The Annotated "Privateersman"/Chapter XVI
|←Chapter XV|| The Annotated "Privateersman" by
|The Diamond-Mines, and what occurred there—I lose my friend Ingram, and another acquaintance, but they both leave me valuable Legacies.|
After remaining in the court about two hours, it being then near to nightfall, the gaolers came out into the yard, and we were all driven into a large apartment, the walls of which were of such solid materials, and the floor of large flag-stones, as to prevent any possibility of escape. I was never in such a scene of filth and wretchedness. There was not a spot where one could be driven without being defiled in some way or another; and so many human beings—one half of whom were negroes—being crowded into so small a space, with only one barred window, so high up as only to serve as a ventilator, created an atmosphere worse than any slave-vessel’s hold. I leaned with my back against the wall, and, I must say, never was so miserable in my life. I thought of Amy, and my sanguine hopes and anticipations of happiness, now all wrecked. I thought of Captain Levee and my brother Philip careering over the seas, free as the wind. I thought of poor Whyna, and the distress she must feel at finding I did not rejoin her. I planned a hundred schemes to make known my situation, but every scheme, as soon as I weighed it, I found was hopeless. Still weak from previous disease, I felt as if I should be suffocated if I remained long in this pestiferous abode, and I wept like a child. Daylight came at last, and soon afterwards the door was opened; we were admitted into the yard, and all hastened to the large tub of water, which was soon emptied. The fighting and scrambling to obtain first possession was really revolting. An hour afterwards some coarse provisions were served out, and then we learnt, to our great delight, that we were immediately to set out for the mines. It would be thought that this could be no great cause for exultation; we were about to go to pass the rest of our lives in bondage; but all misery is comparative, and sooner than have remained another night in that dreadful hole, I would have welcomed any change. About an hour afterwards a guard of dirty-looking soldiers came in; we were all handcuffed to a long chain, at about two feet apart, one on each side, so that we walked in pairs, and as soon as the first chain was full—and I was handcuffed to it—we were ordered out into the square to wait for the others. My superior dress and appearance as an Englishman excited much curiosity; people pointed to me and made remarks, but I had no opportunity of communicating with any of the authorities, nor would it have been of any use if I had had. We remained there more than an hour, as the other chains of prisoners came out one by one; we were five chains in all, about forty on a chain. We were then ordered to move on, walking between a guard of about twenty or thirty soldiers, who marched, on each side of us, with their muskets and bayonets fixed, about three yards from each other. In another hour we were clear of the town, and threading our way through a lane bounded on each side by prickly pears and other shrubs. There was no want of merriment among the party; they talked and laughed with one another and the soldiers who guarded them, and appeared to care little for their fate. As for me, I was broken-hearted with the disgrace and the villainous manner in which I had been thus sacrificed. My heart was full of bitterness, and I could gladly have lain down and died, had I not been still buoyed up with some faint hope that I should have an opportunity of making my position known, and obtain my release. I will pass over the journey, as one day was but the forerunner of the other. We halted at noon, and were supplied with fruit and maize, but we were never unchained, day or night. In a short time I was like all the rest—covered with vermin, and disgusting to myself. It was, I think, between four and five weeks before we arrived at our destination, which was in the district of Tejuco, and the locality of the diamond-mines was called the Sierra de Espinhaço. This sierra, or mountain, was a ridge of inaccessible precipices on each side of a narrow valley, traversed by a small river called the Tequetinhonha, and in this valley, and in the bed of the river, were the diamonds found, for which we were condemned to toil for the remainder of our days. As we entered the ravine, I perceived how impossible it would be to escape, even if a person could find his way back, after having succeeded in his escape. For many miles the road was a narrow path cut on the side of the mountain, a yawning precipice below and inaccessible rocks above, and this narrow way was at every two miles blocked up by a guard-house built upon it, and through the portcullis of which it would be necessary to force a way. And here we were, thousands of miles away from civilised life, in the heart of a country uninhabited except by occasional bands of Indians. At last we filed through the last of the guard-houses, and found ourselves in a wider part of the ravine, which was crowded with buildings of various descriptions. We were led up to the director’s house, and our names, persons, and descriptions were taken down by a clerk. When my turn came, and I was asked in Portuguese who I was, I shook my head, and replied “Ingles.” An interpreter was called, and I then stated my name and begged the director would hear what I had to say. He shook his head, and, after they had taken my description, desired me to go away.
“Why did you not explain for me?” said I to the interpreter.
“Because he won’t hear what you have to say; if he would, every man on the chain would attempt to prove that he was sent here by mistake. You may by-and-by find an opportunity to speak to him, that is, after you have learnt Portuguese, and have been here a year or two; but it will do no good.”
During the whole of the journey I had been separated from Ingram, and now, for the first time since we left prison, I had an opportunity of shaking him by the hand. I need not say how glad I was to meet again my companion in misfortune, and our only fear was now, that we should be again separated; but such was not the case. There were regular lodgings or barracks for the slaves, which were certainly not bad but as all escape was considered impossible, any one who chose to raise a little hut for himself out of the bushes which grew on the rocks was permitted so to do. The hours of work were regular; we were allotted out in gangs, which took up a certain square of the river, or river’s side; we worked from daylight till near dusk, with only an hour allowed for repose in the heat of the day. There was a superintendent over each gang of twenty, who watched them and made them work. These superintendents were controlled by inspectors, who had the charge of four or five gangs, and who brought unto the director the produce of the day’s toil. The work was simple. The sand and alluvial soil were thrown into troughs with small sieve bottoms, out of which escaped all the smaller matter, when it was washed with the water from the river. The stones and larger particles were then carefully examined, and any diamonds found were taken out and delivered to the superintendents, who then made them over to the inspectors, when they came round. The inspectors carried them to their houses, (for they had houses from government,) and in the evening delivered every diamond found to the director. After a short time, I found that the office of superintendent, and also of inspector, was open to any of the slaves who conducted themselves well; and that the whole of those now employed in the offices were slaves for life, as well as ourselves. What puzzled me was, how so many people, for in all we amounted to seven hundred or more, were to be found in food; but I afterwards discovered that the government had farms and herds of cattle at a few miles’ distance, cultivated by slaves and Indians expressly for the purpose. Our rations were scanty, but we were permitted to cultivate, as well as we could, any spot we could find on the arid side of the mountain as a garden; and some of them, who had been there for many years, had, in course of time, produced a good soil, and reared plenty of vegetables. To my surprise, I found at least twenty Englishmen among the whole mass of slaves; and one or two of them were inspectors, and several of them superintendents—saying much in favour of my countrymen. Their conversation and their advice tended much to soothe the hardships of my captivity, but I found from them that any hopes of ever leaving the mines were useless, and that our bones must all be laid by the side of the mountain. Of course, Ingram and I were inseparable; we worked in the same gang, and we very soon built a hut for ourselves; and Ingram, who was a light-hearted young man, set to work to make a garden. He moved heavy stones on the sides of the mountain, and scraped up all the mould he could find; sometimes he would get his handkerchief full, but not often; but, as he said, every little helped. He killed lizards for manure, and with them and leaves he made a little dung-heap, which he watered, to assist putrefaction. Everything that would assist, he carefully collected; and by degrees he had sufficient for a patch of four or five yards square. This he planted; and with the refuse made more manure; and in the course of a few months, by incessant activity and assisted by me, he had a very tolerable patch of ground covered with this manure and the alluvial soil washed out by the diamond-seeking, mixed up together. We then obtained seeds, and grew vegetables like the rest, and this proved a great increase to our comforts—that is, our bodily wants; but my mind was far away. Amy Trevannion was never out of my thoughts, and I fell into a deep melancholy. I worked hard at my vocation, and was fortunate enough to find some good diamonds, long before I had been a year at the mines. Having acquired the Portuguese language, I was soon after raised to the office of superintendent. I now no longer worked, but overlooked others, with a cane in my hand to administer punishment to those who neglected their business. I cannot say that I liked the change; I was not so miserable when I was employed, but I did my duty with diligence. Ingram was in my gang, and another Englishman, an old man,—I should think not less than seventy years old. He told me that he belonged to a merchant vessel, and in a drunken brawl a Portuguese had been killed; he and two others had been condemned to the mines, but the others were dead long ago. About a month after my elevation, this old man, who was very feeble, and whom I treated with great kindness on account of his age—exacting no more than I thought he could well perform—fell sick. I reported him as being really ill, and Ingram, who was by no means a bad doctor, told me that he would die. A few hours before his death he sent for me to his hut, and, after thanking me for my kindness to him, he said that he knew he was dying, and that he wished to leave me all his property, (which the slaves are permitted to do,) that is, he left me his garden, which was the best on the Sierra, his hut, which also was a very good one, and then, putting his hand under the leaves which formed his bed, he pulled out a tattered, thumbed book, which he told me was a Bible.
