Part 5 out of 10
I then told Marble precisely how we were situated on deck, the sail we
were under, the number of savages we had on board, and the notion the
savages entertained on the subject of turning the ship round. It is
not easy to say which listened with the most attention, Marble, or
Smudge. The latter made frequent gestures for me to turn the ship
towards the coast, for by this time she had the wind abeam again, and
was once more running in a straight line. It was necessary, on more
accounts than one, to adopt some immediate remedy for the danger that
began to press on me anew. Not only must Smudge and his associates be
pacified, but, as the ship got into the offing, she began to feel the
ground-swell, and her spars, aloft, were anything but secure. The
main-top-mast was about half-up, and it was beginning to surge and
move in the cap, in a way I did not like. It is true, there was not
much danger yet; but the wind was rising, and what was to be done,
ought to be done at once. I was not sorry, however, to perceive that
five or six of the savages, Smudge among the number, began to betray
signs of sea-sickness. I would have given Clawbonny, at the moment, to
have had all the rascals in rough water!
I now endeavoured to make Smudge understand the necessity of my having
assistance from below, both to assist in turning the vessel, and in
getting the yards and masts into their places. The old fellow shook
his head, and looked grave at this. I saw he was not sick enough yet,
to be indifferent about his life. After a time, however, he pronounced
the names of Neb and Yo, the blacks having attracted the attention of
the savages, the last being the cook. I understood him, he would
suffer these two to come to my assistance, provided it could be done
without endangering his own ascendency. Three unarmed men could hardly
be dangerous to twenty-five who were armed; and then I suspected that
he fancied the negroes would prove allies to himself, in the event of
a struggle, rather than foes. As for Neb, he made a fatal mistake; nor
was he much nearer the truth in regard to Joe-or Yo, as he called
him--the cook feeling quite as much for the honour of the American
flag, as the fairest-skinned seaman in the country. It is generally
found, that the loyalty of the negroes is of proof.
I found means to make Smudge understand the manner in which these two
blacks could be got on deck, without letting up the rest. As soon as
he fairly comprehended the means to be used, he cheerfully acquiesced,
and I made the necessary communication to Marble. A rope was sent
down, over the stern-boat, to the cabin-windows, and Neb took a turn
round his body; when he was hauled up to the gunwale of the boat, into
which he was dragged by the assistance of the savages. The same
process was used with Joe. Before the negroes were permitted to go
aloft, however, Smudge made them a brief oration, in which oracular
sentences were blended with significant gestures, and indications of
what they were to expect, in the event of bad behaviour. After this, I
sent the blacks into the main-top, and glad enough I thought they were
both to get there.
Thus reinforced, we had the main-top-mast fidded in a very few
minutes. Neb was then directed to set up the rigging, and to clear
away the yard, so it might be got into its place. In a word, an hour
passed in active exertions, at the end of which, we had everything
rove, bent, and in its place, on the main-mast, from the top-mast-head
to the deck. The top-gallant-mast was lying fore and aft in the waist,
and could not then be touched; nor was it necessary. I ordered the
men to loosen both sails, and to overhaul down their rigging. In the
eyes of Smudge, this looked highly promising; and the savages gave a
yell of delight when they saw the top-sail fairly filled and drawing.
I added the main-sail to the pressure, and then the ship began to walk
off the coast, at a rate that promised all I hoped for. It was now
necessary for me to stick by the wheel, of the uses of which Smudge
began to obtain some notions. At this time, the vessel was more than
two leagues from the island, and objects began to look dim along the
coast. As for the canoes, they could no longer be seen, and chasing us
any farther was quite out of the question. I felt that the crisis was
Smudge and his companions now became more and more earnest on the
subject of turning the ship round. The indistinctness of the land
began seriously to alarm them, and sea-sickness had actually placed
four of their number flat on the deck. I could see that the old fellow
himself was a good deal affected, though his spirit, and the risks he
ran, kept him in motion, and vigilantly on the watch. It was necessary
to seem to do something; and I sent the negroes up into the fore-top,
to get the top sail-yard in its place, and the sail set. This occupied
another hour, before we were entirely through, when the land was
getting nearly _awash_. As soon as the mizen-top-sail was set, I
braced sharp up, and brought the ship close upon the wind. This caused
the Indians to wilt down like flowers under a burning sun, just as I
expected; there being, by this time, a seven-knot breeze, and a smart
head-sea on. Old Smudge felt that his forces were fast deserting him,
and he now came to me, in a manner that would not be denied, and I
felt the necessity of doing something to appease him. I got the
savages stationed as well as I could, hauled up the main-sail, and put
the ship in stays. We tacked better than I could have believed
possible, and when my wild captors saw that we were actually moving in
the direction of the land, again, their delight was infinite. Their
leader was ready to hug me; but I avoided this pleasure in the best
manner I could. As for the consequences, I had no apprehensions,
knowing we were too far off to have any reason to dread the canoes,
and being certain it was easy enough to avoid them in such a breeze.
Smudge and his companions were less on the alert, as soon as they
perceived the ship was going in the proper direction. They probably
believed the danger in a measure over, and they began to yield a
little to their physical sufferings. I called Neb to the wheel, and
leaning over the taffrail, I succeeded in getting Marble to a
cabin-window, without alarming Smudge. I then told the mate to get all
his forces in the forecastle, having observed that the Indians avoided
that part of the vessel, on account of the heavy plunges she
occasionally made, and possibly because they fancied our people were
all aft. As soon as the plan was understood, I strolled forward,
looking up at the sails, and touching a rope, here and there, like one
bent on his ordinary duty. The savage stationed at the fore-scuttle
was as sick as a dog, and with streaming eyes, he was paying the
landsmen's tribute to the sea. The hatch was very strong, and it was
secured simply by its hasp and a bit of iron thrust through it. I had
only to slip my hand down, remove the iron, throw open the hatch, when
the ship's company streamed up on deck, Marble leading.
It was not a moment for explanations. I saw, at a glance, that the
mate and his followers regarded the situation of the ship very
differently from what I did myself. I had now been hours with the
savages, had attained a little of their confidence, and knew how
dependent they were on myself for their final safety; all of which, in
a small degree, disposed me to treat them with some of the lenity I
fancied I had received from them, in my own person. But, Marble and
the crew had been chafing below, like caged lions, the whole time,
and, as I afterwards learned, had actually taken an unanimous vote to
blow themselves up, before they would permit the Indians to retain the
control of the vessel. Then poor Captain Williams was much beloved
forward, and his death remained to be avenged. I would have said a
word in favour of my captors, but the first glance I got at the
flushed face of the mate, told me it would be useless. I turned,
therefore, to the sick savage who had been left as a sentinel over the
fore-scuttle, to prevent his interference. This man was armed with
the pistols that had been taken from me, and he showed a disposition
to use them. I was too quick in my motions, however, falling upon him
so soon as to prevent one who was not expert with the weapons from
using them. We clenched, and fell on the deck together, the Indian
letting the pistols fall to meet my grasp.
As this occurred, I heard the cheers of the seamen; and Marble,
shouting out to "revenge Captain Williams," gave the order to
charge. I soon had my own fellow perfectly at my mercy, and got him so
near the end of the jib downhaul, as to secure him with a turn or two
of that rope. The man made little resistance, after the first onset;
and, catching up the pistols, I left him, to join in what was doing
aft. As I lay on the deck, I heard several plunges into the water, and
then half-a-dozen of most cruelly crushing blows succeeded. Not a
shot was fired by either party, though some of our people, who had
carried all their arms below the night the ship was seized, used their
pikes with savage freedom. By the time I got as far aft as the
main-mast, the vessel was our own. Nearly half the Indians had thrown
themselves into the sea; the remaining dozen had either been knocked
in the head like beeves, or were stuck, like so many porkers. The dead
bodies followed the living into the sea. Old Smudge alone remained, at
the moment of which I have spoken.
The leader of the savages was examining the movements of Neb, at the
moment the shout was raised; and the black, abandoning the wheel,
threw his arms round those of the old man, holding him like a vice. In
this situation he was found by Marble and myself, who approached at
the same instant, one on each side of the quarter-deck.
"Overboard with the blackguard!" called out the excited mate;
"overboard with him, Neb, like a trooper's horse!"
"Hold--" I interrupted, "spare the old wretch, Mr. Marble;--he spared
A request from me would, at any moment, outweigh an order from the
captain, himself, so far as the black was concerned, else Smudge would
certainly have gone into the ocean, like a bundle of straw. Marble had
in him a good deal of the indifference to bodily suffering that is
generated by habit, and, aroused, he was a dangerous, and sometimes a
hard man; but, in the main, he was not cruel; and then he was always
manly. In the short struggle which he had passed, he had actually
dropped his pike, to knock an Indian down with his fist; bundling the
fellow through a port without ceremony, ere he had time to help
himself. But he disdained striking Smudge, with such odds against
him; and he went to the helm, himself, bidding Neb secure the
prisoner. Glad of this little relief to a scene so horrible, I ran
forward, intending to bring my own prisoner aft, and to have the two
confined together, below. But I was too late. One of the
Philadelphians had just got the poor wretch's head and shoulders
through the bow-port, and I was barely in time to see his feet
Not a cheer was given for our success. When all was over, the men
stood gazing at each other, stern, frowning, and yet with the aspects
of those who felt they had been, in a manner, disgraced by the
circumstances which led them to the necessity of thus regaining the
command of their own vessel. As for myself, I ran and sprang upon the
taffrail, to look into the ship's wake. A painful sight met me, there!
During the minute or two passed in the brief struggle, the Crisis had
gone steadily ahead, like the earth moving in its orbit, indifferent
to the struggles of the nations that are contending on its bosom. I
could see heads and arms tossing in our track for a hundred fathoms,
those who could not swim struggling to the last to preserve their
existence. Marble, Smudge and Neb, were all looking in the same
direction, at that instant. Under an impulse I could not control, I
ventured to suggest that we might yet tack and save several of the
"Let them drown, and be d----d!" was the chief-mate's sententious
"No--no--Masser Mile," Neb ventured to add, with a remonstrating shake
of the head--"dat will nebber do--no good ebber come of Injin. If you
don't drown him, he sartain drown you."
I saw it was idle to remonstrate; and by this time one dark spot,
after another, began to disappear, as the victims sank in the
ocean. As for Smudge, his eye was riveted on the struggling forms of
his followers, in a manner to show that traces of human feeling are to
be found, in some aspect or other, in every condition of life. I
thought I could detect workings of the countenance of this being,
indurated as his heart had become by a long life of savage ferocity,
which denoted how keenly he felt the sudden destruction that had
alighted on his tribe. He might have had sons and grandsons among
those struggling wretches, on whom he was now gazing for the last
time. If so, his self-command was almost miraculous; for, while I
could see that he felt, and felt intensely, not a sign of weakness
escaped him. As the last head sunk from view, I could see him shudder;
a suppressed groan escaped him; then he turned his face towards the
bulwarks, and stood immovable as one of the pines of his own forests,
for a long time. I asked Marble's permission to release the old man's
arms, and the mate granted it, though not without growling a few
curses on him, and on all who had been concerned in the late
occurrences on board the ship.
