with the Dipper; who,
with Smudge, having slept so much of the day, appeared disposed to
pass the night in smoking.

"How long have these fellows been on deck?" I asked of the third-mate,
as he was about to go below.

"All my watch; I found them with the captain, who passed them over to
me for company. If that chap, the Dipper, only knew anything of a
human language, he would be something of society; but I'm as tired of
making signs to him, as I ever was with a hard day's work."

I was armed, and felt ashamed of manifesting fear of an unarmed
man. Then the two savages gave no additional cause of distrust; the
Dipper having taken a seat on the windlass, where he was smoking his
pipe with an appearance of philosophy that would have done credit to
the gravest-looking baboon. As for Smudge, he did not appear to be
sufficiently intellectual to smoke; an occupation that has at least
the merit of affecting the air of wisdom and reflection. I never could
discover whether your great smokers were actually wiser than the rest
of the race, or not; but, it will be admitted, they occasionally seem
to be so. It was a pity Smudge did not have recourse to the practice,
as it might have given the fellow an appearance of sometimes
cogitating. As it was, while his companion was enjoying his pipe at
the windlass, he kept strolling about the deck, much as a pig would
have wandered in the same place, and seemingly with the same object.

I took charge of the decks with a very lively sense of the peculiarity
of our situation. The security that prevailed on board struck me as
unnatural; and yet I could detect no particular reason for immediate
alarm. I might be thrown overboard or murdered by the two savages on
deck, it was very true; but of what use would it be to destroy me,
since they could not hope to destroy all the rest on board without
being discovered. The night was star-lit, and there was little chance
of a canoe's approaching the ship without my seeing it; a circumstance
that, of itself, in a great measure, removed the danger. I passed the
first quarter of an hour in reflecting on these things; and then, as
use accustomed me to my situation, I began to think less of them, and
to revert to other subjects.

Clawbonny, Grace, Lucy, and Mr. Hardinge, often rose before my mind's
eye, in those distant seas. It was seldom I passed a tranquil watch at
night, without revisiting the scenes of my boyhood, and wandering
through my own fields, accompanied by my beloved sister, and her quite
as well beloved friend. How many hours of happiness had I thus passed
on the trackless wastes of the Pacific and the Atlantic; and with how
much fidelity did memory recall the peculiar graces, whether of body
or mind, of each of the dear girls in particular! Since my recent
experience in London, Emily Merton would occasionally adorn the
picture, with her more cultivated discourse and more finished manner;
and yet I do not remember to have ever given her more than a third
place on the scale of my admiration.

On the present occasion I was soon lost in ruminations on the past,
and in imagining events for the future. I was not particularly expert
at building castles in the air; but what youth of twenty, or maiden of
sixteen, never reared some sort of a fabric of this nature? These
fanciful structures are the results of inexperience building with the
materials of hope. In my most imaginative moments, I could even fancy
Rupert an industrious, staid lawyer, adorning his profession, and
rendering both Lucy and Grace happy. Beyond this, it was not easy for
the human faculties to conceive.

Lucy sang sweetly. At times, her songs fairly haunted me, and for
hours I could think of nothing but their tender sentiment and their
touching melody. I was no nightingale myself, though I sometimes
endeavoured to hum some one of the airs that floated in my
recollection, like beautiful visions of the past. This night, in
particular, my thoughts recurred to one of these songs that told of
affection and home; and I stood, for several minutes, leaning over the
railing forward, humming the tune to myself, while I endeavoured to
recall not only the words, but the sweet voice that was wont to give
them so much thrilling pathos. I did this sometimes at Clawbonny; and
time and again had Lucy placed her soft little hand on my mouth, as
she would laughingly say, "Miles, Miles! do not spoil so pretty a
song! You will never succeed with music, so work the harder with your
Latin." Sometimes she would steal behind me--I fancied I could hear
her breathing at my shoulder, even as I leaned over the rail--and
would apply her hand slyly to my lips, in her many attempts of this
nature. So vivid did one of these scenes become, that I thought I
really felt the soft smooth hand on my mouth, and I was actually about
to kiss it, when something that was smooth enough, certainly, but
which was very far from being soft, passed between my teeth, and I
felt it drawn so tight as completely to prevent my calling out. At the
same moment, my arms were seized from behind, and held as if grasped
by a vice. Turning, as well as I was able, I found that rascal Smudge
had been breathing within an inch of my ear, while he passed the gag;
and the Dipper was busy in lashing my arms together behind my
back. The whole had been done so suddenly, and yet with so much skill,
that I was a helpless prisoner, as it might be, in a single instant!

