THE FEMALE PIRATE CAPTAIN
A Tale Of The Revolution
By Maturin Murray Ballou
E. D LONG & CO., BOOKSELLER
All books should have a preface, for the writer is sure to have something to communicate to the reader concerning the plot of the story or some subject relating to it which he cannot do in the tale. It is a sort of confidential communication between the author and reader, whom he takes by the buttonhole for a single moment, and endeavors to prepossess favorably towards his story. We are one of those who place great confidence in first impressions, and therefore design that the reader should at least commence our tale unprejudiced. He will see at a glance that our publisher has passed his judgment in commendation, by the superb manner in which he has issued the work, and the great expense incurred.
We have a few words to say concerning the subject matter of the tale. It is a very romantic one, but no more so than many others, the incidents of which occurred during the stirring times of the Revolution, and which have since received the sanction of history. We have been at some considerable expense in ferreting out the events of our tale, which have been cheerfully met by our liberal publisher.
LYNN IN OLDEN TIMES. HIGH ROCK. THE FISHING HAMLET. THE STIRRING EVENTS THAT PRECEDED THE REVOLUTION. SOME OF OUR CHARACTERS. WILLIAM LOVELL. FANNY CAMPBELL. THE HEROINE. CAPTAIN RALPH BURNET OF THE ROYAL NAVY. A LOVER’S JEALOUSY.
The town of Lynn, Massachusetts, situated up the Atlantic sea board, at a distance of some ten miles from the metropolis of New England, has been the locale of many an incident of a most romantic character. Indeed its history abounds with matter more akin to romance than fact. There are here the Pirate’s Cave, Lover’s Leap, the Robber’s Dungeon, all within a pistol shot of each other. The story of its early Indian history is also of a most interesting character, and altogether the place is one destined to be immortal from these causes alone.
In that part of the town known as ‘Wood End,’ there is an immense pile of stone rising perpendicularly on the side of a hill, fronting the ocean, known far and near by the name of High Rock. This granite mass is very peculiarly formed; the front rising abruptly nearly an hundred feet, while the back is deeply imbedded in the rising ground and the summit forms a plain level with the height of the hill and the adjoining plain in the rear. This spot has long been celebrated for the extended and beautiful prospect it affords. From its top which overlooks rock-bound Nahant in a Southerly direction, may be had a noble view of the Atlantic, and a breadth of coast nearly thirty miles in width. There is no spot upon our shores where the sea plays a wilder or more solemn dirge than on the rocky peninsula of Nahant; the long connecting beach is here a scene of angry commotion from the constant and heavy swells of the broad ocean.
At a distance of about ten miles in the South-West lies Boston. The eye always rests upon the dense smoke that enshrouds it first, piercing which, loom up the spires of its numerous churches, and towering above them all, the noble State House is distinctly seen. Turn still more to the West and you overlook the principal portion of the manufacturing town of Lynn, with its picturesque collection of white cottages and factories, appearing of miniature dimensions. Turn again towards the North West and a few miles beyond the town of Lynn, lies the thriving little village of Saugus. A full Northern view is one of woody beauty, being a field of forest tops of almost boundless extent. In the North-East through the opening hills and trees, a glimpse is had of the water in Salem harbor, while the city itself is hid from view, reminding one of the distant view of the Adriatic from the lofty Appenines, which rise from the very gates of the lovely city of Florence.
This is a slight glance at the extended prospect to be enjoyed by a visit to High Rock, at the present day, saying nothing of the pretty quiet little fishing village of Swampscot, and the panorama of sailing craft that always ornament the sea view.
Near the base of the rock there resided until a few years since the celebrated fortune-teller, known by the name of ‘Moll Pitcher,’ a soubriquet given her by the town’s people, her rightful name never having been ascertained. She lived to a remarkable old age, and to the day of her death the visitor who ‘crossed her palm with broad pieces,’ was sure to receive in return, some truthful or fictitious legend of the neighborhood. There are many among us to this day who remember with pleasure their visits to the strange old fortune-teller of Lynn, at the base of High Rock.
We have been thus particular in the description of this spot as it is the birth-place of two persons who will bear an important part in the tale we are about to relate, and partly, because we love this spot where we have whiled away many an hour of our boyish days. The peculiarities of one’s birth-place have much influence upon formation of the character and disposition. The associations that hang about us in childhood, have double weight upon our tender and susceptible minds at that time, to those of after days, when the character is more formed and matured, and the mind has become more stern and inflexible. It behoves us then to speak thus particularly of the birth-place and the associations of those who are to enact the principal characters in the drama which we relate.
There lived at the very base of High Rock about seventy years ago, a few families of the real puritanic stock, forming a little community of themselves. The occupation of the male portion of the hamlet was that of fishermen, while the time of the females was occupied in drying and preserving the fish and such other domestic labor as fell to their lot. The neighborhood, resembled in every particular, save that it was far less extensive, the present town of Swampscot, which is situated but about three or four miles from the very spot we are now describing, and whose inhabitants, a hardy and industrious people, are absolutely to this day ‘fishermen all.’
The date to which we refer was just at the commencement of the principal causes of difference between the colonies and the mother country; the time when shrewd and thoughtful men foretold the coming struggle between England and her North American dependances. Already had the opposition of the colonies to the odious Stamp Act, and more particularly the people of Massachusetts Bay, as Boston and the neighboring province was named, become so spirited and universal that the British Parliament had only the alternative to compel submission or repeal the act, which was at length reluctantly done. Yet the continued acts of arbitrary oppression enforced by parliament upon the people, such as the passing of laws that those of the colonists charged with capital crimes, should be sent to England to be tried by a jury of strangers, and like odious and unconstitutional enactments had driven the people to despair, and prepared them by degrees for the after startling events that caused all Europe to wonder and England herself to tremble!
The State Street massacre, the celebrated tea scene, in which the indignant inhabitants of Boston discharged three hundred and fifty chests of tea into the water of the bay, the thousand petty acts of tyranny practised by the soldiers of the crown; the Boston Port Bill blockading the harbor of Boston, all followed in quick succession, each being but the stepping stone to the great events to follow. These were the scenes at Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill, and the many well-contested and bloody fields of the Revolution, until these United States of America were acknowledged to be free and independent!
The bold and adventurous characters of the men were affected as well by the times we have described, as by the hardy nature of their employment. The dangers that often times surrounded the homes of the females, gave rise to a stern and manly disposition even in those of the gentler sex who formed a part of the community, and altogether it was made up of stern and dauntless spirits. There was at the commencement of our tale about the year 1773, two families who occupied one spacious and comfortable cottage in the little neighborhood we have described. These were the families of Henry Campbell, and William Lovell, both fishermen, who sailed a staunch fishing craft together. Their families consisted of their wives and an only child each-William and Fanny, and it was the honest hope and promise of the parents that the children when arrived at a proper age should be united to each other. Nor were the betrothed on their part any way loth to such an agreement, for they loved each other with an affection that had grown with their years from earliest childhood. The course of true love seemed certain to run smooth with them at least, the old adage to the contrary notwithstanding.
William had been brought up almost entirely on board his father’s vessel, and he was as good a sailor as experience in this way could make. He was now nineteen, with a firm, vigorous, manly form, and an easy and gentlemanly bearing; his face when one came to be familiar with it, was decidedly handsome; showing forth a spirit that spurned all danger He was young, ardent and imaginative, and could but poorly brook the confinement of his father’s occupation, which engaged much of his time; his generous and ambitious mind aspiring to some higher calling than that of an humble fisherman He was but little on shore, save in the severe winters that come early and stay late in these northern latitudes; but then this season was looked forward to with pleasure by all. The long winter evenings were spent happily with Fanny, as she industriously pursued some female occupation, while he perhaps read aloud some instructive book or interesting tale, or they listened to some story of the old French and Indian war from their parents, who had been participators in their dangers and hardships. Then the subject of the present state of the prospects and interests of the colonies, and the oppression of the home government, were also fully discussed. Thus the time had passed away until William had reached his nineteenth year, when he resolved to make a bold push for fortune, as he said, and after obtaining permission which was reluctantly granted by his parents, he made arrangements to ship from Boston to some foreign clime as a sailor. A distant voyage in those days was an adventure indeed, and comparatively seldom undertaken.
William Lovell had been to Boston and shipped on board a merchant vessel for the West Indies and from thence to some more distant port, and had now returned to the cottage to put up his little bundle of clothes and bid farewell to his old companions and friends, and to say good-bye to his parents and her whom he loved with an affection that found no parallel among those with whom he had associated. It was this very love which had given birth to the ambition that actuated him, and the desire to acquire experience and pecuniary competency.
It was the evening before he was to sail, a mild summers night, when with Fanny he sought the summit of High rock. They seated themselves upon the rough stone seat, hewn from the solid rock by the hand of the red man, or perhaps by some race anterior even to them, and long and silently did both gaze off upon the distant sea. It was very calm, and the gentle waves but just kissed the rocky borders of Valiant and threw up little jets of silver spray about the black mass of Egg Bock. The moon seemed to be embroidering fancy patterns of silver lace upon the blue ocean, which scarcely moved, so gentle were the swells of its broad bosom under the fairy operation. This was some seventy years gone by, years of toil and labor, of joy and sorrow, years of smiling peace and angry war, three score and ten years ago, and yet within a twelve month I have sat upon that rock, aye, upon that very stone, and looked upon the same silvery sea, and viewed the same still, silvery scene; gazing on the same iron-bound shores, and the black and frowning mass of Egg Rock still there, as if placed a sentinel upon the shore, and yet sufficiently within the domain of Neptune to lead to the belief that it serves the hoary old god rather than the spirits of the land.
Fanny Campbell was a noble looking girl. She was none of your modern belles, delicate and ready to faint at the first sight of a reptile; no, Fanny could row a boat, shoot a panther, ride the wildest horse in the province, or do almost any brave and useful act. And Fanny could write poetry too, nay, start not gentle reader, her education was of no mean character. Such slight advantages as chance had thrown in her way had been improved to the utmost, and her parents finding her taste thus inclined, had humoured it to the extent of their limited means. Thus Fanny had received nearly every advantage attainable in those days. Once or twice in the course of the year, she was accustomed to pass some weeks at the house of a Reverend divine at Boston, with whom her father claimed some relationship. While here, the good man discovered her taste and inclination for study, and gave her such instructions as he was able, with the loan of books to amuse and strengthen her mind. By these means Fanny had actually obtained an excellent education at the time when we have introduced her to the reader; being but seventeen years of age. In her turn she had communicated her information to William Lovell and thus the two had possessed themselves of a degree of education and judgment that placed them above their friends in point of intelligence, and caused them to be looked up to in all matters of information, and scholarship.
‘Fanny,’ said William, ‘I shall be far away from you before another day has passed.’
‘Yes, many miles at sea, William’
‘But my heart will remain at home.’
‘And mine will leave it.’
‘In safe keeping, Fanny.’
‘I doubt it not, William.’
‘I find it even harder than I had supposed to leave you Fanny, now that the time has actually arrived.’
‘I do not think that we should regret it William, after all, for it will be the source of much improvement to you no doubt, and that you know is very desirable to us all. While I regret to think you are about to leave us I also envy you the experience you necessarily gain of the world, something that books cannot teach.’
‘You are a strange girl, Fanny.’
‘Do you love me any the less because I speak as I feel? William, I have no secrets from you.’
‘No, no, my dear girl, I only love thee the more, while I am still more surprised at thy brave and noble spirit, at the judgment and thought that characterises one of thy sex and tender years. By my soul thou shouldst have been a man, Fanny.’
‘Had I been, why, I would have done just that which thou art about to do—go abroad and see the world.’
‘And if you had a Fanny too at home whom you loved, would you go and leave her behind?’
‘Yes, because like you I should not know how dearly she loved me—perhaps.’
William pressed her hand and paused thoughtfully for a moment, then turning to her by his side resumed:
‘Would you have me give up this proposed enterprise? Say so, dearest, and I will relinquish it at once.’
‘Generous heart,’ said she placing her braided hands upon his shoulder first, and then laying her cheek upon them, ‘not for worlds. Though thy Fanny is over miserly in all that relates to thee, yet she would rather have thee follow thy inclination. No, no, I would have thee go.’
‘Nay, Fanny, I knew not until now how much I loved thee,’ said William Lovell, putting his arm about her waist and imprinting a kiss upon her smooth white forehead.
Fanny was not easily moved to tears, yet even she now brushed carelessly aside a single pearly drop that stole away from her deep blue eye. (Did you ever notice what depth there is to a blue eye, reader?)
‘You will often remember us here at home I know, William,’ said Fanny, and think how fervently we shall pray for your safe return’ And now the tear’s, apparently gathering fresh courage from the trembling voice of the noble girl, ventured to show themselves more boldly.
‘When I forget thee, dear Fanny, or any of the kind friends I leave behind, may Heaven forsake me.’
It was midnight when they separated, William was an honest and strictly conscientious youth; brought up after the strict code of puritanic faith, and as he was about to retire to rest, he bent his knee to Heaven and prayed long and fervently for blessings upon Fanny, his parents and all, and for guidance in his new undertaking. Then throwing himself upon his cot he was soon fast asleep.
Fanny too sought her chamber for the night but not to sleep, ah! no. She knelt to the throne of grace, and prayed for Heaven’s choicest blessings on him she loved, for his safe conduct upon the wide and trackless ocean. And oh! so fervent a prayer, and from one so devoted, so pure and innocent, must ever find audience in Heaven. As she cast off her neat and becoming homespun dress, she paused to brush away the gathering tears.
Have we described Fanny’s person, kind reader? No! What more fitting time than when clothed only in such a simple and modest covering as shall veil her charms.
Fanny Campbell was in height what would be called tall at the present day for a female, and yet she was not particularly so, for a healthy girl, who had never known a day of sickness, born and brought up in the free and invigorating air of the sea coast. Her limbs and person possessed that bewitching roundness, which, while it seems to indicate a tendency to enbon-point, yet is the farthest removed from an overfleshiness of habit her full heaving breast, her perfectly formed limbs, her round and dimpled arms, all spoke of a voluptuousness of person, and yet within the most delicate rule of beauty. A painter should have seen her there, her person modestly veiled yet displaying her form in most ravishing distinctness; her breast heaving with emotions, and her hands clasped and raised towards Heaven. Her features were after the Grecian school, with a coral lip that melted an anchorite. Where Fanny got those eyes from, Heaven only knows, they rivalled a Circassian’s. Nature seemed to have delighted in ornamenting her with every gift it might bestow. Her teeth were regular and white as pearls, and her hair was a very dark auburn, worn parted smoothly across her brow, and gathered in a modest snood behind the head, while it was easy to see by its very texture that if left to itself, it would have curled naturally.
Such was Fanny Campbell.
There was one matter which weighed heavily upon young Lovell’s mind relative to leaving Fanny and his home. About two months previous to the opening of our tale, a young British officer, Captain of one of the Royal Cutters that lay in Boston harbor, had met with Fanny at her relations in the town, and was at once struck by her extraordinary beauty of person, while he also admired the peculiar tone of her mind, so bold and independant, and yet perfectly tempered by a spirit of modesty. He did not hesitate to show his admiration and while she was in town, he was assiduous in paying her those delicate and gentlemanly attentions, which cannot but prove acceptable to every female, while regulated by a proper sense of delicacy and honorable motives. To say that Fanny was not pleased with the attention of Captain Burnet would be incorrect. He was an intelligent and well educated man, whose taste and manners had been improved by seeing much of the world, and being of an observant character, he had stored much pleasing and useful knowledge, This he knew full well how to employ to advantage. Fanny was at once attracted by his pleasant manner and the fund of information he seemed to possess, and besides all else, she was extremely fond of the sea and all that related to it, while upon this theme Burnet was peculiarly eloquent.
Thus passed several weeks and Fanny became quite familiar with the Captain of the King’s Cutter. There was only one point upon which they materially disagreed, and that was relative to the conduct of the home government and their right to tax and make laws for the colonies. Fanny was eloquent on this point and argued warmly and eloquently for her countrymen, while Burnet who was an American by birth and whose heart was indeed with his native land, was yet obliged to support the side with which he fought. He nevertheless frankly acknowledged to Fanny on more than one occasion that her eloquence had nearly made a ‘rebel’ of him. Fanny at length returned to her home where the Captain had visited her several times: previous to the proposed departure of William Lovell on his voyage to sea, and of which we have so lately spoken.
It was evident to Lovell, that Fanny was pleased with the officer of the king although he knew that her love was his own. He did not revert to this subject at the interview on the rock, though it was near his heart the whole time. Indeed it was a delicate point with him, and one of which he had never spoken seriously to Fanny. He did not doubt her truth, yet he feared, and yet hardly so, that possibly in his absence, the officer might seek to obtain the favor of Fanny, and he feared for no good or honorable purpose. ‘For,’ said he to himself, ‘what can the captain of a king’s ship desire of a poor fisherman’s daughter but to sacrifice her to his own base purposes.’ Yet Lovell had so much confidence in her he loved, that he determined not even to allude to the matter, lest it might imply a suspicion which he would not acknowledge to himself. But he thought of these things nevertheless with some anxiety.
Young Lovell had never happened to meet with Captain Burnet, being absent at sea with his father at such times as he had chosen for his calls at the cottage, and all that he had learned from Fanny herself, who was far too honest and unaffected to conceal anything of such a character from him, but told him of all their intercourse, little suspecting the pain that it caused him. Captain Burnet had never offered her any attention, other than one friend might offer to another, nor had the thought ever entered her mind that he was striving to gain her affections. It appeared to be Burnet’s object to keep up this idea, for he had never made her a call as yet without expressly stating that business had drawn him to the immediate neighborhood of her father’s cottage, and thus the matter stood at the time William Lovell was preparing to leave his home. Burnet’s attention to Fanny Campbell had not caused any remark in the family, and Lovell comforted himself with the query, as he considered this state of the matter. ‘They have seen nothing to remark, why should I worry then?’ But for all his resolves to the contrary, his determination not to let the matter annoy him, as is always the case, he grew more fidgety in point of fact, as his determination of purpose seemed to himself to increase.
THE FAREWELL. THE ROYAL KENT. PIRATES. THE FIGHT. ENLISTING IN A NEW SERVICE. THE HAUNTS OF THE BUCCANIERS. ESCAPE FROM ONE PRISON AND CONFINEMENT IN ANOTHER. BURNET AND FANNY CAMPBELL. ARRIVAL OF AN IMPORTANT MESSENGER. MYSTERY. A PROPOSITION. A NEW FRIEND AND A NEW CHARACTER. A CAPTAIN’S SPEECH. WHO WAS THE MASTER.
Early on the morning subsequent to the meeting on the Rock, William Lovell rose from his bed with the first grey of morning light, and stealing gently to Fanny’s apartment he knocked at her door; there was no response; he knocked again, still there was no reply. The poor girl had wept away nearly the whole night, and now nature had asserted her supremacy, and her weary form was wrapped in slumber. Lovell opened the door and quietly sought her bedside. There lay Fanny, a single tear trembling beneath each eye-lid; one dimpled arm bare to the shoulder lay across her partially exposed breast, while on the other her head rested in unconsciousness. A beautiful picture of innocence and purity was Fanny Campbell as she lay thus sleeping.
‘Thou hast wept thyself to sleep, poor Fanny,’ said Lovell, putting his arm affectionately about her neck, and gently kissing her ruby lips. He pressed them again, and this time, see? the dreamer puts her own arm about his neck, and the kiss was returned! but still she slept. He breathed a prayer, a silent, fervent prayer for her weal, then gently disengaging himself from her embrace, he said, as he looked lovingly upon her, ‘it were better to part thus, I will not wake her,’ and kissing her lips once more, Lovell left her sleeping still as he had found her.
He took leave of his parents, shook the hands of a few early risers among his friends, and started for Boston, from whence he was to sail at noon of that day on his first voyage to sea. The setting sun of that day shone upon the white sails of the vessel that bore him to sea many leagues from land. Lovell, whose life had been passed much upon the water, though not far from home, fell easily into the duty required of him, and proved himself to be an efficient and able seaman. Day after day the ship stood on her southern course until she was within the mild and salubrious climate of the West Indies, the great American Archipelago.—In those days and even for many years subsequent to that date, those seas were infested by bands of reckless freebooters or pirates, who committed depredations upon the marine of every nation with which they met; they were literally no respecters of persons. The men who commanded these bands of rovers of most fickle fancy, sometimes sailed under the white lily of France, the crescents of Turkey, the blazoned and gorgeous flag of Spain, or even the banner of the Church, bearing the Keys of Heaven, but mostly under the blood red flag, that denoted their character, and told their antagonists with whom they had to deal.
The good ship Royal Kent had now entered the milder latitudes, and was within a day’s sail of Port-au-Plat, when a suspicious craft hove in sight and immediately gave chase. The Kent had a crew of about a dozen men before the mast, with two or three officers; but they were poorly supplied with the means of defence, against any regular attack made by an armed vessel. Nevertheless, the two six pound cannonades were cleared away from rubbish amidships, and loaded for service; the guns too, some six or eight in number, were all double loaded, and the officers had each a brace of pistols, besides which their were enough cutlasses on board to supply each man with one.
With this little armament they determined to sell their lives dearly, if necessary, and the stranger should prove to be, that which they had every reason to suppose him, a pirate.
The stranger now neared them fast, and all doubt as to his character was soon dispelled, as a blood red flag was sent up to the mast head, and a gun fired for the Kent to heave too. This the captain had no intention of doing, and immediately after the Buccanier, for so he proved to be, began to fire upon them. The shots fell fast and thick among the small crew of the Kent, who having returned them with interest from their six pounders, which being better aimed, did fearful execution on the crowded deck of the freebooter. The object of the pirate captain was evidently to board the Kent, when his superiority of numbers must immediately decide the contest in his favor. This was ingeniously avoided by the captain of the Kent for some time, his little armament all the while doing bloody execution among his enemies.
At last, however, the grapnels were thrown, and the pirate captain boarded the Kent, followed by half his crew of cutthroats, and decided the contest hand to hand. The American crew fought to the last, notwithstanding the hopeless character of the contest, for they knew full well that they had better fall in battle than to be subjected to the almost certain cruel death that would await them if they should fail into the hands of the Bucaniers alive.
Thus, although overpowered and borne down by numbers, the captain of the Kent had already shot the pirate chief through the brain and another of the enemy with his remaining pistol, while his cutlass had drank the heart’s blood of more than one, before he felt himself, pierced with many a fatal wound; and thus had each of the crew fought until only three remained, who had shown equally fatal battle with the rest, but were now disarmed and lay bound and bleeding upon the deck. One of them was William Lovell. He lay bleeding, as we have said, from many wounds, with his two comrades, the ship being now completely in the hands of the Bucaniers. The Kent proved but a poor prize for the freebooters, though she had cost them so dearly. After taking such valuables out of her as they chose, they scuttled her, and she sunk where she lay.
Young Lovell and his comrades were taken on board the piratical vessel, and after a consultation among its leaders were told that their lives would be spared them if they would join the now short handed crew—The Bucaniers were induced to make this proposition partly because the prisoners had proved themselves to be brave men, and partly because of their own weakness, after the fierce and sanguinary encounter they had just experienced, the crew of the Kent having actually killed nearly twice their own number, leaving but about fifteen men alive of the pirate crew. The love of life is strong within us all, and Lovell and his companions agreed to the terms offered them, determining to seek an early occasion to escape from the vessel, yet for many months were they the witnesses of scenes of blood-shed and wickedness which they had not the least power to avert.
The West Indian seas since the times of the earliest navigators have ever been the resort of Bucaniers and reckless bands of freebooters, and even to this day, notwithstanding the strong fleet of national vessels kept upon the stations by the American and English governments, there are still organized bands of these desperadoes now existing, engaged in the ostensible occupation of fishermen, but only awaiting a favorable opportunity to resume their old calling. It is rumored on very good authority, that there now lies much wealth buried upon the Tortagos, an island renowned in the early history of the new world, and celebrated as being in former days the rendezvous of the bold rovers who frequented the West Indies in those days. After capturing their prey in the neighboring seas, the Bucaniers returned to their favorite haunt, and there buried their surplus treasures, then departing again upon their dangerous and bloody expeditions many must necessarily have perished. No one knew where his companion’s treasure was buried, consequently it may still remain hidden in its concealment, the spot known only to the spirit of the departed Bucanier.
Tortagos is entirely uninhabited and separated from Hayti only by a ship’s channel of about a league in width, and to which it belongs. The laws have long forbidden its settlement, but for what reason we are not informed. Here lay the bones of the rovers who used to rendezvous in the island, side by side with their blood-bought and useless wealth. No public search has ever been made for the hidden booty, and why may we not look for some valuable disclosure in course of time?
The vessel in which Lovell and his two companions had been forced to enlist, was cruising in search of a prey with which they might cope, with a prospect of success and booty, just off the island of Cuba, one fine clear night, when it was determined by Lovell and his friends to attempt to make their escape to the land. In the middle watch which chanced to fall to the share of these three whom the pirate crew had learned to trust implicitly, believing them to be content with their situation, they put the vessel before the wind, and lashing the helm amidship, took a small boat with a few articles of personal property only, and stole away quietly from their floating prison, and after many hardships landed at Havana. Hardly had the three made their appearance here before they were thrown into prison on suspicion, to await their trial for piracy. They were strangers to the language spoken on the island, had no friends there to intercede in their behalf, and indeed matters looked gloomy enough; nor had they much doubt in their own minds that they should be convicted of the charge brought against them. The day on which they were shut up within the cold, damp, and cheerless wails of the prison, was just one year subsequent to that of their leaving Boston harbor, in the good ship Royal Kent. Again and again did they regret that they had not fallen upon the deck of their own ship rather than thus to be murdered by the Spaniards under the charge of piracy upon the sea.
In this harrowing state of suspense, Lovell, with Jack Herbert and Henry Breed, his comrades in captivity, remained for nearly six months before they were summoned for their trial, and then no sufficient evidence appearing against them, they were further remanded to prison. This was in a time of war and contention, and dangers of every kind lurked about the islands and harbors of the West Indies, and in the crowd of other matters the poor prisoners and their case was entirely forgotten. Thus they were likely to remain perhaps for years, in a confinement scarcely more desirable than death itself, save that there still remained a single gleam of hope within their breasts that they might some day be freed. Ah! bright and heaven born Hope, thou art the solace of many an aching heart, and the supporter of many a weary and almost-disconsolate spirit.
While incarcerated in this living tomb, young Lovell’s mind would often revert to the captain of the King’s cutter, whom he knew to be familiar with Fanny, and who had caused him no small degree of unhappiness on his leaving his now far off home. ‘He will have ample time and opportunity to supplant me,’ said Lovell to himself, ‘for Fanny may believe me dead, and thus be induced to give way to his importunities.—Heaven protect her,’ thought Lovell to himself. ‘His motives I fear cannot possibly be of an honorable character.’