There was too much duty to be done, to render all secure, to suffer us
to waste much time in mere sympathy. All the top-mast rigging,
backstays, &c., had to be set up afresh, and gangs were sent about
this duty, forward and aft. The blood was washed from the decks, and a
portion of the crew got along the top-gallant-masts, and pointed
them. The topsails were all close-reefed, the courses hauled up, the
spanker and jib taken in, and the ship hove-to. It wanted but two
hours of sunset when Mr. Marble had got things to his mind. We had
crossed royal-yards, and had everything set that would draw, from the
trucks down. The launch was in the water towing astern; the ship was
then about a mile from the southern passage into the bay, towards
which she was steering with the wind very much as it had been since an
hour after sunrise, though slightly falling. Our guns were loose, and
the crew was at quarters. Even I did not know what the new captain
intended to do, for he had given his orders in the manner of one whose
mind was too immovably made up, to admit of consultation. The larboard
battery was manned, and orders had been given to see the guns on that
side levelled and ready for firing. As the ship brushed past the
island, in entering the bay, the whole of this broadside was delivered
in among its bushes and trees. We heard a few yells, in reply, that
satisfied us the grape had told, and that Marble had not miscalculated
the position of some of his enemies, at least.
When the ship entered the little bay, it was with a moderate and
steady movement, the breeze being greatly broken by the forests. The
main-yard was thrown aback, and I was ordered into the launch, with
its crew armed. A swivel was in the bows of the boat, and I pulled
into the creek, in order to ascertain if there were any signs of the
savages. In entering the creek, the swivel was discharged, according
to orders, and we soon detected proofs that we disturbed a bivouac. I
now kept loading and firing this little piece into the bushes,
supporting it with occasional volleys of musketry, until pretty well
satisfied that we had swept the shore effectually. At the bivouac, I
found the canoes, and our own yawl, and what was some little revenge
for what had happened, I also found a pile of no less than six hundred
skins, which had doubtless been brought to trade with us, if
necessary, in order to blind-our eyes until the favourable moment for
the execution of the conspiracy should offer. I made no scruple about
confiscating these skins, which were taken on board the ship.
I next went to the island, on which I found one man dying with a
grape-shot wound, and evidence that a considerable party had left it,
as soon as they felt our fire. This party had probably gone outside
the island, but it was getting too late to follow. On my return, I met
the ship coming out, Captain Marble being determined not to trust her
inside another night. The wind was getting light, and, the tides
running fiercely in that high latitude, we were glad to make an offing
again while there was still day. The success with the skins greatly
mollified the new captain, who declared to me that, after he had
hanged Smudge in sight of his own shores, he should "feel something
like himself again."
We passed the night under our top-sails, standing off and on, with the
wind steady, but light, at the southward. Next morning, the duty of
the ship went on as usual, until the men had breakfasted, when we
stood again into the bay. This time, we hove-to so as to get one of
the buoys, when we dropped the stream, leaving the top-sails set. We
then hove up the anchor, securing the range of cable that was bent to
it. Both of the anchors, and their ranges of cable, were thus
recovered; the ends of the last being entered at the hawse-holes, and
the pieces spliced. This work may have occupied us four hours; after
which, the stream-anchor was hove up, catted and fished. Marble then
ordered a whip rove at the fore-yard-arm.
I was on the quarter-deck when this command was suddenly given. I
wished to remonstrate, for I had some tolerably accurate notions of
legality, and the rights of persons. Still, I did not like to say
anything; for Captain Marble's eye and manner were not the least in
the trifling mood, at that instant. The whip was soon rove, and the
men stood looking aft, in silent expectation.
"Take that murdering blackguard forward, fasten his arms behind his
back, place him on the third gun, and wait for orders," added our new
No one dared hesitate about obeying these orders, though I could see
that one or two of the lads disliked the business.
"Surely," I ventured to say, in a low voice, "you are not in earnest,
"_Captain_ Marble, if you please, Mr. Wallingford. I am now
master of this vessel, and you are her chief-mate. I intend to hang
your friend Smudge, as an example to the rest of the coast. These
woods are full of eyes at this moment; and the sight they'll presently
see, will do more good than forty missionaries, and threescore and ten
years of preaching. Set the fellow up on the gun, men, as I ordered.
This is the way to generalize with an Indian."
In a moment, there stood the hapless wretch, looking about him with an
expression that denoted the consciousness of danger, though it was not
possible he could comprehend the precise mode of his execution. I went
to him, and pressed his hand, pointing upward, as much as to say his
whole trust was now in the Great Spirit. The Indian understood me, for
from that instant he assumed an air of dignified composure, like one
every way prepared to meet his fate. It is not probable, with his
habits, that he saw any peculiar hardship in his own case; for he had,
doubtless, sacrificed many a prisoner under circumstances of less
exasperation than that which his own conduct had provoked.
"Let two of the 'niggers' take a turn with the end of the whip round
the chap's neck," said Marble, too dignified to turn Jack Ketch in
person, and unwilling to set any of the white seamen at so ungracious
an office. The cook, Joe, and another black, soon performed this
revolting duty, from the odium of which a sailor seldom altogether
I now perceived Smudge looking upward, seeming to comprehend the
nature of the fate that awaited him. The deeply-seated principle
within him, caused a dark shadow to pass over a countenance already so
gloomy and wrinkled by suffering and exposure; and he turned his look
wistfully towards Marble, at whose command each order in succession
had been obeyed. Our new captain caught that gaze, and I was, for a
single moment, in hope he would relent, and let the wretch go. But
Marble had persuaded himself he was performing a great act of nautical
justice; nor was he aware, himself, how much he was influenced by a
feeling allied to vengeance.
"Sway away!" he called out; and Smudge was dangling at the yard-arm in
a few seconds.
A block of wood could not have been more motionless than the body of
this savage, after one quivering shudder of suffering had escaped
it. There it hung, like a jewel-block, and every sign of life was soon
taken away. In a quarter of an hour, a man was sent up, and, cutting
the rope, the body fell, with a sharp plunge, into the water, and
At a later day, the account of this affair found its way into the
newspapers at home. A few moralists endeavoured to throw some doubts
over the legality and necessity of the proceedings, pretending that
more evil than good was done to the cause of sacred justice by such
disregard of law and principles; but the feeling of trade, and the
security of ships when far from home, were motives too powerful to be
put down by the still, quiet remonstrances of reason and right. The
abuses to which such practices would be likely to lead, in cases in
which one of the parties constituted himself the law, the judge, and
the executioner, were urged in vain against the active and
ever-stimulating incentive of a love of gold. Still, I knew that
Marble wished the thing undone when it was too late, it being idle to
think of quieting the suggestions of that monitor God has implanted
within us, by the meretricious and selfish approbation of those who
judge of right and wrong by their own narrow standard of interest.
_1st Lord_.--"Throca movonsas, cargo, cargo, cargo."
_All_.--"Cargo, cargo, villianda par corbo, cargo."
_Par_.--"O! ransome, ransome:--Do not hide mine eyes"
_1st Sold_.--"Boskos Thromuldo boskos."
_Par_.--"I know you are the Muskos' regiment,
And I shall lose my life for want of language.--"
_All's Well That Ends Well._
The Crisis was tacked, as soon as the body of Smudge was cut down, and
she moved slowly, her crew maintaining a melancholy silence, out of
the little haven. I never witnessed stronger evidence of sadness in
the evolutions of a vessel; the slow and stately departure resembling
that of mourners leaving the grave on which they had just heard the
fall of the clod. Marble told me afterwards, he had been disposed to
anchor, and remain until the body of poor Captain Williams should
rise, as it probably would within the next forty-eight hours; but the
dread of a necessity of sacrificing more of the natives, induced him
to quit the fatal spot, without paying the last duties to our worthy
old commander. I always regretted we did not remain, for I think no
Indian would have come near us, had we continued in the harbour a
It was high-noon when the ship once more issued into the broad bosom
of the Pacific. The wind was at south-east, and as we drew off from
the land, it came fresh and steady. About two, having an offing of ten
or twelve miles, orders were issued to set all the larboard
studding-sails, and we stood to the southward and westward under a
press of canvass. Every one saw in this change, a determination to
quit the coast; nor did we regret the measure, for our trade had been
quite successful, down to the moment of the seizure, but could hardly
be prosperous after what had passed. I had not been consulted in the
affair at all, but the second-mate having the watch, I was now
summoned to the cabin, and let into the secret of our future
movements. I found Marble seated at the cabin table, with Captain
Williams's writing-desk open before him, and sundry papers under
"Take a seat, Mr. Wallingford," said the new master, with a dignity
and manner suited to the occasion. "I have just been overhauling the
old man's instructions from the owners, and find I have done right in
leaving these hang-gallows rascals to themselves, and shaping our
course to the next point of destination. As it is, the ship has done
surprisingly well. There are $67,370 good Spaniards down in the run,
and that for goods which I see are invoiced at just $26,240; and when
you consider that no duties, port-charges, or commissions are to be
deducted, but that the dollars under our feet are all our own, without
any drawbacks, I call the operation a good one. Then that blundering
through the Straits, though it must never be talked of in any other
light than a bold push for a quick passage, did us a wonderful deal of
good, shoving us ahead near a month in time. It has put us so much
ahead of our calculations, indeed, that I would cruise for Frenchmen
for five or six weeks, were there the least probability that one of
the chaps was to the westward of the Horn. Such not being the fact,
however, and there still being a very long road before us, I have
thought it best to push for the next point of destination. Read that
page of the owner's idees, Mr. Wallingford, and you will get their
advice for just such a situation as that in which we find ourselves."
The passage pointed out by Captain Marble was somewhat parenthetical,
and was simply intended to aid Captain Williams, in the event of his
not being able to accomplish the other objects of his voyage. It had a
place in the instructions, indeed, solely on account of a suggestion
of Marble's himself, the project being one of those favourite schemes
of the mate, that men sometimes maintain through thick or thin, until
they get to be ruling thoughts. On Captain Williams it had not weighed
a feather; his intention having been to proceed to the Sandwich
Islands for sandalwood, which was the course then usually pursued by
North-West traders, after quitting the coast. The parenthetical
project, however, was to touch at the last island, procure a few
divers, and proceed in quest of certain islands where it was supposed
the pearl fishery would succeed. Our ship was altogether too large,
and every way too expensive, to be risked in such an adventure, and so
I told the ex-mate without any scruple. But this fishery was a "fixed
idea," a quick road to wealth, in the new captain's mind, and finding
it in the instructions, though simply as a contingent course, he was
inclined to regard it as the great object of the voyage. Such it was
in his eyes, and such it ought to be, as he imagined, in those of the
Marble had excellent qualities in his way, but he was not fit to
command a ship. No man could stow her better, fit her better, sail her
better, take better care of her in heavy weather, or navigate her
better; and yet he wanted the judgment necessary to manage the
property that must be committed to his care, and he had no more ideas
of commercial thrift, than if he had never been employed in any of the
concerns of commerce. This was, in truth, the reason he had never
risen any higher in his profession, the mercantile instinct--one of
the liveliest and most acute to be found in natural history--forewarning
his different owners that he was already in the berth nature and art
had best qualified him to fill. It is wonderful how acute even dull
men get to be, on the subject of money!
I own my judgment, such as it was at nineteen, was opposed to the
opinion of the captain. I could see that the contingency contemplated
by the instructions had not arisen, and that we should be acting more
in conformity with the wishes of the owners, by proceeding to the
Sandwich Islands in quest of sandal-wood, and thence to China, after a
cargo of teas. Marble was not to be convinced, however, though I think
my arguments shook him a little. What might have been the result, it
is difficult to say, had not chance befriended the views of each of
us, respectively. It is proper to add, that Marble availed himself of
this opportunity to promote Talcott, who was brought into the cabin as
third-mate. I rejoiced greatly in this addition to our little circle
on the quarter-deck, Talcott being a man of education, much nearer my
own age than the two others, and united to me by unusual ties since
our common adventure in the prize. I was not only rejoiced to be able
to associate with him, but to hear him called _Mr_. Talcott.