Resistance being as much out of my power as it was to give any alarm,
I was soon secured, hands and feet, and placed carefully in the waist,
a little out of the way; for I probably owed my life solely to the
wish of Smudge to keep me as his slave. From that instant every
appearance of stupidity vanished from this fellow's countenance and
manner, and he became the moving spirit, and I might say the soul, of
all the proceedings of his companions. As for myself, there I sat,
lashed to a spar, utterly unable to help myself, an unwilling witness
of all that followed. I felt the imminent danger of our situation, but
I think I felt the disgrace of having such a surprise occur in my
watch, more even than the personal risks I ran!

In the first place, I was disarmed. Then, the Dipper took a lantern
which stood on the binnacle, lighted it, and showed it, for half a
minute, above the taffrail. His signal must have been instantly
answered, for he soon extinguished the light, and moved about the
deck, in attentive watchfulness to seize any straggler, who might
happen to come on deck. Little fear of that, however, weariness
chaining the men to their berths as closely as if they had been bolted
down with iron. I now expected to see the fellows fill the yawl with
effects, and run away with them, for, as yet, I could not believe that
two men would have the hardihood to attack such a ship's company as
ours.

I reckoned without my host. It might have been ten minutes after I was
seized, that dark-looking figures began to climb the ship's sides,
until more than thirty of them were on her decks. This was done so
noiselessly, too, that the most vigilant attention on my part gave no
notice of their approach, until they stood among us. All these men
were armed; a few with muskets; others with clubs, and some with bows
and arrows. So far as I could discover, each had some sort of a knife,
and a few had hatchets, or tomahawks. To my great regret, I saw that
three or four were immediately stationed at the companion-way, aft,
and as many more at the booby-hatch, forward. This was effectually
commanding the only two passages by which the officers and men would
be likely to ascend, in the event of their attempting to come on
deck. It is true, the main hatch, as well as that of the steerage, was
used by day, but both had been covered over night, and no one would
think of using either, unless aware of the danger that existed on
deck.

I suffered a good deal, both from the gag and the ropes that bound my
limbs, and yet I hardly thought of the pain, so intense was my
curiosity as to what was to follow. After the savages were all on
board, the first quarter of an hour passed in making their
dispositions, Smudge, the stupid, inanimate, senseless Smudge, acting
as leader, and manifesting not only authority, but readiness and
sagacity. He placed all his people in ambush, so that, one appearing
from below, would not at once be apprized of the change that had taken
place on deck, and thus give the savages time to act. After this,
another quarter of an hour passed, during which the fall of a pin
might almost have been heard, so profound was the silence. I shut my
eyes in this terrific interval, and endeavoured to pray.

"On deck, here--forward, there!" said a voice suddenly, that, at once,
I knew to be the captain's. I would have given the world to be able to
answer, in order to warn him of the danger, but this was impossible. I
did groan, and I believe the captain heard me; for he moved away from
the cabin-door, and called out "Mr. Wallingford--where have you got
to, Mr. Wallingford?" He was without his hat, having come on deck
half-clad, simply to ascertain how went the night, and it makes me
shudder, even now, to write about the blow that fell on his
unprotected skull. It would have felled an ox, and it crushed him on
the spot. The caution of his murderers prevented his falling, however,
for they did not wish to alarm the sleepers below; though the plash on
the water that followed, could not fail to reach ears which took in
every sound with the avidity of mine. Thus perished Captain Williams,
a mild, well-meaning man, an excellent seaman, and one whose principal
fault was want of caution. I do not think the water was necessary to
complete his fate, as nothing human could have survived such a blow.

Smudge had been the principal actor in this frightful scene; and, as
soon as it was over, he caused his men to return to their ambushes. I
now thought the officers and men were to be murdered, in this manner,
as one by one they appeared on deck. It would soon be time for Marble
to turn out, though there was the hope he might not unless called, and
I could not do this office, situated as I was. But, I was
mistaken. Instead of enticing any men on deck, the savages pursued a
different course. Having destroyed the captain, they closed the doors
of the companion-way, drew over the booby-hatch, and adopted the safe
expedient of making all below prisoners. This was not done altogether
without noise, and the alarm was evidently given by the means taken to
secure the fastenings. I heard a rush at the cabin-doors, which was
soon followed by one at the booby-hatch; but Smudge's ingenuity had
been sufficient to prevent either from being successful.

