The Naval Officer/Chapter XX
But who is this? What thing of sea
Comes this way sailing,
Like a stately ship
With all her bravery on, and tackle trim?
The privateer was called the True-blooded Yankee. She was first bound to the island of Tristan d'Acunha, where she expected to meet her consort, belonging to the same owners, and who had preceded her when their directions were to cruise between the Cape and Madagascar, for certain homeward bound extra Indiamen, one or two of which she hoped would reward all the trouble and expense of the outfit.
We reached the island without any material incident. I had observed, with concern, that the second mate, whose name was Peleg Oswald, was a sour, ferocious, quarrelsome man; and that although I was kindly treated by the captain, whose name was Peters, and by the chief mate, whose name was Methusalem Solomon, I never could conciliate the good will of Peleg Oswald.
Green, the captain, who came with me, was, from the time I saved his life, an altered man. He had been, as I was informed, a drunken profligate; but from the moment when I received him into my boat, his manners and habits seemed as completely changed as if he were a different being. He never drank more than was sufficient to quench his thirst—he never swore—he never used any offensive language. He read the Scriptures constantly, was regular in his morning and evening devotion, and on every occasion of quarrel or ill-will in the brig, which was perpetually occurring, Green was the umpire and the peace-maker. He saved the captain and chief mate a world of trouble; by this system, violent language became uncommon on board, punishment was very rare, and very mild. The men were happy, and did their duty with alacrity; and but for Peleg Oswald, all would have been harmony.
We made the island about the 15th of December, when the weather was such as the season of the year might induce us to expect, it being then summer. We hove off to the north or windward side of the island, about two miles from the shore; we dared not go nearer on that side, for fear of what are called the "Rollers"—a phenomenon, it would appear, of terrific magnitude, on that sequestered little spot. On this extraordinary operation of nature, many conjectures have been offered, but no good or satisfactory reason has ever been assigned to satisfy my mind; for the simple reason, that the same causes would produce the same effect on St Helena, Ascension, or any other island or promontory exposed to a wide expanse of water. I shall attempt to describe the scene that a succession of Rollers would present, supposing, what has indeed happened, that a vessel is caught on the coast when coming in.
The water will be perfectly smooth—not a breath of wind—when, suddenly, from the north, comes rolling a huge wave, with a glassy surface, never breaking till it meets the resistance of the land, when it dashes down with a noise and a resistless violence that no art or effort of man could elude. It is succeeded by others. No anchorage would hold if there were anchorage to be had; but this is not the case; the water is from ninety to one hundred fathoms deep, and consequently an anchor and cable could scarcely afford a momentary check to any ship when thus assailed; or, if it did, the sea would, by being resisted, divide, break on board, and swamp her. Such was the fate of the unfortunate ——, a British sloop of war; which, after landing the captain and six men, was caught in the rollers, driven on shore, and every creature on board perished, only the captain and his boat's crew escaping. This unfortunate little vessel was lost, not from want of skill or seamanship in the captain or crew, for a finer set of men never swam salt water; but from their ignorance of this peculiarity of the island, unknown in any other that I ever heard of, at least to such an alarming extent. Driven close in to the land before she could find soundings, at last she let go three anchors; but nothing could withstand the force of the "Rollers," which drove her in upon the beach, when she broke in two as soon as she landed, and all hands perished in sight of the affected captain and his boat's crew, who buried the bodies of their unfortunate shipmates as soon as the sea had delivered them up.