We had a long, but mild, passage to the Sandwich Islands. This group
occupied a very different place, in the opinions of the world, in the
year 1800, from that it fills to-day. Still it had made some small
advances in civilization since the time of Cook. I am told there are
churches, taverns, billiard-tables, and stone dwellings in these
islands now, which are fast turning to the Christian religion, and
obtaining the medley of convenience, security, vice, roguery, law and
comfort, that is known as civilization. It was far different then, our
reception being by men who were but a small degree removed from
savages. Among those who first came on board us, however, was the
master of an American brig, belonging to Boston, whose vessel had got
on a reef, and bilged. He intended to remain by the wreck, but wished
to dispose of a considerable amount of sandal-wood that was still in
his vessel, and for the safety of which he was under great concern, as
the first gale of wind might scatter it to the winds of the ocean. If
he could obtain a fresh stock of goods to trade on, he proposed
remaining on the islands until another vessel belonging to the same
owners, which was expected in a few months, should arrive, on board
which vessel he intended to embark with everything he could save from
the wreck, and such wood as he could purchase in the interim. Captain
Marble rubbed his hands with delight, when he returned from a visit to
the wreck, his arrangements all completed.
"Luck is with us, Master Miles," he said, "and we'll be off for them
pearl fisheries next week. I have bought all the sandal-wood in the
wreck, paying in trumpery, and at prices only about double Indian
trade, and we will heave up, and carry the ship round to the wreck,
and begin to take in this afternoon. There is capital holding-ground
inside the reef, and the ship can be safely carried within a hundred
fathoms of her cargo!"
All turned out as Marble had hoped and predicted, and the Crisis was
back at her anchorage in front of the village, which is now the city
of Honolulu, within the week named. We got our supply of hogs, and
having procured four of the best divers going, we sailed in quest of
Captain Marble's Eldorado of pearls. I was less opposed to the scheme
than I had been, for we were now so much in advance of our time, that
we could afford to pass a few weeks among the islands, previously to
sailing for China. Our course was to the south-west, crossing the line
in about 170 degrees west longitude. There was a clear sea, for more
than a fortnight, while we were near the equator, the ship making but
little progress. Glad enough was I to hear the order given to turn
more to the northward again; for the heat was oppressive, and this was
inclining towards our route to China. We had been out from Owyhee, as
it was then usual to call the island where Cook was killed--Hawaii, as
it is called to-day--we had been out from this island, about a month,
when Marble came up to me one fine, moon-light evening, in my watch,
rubbing his hands, as was his custom when in good humour, and broke
out as follows:--
"I'll tell you what, Miles," he said, "you and I have been salted down
by Providence for something more than common! Just look back at all
our adventures in the last three years, and see what they come
to. Firstly, there was shipwreck over here on the coast of
Madagascar," jerking his thumb over a shoulder in a manner that was
intended to indicate about two hundred degrees of longitude, that
being somewhat near our present distance from the place he mentioned,
in an air line; "then followed the boat business under the Isle of
Bourbon, and the affair with the privateer off Guadaloupe. Well, as if
that wern't enough, we ship together again in this vessel, and a time
we had of it with the French letter-of-marque. After that, a devil of
a passage we made of it through the Straits of Magellan. Then came the
melancholy loss of Captain Williams, and all that business; after
which we got the sandal-wood out of the wreck, which I consider the
luckiest transaction of all."
"I hope you don't set down the loss of Captain Williams among our
"Not I, but the stuff is all logged together, you know; and, in
overhauling for one idee, in such a mess, a fellow is apt to get hold
of another. As I was saying, we have been amazingly lucky, and I
expect nothing else but we shall discover an island yet!"
"Can that be of any great service to us? There are so many owners
ready to start up and claim such discoveries, that I question if it
would do us any great benefit."
"Let them start up--who cares for them; we'll have the christening,
and that's half the battle. Marble Land, Wallingford Bay, Talcott
Hills, and Cape Crisis, would look well on a chart--ha! Miles?"
"I have no objection to see it, sir."
"Land ho!" cried the look-out on the forecastle.
"There it is now, by George!" cried Marble, springing forward--"I
overhauled the chart half an hour since, and there ought to be nothing
within six hundred miles of us."
There it was, sure enough, and much nearer to us than was at all
desirable. So near, indeed, that the wash of the breakers on the reef
that so generally lies off from the low coral islands of the Pacific,
was distinctly audible from the ship. The moon gave a strong light, it
is true, and the night was soft and balmy; but the air, which was very
light, blew directly towards this reef, and then there were always
currents to apprehend. We sounded, but got no bottom.
"Ay, this is one of your coral reefs, where a man goes on the rocks
from off soundings, at a single jump," muttered Marble, ordering the
ship brought by the wind on the best tack to haul off shore. "No
notice, and a wreck. As for anchoring in such a place, a fellow might
as well run a line out to Japan; and, could an anchor find the bottom,
the cable would have some such berth as a man who slept in a hammock
filled with open razors."
All this was true enough; and we watched the effect of our change of
course with the greatest anxiety. All hands were called, and the men
were stationed, in readiness to work the ship. But, a few minutes
satisfied us, the hope of clawing off, in so light an air, was to the
last degree vain. The vessel set in fast towards the reef, the
breakers on which now became apparent, even by the light of the moon;
the certain sign they were fearfully near.
This was one of those moments in which Marble could show himself to be
a true man. He was perfectly calm and self-possessed; and stood on the
taffrail, giving his orders, with a distinctness and precision I had
never seen surpassed. I was kept in the chains, myself, to watch the
casts of the lead. No bottom, however, was the never-failing report;
nor was any bottom expected; it being known that these reefs were
quite perpendicular on their seaward side. The captain called out to
me, from time to time, to be active and vigilant, as our set inshore
was uncontrollable, and the boats, if in the water, as the launch
could not be for twenty minutes, would be altogether useless. I
proposed to lower the yawl, and to pull to leeward, to try the
soundings, in order to ascertain if it were not possible to find
bottom at some point short of the reef, on which we should hopelessly
be set, unless checked by some such means, in the course of the next
fifteen or twenty minutes.
"Do it at once, sir," cried Marble. "The thought is a good one, and
does you credit, Mr. Wallingford."
I left the ship in less than five minutes, and pulled off, under the
ship's lee-bow, knowing that tacking or waring would be out of the
question, under the circumstances. I stood up in the stern-sheets, and
made constant casts with the hand-lead, with a short line, however, as
the boat went foaming through the water. The reef was now plainly in
sight, and I could see, as well as hear, the long, formidable
ground-swells of the Pacific, while fetching up against these solid
barriers, they rolled over, broke, and went beyond the rocks in angry
froth. At this perilous instant, when I would not have given the
poorest acre of Clawbonny to have been the owner of the Crisis, I saw
a spot to leeward that was comparatively still, or in which the water
did not break. It was not fifty fathoms from me when first discovered;
and towards it I steered, animating the men to redoubled exertions. We
were in this narrow belt of smooth water, as it might be in an
instant, and the current sucked the boat through it so fast, as to
allow time to make but a single cast of the lead. I got bottom; but it
was in six fathoms!
The boat was turned, and headed out again, as if life and death
depended on the result. The ship was fortunately within sound of the
voice, steering still by the wind, though setting three feet towards
the reef, for one made in the desired direction; and I hailed.
"What now, Mr. Wallingford?" demanded Marble, as calmly as if anchored
near a wharf at home.
"Do you see the boat, sir?"
"Quite plainly;--God knows you are near enough to be seen."
"Has the ship steerage-way on her, Captain Marble?"
"Just that, and nothing more to boast of."
"Then ask no questions; but try to follow the boat. It is the only
hope; and it may succeed."
I got no answer; but I heard the deep, authoritative voice of Marble,
ordering the "helm up," and the men "to man the weather-braces." I
could scarcely breathe, while I stood looking at the ship's bows, as
they fell off, and noted her slow progress ahead. Her speed increased
sensibly, however, and I kept the boat far enough to windward to give
the vessel room fairly to enter the pass. At the proper moment, we
moved towards the inlet, the Crisis keeping more and more away, in
order to follow. I was soon in the pass itself, the water breaking
within ten fathoms on each side of me, sending portions of its foam,
to the very blades of our oars; but the lead still gave me six
fathoms. At the next cast, I got ten; and then the shin was at the
point where I had just before found six. Two breakers were roaring
behind me, and I pulled round, and waited for the ship, steering to
the southward, sounding as I went. I could see that the ship hauled
up, and that I was already behind the reef. Straining my voice, I now
"Anchor, sir--bear a hand and anchor, as soon as possible."
Not a word came back; but up went the courses, followed by the
top-gallant-sails, after which down went the jib. I heard the fore
and main-top-sail-halyards overhauling themselves, spite of the roar
of the breakers, and then the ship luffed into the wind. Glad enough
was I to hear the heavy plunge of one of the bowers, as it fell from
the cathead into the water. Even then I remained stationary, to note
the result. The ship took her scope of cable freely, after which I
observed that she was brought up. The next moment I was on board her.
"A close shave, Mr. Wallingford," said Marble, giving me a squeeze of
the hand, that said more for his feelings than any words such a being
could utter; "and many thanks for your piloting. Is not that land I
see, away here to leeward--more to the westward, boy?"
"It is, sir, beyond a doubt. It must be one of the coral islands; and
this is the reef that usually lies to seaward from them. There is the
appearance of trees ashore!"
"It's a discovery, youngster, and will make us all great names!
Remember, this passage I call 'Miles's Inlet;' and to the reef, I give
the name of 'Yawl Reef.'"
I could not smile at this touch of Marble's vanity, for concern left
me no thoughts but for the ship. The weather was now mild and the bay
smooth; the night was fine, and it might be of the last importance to
us to know something more of our situation. The cable might chafe off,
probably _would_, so near a coral reef; and I offered to pull in
towards the land, sounding as I went, and otherwise gaining the
knowledge that might be necessary to our security. After a little
reflection, the captain consented, ordering me to take provisions and
water in the boat, as the duty might detain me until morning.
I found the bay between the reef and the island about a league in
_breadth_, and across its entire _width_, the soundings did
not vary much from ten fathoms. The outer barrier of rock, on which
the sea broke, appeared to be an advanced wall, that the indefatigable
little insects had erected, as it might be, in defence of their
island, which had probably been raised from the depths of the ocean, a
century or two ago, by some of their own ancestors. The gigantic works
completed by these little aquatic animals, are well known to
navigators, and give us some tolerably accurate notions of the manner
in which the face of the globe has been made to undergo some of its
alterations. I found the land easy of access, low, wooded, and without
any sign of habitation. The night was so fine that I ventured inland,
and after walking more than a mile, most of the distance in a grove of
cocoa and bananas, I came to the basin of water that is usually found
in the islands of this particular formation. The inlet from the sea
was at no great distance, and I sent one of the men back to the yawl,
with orders for the boat to proceed thither. I next sounded the inlet
and the bay, and found everywhere a sandy bottom, and about ten
fathoms of water. As I expected, the shoalest spot was the inlet; but
in this, which I sounded thoroughly, there was nowhere less than
five. It was now midnight; and I should have remained on the island
until morning, to make further surveys by daylight, had we not seen
the ship, under her canvass, and so much nearer to us than we had
supposed possible, as to satisfy me she was drifting in fast towards
the land. Of course I did not hesitate, but pulled on board.
It was as I suspected. The rocks so near the reef had chafed off the
cable; the ship struck adrift, and Marble was under his canvass
waiting my return, in order to ascertain where he might anchor anew. I
told him of the lagoon in the centre of the island, and gave him every
assurance of there being water enough to carry in any craft that
floats. My reputation was up, in consequence of the manner the ship
had been taken through the first inlet, and I was ordered to conn her
into this new haven.
