Part 8 out of 9
ministers for a witness!"
"Every oath or promise made to _thee_, Ghita, is sacred in my eyes. It
wanteth not any witness, or any consecrated place, to make it more
binding than thy truth and tenderness can insure. Thou art my
"Forbear!" exclaimed Ghita, in alarm, lest he should utter the name of
that holy Being toward whom her heart was even at that moment swelling
with gratitude for his own recent escape from death. "Thou know'st not
the meaning of thine own words, and might'st add that which would give
me more pain than I can express."
"Boat, ahoy!" cried a deep, nautical voice, within twenty yards of them,
and in-shore; the hail coming in the sudden, quick demand that
distinguishes the call of a man-of-war's man.
A pause of half a minute succeeded, for they in the yawl were completely
taken by surprise.
At length Ithuel, who felt the necessity of saying something, if he
would not bring the stranger close alongside of them, answered in the
customary manner of the Italians.
Clinch, for it was he, scouring the shore in quest of the lugger, on his
way back to the Proserpine, gave a growl when he found that he must
speak in a foreign tongue, if he would continue the discourse; then he
mustered all the Italian of which he was master for the occasion. Having
cruised long on the station, this was sufficient, however, for his
"Is that a boat from Massa or from Capri?" he inquired.
"Neither, S'nore," answered Raoul, afraid to trust Carlo's conscience
with the management of such a dialogue. "We come round the cape, from
St. Agata, and carry figs to Napoli."
"St. Agata, aye, that is the village on the heights; I passed a night
there myself, in the house of one Maria Giuntotardi--"
"Who can this be?" murmured Ghita--"my aunt knows no forestieri!"
"An Inglese, by his thick speech and accent. I hope he will not ask for
figs for his supper!"
Clinch was thinking of other things at that moment; and when he
continued, it was to follow the train of his own thoughts.
"Have you seen anything of a barone-looking lugger," he asked,
"French-rigged, and French-manned, skulking anywhere about this coast?"
"_Si_--she went north, into the Gulf of Gaeta, just as the sun was
setting, and is, no doubt, gone to anchor under the cannon of her
"If she has, she'll find herself in hot water," answered Clinch, in
English. "We've craft enough up there, to hoist her in and dub her down
to a jolly-boat's size, in a single watch. Did you see anything of a
frigate this evening, near the Point of Campanella? An Inglese, I mean;
a tight six-and-thirty, with three new topsails."
"_Si_--the light you see here, just in a range with Capri, is at her
gaff; we have seen her the whole afternoon and evening. In fact, she
towed us kindly round the cape, until we got fairly into this Bay."
"Then you are the people for me? Was there a man hanged on board her or
not, about sunset?"
This question was put with so much interest, that Raoul cursed his
interrogator in his heart; imagining that he was burning with the wish
to learn his own execution. He was also now aware that this was he boat
which had left the Proserpine about noon.
"I can tell you there was not, s'nore--if that will gladden your heart.
A man was all _ready_ to be hanged, when Captain Cuffe was pleased to
order him taken down."
"Just as three heavy guns were fired up at town--was it not so?" Clinch
"_Diable!_ this man may have been my preserver, after all! You say true,
s'nore; it _was_ just as three guns were fired up at Naples; though I
did not know those guns had anything to do with the intended execution.
Can you tell me if they had?"
"If they had! Why I touched them off with my own hands, they were
signals made by the admiral to spare poor Raoul Yvard, for a few days
at, least. I am rejoiced to hear that all my great efforts to teach the
fleet were not in vain. I don't like this hanging, Mr. Italian."
"S'nore, you show a kind heart, and will one day reap the reward of such
generous feelings. I wish I knew the name of so humane a gentleman, that
I might mention him in my prayers."
"They'll never fancy that Captain Rule said _that_," muttered Ithuel,
"As for my name, friend, it's no great matter. They call me Clinch,
which is a good fast word to sail under, too; but it has no handle to
it, other than of a poor devil of a master's-mate; and that, too, at an
age when some men carry broad pennants."
This was said bitterly, and in English; when uttered, the supposed
Italian was wished a "_buona sera_" and the gig proceeded.
"That is _un brave_" said Raoul, with emphasis, as they departed. "If
ever I meet with Monsieur Cleench, he will learn that I do not forget
his good wishes. _Peste!_ if there were a hundred such men in the
British marine, Etooelle, we might love it."
"They're fiery serpents, Captain Rule, and not to be trusted, any on
'em. As for fine words, I might have fancied myself a cousin of the
king's, if I'd only put my name to their shipping articles. This Mr.
Clinch is well enough in the main; being his own worst inimy, in the way
of the grog pitcher."
"Boat, ahoy!" shouted Clinch again, now about a hundred yards distant,
having passed toward the cape. Raoul and Ithuel mechanically ceased
rowing, under the impression that the master's-mate had still something
"Boat, ahoy! Answer at once, or you'll hear from me," repeated Clinch.
"Aye, aye," answered another voice, which, in fact, was Yelverton's;
"Clinch, is that you?"
"Aye, aye, sir--Mr. Yelverton, is it not? I think I know the voice,
"You are quite right; but make less noise--who was that you hailed a
minute or two since?"
Clinch began to answer; but, as the two gigs were approaching each other
all the time, they were soon so near as to render it unnecessary to
speak loud enough to be heard at any distance. All this time, Raoul and
Ithuel lay on their oars, almost afraid to stir the water, and listening
with an attention that was nearly breathless. They were satisfied that
the oars of the English were now muffled; a sign that they were in
earnest in the pursuit, and bent on making a thorough search. The two
gigs could not be more than a hundred yards from the yawl, and Ithuel
knew that they were the two fastest-rowing boats of the English
fleet--so fast, indeed, that Cuffe and his lieutenants had made several
successful matches with them, against the officers of different vessels.
"Hist!" said Ghita, whose heart was in her mouth. "Oh! Raoul, they
Coming, indeed,--were they; and that with vast velocity. So careful,
however, was the stroke, that they were within two hundred feet of the
yawl before Raoul and his companion took the alarm, and plunged their
own oars again into the water. Then, indeed, the gigs might be dimly
seen; though the shadows of the land deepened the obscurity of night so
far, as to render objects at even a less distance quite indistinct. The
suddenness and imminency of the danger appeared to arouse all there was
of life in Carlo Giuntotardi. He steered, and steered well, being
accustomed to the office, by living so long on the coast; and he sheered
in for the rocks, with the double view of landing, if necessary, and of
getting still deeper within the shadows. It was soon evident the English
gained. Four oars against two were fearful odds; and it was plainly
apparent the yawl must be overtaken.
"Oh, uncle! toward the arch and water-cavern of the point," whispered
Ghita, whose hands were clasped on her breast as if to keep down her
emotions. "_That_ may yet save him!"
The yawl was in the act of whirling round the rocks which form the deep
cove on which the Marina Grande of Sorrento lies. Carlo caught his
niece's idea, and he kept his tiller hard a-port, telling Raoul and
Ithuel, at the same time, to take in their oars as quick as possible.
The men obeyed, supposing it was the intention to land and take to the
heights for shelter. But just as they supposed the boat was about to
strike against some perpendicular rocks, and Raoul was muttering his
surprise that such a spot should be chosen to land at, it glided through
a low, natural arch, and entered a little basin as noiselessly as a
bubble floating in a current. The next minute, the two gigs came
whirling round the rocks; one following the shore close in, to prevent
the fugitives from landing, and the other steering more obliquely
athwart the bay. In still another minute, they had passed a hundred
yards ahead, and the sound of their movements was lost.
"And chiefly thou, O spirit, that dust prefer,
Before all temples, the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me; for thou know'st!"
The spot in which Carlo Giuntotardi had taken refuge is well known on
the Sorrentine shore, as the water-cavern at the ruins of Queen Joan's
country-house. Cavern it is not, though the entrance is beneath a low,
natural arch--the basin within being open to the heavens, and the place
resembling an artificial excavation made to shelter boats. Let the
origin of this little haven be what it may, art could not have devised a
more convenient or a more perfect refuge than it afforded to our
fugitives. Once through the arch, they would have been effectually
concealed from their pursuers under a noonday sun; nor would any, who
were unacquainted with the peculiarities of the entrance, dream of a
boat's lying, as it might be, buried in the rocks of the little
promontory. Neither Ghita nor her uncle any longer felt concern; but the
former announced her intention to land here, assuring Raoul that she
could easily find her way into the bridle-path which leads to St. Agata.
The desperate character of the recent chase, aided by his late almost
miraculous escape from death, joined to the necessity of parting from
his mistress, rendered our hero melancholy, if not moody. He could not
ask Ghita to share his dangers any longer; yet he felt, if he permitted
her now to quit him, the separation might be for ever. Still he made no
objection; but, leaving Ithuel in charge of the boat, he assisted Ghita
up the funnel-like side of the basin, and prepared to accompany her on
her way to the road. Carlo preceded the pair, telling his niece that she
would find him at a cottage on the way that was well known to both.
The obscurity was not so great as to render the walking very difficult,
and Raoul and Ghita pursued their course slowly along the rocks, each
oppressed with the same sensation of regret at parting, though
influenced by nearly opposing views for the future. The girl took the
young man's arm without hesitation; and there was a tenderness in the
tones of her voice, as well as in her general manner, that betrayed how
nearly her heart was interested in what was passing. Still, principle
was ever uppermost in her thoughts, and she determined now to speak
plainly, and to the purpose.
"Raoul," she said, after listening to some one of those fervent
declarations of love that were peculiarly agreeable to one of her
affectionate and sincere nature, even when she most felt the necessity
of repelling the insinuating suit; "there must be an end of this. I can
never go through again the scenes I have lately witnessed, nor allow you
to run such fearful risks. The sooner we understand each other, and, I
may say, the sooner we part, it will be the wiser, and the better for
the interests of both. I blame myself for suffering the intimacy to last
so long, and for proceeding so far."
"And this is said by a fervent-souled Italian girl! One of eighteen
years;--who comes of a region in which it is the boast that the heart is
even warmer than the sun; of a race, among whom it is hard to find
_one--oui,_ even a poor _one_--who is not ready to sacrifice home,
country, hopes, fortune, nay, life itself, to give happiness to the man
who has chosen her from all the rest of her sex."
"It _would_ seem to _me_ easy to do all this, Raoul. _Si_--I think I
could sacrifice everything you have named, to make _you_ happy! Home I
have not, unless the Prince's Towers can thus be called; country, since
the sad event of this week, I feel as if I had altogether lost; of
hopes, I have few in this world, with which your image has not been
connected; but those which were once so precious to me are now, I fear,
lost; you know I have no fortune, to tempt me to stay, or you to
follow; as for my life, I fear it will soon be very valueless--an sure
it will be miserable."
"Then why not decide at once, dearest Ghita, to throw the weight of your
sorrows on the shoulders of one strong enough to bear them? You care not
for dress or gay appearances, and can take a bridegroom even with the
miserable aspect of a lazzarone, when you know the heart is right. You
will not despise me because I am not decked as I might be for the
bridal. Nothing is easier than to find an altar and a priest among these
monasteries; and the hour for saying mass is not very distant. Give me a
right to claim you, and I will appoint a place of rendezvous, bring in
the lugger to-morrow night, and carry you off in triumph to our gay
Provence; where you will find hearts gentle as your own, to welcome you
with joy, and call you sister."
Raoul was earnest in his manner, and it was not possible to doubt his
sincerity. Though an air of self-satisfaction gleamed in his face, when
he alluded to his present personal appearance, for he well knew all his
advantages in that way, in spite of the dress of a lazzarone.