As soon as certain that their prisoners were safe, the savages came
and loosened the ropes of my arms sufficiently to put me more at my
ease. They removed those which bound my feet entirely, and, at the
same instant, the gag was taken from my mouth. I was then led to the
companionway, and, by a sign, given to understand I might communicate
with my friends below. In the management of all this, I found that
Smudge, the semi-human, dull, animal-seeming Smudge, was at the
head. I also came to the conclusion my life was to be spared, for a
time at least, and for some purpose that, as yet, baffled my
conjectures. I did not call out immediately, but waited until I heard
a movement on the ladder, when I complied with the orders of my
captors and masters.

"Mr. Marble," I cried, loud enough to be heard below, "is that you?"

"Ay, ay--and is that you, Master Miles?"

"This is I. Be cautious how you act, Mr. Marble. The savages are in
possession of the upper deck, and I am their prisoner. The people are
all below, with a strong watch at the fore-scuttle."

I heard a long, low whistle, within the companion-way doors, which it
was easy enough to interpret into an expression of the chief-mate's
concern and wonder. For myself, I saw no use in attempting
concealment, but was resolved to speak out fully, even though it might
be at the risk of betraying some of my feelings to my captors, among
whom I thought it probable there might be more than one who understood
something of English.

"We miss Captain Williams below here," Marble resumed, after a short
delay. "Do you know anything of his movements?"

"Alas! Mr. Marble--poor Captain Williams can be of no service to any
of us, now."

"What of him?" was demanded in a clear, full voice and as quick as
lightning. "Let me know, at once."

"He has been killed by a blow from a club, and is thrown overboard."

A dead silence followed, and it lasted near a minute.

"Then it has fallen to my duty to decide what is to be done!" Marble
at length exclaimed. "Miles, are you at liberty?--dare you say what
you think?"

"I am held here, by two of the savages, whose prisoner I certainly
am. Still, Mr. Marble, they encourage me to speak, but I fear some
among them understand what we say."

There was another pause, during which the mate was doubtless
reflecting on the best course to pursue.

"Harkee, Miles," Marble continued, "we know each other, and can tell
what is meant without blabbing. How old are you, out there, on deck."

"Quite thirty years, Mr. Marble--and good stout years they are, too."

"Well provided for, with sulphur and the pills, or only with Indian
tools, such as our boys sometimes play with?"

"A little of the first--half-a-dozen, perhaps; with some of the last,
and a plenty of carvers."

An impatient push from the Dipper warned me to speak plainer, and
satisfied me that the fellow could comprehend what passed, so long as
we confined ourselves to a straight, forward discourse. This discovery
had the effect to put me still more on my guard.

"I understand you, Miles," Marble answered, in a thoughtful manner;
"we must be on our guard. Do you think they mean to come below?"

"I see no signs at present--but _understanding_--" emphasizing
the word, "is more general than you imagine, and no secrets must be
told. My advice is 'Millions for defence, and not a cent for
tribute.'"

As this last expression was common in the mouths of the Americans of
the day, having been used on the occasion of the existing war with
France, I felt confident it would be understood. Marble made no
answer, and I was permitted to move from the companion-way, and to
take a seat on the hen-coops. My situation was sufficiently
remarkable. It was still dark; but enough light fell from the stars to
permit me to see all the swarthy and savage forms that were gliding
about the decks, and even to observe something of the expression of
the countenances of those, who, from time to time, came near to stare
me in the face. The last seemed ferociously disposed; but it was
evident that a master-spirit held all these wild beings in strict
subjection; quelling the turbulence of their humours, restraining
their fierce disposition to violence, and giving concert and design to
all their proceedings. This master-spirit was Smudge! Of the fact, I
could not doubt; his gestures, his voice, his commands, giving
movement and method to everything that was done. I observed that he
spoke with authority and confidence, though he spoke calmly. He was
obeyed, without any particular marks of deference, but he was obeyed
implicitly. I could also see that the savages considered themselves as
conquerors; caring very little for the men under hatches.

Nothing material occurred until day dawned. Smudge--for so I must
continue to call this revolting-looking chief, for want of his true
name--would permit nothing to be attempted, until the light became
sufficiently strong to enable him to note the proceedings of his
followers. I subsequently ascertained, too, that he waited for
reinforcements, a yell being raised in the ship, just as the sun
appeared, which was answered from the forest. The last seemed fairly
alive with savages; nor was it long before canoes issued from the
creek, and I counted one hundred and seven of these wretches on board
the ship. This was their whole force, however, no more ever appearing.