The task was not difficult. The lightness of the wind, and uncertainty
about the currents proving the only source of embarrassment, I
succeeded in finding the passage, after a short trial; and sending the
boat ahead, under Talcott, as an additional precaution, soon had the
Crisis floating in the very centre of this natural dock. Sail was
shortened as we came in, and the ship made a flying moor; after which
we lay as securely, at if actually in some basin wrought by art. It is
my opinion, the vessel would have ridden out the hardest gale, or
anything short of a hurricane, at single anchor, in that place. The
sense of security was now so strong upon us, that we rolled up our
canvass, set an anchor watch of only one man, and turned in.
I never laid my head down, on board ship, with greater satisfaction,
than I did that night. Let the truth be frankly stated. I was
perfectly satisfied with myself. It was owing to my decision and
vigilance that the ship was saved, when outside the reef, out of all
question; and I think she would have been lost after she struck
adrift, had I not discovered her present berth. There she was,
however, with land virtually all round her, a good bottom, plenty of
water, and well moored. As I have said already, she could not be
better secured in an artificial dock. In the midst of the Pacific,
away from all custom-house officers, in a recently discovered and
uninhabited island, there was nothing to fear. Men sleep soundly in
such circumstances, and I should have been in a deep slumber in a
minute after I was in my berth, had not Marble's conversation kept me
awake, quite unwillingly on my part, for five minutes. His state-room
door was open, and, through it, the following discourse was held.
"I think, on the whole," commenced the captain, "it will be better to
_generalize_ a little more,"--this was a favourite expression of
the ex-mate's, and one he often used without exactly knowing its
application himself.--"Yes, to generalize a little more; it shall be
Marble Land, Wallingford Bay, Yawl, Reef, _Talcott_ Inlet,
Miles's Anchorage--and a d----d bad anchorage it was, Miles; but,
never mind, we must take the good with the bad, in this wicked world."
"Very true, sir; but as for taking that anchorage, you must excuse me,
as I shall never take it again."
"Perhaps not. Well, this is what I call comfort--ha! Talcott?--Is
Talcott asleep, Miles?"
"He and the second-mate are hard at it, sir--full and by, and going
ten knots," I muttered, wishing my tormentor in Japan, at the moment.
"Ay; they are rackers at a sleep! I say, Miles, such a discovery as
this will make a man's fortune! The world generalizes in discoveries,
altogether, making no great matter of distinction between your
Columbuses, Cooks, or Marbles. An island is an island and he who
first discovers it, has the credit. Poor Captain Williams! He would
have sailed this ship for a whole generation, and never found anything
in the way of novelty."
"Except the Straits--" I muttered very indistinctly, breathing deep
"Ay, that _was_ an affair! Hadn't you and I been aboard, the ship
never would have done that. We are the very offspring of luck! There
was the affair of the wreck off Madagascar--there are bloody currents
in the Pacific, too, I find, Miles."
"The fellow's dreaming. One word, boy, before you cut loose from all
reason and reflection. Don't you think it would be a capital idea to
poke in a little patriotism among the names; patriotism goes so far in
our part of the world. Congress Rocks would be a good title for the
highest part of the reef, and Washington Sands would do for the
landing you told me of. Washington should have a finger in the pie."
"Crust isn't down, sir."
"The fellow's off, and I may as well follow, though it is not easy to
sleep on the honour of a discovery like this. Good night, Miles!"
"Ay, ay! sir."
Such was the account Marble afterwards gave me of the termination of
the dialogue. Sleep, sleep, sleep! Never did men enjoy their rest more
than we did for the next five hours, the ship being as silent as a
church on a week-day, during the whole time. For myself, I can safely
say I heard nothing, or knew nothing, until I was awakened by a
violent shake of the shoulder. Supposing myself to have been aroused
for an ordinary watch at sea, I was erect in an instant, and found the
sun's rays streaming into my face, through the cabin-windows. This
prevented me, for a moment, from seeing that I had been disturbed by
Captain Marble himself. The latter waited until he perceived I could
understand him, and then he said, in a grave, meaning manner--
"Miles, there is a mutiny in the ship! Do you understand me,
Mr. Wallingford?--a bloody mutiny!"
"A mutiny, Captain Marble! You confound me, sir--I had thought our
people perfectly satisfied."
"Umph! One never knows whether the copper will come up head or tail. I
thought, when I turned in last night, it was to take the surest nap I
ever tasted afloat; and here I awake and find a mutiny!"
I was on my feet and dressing in an instant, as a matter of course,
having first gone to the berths of the two other mates, and given each
"But how do you know this, Captain Marble?" I resumed, as soon as
there was a chance. "I hear no disturbance, and the ship is just where
we left her," glancing through the cabin-windows; "I think you must be
"Not I. I turned out, ten minutes since, and was about to go on deck
to get a look at your basin, and breathe the fresh air, when I found
the companion-doors fastened, precisely Smudge-fashion. I suppose you
will allow that no regular ship's company would dare to fasten the
officers below, unless they intended to seize the craft."
"This is very extraordinary! Perhaps some accident has befallen the
doors. Did you call out, sir?"
"I thumped like an admiral, but got no answer. When on the point of
trying the virtue of a few kicks, I overheard a low laugh on deck, and
that let me into the secret of the state of the nation at once. I
suppose you will all admit, gentlemen, when sailors laugh at their
officers, as well as batten them down, that they must be somewhat near
a state of mutiny."
"It does look so, indeed, sir. We had better arm the moment we are
dressed, Captain Marble."
"I have done that already, and you will each find loaded pistols in my
In two minutes from that moment, all four of us were in a state for
action, each man armed with a brace of ship's pistols, well-loaded and
freshly primed. Marble was for making a rush at the cabin-doors, at
once; but I suggested the improbability of the steward or Neb's being
engaged in any plot against the officers, and thought it might be well
to ascertain what had become of the two blacks, before we commenced
operations. Talcott proceeded instantly to the steerage, where the
steward slept, and returned in a moment to report that he had found
him sound asleep in his berth.
Reinforced by this man, Captain Marble determined to make his first
demonstration by way of the forecastle, where, by acting with caution,
a surprise on the mutineers might be effected. It will be remembered
that a door communicated with the forecastle, the fastenings of which
were on the side of "'twixt decks." Most of the cargo being in the
lower hold, there was no difficulty in making our way to this door,
where we stopped and listened, in order to learn the state of things
on the other side of the bulkhead. Marble had whispered to me, as we
groped our way along in the sort of twilight which pervaded the place,
the hatches being on and secured, that "them bloody Philadelphians"
must be at the bottom of the mischief, as our old crew were a set of
as "peaceable, well-disposed chaps as ever eat duff (dough) out of a
The result of the listening was to produce a general surprise. Out of
all question, snoring, and that on no small scale of the gamut of
Morpheus, was unequivocally heard. Marble instantly opened the door,
and we entered the forecastle, pistols in hand. Every berth had its
tenant, and all hands were asleep! Fatigue, and the habit of waiting
for calls, had evidently kept each of the seamen in his berth, until
that instant. Contrary to usage in so warm a climate, the scuttle was
on, and a trial soon told us it was fast.
"To generalize on this idee, Miles," exclaimed the captain, "I should
say we are again battened down by savages!"
"It does indeed look so, sir; and yet I saw no sign of the island's
being inhabited. It may be well, Captain Marble, to muster the crew,
that we may learn who's who."
"Quite right--do you turn 'em up, and send 'em all aft into the cabin,
where we have more daylight."
I set about awaking the people, which was not difficult, and in a few
minutes everybody was sent aft. Following the crew, it was soon found
that only one man was missing, and he was the very individual whom we
had left on deck, when we had all gone below on securing the
ship. Every soul belonging to the vessel was present in the cabin, or
steerage, but this solitary man--Philadelphians and all!
"It can never be that Harris has dared to trifle with us," said
Talcott; "and yet it does look surprisingly like it."
"Quite sure, Miles, that Marble Land is an uninhabited island?" said
the captain, interrogatively.
"I can only say, sir, that it is as much like all the other
uninhabited coral islands we have passed, as one pea is like another;
and that there were no signs of a living being visible last night. It
is true, we saw but little of the island, though to all appearances
there was not much to see."
"Unluckily, all the men's arms are on deck, in the arm-chest, or
strapped to the boom or masts. There is no use, however, in
dillydallying against one man; so I will make a rumpus that will soon
bring the chap to his bearings."
Hereupon Marble made what he called a rumpus in good earnest. I
thought, for a minute, he would kick the cabin-doors down.
"'Andzomelee-'andzomelee," said some one on deck. "Vat for you make
so much kick?"
"Who the devil are you?" demanded Marble, kicking harder than ever."
Open the cabin-doors, or I'll kick them down, and yourself overboard."
"Monsieur--sair," rejoined another voice, "_tenez_--you air
_prisonnier_. _Comprenez-vous_--prisonair, eh?"
"These are Frenchmen, Captain Marble," I exclaimed, "and we are in the
hands of the enemy."
This was astounding intelligence; so much so, that all had difficulty
in believing it. A further parley, however, destroyed our hopes,
little by little, until we entered into an arrangement with those on
deck, to the following effect: I was to be permitted to go out, in
order to ascertain the real facts of our situation; while Marble and
the remainder of the crew were to remain below, passive, until the
result should be reported. Under this arrangement, one of the
cabin-doors was opened, and I sallied forth.
Astonishment almost deprived me of the power of vision, when I looked
around me. Quite fifty armed white men, sailors and natives of France,
by their air and language, crowded round me, as curious to see me, as
I could possibly be to see them. In their midst was Harris, who
approached me with an embarrassed and sorrowful air--
"I know I deserve death, Mr. Wallingford," this man commenced; "but I
fell asleep after so much work, and everything looking so safe and
out-of-harm's-way like; and when I woke up, I found these people on
hoard, and in possession of the ship."
"In the name of wonder, whence come they, Harris? is there a French
ship at the island?"
"By all I can learn and see, sir, they are the crew of a wrecked
letter-of-marque--an Indiaman of some sort or other; and finding a
good occasion to get off the island, and make a rich prize, they have
helped themselves to the poor Crisis--God bless her! say I, though she
is now under the French flag, I suppose."
I looked up at the gaff, and, sure enough, there was flying the
"The morning air blows fresh on him:"
"The waves dance gladly in his sight;"
"The sea-birds call, and wheel, and skim--"
"O, blessed morning light!"
"He doth not hear their joyous call; he sees
No beauty in the wave, nor feels the breeze."
Truth is, truly, often stranger than fiction. The history of the
circumstances that brought us into the hands of our enemies will fully
show this. La Pauline was a ship of six hundred tons, that carried
letters-of-marque from the French government. She sailed from France a
few weeks after we had left London, bound on a voyage somewhat similar
to our own, though neither sea-otter skins, sandal-wood, nor pearls,
formed any part of her contemplated bargains. Her first destination
was the French islands off Madagascar, where she left part of her
cargo, and took in a few valuables in return. Thence she proceeded to
the Philippine Islands, passing in the track of English and American
traders, capturing two of the former, and sinking them after taking
out such portions of cargo as suited her own views. From Manilla, la
Pauline shaped her course for the coast of South America, intending to
leave certain articles brought from France, others purchased at
Bourbon, the Isle of France, and the Philippines, and divers bales and
boxes found in the holds of her prizes, in that quarter of the world,
in exchange for the precious metals. In effecting all this, Monsieur
Le Compte, her commander, relied, firstly, on the uncommon sailing of
his ship; secondly, on his own uncommon boldness and dexterity, and
thirdly on the well-known disposition of the South Americans to
smuggle. Doubloons and dollars taking up but little room, he reserved
most of the interior of his vessel, after his traffic on the "Main,"
for such property as might be found in the six or eight prizes he
calculated, with certainty, on making, after getting to the eastward
of the Horn. All these well-grounded anticipations had been signally
realized down to a period of just three months to a day, prior to our
own arrival at this unhappy island.