“At first I read,” said he, “to pass away time in this melancholy place, but of late I have read it I hope to a better purpose.”
I thanked the poor man for his present, and wished him good-bye. A few hours afterwards he was dead, and Ingram and I buried him by the side of the mountain. Shortly afterwards our inspector died, and, to my astonishment, I was put into his place. I could not imagine why I was thus so fortunate in being promoted, but I afterwards found out that, although I had never but casually seen her, I was indebted for my good fortune to a fancy which the director’s eldest daughter (for he had his family with him) had taken for me.
This was singular, for I had never spoken to her, and, what is more strange, I never did speak to her, nor did she ever attempt to speak to me, so that it was wholly disinterested on her part. I had now still less to do, and was in constant communication with the director, and one day stated to him how it was that I had been brought there. He told me that he believed me, but could not help me, and after that the subject was never again mentioned between us. Having little to do, I now took up the Bible given me by the old Englishman, as I had time to read it, which I had not before, when I was employed the whole day; but now I had a convenient cottage, as I may call it, of my own I and plenty of leisure and retirement.
I studied the Bible carefully and found much comfort in it. Not that I was content with my lot—that I never could be while I was separated from Amy—but still I found much consolation, and I became, to a certain degree, resigned. I thought of my former life with disgust, and this second reading of the Bible, for the reader may recollect that the first took place when I was first confined in the Tower, was certainly of great advantage to me. I had more time to dwell upon it—more time for reflection and self-examination—and every day I reaped more advantage and became more worthy of the name of Christian. I now prayed fervently, and I think my prayers were heard, as you, my dear Madam, will also think as I continue my narrative.About three months after I had been appointed an inspector, Ingram was taken ill. At first he complained of disordered bowels, but in a few days inflammation came on, which ended in mortification. He was in great agony until the mortification took place, when he obtained comparative relief.
“My dear Mr. Musgrave,” he said, as I was at his bedside, “in a few hours I shall have escaped from the mines, and be no more in bondage. I shall follow the poor old Englishman, who left you his executor. I am about to do the same. I shall now make my will verbally, as we have no writing materials here, and leave you all I possess.”
“Why are you not more serious, Ingram,” I said; “at such a moment as this?”
“I am most serious,” he replied. “I know that in a few hours I shall be no more, and I trust in the mercy of Him who died for kings and for slaves; but, Musgrave, I have a secret to tell you. Do you recollect the story in the fairy tales of the little white cat whose head was obliged to be cut off, and who then turned into the most beautiful princess in the world? Well, my secret is something like hers.”
I thought, by his continuing in this strain, that his head was wandering. I was about to speak to him, when he continued:
“Do you know what has occasioned my death? I will tell you the secret. I was washing for diamonds, when I found one of a size which astonished me. I knew it was of great value, and I did not choose that the King of Portugal should receive such a benefit from my hands. I put it into my mouth to secrete it, hardly knowing what I should do afterwards, but I was thinking how I should act, when one of the superintendents passing (that crabbed old Portuguese belonging to the next gang), and seeing me idle and in deep thought, he struck me with his cane such a smart rap on the shoulders, that he not only made me jump out of my reverie, but the diamond went down my throat. I’m sure if I had tried to swallow it I could not have done so, but the shock forced it down. Well, this has occasioned my death, for it has remained in my stomach and occasioned the stoppage, which has ended in inflammation and mortification. I feel it here even now; give me your finger, don’t you feel it? Well, now you understand why I talked of the little white cat. Don’t cut off my head, but when I am dead, just put your knife down there and take out the diamond and bury it, for I tell you—and they say dying men see clearer than others—but that I am certain you will be released from these mines, and then the diamond will be a fortune to you, and you will find that being my executor was of some value to you. Now, pray—no scruple—I entreat it as a last favour, promise me that you will do as I wish—pray promise me, or I shall die unhappy.”
I could not help promising him to execute his wishes, he appeared so earnest and asked it as a last favour, but I felt very repugnant at the idea. In another hour poor Ingram breathed his last, and I was most melancholy at the loss of so worthy a friend, who had by serving me been subjected to the same slavery as myself. I left the hut and went to my own house, thinking over the strange communication that had been made to me. And why, thought I, should I obtain this diamond? I have no chance of leaving this; yet, who knows, Ingram prophesied in his dying moments that I should—well, at all events, I will keep my promise to the poor fellow. I reported his death to the director, and, about an hour afterwards, went to the hut where he lay. His countenance was placid, and I looked at him for a long while, and queried whether he was not happier than I was or ever could be. But, to comply with his request—I could not bear the idea. I did not want the diamond, and I, who in my early career had thought nothing of cutting and maiming the living man, now shuddered at the idea of making an incision in a dead body. But there was no time to be lost, the burials always took place at sunset, and it was near the hour. I bent a piece of bamboo cane double, like a pair of sugar-tongs, and then putting my finger to the part of his stomach which he had pointed out, I felt that there was a hard substance, and I made an incision with my knife—probing with the blade. I touched the diamond and then, using the piece of cane as a pair of pincers, I contrived, after one or two attempts, to extract it. I threw the diamond without examination into a pan of water which stood by the bed, and, covering up the body, I made a hole in the floor of the hut and buried the knife, which I felt I never could use again.
I looked out of the hut and perceived two of the slaves, who performed that office, coming towards me to take away the body. I desired them to carry it leaving the clothes on, followed them, and saw it deposited in the earth; after which I read prayers over the grave, and could not refrain from shedding many tears to the memory of my faithful associate. I then returned to the hut, and taking the pan of water in my hand went to my abode. I could not bear to touch the diamond, but I dared not leave it where it was; so I poured all the water out of the pan, and then rolled the diamond out on the floor, which was of hardened clay. I saw at once that it was one of great value, weighing, I should think, thirteen or fourteen grammes, and of a very pure water. It was in the form of an obtuse octahedron, and on one side was quite smooth and transparent. Having made this examination, I picked up some of the clay with a piece of iron, and, rolling the diamond into the hole, I jammed the clay down over it. “There,” said I, “you may remain till doomsday, or till some one finds you; you will be of no use to me;” and I thought of the cock in the fable. My tattered Bible caught my eye, and I said to it, “You are of more value than all the diamonds in the world;” and I only uttered what I felt.
