Part 8 out of 12
We found orders at Barbadoes to cruise off Martinique, to prevent
supplies being furnished to the garrison of the island, and we proceeded
there immediately. I do not know anything more picturesque than running
down the east side of this beautiful island--the ridges of hill
spreading down to the water's edge, covered with the freshest verdure,
divided at the base by small bays, with the beach of dazzling white
sand, and where the little coasting vessels employed to bring the sugar
from the neighbouring estates were riding at anchor. Each hill, at its
adjutment towards the sea, crowned with a fort, on which waved the
tri-colour--certainly, in appearance, one of the most war-like flags in
On the third morning we had rounded the Diamond Rock, and were scudding
along the lee-side of the island just opening Fort Royal bay, when
hauling rather too close round its eastern entrance, formed by a
promontory called Solomon's Point, which was covered with brush-wood, we
found ourselves nearer than agreeable to a newly constructed battery. A
column of smoke was poured along the blue water, and it was followed by
the whizzing of a shot, which passed through our boom main sail, first
cutting away the dog-vane, which was close to old Swinburne's head, as
he stood on the carronade, conning the brig. I was at dinner in the
cabin with O'Brien and the first lieutenant.
"Where the devil have they got the brig now?" said O'Brien, rising from
his chair, and going on deck.
We both followed; but before we were on deck, three or four more shot
passed between the masts. "If you please, sir," said the master's mate
in charge of the deck, whose name was O'Farrell, "the battery has opened
"Thank you very much for your information, Mr O'Farrell," replied
O'Brien; "but the French have reported it before you. May I ask if
you've any particular fancy to be made a target of, or if you think that
His Majesty's brig _Rattlesnake_ was sent here to be riddled for nothing
at all? Starboard the helm, quartermaster."
The helm was put up, and the brig was soon run out of the fire; not,
however, until a few more shot were pitched close to us, and one carried
away the foretopmast backstay.
"Now, Mr O'Farrell," replied O'Brien, "I only wish to point out to you
that I trust neither I nor any one in this ship cares a fig about the
whizzing of a shot or two about our ears when there is anything to be
gained for it, either for ourselves or for our country; but I do care a
great deal about losing even the leg or the arm, much more the life of
any of my men, when there's no occasion for it; so, in future, recollect
it's no disgrace to keep out of the way of a battery when all the
advantage is on their side. I've always observed that chance shots pick
out the best men. Lower down the mainsail, and send the sailmakers aft
to repair it."
When O'Brien returned to the cabin I remained on deck, for it was my
afternoon watch; and although O'Farrell had permission to look out for
me, I did not choose to go down again. The bay of Fort Royal was now
opened, and the view was extremely beautiful. Swinburne was still on the
carronade; and as I knew he had been there before, I applied to him for
information as to the _locale_. He told me the names of the batteries
above the town, pointed out Fort Edward and Negro Point, and
particularly Pigeon Island, the battery at the top of which wore the
appearance of a mural crown.
"It's well I remember that place, Mr Simple," said he. "It was in '94
when I was last here. The sodgers had 'sieged it for a whole month, and
were about to give it up, 'cause they couldn't get a gun up on that 'ere
hill you see there. So poor Captain Faulkner says, 'There's many a clear
head under a tarpaulin hat, and I'll give any chap five doubloons that
will hitch up a twenty-four pounder to the top of that hill.' Not quite
so easy a matter, as you may perceive from here, Mr Simple."
"It certainly appears to me to have been almost impossible, Swinburne,"
"And so it did to most of us, Mr Simple; but there was one Dick Smith,
mate of a transport, who had come on shore, and he steps out, saying,
'I've been looking at your men handling that gun, and my opinion is,
that if you gets a butt, crams in a carronade, well woulded up, and fill
it with old junk and rope yarns, you might parbuckle it up to the very
top.' So Captain Faulkner pulls out five doubloons, and gives them to
him, saying, 'You deserve the money for the hint, even if it don't
succeed.' But it did succeed, Mr Simple; and the next day, to their
surprise, we opened fire on the French beggars, and soon brought their
boasting down. One of the French officers, after he was taken prisoner,
axed me how we had managed to get the gun up there; but I wasn't going
to blow the gaff, so I told him, as a great secret, that we got it up
with a kite, upon which he opened all his eyes, and crying '_sacre
bleu!_' walked away, believing all I said was true; but a'n't that a
sail we have opened with the point, Mr Simple?"
It was so, and I reported it to O'Brien, who came up and gave chase. In
half an hour we were alongside of her, when she hoisted American
colours, and proved to be a brigantine laden up to her gunwale, which
was not above a foot out of the water. Her cargo consisted of what the
Americans called _notions_; that is, in English, an assorted cargo.
Half-way up her masts down to the deck were hung up baskets containing
apples, potatoes, onions, and nuts of various kinds. Her deck was
crowded with cattle, sheep, pigs, and donkeys. Below was full of
shingle, lumber, and a variety of different articles too numerous to
mention. I boarded her, and asked the master whither he was bound?
"Why," replied he, "I am bound for a market--nowise particular; and I
guess you won't stop me."
"Not if all's right," replied I; "but I must look at your log."
"Well, I've a notion there's no great objection to that," replied he;
and he brought it up on deck.
I had no great time to examine it, but I could not help being amused at
the little I did read, such as--"Horse latitudes--water very short--
killed white-faced bullock--caught a dolphin, and ate him for dinner--
broached molasses cask No. I, letter A. Fine night--saw little round
things floating on the water--took up a bucket full--guessed they were
pearls--judge I guessed wrong, only little Portuguese men-of-war--threw
them overboard again--heard a scream, guessed it was a mermaid--looked
out, saw nothing. Witnessed a very strange rippling ahead--calculated it
might be the sea-serpent--stood on to see him plain, and nearly ran on
Barbuda. Hauled off again--met a Britisher--treated _politely_."
Having overhauled his log, I then begged to overhaul his men to
ascertain if there were any Englishmen among his crew. This was not
pleasing, and he grumbled very much; but they were ordered aft. One man
I was satisfied was an Englishman, and told him so; but the man as well
as the master persisted to the contrary. Nevertheless, I resolved to
take him on board for O'Brien to decide, and ordered him into the boat.
"Well, if you will use force, I can't help it. My decks an't clear as
you see, or else--I tell you what, Mr Lieutenant, your vessel there will
be another _Hermione_, I've a notion, if you presses true-blooded
Yankees; and, what's more, the States will take it up, as sure as
there's snakes in Virginny."
Notwithstanding this remonstrance, I took them on board to O'Brien, who
had a long conversation with the American in the cabin. When they
returned on deck he was allowed to depart with his man, and we again
made sail. I had the first watch that night, and as we ran along the
coast I perceived a vessel under the high land in what the sailors
called the _doldrums_; that is, almost becalmed, or her sails flapping
about in every direction with the eddying winds. We steered for her, and
were very soon in the same situation, not more than a quarter of a mile
from her. The quarter-boat was lowered down, and I proceeded to board
her; but as she was large and rakish, O'Brien desired me to be careful,
and if there was the least show of resistance to return. As I pulled up
to her bows they hailed me in French, and desired me to keep off, or
they would fire. This was quite sufficient; and, in obedience to my
orders, I returned to the brig and reported to O'Brien. We lowered down
all the quarter-boats, and towed round the brig's broadside to her, and
then gave her half a dozen carronades of round and grape. Hearing great
noise and confusion on board after we had ceased firing, O'Brien again
sent me to know if they had surrendered. They replied in the
affirmative, and I boarded her. She proved to be the _Commerce de
Bordeaux_, with three hundred and thirty slaves on board, out of five
hundred embarked from the coast, bound to Martinique. The crew were very
sickly, and were most of them in their hammocks. Latterly, they had been
killing parrots to make soup for them; a few that were left, of the grey
species, spoke remarkably well. When they left the coast they had nearly
one thousand parrots on board.
O'Brien perceiving that I had taken possession, sent another boat to
know what the vessel was. I desired the surgeon to be sent on board, as
some of the men and many of the poor slaves were wounded by our shot. Of
all the miserable objects, I know of none to be compared to the poor
devils of slaves on board of a slave vessel: the state of suffocation
between decks--the dreadful stench arising from their filth, which is
hardly ever cleared away--the sick lying without help, and looked upon
by those who are stronger with the utmost indifference--men, women, and
children, all huddled and crowded together in a state of nudity, worn to
skin and bone from stench, starvation, and living in an atmosphere that
none but a negro could exist in. If all that occurs in a slave-ship were
really known, I think it would be acknowledged that to make the
slave-trade piracy would be nothing more than a just retribution; and
this is certain, that unless it be made piracy, it never will be
By daylight the vessel was ready, and O'Brien determined to take her to
Dominica, so that the poor devils might be immediately sent on shore. We
anchored with her, in a few days, in Prince Rupert's Bay, where we only
had twenty-four hours to obtain some refreshments and arrange about our
prize, which I hardly need say was of some value.
During the short time that I was on shore, purchasing some fowls and
vegetables for O'Brien and our own mess, I was amused at witnessing a
black serjeant drilling some of his regiment of free negroes and
mulattoes. He appeared resolved to make the best appearance that he
could, for he began by saying, "You hab shoe and 'tocking, stand in
front--you hab shoe no 'tocking, stand in centre--you hab no shoe no
'tocking, stand in um rear. Face to mountain--back to sea-beach. Why you
no 'tep out, sar?--you hangman!"
I was curious to count the numbers qualified for the front rank: there
were only two mulattoes. In the second rank there were also only two. No
shoe and no 'tocking appeared to be the fashion. As usual, we were
surrounded by the negroes; and although we had been there but a few
hours, they had a song composed for us, which they constantly
"Don't you see the _Rattlesnake_
Coming under sail?
Don't you see the _Rattlesnake_
With prizes at um tail?--'
_Rattlesnake_ hab all the money--ding, ding--
She shall have all that's funny, ding, ding!"
Money can purchase anything in the new country--American information not
always to be depended upon--A night attack; we are beaten off--It proves
a _cut up_, instead of a _cut out_--After all, we save something out of
The next morning we weighed anchor, and returned to our station off
Martinique. We had run within three miles of St Pierre's when we
discovered a vessel coming out under jury-masts. She steered directly
for us, and we made her out to be the American brigantine which we had
boarded some time before. O'Brien sent a boat to bring the master of her
"Well, captain," said he, "so you met with a squall?"
"I calculate not," replied he.
"Why, then, what the devil have you been about?"
"Why, I guess I sold all my cargo, and, what's more, I've sold my
"Sold your masts! who did you sell them to?"
"To an almighty pretty French privateer lying in St Pierre's, which had
lost her spars when she was chased by one of your brass-bottomed
sarpents; and I've a notion they paid pretty handsomely too."
"But how do you mean to get home again?"
"I calculate to get into the _stream_, and then I'll do very well. If I
meet a nor-wester, why then I'll make a signal of distress, and some one
will tow me in, I guess."
"Well," replied O'Brien, "but step down into the cabin and take
"With particular pleasure," replied this strange mortal; and down they
In about half an hour they returned on deck, and the boat took the
American on board. Soon afterwards, O'Brien desired Osbaldistone and
myself to step down into the cabin. The chart of the harbour of St
Pierre's lay on the table, and O'Brien said, "I have had a long
conversation with the American, and he states that the privateer is at
anchor in this spot" (pointing to a pencil-mark on the chart). "If so,
she is well out; and I see no difficulty in capturing her. You see that
she lays in four fathoms water, and so close under the outer battery,
that the guns could not be pointed down upon the boats. I have also
inquired if they keep a good look-out, and the American says that they
feel so secure that they keep no look-out at all; that the captain and
officers belonging to her are on shore all night, drinking, smoking, and
boasting of what they will do. Now the question is, whether this report
be correct. The American has been well-treated by us, and I see no
reason to doubt him; indeed, he gave the information voluntarily, as if
he wished to serve us."