While Lovell was thus prompted by his feelings in a prison far away, the drama was still going on at home, and in the family of the Campbells. Captain Burnett was now more frequent in his visits to the High Rock Hamlet, and Fanny still received him on the same kind terms as ever, and they were still good friends. If the officer of the crown did sometimes attempt to talk of love, she would silence him with a look of reproach, or some playful rejoinder, which was ever successful, and thus she kept him as he termed it to one of his confidential messmates in the fleet, constantly in suspense.’
‘Hang it,’ said he on the occasion alluded to, and to his comrade, ‘I would do anything for the girl, even to giving up my commission, for I believe she has really got my heart, if I have any—I never knew I had before, that’s certain.’
‘You would have to turn rebel to get her, Burnet,’ said his friend; ‘if she be so strong a one as you have always told me.’
‘I’ll tell thee between ourselves,’ said Burnet in reply, ‘if I thought I could get the girl’s heart thereby, I would join the continentals to-morrow, and furthermore, I must say that it is the only inducement that could be offered me to do so, though I believe them more than half in the right.’
‘You are serious, Burnet?’
‘Serious, upon my honor.’
‘To what length will the little god carry us in his blind service,’ said his friend. ‘I give you up entirely Burnet. It’s a clear case.’
‘To which I plead guilty.’
The attention of Captain Burnet at the cottage and to Fanny, had become so marked and decided that the gossips of the community—a class of people who know everything, and especially more of other people’s affairs than their own—had fully engaged him to Fanny, and made her give up William Lovell unconditionally.
Nearly two years had passed since the first imprisonment of Lovell and his companions, when by a happy chance Jack Herbert succeeded in making his escape on board of a vessel bound for Boston, and at length reached his home in safety. He was charged with a message to Lovell’s parents, and Fanny, should he ever reach home, and this he took an early opportunity to deliver.
William Lovell’s family and friends had long mourned him as lost, not having heard one word concerning him since his departure, or of the vessel in which he had sailed. But Fanny would not give up all hope, and insisted that they should hear from him at last, and now that they had done so, and knew him to be pining in a Spanish prison, still they were grateful that his life was spared, and were led to hope for his eventual release and return.
‘And how do these Spaniards treat him?’ asked Fanny with a trembling voice, yet flashing eye, of the messenger, Jack Herbert.
‘Rough enough, Miss.’
‘Has he sufficient food?’
‘They used to bring us grub once a day,’ was the answer.
‘But once a day?’
‘That’s all, Miss.’
‘And what did it consist of?’ asked Fanny.
‘The very coarsest, you may be assured, Miss.’
A tear stole into Fanny’s eye, as she thought upon the suffering that William was then experiencing in a foreign prison.
‘At Havana, in the island of Cuba,’ said Fanny, musingly to herself; ‘can you describe the port, my friend?’
‘Why it’s a sunny little basin, not so very small neither, and quite land-locked and guarded by the castle and its entrance, tho’ for the matter of that, the castle is’nt always manned—at any rate ’twas’nt the night we went in with the tag-boat. It’s a pocket of a place, Miss, large enough to hold a thousand sail and yet not more than one can work in or out at a time. It’s in the hands of the Spaniard now, from whom the English took it awhile ago, but have given it back again. Altogether it’s a fine harbor, as far as that goes, why, Miss?’
‘Oh, I was curious about it.’
‘It did’nt bless our eyes very often, I can tell you, Miss. We all saw it once, when we were rode out in a great cart hauled by jackasses to the court of the Governor General, the old tyrant!’ and here honest Jack Herbert made divers passes with his clenched fist in the air as though he was pummelling the identical functionary in question, just about the ribs and eyes.
‘In close confinement all the time,’ said Fanny thoughtfully, and more to herself than to her companion, or for the purpose of eliciting an answer.
‘Close enough, lady, being’s we never went out, saving the time I have just told you of in the jackass team,’ said Herbert, pausing out of breath at the exertion of thrashing the Governor General in imagination.
‘Did you inform yourself concerning the localities of the neighborhood,’ asked Fanny, still half musing to herself.
‘Why, yes, Miss, a little when I got out.’
‘And the prison—is that well guarded?’
‘Only by the jailor, a rough, gray old Spaniard, and three or four soldiers at the different angles of the walls.’
‘Look ye, good Herbert, would you join an expedition for the release of your old comrades?’ asked Fanny, with animation.
‘Would’nt I? perhaps I hav’nt suffered with them, and don’t know what it is to be cooped up in a damp, stone prison, with just enough food to keep you alive, and make you long for more; join? yes, to-morrow, Miss.’
‘Where do you live in the town?’
‘Just at the foot of Copp’s Hill.’
‘Could one find you there if need be?’
‘Ay, Miss, at most any hour’.’
‘Well, good Herbert, you may soon meet with one who will engage with you in an enterprise that may gain you not only a name, but a fortune also. Will you be prepared?’
‘That I will—a fortune?’
‘Aye, and fame to boot’
‘That would be good news.’
‘Say nothing of this to any one.’
‘Oh, I’m mum, Miss, if you wish.’
The evening following that of the reception of the news brought by Jack Herbert, Burnet made one of his frequent calls at the hamlet, and heard from Fanny the whole story of Lovell’s capture and imprisonment. He affected to look upon Lovell much in the light of a brother of Fanny’s. Knowing her to have been brought up with him, and that they had played together in childhood, he had always shrewdly avoided speaking in any way against him, of whom indeed he could say nothing disparaging, having never seen him, and only knowing him through Fanny, who often alluded to him in connection with her remembrances of her childhood and past life. Captain Burnet saw full well that Fanny’s interest in Lovell was of no slight character, and he took his course in the matter accordingly. His policy was evidently to win her affection by constant and unremitting attention, and to accomplish this he left no means untried. To her parents he was liberal and generous, without being sufficiently prodigal to create displeasure, every act being tempered by good taste and discreet judgment.
He patiently followed every whim of Fanny’s fancy, and occupied his time when with her in such employment as he knew would best suit her taste, and in short attacked her at the only vulnerable point, if there was any, which was to render himself pleasing and gradually necessary to her enjoyment, by the amusement he strove to afford her upon every topic, and the instructive character of his general conversation. He saw in Fanny a love for acquiring knowledge on every subject, and he particularly favored it by every means in his power, and actually came to love her warmly by this very intercourse, whose beauty of person alone had first attracted his attention. Two years thus passed, in which Burnet had been a frequent visitor at the cottage, which rendered him by no means an object of indifference to Fanny, who, however, had often told him that she regarded him only as a brother. So far from being discouraged by this, Burnet, who loved most ardently, even thought it a point gained in his favor, and pursued his object with renewed hope. He was forced to acknowledge to his own heart that he loved her irrevocably, and that without her he could never be happy.
He listened, as we have said, to Fanny’s relation of the story of Lovell’s imprisonment, and he soon found that she was more interested in the result of the affair than he could have wished, or perhaps even expected. She talked long and earnestly with him relative to the matter, frankly asking his advice and assistance in the affair. He professed that he could refuse her nothing, and a deeply interesting conversation took place, the purport of which may be revealed in a subsequent chapter. That night Captain Burnet did not depart from the little parlor of the cottage and from Fanny, until long after his usual hour, as was remarked by Mr. and Mrs. Campbell to each other.
About a week dating from the occasion just alluded to, a man dressed in the garb of a common sailor knocked at the door of old widow Herbert’s house, at the foot of Copp’s Hill, ‘North End.’ A neatly dressed woman of some sixty years of age opened the door. She was still hale and hearty notwithstanding three score years had passed over her head. The refinements of civilization had never marred her health or vigorous constitution, for she had never resorted to those means of shortening life practised in these more advanced periods of refinement. No cramping and painful corsets had ever disfigured her fine natural form, nor had her feet even been squeezed into a compass far too small for their size, in order to render them of delicate proportions. No, no the good old practices of the Bay Province seventy and eighty years ago, were productive of hale and hearty old age, long lives, and useful ones, with health to enjoy life’s blessings.
‘I would see your son, my good woman,’ said the stranger to dame Herbert as she appeared at the door.
‘Jack, my boy,’ said the old lady, ‘here’s a friend who would speak to thee, come hither I say, Jack.’
‘Ay, ay, mother.’
The son was making his noonday meal, but he soon answered the call and made his appearance at the door.
‘Your name is Jack Herbert?’ put the stranger inquiringly.
‘That’s it, your honor,’ said Jack, for there was that about the cut of the stranger’s jib, that told him he was something more than a foremast hand, perhaps a captain or a naval officer. None are more ready to pay due deference to rank than Jack-tar, for he is made most to feel its power.
‘I understand,’ said the stranger,’ that you have expressed a willingness to join an enterprise to free a couple of your old messmates from a Spanish prison. Is this the case, my honest fellow?’
‘Aye your honor, I did say as much as that to Bill Lovell’s girl down there at the High Rock fishing hamlet.’
‘Well, I come by her direction—and now do you hold still to your first declaration to her?’
‘That do I, your honor.’
‘Then come with me.’
And Jack followed the stranger to the summit of the hill which commanded a good view of the harbor, indeed its base, which was surrounded by straggling tenements, terminated in the bay itself.
‘Do you see that brig just below us here?’ asked the stranger, pointing to a well appointed vessel of that rig not far from the shore.
‘Ay, ay, sir, she sails to-morrow.’
‘If she gets two more hands.’
‘So I have heard, sir.’
‘Will you ship?’
‘With good wages and proper treatment?’ continued the stranger.
‘Why, she’s bound into those infernal Buccanier latitudes d’ye see,’ said Jack Herbert, ‘and I don’t care about going there again unless with a good stout crew and plenty of armament.’
‘You are prevented by fear then,’ said the stranger tauntingly.
‘Why, not exactly, your honor, but you see it’s a wanton tempting of providence to leap straight into a shark’s mouth.’
‘Look ye, my good fellow—I’m about to join that craft as her second mate. I’m bound for Cuba, so is that brig. She’s going on her own business, I’m going on mine, which is to aid your old comrades to escape from prison. So far as she goes my way I go hers, and between ourselves, no further. Now if you will trust to me I think we can manage to accomplish this object. How do you like the plan?’
‘I don’t mind shipping in her for such a purpose,’ said Jack Herbert, ‘only she’s got such a cursed bad captain. King George never had a more faithful representative of his own black character than the English captain of that brig yonder. ‘I know it,’ said Jack confidently; why, do ye see they’ve been trying to get me on board there these ten days.’
‘But, my good fellow, I shall be one of your officers, and shall look after your comfort—come, think better of this, you’ll ship, eh?’
After some considerable hesitation, Jack replied: ‘In this case I must, for damme, if I can bear to think of what those honest fellows are suffering off there in Cuba.’
‘There’s my hand, my honest fellow,’ said the stranger. ‘I will go and enter your name on the shipping list, and meet you again to-night, when I will have a more explicit conversation with you and tell you more of my proposed course of conduct for the coming voyage.’
The stranger, whoever he was, had Fanny’s interest near at heart, and had evidently made himself master of the relation of each to the other, as well as the whole matter of young Lovell’s confinement in prison.
Soon after the stranger left Jack Herbert, on his way to the shore, he was passing along one of the narrow and crooked lanes of the North End, as that part of the town was then called, and as it is known to this day, when he heard the groans of some one in distress. He sought the door of a low and poorly built house, from whence the sounds issued, and entering, he found a poor woman suffering from severe sickness, lying there upon a bed of straw. By her side sat a man of about twenty-five years of age, offering her such little comforts and attentions as were in his power.
The room was desolate, and the stranger could see that want and poverty dwelt there. He asked the man what he could do to serve them, and whether he could not procure something for the sufferer, who was moaning most piteously.
‘Arrah, she’s past the nade of it now,’ said the man.
‘Go and get a physician,’ said the gentleman.
‘Get a Doctor is it? And who’ll pay.’
‘I’ll see to that, go quick.’
‘You’ll pay, will ye?’
‘Certainly, be quick I say.’
The physician came at once, but informed them that the woman could not live but a few hours at most, and after prescribing a gentle anodyne he retired.
The stranger paid the Doctor his fee, and after giving some money to the man and bidding him procure whatever should be necessary for his mother, he was just about to leave the miserable apartment when the man said:
‘Hiven bless yees for a jintleman as ye is. Where might I be afther finding ye when I could pay yer back ye know?’
‘Never mind that, my good fellow, at all, it is of no consequence. I’ll call in and see you in the morning.’
‘So do, yer honor, and long life to all such as yees.’
Leaving the poor Irishman in the midst of his grateful acknowledgements, the stranger approached the shore, and making a signal with his hat, a boat was despatched from the brig to carry him on board. He was a noble looking young sailor, and his manner and bearing bespoke a degree of refinement not usual in one of his class. He was of ordinary height, well formed in every limb, and he looked as if his experience as a seaman must have been gained in the navy, for while his countenance wore the browned hue which exposure to the elements always imparts, yet was he one who evidently had never labored before the mast. He was young, certainly not much over twenty years of age, but there was a look of authority about the mild yet determined expression of his countenance, that told of more matured experience.
He was dressed in blue sailor’s pants, and a short Pea Jacket descending about half way to the knee, within the lining of which a close observer might have seen a brace of pistols and the silver haft of a knife, so designed as to cut at both sides while it was bent like the Turkish hanger. As he waved his tarpaulin hat for a signal to the brig, the night breeze played with his short, curly hair, throwing it in dainty curls about his forehead, which, protected by the hat so constantly worn by the seaman, was white as alabaster, and showed in singular contrast with the browned cheek and open neck.—Altogether you would have pronounced him a king’s officer in disguise.
The boat received him, and he was soon on board the brig.
‘Well, Mr. Channing,’ said the captain of the vessel, who met him as soon as he arrived on board, ‘have you engaged the man whom you promised to get for me yesterday?’
‘When will he join us? we sail with the morning tide you know.’
‘He will be on board to-morrow morning in good season, sir.’
‘Don’t let him fail, sir, for it will completely man us into our single hand, Mr. Channing. It does seem a pity to sail without the full complement when we have so nearly got it.’
‘I’ll see this man again to-night sir, and make sure of him.’
‘That will be well, sir,’ replied the Captain.
This conversation was held on the quarter deck of the brig Constance which was of about four hundred tons burthen, and a most beautiful specimen of the naval architecture of the day. She was bound ostensibly to the West Indies, but the plan was (as Mr. Channing told Jack Herbert that night) that after touching there she was to proceed to England.
She was well armed carrying a long tom amidships, and half a dozen six pounders, and a crew when her complement was complete, of twenty men before the mast. She was designed as a strong armed trader, and having letters of marque, she was expected to take any vessel belonging to the enemies of England (under whose flag she sailed) provided she was strong enough. Her commander was a tyrant in his disposition and much addicted to the intemperate use of spirituous liquors.
His first mate was a weak, imbecile young man, put on board originally as a sort of supercargo, by the owners, being a son of the principle share holder. The third officer was Mr. Channing whom we have introduced to the reader, and who appeared to be the only person on board worthy of trust as an officer. The captain trusted almost entirely to his first mate who was also inclined to throw all responsibility upon his second, as we shall have occasion to see.
The next morning Mr. Charming called on the poor Irishman as he had promised to do. He learned that the poor woman his mother, had expired during the night, and he found her son with his face buried in his hands, the very picture of honest grief.
‘I condole with you my good man,’ said Channing, ‘but you should remember that your mother has gone to a better world, where she will know no more want, no pain nor hunger—”where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.”‘
‘Do you belave that?’ asked Terrance Mooney.
‘Most certainly, the humblest of God’s creatures is his especial care, and he will gather all his children home in due time,’ said the mate of the brig to the weeping son of the deceased.
‘And no purgatory nather.’
‘If there be any purgatory, my good man, it is here on this earth where there is so much sin and consequent misery.’
‘Arrah, that’s consoulin to be sure if its all true, but the praist tells a mighty dale about that place.’
‘If he would preach more about the love and kindness of our heavenly father, and less of these imaginary places, he would serve the cause of his maker much more faithfully, and lead more sinners to repentance,’ said Channing.
‘Would’nt I be happy if I thought the ould lady had gone to Paradise to live wid the saints?’ said Terrence.
‘Believe me, my good fellow, she’s safe in the hands of the wisdom and power that made her.’
‘That’s consoling to be sure, but here am I, Terrence Moony, wid no mother at all, sure what’s to become of me?’
The thought struck Channing that it wanted yet one man to complete the complement of the brig.
‘How would you like to go to sea with me for good wages and comfortable living, hey Terrence?’ asked the mate.
‘Why there’s nothing to kape me here to be sure, but to see the ould woman dacently buried. When does your honor go to sea, if you plase?’
‘Right away is it?’
‘With the ebb tide.’
‘Arrah, that’s soon enough to be sure, could I get my friends to dacently bury her now, but thin I hav’nt the money.’
‘Here’s a few dollars if that will do it,’ said Channing handling Terrence some money for the purpose.
‘Do it, is it? won’t they have a “wake” out of it, and I’ll be far away at the same time they’ll be ating at it.’
‘Well, you must make haste, my man.’
‘Ye’s all ginerosoty, yer honer. I’ll jist fix it all, and thin I’ll follow yees to the end of the earth.’
And Terrence Mooney did arrange for the funeral of his mother, and after a few bitter expressions at parting from her body, he went on board the brig, when he shipped for the voyage to the West Indies.
Mr. Channing and Jack Herbert were on board in due season, and with the morning tide the brig hoisted her anchor, and spreading her white wings, stood out to sea. The bright sun shone gloriously upon the green islands that dotted the harbor in every direction, they were much larger then than now, and indeed one or two small ones have disappeared entirely. Seventy years of swift running tides have greatly reduced them in point of size, but not in beauty, for they still give a picturesque loveliness to the Bay that a painter’s taste could not improve. St. George’s flag floated from the topmasts of a dozen men of war, which lay at anchor in the harbor, and floated from a number of lofty points in the town. Scarcely had this scene disappeared from the eyes of the crew, when they were summoned aft by the captain, where he made them the following brief and very pertinent speech, it was characteristic of the man.
‘My men, when I’m obeyed quick and well I’m a pretty clever sort of a man, but when I’m thwarted, why then I’m h———I! so look out. I’m captain here, and will be obeyed to the very letter. You’ll know me fast enough when any of you cross me.—There, that will do—now go forward.’
‘Divilish little Christian is there about him,’ said Terrence Mooney to his comrades, ‘and is it bastes that we are entirely?’
The sailers did go forward, but they muttered among themselves that they knew full well what sort of a man the captain was, one of the devil’s own begetting, and the poor fellows made up their minds to plenty of blows, and little duff.’ The captain soon disappeared below, and in an hour or so afterwards was half intoxicated and asleep.
The first mate for some days attended promptly to duty, but he soon began to ‘shirk,’ and the general direction and sailing of the brig as a matter of course fell upon Channing, the next in command.—This none regretted, for although his orders were given in a prompt and decided tone, and implicit obedience was exacted, yet was his voice musical and kind, and his orders were almost anticipated by the promptitude of the willing crew, who soon came to love him for the generous consideration he evinced for their good and that of the vessel.
A little incident occurred on board of the brig, when eight days from port, which showed who really commanded the crew of the Constance. The captain passed the most of his time in the cabin, smoking, drinking, and dozing away the time, and thus kept but a slack look out upon the men, notwithstanding his boast at the outset.—One afternoon when a pretty stiff breeze was blowing from the North West, the mate lay sleeping in his state room leaving the sailing of the brig to his second, while the captain was occupied much the same as usual. After a while the mate awoke and came upon deck. Wishing to make up for his manifest negligence by some appearance of care at least, as he came up on deck he cast his eye aloft, and ordered a reef out of the fore and main topsails.
The crew looked at one another in astonishment, for it was evident to the poorest sailor on board that so far from its being proper to put the brig under any more sail, it would have been more prudent to have furled the canvass in question altogether.—The wind had blown fresh all day, and now as the afternoon advanced, the night breeze began to add its power to the wind that had blown through the day, until the brig under the two sails mentioned, and those close reefed, leaped over the waves with the speed of a racer. The mate repeated his order a second time, but there was no response from the crew, who slunk away in various directions with sullen countenances.
‘Mr. Channing,’ said the mate, ‘these men are absolutely mutinous, sir.’
‘I see it, Mr. Bunning.’
‘What’s to be done, sir?’
‘Do you still think it proper to make that sail?’
‘It was the order, sir.’
‘Forward there,’ said Channing in a tone of voice pitched perhaps a key lower than was his natural voice, ‘lay aloft and shake out the reefs from the fore and main topsails, cheerily men, away there, with a will, I say.’
The order had scarcely left the mouth of the second mate before the agile forms of a score of men sprang lightly up the shrouds to obey the mandate.
‘How is it the men obey you and not me, Mr. Channing?’
‘Mr. Banning, it is blowing pretty fresh as you must see,’ was the reply, and perhaps it is rather crowding the brig to make this new sail just now, but if you think it proper, the men must do it, sir.’
‘Well, put her under what canvass you like,’ said the mate to Channing as he left the deck, not a little mortified at the scene that had just taken place.
Channing rather pitied than blamed his fellow officer, and therefore was determined at any rate that his order should be obeyed; besides, he was not a person to relax the reins of discipline although much loved by the crew. He saw the impropriety of putting the brig under more sail as well as the crew, but it was not for him or them to judge in such a matter when there was a superior officer on deck. The error was soon remedied by the good judgment of Channing, and the beautiful vessel buffeting the waves still sprang on her course in safety, under the care of a higher power than any on board, bending gracefully under the influence of the freshening breeze.
THE RUSE OF THE CAPTAIN, MUTINY! A NEW COMMANDER. ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION. A FATAL AND BLOODY SCENE. SAIL HO! AN ENEMY. THE PINE TREE FLAG. THE SEA FIGHT AND THE VICTORY.
All the crew of the brig Constance, save the captain, first mate and cook, were Americans, if we except Terrence Mooney who was one at heart, and the captain had managed to have this the case in order that he might take them home to England and receive the bounty money upon each one who would be immediately pressed into the British Navy. He had arrived at Boston but a few weeks previous to his sailing upon the present voyage with a crew of his own countrymen, upon whom he had also played the same trick, by delivering them over to the King’s ship that floated in Boston harbor, It was a hard fate to most of them who would as willingly have been immured in the walls of a prison. They told as a matter of consolation that they would not have to serve but about three years! And this, to men who had left families at home, to whom they had expected to return in a few weeks. It is a foul deed to impress a man into any duty, and foul must be the service that requires the exercise of such deeds.
The captain of the Constance was enabled to obtain a sufficient number of Americans to man his craft, by offering very high wages, and under the pretence of making a voyage to the West Indies only and back, for they knew not of his treachery to his former crew. The plan of the captain in the present case was, after reaching his port in those latitudes, to pretend to have ascertained that which rendered it absolutely necessary for him to proceed immediately to England, intending to pacify the crew by the promise of immediate return and increase of pay. This piece of treachery the captain thought was known only to himself and his first mate, but he was mistaken for Channing had announced to Jack Herbert as the reader will remember, the destination of the brig, on the evening previous to their sailing from Boston. Thus it was evident that Channing fully understood the proposed treachery and that he designed to turn it to good advantage, or else he would not have shipped on board knowing that which he did.
The North American Colonies were then at war with the mother country, the brig was a British brig, and Channing was an American. His heart beat warmly for the cause of his country, he looked about him, there were twenty men, all save one, his fellow countrymen, about to be betrayed into the hands of their enemies. His mind was determined, and he said within himself this shall not be! He had fortunately overheard the captain and the first mate congratulating themselves on having so nearly obtained their full complement of men on the day previous to the enlistment of Herbert, and thus had he become master of their secret purpose of treachery.
Already had the brig changed the chill northern blasts for the sunny breezes of the South, and she was, according to the reckoning of Channing, about a day’s sail from Cuba, when he determined that the good brig Constance should change hands, and from a British, become an American craft. It was a bold undertaking; the two greatest sins that a sailor is taught to dread, Mutiny and piracy, were staring him full in the face. He did not design to implicate a single member of the crew in the transaction, but resolved to make the attempt to gain possession of the vessel, alone and unassisted. He had two reasons for this: first, he was too good a disciplinarian to tamper with those below him, and he foresaw that if he should once become familiar with them in a matter of conspiracy, he could no longer command their respect. Then again he felt that he had no right to draw them into the danger incurred, and that it would be far more noble in him to accomplish that which was to be done with his own hands—after that, if he proved successful, those could join him who felt disposed. Early one morning, Channing went down into the captain’s cabin, whom he found just rising from his bed. Stepping to the table he possessed himself of the brace of pistols that lay upon it, and also the cutlass that hung from the wall; then turning to the captain who was hardly yet awake, he said: ‘Captain Brownless, you are my prisoner!’
‘Sir?’ said the astonished commander. ‘You are my prisoner!’ repeated Channing. ‘Mutiny?’ enquiringly put the captain, a dark scowl gathering like a cloud over his bloated, bacchanalian countenance. ‘Yes, mutiny if you please.’
‘By Heaven, but we will fight for it,’ said Captain Brownless, who was a man of some bravery—brave as the animal or wild beast is brave in defending its own, not nobly so.
‘Stay, sir,’ said Channing, coolly cocking a pistol and presenting it at the captain’s breast. ‘If you attempt to leave this cabin, you are a dead man!’
The captain sank down upon a chair in despair. ‘Be peaceable, sir,’ said Channing, ‘and I will pledge myself that no harm shall befall you personally; but seek to make even a breath of noise, or resistance, and you shall be sent into eternity with all your sins upon your head.’
Channing then proceeded to the cabin of the second officer, but not until he had locked the captain securely in his own apartment.
‘Banning, I regret to say you are my prisoner,’ said Channing to the mate, after securing his arms as he had done the captain’s.
‘Hey? what, mutiny?’ ejaculated the terrified man. ‘Yes, Banning, and piracy if you will.’
‘Oh! spare my life,’ said the trembling coward. ‘No danger, sir, if you remain quiet.’
‘Oh, I’ll do nothing,’ continued the mate. ‘Show your obedience by being quiet now.’
Channing then locked Banning in his state-room, and ascended to the deck. He had left Jack Herbert at the helm and in charge of the ship; he now sent him forward to order the crew aft to where he stood, as he wished to speak with them.
‘Well my boys,’ commenced Channing addressing the crew,
‘I have got some news for you. The captain is disarmed and locked in his cabin as my prisoner; so is Mr. Banning, the mate.
I have done this because I’m determined to have possession of this brig myself. She’s a British brig, you are all, or nearly so, Americans; I am also an American, and this brig must belong to Americans. I am alone responsible for what has been done. You are now without a captain. How many of you will ship under me?’
‘All—all,’ was the response from every quarter.
‘Thanks to you, my men. I shall leave it to Mr. Herbert—mark me, it is Mr. Herbert in future—to tell you of the treachery that it was proposed to play off upon you. He will also be my second in command, and you will obey him as you would do and have ever done me. I shall alter the course of the brig and stand for St. Domingo, where I shall land the captain and mate, and those of you who do not feel inclined to join me. Then I am bound on an expedition to free a couple of Americans from a Spanish prison. After that, why, we will see what next—perhaps a few prizes or something of that sort.’
Jack Herbert had already told the men of his confinement and escape from prison at Havana, and of the present confinement of Lovell and his comrade there, and when they heard their new captain express his determination to release them if the thing was possible, they joined unanimously and heartily in the enterprise.