On the night of the day just mentioned, la Pauline, without the
smallest notice of the vicinity of any danger, running in an easy
bowline, and without much sea, had brought up on another part of the
very reef from which we had made so narrow an escape. The rocks being
coral, there was little hope for her; and, in fact, they appeared
through her bottom within two hours after she struck. The sugars taken
in at the Isle of France, as a ground tier of ballast, were soon
rendered of doubtful value, as a matter of course, but the weather
remaining pleasant, Captain Le Compte succeeded, by means of his
boats, in getting everything else of value on the island, and
forthwith set about breaking up the wreck, in order to construct a
craft that might carry himself and his people to some civilized
land. Having plenty of tools, and something like sixty men, great
progress had been made in the work, a schooner of about ninety tons
being then so far completed, as to be nearly ready to be put in the
water. Such was the state of things, when, one fine night, we arrived
in the manner already related. The French kept constant look-outs, and
it seems we were seen, a distant speck on the ocean, just as the sun
set, while the low trees of the island eluded our vigilance. By the
aid of a good night-glass, our movements were watched, and a boat was
about to be sent out to warn us of our danger, when we passed within
the reef. Captain Le Compte knew the chances were twenty to one that
we were an enemy, and he chose to lie concealed to watch the result.
As soon as we had anchored within the basin, and silence prevailed in
the ship, he manned his own gig, and pulled with muffled oars up under
our bows, to reconnoitre. Finding everything quiet, he ventured into
the fore-chains, and thence on deck, accompanied by three of his
men. He found Harris, snoring with his back supported against a
gun-carriage, and immediately secured him. Then, it only remained to
close the forescuttle and the cabin-doors, and to fasten them, to have
us all prisoners below. The boat was sent for more men, and hours
before any of us in the berths were awake, the ship had effectually
changed masters. Harris told our story, and the captors knew our whole
history, from the day of sailing down to the present time.
Much of this I learned in subsequent conversations with the French,
but enough of it was related to me then, to let me understand the
outlines of the truth. My eyes also let me into many secrets. I found
the island, by day-light, substantially as I had supposed it to be. It
was not so large, however, as it had seemed to me by the aid of the
moon, though its general character was the same. The basin in which
the ship lay might have covered a hundred and fifty acres in extent,
the belt of land which encircled it, varying in breadth from a quarter
of a mile to three miles. Most of the island was an open grove, lying
at an elevation of from ten to thirty feet above the ocean; and we
ascertained there were several springs of the sweetest water on
it. Nature, by one of its secret processes, had covered the earth with
a beautiful short grass; and the French, with their usual attention to
the table, and their commendable activity, had already several
materials for salads, &c., in full growth. String-beans might be had
for asking, and _petits pois_ were literally a drug. I saw the
tents of the French, extending in a line beneath the shades of the
trees; and there was la Petite Pauline (the schooner) on her ways,
actually undergoing the process of receiving her first coat of
paint. As for la Pauline, herself, I could just discover her lower
mast-heads, inclining at an angle of forty-five degrees from the
perpendicular, through a vista in the trees.
There was a good-humoured common sense in all the proceedings of
Mons. Le Compte, that showed he was a philosopher in the best sense of
the word. He took things without repining himself, and wished to make
others as happy as circumstances would allow. At his suggestion, I
invited Marble on deck; and, after making my own commander acquainted
with the state of the facts, we both listened to the propositions of
our captor. Mons. Le Compte, all his officers, and not a few of his
men, had been prisoners, some time or other, in England, and there was
no difficulty in carrying on the negotiations in our mother tongue.
"_Votre batiment_--your _sheep_, shall become French--_bien
entendu_"--commenced our captor--"vid her _cargaison--rig,_ and _tout
cela. Bien; c'est convenu._ I shall not exact _rigueur_ in _mes
conditions._ If you shall have _possible_ to take your _sheep_ from
_nous autres Francais_--_d'accord._ Every man for himself _et sa
nation._ Zere is the _pavillion Francais_--and zere it shall fly, so
long as we shall not help--_mais--parole d'honneur_, ze prize come
cheep, and shall be sell very dear--_entendez vous? Bien._ Now, sair,
I shall put you and all your peepl' on ze island, vere you shall take
our place, while we take your place. Ze arm shall be in our hand,
while ze sheep stay, but we leave you _fusils, poudre et tout cela_,
This was nearly verbatim, the programme of capitulation, as laid down
by Captain Le Compte. As for Marble, it was not in his nature to
acquiesce in such an arrangement, without much cavilling and
contention. But _cui bono?_ We were in Mons. le Compte's hands;
and, though disposed to deal very handsomely by us, it was easy enough
to see he was determined to make his own conditions. I succeeded, at
last, in making Marble understand that resistance was useless; and he
submitted, though with some such grace as a man, who has not been
mesmerized, submits to an amputation--those who _have,_ are said
rather to delight in the amusement.
The terms of the capitulation--and they differed but little from
surrendering at discretion--were no sooner agreed to, than our people
were ordered into the forecastle, whence they were transferred to the
boats, in readiness to be sent ashore. All the chests, and private
effects, were moved out, in the most honourable manner, and sent into
la Pauline's boats, which lay prepared to receive them. As for us
officers, we were put in the gig, Neb and the cabin steward being
charged with the duty of looking after our private property. When
everybody, the blacks excepted, was in a boat, we shoved off, and
proceeded towards the landing, as chop-fallen and melancholy a party
as ever took possession of a newly-discovered country. Marble affected
to whistle, for he was secretly furious at the _nonchalance_
manifested by Captain Le Compte; but I detected him in getting parts
of Monny Musk and the Irish Washerwoman, into the same strain. To own
the truth, the ex-mate was morally much disturbed. As for myself, I
considered the affair as an incident of war, and cared much less.
"_Voila, messieurs_," exclaimed Monsieur Le Compte, flourishing
his arm, with an air of unsurpassed generosity; "you shall be master
here, so soon after we shall go away, and take our leetl' property wid
"He's d----d generous, Miles," growled Marble, in my ear. "He'll leave
us the island, and the reef, and the cocoa-nuts, when he has gone off
with our ship, and her cargo. I'll bet all I'm worth, he tows off his
bloody schooner, in the bargain."
"There is no use in complaining, sir; and by keeping on good terms
with the French, we may fare the better."
The truth of this was soon apparent. Captain Le Compte invited us all
to share his breakfast, and we repaired to the tent of the French
officers, with that purpose. In the mean time, the French sailors were
transferring the few articles they intended to carry away, to the
ship, with the generous object of leaving their own tents to the
immediate occupation of us prisoners. As Monsieur Le Compte's plan was
to proceed to the Spanish Main, in order to complete his contemplated
traffic in that quarter, no sooner were the tents prepared, than the
French began also to ship such articles of their own, as it had
originally been proposed to exchange for Spanish dollars. In the mean
time, we sat down to breakfast.
"_C'est la fortune de guerre!_--vat you call fortune of war,
_messieurs_," observed Captain Le Compte, whirling the stick in a
vessel of chocolate, in a very artistical manner, all the
while. "_Bon--c'est excellente--Antoin--_"
Antoin appeared in the shape of a well-smoked, copper-coloured
cabin-boy. He was told to take a small pitcher of the chocolate, with
Captain Le Compte's compliments to _mademoiselle_, and to tell
her there was now every prospect of their quitting the island in a
very few days, and of seeing _la belle France_, in the course of
the next four or five months. This was said in French, and rapidly,
with the vehemence of one who felt all he uttered, and more too but I
knew enough of the language to understand its drift.
"I suppose the fellow is generalizing on our misfortunes, in his
d----d lingo," growled Marble; "but, let him look out--he's not home
yet, by many a thousand miles!"
I endeavoured to explain it all to Marble; but it was useless; he
insisted the Frenchman was sending chocolate from his own table, to
his crew, in order to play the magnifico, on the score of his own good
luck. There was no use in "kicking against the pricks," and I let
Marble enjoy the pleasure of believing the worst of his captor; a sort
of Anglo-Saxon propensity, that has garnished many a page in English
and American history--to say nothing of the propensities and histories
of others, among the great family of nations.
When breakfast was over, Monsieur Le Compte led me aside, in a walk
under the trees, to explain his views and intentions. He gave me to
understand I had been selected for this communication, on account of
his observing the state of mind of my captain. I also comprehended a
little French, which was quite convenient in a conversation with one
who interlarded his English so much with phrases taken from his mother
tongue. I was given to understand that the French would put the
schooner into the water that very evening, and that we should find her
masts, rigging, and sails all fitted for her. With activity, she could
be ready to quit the island in a fortnight, at the farthest. A portion
of our own provisions would be landed, as better suited to our habits
than those which had been taken from la Pauline, while a portion of
the last would be transferred to the Crisis, for the same reason, as
applied to the French. As for water-casks, &c., they were all
arranged; everything, of the sort having been taken from the wreck,
with little or no difficulty, immediately after the loss of the
ship. In a word, we should have little more to do, than to step the
masts, rig our craft, stow her hold, and proceed at once to the
nearest friendly port.
"I zink you shall go to Canton," added Monsieur Le Compte. "Ze
distance shall not be much more than to Sout' America; and zere you
shall find plenty of your _compatriotes_. Of course, you can
sleep and go _chez vous_--vat you call 'home,' with _toute la
facilite_. Oui--_cet arrangement est admirable._" So the
arrangement might appear to him, though I confess to a decided
'preference to remaining in the "blind Crisis," as our men had got to
call her, after her blundering through the Straits of Magellan.
"_Allons!_" exclaimed the French captain, suddenly. "We are near
ze tent of Mademoiselle--we shall go and demand how she carry herself
_ce beau matin!_" On looking up, I saw two small tents within
fifty yards of us. They were beautifully placed, in the midst of a
thicker portion of the grove than usual, and near a spring of the most
exquisitely limpid water I ever beheld. These tents were made of new
canvass, and had been fashioned with care and skill. I could see that
the one we first approached was carpeted over, and that it had many of
the appliances of a comfortable abode. Mons. Le Compte, who was really
a good-looking fellow under forty, put on his most amiable appearance
as he got near the canvass-door; and he hemmed once or twice, as
respectfully as he could, by way of letting his presence be known. In
an instant, a maid-servant came out to receive him. The moment I laid
eyes on this woman, it struck me her face was familiar, though I could
not recall the place, or time, where, or when, we had before met. The
occurrence was so singular, that I was still ruminating on it, when I
unexpectedly found myself standing in the tent, face to face with
Emily Merton and her father! We recognised each other at a glance,
and, to Mons. Le Compte's amazement, hearty greetings passed between
us, as old acquaintances. Old acquaintances, however, we could scarce
be called; but, on an uninhabited island in the South Seas, one is
glad to meet any face that he has ever met before. Emily looked less
blooming than when we had parted, near a twelvemonth before, in
London; but she was still pretty and pleasing. Both she and her father
were in mourning, and, the mother not appearing, I at once guessed the
truth. Mrs. Merton was an invalid when I knew her, though I had not
anticipated for her so speedy a death. I thought Captain Le Compte
appeared vexed at my reception. Still, he did not forget his good
manners; and he rose, saying he would leave me with my friends to make
mutual explanations, while he proceeded to overlook the duty of the
day. On taking his leave, I was not pleased to see him approach and
kiss Emily's hand. The act was done respectfully, and not entirely
without grace; but there were a feeling and manner in it that could
not well be mistaken. Emily blushed, as she wished him good morning,
and turning to look at me, in spite of a kind of dog-in-the-manger
sensation, I could not forbear smiling.