I allowed Osbaldistone to speak first: he coincided with O'Brien. I did
not: the very circumstance of her requiring new masts made me doubt the
truth of his assertion as to where she lay; and if one part of his story
was false, why not the whole? O'Brien appeared struck with my argument,
and it was agreed that if the boats did go away, it should be for a
reconnoissance, and that the attempt should only be made, provided it
was found that the privateer laid in the same spot pointed out by the
American master. It was, however, decided that the reconnoissance should
take place that very night, as, allowing the privateer to be anchored on
the spot supposed, there was every probability that she would not remain
there, but haul further in, to take in her new masts. The news that an
expedition was at hand was soon circulated through the ship, and all the
men had taken their cutlasses from the capstern to get them ready for
action. The lighting boats' crews, without orders, were busy with their
boats, some cutting up old blankets to muffle the oars, other making new
grummets. The ship's company were as busy as bees, bustling and buzzing
about the decks, and reminding you of the agitation which takes place in
a hive previous to a swarm. At last, Osbaldistone came on deck, and
ordered the boats' crews to be piped away, and prepare for service. He
was to have the command of the expedition in the launch--I had charge of
the first cutter--O'Farrell of the second, and Swinburne had the charge
of the jolly-boat. At dusk, the head of the brig was again turned
towards St Pierre's, and we ran slowly in. At ten we hove-to, and about
eleven the boats were ordered to haul up, O'Brien repeating his orders
to Mr Osbaldistone, not to make the attempt if the privateer were found
to be anchored close to the town. The men were all mustered on the
quarter-deck, to ascertain if they had the distinguishing mark on their
jackets, that is, square patches of canvas sewed on the left arm, so
that we might recognize friend from foe--a very necessary precaution in
a night expedition; and then they were manned, and ordered to shove off.
The oars were dropped in the water, throwing out a phosphorescent light,
so common in that climate, and away we went. After an hour's pulling,
Osbaldistone lay on his oars in the launch, and we closed with him.
"We are now at the mouth of the harbour," said he, "and the most perfect
silence must be observed."
"At the mouth of the harbour, sir!" said Swinburne; "I reckon we are
more than half way in; we passed the point at least ten minutes ago, and
this is the second battery we are now abreast of."
To this Osbaldistone did not agree, nor indeed did I think that
Swinburne was right; but he persisted in it, and pointed out to us the
lights in the town, which were now all open to us, and which would not
be the case if we were only at the mouth of the harbour. Still we were
of a different opinion, and Swinburne, out of respect to his officers,
said no more.
We resumed our oars, pulling with the greatest caution; the night was
intensely dark, and we could distinguish nothing. After pulling ten
minutes more, we appeared to be close to the lights in the town; still
we could see no privateer or any other vessel. Again we lay upon our
oars, and held a consultation. Swinburne declared that if the privateer
laid where we supposed, we had passed her long ago; but while we were
debating, O'Farrell cried out, "I see her," and he was right--she was
not more than a cable's length from us. Without waiting for orders,
O'Farrell desired his men to give way, and dashed alongside of the
privateer. Before he was half-way on board of her, lights flew about in
every direction, and a dozen muskets were discharged. We had nothing to
do but to follow him, and in a few seconds we were all alongside of her;
but she was well prepared, and on the alert. Boarding nettings were
triced up all round, every gun had been depressed as much as possible,
and she appeared to be full of men. A scene of confusion and slaughter
now occurred, which I trust never again to witness. All our attempts to
get on board were unavailing; if we tried at a port, a dozen pikes
thrust us back; if we attempted the boarding nettings, we were thrown
down, killed or wounded, into the boats. From every port, and from the
decks of the privateer, the discharge of musketry was incessant. Pistols
were protruded and fired in our faces, while occasionally her carronades
went off, stunning us with their deafening noise, and rocking the boats
in the disturbed water, if they had no other effect. For ten minutes our
exertions never ceased; at last, with half our numbers lying killed and
wounded in the bottom of the boats, the men, worn out and dispirited at
their unavailing attempts, sat down most of them on the boats' thwarts,
loading their muskets, and discharging them into the ports. Osbaldistone
was among the wounded; and perceiving that he was not in the launch, of
whose crew not six remained, I called to Swinburne, who was alongside of
me, and desired him to tell the other boats to make the best of their
way out of the harbour. This was soon communicated to the survivors, who
would have continued the unequal contest to the last man, if I had not
given the order. The launch and second cutter shoved off--O'Farrell also
having fallen; and, as soon as they were clear of the privateer, and had
got their oars to pass, I proceeded to do the same, amidst the shouts
and yells of the Frenchmen, who now jumped on their gunwale and pelted
us with their musketry, cheering, and mocking us.
"Stop, sir," cried Swinburne, "we'll have a bit of revenge;" so saying,
he hauled-to the launch, and wending her bow to the privateer, directed
her carronade--which they had no idea that we had on board, as we had
not fired it--to where the Frenchmen were crowded the thickest.
"Stop one moment, Swinburne; put another dose of canister in." We did
so, and then discharged the gun, which had the most murderous effect,
bringing the major part of them down upon the deck. I feel convinced,
from the cries and groans which followed, that if we had had a few more
men, we might have returned and captured the privateer; but it was too
late. The batteries were all lighted up, and although they could not see
the boats, fired in the direction where they supposed us to be; for they
were aware, from the shouting on board the vessel, that we had been
beaten off. The launch had but six hands capable of taking an oar; the
first cutter had but four. In my own boat I had five. Swinburne had two
besides himself in the jolly-boat.
"This is a sorry business, sir," said Swinburne; "now, what's best to be
done? My idea is, that we had better put all the wounded men into the
launch, man the two cutters and jolly-boat, and tow her off. And, Mr
Simple, instead of keeping on this side, as they will expect in the
batteries, let us keep close in-shore, upon the near side, and their
shot will pass over us."
This advice was too good not to be followed. It was now two o'clock, and
we had a long pull before us, and no time to lose: we lifted the dead
bodies and the wounded men out of the two cutters and jolly-boat into
the launch. I had no time for examination, but I perceived that
O'Farrell was quite dead, and also a youngster of the name of Pepper,
who must have smuggled himself into the boats. I did, however, look for
Osbaldistone, and found him in the stern sheets of the launch. He had
received a deep wound in the breast, apparently with a pike. He was
sensible, and asked me for a little water, which I procured from the
breaker which was in the launch, and gave it to him. At the word water,
and hearing it poured out from the breaker, many of the wounded men
faintly called out for some. Having no time to spare, I left two men in
the launch, one to steer and the other to give them water, and then
taking her in tow, pulled directly in for the batteries, as advised by
Swinburne, who now sat alongside of me.
As soon as we were well in-shore, I pulled out of the harbour, with
feelings not by any means enviable. Swinburne said to me in a low voice,
"This will be a hard blow for the captain, Mr Simple. I've always been
told, that a young captain losing his men without bringing any dollars
to his admiral, is not very well received."
"I am more sorry for him than I can well express, Swinburne," replied I;
"but--what is that a-head--a vessel under weigh?"
Swinburne stood up in the stern of the cutter, and looked for a few
seconds. "Yes, a large ship standing in under royals--she must be a
Frenchman. Now's our time, sir; so long as we don't go out empty-handed,
all will be well. Oars, all of you. Shall we cast off the launch, sir?"
"Yes," replied I; "and now, my lads, let us only have the vessel, and we
shall do. She is a merchantman, that's clear (not that I was sure of
it). Swinburne, I think it will be better to let her pass us in-shore;
they will all be looking out of the other side, for they must have seen
"Well thought of, sir," replied Swinburne.
We laid on our oars, and let her pass us, which she did, creeping in at
the rate of two miles an hour. We then pulled for her quarter in the
three boats, leaving the launch behind us, and boarded. As we premised,
the crew were on deck, and all on the other side of the vessel, so
anxiously looking at the batteries, which were still firing occasional
random shot, that they did not perceive us until we were close to them,
and then they had no time to seize their arms. There were several ladies
on board; some of the people protected them, others ran below. In two
minutes we had possession of her, and had put her head the other way. To
our surprise we found that she mounted fourteen guns. One hatch we left
open for the ladies, some of whom had fainted, to be taken down below;
the others were fastened down by Swinburne. As soon as we had the deck
to ourselves, we manned one of the cutters, and sent it for the launch;
and as soon as she was made fast alongside, we had time to look about
us. The breeze freshened, and, in half an hour, we were out of gun-shot
of all the batteries. I then had the wounded men taken out of the
launch, and Swinburne and the other men bound up their wounds, and made
them as comfortable as they could.
Some remarkable occurrences take place in the letter of marque--Old
friends with improved faces--The captor a captive; but not carried away,
though the captive is, by the ship's boat--The whole chapter a mixture
of love, war, and merchandise.
We had had possession of the vessel about an hour, when the man who was
sentry over the hatchway told me that one or the prisoners wished to
speak with the English commanding officer, and asked leave to come on
deck. I gave permission, and a gentleman came up, stating that he was a
passenger; that the ship was a letter of marque, from Bordeaux; that
there were seven lady passengers on board, who had come out to join
their husbands and families; and that he trusted I would have no
objection to put them on shore, as women could hardly be considered as
objects of warfare. As I knew that O'Brien would have done so, and that
he would be glad to get rid of both women and prisoners if he could, I
replied "Most certainly;" that I would heave-to, that they might not
have so far to pull on shore, and that I would permit the ladies and
other passengers to go on shore. I begged that they would be as quick as
possible in getting their packages ready, and that I would give them two
of the boats belonging to the ship, with a sufficient number of French
seamen belonging to her to man the boats. The Frenchman was very
grateful, thanked me in the name of the ladies, and went down below to
impart the intelligence. I then hove-to, lowered down the boats from the
quarters, and waited for them to come up. It was daylight before they
were ready, but that I did not care about; I saw the brig in the offing
about seven miles off, and I was well clear of the batteries. At last
they made their appearance, one by one coming up the ladder, escorted by
French gentlemen. They had to wait while the packages and bundles were
put into the boats. The first sight which struck them with horror was
the many dead and wounded Englishmen lying on the decks. Expressing
their commiseration, I told them that we had attempted to take the
privateer, and had been repulsed, and that it was coming out of the
harbour that I had fallen in with their ship and captured it. All the
ladies had severally thanked me for my kindness in giving them their
liberty, except one, whose eyes were fixed upon the wounded men, when
the French gentleman went up to her, and reminded her that she had not
expressed her thanks to the commanding officer.
She turned round to me--I started back. I certainly had seen that face
before--I could not be mistaken; yet she had now grown up into a
beautiful young woman. "Celeste," said I, trembling. "Are you not
"Yes," replied she, looking earnestly at me, as if she would discover
who I was, but which it was not very easy to do, begrimed as my face was
with dust and gunpowder.
"Have you forgotten Peter Simple?"
"Oh! no--no--never forgot you!" cried Celeste, bursting into tears, and
holding out her hands.