All this time, or for three hours, I had no more communication with
our own people. I was certain, however, that they were all together, a
junction being easy enough, by means of the middle-deck, which had no
other cargo than the light articles intended for the north-west trade,
and by knocking down the forecastle bulk-head. There was a sliding
board in the last, indeed, that would admit of one man's passing at a
time, without having recourse to this last expedient. I entertained no
doubt Marble had collected all hands below; and, being in possession
of plenty of arms, the men having carried their muskets and pistols
below with them, with all the ammunition, he was still extremely
formidable. What course he would pursue, I was obliged to
conjecture. A sortie would have been very hazardous, if practicable at
all; and it was scarcely practicable, after the means taken by Smudge
and the Dipper to secure the passages. Everything, so far as I was
concerned, was left to conjecture.

The manner in which my captors treated me, excited my surprise. As
soon as it was light, my limbs were released, and I was permitted to
walk up and down the quarter-deck to restore the circulation of the
blood. A clot of blood, with some fragments of hair, marked the spot
where poor Captain Williams had fallen; and I was allowed to dash a
bucket of water over the place, in order to wash away the revolting
signs of the murder. For myself, a strange recklessness had taken the
place of concern, and I became momentarily indifferent to my fate. I
expected to die, and I am now ashamed to confess that my feelings took
a direction towards revenge, rather than towards penitence for my past
sins. At times, I even envied Marble, and those below, who might
destroy their enemies at a swoop, by throwing a match into the
magazine. I felt persuaded, indeed, it would come to that before the
mate and men would submit to be the captives of such wretches as were
then in possession of the deck. Smudge and his associates, however,
appeared to be perfectly indifferent to this danger, of the character
of which they were probably ignorant. Their scheme had been very
cunningly laid; and, thus far, it was perfectly successful.

The sun was fairly up, and the savages began to think seriously of
securing their prize, when the two leaders, Smudge and the Dipper,
approached me in a manner to show they were on the point of commencing
operations. The last of these men I now discovered had a trifling
knowledge of English, which he had obtained from different ships.
Still he was a savage, to all intents and purposes, the little
information thus gleaned, serving to render his worst propensities
more dangerous, rather than, in any manner, tempering them. He now
took the lead, parading all his men in two lines on the deck, making a
significant gesture towards his fingers, and uttering, with emphasis,
the word "count." I did count the wretches, making, this time, one
hundred and six, exclusively of the two leaders.

"Tell him, down there"--growled the Dipper, pointing below.

I called for Mr. Marble, and when he had reached the companion-way,
the following conversation took place between us:

"What is it now, Miles, my hearty?" demanded the chief-mate.

"I am ordered to tell you, sir, that the Indians number one hundred
and eight, having just counted them, for this purpose."

"I wish there were a thousand, as we are about to lift the deck from
the ship, and send them all into the air. Do you think they can
understand what I say, Miles?"

"The Dipper does, sir, when you speak slow and plain. He has only
half a notion of what you now mean, as I can see by his countenance."

"Does the rascal hear me, now?--is he anywhere near the
companion-way?"

"He does, and is--he is standing, at this moment, on the larboard side
of the companion-way, kneeling one knee, on the forward end of the
hen-coop."

"Miles"--said Marble, in a doubting sort of a voice.

"Mr. Marble--I hear what you say."

"Suppose--eh--lead through the companion-way--eh--what would happen
to _you?_"

"I should care little for that, sir, as I've made up my mind to be
murdered. But it would do no good, just now, and might do harm. I will
tell them, however, of your intention to blow them up, if you please;
perhaps _that_ may make them a little shy."

Marble assented, and I set about the office, as well as I could. Most
of my communication had to be made by means of signs; but, in the end,
I succeeded in making the Dipper understand my meaning. By this man
the purport was told to Smudge, in terms. The old man listened with
grave attention, but the idea of being blown up produced no more
effect on him, than would have been produced by a message from home to
tell him that his chimney was on fire, supposing him to have possessed
such a civilized instrument of comfort. That he fully comprehended his
friend, I could see by the expression of his ourang-outang-looking
countenance. But fear was a passion that troubled him very little;
and, sooth to say, a man whose time was passed in a condition as
miserable as that in which he habitually dwelt, had no great reason to
set a very high value on his life. Yet, these miserable wretches never
commit suicide! That is a relief reserved rather for those who have
become satiated with human enjoyments, nine pampered sensualists dying
in this mode, for one poor wretch whose miseries have driven him to
despair.

