Part 2 out of 8
"I blush to acknowledge, Mr Hilton, that she deserved it all," replied
Newton; "but I am very much alarmed about the condition of Mr Spinney.
Have you heard this morning?"
"No; but between ourselves, Newton, doctors always make the worst of
their cases. I never heard of a pewter-pot killing a man; he'll do well
enough, never fear. I came to tell you that I've a letter last night
from Repton, who says that the shingle must be delivered before the
tenth of next month, or the contract will be void. He desires that I
will send the sloop directly, or he must employ another craft. Now, I
think you had better start at once; there's a nice fair wind for you,
and you'll be down afore night."
"Why, really, Mr Hilton, I do not exactly like to leave home just now,"
replied Newton, thoughtfully.
"Well, as you please, Mr Forster," rejoined Hilton, with apparent
displeasure. "I have offered you the command of the vessel, and now you
object to serve my interests on the very first occasion, merely because
there are a couple of broken heads!"
"I am wrong, most certainly," replied Newton; "I beg your pardon--I will
just speak a word or two to my father, and be on board in less than half
"I will meet you there," said Hilton, "and bring your papers. Be as
quick as you can, or you'll lose the first of the tide."
Newton returned to the house; his father made no objection to his
departure; and, in fulfilment of his promise, Newton was ready to start,
when he encountered Ramsden at the door.
"Mr Ramsden," said Newton, "I am requested by the owner of my vessel to
sail immediately; but if you think that the life of Mr Spinney is
seriously in danger, I will throw up the command of the vessel, rather
than leave my mother under such an accumulation of disasters. I beg as a
favour that you will not disguise the truth."
"You may sail this minute, if you please, Mr Forster; I am happy to be
able to relieve your mind. Mr Spinney is doing very well, and you'll see
him at his desk on the first Sunday of your return."
"Then I am off: good-bye, Mr Ramsden; many thanks."
With a lightened heart, Newton leapt into the skiff which was to carry
him on board of the sloop; and in less than half an hour was standing
away to the southward before a fine wind, to execute the orders which he
Ramsden remained a few minutes at the door, until he saw Newton ascend
the side of the vessel; then he entered, and was received by Betsy.
"Well, Betsy, you agreed to make Mrs Forster believe that Mr Spinney was
dead; but we little thought that such would really be the case."
"Lord love you, sir! why, you don't say so?"
"I do, indeed, Betsy; but mind, we must keep it a secret for the
present, until we can get Mrs Forster out of the way. How is she this
"Oh, very stiff, and very cross, sir."
"I'll go up to her," replied Ramsden; "but recollect, Betsy, that you do
not mention it to a soul;" and Ramsden ascended the stairs.
"Well, Mrs Forster, how do you feel this morning? do you think you could
"Get up, Mr Ramsden! not to save my soul--I can't even turn on my side."
"Very sorry to hear it, indeed," replied the surgeon; "I was in hopes
that you might have been able to bear a journey."
"Bear a journey, Mr Ramsden! why bear a journey?"
"I am sorry to inform you that Mr Spinney's gone--poor old man! There
must be a coroner's inquest. Now, it would be as well if you were not to
be found, for the verdict will be 'Wilful Murder.'"
"O dear! O dear!" exclaimed Mrs Forster, jumping out of her bed with
fright, and wringing her hands: "What can I do?--what can I do?"
"At present it is a secret, Mrs Forster, but it cannot be so long. Miss
Dragwell, who feels for you very much, begged me not to say a word about
it. She will call and consult with you, if you would like to see her.
Sad thing indeed, Mrs Forster, to be placed in such a situation by a
"You may well say that, Mr Ramsden," replied the lady, with asperity;
"he is the greatest _fool_ that ever God made! Everyone knows what a
sweet temper I was before I married; but flesh and blood cannot bear
what I am subjected to."
"Would you like to see Miss Dragwell?"
"Yes, very much; I always thought her a very nice girl;--a little
wild--a little forward indeed, and apt to be impertinent; but still,
rather a nice girl."
"Well, then, I will tell her to call, and the sooner the better, for
when it is known, the whole town will be in an uproar. I should not be
surprised if they attacked the house--the people will be so indignant."
"I don't wonder at it," replied Mrs Forster; "nothing can excuse such
provocation as I receive from my husband, stupid wretch!"
"Good morning, Mrs Forster; do you think, then, that you could bear
"O yes! O yes! But where am I to go?"
"That I really cannot form an idea of--you had better consult with
Miss Dragwell. Depend upon it, Mrs Forster, that I will be most happy to
render you all my assistance in this unfortunate dilemma."
"You're very good," snarled Mrs Forster: and Ramsden quitted the room.
I have one or two acquaintances, to whom, if I wish a report to be
circulated, I immediately impart the substance as a most profound
secret; and I find that by these means it obtains a much more extensive
circulation than if I sent it to the newspapers.
Ramsden was aware of Betsy's cackling propensities; and long before he
quitted Mrs Forster, it was generally believed throughout the good town
of Overton that Mr Spinney, although he had not been killed outright, as
reported in the first instance, had subsequently died of the injuries
received from this modern Xantippe.
Mrs Forster had half an hour to reflect upon her supposed awkward
situation; and to drive away thought, had sent for Nicholas, whom she
loaded with the bitterest invectives, when Miss Dragwell was announced.
"See, sir," continued Mrs Forster, "the condition to which you have
reduced a fond and faithful wife--one that has so studied your
"Yes, indeed," added Miss Dragwell, who heard the attack as she ascended
the stairs, and took up the cause of Mrs Forster to obtain her
confidence--"yes, indeed, Mr Forster, see the consequences of your
folly, your smoking, and your drinking. Pray leave the room, sir; I
wonder how Mrs Forster can bear the sight of you!"
Nicholas stated, and was about to throw in a detached word or two, by
way of vindication, when a furious "Begone!" from his wife occasioned a
"We have all been consulting about this sad business, my dear Mrs
Forster," commenced Miss Dragwell; "and after much consideration have
hit upon the only plan by which you may escape the penalty of the law.
Yes, my dear ma'am," continued Miss Dragwell, in the most bland and
affectionate voice, "it is unwise to conceal the truth from you; the
depositions of my father and Mr Hilton, when they are called upon, will
be such that 'Wilful Murder' must be returned, and you--(the young lady
faltered, and put up her handkerchief)--you must inevitably be hanged!"
"Hanged!" screamed Mrs Forster.
"Yes, hanged--'hanged by the neck until you are dead! and the Lord have
mercy upon your soul! 'that will be your sentence," replied the young
lady, sobbing;--"such an awful, such a disgraceful death for a woman
"O Lord, O Lord!" cried Mrs Forster, who was now really frightened.
"What will become of me?"
"You will go to another and a better world, as my papa says in his
sermons; I believe that the pain is not very great--but the disgrace--"
Mrs Forster burst into tears. "Save me! save me, Miss Dragwell!--Oh! Oh!
that stupid Nicholas, Oh! Oh!"
"My dear Mrs Forster, we have all agreed at the parsonage that there is
but one method."
"Name it, my dear Miss Dragwell, name it!" cried Mrs Forster,
"You must pretend to be mad, and then there will be a verdict of
insanity; but you must carry it through everything, or it will be
thought you are shamming. Mr Ramsden is acquainted with Dr B--, who has
charge of the asylum at D--. It is only nine miles off: he will take you
there, and when the coroner's inquest is over you can return. It will be
supposed then to have been only temporary derangement. Do you like the
"Why, I have been mad for a long time," replied Mrs Forster; "the
conduct of my husband and my son has been too much for my nerves; but I
don't like the idea of actually going to a madhouse. Could not--"
"O dear, marm!" cried Betsy, running into the room, "there's a whole
posse of people about the house; they want to take you to the town jail,
for murdering Mr Spinney. What shall I say to them? I'm feared they'll
"Go and tell them that Mrs Forster is too ill to be taken out of bed,
and that she is out of her senses--d'ye hear, Betsy, tell them all she
is _stark staring mad_!"
"Yes, I will, marm," replied Betsy, wiping her eyes as she left the
Miss Dragwell walked to the window. Although the report spread by Betsy
had collected a crowd opposite the house, still there was no attempt at
"I'm afraid that it's too late," said the young lady, turning from the
window. "What a crowd! and how angry they seem to be! you must be hanged
"O no! I'll be mad--I'll be anything, my dear Miss Dragwell."
"Well, then, we must be quick--don't put your gown on--petticoats are
better--I'll dress you up." Miss Dragwell rummaged the drawers, and
collecting a variety of feathers and coloured ribbons, pinned them over
the bandages which encircled Mrs Forster's head; then pulling out a
long-tailed black coat of her husband's which had been condemned, forced
her arms through it, and buttoned it in front. "That will do for the
present," cried Miss Dragwell; "now here's the cat, take it in your
arms, go to the window, and nurse it like a baby. I'll throw it
open--you come forward and make them a curtsey; that will spread the
report through the town that you are mad, and the rest will then be
"Oh! I can't--I can't go to the window, I can't, indeed."
"I'll open the window and speak to the people," said Miss Dragwell; and
she threw up the sash, informing the gaping multitude that Mrs Forster
was quite out of her senses, but perfectly harmless.
"Perfectly harmless, after killing a man!" observed one of the party
"They won't believe me, Mrs Forster; come, you must, or you will
certainly be _hanged_."
Urged by her fears, Mrs Forster approached the window, and showed
herself to the astonished crowd. "Curtsey to them," said Miss Dragwell,
holding her handkerchief before her mouth.
Mrs Forster curtsied.
"Smile upon them," continued the malicious young lady.
Mrs Forster grinned horribly.
"Now dance your cat."
Mrs Forster obeyed the injunction.
"Now give a loud shriek, and toss the cat out of window."
Mrs Forster uttered a hideous yell, and threw the animal at the heads of
the spectators, who retreated with alarm in every direction.
"Now burst into a fit of laughter, curtsey to them, and wave your hand,
and that will be sufficient."
Mrs Forster obeyed the last order, and Miss Dragwell shut the window. In
a few minutes the report spread that Mrs Forster had gone out of her
senses; and the murder of Mr Spinney--a topic which was nearly
exhausted--was dismissed for the time to dwell and comment upon the
"Mad as the sea and wind, when both contend which is the mightier."
