Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

to cast lots they would at once cast lots without him.

"Finding them thus inflexible," writes the captain, "and having but too much reason to suspect some foul proceedings unless I became a principal agent in the affair, I made a shift to rise up in my bed, ordered pen, ink, and paper, and called them all into the cabin. There were seven of us now left, and the lots were drawn in the same manner as the tickets are drawn for a lottery at Guildhall. The lot, indeed, did not fall on me, but on one David Flatt, a foremast-man, the only man in the ship on whom I could place any reliance. The shock of the decision was great, and the preparations for execution were dreadful. The fire already blazed in the steerage, and everything was prepared for sacrificing the wretched victim immediately. A profound silence for some time took possession of the whole company, and would possibly have continued longer had not the unhappy victim himself, who appeared quite resigned, delivered himself to the following effect: 'My dear friends, messmates, and fellowsufferers, all I have to beg of you is to despatch me as soon as you did the negro, and to put me to as little torture as you can.' Then, turning to one James Doud (the man who shot the negro), 'It is my desire,' says he, that you should shoot me.' Doud readily yet reluctantly assented. The unhappy victim then begged a small time to prepare himself for death; to which his companions very cheerfully agreed, and even seemed at last unwilling to insist upon his forfeited life, as he was greatly respected by the whole ship's company. A few A few draughts of wine, however, soon suppressed these dawnings of humanity; nevertheless, to show their regard, they consented to let him live till eleven the next morning, in hopes that the Divine goodness would, in the mean time, raise up some other source of relief. At the same time they begged of me to read prayers, promising to join me with the utmost fervency. I was greatly pleased with this notion, and though but little able to go through a task of that kind, I exerted all my strength, and had the satisfaction to observe that they behaved with tolerable decency."

As Captain Harrison lay down, faint with reading and prostrate with despair, he could hear the whole ship's company talking to poor Flatt, hoping that God would interpose for him, promising, though they never could catch a fish, they would drop some hooks over the side at daybreak, to give

their old messmate one chance more. Flatt, however, in spite of this reassurance, grew stone deaf about midnight, and delirious about four in the morning. The men then debated whether it would not be greater humanity to despatch him at once, but the majority agreeing to spare him, as they had promised, till eleven in the next forenoon, they all retired to their hammocks, except the sentinel, whom they always kept up to watch the fire.

About eight the next morning, as Captain Harrison was in his cabin pondering over the fate of poor Flatt, who had now but three hours to live, two sailors rushed down into the cabin, and, without saying a word, seized his hands. The captain at once concluded that the crew, afraid of eating the flesh of a madman, had resolved on sacrificing him. Disengaging himself, therefore, Harrison snatched up his pistols, resolved to sell his life as dearly as he could. The men at once cried out that they had seen a sail to the leeward-a large vessel, and standing in a fair direction. The rest of the crew soon after came down, and said that there was a sail, but that she seemed to be bearing off in quite a contrary course.

The captain was at first so overcome with joy that he could with difficulty give the orders to make signals of distress. The men, once more obedient, leaped about, and soon after begun to cry out, "She nighs us! she nighs us! She's standing this way!"

As the ship grew nearer, the sailors tried to reassure Flatt, but his mind was gone, and he could not understand that his life was now safe. They then began to pass round the can, till the captain had convinced them that the ship might refuse to take them on board if they were found drunk. This sobered them, but the mate refused to listen to any argument, and brutally drank on.

"After continuing for a considerable time," says Harrison, "eagerly observing the progress of the vessel, and undergoing the most tumultuous agitation that could be created by so trying a suspense, we had at last the happiness to see a boat drop astern, and row towards us fully manned, with a very vigorous despatch. It was now quite a calm, yet the impatience with which we expected the arrival of the boat was incredible; the numberless disappointments we had met in the course of our unfortunate voyage filled us with an apprehension that some new accident might frustrate all our hopes, and plunge us again

sadly wanting provisions, the Susanna sighted no vessel at all except a Frenchman, from Cape François, as badly off as themselves. Nevertheless, about the 1st or 2nd of March they reached the Land's End safely, and took a pilot off Dartmouth, who guided the long-tormented sloop into the quiet Devonshire harbour, where the sufferers were treated with generous kindness. Next day the wretched mate died, and his watch and trinkets were sold to pay for his funeral. Two others of the sailors also died. Poor Flatt still continued out of his senses. Of the six men rescued, only two were strong enough to do any duty.

into an aggravated distress. Life and death seemed, indeed, to sit upon every stroke of the oar; and as we still considered ourselves tottering on the very verge of eternity, the conflict between our wishes and our fears may be easily supposed by a reader of imagination. The boat at length came alongside; but our appearance was so ghastly that the men rested upon their oars, and, with looks of inconceivable astonishment, demanded what we were. Having satisfied them on this point, they immediately came on board, and begged we would use the utmost expedition in quitting our miserable wreck, lest they should be overtaken by a gale before they On arriving in London on the 1st of April, were able to recover their ship. At the 1760, Captain Harrison, who was insured at same time, seeing me totally incapable of New York, lodged a protest in order to getting into the boat without assistance, secure an indemnity to his owners. The they provided ropes, by which I was quickly declaration was signed by Robert Shank, let down, and my people followed me-I"notary and tabellion public," and sworn need not, I believe, observe, with all the alacrity they possessed."