‘Hurrah, hurrah,’ said they altogether, it being the only way in which they could express their satisfaction.
‘Now mark me, men,’ said Channing, ‘I think you all know me without my giving you such a speech as we had on leaving Boston harbor. I am captain, that you all acknowledge, and that I am one who will be obeyed, I believe you all know, as well as that I have the comfort and good of every man of you at heart. These I shall consider as long as we sail together, this I think you are satisfied of—’
‘Three cheers for Captain Channing,’ interrupted the crew at this point, and the brig trembled at the echo of the hearty voices of those old sea-dogs who had now got a commander just to their minds.
‘Enough,’ said Channing raising his hand for silence; ‘now forward to your duty, and let me see you all as zealous in its performance as heretofore.’
‘There’s a captain to live and die by,’ said Terrence Moony.
The brig held on her course, and was now just abreast of the fatal reef of rocks known as the ‘Silver keys’ Their dangerous proximity gave little alarm to those on board the Constance, for they knew nothing of their character, and by good fortune passed them in safety. This well-known reef is now laid down in every chart, but it has proved since that time, the burial place of many a gallant ship and noble crew.
Channing had chosen his officers from the crew, making Jack Herbert his first mate as we have seen; he was fortunate in having those on board who were good practical seamen, and such to as he need not fear to trust. It is now night, and Channing leaving the deck in charge of Herbert, sought the cabin for the purpose of getting a few hours’ sleep. He was very weary, indeed almost tired out, for he allowed himself but little rest, being almost constantly on deck through the whole of the day and much of the night.
The cook, as we have before mentioned, was the only one of the crew besides Terrence Moony, the mate and captain, who were not Americans by birth, and as he had appeared to coincide with the rest in hailing the new captain with demonstrations of joy, he had been permitted to remain in his former station and at liberty. Now although Banning the ex-mate was a coward himself, still he could intrigue and plan for others to execute; and being allowed his liberty by Channing, who considered him as a weak, inoffensive person, he set himself to work to overthrow him if possible. He therefore conspired with the cook, whom he knew to be a reckless, blood-thirsty man, to murder Channing on the first favorable opportunity. The man needed but little urging, and being promised a handsome reward and promotion if he succeeded, he undertook to accomplish the foul deed.
Captain Brownless had also been allowed his liberty in the vessel with certain restrictions, by reason of the unanimous feeling of the crew against him, for his former course of treatment towards them. Although Banning might have found a ready tool in the late captain, and a brave one too yet he disliked him so much at heart that he would not conspire with him even in this extremity. For this reason, the proposed attack which was to be made on Channing on the night in which we have just spoken of him as returning to the cabin to sleep, was known only to Banning and the cook.
About the middle watch of the night, the cook left his hammock and stole quietly towards the captain’s cabin. In his hand he held a long, sharp knife prepared for the occasion, and with which he designed to take the life of Channing. Satisfying himself that he was not watched, he reached the door of the cabin in safety, though he was somewhat surprised to find it partially open and the light extinguished. All was as dark as night itself, but the cook trusted to his knowledge of the apartment, and passed on groping his way in silence, when suddenly he felt that his hand touched the warm face of a man, and in the next moment the two were engaged in mortal strife, each stabbing the other in the dark with fearful accuracy!—The noise thus caused in the cabin brought down a part of the watch from the deck with ship lanterns, when lo a horrid sight met their eyes!
There lay upon the floor of the cabin weltering in their blood, the cook and Captain Brownless. Both had sought the spot for the same object, intent upon taking the life of Channing, and each had thought he had his enemy in his grasp, until the lights were brought and discovered to them their situation; Channing stood with a pistol cocked in either hand ready to defend himself if necessary, but now seeing the true state of the case, he cooly remembered that there were two the less of them, and ordered the bodies removed.
‘The divil take um, and salvation to the captain,’ said Terrence Moony, ‘aint he in holy keeping? and what’s the use of trying to kill a man that has the saints on his side? Arrah murtheration how heavy ye’s is,’ said he as he assisted to remove the bodies.
The late captain of the Constance and the cook lived but a few hours after the desperate conflict we have described, and their bodies were soon consigned to the deep. Suspicion was laid at once to Banning as the instigator of the cook, and it required the stern authority of Channing to keep the crew from falling upon him, and murdering him outright. In a few subsequent days with his effects he was landed at the island of St. Domingo; thus leaving the brig manned, and officered entirely by Americans, and no mean antagonist was she now for an enemy to cope with. Channing felt himself now master when he looked about him and saw none but his own countrymen with whom he had a common interest. He did not propose to run any unnecessary hazard, such as attempting to take a prize or otherwise, previous to his attempt to liberate the prisoners at Havana. But as the brig was blowing swiftly on her course towards the Spanish port just named, the voice of the look-out aloft was heard in the cheering cry of:
‘Where away,’ demanded the captain.
‘Right ahead, sir.’
‘What do you make it out?’
‘I can only see her top-sails, sir, she looms up like a large ship.’
The course of the brig was altered to one or two points more Southerly, and ere long the strange sail creeping up inch by inch in-the horizon was distinctly visible from the deck. She was evidently a barque of about five hundred tons burthen, and had the appearance of being an English merchantman.
‘Mr. Herbert,’ said the captain, ‘what do you make out of the sail yonder?’
‘A British barque, sir,’
‘No doubt, but do you think her armed?’
‘She’s lower in the waist than we are, sir, and yet I can’t justly make out the deck, sir,’ was the reply of the second officer.
‘Run up to the fore-top cross trees, sir, and take this glass with you.’
‘Ay ay, sir,’ said Herbert leaping up the rigging to get a better view of the stranger, who was now nearing them fast.
‘Fore-cross trees there,’ hailed Channing after allowing Herbert time to get a good look at the stranger.
‘Ay, ay, sir.’
‘Can you make out her armament?’
‘She’s got five or six caronnades on her deck, sir, but nothing of very heavy calibre that I can make out.’
‘That will do, sir.’
This was equivalent to saying, ‘you may come down, Mr. Herbert,’ and so Jack came down to the quarter-deck.
‘Mr. Herbert, that is St. George’s flag floating from the main of that barque. Shall we show them the flag of the colonies? What think you—would they stare at it?’
‘No doubt of that, sir, being’s he’s never been in these latitudes yet, but where can we get one, sir?’
‘I have looked out for that.’
Thus saying Channing retired to the cabin, but soon returned to the deck with a flag bearing the device of a pine tree.
‘Run that up, and fire a gun, sir.’
‘Ay, ay, sir,’ and up went the humble flag of the North American colonies.
This was scarcely done when the barque sent a shot towards the brig in defiance. The Constance did not have the appearance of an armed vessel when seen from a distance and her ports closed, and indeed she appeared much inferior to her true size by reason of her sitting low in the water and the height of her waist hiding her armament. Even the long tom amidships was so covered over with ropes and other ship gear, that unless a close observer, one would not have discovered it. The captain of the English barque evidently expected to make an easy prey of her, and therefore began to fire, by way of bravado, long before he had got within gun shot with his own light metal.
‘Clear away the long tom,’ said Channing.’
The gear was cast from its fastenings, and the deck about it was cleared of the heaps of rubbish and all obstacles about it.
‘We’ll play him a game of long bowls, Mr. Herbert,’ said the captain of the brig, ‘and this we can do with safety if your surmise with regard to his armament be true.’
‘I’m the more convinced of it, sir, from the fact of his throwing those small shot at us from the distance he holds,’ said Herbert.
‘Just so, no doubt, step forward there and oversee that gun, don’t throw away a single shot, we shall need them all.’
‘Ay, ay, sir,’ said the prompt and obedient Herbert.
Herbert pointed the gun, and though he was an excellent sailor, but in the matter of gunnery, he had but very little if any experience. His first shot therefore sunk somewhere about half way between the two vessels. The next broke the water about a quarter of a mile ahead of the barque, and the next half as far astern. While he was loading the fourth time, Channing called to him cheerfully, saying: ‘You have got the elevation, Herbert, now put a shot right between those two last and you have the aim.’
‘Ay, ay, sir,’ said the mortified mate, who could not but be a little chagrined at his unfortunate luck, albeit it was new business to him.
Bang! went the long tom again, and Herbert leaping upon a gun carriage, raised himself above the waist of the Constance, to watch the effect of the shot. Scarcely had the heavy report of the gun died away to leeward, before the splinters were seen to fly from the deck of the barque in great abundance.
‘Well done, Mr. Herbert,’ said the captain, ‘you have got her bearing now, don’t let the gun cool, sir.’
The long tom then commenced a conversation of the most convincing character to the crew of the barque, who were compelled to receive shot after shot from the brig without being able to return the compliment, the Constance being kept well out of the way of the small shot. The brig had the weather gage and she was much the best sailor, therefore she chose her own position. This was a game that could not last long, and the barque at length after being severely cut up in her rigging and losing several of her crew, was absolutely compelled to haul down her flag, or be sunk where she lay. Several of the shot from the Constance had struck her about the water line and she had also suffered so much in her rigging as to render an attempt at escape fool-hardy. It was a difficult matter for the captain of the barque to strike the English flag to one that he neither knew or had ever heard of before, but stern necessity was imperative, and the proud flag of St. George was lowered to the pine tree of the American Colonies.
This was one of the earliest if not the very first capture upon the high seas so far from our own country by the humble but victorious flag of the Colonies. It was then a child, it is now grown to the full stature of a man, and floats proudly in every sea, and undaunted side by side with equal honor and equally respected with that of the mother country. Who could have foretold its future glory and power? Those who fought under that flag little dreamed of it, but Heaven was with the right and they were victorious. The pride of the parent country was to receive a fall, its arrogance was to be signally reproved and this was to be done by her dependant Colonies of North America.
It was done!
The barque was the George of Bristol, and did we deem it of any importance to our tale we could easily prove to the reader here the authenticity of this engagement between the brig Constance which had fallen into the hands of the Americans and the barque George, merchantman of Bristol, England. The pine tree flag had never before floated in the seas of the West Indias and Captain Channing’s hand was the first to give it to the breeze and fight under its folds in these seas of perpetual summer.
STATE OF HOSTILITIES, DISPOSITION OF THE PRIZE, ANOTHER MUTINY. FATE OF THE LEADER. PLAN FOR LIBERATING THE PRISONERS. THE EXPEDITION. HAVANA. THE RESULT. THE MEETING OF FRIENDS. A NEW OFFICER.
At the time the Constance left the port of Boston, hostilities were already the result of the oppression of the British parliament upon the American colonies; indeed the town was already besieged by the continental army under General Washington. The battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, had resulted in a general resort to arms, by every true hearted son of liberty. Although the commander-in-chief, General Howe, (Gen. Gage having been superceded) would not admit that he was besieged, but spoke of his situation and that of the army as laying in winter quarters only, yet he knew full well that all communication with the country was entirely cut off, and that even by water he could not depend upon the safe arrival of provisions unless under strong convoy. His own table at the same time showing a lack of fresh provisions, while the soldiers suffered both in this respect and for the want of fuel, which was so scarce as to lead them to destroy small wooden tenements and convert them into fire-wood. In fact the British garrison were suffering all the inconveniences of a besieged town. The Americans had already fitted out several privateers, poorly armed to be sure, but they were manned by young and indomitable spirits, whose determination and consciousness of the justice of their cause rendered them almost invulnerable, and they did seem ever victorious. The captures they frequently made of provisions and ammunition were of material assistance to Washington and the army gathered upon the skirts of the town. They were but inefficiently supplied with food and clothing, and as to ammunition and implements of war; every article thus captured was a perfect Godsend to their limited stock, while in munitions of war their enemies had nothing to desire, their supply was abundant.
We are not obliged to depend solely upon books of history and old musty records for information relating to this important era in our national history, no. There are grey haired old men among us, whose eyes are not yet dim and whose spirits still burn bright; men who were early fostered at the foundation of liberty, and who spilled their blood in their country’s cause. They will tell you of these things as having occurred in their day and generation, and in which they acted a part. They will tell you of the hardships and vicissitudes of a people struggling for freedom, and of the almost incredible sufferings cheerfully endured by all in furtherance of the great and holy cause in which they had embarked.
When we realize the state of affairs at the time the brig left Boston, we shall see that Channing was fully justified in the capture of the vessel he had thus encountered. The captain of the barque was unprepared for such an enemy and had supposed the brig to be one of the roving buccaniers of the day, which crowded the tropical seas at that period but when he found that he had struck his flag to a privateer of the American colonies as he was informed, his rage was absolutely unbounded; he was beside himself with passion.
‘I would rather have sunk where I lay, or have been taken by the fiercest pirate on the ocean than to have struck St. George’s flag to a rebel,5 said he.
‘The matter was beyond your control,’ answered Captain Channing, ‘and you certainly are no more to blame in the premises than you would be had you struck your flag to a buccanier as you had supposed.’
‘Poor consolation,’ said the enraged Englishman scornfully.
‘The very best I can offer nevertheless,’ was the answer.
‘And what do you propose to do with us now you have got possession,’ asked the captain of the barque. ‘Hang us up, all at the yard arm? eh?’
‘You will be treated as prisoners of war, sir,’ was the mild reply.
The prisoners were being secured and continued below, when Terrence Moony came aft to the quarter deck, where he stood with his hat off, twirling in his hands, endeavoring to attract the attention of his commander, who at length observing him asked:
‘Well, Terrence what’s in the wind now.’
‘Plase yer honor, I’ve a frind here wid your permission, as wants to jine the brig, sir,’ answered the Irishman.
‘A recruit?’ asked Channing, ‘and from among the prisoners; no, Terrence, we only want our own countrymen, unless indeed it may be one of yours, who are most surely with us in heart at least.’
‘That’s jist it, your honor, he’s Irish to the back bone of him.’
‘If that’s the case, Terrence, and you will be responsible for his good behaviour, we will register his name and he shall be paid with the rest.’
‘Oh, long life to ye’s and all sich,’ said Terrence.
The honest Hibernian actually danced with delight. He had by one of those singular freaks of fortune, which do sometimes occur, met among the prisoners an old school-mate, or rather townsman, for precious little schooling had Terrence ever en-enjoyed. The man was very happy to join his comrade and to serve in the brig in behalf of the colonists.
The crew of the prize consisted of fourteen seamen with three officers. One of the latter was killed outright during the engagement and three of the former. Captain Channing had learned a lesson by his former cruising that he would not soon forget. He now divided the crew of his prize, placing half in each vessel under close confinement. There were two among them who represented themselves to be Americans, and who willingly accepted the proposition to join the crew of the brig. Channing could poorly afford to spare his first mate Jack Herbert, but he concluded to place him in command of the barque, with six of the crew of the brig to work her, assisted by the two Americans just named as having joined the victors. This being done Herbert was ordered to keep as near as possible to the brig, that both might act in concert when it should be found necessary.
The ‘George of Bristol’ proved to be a rich prize. She had a large store of small arms, and ammunition, besides a considerable sum of money in specie, with a light cargo of fruit and was bound for the port of Boston, having just taken in her cargo.
Both vessels now stood for the island of Cuba. Channing, who was unacquainted in these seas, was fortunate enough to find a couple of trusty men among his crew, who had been for several years in the West India trade as seamen. These men proved of great service to him on this occasion in the capacity of pilots.
The day after the capture of the barque, Channing stood by the taffrail of the Constance looking towards the barque which was following in his wake, when suddenly he observed a commotion on the deck, and taking his glass he could easily discern that there was a fight or some unusual commotion at least. The topsails of the brig were thrown aback, the vessel hove to, and entering a boat, Channing pulled towards the barque, which was now coming up to where the Constance lay. As he reached her side, he overheard the loud voices of the crew in contention, and a cry for help or mercy, from some on deck. The crew were evidently so much engaged that they had not observed the approach of Channing, who actually ascended the side of the prize before he was observed. What was his surprise to find Jack Herbert, his first mate, and whom he had just placed in command of the barque, bound and bleeding upon the deck, while two of the men he had detailed from his own crew stood over him to protect him from further violence from the remainder of the crew! He leaped upon the deck between the two parties with a pistol in either hand and a face upon which determination of character shone out like a star.
‘Mutiny?’ said he half enquiringly.
‘Why you see, your honor—’ ventured one of the men.
‘Peace then,’ said Channing, ‘who made you spokesman for this ship?’
‘We thought, your honor,’ commenced another.
‘Stay, fellow, no excuse, there is none. Unbind that man,’ he said in a voice so low and musical that one would have thought it was a farce being rehearsed instead of a scene of blood. But those about him saw by blue eye that watched their every movement that they must obey. The mate was quickly unbound, and the men shrunk cowering away from the spot, gathering in a knot forward, and the most disaffected grumbling aloud. Suddenly one of this latter number, as if determined to do some mischief, sprang off to the tiller rope, and taking a knife from his pocket was about to sever it, when Channing whose quick eye had followed him said: ‘Hold there, what would you do?’
‘You ain’t old enough, sir, according to my reckoning,’ said the man insolently, ‘to command two vessels at the same time.’
‘Hold there, I say,’ continued Channing ‘cut that rope and you sever your own existence. Now cut if you will,’ said he levelling a pistol at the man.
This man was one of the crew taken in the prize, and who had falsely represented himself to be an American. He now paused for a single moment as if undecided and then cut the rope, which caused the ship to broach to at once: but it was the death signal of the mutineer. Channing, taking a step or two towards him, sent a ball direct to his heart, the man gave a terrific scream of agony and pain, and leaped into the sea a corpse.
‘Who is there here that wishes to share that man’s fate? Who will make himself an example for the rest?’ said Channing, still in the same low musical tone of voice, while his eyes shone like living fire, and his finger rested on the trigger of another pistol. Two or three of the men now fell upon their knees and implored forgiveness.
‘You richly deserve the yard arm,’ he said.
‘Spare us,’ they cried; one or two having got a glimpse of their late companion who still floated along side, were trembling with fear.
‘That will depend upon your future conduct,’ was the answer.
Channing soon learned that the Englishman whom he had just shot was the cause of all the trouble and that he had by his oily tongue seduced the rest from their duty. They falling upon Herbert when he was off his guard had bound him. At the moment of Channing’s arrival on board they were discussing the propriety of taking the mate’s life, and were about to release the prisoners who were below. The two who stood over the mate were not in the plot and were determined to protect him as far as was in their power. The mutineers were carried on board the Constance and exchanged for an equal number of her crew, whereupon Channing immediately liberated them, telling them as he did so, that if they wished to try any such game under his eye, they were at liberty to commence as soon as they had made up their minds, to a like fate with their late companion. But they understood with whom they had to deal, and strove by their ready compliance with every order, and their zeal to perform their duty, to show that they really regretted their late conduct.
There was no fear of another out-break; the mutineers were subdued both in deed and spirit. No one could blame the cap-taip for his conduct, nor did any one of his crew do so at heart. It was a critical moment, a single mis-step would have lost all and perhaps have been the signal for his own death. It was no time for blustering, but for cool and decided action, which reestablished his authority and showed the men that he was one not to be trifled with. There was no passion displayed. Channing did not loose his temper even for a moment. No, he spoke perhaps a key lower than was his wont, yet there was a fearful distinctness in his words to those men, that was not to be mistaken.
Captain Channing did not purpose to enter the harbor of Havana with his vessels, but proposed to seek a quiet anchorage outside, then enter the harbor at night with a chosen boat’s crew and attempt the release of Lovell and his companion in misery. The vessels were therefore brought to anchorage without the harbor and hidden from observation by the rise of a friendly hill. Channing then sent for his first mate Jack Herbert, and it was agreed to make the attempt to release the prisoner that night.
‘You are sure you remember the ground?’ asked Channing of Herbert.
‘Every inch of it,’ said Herbert.
‘And the jailor’s ward?’
‘That’s at the entrance on the port side.’
‘You think you can pilot safely?’
‘Ay, sir, as to knowing the way.’
‘That’s all. I know your courage, Herbert.’
‘Thank ye, sir,’ said Jack.
‘Well then, I’ll take a boat this night at ten o’clock and pull round into the harbor with your six men well armed. First, we will divide ourselves here, after landing—’ said Channing taking a little chart from his pocket which represented the prison and the contiguous grounds, drawn from memory by Herbert, and pointing to the back part of the prison. ‘We must divide our number here, and passing round each party by different sides, manage to silence the sentinels that guard the different angles. This must be done as silently as possible, no noise you understand, that would destroy all.’
‘Yes sir, and bring down the whole barracks upon us.’
The sentinels once silenced and entrance gained to the jailor’s ward, I think there will be no further trouble. Do you consider my plan a good and practical one, Mr. Herbert?’
‘Just the thing, sir.’
‘Much will depend upon our discretion.’
‘This must be impressed upon the men.’
‘I will drill them to a nicety, sir, before we start,’ said Herbert. ‘One great advantage we shall have, these cursed Spanish sentinels, sleep half the time upon their posts, and if we arrive in lucky time, we may catch them napping, and that would be half of the battle gained at the outset, sir.’
‘Do you remember at what hour the guard is changed? asked Channing.
‘Let me think; at eight, twelve and four, I believe.’
‘We must manage to arrive at about one o’clock, A. M. The midnight guard will be comfortably settled for the watch by that time,’ said Channing.
‘Just so, sir, the fellow will be snoring by that time I’ll be bound.’
‘I will select the men from the brig, Mr. Herbert, and you may come on board, sir, at about half past nine well armed.’
‘Will one boat be enough, sir?’
‘Better for all purposes than two, and we must leave a respectable force in charge of the prisoners, who need looking to.’
‘Very true, sir,’ replied Herbert.
‘I had rather have six chosen men, and they good ones, than three times the number to attempt such an enterprise with,’ said Channing.
Thus the captain and his second separated to meet again at the appointed hour for the hazardous undertaking.
The mild and beautiful climate of Cuba seems more like the Elysian fields of poetic birth, than the air that forms the islands of the ocean. Beautiful indeed is the genial influence of the mild zephyrs that breathe over these pacific seas. As evening knelt and cast her broad mantle over land and sea, the two vessels lay side by side, close under the lee of the island, while the young commander awaited with apparent impatience the arrival of the hour for the commencement of the proposed enterprise. At length with the appointed hour came Herbert from on board the barque, and the men having been directed to their duty, were each one supplied with arms, and the boat with Herbert at the helm, now lay at the side of the brig awaiting the presence of Channing.
He soon made his appearance from the cabin, dressed in white pants and a becoming frock coat. About his waist was tied a heavy silk sash, into which was thrust a pair of boarding pistols, and at his side hung a light but servicable cutlass. He wore a graceful velvet cap upon his head and looked the honest manly sailor that he was. He quickly descended to the boat and assuming his seat in the stem, asked of Mr. Herbert:
‘Are the oars muffled, sir?’
‘Ay, aye, sir!’
‘And everything in order?’
‘Everything, sir, according to order.’
‘Stay,’ said Channing, ‘Steward, hand me the brace of pistols and cutlasses on the cabin table; these prisoners may require arms should we release them.’
‘All ready, sir?’ asked Herbert, of the captain.
‘Cast off!’ said Herbert.
‘All clear, sir.’
‘Give way, men, steady, all together.’
These orders were given in quick succession, and promptly obeyed; and the boat glanced on its errand with the speed of an arrow.
It was a long pull from the anchorage of the two vessels to the entrance of the harbor of Havana, but the time had been well calculated upon, and its mouth was reached at the desirable moment. The boat glided at once from the open sea into the quiet land-locked harbor, without molestation. They kept well in for the shore, and soon reached the spot selected for them to disembark at.
Here we cannot but pause to say a word of the broad and ever beautiful bay where a fleet of vessels may lay quietly at anchor, and whose entrance will admit but a single ship at a time. Who has not heard of the celebrated Moro castle that to this day guards the mouth of the harbor of Havana? Who can ever forget the rough hoarse hail from ‘Moro’ who has passed into the fairy-like basin beyond? The shores though not remarkably bold are yet very beautiful. The tall majestic palm and other tropical trees, the genial softness and beauty of the foliage and verdure, the rich glowing sky and fervid sun, all serve to remind you that you are in a land of perpetual summer. You are carried back in your imagination to the time in which the weary watching barque of Columbus was first cheered by the soul thrilling cry of, ‘Land ho!’
And when the gallant adventurer and discoverer rested in peace before the sunny isle of Cuba!
Leaving only one of the crew in charge of the boat, Channing and his second officer crept quietly and unobserved to the prison, in which Lovell and his companion were confined; but as they neared its frowning walls, the low call of the sleepy sentinel on the eastern angle was heard, ‘Who goes there?’
No answer was given to this summons while Herbert bade the men in a whisper to keep close.
‘I will silence this fellow,’ said he to Channing.
Herbert was soon close upon him creeping upon his hands and feet, and scarcely had the second challenge been uttered when he sprang upon the soldier from behind, and placing his knee in the middle of his back, bent him instantly to the ground. In the next moment the sentinel’s neckcloth was pressed down his throat to prevent his giving the alarm, and at a preconcerted signal made by Herbert, the crew came to the spot and bound him. The other three soldiers were caught sleeping as had been predicted, and each was secured and gagged without noise. They were taken thus bound hand and foot, and placed in the little guard room in front of the prison under the care of one of the crew. The rest of the party led by Herbert as guide and Channing their commander, sought the apartment of the old jailor, who was soon made to give up the keys, and directly the cell supposed to contain the two young Americans was unlocked, when two men with their fa: ces covered with hair made their appearance. Both immediately recognized Herbert, but he could hardly believe that the two miserable beings before him were his late companions, but he soon found that there could be no mistake on that, head at least, and he was soon clasped in their warm embrace.
‘So you have come at last,’ said Lovell after recovering from his excess of feeling.
‘I feared that once at home with the joys and comforts about you that are found there, you would hardly remember us.’
‘You ought to have known better, Bill,’ said Herbert wiping his eyes.
‘True, I did you injustice; forgive me.’
And the two shook hands again, heartily, drying their eyes the while.
‘Come, we waste time,’ said Channing endeavoring to suppress his emotions at the evident suffering manifest before him.
‘Whom have we here?’ asked Lovell pointing to Channing.
‘Oh! that’s the captain whom you owe everything, for I couldn’t have done anything alone. Damme if I hadn’t forgot manners,’ said honest Jack Herbert, ‘let me introduce you—Captain Channing, this is Mr. Lovell, sir, and this his companion whom you have come so far to liberate.’
‘Your servant, gentlemen,’ said Channing.
‘What could have induced such generosity,’ asked Lovell.
‘Nay, gentlemen,’ said Channing, ‘you must save your thanks for the person who sent me, and remember that I am but an agent.’
‘Then you are a most faithful one,’ said Lovell as he warmly pressed the captain’s hand, which trembled in his grasp. ‘Does the dampness of the prison chill you, sir?’ asked Lovell, ‘we have got quite used to it.’
‘Come, come,’ said Channing, ‘we waste time, and in this place from whence escape is so desirable.’