This scene occasioned no small astonishment to the parties on deck, who
could not comprehend it. She smiled through her tears, as I told her how
happy I was to have the means of being of service to her. "And where is
the colonel?" said I.
"There," replied she, pointing to the island; "he is now general, and
commands the force in the garrison. And where is Mr O'Brien?"
"There," replied I; "he commands that man-of-war, of which I am the
A rapid exchange of inquiries took place, and the boats were stopped
while we were in conversation. Swinburne reported that the brig was
standing in for us, and I felt that in justice to the wounded I could no
longer delay. Still I found time to press her hand, to thank her for the
purse she had given me when I was on the stilts, and to tell her that I
had never forgotten her, and never would. With many remembrances to her
father, I was handing her into the boat, when she said, "I don't know
whether I am right to ask it, but you could do me such a favour."
"What is it, Celeste?"
"You have allowed more than one-half of the men to pull us on shore;
some must remain, and they are so miserable--indeed it is hardly yet
decided which of them are to go. Could you let them all go?"
"That I will, for your sake, Celeste. As soon as your two boats have
shoved off, I will lower down the boat astern, and send the rest after
you; but I must make sail now--God bless you!"
The boats then shoved off, the passengers waving their handkerchiefs to
us, and I made sail for the brig. As soon as the stern-boat was
alongside, the rest of the crew were called up and put into her, and
followed their companions. I felt that O'Brien would not be angry with
me for letting them all go: and especially when I told him who begged
for them. The vessel's name was the _Victorine_, mounting fourteen guns,
and twenty-four men, with eleven passengers. She was chiefly laden with
silks and wine, and was a very valuable prize. Celeste had time to tell
me that her father had been four years in Martinique, and had left her
at home for her education; and that she was then coming out to join him.
The other ladies were all wives or daughters of officers of the French
garrison on the island, and the gentlemen passengers were some of them
French officers; but as this was told me in secrecy, of course I was not
bound to know it, as they were not in uniform.
As soon as we had closed with the brig, I hastened on board to O'Brien;
and as soon as a fresh supply of hands to man the boats, and the surgeon
had been despatched on board of the prize, to superintend the removal of
the wounded, I went down with him into the cabin, and narrated what had
"Well," said O'Brien, "all's well that ends well; but this is not the
luckiest hit in the world. Your taking the ship has saved me, Peter; and
I must make as flourishing a despatch as I can. By the powers but it's
very lucky that she has fourteen guns--it sounds grand. I must muddle it
all up together, so that the admiral must think we intended to cut them
both out--and so we did, sure enough, if we had known she had been
there. But I am most anxious to hear the surgeon's report, and whether
poor Osbaldistone will do well. Peter, oblige me by going on board, and
put two marines sentry over the hatchway, so that no one goes down and
pulls the traps about; for I'll send on shore everything belonging to
the passengers, for Colonel O'Brien's sake."
The surgeon's report was made--six killed and sixteen wounded. The
killed were, O'Farren and Pepper, midshipmen, two seamen and two
marines. The first lieutenant, Osbaldistone, was severely wounded in
three places, but likely to do well; five other men were dangerously
wounded: the other ten would, in all probability, return to their duty
in less than a month. As soon as the wounded were on board, O'Brien
returned with me to the prize, and we went down into the cabin. All the
passengers' effects were collected; the trunks which had been left open
were nailed down: and O'Brien wrote a handsome letter to General
O'Brien, containing a list of the packages sent on shore. We sent the
launch with a flag of truce to the nearest battery; after some demur it
was accepted, and effects landed. We did not wait for an answer, but
made all sail to join the admiral at Barbadoes.
The next morning we buried those who had fallen. O'Farrell was a fine
young man, brave as a lion, but very hot in his temper. He would have
made a good officer had he been spared. Poor little Pepper was also much
regretted. He was but twelve years old. He had bribed the bowman of the
second cutter to allow him to conceal himself under the fore-sheets of
the boat. His day's allowance of spirits had purchased him this object
of his ambition, which ended so fatally. But as soon as the bodies had
disappeared under the wave, and the service was over, we all felt
happier. There is something very unpleasant, particularly to sailors, in
having a corpse on board.
We now sailed merrily along, the prize keeping company with us; and,
before we reached Barbadoes, most of the men were convalescent.
Osbaldistone's wounds, were, however, very severe; and he was
recommended to return home, which he did, and obtained his promotion as
soon as he arrived. He was a pleasant messmate, and I was sorry to lose
him; although, the lieutenant appointed in his room being junior to me,
I was promoted to be first lieutenant of the brig. Soon after
Osbaldistone went home, his brother broke his neck when hunting, and
Osbaldistone came into the property. He then quitted the service.
We found the admiral at Barbadoes, who received O'Brien and his despatch
very well. O'Brien had taken two good prizes, and that was sufficient to
cover a multitude of sins, even if he had committed any; but the
despatch was admirably written, and the admiral, in his letter to the
Admiralty, commented upon Captain O'Brien's successful and daring
attack; whereas, if the truth had been known, it was Swinburne's advice
of pulling up the weather shore, which was the occasion of our capturing
the _Victorine_; but it is very hard to come at the real truth of these
sort of things, as I found out during the time that I was in His
O'Brien tells his crew that one Englishman is as good as three Frenchmen
on salt water--They prove it--We fall in with an old acquaintance,
although she could not be considered as a friend.
Our next cruise was on the coast of Guinea and Gulf of Mexico, where we
were running up and down for three months, without falling in with
anything but West Indiamen bound to Demerara, Berbice, and Surinam, and
occasionally chasing a privateer; but in the light winds they were too
fast for us. Still we were useful in protecting the trade, and O'Brien
had a letter of thanks from the merchants, and a handsome piece of plate
upon his quitting the station. We had made sail for Barbadoes two days,
and were within sight of the island of Trinidad, when we perceived six
sail on the lee-bow. We soon made them out to be three large ships and
three schooners; and immediately guessed, which afterwards proved to be
correct, that they were three privateers, with West India ships which
they had captured. We made all sail, and at first the three privateers
did the same; but afterwards, having made out our force, and not liking
to abandon their prizes, they resolved to fight. The West Indiamen
hauled to the wind on the other tack, and the three privateers shortened
sail and awaited our coming. We beat to quarters, and when everything
was ready, and we were within a mile of the enemy, who had now thrown
out the tri-coloured flag, O'Brien ordered all the men aft on the
quarter-deck, and addressed them: "Now, my men, you see that there are
three privateers, and you also see that there are three West Indiamen,
which they have captured. As for the privateers, it's just a fair match
for you one Englishman can always beat three Frenchmen. We must lick the
privateers for honour and glory, and we must re-capture the ships for
profit, because you'll all want some money when you get on shore again.
So you've just half-a-dozen things to do, and then we'll pipe to
This harangue suited the sailors very well, and they returned to their
guns. "Now, Peter," said O'Brien, "just call away the sail-trimmers from
the guns, for I mean to fight these fellows under sail, and
out-manoeuvre them, if I can. Tell Mr Webster I want to speak with him."
Mr Webster was the second lieutenant, a very steady, quiet young man,
and a good officer.
"Mr Webster," said O'Brien, "remember that all the foremost guns must be
very much depressed. I prefer that the shot should strike the water
before it reaches them, rather than it should go over them. See that
your screws are run up at once, and I will take care that no broadside
is thrown away. Starboard, Swinburne."
"Starboard it is, sir."
"Steady; so--that's right for the stern of the leeward vessel."
We were within two cable lengths of the privateers, who still remained
hove-to within half a cable's length of each other. They were very large
schooners, full of men, with their boarding netting triced up, and
showing a very good set of teeth: as it afterwards proved, one mounted
sixteen, and the other two fourteen, guns.
"Now, my lads, over to the lee guns, and fire as they bear, when we
round to. Hands by the lee head-braces, and jib-sheet, stretch along the
weather braces. Quarter-master abaft, tend the boom-sheet. Port hard,
"Port it is, sir," replied Swinburne; and the brig rounded up on the
wind, shooting up under the sterns of the two weathermost schooners, and
discharging the broadsides into them as the guns bore.
"Be smart and load, my lads, and stand by the same guns. Round in the
weather head-braces. Peter, I don't want her to go about. Stand by to
haul over the boom-sheet, when she pays off. Swinburne, helm amidships."
By this time another broadside was poured into the schooner, who had not
yet returned our fire, which, having foolishly remained hove to the
wind, they could not do. The brig had now stern way, and O'Brien then
executed a very skilful manoeuvre: he shifted the helm, and made a stern
board, so as to back in between the two weather schooners and the one to
leeward, bracing round at the same time on the other tack.
"Man both sides, my lads, and give them your broadsides as we pass."
The men stationed at the starboard guns flew over, and the other side
being again loaded, we exchanged broadsides with the leeward and one of
the windward schooners, the brig continuing her stern way until we
passed ahead of them. By the time that we had re-loaded, the brig had
gathered headway, and again passed between the same two schooners,
exchanging broadsides, and then passing astern of them.
"Capital, my lads--capital!" said O'Brien; "this is what I call good
fighting." And so it was; for O'Brien had given two raking broadsides,
and four others, receiving only two in return, for the schooners were
not ready for us when we passed between them the last time.
The smoke had now rolled away to leeward, and we were able to see the
effect of our broadsides. The middle schooner had lost her main-boom,
and appeared very much cut up in the hull. The schooner to leeward did
not appear to have suffered much; but they now perceived their error,
and made sail. They had expected that we should have run in between
them, and fought broadside to broadside, by which means the weathermost
schooner would have taken a raking position, while the others engaged us
to windward and to leeward. Our own damages were trifling--two men
slightly wounded, and one main shroud cut away. We ran about half a mile
astern from them; then with both broadsides ready, we tacked, and found
that, as we expected, we could weather the whole of them. This we did;
O'Brien running the brig within biscuit-throw of the weather schooner,
engaging him broadside to broadside, with the advantage that the other
two could not fire a shot into us without standing a chance of striking
their consort. If he made more sail, so did we; if he shortened, so did
we; so as to keep our position with little variation. The schooner
fought well; but her metal was not to be compared with our thirty-two
pound carronades, which ploughed up her sides at so short a distance,
driving two ports into one. At last her foremast went by the board, and
she dropped astern. In the meantime the other schooners had both tacked,
and were coming up under our stern to rake us, but the accident which
happened to the one we had engaged left us at liberty. We knew that she
could not escape, so we tacked and engaged the other two, nearing them
as fast as we could. The breeze now sprang up fast, and O'Brien put up
the helm and passed between them, giving them both a raking broadside of
grape and cannister, which brought the sticks about their ears. This
sickened them; the smallest schooner, which had been the leewardmost at
the commencement of the action, made all sail on a wind. We clapped on
the royals to follow her, when we perceived that the other schooner,
which had been in the middle, and whose main-boom we had shot away, had
put her helm up, and was crowding all sail before the wind. O'Brien then
said, "Must not try for too much, or we shall lose all. Put her about,
Peter, we must be content with the one that is left us."
We went about, and ranged up to the schooner which had lost her
foremast; but she, finding that her consort had deserted her, hauled
down her colours just as we were about to pour in our broadside. Our men
gave three cheers; and it was pleasant to see them all shaking hands
with each other, congratulating and laughing at the successful result of
"Now, my lads, be smart;--we've done enough for honour, now for profit.
Peter, take the two cutters full of men, and go on board of the
schooner, while I get hold of the three West Indiamen. Rig something
jury forward, and follow me."