I was astonished at seeing the intelligence that gleamed in the
baboon-like face of Smudge, as he listened to his friend's
words. Incredulity was the intellectual meaning in his eye, while
indifference seemed seated in his whole visage.

It was evident the threat had made no impression, and I managed to let
Marble understand as much, and that in terms which the Dipper could
not very well comprehend. I got no answer, a death-like stillness
reigning below decks, in lieu of the bustle that had so lately been
heard there. Smudge seemed struck with the change, and I observed he
was giving orders to two or three of the elder savages, apparently to
direct a greater degree of watchfulness. I confess to some uneasiness
myself, for expectation is an unpleasant guest, in a scene like that,
and more especially when accompanied by uncertainty.

Smudge now seemed to think it time to commence his operations in
earnest. Under the direction of the Dipper a quantity of line was
thrown into the yawl, studding-halyards, and such other rope of
convenient size as could be found in the launch, and the boat was
towed by two or three canoes to the island. Here the fellows made what
seamen call a "guess-warp," of their rope; fastening one end to a
tree, and paying out line, as the yawl was towed back again to the
ship. The Dipper's calculation proved to be sufficiently accurate, the
rope reaching from the vessel to the tree.

As soon as this feat was accomplished, and it was done with sufficient
readiness, though somewhat lubberly, twenty or thirty of the savages
clapped on the warp, until they had tautened it to as great a strain
as it would bear. After this they ceased pulling, and I observed a
search around the galley in quest of the cook's axe, evidently with a
design to cut the cables. I thought this a fact worth communicating to
Marble, and I resolved to do so at the risk of my life. "The Indians
have run a line to the island, and are about to cut the cables, no
doubt intending to warp the ship ashore; and that, too, at the very
spot where they once had the Sea-Otter."

"Ay, ay--let them go on; we'll be ready for them in time," was the
only answer I received.

I never knew whether to ascribe the apathy the savages manifested to
this communication, to a wish that the fact might be known to the
people below, or to indifference. They certainly proceeded in their
movements with just as much coolness as if they had the ship all to
themselves. They had six or eight canoes, and parties of them began
to move round the vessel, with precisely the same confidence as men
would do it in a friendly port. What most surprised me were the quiet
and submission to orders they observed. At length the axe was found
secreted in the bows of the launch, and Marble was apprised of the use
to which it was immediately applied, by the heavy blows that fell upon
the cables.

"Miles," said the chief-mate--"these blows go to my heart! Are the
blackguards really in earnest?"

"The larboard bower is gone, sir, and the blows you now hear are on
the starboard, which is already half in two--that finishes it; the
ship now hangs only by the warp."

"Is there any wind, boy?"

"Not a breath of it in the bay, though I can see a little ripple on
the water, outside."

"Is it rising or falling water, Miles?"

"The ebb is nearly done--they'll never be able to get the ship up on
the shelving rock where they had the Sea-Otter, until the water rises
ten or twelve feet."

"Thank God for that! I was afraid they might get her on that accursed
bed, and break her back at once."

"Is it of any importance to us, Mr. Marble? What hope can we have of
doing anything against such odds, and in our circumstances?"

"The odds I care nothing for, boy. My lads are screwed up so tight,
they'd lick the whole North-West Coast, if they could only get on deck
without having their fashion-pieces stove in. The circumstances, I
allow, must count for a great deal."

"The ship is moving fast towards the island--I see no hope for us,
Mr. Marble!"

"I say, Miles, it is worth some risk to try and save the craft--were
it not for fear of you, I would have played the rascals a trick half
an hour since."

"Never mind me, sir--it was my fault it has happened, and I ought to
suffer for it--do what duty and discretion tell you is best."

I waited a minute after this, in intense expectation, not knowing what
was to follow, when a report made me fancy for an instant some attempt
was making to blow up the deck. The wails and cries that succeeded,
however, soon let me into the real state of the case. A volley of
muskets had been fired from the cabin-windows, and every individual in
two canoes that were passing at the time, to the number of eleven,
were shot down like bullocks. Three were killed dead, and the
remainder received wounds that promised to be mortal. My life would
have been the instant sacrifice of this act, had it not been for the
stern authority of Smudge, who ordered my assailants off, with a
manner and tone that produced immediate compliance. It was clear I was
reserved for some peculiar fate.