The drunken mate, almost forgotten, came to the gunwale at the last moment, astonished at the boat and the strange sailors. The sight of Harrison's men, with their hollow eyes, shrivelled cheeks, long beards, and squalid complexions, made the captain absolutely tremble with horror as he led Harrison politely down to his cabin, thanking God for being made the instrument of his deliverance. The rescuing ship proved to be the Susanna, bound to London from Virginia, Thomas Evers, captain. She, too, had had a battle with "a hard gale of wind," and a heavy sea, that at one fell swoop had licked off four hogs, five butts of fresh water, fifty fowls, twenty or thirty geese and turkeys, and the caboose and copper. With seven fresh hands on board, and a long series of foul weather, a head wind, and leaky vessel, he had to limit the crew to two and a half pounds of bread per week, and a quart of water and half a pound of salt provisions a day to each man.


Harrison, that brave Englishman, who tells his dreadful story with such unaffected piety and naïve simplicity, was three or four days on board before he felt any inclination to do anything but calmly sleep: The fourth day he sipped a little sago, but seemed to have lost all sense of taste. next day he took some chicken-broth, and began to enjoy food. Soon after this, though unable to face the wind, he could crawl on deck, and the air gave him strength. A surfeit of roast turkey, however, throwing him into a fever, Captain Evers, who acted as his kind physician and nurse, restricted him in food. Though

to" upon the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God," by the captain and a passenger of the Susanna, before the Right Honourable George Nelson, Esquire, then lord mayor. He also published a short narrative of his sufferings and starvation for two and forty days, to show the "impiety of despair," at Harrison's, “opposite Stationers' Hall, Ludgate-street." In the last page, this brave, steadfast fellow, who, like the sailor in Horace, " mox reficit rates," says, I am now returning to New York, in the ship Hope, Captain Benjamin Davis, where I shortly trust the goodness which I have already experienced at the hand of Providence will be crowned by a joyful meeting of my wife and family."

[ocr errors]

When Lord Byron was taunted with having taken his wreck in Don Juan from that of the Juno, already given in an early number of this series, he told a friend that he had drawn it from many such narratives, which he named. Among those which he mentioned, the Melancholy Narrative of the Distressful Voyage and Miraculous Deliverance of Captain David Harrison, of the American Sloop Peggy, occupies a very prominent place.





WHEN morning dawned, Bid went into her own little house and stripped the walls of the pictures which had lent them such splendour, carrying with these her chair, table, stool, and basket all to the cave which

held the possessions of her cherished friends. "Sell them wid the rest," she said, "for Bid will be Bid the thraveller to the end o' her days." It was not without a sigh that the old creature thus put out of mind her last earthly dream; but so many earthly dreams had faded from her, that one more seemed easy to forget. Having emptied the cabin, she left the door standing open, so that Simon, or the winds, or the foxes might take possession when they pleased. Early in the day Simon arrived with some stout ruffians ready for any mischief. It was a very great labour for the old man to climb the hills, but his duty was before him, and he accomplished it. He did not find much trouble in doing the work after all, and he perceived with bitter regret that he could have easily done it alone without the expense of assistants. The people walked ont quietly with their bundles in their hands, having already suffered the worst of the evil that had been thrust upon them. They had wept out the blaze of their hearthstones; they had broken their household gods with their own hands; there was only now to pass for the last time across the familiar threshold. In one house indeed there was found a little difficulty; for Simon on pushing into it came face to face with a corpse; the body of the poor consumptive girl, who had died of fear in her mother's arms. Simon retreated in horror before the sight of death; and this house was left in peace.

The woman who could not move was lifted, bed and all, and placed on the hill. Later, friends took her on their shoulders and carried her down the mountain to Miss Martha's barn, where a snug little chamber had been cleared for her in the straw. Her eldest daughter stayed by to take care of her, and the other children were settled among the farmers in the neighbourhood by May, who was now moving about. So this family was disposed of till the father, who was in England, could contrive to find money enough to bring them across the


Miss Martha gave a lodging to many other tired souls that night. In the dusk of the summer evening the partings took place. There was wild wringing of hands and weeping and embracing, for friends gathered from many parts to say good-bye to the wanderers. The band of sad travellers passed away down the road and disappeared like the shadows in a dream. They sang a wild "keen" in chorus as they went, and the shrill note of sorrow hung long and vibrated in the still air. Faintly

and more faintly it echoed in the night, the mountains replying to it as long as they could hear. Then silence and darkness settled down upon the moors, and Simon's work was done. The shepherds and the cattle might come to the mountains when they pleased.