"Never, Mr. Wallingford, never!" Emily said, with emphasis, the
instant her admirer was out of hearing. "We are at his mercy, and must
keep terms with him; but I can never marry a _foreigner_."
"That is poor encouragement for Wallingford, my dear," said her
father, laughing, "should he happen to take a fancy to you himself."
Emily looked confused, but, what, for the circumstances, was better
still, she looked concerned.
"I am sure, dear sir," she answered, with a quickness I thought
charming, "I am sure Mr. Wallingford will not suppose I meant anything
so rude. Then, he is no importunate suitor of mine, like this
disagreeable Frenchman, who always seems to me more like a Turkish
master, than like one who really respects a woman. Besides--"
"Besides what, Miss Merton?" I ventured to ask, perceiving that she
"Besides, Americans are hardly foreigners to _us_," added Emily,
smiling; "for we have even American relatives, you know, father."
"Quite true, my dear, and came near being Americans ourselves. Had my
father established himself where he married, as had been his first
intention, such would have been our national character. But, Mons. Le
Compte has given us a moment to tell our stories to each other, and I
think it will not be a very long moment. Let one of us commence, if we
wish the offices done without unpleasant listeners."
Emily urged me to begin, and I did not hesitate. My story was soon
told. Major Merton and his daughter understood all about the capture
of the ship in the basin, though they were ignorant of the vessel's
name. I had only to relate our voyage on the main, and the death of
Captain Williams, therefore, to have my whole story told. I made it
all the shorter, from an impatience to hear the circumstances which
had thrown my friends into their present extraordinary position.
"It seems extraordinary enough, beyond doubt," Major Merton began, the
moment I left him an opening by my closing remark, "but it is all very
simple, when you commence at the right end of the sad story, and
follow events in the order in which they occurred."
"When you left us in London, Wallingford, I supposed we were on the
point of sailing for the West Indies, but a better appointment soon
after offering in the East, my destination was changed to Bombay. It
was important that I should reach my port at as early a day as
possible; and, no regular Indiaman being ready, I took passage in a
licensed running vessel, a ship of no size, or force. Nothing occurred
until we had got within three or four days' sail of our port, when we
fell in with la Pauline, and were captured. At first, I think Captain
Le Compte would have been willing to let me go on parole, but no
opportunity offered, and we went with the ship to Manilla. While
there, the melancholy loss happened, which, no doubt, you have
comprehended from our mourning; and I was strongly in hopes of making
some arrangements that would still enable me to save my
situation. But, by this time, Monsieur Le Compte had become an open
admirer of Emily, and I suppose it is hopeless to expect any
liberation, so long as he can invent excuses to frustrate it."
"I trust he does not abuse his power, in any way, and annoy Miss
Merton with importunities that are unpleasant to her."
Emily rewarded me for the warmth with which I spoke, with a sweet
smile and a slight blush.
"Of that I cannot accuse him, in one sense at least," resumed Major
Merton. "Mons. Le Compte does all for us that his sense of delicacy
can suggest; and it was not possible for passengers to be more
comfortable, or retired, on board ship, than we were in the
Pauline. That vessel had a poop, and its cabin was given up entirely
to our use. At Manilla, I was permitted to go at large, on a mere
verbal assurance of returning; and, in all other particulars, we have
been treated as well as circumstances would very well allow.
Nevertheless, Emily is too young to admire a suitor of forty, too
English to admire a foreigner, and too well-born to accept one who is
merely a merchant sailor--I mean one who is nothing, and has nothing,
but what his ship makes him, or can give him."
I understood Major Merton's distinction; he saw a difference between
the heir of Clawbonny, pursuing his adventures for the love of the
sea, and a man who pursued the sea as an adventurer. It was not very
delicately made, but it was pretty well, as coming from an European to
an American; the latter being assumed _ex gratia_, to be a being
of an inferior order, morally, politically, physically, socially and
in every other sense, but the pecuniary. Thank Heaven! the American
dollar is admitted, pennyweight for pennyweight, to a precedency
immediately next to that of the metal dollar of Europe. It even goes
before the paper _thaler_ of Prussia.
"I can readily imagine Miss Merton would look higher than Captain Le
Compte, for various reasons," I answered, making a sort of
acknowledgment for the distinction in my favour, by bowing
involuntarily, "and I should hope that gentleman would cease to be
importunate as soon as convinced he cannot succeed."
"You do not know a Frenchman, Mr. Wallingford," rejoined Emily. "He is
the hardest creature on earth to persuade into the notion that he is
"I can hardly believe that this weakness extends as far as the
sailors," said I, laughing. "At all events, you will be released the
instant you reach France."
"Sooner too, I trust, Wallingford," resumed the father. "These
Frenchmen can have it their own way, out here in the solitude of the
Pacific; but, once in the Atlantic, I shall expect some British
cruiser to pick us up, long ere we can reach France."
This was a reasonable expectation, and we conversed about it for some
time. I shall not repeat all that passed; but the reader can have no
difficulty in understanding, that Major Merton and myself communicated
to each other every fact that was likely to be of interest to men in
our situation. When I thought it prudent to take my leave, he walked
some distance with me, holding his way to a point on the outer side of
the island, where I could get a view of the wreck. Here he left me,
for the moment, while I proceeded along the beach, ruminating on all
that had passed.
The process by which nature uses her materials to found islands in the
midst of oceans like the Pacific, is a curious study. The insect that
forms the coral rock, must be an industrious little creature, as there
is reason to think that some of the reefs that have become known to
navigators within the last sixty or seventy years, have since been
converted into islands bearing trees, by their labours. Should the
work go on, a part of this vast sea will yet be converted into a
continent; and, who knows but a railroad may yet run across that
portion of our globe, connecting America with the old world? I see
that Captain Beechy, in his voyage, speaks of a wreck that occurred in
1792, on a _reef_, where, in 1826, he found an island near three
leagues long, bearing tall trees. It would be a curious calculation to
ascertain, if one family of insects can make an island three leagues
long, in thirty-four years, how many families it would take to make
the grading of the railroad I have mentioned. Ten years since, I would
not have ventured a hint of this nature, for it might have set
speculation in motion, and been the instrument of robbing more widows
and orphans of their straitened means; but, Heaven be praised! we
have at length reached a period in the history of the country, when a
man may venture on a speculation in the theory of geography without
incurring the risk of giving birth to some wild--if not
unprincipled--speculation in dollars and cents.
As I drew near the outer shore of the island, opposite to the wreck, I
came unexpectedly on Marble. The poor fellow was seated on a raised
projection of coral rock, with his arms folded, and, was in so
thorough a brown study, that he did not even hear my footsteps in
approaching, though I purposely trod heavily, in order to catch his
ear. Unwilling to disturb him, I stood gazing at the wreck myself, for
some little time, the place affording a much better view of it than
any other point from which it had met my eye. The French had made far
greater inroads upon their vessel, than the elements. She had struck
to leeward of the island, and lay in a spot where, indeed, it might
take years to break her entirely up, in that placid sea. Most of her
upper works, however, were gone; and I subsequently discovered that
her own carpenters had managed to get out even a portion of her
floor-timbers, leaving the fabric bound together by those they
left. Her lower masts were standing, but even her lower yards had been
worked up, in order to make something useful for the schooner. The
beach, at no great distance, was still strewed with objects brought
from the reef, and which it had not yet been found necessary to use.
At length a movement of mine attracted Marble's attention, and he
turned his head towards me. He seemed glad I had joined him, and
expressed himself happy, also, that he saw me alone.
"I have been generalizing a little on our condition, Miles," he said,
"and look at it which end forward I may, I find it bad enough; almost
enough to overcome me. I loved that ship, Mr. Wallingford, as much as
some folks love their parents--of wife or children, I never had any--
and the thought that she has fallen into the hands of a Frenchman, is
too much for my natur'. Had it been Smudge, I could have borne up
against it; but, to haul down one's colours to a wrack, and a bloody
French wrack, too, it is superhuman!"
"You must remember all the circumstances, Captain Marble, and you will
find consolation. The ship was surprised, as we surprised the Lady of
"That's just it--put that on a general principle, now, and where are
you? Surprisers mustn't be surprised. Had we set a quarter-watch, sir,
it never could have happened; and nothing less than a quarter-watch
should have been set in a strange haven. What mattered it, that it was
an uninhabited island, and that the ship was land-locked and
well-moored, and the holding-ground was capital? It is all of no
account when you come to look at the affair in the way of duty. Why,
old Robbins, with his rivers in the ocean, would never have been
caught in this miserable manner."
Then Marble fairly gave in, placed his two hard hands on his face, and
I could see tears trickling from beneath them, as if water were
squeezed from a stone.
"The chances of the sea, Captain Marble," I said, greatly shocked at
such an exhibition, coming from such a quarter--"the chances of the
sea are sometimes too much for the best sailors. We should look at
this loss, as we look at the losses occasioned by a gale--then there
is some hope left, after all."
"I should like to know what--to me, there is no land ahead."
"Surprisers may not only be surprised, but they may carry on their old
trade again, and surprise once more, in their turn."
"What do you mean by that, Miles," said Marble, looking up eagerly,
and speaking as quick as lightning; "are you generalizing, or have you
any particular project in view?"
"Both, Sir. Generalizing, so far as taking the chances of war are
concerned, and particularizing, as to a certain notion that has come
into my head."
"Out with the last, Miles--out with it, boy; the Lord made you for
"First, let me know, Captain Marble, whether you have had any further
conversation with Monsieur Le Compte? whether he has said any more on
the subject of our future proceedings?"
"I just left the grinning rascal--these amiable smiles of his, Miles,
are only so many grins thrown into our faces to let us feel his good
luck; but, d--n him, if I ever get home, I'll fit out a privateer and
be after him, if there's a fast-going schooner to be had in all
America for love or money. I think I'd turn pirate, to catch the
Alas! poor Marble. Little would he, who never got higher than a mate,
unless by accident, be likely to persuade your cautious ship-owners to
intrust him with a vessel of any sort, to go tilting against
wind-mills afloat, in that fashion.
"But, why go to America for a schooner, Captain Marble, when the
French are polite enough to give us one here, exactly where we are?"
"I begin to understand you, boy. There is a little consolation in the
idee, but this Frenchman has already got my commission, and without
the document we should be no better than so many pirates."
"I doubt that, sir, even were a ship to act generally, provided she
actually sailed with a commission, and lost it by accident.
Commissions are all registered, and proof of our character could be
found at home."
"Ay, for the Crisis, but not for this 'Pretty Polly'"--for so Marble
translated Petite Pauline--"The commission is only good for the vessel
that is named in it."
"I don't know that, Captain Marble. Suppose our ship had been sunk in
an action in which we took our enemy, could we not continue our voyage
in the prize, and fight anything that came in our way, afterwards?"
"By George, that does look reasonable. Here was I just threatening to
go out as a pirate, yet hesitating about taking my own."
"Do not the crews of captured vessels often rise upon their captors,
and recapture their own vessels? and were any of them ever called
pirates? Besides, nations at war authorise almost every sort of
hostile act against their enemies."
"Miles, I have been mistaken--you _are_ a good seaman, but natur'
meant you for a lawyer! Give me your hand, boy; I see a gleam of hope
ahead, and a man can live on less hope than food."