In a minute the cutters were down and full of men. I took possession of
the schooner, while the brig again tacked, and crowding all sail stood
after the captured vessels. The schooner, which was the largest of the
three, was called the _Jean d' Arc_, mounting sixteen guns, and had
fifty-three men on board, the remainder being away in the prizes. The
captain was wounded very badly, and one officer killed. Out of her
ship's company, she had but eight killed and five wounded. They informed
me, that they had sailed three months ago from St Pierre's, Martinique,
and had fallen in with the other two privateers, and cruised in company,
having taken nine West Indiamen since they had come out. "Pray," said I
to the officer who gave the information, "were you ever attacked by
boats when you laid at St Pierre's?" He replied, yes; and that they had
beaten them off. "Did you purchase these masts of an American?" He
replied in the affirmative; so that we had captured the very vessel, in
attempting to cut out which, we had lost so many men.
We were all very glad of this, and Swinburne said, "Well, hang me if I
didn't think that I had seen that port-hole before; there it was that I
wrenched a pike out of one of the rascal's hands, who tried to stab me,
and into that port-hole I fired at least a dozen muskets. Well, I'm
d----d glad we've got hold of the beggar at last."
We secured the prisoners below, and commenced putting the schooner in
order. In half an hour, we had completed our knotting and splicing, and
having two of the carpenters with us, in an hour we had got up a small
jury mast forward, sufficient for the present. We lowered the mainsail,
put try-sails on her, and stood after the brig, which was now close to
the prizes; but they separated, and it was not till dark that she had
possession of two. The third was then hull down on the other tack, with
the brig in chase. We followed the brig, as did the two re-captured
vessels, and even with our jury up, we found that we could sail as fast
as they. The next morning, we saw the brig hove-to, and about three
miles a-head, with the three vessels in her possession. We closed, and I
went on board. Webster was put in charge of the privateer; and, after
lying-to for that day to send our prize-masters and men on board to
remove the prisoners, we got up a proper jury-mast, and all made sail
together for Barbadoes. On my return on board, I found that we had but
one man and one boy killed and six wounded, which I was not aware of. I
forgot to say that the names of the other two privateers were _L'Etoile_
and _La Madeleine_.
In a fortnight we arrived with all our prizes safe in Carlisle Bay,
where we found the admiral, who had anchored but two days before. I
hardly need say that O'Brien was well received, and gained a great deal
of credit for the action. I found several letters from my sister, the
contents of which gave me much pain. My father had been some months in
Ireland, and returned without gaining any information. My sister said
that he was very unhappy, paid no attention to his clerical duties, and
would sit for days without speaking. That he was very much altered in
his appearance, and had grown thin and care-worn. "In short," said she
"my dear Peter, I am afraid that he is fretting himself to death. Of
course, I am very lonely and melancholy. I cannot help reflecting upon
what will be my situation if any accident should happen to my father.
Accept my uncle's protection I will not; yet, how am I to live, for my
father has saved nothing? I have been very busy lately, trying to
qualify myself for a governess, and practise the harp and piano for
several hours every day. I shall be very, very glad when you come home
again." I showed the letters to O'Brien, who read them with much
attention. I perceived the colour mount into his cheeks, when he read
those parts of her letters in which she mentioned his name, and
expressed her gratitude for his kindness towards me.
"Never mind, Peter," said O'Brien, returning me the letters; "to whom is
it that I am indebted for my promotion, and this brig, but to you--and
for all the prize-money which I have made, and which, by the head of St
Patrick, comes to a very dacent sum, but to you? Make yourself quite
easy about your dear little sister. We'll club your prize-money and mine
together, and she shall marry a duke, if there is one in England
deserving her; and it's the French that shall furnish her dowry, as sure
as the _Rattlesnake_ carries a tail."
I am sent away after prizes, and meet with a hurricane--Am driven on
shore, with the loss of more than half my men--Where is the
In three weeks we were again ready for sea, and the admiral ordered us
to our old station off Martinique. We had cruised about a fortnight off
St Pierre's, and, as I walked the deck at night, often did I look at the
lights in the town, and wonder whether any of them were in the presence
of Celeste, when, one evening, being about six miles off shore, we
observed two vessels rounding Negro Point, close in-shore. It was quite
calm, and the boats were towing ahead.
"It will be dark in half-an-hour, Peter," said O'Brien, "and I think we
might get them before they anchor, or, if they do anchor, it will be
well outside. What do you think?"
I agreed with him, for in fact, I always seemed to be happier when the
brig was close in-shore, as I felt as if I was nearer to Celeste, and
the further we were off, the more melancholy I became. Continually
thinking of her, and the sight of her after so many years' separation,
had changed my youthful attachment into strong affection. I may say that
I was deeply in love. The very idea of going into the harbour,
therefore, gave me pleasure, and there was no mad or foolish thing that
I would not have done, only to gaze upon the walls which contained the
constant object of my thoughts. These were wild and visionary notions,
and with little chance of ever arriving to any successful issue; but at
one or two-and-twenty we are fond of building castles, and very apt to
fall in love, without considering our prospect of success. I replied,
that I thought it very possible, and wished he would permit me to make
the attempt, as, if I found there was much risk, I would return.
"I know that I can trust you, Peter," replied O'Brien, "and it's a great
pleasure to know that you have an officer you can trust: but haven't I
brought you up myself, and made a man of you, as I promised I would,
when you were a little spalpeen, with a sniffling nose, and legs in the
shape of two carrots? So hoist out the launch, and get the boats ready--
the sooner the better. What a hot day this has been--not a cat's-paw on
the water, and the sky all of a mist. Only look at the sun, how he goes
down, puffed out to three times his size, as if he were in a terrible
passion. I suspect we shall have the land breeze off strong."
In half an hour I shoved off with the boats. It was now quite dark, and
I pulled towards the harbour of St Pierre. The heat was excessive and
unaccountable; not the slightest breath of wind moved in the heavens or
below; no clouds to be seen, and the stars were obscured by a sort of
mist: there appeared a total stagnation in the elements. The men in the
boats pulled off their jackets, for, after a few moments' pulling, they
could bear them no longer. As we pulled in, the atmosphere became more
opaque, and the darkness more intense. We supposed ourselves to be at
the mouth of the harbour, but could see nothing--not three yards ahead
of the boat. Swinburne, who always went with me, was steering the boat,
and I observed to him the unusual appearance of the night.
"I've been watching it, sir," replied Swinburne, "and I tell you, Mr
Simple, that if we only know how to find the brig, that I would advise
you to get on board of her immediately. She'll want all her hands this
night, or I'm much mistaken."
"Why do you say so?" replied I.
"Because I think, nay, I may say that I'm sartin, we'll have a hurricane
afore morning. It's not the first time I've cruised in these latitudes.
I recollect in '94--"
But I interrupted him: "Swinburne, I believe that you are right. At all
events, I'll turn back: perhaps we may reach the brig before it comes
on. She carries a light, and we can find her out." I then turned the
boat round, and steered, as near as I could guess, for where the brig
was lying. But we had not pulled out more than two minutes before a low
moaning was heard in the atmosphere--now here, now there--and we
appeared to be pulling through solid darkness, if I may use the
expression. Swinburne looked around him and pointed out on the starboard
"It's a-coming, Mr Simple, sure enough; many's the living being that
will not rise on its legs to-morrow. See, sir."
I looked, and dark as it was, it appeared as if a sort of black wall was
sweeping along the water right towards us. The moaning gradually
increased to a stunning roar, and then at once it broke upon us with a
noise to which no thunder can bear a comparison. The oars were caught by
the wind with such force that the men were dashed forward under the
thwarts, many of them severely hurt. Fortunately we pulled with tholes
and pins, or the gunwale and planks of the boat would have been wrenched
off, and we should have foundered. The wind soon caught the boat on her
broadside, and, had there been the least sea, would have inevitably
thrown her over; but Swinburne put the helm down, and she fell off
before the hurricane, darting through the boiling water at the rate of
ten miles an hour. All hands were aghast; they had recovered their
seats, but were obliged to relinquish them and sit down at the bottom,
holding on by the thwarts. The terrific roaring of the hurricane
prevented any communication, except by gesture. The other boats had
disappeared; lighter than ours, they had flown away faster before the
sweeping element; but we had not been a minute before the wind before
the sea rose in a most unaccountable manner--it appeared to be by magic.
Of all the horrors that ever I witnessed, nothing could be compared to
the scene of this night. We could see nothing, and heard only the wind,
before which we were darting like an arrow--to where we knew not, unless
it was to certain death. Swinburne steered the boat, every now and then
looking back as the waves increased. In a few minutes we were in a heavy
swell, that at one minute bore us all aloft, and at the next almost
sheltered us from the hurricane; and now the atmosphere was charged with
showers of spray, the wind cutting off the summits of the waves, as if
with a knife, and carrying them along with it, as it were, in its arms.
The boat was filling with water, and appeared to settle down fast. The
men baled with their hats in silence, when a large wave culminated over
the stern, filling us up to our thwarts. The next moment we all received
a shock so violent, that we were jerked from our seats. Swinburne was
thrown over my head. Every timber of the boat separated at once, and she
appeared to crumble from under us, leaving us floating on the raging
waters. We all struck out for our lives, but with little hope of
preserving them; but the next wave dashed us on the rocks, against which
the boat had already been hurled. That wave gave life to some and death
to others. Me, in Heaven's mercy, it preserved: I was thrown so high up
that I merely scraped against the top of the rock, breaking two of my
ribs. Swinburne, and eight more, escaped with me, but not unhurt: two
had their legs broken, three had broken arms, and the others were more
or less contused. Swinburne miraculously received no injury. We had been
eighteen in the boat, of which ten escaped: the others were hurled up at
our feet; and the next morning we found them dreadfully mangled. One or
two had their skulls literally shattered to pieces against the rocks. I
felt that I was saved, and was grateful; but still the hurricane howled
--still the waves were washing over us. I crawled further up upon the
beach, and found Swinburne sitting down with his eyes directed seaward.
He knew me, took my hand, squeezed it, and then held it in his. For some
moments we remained in this position, when the waves, which every moment
increased in volume, washed up to us, and obliged us to crawl further
up. I then looked around me; the hurricane continued in its fury, but
the atmosphere was not so dark. I could trace, for some distance, the
line of the harbour, from the ridge of foam upon the shore; and, for the
first time, I thought of O'Brien and the brig. I put my mouth close to
Swinburne's ear, and cried out, "O'Brien!" Swinburne shook his head, and
looked up again at the offing. I thought whether there was any chance of
the brig's escape. She was certainly six, if not seven miles off, and
the hurricane was not direct on the shore. She might have a drift of ten
miles, perhaps; but what was that against such tremendous power? I
prayed for those on board of the brig, and returned thanks for my own
preservation. I was, or soon should be, a prisoner, no doubt; but what
was that? I thought of Celeste, and felt almost happy.
In about three hours the force of the wind subsided. It still blew a
heavy gale, but the sky cleared up, the stars again twinkled in the
heavens, and we could see to a considerable distance.
"It's breaking now, sir," said Swinburne, at last; "satisfied with the
injury it has done--and that's no little. This is worse than '94."
"Now, I'd give all my pay and prize-money if it were only daylight, and
I could know the fate of the poor _Rattlesnake_. What do you think,
"All depends upon whether they were taken unprepared, sir. Captain
O'Brien is as good a seaman as ever trod a plank; but he never has been
in a hurricane, and may not have known, the signs and warnings which God
in His mercy has vouchsafed to us. Your flush vessels fill easily--but
we must hope for the best."