"So far we have succeeded, my dear Mrs Forster," said Miss Dragwell; "I
will now return home, and come back as soon as I can with the
post-chaise. Mr Ramsden's servant shall come with me to conduct you to
the asylum, and I trust in a quarter of an hour to see you clear of
these foolish people of Overton, who think that you are the party in
fault: you had better remain in your room, and not appear again at the
window; the crowd will disperse when they are tired of watching:
good-bye, my dear Mrs Forster, good-bye."
Mrs Forster was in too sulky a humour to vouchsafe an answer; and Miss
Dragwell quitted the house. Betsy had taken advantage of the turmoil and
the supposed lunacy of her mistress to gossip in the neighbourhood.
Nicholas Forster was in the shop, but took no notice of Miss Dragwell as
she passed through. He appeared to have forgotten all that had occurred,
and was very busy filing at his bench. There we must leave him, and
follow the motions of the mischief-loving Miss Dragwell.
Upon her return, the party collected at the parsonage considered that
they had proceeded far enough; but Miss Dragwell thought otherwise; she
had made up her mind that Mrs Forster should pass a day or two in the
Lunatic Asylum; and she felt assured that Mr Ramsden, through whose
assistance her intention must be accomplished, would not venture to
dispute her wishes.
Her father, with a loud Ha, ha, ha! proposed that Mr Spinney should
appear as a ghost by the bedside of Mrs Forster, wrapped up in a sheet,
with a He, he, he! and that thus the diversion should end; but this
project was overruled by Mr Spinney, who protested that nothing should
induce him again to trust himself, with a He, he, he! in the presence of
Ramsden, although well acquainted with Dr Beddington, who had charge of
the asylum, was not sure that he would be pleased with their freak, and
earnestly dissuaded his intended from proceeding any further.
"It is useless to argue, my dear George, I am Quixote enough to revenge
the injuries of those who have been forced to submit to her temper; and
moreover, I hope to effect a cure. Desperate diseases, you must be aware
as a medical man, require desperate remedies. I consider that a
termagant and a lunatic are during their paroxysms on a par, as rational
behaviour in either party may be considered as a lucid interval. Let
her, if it be only for one hour, witness herself reflected in the
various distorted mirrors of perverted mind; and if she has any
conscience whatever, good will spring from evil. I joined this plot from
a love of mischief; but I carry it on from a feeling that favourable
results will be produced."
"But, my dear Fanny--"
"I will have it so, Ramsden, so don't attempt to dissuade me; we are not
married yet, and I must not be thwarted in my short supremacy. Surely
you ought not to be displeased at my desire to 'tame a shrew.' I give a
fair promise not to fall into an error which I so ardently detest: now,
send for the chaise, write a letter to Dr Beddington, and leave me to
arrange with Mrs Forster."
Ramsden, like many others when teased by a pretty woman, consented
against his will; he wrote a letter to Dr Beddington, explaining
circumstances, and requesting his pardon for the liberty which he had
been persuaded to take.
Miss Dragwell, as soon as the letter was sealed, put on her bonnet, and
taking Mr Ramsden's servant with her, stepped into the chaise, and drove
to the house of Mr Nicholas Forster. She found Mrs Forster squatted on
the bed in her ludicrous attire, awaiting her return with impatience.
"Oh! Mrs Forster, I have had such trouble, such difficulty; but Mr
Ramsden has been persuaded at last. There is the letter to Dr
Beddington, and Mr Ramsden's servant is in the chaise at the door: the
sooner you are off the better; the people are so outrageous, and call
you such shocking names."
"Do they?" replied Mrs Forster, whose wrath kindled at the information.
"Yes, indeed; and that wretch Betsy declares that she'll put the rope
over your neck with her own hands."
"Does she?" cried Mrs Forster, her eyes twinkling with rage.
"Yes; and your husband, your foolish husband, says that he'll be able to
make his improvement in the duplex, now that you'll be hanged."
"He does, does he?" replied Mrs Forster, catching her breath, and
grinding her teeth as she jumped off the bed.
"Now, my dear Mrs Forster, it's no use minding what they say; all you
have to do is to escape as soon as possible; the magistrate's warrant
may arrive this minute, and then it will be too late; so come down at
once:--how lucky that you have escaped! it must be a dreadful thing to
This last remark, always brought forward by Miss Dragwell when she had a
point to carry, induced Mrs Forster to hasten downstairs to the
post-chaise, which she found already occupied by Mr Ramsden's servant.
As soon as she entered, it was driven off with speed in the direction
already communicated to the post-boy.
We shall leave the town of Overton to recover its quiet,--for such a
bustle had not occurred for many years,--and Miss Dragwell to exult in
the success of her plot, while we follow Mrs Forster to her new
The chaise rattled on,--Mr Ramsden's servant crouching in a corner, as
far as possible from Mrs Forster, evidently about as well pleased with
his company as one would be in a pitfall with a tiger. At last it
stopped at the door of the lunatic asylum, and the post-boy dismounting
from his reeking horses, pulled violently at a large bell, which
answered with a most lugubrious tolling, and struck awe into the breast
of Mrs Forster.
When the door was opened, Mr Ramsden's servant alighted, and went in to
deliver his letter to the doctor. The doctor was not at home; he had
obtained his furlough of three weeks, and was very busy with his
fishing-rod some thirty miles distant; but the keepers were in
attendance, and, as Mr Ramsden's servant stated the insanity of Mrs
Forster, and that she had been sent there by his master, they raised no
objections to her reception. In a few minutes the servant reappeared
with two keepers, who handed Mrs Forster out of the chaise, and
conducted her to a receiving-room, where Mrs Forster waited some minutes
in expectation of the appearance of Dr Beddington. In the meantime, Mr
Ramsden's servant, having no further communication to make, left the
letter for Dr Beddington, and returned in the chaise to Overton.
After a quarter of an hour had elapsed, Mrs Forster inquired of one of
the keepers who had, much to her annoyance, taken a chair close to her,
whether the doctor intended to come.
"He'll come by-and-bye, good woman. How do you feel yourself now?"
"Very cold--very cold, indeed," replied Mrs Forster, shivering.
"That's what the poor brutes always complain of--aren't it, Jim?"
observed another keeper, who had just entered. "Where be we to stow
"I sent Tom to get No. 14 ready."
"Why, you don't think that I'm mad!" cried Mrs Forster, with terror.
"So, softly--so--so," said the keeper next to her, patting her, as he
would soothe a fractious child.
The violence of Mrs Forster, when she discovered that she was considered
as a lunatic, fully corroborated to the keepers the assertion of Mr
Ramsden's servant; but we must not dwell upon the scene which followed.
After an ineffectual struggle, Mrs Forster found herself locked up in
No. 14, and left to her own reflections. The previous scenes which had
occurred, added to the treatment previous scenes which had occurred,
added to the treatment which she received in the asylum, caused such
excitement, that, before the next morning, she was seized with a brain
fever, and raved as loudly in her delirium as any of the other
unfortunate inmates there incarcerated.
"Who by repentance is not satisfied,
Is not of heaven or earth; for these are pleased:
By penitence the Eternal's wrath's appeased."
Mr Ramsden's servant returned to Overton, stating that the doctor was
not at home, but that he had left Mrs Forster and the letter. The time
that Dr Beddington was to be absent had not been mentioned by the
keepers; and Mr Ramsden, imagining that the doctor had probably gone out
for the evening, made no further inquiries, as he intended, in a day or
two, to call and bring Mrs Forster back to her own house. On the third
day of her removal he set off for the asylum; and when he discovered the
situation of Mrs Forster, he bitterly repented that he had been
persuaded to a step which threatened such serious results. To remove her
was impossible; to assert to the keepers that she was in sound mind,
would have been to commit himself; he therefore withdrew his letter to
Dr Beddington, who was not expected home for a fortnight, and with a
heavy heart returned to Overton. Miss Dragwell was as much shocked when
she was informed of the unfortunate issue of her plot; and made a
resolution, to which she adhered, never to be guilty of another
In the meantime Newton Forster had made every despatch, and returned to
Overton with the cargo of shingle a few days after his mother's
incarceration. He had not been ten minutes on shore before he was made
acquainted with the melancholy history of her (supposed) madness and
removal to the asylum. He hastened home, where he found his father in a
profound melancholy; he received Newton with a flood of tears, and
appeared to be quite lost in his state of widowhood. The next morning
Newton set off for the asylum, to ascertain the condition of his mother.
He was admitted; found her stretched on a bed, in a state of delirium,
raving in her fever, and unconscious of his presence. The frenzy of his
mother being substantiated by what he had witnessed, and by the
assurances of the keepers, to whom he made a present of half his small
finances, to induce them to treat her with kindness, Newton returned to
Overton, where he remained at home, shut up with his father. In a few
days notice was given by the town-crier, that the remaining stock of Mr
Nicholas Forster, optician, was to be disposed of by public auction.
The fact was, that Nicholas Forster, like many other husbands, although
his wife had been a source of constant annoyance, had become so
habituated to her, that he was miserable now that she was gone. Habit is
more powerful than even love; and many a married couple continue to live
comfortably together long after love has departed, from this most
binding of all human sensations. Nicholas determined to quit Overton;
and Newton, who perceived that his father's happiness was at stake,
immediately acquiesced in his wish. When Nicholas Forster resolved to
leave the town where he had so long resided, he had no settled plans for
the future; the present idea to remove from the scene connected with
such painful associations was all which occupied his thoughts. Newton,
who presumed that his father had some arranged plan, did not attempt to
awaken him from his profound melancholy, to inquire into his intentions;
and Nicholas had never given the subject one moment of his thought. When
all was ready, Newton inquired of his father, in what manner he intended
they should travel?--"Why, outside the coach will be the cheapest,
Newton; and we have no money to spare. You had better take our places
"To what place, father?" inquired Newton.
"I'm sure I don't know, Newton," replied Nicholas, as if just awoke.