There is another remarkable peculiarity in this island: its shores, to a very considerable extent out to sea, are surrounded with the plant, called fucus maximus, mentioned by Captain Cook; it grows to the depth of sixty fathoms, or one hundred and eighty feet, and reaches in one long stem to the surface, when it continues to run along to the enormous length of three or four hundred feet, with short alternate branches at every foot of its length. Thus, in the stormy ocean, grows a plant, higher and of greater length than any vegetable production of the surface of the earth, not excepting the banyan tree, which, as its branches touch the ground, takes fresh root, and may be said to form a separate tree. These marine plants resist the most powerful attacks of the mightiest elements combined; the winds and the waves in vain combine their force against them; uniting their foliage on the bosom of the waters, they laugh at the hurricane and defy its power. The leaves are alternate, and when the wind ruffles the water, they flap over, one after the other, with a mournful sound, doubly mournful to us from the sad association of ideas, and the loneliness of the island. The branches or tendrils of these plants are so strong and buoyant, when several of them happen to unite, that a boat cannot pass through them; I tried with my feet what pressure they would bear, and I was convinced that, with a pair of snow shoes, a man might walk over them.
Captain Peters kindly invited me to go on shore with him. We landed with much difficulty, and proceeded to the cottage of a man who had been left there from choice; he resided with his family: and, in imitation of another great personage on an island to the northward of him, styled himself "Emperor." A detachment of British soldiers had been sent from the Cape of Good Hope to take possession of this spot: but after a time they were withdrawn.
His present Imperial Majesty had, at the time of my visit, a black consort, and many snuff-coloured princes and princesses. He was in other respects a perfect Robinson Crusoe; he had a few head of cattle, and some pigs; these latter have greatly multiplied on the island. Domestic fowls were numerous, and he had a large piece of ground planted with potatoes, the only place south of the Equator which produces them in their native perfection; the land is rich and susceptible of great improvement; and the soil is intersected with numerous running springs over its surface. But it was impossible to look on this lonely spot without recalling to mind the beautiful lines of Cowper—
"O Solitude, where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face?"
Yet in this wild place, alarms and even rebellion had found their way, the Emperor had but one subject, and this Caliban had ventured, in direct violation of an imperial mandate, to kill a fowl for his dinner.
"Rebellion," said the enraged emperor, "is the son of witchcraft, and I am determined to make an example of the offender."
I became the mediator between these two belligerents. I represented to his imperial majesty, that, as far as the matter of example went, the severity would lose its effect; for his children were as yet too young to be corrupted; and, moreover, as his majesty was so well versed in scripture, he must know that it was his duty to forgive. "Besides," I said, "her majesty the queen has a strong arm, and can always assist in repelling or chastising any future act of aggression or disobedience." I suspect that the moral code of his majesty was not unlike my own it yielded to the necessities of the time. He must have found it particularly inconvenient not to be on speaking terms with his prime minister and arch chancellor, whom he had banished to the opposite side of the island on pain of death. The sentence was originally for six months; but on my intercession the delinquent was pardoned and restored to favour. I felt much self-complacency when I reflected on this successful instance of my mediatorial power, which had perhaps smothered a civil war in its birth.
The emperor informed me that an American whaler was lying at the east side of the island, filling with the oil of the walrus, or sea-horse; that she had been there at an anchor six weeks, and was nearly full. I asked to be shown the spot where the —— was wrecked; he took me to her sad remains. She lay broken in pieces on the rocks; and, not far from her, was a mound of earth, on which was placed a painted piece of board by way of a tombstone. The fate of the vessel, together with the number of sufferers, were marked in rude but concise characters. I do not exactly remember the words, but in substance it stated, that underneath lay the remains of one hundred as fine fellows as ever walked on a plank, and that they had died, like British seamen, doing their duty to the last. This was a melancholy sight, especially to a sailor, who knew not how soon the same fate awaited him.
We rafted off several casks of water during that day, and on the following we completed our water, and then ran to the east end of the island to anchor near, and wait for our consort the whaler, the captain of which had come in his boat to visit us: I conversed with him, and was struck with one remark which he made.