News had come over the hills of great doings at Camlough. It was quite a year since there had been anything like entertainment given at that place; but the whispers of debt and difficulty which had been multiplying like cobwebs over Sir John's fair fame for hospitality were now to be blown away upon the breath of much dissipation; and Camlough was to witness scenes such as the hills had never dreamed of. Guests were coming from England, the castle was filling rapidly, and a series of entertainments had been devised. In this way were the Archbolds carrying out the doctor's prescription. They were providing amusement for the heir of Tobereevil; and they were bent upon doing it well.

The first piece of gaiety was to be a fancy ball, and guests were invited to it for a hundred miles round. It was a rare idea of Katherine's to send May an invitation. Miss Martha was not invited; nor was May asked to stay longer than just while the ball lasted. No carriage, no escort, no chaperone, no dress! Katherine smiled as she sealed the missive which was meant to make May weep.

It was a sultry evening towards the end of July; the sun had gone down, but the crests of the mountains were still at a red heat. Crimson and yellow were still throbbing in the air, and the woods looked hot and dusty, for the dew had not as yet begun to fall. The garden paths were baked, the roses hung their heads, and May knelt on the ground tying up the rosetrees, and gathering their fallen leaves. The sky made a wall of flame at the back of the Golden Mountain, and May's thoughts were beyond the mountain, and seemed to scorch themselves in the flame. A servant in livery rode up to the gate, and Bridget came down the garden with a note for her young mistress.

May read the note, and as she did so the blood rushed to her checks and forehead, till her eyes ached with the heat, and refused to read any more. Then the flush ebbed away again, and she walked into the house as white as a ghost.


Aunty," she said, "look at this. I am going out for a walk." And before Miss Martha's spectacles were fairly set on her

nose, May was several perches across the heather.

Lines of shadow were tracking out the hollows of the moor, and there were brazen lines beside them. May seemed walking all the way through wreaths of fire, but she noticed nothing of that, having fire within her heart. Castles were burned to cinders in the sky, crags quivered in flames, and were left charred and spectral. The fires were vanquished at last; twilight came, and a veil crept over the brazen brow of the woods. Fevered nature drank the dew, and slept. It was quite dark when May came in from her walk. The fires then were also quenched in her heart; but a daring thought had been moulded into purpose while they burned.

She had first

follow it in curious fashion. to consider about a costume in which she could appear at a fancy ball, and went about her duties with her mind set on queens and heroines, and especially on their wardrobes. She visited all Miss Martha's ancient stores, lumber-rooms, and closets, deep drawers, and seldom-opened chests, looking for possible treasures of colour and material, and hoping for an inspiration as she went along. There was little to be found that could suit her purpose till Miss Martha at last produced, a little reluctantly, some yards of carefully saved light-blue tabinet which had been part of her own mother's wedding finery; and upon this May seized at once with greedy hands. "Give it to me," she said, earnestly;

In the morning she had written a note," indeed it could not be used for a more and burned another before her aunt ap- sacred purpose." peared.

"I thank you, Katherine Archbold, for giving me an idea," she said, solemnly, as she tore the pretty letter, and burned it in little pieces.

"A wilful piece of impertinence," said Miss Martha, entering the room as May held the last fragment to her taper. "So plain that they did not want you when they never mentioned me. They might safely have paid the compliment, not fearing we should go. So plain that they did not want you."


Very plain, indeed, Aunty. I shall take them by surprise."

"My dear," said Miss Martha, faintly, "what did you intend to say?"

"That I have accepted the invitation," said May. "And I mean to go."

Miss Martha dropped her hand which had been raised to grasp the teapot. She looked astonished, shocked; then pained and angry. For some moments she was speechless.


'My love," she said at last, "you are surely not yourself. You do not know what you are saying. You

"Do not say a word till you hear my plan," said May, quickly. "If I fail, you may talk to me in any way you please, or you may scold me if I succeed; but you must not hold me back; for, Aunty, this is the enterprise of my life."

"Tell me what you mean," said Miss Martha, with the air of a person whose mind is made up to the worst. Then May unfolded her plan, and her aunt, with many misgivings, was obliged to allow her to put it in practice.