Marble then told me the substance of the conversation he had held with
Captain Le Compte. The latter had expressed a sudden and violent
impatience to be off--I understood the cause in a moment; he wished to
separate Emily from her old acquaintance, as soon as possible--intending
to put the schooner into the water for us, that very afternoon, and to
sail himself in the morning. This was a sudden resolution, and the
French were moving heaven and earth to carry it into effect. I confess
to some little regret at hearing it, for it was pleasant to meet the
Mertons in that unexpected manner, and the influence of woman in such
a solitude is unusually great. I now told Marble of my discovery, and
when he had got through with his expressions of wonder, I carried him
to the tents, and led him into the presence of his old acquaintances.
In consequence of this visit, I enjoyed another half hour's _tete a
tete_ with Emily, Marble soon taking the Major to walk with him,
beneath the trees.
We were both recalled to a sense of our real situation, by the
reappearance of Monsieur Le Compte. I cannot say that our conqueror
behaved in the least unhandsomely towards us, notwithstanding his
evident jealousy. He had the tact to conceal most of his feelings, and
owing either to liberality or to art, he assumed an air of generous
confidence, that would be much more likely to touch the feelings of
the maid he sought, than any acts of severity. First asking permission
of Miss Merton, he even invited us, and himself, to dine with the
Major, and, on the whole, we had an agreeable entertainment. We had
turtle and champaigne, and both of a quality that was then out of the
reach of all the aldermen of London or New York; begging pardon of the
Sir Peters and Sir Johns of Guildhall, for putting them, in any sense,
on a level with the "gentleman from the Fourth Ward" or "the gentleman
from the Eleventh Ward;" though, if the truth must be told, the last
very often eat the best dinners, and drink, out of all comparison, the
best wines. Who pays, is a fact buried in the arcana of aldermanic
legerdemain. It was late before we left the table, though Monsieur Le
Compte quitted us early.
At five o'clock precisely we were summoned to witness the
launch. Champaigne and claret had brought Marble into good humour, nor
was I at all out of spirits, myself. Emily put on her hat, and took
her parasol, just as she would have done at home, and accepting my
arm, she walked to the ship-yard, like all the rest of us. Getting her
a good place for the sight, I accompanied Marble to take a look at the
"Pretty Poll," which had not as yet attracted as much of our attention
as she ought. I had suggested to him the probability of an occasion
offering to rise upon the Frenchman, while their attention was taken
up with the schooner; but Monsieur Le Compte warily kept quite half
his men in the ship, and this put the attempt out of the question,
since the guns of the Crisis would have swept any part of the island.
The French mechanics deserved great credit for the skill they had
manifested in the construction of _La Petite Pauline._ She was
not only a safe and commodious craft for her size, but, what was of
great importance to us, her lines promised that she would turn out to
be a fast sailer. I afterwards ascertained that Captain Le Compte had
been her draftsman, possessing not only much taste for, but a good
deal of practice in, the art. The ship in which the Merton's had taken
passage to Bombay, had the copper for a teak-built frigate and sloop
of war in her, and this had been transferred, among; other articles,
to la Pauline, before the prize was burned. Availing himself of this
circumstance, Monsieur Le Compte had actually coppered his schooner,
and otherwise he had made her as neat and commodious as possible. I
make no doubt he intended to surprise his friends at Marseilles, by
showing what clever mariners, wrecked on an island of the Pacific,
could do, on an emergency. Then, doubtless, he found it pleasant to
linger on this island, eating fresh cocoa-nuts, with delicious turtle,
and making love to Emily Merton. Some of the charms of "Pretty Poll"
were fairly to be attributed to the charms of the young lady.
The men began to wedge up, the moment we were all present, and this
portion of the labour was _soon_ completed. Monsieur Le Compte
then took his station in the head of the schooner. Making a profound
bow to Emily, as if to ask her permission, the signal was given; the
spur-shores were knocked away, and the little craft slid off into the
water so easily, making so little ripple as she shot a hundred fathoms
into the bay, as to give the assurance she would prove a fast
vessel. Just as she was water-borne, Le Compte dashed a bottle against
the tiller, and shouted, at the top of his voice, "_succes a la
I turned to Emily, and saw by the blush that she understood French,
while the manner in which she pouted her pretty plump lip betrayed the
humour in which the compliment had been received.
In a few minutes, Captain Le Compte landed, and, in a set speech, he
gave up the schooner to our possession. We were told not to consider
ourselves as prisoners, our captain handsomely admitting that he had
gained no laurels by his victory.
"We shall go away good friend," he concluded, "mais, suppose we shall
meet, and _nos dux republique_ shall not be at peace, then each
must fight for _son pavillion!_"
This was a good concluding sentiment, for such a scene. Immediately
after the Mertons and their domestics, of whom there were a man and a
woman, embarked, I took leave of them on the beach, and, either my
observation, or my vanity, induced me to think Emily got into the boat
with reluctance. Many good wishes were exchanged, and the Major
called out to us, "we shall meet again, gentlemen--there has been a
Providence in our previous intercourse. Adieu, until _then_."
The French were now in a great bustle. Most of the articles they
intended to carry away were already on board the ship; and, by the
time it was dusk, they had closed their communication with the
land. When Captain Le Compte took his leave of us, I could not but
thank him for his many civilities. He had certainly dealt generously
by us, though I still think his sudden departure, which made us fall
heirs to many things we otherwise might not have so done, was owing to
his wish to remove Emily Merton, as quickly as possible, from my
At daylight next morning, Neb came to the officers' tents to say, the
ship was getting her anchors. I was up and dressed in a moment. The
distance to the inlet was about a mile, and I reached it, just as the
Crisis was cast. In a few minutes she came sweeping into the narrow
pass, under her topsails, and I saw Emily and her father, leaning over
the hammock-cloths of the quarter-deck. The beautiful girl was so
near, that I could read the expression of her soft eyes, and I fancied
they were filled with gentle concern. The Major called out, "God
bless you, dear Wallingford"--then the ship swept past, and was soon
in the outer bay. Half an hour later, or before I left the spot, she
was at sea, under everything that would draw from her trunks down.
"I better brook the loss of brittle life,
Than those proud titles thou hast won of me;
They wound my thoughts, worse than thy sword my flesh."
Half-way between this inlet and the ship-yard, I found Marble,
standing with his arms folded, gazing after the receding ship. His
countenance was no longer saddened; but it was fierce. He shook his
hand menacingly at the French ensign, which was flying at our old
gaff, and said--
"Ay, d----n you, flutter away; you quiver and shake now like one of
your coxcombs pigeon-winging; but where will you be this day two
months? Miles, no man but a bloody Frenchman would cast away a ship,
there where this Mister Count has left the bones of his vessel; though
_here_, where we came so nigh going, it's a miracle any man could
escape. Hadn't we brought the Crisis through that opening first, he
never would have dared to go out by it."
I confess I saw little about Monsieur Le Compte's management but skill
and good seamanship; but nothing is more painful to most men than to
admit the merit of those who have obtained an advantage over them.
Marble could not forget his own defeat; and the recollection jaundiced
his eyes, and biassed his judgment.
"I see our people are busy, already, sir," I remarked, by way of
drawing the captain's attention to some other subject. "They have
hauled the schooner up to the yard, and seem to be getting along spars
"Ay, ay--Talcott has his orders; and I expect you will bestir
yourself. I shall step the masts myself, and you will get all the
rigging ready to be put into its place, the moment it is
possible. That Frenchman calculated, he told me to my face, that we
might get to sea in a fortnight; I will let him see that a set of
Yankees can rig and stow his bloody schooner, in three days, and then
leave themselves time to play."
Marble was not a man of idle vaunts. He soon had everybody at work,
with a system, order, silence, and activity, that proved he was master
of his profession. Nor was the language which might sound so boastful
to foreign ears, altogether without its justification. Forty Americans
were a formidable force; and, well directed, I make no doubt they
would accomplish far more than the ordinary run of French seamen, as
they were governed and managed in the year 1800, and, counting them
man for man, would have accomplished in double the time. Our crew had
now long acted together, and frequently under the most trying
circumstances; and they showed their training, if men ever did, on the
present occasion. Everybody was busy; and we had the shears up, and
both masts stepped, in the course of a few hours. By the time the
main-mast was in, I had the fore-mast rigged, the jib-boom in its
place, the sprit-sail yard crossed--everything carried a spar under
its bowsprit then--and the lower yard up. It is true, the French had
got everything ready for us; and when we turned the hands to, after
dinner, we actually began to strike in cargo, water, provisions, and
such other things, as it was intended to carry away. At dusk, when we
knocked off work, the Emily looked like a sea-going craft, and there
was every prospect of our having her ready for sea, by the following
evening. But, the duty had been carried on, in silence. Napoleon said
there had been more noise made in the little schooner which carried
him from l'Orient to Basque Roads, than was made on board the
line-of-battle ship that conveyed him to St. Helena, during the whole
passage. Since that memorable day, the French have learned to be
silent on board ship, and the fruits remain to be seen.
That night, Marble and myself consulted together on the aspect of
things--or, as he expressed it, "we generalized over our prospects."
Monsieur Le Compte had done one thing which duty required of him. He
did not leave us a kernel of the gunpowder belonging to either ship;
nor could we find a boarding-pike, cutlass, or weapon of any sort,
except the officers' pistols. We had a canister of powder, and a
sufficiency of bullets for the last, which had been left as, out of an
_esprit de corps_, or the feeling of an officer, which told him
we might possibly need these means to keep our own crew in order. Such
was not the fact, however, with the particular people we happened to
have; a more orderly and reasonable set of men never sailing together.
But, Monsieur Le Compte knew it was his duty to put it out of their
power to trouble us, so far as it lay in his; but, at the same time,
while he left us the means of safety, he provided against our doing
any further injury to his own countrymen. In this he had pretty
effectually succeeded, so far as armament was concerned.
The next morning I was up with the appearance of the dawn, and, having
suffered much from the heat the preceding day, I walked to a suitable
spot, threw off my clothes, and plunged into the basin. The water was
transparent almost as air; and I happened to select a place where the
coral grew within a few yards of the surface. As I dove, my eye fell
on a considerable cluster of large oysters that were collected on the
rock, and, reaching them, I succeeded in bringing up half a dozen that
clung to each other. These dives I repeated, during the next quarter
of an hour, until I had all the oysters, sixty or eighty in number,
safe on the shore. That they were the pearl oysters, I knew
immediately; and beckoning to Neb, the fellow soon had them snug in a
basket, and put away in a place of security. The circumstance was
mentioned to Marble, who, finding no more heavy drags to be made,
ordered the Sandwich Islanders to take a boat and pass a few hours in
their regular occupation, on account of the owners--if, indeed, the
last had any further claim on our services. These men met with
tolerable success, though, relatively, nothing equal to mine. What,
just then, was of far more importance, they made a discovery of an
arm-chest lying on the bottom of the basin, at the anchorage of the
Crisis, and which had doubtless been sunk there by the French. We had
all la Pauline's boats but the captain's gig. I went in one of them
with a gang of hands, and, the divers securing a rope to the handles
of the chest, we soon got it in. It turned out to be one of the
arm-chests of the Crisis, which the French had found in their way and
thrown overboard, evidently preferring to use weapons to which they
were accustomed. They had done better by carrying the chest out to
sea, and disposing of it in fifty or a hundred fathom water.
The prize was turned over to the gunner, who reported that it was the
chest in which we kept our cutlasses and pistols, of both of which
there was a sufficient supply to give every man one of each. There
were also several horns of powder, and a bag of bullets; but the first
was ruined by the water. As for the arms, they were rubbed dry, oiled,
and put away again in the chest, after the last had stood a whole day,
in the hot sun, open. Thus, through the agency of men brought for a
very different purpose, we were put in possession of the means of
achieving the exploit, which might now be said to form the great
object of our lives.