Every man who could, rushed into the remaining canoes and the ship's
yawl, in order to pick up the killed and wounded, as soon as the
nature of the calamity was known. I watched them from the taffrail,
and soon ascertained that Marble was doing the same from the windows
below me. But the savages did not dare venture in a line with a fire
that had proved so fatal, and were compelled to wait until the ship
had moved sufficiently ahead to enable them to succour their friends,
without exposing their own lives. As this required some distance, as
well as time, the ship was not only left without a canoe, or boat of
any sort, in the water, but with only half her assailants on board of
her. Those who did remain, for want of means to attack any other
enemy, vented their spite on the ship, expending all their strength in
frantic efforts on the warp. The result was, that while they gave
great way to the vessel, they finally broke the line.

I was leaning on the wheel, with Smudge near me, when this accident
occurred. The tide was still running ebb, and with some strength; and
the ship was just entering the narrow passage between the island and
the point that formed one termination of the bay, heading, of course,
toward the tree to which the warp had been secured. It was an
impulsive feeling, rather than any reason, that made me give the
vessel a sheer with the helm, so as to send her directly through the
passage, instead of letting her strike the rocks. I had no eventual
hope in so doing, nor any other motive than the strong reluctance I
felt to have the good craft hit the bottom. Luckily, the Dipper was in
the canoes, and it was not an easy matter to follow the ship, under
the fire from her cabin-windows, had he understood the case, and been
disposed to do so. But, like all the rest in the canoes, he was busy
with his wounded friends, who were all carried off towards the
creek. This left me master of the ship's movements for five minutes,
and by that time she had drawn through the passage, and was actually
shooting out into the open ocean.

This was a novel, and in some respects an embarrassing situation. It
left a gleam of hope, but it was a hope without a direction, and
almost without an object. I could perceive that none of the savages on
board had any knowledge of the cause of our movement, unless they
might understand the action of the tide. They had expected the ship to
be run ashore at the tree; and here she was gliding into the ocean,
and was already clear of the passage. The effect was to produce a
panic, and fully one-half of those who had remained in the ship,
jumped overboard and began to swim for the island. I was momentarily
in hope all would take this course; but quite five-and-twenty
remained, more from necessity than choice, as I afterwards discovered,
for they did not know how to swim. Of this number was Smudge, who
probably still remained to secure his conquest. It struck me the
moment was favourable, and I went to the companion-way, and was about
to remove its fastenings, thinking the ship might be recovered during
the prevalence of the panic. But a severe blow, and a knife gleaming
in the hands of Smudge, admonished me of the necessity of greater
caution. The affair was not yet ended, nor was my captor a man as
easily disconcerted as I had incautiously supposed. Unpromising as he
seemed, this fellow had a spirit that fitted him for great
achievements, and which, under other circumstances, might have made
him a hero. He taught me the useful lesson of not judging of men
merely by their exteriors.

CHAPTER XIV.

_Court_--"Brother John Bates, is not that the morning which
breaks yonder?"
_Bates_.--"I think it be; but we have no great cause to desire
the approach of day."
_Will_.--"We see yonder the beginning of the day; but I think
we shall never see the end of it----"
_Henry V._

The ship did not lose her steerage-way. As soon as past the point of
the island, a gentle southerly breeze was felt; and, acting on the
spars and hull, it enabled me, by putting the helm a little up, to
keep her head off shore, and thus increase her distance from the
bay. The set of the tide did more for her than the wind, it is true;
but the two, acting in unison, carried her away from the coast at a
rate that nearly equalled two knots in the hour. This was slow moving,
certainly, for a vessel in such a strait; but it would require fifteen
or twenty minutes for the canoes to return from the creek, and make
the circuit of the island by the other channel. By that time we should
be near half a mile at sea.