Most anxiously did we look out for the day, which appeared to us as if
it never would break. At last the dawn appeared, and we stretched our
eyes to every part of the offing as it was lighted up, but we could not
see the brig. The sun rose, and all was bright and clear; but we looked
not around us, our eyes were directed to where we had left the brig. The
sea was still running high, but the wind abated fast.
"Thank God!" ejaculated Swinburne, when he had directed his eyes along
the coast, "she is above water, at all events!" and looking in the
direction where he pointed, I perceived the brig within two miles of the
shore, dismantled, and tossing in the waves.
"I see her," replied I, catching my breath with joy; "but--still--I
think she must go on shore."
"All depends upon whether she can get a little bit of sail up to weather
the point," replied Swinburne; "and depend upon it, Captain O'Brien
knows that as well as we do."
We were now joined by the other men who were saved. We all shook hands.
They pointed out to me the bodies of our shipmates who had perished. I
directed them to haul them further up, and put them all together; and
continued, with Swinburne, to watch the brig. In about half an hour we
perceived a triangle raised, and in ten minutes afterwards a jury-mast
abaft--a try-sail was hoisted and set. Then the shears were seen
forward, and in as short a time another try-sail and a storm-jib were
expanded to the wind.
"That's all he can do now, Mr Simple," observed Swinburne; "he must
trust to them and Providence. They are not more than a mile from the
beach--it will be touch and go."
Anxiously did we watch for more than half an hour; the other men
returned to us, and joined in our speculations. At one time we thought
it impossible--at another, we were certain that she would weather the
point. At last, as she neared us, she warped ahead: my anxiety became
almost insupportable. I stood first on one leg, and then on the other,
breathless with suspense. She appeared to be on the point--actually
touching the rocks--"God! she's struck!" said I.
"No!" replied Swinburne;--and then we saw her pass on the other side of
the outermost rock and disappear.
"Safe, Mr Simple!--weathered, by God!" cried Swinburne, waving his hat
"God be thanked!" replied I, overcome with delight.
The devastation of the hurricane--Peter makes friends--At destroying or
saving, nothing like British seamen--Peter meets with General O'Brien,
much to his satisfaction--Has another meeting still more so--A great
deal of pressing of hands, "and all that," as Pope says.
Now that the brig was safe, we thought of ourselves. My first attention
was directed to the dead bodies, and as I looked at their mangled limbs,
I felt grateful to Heaven that I had been so miraculously spared. We
then cast our eyes along the beach to see if we could trace any remnants
of the other boats, but in vain. We were about three miles from the
town, which we could perceive had received considerable damage, and the
beach below it was strewed with wrecks and fragments. I told the men
that we might as well walk into the town and deliver ourselves up as
prisoners; to which they agreed, and we set forward, promising to send
for the poor fellows who were too much hurt to accompany us.
As soon as we climbed up the rocks, and gained the inland, what a sight
presented itself to us! Trees torn up by the roots in every direction--
cattle lying dead--here and there the remains of a house, of which the
other parts had been swept away for miles. Everything not built of solid
masonry had disappeared. We passed what had been a range of negro huts,
but they were levelled to the ground. The negroes were busily searching
for their property among the ruins, while the women held their infants
in their arms, and the other children by their sides. Here and there was
the mother wailing over the dead body of some poor little thing which
had been crushed to death. They took no notice of us. About half a mile
further on, to our great delight, we fell in with the crews of the other
boats, who were sitting by the side of the road. They had all escaped
unhurt; their boats, being so much more buoyant than ours, had been
thrown up high and dry. They joined us, and we proceeded on our way. On
our road we fell in with a cart blown over, under the wheel of which was
the leg of the negro who conducted it. We released the poor fellow; his
leg was fractured. We laid him by the side of the road in the shade, and
continued our march. Our whole route was one scene of desolation and
distress; but when we arrived at the town, we found that there it was
indeed accumulated. There was not one house in three standing entire--
the beach was covered with remnants of bodies and fragments of vessels,
whose masts lay forced several feet into the sand, and broken into four
or five pieces. Parties of soldiers were busy taking away the bodies,
and removing what few valuables had been saved. We turned up into the
town, for no one accosted us or even noticed us; and here the scene was
even more dreadful. In some streets they were digging out those who were
still alive, and whose cries were heard among the ruins; in others they
were carrying away the dead bodies. The lamentations of the relatives--
the howling of the negroes--the cries of the wounded--the cursing and
swearing of the French soldiers, and the orders delivered continually by
officers on horseback, with all the confusion arising from crowds of
spectators, mingling their voices together, formed a scene as dreadful
as it was novel. After surveying it for a few minutes, I went up to an
officer on horseback, and told him in French, that I wished to surrender
myself as a prisoner.
"We have no time to take prisoners now," replied he; "hundreds are
buried in the ruins, and we must try to save them. We must now attend to
the claims of humanity."
"Will you allow my men to assist you, sir?" replied I. "They are active
and strong fellows."
"Sir," said he, taking off his hat, "I thank you in the name of my
"Show us, then, where we may be most useful."
He turned and pointed to a house higher up, the offices of which were
blown down. "There are living beings under those ruins."
"Come, my lads," said I; and sore as they were, my men hastened with
alacrity to perform their task. I could not help them myself, my side
was so painful; but I stood by giving them directions. In half an hour
we had cleared away, so as to arrive at a poor negro girl, whose cries
we had distinctly heard. We released her and laid her down in the
street, but she fainted. Her left hand was dreadfully shattered. I was
giving what assistance I could, and the men were busy clearing away,
throwing on one side the beams and rafters, when an officer on horseback
rode up. He stood and asked me who we were. I told him that we belonged
to the brig, and had been wrecked; and that we were giving what
assistance we could until they were at leisure to send us to prison.
"You English are fine brave fellows," replied he, and he rode on.
Another unfortunate object had been recovered by our men, an old
white-headed negro, but he was too much mangled to live. We brought him
out, and were laying him beside the negro girl, when several officers on
horseback rode down the street. The one who was foremost, in a general's
uniform, I immediately recognized as my former friend, then Colonel
O'Brien. They all stopped and looked at us. I told who we were. General
O'Brien took off his hat to the sailors, and thanked them. He did not
recognize me, and he was passing on, when I said to him in English,
"General O'Brien, you have forgotten me, but I shall never forget your
"My God!" said he, "is it you, my dear fellow?" and he sprang from his
horse and shook me warmly by the hand. "No wonder that I did not know
you; you are a very different person from little Peter Simple, who
dressed up as a girl and danced on stilts. But I have to thank you, and
so has Celeste for your kindness to her. I will not ask you to leave
your work of charity and kindness, but when you have done what you can,
come up to my house. Anyone will show it to you; and if you do not find
me you will find Celeste, as you must be aware cannot leave this
melancholy employment. God bless you!" He then rode off, followed by his
"Come, my lads," said I, "depend upon it we shall not be very cruelly
treated. Let us work hard, and do all the good we can, and the Frenchmen
won't forget it."
We had cleared that house, and went back to where the other people were
working under the orders of the officer on horseback. I went up to him,
and told him we had saved two, and if he had no objection, would assist
his party. He thankfully accepted our services.
"And now, my lads," said Swinburne, "let us forget all our bruises, and
show these French fellows how to work."
And they did so: they tossed away the beams and rafters right and left
with a quickness and dexterity which quite astonished the officer and
other inhabitants who were looking on, and in half an hour had done more
work than could have been possibly expected. Several lives were saved,
and the French expressed their admiration at our sailors' conduct, and
brought them something to drink, which they stood much in need of, poor
fellows. After that they worked double tides, as we say, and certainly
were the means of saving many lives which otherwise would have been
The disasters occasioned by this hurricane were very great, owing to its
having taken place at night, when the chief of the inhabitants were in
bed and asleep. I was told that most of the wood houses were down five
minutes after the hurricane burst upon them. About noon there was no
more work for us to do, and I was not sorry that it was over. My side
was very painful, and the burning heat of the sun made me feel giddy and
sick at the stomach. I inquired of a respectable looking old Frenchman
which was the General's house. He directed me to it, and I proceeded
there, followed by my men. When I arrived, I found the orderly leading
away the horse of General O'Brien, who had just returned. I desired a
sergeant, who was in attendance at the door, to acquaint the general
that I was below. He returned, and desired me to follow him. I was
conducted into a large room, where I found him in company with several
officers. He again greeted me warmly, and introduced me to the company
as the officer who had permitted the ladies who had been taken prisoners
to come on shore.
"I have to thank you, then, for my wife," said an officer, coming up,
and offering his hand.
Another came up, and told me that I had also released his. We then
entered into a conversation, in which I stated, the occasion of my
having been wrecked, and all the particulars; also, that I had seen the
brig in the morning dismasted, but that she had weathered the point, and
"That brig of yours, I must pay you the compliment to say, has been very
troublesome; and my namesake keeps the batteries more upon the alert
than ever I could have done," said General O'Brien. "I don't believe
there is a negro five years old upon the island who does not know your
We then talked over the attack of the privateer, in which we were beaten
off. "Ah!" replied the aide-de-camp, "you made a mess of that. He has
been gone these four months. Captain Carnot swears that he'll fight you
if he falls in with you."
"He has kept his word," replied I; and then I narrated our action with
the three French privateers, and the capture of the vessel; which
surprised and, I think, annoyed them very much.
"Well, my friend," said General O'Brien, "you must stay with me while
you are on the island; if you want anything, let me know."
"I am afraid that I want a surgeon," replied I; "for my side is so
painful that I can scarcely breathe."
"Are you hurt then?" said General O'Brien, with an anxious look.
"Not dangerously, I believe," said I, "but rather painfully."
"Let me see," said an officer, who stepped forward; "I am surgeon to the
forces here, and perhaps you will trust yourself in my hands. Take off
I did so with difficulty. "You have two ribs broken," said he, "and a
very severe contusion. You must go to bed, or lie on a sofa, for a few
days. In a quarter of an hour I will come and dress you, and promise you
to make you all well in ten days, in return for your having given me my
daughter, who was on board of the _Victorine_ with the other ladies."
The officers now made their bows, and left me alone with General
"Recollect," said he, "that I tell it you once for all, that my purse,
and everything, is at your command. If you do not accept them freely, I
shall think you do not love us. It is not the first time, Peter, and you
repaid me honourably. However, of course, I was no party to that affair;
it was Celeste's doing," continued he, laughing. "Of course, I could not
imagine that it was you who was dressed up as a woman, and so impudently
danced through France on stilts. But I must hear all your adventures
by-and-by, Celeste is most anxious to see you. Will you go now, or wait
till after the surgeon comes?"
"Oh, now, if you please, general. May I first beg that some care may be
taken of my poor men; they have had nothing to eat since yesterday, are
very much bruised, and have worked hard; and that a cart may be sent for
those who lie maimed on the beach?"
"I should have thought of them before," replied he: "and I will also
order the same party to bury the other poor fellows who are lying on the
beach. Come, now--will take you to Celeste."
Broken ribs not likely to produce broken hearts--O'Brien makes something
very like a declaration of peace--Peter Simple actually makes a
declaration of love--Rash proceedings on all sides.