This answer produced a consultation; and after many _pros_ and _cons_,
it was resolved that Nicholas should proceed to Liverpool, and settle in
that town. The sloop commanded by Newton was found defective in the
stern port; and, as it would take some little time to repair her, Newton
had obtained leave for a few days to accompany his father on his
journey. The trunk picked up at sea, being too cumbrous, was deposited
with the articles of least value, in the charge of Mr Dragwell; the
remainder was taken away by Newton, until he could find a more secure
place for their deposit. On their arrival at Liverpool, with little
money and no friends, Nicholas rented a small shop; and Newton having
extended his leave of absence to the furthest, that he might contribute
to his father's comfort, returned to Overton, to resume the command of
the sloop. The first object was to call at the asylum, where he was
informed that his mother was much less violent, but in so weak a state
that he could not be admitted. Doctor Beddington had not returned; but a
medical gentleman, who had been called in during his absence, stated to
Newton, that he had no doubt if his mother should recover from her
present state of exhaustion, that her reason would be restored. Newton
returned to Overton with a lightened heart, and the next day sailed in
the sloop for Bristol. Contrary winds detained him more than a fortnight
on his passage. On his arrival, his cargo was not ready, and Newton
amused himself by walking about the town and its environs. At last his
cargo was on board; and Newton, who was most anxious to ascertain the
fate of his mother, made all haste to obtain his clearance and other
papers from the Custom-house. It was late in the evening before
he had settled with the house to which the sloop had been consigned;
but, as the wind and tide served, and there was a bright moon, he
resolved to weigh that night. With his papers carefully buttoned in his
coat, he was proceeding to the boat at the jetty, when he was seized by
two men, who rushed upon him from behind. He hardly had time to look
round to ascertain the cause, when a blow on the head stretched him
senseless on the ground.
Now, my readers may probably feel some little distress at the misfortune
of Newton, and have some slight degree of curiosity to know the grounds
of this severe treatment. I, on the contrary, am never more pleased than
when I find my principal character in a state of abeyance, and leave him
so with the greatest indifference, because it suits my convenience. I
have now an opportunity of returning to Mrs Forster, or any other of the
parties who act a subordinate part in-my narrative; and, as Newton is
down on the ground, and _hors de combat_, why, there let him lie--until
I want him again.
Doctor Beddington returned home long before the recovery of Mrs Forster
from her severe attack. As it may be presumed, he found her perfectly
rational; but still he had no doubt of the assertions of his keepers,
that she was insane at the time that she was sent to the asylum by Mr
Ramsden. The latter gentleman kept aloof until the issue of Mrs
Forster's malady should be ascertained: if she recovered, it was his
intention to call upon Doctor Beddington and explain the circumstances;
if she died, he had determined to say nothing about it. Mrs Forster's
recovery was tedious; her mind was loaded with anxiety, and, what was
infinitely more important, with deep remorse. The supposed death of Mr
Spinney had been occasioned by her violence, and she looked forward with
alarm, as great as the regret with which she looked back upon her former
behaviour. When she called to mind her unfeeling conduct towards her
husband,--the many years of bitterness she had created for him,--her
infraction of the marriage vow--the solemn promise before God to love,
honour, and obey, daily and hourly violated,--her unjust hatred of her
only son,--her want of charity towards others,--all her duties
neglected,--swayed only by selfish and malignant passions,--with bitter
tears of contrition and self-abasement, she acknowledged that her
punishment was just. With streaming eyes, with supplicating hands and
bended knees, she implored mercy and forgiveness of Him to whom appeal
is never made in vain. Passion's infuriate reign was over--her heart was
To Doctor Beddington she made neither complaint nor explanation. All she
wished was to quit the asylum as soon as she was restored to health, and
prove to her husband, by her future conduct, the sincerity of her
reformation. When she became convalescent, by the advice of Doctor
Beddington, she walked in a garden appropriated for the exercise of the
more harmless inmates of the asylum. The first day that she went out she
sat down upon a bench near to the keepers who were watching those who
were permitted to take the air and exercise, and overheard their
discourse, which referred to herself.
"Why, what was it as made her mad--d'ye know, Tom?"
"They say she's been no better all her life," replied the other; "a rat
would not live in the house with her: at last, in one of her tantrums,
she nearly murdered old Spinney, the clerk at Overton. The report went
out that he was dead; and conscience, I suppose, or summut of that kind,
run away with her senses."
"Oh, he warn't killed then?"
"No, no: I seed him and heard him too, Sunday 'fore last, when I went to
call upon old father; I was obligated to go to church, the old gemman's
so remarkable particular."
"And what's become of her husband, and that handsome young chap, her
"I don't know, nor nobody else either. The old man, who was as worthy an
old soul as ever breathed (more shame to the old faggot, for the life
she led him!) grew very unhappy and melancholy, and would not stay in
the place: they disposed of everything, and both went away together; but
nobody knows where the old man is gone to."
"And the young 'un?"
"Oh, he came back and took command of the sloop. He was here twice, to
see how his mother was. Poor lad! it was quite pitiful to see how
unhappy he was about the old catamaran. He give me and Bill a guinea
apiece to be kind to her; but, about three days back, the sloop came
into the harbour without him: they suppose that he fell off the jetty at
Bristol and was drowned, for he was seen coming down to the boat; and,
a'ter that, they never heard no more about him."
"Well, but Tom, the old woman's all right now?"
"Yes, she's right enough; but where be her husband, and where be her
son? she'll never plague them any more, that's pretty sartain."
The feelings of Mrs Forster at the _finale_ of this discourse are not
easy to be portrayed. One heavy load was off her mind--Mr Spinney was
not dead; but how much had she also to lament? She perceived that she
had been treacherously kidnapped by those who detested her conduct, but
had no right to inflict the punishment. The kind and feeling conduct of
her husband and of her son,--the departure of the one, and supposed
death of the other, were blows which nearly overwhelmed her. She
tottered back to her cell in a state of such extreme agitation, as to
occasion a return of fever, and for many days she was unable to quit her
"When Britain first at Heaven's command
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter, the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sung the strain,----
Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves,
For Britons never shall be _slaves_."
We left Newton Forster senseless on the pavement leading to the quay at
Bristol, floored by a rap on the head from a certain person or persons
unknown: he did not, however, remain there long, being hoisted on the
shoulders of two stout fellows, dressed in blue jackets and trousers,
with heavy clubs in their hands, and a pistol lying _perdu_ between
their waistcoats and shirts. These nautical personages tumbled him into
the stern-sheets of a boat, as if not at all sorry to rid themselves of
his weight; and, in a continued state of insensibility, Newton was
hoisted up the side of a cutter which lay at anchor about one hundred
yards from the shore.
When Newton recovered his senses, his swimming eyes could just enable
him to perceive that something flashed upon them, and in their weak
state created a painful sensation. As he became more collected, he
discovered that a man was holding a small candle close to them, to
ascertain whether the vein which had been opened in his arm had produced
the desired effect of restoring him to animation. Newton tried to
recollect where he was, and what had occurred; but the attempted
exercise of his mental powers was too much, and again threw him into a
state of stupor. At last he awoke as if from a dream of death, and
looking round, found himself lying on the deck attended by a female, who
bathed his forehead.
"Where am I?" exclaimed Newton.
"Is it where you are, that you'd want for to know: an't ye on board of
the _Lively_ cutter, sure? and an't you between decks in her, and I
looking a'ter ye, honey?"
"And who are you?"
"And who am I! Then, if I'm not somebody else, I'm Judy Malony, the wife
of the boatswain's mate, and a lawful married woman."
"How did I come here?" continued Newton, raising himself on his elbow.
"You didn't come at all, honey, you were brought."
"Who brought me?"
"Who brought ye! it was either the gig or the jolly-boat; but I wasn't
on deck at the time, so I can't upon my oath say exactly which."
"Then, pray can you tell me why I was brought here?" replied Newton.
"Sure I can guess, bating you don't know already. It was to sarve your
king and your country, like a brave volunteer as you are."
"Then I'm impressed?"
"You may take your Bible oath of it, my jewel, and commit no perjury.
It's a hard rap that ye got, anyhow; just a hint that ye were wanted:
but plase God, if ye live and do well, 'twill be nothing at all to what
ye'll have by-and-bye, all for the honour and glory of Ould England."
Newton, who during these remarks was thinking of his father's situation,
and the distress he would suffer without his assistance, and then of the
state in which he had left his mother, again sank on the deck.
"Why, he's off again!" muttered Judy Malony; "he's no countryman of
mine, that's clear as the mud in the Shannon, or he'd never fuss about a
rap with a shillelah;" and Judy, lifting up her petticoats first, gained
her feet, and walked away forward.
Newton remained in a state of uneasy slumber until daylight, when he was
awakened by the noise of boats coming alongside, and loud talking on
deck. All that had passed did not immediately rush into his mind; but
his arm tied up with the bandage, and his hair matted, and his face
stiff with the coagulated blood, soon brought to his recollection the
communication of Judy Malony, that he had been impressed. The 'tween
decks of the cutter appeared deserted, unless indeed there were people
in the hammocks slung over his head; and Newton, anxious to obtain
further information, crawled under the hammocks to the ladder, and went
up on deck.
About twenty sailors, well armed, were busy handing out of the boats
several men whom they had brought on board, who were ordered aft by the
officer in command. Newton perceived that most of them had not received
much better treatment than he had on the preceding evening; some were
shockingly disfigured, and were still bleeding profusely.
"How many have you altogether, Mr Vincent?" said the lieutenant to a
stout master's mate with a tremendous pair of whiskers, which his loose
handkerchief discovered to join together at his throat.
"And how many had we before?--twenty-six, I think."
"Twenty-seven, sir, with the young chap I sent on board last night."
"Well, that will do; it's quite as many as we can stow away, or take
care of:--pass them all down below, forward; take up the ladder, and put
on the grating until we are out of the harbour. As soon as the
jolly-boat comes on board we'll up anchor."
"She'll be off directly, sir; I ordered her to wait for Johnson and
Merton, who did not come down with us."
"Do you think they have given you the slip?"
"I should think not, sir. Here is the jolly-boat coming off."
"Well, pass the men forward and secure them," replied the lieutenant.
"Overhaul the boat's falls, and bring to with the windlass."
Newton thought this a good opportunity to state that he was the master
of a vessel, and, as such, protected from the impress; he therefore
walked over to the lieutenant, addressing him, "I beg your pardon,
"Who are you?" interrupted the lieutenant, gruffly.
"I was impressed last night, sir;--may I speak to you?"
"No, sir, you may not."
"It might save you some trouble, sir--"
"It will save me more to send you down below. Mr Vincent, shove this man
down forward; why is he at large?"
"He was under the doctor's hands, I believe, sir. Come this way, my
hearty--stir your stumps."
Newton would have expostulated, but he was collared by two of the
press-gang, and very unceremoniously handed forward to the hatchway; the
grating was taken off, and he was lowered down to the deck below, where
he found himself cooped up with more than forty others, almost
suffocated for the want of air and space. The conversation (if
conversation it could be called) was nothing but one continued string of
curses and execrations, and vows of deep revenge.
The jolly-boat returned, pulling only two oars; the remainder of her
crew, with Johnson and Merton, having taken this opportunity of
deserting from their forced servitude. With some hearty execrations upon
the heads of the offending parties, and swearing that by G--d there was
no such thing as _gratitude_ in a sailor, the commander of the cutter
weighed his anchor, and proceeded to sea.
The orders received by the lieutenant of the cutter, although not
precisely specifying, still implying, that he was to bring back his
cargo alive, as soon as his Majesty's cutter _Lively_ was fairly out at
sea the hatches were taken off, and the impressed men allowed to go on
deck in the proportion of about one half at a time, two sailors with
drawn cutlasses still remaining sentry at the coombings of the hatchway,
in case of any discontented fellow presuming to dispute such lawful
Newton Forster was happy to be once more on deck; so much had he
suffered during his few hours of confinement, that he really felt
grateful for the indulgence. The sky was bright, and the cutter was
dashing along the coast with the wind, two points free, at the rate of
seven or eight miles an hour. She was what sailors term rather _a wet
one_, and as she plunged through the short waves the sea broke
continually over her bows and chesstree, so that there was no occasion
to draw water for purification. Newton washed his face and head, and
felt quite revived as he inhaled the fresh breeze, and watched the coast
as the vessel rapidly passed each headland in her course. All around him
were strangers, and no one appeared inclined to be communicative; even
the most indifferent, the most stoical, expressed their ideas in
disjointed sentences; they could not but feel that their projects and
speculations had been overthrown by a captivity so anomalous with their
"Where are we going?" inquired Newton of a man who stood next him,
silently watching the passing foam created by the rapid course of the
"To _hell_ I hope, with _those who brought us here!_" replied the man,
grinding his teeth with a scowl of deep revenge.
At this moment Judy Malony came pattering along the wet deck with a kid of
potato-peelings to throw over the bows. Newton recognised her, and thanked
her for her kindness.
"It's a nice boy that you are, sure enough, now that you're swate and
clean," replied Judy. "Bad luck to the rapparee who gave you the blow! I
axed my husband if it was he; but he swears upon his salvation that it
was no one if it wasn't Tim O'Connor, the baste!"
"Where are we going?" inquired Newton.
"An't we going to dinner in a minute or two?"
"I mean where is the cutter bound to?"
"Oh! the cutter you mane! If she can only find her way, it's to
Plymouth, sure;--they're waiting for ye."
"Who is waiting for us?"
"Why, three fine frigates as can't go to sea without hands. You never
heard of a ship sailing without hands; the poor dumb craturs can't do
nothing by themselves."
"Do you know where the frigates are going?"
"Going to _say_, I lay my life on't," replied Judy, who then walked
forward, and broke up the conversation.
The next morning the cutter ran into Hamoaze, and boats were sent on
board to remove the impressed men to the guard-ship. There, much to his
annoyance and mortification, Newton found that, with the others, he was
treated as a close prisoner. The afternoon of the same day another
vessel arrived from the eastward with a collection of offenders, who for
a variety of crimes and misdemeanours had been sentenced to serve on
board of a man-of-war. No distinction was made; all were huddled
together, and treated alike, until summoned on the quarter-deck, when
their names were called out for distribution to the several men-of-war.
Each ship having a quota of seamen and pickpockets allotted to her in
due proportion, the men were ordered down into the boats; and in less
than an hour Newton found himself on board of a fine frigate lying in
the Sound, with her fore-topsail loose, as a signal of her immediate
"Tis roan's bold task the gen'rous strife to try,
But in the hands of God is victory."
Newton, and the other men who had been selected for the frigate, on
board of which they had been despatched (victualled the day discharged),
were mustered on the quarter-deck by the first lieutenant, who asked
them the questions, whether they were bred to the sea, and could take
the helm and lead. Having noted down their answers, he stationed them
accordingly, and they were dismissed. Newton would again have appealed,
but on reflection thought it advisable to await the arrival of the
captain. Beds and blankets were not supplied that evening: the boats
were hoisted up, sentries on the gangways supplied with ball-cartridges
to prevent desertion, and permission granted to the impressed men to
"prick for the softest plank," which they could find for their night's
At daylight the hands were turned up, the capstern manned, the frigate
unmoored, and hove "short stay a-peak" on her anchor remaining down. The
gig was sent on shore with two midshipmen, one to watch the men and
prevent their desertion, while the other went up to the captain's
lodgings to report her arrival, the topsails were loosed, sheeted home,
and hoisted, the yards braced by, and Newton to his sorrow perceived
that the captain's arrival would be the signal for immediate departure.
The signal-man, on the look-out with his glass, reported the gig coming
off with the captain; and in obedience to the orders he had received,
the first lieutenant immediately hove up, and the anchor having been
"catted and fished," the frigate lay-to in the Sound. As soon as the
boat came alongside, and the captain had been received with the
customary honours, he desired sail to be made on her as soon as the boat
was hoisted up, and then descended to his cabin. In three minutes Newton
perceived that all chance of release for the present was over; the
courses and top-gallant sails were set, and the frigate darted past the
Ram Head at the rate of ten miles per hour.
In about twenty minutes, after the messenger had been stowed away, the
cables coiled in the tiers, and the ropes flemished down on deck, the
captain made his appearance, and directed the first lieutenant to send
aft the newly-impressed men. In few words he pointed out to them the
necessity of their servitude; and concluded by recommending them to
enter his Majesty's service, and receive the bounty to which they would
become entitled; observing, that the men who did so would raise
themselves in his good opinion, and as far as he had the power, would
not be forgotten by him, provided that their general good conduct
merited his favour. Some few accepted the terms, but the most of them
positively refused. When Newton was addressed, he stated to the captain
that he was master of a vessel, and exempted by law from the impress.
"It is easy to assert that," observed the captain; "but where are your
proofs? your youth almost denies what you affirm."
"There are my papers, sir, my clearance from the Custom-house, and my
bill of lading, which I had in my pocket, intending to sail a few
minutes after the time that I was impressed."
"I observe," replied the captain, examining the papers, "they appear to
be all correct. What is your name?"
"Then this is your signature?"
"It is, sir."
"Mr Pittson, desire the clerk to bring up a pen and ink."
The clerk made his appearance. "Now, sign your name." Newton obeyed, and
his signature was compared with that on the bill of lading, by the
captain and first lieutenant.
"Why did you not mention this before?" continued the captain.
"I attempted several times, but was not permitted to speak." Newton then
stated how he had been treated when impressed, and afterwards by the
officer commanding the cutter.
"You certainly were exempted from the impress, if what you state is
true; and I believe it so to be," replied the captain. "It is a hard
case; but what can I do? Here we are at sea, and likely to remain on a
cruise of several months. You cannot expect to eat the bread of idleness
on board of a man-of-war. You will do your duty wherever you are
stationed. There is no disgrace in serving his Majesty in any capacity.
I tell you candidly, that although I would not have impressed you
myself, I am very glad that I have you on board; I wish I had fifty more
of the same sort, instead of the sweepings of the gaols, which I am
obliged to mix up with prime seamen."
"Perhaps, sir, you will have the kindness to send me back by the first
"No, that I cannot do; you are on the ship's books, and the case must be
referred to the Admiralty on our return: that it will be my duty to
attend to, upon your application; but I hope before that you will have
entered into his Majesty's service."
"And in the meantime my poor father may starve," said Newton, with a
sigh, not addressing those around him, but giving utterance to his
The captain turned away, and paced the quarter-deck with the first
lieutenant. At last he was overheard to say, "It's a very hard case,
certainly. Forster, can you navigate?" continued the captain, addressing
"Yes, sir, I can work up a dead reckoning, and take the sun's altitude."
"Very well, that will do. Mr Pittson, you may dismiss them. Are they put
"It's twelve o'clock, sir," said the master, touching his hat, with his
quadrant in his hand.
"Make it so, and pipe to dinner."
Newton was stationed in the foretop. In a few days the awkwardness
arising from the novelty of the scene, and from the superior dimensions
of every variety of equipment on board of the frigate, compared to the
small craft to which he had been accustomed, passed away. The order
which was exacted to preserve discipline, the precision with which the
time was regulated, the knowledge of the duty allotted to him, soon made
him feel that no more was exacted than what could easily be performed,
and that there was no hardship in serving on board of a man-of-war; the
only hardship was, the manner in which he had been brought there.
Although he often sighed as he thought of his father and mother, he did
his duty cheerfully, and was soon distinguished as a most promising
Captain Northfleet was a humane and good officer, and his first
lieutenant followed in his steps, and equally deserved the character.
Before the ship's company had been six weeks together, they were in a
tolerable state of discipline; and proved such to be the case, by
acknowledging that they were happy. This, added to the constant
excitement of chasing and capturing the vessels of the enemy, with the
anticipation of prize-money, soon made most of those who had been
impressed forget what had occurred, or cease to lament it as a hardship.
The continual exercise of the guns was invariably followed up by a
general wish that they might fall in with an enemy of equal force, to
ascertain whether such constant drilling had been thrown away upon them.
The _Terpsichore_ received supplies of provisions and water from other
ships, and for nine months continued a successful cruise.
Several prizes had already been captured, and sent home to England. The
complement of the frigate was materially reduced by so many absentees,
although some of her men had been brought out to her by other vessels,
when a strange sail was discovered from the mast-head. A few hours
sufficed to bring the swift _Terpsichore_ alongside of the stranger, who
first hoisted, and then immediately hauled down the tricoloured flag in
token of submission. She proved to be a French brig, bound to the Cape
of Good Hope, with ammunition and government stores. The third
lieutenant, and all the midshipmen who could navigate, were already
away; and this prize proving valuable, Captain Northfleet resolved to
send her in. The difficulty relative to a prize-master was removed by
the first lieutenant, who recommended Newton Forster. To this suggestion
the captain acceded; and Newton, with five men, and two French prisoners
to assist, was put on board of the _Estelle_, with written instructions
to repair to Plymouth, and, upon his arrival there, deliver up the prize
to the agent, and report himself to the admiral.