"Urge me not, dear Raoul," Ghita answered, though, unconsciously to
herself, she pressed closer to his side, and both sadness and love were
in the very tones of her voice; "urge me not, dear Raoul; this can never
be. I have already told you the gulf that lies between us; you _will_
not cross it, to join _me_, and I _cannot_ cross it, to join _you_.
Nothing but _that_ could separate us; but that, to my eyes, grows
broader and deeper every hour."
"Ah, Ghita, thou deceivest me, and thyself. Were thy feelings as thou
fanciest, no human inducement could lead thee to reject me."
"It is not a human inducement, Raoul; it is one above earth, and all it
"_Peste_! These priests are scourges sent to torment men in every shape!
They inflict hard lessons in childhood, teach asperity in youth, and
make us superstitious and silly in age. I do not wonder that my brave
compatriots drove them from France; they did nothing but devour like
locusts, and deface the beauties of providence."
"Raoul, thou art speaking of the ministers of God!" Ghita observed
meekly, but in sorrow.
"Pardon me, dearest Ghita; I have no patience when I remember what a
trifle, after all, threatens to tear us asunder. Thou pretendest to
"It is not pretence, Raoul, but a deep and, I fear, a painful reality."
"To think that a girl so frank, with a heart so tender, and a soul so
true, will allow any secondary thing to divide her from the man of
"It is not a secondary, but a primary thing, Raoul; oh! that I could
make thee think so. The question is between thee and God--were it aught
else, thou might'st indeed prevail."
"Why trouble thyself about my religion at all? Are there not thousands
of wives who tell their beads, and repeat their aves, while their
husbands think of anything but heaven? Thou and I can overlook this
difference; others overlook them, and keep but one heart between them
still. I never would molest thee, Ghita, in thy gentle worship."
"It is not thou that I dread, Raoul, but myself," answered the girl,
with streaming eyes, though she succeeded in suppressing the sobs that
struggled for utterance. "'A house divided against itself cannot stand,'
they say; how could a heart that was filled with thee find a place for
the love it ought to bear the Author of its being? When the husband
lives only for the world, it is hard for the wife to think of heaven as
Raoul was deeply touched with the feeling Ghita betrayed, while he was
ready to adore her for the confiding sincerity with which she confessed
his power over her heart. His answer was given with seductive tenderness
of manner, which proved that he was not altogether unworthy of the
strange conflict he had created in so gentle a breast.
"Thy God will never desert _thee_, Ghita," he said; "thou hast nothing
to fear as my wife, or that of any other man. None but a brute could
ever think of molesting thee in thy worship, or in doing aught that thy
opinions render necessary or proper. I would tear the tongue from my
mouth, before reproach, sneer, or argument should be used to bring thee
pain, after I once felt that thou leanedst on me for support. All that I
_have_ said has come from the wish that thou would'st not misunderstand
me in a matter that I know thou think'st important."
"Ah, Raoul, little dost thou understand the hearts of women. If thy
power is so great over me to-day as almost to incline me from the most
solemn of all my duties, what would it become when the love of a girl
should turn into the absorbing affection of a wife! I find it hard, even
now, to reconcile the love I bear to God with the strong feeling thou
hast created in my heart. A year of wedded life would endanger more than
I can express to you in words."
"And then the fear of losing thy salvation is stronger than thy earthly
"Nay, Raoul, it is not _that_. I am not selfish or cowardly, as respects
myself, I hope; nor do I think at all of any _punishment_ that might
follow from a marriage with an unbeliever; what I most apprehend is
being taught to love my God less than I feel I now do, or than, as the
creature of his mercy, I ought."
"Thou speakest as if man could rival the being whom thou worshippest. I
have always understood, that the love we bear the Deity, and that we
bear each other, are of a very different quality. I can see no necessity
for their interfering with each other."
"Nothing can be less alike, Raoul; yet one may impair, if not destroy,
the other. Oh! if thou would'st but believe that thy Saviour was thy
God--if thou could'st but be dead to his love, and not active against
him, I might hope for better things; but I _dare_ not pledge all my
earthly duties to one who is openly an enemy of my own great Master and
"I will not, cannot deceive thee, Ghita--_that_ I leave to the priests.
Thou know'st my opinions, and must take me as I am, or wholly reject me.
This I say, though I feel that disappointment, if you persist in your
cruelty, will drive me to some desperate act, by means of which I shall
yet taste of the mercies of these English."
"Say not so, Raoul; be prudent for the sake of your country--"
"But not for thine, Ghita?"
"Yes, Raoul, and for mine also. I wish not to conceal how much happier I
shall be in hearing of your welfare and peace of mind. I fear, though an
enemy, it will ever give me pleasure to learn that thou art victorious.
But here is the road, yonder the cottage where my uncle waits for me,
and we must part. Heaven bless thee,--Raoul; my prayers will be full of
thee. Do not--do not risk more to see me; but, if--" The heart of the
girl was so full, that emotion choked her. Raoul listened intently for
the next word, but he listened in vain.
"If what, dear Ghita? Thou wert about to utter something that I feel is
"Oh! how I hope it may be so, my poor Raoul! I was going to add, if God
ever touches thy heart, and thou would'st stand before his altar, a
believer, with one at thy side who is ready and anxious to devote all to
thee but her love of the Being who created her, and her treasures of
future happiness, seek Ghita; thou will find _her_ thou would'st have."
Raoul stretched forth his arms, to clasp the tender girl to his bosom;
but, fearful of herself, she avoided him, and fled along the path, like
one terrified with the apprehension of pursuit. The young man paused a
moment, half inclined to follow; then prudence regained its influence,
and he bethought him of the necessity of getting to a place of safety
while it was yet night. The future was still before him, in hope, and
that hope led him to look forward to other occasions to press his suit.
Little, however, did Raoul Yvard, much as he prized her, know Ghita
Caraccioli. Her nature was full of womanly sensibilities, it is true,
and her heart replete with tenderness for him in particular; but the
adoration she paid to God was of that lasting character which endures to
the end. In all she said and felt, she was truth itself; and while no
false shame interposed to cause her to conceal her attachment, there was
a moral armor thrown about her purposes that rendered them impregnable
to the assaults of the world.
Our hero found Ithuel sleeping in the boat, in perfect security. The
Granite man thoroughly understood his situation, and foreseeing a long
row before him, he had quietly lain down in the stern-sheet of the yawl,
and was taking his rest as tranquilly as he had ever done in his berth
on board le Feu-Follet. He was even aroused with difficulty, and he
resumed the oar with reluctance. Before descending the funnel, Raoul had
taken a survey of the water from the rocks above. He listened intently,
to catch any sounds that might arise from the English boats. But nothing
was visible in the obscurity, while distance or caution prevented
anything from being audible. Satisfied that all was safe outside, he
determined to row out into the bay, and, making a circuit to avoid his
enemies, push to the westward, in the expectation of finding his lugger
in the offing. As there was now a considerable land-breeze, and the yawl
was lightened of so much of her freight, there was little doubt of his
being able to effect his purpose, so far as getting out of sight was
concerned, at least, long ere the return of light.
"_Pardie_, Etooelle!" Raoul exclaimed, after he had given the American
jog the third, "you sleep like a friar who is paid for saying masses at
midnight. Come, _mon ami_; no is our time to move; all is
"Well, natur' they say is a good workman, Captain Rule," answered
Ithuel, gasping and rubbing his eyes; "and never did she turn off a
prettier hiding-place than this. One sleeps so quietly in it! Heigho! I
suppose the ash must be kept moving, or we may yet miss our passage back
to France. Shove her bows round, Captain Rule; here is the hole, which
is almost as hard to find as it is to thread a needle with a cable. A
good shove, and she will shoot out into the open water."
Raoul did as desired. Ithuel touching the tiller, the yawl glided
through the opening, and felt the long ground-swell of the glorious Bay.
The two adventurers looked about them with some concern, as they issued
from their hiding-place, but the obscurity was too deep to bring
anything in view on the face of the waters. The flashing that
occasionally illuminated the summit of Vesuvius resembled
heat-lightning, and would have plainly indicated the position of that
celebrated mountain, had not its dark outlines been visible, exposing a
black mass at the head of the Bay. The ragged mountain-tops, behind and
above Castel a Mare, were also to be traced, as was the whole range of
the nearest coast, though that opposite was only discoverable by the
faint glimmerings of a thousand lights, that were appearing and
disappearing, like stars eclipsed, on the other side of the broad sheet
of placid water. On the Bay itself, little could be discerned; under the
near coast, nothing, the shadows of the rocks obscuring its borders with
a wide belt of darkness.
After looking around them quite a minute in silence, the men dropped
their oars and began to pull from under the point, with the intention of
making an offing before they set their little lugs.
As they came out, the heavy flap of canvas, quite near, startled their
ears, and both turned instinctively to look ahead. There, indeed, was a
vessel, standing directly in, threatening even to cross their very
track. She was close on a wind, with her larboard tacks aboard, and had
evidently just shaken everything, in the expectation of luffing past the
point without tacking. Could she succeed in this, it would be in her
power to stand on, until compelled to go about beneath the very cliffs
of the town of Sorrento. This was, in truth, her aim; for again she
shook all her sails.
"_Peste_!" muttered Raoul; "this is a bold pilot--he hugs the rocks as
if they were his mistress! We must lie quiet, Etooelle, and let him
pass; else he may trouble us."
"'Twill be the wisest, Captain Rule; though I do not think him an
Englishman. Hark! The ripple under his bow is like that of a knife going
through a ripe watermelon."
"Mon Feu-Follet!" exclaimed Raoul, rising and actually extending his
arms as if to embrace the beloved craft. "Etooelle, they seek us, for we
are much behind our time!"
The stranger drew near fast; when his outlines became visible, there was
no mistaking them. The two enormous lugs, the little jigger, the hull
almost awash, and the whole of the fairy form, came mistily into view,
as the swift bird assumes color and proportion, while it advances out of
the depth of the void. The vessel was but a hundred yards distant; in
another minute she would be past.
"_Vive la Republique!_" said Raoul, distinctly, though he feared to
trust his voice with a loud hail.
Again the canvas flapped, and the trampling of feet was heard on the
lugger's deck; then she came sweeping into the wind, within fifty feet
of the yawl. Raoul watched the movement; and by the time her way was
nearly lost, he was alongside, and had caught a rope. At the next
instant, he was on board her.
Raoul trod the deck of his lugger again with the pride of a monarch as
he ascends his throne. Certain of her sailing qualities, and confident
of his own skill, this gallant seaman was perfectly indifferent to the
circumstance that he was environed by powerful enemies. The wind and
the hour were propitious, and no sensation of alarm disturbed the
exultation of that happy moment. The explanations that passed between
him and his first lieutenant, Pintard, were brief but distinct. Le
Feu-Follet had kept off the land, with her sails lowered, a trim in
which a vessel of her rig and lowness in the water would not be visible
more than five or six miles, until sufficient time had elapsed, when she
was taken into the Gulf of Salerno, to look for signals from the heights
of St. Agata. Finding none, she went to sea again, as has been stated,
sweeping along the coast, in the hope of falling in with intelligence.
Although she could not be seen by her enemies, she saw the three
cruisers who were on the lookout, and great uneasiness prevailed on
board concerning the fates of the absentees. On the afternoon of that
day, the lugger was carried close in with the northwest side of Ischia,
which island she rounded at dusk, seemingly intending to anchor at
Baiae, a harbor seldom without allied cruisers. As the wind came off the
land, however, she kept away, and, passing between Procida and Mysenum,
she came out into the Bay of Naples, about three hours before meeting
with Raoul, with the intention of examining the whole of the opposite
coast, in search of the yawl. She had seen the light at the gaff of the
Proserpine, and, at first, supposed it might be a signal from the
missing boat. With a view to make sure of it, the lugger had been kept
away until the night-glasses announced a ship; when she was hauled up on
a wind, and had made two or three successive half-boards, to weather the
point where her captain lay concealed; the Marina Grande of Sorrento
being one of the places of rendezvous mentioned by our hero, in his last
There was a scene of lively congratulation, and of even pleasing
emotion, on the deck of the lugger, when Raoul so unexpectedly appeared.