For a long time I mourned for Ingram, and thought nothing of the diamond. Three months more passed away, and I had been eighteen months in the mines, when some visitors made their appearance—no less than one of the principals of the Jesuit order, who had been sent by the king of Portugal out to the Brazils, on a tour of inspection, as it was called, but in fact to examine into the state of affairs, and the way in which the government revenue was collected. There had lately been so much peculation on the part of the various officers, that it was considered necessary to make minute inquiry. A Portuguese nobleman had been sent out the year before, but had died shortly after his arrival, and there was every reason to suppose that he had been poisoned, that the inquiry might be got rid of. Now this Jesuit priest had been sent out, probably because a Portuguese, who thought little of poisoning and stabbing a layman, would not dare to attempt the life of so sacred a character. Having full and extraordinary powers, he had made a short inquiry into the different departments of government, and now come to the mines to ascertain how far the delivery of the diamonds at the treasury agreed with the collection at the mines; for these mines had usually produced from a million to a million and a half of revenue. The director was in a great fuss when he heard of this arrival at the further barrier; although immediately announced to him, he had scarcely an hour to prepare before the superior of the Jesuits arrived with his suite, consisting of about twenty people, and fifty or sixty sumpter mules and riding-horses. We were all called out to receive him, that is, all the inspectors. I went to attend the parade, and awaited with much indifference; but my feelings were soon changed, when in this superior of the Jesuits I beheld the Catholic priest who had visited me in the Tower and obtained my release. The superior bowed to the director and to all around him, and as he then looked at us all, he recognised me immediately.
“You here, my son?” said he.
“Yes, holy father,” replied I, “and I thank Heaven that your arrival will enable me to prove my innocence.”
“Pray how is this?” said he.
In a few words I narrated my story.
“And you were thrown into prison without being permitted to defend yourself?”
“Even so, good father, and sent to the mines to slave for life.”
“Did you not make known your case to the director of the mines?”
“I did, Sir, but he stated that he pitied me, but could not help me.”
“Is this the case, Mr. Director?” said the Jesuit, severely.
“It is, Sir,” replied the director; “I have more than once reported cases of what appeared to me great hardship, if what those condemned have said was true, and have been told that I was too officious, and that there could be no reversal of sentence. I can prove to you, Sir, by my journals and letter-books, how many cases I did formerly attempt to bring before the government; but I at last received such replies, which I can show you, as will prove that there has been no fault of mine.”
“Allow me to add, holy father,” said I, “that the kindness and consideration of the director have been very great to all those under his charge, and I think it very fortunate that such a person has been appointed to this situation, as he has done everything that has been in his power to alleviate the miseries of bondage.”
“I am glad to hear you say so, Mr. Elrington. Mr. Director, this gentleman is a dear friend of mine; let him instantly be released. My orders are not to be disputed by the viceroy himself.”
The superior then embraced me cordially, and told me that I was free, and should return with him to Rio. Imagine, my dear Madam, my joy and gratitude. I fell on my knees before him, and kissed his hands. He gave me his blessing, and raised me up.
“Where is your companion in misfortune?” said he.
“Alas! Sir, he is dead,” replied I.
The superior shook his head and turned away, saying, “I will search into this affair to the bottom, depend upon it, when I get back to Rio.”
He then desired the director to bring out his books, and his own secretary to follow him, leaving his servants in the court-yard with me and the other inspectors. I received the congratulations of all parties present, and as soon as possible I escaped from them, and returned to my own room, where I knelt and fervently thanked God for my unexpected deliverance; and, having paid my duty to the Most High, I sat down, and fell into a most delightful reverie of anticipations. In the evening, after the superior had dismissed him, the director sent for me, and said:
“Allow me to return you many thanks for your kindness in speaking so favourably of me as you have done. You have, indeed, been of service to me, and I am most grateful.”
“I only did you justice, director,” replied I.
“Yes, but how few have justice done them in this world!” replied he. “The superior desired me to tell you, that you are to live with the gentlemen of his suite. Of course, you know, it is not etiquette for him to admit anybody to his table. At all events you must allow me one pleasure, which is to supply you with clothes proper to your appearance, which I can easily do without inconvenience to myself.”
The director then led me into his room, and opened a wardrobe full of rich suits, selected two of the handsomest, with linen and every other article requisite, a handsome sword and hat, all of which he begged me to accept. Calling one of his servants, he ordered him to put them into a valise, and take them to my apartment.
“Is there anything else that I can do?—speak freely.”
“No, director,” replied I, “I will accept these things from you, as I cannot procure them here, but when at Rio, I have means to obtain everything that I require. I return you many thanks.”
“I will send my servant to arrange your hair,” said he; “and I pray you to consider him at your disposal during the few days which the superior may remain here.”
“Do you think it will take him so long?”
“Yes,” replied the director, “I will tell you in confidence, that he has brought with him the produce of the mines accounted for to the government at home, and on his first inspection has found such defalcation from that which has been transmitted by me to Rio, that I expect there will be serious business. They never imagined at Rio that he would have undertaken such a tedious journey as he has done, and they are in much alarm about it; but I will leave you now, that you may go home and make your toilet. Allow me to congratulate you, with all my heart, at the fortunate termination to your unjust bondage.”
Having again thanked him for his kindness, I went to my lodging, where I found his servant waiting for me; and having had my hair arranged in a very tolerable manner, and a little powder thrown in, I put on one of the suits, which fitted me pretty well, requiring but a slight alteration, from being rather full, which the servant soon managed. Thus did I once more appear as a gentleman—contrary to all my expectations—and I then went and joined the suite of the superior, who, when they perceived the difference which dress made in my appearance, congratulated me, and warmly welcomed me to join the meal which had just been prepared for them. On the following day, the superior sent for me, and ordering me to sit down requested that I would enter into full detail of what had happened to me since we last parted. I did so, and my narrative occupied the whole afternoon.
“Your life has been full of vicissitude,” replied he; “I trust, however, that your adventures are now over, and that you will be restored to your friends: the service you performed for our cause will never be forgotten.”
I ventured to ask him how it was that he was now in the employ of the King of Portugal. He replied:
“I am an Irishman by birth, and educated at Saint Omers. I was first sent to Spain by the order when I was young, and have since been employed all over the world in the advancement of our holy church. Country with our order is of no consequence. We all serve the holy church, and go wherever our services are required. I would you were a Catholic, I could advance you beyond all your hopes; but you are engaged to be married, and that puts an end to the question.”
As I thought the holy father must be tired with our long conference, I rose and took my leave.
Three days afterwards I was informed by him that he intended to set off on his return to Rio, and now I thought of the diamond, which I resolved to carry with me. I had no fear of being searched while under this excellent superior’s protection, and therefore I went to my lodging, dug up the diamond, and, having washed it, for the first time gave it the examination which it deserved. It certainly was a stone of great value, but of what value I could not exactly say. From what I had learnt from the director, who usually put his idea of the value upon any diamond of size which was brought to him, I considered that £20,000 was the least which could be put upon the stone. I took the precaution not to carry it loose in my pocket, but to sew it within the lining of my clothes. Glad I was, indeed, when the orders to start the next morning were given out. I found that a horse was appointed for me, and, having made up my valise, not forgetting my tattered Bible, I went to my bed thanking God that this was to be the last night that I was to pass in the accursed Sierra de Espinhaço.