"You Englishmen go to work in a queerish kind of way," said he; "you send a parcel of soldiers to live on an island where none but sailors can be of use. You listen to all that those red coats tell you; they never thrive when placed out of musket-shot from a gin-shop: and because they don't like it, you evacuate the island. A soldier likes his own comfort, although very apt to destroy that of other folks; and it a'n't very likely he would go and make a good report of an island that had neither women nor rum, and where he was no better than a prisoner. Now, if brother Jonathan had taken this island, I guess he would a' made it pay for its keep; he would have had two or three crews of whalers, with their wives and families, and all their little comforts about them, with a party of good farmers to till the land, and an officer to command the whole. The island can provide itself, as you may perceive, and all would have gone on well. It is just as easy to 'fish' the island from the shore as it is in vessel, and indeed much easier. Only land your boilers and casks, and a couple of dozen of good whale-boats, and this island would produce a revenue that would repay with profit all the money laid out upon it, for the sea-horses have no other place to go to, either to shed their coats in the autumn, or bring forth their young in the spring. The fishing and other duties would be a source of amusement to the sailors, who, if they chose, might return home occasionally in the vessels that came to take away the full casks of oil and land the empty ones."
The captain of the whaler returned to his ship, but, I suppose, forgot to give our captain very particular directions about the anchorage. We ran down to the east end of the island, and were just going to bring up, when, supposing himself too near the whaler, Peters chose to run a little further. I should have observed, that as we rounded the north-east point, the breeze freshed, and the squalls came heavy out of the gullies and deep ravines. We therefore shortened sail, and, passing very near the whaler, they hailed us; but it blew so fresh that we did not hear what they said; and, having increased our distance from the whaler to what was judged proper, let go the anchor.
Ninety fathoms of cable ran out in a crack, before she turned head to-wind; and, to our mortification, we found we had passed the bank upon which the whaler had brought up, and must have dropped our anchor into a well, for we had nineteen fathoms water under the bows, and only seven fathoms under the stern. The moon showed her face, just at this moment, and we had the further satisfaction of perceiving, that we were within fifty yards of a reef of rocks which lay astern of us, with their dirty, black heads above water.
We were very much surprised to find, notwithstanding the depth of water, that, during the lulls, we rode with a slack cable; but about two o'clock in the morning the cable parted, being cut by the foul ground. All sail was made immediately, but the rocks astern were so close to us, that you might have thrown a biscuit on them, and we thought the cruise of the True-blooded Yankee was at an end; but it proved otherwise, for the same cause which produced the slack cable preserved the vessel. The fucus maximus we found had interposed between us and destruction; we had let go our anchor in this sub-marine forest, and had perched, as it were, on the tops of the trees; and, so thick were the leaves and branches, that they held us from driving, and prevented our going on shore when the cable had parted. We dragged slowly through the plants, and were very glad to see ourselves once more clear of this miserable spot.
"Better dwell in the midst of alarms,
Than reign in this horrible place."
But I sincerely wish all manner of success to this little empire, though I hope my evil stars will never take me to it again. We shaped our course for the Cape of Good Hope, for Captain Peters would not run further risk in waiting for the consort privateer.
Poor Thompson, notwithstanding all my exertions in his favour, was exposed to much ill-treatment on board the vessel, on account of his firm and unshaken loyalty. He seldom complained to me, but sometimes vindicated himself by a gentle hint from one of his ample fists on the nose or eye of the offender, and here the matter usually ended, for his character was so simple and inoffensive, that all the best men in the vessel loved him. One night, a man fell overboard—the weather was fine, and the brig had but little way; they were lowering down the jolly-boat from the stern, when one of the hooks by which she hung by the stern, broke, and four men were precipitated with violence into the water. Two of them could not swim, and all screamed loudly for help as soon as they came up from their dive. Thompson, seeing this, darted from the stern like a Newfoundland dog, swam to the weakest, supported him to the rudder chains, and, leaving him, went to another, bringing him to the stern of the vessel, and making a rope fast under his arms. In this way he succeeded in saving the whole of these poor fellows. Two of the five would certainly have sank but for his timely assistance, for they were some time before another boat could be got ready; and the other three owned that they much doubted whether they could have reached the vessel without help.
This conduct of Thompson was much applauded by all on board, and some asked him why he ventured his life for people who had used him so ill: he answered, that his mither and his Bible taught him to do all the good he could: and as God had given him a strong arm, he hoped he should always use it for the benefit of his brother in need.
It might have been supposed that an act like this would have prevented the recurrence of any further insult; but the more the Americans perceived Thompson's value, the more eager were they to have him as their own. The second mate, whom I have already described as a rough and brutal fellow, one day proposed to him to belong to their vessel, certain, he added, that he would make his fortune by the capture of two, if not three, extra Indiamen, which they had information of on their passage.
Thompson looked the man fully in the face, and said, "Did ye no hear what I telled the captain the ither day?"
"Yes," said the man, "I knew that, but that's what we call in our country 'all my eye.'"
"But they do not call it so in my country," said the Caledonian, at the same time planting his fist so full and plump in the left eye of the mate, that he fell like the "humi bos," covering a very large part of the deck with his huge carcase.
The man got up, found his face bleeding plentifully, and his eye closed; but instead of resenting the insult himself, went off and complained to the captain. Many of the Americans, either from hatred or jealousy, went along with him, and clamorously demanded that the Englishman should be punished for striking an officer. When the story, however, came to be fairly explained, the captain said he was bound to confess that the second mate was the aggressor, inasmuch as he had acknowledged that he knew the penalty of the transgression before he committed the act; that he (the captain) had told Thompson, when he made the declaration, that he thought him perfectly right, and, consequently, he was bound to protect him by every law of hospitality as well as gratitude, after his services in saving the lives of their countrymen.
This did not satisfy the crew; they were clamorous for punishment, and a mutiny was actually headed by the second mate. There was, however, a large party on board who were in no humour to see an Englishman treated with such indignity. Of what country they were may readily be conjectured. The dispute ran high; and I began to think that serious consequences might ensue, for it had continued from the serving of grog at twelve o'clock till near two; when casting my eyes over the larboard quarter, I perceived a sail, and told the captain of it; he instantly hailed the look-out-man at the mast head; but the look-out-man had been so much interested with what was going on upon deck, that he had come down into the main top to listen.
"Don't you see that sail on the larboard quarter?" said the captain.
"Yes, Sir," said the man.
"And why did you not report her?"
The man could make no reply to this question, for a very obvious reason.
"Come down here," said the captain; "let him be released, Solomon; we will show you a little Yankee discipline."
But before we proceed to the investigation of the crime, or the infliction of punishment, we must turn our eyes to the great object which rose clearer and clearer every five minutes above the horizon. The privateer was at this time under top sails, and top-gallant-sails, jib, and foresail, running to the north-east, with a fine breeze and smooth water.
"Leftenant," said the captain, "what do you think of her?"
"I think," said I, "that she is an extra Indiaman, and if you mean to speak her, you had better put your head towards her under an easy sail; by which means you will be so near by sunset, that if she runs from you, you will be able, with your superior sailing, to keep sight of her all night."
"I guess you are not far wrong in that," said the captain.
"I guess he is directly in the face of the truth," said the chief mate, who had just returned from the main top, where he had spent the last quarter of an hour in the most intense and absorbed attention to the cut of the stranger's sails. "If e'er I saw wood and canvas put together before in the shape of a ship, that there is one of John Bull's bellowing calves of the ocean, and not less than a forty-four gunner."
"What say you to that, leftenant?" said the captain.
"Oh, as to that," said the mate, "it isn't very likely that he's going to tell us the truth."
"Because you would not have done it yourself in the same situation," said I.
"Just so," said the mate.
And in fact, I must own that I had no particular wish to cruise for some months in this vessel, and go back for water at Tristan d'Acunha I therefore did not use my very best optical skill when I gave my opinion; but as I saw the stranger was nearing us very fast, although we were steering the same way, I made my mind up that I should very soon be out of this vessel, and on my way to England, where all my happiness and prospects were centred.
The chief mate took one more look—the captain followed his example; they then looked at each other, and pronounced their cruise at an end.
"We are done, sir," said the mate; "and all owing to that d—d English renegado that you would enter on the books as one of the ship's company. But let's have him aft, and give him his discharge regularly."
"First of all," said the captain, "suppose we try what is to be done with our heels. They used to be good, and I never saw the brass-bottomed sarpent that could come anear us yet. Send the royal yards up—clear away the studding-sails—keep her with the wind just two points abaft the beam, that's her favourite position; and I think we may give the slip to that old-country devil in the course of the night."
I said nothing, but looked very attentively to all that was doing. The vessel was well manned, certainly, and all sail was set upon her in a very expeditious manner.
"Heave the log," said the captain.
They did so; and she was going, by their measurement, nine and six.
"What do you think your ship is doing?" said the captain to me.
"I think," said I, "she is going about eleven knots; and, as she is six miles astern of you, that she will be within gunshot in less than four hours."
"Part of that time shall be spent in paying our debts for this favour," said the captain. "Mr Solomon, let them seize that no-nation rascal up to the main rigging, and hand up two of your most hungry cats. Where is Dick Twist, he that was boatswain's mate of the Statira; and that red-haired fellow, you know, that swam away from the Maidstone in the Rappahanock?"
"You mean carroty Sam, I guess—pass the word for Sam Gall."
The two operators soon appeared, each armed with the instruments of his office; and I must say that, in malignity of construction, they were equal to any thing used on similar occasions even by Captain G——. The culprit was now brought forward, and to my surprise it was the very man whom Thompson, when in the boat, had thrown overboard for mutiny. I cannot say that I felt sorry for the cause or the effect that was likely to be produced by the disputes of the day.
"Seize him up," said the captain; "you were sent to the mast-head in your regular turn of duty; and you have neglected that duty, by which means we are likely to be taken: so, before my authority ceases, I will show you a Yankee trick."
"I am an Englishman," said the man, "and appeal to my officer for protection."
The captain looked at me.
"If I am the officer you appeal to," said I, "I do not acknowledge you; you threw off your allegiance when you thought it suited your purpose, and you now wish to resume it to screen yourself from a punishment which you richly deserve. I shall certainly not interfere in your favour."
"I was born," roared the cockney, "in Earl Street, Seven Dials—my mother keeps a tripe-shop—I am a true born Briton, and you have no right to flog me."
"You was a Yankee sailor from New London yesterday, and you are a tripe-seller, from Old London to-day. I think I am right in calling you a no-nation rascal, but we will talk about the right another time," said the captain; "meanwhile, Dick Twist, do you begin."
Twist obeyed his orders with skill and accuracy; and having given the prisoner three dozen, that would not have disgraced the leger-de-main of my friend the Farnese Hercules in the brig, Sam Gall was desired to take his turn. Sam acquitted himself à merveille with the like number; and the prisoner, after a due proportion of bellowing, was cast loose. I could not help reflecting how very justly this captain had got his vessel into jeopardy by first allowing a man to be seduced from his allegiance, and then placing confidence in him.
"Let us now take a look at the chase," said the captain; "zounds, she draws up with us. I can see her bowsprit-cap when she lifts; and half an hour ago I only saw her foreyard. Cut away the jolly-boat from the stern, Solomon."
The chief mate took a small axe, and, with a steady blow at the end of each davit, divided the falls, and the boat fell into the sea.
"Throw these here two aftermost guns overboard," said the captain; "I guess we are too deep abaft, and they would not be of much use to us in the way of defence, for this is a wapper that's after us."
The guns in a few minutes were sent to their last rest; and for the next half-hour the enemy gained less upon them. It was now about half-past three P.M.; the courage of the Yankees revived; and the second mate reminded the captain that his black eye had not been reckoned for at the main rigging.
"Nor shall it be," said the captain, "while I command the True-blooded Yankee; what is, is right; no man shall be punished for fair defence after warning. Thompson, come and stand aft."
The man was in the act of obeying this order, when he was seized on by some six or eight of the most turbulent, who began to tear off his jacket.
"Avast there, shipmates!" said Twist and Gall, both in a breath. "We don't mind touching up such a chap as this here tripeman; but not the scratch of a pin does Thompson get in this vessel. He is one of us; he is a seamen every inch of him, and you must flog us, and some fifty more, if once you begin; for d—n my eyes if we don't heave the log with the second mate, and then lay-to till the frigate comes along side."
The mutineers stood aghast for a few seconds; but the second mate, jumping on a gun, called out,
"Who's of our side? Are we going to be bullied by these d—d Britishers?"
"You are," said I, "if doing an act of justice is bullying. You are in great danger, and I warn you of it. I perceive the force of those whom you pretend to call Americans; and though I am the last man in the world to sanction an act of treachery by heaving the ship to, yet I caution you to beware how you provoke the bull-dog, who has only broke his master's chain 'for a lark,' and is ready to return to him. I am your guest, and therefore your faithful friend; use your utmost endeavours to escape from your enemy. I know what she is, for I know her well; and, if I am not much mistaken, you have scarcely more time, with all your exertions, than to pack up your things; for be assured, you will not pass twelve hours more under your own flag."
This address had a tranquillising effect. The captain, Captain Green, and Solomon, walked aft; and, to their great dismay, saw distinctly the water line of the pursuing frigate.
"What can be done?" said the captain; "she has gained on us in this manner, while the people were all aft settling that infernal dispute. Throw two more of the after guns overboard."
This order was obeyed with the same celerity as the former, but not with the same success. The captain now began to perceive, what was pretty obvious to me before, namely, that by dropping the boat from the extreme end of the vessel, where it hung like the pea on the steelyard, he did good; the lightening her also of the two aftermost guns, hanging over the dead wood of the vessel, were in like manner serviceable. But here he should have stopped; the effect of throwing the next two guns overboard was pernicious. The vessel fell by the head; her stern was out of the water; she steered wild, yawed, and decreased in her rate of sailing in a surprising manner.
"Cut away the bower anchors," said the captain.
The stoppers were cut, and the anchors dropped; the brig immediately recovered herself from her oppression, as it were, and resumed her former velocity; but the enemy had by this time made fearful approaches. The only hope of the captain and his crew was in the darkness; and as this darkness came on, my spirits decreased, for I greatly feared that we should have escaped. The sun had sunk some time below the horizon; the cloud of sail coming up astern of us began to be indistinct, and at last disappeared altogether in a black squall: we saw no more of her for nearly two hours.
I walked the deck with Green and the captain. The latter seemed in great perturbation; he had hoped to make his fortune, and retire from the toils and cares of a sea-life in some snug corner of the Western settlements, where he might cultivate a little farm, and lead the life of an honest man; "for this life," said he, "I am free to confess, is, after all, little better than highway robbery."
Whether the moral essay of the captain was the effect of his present danger, I will not pretend to say. I only know, that if the reader will turn back to some parts of my history, he will find me very often in a similar mood, on similar occasions.
The two captains and the chief mate now retired, after leaving me meditating by myself over the larboard gunwale, just before the main rigging. The consultation seemed to be of great moment; and, as I afterwards learned, was to decide what course they should steer, seeing that they evidently lost sight of their pursuer. I felt all my hopes of release vanish as I looked at them, and had made up my mind to go to New York.
At this moment, a man came behind me, as if to get a pull at the top-gallant sheets; and while he hung down upon it with a kind of "yeo-ho," he whispered in my ear—"You may have the command of the brig if you like. We are fifty-Englishmen—we will heave her to and hoist a light, if you will only say the word, and promise us our free pardon."
I pretended at first not to hear, but, turning round, I saw Mr Twist.
"Hold, villain!" said I; "do you think to redeem one act of treachery by another? and do you dare to insult the honour of a naval officer with a proposal so infamous? Go to your station instantly, and think yourself fortunate that I do not denounce you to the captain, who has a perfect right to throw you overboard—a fate which your chain of crimes fully deserves."
The man skulked away, and I went off to the captain, to whom I related the circumstance, desiring him to be on his guard against treachery.
"Your conduct, Sir," said the captain, "is what I should have expected from a British naval officer; and since you have behaved so honourably, I will freely tell you that my intention is to shorten sail to the topsails and foresail, and haul dead on a wind into that dark squall to the southward."
"As you please," said I; "you cannot expect that I should advise, nor would you believe me if I said I wished you success; but rely on it I will resist, by every means in my power, any unfair means to dispossess you of your command."
"I thank you, Sir," said the captain, mournfully; and, without losing any more time in useless words, "Shorten sail there," continued he, with a low but firm voice; "take in the lower and topmost studding-sail—hands aloft—in top-gallant studding-sails, and roll up the top-gallant sails."
All this appeared to be done with surprising speed, even to me who had been accustomed to very well conducted ships of war. One mistake, however, was made; the lower studding-sail, instead of being hauled in on deck, was let to fall overboard, and towed some time under the larboard bow before it was reported to the officers.
"Haul in the larboard braces—brace sharp up—port the helm, and bring her to the wind, quarter-master."
"Port, it is, Sir," said the man at the helm, and the vessel was close hauled upon the starboard tack; but she did not seem to move very fast, although, she had a square mainsail, boom mainsail, and jib.
"I think we have done them at last," said the captain; "what do you think, leftenant?" giving me a hearty but very friendly slap on the back. "Come, what say you; shall we take a cool bottle of London particular after the fatigues of the day?"
"Wait a little," said I, "wait a little."
"What are you looking at there to windward?" said the captain, who perceived that my eye was fixed on a particular point.
Before I had time to answer, Thompson came up to me and said, "there is the ship, Sir," pointing to the very spot on which I was gazing. The captain heard this; and, as fear is ever quick-sighted, he instantly caught the object.
"Running is of no use now," said he; "we have tried her off the wind, our best going; she beats us at that; and on a wind, I don't think so much of her; but still, with this smooth water and fine breeze, she ought to move better. Solomon, there is something wrong, give a look all round."
Solomon went forward on the starboard side, but saw nothing. As he looked over the gangway and bow, coming round on the lee side of the forecastle, he saw some canvas hanging on one of the night-heads—"What have we here?" said he. No one answered. He looked over the fore chains, and found the whole lower studding-sail towing in the water.
"No wonder she don't move," said the mate; "here is enough to stop the Constitution herself. Who took in this here lower studding-sail?—But, never mind, we'll settle that to-morrow. Come over here, you forecastle men."
Some of the Americans came over to him, but not with very great alacrity. The sail could not be pulled in, as the vessel had too much way; and while they were ineffectually employed about it, the flash of a gun was seen to windward; and as the report reached our ears, the shot whistled over our heads, and darted like lightning through the boom mainsail.
"Hurra for old England," said Thompson; "the fellow that fired that shot shall drink my allowance of grog to-morrow."
"Hold your tongue, you d—d English rascal," said the second mate, "or I'll stop your grog for ever."
"I don't think you will," said the North Briton, "and if you take a friend's advice, you won't try." Thompson was standing on the little round-house or poop; the indignant mate jumped up, and collared him. Thompson disengaged him in the twinkling of an eye, and with one blow of his right hand in the pit of the man's stomach, sent him reeling over to leeward. He fell—caught at the boom-sheet—missed it, and tumbled into the sea, from whence he rose no more.
All was now confusion. "A man overboard!"—another shot from the frigate—another and another in quick succession. The fate of the man was forgotten in the general panic. One shot cut the aftermost main-shroud; another went through the boat on the booms. The frigate was evidently very near us. The men all rushed down to seize their bags and chests; the captain took me by the hand, and said "Sir, I surrender myself to you, and give you leave now to act as you think proper."
"Thompson," said I, "let go the main-sheet, and the main-brace." Running forward myself, I let go the main-tack, and bowlines; the main-yard came square of itself. Thompson got a lantern, which he held up on the starboard quarter.
The frigate passed close under the stern, shewing a beautiful pale side, with a fine tier of guns; and, hailing us, desired to know what vessel it was.
I replied, that it was the True-blooded Yankee of Boston—that she had hove-to and surrendered.