I followed the general into a handsomely furnished apartment, where I
found Celeste waiting to receive me. She ran to me as soon as I entered;
and with what pleasure did I take her hand, and look on her beautiful
expressive countenance! I could not say a word--neither did Celeste. For
a minute I held her hand in mine, looking at her; the general stood by
regarding us alternately. He then turned round, and walked to the
window. I lifted the hand to my lips, and then released it.
"It appears to be a dream, almost," said Celeste.
I could not make any reply, but continued to gaze upon her--she had
grown up into such a beautiful creature. Her figure was perfect, and the
expression of her countenance was so varied--so full of intellect and
feeling--it was angelic. Her eyes, suffused with tears, beamed so
softly, so kindly on me, I could have fallen down and worshipped her.
"Come," said General O'Brien; "come, my dear friend, now that you have
seen Celeste, the surgeon must see you."
"The surgeon," cried Celeste, with alarm.
"Yes, my love; it is of no consequence--only a couple of ribs broken."
I followed General O'Brien out of the room, and as I came to the door I
turned round to look at Celeste. She had retreated to the sofa, and her
handkerchief was up to her eyes. The surgeon was waiting for me; he
bandaged me, and applied some cooling lotion to my side, which made me
feel quite comfortable.
"I must now leave you," said General O'Brien; "you had better lie down
for an hour or two, and then, if I am not back, you know your way to
I lay down as he requested; but as soon as I heard the clatter of the
horse's hoofs, as he rode off, I left the room, and hurried to the
drawing-room. Celeste was there, and hastened to inquire if I was much
hurt. I replied in the negative, and told her that I had come down to
prove it to her; and we then sat down on the sofa together.
"I have the misfortune never to appear before you, Celeste, except in a
very unprepossessing state. When you first saw me I was wounded; at our
next meeting I was in woman's clothes; the last time we met I was
covered with dirt and gunpowder; and now I return to you wounded and in
rags. I wonder whether I shall ever appear before you as a gentleman?"
"It is not the clothes which make the gentleman, Peter. I am too happy
to see you to think of how you are dressed. I have never yet thanked you
for your kindness to us when we last met. My father will never forget
"Nor have I thanked you, Celeste, for your kindness in dropping the
purse into the hat, when you met me, trying to escape from France. I
have never forgotten you, and since we met the last time, you have
hardly ever been out of my thoughts. You don't know how thankful I am to
the hurricane for having blown me into your presence. When we cruised in
the brig, I have often examined the town with my glass, trying to fancy
that I had my eye upon the house you were in; and have felt so happy
when we were close in shore, because I knew that I was nearer to you."
"And, Peter, I have often watched the brig, and have been so glad to see
it come nearer, and then so afraid that the batteries would fire at you.
What a pity it is that my father and you should be opposed to each
other--we might be so happy!"
"And may be yet, Celeste," replied I.
We conversed for two hours, which appeared to be but ten minutes. I felt
that I was in love, but I do not think that Celeste had any idea at the
time that she was--but I leave the reader to judge from the little
conversation I have quoted, whether she was not, or something very much
approaching to it.
The next morning I went out early to look for the brig, and, to my great
delight, saw her about six miles off the harbour's mouth, standing in
for the land. She had now got up very respectable jury-masts, with
topgallants for topsails, and appeared to be well under command. When
she was within three miles of the harbour she lowered the jolly-boat,
the only one she had left, and it pulled in-shore with a flag of truce
hoisted at the bows. I immediately returned to my room, and wrote a
detailed account of what had taken place, ready to send to O'Brien when
the boat returned, and I, of course, requested him to send me my
effects, as I had nothing but what I stood in. I had just completed my
letter when General O'Brien came in.
"My dear friend," said he, "I have just received a flag of truce from
Captain O'Brien, requesting to know the fate of his boats' crews, and
permission to send in return the clothes and effects of the survivors."
"I have written down the whole circumstances for him, and made the same
request to him," replied I; and I handed him my letter. He read it over
and returned it.
"But, my dear lad, you must think very poorly of us Frenchmen, if you
imagine that we intend to detain you here as a prisoner. In the first
place, your liberation of so many French subjects, when you captured the
_Victorine_, would entitle you to a similar act of kindness; and, in the
next place, you have not been fairly captured, but by a visitation of
Providence, which, by the means of the late storm, must destroy all
national antipathies, and promote that universal philanthropy between
all men, which your brave fellows proved that they possess. You are,
therefore, free to depart with all your men, and we shall still hold
ourselves your debtors. How is your side to-day?"
"Oh, very bad, indeed," replied I; for I could not bear the idea of
returning to the brig so soon, for I had been obliged to quit Celeste
very soon after dinner the day before, and go to bed. I had not yet had
much conversation with her, nor had I told General O'Brien how it was
that we escaped from France. "I don't think I can possibly go on board
to-day, but I feel very grateful to you for your kindness."
"Well, well," replied the general, who observed my feelings, "I do not
think it is necessary that you should go on board to-day. I will send
the men and your letter, and I will write to Captain O'Brien, to say
that you are in bed, and will not bear moving until the day after
tomorrow. Will that do?"
I thought it but a very short time, but I saw that the general looked as
if he expected me to consent; so I did.
"The boat can come and return again with some of your clothes,"
continued the general, "and I will tell Captain O'Brien that if he comes
off the mouth of the harbour the day after to-morrow, I will send you on
board in one of our boats."
He then took my letter and quitted the room. As soon as he was gone I
found myself quite well enough to go to Celeste, who waited for me, and
I told her what had passed. That morning I sat with her and the general,
and narrated all my adventures, which amused the general very much. I
did not conceal the conduct of my uncle, and the hopes which I faintly
entertained of being able, some day or another, to discover the fraud
which had been practised, or how very unfavourable were my future
prospects if I did not succeed. At this portion of my narrative the
general appeared very thoughtful and grave. When I had finished, it was
near dinner time, and I found that my clothes had arrived with a letter
from O'Brien, who stated how miserable he had been at the supposition of
my loss, and his delight at my escape. He stated that on going down into
the cabin, after I had shoved off, he, by chance, cast his eyes on the
barometer, and, to his surprise, found that it had fallen two inches,
which he had been told was the case previous to a hurricane. This,
combined with the peculiar state of the atmosphere, had induced him to
make every preparation, and that they had just completed their work when
it came on. The brig was thrown on her beam ends, and lay there for half
an hour, when they were forced to cut away the masts to right her. That
they did not weather the point the next morning by more than half a
cable's length; and concluded by saying, that the idea of my death had
made him so unhappy that, if it had not been for the sake of the men, it
was almost a matter of indifference to him whether he had been lost or
not. He had written to General O'Brien, thanking him for his kindness;
and that, if fifty vessels should pass the brig, he would not capture
one of them, until I was on board again, even if he were dismissed the
service for neglect of duty. He said, that the brig sailed almost as
fast under jury-masts as she did before, and that, as soon as I came on
board, he should go back to Barbadoes. "As for your ribs being so bad,
Peter, that's all bother," continued he; "I know that you are making
arrangements for another sort of _rib_, as soon as you can manage it;
but you must stop a little, my boy. You shall be a lord yet, as I always
promised you that you should. It's a long lane that has no turning--so
When I was alone with Celeste, I showed her O'Brien's letter. I had read
the part of it relative to his not intending to make any capture while I
was on shore to General O'Brien, who replied, "that under such
circumstances he thought' he should do right to detain me a little
longer but," said he, "O'Brien is a man of honour, and worthy of his
When Celeste came to that part of the letter in which O'Brien stated
that I was looking after another rib, and which I had quite forgotten,
she asked me to explain it; for, although she could read and speak
English very well, she had not been sufficiently accustomed to it to
comprehend the play upon words. I translated, and then said, "Indeed,
Celeste, I had forgotten that observation of O'Brien's, or I should not
have shown you the letter; but he has stated the truth. After all your
kindness to me, how can I help being in love with you? and need I add,
that I should consider it the greatest blessing which Heaven could grant
me, if you could feel so much regard for me as one day to become my
wife! Don't be angry with me for telling you the truth," continued I,
for Celeste coloured up as I spoke to her.
"Oh, no! I am not angry with you, Peter; far from it. It is very
complimentary to me--what you have just said."
"I am aware," continued I, "that at present I have little to offer you--
indeed, nothing. I am not even such a match as your father might approve
of; but you know my whole history, and what my desires are."
"My dear father loves me, Peter, and he loves you too, very much--he
always did, from the hour he saw you--he was so pleased with your
candour and honesty of character. He has often told me so, and very
often talked of you."
"Well, Celeste, tell me,--may I when far away, be permitted to think of
you, and indulge a hope, that some day we may meet never to part again?"
And I took Celeste by the hand, and put my arm round her waist.
"I don't know what to say," replied she; "I will speak to my father, or
perhaps you will; but I will never marry anybody else, if I can help
I drew her close to me, and kissed her. Celeste burst into tears, and
laid her head upon my shoulder. When General O'Brien came I did not
attempt to move, nor did Celeste.
"General," said I, "you may think me to blame, but I have not been able
to conceal what I feel for Celeste. You may think that I am imprudent,
and that I am wrong in thus divulging what I ought to have concealed,
until I was in a situation to warrant my aspiring to your daughter's
hand; but the short time allowed me to be in her company, the fear of
losing her, and my devoted attachment, will, I trust, plead my excuse."
The general took one or two turns up and down the room, and then
replied, "What says Celeste?"
"Celeste will never do anything to make her father unhappy," replied
she, going up to him and hiding her face in his breast, with her arm
round his neck.
The general kissed his daughter, and then said, "I will be frank with
you, Mr Simple. I do not know any man whom I would prefer to you as a
son-in-law; but there are many considerations which young people are
very apt to forget. I do not interfere in your attachment, which appears
to be mutual; but, at the same time, I will have no promise and no
engagement, you may never meet again. However, Celeste is very young,
and I shall not put any constraint upon her; and at the same time you
are equally free, if time and circumstances should alter your present
"I can ask no more, my dear sir," replied I, taking the general by the
hand; "it is candid--more than I had any reason to expect. I shall now
leave you with a contented mind, and the hopes of one day claiming
Celeste shall spur me to exertion."
"Now, if you please, we will drop the subject," said the general.
"Celeste, my dear, we have a large party to dinner, as you know. You had
better retire to your room and get ready. I have asked all the ladies
that you liberated, Peter, and all their husbands and fathers; so you
will have the pleasure of witnessing how many people you made happy by
your gallantry. Now that Celeste has left the room, Peter, I must beg
that, as a man of honour, you do not exact from her any more promises,
or induce her to tie herself down to you by oaths. Her attachment to you
has grown up with her unaccountably, and she is already too fond of you
for her peace of mind, should accident or circumstances part you for
ever. Let us hope for the best, and depend upon it that it shall be no
trifling obstacle which will hinder me from seeing you one day united."
I thanked the general with tears; he shook me warmly by the hand as I
gave my promise, and we separated.
How happy did I feel when I went into my room, and sat down to compose
my mind and think over what had happened. True, at one moment the
thought of my dependent situation threw a damp over my joy; but in the
next I was building castles, inventing a discovery of my uncle's plot,
fancying myself in possession of the title and property, and laying it
at the feet of my dear Celeste. Hope sustained my spirits, and I felt
satisfied for the present with the consideration that Celeste returned
my love. I decked myself carefully, and went down, where I found all the
company assembled. We had a very pleasant, happy party, and the ladies
entreated General O'Brien to detain me as a prisoner--very kind of them
--and I felt very much disposed to join in their request.