At daylight the superior took his leave, mounted his mule, and we set forth, passing the guard-house in the narrow road, which I never expected to pass again. Before noon we were clear of the Sierra, and once more in the open country. The attendants, with a portion of the sumpter mules, went in advance, to prepare for the superior’s arrival at the spot where we were to halt.
The weather was excessively sultry, and the glare of the sun was very distressing. At noon we stopped to take our dinner, and the usual siesta after it. The attendants in advance had raised a sort of palanquin for the superior, and everything was ready. The superior alighted, and sat down under the palanquin, which protected him from the rays of the sun; we all sat round at a respectful distance. The heat was so intense, that, to relieve himself, the superior had, when he sat down, thrown off his long black robe, such as is worn by the priests of his order. Dinner was served up, and we had a merry party, notwithstanding the great heat. After our meal, we all shaded ourselves as well as we could, and took our siesta for about two hours, when the superior rose up, and gave the signal for resuming our journey. The horses were soon ready, and the superior’s mule being brought up to the palanquin, he rose up, and one of his attendants was lifting up his robe for the superior to resume it, when my eye detected the head of a snake just showing itself out of the side-pocket of the robe in which he carried his breviary and his handkerchief. I knew the snake well, for we often found them in the Sierra de Espinhaço, and some two or three of the slaves had lost their lives by their bite, which was so fatal, that they died in less than five minutes afterwards. The superior had his handkerchief in his hand, and would have undoubtedly put it in his pocket before he mounted his mule, and if so would certainly have been bitten, and lost his life. As the superior was fastening his robe at the throat, I darted forward, seized it, threw it on the ground, and commenced stamping upon it with all my force, much to the surprise of the whole party. Some of them thought me mad, and others, who were horrified at such treatment of the holy garment, called out, “Heretico maldetto!” which, Madam, you must know, means, accursed heretic. Having felt the snake (which is very short, but very thick in the body, with a head like a toad) several times moving under my feet, and then moving no more, I then stepped off the garment, and turning it over I lifted it up by the skirt, so that the dead snake rolled out of the pocket.
“I thank the God whom we all worship, and the Son of God, who died for us all, whether Catholic or Heretic,” cried I, “that I have been the means of preserving the holy father.”
I had knelt down as I thus prayed, and the superior, perceiving the danger that he had been in, did the same, and silently returned his thanks; at his example all the rest went down on their knees.
“Yes,” said the superior; “would to God that instead of reviling each other all denominations of Christians would join in thus bruising the head of the serpent which seeks our spiritual death.”
He then rose and said:
“My son, I thank thee for the kind service thou hast performed.”
I then explained to the superior the deadly nature of the animal, and my fear that he would have put his handkerchief in the pocket of his robe before I had time to prevent him, and begged him to excuse my seeming abruptness.
“There needs no apology for saving a man’s life,” replied he, smiling.—“Come, let us go forward.”
I hardly need say that we were not quite so long in returning to Rio as we were in going to the mines. We accomplished our journey, without using extreme haste, in about half of the time. On our arrival, we took up our quarters at a magnificent palace, which had been appropriated to the superior during his residence at Rio, and I found myself sumptuously lodged. For some days, during which the superior had frequent interviews with the viceroy, I did not see him, but one day I was summoned to his presence.
“My son,” said he, “I have lost no time in investigating your affair, and I find that all you have said is quite correct. To the disgrace of the government here, and the manner in which justice is administered, it appears that this man, Olivarez, on his arrival, went to the secretary of the judge of that court in which such offences are tried, and stated that he had two English mutineers on board, who had attempted to take the vessel, and wounded several of his men dangerously; that he wished, of course, to deliver them up to justice, but that the immediate departure of his vessel would be prevented by so doing, as his crew would be required as evidence; that the delay would be very disadvantageous; and he inquired whether it could not be managed that these men might be punished without the appearance of himself and his men, as he would pay a good sum rather than be detained. The secretary perfectly understood the trick, and, upon the receipt of five hundred cruzados, he accepted the deposition of Olivarez, sworn to by him, as sufficient evidence, and you were consigned to the mines upon this deposition by a warrant from the judge. We have had some trouble to obtain all the facts, but the question has been severely applied, and has elicited them. Now, first, as to the judge and his secretary, they have gone to the gaol, and will take your place in the mines for life. Next as to Olivarez. It appears that, on his arrival, he sold his cargo of slaves very advantageously; that having received the money he gave a small portion to each of his men, and that they went on shore, and, like all English seamen, were soon in a state of intoxication; that Olivarez took such steps with the police, as to have them all thrown into prison when in that state; and, on the following morning, he went to them, persuaded them that they had committed themselves during their intoxication, and that it required a large sum to free them. This he pretended to have paid for them, and, having purchased a cargo for his voyage, he got them all on board, and again ran for the coast of Africa. In three months he returned with another cargo, which he sold. He had found out his mother, and now he expended the money he had made, in purchasing a good property about seven miles from Rio, where he placed his mother and some slaves to take care of it, and cultivate it. He contrived to defraud his crew as much as he could, and before he went to the coast again he married an amiable young person, the daughter of a neighbour. He made a third and a fourth voyage with equal success, but on the third voyage he contrived to get rid of a portion of his English crew, who were now becoming troublesome, by taking some Portuguese sailors out with him, and leaving the English on the coast, as if by mistake. Previous to the fourth voyage, it appears that he satisfied the remainder of the English crew by producing accounts, and sharing out to them several hundred dollars previous to their departure for the coast. He made a slight addition to his Portuguese sailors, not putting too many on board, to avoid suspicion, and when on the coast of Africa, a portion of the English crew died, whether by poison or not is not known, and the others he put on shore, seizing all their property, and the dollars with which he had satisfied them. On his return from his fourth voyage, having now nothing to fear from the partners in his atrocious deed, having realised a large sum, he determined to remain on shore altogether, and live on his property with his mother and wife. He did so, and sent out the schooner under a Portuguese captain and crew, to be employed for him as owner in the slave traffic, and she has made two voyages since, and is expected back again every day. Now, my son, retribution has fallen heavily upon this bad man. Had he been discovered and punished when he first did the deed, it would have been as nothing compared to what it has been now; he then had no property—no ties—in fact, nothing or little to regret; but now, with a wife and child, with a valuable property, living in independence, and increasing that wealth daily—now, when he is at the very summit of his ambition, restored to his own country, respected and considered as being a man of wealth, he has been seized, thrown into a dungeon, put to the question, and now lies in a state of misery, awaiting the sentence of death which has been pronounced against him. Neither has he the consolation of knowing that he leaves those whom he loves in a state of affluence, for all his property, having been gained by making use of your property, necessarily is your property, and not his, and it has been confiscated accordingly for your use and benefit. As soon as everything is collected, it will be paid into your hands. Thus, my son, I have at last attained justice for you.”