May, having got her will, began to

This fragment of the past, some old black velvet, and some clear-starched muslin, were the best that they could find to suit her purpose. A pair of long gold earrings, with a gold cross to match, presented to Miss Martha while she lived in Normandy, decided May as to the costume which she must assume. She must make the best attempt she could at the dress of a Norman peasant. Miss Martha gave help in designing the apparel; and by the aid of her aunt's memory, and the suggestions of an old water-colour drawing done in Miss Martha's governessing days, May cut out the garments, and set to work. When Bid arrived from the mountain she was told that the young lady wanted her, and was taken into her chamber, where Miss May was stitching busily, and with plenty to say to Bid.

In one of Miss Martha's outhouses there stood an odd little vehicle which had been much used in its time, intended to be drawn by a mule, and called a waggon. It was covered with close curtains of a dark green stuff, and had a seat running round the interior supplied with hard green cushions. The floor was matted, and many people have travelled in a less comfortable equipage. On the night of the fête at Camlough this waggon stood in waiting under the thickset hedge at the lower end of the garden at Monasterlea, having found a hiding-place, since its driver wished to escape all observation from the road. There were many strollers abroad on this particular night who watched for a glimpse of the carriages that had been rolling past all the evening. It was now getting late, and the carriages had ceased appear

ing. They had a long way to drive after they had passed by Monasterlea.

May had been tired that day, and had gone to bed early. Bridget had brought her some tea, and Miss Martha had given orders that she was not to be disturbed again that night. So the servants had gone to bed, and the place was very quiet, though about eight o'clock a young Norman peasant was standing in May's chamber trying, with shaking hands, to fix Miss Martha's long gold ear-rings into her ears. Her short blue quilted petticoat and bodice of black velvet, her shoes, white muslins, and ornaments were complete. Her hair was rolled away tightly under the tall white cap, her cheeks glowing with excitement, her eye flashing from place to place to see that nothing was forgotten. May had a trying time before her, and she was not going to turn coward, but rather to strain every nerve for the accomplishment of her enterprise. Now she was all ready, missal and beads in one hand, and a small black mask in the other. Miss Martha wrapped her closely in a long black cloak, and lastly embraced her; and the old lady was trembling like a thorn-bush on a windy day.

"My darling!" she said, "give it up even now. If anything were to happen to


"Now, Aunty, who are you going to send to do me harm ?"

"If only the servants were to find it out-how humiliating that would be."

"But you know the servants are not going to find it out. If there were any chance of this, I'd have done it before them all. We don't want it talked about, and that is the whole thing."

"Well, the day is past when I was mistress: you are your own mistress now. Go, in God's name, and may he hold you in his keeping."

A few minutes afterwards, May was seated close by Bid in the little waggon. Mrs. Kearney's eldest gossoon had taken the management of the mule; he touched her with his whip, and May's adventure began.

It was a hot, still night, and very dark, but the mule and the gossoon knew the road on the Golden Mountain. May kept back her curtains, except when the sound of coming wheels warned her of other travellers on the road. The world seemed a mass of ragged and confused shadows, with here and there a startled light flashing out of a hollow. The stars blinked

drowsily on the edge of the sombre mountains, as if they could scarcely keep their eyes open in the heat. The air was filled with the rich scent of hay, the sweets of many flowers, and of the dew-laden thyme and heath. The journey seemed to May like the whole length of a day and night; and yet the mule did her work bravely. When the travellers caught sight of Camlough, it was just one o'clock in the morning.

Below them in the hollow lay a fairy scene. The illuminated castle stood like a castle of light in the slope of the dark valley; and tents lay spread beneath it, which seemed also made of light. Manycoloured fires encircled the inner rows of the trees, and the foam-curves of the sea just glinted through the distance in the gleam of the late-rising moon. The waggon pulled up in the shelter of a little by-road which led off Sir John's great mountain-road, just above the gates which separated that great road from the drive to the castle. The mule was tied to a tree which hid the waggon, and the gossoon lay down beside him to doze in the grass; for Bid and May had left him, and disappeared behind the brae.

They threaded their way very cautiously at first through bushes and ferns, by little tangled paths that wandered down to the level lawns and gardens, pausing, at last, in one of those long beech-alleys which spread their mazes over part of the grounds. To-night these alleys were lighted with coloured lamps, and here and there a gaily-dressed pair enjoyed their privacy, sauntering together apart from the crowd upon the lawns.

"Now, God A'mighty purtect ye, honey!" said Bid, in a frightened whisper, as she removed May's dark wrappings, and beheld her standing trembling in her strange attire, and about to be left alone. "Ye'll know yer way back to the boreen, avourneen. I'll wait for ye there, for 'fraid we might miss other."

May nodded, and bent back the branch of a tree with both her hands, and the next moment she found herself in the crowd.

For the first few moments she felt sick with fear, but she had not come there without first assuring herself that she had courage for the adventure. The privacy which was insured to her by the wearing of the mask, gave her a certain amount of confidence, and she kept where the crowd was thickest, so that she might not be ob

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »