Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/385

This page needs to be proofread.
341
FLEET OF ADMIRAL GRAVES

Of the other British men-of-war which went to the bottom, the story of the Centaur was reported by her commander. Captain Inglefield, who was one of the thirteen survivors of a crew of more than four hundred men. Whether or not he should have stayed with his hapless people and suffered the common fate is a difficult problem for a landsman to weigh, but the facts speak for themselves, and they afford opportunity to compare his behavior with that of Admiral Graves of the Ramillies. Tried by an Admiralty court martial. Captain Inglefield was honorably acquitted of all blame, and his official record is therefore without a stain.

During the first night of the storm the Centaur was thrown on her beam-ends, and was to all appearances a capsized ship. The masts were cut away, and she righted suddenly. Three guns broke adrift on the main-deck, and the heavy round shot spilled out of the smashed lockers. There was a devil's game of bowls below, with these ponderous objects madly charging to and fro to the violent motion of the ship, such a scene as Victor Hugo painted in a famous chapter of his "Ninety-Three." The bluejackets scrambled after these infernal guns, which could be subdued only by snaring them with ropes and tackles. They destroyed everything in their path, maiming or slaying the sailors who