He had every quality to make himself beloved by his men. Brave,
adventurous, active, generous, and kind-hearted, his character rendered
him a favorite to a degree that was not common even among the people of
that chivalrous nation. The French mariner will bear familiarity better
than his great rival and neighbor, the Englishman; and it was natural
with our hero to be frank and free with all, whether above him or below
him in condition. The temperaments to be brought into subjection were
not as rude and intractable as those of the Anglo-Saxon, and the
off-hand, dashing character of Raoul was admirably adapted to win both
the admiration and the affections of his people. They now thronged about
him without hesitation or reserve, each man anxious to make his good
wishes known, his felicitations heard.
"I have kept you playing about the fire, _camarades_," said Raoul,
affected by the proofs of attachment he received; "but we will now take
our revenge. There are English boats in chase of me, at this moment,
under the land; we will try to pick up one or two of them, by way of
letting them know there is still such a vessel as le Feu-Follet."
An exclamation of pleasure followed; then an old quartermaster, who had
actually taught his commander his first lessons in seamanship, shoved
through the crowd, and put his questions with a sort of authority.
"_Mon capitaine_" he said, "have you been near these English?"
"Aye, Benoit; somewhat nearer than I could wish. To own the truth, the
reason you have not sooner seen me was, that I was passing my time on
board our old friend, la Proserpine. Her officers and crew would not
lose my company, when they had once begun to enjoy it."
"_Peste!--mon cher capitaine_--were you a prisoner?"
"Something of that sort, Benoit. At least, they had me on a grating,
with a rope round the neck, and were about to make me swing off, as a
spy, when a happy gun or two from Nelson, up above there, at the town,
ordered them to let me go below. As I had no taste for such amusements,
and wanted to see _mon cher_ Feu-Follet, Etooelle and I got into the
yawl, and left them; intending to return and be hanged when we can find
nothing better to do."
This account required an explanation, which Raoul gave in a very few
words, and then the crew were directed to go to their stations, in order
that the lugger might be properly worked. The next minute the sails were
filled on the larboard tack, as before, and le Feu-Follet again drew
ahead, standing in for the cliffs.
"There is a light in motion near Capri, _man capitaine_" observed the
first lieutenant; "I suppose it to be on board some enemy. They are
plenty as gulls about this bay."
"You are very right, Monsieur. 'Tis la Proserpine; she shows the light
for her boats. She is too far to leeward to meddle with us, however, and
we are pretty certain there is nothing between her and the ships off the
town that can do us any harm. Are all our lights concealed? Let them be
well looked to, monsieur."
"All safe, _man-capitaine._ Le Feu-Follet never shows her lantern until
she wishes to lead an enemy into the mire!"
Raoul laughed, and pronounced the word "_bon_" in the emphatic manner
peculiar to a Frenchman. Then, as the lugger was drawing swiftly in
toward the rocks, he went on the forecastle himself, to keep a proper
lookout ahead; Ithuel, as usual, standing at his side.
The piano or plain of Sorrento terminates, on the side of the bay, in
perpendicular cliffs of tufa, that vary from one to near two hundred
feet in height. Those near the town are among the highest, and are lined
with villas, convents, and other dwellings, of which the foundations are
frequently placed upon shelves of rock fifty feet below the adjacent
streets. Raoul had been often here during the short reign of the Rufo
faction, and was familiar with most of the coast. He knew that his
little lugger might brush against the very rocks, in most places, and
was satisfied that if he fell in with the Proserpine's boats at all, it
must be quite near the land. As the night wind blew directly down the
play, sighing across the campagna, between Vesuvius and Castel a Mare,
it became necessary to tack off-shore, as soon as le Feu-Follet got
close to the cliffs where the obscurity was greatest, and her
proportions and rig were not discernible at any distance. While in the
very act of going round, and before the head-sheets were drawn, Raoul
was startled by a sudden hail.
"Felucca, ahoy!" cried one, in English, from a boat that was close on
the lugger's bow.
"Halloo!" answered Ithuel, raising an arm, for all near him to be quiet.
"What craft's that?" resumed he in the boat.
"A felucca sent down by the admiral to look for the Proserpine--not
finding her at Capri, we are turning up to the anchorage of the
"Hold on a moment, sir, if you please; I'll come on board you. Perhaps I
can help you out of your difficulty; for I happen to know something of
"Aye, aye--bear a hand, if you please; for we want to make the most of
this wind while it stands."
It is singular how easily we are deceived, when the mind commences by
taking a wrong direction. Such was now the fact with him in the boat,
for he had imbibed the notion that he could trace the outlines of a
felucca, of which so many navigate those waters, and the idea that it
was the very lugger he had been seeking never crossed his mind. Acting
under the delusion, he was soon alongside, and on the deck of his enemy.
"Do you know this gentleman, Etooelle?" demanded Raoul, who had gone to
the gangway to receive his visitor.
"It is Mr. Clinch, the master's-mate of the accursed Proserpine; he who
spoke us in the yawl, off the point yonder."
"How!" exclaimed Clinch, his alarm being sufficiently apparent in his
voice; "have I fallen into the hands of Frenchmen?"
"You have, Monsieur," answered Raoul, courteously, "but not into the
hands of enemies. This is le Feu-Follet, and I am Raoul Yvard."
"Then all hope for Jane is gone forever! I have passed a happy day,
though a busy one, for I did begin to think there was some chance for
me. A man cannot see Nelson without pulling up, and wishing to be
something like him; but a prison is no place for promotion."
"Let us go into my cabin, Monsieur. There we can converse more at our
ease; and we shall have a light."
Clinch was in despair; it mattered not to him whither he was taken. In
the cabin he sat the picture of a helpless man, and a bottle of brandy
happening to stand on the table, he eyed it with something like the
ferocity with which the hungry wolf may be supposed to gaze at the lamb
ere he leaps the fold.
"Is this the gentleman you mean, Etooelle?" demanded Raoul, when the
cabin-lamp shone on the prisoner's face; "he who was so much rejoiced to
hear that his enemy was _not_ hanged?"
"'Tis the same, Captain Rule; in the main, he is a good-natured
officer--one that does more harm to himself than to any one else. They
said in the ship, that he went up to Naples to do you some good turn
"_Bon_!--you have been long in your boat, Mr. Clinch--we will give you a
warm supper and a glass of wine--after which, you are at liberty to seek
your frigate, and to return to your own flag."
Clinch stared as if he did not, or could not, believe what he
heard--then the truth flashed on his mind, and he burst into tears.
Throughout that day his feelings had been in extremes, hope once more
opening a long vista of happiness for the future, through the renewed
confidence and advice of his captain. Thus far he had done well, and it
was by striving to do still better that he had fallen into the hands of
the enemy. For a single moment the beautiful fabric which revived hopes
had been industriously weaving throughout the day was torn into tatters.
The kindness of Raoul's manner, however, his words, and the explanations
of Ithuel, removed a mountain from his breast, and he became quite
unmanned. There is none so debased as not to retain glimmerings of the
bright spirit that is associated with the grosser particles of their
material nature, Clinch had in him the living consciousness that he was
capable of better things, and he endured moments of deep anguish--as the
image of the patient, self-devoting, and constant Jane rose before his
mind's eye to reproach him with his weaknesses.
It is true that she never made these reproaches in terms; so far from
that, she would not even believe the slanders of those she mistook for
his enemies; but Clinch could not always quiet the spirit within him,
and he often felt degraded as he remembered with how much more firmness
Jane supported the load of hope deferred than he did himself. The recent
interview with Cuffe had aroused all that remained of ambition and
self-respect, and he had left the ship that morning with a full and
manly determination to reform, and to make one continued and persevering
effort to obtain a commission, and with it Jane. Then followed capture
and the moment of deep despair. But Raoul's generosity removed the load,
and again the prospect brightened.
"Oh! many a dream was in the ship
An hour before her death;
And sight of home, with sighs disturbed
The sleeper's long-drawn breath."
Raoul soon decided on his course. While he was consoling Clinch, orders
had been sent to Pintard to look for the other gig; but a few minutes'
search under the cliffs satisfied those on deck that she was not to be
found; and the fact was so reported below. Nor could all Ithuel's
ingenuity extract from the captured boat's crew any available
information on the subject. There was an _esprit de corps_ among the
Proserpines, as between their own ship and le Feu-Follet, which would
have withstood, on an occasion like this, both threats and bribes; and
he of the Granite State was compelled to give the matter up as hopeless;
though, in so doing, he did not fail to ascribe the refusal to betray
their shipmates, on the part of these men, to English obstinacy, rather
than to any creditable feeling. The disposition to impute the worst to
those he hated, however, was not peculiar to Ithuel or his country; it
being pretty certain he would have fared no better on board the English
frigate, under circumstances at all analogous.
Satisfied, at length, that the other boat had escaped him, and feeling
the necessity of getting out of the Bay while it was still dark, Raoul
reluctantly gave the order to bear up, and put the lugger dead before
the wind, wing-and-wing. By the time this was done, the light craft had
turned so far to windward as to be under the noble rocks that separate
the piano of Sorrento from the shores of Vico; a bold promontory that
buttresses the sea, with a wall of near or quite a thousand feet in
perpendicular height. Here she felt the full force of the land-wind; and
when her helm was put up, and her sheets eased off, a bird turning on
the wing would not have come round more gracefully, and scarcely with
greater velocity. The course now lay from point to point, in order to
avoid being becalmed within the indentations of the coast. This carried
the lugger athwart the cove of Sorrento, rather than into it, and, of
course, left Yelverton, who had landed at the smaller marina, quite out
of the line of her course.
So swift was the progress of the little craft that, within fifteen
minutes after bearing up, Raoul and Ithuel, who again occupied their
stations on the forecastle, saw the headland where they had so lately
been concealed, and ordered the helm a-port in order to sheer out and
give it a berth. Then rock was passed after rock, cove after cove, and
village after village, until the entrance between Capri and Campanella
was again reached. In sweeping down the shore in this manner, the
intention was to pick up any boat that might happen to be in the
lugger's track; for, while Raoul was disposed to let his prisoner go, he
had a strong desire to seize any other officers of the frigate that
might fall in his way. The search was ineffectual, however; and when the
lugger came out into the open sea, all expectation of further success,
of this nature, was reluctantly abandoned.
As le Feu-Follet was now in dangerous proximity to three cruisers of the
enemy, the moment was one that called for decision. Fortunately, the
positions of the English vessels were known to Raoul, a circumstance
that lessened the danger, certainly; but it would not do to continue
long within a league of their anchorage, with the risk of the land
breezes failing. As yet the darkness, and the shadows of the land,
concealed the privateer, and her commander determined, if not literally
to make hay while the sun shone, at least to profit by its absence. With
this view, then, he ordered the lugger hove-to, the boat of Clinch
hauled to the lee gangway, and the prisoners to be all brought on deck;
the common men in the waist, and the master's mate aft.
"Here I must lose the pleasure of your company, Monsieur Clinch," said
Raoul, with a courtesy that may almost be termed national. "We are quite
as near _votre belle_ Proserpine as is safe, and _I_ long for _notre
belle France_, The wind is fair to take us off the coast, and two hours
will carry us out of sight, even were it noonday. You will have the
complaisance to make my duty to Monsieur Cuffe--_oui, pardie!_ and to
_ces braves Italiens_, who are so much ze amis of Sir Smees!