Peter Simple first takes a command, then three West Indiamen, and twenty
prisoners--One good turn deserves another--The prisoners endeavour to
take him, but are themselves taken in.
The next day I was very unhappy. The brig was in the offing waiting for
me to come on hoard. I pointed her out to Celeste as we were at the
window, and her eyes met mine. An hour's conversation could not have
said more. General O'Brien showed that he had perfect confidence in me
for he left us together.
"Celeste," said I, "I have promised your father--"
"I know what has passed," interrupted she; "he told me everything."
"How kind he is! But I did not say that I would not bind myself,
"No! but my father made me promise that you should not--that if you
attempted, I was immediately to prevent you--and so I shall."
"Then you shall keep your word, Celeste. Imagine everything that can be
said in this--" and I kissed her.
"Don't think me forward, Peter, but I wish you to go away happy," said
Celeste; "and therefore, in return, imagine all I could say in this" and
she returned my salute.
After this we had a conversation of two hours; but what lovers say is
very silly, except to themselves, and the reader need not be troubled
with it. General O'Brien came in and told me the boat was ready. I rose
up--I was satisfied with what had passed, and with a firm voice I said,
"Good-bye, Celeste; God bless you!" and followed the general, who, with
some of his officers, walked down with me to the beach. I thanked the
general, who embraced me, paid my adieus to the officers, and stepped
into the boat. In half an hour I was on board of the brig, and in
O'Brien's arms. We put the helm up, and in a short time the town of St
Pierre was shut out from my longing sight, and we were on our way to
Barbadoes. That day was passed in the cabin with O'Brien, giving him a
minute detail of all that had passed.
When we anchored once more in Carlisle Bay, we found that the hurricane
had been much more extensive in the Windward Islands than we had
imagined. Several men of war were lying there, having lost one or more
of their masts, and there was great difficulty in supplying the wants of
so many. As we arrived the last, of course we were last served; and,
there being no boats left in store, there was no chance of our being
ready for sea under two or three months. The _Joan d' Arc_ schooner
privateer was still lying there, but had not been fitted out for want of
men; and the admiral proposed to O'Brien that he should man her with a
part of his ship's company, and send one of his lieutenants out to
cruise in her. This was gladly assented to by O'Brien, who came on board
and asked me whether I should like to have her, which I agreed to, as I
was quite tired of Barbadoes and fried flying fish.
I selected two midshipmen, Swinburne, and twenty men, and having taken
on board provisions and water for three months, I received my written
instructions from O'Brien, and made sail. We soon discovered that the
masts which the American had sold to the schooner, were much too large
for her; she was considerably overmasted, and we were obliged to be very
careful. I stood for Trinidad, off which island was to be my cruising
ground, and in three weeks had recaptured three West Indiamen, when I
found myself so short of hands, that I was obliged to return to
Barbadoes. I had put four hands into the first vessel, which, with the
Englishmen, prisoners, were sufficient, and, three hands into the two
others; but I was very much embarrassed with my prisoners, who amounted
to nearly double my ship's company remaining on board. Both the
midshipmen I had sent away, and I consulted with Swinburne as to what
was best to be done.
"Why, the fact is, Mr Simple, Captain O'Brien ought to have given us
more hands; twenty men are little enough for a vessel with a boom
mainsail like the one we have here; and now we have only ten left; but I
suppose he did not expect us to be so lucky, and it's true enough that
he has plenty of work for the ship's company, now that he has to turn
everything in afresh. As for the prisoners, I think we had better run
close in, and give them two of our boats to take them on shore. At all
events, we must be rid of them, and not be obliged to have one eye
aloft, and the other down the hatchway, as we must now."
This advice corresponded with my own ideas, and I ran in-shore, gave
them the stern boat, and one of the larger ones, which held them all,
and sent them away, leaving only one boat for the schooner, which we
hoisted up in the star-board chess-tree. It fell a dead calm as we sent
away the prisoners; we saw them land and disappear over the rocks, and
thought ourselves well rid of them, as they were twenty-two in number,
most of them Spaniards, and very stout ferocious-looking fellows. It
continued calm during the whole day, much to our annoyance, as I was
very anxious to get away as soon as I could; still I could not help
admiring the beauty of the scenery--the lofty mountains rising abruptly
from the ocean, and towering in the clouds, reflected on the smooth
water, as clear as in a looking-glass, every colour, every tint,
beautifully distinct. The schooner gradually drifted close in-shore, and
we could perceive the rocks at the bottom, many fathoms deep. Not a
breath of wind was to be seen on the surface of the water for several
miles round, although the horizon in the offing showed that there was a
smart breeze outside.
Night came on, and we still lay becalmed. I gave my orders to Swinburne,
who had the first watch, and retired to my standing bed-place in the
cabin. I was dreaming, and I hardly need say who was the object of my
visions. I thought I was in Eagle Park, sitting down with her under one
of the large chestnut trees, which formed the avenue, when I felt my
shoulder roughly pushed. I started up--"What is the matter? Who's that--
"Yes, sir. On with your clothes immediately, as we have work on hand, I
expect." And Swinburne left the cabin, and I heard him calling the other
men who were below. I knew that Swinburne would not give a false alarm.
In a minute I was on deck, and was looking at the stern of the schooner.
"What is that, Swinburne?" said I.
"Silence, sir. Hark! don't you hear them?"
"Yes," replied I; "the sound of oars."
"Exactly, sir; depend upon it, those Spaniards have got more help, and
are coming back to take the vessel; they know we have only ten hands on
By this time the men were all on deck. I directed Swinburne to see all
the muskets loaded, and ran down for my own sword and pistols. The water
was so smooth, and the silence so profound, that Swinburne had heard the
sound of the oars at a considerable distance. Fortunate it was, that I
had such a trusty follower. Another might have slumbered, and the
schooner have been boarded and captured without our being prepared. When
I came on deck again, I spoke to the men, exhorted them to do their
duty, and pointed out to them that these cut-throat villains would
certainly murder us all if we were taken, which I firmly believe would
have been the case. The men declared that they would sell their lives as
dearly as they could. We had twenty muskets, and the same number of
pistols, all of which were now loaded. Our guns were also ready, but of
no use, now that the schooner had not steerage-way.
The boats were in sight, about a quarter of a mile astern, when
Swinburne said, "There's a cat's-paw flying along the water, Mr Simple;
if we could only have a little wind, how we would laugh at them; but I'm
afraid there's no such luck. Shall we let them know that we are ready?"
"Let every one of us take two muskets," said I: "when the first boat is
under the counter, take good aim, and discharge into one of the boats;
then seize the other musket, and discharge it at the other boat. After
that we must trust to our cutlasses and pistols; for if they come on,
there will be no time to load again. Keep silence, all of you."
The boats now came up full of men; but as we remained perfectly quiet,
they pulled up gently, hoping to surprise us. Fortunately, one was a
little in advance of the other; upon which I altered my directions, and
desired my men to fire their second musket into the first boat, as, if
we could disable her, we were an equal match for those in the other.
When the boat was within six yards of the schooner's counter, "Now!"
said I, and all the muskets were discharged at once, and my men cheered.
Several of the oars dropped, and I was sure we had done great execution;
but they were laid hold of by the other men, who had not been pulling,
and again the boat advanced to the counter.
"Good aim, my lads, this time," cried Swinburne; "the other boat will be
alongside as soon as you have fired. Mr Simple, the schooner has
headway, and there's a strong breeze coming up."
Again we discharged our ten muskets into the boat, but this time we
waited until the bow-man had hooked on the planeshear with his
boat-hook, and our fire was very effective. I was surprised to find that
the other boat was not on board of us; but a light breeze had come up,
and the schooner glided through the water. Still she was close under our
counter, and would have been aboard in a minute. In the meantime, the
Spaniards who were in the first boat were climbing up the side, and were
repulsed by my men with great success. The breeze freshened, and
Swinburne ran to the helm. I perceived the schooner was going fast
through the water, and the second boat could hardly hold her course. I
ran to where the boat-hook was fixed on the planeshear, and unhooked it;
the boat fell astern, leaving two Spaniards clinging to the side, who
were cut down, and they fell into the water. "Hurrah! all safe!" cried
Swinburne; "and now to punish them."
The schooner was now darting along at the rate of five miles, with an
increasing breeze. We stood in for two minutes, then tacked, and ran for
the boats. Swinburne steered, and I continued standing in the bows,
surrounded by the rest of the men. "Starboard a little, Swinburne."--
"Starboard it is."
"Steady--steady: I see the first boat, she is close under our bows.
Steady--port--port--port a little--port. Look out, my lads, and cut down
all who climb up."
Crash went the schooner on to the boat, the men in her in vain
endeavouring to escape us. For a second or two she appeared to right,
until her further gunwale was borne down under the water; she turned up,
and the schooner went over her, sending every soul in her to their
account. One man clung on to a rope, and was towed for a few seconds,
but a cutlass divided the rope at the gunwale, and with a faint shriek
he disappeared. The other boat was close to us, and perceived what had
been done. They remained with their oars poised, all ready to pull so as
to evade the schooner. We steered for her, and the schooner was now
running at the rate of seven miles an hour. When close under our bows,
by very dexterously pulling short round with their starboard oars, we
only struck her with our bow; and before she went down many of the
Spaniards had gained the deck, or were clinging to the side of the
vessel. They fought with desperation, but we were too strong for them.
It was only those who had gained the deck which we had to contend with.
The others clung for a time, and, unable to get up the sides, one by one
dropped into the water and went astern. In a minute, those on deck were
lying at our feet, and in a minute more they were tossed overboard after
their companions; not, however, until one of them struck me through the
calf of the leg with his knife as we were lifting him over the gunwale.
I do not mean to say that the Spaniards were not justified in attempting
to take the schooner; but still, as we had liberated them but a few
hours before, we felt that it was unhandsome and treacherous on their
part, and therefore showed them no quarter. There were two of my men
wounded as well as myself, but not severely, which was fortunate, as we
had no surgeon on board, and only about half a yard of a diachylum
plaster in the vessel.
"Well out of that, sir," said Swinburne, as I limped aft. "By the Lord
Harry! it might have been a _pretty go_."
Having shaped our course for Barbadoes, I dressed my leg and went down
to sleep. This time I did not dream of Celeste, but fought the Spaniards
over again, thought I was wounded, and awoke with the pain of my leg.
Peter turned out of his command by his vessel turning bottom up--A
cruise on a main-boom, with sharks _en attendant_--Self and crew, with
several flying fish, taken on board a negro boat--Peter regenerates by
putting on a new outward man.
We made Barbadoes without any further adventure, and were about ten
miles off the bay, steering with a very light breeze, and I went down
into the cabin, expecting to be at anchor before breakfast the next
morning. It was just daylight, when I found myself thrown out of my
bed-place on the deck, on the other side of the cabin, and heard the
rushing of water. I sprang up, I knew the schooner was on her beam ends,
and gained the deck. I was correct in my supposition: she had been upset
by what is called a white squall, and in two minutes would be down. All
the men were up on deck, some dressed, others, like myself, in their
shirts. Swinburne was aft; he had an axe in his hand, cutting away the
rigging of the main-boom. I saw what he was about; I seized another, and
disengaged the jaw-rope and small gear about the mast. We had no other
chance; our boat was under the water, being hoisted up on the side to
leeward. All this, however, was but the work of two minutes; and I could
not help observing by what trifles lives are lost or saved. Had the axe
not been fortunately at the capstern, I should not have been able to cut
the jaw-rope, Swinburne would not have had time, and the main-boom would
have gone down with the schooner. Fortunately we had cleared it; the
schooner filled, righted a little, and then sank, dragging us and the
main-boom for a few seconds down in its vortex, and then we rose to the
The squall still continued, but the water was smooth. It soon passed
over, and again it was nearly calm. I counted the men clinging to the
boom, and found that they were all there. Swinburne was next to me. He
was holding with one hand, while with the other he felt in his pocket
for a quid of tobacco, which he thrust into his cheek. "I wasn't on deck
at the time, Mr Simple," said he, "or this wouldn't have happened. I had
just been relieved, and I told Collins to look out sharp for squalls. I
only mention it, that if you are saved, and I am not, you mayn't think I
was neglectful of my duty. We arn't far from the land, but still we are
more likely to fall in with a shark than a friend, I'm thinking."