I was, as you may imagine, my dear Madam, profuse in my acknowledgments, but he stopped me, saying:
“I was sent here to see that justice was done to everybody, if I possibly could—no easy task, when all are amassing money, not caring how they obtain it; but, surely, if any one has peculiar claims upon me, it is you.”
The superior then asked me many questions relative to my parentage, and I did not conceal anything from him. I told who I was, and why, at an early age, I had left my father’s house. He asked me many questions, and, after about two hours’ conversation, he dismissed me, saying:
“You may always depend upon my protection and gratitude.”
Before he dismissed me, he told me that he was about to send a despatch-boat to Lisbon, and as I might wish to inform my friends of my safety, if I would write letters, he would insure their being safely delivered to my friends in England. I gladly availed myself of this offer, and indeed would have begged a passage for myself, if it had not been that I considered Olivarez’s money to be the property of Mr. Trevannion, and was determined to remit it to him before I left Rio. This detained me about six weeks longer, during which interval Olivarez had suffered the penalty due to his crimes, having been strangled in the market place.
The money received was 28,000 cruzados, and not knowing how to dispose of it, I applied to the superior, who gave me orders for it in duplicates upon the treasury at Lisbon, one of which I had very soon an opportunity of sending home to Mr. Trevannion, with a duplicate of my first letter, and a second to him and Amy, stating my intention of returning as soon as possible. But this was by a Portuguese frigate, which made a very circuitous route home, and I did not choose to go by that conveyance, as her detention at the different ports was so uncertain. At last I became very impatient for my departure, and anxiously awaited the sailing of some vessel to any port of Europe.
I had reserved 1000 cruzados for my own expenses, which I considered as quite sufficient, but they were gradually wasting away, for I was everywhere received, and in the best company of Rio. At last one day the superior sent for me, and told me that he was about to send an advice-boat to Lisbon, and I might take a passage if I wished; that it was a very small one, but a very fast sailer. I thanked him heartily, accepted the proposal, and went to my room to pack up my clothes. In the afternoon the captain of the xebeque called upon me, and told me that he would start on the following morning if I would be ready. I replied that I should be, put some dollars into his hands, requesting that he would procure for me anything that he considered would be necessary and agreeable, and if the sum I had given him was not enough, I would repay him the remainder as soon as we were out of harbour. I took my leave of the superior, who parted with me with many protestations of regard on his side, and tears of gratitude on mine, and early the next morning I was on board of the xebeque. In light winds she was extremely fast, but she certainly was too small to cross the Atlantic Ocean; nevertheless, as the captain said, she had crossed it several times, and he hoped that she often would again.
The passage, however, that he usually made, was to run up to the northward of the [[w:Antilles |]], and then cross over, making the Bahama Isles, and from thence taking a fresh departure for Lisbon. Our crew consisted of only eight men, besides the captain; but, as the vessel was not more than thirty tons, they were sufficient. We made a good run, until we were in about twenty-four degrees of north latitude, when, as we stretched to the eastward to cross the Atlantic, we met with a most violent gale, which lasted several days, and I fully expected every hour that the vessel would go down, buried as she was by the heavy sea. At last we had no chance but to scud before the wind, which we did for two days before a raging and following sea, that appeared determined upon our destruction. On the second night, as I was on deck, watching the breaking and tossing of the billows, and the swift career of the little bark, which enabled her to avoid them, the water suddenly appeared of one white foam, and, as we rose upon the next sea, we were hurled along on its crest, reeling on the foam until it had passed us, and then we struck heavily upon a rock. Fortunately, it was a soft coral rock, or we had all perished. The next wave lifted us up again, and threw us further on, and, on its receding, the little xebeque laid high and dry, and careened over on her bilge.
The waters rose and fell, and roared and foamed about us, but they lifted us no more, neither did they wash us off the decks as we clung to the rigging; for the stout short mast, upon which the lateen sail was hoisted, had not been carried away. We remained where we were till morning, every one holding on, and not communicating with each other. As the night wore away, so did the gale decrease and the sea subside. The waters now gradually left us; at intervals, when the waves receded, we could walk on shore; but we remained on the vessel till noon, by which time we found our vessel high and dry, having been carried over a coral reef, which appeared to extend one or two miles into the offing.
The men, who had been much buffeted by the waves, and who were exhausted by clinging so long to the rigging, now that they found themselves safe, and were warmed by the heat of the sun, rallied, and began to move about. We had a long consultation as to how we should act. There was no chance of getting the vessel off again, and we did not exactly know where we were; but the captain and I agreed that it must be upon one of the small islands of the Bahama group that we had been cast away, and our conjecture was right. After some consultation, the captain and I called the men together, and told them that it was very probable that we might be some time before we could find the means of getting off the island, and that, therefore, we must all do our best; that we would land and erect a tent with the sails, and obtain provisions; after that we would consider the vessel and her stores as public property, but that every man’s private property should be secured to him as if we were still on board of the xebeque; that the captain should retain the command as before, and his orders should be obeyed by everybody, as long as they were reasonable and just.
The men, who were well-behaved, quiet fellows,—and not, like English seamen, given to liquor,—readily agreed, and it was arranged that the following morning we should commence our labours. This was a sad blow to me, who was anticipating a speedy meeting with Amy. I knew how doubtful was the chance of our being seen by any vessel, and that I must remain here for months, if not longer; but I had been schooled, and could now say with fervency, “Thy will, O Lord, and not mine, be done.”
We remained on board of the vessel that night, and the next morning the gale had ceased, and the waters, to our astonishment, had receded, so as to leave us at least sixty yards from the sea, which was now almost calm. We first took a survey of the island, to ascertain if there was any water, and, as the island was not more than two miles in circumference, this did not take us long. Fortunately, in the centre we found a deep hole sunk in the soft coral rock by some other people who had been wrecked here, and in the hole the water was, although a little brackish, somewhat palatable. It evidently was the sea-water filtered through the soft rock.