Captain Northfleet also returned to Newton the papers of his sloop, and
gave him a letter to the admiral, stating the hardship of his case. At
the same time that he informed him of the contents of his letter, he
recommended Newton to continue in the service, promising that, if he
took the vessel safe into port, he would put him on the quarter-deck, as
one of the mates of the frigate. Newton thanked Captain Northfleet for
his good intentions; and, requesting permission to reflect upon his
proposal, took his leave, and in a few minutes was on board of the
There was a buoyancy of spirits in Newton when he once more found
himself clear of the frigate. He acknowledged that he had been well
treated, and that he had not been unhappy; but still it was emancipation
from forced servitude. It is hard to please where there are so many
masters; and petty tyranny will exist, and cause much discontent before
it is discovered, even where the best discipline prevails. The imperious
behaviour of the young midshipmen, who assume the same despotic sway
which is exercised over themselves, as soon as their superiors are out
of sight and hearing, was often extremely galling to Newton Forster, and
it frequently required much forbearance not to retort. However in strict
justice this might be warranted, discipline would not permit it, and it
would have been attended with severe punishment.
It was therefore with a feeling of delight that Newton found himself his
own master, and watched the hull and canvas of the _Terpsichore_, as
they gradually sank below the horizon.
The _Estelle_ was a fine vessel, and her cargo not being all composed of
heavy materials, was sufficiently light on the water to sail well. At
the time of her capture, they were, by the reckoning of the frigate,
about fourteen hundred miles from the Lizard. In a fortnight, therefore,
with the wind at all propitious, Newton hoped to set his foot upon his
native land. He crowded all the sail which prudence would allow; and,
with the wind upon his quarter, steered his course for England.
The men sent with him in the brig consisted of two able seamen, and
three of the gang which had been collected from the gaols and brought
round from the eastward. Captain Northfleet spared the former, as it was
necessary that a part of the crew should be able to steer and navigate
the vessel; the latter, with the sincere hope of never seeing them
again, taking it for granted that they would run away as soon as they
arrived at Plymouth. With the two prisoners, they were sufficient to
work the vessel.
During the first ten days the wind was generally in their favour; and
the brig was not far off from the chops of the Channel, when a low
raking vessel was perceived bearing down upon them from the N.W. Newton
had no glass; but as she neared to within three miles, the vessel wore
the appearance of a privateer schooner; but whether an enemy or not, it
was impossible to decide. The _Estelle_ had two small brass guns on her
forecastle; and Newton, to ascertain the nation to which the privateer
belonged, hoisted the French ensign and fired a gun. In a minute the
privateer hoisted English colours; but as she continued to bear down
upon them, Newton, not feeling secure, rove his studding-sail gear, and
made all preparation for running before the wind, which he knew to be
the brig's best point of sailing. The privateer had approached to within
two miles, when Roberts, one of the seamen, gave his decided opinion
that she was a French vessel, pointing out the slight varieties in the
rigging and build of the vessel, which would not have been apparent to
anyone but a thorough-bred seamen.
"We'd better up helm, and get the sail upon her. If she be French,
she'll soon show herself by firing at us."
Newton was of the same opinion. The brig was put before the wind, and
gradually all her canvas was spread. The privateer immediately shook out
all her reefs, set her lofty sails, hoisted French colours, and, in a
few minutes, a shot whizzed through the rigging of the _Estelle_, and
pitched into the water ahead of them.
"I thought so," cried Roberts. "It's a Johnny Crapeau. A starn chase is
a long chase, anyhow. The brig sails well, and there aren't more than
two hours daylight; so Monsieur must be quick, or we'll give him the
The privateer was now within a mile of them; both vessels had "got their
way;" and their respective powers of sailing were to be ascertained. In
half an hour the privateer had neared to three-quarters of a mile.
"I think our little guns will soon reach her," observed Newton.
Williams, give me the helm. Go forward with Roberts and the men, and
rouse them aft. Be smart, my lads, for she has the heels of us."
"Come along," said Roberts. "You, Collins, why don't you stir?--do you
wish to see the inside of a French prison?"
"No," replied Collins, sauntering forward, "not particularly."
"Only by way of a change, I suppose," observed Thompson, another of the
convicts. "You have been in every gaol in England, to my
knowledge--haven't you, Ben?"
"Mayhap I have," replied Collins; "but one gentleman should never
interfere in the consarns of another. I warn't whipped at the cart-tail,
as you were, last Lancaster'sizes."
"No; but you had a taste of it on board of the _Terpsichore_. Ben, you
arn't forgot that?" retorted Hillson, the other of the three characters
who had been sent with Newton.
In a few minutes the guns were run aft, and the ammunition brought on
deck. Newton then gave the helm to Williams, and served one gun; while
Roberts took charge of the other. The privateer had continued to near
them, and was now within their range. A smart fire was kept up on her,
which she returned with her superior metal.
After the firing had commenced, the approach of the privateer was in
some degree checked. The guns fired from the stern of the _Estelle_
assisted her velocity through the water; while, on the contrary, the
privateer, being obliged to yaw from her course that her guns might
bear, and firing from the bow, her impetus was checked. Still the
privateer had the advantage in sailing, and slowly neared the brig.
"There's no need of your coming aft so close upon us," said Roberts to
the two Frenchmen who had been sent on board; "go forward, and keep out
of the way. That 'ere chap is after mischief; he had his eye upon the
_amminition_," continued the sailor to Newton. "Go forward--d'ye hear?
or I'll split your d--d French skull with the handspike."
"Don't touch him, Roberts," said Newton.
"No, I won't touch him, if he keeps out of my way. Do you hear?--go
forward!" cried Roberts to the Frenchman, waving his hand.
The Frenchman answered with a sneer and a smile, and was turning to obey
the order, when a shot from the privateer cut him nearly in two. The
other Frenchman, who was close to him, made a rapid descent into the
"That was well meant, anyhow," observed Roberts, looking at the dead
body; "but it wasn't meant for him. Shall I toss him overboard?"
"No, no--let him lie. If they capture us, they will perceive it was
their own doing."
"Well, then, I'll only haul him into the lee-scuppers, out of the way."
Another shot from the privateer passed through the cabin windows, and
went forward into the hold. The French prisoner ran on deck with as much
haste as before he had run below.
"Ay, it will be your turn next, my cock," cried Roberts, who had been
removing the body to the gunnel. "Now, let me try my luck again," and he
hastened to his gun. Newton fired before Roberts was ready. The
topsail-sheet of the schooner was divided by the shot, and the sail flew
out before the yard.
"That's a good two cables' length in our favour," cried Roberts. "Now
for me." Roberts fired his gun, and was more fortunate; his shot struck
away the fore-top-gallant-mast, while the royal and top-gallant sail
fell before the topsail.
"Well done, my little piece of brass!" said Roberts, slapping the gun
familiarly on the breech; "only get us out of our scrape, and I'll
polish you as bright as silver!"
Whether the gun understood him or not, or, what is more probable, the
short distance between the brig and the privateer made it more
effective, more mischief took place in the sails and rigging of the
schooner. Her topsail-sheet was, however, soon rebent, the sail reset,
and her other casualties made good. She ceased firing her long gun, and
at dusk had crept up to within a quarter of a mile, and commenced a
heavy fire of musketry upon the brig.
"This is rather warm work," observed Williams at the helm, pointing to a
bullet-hole through his jacket.
"Rather too warm," observed Collins, the convict. "I don't see why we
are to risk our lives for our paltry share of prize-money. I vote for
hauling down the colours."
"Not yet," said Newton, "not yet, my lads. Let us try a few shots more."
"Try!--to be sure," rejoined Roberts; "didn't I say before, that a starn
chase was a long one."
"That only makes the matter worse," replied Collins; "for while we are
to be peppered this way, I think the shorter the chase the better.
However, you may do as you please, but I'm not so fond of it; so here's
down below to the fore-peak!"
"Ben, you're a sensible chap, and gives good advice; we'll just follow
you," said Hillson.
"Birds of a feather always flock together; so, Ben, I'm of your party,"
The convicts then descended forward out of the fire of the musketry,
while Newton and Roberts continued to load and fire, and Williams
steered the brig. The Frenchman had already found his way below again,
before the convicts.
The schooner was within two cables' length, and the fire of the musketry
was most galling; each of the English seamen had received slight wounds,
when, just as it was dark, one of the shots from the brig proved more
effective. The main-boom of the schooner was either cut in two, or so
much injured as to oblige them to lower her mainsail. The brig now
increased her distance fast, and in a few minutes they lost sight of the
schooner in the darkness of the night.
"Huzza!" cried Roberts, "didn't I tell you that a starn chase was a long
Not a star was to be seen, the darkness was intense; and Newton
consulted with Williams and Roberts as to what was their best plan of
proceeding. It was agreed to haul up for a quarter of an hour, then furl
all, and allow the privateer to pass them. This was put in execution:
the convicts, now that there was no more firing, coming to their
assistance. The next morning the weather proved hazy, and the schooner,
who had evidently crowded sail in pursuit of them, was nowhere to be
Newton and his crew congratulated themselves upon their escape, and
again shaped their course for the Channel.
The wind would not allow them to keep clear of Ushant; and two days
afterwards they made the French coast near to that island. The next
morning they had a slant of wind, which enabled them to lay her head up
for Plymouth, and anticipated that in another twenty-four hours they
would be in safety. Such, however, was not their good fortune; about
noon a schooner hove in sight to leeward, and it was soon ascertained to
be the same vessel from which they had previously escaped. Before dusk
she was close to them; and Newton, aware of the impossibility of
resistance, hove-to, as a signal of surrender.
"Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows."
As the reader may have before now occasionally heard comments upon the
uncertainty of the moon and of the sea, and also, perhaps of human life,
I shall not venture any further remarks upon the subject; for were they
even new, I should never have the credit of them. This is certain, that
instead of finding themselves, as they anticipated to be in the next
twenty-four hours, safely moored in the port of Plymouth, Newton and his
comrades found themselves, before that time had elapsed, safely locked
up in the prison of Morlaix. But we must not proceed so fast.