These, indeed, had been my thoughts, but I had concealed them; but after
Swinburne had mentioned the shark, I very often looked along the water
for their fins, and down below to see if they were coming up to tear us
to pieces. It was a dreadful feeling.
"It was not your fault, Swinburne, I am sure. I ought to have relieved
you myself, but I kept the first watch, and was tired. We must put our
trust in God; perhaps, we may yet be spared."
It was now almost calm, and the sun had mounted in the heavens: the
scorching rays were intolerable upon our heads, for we had not the
defence of hats. I felt my brain on fire, and was inclined to drop into
the water, to screen myself from the intolerable heat. As the day
advanced so did our sufferings increase. It was a dead calm, the sun
perpendicular over us, actually burning that part of our bodies which
rose clear of the water. I could have welcomed even a shark to relieve
me of my torment; but I thought of Celeste, and I clung to life. Towards
the afternoon I felt sick and dizzy; my resolution failed me; my vision
was imperfect; but I was roused by Swinburne, who cried out, "A boat, by
all that's gracious! Hang on a little longer, my men, and you are
It was a boat full of negroes, who had come out to catch flying-fish.
They had perceived the spar on the water, and hastened to secure the
prize. They dragged us all in, gave us water, which appeared like
nectar, and restored us to our fleeting senses. They made fast the boom,
and towed it in-shore. We had not been ten minutes on our way, when
Swinburne pointed to the fin of a large shark above the water. "Look
there, Mr Simple." I shuddered, and made no answer; but I thanked God in
In two hours we were landed, but were too ill to walk. We were carried
up to the hospital, bled, and put into cots. I had a brain fever, which
lasted six or seven days, during which O'Brien never left my bedside. My
head was shaved, all the skin came off my face like a mask, as well as
off my back and shoulders. We were put into baths of brandy and water,
and in three weeks were all recovered.
"That was but an unlucky schooner from beginning to end," observed
O'Brien, after I had narrated the events of my cruise. "We had a bad
beginning with her, and we had a bad ending. She's gone to the bottom,
and the devil go with her; however, all's well that ends well, and,
Peter, you're worth a dozen dead men yet; but you occasion me a great
deal of trouble and anxiety, that's the truth of it, and I doubt if I
shall ever rear you, after all."
I returned to my duty on board of the brig, which was now nearly ready
for sea. One morning O'Brien came on board and said, "Peter, I've a
piece of news for you. Our gunner is appointed to the _Araxes_, and the
admiral has given me a gunner's warrant for old Swinburne. Send for him
Swinburne was summoned, and came rolling up the hatchway. "Swinburne,"
said O'Brien, "you have done your duty well, and you are now gunner of
the _Rattlesnake_. Here is your warrant, and I've great pleasure in
getting it for you."
Swinburne turned the quid in his cheek, and then replied, "May I be so
bold as to ax, Captain O'Brien, whether I must wear one of them long
tog, swallow-tailed coats--because, if so, I'd prefer being a
"A gunner may wear a jacket, Swinburne, if he likes; when you go on
shore you may bend the swallow-tail, if you please."
"Well, sir, then if that's the case, I'll take the warrant, because I
know it will please the old woman."
So saying, Swinburne hitched up his trousers, and went down below. I may
here observe that Swinburne kept his round jacket until our arrival in
England, when the "old woman," his wife, who thought her dignity at
stake, soon made him ship the swallow-tail; and, after it was once on,
Swinburne took a fancy to it, and always wore it, except when he was at
The same evening, as I was coming with O'Brien from the governor's
house, where I had dined, we passed a building, lighted up. "What can
that be?" observed O'Brien; "not a dignity ball--there is no music." Our
curiosity induced us to enter, and we found it to be fitted up as a
temporary chapel, filled with black and coloured people, who were ranged
on the forms, and waiting for the preacher.
"It is a Methodist meeting," said I to O'Brien.
"Never mind," said he, "let us hear what is going on."
In a moment afterwards the pulpit was filled, not by a white man, as we
had anticipated, but by a tall negro. He was dressed in black, and his
hair, which it was impossible to comb down straight, was plaited into
fifty little tails, well tied at the end of them, like you sometimes see
the mane of a horse; this produced a somewhat more clerical appearance.
His throat was open and collar laid back; the wristbands of his shirt
very large and white, and he flourished a white cambric handkerchief.
"What a dandy he is!" whispered O'Brien.
I thought it almost too absurd when he said he would take the liberty to
praise God in the 17th hymn, and beg all the company to join chorus. He
then gave out the stanzas in the most strange pronunciation.
"Gentle Jesus, God um lub," &c.
When the hymn was finished, which was sung by the whole congregation, in
the most delightful discord,--everyone chose his own key--he gave an
extempore prayer, which was most unfortunately incomprehensible, and
then commenced his discourse, which was on _Faith_. I shall omit the
head and front of his offending, which would, perhaps, hardly be
gratifying although ludicrous. He reminded me of a monkey imitating a
man; but what amused me most was his finale, in which he told his
audience that there could be no faith without charity. For a little
while he descanted upon this generally, and at last became personal. His
words were, as well as I can recollect, nearly as follows:--
"And now you see, my dear bredren, how unpossible to go to heaven, with
all the faith in the world, without charity. Charity mean, give away.
Suppose you no give--you no ab charity; suppose you no ab charity--you
no ab faith; suppose you no ab faith--you all go to hell and be damned.
Now den, let me see if you ab charity. Here, you see, I come to save all
your soul from hell-fire; and hell-fire dam hot, I can tell you. Dere
you all burn like coal, till you turn white powder, and den burn on till
you come black again; and so you go on, burn, burn, sometime white,
sometime black, for ebber and ebber. The debil never allow Sangoree to
cool tongue. No, no cocoa-nut milk,--not a lilly drap of water; debil
see you damned first. Suppose you ask, he poke um fire, and laugh. Well,
den, ab you charity? No, you ab not. You, Quashee, how you dare look me
in the face? You keep shop--you sell egg--you sell yam--you sell pepper
hot--but when you give to me? Eh! nebber, so help me God. Suppose you no
send--you no ab charity, and you go to hell. You black Sambo," continued
he, pointing to a man in the corner, "ab very fine boat, go out all day,
catch fly-fish, bring um back, fry um, and sell for money; but when you
send to me? not one little fish ebber find way to my mouth. What I tell
you 'bout Peter and 'postles--all fishermen; good men, give 'way to
poor. Sambo, you no ab charity; and 'spose you no repent this week, and
send one very fine fish in plantain leaf, you go to hell, and burn for
ebber and ebber. Eh! so you will run away, Massa Johnson," cried he out
to another, who was edging to the door; "but you no run away from
hell-fire: when debil catch you, he hold dam tight. You know you kill
sheep and goat ebery day. You send bell ring all 'bout town for people
to come buy; but when you send to me? nebber, 'cept once, you gave me
lilly bit of libber. That not do, Massa Johnson; you no ab charity; and
suppose you no send me sheep's head to-morrow morning, dam you libber,
that's all. I see many more, but I see um all very sorry, and dat they
mean to sin no more, so dis time I let um off, and say noting about it,
because I know plenty of plantain and banana (pointing to one) and
oranges and shaddock (pointing to another), and salt fish (pointing to a
fourth), and ginger-pop and spruce beer (pointing to a fifth), and a
straw hat (pointing to a sixth), and eberything else, come to my house
to-morrow. So I say no more 'bout it; I see you all very sorry--you only
forget. You all ab charity, and all ab faith; so now, my dear bredren,
we go down on our knees, and thank God for all this, and more especially
that I save all your souls from going to the debil, who run about
Barbadoes like one roaring lion, seeking what he may lay hold of, and
cram into his dam fiery jaw."
"That will do, Peter," said O'Brien; "we have the cream of it, I think."
We left the house, and walked down to the boat. "Surely, O'Brien," said
I, "this should not be permitted?"
"He's no worse than his neighbours," replied O'Brien, "and perhaps does
less harm. I admire the rascal's ingenuity; he gave his flock what, in
Ireland, we should call a pretty broad hint."
"Yes, there was no mistaking him: but is he a licensed preacher?"
"Very little licence in his preaching, I take it; no, I suppose he has
had a _call_."
"A call!--what do you mean?"
"I mean that he wants to fill his belly. Hunger is a call of nature,
"He seems to want a good many things, if we were to judge by his
catalogue; what a pity it is that these poor people are not better
"That they never will be, Peter, while there is what may be called free
trade in religion."
"You speak like a Catholic, O'Brien."
"I am one," replied he. And here our conversation ended, for we were
close to the boat, which was waiting for us on the beach.
The next day a man-of-war brig arrived from England, bringing letters
for the squadron on the station. I had two from my sister Ellen which
made me very uncomfortable. She stated that my father had seen my uncle,
Lord Privilege, and had had high words with him; indeed, as far as she
could ascertain of the facts, my father had struck my uncle, and had
been turned out of the house by the servants; that he had returned in a
state of great excitement, and was very ill ever since; that there was a
great deal of talk in the neighbourhood on the subject, people generally
highly blaming my father's conduct, thinking that he was deranged in his
intellect--a supposition very much encouraged by my uncle. She again
expressed her hopes of my speedy return. I had now been absent nearly
three years, and she had been so uncomfortable that she felt as if it
had been at least ten. O'Brien also received a letter from Father
M'Grath, which I shall lay before the reader:--
"MY DEAR SON,--Long life, and all the blessings of all the saints be
upon you now and for evermore! Amen. And may you live to be married,
and may I dance at your wedding, and may you never want children, and
may they grow up as handsome as their father and their mother (whoever
she may hereafter be), and may you die of a good old age, and in the
true faith, and be waked handsomely, as your own father was last
Friday s'ennight, seeing as how he took it into his head to leave this
world for a better. It was a very dacent funeral-procession, my dear
Terence, and your father must have been delighted to see himself so
well attinded. No man ever made a more handsome corpse, considering
how old, and thin, and haggard he had grown of late, and how gray his
hair had turned. He held the nosegay between his fingers, across his
breast as natural as life, and reminded us all of the blessed saint,
Pope Gregory, who was called to glory some hundred years before either
you or I was born.
"Your mother's quite comfortable; and there she sits in her ould
chair, rocking to and fro all day long, and never speaking a word to
nobody, thinking about heaven, I dare to say; which is just what she
ought to do, seeing that she stands a very pretty chance of going
there in the course of a month or so. Divil a word has she ever said
since your father's departure, but then she screamed and yelled enough
to last for seven years at the least. She screamed away all her senses
anyhow, for she has done nothing since but cough, cough, and fumble at
her pater-nosters--a very blessed way to pass the remainder of her