The party hastened from the prison, the boat was quickly gained without molestation and all being safely embarked they pulled quickly out of the harbor, for the place where the vessels lay. But the boat had hardly got without the quiet harbor before they knew by the roll of the drum and the sound of bustle and confusion that the alarm had been given. But they were safe now, and laughed at the sound of confusion that came to their cars over the still bosom of the sea.
Having reached the brig in safety, they were soon embarked, and the anchors being weighed they stood out to sea at once. The first act of Captain Channing’s after arriving on board the Constance, and subsequent to a few necessary explanations relative to certain matters concerning the brig, was to appoint William Lovell as his first mate and to proclaim him as such to his crew.
A FAITHFUL GUARD. A PROPOSITION. A RUSE. A DENOUEMENT. SAIL HO! THE LONG TOM HOLDS ANOTHER CONVERSATION. A VALUABLE PRIZE. MORE PRISONERS THAN VICTORS. CHAGRIN OF THE ENEMY.
Channing, furnished every comfort the brig would afford to the two liberated Americans, showing a kind and friendly consideration for them, and that he had their interests near at heart. The day passed on in the usual routine of the vessel as she stood on her Northern course. Young Lovell and his companion in prison, after being shaved and furnished with comfortable clothing and enjoying a few days of plenty and comparative rest, looked like different beings. Captain Channing having learned of the martial skill and experience of Lovell, had as we have seen, placed him as his second in command, immediately after his arrival on board the Constance; since which time he had trusted almost entirely her management and sailing to him, while he passed the greater portion of his time in his cabin below, apparently in study, reading, &c.; appearing upon deck but seldom and then only for a short period at a time.
The fourth day out from Havana, Captain Channing sent word from the cabin that he wished to see Mr. Lovell. The mate came forthwith, saluting the young commander with due respect, for Channing was strict in exacting every degree of the usual forms on ship-board. Lovell had learned of the captain’s noble conduct during the voyage; of the suppression of the mutiny, and various other matters that had led him earnestly to desire an opportunity to express his admiration and respect.
But since his arrival on board, the captain had remained almost entirely below, as above said, leaving the charge of matters to his first mate, in whom he appeared to place all confidence as well as all trust. He had seldom appeared upon deck and when he did so, it was in such a manner as to preclude all attempt at gaining his ear in conversation even for a moment.
‘The captain’s very handsome, don’t you think so?’ said Herbert one day to Lovell, when during a clear calm he had left the barque and come on board the brig. ‘He’s evidently commissioned by your girl down there at Lynn, at the High Rock Hamlet. I should not like to have such a young hero for a rival, Lovell, that’s all!’ said Herbert playfully.
‘I’ve been trying to get his ear for a few minutes ever since we sailed from Cuba,’ said Lovell, ‘but he keeps down below there so snugly that one don’t see much of him, though it’s all a compliment to me, Herbert, don’t you think so?’
‘Of course, sir, for he trusts you far enough.’
‘That’s the way I look at it, Herbert. But he’s a stern sour sort of a man, I think, and must have met with some cross—he never laughs.’
‘He’s a gentleman, though, every inch of him,’ said Jack Herbert warmly, ‘rival or no rival, and clear grit when he’s up. Why, bless you, Bill Lovell, he didn’t make any more of blowing that mutinous Englishman into eternity than I would have done despatching a dog.’
‘I’m his debtor at any rate,’ said Lovell, thoughtfully. ‘To be sure you are, you may give him all the thanks that you are not rotting in that cursed prison yonder at Havana, this very hour. What could I have done alone? Just nothing at all; it took him to plan, and as to that matter, to execute the business too.’
‘How odd that this Irishman insists upon sleeping at his cabin door every night when off watch; can you account for it?’
‘Why—you see Terrence loves the captain for having done some kindness to his poor old mother when she was about to die; well you see these Irishmen can remember a kindness as well as the best of us. Ever since the attempt of Captain Brownless and the English cook upon Channing’s life, this man Terrence won’t leave the spot where he thinks the captain sleeps. He says he must have a hand in the next fight and so he guards the door.’
‘Faithful fellow,’ said Lovell.
It was the subsequent day to this conversation, that Lovell was summoned, as we have said, to the captain’s cabin. ‘Mr. Lovell,’ said the captain, ‘take a seat, sir.’
‘Thank you, sir.’
‘Do you know who commissioned me to do you the service I have rendered, in releasing yourself and comrade from prison?’ asked the captain.
‘I was told, sir, by Mr. Herbert, that it was she who is dearest to me of all the world. I have desired, sir, several times already to speak with you upon the subject, but I thought I discovered an unwillingness to hold conversation on your part, sir, and I have contented myself consequently with what I could learn from Mr. Herbert.’
‘She is a good girl, sir, and I half envy you,’ said the captain.
‘Thank you, sir, I can hear her complimented all day with the utmost patience.’
‘Egad, Mr. Lovell, couldn’t I do something in that quarter myself? What do you think? ‘Sir?’
‘Don’t you think I might possibly succeed with the lady?’ Lovell stood wondering for a moment, and then said half in doubt—
‘I beg pardon, sir.’
‘For what do you beg pardon, Mr. Lovell?’ asked the captain.
‘I don’t exactly understand you, sir.’
‘You are very dull.’
‘I fear I am, sir.’
‘Well, say for instance, then, if I should make you a present of this brig, all her equipments and armament, wouldn’t you be willing to give up the lady and become the captain and owner of the fastest and best privateer that sails out of the colonies? What say you, Mr. Lovell?’
Lovell paused for a moment in thought, not to consider the proposition that was made to him, but the idea struck him that the man before him was the late captain of the king’s cutter, Burnet, whom he had never seen and knew only by description. What could possibly have induced him to undertake his deliverance from prison?
‘I see it all,’ said Lovell to himself, ‘Fanny has made this service the price of her hand, and the reward he will receive will be the death blow to my happiness.’
Lovell in his agitation rose and walked the cabin hurriedly; at length turning to the captain, he said—
‘Captain Channing, or whatever be your name, I beg pardon, sir, I mean no disrespect to you, far from it, I am already deeply your debtor; but if any other man had made me that proposition, I would have fought him to the last gasp. Death, sir,’ said Lovell warming himself with the thought, ‘is the girl of one’s heart to be made a marketable article of?’
‘Excuse me, Mr. Lovell, said the captain, endeavoring to suppress some evident feelings in the matter, ‘but I designed to see if you were worthy of so good a girl. For let me tell you, sir, it is solely by her solicitations that I am here.’
‘I am gratified, sir, at this explanation,’ said Lovell, gratefully, ‘but I fear that I can never repay the debt I owe you.’
‘The less said upon this point the better, Mr. Lovell. I am paid through a source that you will be made acquainted with.’
‘My gratitude is none the less, sir,’ said Lovell, half trembling at the import of the captain’s last words.
‘I suppose you have heard of the state of affairs at Boston, Mr. Lovell,’ asked the captain, evidently bent upon changing the conversation.
‘The town is besieged by the Continentals I’m told.’
‘Yes, and in a starving condition.’
‘I’m impatient to have a hand in the drama,’ said Lovell.
‘Herbert has doubtless told you of the affairs of Lexington Concord and Breed’s. The Americans have taught the king’s troops at least that they have got no mean enemy to contend with in the colonists, and that the boasted dower of the royal army is not invincible. We left the continental army stretched from Roxbury to Cambridge, over an extent of twelve miles, and under command of Washington, seconded by Putnam, Lee, and such of the most able men of the province as had come together. There will be sharp work there, ere long, if it has not already taken place,’ said the captain.
‘And during all this time I have been lying idle and inactive in a Spanish prison,’ said Lovell. ‘I’m all impatience, sir, to join the glorious service of liberty.’
‘I have been thinking,’ continued Channing, ‘that the barque yonder will be no poor acquisition to the force of the colonists, and then we have quite a large amount of powder and small arms on board which are much needed by the beseiging army.’
‘Very true, sir, no doubt,’ said Lovell in reply. ‘We shall be on the coast in a few days according to my reckoning, and may perhaps hope to fall in with some English craft that we can make a prize of.’
‘We must look out sharp for ourselves first, Mr. Lovell,’ said the captain, ‘for the harbor of Boston literally swarms with men of war.’
‘I beg pardon, sir, but—’
‘But what, Mr. Lovell?’
‘I was about to ask you, sir, if we had ever met before.’
‘I believe you have seen me every day, Mr. Lovell, since you came on board the Constance. I have certainly seen you.’
‘I mean, sir, some time since.’
‘We may have met in Boston.’
‘Perhaps it is so,’ said Lovell, but positively I never knew a countenance make such an impression upon me.’
‘I hope you are pleased with your captain, sir.’
‘Certainly, captain—excuse me—or rather my seeming impertinence, but really I was a little lost in thought. Why, Heaven bless me, sir, you resemble the Campbell family at Lynn enough to be a member.’
‘I’m told that I am rather dark for an American. Are the family of whom you speak peculiar in this respect?’
‘Not at all, sir.’
‘Where’s the resemblance, then?’
‘That is the very matter that has so puzzled me for the last five minutes, sir, for were you of lighter complexion—’
‘I—I—God of Heaven,’ said Lovell, ‘how like her?
‘What puzzles you now, Mr. Lovell?’
‘I was thinking of home, sir,’ said Lovell, thoughtfully.
‘Happy thoughts, I hope.’
‘Oh, yes,’ said Lovell abstractedly.
‘You appear surprised at something, Mr. Lovell’
‘Yes, sir, that is—’ said Lovell, gazing at the captain with his mouth absolutely wide open with surprise.
The two were instantly clasped in each other’s arms.
‘My own Fanny,’ said Lovell.
‘Ever thine own,’ was the response.
‘Brave girl, why this is almost a miracle!’
‘Without Heaven’s blessing it would all have failed, William; let us thank Heaven then for the happy issue.’
‘But I cannot believe that a female, a mere girl of but twenty years, could accomplish what thou hast done, Fanny; how can it be possible? Thou hast compassed that which would have done credit to a naval captain,’ and he strained her again to his breast. ‘And I have been here in this brig with you these four days and my heart did not tell me that I was near you; how can this be true?’
‘No wonder, you thought me as dusky as a negro.’
‘I did not once suspect that you were colored.’
‘It is stain put on for a more perfect disguise.’
‘Most perfectly done.’
‘It has proved so, since it has deceived you,’ said Fanny, laughing through her tears of joy.
‘It was well conceived, my noble girl,’ said Lovell, ‘and these clothes too—I never saw you look more interesting.’
Fanny managed to blush even through the deep tinge of brown that bronzed her handsome cheek. And when does a female look more interesting than when betraying the modest color of virtue. It is a rainbow from the heart showing it to be unvitiated by the evil and bitterness of the world.
‘Shall I wear these to the end of the voyage?’ asked Fanny.
‘Ask no privilege of me,’ said Lovell, you are still master and commander here, and will, I hope, continue so.’
‘I, too, have thought it best—indeed absolutely necessary that I should continue my disguise until our arrival in port.’
‘It is, certainly,’ said Lovell. ‘But tell me, Fanny, how you possibly could have attained the knowledge you have displayed in this emergency? for I am free to confess you have sailed this brig as well, and commanded these turbulent fellows, as I could have done it with years of experience.’
‘I’ll tell thee, William. Soon after your departure from home, my heart being on the sea, I made almost every trip out with my father, for the whole season, until I understood fully the management of the schooner, which, you remember, was half a brig in its rig. I read, too, every nautical work I could procure, from love alone of the sea, where I knew you were, but never in my most romantic moments did I imagine that these acquirements would be of the service to me which they have proved. Of our kind friend Rev. Mr. Livingston, of Boston, I learned navigation, practically too, for you know he was for many years a seaman. Since then, experience and good fortune have done the rest.’
‘Thou hast been a most apt scholar.’
‘Say rather a willing one, William.’
‘I may say both, and say truly.’
‘Stubborn as ever,’ said Fanny, playfully.
‘But why have you kept concealed from me these four days?’
‘I have confined myself below so much of the time to enable you to find yourself fairly at liberty before you should know that it was your Fanny who had released you, backed by a generous and active crew. I believed it best for many reasons and thought I should be happier to do so. I shall now appear as heretofore upon deck, and you shall see how willing and apt these fellows are. Would you believe it, William? they love me, I really believe, though I have put on a severity at times,’ and here Fanny scowled as fiercely as she might, by way of explanation.
‘How could they help loving thee, Fanny? said Lovell, pressing her fondly in his arms and impressing a kiss upon her lips.
‘There, that will do,’ said she, gently unclasping his embrace, ‘you must not abate one iota in your respect or distance, William, while on deck, and before the people, or we may have another mutiny; be careful you address me as Captain Channing, don’t be forgetful.’
‘I’ll remember, trust me.’
The two then proceeded to the quarter-deck, Lovell paying the customary respect to his commanding officer.
‘Sail ho,’ shouted the look-out, with the long drawl peculiar to the hail.
‘Where away,’ promptly demanded the captain,
William Lovell could not disguise his nervousness lest Fanny should betray herself; now that he knew the secret other disguise he feared that it might be disclosed at any moment. But there was nothing wanting; she was perfect even in all the minuti� of sea parlance.
‘Two points on the starboard bow,’ answered the look out.
Fanny taking a glass, coolly surveyed the stranger for several-minutes.
‘English, I think,’ she observed to Lovell, referring to the stranger.
‘I make her out so,’ was the reply.
‘It remains to be seen whether we are to run or fight,’ said Captain Channing, (for so we will continue to call Fanny, who was still the same to the crew,) ‘It must be a fast vessel that the Constance cannot spare a topsail to.’
The two vessels neared each other fast, and it was soon evident that the stranger was an English vessel of some five hundred tons, and consequently much larger than the Constance, That she was an armed vessel too, was soon quite evident, for suddenly a cloud of smoke burst from her bows, and anon the dull heavy report of a cannon came down across the water to the brig.
‘Show them that pine tree, Mr. Lovell, that’s what they want.’
‘Ay, ay, sir,’ said the mate, promptly obeying the order.
But no sooner had the flag of the colonial Congress reached its station aloft and expanded to the breeze, than the report of another gun came booming heavily over the sea from the stranger, and this time also a shot; but the ball fell far short of the brig and her consort, throwing a jet of spray aloft as it struck the sea and sunk into its depths.
The captain and the first mate conversed together earnestly for a few moments, when the captain turning towards the crew with a countenance beaming with spirit, said: ‘Clear away the long-tom, and prepare for action.’
A dozen willing hands promptly executed the order, and the mate soon took his station by the gun to superintend its management, but not until he had in an under tone urged Fanny to leave the deck and secure herself below.
‘What! skulk below?’ said Fanny, ‘No no, I have seen this game before’
‘That’s the talk,’ said Terrence Moony, as the order was given to clear away the gun. ‘Jist give me that crisscross flag of England to look at for an enemy and I’ll fight all day, grub time and all. Arrah yes, ye blockheads,’ said he stripping himself to his shirt and trowsers to work at the gun. Terrence loved the English about as well as his satanic majesty affects holy water, and no more, believe us.
‘Be quiet there, forward,’ said Lovell, hearing the loud talk of Terrence as he held forth thus, rather boisterously to the crew, on the forecastle.
‘Ay ay, your honor,’ said Terrence submissively.
‘Moony, come here,’ said Lovell, half angry at the noise.
‘Ay ay, sir,’ continued the willing Irishman promptly and respectfully obeying the call.
‘What are you grumbling about there, forward, eh?’
‘Only saying my prayers, yer honor, before going into battle. That’s scripture, I belave, sir, ain’t it, Mr. Lovell?’
‘Are you afraid, Terrence?’
‘Afraid, is it, did you say, afraid that I was?’
‘That’s what I asked’
‘Your honor’s joking’
‘No, sir, you said you were at prayers, consequently I thought you might be suffering from fear, Terrence; a reasonable deduction certainly.’
‘Arrah, neither devil nor saint can scare Terrence Moony, your honor; just give me the best place at the gun, and you shall see how afraid I am. Och, afraid is it?’
‘I see you are all right, Terrence, a brave soul at the bottom.’
‘Wouldn’t you get Captain Channing to step down here in the waist, your honor?’ said Terrence, emboldened by the kind manner in which Lovell had spoken to him to be a little more familiar than was his custom to be.
‘And what for, prithee? why should he leave the quarter deck?’
‘Why, yer see, yer honor, he has such a way with him, it would encourage the men to hear the music of his voice, down here. Why, saving your honor’s presence, dam me, if I ever heard so swate a voice. Do you think the saints in Heaven will talk nater or more agreeable than him, Mr. Lovell?’ asked Terrence earnestly.
‘I don’t know,’ said Lovell interested in spite of himself, ‘you ask queer questions, Terrence,’ and he busied himself about the gun, as if he heeded not the words of the Irishman, when, in fact each one was a torch to his heart strings.
‘Yer see, yer honor,’ continued Terrence respectfully, ‘if he would jist step down here he would have the protection of the waist, ye see, instead of standing up there for them blackguards to shoot at.’
Lovell appreciated the kind thoughtful spirit that prompted this suggestion, and began himself to feel quite uneasy at the exposed position of Channing.
‘Forward there,’ said the captain at this instant, ‘all ready there with your gun?’
‘Ay, ay,’ said Lovell.
The brig trembled to her very keel with the recoil of the gun. Lovell was less inexperienced in matters of gunnery than Herbert, and his first shot unlike that of honest Jack went plump into the deck of the stranger, filling the air all around with splinters and her crew with wounds.
‘Hurrah,’ said Terrence Moony in great glee, turning from swabbing out the gun to see the effect of the iron messenger. ‘Perhaps ye’s will like a few more of them pills; it don’t take but a small number for a dose any how.’
‘Keep her away,’ said Channing, to the helmsman of the brig. ‘Well done, Mr. Lovell, that shot planted just right, could’nt have been better done, and another right to the same spot—it’s a vital place.
‘Keep her away, I say,’ continued Channing to the man at the helm. ‘That’s it—hold her so,’ his object being still to pass at such a distance from the enemy as to prevent him from bringing his small guns to bear upon the brig; it being evident at the outset that he had no guns equal to that amidships the brig.
Jack Herbert had ranged-close up in the barque under the lee of the Constantine and within easy hailing distance. His voice was soon heard on board the brig.
‘Ay, ay, what’s wanting,’ asked Channing through his trumpet.
‘Shall I range up and get a few shots at the stranger, sir, with my short pieces?’ The guns will go off of themselves if we don’t use them soon!’
‘No—no, Mr. Herbert, keep well away on your present course, we have not got any men to lose by a close action.
If we were well manned, we might afford to run down there and make a gallant show of it yard-arm to yardarm.’
‘Ay, ay,’ said the disappointed Herbert sheering off.
The long tom which the Constance carried amidships, proved now as on former occasions to be her salvation; for while the enemy was well equipped with arms, ammunition and also well manned, yet she had no metal of sufficient weight to cope with the brig while at a distance at which the fight began.
This distance the Constance by good management kept through the engagement. The shots from the brig were doing fearful execution on board the stranger; splinters were flying from the hull at almost every discharge of the long tom, while her own ineffectual shot fell far short of the intended mark. The unequal battle continued thus but a short time before the ship—which had suffered severely both in hull and rigging as well as by the death of four of her crew and the wounding of of others—like the barque the Constance had taken in the West Indies, found it absolutely necessary to haul down her (colours) in submission.
The brig then veered up within hailing distance of the prize, and ordered her to send a boat with the captain on board. This order being promptly complied with, Lovell with half a dozen men armed to the teeth were sent on board to take formal possession of the ship. Lovell, in the execution of this order, found one man on board the prize, whom it gave him much trouble to secure, and who wounded two of the Constance’s crew slightly before he was subdued. This man proved to be the mate of the prize, and he told Lovell although the captain had struck, he had not, and that they should have sunk the ship before he would have done so. But the man was soon bound securely by the seamen, and placed in safe keeping.
The prize proved to be a valuable one bound from Liverpool to Boston with stores and ammunition for the royal army. The home government were not yet informed that the colonists had fitted out privateers, and that they should have them so soon to contend against on the sea as well as the land; therefore they had trusted the transportation of the stores in question to a merchant craft of the large class and only protected by the armament of vessels of her tonnage and trade. They necessarily carried a few guns to protect them from the daring Hovers whom prizes tempted to range abroad upon the ocean, and who were continually lying in wait for vessels of this class.
Though the prize had a crew of fifteen men, besides her officers, yet we have seen that this number could avail them nothing against an enemy who could fight them ‘out of harm’s reach,’ and thus had the ship fallen into the hands of Channing, rendering his command quite a little fleet.
From the small number of hands and the large number of the prisoners, he anticipated some trouble, and therefore endeavored by every precaution to avert it. In pursuance of this purpose, the prisoners were confined in chains, a resort which went much against Channing’s feelings, but he felt obliged to yield to the necessities of the case. All hands were soon employed in repairing the new prize so as to enable them, to bring her into port. This having been accomplished in a few hours, Lovell took command of the ship just added to the little fleet. He was exceedingly loth to leave Channing alone as it were in the brig, but orders were given that each of the prizes should be kept as nearly within hailing distance of the Constance as possible, and as it was fortunately moderate weather although somewhat cold, this was easily accomplished.
The former crew of the Constance was now divided so as to be but eight men in each vessel, while the prisoners actually doubled that number! This was short handed indeed, more, especially when we consider the peculiar rig and mode of managing a vessel in those days. In these more modern times the numerous conveniences that inventive genius had applied in the building and finding of ships, have rendered the management of them comparatively an easy task, and by far less number of hands than was found necessary seventy years ago. What a wonderful change has half a century even, made in the art of navigation. Already do the floating castles of every nation defy both wind and tide, and vessels that formerly required twenty-five hands to sail them are now well served with fourteen or fifteen.
The captain and crew of the new prize were equally chagrined with those in the barque when they found to what a weak force in numbers they had surrounded. Their rage was unbounded and openly expressed, and though they were closely confined, yet Channing was constantly prepared and on guard, lest they should attempt to rise and take the brig. It was doubtless his constant vigilance that saved him from this catastrophe, it being evident that the prisoners were continually on the watch for a favorable opportunity. The English captain of the last prize could not reconcile himself in the least degree to his situation, to think that he should, to use his own words:
‘Have surrendered to a d—d boy of a rebel.’
But his anger was all to no purpose, for the vigilant guard kept upon him and the prisoners, though by a small number, in connection with the secure manner in which they were confined, rendered all attempt at resistance, or release of themselves to be useless. They chafed and foamed but that was all they could do, for they were like furious animals in a menagerie, completely caged.
A FIERCE CHARACTER. ATTEMPT TO BURN THE BRIG. THE CONSULTATION. THE SENTENCE. THE YARD ARM! A DREAM. THE TRIAL. A STUBBORN SPIRIT BROKEN. A NOBLE ACT OF JUSTICE! WORTHY OF EMULATION!
The day subsequent to this last fortunate capture, an event took place on board the Constance which ended in a drama of singular interest.
There was a large powerful man, second in command of the prize just taken, who had been transported to the brig for safe confinement. He was a man of remarkable muscular strength, and one whom all noted on his first coming on board, as the prisoner who had caused so much trouble on board the prize before he was taken and bound. For additional security he was confined separate from the rest of the prisoners, not only because he had thus resisted Lovell after the surrender of the ship, but because he had been overheard to make several threats relative to the destruction of the vessel in which he should be confined. This man was, as we have said, of remarkable bodily strength, and he was therefore, if possible, more securely confined than the rest of his companions, but, notwithstanding all this, on the afternoon of the day subsequent to his capture, he managed to free himself from his bonds and place of confinement, which was in the forecastle of the brig.
When discovered, he had gathered a large pile of straw and other combustibles together, to which he had actually communicated fire, and the forward part of the vessel would have been wrapped in flames in five minutes more, but for the opportune discovery of the attempt of the prisoner by one of the crew of the Constance. The foremost man, who made the discovery, and who instantly endeavored to extinguish the flames, was slightly stabbed with his own knife by the Englishman whom we have described, and who was thus endeavoring to send the whole crew to eternity together. At length after a severe struggle he was again secured and placed where he could be more closely watched than he had been heretofore, and in such a manner as to render his escape a second time impossible.
The conduct of the prisoner seemed to all to be of the most blood-thirsty and vindictive character, and the crew called loudly on Captain Channing to make an example of him. Policy, too, urged the necessity of this upon his own mind, for it was evident to the meanest capacity on board, that the large number of prisoners confined in the brig, if not deterred by some decided act of justice, would endeavor to rise and take possession of the brig. So excited had the minds of the crew became on this point, that they rather demanded than asked for the immediate punishment of the man who would thus have destroyed them altogether. In consideration of this emergency, Jack Herbert and William Lovell were each called upon from their separate commands to come on board the Constance to meet the captain in consultation, while the little fleet was hove to. After a somewhat lengthy discussion of the subject, Channing said: ‘You think then, gentlemen, that the execution of this man is necessary?’
‘I would string him up within the hour,’ said Jack Herbert
‘I regret the necessity,’ said Channing, ‘but I must acknowledge that the safety of our lives and that of the brig seems to demand it.’
‘Unquestionably,’ said both.
‘I look at this matter thus,’ continued Lovell. ‘We are like men living over a mine of powder; the least spark of fire brought in contact with that powder will cast us all headlong into eternity; there is one who avowedly seeks an opportunity to apply the match; now should we hesitate for a moment to deprive him of the power?’
‘This is the only light in which the subject can be viewed,’ said Herbert; ‘and a most rational one it is too.’
‘The matter is settled then, gentlemen,’ said Channing, thoughtfully. ‘And this man must die!’
It was thus decided, and they then separated until the hour appointed for the execution of the prisoner.
It was a calm, mild day for the season; the three vessels had hardly reached the colder latitudes of the middle coast, and the day was really remarkable for the season of the year of which we speak. The little fleet lay within hailing distance of each other. The warm sun lay upon the gently swelling breast of the ocean, like the blushing cheek of a lady upon the breast of her lover. Everything about the brig was arranged with a scrupulous regard to order and neatness, and the countenance of every man seemed big with thought. Even honest Terrence Mooney looked uneasy and solemn about his face, which was usually so radiant with good feeling and kindness to all about him. Ever and anon he would give a hitch to his pantaloons, and casting his eye aloft to some arrangement about the rigging of the ship, would then give an ominous shake of his head, as much as to say, there was something going on that did not exactly meet his approbation, and then try to forget, apparently, the thought that troubled him, by whistling loudly some Irish air. It had been decided, as the reader has seen, that the prisoner in question should be executed on the yard arm, and although this was only understood by word of mouth, to the chief officers, yet the intelligent eye of the crew took in the preparations, which had necessarily been made, with a full sense of their purpose.
The noble-hearted crew, now that they saw the event actually about to take place, looked sad and dejected, for though any one of them would have gone into battle, with a jest, and while in the heat of blood, and with the justice of his cause at heart, have slain his enemy without a second thought; yet here they were about to do a very different deed, and one upon which they found time to reflect and ponder. They were about to launch a fellow being, in cold blood, into eternity, and every act of preparation but added to the chill at heart that each man felt. Aye, their very natures were revolting within them at the proposed murder, for so must ever seem the preconcerted taking of human life. It is an awful thing to take away the life we cannot give; and we are one of those who question its justice even in extreme cases, save actually in self defence.