Raoul laughed, for his heart was light, and sundry droll conceits
danced through his brain. As Clinch, the whole was Greek to him, with
the exception that he understood it was the intention of the French to
take their vessel off the coast, a circumstance that he was not sorry to
learn, though he would have given so much, a few hours earlier, to have
known where to find her. Raoul's generosity had worked a revolution in
his feelings, however, and nothing was further from his wishes, now,
than to be employed against the celebrated privateersman. Still, he had
a duty to perform to the service of which he was a member, another to
Jane, and a last to himself.
"Captain Yvard," said the master's-mate, taking the other's offered
hand, "I shall never forget this kindness on your part; it comes at a
most fortunate moment for me. My happiness in this world, and perhaps in
the world to come"--an ejaculation of "bah!" involuntarily escaped the
listener--"depended on my being at liberty. I hold it to be fair,
however, to tell you the whole truth. I must do all I can to capture or
destroy this very lugger, as well as any other of the king's enemies, as
soon as I am my own master again."
"_Bon!_--I like your frankness, Monsieur Clinch, as much as I like your
humanity. I always look for a brave enemy when _un Anglais_ comes
against me; if you are ever in the number, I shall expect
"It will be my duty, Captain Yvard, to report to Captain Cuffe where I
found the Folly, where I left her, and where I think she is steering.
Even your armament, crew, and all such little particulars, I shall be
questioned on; I must answer honestly."
"_Mon cher_, you are 'honest fellow,' as you Anglais say. I wish it was
noonday, that you might better see our deck--le Feu-Follet is not ugly,
that she should wish to wear a veil. Tell everything, Clinch, _mon
brave_; if Monsieur Cuffe wish to send another party against our lugger,
come in the first boat _en personne_. We shall always be happy to see
Monsieur Clinch. As for where we steer, you see out head is toward _la
belle France_; and there is plenty of room for a long chase. _Adieu, mon
Clinch now shook hands heartily with all the officers; again expressed
his sense of the liberality with which he was treated, and this, too,
with emotion; then he followed his people into the boat, and pulled away
from the lugger's side, holding his course toward the light which was
still burning on board the Proserpine. At the same time le Feu-Follet
filled, and soon disappeared from his eyes in the darkness, running off
wing-and-wing, and steering west, as if really making the best of her
way toward the Straits of Bonifacio, on her road to France.
But, in fact, Raoul had no such intention. His cruise was not up, and
his present position, surrounded as he was with enemies, was full of
attraction to one of his temperament. Only the day before he had
appeared in the disguise of a lazzarone, he had captured, manned, and
sent to Marseilles a valuable store-ship; and he knew that another was
hourly expected in the bay. This was an excuse to his people for
remaining where they were, But the excitement of constantly running the
gauntlet, the pleasure of demonstrating the superior sailing of his
lugger, the opportunities for distinction, and every other professional
motive, were trifling, as compared with the tie which bound him to, the
feeling that unceasingly attracted him toward Ghita. With his love,
also, there began to mingle a sensation approaching to despair. While
Ghita was so gentle, and even tender, with him, he had ever found her
consistent and singularly firm in her principles. In their recent
dialogues, some that we hare forborne to relate on account of their
peculiar character, Ghita had expressed her reluctance to trust her fate
with one whose God was not her God, with a distinctness and force that
left no doubt of the seriousness of her views or of her ability to
sustain them in acts. What rendered her resolution more impressive was
the ingenuous manner with which she never hesitated to admit Raoul's
power over her affections, leaving no pretext for the commonplace
supposition that the girl was acting. The conversation of that night
weighed heavily on the heart of the lover, and he could not summon
sufficient resolution to part--perhaps for months--with such an apparent
breach between him and his hopes.
As soon as it was known, therefore, that the lugger was far enough at
sea to be out of sight from the boat of Clinch, she came by the wind on
the larboard tack again, heading up toward the celebrated ruins of
Paestum, on the eastern shore of the Bay of Salerno. To one accustomed
to the sea, there would not have seemed sufficient wind to urge even
that light craft along at the rate with which she glided through the
water. But the land breeze was charged with the damps of midnight; the
canvas was thickened from the same cause; and the propelling power had
nearly double its apparent force. In an hour after hauling up, le
Feu-Follet tacked, quite eight miles distant from the spot where she
altered her direction, and far enough to windward to lay her course in
directly for the cliffs beneath the village of St. Agata, or the present
residence of Ghita. In proceeding thus, Raoul had a double intention
before him. English ships were constantly passing between Sicily, Malta,
and Naples; and, as those bound north would naturally draw in with the
land at this point, his position might enable him to strike a sudden
blow, with the return of day, should any suitable vessel be in the
offing next morning. Then he hoped for a signal from Ghita at least--and
such things were very dear to his heart; or, possibly, anxiety and
affection might bring her down to the water-side, when another interview
would be possible. This was the weakness of passion; and Raoul submitted
to its power, like feebler-minded and less resolute men, the hero
becoming little better than the vulgar herd under its influence.
The two or three last days and nights had been hours of extreme anxiety
and care to the officers and crew of the lugger, as well as to their
commander, and all on board began to feel the necessity of sleep. As for
Ithuel, he had been in his hammock an hour; and Raoul now thought
seriously of following his example. Giving his instructions to the young
lieutenant who was in charge of the deck, our hero went below, and in a
few minutes he was also lost to present hopes and fears.
Everything seemed propitious to the lugger and the intentions of her
commander, The wind went down gradually, until there was little more
than air enough to keep steerage-way on the vessel, while the ripple on
the water disappeared, leaving nothing behind it but the long, heavy
ground-swell that always stirs the bosom of the ocean, like the heaving
respiration of some gigantic animal. The morning grew darker, but the
surface of the gulf was glassy and tranquil, leaving no immediate motive
for watchfulness or care.
These are the lethargic moments of a seaman's life. Days of toil bring
nights of drowsiness; and the repose of nature presents a constant
temptation to imitate her example. The reaction of excitement destroys
the disposition to indulge in the song, the jest, or the tale; and the
mind, like the body, is disposed to rest from its labors. Even the
murmuring wash of the water, as it rises and falls against the vessel's
sides, sounds like a lullaby, and sleep seems to be the one great
blessing of existence. Under such circumstances, therefore, it is not
surprising that the watch on the deck of the lugger indulged this
necessary want. It is permitted to the common men to doze at such
moments, while a few are on the alert; but even duty, in the absence of
necessity, feels its task to be irksome, and difficult of performance.
Lookout after lookout lowered his head; the young man who was seated on
the arm-chest aft began to lose his consciousness of present things, in
dreamy recollections of Provence, his home, and the girl of his youthful
admiration. The seaman at the helm alone kept his eyes open, and all
his faculties on the alert. This is a station in which vigilance is ever
required; and it sometimes happens in vessels where the rigid discipline
of a regular service does not exist, that others rely so much on the
circumstance that they forget their own duties, in depending on the due
discharge of his by the man at the wheel.
Such, to a certain degree, was now the fact on board le Feu-Follet. One
of the best seamen in the lugger was at the helm, and each individual
felt satisfied that no shift of wind could occur, no change of sails
become necessary, that Antoine would not be there to admonish them of
the circumstance. One day was so much like another, too, in that
tranquil season of the year, and in that luxurious sea, that all on
board knew the regular mutations that the hours produced. The southerly
air in the morning, the zephyr in the afternoon, and the land wind at
night, were as much matters of course as the rising and setting of the
sun. No one felt apprehension, while all submitted to the influence of a
want of rest and of the drowsiness of the climate.
Not so with Antoine. His hairs were gray. Sleep was no longer so
necessary to him. He had much pride of calling, too; was long
experienced, and possessed senses sharpened and rendered critical by
practice and many dangers. Time and again did he turn his eyes toward
Campanella, to ascertain if any signs of the enemy were in sight; the
obscurity prevented anything from being visible but the dark outline of
the high and rock-bound coast. Then he glanced his eyes over the deck,
and felt how completely everything depended on his own vigilance and
faithfulness. The look at the sails and to windward brought no cause for
uneasiness, however; and, presuming on his isolation, he began to sing,
in suppressed tones, an air of the Troubadours; one that he had learned
in childhood, in his native _langue du midi_. Thus passed the minutes
until Antoine saw the first glimmerings of morning peeping out of the
darkness, that came above the mountain-tops that lay in the vicinity of
Eboli. Antoine felt solitary; he was not sorry to greet these symptoms
of a return to the animation and communion of a new day.
"Hist! _mon lieutenant!_" whispered the old mariner, unwilling to expose
the drowsiness of his young superior to the gaze of the common men;
"_mon lieutenant_--'tis I, Antoine."
"Eh!--_bah!--Oh, Antoine, est-ce-que toi? Bon_--what would you have,
"I hear the surf, I think, _mon lieutenant._ Listen--is not that the
water striking on the rocks of the shore?"
"_Jamais!_ You see the land is a mile from us; this coast has no shoals.
The captain told us to stand close in, before we hove to or called him.
_Pardie!_--Antoine, how the little witch has travelled in my watch! Here
we are, within a musket's range from the heights, yet there has been
"_Pardon, mon lieutenant_--I do not like that sound of the surf; it is
too near for the shore. Will you have the kindness to step on the
forecastle and look ahead, monsieur?--the light is beginning to be
The young man yawned, stretched his arms, and walked forward; the first
to indulge himself, the first, also, to relieve the uneasiness of an old
shipmate, whose experience he respected. Still his step was not as quick
as common, and it was near a minute ere he reached the bows, or before
he gained the knight-heads. But his form was no sooner visible there,
than he waved his arms frantically, and shouted in a voice that reached
the recesses of the vessel:
"Hard up--hard up with the helm, Antoine--ease off the sheets, _mes
Le Feu-Follet rose on a heavy ground-swell at that moment; in the next
she settled down with a shock resembling that which we experience when
we leap and alight sooner than was expected. There she lay cradled in a
bed of rocks as immovable as one of the stones around her;--stones that
had mocked the billows of the Mediterranean, within the known annals of
man, more than three thousand years. In a word, the lugger had struck on
one of those celebrated islets under the heights of St. Agata, known as
the Islands of the Sirens, and which are believed to have been
commemorated by the oldest of all the living profane writers, Homer
himself. The blow was hardly given, before Raoul appeared on deck. The
vessel gave up all that had life in her, and she was at once a scene of
alarm, activity, and exertion.
It is at such a moment as this that the most useful qualities of a naval
captain render themselves apparent. Of all around him, Raoul was the
calmest, the most collected, and the best qualified to issue the orders
that had become necessary. He made no exclamations--uttered not a word
of reproach--cast not even a glance of disapprobation on any near him.
The mischief was done; the one thing needful was to repair it, if
possible, leaving to the future the cares of discipline and the
distribution of rewards and punishments.
"She is as fast anchored as a cathedral, _mon lieutenant_," he quietly
observed to the very officer through whose remissness the accident had
occurred; "I see no use in these sails. Take them in at once; they may
set her further on the rocks, should she happen to lift."
The young man obeyed, every nerve in his body agitated by the sense of
delinquency. Then he walked aft, cast one look around him at the
desperate condition of the lugger, and, with the impetuosity of
character that belongs to his country, he plunged into the sea, from
which his body never reappeared. The melancholy suicide was immediately
reported to Raoul.
"_Bon_ "--was the answer. "Had he done it an hour earlier, le Feu-Follet
would not have been set up on these rocks, like a vessel in a
ship-yard--_mais, mes enfans, courage!_--We'll yet see if our beautiful
lugger cannot be saved."
If there were stoicism and bitterness in this answer, there was not
deliberate cruelty. Raoul loved his lugger, next to Ghita, before all
things on earth; and, in his eyes, the fault of wrecking her in a calm
was to be classed among the unpardonable sins. Still, it was by no means
a rare occurrence. Ships, like men, are often cast away by an excess of
confidence; and our own coast, one of the safest in the known world for
the prudent mariner to approach, on account of the regularity of its
soundings, has many a tale to tell of disasters similar to this, which
have occurred simply because no signs of danger were apparent. Our hero
would not have excused himself for such negligence, and that which
self-love will not induce us to pardon will hardly be conceded to
The pumps were sounded, and it was ascertained that the lugger had come
down so easily into her bed, and lay there with so little straining of
her seams, that she continued tight as a bottle. This left all the hope
which circumstances would allow, of still saving the vessel. Raoul
neglected no useful precaution. By this time the light was strong enough
to enable him to see a felucca coming slowly down from Salerno, before
the wind, or all that was still left of the night air, and he despatched
Ithuel with an armed boat to seize her, and bring her alongside of the
rocks. He took this course with the double purpose of using the prize,
if practicable, in getting his own vessel off, or, in the last resort,
of making his own escape, and that of his people, in her to France. He
did not condescend to explain his motives, however; nor did any one
presume to inquire into them. Raoul was now strictly a commander, acting
in a desperate emergency. He even succeeded in suppressing the
constitutional volubility of his countrymen, and in substituting for it
the deep, attentive silence of thorough discipline; one of the great
causes of his own unusual success in maritime enterprises. To the want
of this very silence and attention may be ascribed so many of those
naval disasters which have undeniably befallen a people of singular
enterprise and courage. Those who wish them well will be glad to learn
that the evil has been, in a great measure, repaired.
As soon as the boat was sent to seize the felucca, the yawl was put into
the water, and Raoul himself began to sound around the lugger. The rocks
of the Sirens, as the islets are called to this day, are sufficiently
elevated above the surface of the sea to be visible at some distance;
though, lying in a line with the coast, it would not have been easy for
the lookouts of le Feu-Follet to discern them at the hour when she
struck, even had they been on the alert. The increasing light, however,
enabled the French fully to ascertain their position, and to learn the
extent of the evil. The lugger had been lifted into a crevice between
two of the rocks, by a ground-swell heavier than common; and though
there was deep water all around her, it would be impossible to get her
afloat again without lightening. So long as the wind did not blow, and
the sea did not rise, she was safe enough; but a swell that should force
the hull to rise and fall would inevitably cause her to bilge. These
facts were learned in five minutes after the yawl was in the water, and
much did Raoul rejoice at having so promptly sent Ithuel in quest of the
felucca. The rocks were next reconnoitred, in order to ascertain what
facilities they offered to favor the discharging of the vessel's stores.
Some of them were high enough to protect articles from the wash of the
water, but it is at all times difficult to lie alongside of rocks that
are exposed to the open sea; the heaving and setting of the element,
even in calms, causing the elevation of its surface so much to vary. On
the present occasion, however, the French found less swell than common,
and that it was possible to get their stores ashore at two or three
Raoul now directed the work to commence in earnest. The lugger carried
four boats; viz.--a launch, a cutter, the yawl, and a jolly-boat. The
second had been sent after the felucca, with a strong crew in her; but
the three others were employed in discharging stores. Raoul perceived at
once that the moment was not one for half-way measures, and that large
sacrifices must be made, to save the hull of the vessel. This, and the
safety of his crew, were the two great objects he kept before him. All
his measures were directed to that end, The water was started in the
lugger's hold by staving the casks, and the pumps were set in motion as
soon as possible. Provisions of all sorts were cast into the sea, for le
Feu-Follet had recently supplied herself from a prize, and was a little
deeper than her best trim allowed. In short, everything that could be
spared was thrown overboard, barely a sufficiency of food and water
being retained to last the people until they could reach Corsica,
whither it was their captain's intention to proceed, the moment he got
his vessel afloat.
The Mediterranean has no regular tides, though the water rises and falls
materially, at irregular intervals; either the effect of gales, or of
the influence of the adjacent seas. This circumstance prevented the
calamity of having gone ashore at high water, while it also prevented
the mariners from profiting by any flood. It left them, as they had been
placed by the accident itself, mainly dependent on their own exertions.
Under such circumstances, then, our hero set about the discharge of his
responsible duties. An hour of active toil, well directed and
perseveringly continued, wrought a material change, The vessel was
small, while the number of hands was relatively large. At the end of the
time mentioned, the officer charged with the duty reported that the hull
moved under the power of the heaving sea, and that it might soon be
expected to strike with a force to endanger its planks and ribs. This
was the sign to cease discharging, and to complete the preparations that
had been making for heaving the lugger off, it being unsafe to delay
that process after the weight was sufficiently lessened to allow it.
The launch had carried out an anchor, and was already returning toward
the rocks, paying out cable as it came in. But the depth of the water
rendered this an anxious service, since there was the danger of dragging
the ground-tackle home, as it is termed, on account of the angle at
which it lay.
At this moment, with the exception of difficulty last named, everything
seemed propitious. The wind had gone done entirely, the southerly air
having lasted but a short time, and no other succeeding it. The sea was
certainly not more disturbed than it had been all the morning, which was
at its minimum of motion, while the day promised to be calm and clear.
Nothing was in sight but the felucca, and she was not only in Ithuel's
possession, but she had drawn within half a mile of the rocks, and was
sweeping still nearer at each instant. In ten minutes she must come
alongside. Raoul had ascertained that there was water enough, were le
Feu-Follet lay, to permit a vessel like his prize to touch her; and many
things lay on deck, in readiness to be transferred to this tender,
previously to beginning to heave. The rocks too, were well garnished
with casks, cordage, shot, ballast, and such other articles and could be
come at--the armament and ammunition excepted. These last our hero
always treated with religious care, for in all he did there was a latent
determination resolutely to defend himself. But there ware no signs of
any such necessity's being likely to occur, and the officers began to
flatter themselves with their ability to get their lugger afloat, and in
sailing trim, before the usual afternoon's breeze should set in. In
waiting, therefore, for the arrival of the felucca, and in order that
the work might meet with no interruption when the men once began to
heave, the people were ordered to get their breakfasts.
This pause in the proceedings gave Raoul an opportunity to look about
him, and to reflect. Twenty times did he turn his eyes anxiously toward
the heights of St. Agata, where there existed subjects equally of
attraction and apprehension. It is scarcely necessary to say that the
first was Ghita; while the last arose from the fear that some curious
eye might recognize the lugger, and report her condition to the enemies
known to be lying at Capri, only a league or two on the other side of
the hills. But all was seemingly tranquil there, at that early hour; and
the lugger making very little show when her canvas was not spread, there
was reason to hope that the accident was as yet unseen. The approach of
the felucca would probably betray it; though the precaution had been
taken to order Ithuel to show no signs of national character.
Raoul Yvard was a very different man, at this moment of leisure and
idleness, from what he had been a few hours earlier. Then he trod the
deck of his little cruiser with some such feelings as the man who exults
in his strength and rejoices in his youth. Now he felt as all are apt to
feel who are rebuked by misfortunes and disease. Nevertheless, his
character had lost none of its high chivalry; and even there, as he sat
on the taffrail of the stranded Feu-Follet, he meditated carrying some
stout Englishman by surprise and boarding, in the event of his not
succeeding in getting off the lugger. The felucca would greatly aid such
an enterprise; and his crew was strong enough, as well as sufficiently
trained, to promise success.
On such an expedient, even, was he ruminating, as Ithuel, in obedience
to an order given through the trumpet, brought his prize alongside, and
secured her to the lugger. The men who had accompanied the American were
now dismissed to their morning's meal, while Raoul invited their leader
to share his frugal repast where he sat. As the two broke their fasts,
questions were put and answered, concerning what had occurred during the
hour or two the parties had been separated. Raoul's tale was soon told;
and then he learned with concern that the crew of the felucca had taken
to their boat, and escaped to the landing of the Scaricatojo, on
finding that the capture of their vessel was inevitable. This proved
that the character of the wreck was known, and left but little hope that
their situation would not be reported to the English in the course of
--"But now lead on;
In me is no delay; with thee to go,
Is to stay here: with thee here to stay,
Is to go hence unwilling; thou to me
Art all things under heaven, all places thou."
The intelligence communicated by Ithuel essentially altered Raoul's
views of his actual situation. An active man might go from the
Marinella, at the foot of the Scaricatojo, or the place where the crew
of the felucca had landed, to the Marina Grande of Sorrento in an hour.
At the latter beach boats were always to be found, and two hours more
would carry the messenger, by water, to the ships off Capri, even in a
calm. The first of these important hours had now elapsed some time; and
he could not doubt that vigorous aims were already employed in pulling
across the few leagues of water that separated the island from the
shores of Sorrento. The day was calm, it is true, and it would be
impossible to move the ships; but two frigates and a heavy sloop-of-war
might send such a force against him in boats as, in his present
situation, would render resistance next to hopeless.
Raoul ceased eating, and, standing on the taffrail, he cast anxious
looks around him. His sturdy followers, ignorant of all the dangers by
which they were environed, were consuming their morning's meal with the
characteristic indifference to danger that marks the ordinary conduct of
seamen. Even Ithuel, usually so sensitive on the subject of English
power, and who had really so much to apprehend should he again fall
into the hands of the Proserpines, was masticating his food with the
keen relish of a man who had been hard at work the whole morning. All
appeared unconscious of their critical condition; and to Raoul it seemed
as if the entire responsibility rested on his own shoulders.
Fortunately, he was not a man to shrink from his present duties; and he
occupied the only leisure moment that would be likely to offer that day,
in deliberating on his resources and in maturing his plans.
The armament still remained in the lugger, but it was doubtful if she
would float without removing it; and, admitting this necessity, the
question arose of what was to be done with it, in order to render it
available, in the event of an attack. Two or even four of the light guns
might be worked on the decks of the felucca; and here he determined they
should be immediately placed, with a proper supply of cartridges and
shot. Twenty men thrown into that light craft, which Ithuel reported as
sailing and sweeping well, might prove of the last importance. Then one
of the islets had a ruin on it, of what was believed to be an ancient
temple. It is true, these ruins were insignificant, and scarcely visible
at any distance; but, on a close examination, and by using some of the
displaced stones with judgment, it was possible to entrench a party
behind them, and make a stout resistance against light missiles, or such
as boats would most probably use. Raoul got into the yawl, and sculled
himself to this spot, examining the capabilities with care and judgment.
After this, his mode of proceeding was matured to his own satisfaction.
The usual time had been consumed, and the hands were "turned to"; each
officer receiving the orders necessary to the discharge of the duty
confided to his particular superintendence. As Ithuel had captured the
felucca, Raoul felt it right to intrust him with the command of the
prize. He was directed to take on board the armament and ammunition
necessary to a defence, to mount the guns in the best manner he could,
and to make all the other fighting preparations; while another gang
struck into the felucca's hold such articles from the lugger as it was
desirable to save.
Another party, under the first lieutenant, landed the remainder of the
light carronades, pieces of twelve pounds only, with the proper stores,
and commenced the arrangements to place them in battery among the ruins.
A small supply of food and water was also transferred to this islet.
While these dispositions were in progress, Raoul himself, assisted by
his sailing-master, prepared to heave the lugger off the rocks. To this,
at present the most important duty, our hero gave his personal
inspection; for it required skill, judgment, and caution. The physical
force of the crew was reserved to aid in the attempt. At length
everything was ready, and the instant had arrived when the momentous
trial was to be made. The lugger had now been ashore quite four hours,
and the sun had been up fully three. By this time, Raoul calculated that
the English, at Capri, knew of his misfortune, and little leisure
remained in which to do a vast deal of work. The hands were all summoned
to the bars, therefore, and the toil of heaving commenced.
As soon as the cable got the strain, Raoul felt satisfied that the
anchor would hold. Fortunately, a fluke had taken a rock, a circumstance
that could be known only by the result; but, so long as the iron held
together, there was no danger of that material agent's failing them. The
last part of the process of lightening was now performed as rapidly as
possible, and then came the trial-heave at the bars. Every effort was
fruitless, however, inch being gained after inch, until it seemed as if
the hemp of the cable were extending its minutest fibres, without the
hull's moving any more than the rocks on which it lay. Even the boys
were called to the bars; but the united force of all hands, the officers
included, produced no change. There was an instant when Raoul fancied
his best course would be to set fire to the hulk, get on board the
felucca, and sweep off to the southward, in season to avoid the
expected visit from the English. He even called his officers together,
and laid the proposition before them. But the project was too feebly
urged, and it met with too little response in the breasts of his
auditors to be successful. The idea of abandoning that beautiful and
faultless little craft was too painful while the remotest hope of
preserving it remained.
Raoul had measured his hours with the accuracy of a prudent general. It
was now almost time for the English boats to appear, and he began to
hope that the Neapolitans had made the great mistake of sending their
information to the fleet off Naples, rather than carrying it to the
ships at Capri. Should it prove so, he had still the day before him, and
might retire under cover of the night. At all events, the lugger could
not be abandoned without an enemy in sight, and the people were again
called to the bars for a renewed effort. As water might be obtained at a
hundred points on the coast, and the distance to Corsica was so small,
the last gallon had been started and pumped out, during the
Our hero felt that this was the final effort. The hold of le Feu-Follet
was literally empty, and all her spare spars were floating among the
rocks. If she could not be started now, he did not possess the means to
get her off. The anchor held; the cable, though stretched to the utmost,
stood; and every creature but himself was at the bars. The ground-swell
had been lessening all the morning, and little aid was now to be had
from the rising of the water. Still, that little must be obtained;
without it, the task seemed hopeless.
"Get ready, men," cried Raoul, as he paced the taffrail, "and heave at
the word. We will wait for a swell, then strain every nerve till
something part. _Pas encore, mes enfans--pas encore!_ Stand by!--Yonder
comes a fellow who will lift us--heave a strain--heave harder--heave,
body and soul!--heave, altogether!"
The men obeyed. First they hove a gentle strain; then the effort was
increased; and, obedient to the order, just as the ground-swell rolled
under the lugger's bottom, they threw out their utmost strength, and the
hull started for the first time. This was encouraging, though the
movement did not exceed six inches. It was a decided movement, and was
made in the right direction. This success nerved the people to an
increased effort. It was probable that, at the next strain, they would
throw a tenth more impetus into their muscles. Of all this Raoul was
aware, and he determined not to let the feeling flag.
"_Encore, mes enfans!_" he said. "Heave, and get ready! Be
watchful--now's your time! Heave, and rip the planks off the lugger's
bottom--heave, men, heave!"
This time the effort answered the emergency; the swell rolled in, the
men threw out their strength, a surge was felt, it was followed up by a
strain, and le Feu-Follet shot off her bed into deep water, rolling, for
want of ballast, nearly to her hammock-cloths. She soon lay directly
over her anchor.
Here was success!--triumphant success; and that at a moment when the
most sanguine had begun to despair. The men embraced each other, showing
a hundred manifestations of extravagant joy. The tears came to Raoul's
eyes; but he had no opportunity to concealing them, every officer he had
pressing around him to exchange felicitations. The scene was one of
happy disorder. It had lasted two or three minutes, when Ithuel, always
cold and calculating, edged his way through the throng to his
commander's side, and pointed significantly in the direction of
Campanella. There, indeed, was visible a division of the expected boats.
It was pulling toward them, having that moment doubled the cape!
Ithuel's gesture was too significant to escape attention, and every eye
followed its direction. The sight was of a nature not to be mistaken. It
at once changed the current of feeling in all who beheld it. There was
no longer a doubt concerning the manner in which the news of the
accident had travelled, or of its effect on the English at Capri. In
point of fact, the padrone of the captured felucca, with a sole eye to
the recovery of his vessel, had ascended the Scaricatojo, after landing
at the Marinella, at its foot, as fast as his legs could carry him; had
rather run, than glided, along the narrow lanes of the piano and the
hill-side to the beach of Sorrento; had thrown himself into a boat,
manned by four lusty Sorrentine watermen--and Europe does not contain
lustier or bolder; had gone on board the Terpsichore, and laid his case
before Sir Frederick Dashwood, ignorant of the person of the real
commanding officer among the three ships. The young baronet, though
neither very wise nor very much experienced in his profession, was
exceedingly well disposed to seek distinction. It immediately occurred
to his mind, that the present was a fitting opportunity to gain laurels.
He was second in rank present, and, in virtue of that claim, he fancied
that the first could do no more than send him in command of the
expedition, which he rightly foresaw Cuffe would order against the
French. But there arose a difficulty. As soon as Sir Frederick reported
the nature of the intelligence he had received to his senior captain,
and his own wish to be employed on the occasion, the rights of
Winchester interposed to raise a question. Cuffe was prompt enough in
issuing an order for each ship to man and arm two boats, making six in
all, and in giving the necessary details, but he lost some precious time
in deciding who was to command. This was the cause of delay, and had
given rise to certain hopes in Raoul, that facts were subsequently to
destroy. In the end, Sir Frederick prevailed, his rank giving him a
decided advantage; and the division of boats that was now approaching
was under his orders.
Raoul saw he had rather more than an hour to spare. To fight the
felucca, unsupported, against so many enemies, and that in a calm, was
quite out of the question. That small, low craft might destroy a few of
her assailants, but she would inevitably be carried at the first onset.
There was not time to get the ballast and other equipments into the
lugger, so as to render her capable of a proper resistance; nor did even
she offer the same advantages for a defence, unless in quick motion, as
the ruins. It was determined, therefore, to make the best disposition of
the two vessels that circumstances would allow, while the main
dependence should be placed on the solid defences of stone. With this
end, Ithuel was directed to haul his felucca to a proper berth; the
first lieutenant was ordered to get as much on board le Feu-Follet as
possible, in readiness to profit by events; while Raoul himself,
selecting thirty of his best men, commenced preparing the guns on the
rocks for active service.
A single half-hour wrought a material change in the state of things.
Ithuel had succeeded in hauling the felucca into a berth among the
islets, where she could not easily be approached by boats, and where her
carronades might be rendered exceedingly useful. Much of the ballast was
again on board the lugger, and a few of her stores, sufficient to render
her tolerably stiff, in the event of a breeze springing up; and Raoul
had directed the two inside guns of the felucca to be sent on board her
and mounted, that she might assist in the defence with a flanking fire.
The great difficulty which exists in managing a force at anchor is the
opportunity that is given the assailant of choosing his point of attack,
and, by bringing several of the vessels in a line, cause them to
intercept each other's fire. In order to prevent this as much as in his
power, Raoul placed his two floating-batteries out of line, though it
was impossible to make such a disposition of them as would not leave
each exposed, on one point of attack, in a degree greater than any
other. Nevertheless, the arrangement was so made, that either a vessel
or the ruins might aid each craft respectively against the assault on
her weakest point.
When his own guns were ready, and the two vessels moored, Raoul visited
both the lugger and felucca, to inspect their preparations, and to say
a cheerful word to their men. He found most things to his mind; where
they were not, he ordered changes to be made. With the lieutenant his
conversation was brief, for that officer was one who possessed much
experience in this very sort of warfare, and could be relied on. With
Ithuel, he was more communicative; not that he distrusted the citizen of
the Granite State, but that he knew him to be a man of unusual
resources, could the proper spirit be aroused within him.
"_Bien_, Etooelle," he said, when the inspection was ended, "much will
depend on the use you make of these two guns."
"I know that, as well as you do yourself, Captain Rule," answered the
other, biting off at least two inches from half a yard of pig-tail;
"and, what's more, I know that I fight with a rope round my neck. The
spiteful devils will hardly overlook all that's passed; and though it
will be dead ag'in all law, they'll work out their eends on us both, if
we don't work out our eends on them. To my mind, the last will be the
most agreeable, as well as the most just."
"_Bon!_--Do not throw away your shot, Etooelle."
"I--why, Captain Rule, I'm nat'rally economical. That would be wasteful,
and waste I set down for a sin. The only place I calculate on throwing
the shot, is into the face and eyes of the English. For my part, I wish
Nelson himself was in one of them boats--I wish the man no harm; but I
_do_ wish he was in one of them very boats."
"And, Etooelle, I do _not_. It is bad enough as it is, _entre nous;_ and
Nelson is very welcome to stay on board his Foudroyant; _voila!_--The
enemy is in council; we shall soon hear from them. Adieu, _mon ami_;
remember our two _Republiques!"_
Raoul squeezed Ithuel's hand, and entered his boat. The distance to the
ruin was trifling, but it was necessary to make a small circuit in order
to reach it. While doing this, the young mariner discovered a boat
pulling from the direction of the marinella, at the foot of the
Scaricatojo, which had got so near, unseen, as at first to startle him
by its proximity. A second look, however, satisfied him that no cause of
apprehension existed in that quarter. His eye could not be deceived. The
boat contained Ghita and her uncle; the latter rowing, and the former
seated in the stern, with her head bowed to her knees, apparently in
tears. Raoul was alone, sculling the light yawl with a single hand, and
he exerted himself to meet these unexpected and, in the circumstances,
unwelcome visitors, as far as possible from the rocks. Presently the two
boats lay side by side.
"What means this, Ghita!" the young man exclaimed; "do you not see the
English, yonder, at this moment making their preparations to attack us?
In a few minutes we shall be in the midst of a battle, and thou here!"
"I see it all, now, Raoul," was the answer, "though we did not on
quitting the shore; but we would not turn back, having once come upon
the Bay. I was the first in St. Agata to discover the evil that had
befallen thee; from that moment I have never ceased to entreat my uncle,
until he has consented to come hither."
"With what motive, Ghita?" asked Raoul, with sparkling eyes--"at length
thou relentest--wilt become my wife! In my adversity, thou rememberest
thou art a woman!"
"Not exactly that, dear Raoul; but I cannot desert thee, altogether, in
this strait. The same objection exists now, I fear, that has ever
existed to our union; but that is no reason I should not aid thee. We
have many friends along the heights, here, who will consent to conceal
thee; and I have come to carry thee and the American to the shore, until
an opportunity offer to get thee to thine own France."
"What! desert _ces braves_, Ghita, at a moment like this!--Not to
possess thy hand, dearest girl, could I be guilty of an act so base."
"Thy situation is not theirs. The condemnation to death hangs over thee,
Raoul; shouldst thou again fall into English hands, there will be no
mercy for thee."
"_Assez_--this is no moment for argument. The English are in motion,
and there is barely time for thee to get to a safe distance ere they
begin to fire. Heaven bless thee, Ghita! This care of thine draws my
heart to thee closer than ever; but we must now separate. Signor
Giuntotardi, pull more toward Amalfi. I see that the English mean to
attack us from the side of the land--pull more toward Amalfi."
"Thou tellest us this in vain, Raoul," Ghita quietly but firmly
answered. "We have not come here on an unmeaning errand--if thou
refusest to go with us, we will remain with thee. These prayers, that
thou so despisest, may not prove useless."
"Ghita!--this can never be. We are without cover--almost without
defences--our vessel is unfit to receive thee, and this affair will be
very different from that off Elba. Thou wouldst not willingly distract
my mind with care for thee, at such a moment!"
"We will remain, Raoul. There may come a moment when thou wilt be glad
to have the prayers of believers, God leadeth us hither, either to take
thee away, or to remain, and look to thy eternal welfare, amid the
din of war."
Raoul gazed at the beautiful enthusiast with an intensity of love and
admiration that even her truthful simplicity had never before excited.