The whole of the island was surrounded with coral reefs, with lanes of deep water running between them, and the fish were sporting in thousands after the storm, but there was not a tree or vestige of vegetation upon the whole island. We soon, however, discovered that it was frequented by turtle, for we found some eggs, fresh-buried, in the sand. Having made this survey, we then went back to the vessel, and with spars and sails rigged a tent upon the highest point of the island, which might be ten or fifteen feet above the level of the sea. The tent was large enough to hold fifty men, if required, so we brought our bedding and chests and all our cooking apparatus on shore, made a fire-place outside the tent with the little caboose we had on board of the vessel, sent a man to obtain water from the hole, and put on some meat to boil for our dinners. In the evening we all went out to turn turtle, and succeeded in turning three, when we decided that we would not capture any more until we had made a turtle-pond to put them in, for we had not more than two months’ provisions on board of the vessel, and did not know how long we might be detained. The men behaved very well, and indeed seemed determined to make themselves as comfortable as they could under existing circumstances. The next day we put out some lines in deep water, and caught several large fish, and then we went to find a proper spot for a turtle-pond. We selected a hole in the reef which we thought would answer, as we had only one end of it to fill up, and we commenced breaking away the rock with crowbars, and worked hard the whole of the day, some breaking and others carrying the masses broken off. By degrees they rose to the surface of the water, and in two days more we calculated that the pond would be ready to receive the turtle. We had killed one turtle in the morning, and we now lived upon it altogether, as we wished to save our salt provisions. The captain and I had many consultations as to what we should do, and what attempts we should make to get off from this spot. Build a boat we could not, as we had not a carpenter among us, or the means of making the iron-work necessary. We had some tools, such as are usually used on board of vessels, and several pounds of large nails, but none fit for boat-building. I proposed that we should examine the bottom of the xebeque, and see what damage was done to it. We did so, and found that the garboard strake was broken and two of her timbers, but they were easy to repair; in every other respect she was sound. I then proposed that we should cut down the xebeque to a large boat, which we could easily do by ripping off her planks and decks, and sawing down her timbers to the height we required. It would be a heavy boat, it was true, but we should be able to launch her with rollers, and the draught of water would be so small that we could get her over the reefs, which we could not possibly do the xebeque. The captain approved of the idea, and we agreed that as soon as the turtle-pond was finished we would make the attempt. In two days more we had finished the pond, and had turned thirty turtle, which we put into it. The men, now that they found that they had plenty to eat, began to show signs of laziness, and did not very readily commence the work upon the xebeque. They ate and slept, ate and slept again, on the mattresses spread in the tent. At times they would fish, but it was with difficulty that the captain and I could persuade them to work, and if they did work half an hour, they then threw down their axes and crowbars, and went back to the tent. They had plenty of tobacco, and they smoked half the day, ate turtle, and then slept again. Nevertheless, as the captain and I worked hard, the work progressed; in about ten days after we began the work, we had ripped off her decks and her side-planks as as low as we thought right, and we were now sawing through the timbers, when the quiet of our party was disturbed by what may be considered a very strange quarrel. One of the men asserted in conversation that Saint Antony was born in Padua; one or two of the other seamen denied it, and this difference of opinion, which at first was a mere nothing, from sullenness, I presume, and something being required to excite them, in the course of a day or two ended in a serious feud; the Paduans terming the anti-Paduans heretics and Jews. The epithet of Jew was what irritated so much, and the parties being exactly even, four on each side, on the third day, after an angry altercation, they all rushed out of the tent to decide the affair with their knives. The conflict was very fierce, and took place when the captain and I were at the xebeque, and before we could separate them four of them had fallen; two were killed, and the other two badly wounded. It may appear ridiculous that people should take each other’s lives for such a trifle; but, after all, nations declare war against each other, and thousands are killed on both sides, for causes almost as slight. With great difficulty we separated the remaining combatants, and such was their rage and excitement, that every now and then they would attempt to break from us and attack each other again; but at last we disarmed them.
This was a sad business; and it was melancholy to think that companions in misfortune should take each other’s lives, instead of feeling grateful to the Almighty for their preservation.
We buried the two men who had fallen, and dressed the wounds of the hurt; but after this quarrel the four others came to their work, and continued steady at it. We had now removed the upper portion of the xebeque, and commenced fixing beams and carlines on the lower part, so as to make a decked boat of it, and in another week we had decked her over. But we had a great deal more to do: we had to reduce the mast and yard to a proper size, to alter the sail and rigging, to make a small rudder, and rollers to launch her upon. All this, with our reduced force, occupied us another month; for the two wounded men, although recovering, could but just crawl about. We turned many more turtle at night, that we might have a sufficient supply. We now looked out for a channel of deep water through the reef, to get our boat out, and made one out to a certain extent, but could not survey further without getting off the reef, and the sharks were so numerous that we dared not venture. However, we took it for granted, as we had found deep water in shore, that we should be sure to do so in the offing; and we now got our boat upon the rollers which we had made, by digging away the sand from beneath her, and a trench to the water’s edge. We had been two months on the island when all was ready for launching.
Anxious as I was to return to England, I cannot say that I was unhappy when on this island: there was always a fine sea-breeze, which cooled the air, and enabled us to work without exhaustion. With the exception of the unfortunate quarrel I have referred to, everything went on quietly. After work was over, I resorted as usual to my Bible, and read for hours; and this calmed and allayed any impatient feelings which might at times arise. I felt that I had great cause to be grateful to the Almighty for preserving me as he had done, and that it would be folly and wickedness on my part to repine because I could not obtain all that I wished. I waited, therefore, for His own good time, without murmuring, and in full confidence that all was for the best.
At last we contrived to get our boat into the water, and she floated much lighter than we thought she would have done, considering the weight of wood that was in her. As soon as she was anchored about ten feet from the beach, we made a gangway to her with planks, and commenced getting all our salt provisions, water, and stores, which we had selected as most necessary, on board of her. The stowage of these occupied us two days; we then got the yard up, and bent the sail, and, having fitted oars, we determined that the next day we would embark. As she still swam light, we got on board of her as many turtle as we could conveniently carry, and then, for the last time, went on shore to sleep.
As there was no room for our chests, it was agreed that we each should have a bundle on board, selecting those things which we most required and most valued. This proposal, which was made by the captain, put me in mind of the diamond, which had scarcely once entered my thoughts since I had been on the island. When I took it out of my chest, I thought that I might as well make it more convenient to carry, as there was no saying what might be the result of our new expedition; so, when the other men were all busy about their own effects, or asleep, I first took the precaution to roll it up in a covering of pitch, so that, if taken from me or lost, it might not be known to be a diamond, and then I sewed it up in a piece of leather, which I cut from an old glove, putting a strong leather lanyard to it, so that I might wear it round my neck. Having done this without any one taking notice, and having nothing else to do, I took some fine twine and worked it over, like the mousing of a stay, in a way peculiar to sailors, so that, when finished, it was very much in the shape of a miniature buoy to an anchor, and reminded me of a fend-off or fender, such as they use to prevent any injury to the sides of a vessel when coming in contact with another. Having finished my work, I put the leather lanyard round my neck, inside of my shirt, so that my diamond was concealed from sight; I then put up my remaining pieces-of-eight—which were nearly 500, the best of my clothes, (for during my stay at Rio I had very much increased my stock,) and I hardly need say that the old Bible was not left behind.
It was a beautiful calm morning when we embarked, and, lifting the anchor, took to our oars, and pulled out through the deep channel, the captain standing at the bow and conning us through, while I took the helm. The boat pulled well and steered well; we had yet to see what she could do under canvass. After a pull of two hours we were clear of the reef, and out in the open sea. We then laid in the oars, and commenced our preparations for hoisting the sail to a breeze, which then blew from the southward. When all was ready, the men hoisted the sail, but in so doing, a rope being foul, as I was attempting to clear it, I was tripped up, and fell with my right knee on a spike, which entered deep, putting me to excruciating pain, and laming me completely. I was obliged to sit down abaft, for I nearly fainted away. In the mean time the sail was set, and the boat stood well up to it. She proved to be very stiff under canvass, which was a source of great congratulation. My knee became so painful and stiff that I could not move it; I took one of my shirts out of my bundle, tore it up into bandages, and put them on. We had resolved to attempt to make New Providence, the largest of the Bahama group, where we knew that there was a town called Nassau, and from whence we hoped to obtain some conveyance to Europe; but we knew nothing of the port, or the inhabitants, or what trade was carried on with them.
For several hours our little bark went gaily over the water, but towards nightfall the wind shifted, and the weather looked threatening. We hardly knew how to steer, as we did not know the position of the island which we had left, and now the wind heading us, we hauled up on the larboard tack, with our head to the northward and eastward. As the sun went down, the wind increased, and the sea ran fast. Our boat behaved well, till it began to blow very hard, and then it took in so much water, that we were forced to bale.
We had reefed our sail, and made everything as snug as we could, but the sea rising fast, and the boat taking in more water, we considered it prudent to lighten her, which we did by throwing overboard all the turtle. This we did without regret, as we were tired of eating them for so long a while. The day broke, and there appeared every sign of bad weather, and the waves now tossed and foamed too much for such a small craft as we were in. About noon we saw a vessel on a wind to leeward of us, which was a source of great delight to us all, and we bore down to her. We soon made her out to be an hermaphrodite brig, under her close-reefed topsails and trysails. We ran under her counter and hailed. We perceived several men standing abaft, and apparently they suspected us for a rover, for they had muskets and other weapons in their hands. We told them that we had been shipwrecked, and the boat was sinking in the gale, and then we rounded-to under her lee.
There we remained for four or five hours, during which the wind and the sea went down very fast, and the boat no longer took in water; but we had been all too much alarmed with the danger in which we had been, to like to continue our voyage in her, and as we thought that we could now go alongside with safety, we hailed again, and asked permission. After some parleying they threw us a rope, which we made fast to the boat, and lowered our sail, keeping off on a broad sheer, as there still was a great deal of sea. They then entered into conversation with us. I told them all that had happened, and inquired where the brig was bound to.
They replied, to James Town, Virginia. I asked them if they could give us a passage there, as we were afraid to proceed in our boat; or if not, would they see us safe into New Providence.
The captain then came forward. He was a very dark man, dark as a mulatto, with keen small eyes, and a hooked nose. I never beheld a more deformed and repulsive countenance.
He said that he could not go to New Providence, as it was out of his way, and that we might easily get there ourselves if we thought proper.
I replied, that the boat was not sufficiently large and seaworthy, and that we had already nearly gone down, and if another gale should come on, we certainly should founder, and again requested that he would take us on board.
“Have you any money to pay for your passage?” inquired he.
“Why,” said I, “common charity and the feelings of a seaman towards sailors in distress should be sufficient to induce you to take us on board, and not leave us to perish; but if you require money,” I replied, “we have more than sufficient to satisfy you.”
“How much?” screamed out a lad of about fourteen, who was the very image of the captain in miniature.
I did not reply to this question, and the captain then said, “What do you propose to do with the boat?”
“Let her go adrift, to be sure,” replied I.
“What have you got on board of her?” said he.
I enumerated, as well as I could recollect, the provisions and stores that we had.
“Well,” replied he, “I will wait till it is a little smoother, and then we will clear the boat and take you on board.”
He then left the gangway, where he had been standing, and we continued to be towed by the brig.
“I do not like that fellow,” said I to the Portuguese captain; “he appears, or pretends, to take us for pirates, but he is more like a pirate himself.”
“He looks like the devil himself,” replied the captain, “and to ask people in our condition to pay for their passage! He is a monster! However, we all have a few doubloons, thank Heaven.”
About an hour afterwards, it being much more moderate, the captain of the brig told us to sheer alongside, and that four of us might come out and the others remain in the boat till she was cleared.
“I think you had better go,” said I to the captain, “for with so much motion I never shall be able to get up the side with my bad knee.”
We then sheered the boat alongside, and the captain and three of our men got on board, but not without difficulty. I saw them go aft and down below with the captain of the brig, but I never saw them on deck again, much to my surprise, although we were more than half an hour before they again hailed us, and told us to come alongside again. During this half-hour my mind misgave me sadly that all was not right, from not seeing the Portuguese captain, or either of the three men, and I took it into my head that the vessel was a pirate; and I knew if such was the case, we should instantly be rifled, if not murdered. I took the precaution of taking off the bandage from my knee, and, having removed the diamond from my neck, I put it under my ham in the cavity, which held it with ease, and then put the bandage on again over it, as I thought they would hardly take a bandage off a bad knee to see if there was anything concealed beneath it. It was with difficulty that I contrived to get on board the brig, and as soon as I had gained the deck, I was ordered to go down into the cabin: as I went aft, I looked round for the Portuguese captain and the men, but could not see them. I contrived, with difficulty, to get down into the cabin, and as soon as I was there I was seized by the arms and held fast by two of the men, while others bound me with seizings.
As the captain was looking on, I inquired into the cause of this outrage. He replied, that we were a parcel of rascally pirates, who would have taken his vessel if he had not been too deep for us; I told him it was false, and that I could easily prove it, as we still had the despatches on board with which we had been charged, and that I could show good proof that I was the same person that I stated myself to be; that I very much feared that we had fallen into the hands of pirates ourselves, but that I would have justice done as soon as we arrived at James Town, without he intended to murder us all before we arrived. His answer was, that he was too old a bird to be caught with such chaff, and that he would secure us and deliver us up to the authorities as soon as he arrived. I replied, in great anger, that he would then be convinced of his error, if it was an error, on his part; that his conduct was infamous, and he looked like a scoundrel, and I believed him to be one.
“You call me a scoundrel, do you,” said he, levelling a pistol at my head.
“You call us scoundrels, do you,” cried the boy I have made mention of, and who was evidently the son of the captain, taking up another pistol in his hand. “Shall I shoot him, father?”
“No, Peleg, not yet; we will pay them all when we get in. Take him away, and put him in irons with the rest,” said the captain; and I was immediately dragged forward between decks through a door in the bulkheads, where I found the Portuguese captain and three seamen already in irons.
“This is pretty treatment,” said he to me.
“Yes, it is, indeed,” replied I; “but I will make him smart for it when we arrive.”
“Shall we ever arrive?” said the Portuguese captain, looking at me and compressing his lips.
“I say, my man,” said I to the seaman who stood over us with a pistol and a cutlass, “who are you, and what are you? Tell us the truth: are you pirates?”
“I never was yet,” replied he, “nor do I mean to be; but our skipper says that you are, and that he knew you as soon as you came alongside. That’s all I can say about it.”
“Why, if we are pirates, as he says, and he recognises us, he must have been in pirates’ company,—that is clear.”
“Well, he may have been, for all I know,” replied the man. “I don’t consider him any very great things; but he is our captain, and we must obey orders.”
The man now brought forward the other three men who had been left in the boat. They told us that the boat had been cleared; all the provisions, stores, sails, etcetera, had been taken out of her;—a proof that she had been gutted and then cut adrift;—that all our bundles were down in the captain’s cabin, and that the ill-looking urchin, his son, had overhauled them, one after another, and handed to his father all the money that he had found; that they had been searched very carefully; and that they had heard the captain say that we were all to be sent up, one by one, and searched in the same manner;—and so it proved. I was first taken aft to have my pockets rummaged by the little villain, and as soon as I had been led forward and again put into irons, the Portuguese captain and three other seamen were sent for and treated in the same way. We inquired of the men what money they had in their bundles and about their persons. They had each man four doubloons at Rio for wages, and the captain had about forty doubloons. I had five hundred pieces-of-eight: so that, altogether, we had been robbed to the tune of about four hundred pounds sterling, independent of our clothes, which were of some value to us; that is, mine were at all events.
The seamen who guarded us, and who relieved each other every watch, were not at all surly or ill-natured. I asked one of them during the night-watch whether he thought the captain would take our lives.
“No,” said he; “we will not allow that. You may be pirates, as he says, although we do not think you are; but if pirates, you shall have fair play; that we have all made up our minds to. No hanging first, and trying afterwards.”