Although the _Estelle_ had squared her mainyard as a signal of
submission, the privateer's men, as they ranged their vessel alongside,
thought it advisable to pour in a volley of musketry; this might have
proved serious, had it not been that Newton and his crew were all down
below, hoping to secure a few changes of linen, which, in a prison,
might prove very useful. As it was, their volley only killed the
remaining French prisoner, who remained on deck, over-joyed at the
recapture, and anticipating an immediate return to his own country; by
which it would appear that the "_L'homme propose, mais Dieu dispose_" of
France, is quite as sure a proverb as the more homely "Many a slip
between cup and lip" of our own country.
The boat of the privateer was sent on board: a dozen men, with their
cutlasses flourishing over their heads, leapt on the deck of the
_Estelle_, and found nobody to exercise their valour upon, except the
body of their departed comrade; upon which they shouted for the "Sacre's
God dams" to "monter." Newton and the rest obeyed the summons, with their
bundles in their hands; the latter they were soon relieved of by their
conquerors, who, to prove that it was not out of "_politesse_" that
they carried their effects, at the same time saluted them with various
blows with their cutlasses upon their backs and shoulders. Newton, who felt
that resistance would only be an excuse for further aggression, bore with
philosophy what he could not prevent, and hastened into the boat. The
convicts also took their share with patience--they had been accustomed to
"many stripes." Roberts and Williams, in spite of the remonstrances of
Newton, with all the reckless spirit or English, sailors, would not submit
so quietly. The first object which attracted Roberts' attention, as he came
up the ladder, was the body of the remaining French prisoner.
"What! Johnny, so you're gone! Didn't I tell you that your turn would
come next? I say, my hearties, you keep all your bullets for your
friends," continued Roberts, addressing the privateer's men.
A few "sacres" and "f----s" was the reply, as one of them attempted to
twitch his bundle out of his hand.--"Hold fast there, old chap, don't
take what you never paid for."
A scuffle now ensued; which ended in Roberts, who found that he could
not retain possession, shying his bundle at the foremost man, with such
force as to lay him on the deck.--"Well, if you will have it, take it,"
"The beggars have chopped my fingers," growled Williams. "I say,
Mounseer, don't make quite so free with that iron of yours, or I'll
smash your top-lights."
"I wish I had three on 'em on Point Beach, one up and one down. I'd
sarve you out, you d--d frog-eating sea-cooks!" said Roberts, squaring
at the privateer's men with clenched fists.
This obstreperous conduct produced a shower of blows with the backs of
the cutlasses. Williams, in a rage, wrenched a cutlass from one of the
Frenchmen, and laid about him; while Roberts, with his fists, rushed
within their guards, and laid two of them at his feet. At last they were
overpowered and thrown into the boat, bleeding profusely from various
cuts which they had received in the unequal scuffle. The privateer's
people then shoved off and rowed on board of the schooner.
As soon as Newton and the other Englishmen were up the side, they were
pushed aft; their persons were then searched, and every part of their
apparel, which appeared to be of good materials, or little worn, was
taken from them. Collins, the convict, was a good prize; he had put on
shirt over shirt, stocking over stocking, and trousers over trousers,
that the Frenchmen began to wonder if ever they should arrive at the
"inner man." At last, he was uncased, an old pair of trousers thrown to
him, and he was left without any other garment, shivering in the cold.
Newton, who still retained his waistcoat and shirt, took off the former,
and gave it to the convict, who whispered as he thanked him, "I don't
care a fig, they have left me my old hat." As soon as the recapture was
manned, the privateer bore up for the French coast, and before morning
anchored in the rocky harbour of Morlaix. At daylight, the prisoners,
who had received no refreshment, were handed into a boat, and on their
landing, conducted by a party of _gens d'armes_ to the prison. During
their progress to their place of confinement Collins excited the
amusement of the bystanders, and the surprise of his fellow-prisoners,
by walking with his hands and arms raised in a certain position. After
they had been locked up, he went to the barred window, and continued the
same gestures to the people who were crowded about the prison, most of
whom continued their mockery. Newton, who came forward to the window to
request a little water for Roberts and Williams, who wished to quench
their thirst and wash their wounds, which had not been dressed, inquired
of Collins his reasons for so doing. "It is for your benefit as well as
mine," replied Collins; "at least I hope so. There are freemasons in all
A few minutes afterwards, one of the people outside came forward, and
pointed out to the sentry that the prisoners were making signs for
water. The _gendarme_, who had paid no attention to Newton, listened to
the appeal of his countryman, who, upon the grounds of common humanity,
persuaded him to allow them such a necessary boon. The water was
brought, and, as the man walked away, a sign, unperceived by all but
Collins, gave him to understand that his appeal had been understood.
"All's right," said Collins to Newton, as he quitted the grating. "We
have friends without, and we have _friends_ within." In about an hour
some bread was brought in, and among those who brought it Collins
perceived the person who had answered his signal; but no further
recognition took place. At noon the door of the prison was again
unbarred, and a surgeon came to dress the wounded men. He was
accompanied by two or three others, deputed by the governor of the town
to obtain intelligence, and the new acquaintance of Collins appeared as
interpreter. While the surgeon dressed the wounds of Roberts and
Williams, which, although numerous, were none of any importance, many
questions were asked, and taken down when interpreted. Each prisoner was
separately interrogated; Collins was one of the first examined. The
questions put and answers given were carefully intermixed with more
important matter. The person who acted as interpreter spoke English too
well for a Frenchman: apparently he was a Dane or Russian, who was
domiciliated there. He commenced with--
"No one understands English but me--but they are suspicious: be
careful.--What is your name?"
"Comment?" said the French amanuensis, "John Co--lin. _C'est bien;
"What is your rank--_and in your Lodge_?"
"Common seaman--_master_," answered Collins, adroitly.
"Comment?" said the party with his pen.
"Matelot," replied the interpreter.
"Demandez-lui le nom du batiment."
"What is the name of your ship?--_how can we assist you?_"
"_Terpsichore--a boat, with provisions._"
"Fregate croiseur _Terpsichore_."
"Does she sail well?--_at what time?_"
"_To night, with a guide._"
"Elle marche bien avec le vent large."
"Demandez-lui la force."
"What number of guns?--_how can you get out?_"
"Thirty-six guns.--_I have the means._"
"Trente-six canons," repeated the Frenchman, writing; "c'est
"How many men?--_I will be here at dark._"
"Two hundred and seventy men; but many away in prizes."
"Deux cents soixante-dix hommes-d'equipage; mais il y a beaucoup dans
les batimens pris."
Newton and the others were also interrogated, the names taken down, and
the parties then quitted the prison.
"Now, if we make a push for it, I think we may get off," said Collins to
Newton and the rest, after the door had closed. "I never saw the prison
in England which could hold me when I felt inclined to walk out of it;
and as for their bars, I reckon them at about an hour's work. I never
travel without my little friends;"--and Collins, taking off his old hat,
removed the lining, and produced a variety of small saws made from
watch-springs, files, and other instruments. "Then," continued he, "with
these, and this piece of tallow stuck outside my hat, I will be through
those bars in no time. French iron ar'n't worth a d--n, and the sentry
sha'n't hear me if he lolls against them; although it may be just as
well if Thompson tips us a stave, as then we may work the faster."
"I say, Bill," observed Hillson, "who is your friend?"
"I don't know--he may be the governor; but this I do know, for the
honour of freemasonry, we may trust him and all like him; so just mind
your own business, Tom."
"He said he would be here at dark," observed Newton.
"Yes,--I must prepare--go to the grating, some of you, that they may not
look in upon me."
This unexpected prospect of deliverance created an anxious joy in the
breasts of the prisoners; the day appeared interminable. At last, the
shades of night set in, and a clouded sky with mizzling rain raised
their hopes. The square in front of the prison was deserted, and the
sentinel crouched close against the door, which partially protected him
from the weather. In a few minutes a person was heard in conversation
with the sentinel. "He must be coming now," observed Collins in a low
tone; "that must be one of his assistants who is taking off the
attention of the _gens d'arme_."
"Make no noise," said a voice in a whisper, at the outside of the bars.
"I am here," replied Collins, softly.
"How can you get out of the prison?"
"Get the sentry out of the way when we leave off singing; the bars will
then be removed."
"Everything is prepared outside. When you get out, keep close under the
wall to the right. I shall be at the corner, if I am not here."
The freemason then retired from the grating.
"Now, Thompson, not too loud, there's no occasion for it; two of us can
Thompson commenced his song; Newton took a small saw from Collins, who
directed him how to use it. The iron bars of the prison yielded like wood
to the fine-tempered instruments which Collins employed. In an hour and a
half three of the bars were removed without noise, and the aperture was
wide enough for their escape. The singing of Thompson, whose voice was
tolerably good, and ear very correct, had not only the effect of preventing
their working being heard, but amused the sentinel, who remained with his
back to the wall listening to the melody.
Their work was so far accomplished. Thompson ceased, and all was silence
and anxiety; in a few minutes the sentinel was again heard in
conversation, and the voices receded, as if he had removed to a greater
"Now, brother," said the low voice under the aperture.
In a minute the whole of the prisoners were clear of the walls, and
followed their guide in silence, until they reached the landing-place.
"There is the boat, and provisions sufficient," said the freemason, in a
low tone; "you will have to pass the sentries on the rocks: but we can
do no more for you. Farewell, brother; and may you and your companions
be fortunate!" So saying, their friendly assistant disappeared.
The night was so dark, that although close to the boat, it was with
difficulty that its outlines could be discerned. Newton, recommending
the strictest silence and care in entering, stepped into it, and was
followed by the rest. Roberts, whose eyesight was a little affected from
the wounds in his head, stumbled over one of the oars.
"_Qui vive?_" cried out one of the sentries on the rock.
No answer was made; they all remained motionless in their seats. The
sentry walked to the edge of the rock and looked down; but not
distinguishing anything, and hearing no further noise, returned to his
For some little while Newton would not allow them to move: the oars were
then carefully lifted over the gunnel, and their clothes laid in the
rowlocks, to muffle the sound; the boat was pushed from the
landing-place into the middle of the narrow inlet. The tide was ebbing,
and with their oars raised out of the water, ready to give way if
perceived, they allowed the boat to drift out of one of the narrow
channels which formed the entrance of the harbour.
The rain now beat down fast: and anxious to be well clear of the coast
before daylight, Newton thought they might venture to pull. The oars
were taken by him and Collins; but before they had laid them three times
in the water, one of the sentries, hearing the noise, discharged his
musket in the direction.
"Give way, now, as hard as we can," cried Newton; "it's our only
Another and another musket was fired. They heard the guard turned out;
lights passing on the batteries close to them, and row-boats manning.