Her mild eyes were kindling with holy ardor, her cheeks were flushed,
and something like the radiance of heaven seemed to beam upon her
countenance. The young man felt that time pressed; he saw no hope of
overcoming her resolution in season to escape the approaching boats; and
it might be that the two would be safer in some nook of the ruins than
in attempting to return to the shore. Then, that never-dying but latent
wish to have Ghita with him aided his hasty reasoning, and he decided to
permit the girl and her uncle to come upon the islet that he was to
defend in person.
Some signs of impatience had begun to manifest themselves among his
people, ere Raoul made up his mind to the course he would follow. But
when he landed, supporting Ghita, that chivalry of character and homage
to the sex, which distinguish the southern Frenchman, changed the
current of feeling, and their two acquaintances were received with
acclamation. The act of self-devotion seemed heroic, and that it always
enough to draw applause among a people so keenly alive to glory. Still,
the time to make the necessary dispositions was short. Fortunately, the
surgeon had taken his post on this islet, as the probably scene of the
warmest conflict; and he had contrived to make his preparations to
receive the hurt, in a cavity of the rock behind a portion of the ruin,
where the person would be reasonably safe. Raoul saw the advantages of
this position, and he led Ghita and her uncle to it, without pausing to
deliberate. Here he tenderly embraced the girl, a liberty Ghita could
not repel at such a moment; then he tore himself away to attend to
duties which had now become urgently pressing.
In point of fact, Sir Frederick Dashwood had made his disposition, and
was advancing to the assault, being already within the range of grape.
For the obvious reason of preventing the French from attempting to
escape to the shore, he chose to approach from that side himself--an
arrangement that best suited Raoul; who, foreseeing the probability of
the course, had made his own preparations with an eye to such an event.
Of boats, there were eight in sight, though only seven were drawing
near, and were in line. Six had strong crews, were armed, and were
evidently fitted for action. Of these, three had light boat-guns in
their bows, while the other three carried small-arms-men only. The
seventh boat was the Terpsichore's gig, with its usual crew, armed;
though it was used by the commanding officer himself as a sort of
_cheval de bataille_, in the stricter meaning of the term. In other
words, Sir Frederick Dashwood pulled through the line in it, to give his
orders and encourage his people. The eighth boat, which kept aloof,
quite out of the range of grape, was a shore craft, belonging to Capri,
in which Andrea Barrofaldi and Vito Viti had come, expressly to witness
the capture or destruction of their old enemy. When Raoul was taken in
the Bay of Naples, these two worthies fancied that their mission was
ended--that they might return with credit to Porto Ferrajo, and again
hold up their heads, with dignity and self-complacency, among the
functionaries of the island. But the recent escape, and the manner in
which they had been connected with it, entirely altered the state of
things. A new load of responsibility rested on their shoulders; fresh
opprobrium was to be met and put down; and the last acquisition of
ridicule promised to throw the first proofs of their simplicity and
dulness entirely into the shade. Had not Griffin and his associates been
implicated in the affair, it is probable the vice-governatore and the
podesta would have been still more obnoxious to censure; but as things
were, the sly looks, open jests, and oblique innuendoes of all they met
in the ship, had determined the honest magistrates to retire to their
proper pursuits on terra firma, at the earliest occasion. In the mean
time, to escape persecution, and to obtain a modicum of the glory that
was now to be earned, they had hired a boat, and accompanied the
expedition, in the character of amateurs. It formed no part of their
plan, however, to share in the combat; a view of its incidents being
quite as much, as Vito Viti strongly maintained when his friend made a
suggestion to the contrary, as was necessary to vindicate their conduct
and courage in the judgment of every Elban.
"Cospetto!" he exclaimed, in the warmth of opposition--"Signor Andrea,
your propositions are more in the spirit of an unreflecting boy than in
that of a discreet vice-governatore. If we take swords and muskets into
the boat, as you appear to wish, the devil may tempt us to use them; and
what does either of us know of such things? The pen is a more befitting
weapon for a magistrate than a keen-edged sword or a foul-smelling
piece of fire-arms. I am amazed that your native sensibilities do not
teach you this. There is an indecency in men's mistaking their duties;
and of all things on earth, heaven protect me from falling into such an
error! A false position is despicable."
"Thou art warm, friend Vito, and that without occasion. For my part, I
think men should be prepared for any emergency that may happen. History
is full of examples in which civilians and scholars--aye, even
churchmen--have distinguished themselves by feats of arms, on proper
occasions; and I confess to a philosophical curiosity to ascertain the
sensations with which men seek and expose life."
"That's your besetting weakness, Signor Andrea, and the emergency drives
me so far to lose sight of the respect that a podesta owes to a
vice-governatore, as to feel constrained to tell you as much. Philosophy
plays the very devil with your judgment. With about half of what you
possess, the Grand Duke couldn't boast of a more sensible subject. As
for history, I don't believe anything that's in it; more especially
since the nations of the north have begun to write it. Italy once _had_
histories, but where are they now? For my part, I never heard of a man's
fighting who was not regularly bred to arms, unless it might be some
fellow who had reason to wish he had never been born."
"I can name you several men of letters, in particular, whose fame as
soldiers is only eclipsed by that earned by their more peaceful labors,
honest Vito; Michael Angelo Buonarotti, for instance, to say nothing of
various warlike popes, cardinals, and bishops. But we can discuss this
matter after the battle is over. Thou seest the English are already
quitting their ships, and we shall be in the rear of the combatants."
"So much the better, Corpo di Bacco! Who ever heard of an army that
carries its brains in its head, like a human being? No, no, Signor
Andrea; I have provided myself with a string of beads, which I intend to
count over, with aves and paters, while the firing lasts, like a good
Catholic. If you are so hot, and bent on making one in this battle, you
may proclaim in a loud voice one of the speeches of the ancient consuls
and generals, such as you will find them in any of the old books."
Vito Viti prevailed. The vice-governatore was obliged to leave the arms
behind him, and this, too, without making any great difference in the
result of the day's fighting, inasmuch as the boatmen employed, in
addition to asking a triple price for their time and labor, obstinately
refused to go nearer to the French than half a league. Distant as this
was, however, Raoul, while reconnoitring the enemy with a glass,
detected the presence of the two Elbans. He laughed outright at the
discovery, notwithstanding the many serious reflections that naturally
pressed upon his mind at such a moment.
But this was not the time to indulge in merriment, and the countenance
of our hero almost immediately resumed its look of care. Now that he
felt certain of the manner in which the English intended to assail him,
he had new orders to give to all his subordinates. As has been said, the
principal point was to make the different guns support each other. In
order to do this effectually, it became necessary to spring the lugger's
broadside round more obliquely toward the felucca; which accomplished,
Raoul deemed his arrangements complete.
Then followed the pause which ordinarily prevails between preparation
and the battle. This, in a vessel, is always a period of profound and
solemn stillness. So important to concert, order, and intelligent
obedience, in the narrow compass, and amid the active evolutions of a
ship, does silence become at such moments, that one of the first duties
of discipline is to inculcate its absolute necessity; and a thousand men
shall be seen standing in their batteries, ready to serve the fierce
engines of war, without a sound arising among them all, of sufficient
force to still the washing of the gentlest waves. It is true, the
French were not now strictly arrayed for a naval action; but they
carried into the present conflict the habits and discipline of the
peculiar branch of service to which they belonged.
"His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before;--
'Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I!'"
_Lady of the Lake_.
Our battle will be told with greater clearness, if the reader is
furnished with an outline of its order. As has been more than once
intimated already, Sir Frederick Dashwood had made all his preparations
to commence the assault from the side of the land, the object being to
prevent a retreat to the shore. Raoul had foreseen the probability of
this, and, with a special view to prevent the two vessels from being
easily boarded, he had caused both to be placed in such positions as
left low barriers of rocks between them and that quarter of the bay.
These rocks were portions that were not visible at any distance, being
just awash, as it is termed, or on a level with the surface of the
water; offering the same sort of protection against an attack in boats
that ditches afford in cases of assaults on _terra firma_. This was a
material advantage to the expected defence, and our hero showed his
discrimination in adopting it. On board the felucca, which was named the
Holy Michael, was Ithuel with fifteen men, and two twelve-pound
carronades, with a proper supply of small-arms and ammunition. The
Granite-man was the only officer, though he had with him three or four
of the lugger's best men.
Le Feu-Follet was confided to the care of Jules Pintard, her first
lieutenant, who had under his immediate orders some five-and-twenty of
the crew, to work four more of the carronades. The lugger had a part
only of her ballast in, and something like a third of her stores. The
remainder of both still lay on the adjacent rocks, in waiting for the
result of the day. She was thought, however, to be sufficiently steady
for any service that might be expected of her while moored, and might
even have carried whole sail, in light winds, with perfect safety. All
four of her guns were brought over on one side, in readiness to use in
battery in the same direction, By this arrangement the French
essentially increased their means of defence, bringing all their
artillery into use at the same time--an expedient that could not have
been adopted had they been fought in broadside.
Raoul had planted among the ruins the remaining four guns. With the aid
of a few planks, the breechings, tackles, and other appliances of a
vessel, this had been easily effected; and, on reviewing his work, he
had great confidence in the permanency of his pieces. The ruins
themselves were no great matter; at a little distance they were scarcely
perceptible; though, aided by the formation of the natural rock, and by
removing some of the stones to more favorable positions, they answered
the purpose of the seamen sufficiently well. The carronades were placed
_en barbette_; but a falling of the surface of the rock enabled the men
to cover even their heads, by stepping back a few feet. The danger would
be much the greatest to those whose duty it would be to reload.
The surgeon, Carlo Giuntotardi, and Ghita, were established in a cavity
of the rocks, perfectly protected against missiles, so long as the enemy
continued on the side next the land, and yet within fifty feet of the
battery. Here the former made the usual bloody-looking if not
bloody-minded preparations for applying tourniquets and for amputating,
all unheeded, however, by his two companions, both of whom were lost to
the scene around them in devout prayer.
Just as these several dispositions were completed, Ithuel, who ever kept
an eye to windward, called out to Raoul, and inquired if it might not
be well to run the yards up to the mast-heads, as they would be more out
of the way in their places aloft than littering the decks. There was no
possible objection to the measure, it being a dead calm, and both the
lugger and the felucca swayed their yards into their places, the sails
being bent, and hanging in the brails. This is the ordinary state of
craft of the latter rig, though not always that of luggers; and the
Granite-man, mindful that his own gear was down, in consequence of
having been lowered by her former owners previously to the capture,
bethought him of the expediency of getting everything ready for a run.
He wished the lugger to be in an equal state of preparation, it being
plain enough that two to be pursued would embarrass the English, in a
chase, twice as much as one. This was the reason of his suggestion; and
he felt happier for seeing it attended to.
On the other side, all preliminary difficulties had been disposed of.
Captain Sir Frederick Dashwood was in command, and Lieutenants
Winchester and Griffin, after a few open protestations, certain
grimaces, and divers secret curses, were fain to submit. The discussion,
however, had produced one result, not altogether unfavorable to the
Proserpines. Cuffe sent four of her boats against the enemy, while he
restricted the Terpsichore to two, including her gig, and the Ringdove
to two. Each ship sent her launch, as a matter of course, with a
twelve-pound boat-gun on its grating. Winchester was in that of the
Proserpine; Mr. Stothard, the second of the other frigate, was in the
Terpsichore's; and McBean, as of right, commanded the Ringdove's.
Griffin was in the first cutter of his own ship, and Clinch had charge
of the second. The third was headed by Strand, whose call was to have
precedence on the occasion. The other boats had subordinates from their
respective ships. All were in good heart; and, while all expected a
severe struggle for her, knowing the desperate character of their enemy,
every man in the boats felt confident that the lugger was finally to
fall into British hands. Still, a grave consideration of the possible
consequences to the actors mingled with the exultation of the more
reflecting men among the assailants.