Smudge, beyond a question, understood that he was in a dilemma, though
totally ignorant of some of the leading difficulties of his case. It
was plain to me he could not comprehend why the ship took the
direction of the offing, for he had no conception of the power of the
rudder. Our tiller worked below, and it is possible this circumstance
mystified him, more small vessels in that day managing their helms
without the aid of the wheel, than with it. At length the movement of
the vessel became too palpable to admit of further delay; and this
savage approached me, with a drawn knife, and a manner that proved
natural affection had not been the motive of his previous
moderation. After flourishing his weapon fiercely before my eyes, and
pressing it most significantly, once or twice, against my breast, he
made signs for me to cause the ship to turn round and re-enter the
port. I thought my last moment had come, but naturally enough pointed
to the spars, giving my master to understand that the vessel was not
in her usual trim. I believe I was understood as to this part of my
excuses, it being too apparent that our masts and yards were not in
their usual places, for the fact to be overlooked even by a
savage. Smudge, however, saw that several of the sails were bent, and
he pointed to those, growling out his threats, should I refuse to set
them. The spanker, in particular, being near him, he took hold of it,
shook it, and ordered me to loosen it forthwith.

It is scarcely necessary to say, I obeyed this order with secret
joy. Casting loose the brails, I put the out-hauler in the hands of a
dozen of the savages, and set the example of pulling. In a minute we
had this sail spread, with the sheet a little eased off. I then led a
party forward, and got the fore and main stay-sails on the ship. To
these were added the mizen stay-sail, the only other piece of canvass
we could show, until the top-masts were fidded. The effect of these
four sails, however, was to add at least another knot to the way of
the ship, and to carry her out sooner to a point where she felt the
full force of the light breeze that was blowing from the
south-east. By the time the four sails were set, we were fully a
quarter of a mile from the island, every instant getting more fairly
into the true currents of the air.

Smudge watched me with the eyes of a hawk. As I had obeyed his own
orders in making sail, he could not complain of that; but the result
evidently disappointed him. He saw we were still moving in the wrong
direction, and, as yet, not a canoe was visible. As for these last,
now the vessel had way on her, I was not without hopes of being able
to keep them exposed to the fire from the cabin-windows, and, finally,
of getting rid of them by drawing off the land to a distance they
would not be likely to follow. The Dipper, however, I was aware, was a
bold fellow--knew something of vessels--and I was determined to give a
hint to Marble to pick _him_ off, should he come within range of
his muskets.

In the meantime the alarm and impatience of Smudge and his companions,
very sensibly increased. Five minutes were an age in the circumstances
in which they were placed, and I saw that it would soon be necessary
to adopt some new expedient, or I might expect to be sacrificed to the
resentment of these savages. Necessity sharpens the wits, and I hit
upon a scheme which was not entirely without the merit of
ingenuity. As it was, I suppose I owed my life to the consciousness of
the savages, that they could do nothing without me.

Smudge, with three or four of the fiercest of his companions, had
begun again to menace me with the knife, making signs, at the same
time, for me to turn the ship's head towards the land. I asked for a
little room, and then describing a long circle on the deck, pointing
to the four sails we had set, and this in a way to tell them that
under the canvass we carried, it would be necessary to go a great
distance in order to turn round. When I had succeeded in communicating
this idea, I forthwith set about giving them to understand that by
getting up the top-masts, and making more sail, we might return
immediately. The savages understood me, and the explanation appearing
reasonable to them, they went aside and consulted together. As time
pressed, it was not long before Smudge came to me with signs to show
him and his party how to get the remainder of the sails set. Of
course, I was not backward in giving the desired information.

In a few minutes, I had a string of the savages hold of the mast-rope,
forward, a luff-tackle being applied. As everything was ready aloft,
all we had to do was to pull, until, judging by the eye, I thought the
spar was high enough, when I ran up the rigging and clapped in the
fid. Having the top-mast out of the way, without touching any of its
rigging, I went down on the fore-yard, and loosened the sail. This
appeared so much like business, that the savages gave sundry
exclamations of delight; and, by the time I got on deck, they were all
ready to applaud me as a good fellow. Even Smudge was completely
mystified; and when I set the others at work at the jeer-fall to sway
up the fore-yard, he was as active as any of them. We soon had the
yard in its place, and I went aloft to secure it, touching the braces
first so as to fill the sail.

The reader may rest assured I did not hurry myself, now I had things
in so fair a way. I could perceive that my power and importance
increased with every foot we went from the land; and the ship steering
herself under such canvass, the wheel being a trifle up, there was no
occasion for extraordinary exertion on my part. I determined now to
stay aloft as long as possible. The yard was soon secured, and then I
went up into the top, where I began to set up the weather-rigging. Of
course, nothing was very thoroughly done, though sufficiently so for
the weather we had.