They double-banked their oars, and, with the assistance of the ebb-tide
and obscurity, they were soon out of gun-shot. They then laid in their
oars, shipped their mast, and sailed away from the coast.
It was nine o'clock in the evening when they started, and at daylight
the French coast was not to be seen. Overjoyed at their escape, they
commenced an attack upon the provisions and a small keg of wine; and
perhaps a more joyful breakfast never was made. The sun rose in vapour,
the sky threatened, but they were free and happy. The wind freshened, and
the boat flew before the gale; the running seas topping over her stern and
forcing them continually to bale her out; but all was joy, and freedom
turned their "danger to delight." They passed several vessels at a
distance, who did not observe them; and before sunset the English coast was
in sight. At ten o'clock the double lights on the Lizard were on their
starboard bow. They hauled up upon the larboard tack with the ebb-tide, and
having passed the Lizard, kept away for Mount's Bay, to avoid the chance of
falling in with any of the king's vessels, and being again impressed. At
daylight they ran in under St Michael's Mount, and once more stepped upon
English ground. Here, as by previous agreement, they divided the
provisions, and took farewell of each other.
"Good-bye, gentlemen," said Collins; "allow me to observe that, for
once, you may think yourselves fortunate in having been placed in my
very respectable company!"
"Once more upon the waters."
As Newton had lost his credentials from Captain Northfleet, as well as
the vessel confided to his charge, he did not consider it necessary to
pay his respects to the port-admiral at Plymouth. On the contrary, he
set off, as fast as his legs would carry him, to Liverpool, to ascertain
the condition of his father. We shall pass over the difficulties he
experienced on his journey. There is no country where travelling is more
easy or more rapid than in England, provided that you have plenty of
money; but when you travel _in forma pauperis_, there is no country in
which you get on so badly. Parish rates and poor laws have dried up the
sources of benevolence; and as Newton did not apply to the overseers for
his three-halfpence a mile, he got on how he could, which was badly
enough. When at last he did arrive at Liverpool, he found himself a
stone or two the lighter, and would have been pronounced by Captain
Barclay to have been in excellent training.
Newton had written to his father, acquainting him with his impressment;
but was doubtful whether the letter had ever been received, as it had
been confided to the care of one of the women who left the frigate the
evening previous to her sailing. When he arrived at the house he
perceived his father at his bench as usual, but doing nothing, and the
shop windows were bare.
Newton entered, and his father looked up.
"Why, Newton, my dear boy, is it you?" cried Nicholas; "what a long
while you have been away! Well, how is Mr Hilton?--and how is your poor
"My dear father," replied Newton, taking his hand, "did not you receive
"No, I received no letter. What a time you have been away; I declare it
must be two or three months, or more."
"It is nearly twelve months, my dear father: I was pressed at Bristol,
have been on board of a man-of-war, and have just escaped from a French
Newton then entered into a narrative of his adventures, to the
astonishment of Nicholas, who heard him with open mouth.
"Dear me! so you've been in a man-of-war, and in France; then you don't
know how your poor mother is?"
"Have you not inquired, my dear father?"
"No, I thought you would come home, and tell me all about it," replied
Nicholas, with a sigh.
"How have you got on here?" said Newton, to change the conversation.
"Very bad indeed, Newton,--very bad indeed; I have not had six jobs
since you left me."
"I am sorry to hear it, father; have you anything to eat in the house,
for I am very hungry?"
"I am afraid not much," replied Nicholas, going to the cupboard, and
producing some bread and cheese. "Can you eat bread and cheese, my dear
"I could eat a horse, my dear father," replied Newton, who had walked
the last twelve hours without sustenance.
Newton attacked the provender, which soon disappeared.
"I have been obliged to sell most of the shop furniture," said Nicholas,
observing Newton to cast his eyes at the empty window. "I could not help
it. I believe nobody wears spectacles in Liverpool."
"It can't be helped, father; we must hope for better times."
"Yes, we must trust in God, Newton. I sold my watch yesterday, and that
will feed us for some time. A sailor came into the shop, and asked if I
had any watches to sell: I told him that I only repaired them at
present; but that when my improvement in the duplex--" Here Nicholas
forgot the thread of his narrative, and was commencing a calculation
upon his intended improvement, when Newton interrupted him.
"Well, sir, what did the sailor reply?"
"Oh! I forgot; I told him that I had a watch of my own that I would part
with, which went very well; and that it would be cheaper to him than a
new one; that it cost fifteen pounds; but I was in want of money, and
would take five pounds for it. He saw how sorry I was to part with
it--and so I was." Here Nicholas thought of his watch, and forgot his
"Well, my dear father," said Newton, "what did he give you for it?"
"Oh!--why, he was a kind, good creature, and said that he was not the
man to take advantage of a poor devil in distress, and that I should
have the full value of it. He put the watch in his fob and counted out
fifteen pounds on the counter. I wanted to return part: but he walked
out of the shop, and before I could get round the counter, he had got
round the corner of the street."
"'Twas a God-send, my dear father," replied Newton, "for I have not a
halfpenny. Do you know what became of my chest, that I left on board of
"Dear me! now I think of it, it came here by the waggon. I put it
upstairs. I wondered why you sent it."
Newton having appeased his hunger, went upstairs, and found all his
wearing apparel had been forwarded by Mr Hilton, who supposed him dead,
and that he was enabled to make a more respectable appearance than what
the privateer's people had hitherto permitted him. In a few days he felt
quite recovered from his fatigue, and sallied forth in search of
employment. On the day after his arrival at Liverpool he had written to
the asylum, to inquire the fate of his mother. The answer which he
received was, that Mrs Forster had recovered, and remained many months
in the establishment as nurse; but that ten days back she had quitted
the asylum, and that her address was not known.
Newton, who had no means of prosecuting further inquiry, was obliged to
be satisfied with the intelligence that his mother was alive and well.
He communicated the information to Nicholas, who observed:
"Poor thing! she's looking for us, depend upon it, Newton, and will be
here very soon:" and this expectation was revived whenever Nicholas
thought of his wife; and he continued satisfied.
We must allow many months to pass away in one paragraph--months of
ineffectual struggle against poverty and want of employment, which
Newton made every exertion to obtain as mate of a merchant vessel. The
way in which he had been impressed had caused a dread of the king's
service, which he could not overcome; and although he had but to choose
his ship as a sailor before the mast, he could not prevail upon himself
to accept a berth which was not protected from the impress. Without
recommendation he could not obtain the situation of mate, and he
continued to work as a rigger in the docks, until his hand was
unfortunately severely jammed by the heel of a topmast, and he was laid
up for many weeks. Each day their fare became scantier, and they were
reduced to their last shilling, when Newton was again able to go out and
It was a rough day, blowing hard from the S.E., when Newton, who had
tried his fortune on board of every vessel (crowded as they were in the
docks) without success, walked in a melancholy and disappointed mood
along the splendid pier which lines the river-side. Few people were out,
for the gusts of wind were accompanied by smart driving showers of rain.
Here and there was to be seen a boat pulling up inshore to fetch the
shipping in the stream, who with a heavy strain on their cables were
riding to the S.E. gale, and a strong ebb-tide. Newton had made up his
mind to enter on board of one of these vessels about to sail, provided
they would advance him a part of his wages for his father's support;
when, as a heavy squall cleared away, he perceived that a boat had
broken adrift from the outermost vessel (a large brig), with only one
man in it, who was carried away by the rapid current, assisted by the
gale blowing down the river, so as to place him in considerable risk.
The man in the boat tossed out his oar, and pulling first on one side,
and then on the other, tried to make for the shore; but in vain. He was
swept away with a rapidity which threatened in less than an hour to
carry him out to sea, unless assistance were afforded him.
Another heavy squall again hid the boat from the sight of Newton, who
had been anxiously watching to ascertain if any relief was sent from the
shipping, and who was now convinced that the disaster had not been
perceived. He therefore ran down the bank of the river, waiting until
the squall should blow over, and enable him to discover the boat.
In about ten minutes the squall passed over, and the boat was again
presented to his sight; she was still in the centre of the stream, about
three hundred yards from the shore. The man who was in her, finding all
his attempts futile, had lain on his oar, and was kneeling in the
sternsheets, apparently in supplication. Newton could not resist the
appeal; it appeared to point out to him that he was summoned to answer
the call made upon Providence. The boat was now a quarter of a mile
further down the river than where he stood, and about three miles from
the town and shipping, both of which were no longer discernible from the
thickness of the weather. Newton threw off his coat, and plunging into
the agitated water, the cold of which nearly checked his respiration,
swam off into the stream in a direction so as to allow himself to fetch
to windward of the boat. He was soon carried down to it by the rapidity
of the tide, and, as he approached, he shouted to announce his presence.
The man in the boat started up at the sound of a human voice, and
perceiving Newton close to the bows, leant over and extended his hand
towards him. Newton seized hold of it, and then was whirled round by the
tide fore and aft with the side of the boat, with such violence as
nearly to drag the other man out, and half fill the boat with water. It
was with great difficulty, although assisted by the occupant, that
Newton contrived at last to get in; when, exhausted with the efforts he
had made, he remained a few seconds without motion; the man, whom he had
thus risked his life to save, perceiving his condition, and not speaking
"We have no time to lose," said Newton, at last: "take an oar, and let
us pull in for the shore. If once we are swept down to the narrows there
will be little chance for us."
The other complied, without speaking; and, after a few minutes'
exertion, the boat was safely landed on the Liverpool side of the river.
"The Lord be praised!" ejaculated Newton's companion, as he laid on his
oar. "I did not call upon _Him_ in vain; your accident has been the
means of my preservation."
"How do you mean?" inquired Newton.
"Why, did you not fall overboard?" replied the other.
Newton then explained to his companion what we have already related to
the reader, ending his narrative with the observation, that when he
perceived him praying for assistance in his peril, he could not resist
"God will reward you, young man," continued he: "and now I will explain
to you how it was that I was adrift, like a bear in a washing-tub. My
first mate was below. I had just relieved the deck, for in this blowing
weather we must keep watch in harbour. The men were all at their dinner,
when I heard the boat thumping under the main channels. I got into her
to ease off a fathom or two of the painter; but as I hauled her ahead to
get at the bend, it appears that the monkey of a boy who made her fast,
and has been but a few months at sea, had made a '_slippery hitch_,' so
away it went, and I was adrift. I hailed them on board; but they did not
hear me, although the first mate might have, for he was in the cabin, and
the stern-window was up; but hailing to windward is hard work, such weather
as this; the words are blown back again down your own throat. And now,
let me know a little about you, my lad, and see whether I cannot in return
be of some use to you."