‘Divil a bit do I fancy this work,’ said Terrence Mooney to one of his messmates; ‘it will bring bad luck upon the darling little brig, to have a man dangling by his neck up there, where blocks and ropes only belong. Arah, faith now, what was I after draining of the divil’s tail last night, if it wasn’t all for this yard arm business?’
‘And did’nt I drame too,’ continued Terence, after taking a turn or two between decks, where he was now watching the prisoners, ‘and did’nt I drame, too,’ said he, ‘that the brig run her nose into a water spout at say, and got rig’larly’ corned, a’ drinking salt water, and that she would have tumbled overboard intirely, but that Captain Channing kept all taut some how? Arab, divil a bit would I be after draining this if there was’nt something wrong.’
‘Don’t it all mane this hanging business, to be sure?’ put in his companion, who was the Irishman that joined the brig from the first prize.
‘It may be that, and so it is most like,’ continued Terence, ‘but I’ve had my misgivings, my boy, about lavin’ the ould woman, and not stopping to see her dacently buried, and put under ground.’
‘That was’nt jist rigular, Terence.’
‘And how could I help it at all; was’nt Captain Channing and the brig to sail that very hour that I agreed? to be sure I could’nt help it.’
‘It’s yourself that will be turning out a Jonah, and swallowing the whole of us,’ said his companion half seriously.
‘Way wid ye now,’ said Terence, ‘and don’t bother me.’
A solemn silence now reigned through the brig, which scarcely made a single foot of headway as she rose and fell gracefully in the long heavy swell of the Atlantic.—We have said that it was calm, aye, it was very still, for even the sea seemed as if holding its breath in anticipation of witnessing some unhallowed act. There was hardly a single sign of life manifested on board the Constance, save the sedate and quiet helmsman, or of death either, though to the observant eye resting upon that complicated yet graceful web of ropes and gear, a single whip was visible rigged to the fore yard arm. One end was led inboard, while the other ran along the yard through a block, and descended to the deck. This single rope thus disposed, told a story to the honest seamen, that led their countenances to express the sorrow, nay, almost fear, that we have alluded to. There was to be a fearful act accomplished, and they were to be the agents.
‘I do not like this business at all,’ said Capt. Channing to Lovell.
‘I look upon it as an important duty,’ was the reply.
‘It may be so,’ said Channing, musing.
‘And this poor fellow must be hanged?’ said the captain.
‘So we have decided,’ said Lovell.
‘It is a fearful thing, William, thus coolly to take a human life. Who would have thought that mine would ever be the hand, or that I should ever issue the order that should deprive a human being of life. I declare honestly to you that I am hardly equal to the cold blooded deed.’
‘Nay, courage, Fanny,’ said Lovell, (they were alone in the cabin,) ‘you have done nobly thus far, now carry out the affair as it should be done.’
‘And will this be a noble deed?’
‘It is always noble to do our duty.’
‘There is no reprieve, then?
‘I consider it as absolutely necessary for our safety. The fellow has even declared that if he gets another opportunity he will do the same deed over again. Is it safe then that he should live?’
‘The sentence is just,’ said Fanny.
‘Courage, Fanny, all will soon be over.’
‘Aye, but it is a fearful business. Lovell, do you realize it?’
‘I do, indeed, but think we have decided for the best.’
Overcoming all her woman’s feelings, Fanny summoned her wonted spirit, and ordered the prisoner to be brought before her. He soon made his appearance, strongly bound, and led a couple of the crew. He was a noble specimen of a man in his physical formation. Of good height, broad and full across the chest, with heavy yet well formed limbs. His hair was short, black as jet, and curled closely to his head. He came in looking sullenly down upon the cabin floor, resembling a lion at bay, his huge, muscular form expanding with rage at the feeling of his bonds. He stood before the captain of the brig who sat in a large easy chair, while on either side stood Lovell and Herbert.
It was a scene of strange and peculiar interest. There stood that huge Hercules of a man before that gentle hearted girl to be adjudged to death. Her deep soul seemed to be reading the prisoner’s inmost thoughts through the blue of her beautiful eye. Her voice did not tremble, her hand was firm, and she was a man at heart. The woman feeling which was so lately called into action in her breast, was banished, and nothing save stern justice might be expected to come from out those lips which displayed at that moment a decision of purpose and character which Lovell had never marked there before.
‘Prisoner,’ said Fanny, in her low musical tone of voice, and yet with singular distinctness, ‘do you know that my counsellors have decided upon your death at the yard arm, within this very hour?’
‘I saw the whip rigged aloft, as I came along the deck,’ was the meaning reply of the prisoner.
‘Have you nothing to offer before we execute this resolve?’
‘Nothing,’ said the man, his eyes still bent upon the floor. ‘It would seem most probable that a person about to lose his life would have some wish to express. If you have any, speak them, and if they be reasonable they shall be granted.’
‘I have none,’ was the reply.
‘Prisoner,’ continued Fanny, ‘have you no wife, children, of friends?’
Here she was interrupted by a groan from the Englishman, that showed she had touched him upon a vulnerable point.
‘I have both wife and children,’ he said, without raising his head from his breast, while his broad manly chest heaved with visible emotion.
‘And you have no reward to leave for them, no wish to express before your execution?’ asked Fanny.
‘None! They will know that I died loyal!’
‘You have offered threats against this vessel and us, a second time since your being again secured, I am told. Is this so?’
‘It is; the enemies of my king are the enemies of God, and I would pursue them to the last gasp. Thou art a rebel, sir Captain, and all these about thee. Should they be spared if I could rid the king of them, by the loss of my own life? No!’ During all this time he had not even lifted his head, but as if humbled by his bonds, his eyes still sought the floor.
‘Would you not embrace such a proposal,’ said Fanny, ‘as should restore your wife to your bosom, and your children to your arms.’
The man started—his Herculean proportions assuming an attitude that would have struck an artist with admiration. His head was erect, his eyes bent eagerly upon the captain, and his form seemed to be at least a half a head taller than before. In a moment more his head dropped again as if the spirit that had actuated him for a moment had passed away, and he even doubted that he had heard aright. Relapsing into his former state, he made no reply to the question that had so moved him.
‘Say, prisoner,’ continued Fanny, ‘would you again see those you have left in your native land—your home, your wife and children, and those you love?’
‘I shall meet them in Heaven,’ was the calm reply.
‘And is it loyalty to thy king that has incited thee to this mistaken course?’ asked Fanny.
‘What else could actuate a British sailor?’
‘Unbind him!’ said Fanny to the guard, who stood by his side.
‘Do I command this vessel?’ asked Fanny, rising and drawing her naked sword, and grasping it for action.
‘Certainly, sir.’ said one of the men, ‘but your honor, we———’
‘Do you hear, fellows? Unbind him!’
Lovell and Herbert were unprepared for this, and did not venture a word, while the guard did as they were ordered. In a moment more the Englishman stood unbound, and at liberty before her, his fine manly face evincing the utmost surprise, while he stood motionless with astonishment.
‘I think I have not mistaken you, sir, ‘said Fanny, addressing the prisoner, ‘and if I have read you aright, it best behoves us to hold converse with such as thou art on equal terms. You are now free!’
‘And to what end?’ asked the man in amazement.
‘I would reason with you.’
‘I am attentive,’ said the Englishmen, evincing by his manner and speech a degree of refinement, that he had not before shown.
‘Dost thou know,’ asked Fanny, ‘of the oppression that has driven the North American Colonies of Great Britain to the course they have adopted? what flagrant wrongs they have endured; what servile and debasing treatment they have suffered at the hands of the evil advisers of the king?’
‘I only know that the North American Colonies have rebelled against their lawful king,’ said the Englishman, moodily.
‘You know not,’ continued Fanny, warming in her subject, as she proceeded, her deep blue eyes sparkling with animation and spirit, ‘of the sanctuarys defiled, of homes made desolate, the prostration of trade, and the consequent distress of thousands! You know not that the messengers of the people have been spurned from the throne, thus adding insult to injury?—Would it not belie our English origin to bear all this tamely Should we be worthy the stock from whence we spring, did we not resent them, and endeavor by our own right hands to obtain justice?’
‘You tell me news, indeed,’ said the Englishman, thoughtfully.
‘Let not this spirit of revenge live any longer in thy breast,’ said Fanny, ‘but consider first what has caused this resort to arms, and then judge who is in the wrong. If it should seem to thee to be the Colonists, do not disgrace thy nature by seeking revenge against them by any blood thirsty act; and if the King, then do not again lift your arm against this people.’
‘I feel that I have erred!’ said the Englishman, nobly willing to acknowledge the wrong he had done.
‘So,’ said Fanny, ‘I know that I may trust you!’
The Englishman sprang forward, seized the extended hand of Fanny, and after pressing it warmly, left the cabin without uttering a word.
Fanny in her ready wit and judgment, read something of the true character of the prisoner, and after a little conversation, as we have seen, she was strengthened in her supposition with regard to it. She had rather resort to almost any expedient than that of the execution of the man, and to avert it she was willing to run some risk in the matter of trusting him.
The treatment proved salutary. A stubborn spirit was conquered by kindness and reason, the only weapons that one responsible being should use with another. The Englishman’s spirit had undergone a complete change; he would have lain down his life for the captain of the Constance; and from the hour of his liberation, was an ardent supporter of the cause of the American people, though he was never actively engaged in the war. He did not betray the confidence that had been so placed in him, but served faithfully as a common sailor to the end of the voyage.
There is a moral that we are tempted to put down here, simple perhaps, but a great one nevertheless, yet fearing the censure of the general reader, who sometimes decries in no measured terms these moral digressions, we leave the inference to which we have only alluded, for the good judgment and discernment of the reader, but let us venture to urge its consideration.
Lovell was struck with the good judgment and ingenuity which Fanny had displayed in this trying case, and found therein a new trait of goodness and understanding, to love and respect her for; and when they were again alone he asked her.
‘Why did you not tell me of this plan of action, dear Fanny; was I not deemed worthy of the trust?
‘I had not entertained the idea beforehand, William; it was the promptings of the moment, suggested by the noble bearing of the man, and the feeling and emotion he evinced at the mention of his home and family. It was easy enough to see then, William, that his heart was in the right place, and susceptible to the influence of kindness.’
‘It could not have been better managed,’ said Lovell, ‘or more skill and judgment of human nature displayed.’
‘I have relieved my heart of a heavy load of responsibility,’ said Fanny; ‘for the last few hours I have been quite miserable.’
‘You have done nobly, my dear girl.’
‘I beg pardon—sir, I mean that your conduct is deserving of all praise, Captain Channing,’ said Lovell, with a mock show of respect.
‘If you are not careful, William,’ said Fanny, ‘you will expose me to the crew, and who knows what might be the consequence?’
‘True, true,’ said Lovell, ‘I will be all respect in future, depend upon my discretion. But have you no fears or misgivings, Fanny, as to the good faith of this man you have liberated?’
‘Not the least. I fear not to trust him with my life.’
‘Heaven grant him honest,’ said Lovell as they parted.
FORECASTLE TALK, A NEW ENEMY, A CHASE, THE STORM. THE ACTION. THE FORTUNES OF THE FIGHT. SCENE ON BOARD THE ENEMY. THE TRICK. FEARFUL ENCOUNTER. SINGULAR DISCOVERY. FANNY A PRISONER. A PEEP AT THE CAMPBELLS’ FIRE-SIDE. THE PARENTS AT HOME.
Let us see how this mode of disposing of the case of the prisoner was received by the inhabitants of the forecastle, the rough and hardy men before the mast. Terrence Moony had come to be a sort of leader as it were among the crew, in all manner of opinion and judgment. Firstly, because he appeared to be peculiarly gifted with the ‘gab,’ as they say of a talkative man at sea, and secondly, because he was a jolly, free-hearted, whole-souled sort of a man. Terrence was very ready with his opinions on every occasion, being in no way loth to express them freely, and more especially at such a time and on such an occasion as the present. He always stood up for the captain, though for the matter of that, there was no man of the crew but would do the same. But then Terrence Moony was particularly sensitive on this point, and was sure to take up the most distant allusion that could possibly be made to reflect upon him.
‘Now who but our captain could have done that?’ asked Terrence confidently, referring to the freeing of the Englishman, ‘jist tell me that; and thin ain’t that British man another man altogether, ever since, intirely. Arrah, it’s the captain of us that’s under holy kapin’.
‘Hark ye, brother,’ said an old tar in reply to Terrence, and, by way of expressing an opinion, ‘whatever my friends may say for or against me, and whatever may be my other good points, they can’t say I’m much of a scholar, but for all that I think I know something about human nature, and damme if I wouldn’t trust this big Englishman with a match beside the magazine, if it had as many openings as a Chinese junk has windows.’
‘Well—’ said another very quietly, ‘I did think that captain Channing was a little hasty when he found out—’
‘Hey? What the divil did ye say?’ put in Terrence Moony fiercely, ‘the captain to blame,’ and he clenched a fist the size of a small infant’s head; ‘where’s the man that will say that?’
‘Avast there, brother,’ said the offender, ‘I say I did think him a little hasty at first, but then you see the result is all right, and no doubt the captain was within soundings all the while.’
‘To be sure he was,’ said Terrence, cooling his ire somewhat slowly.
‘I have seen as fine a seaman as this Englishman,’ said a third, whipt up to the end of a yard on board a British man of war, at the signal of a gun, but he didn’t come down reformed this man is, because why, d’ye see, he come down stiff and dead, and the next hour fed the sharks alongside. Now it seems to me that the best punishment must be that sort which brings a man into the port of repentance, and not such as will knock a hole in his bottom, and sink him before he gets in sight of it.’
‘That’s jist the talk, now,’ said Terrence Moony. ‘What’s the use of hanging a man? thin he’s no use at all, nather to himself nor any body else. Arrah, it’s a mighty miserable use to put a man to.’
‘Who’d have thought that the young man, our commander God bless him,’ said an old weather-beaten mariner, would have had the mercy and discrimination to have done this piece of work. I’ve sailed upon the sea eight and thirty years, and I never saw a thing handsomer done on the ocean.’
Terrence here clapped his hands with delight. He had a perfect infatuation, a sort of monomania relative to Captain Channing, and the faithful fellow would have deemed it an enviable lot to have laid down his life for him at any moment.
‘Aain’t he a jewel, thin?’ said Terrence.
‘Look ye, messmates, did it ever occur to any of ye that our captain is a Pirate, after all,’ said the old seaman.
‘Hey? What’s that?’ said Terrence, ‘do you want me to kill you intirely, Mr. Bolt, or why the divil are ye calling the captain names?’
‘I don’t mean to cast any reflections upon Captain Channing. No, he’s a captain to live and die under; that all will agree To. But, supposing, mess-mates, a British man-of-war should come down from Boston harbor, here-a-way, and run us aboard and take the pretty little Constance, as she would do? I can tell you, brothers. Captain Channing would be dangling from the yard arm of that same man-of-war an hour afterwards as a Pirate!’
‘How the deuce can you make that out?’ asked one of the first speakers. ‘Ain’t the Colonies honestly at war with the English? and have we been cruising against any other nation but them? To be sure, we rummaged that bit of a prison there at Havana, you know, but we didn’t do any harm. A prison’s a prison, and a ship’s a ship; it can’t be piracy to storm a prison-house, dy’e see.’
‘True, brother, but didn’t our Captain ship in the brig Constance as second?’ asked the other speaker; ‘and ain’t he captain of her now by his own making, and ain’t the brig his? Can you tell what all this signifies? It looks to me like what a court-martial would call piracy, that’s all.’
‘Perhaps so; but we ain’t going for to be taken, you see,’ said a new speaker, ‘and that makes all the difference in the world’ This remark was received with a hearty laugh by all and the conversation took another turn.
‘Let’s drop this subject, messmates; it’s no use talking about it,’ said another. ‘Come, whose turn is it to spin a yarn?’
‘Aye, whose turn is it?’ asked several voices at the same time.
‘Come, Brace,’ said one or two of the men, ‘it’s yours, so just come to an anchor alongside here on this chest, and pay out.’
‘Ay, ay, my hearties. Avast there, Terrence Moony with your blarney, while I spin a yarn, do you hear, boy?’
‘Ay, ay, brother, go ahead,’ said Terrence, good naturedly.
Bolling a monstrous quid of tobacco about his mouth for a few minutes, he who was to speak, at length settled it quietly in one side of his cheek, plugging it well down with his tongue, then lounging into an easy attitude, he began:
‘It may be that there is some of you as have sailed up there to the Northerd, where it is so cold that a man don’t dare to stand still for a moment for fear that he shall be frozen to death. No? Well, I have then, and it’s about one of them cruises that I’m going to tell you. You see, we were up there knocking about for some good reason, but for what I don’t know, as our captain sailed with sealed orders, and a foremast man is not very often enlightened by a look at the log of the captain’s mind.
‘But the king had ordered the ship to go there, and I was a pressed man on board so I was there too. And there we were three hundred as fine fellows as you ever set eyes on, or as ever ran up a rattlin, freezing our fingers and toes every watch, and half the time the ship was shut in entirely by the ice; and in this way we remained seven or eight days, I remember, fitted into the ice as close as our carpenter could lay in a plank, nothing to be seen for miles in any direction but one long and almost endless field of ice, with once in a while a walrus, or a sea-horse out of the water and laying sleeping by the small crevices that were formed here and here in the neighborhood of the ship.
‘Well, one day it came on to blow big guns, and such a cracking and snapping among the frozen rigging you never listened to; and the water seemed to be in a perfect rage beneath the ice, as if it did not relish very well living under hatches. Well, this lasted through one whole night and day, during which time I thought, we should have chafed all to pieces; but the captain said that we sat so snugly in the ice, that it was all that saved us, while I could not but wish that we might have a little more room, if only to float free of the ice and its cursed chafin.
‘Well, the next night we were knocked about till daylight, when we found that the ice had broken up, and that we were going before the gale at a tremendous rate, and mostly free of ice. On, on, we went, until at last we approached another field, we could not avoid it, so we sought the safest place where we might lay the ship to ride out the storm, which was now in full blast.
‘Well, we got in and anchored to the solid ice and in the course of a few hours the heft of the storm began to go down, and the sea grew more quiet, and we were like to have a chance to get some rest for the first time for more than forty-eight hours, when one of the look-outs from aloft hailed the deck:
‘You may well suppose such a hail thrilled to our very hearts, for we had not seen a sail save those of our own ship for more than two months; and the cry from aloft was echoed by every man in the ship, and those just ready to turn in hurried on deck to get a sight at the stranger, many but half dressed in their eagerness.
‘Where away?’ demanded the officer of the deck.
‘Just off the larboard quarter, sir,’ said the look-out.
‘All eyes were tinned to the point, and sure enough, there lay about three miles to leeward of us, a ship apparently fastened in the ice, and unable to make the least headway. No sails in sight, and her masts looked more like the branches of a tree than good honest standing rigging.
‘Our captain set his signals to working as soon as he could, to try to gain some intelligence from the stranger, but no notice was taken of the signals, and at length the captain fired a gun or two in order to wake them up, but there was no answering signal from the stranger, and at length, the captain, getting out of all patience, ordered a gun to be shotted and fired into her, if indeed we could reach her where she lay.
‘The gun was discharged, and the iron skipped along the ice, now throwing a shower of ice in the air, now gliding along smoothly, but all the while with the speed of light, until it dashed plump into the stranger’s side, scattering the splinters as it had done the ice before. All eyes now strained upon the skip, but not a sign of life was evinced on board of her. No answer was returned either to our shot or the signals. One or two of the officers thought they could make out the figure of a man, or rather that part of him which might be seen above the waist of the ship. But he was motionless, and made no signal, if indeed he was a man at all.
‘Well, we turned in, and it was determined by the captain to send an expedition over the ice the next day to the deaf and dumb ship. It was perilous work, and there was no great anxiety expressed among the men to undertake it, because, do you see, the ice was liable to separate and change its position every minute, and there was every chance that we might be separated from the ship, and perhaps forever. However, the captain detached about twenty men, among whom he placed me, and sent us off under the third Luff to see what we could make out of the stranger. It took us nearly three hours to go the distance to the ship, for we had a good many large cracks or openings in the ice to go round, but at length we got near to the ship, when the Luff still seeing no signs of life, began to suspect that there was some piece of treachery about to be played upon us, and therefore halted the men, and dividing them into two parts, resolved to board the stranger on both the larboard and starboard side at the same time.
‘We boarded her,’ continued Brace, pausing for a moment to roll his quid to the opposite cheek, as he changed his position.
‘Well, well,’ said several anxious voices at once, ‘what then?’
‘Well, as I was saying, we boarded her starboard and larboard, and what do you think was the first thing that met our eyes? I’ll tell you. You see the waist was so deep that we could not see the deck until we got on board, and the quarter being raised but a little above the deck, that was hidden too. Well, as we jumped upon deck, there sat the helmsman at the wheel, stark and stiff, his eyes fixed on vacancy, but his hands still clasping the tiller. Down in the waist there sat a couple of seamen upon a coil of rope, hard as marble, and forward, just by the step of the foremast, crouched a dog as stiff as death. We went up to them, and handled them, but they were like blocks of marble, frozen to death.
‘Down in the captain’s cabin sat him whom the Luff said must have been the captain. He held a pen in his hand, and by his side stood a candlestick, the candle burnt out. He had apparently just commenced to make an entry in the log when overtaken by, and benumbed with the intense cold. The last date under his pen, and which he seemed to have made as the last act of his life, was just one year previous to that very one on which we boarded him!
The log said that the crew had exhausted their fire-wood on board, and that some parts of the vessel had been already cut up to supply them with fuel, which we could see fast enough, and that the cold was almost insufferable, and that at that time the ship was bound by the ice. We found some of the crew in their berths as stiff and hard as their companions on deck.
‘All told the fearful story that they had been overtaken by an extreme degree of cold, which from the various positions and attitudes in which they were found, hard and rigid, mast have been very sudden. Every thing on board that ship that had formerly been animate or inanimate, was struck with the chill, and was more like a rock than a piece of ice, so firm was everything bound up in frozen chains. It was a horrid sight, messmates, that ship. I’ve seen some hard things in my day, but the frozen crew on board that ship in the ice was the worst.’
Thus far Brace had told a true story, melancholy and strange as it may seem, and he had told it too with a degree of intelligence and in language that showed him to be a well-informed man for his station in life in those days. But then he could not let the matter rest here; he must add what they call at sea and among the crew a ‘clincher’ to his story, or else it would lack one important ingredient, and would be hardly considered complete by his messmates. So after taking a turn or two with his quid of tobacco, he continued his story.
‘Well, messmates, there wasn’t much aboard that we cared for, being as we were, so far from home; but I thought to myself that I should like to carry away the dog, just to show the ship’s company when we got back that what we had said was no gammon, but all true. So I asked the Luff if I might take away the dog to show the crew, and he gave me leave; so I shouldered him, and no light load was he either; he was a large, full-bred Newfoundland, but I carried him all the way to the ship myself, and when I got him on board he was a matter of no small curiosity, I can tell you, being a sort of sample of what we had found on board the stranger.
‘Well, I carried the dog down into our mess below to talk over the thing that night with the crew, and at last we turned in, after hearing a few yarns, and lay quiet enough till nearly midnight, when a low, trembling moan awoke me from sleep.
‘I started up, for it sounded most horribly, and I looked round; but finding the rest all asleep I thought I had dreamed it, and so laid down again, but hardly had I done so when it was repeated, and this time louder than before; I started up up again, but could not tell what had caused it, until by chance my eyes rested upon the carcass of the dog which lay just beside the big ship’s coppers where fire was constantly kept, and messmates, what do you think I saw? I’ll tell you. The Newfoundland critter was moving. I jumped up in less than no time, and damme if we didn’t have him thawed out so before daylight, that the captain sent down a middy to stop the noise below decks, the hungry scamp barked so loud.’
‘Look here, Brace,’ said one, ‘that’s palarver.’
‘No, no,’ said Brace, ‘all true, honor bright, messmates.’
‘Do you mean really to say that that ere dog come to life again?’ asked another of the crew.
‘To be sure I do: there’s nothing very wonderful in that.’
‘Well,’ added Terrence Moony, ‘you had the consolation of saving a fellow crathur’s life eny way. Troth, and sich an act is’nt to be sneezed at, so give us your flipper, messmate.’
‘Your yarn is all very well, Brace,’ said one of his messmates, ‘but that dog part is rather a dose.’
‘Never you mind that,’ said Brace, ‘and now I think of it, Marling, it’s your turn next.’
‘Yes, yes, it’s your turn next,’ said half a dozen voices at once.
‘For the matter of that I believe you’re all right,’ said Marling good naturedly, ‘avast there.’
And after rolling his quid about his mouth for a few minutes, and hesitating for a moment, said:
‘I say, messmates, you must let me off with a song; fact is, I can’t think of any yarn just now, how will that do?’
‘Oh yes, a song, a song, give us a song,’ they all cried together.
‘Well then, here goes a song to old hoary Neptune.
Ho, ye—ho Messmates, we’ll sing
The glories of Neptune, the ocean king,
He reigns o’er the waters, the wide sea’s his home,
Ho ye—ho, in his kingdom we roam.
He spreads a blue carpet all over the sea,
O’er which our bark walks daintily—
Though down at the bottom the old monarch hails,
He blows the fresh wind plump into our sails.
Landsmen who live on the dull, tame shore,
Love their homes, but ours we love more:
Oh! a ship and salt water, messmates, for me—
There’s nothing on earth like the open sea.
Landsmen are green boys, I have a notion
They don’t know the fun that’s had on the ocean;
But contented they live in one spot all their lives,
Like honey bees, messmates, they stick to their hives.
What though we have storms? They’ve earthquakes on shore,
And though we have troubles, they surely have more;
We gather rare food ‘mong the isles of the sea.
When the tropical fruit grows, there boys, are we.
Ah! give us the ocean; nought but the sea
Is a fit home, messmates, for hearts that are free.
Ho, boys ho! then let us all sing
To the glory of Neptune, the ocean’s king.
This song being original with Marling, and sang to a popular air of the day, was hailed with great applause by his comrades to whom he was obliged to sing it again and again before they would be satisfied. Terrence Moony swore ‘by the powers of mud that it bate everything intirely.’
‘And did you make all that up yerself?’ asked Terrence.
‘It’s mine, such as it is, Terrence, my boy.’
‘Thin you’re a gintilman intirely, for is’nt it thim as bees the authors of poetry? Arrah, and hav’nt we a gintilmen in our mess?’
But to the reader, let Marling’s verses show that the forecastle is not entirely devoid of taste, and that many a hardy son of the ocean carries within him a fund of wit, aye, and genius too, that only needs the occasion to call it forth.
As if by common consent, all now turned upon Terrence Moony and charged him with the heinous offence of not having spun one yarn since the commencement of the voyage. Terrence had no faculty for story telling, and therefore rather fidgeted under the sallies and jokes of his messmates. But at length his eyes brightened up, and his features were really handsome with the look of intelligence and enthasiasm that lit them up as he said: ‘I hav’nt any turn that way you see, friends, but there’s a bit of a circumstance happinid to meself not long ago, I’ll tell yes.’