That day we got everything on board the schooner that it was thought
desirable to take with us. We left much behind that was valuable, it
is true, especially the copper; but Marble wisely determined that it
was inexpedient to put the vessel deeper than good ballast-trim, lest
it should hurt her sailing. We had got her fairly to her bearings, and
this was believed to be as low as was expedient. It is true, a great
deal remained to be stowed; the deck being littered, and the hold, the
ground-tier excepted, in great confusion. But our bread, water, beef,
pork, and other eatables, were all there, and in abundance; and,
though not to be had for the asking, they were still to be had. The
sails were bent, and the only anchor, la Pauline's stream, with her
two largest kedges, was on our bows. While in this condition, Marble
gave the unexpected order for all hands to come on board, and for the
shore-fasts to be cast off.
Of course, there was no dissenting to so positive a command. We had
signed new shipping-articles for the schooner, extending the
engagements made when we entered on board the Crisis, to this new
vessel, or any other she might capture. The wind was a steady trade,
and, when we showed our main-sail and jib to it, the little craft
glided athwart the basin like a duck. Shooting through the pass,
Marble tacked her twice, as soon as he had an offing; and everybody
was delighted with the quickness with which she was worked. There was
barely light enough to enable us to find our way through the opening
in the reef; and, just thirty-eight hours after the Crisis sailed, we
were on her track. We had only conjecture to guide us as to the ship's
course, with the exception of the main fact of her having sailed for
the west coast of South America; but we had not failed to notice that
she disappeared in the north-east trades on a bow-line. We put the
schooner as near as possible on the same course, making a proper
allowance for the difference in the rig of the two vessels.
The distance run that night, satisfied us all that Mons. Le Compte
was a good draftsman. The schooner ran 106 miles in twelve hours,
against a very respectable sea, which was at least ten or fifteen more
than the Crisis could have done under the same circumstances. It is
true, that what was close-hauled for her, was not close-hauled for us;
and, in this respect, we had the advantage of her. Marble was so well
pleased with our night's work, that when he came on deck next morning,
the first thing he did was to order a bottle of rum to be brought him,
and then all hands to be called. As soon as the people were up, he
went forward, got into the head, and commanded every body to muster on
the forecastle. Marble now made a speech.
"We have some good, and some bad luck, this v'y'ge, men," he said;
"and, when we generalize on the subject, it will be found that good
luck has usually followed the bad luck. Now, the savages, with that
blackguard Smudge, knocked poor Captain Williams in the head, and
threw him overboard, and got the ship from us; then came the good luck
of getting her back again. After this, the French did us that
unhandsome thing: now, here comes the good luck of their leaving us a
craft that will overhaul the ship, when I needn't tell _you,_
what will come of it." Here all hands, as in duty bound, gave three
cheers. "Now, I neither sail nor fight in a craft that carries a
French name. Captain Count christened the schooner the--Mr. Wallingford
will tell you her exact name."
"_La Belle Emelie,_" said I, "or the Beautiful Emily."
"None of your belles for me, nor your Beautiful Emilys either," cried
Marble, smashing the bottle over the schooner's nose; "So here goes
three cheers again, for the 'Pretty Poll,' which was the name the
craft was born to, and the name she shall bear, as long as Moses
Marble sails her."
From that moment, the schooner was known by the name of the "Pretty
Poll." I met with portions of our crew years afterwards, and they
always spoke of her by this appellation; sometimes familiarly terming
her the "Poll," or the "Polly."
All the first day out, we were busy in making ourselves comfortable,
and in getting the Polly's trim. We succeeded so well in this last,
that, according to our calculations, we made a knot an hour more than
the Crisis could have done under the same circumstances, fast as the
ship was known to be. As the Crisis had about thirty-eight hours the
start of us, and ran, on an average, about seven knots the hour for
all that time, it would require about ten days to overtake her. Of
course this could only happen, according to our own calculations, when
we were from eighteen hundred to two thousand miles from the
island. For my own part, I sincerely hoped it would not occur at all,
at sea; feeling satisfied our only chances of success depended on
surprise. By following the vessel into some port, it might be
possible to succeed; but, for an unarmed schooner to attack a ship
like the Crisis, with even a large crew on board; it seemed rashness
to think of it. Marble, however, would not listen to my
remonstrances. He insisted we had more than powder enough to load all
our pistols half-a-dozen times each, and, laying the ship plump
aboard, the pistols would do the rest. I was silenced, quite as a
matter of course, if not convinced.
The fifth day out, Neb came to me, saying--"Master Miles, somet'ing
must be done wid 'em 'ere 'ysters! Dey smell, onaccountable; and de
people swear dey will t'row 'em overboard, if I don't eat 'em. I not
hungry enough for _dat_, sir."
These were the pearl oysters, already mentioned, which had been
hastening to dissolution and decomposition, by the heat of the
hold. As the captain was as much concerned in this portion of the
cargo, as I was myself, I communicated the state of things to him, and
he ordered the bags and barrels on deck, forthwith. It was well
something was done, or I doubt not a disease would have been the
consequence. As decomposition was the usual process by which to come
at the treasures of these animals, however, everything was exactly in
the state we wished.
An uninterested observer would have laughed, at seeing the employment
of the quarter-deck, for the next four hours. Marble, and the two
mates, attacked a barrel belonging to the captain, while Neb and I had
my own share to ourselves. It was a trying occupation, the odour far
exceeding in strength that of the Spice Islands. We stood it,
however--for what will not man endure for the sake of riches? Marble
foresaw the difficulties, and had once announced to the mates that
they then would "open on shares." This had a solacing influence, and
amid much mirth and sundry grimaces, the work went on with tolerable
rapidity. I observed, however, that Talcott threw one or two subjects,
that doubtless were tougher than common, overboard, after very
The first seven oysters I examined, contained nothing but seed pearl,
and not many of these. Neb opened, and I examined; and the latter
occupation was so little to my taste, that I was just on the point of
ordering the whole lot thrown overboard, when Neb handed me
another. This oyster contained nine beautiful pearls, of very uniform
dimensions, and each about as large as a good-sized pea. I dropped
them into a bowl of fresh water, whence they came out sweet, pearly,
and lustrous. They were of the sort known as the "white water," which
is the kind most prized among Christian nations, doubtless on account
of their harmonizing so well with the skins of their women. No sooner
was my luck known, than it brought all the other "pearl fishermen"
around me; Marble, with his nostrils plugged with oakum, and a quid of
tobacco in his mouth, that was as large as a small potatoe.
"By George, Miles, that looks like business," the captain exclaimed,
going back to his work, with renovated zeal, "though it is a calling
fit only for hogs and scavengers! Did I embark in it largely, I would
keep as many clerks as a bank. What do you suppose now, these nine
chaps may be worth?"
"Some fifty dollars, or thereabouts--you see, sir, they are quite
large--much larger than it is usual to see our women wear."
The ninth of my oysters produced eleven pearls, and all about the size
and quality of the first. In a few minutes I had seventy-three just
such pearls, besides a quantity of seed pearl. Then followed a
succession of barren shells; a dozen not giving a pearl. The three
that succeeded them gave thirty-one more; and another yielded four
pearls, each of which was as large as a small cherry. After that, I
got one that was almost as large as a common hickory-nut, and six more
of the size of the cherry-sized pearls. In addition to these, I got in
all, one hundred and eighty-seven of the size of peas, besides a large
handful of the seed pearl. I afterwards ascertained, that the pearls I
had thus obtained were worth in the market about eighteen hundred
dollars; as they were far more remarkable for their beauty, than for
Notwithstanding the oakum plugs, and the tobacco, and the great
quantity of shells his divers had found, for they had brought up
something like two hundred and fifty oysters in the course of the day,
the party of the captain found in all, but thirty-six pearls, the seed
excepted; though they obtained some beautiful specimens among the
shells. From that moment, Marble discontinued the trade, and I never
heard him say anything more on the subject of pursuing it. My own
beauties were put carefully away, in reserve for the time when I might
delight the eyes of certain of my female friends with them. I never
intended to sell one, but they were very precious to me on other
accounts. As for the crew, glad enough were they to be rid of such
uncomfortable shipmates. As I gazed on the spotless and lustrous
pearls, and compared them with the revolting tenements from which they
had just been redeemed, I likened them to the souls of the just
escaping from their tenements of clay, to enjoy hereafter an endless
existence of purity.
In the meantime, the Pretty Poll continued to find her way along miles
and miles of the deserted track across the Pacific. Marble had once
belonged to a Baltimore clipper, and he sailed our craft probably much
better than she would have been sailed by Mons. Le Compte, though that
officer, as I afterwards learned, had distinguished himself in command
of a lugger-privateer, in the British Channel. Our progress was
generally from a hundred and fifty to two hundred and twenty miles in
twenty-four hours; and so it continued to be for the first ten days,
or the period, when, according to our own calculations, we ought to be
near the Crisis, had that vessel steered a course resembling our
own. For my own part, I neither wished nor expected to see the ship,
until we reached the coast of South America, when we might ascertain
her position by communicating with the shore. As for the
_guarda-costas_, I knew we could easily elude them, and there
might be a small chance of regaining the vessel, something like the
way in which we had lost her. But Marble's impatience, and the
keenness with which he felt our disgrace, would not make terms even
with the elements; and I do believe, he would have run alongside of
the Crisis in a gale of wind, could he have come up with her. The
chance of our having sailed so far, however, on a line so nearly
resembling that of the chase as to bring us together, was so very
small, that few of us thought it worth our consideration.
On the morning of the eleventh day, the look-out we had kept on the
fore-top-sail-yard, sang out "Sail-ho!" Marble and myself were soon on
the yard, there being nothing visible from the deck. The upper sails,
top-gallant-sails, and royals of a ship were visible on our
weather-quarter, distant from fifteen to twenty miles. As we were now
in the track of whalers, of which there were a good many in that part
of the Pacific, I thought it was probable this was one; but Marble
laughed at the notion, asking if I had ever heard of a whaler's
carrying royals on her cruising ground. He affirmed it was the
Crisis, heading the same way we were ourselves, and which had only got
to windward of us, by keeping a better luff. We had calculated too
much on the schooner's weatherly qualities, and had allowed her to
fall off more than was necessary, in the night-watches.
The Pretty Poll was now jammed up on a wind, in the hope of closing
with the chase in the course of the night. But the wind had been
growing lighter and lighter for some hours, and by noon, though we had
neared the chase so much as to be able to see her from deck, there was
every prospect of its falling calm; after which, in the trades, it
would be surprising if we did not get a blow. To make the most of our
time, Marble determined to tack, when we had just got the chase a
point off our weather-bow. An hour after tacking, an object was seen
adrift on the ocean, and keeping away a little to close with it, it
was ascertained to be a whale-boat, adrift. The boat was American
built, had a breaker of water, the oars, and all the usual fittings in
it; and the painter being loose, it had probably been lost, when
towing in the night, in consequence of having been fastened by
The moment Marble ascertained the condition of this boat, he conceived
his plan of operations. The four Sandwich Islanders had been in
whalers, and he ordered them into the boat, put in some rum, and some
food, gave me his orders, got in himself, and pulled ahead, going off
at five knots the hour, leaving the schooner to follow at the rate of
two. This was about an hour before sunset; and by the time it was
dark, the boat had become a mere speck on the water, nearly half-way
between us and the ship, which was now some fifteen miles distant,
heading always in the same direction.
My orders had been very simple. They were, to stand on the same
course, until I saw a light from the boat, and then tack, so as to run
on a parallel line with the ship. The signal was made by Marble about
nine o'clock. It was immediately answered from the schooner. The light
in the boat was concealed from the ship, and our own was shown only
for a few seconds, the disappearance of Mr. Marble's telling us in