Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/299

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


 

CHAPTER XI

THE LOSS OF THE WAGER MAN-OF-WAR

TO the modern generation, one of the great adventures of seafaring history is familiar only in an eloquent reference of Robert Louis Stevenson, and few readers, I venture to say, have taken the trouble to delve for the facts which inspired the following tribute in the essay called "The English Admirals":

 
It was by a hazard that we learned the conduct of the four marines of the Wager. There was no room for these brave fellows in the boat, and they were left behind upon the island to a certain death. They were soldiers, they said, and knew well enough it was their business to die; and as their comrades pulled away, they stood upon the beach, gave three cheers, and cried, "God bless the king!" Now one or two of those who were in the boat escaped, against all likelihood, to tell the story. That was a great thing for us; but surely it cannot, by any possible twisting of human speech, be construed into anything great for the marines. You may suppose, if you like, that they died hoping their behavior would not be forgotten; or you may suppose they thought nothing of the subject, which is much more likely. What can be the signification of the word "fame"

259