And Terrence related in his own peculiar way, the kindness that Capt. Channing had shown his dying mother. He had never mentioned thus in detail before, though his messmates knew that the captain had once served Terrence by some needed charity. You should have seen the tears start from the eyes of those rough sea-dogs as Terrence told his tale with a feeling that could not be mistaken. It showed that the forecastle covered up as truly kind and sensitive hearts as did the quarter-deck.
There was no open applause after Terrence’s tale, but it produced its effect, and one or two rough but honest slaps upon the shoulder showed him that the mess wished him to understand that he was altogether a particularly clever fellow, these very blows being designed to express the indelible character of their regard.
As to Captain Channing, there was a vote taken on the spot that there never was such another, though it hardly needed this fresh proof of goodness in their commander to incite them to such a declaration, inasmuch as they had long entertained this feeling toward him; and they might well do so, for their every comfort was cared for, and their good constantly considered by him who commanded them. How easy a matter it is to gain the affection and regard of those dependant upon us, by treating them as we ourselves would wish to be treated in a like situation. There is a golden rule touching this point.
I do not know why it is, but it is a well known fact, that sailors are notorious for story-telling, or as they term it, for spinning yarns. They are driven to it in part for recreation, as there is no duty so monotonous than that of a foremast man aboard ship. Confined within the narrow limits of the vessel, he sees but few faces and those perhaps he is associated with for months, without once landing. Thus the inhabitants of the forecastle, seldom possessing books, are thrown much upon their own resources for amusement during such time as they may find their own. Story-telling is a very natural as well as fascinating mode of amusement; and this they universally adopt, on all occasions. I have sometimes heard landsmen remark that the nicely told stories put in print as coming from seamen while spinning a yarn to their messmates, were all moonshine; that foremast men could not talk like that. This is a mistake—the constant habit renders them very perfect, and I have listened through a whole watch to as well a told story from one of the crew of a merchantship, as I have ever read; told too with a degree of refinement entirely unlooked for. Thus the crew of the Constance were now engaged, and we cannot refrain from transcribing one more yarn that was spun in the forecastle on this occasion. The song seemed to have inspired them all, and they were vociferous, among themselves for another yarn immediately.
‘Come, Jennings, it’s your turn, there’s no mistake about that,’ said two or three of the men to one of their companions, sitting by the chest.
‘Ay, ay, messmates, wait a bit till I overhaul my reckoning.’
‘That’s it, a yarn from Jennings, a yarn from Jennings!’ they all cried.
Jennings was a real specimen of a yankee; tall, muscular, and good looking, with a large degree of intelligence shining from his features.
Like his race, generally, he was up to making money, and the high offer of the British captain in the way of wages had tempted his cupidity so far, as to induce him to ship for what he believed to be a simple trading voyage to the West Indies.
‘Well messmates, you have been talking about the salt sea; I’m going to spin you a yarn about the land, that will be a new wrinkle, so here goes. But let me just tell you at the beginning that it’s no dog story, but a matter of fact.
‘Most of you come from the same parts as myself, but I don’t think you have heard this story, being’s it occurred many miles back to the west end of the town of Boston, and near by where I was born. You see I was born on the Hadley flats in Massachusetts, just by a bend of the Connecticut, though I soon came to the sea-side after I got to be old enough to leave home, and soon took a fancy to the ocean, which I have followed ever since. I wasn’t so young when I left home, but that I remember the only spot in all the earth where I want to lay my hulk after the cruise of life is up, it is the neighborhood of the green meadows, and the curving bends of the Connecticut, which runs smoothly over the very foot of Mount Tom and Mount Holyoke. It was not far from this spot that I was born. Just above us and near to the base of these two highest mountains in the state, there lived a tribe of Indians—friends of the settlers, and with whom they associated like brothers.
‘I have wandered, when a boy, among their lodges—have climbed up the steep paths of the mountains, and strolled among the groves and fields that skirt the banks of the river, and, messmates, I have sometimes wondered in my dreams, if we can be happier in heaven than I was then, and if paradise can be a milder or more desirable place than that.
‘Well, messmates, you see it’s a story about this tribe of Indians that I’m going to tell you about, or rather about one of them. The old Chief of the tribe had two children only, both girls, and as clean-limbed and pretty as a roe-buck from the hills; they were the pride of the old mans heart, and, indeed, of the whole tribe.
‘The oldest one was called Kelmond, which meant, in their dialect, ‘The Mountain Child’ They called her so because she was born in one of their lodges on the side of that eminence, Holyoke, which looks down upon the valley of the Connecticut, as you could, messmates, upon the deck of the brig, when yer up at the top-mast head. Her sister was called Komeoke, which means in their language, ‘The Fair’ They always name their women in this way, with some soft and pretty-like name.
‘Well, the oldest was the prettiest and the gentlest creature you ever saw, and there wasn’t a warrior in the whole tribe who would not have had her for his wife, if he could have got her. But somehow or other, she loved to pass her days in the woods tying wild flowers and lying by the bright clear brooks that spring up in thousands on the hill-sides and in the groves, and she never listened: to any of them wild love songs and tokens of affection.
‘Her sister was a very pretty girl, and if one hadn’t seen the eldest, he truly might have thought the youngest one the prettiest creature he had ever seen, though her sort of beauty was altogether of a different kind. She was all, every inch, Indian, bold, fearless, and more like a man than a female. They loved each other with all the fervor of affection that their girlish hearts could feel, even though their dispositions were so very different.
‘In our village, if I may so call the dozen houses that made up the place; around the block house, there was stopping a young Englishman who had come there with his gun and hounds and a single servant man, for the purpose of hunting for mere sport. He was a fine, handsome looking man, belonging to some great family in England, and was about twenty-two years old. He hadn’t been with us but a few weeks, before, in some of his wanderings he met with Kelmond, the oldest of the chiefs two handsome children. I don’t think there ever was a man who had a better way of making himself agreeable, messmates, a sort of winning way, just like our captain. I mean a sort of faculty of getting everybody’s good graces. Well, he wasn’t long in making himself acquainted with the beautiful Indian girl, and they used often to meet by themselves in the woods, and the Englishman won her heart completely. The way I found it out was by following him one day to see where he could go to so regularly every day, and I soon understood the scent. Well, it was plain that for some reason that he didn’t want any one to knew about the business, so when I hinted about it, do you see, he told me to say nothing about the thing, and gave me a dollar to keep mum, while he still went regularly every day to the place where they met and sat for hours together.
‘I don’t know anything about the stories he used to tell the girl, or what he promised her, but the rascal deceived her, I know so much. Randolph, that was the Englishman’s name, had lived in great cities, where there is all kinds of vice and evil practised, as you and I know, messmates, perhaps he didn’t think the thing so much of a crime as some others would look upon it; but that’s no matter, he betrayed her and forsook her soon afterwards, and I was not long in discovering this, for though I was a boy, I knew some things that the Englishman thought I didn’t, and when I saw that he began to leave the clearing by a different path, I understood the whole affair and told him so in secret; he offered me money, but I refused it, and told him that an Indian never forgave an injury, and that he would have to suffer for it. I told him that if she did not revenge herself, there were an hundred knives that would do it for her, aye, and find him, hide where he would. But you see, he didn’t mind me at all, and still staid thereabouts.
‘Well, time passed on, and one day I was out with my gun for some game and happened to be very near the place where Randolph and Kelmond used to meet, and coming up to it suddenly, I found the Indian girl upon the spot, and crying as I had never seen an Indian before, for they’re a stern race, you know, messmates; well, I could not but offer her all the consolation I knew how to do, and, you see, she knew where I came from, and so asked me about Randolph’s health, and the like, but never reproached him for all his deception, not a word. ‘Twould have made you blubber right out to have seen that poor, brokenhearted girl asking after him who had betrayed her, with all the warmth of an affection that could never die. There’s something queer, messmates, about a woman’s love; I never sailed much in those latitudes, but I’ve seen those that have, and I can say, on my own account, that I never could find soundings myself, throw the lead as often as I would. So it was with this beautiful Indian girl; her heart was still the same towards him who had rendered her cruise for life one of perfect misery.
‘Well, from that hour the wild flower of the mountains withered and faded like a broken reed, until the suspicion of her sister Komeoke was aroused, and she at length told her all her misery. She heard it without a word of revenge, and did all her kind heart could suggest, to make her dear sister as comfortable as she might. Well, a few days from the time she told her secret to her sister, the poor, beautiful, but broken-hearted girl, like a ship without a compass, messmates, lost her mind, they say; at any rate she climbed to the very highest part of Holyoke, where a long, sharp rock extends out from the hill-side, and looks off towards the valley, and threw herself off from the immense height upon the rocks and stones below. Her father found her body the next day all mangled and torn to pieces. Her sister, too, looked upon her dead body, and then uttered the deep, horrid curse of her tribe upon him who had caused this ruin. She did not shed a single tear, so a red warrior told me afterwards, but her spirit was awake—she was aroused and the Indian blood was at work in her veins.
‘Before another sun had gone down, messmates, Randolph fell near the door of the house where he stopped, pierced to the heart by a poisoned arrow, and a few moments after, the sister of Kelmond sought his side and told him, why that arrow was sent—told him that he would appear before the Indian’s God with Kelmond, that he would be banished into the dirty, muggy swamps that evil ones inhabit, while the good were roving the happy hunting grounds of the blessed. Well, messmates, Randolph died of that fatal wound, and I, for one, am free to say he did not deserve to live. The sister was revenged, and Komeoke became the wife of a great brave.
”Twas soon after this that I left the neighborhood, and came to Boston and shipped to sea; but I have seen people from the settlement who say that the story didn’t end here, for that on any clear moonlight night the form of the Indian girl is seen at midnight upon that lofty rock, that many and often are the sacrifices made by the tribe for her spirit, but still it appears nightly on the rock.
‘There, messmates, is my true yarn about the Indian Maiden of Holyoke.’
Fortune is a fickle goddess, and she now threatened to desert Fanny in the greatest need. The little fleet was fast approaching the shores of Cape Cod when the look-out shouted the usual announcement of a vessel in sight. All on board the Constance, as well as the prizes, the barque and the ship, knew the precarious nature of their present situation, for they were now coming upon a coast that literally swarmed with the cruisers of the enemy. Every precaution had been taken that prudence could suggest to strengthen the little armament, but eight fighting men to a vessel, be she ever so well armed, could not avail much against a regular man-of-war of the smallest class with her full complement of men. This they knew full well, and no effort that ingenuity could devise was left untried to render every thing available that might favor them in case of attack. The arms were all double loaded, and every thing that vigilance could do was done. At the cry we have announced, from the look-out, every one was on the alert. It was morning, and the wind being fresh and fair, all had hoped to anchor that night in the quiet little harbor of Lynn, where the crew had ascertained that the captain would drop his land tackle. It was a clear, cold day, and the chill winds of northern winter were doubly felt by those on board the Constance, and the prizes who had so lately left the milder latitudes of the South.
The strange sail proved to be a brig of about the same tonnage as the Constance, and evidently a vessel in the commission of the king, wearing the British ensign at the gaff. She stood boldly for the Constance, whom her people appeared to have discovered at about the same time that she was seen by the Americans, and soon fired a gun of defiance. Lovell, seeing the impending danger, sheered up to within hailing distance of the brig, when Fanny ordered him and also Herbert to separate from each other, but to stand in for their port without noticing the king’s vessel, saying that it was of no use to risk the loss of their prizes, and that she would get out of the trouble in some way, or at any rate draw off the attention of the enemy from the barque until they should escape.
Lovell was in dilemma,—he did not dare to disobey order’s for example’s sake, nor even to question the propriety of the order for a single moment, and there was no course left him but to obey it, which he did with great reluctance, and yet with a full confidence that Fanny would manage all for the best.
The barque and ship therefore stood on their course for port, while Fanny ordering the helm up, put the brig before the wind with the hope of outsailing the cruiser. The enemy had already got within such distance as to render her strength manifest, and also to show her clearly what her enemy was. The brig proved to be the Dolphin, of twelve guns and about fifty men. She was short of her full complement, having detailed a number of her men by order of the admiral, for one of the larger ships upon the station.
The captain of the Dolphin, seeing the vessels separated, saw that he must select one as a mark for his ambition, and that he could not get the three in such a position as to render their capture a matter of probability. Some little time was lost in making selection, but at last he decided that the Constance was the most worthy of his honors, and so gave her chase forthwith.
One of the most exciting things that can well be conceived of, is a chase at sea. The mariner never fails to wish for more wind, forgetting apparently that the same force that propels his own vessel, also aids that of his enemy; and when the two vessels are of about the same tonnage, their increase of speed as it regards the force of the wind, must be nearly, if not exactly in the same ratio. There was a very fresh breeze blowing at the time, and yet Fanny did not cease to wish for more.
The two vessels had thus tested their sailing qualities for nearly three hours, when it was plainly manifest that the enemy being better able to handle his sails with promptness, had far the advantage of the Constance, and that he was fast gaining upon her. The breeze had increased to a hard blow, and Fanny had been obliged to furl sail after sail until the brig was now leaping forwardlike an arrow, before the wind, under close reefed topsails, jib, and mainsail, while the Dolphin, being able to shorten sail at any moment, was more venturesome, and sail held on, and thus came up hand over hand with the Constance.
It was now evident that there was no escape, or at least without fighting first, and Fanny determined she would do so, although she had but eight men to oppose to fifty. The sea now ran so high that fortunately it rendered boarding a matter entirely out of the question. Fanny’s quick wit understood this full well, and she hoped that it might possibly prove to be her safety by enabling her to fight at a distance, where her eight men could work to some advantage over the heavy gun amidships.
The wind blew a gale, and the Constance was now flying over the sea with only a double reefed topsail to steady her course and give her steerage. The Dolphin came on at a scarcely less fearful speed, and running under almost bare poles; but finding that his enemy was now increasing his distance, the captain of the Dolphin shook out a reef from his only sail that was spread, and soon gained again on the Constance. Fanny was not long in ascertaining that the advantage she had possessed over her former enemies was equally the case on the present occasion; for although the Dolphin carried twelve guns, yet none of them were of equal calibre to the Constance’s gun amidships, and at the present distance were actually of no use at all.
It was a fearful sight to see those two vessels dashing on through the boisterous and tempestuous ocean, regardless of the warring elements, and apparently only intent upon the destruction of each other. Almost any other officer in his majesty’s service would have sought rather to look to the safety of his own vessel in such a tempest as now reigned; but the captain of the Dolphin was one who did not give up an object so lightly. He prided himself on his seamanship, and while he made everything snug, yet he kept an eye upon the chase, determined not to lose sight of her, if possible to avoid it. At intervals, as an aim might be had, the Dolphin kept up a fire upon the Constance, but with little or no effect, while the crew of the American brig fired only at such times as they were pretty sure of their aim, and thus they had already done fearful execution upon the hull and rigging of the Dolphin. It required two men at the helm of the Constance, thus leaving Fanny but six of the crew to manage the vessel, and serve the gun amidship. In this dilemma, Fanny felt severely the want of more men, and had herself been laboring at all light matters about the deck for some time. At this moment in which the fact was forcing itself strongly upon her mind, there appeared upon deck the burly form of the pardoned Englishman, who had been permitted to go below by his own request, that he might not take part against his own countrymen.
‘Captain Channing,’ said he, ‘I cannot fight against my king, but if you will order these two men away from the wheel, I will serve you faithfully.’
This was an important station, and Fanny accepted the generous offer with thanks, from the man whose life she had so lately saved, and he assumed the station assigned him, obeying implicitly the wishes of Fanny. This was no slight aid to her, and leaving the management of the helm to him, she oversaw the management of the piece herself.
If Lovell could have seen her there, with that noble scorn of danger beaming from her face as she watched the rise and swell of the sea to get an aim at the Dolphin, and applying the match with her own hands; if he had seen her then, her head bared to the raging elements, yet coolly giving her orders to men, he would have thought her inspired from Heaven. The long tom under the management of the crew of the Constance had already done fatal execution on board the enemy; by singular good fortune scarcely a shot was thrown away, and this fearful accuracy astonished even the Captain of the Dolphin who though he kept up a constant firing, yet did but little injury to the chase in the distance at which they were from each other.
‘Now’ do I wish I had a score of men on board her, Brace,’ said Fanny to him who was now her mate, ‘in order that we might take yonder brig; we could do it, sir, if she would but hold on for us till the storm should abate, if we had that number of men,’ and Fanny’s eyes sparkled at the thought of ‘another prize’.
‘He don’t like this gun, sir, for see, Captain Channing, he’s sheering off as far as he dares to with the wind and storm from the North West.’
‘True—hard-a-port,sir,’ said Fanny to her faithful helmsman, ‘we are just at the right distance for our convenience and must keep it, Mr. Brace.’
‘So it strikes me, sir,’ said the mate pointing the gun.
Thus the Constance actually began to assume the position of pursuer, while the Dolphin was endeavoring to get out of the reach of the destructive long tom. Fanny realty began to feel the pride of a victor, notwithstanding the dangers that still surrounded the fearful raging of the storm.
Let us see what passed on board the Dolphin.
‘Mr. Millman,’ said the commander of the king’s vessel to his second officer, ‘keep her away a point or two; that cursed single gun of the rebel will sink us if we don’t get out of its reach. A little more, sir, steady, so, she’ll bear that—keep her so—that’s well.’
‘Three of my best men killed, and a dozen in the surgeon’s hands by these damned splinters and iron shot,’ mused the captain half aloud, ‘who could have foretold all this? Halloa, there, who’s hurt now?’ said the captain to an officer who approached to report the effect of the last shot from the Constance which had struck the Dolphin just amidships.
‘A couple of the best berths are emptied for the cruise, sir, and there’s a trough across the main deck two inches deep, all by a single ball!’
This was the second shot that had been reported to him; five of his best men gone, and the surgeon’s ward filled with the wounded.
‘The devil take this pirate of a rebel,’ said the commander of the Dolphin; ‘who ever knew shot to take-effect this way with such a sea on, and in such a cursed tempest?’
‘Keep her away another point, Mr. Millman,’ said the captain to his second. ‘The rascal will murder the whole crew at this rate, and I not able to strike a single blow.’
‘I’m afraid she wont bear another point, sir,’ ventured the Lieutenant; ‘she strains fearfully as it is, sir.’
‘Then keep her as she is, sir, if you can,’ growled the captain, ‘and the d———d rascal don’t sink us before the night sets in.’
There was indeed a fearful accuracy to the shot from the Constance, and there was that singular good luck (if we may call that good luck which sacrifices human life) attending every discharge that sometimes follows the throws of a gambler, who for a time seems sure of every game and high numbers—thus was it from the shot from the American brig. Nearly every one told with fearful accuracy upon the deck of that Dolphin. It looked almost like a miracle that gunnery could be so accurate in such a sea, but so it was, and fatally so.
The captain of the Dolphin foamed and raged like the very tempest about him at this unaccountable state of things, until at length he walked up to Mr. Millman who was at the helm, and said: ‘Mr. Millman, we must pull down that article,’ pointing to the English flag that was flapping and cracking like the report of a pistol, at the main; ‘the brig already leaks from one of those cursed shot. And besides in such a storm.’
‘Strike, sir?’ asked the Lieutenant in astonishment.
‘For a while only.’
‘Ah! I see, sir; a ruse, that is all, I suppose.’
‘Mr. Millman,’ continued the captain, ‘they can’t board, would to God they might try that,’ said he, clenching his fist.
‘The night will soon set in, sir.’
‘True, we can take our own course then.’
The necessary orders were given, and the proud flag of old England was again humbly lowered to the simple pine tree,-which still floated from the main of the Constance, she ceased her fire, and all the care of her crew was devoted to keeping the brig safe till the storm should abate.
Intense darkness soon shut victor and prize from each other’s sight, while the storm still raged its wild fury until nearly morning, when it gradually subsided. The morning broke clear and cold, and Fanny could see her late antagonist some three miles to windward of the Constance, and at that distance she could easily see the crippled condition of her spars.
‘Did he know,’ said she to Mr. Brace, ‘that he would find but about half a dozen men to contend with, we should yet have him down upon us seeking for close quarters; but I think he has had quite enough of us and that iron piece amidships there, will make him keep well away, if he can.’
This was hardly said on board the brig, when the yards of the Dolphin were squared, her sails all set, and in a few minutes she was cutting the water swiftly towards where the Constance lay.
‘Ah! Mr. Brace, the enemy are coming down lor another brush,’ said Fanny, ‘and there goes St. George’s flag again, or I’ve not got my eyes; the fellow has seen with his glass how weak we are on board here.’
‘True, sir, the fellow is in earnest this time, and we shall soon have him at close quarters. It will be all up with us then, Captain Channing.’
‘Step down and superintend that gun, Mr. Breed; we will keep him off as long as possible, sir.’
All sail was also crowded upon the Constance to endeavor to escape the dreaded close quarters, which must render the victory certain to the enemy. She skipped lightly off under the influence of the fresh breeze, and her enemy gained but slowly upon her, while the long tom was again doing execution upon the Dolphin’s deck. Ill fared it now with the short-handed crew of the Constance, who were not able properly to trim their own sails to take advantage of the wind; and though Fanny endeavored to cut up the rigging of her enemy and thus retard his speed, yet the long tom, singular enough, that had done such wonderful deeds during the storm, now that it was comparatively calm proved far less efficient, though as we have said, the shot did do some execution upon the Dolphin’s deck. Soon the shot from the enemy’s smaller metal, began to tell upon the Constance’s rigging, and her sailing was consequently much retarded, while the Dolphin fast neared her.
‘Mr. Brace,’ said Fanny, calling the mate to her, ‘we shall soon be at close quarters with the enemy. Now I have no idea of giving up the brig even to the large number we have to contend with yonder, without selling our right and title at a handsome advance on the cost.’
‘I’m ready and willing, sir, to do all a pair of hands can do,’ said the willing mate.
‘I know it, sir,’ was the reply. ‘I have a plan by which we shall be enabled to diminish the number of our enemies, at least, if not to rid ourselves entirely of them—possibly we may drive them off by it if it should succeed completely.’
‘What will you have done, sir.’
‘Have these six carronades all brought aft just here at the rise of the quarter deck, range them in a line pointing forward, so that they shall completely sweep the deck.
‘Load them with slugs and bullets, and with a couple of small shot in each, and be sure they are well charged; load them to the muzzle, sir. Hang across the deck just in front of them a large strip of canvass that shall hide them completely from sight; be sure that you rig it so that it can be dropped at a moment’s warning, be careful, sir.’
‘I understand, sir,’ said Mr. Brace.
‘Be lively now, there’s not a minute to lose.’
‘Ay, ay, sir.’
While this order was executing, the Dolphin fast neared the Constance, everything she could make draw in her crippled state being well managed; and Fanny could see by the course her captain was steering that he intended to lay the vessels along side, yard arm. This spurred her on to the execution of her plan, and she called out to the mate; ‘All ready there, Mr. Brace?’
‘Ay, ay, sir.’
The course of the Constance was altered, and tacking boldly she stood directly for the Dolphin, until she fouled on her starboard quarter, running her bowsprit across the enemy’s deck. In a moment the captain of the king’s vessel was seen boarding the Constance by the bowsprit, followed by nearly two score of his crew, armed with boarding pikes and cutlasses. As soon as the two vessels had become entangled together, Fanny sprang down behind the canvass that had just been erected, and where the small crew of the brig were already gathered, and hidden from the enemy.
The captain and crew of the Dolphin sprang at once on to the forecastle of the Constance, but there they paused, for there was no visible enemy to contend with, and fearing some secret attack, they gathered closely together, as if for greater security, but thus unwittingly heightening their own danger.
At a word from Fanny, while they were in this position, the canvass sheet was dropped and the matches were applied to the six cannon at the same moment! The havoc was tremendous! At least two thirds of the enemy who had boarded the brig were killed on the spot, while of the rest scarcely one remained without a wound. The one taking discharge from the six cannon loaded to the muzzle with powder and shot made most fearful havoc, indeed! Such of the enemy as could keep their feet, seeing so many of their comrades dead and dying about them, rushed precipitately back to the deck of their own vessel, but observing the weakness of the Constance’s crew, renewed the attack and carried the deck in a hand to hand contest.
Fanny’s pistol had taken the life of one of the enemy, and the other was presented to the breast of the Captain of the Dolphin, whose sword was also upraised to strike her, when both paused in astonishment, gazing at one another. Fanny’s arm which held the pistol sunk by her side, and the sword of her enemy fell harmless! ‘Fanny Campbell!’
Exclaimed each, uttering the other’s name.
The astonishment of both was complete.—Fanny’s presence of mind did not for a moment desert her, but approaching the Captain of the Dolphin, she said:
‘For Heaven’s sake, do not recognize me as a female.’
‘But can I believe my eyes?’ asked Burnet in astonishment.
‘They need not deceive you,’ said Fanny.
‘And are you captain here,’ he asked.
‘I was until you came on board,’ said Fanny gallantly giving up her sword to the victor.
‘But—but—’ said Burnet, hesitating.
‘I will explain all when we are alone,’ said Fanny.
She was conducted to the private cabin of Captain Burnet, and a prize crew of four only, placed in the Constance, while the prisoners were all released, and most of them taken on board the Dolphin. These prisoners, from the necessary severity of their confinement, were unable to work, and indeed scarcely able to walk. Thus the four men placed on board the Constance, with two of the prisoners who were found to be able to work, under the charge of the mate of the Dolphin, formed all the crew that could be spared. Burnet could not afford a larger number, for his late encounter had cost him more than two thirds of his whole complement of men. He had but ten seamen left to work his own vessel, and as they were so near to port he doubted not that the brig would be easily worked into harbor. He therefore made sail and left her to follow him to Boston.
Scarcely had the Dolphin dropped her prize so far astern as to fairly lose sight of her, before the bark and ship, having changed their course and returned to see how the Constance had rode out the storm, hove in sight. They were not long in ascertaining the state of affairs, and in making themselves masters of the brig again! Lovell learned the details of the whole affair from the Englishman whom Fanny had pardoned. The evidence of the dreadful slaughter upon the Constance’s forecastle was still visible, and was viewed with feelings of no slight degree of interest by Lovell and Herbert.—The former feared much for Fanny, and indeed was half crazed with regret; but there was no other course for them to take but to steer their course for Lynn harbor, which all three of the vessels did, Lovell and Herbert having heavy hearts within them for victors to carry; and the former would gladly have relinguished all to have clasped Fanny again safely in his arms.
Thus was the thread of our eventful tale spun on the wide waters at sea, while on land and in the little hamlet of High Bock, Lynn, the friends and relations of Fanny Campbell, except her parents, had never ceased to speculate and wonder as to the true cause of her absence. Her parents maintaining a profound secrecy upon the subject, threw a stronger degree of mystery about the matter, that kept the good old women and the gossips generally of the village in fidgets. Indeed, Mr. and Mrs. Campbell themselves did not hesitate to express a feeling of fear and dread lest some ill had befallen her, yet pretending that they really did not know where she had gone, for this was the express wish of Fanny and the promise gained from her parents that they would not reveal her secret was religiously kept when she left her home. One or two knowing the fact of William Lovell’s imprisonment, had shrewdly surmised that her absence related in some way to the affair; but in what particular way, no one knew.
‘I have daily forebodings that poor Fanny will never see her home again,5 said her mother to her consort one evening when both sat quietly with the bible open before them, and from whence they had as usual been reading aloud,’ previous to retiring to rest for the night.
‘Let us trust in Heaven, wife, it’s a holy cause she is engaged in, but I too have my fears for her safety.’
‘Poor child, she did not even tell us how she was to make the voyage,’ said the mother,—’unprotected though of course.’
‘Well wife, I would trust Fanny where I wouldn’t like to an elder and more experienced head. She’s a strange girl, and beside her book knowledge, has a good idea of common things. I have great faith in her judgment, or I should never have consented for her to leave us, although she was so urgent and determined about the matter.’
‘Heaven protect her!’ ejaculated the mother, with uplifted eyes.
‘Amen,’ added the father fervently.
‘It would be a romantic story if she should succeed,’ said the mother, her countenance brightening up with fresh hope, not that there was the least reason in it save, her own thoughts.
‘Ay, as good a plot as the Bay Province ever furnished for a novel, even in the old Indian times,’ said the father.
‘It is two months since she left us,’ said the mother.
‘Yes, and before the expiration of another week, we may possibly hope to hear from her at least.’
‘She set the time for her return at three months, I remember.’
‘Which will be a short time after all,’ continued the father, ‘even had she a vessel solely at her command. But you see, she must pass some time on the island at any rate, and then whether she proves successful or otherwise, she must wait for some vessel bound to Boston from that port.
‘There are many chances against her,’ sighed the old man seriously, as he raked the coals together on the hearth.
‘Oh! it was a wild undertaking,’ said Fanny’s mother, as much dejected now as she was a few moments before elated, and for just as good a reason as before stated and no other.
‘That remains to be seen, wife.’
‘You say this to comfort me who feel so timid—that’s all, Henry.’
‘I don’t know,’ said the husband seriously and partly to himself, ‘but I still have great faith in Fanny.’
‘Heaven grant it true faith.’
‘Amen,’ again said the father.
And after the usual prayer to the throne of grace, in which Fanny’s name was often and fervently mentioned, the good old couple retired to their humble cot to rest after their day’s labor, and were soon wrapped in the quiet and refreshing sleep that industry and frugality ensure to the humble.
HIGH HOCK. MOLL PITCHER THE FORTUNE-TELLER. ARRIVAL OF THE PRIZES. FANNY AND THE CAPTAIN OF THE DOLPHIN. A DECLARATION. AN INSULT. THE DEFENCE. THE FORTUNATE ESCAPE. ARRIVAL AT HOME. MEETING OF FRIENDS.
No American can or rather, should be, unacquainted with the principal events that induced the Parliament of great Britain in 1774, to lay those restrictions upon the port of Boston, which so destroyed her trade, and awoke the inhabitants of the Colonies to a true sense of their oppression. It is well known that the towns of Lynn, Salem, and Portsmouth, with a noble determination, refused to profit by the situation of their neighbors, the port of Boston being under actual blockade. For this reason as early as the date we have just named, and to the spring of the year 1776, when the British army evacuated Boston, it was a rare sight to see the canvass of any other vessel than such as wore the pennant of the King, whitening the waters of Massachusetts Bay. There was a virtual cessation of all branches of trade, and the prospects of the Bay Province, as that of Massachusetts was called, were of the most gloomy and foreboding character.
It was a clear cold morning in early spring, not but a few days subsequent to the evacuation of Boston by the minions of the King and Parliament, driven from their quarters by the guns of the Continentals planted on Dorchester Heights. The clear biting chill of our northern winter still lingered as if reluctant to give place to the more genial season that was soon to follow. The fishermen of the High Rock hamlet were impatiently awaiting the return of the season which would again call them into active service. The winter stock of provisions began to look dangerously small, and all things reminded the men that the time for them to renew their daring and venturesome trade was fast approaching. The nets were all mended, the lines renewed, and all their fishing tackle was well looked to. The boats hauled under temporary coverings erected upon the beach for that purpose, were all recaulked, and their seams well tarred, and secured against the element which was to bear them upon its breast—all and everything was ready for the opening season, which was soon to come.
As we have said, it was a clear cold morning, when a group of these fishermen, impatiently awaiting the approach of the time we have referred to, were seen ascending the steep acclivity of High Rock. Hardly had they gained its summit, before their gaze became riveted seaward, where they evidently saw some object of interest and surprise to them all.
‘What vessel is in the service of Congress,’ asked one of the fishermen, ‘that might be hereaway at this time? There are not so many in commission, as to permit them to take pleasure cruises along the coast.’
‘That’s true enough,’ said he who was addressed, ‘nor can I say what vessels these can possibly be. Can you make out the colors?’
‘The brig has the Continental flag,’ said the first speaker.
‘And her companions none at all,’ said the other.
‘The brig is an armed vessel, I should say.’
‘Yes, and so is the barque and ship, I should say,’ observed another, lowering a small spy glass from his eye.
‘It’s some gammon these British scamps are up to,’ said the first speaker. ‘But Washington has got possession of the town, and they won’t get it again in a hurry, that’s very certain.’
‘That brig has seen service,’ said he with the glass to his eye. ‘Her spars and rigging are a good deal cut up. I should rather guess that the two sails with her were prizes; she’s a sort of man-o-war look about her—eh? what do you think neighbors?’
‘Ay, ay, somewhat sarsy, with that rake to her masts to be sure,’ said one.
‘Guess you’re right—guess you’re right,’ said another.
Still the three vessels—a brig, a barque, and a ship—stood on for Boston harbor.—The sharp, cold air seemed to impart a deeper tinge of blue to the sea, upon which at this moment the sun shone brightly and warmly, as if awakening from his long winter’s sleep. The little group who had first got sight of the strange sails, were now joined by half the hamlet, all rife with curiosity at the sight before them.
Among the rest there stood a singular looking female. She was of the ordinary height, well formed, and quite handsome in features, and about twenty-six years of age. Her dress bespoke the singularity of her fancy, and until you saw the purity of her handsome face you might have supposed her an Indian maid but partially civilized; her costume being a singular combination of the Indian dress of America and the gipsy of Europe. There was a vacuum in her mild hazel eye, so to speak, a thoughtlessness, an indifference in her manner, that indicated a degree of mental abstraction.—Her brow was already partially wrinkled with care, and altogether she was a most singular object.
Her story is soon told. She was of humble but honorable birth, and being at the gentle age of fifteen, of unrivalled beauty both of form and face, an English officer of high rank, but a profligate at heart, saw her and was enamored of her beauty.
He poured the poison of oily eloquence into her young and unsuspecting ear; he gained her confidence and heart, ruined her, and then forsook her! From that hour she became another being, she wandered from her home, and at length resorted in her half deranged state to fortune-telling, and through her shrewdness and peculiarities gained an ample and sufficient livelihoood.
This was the far famed Moll Pitcher, the fortune-teller of Lynn!
Her little cottage was hard by, and impelled by the same spirit that had drawn so many others hither, she sought the summit of the lofty rock, and mingled with the rest. Many a Boston belle of more modern times has listened to her strange and, of times, truthful stories of the times of which we now write, or has heard with trembling her predictions of weal or woe. The mariners more particularly, for many miles along the coast, paid willing tribute to the witch of Lynn, believing in their simplicity that in her good will they bought for themselves security and safety from the perils and dangers of the sea. During the siege of Boston, Moll Pitcher was of essential service on several occasions in obtaining information concerning the operations of the enemy, their purposes and plans, and then communicating it to Washington. To be sure, she was well paid in gold for the information thus obtained by personal hazard—but General Washington was often heard to say Moll would’nt work for British gold, though she did not refuse the pay of the Colonists in the secret service she rendered the American army. The after history and life of this singular woman are too well known among us to require farther comment.
‘Moll,’ said one of the group, familiarly to her, ‘who are these strangers yonder in the vessels?’
‘Time will show!’ was the reply.
‘Ay, who doubts that?’
‘None, that I know of,’ was the vacant reply of the reputed witch.
‘But can’t you tell us, Moll, by your art who they really are? wether friends or enemies, rogues or honest men?’
‘Give me gold and I’ll try!’ was the reply.
‘No, no, Moll, we did but ask thee a friendly question, as a friend, and not in the way of thy trade.’
‘And as a friend I answered.’
‘Come, come, Moll, thou art dumpish to-day. Give us thy opinion now, and I will promise thee the first mess of fresh fish; there’s pay for thee; wilt speak now, woman?’
‘That brig lay in Boston harbor a couple of months gone by,’ said an old fisherman to the rest, ‘I know her by the rig.’
‘How’s that, neighbor?’ put in in one hard by; ‘a brig’s a brig, and to tell one from another at this distance, would require better eyes than either thine or mine.’
‘Aye but see you not that short mainmast, compared with the fore? She was just so when I noted her in Boston harbor, the day we pulled round there, neighbor Campbell.’
‘That’s all very true, no doubt,’ continued the questioner; ‘but what is she doing here if that’s the case? She must have been a British brig then, and now she hoists the flag of the colonies.’
‘Tis odd to be sure,’ said the other.
The three vessels that had so excited the curiosity of the people on the rock, came on with a fair wind and flowing sheets towards the Graves, as Boston lower light was then designated, and being the entrance to the outer harbor.
Suddenly all three, as if actuated by instinct or guided by one hand, tacked boldly to the North, and stood in towards the peninsula of Nahaut. This was the cause of still more surprise to those who were watching them from the rock.
But a short half hour elapsed before the three vessels rounded the rocky shore of the iron-bound peninsula, and shortly came to anchor in the little harbor of Lynn, within a cable’s length of the shore. The sails were furled, the usual routine of duty performed, and every rope placed in its proper place. The stems swung gracefully towards the shore, with the incoming tide, and there lay the Constance and her two prizes, safe in port. The purpose of the voyage was consummated at least in the release of the prisoners; but there was one whose liberty had been sacrificed as the cost.
The shores were soon crowded by the inquisitive inhabitants, who seeing no demonstrations of hostility, ventured boldly down to the shore, to ascertain what errand could possibly have brought the strangers into their quiet little basin for anchorage. Great was the astonishment of the good people to behold landing from the first boat William Lovell, the long absent prisoner, and whom they had all given up as lost to them for ever. He was always a favorite among them, and now as he landed, the air was rent with cheers of welcome. Warm and sincere were the congratulations of those weather-beaten seamen and fishermen. Not a hand that grasped William Lovell’s then, but would have gone far and willingly to have done him a service.
Let us now on board the Dolphin, and see how fares our heroine.
Burnet soon returned to his cabin, and entered into conversation with Fanny relative to her strange and almost unaccountable adventures. Fanny blushed through all the stain upon her face, to have Captain Burnet behold her in her male attire, for he said, as Lovell had done, that he never saw her look more interesting. Neither could hardly realize the fact of their former situation as friends, and their present relation to each other. It seemed like a dream, too wild and visionary to be true.
‘And were all thy questions and study on the evening that you told me of Lovell’s imprisonment in anticipation of all this?’
‘I thought it was singular that you should be so minute relative to those questions of navigation, and the course to steer for Cuba, with so many other questions.’
‘I proposed to myself at that time to do that which I have since accomplished, as far as taking the brig and releasing William is concerned.’
‘Thou art a most singular girl, Fanny.’
‘You have often told me so before now,’ she answered.
‘But I have never told thee how much I loved thee,’ said Burnet, with animation. ‘Thou hast proved thyself equal to any emergency. Why, Fanny, your story is a romance; no fairy tale could exceed it in extravagance, and yet it’s all true. You have liberated Lovell, let that content you. Now, Fanny Campbell, will you become my wife?’
‘Is this generous, Mr. Burnet? Am I not your prisoner?’
‘Nay, Fanny, I am thy prisoner; for in thy keeping rests my future happiness.’
Burnet, who had at first sought Fanny as a mere toy, as something that pleased his fancy, now really loved her, and would joyfully have made her his lawful wife. His standing and rank, with the large property he possessed, would entitle him to an alliance far above the sphere in which Fanny moved and was born; but the admiration of her heroism, and his former knowledge of her character, together with her beauty of person, had decided him, and he would gladly have laid all at her feet.
‘Mr. Burnet,’ said Fanny, ‘I have respected you, nay, have felt a sincere regard for you, but I can never love you as a wife should do. I have much, very much, to thank you for; you have acted very nobly towards me, having given me the advantage of your extensive information, have humored my every fancy, and have been more than a brother to me. You are high born, hold a captain’s commission from the King and are rich, honored and honorable; such a man deserves to be united to a woman who shall be entirely devoted to him, who can give him her undivided and whole love. Mr. Burnet, I am not that woman!’
‘Thou art an angel, nevertheless,’ murmured the captain, as he sank upon a chair, and hiding his face in his hands, he wept like a child.
‘Rouse, thee, Burnet,’ said Fanny, ‘the path of fame and glory are open before you. You have rank, opportunity, every necessary possession whereby to lead thee on to honor and distinction. Fanny’s prayers shall ever be raised for thee.’
He took her willing hand, and pressed it to his lips, saying:
‘Oh! each word you utter but shows me the more clearly what I have lost. Yes, you speak truly,’ said he, brushing a tear from his eye, ‘fame must be my future mistress; I can love no other.’
At this moment a light knock at the cabin door was heard, and the lieutenant of the Dolphin announced, as he had been instructed to do by the captain, that they were just passing into Boston harbor. The captain appearing on deck soon discovered that the King’s fleet had sailed, and that the American flag floated from the town. Observing this, he came to the very correct conclusion that the English army had evacuated the town during his cruise off the coast. The Dolphin was brought to anchor in the outer harbor, and the crew busied in refitting the vessel to enable her to follow the fleet, and also to await the coming up of the prize they had left to follow them. Burnet little thought of the possibility of her escape or recapture. A few hours serving to refit, Burnet determined to wait no longer for the prize, but to stand out to see and meet her.
Just as he had made up his mind to this purpose, the surgeon’s report was handed to him. He was prepared for a great loss as to the number of his crew, but not for so large a sacrifice as he now saw had been made; he looked into the matter personally and was exercised with not a little fear for his own reputation in being thus severely handled by an half-dozen men, commanded by a female. His feelings were still more harrowed by the examination that he then made into the state of the vessel under his charge.
As he passed among the wounded men, and heard their sighs and groans, his feelings were moved, and his mind excited beyond what he had experienced at any time, during, or since the commencement of the fight with the Constance. Burnet was somewhat nervous and excitable in his disposition, and he was now completely under the control of these influences. He scanned the horizon in the direction whence the prize was expected, and which should long since have made her appearance—but in vain; she was not to be seen, and though he felt somewhat uneasy about her, yet it never entered into his head that she might be retaken, the principal ground of his fears on the point, was, that he might possibly miss her in the night, and that if she should, unconscious of her danger, anchor in the harbor of Boston, why, she must inevitably fall again into the hands of the Colonists, and he would not have even a stick of timber to show for the fearful number of men he had lost in the late contest with the prize.
He did not dare to keep his present anchorage, for it was already evident that he was noticed, and a boat attack might be expected from the shore during the night, if he should attempt to wait for the arrival of his prize. He saw with his glass that preparations were already making for such a purpose, and he therefore resolved, as we have said, to sail, and if possible to meet the Constance, or perhaps lie-to off the harbor at a safe distance, until morning. Everything seemed to perplex and annoy him, and he was, indeed, hardly himself.
The night was dark, and settled coldly about the Dolphin. The lamp had been lit by a servant, in the cabin, and Fanny sat perusing a book that she had found upon the table, when Burnet entered. He looked like another being from him who had left her but a short time before. His disappointment at finding the city in the hands of the Colonists, his own prize not arriving, the surgeon’s report of the weak and disabled state of the crew, the disappointment of his affections, had all tended to bring on a morose and hardened state of feelings that showed, themselves at once in his countenance and manner.
‘Fanny,’ he said, approaching her familiarly, ‘I cannot part with you without some token of your kindness.’
‘Mr. Burnet,’ said Fanny, gazing upon him with astonishment.
‘Come, sit thee here,’ said he, drawing her familiarly towards a couch placed on one side of the cabin.
Fanny looked with the utmost astonishment upon him. She saw the cool deliberate villany of his face; she read, and translated aright the look of his eyes, and saw at once what her fate might be.
‘Mr. Burnet, release me,’ she said, struggling to free herself from the arm that encircled her waist. ‘I could not have dreamed this of one whom I have so much respected; nay, regarded like a brother.’
‘I tell thee, Fanny, I must have thy favor,’ said Burnet, still drawing her close to him.
‘Burnet,’ said Fanny, ‘I beg of you to release me.’
‘By Heaven, I cannot,’ said Burnet, passionately.
‘Remember,’ said Fanny, still struggling with him,’remember I am your prisoner—completely in your power. Nay, then,’ she continued, ‘though I am a woman, I am not a defenceless one!’
Exerting her whole strength, she sprang from him and reached the farther part of the cabin.
‘Keep thy distance,’ said Fanny, afraid to give any alarm lest she should expose herself to the crew of the Dolphin, and looking in every direction for escape; at length her eye brightened, as some thought seemed to strike her.
‘I bid thee fairly to keep thy distance,’ said Fanny, as he again approached her. ‘For I am able, and will defend myself!’
But Burnet again seized her, and endeavored to confine her hands. In the same instant her right arm was raised above her head, and descended quickly to the breast of Burnet, who immediately staggered back and fell upon the couch. Fanny gazed a moment upon him, locked the door of the cabin, then returning to the windows that looked out upon the sea, she climbed through one of them, and dropped herself silently into a boat that was attached to the stern, and cutting it loose, she quietly plied the oars. The tide fortunately favored her, and she was swiftly sailing towards the town, which she soon reached in safety.
Burnet’s wound was a severe one, and had nearly proved fatal; for Fanny’s dagger was sharp and pierced deep. His vessel sailed immediately for the New York rendezvous, where the rest of the fleet lay. Here he experienced a dangerous fever from his wound. But often did he thank Heaven in secret that himself, not Fanny had suffered. He deeply regretted the headlong spirit which had actuated him, and prompted the conduct he had displayed; it was deep and bitter disappointment. Now, as he recovered, he deeply regretted his conduct, and wrote to Fanny Campbell, stating this, and asking for her forgiveness. He told her too, that he should still love her as he had ever done since they first met.
We have said that Fanny was borne swiftly towards the town, when she left the Dolphin, and that she arrived safely there. She reached the shore, and seeking a conveyance, started for her home. That night she met friends, parents, lover, and all. There never was a happier meeting, you may believe us.
‘Did I not tell thee, wife,’ said the father, ‘that I had great confidence in Fanny, and that I would trust her where I would not older heads?’
‘Yes, and here is as good a plot for a novel as the Bay Province ever afforded, even in the times of the Indians or the French war.’
‘True, true; how blessed we are, to be sure; and to think that the girl should have dressed in man’s clothes, and deceived them all; even William himself for some time, and that was odd, though they had not seen each other for so long a time. Now if we had read that in a novel, we should have said that the author was telling a very improbable story; but here it is all true, and there is no getting away from it.’
‘Oh, she’s a wonderful girl, our Fanny; and William says all the crew loved her just like that Irishman in the other room, and he will have it that she is a saint, and no man at all. He doesn’t know of her disguise, and don’t suspect it either.’ Terrence Moony lay upon a comfortable bed in an adjoining room, not yet having recovered from a severe splinter wound, received in the last action on board the Constance; but he was in good hands, and fast recovering. To use his own words, it was worth while to git a sliver into his thigh once a year at laste, to git along so comfortably, and to be treated so kindly.’ The prisoners confined on board the vessels were conducted to Boston, and delivered up to the Commander-in-chief as prisoners of war. With them, William Lovell as the agent of Fanny, or as he was obliged to represent it at head-quarters, of Captain Channing, also delivered up a large amount of arms and ammunition, which had been taken from the enemy for the use enemy, and as a gift. A sufficient armament and ammunition was, however, retained to fit the brig for the purpose of a privateer, for it was his intent thus to appropriate her after obtaining letters of marque from Congress.
Some fears were entertained by Fanny and her family, touching the captures she had made, inasmuch as, strictly speaking, she had laid herself liable to the charge of piracy, and Fanny, in the eyes of the law, was actually a Female Pirate Captain. But there were none to prosecute such a charge, and if there had been, Captain Campbell could nowhere be found, for only her family knew the secret.
We have said that the prisoners were conducted to Boston. We should have excepted the mate of the second prize—the pardoned Englishman, who was admitted as a member of the Campbell family until a favorable opportunity should offer to ship for his home.
Terence Moony’s surprise at not being able to find his much loved captain after his recovery, was unbounded; but he accounted for the whole affair in his usual style, and which also proved perfectly satisfactory, at least to himself.
‘I always said the captain was a holy spirit,’ said Terrence, ‘so he was, and no man, after all. Sure hadn’t he done the job he came for, and what’s the use of his staying any longer? Though he might have jist given me a grip of the hand, and said good-bye to ye, Terrence Moony, my boy. Yes, it’s all clear to my mind that he came straight from hiven to help me to bury the old woman, and to liberate the Americans.’
‘He was quite a gentlemanly spirit, Terence, wasn’t he?’ asked the Englishman to whom the above was addressed, and who had learned the secret by accident with regard to Fanny, but was bound by an oath to secrecy.
‘Look here, friend,’ said Terrence, clapping him on the shoulder, and looking round slyly to see if he was overheard by any one else, ‘I believe that spirit has gone into Mr. Lovell’s wife, for she’s so beautiful that it does my eyes good to look at her, and it so reminds me too, of the kindness and everything else about Captain Channing, as he was called, that divil take me if I didn’t find myself crying one day, when she was giving me gruel, when I was sick of this little scratch on the hip, and laying in that little chamber yonder.’
‘It was a pretty severe wound, Terence, and you bore it like a man, and no mistake,’ said his friend, the Englishman. ‘I have seen older men flinch under smaller ones and far less painful.’
‘Thank ye, though it was your friends that give it to me,’ said the Irishman. ‘Twas a pretty good job all round for us, aich man got two hundred dollars prize-money, saying nothing of the presents. To-morrow we all iv us ship again in the brig with a dozen to back us. Mrs. Lovell is going to stay with her husband, and I go as a sort of quarter-master, you know. Sure there can’t any harm come to the brig while that swate lady of the Captain’s aboord.’
‘I should hope not,’ said the Englishman, turning away thoughtfully.
‘Oh, there’s no hope aboot it, it’s sure,’ said Terrence.
We may state here that the Englishman reached his home and family within the twelve months.
Thus it was, and the good brig Constance, now the ‘Fanny,’ (so had Lovell named her in honor of his wife,) was refitted and fully manned, and Lovell was her captain. Fanny, by her own solicitations, was permitted to accompany him, and she was not only his companion, but counsellor also, in many a hard-fought contest. The Fanny took several valuable prizes, and fortunately escaped herself without any serious damage. Thus at the time of the declaration of peace, the value of the prizes taken, and the money judiciously invested, afforded a handsome competency, upon which Lovell and his noble wife retired for a while to enjoy the sweets of domestic happiness.
PEACE, YACHTING FOR PLEASURE, THE FAIRY BARQUE VISION ITS APPOINTMENTS AND FURNITURE. VISITING PLACES OF OLD REMEMBRANCES. THE ISLE OF MAN AND THE IRISH SEA. FANNY AND LOVELL LISTEN TO FORECASTLE YARNS THAT WILL INTEREST THE READER, ABOUT THIS RENDEZVOUS FOR THE RENOWNED FREEBOOTERS OF ENGLAND AND THE CONTINENT. AN EXCURSION PLANNED UPON THE LAND.
Peace came with all its smiles and drove away the grim spirit of war that had so long scowled upon the colonies of North America, now acknowledged free and an independant nation. The bond was severed, the child sprang at once to the estate of manhood and to all its responsibilities and cares; but it was under the divine guardianship of the spirit of peace and the especial guidance of Freedom herself; with such patrons she was sure to prosper, and how she has prospered, let the present state of the Union bear testimony. Let the twenty millions of freemen who now people the land speak. From a tender plant as it were, we have grown to a large and powerful oak whose branches are spread far and near, and under whose shadowing protection millions may shelter.
We may say peace with all its smiles had come again; Fanny and her husband were settled in domestic enjoyment, and thrice happy were they in the love of each other, a love which had been proved in storms and in calms, in peace and in strife. Habit, how strong a hold does it take upon our very natures; how unseen yet sure is the progress it gradually makes in binding us to its ways, and how certain is it of its final success in bringing us, either for good or for evil, to its supreme and indisputable will. Fanny, who had tasted the excitement of a life at sea, who had dwelt upon its breast as a home for many months, had imbibed, as the sailor seems always to do, an ardent love for it. This feeling was reflected in the breast of her husband, for William Lovell was in every sense of the word a sailor, and he too pined for the excitement he had been accustomed to.
‘William,’ said Fanny one fine evening as they sat by their own hearth, ‘I think we might love each other just as well were we to be on the element we have both proved so successful upon.’
‘I see no reason to the contrary, Fanny,’ said Lovell.
‘Then let us once more to sea, husband, if it be only to take a farewell cruise upon the domain of old hoary Neptune.’
‘With all my heart.’
‘And when shall it be?’
‘At as early a day as you please.’
‘Oh, this will be very fine, no enemy to look out for now, but I have got so well used to that, I don’t know that I should regret if there was.’
‘How shall we go, Fanny?’
‘It must be in a craft of our own, for I would go just where it may seem pleasant to us.’
‘True, we must obtain a yacht.’
‘Let it be a small one, such as can be worked by a few hands, William; we’ll be our own masters.’
‘So it shall be.’
‘You know the kind of craft I love; I’d have her as tidy as a lady on Sunday and as delicately sparred as any pleasure boat; trust to our judgment for safety.’
‘I’ll get you one that shall be a very pet for its beauty.’
It was resolved upon thus, that they should again take a cruise upon the sea; some six years had intervened since they had left their maritime life, and long and often had they thought with a wish to return to it again, of their life upon the ocean, but never had they spoken of the matter before William Lovell set himself forthwith about the proper arrangements to supply a beautiful pleasure yacht for the object, and as he was in no way short or wanting in the means, this was easily accomplished. A little fairy like cutter was provided, that sat like a bird upon the water, and that made its way almost as swiftly through its native element as the bird might in its own. There are few objects of more beauty than a handsome vessel. One of about two hundred tons burden can be made so as to combine all the grace and beauty of formation and every needy comfort, without being too bulky or heavy for light and gentle Zephyrs to fan along the sea, or so large as to look unwieldly and cumbersome.