Sir Frederick Dashwood, who ought to have felt the moral responsibility
of his command, of all the higher officers present, was the most
indifferent to consequences. Constitutionally brave, personal
considerations had little influence on him; habitually confident of
English prowess, he expected victory and credit as a matter of course;
and, favored by birth, fortune, and parliamentary interest, he gave
himself no trouble as to the possibility of a failure, certain (though
not avowing that certainty even to himself) that any little mishap would
be covered by the broad mantle of the accident that had so early raised
him to the rank he held.
In making his dispositions for the fight, however, Sir Frederick had not
disdained the counsels of men older and more experienced than himself.
Cuffe had given him much good advice, before they parted, and Winchester
and Strand had been particularly recommended to him as seamen whose
suggestions might turn out to be useful.
"I send a master's-mate named Clinch, in charge of one of our boats,
too, Dashwood," added the senior captain, as he concluded his remarks;
"who is one of the most experienced seamen in the Proserpine. He has
seen much boat-service, and has always behaved himself well. A vile
practice of drinking has kept the poor fellow under; but he is now
determined to make an effort, and I beg you will put him forward to-day,
that he may have a chance. Jack Clinch has the right sort of stuff in
him, if opportunities offer to bring it out."
"I flatter myself, Cuffe, that all hands will meet with opportunity
enough," answered Sir Frederick, in his drawling way; "for I intend to
put 'em all in together, like a thorough pack coming in at the death.
I've seen Lord Echo's harriers so close, at the end of a long chase,
that you might have covered the whole with this ship's main-course; and
I intend it shall be so with our boats to-day. By the way, Cuffe, that
would be a pretty figure for a despatch, and would make Bronte
"D--n the figure, the harriers, and the despatch, too, Dashwood; first
win the day, before you begin to write poetry about it. Bronte, as you
call Nelson, has lightning in him, as well as thunder, and there isn't
an admiral in the service who cares less for blood and private rank than
himself. The way to make him smile is to do a thing neatly and well. For
God's sake, now, be careful of the men;--we are short-handed as it is,
and can't afford such another scrape as that off Porto Ferrajo."
"Never fear for us, Cuffe; you'll never miss the men I shall expend."
Every captain had a word to say to his officers; but none other worth
recording, with the exception of what passed between Lyon and his first
"Ye'll remember, Airchy, that a ship can have a reputation for economy,
as well as a man. There's several of our own countrymen about the
Admiralty just now; and next to courage and enterprise, they view the
expenditures with the keenest eyes. I've known an admiral reach a red
ribbon just on that one quality; his accounts showing cheaper ships and
cheaper squadrons than any in the sairvice. Ye'll all do your duties,
for the honor o' Scotland; but there's six or seven Leith and Glasgow
lads in the boats, that it may be as well not to let murder themselves,
out of a' need. I've put the whole of the last draft from the river
guard-ship into the boats, and with them there's no great occasion to be
tender. They're the sweepings of the Thames and Wapping; and quite half
of them would have been at Botany Bay before this, had they not been
"Does the law about being in sight apply to the boats or to the ships,
the day, Captain Lyon?"
"To the boats, man; or who the de'il do you think would sairve in them!
It's a pitiful affair, altogether, as it has turned out; the honor being
little more than the profit, I opine; and yet 'twill never do to let old
Scotia lag astairn, in a hand-to-hand battle, Ye'll remember; we have a
name for coming to the claymore; and so do yer best, every mither's
son o' ye."
McBean grunted assent, and went about his work as methodically as if it
were a sum in algebra. The second lieutenant of the Terpsichore was a
young Irishman, with a sweet, musical voice; and, as the boats left the
ships, he was with difficulty kept in the line, straining to move ahead,
with his face on a grin, and his cheers stimulating the men to undue or
unreasonable efforts. Such is an outline of the English materials on
this occasion; both parties being now ready for the struggle. If we add
that it was already past two, and that all hands began to feel some
anxiety on the score of the wind, which might soon be expected, the
preliminary picture is sufficiently sketched.
Sir Frederick Dashwood had formed his line about a mile within the
rocks, with one launch in the centre, and one on each extremity. That in
the centre was commanded by O'Leary, his own second lieutenant; that on
the left of his force by McBean, and the one on its right by Winchester.
O'Leary was tanked by Griffin and Clinch, in the Proserpine's cutters,
while the intervals were filled by the remaining boats. The captain kept
moving about in his own gig, giving his directions, somewhat confusedly,
beyond a question; yet with a cheerfulness and indifference of air that
aided in keeping alive the general _gaite de coeur_, When all was ready,
he gave the signal to advance, pulling, for the first half mile,
chivalrously in advance of the line, with his own gig.
Raoul had noted the smallest movement of the enemy with a glass, and
with grave attention. Nothing escaped his jealous watchfulness; and he
saw that Sir Frederick had made a capital error in the outset. Had he
strengthened his centre, by putting all his carronades in the same
battery, as it might be, the chances for success would have been
doubled; but, by dividing them, he so far weakened their effect as to
render it certain no one of the three French batteries could be wholly
crippled by their fire. This, of course, left the difficult task to the
English of pushing up to their hand-to-hand work, under the
embarrassment of receiving constant discharges of grape and canister.
The few minutes that intervened between the order to advance, and the
moment when the boats got within a quarter of a mile of the rock, were
passed in a profound quiet, neither side making any noise, though Raoul
had no small difficulty in restraining the constitutional impatience of
his own men to begin. A boat presents so small an object, however, to
artillerists as little skilled as seamen generally are, who depend more
on general calculations than on the direct or scientific aim, the latter
being usually defeated by the motion of their vessels, that he was
unwilling to throw away even his canister. A Frenchman himself, however,
he could refrain no longer, and he pointed a carronade, firing it with
his own hand. This was the commencement of the strife. All the other
guns in the ruin followed, and the lugger kept time as it might be by
note. The English rose, gave three cheers, and each launch discharged
her gun. At the same instant, the two men who held the matches in the
felucca applied them briskly to the vents of their respective pieces. To
their surprise, neither exploded, and, on examination, it was discovered
that the priming had vanished. To own the truth, he of the Granite State
had slyly brushed his hand over the guns, and robbed them of this great
essential of their force. He held the priming-horns in his own hands,
and resolutely refused to allow them to pass into those of any
It was fortunate Ithuel was known to be such a determined hater of the
English, else might his life have been the forfeit of this seeming act
of treachery. But he meditated no such dereliction of duty. Perfectly
aware of the impossiblity of preventing his men from firing, did they
possess the means, this deliberate and calculating personage had
resorted to this expedient to reserve his own effort, until, in his
judgment, it might prove the most available. His men murmured, but, too
much excited to deliberate, they poured in a discharge of musketry, as
the only means of annoying the enemy then left them. Even Raoul glanced
aside, a little wondering at not hearing the felucca's carronades, but
perceiving her people busy with their fire-arms, he believed all right.
The first discharge, in such an affair, is usually the most destructive.
On the present occasion, the firing was not without serious effects. The
English, much the most exposed, suffered in proportion. Four men were
hurt in Winchester's boat, two in Griffin's, six or eight men in the
other launches and cutters: and one of Sir Frederick's gig-men was shot
through the heart--a circumstance which induced that officer to drop
alongside of a cutter, and exchange the dead body for a living man.
On the rocks, but one man was injured. A round-shot had hit a stone,
shivered it in fragments, and struck down a valuable seaman, just as he
was advancing, with a gallant mien, to sponge one of the guns.
"Poor Josef!" said Raoul, as he witnessed the man's fall; "carry him to
the surgeon, _mes braves_."
"_Mon capitaine_, Josef is dead."
This decided the matter, and the body was laid aside, while another
stepped forward and sponged the gun. At that moment Raoul found leisure
to walk a yard or two toward the rear, in order to ascertain if the
cover of Ghita were sufficient. The girl was on her knees, lost to all
around her; though, could he have read her heart, he would have found it
divided between entreaties to the Deity and love for himself.
The lugger sustained no harm. O'Leary had overshot her, in his desire
to make his missiles reach. Not even a canister had lodged in her spars,
or torn her sails. The usual luck appeared to attend her, and the people
on board fought with renewed confidence and zeal. Not so with the
felucca, however. Here the fire of the English had been the most
destructive. The wary and calculating McBean had given his attention to
this portion of the French defences, and the consequences partook of the
sagacity and discretion of the man. A charge of canister had swept
across the felucca's decks, more than decimating Ithuel's small force;
for it actually killed one, and wounded three of his party.
But, the din once commenced, there was no leisure to pause. The fire was
kept up with animation on both sides, and men fell rapidly. The boats
cheered and pressed ahead, the water becoming covered with a wide
sheet of smoke.
In moments like this, the safest course for the assailants is to push
on. This the English did, firing and cheering at every fathom they
advanced, but suffering also. The constant discharge of the carronades,
and the total absence of wind, soon caused a body of smoke to collect in
front of the rock, while the English brought on with them another,
trailing along the water, the effect of their own fire. The two shrouds
soon united, and then there was a minute when the boats could only be
seen with indistinctness. This was Ithuel's moment. Perceiving that the
ten or twelve men who remained to him were engrossed with their muskets,
he pointed the two carronades himself, and primed them from the horns
which he had never quitted. For the felucca he felt no present concern.
Winchester and all the boats in the centre of the English line were most
in advance, the fire of the ruins urging them to the greatest exertion.
Then McBean, besides being more distant, could not cross the rock in
front of the felucca without making a circuit, and he must, as yet, be
ignorant of the existence of the impediment. Ithuel was cool and
calculating by nature, as well as by habit; but this immunity from
present risk probably increased the immediate possession of qualities so
important in battle. His carronades were loaded to their muzzles with
bags of bullets, and he beckoned to the best seaman of his party to take
one of the matches, while he used the other himself, each holding a
monkey's-tail in one hand, in readiness to train the light gun, as
circumstances required. The pieces had been depressed by Ithuel himself,
in the midst of the fray, and nothing remained but to wait the moment
for using them.
This moment was now near. The object of the English was to land on the
principal islet, and to carry the ruin by storm. In order to do this,
all the boats of their centre converged in their courses to the same
point; and the smoke being driven off by each concussion of the guns, a
dark cluster of the enemy diverged from the ragged outline of the vapor,
within fifty yards of the intended point of landing. Ithuel and his
companion were ready. Together they sighted, and together they fired.
This unexpected discharge from a quarter that had been so comparatively
silent, surprised both friends and foes, and it drove a fresh mantle of
smoke momentarily athwart the rock and the open space in its front.
A cry arose from the dense shroud of battle that differed from the
shouts of success and courage. Physical agony had extorted shrieks from
the stoutest hearts, and even the French in the ruins paused to look for
the next act of the desperate drama. Raoul seized the opportunity to
prepare for the expected hand-to-hand struggle; but it was unnecessary.
The cessation in the firing was common in both parties, and it gave the
vapor a minute in which to lift the curtain from the water.
When the late obstacle was raised high enough to admit of a view, the
result became evident. All the English boats but one had scattered, and
were pulling swiftly, in different directions, from the scene of
slaughter. By taking this course, they diverted and divided the fire of
the enemies; an expedient of which it would have been happier had they
bethought them earlier. The remaining boat was a cutter of the
Terpsichore. It had received the weight of canister from Ithuel's own
gun, and of sixteen men it had contained when it left the frigate's
side, but two escaped. These fellows had thrown themselves into the sea,
and were picked up by passing boats. The cutter itself came drifting
slowly in toward the rock, announcing the nature of its fearful cargo by
the groans and cries that arose from out its bosom. Raoul stopped the
fire, equally from humanity and policy, after a few discharges at the
retreating boats; and the first act of the battle closed.