Newton's history was soon told; and, at the conclusion, he had the
satisfaction of finding that he had obtained the very situation which he
had been in search of.
"I have no second mate on board," observed the captain of the brig; "but
I intended to have shipped one tomorrow. I was only divided between
which to take of two who have offered themselves, with equally good
recommendations. Fortunately, I would promise neither; and, as I think
your own recommendation stronger than theirs, the berth is at your
service. I only wish, for your sake, that it was that of first mate. I
am sure you would prove yourself fit for the situation; and I cannot say
that I am very partial to the one that I have at present; but he is a
relation of the owner."
The arrangements were soon made. Mr Berecroft, the master of the vessel,
advanced Newton a sum to fit himself out, and agreed with the owner at
Liverpool that one-half of Newton's wages should be allotted monthly to
his father. The next morning, as the vessel had a pilot on board, and
the weather had moderated, Newton took leave of his father, and with a
light heart accompanied his new acquaintance on board of the vessel.
It was early in the morning when they embarked in a hired boat,--the one
belonging to the brig still remaining down the river, where they had
landed. The first mate, as it appeared, was in the cabin shaving
himself, previous to his going on shore to the owner to report the
supposed loss of his superior. The sailors were either busy or down
below, so that no notice was taken of the boat coming alongside; and
Newton, with the master, were both on deck before the circumstance was
known to the first mate. It so happened, that at the very same moment
that they came on board, the first mate was ascending the companion
hatch, to order a boat to be lowered down and manned. When he perceived
Mr Berecroft, he fell back with astonishment, and turned pale.
"I thought you were gone," said he: "why, what could have saved you? did
you not drift out to sea?"
"It appears, then, Mr Jackson, that you knew that I was adrift," replied
the master, seriously, looking him steadfastly in the face.
"That is,"--replied the mate, confused--"I thought--of course, seeing
the boat was not alongside--that you had drifted away in her: how it
happened--of course, I know not."
"I should trust, for your conscience' sake, Mr Jackson, that you did
not; however, here I am again, as you see, by the blessing of
Providence, and the exertions of this young man, whom I must introduce
to you as our second mate."
Jackson cast an angry glance at Newton upon the conclusion of this
speech. The master had truly observed that it was strange the first mate
did not hear him when he had hailed the brig for assistance. The fact
was, that Jackson had both heard him and seen him; but he was a wretch
devoid of all feeling, who consulted nothing except his own interest. He
had made sure that the master would be carried out to sea, there to
perish by a most miserable death, and that he would succeed in command
of the vessel. He was then going on shore to report the supposed
"_falling overboard_" of the master: which, as the brig was to sail as
soon as the weather moderated, would have secured to him the command,
and, at the same time, have put an end to the search which (should he have
reported the truth) would immediately have taken place for the boat in
which the master had been adrift. Foiled in his hopes, by the courage of
Newton, Jackson had already formed towards him a deadly hatred and
determination of revenge.
That evening the wind abated, and the vessel sailed. The ensuing
morning she was clear of the sands, and a pilot-vessel off Holyhead
having received the pilot, she steered down the Irish Channel to join a
convoy for the West Indies, collecting at Falmouth.
Mr Berecroft, the master of the vessel, who has not hitherto been
described, was a spare, light-built person, of about sixty years of age,
still active, and a thorough seaman. He had crossed the ocean for
forty-five years, and his occasional narratives, as he walked the deck,
or sat over his evening glass of grog, proved that his life must have
been one of no ordinary variety and interest. He was serious and
rationally devout. He checked all swearing from the men under his
command, and rebuked it, although he could not prevent it, in the first
mate; who, to annoy him, seldom made his appearance on deck without
making use of some execration or another. It was Mr Berecroft's custom
to call down the seamen into his cabin every evening, and read to them a
short prayer; and, although this unusual ceremony often caused a leer in
some of the newly-entered men, and was not only unattended but ridiculed
by Jackson, still the whole conduct of Berecroft was so completely in
unison, that even the most idle and thoughtless acknowledged that he was
a good man, and quitted the ship with regret. Such was Mr Berecroft; and
we have little further to add, except that he was very superior to the
generality of masters of merchant vessels. His family, it was reported,
were strict Quakers.
Jackson, the first mate, was a bull-headed, sandy-haired Northumbrian;
as we before stated, a relation of the owner's, or he never would have
been permitted to remain in the ship. The reader has already had some
insight into his diabolical character. It will be sufficient to add,
that he was coarse and blustering in his manners; that he never forgot
and never forgave an injury; gratitude was not in his composition; and,
to gratify his revenge, he would stop at nothing.
On the third day, the brig, which was named the _Eliza and Jane_, after
the two daughters of the owner, arrived at Falmouth, where she anchored
in the outer roads, in company with thirty or forty more, who had
assembled at the appointed rendezvous. On the second day after their
arrival, a fifty-gun ship, frigate, and two corvettes, made their
appearance off the mouth of the harbour; and after a due proportion of
guns, some shotted and some not, the whole convoy were under weigh, and
hove-to round their protectors. The first step taken by the latter was
to disembarrass their _proteges_ of one-third of their crews, leaving
them as defenceless as possible, that they might not confide in their
own strength, but put their whole trust in the men-of-war, and keep as
close to them as possible. Having taken out every unprotected man, they
distributed convoy signals in lieu, and half a dozen more guns announced
that they were to make sail--an order immediately complied with: the
merchant vessels, loaded with canvas below and aloft, while the
men-of-war, with their topsails on the caps, sailed round and round
them, firing shot at every unfortunate vessel which was not able to sail
as well as the rest.
The convoy left Falmouth, seventy-five in number but in a few days there
were but forty in sight. Those who remained behind either made their
voyage how they could, or were taken by the enemy's privateers, who
followed in the wake of the convoy. Some few were carried into the
French ports; and the underwriters of the policy ate but little dinner
on the day which brought the intelligence of their capture. Others were
retaken by the English blockading squadrons, who received then
one-eighth for salvage. At last the men-of-war were fairly running down
the traders, with about twenty-five of the best sailers in company: and
the commodore deemed it advisable to take particular care of the few
which remained, lest he should be _"hauled over the coals_" by the
Admiralty. Nothing worth comment occurred during the remainder of the
passage. They all arrived safe at Barbadoes, when the commodore brought
in his returns to the admiral, and complained bitterly of the obstinacy
of the masters of merchant vessels, who would part company with him, in
defiance of all his injunctions, and in spite of all the powder which he
fired away to enforce his signals. There certainly was a fault
During the passage, which lasted seven weeks, Newton had ample
opportunity of ascertaining his situation. The master invariably treated
him with kindness and consideration; and before the voyage was
completed, he treated him as if he were his own son. Jackson lost no
opportunity of annoying or insulting him; but the support of his patron
indemnified Newton for the conduct of the first mate, and he resolved to
take no notice of that which could not well be prevented. On their
arrival at Barbadoes, Mr Berecroft went on shore to the house of the
consignee; and then it was that the malignity of Jackson broke out in
all its violence.
The brig had discharged her cargo, and was lying in Carlisle Bay,
waiting for the sugars which were to be shipped for Liverpool. One
morning, when Newton, who for some time had submitted to the tyranny of
Jackson without complaint, was standing at the main hatchway, giving
directions to the men below, who were arranging the dunnage at the
bottom of the vessel, the first mate came on deck, and watching his
opportunity, staggered, with a rope in his hand, against Newton, as if
by accident, so as to throw him over the coombings. Newton, who would
have immediately fallen to the bottom of the hold upon the ballast at
the risk of his life, suddenly seized hold of the first mate, not in
sufficient time to recover his own balance, but so firmly as to drag
Jackson with him; and down they were both precipitated together. The
first mate, having hold of one of the ropes leading down the mainmast,
clung fast to save himself, and in so doing also broke the fall of
Newton; but the weight of their bodies dragged the rope through
Jackson's hands, which were lacerated to the bone. Neither party was
much hurt by the fall; so that the treachery of Jackson recoiled upon
himself. After this specimen of animosity, which was duly reported to
Mr Berecroft, on his return on board, by the seamen, who detested
Jackson and anything like foul play, his protector determined that
Newton should no longer be subjected to further violence. At the request
of Mr Berecroft, Newton was invited to stay at the house of Mr Kingston,
the gentleman to whom the vessel had been consigned--an offer which was
Newton had not been many days on shore, when Mr Kingston, who had taken
a strong interest in him, proposed, in answer to many of his questions
relative to the slave trade, that they should make a party to visit a
plantation, the proprietor of which had been a resident since his youth,
and judge for himself as to the truth of the reports so industriously
circulated by those who were so inimical to the employment of a slave
_Oroonoko_.--These men are so, whom you would rise against.
If we are slaves, they did not make us slaves,
But bought us in the honest way of trade,
As we have done before 'em, bought and sold
Many a wretch, and never thought it wrong.
They paid our price for us, and we are now
Their property, a part of their estate,
To manage as they please."
At an early hour the party, consisting of Mr Kingston, the master of the
brig, and Newton, set off upon mules for the habitation of the planter.
The sun had illumined the sky, but had not yet made his appearance,
although the golden fringes upon the clouds, which floated in broad
belts in the horizon, indicated his glorious yet withering approach. The
dew moistened each leaf, or hung in glittering pendant drops upon the
thorn of the prickly pears which lined the roads. The web of the
silver-banded spider was extended between the bushes, and, saturated
with moisture, reflected the beams of the rising orb, as the animals
danced in the centre, to dazzle their expected prey. The mist still
hovered on the valleys, and concealed a part of the landscape from their
view; and the occasional sound of the fall of water was mingled with the
twittering and chirping of the birds, as they flew from spray to spray. The
air was fresh, even to keenness, and anyone suddenly wafted to the scene
would little have imagined that he was under the torrid zone.
"How different this is from the ideas generally formed of the climate in
the West Indies!" observed Newton. "In England, we couple it with
unsufferable heat and the yellow fever."
"Your reports are from those who seldom leave the harbours or towns,