From the top I had a good view of the offing, and of the coast for
leagues. We were now quite a mile at sea, and, though the tide was no
longer of any use to us, we were drawing through the water quite at
the rate of two knots. I thought that the flood had made, and that it
took us a little on our lee-bow, hawsing us up to windward. Just as I
had got the last lanyard fastened, the canoes began to appear, coming
round the island by the farther passage, and promising to overtake us
in the course of the next twenty minutes. The crisis demanded
decision, and I determined to get the jib on the ship. Accordingly, I
was soon on deck.

Having so much the confidence of the savages, who now fancied their
return depended on me, I soon had them at work, and we had the stay
set up in two or three minutes. I then ran out and cast off the
gaskets, when my boys began to hoist at a signal from me. I have
seldom been so happy as when I saw that large sheet of canvass open to
the air. The sheet was hauled in and belayed as fast as possible, and
then it struck me I should not have time to do any more before the
canoes would overtake us. It was my wish to communicate with
Marble. While passing aft, to effect this object, I paused a moment to
examine the movement of the canoes; old Smudge, the whole time,
expressing his impatience that the ship did not turn round. I make no
doubt I should have been murdered a dozen times, had I lives enough,
were it not that the savages felt how dependent they were on me, for
the government of the vessel. I began to see my importance, and grew
bold in proportion. As for the canoes, I took a look at them through
a glass, They were about half-a-mile distant; had ceased paddling, and
were lying close together, seemingly in consultation. I fancied the
appearance of the ship, under canvass, had alarmed them, and that they
began to think we had regained the vessel, and were getting her in
sailing condition again, and that it might not be prudent to come too
near. Could I confirm this impression, a great point would be gained.
Under the pretence of making more sail, in order to get the ship's
head round, a difficulty I had to explain to Smudge by means of signs
some six or eight times, I placed the savages at the _main_-top-mast
mast-rope, and told them to drag. This was a task likely to keep them
occupied, and what was more, it kept them all looking forward, leaving
me affecting to be busied aft. I had given Smudge a segar too, to put
him in good humour, and I had also taken the liberty to light one for
myself.

Our guns had all been primed, levelled, and had their tompions taken
out the night before, in readiness to repel any assault that might be
made. I had only to remove the apron from the after-gun, and it was
ready to be discharged. Going to the wheel, I put the helm hard up,
until our broadside bore on the canoes. Then glancing along my gun,
until I saw it had a tolerable range, I clapped the segar to the
priming, springing back to the wheel, and putting the helm down. The
explosion produced a general yell among the savages, several of whom
actually leaped into the chains ready to go overboard, while Smudge
rushed towards me, fiercely brandishing his knife. I thought my time
had come! but, perceiving that the ship was luffing fast, I motioned
eagerly forward, to draw the attention of my assailant in that
quarter. The vessel was coming-to, and Smudge was easily induced to
believe it was the commencement of turning round. The breathing time
allowed me to mystify him with a few more signs; after which, he
rejoined his people, showed them exultingly the ship still luffing,
and I make no doubt, he thought himself, and induced the rest to
think, that the gun had a material agency in producing all these
apparent changes. As for the canoes, the grape had whistled so near
them, that they began to paddle back, doubtless under the impression,
that we were again masters of the ship, and had sent them this hint to
keep aloof.

Thus far I had succeeded beyond my most sanguine expectations; and I
began to entertain lively hopes of not only saving my life, but of
recovering the command of the vessel. Could I manage to get her out
of sight of land, my services would be so indispensable, as almost to
insure success. The coast was very low, and a run of six or eight
hours would do this, provided the vessel's head could be kept in the
right direction. The wind, moreover, was freshening, and I judged that
the Crisis had already four knots way on her. Less than twenty miles
would put all the visible coast under water. But, it was time to say
something to Marble. With a view to lull distrust, I called Smudge to
the companion-way, in order that he might hear what passed, though I
felt satisfied, now that the Dipper was out of the ship, not a soul
remained among the savages, who could understand a syllable of
English, or knew anything of vessels. The first call brought the mate
to the door. "Well, Miles; what is it?"--he asked--"what meant the
gun, and who fired it?"

"All right, Mr. Marble. I fired the gun to keep off the canoes, and it
has had the effect I wished."

"Yes; my head was out of the cabin-window at the time, for I believed
the ship was waring, and thought you had given up, and were going back
into port. I saw the roundshot strike within twenty fathoms of the
canoes, and as for the grape, some of it flew beyond them. Why, we are
more than half a league from the land, boy!--Will Smudge stand that
much longer?"

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