This was just the tonnage of Fanny’s yacht, and she called it ‘The Vision,’ so fairy like and pretty was it in every point.—The rig was somewhat picturesque, and combined in some respects the odd, yet graceful and peculiar rig of the Mediterranean sea with the more natural and reliable arrangements of our own waters. She showed at once what her character was, a pleasure boat, and she was in every sense of the word one to take pleasure in. She was a topsail schooner rig, with certain additions of the peculiar character which we have mentioned. The Vision was stored with every luxury that the wealth of Lovell could, procure, and every accommodation prepared for her who was to be its Mistress. Couches and cushions, with rich and graceful hangings, were as profusely arranged, and as in good taste as in her parlors at home. The larder was well cared for, and such shipped, including that honest fellow Terrence Moony, as were chosen in person by Fanny for their orderly habits and experience. Thus equipped, the Vision sailed out of Lynn harbor one fine day for parts unknown.
The ocean is the place for excitement—there is no monotony there, but change enough; the moment you trust yourself upon its breast you become an adventurer, and your experience will commence. You have the storm to contend with, and happy are you if you master it in room of becoming its victim. You have tides and currents to watch, winds to trim your sails to, and not unfrequently some daring rover to repel. All these are vicissitudes of the ocean, and how deeply attached will the mariner become to the fickle element, even as Fanny and her husband.
The mild, tropical seas of the West Indies were visited, the Moro Castle once more looked upon, the old anchorage without the harbor once more assumed, and the very prison within whose walls Lovell had been confined was visited, each drawing forth fresh interest and an increased desire for exploration.
After revictualing their fairy craft, the Vision was steered boldly across the great ocean to the North East, nor furled sail until she dropped anchor at Gibralter. From thence she entered that great inland sea the Mediterranean. They visited its ports and ancient spots of renown and interest, roamed together in that classic land of generous nature, soft, sunny Italy and thus together whiled away many a month of pleasant occupation.
Not a little admiration was elicited by the appearance of the American pleasure yacht in those distant seas. Compared to the large cumbersome vessels that navigated the waters about her, she looked but a mean cockle shell, a bird. She spread a large extent of canvass, which, projecting over her low and graceful hull, hid it mostly from sight when she was under way.
Like a diamond in a broach, the Isle of Man is set in the very midst of the Irish Sea midway between the bold shores of England, Scotland, and Ireland. It is a gem of an Island, and even in the days of which we write, it boasted of one or two as fine castles and ancient estates, as the oldest part of England itself. It was at this time, not dependant on any of the surrounding powers but appeared to be neutral ground where each and all might meet in amnesty; nor was it until a comparatively late date that it came completely within the power and possession of the crown of England, to which it now belongs. It was a romantic spot in those days, being the resort of the most daring smugglers and freebooters of the times. The inducements for smuggling from this well known spot were great, and gave employment to a few hardy and daring spirits, whose large profits in their perilous trade, more than compensated them for the continued risk they encountered in their nightly voyages from the Island to the banks of the Solway, where the contrabandists generally landed their goods.
Here too, peace and time have worked almost a miracle. At this day, the spot once the rendezvous for freebooters, has become a place of no small commercial importance, forming a military and naval depot for the crowded ranks and numerous flats of the British army and navy. Its productive soil and highly cultivated lands, its neat cottages and admirable roads, are a picture of modern improvement. From the highest point of this Island of the Irish sea, in clear weather the visitor has a view of the three united Kingdoms of Great Britain. The Vision had run down the coast, and desiring to see this far-famed spot, she was steered to its western side, and now lay at anchor in one of its quiet bays.
It was a clear moonlight night—Lovell sat inhaling the flavor of his segar upon the deck; near to him sat Fanny engaged in contemplating the beautiful scenery about them, lit up as it was by the silver smiles of the moon. The Vision gently rose and fell on the swells of the Irish sea as it rode at anchor.
Suddenly the voices of the crew, some eight fine, active fellows, were heard aft speaking together. Lovell heard them propose to one of their number to spin a yarn, which he acceded to.
‘Wife,’ said he to Fanny, ‘let us draw forward and hear the yarn, it will while away the hour.’
‘With all my heart, William.’
The two brought their deck stools further forward, and seating themselves listened to the following yarn. It was told by an old weather beaten mariner who had evidently seen much of salt water, and who possessed no small degree of intellect.
‘Come, Sky Scraper,’ said one, ‘go ahead, all clear’ The crew called him thus, from his being much taller in height than his companions, a man of about six feet.
‘Ay, ay, messmates,’ said he first replenishing his quid.
Sky Scraper after a few preliminary haws and hems, at length commenced. We do not give his precise language, which was so interspersed with nautical illustrations and language, that should we do so, the reader would be unable to understand it.’
‘Well, messmates, you see our laying here just now, with the moon looking out upon us, and this cove and the land hereaway, and the number of bells we count just now—all these have brought to my memory the days when I used to sail from this very anchorage night after night for the Solway, in as staunch a vessel as ever walked the sea. A real snorter was the saucy little Dolphin, I can tell you, messmates.
‘Well d’ye see—it might have been just such a night as this, and so it was, and we lay just here where the land tackle of the Vision now holds, at just about this hour somewhere about the year 1772. It was a three masted lugger, the Dolphin, and she was one of the sweetest things that ever floated, always saving the Vision,’ said the old tar, tipping his tarpaulin in honor of the little craft in which he sailed. ‘She was about a hundred and fifty tons burthen, and sat low and deep in the water. She was painted black, and about her waist ran a single streak of white, broken in both sides by a couple of ports. Our captain was a noble fellow and I remember how he looked as he walked the quarter deck that night. He was rather below the common size, messmates, yet he looked the captain all over. He wore a broad belt about his waist, in which he always wore a couple of boarding pistols, and a short cut and thrust sword.
‘”Unmoor ship,” said the captain through his trumpet.
‘Fifty as fine fellows as ever handled a marlinspike, sprang to execute the order while the boatswain’s whistle rang out on the still night air, and the captain walked the quarter deck.
‘”We are brought to, sir,” says the first Luff to the captain.
‘”Heave round, sir. Heave and pull,” said the captain, for everything aboard was done regular man of war fashion.
‘The anchor was raised and stored, the wide wings that a lugger always carries were spread one by one, and the sweet little craft bending gracefully, like a coquette mincing before her lover, took her course under a cloud of canvass for the Solway.
‘I was quarter gunner, and my place was pretty near the quarter deck, and I heard the captain say, just after we round-ded the mouth of the cove hereaway, to his second officer:
‘”Mr. Merrick,” that was the Luff’s name.
‘”Mr. Merrick,” said the captain, “I think we are likely to have trouble on this night’s trip. I understand from my agents that intelligence has been lodged relative to the character of our swift-footed craft, and I fear there has been treachery on board the Dolphin.”
‘”I hardly believe that, captain,” said the Luff, “though the men have had liberty enough on shore.” And so we had, to be sure, having most of us been up to Carlisle and Keswick.
‘”They know the rules of the ship, Mr. Merrick,” said the captain, “and how treachery will be rewarded. Let the crew sleep with one eye open, sir, we may have work for them to do.”
‘The watch was set on deck, and I was among them; the rest turned in, all standing ready for immediate service. Our cargo was contraband, and a valuable one, and the captain’s object was to land it safely during the night, and return again from the main land to the island before morning.
‘Well, messmates, you see the lugger held on her course ’till rounding the Northern point of the Island, when the captain, who had not yet left the deck, discovered off the star board bow a vessel whose indistinct outlines could hardly be made out in the distance, being half shut in by the night fog; but we soon made her out to be a small sloop of war under easy sail. The course of the Dolphin was changed one or two points more northerly in order to keep the sail at such a distance, if possible, that she might not discover us. This was easy enough, for do ye see, the lugger was a mighty little thing compared with the sloop, and then too, there was’nt much of a watch kept on her deck, I reckon. Our captain said it was earlier than they expected us, and so we got off safely, keeping everything snug and still.
‘”Mr. Merrick,” said the Capt., after he had got fairly away, and it was not necessary to keep quiet any longer, “Mr. Merrick, pipe all hands to quarters. I have a few words to say to them.”
‘It was’nt much use to pipe the crew up, seeing they were almost all on deck at the time. For as soon as they knew there was a strange sail in sight they tumbled up to get a look at her, thinking perhaps we might have a brush with them: Well, we were piped to quarters, and all was as still as death—each little crew was at its gun, and at last the captain spoke up.
‘”My lads,” said he, that’s the way he always used to speak to us, “My lads, most of you saw that strange sail we passed within the hour. Do you know that nothing save treachery could have placed her there, in the direct track of the Dolphin’s night course? speak up some of you.”
‘”It does look mighty suspicious, your honor,” said I, “but shiver my timbers, if I believe we have got anybody shipped aboard this ere craft but loves the saucy Dolphin and your honor too well to play them a scurvy trick.”
‘”There has been treachery,” said he, “is there one of my crew that can tell its penalty?”
‘”Death at the yard arm,” said the crew, shrinking before the eye of the captain, for he used to look a man right through.
‘”It is my duty,” said the captain, “to watch your interests and my own, with a jealous eye. I never deceive you, my men; the traitor shall receive his punishment though I pursue him to the foot of the throne. Enough—now to your duty.” ‘We soon reached the shores of the Solway, and a few hours were enough to land our cargo with such ready and willing hands as we had to do it with, and the whole freight was soon on its way inland, far out of the reach of those land sharks, the Revenue officers.
‘But the greatest danger was yet to come, messmates, for do you see, though the cargo was landed, the lugger must, somehow, gain the shelter of the little cove where we now lay. The moon did seem to shine out twice as strong as ever, as if just to bother us; because, do ye see, if it hadn’t been so very light, the night mist that always hangs about the sea and shores here, would have hid us from the enemy. But hardly had the lugger got under weigh, before the cruiser was again discovered, lying nearly mid-way between the English and Irish coast, in the very course that the Dolphin must steer. The captain of our lugger was calm and collected as a parson, and the men, seeing this, were all quite courageous, too, and didn’t care a fig for the King’s ship. We were now fast nearing each other, when suddenly a hail came across the sea:—
‘”What vessel is that?”
‘Our captain knew that all the time he could gain was worth so much gold to us, for he had got to run the gauntlet of the cruiser’s broad side, and thereby all he gained before she commenced to fire, was so many lives saved, very likely, on board the lugger. So to gain time he mumbled back a reply to the hail that could not be understood, but, to all appearance, in in good faith. Well, you see, this was no go, only to save time, as I said, so the sloop hailed again.
‘”What answer do you make?”
‘We were going through the water at a ten-knot rate, and had already got nearly abreast of the cruiser, who, having tacked, now stood on the same course as ourselves.
‘”What vessel is that?” said the commander of the sloop—”answer, or I shall fire into you?”
‘No answer was made to this hail, and a gun from the cruiser which sent a shot through the mainsail of our lugger, showed that she was in earnest. In answer to this, our captain aimed our heavy gun amidship with his own hands, and the ball shot away the fore topmast of the York, so the cruiser was named. A fierce broadside from the cruiser was the reply to the shot, and sad havoc did it make among the light and beautiful spars and rigging of the Dolphin. Our armament was made up of only four small pieces and a heavy gun amidship, revolving on a pivot, and this was of heavier metal than any gun on board of the York. Our captain managed this gun and aimed it himself, and he soon brought down the foremast of the York by his shot, confounding the crew of the enemy, and bothering them about their guns. The York carried sixteen guns with a complement of about an hundred men. She was now unable for some time to return our fire, because the foremast had tumbled in board with most of its hamper along the larboard battery where we lay, and the way we peppered them in the mean time wasn’t slow.
‘We were both so cut up in our rigging as to make but little headway, and we were now rising and falling on the swells of the sea, close aboard of each other. Several of our heavy shots had struck the York about the water line, and large numbers of her crew were engaged pumping her out, for she leaked out very fast. About this time our captain discovered one of our foremast hands on board the enemy, and the secret was all out in a minute; the truth came to us all at once, the treachery was accounted for, and there stood the traitor. The grapnel irons were thrown, and our boarders piped away. A few words from the captain told the story to us all, and heading us himself, we all rushed up the cruiser’s side.
‘”Secure that traitor, and back to the lugger every one of you,” said the captain, while he fought a path towards where the man stood. It takes some time to tell this, messmates, but it was all done mighty quick, I can tell you, in less time than it takes me to spin this part of the yarn.
‘Well, you see, we were soon back again on our own deck, because the cruiser was too strong for us to take, and if we had got her, it would have done us no good, for we could not have managed her in our business. The Dolphin was worth two of her for our purpose. So as soon as we got on the lugger’s deck, while the enemy were still confounded at our boarding, our captain backed his topsails, while the York’s remained full, and the breeze freshening just then, the two crafts separated. As we fell astern of the enemy, we gave him one raking shot with our big gun loaded with grape and small shot, which sent more than one poor fellow to his last home, and scattered the splinters like snow flakes.
‘We steered straight for this cove here on the west side, cut up sadly in hull and rigging by our brush with the King’s cruiser, while she made the nearest land on the English side, and run on shore in a sinking condition, so fast did she leak from our shot.
‘Well, it was not long before we were back again, laying at our anchorage, and soon the boatswain’s whistle summoned us, just at nightfall the next day, most unwelcomely.
‘”All hands to witness punishment, ahoy.”
‘The man who had betrayed us, had confessed his guilt, the payment of his treachery was found on his person. The crew were all at their stations, all save six seamen chosen by lot, who stood apart from their companions; these were to be the executioners of their messmate. The ship was as still as death; the wounded below had hushed their groans, and the tick of the captain’s watch might be heard at any part of the quarter deck. The miserable man who was now to suffer, stood upon a gun, his arms confined behind him, and a rope around his neck. The rope was rove through a block at the end of the fore yard arm, and reaching down to the deck again, the other end was placed in the hands of the six men chosen by lot.
‘Our captain looked at the arrangements, and after a few moments, we all the time expecting the word to swing him off, he said:—
‘”My men, next to mutiny I know of no blacker or more accursed crime than treachery. That man has betrayed us—may Heaven forgive him, as I do now. He was seduced from his duty in an evil hour, while under the effects of liquor; he is now penitent, and you will see how bravely he will die—you have had related to you all the peculiarities of the case, which, I think, has many extenuating points; you are his jurors—shall he die? Shall we send your old messmate into eternity? Speak, my men!”
‘”No, no!” said the crew, with one voice; “if the captain forgives him, that’s enough. Let him be spared.”
‘”Blow me,” thought I, “if I don’t think a man who would betray such a commander and such a ship, must find punishment enough in overhauling the log of his own conscience, without our sending him to soundings after this fashion.”
‘The man was forgiven, and, damme, messmates, if he didn’t feel it, too,’ said Skyscraper, with no little degree of feeling.
‘Well, you see, the captain knew very well that this last fight with a King’s cruiser must put a stop to our game, so we run down to the French coast, and the pretty little Dolphin was sold to the Mounsers for a pretty round sum, which was equally divided among us all. Well, now you see, I happen to know something about our captain after that, though I never sailed with him again. He loved the sea, and so went to London and engaged as captain in the West India trade, and in a few years he settled in America.
‘Well, you see, messmates, he was a Scotchman by birth, and didn’t owe any great love to England, so, on the breaking out of the long war that is but lately fairly ended, he offered his services to the Continental Congress, whose cause he espoused. He was soon appointed captain of a noble vessel, the first in the American navy. With this vessel, and others with which he was entrusted as commander, he gained some most brilliant naval victories. And let me tell you, messmates, through his whole service he had one faithful follower who would never quit him, and whose protecting arm twice saved his life in the memorable battle of the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis, the former of which our old captain commanded. Now, messmates, that man was the pardoned criminal of the Dolphin Lugger.
‘Of the captain—Congress passed a vote of thanks to him for his services, and conferred upon him the highest rank in his profession, within its gift, and his name will long be remembered by the nation in its future prosperity.
‘Why, Sky Scraper, who the deuce was this captain?’ asked one.
‘Aye, what’s his name?’ put in several at the same time.
‘I’ll tell you, messmates,’ said the old tar, reverently uncovering his head as he mentioned the name; ‘it was Admiral JOHN PAUL JONES!’
Fanny and her husband had heard this chapter in the life of the great naval hero with no small emotion. There was a point involved in it which nearly touched their own feelings, and the circumstances relative to the pardoned Englishman on board her own brig the Constance, were brought strongly to her mind.
A drive upon the island was arranged for the coming day. Lovell and his wife having promised themselves this pleasure for several days previous.
It was a fine, clear day, that on which they started for a ride upon this beautiful island. The whole day was passed in visiting its wild and romantic scenery, and its soft and verdant fields, its ruins of old faded castles, and, in short, time flew so fast with them while they were thus employed, that night overtook them far from the shore, and indeed in a road and route where they found themselves quite bewildered as to the proper course.
‘I have been thoughtless,’ said Lovell, ‘to let the time pass thus unheeded, and find me here at this hour.’
‘Oh, we have nothing to fear here, surely.’
‘I don’t know, dearest, in olden times, and indeed till quite lately, this island has been the very rendezvous of lawless and wicked characters.’
At this moment a man rushed from a thicket and presented a pistol at Lovell.
‘What would you have of me,’ he asked.
‘Hand over the money then, and go on your way,’ said the robber, approaching to the steps of the vehicle as if to receive it.
Lovell waited until he was fairly within reach, when he threw himself from his position with the whole weight of his body full upon the robber, bearing him suddenly to the ground. As he fell, however, he discharged his pistol, but it went wide of its air as regarded Lovell, just grazing Fanny’s head, which together with the report, it being so very close to her head, and pointed directly at her, stunned her so as to render her insensible for some time.
The struggle between Lovell and the robber was but for a moment. The powerful frame of the former was too much for his adversary who stunned and bleeding from his fall, was soon senseless. Lovell was a person of a peculiar temperament; he was not one to let off an offender in any case when he could mete out to him his due.—Therefore after reviving Fanny and convincing himself that she was not seriously hurt, he bound the still senseless robber head and foot, and threw him into the back part of the vehicle, a sort of waggon in which they rode, and then hastened on happy to find a shelter.
This he soon met with in the shape of a neat and comfortable cottage, where he found no trouble in obtaining assistance and such accommodation as he so much needed. Fanny was kindly attended by the good woman of the house, who said her husband would be home soon, that he was a fisherman and had not yet got home from a two days cruise. Lovell had the robber also cared for, and found on examination that he was injured even more seriously than he had at first supposed, his head having received a severe contusion in the fall. He dressed his wounds himself, being somewhat versed in such matters, and left him to rest until morning.
Fanny soon recovered from her slight injury; indeed the very next morning she was down in the lower room of the cottage surrounded by the rosy cheeked children and grown up boys, who called the matron mother, and this their home. The thrift and industry that reigned there struck Lovell and his wife with great interest, for it was remarkable. The children, five in number, were cloathed coarsely but with the utmost neatness, and the rooms were the very picture of cleanliness and good order. It was apparently, and indeed so the good mother had intimated relative to her husband’s occupation, a fisherman’s cottage; but Fanny said to her husband, ‘where can true content and happiness be found if not in such circumstances as these.’
The husband and father had not yet returned though it was afternoon of the subsequent day on which they had arrived at the cottage. Fanny was evidently well enough to leave, but Lovell was anxious to see the father of these bright eyed and rosy cheeked children, and to recompense him in some degree for the hospitality they had enjoyed under his happy roof. And in addition to this inducement to stop still longer, the robber whom he had secured, and who now lay unable to move in one of the apartments of the house, was pronounced by the physician whose services had been procured at an outlay of no little trouble from a great distance, to be dying, and Lovell wanted to see the matter at an end, either as to his probable recovery, or proper attention paid to him when deceased.—Several of the neighbors, who were but few, had called to see him, but none could recognize him, and it was very evident that he was a stranger in the neighborhood.—From him there could be no intelligence gained, for he had few lucid moments, his injuries being mainly upon the brain.
At last in one of those intervals of reason, when Lovell stood by his side he looked at him and recognizing him, said: ‘I have wronged you—forgive me. I have been driven step by step to this act, it was my first—but did I not hear a voice with you that I knew? It sounded very familiar, and brought back the remembrance of years long past.’
‘I hardly think it can be the case,’ said Lovell kindly. ‘The lady with me was my wife.’
‘Can I see her?’ said the sufferer. ‘I would ask her forgiveness, too, for I feel that I am about to die.’
‘I would ask your forgiveness for the evil I have done—can you forgive one who is dying and is repentant?’
‘I forgive you with all my heart,’ said Fanny; ‘have you asked your Maker to do so?’
‘Nay, I dare not!’ said the man, shuddering. ‘But he will forgive all who truly repent,’ said Fanny; ‘I will pray for you.’
And she lifted her voice, low and musical, to her Maker, in the pious prayer of a Christian, asking forgiveness for her enemy. It was a beautiful sight, and Fanny never looked more lovely to Lovell than at that moment.
‘Is there nothing in which we can serve you?’ asked Fanny at length, ‘no message to your friends or family?’
‘None, I have none. My near relations are dead—my early friends have long since discarded me! How strange that I remember so well your voice, lady. Where can we have met before?’
‘Have you felt thus?’ said Fanny. ‘The first words you spoke caused the same thought in my mind. I’ve have not even yet learned your name.’
‘It is Banning!’ said the man.
A few words sufficed to gratify the curiosity of both as to the intervening years of their life. Banning had fallen into dissipated habits, and by degrees come to that which he now was. He had sought the island to escape the pursuit of his creditors and the police, and he spoke truly when he said that this was his first step towards the life of a highway robber. Strange fortune had thus thrown them together again, but such are its wayward freaks that nothing is impossible.
Fanny stood by his couch to the last, and bade him hope. He clasped the hands of Lovell and his wife warmly in his own, the very individuals he would have sacrificed to his base purpose but a short time before, and soon breathed his last.
Turning her eyes at this moment she beheld the good wife of the cottage in the arms of her husband, who had just returned, and was walking towards the place where she sat with the children.
No sooner did she distinctly observe him than she at once recognized him, while he on his part also seemed embarrassed with inward remembrances. At length as if the light had broke upon him all at once, he exclaimed, warmly pressing her hand.
‘Captain Channing! I bid you welcome.’
Reader, it was the pardoned Englishman whom Fanny had spared on board the Constance!
After a few days of happy fellowship and pleasant association, Lovell and Fanny sought again the deck of the Vision.
It was scarcely three weeks from the day that the Vision left the Isle of Man before she was riding at anchor quietly in the little harbor of Lynn.
Fanny and Lovell had both had enough of adventure, at least for a while, but nevertheless they kept the yacht in readiness for frequent excursions on the element to which both had become so much attached. Their fortune was ample, and there was no necessity for them to deny themselves this or any other desirable amusement that fancy might suggest.
It was while on an excursion with her husband, and far out of sight of land, that Fanny gave birth to her first child, a noble and robust boy, whose maritime birth no doubt influenced his choice of a profession. The Vision was known in our harbor even until a few years since, and we are told that not long since she was refitted and sold into the Venezulian navy, being renowned for speed and excellent sea qualities. She is still employed there, with a small armament and crew, as a revenue cutter or a species of guarda costa.
Terrence Moony was employed until ripe old age laid him up on the estate of William Lovell, and he died happy, surrounded by every comfort he could desire, and with his own children about him, to smoothe his pillow, and regret him gone.
There is still another character in whom the reader has doubtless become interested, and of whom we shall be expected to say something before we close; our own feelings too, would lead us voluntarily to allude to him, for there were many extenuating points in his character. We refer to Sir Ralph Burnet of the Royal Navy.
Soon after he recovered from the effects of his severe wound, he applied for a change of station, not wishing to be an enemy to a people whom he honestly considered to be in the right, and whom at heart he wished might prove successful in the cause that engaged them. He was soon ordered on to the English coast, and greatly distinguished himself there, in the war with the French, and several other important engagements, until step by step, he became an Admiral, and for some gallant act, was knighted by his King. He was true to his promise to Fanny Campbell, and was wedded to fame only, but therein he chose a distinguished mistress, and one that did him full honor.
Lovell had two sons, who partook of the martial character of their parents, and now serve their country as officers in the right arm of its defence, our gallant navy. These sons, too, have seen active service, but we will speak no more of them.
The descendants of the High Rock hamlet still exist, and are yet occupied like their parents, in the early times of the Revolution, in the hardy and honest employment of fishermen. The inhabitants of the hamlet removed to about two miles more easterly of the Rock, and were merged into the community of the Swampscot fishermen of Lynn, a hardy and industrious people. High Rock, firm and immovable, still towers above the scene, and is often visited by our travelers to enjoy the extended and beautiful prospect it affords, both of the land and sea, from its elevated summit.
I could add no small degree of interest to this closing part of my story, if I could take the reader over the turnpike road leading from Lynn to Salem, where the old Mansion-house of the Lovell family still remains, surrounded by well improved and highly cultivated lands, a herald of the past. It was built by Lovell, and the style is but little in advance of the earliest mode of architecture in the colonies; but it is still a stout and commodious house, with every convenience the heart need desire. We know that the reader who has perused our tale, would look upon the spot with not a little interest, where Fanny, our heroine, closed her days, and where the honest Terrence Moony displayed his skill in gardening, until grey old age laid him quietly on the shelf. When business or pleasure shall again call you to that vicinity, as you pass through the town of Lynn, turn off from the common, and take the ‘upper road,’ by the base of High Rock, and from its summit recall the ‘locale’ of our tale; then pass on through the now thickly settled part of the town called Wood End, and taking the Northern road, strike again into the great Eastern turnpike road that passes through Salem, and you will shortly come upon the Lovell estate. I am vain enough to think that perhaps some one may be induced to make the trip solely by reason of the interest I may have created; if so, I can assure them that they will be richly paid for the labor. If you do it, eschew the railroad, take a horse and vehicle, and be your own master; go where you like, and return when you will. This is independence; the deuce take all railroads, say I, where romance is concerned, for while one is exercised by some very fine feeling, he may awake from his lethargy, and find that the cars have very quietly gone off and left him.
And now we must part, gentle reader, and patient too, if thou hast followed us thus far.
Fairly at the end of our ill-spun yarn, it now remains for us to thank you for the great patience that has carried you through to these lines. We have endeavored in Fanny Campbell to portray a heroine who should not be like every other the fancy has created; we have strove to make her such an one as should elicit the reader’s interest, and have yet endeavored in the picture not to overstep the modest bounds of nature. We have designed to show that among the lower classes of society, there is more of the germ of true intellect and courage, nobleness of purpose, and strength of will than may be found among the pampered and wealthy children of fortune. We have given you but modest and true men in William Lovell and Jack Herbert. In Terrence Moony we have only shown the impetuous generosity and warmth of affection that characterize his countrymen. In the pardoned Englishman we have drawn a picture that we would be glad to hold up before the advocates of Capital Punishment; nor have we overdrawn the picture here; it is a faithful one so far as the human heart can be judged of by past and long experience.
In Captain Burnet we have given form to a spirit, the genuineness of which We all can bear testimony to. A warm, ardent, thoughtless man becomes entirely changed in heart and purpose by the strange power of love. We have seen in him the contradictions of which those who are exercised by it will be at one time rash and headstrong, at another, calm and repentant. Such men will make great naval heroes, but bad fathers of families.
And now again, farewell, dear reader, dear reader, and thus ends our tale of Fanny Campbell, the Female Pirate Captain.