I had a long conversation with this man, who appeared very much inclined to be sociable. He told me that the vessel was named the Transcendant; that she sailed from Virginia to the West Indies, and that some times she went to England; that the captain of her was also the owner, but where he came from, or what he was, they did not know, except that he was a Virginian,—they believed so, for that he had a tobacco estate there, which was carried on by his eldest son. He called the captain a stingy, miserly fellow, who would sacrifice any man’s life to save a shilling, and that there were odd stories about him at James Town.
I was well satisfied with my conversation with this man, as it assured me that our lives would not be taken, and I had no fear of the result upon my arrival at James Town, for, as I have mentioned before, Mr. Trevannion had vessels which sailed to that port, and I well recollected the names of the parties to whom the vessel and cargo were consigned.
On the following day the captain of the brig, followed by his ill-favoured son, came forward and looked at us as we sat in irons, upon which I addressed him:
“You have put me in irons, Sir, when I threw myself upon your protection. You have robbed us of our money to the amount of nearly £400, and you detain our other property. I now again desire that I may be released. I offered to convince you that I was a person of property, but you refused to listen to me. Now, Sir, I will tell you that I am a partner in the house of Trevannion, at Liverpool, and that we have vessels that trade between James Town and that port. Our vessels are consigned to Messrs. Fairbrother and Wilcocks, of James Town, and on my arrival I will soon prove that to you; and also not only make you surrender the property you have robbed us of, but I will make you smart pretty handsomely for your treatment of us; that you may depend upon.”
“Fairbrother and Wilcocks,” muttered he; “confound the fellow. Oh,” said he, turning to me, “you got the name of that firm from some ship you have plundered and sunk, I suppose. No, no, that won’t do,—old birds are not to be caught with chaff.”
“I believe you to have been a pirate yourself, if you are not one now,” replied I; “at all events you are a thief and a paltry villain—but our time will come.”
“Yes, it will,” said the captain of the xebeque; “and remember, you scoundrel, if you can escape and buy off justice, you shall not escape seven Portuguese knives,—mind you that.”
“No, no,” cried the Portuguese sailors; “stop till we are on shore, and then come on shore if you dare.”
“I say, father,” said young Hopeful, “this looks like mischief; better hang them, I reckon, than to be stuck like pigs. They look as if they’d do it, don’t they?”
I shall never forget the diabolical expression of the captain of the brig after the Portuguese sailors had done speaking. He had a pistol at his belt, which he drew out.
“That’s right, shoot ’em, father; dead men tell no tales, as you have always said.”
“No, no,” said the seaman who was on guard, motioning them back with his cutlass, “there will be no shooting nor hanging either; we are all sworn to that. If so be they be pirates, there’s the law of the country to condemn them; and if they be not pirates, why then that’s another story.”
The captain looked at the seaman as if he could have shot him if he dared. Then turned round hastily and went back to the cabin, followed by his worthy offspring.
For seven days we remained in irons, when we heard land announced by the sailors on deck, and the brig’s head was put towards it. At night she was hove-to, and the next morning again stood in, and we perceived that we were in smooth water. Towards night the anchor was let go, and we asked the guard if we had arrived at James Town.
He replied, “No, but we were in a river on the coast, but he did not know what river it was nor did any of the crew, nor could they tell why the captain had anchored there. But they had seen several canoes with Indians cross the river, but that there appeared to be no white settlement that they could discover.” The mystery was, however, cleared up on the following morning. A small boat, which could barely hold eight people, was lowered from the stern, and hauled up alongside. We were taken up, one by one, the scoundrel of a captain having first stripped each of us to our trousers, not even allowing us a shirt. We were ordered to get into the boat. As soon as we were all in, and our weight brought the boat down to her gunnel, two oars were handed to us, and then the captain of the brig said:
“Now, you rascally pirates, I might have hanged you all, and I would have done so, for I know you well. I recollect your faces when you plundered the ‘Eliza,’ when I was off Porto Rico; but if I put you in prison at James Town, I shall have to wait two or three months until the court sits, and I cannot be detained for such scoundrels as you; so now you may pull on shore, and get on how you can. Shove off, directly, or I’ll put a bullet through your brains.”
“Hold fast,” cried I, “and let him fire if he dares. You men belonging to the Transcendant, I call you to witness this treatment. Your captain has robbed us of a large sum of money, and now turns us adrift, so as to compel us to land among savages, who may kill us immediately. I appeal to you, will you permit this cruelty and injustice? If you are English, I conceive you will not.”
There was some talk and expostulation with the captain of the brig, in consequence of what I said; but while it was going on, the captain’s son leaned over the side, and with his knife cut the painter, or rope which held the boat, and as the tide was running on very strong, in less than half a minute we were a long way astern of the brig, and drifting fast up the river.
We got our oars, and attempted to pull for the brig, for we knew that the seamen were taking our parts; but it was in vain; the tide ran several miles an hour, and in another minute or two, with all our exertions, we were nearly a quarter of a mile astern of her, and the boat was so loaded that we hardly dared move lest we should upset it. We had, therefore, no option but to go on shore and take our chance; but when the men were pulling round for the shore, on reflection I thought that we had better not land so soon, as the sailors had told us that they had seen the Indians in their canoes. I therefore recommended that we should allow the boat to drift up the river with the tide, and then drift down again when the tide turned, remaining in the middle of the stream till it was dark, when we would land and make our way into the woods. My advice was followed; we sat still in the boat, just keeping her head to the stream with the oars, and, being without our shirts, the sun scorching and blistering our backs, till past noon, during which time we must have drifted nearly twenty miles up the river, which was as broad as the arm of a sea at the entrance; then the tide turned, and we drifted back again till it was dusk, when it was again slack water. All this while we kept a sharp look-out to see if we could perceive any Indians, but not one was to be seen. I now proposed that we should take our oars and pull out of the river, as if we had only gone up on a survey, for the brig had got under weigh, and had anchored, for want of wind, about four miles off, and the Indians, if there were any, would suppose that we were returning to the ship. We did so, and pulled till it was dark, and were within two miles of the brig, where the flood-tide again made strong, when we turned the boat’s head up the river, and pulled with the oars to get up as far as we could before we landed. This we did, suffering much from hunger and thirst, as well as being confined so long in one position. As my knee was quite well, I now took off the bandage, and hung my diamond round my neck as before. I could not help feeling a satisfaction, when I thought that the thief of a captain little imagined what a mine of wealth he was losing when he turned me adrift. It was about midnight when the tide ceased to flow, and we then agreed to land, and the question then was, whether we should separate or keep together. After some discussion, we agreed to separate in twos, and the Portuguese captain and I agreed to keep each other company. We first pushed the boat into the stream, that she might drift away, and then, shaking each other by the hand and bidding adieu, we all started in different directions. For some time the captain and I threaded the woods in silence, when we were stopped by a stream of deep water, with such high banks, that in the dark we did not know how to cross it. We walked by the side of it for some time to discover a passage, and in so doing we at last found ourselves again on the banks of the river, and our boat lying close to us, having grounded not far from where we had shoved her off. We tasted the water in the creek, and found it quite fresh: we had several times tried it on the river, and found it quite salt from the tide running in. We drank plentifully, and sat down to recover ourselves, for although we had not walked more than half an hour, the pushing through the brush-wood was very fatiguing.
“I think,” said I, “that this boat will certainly betray us, and would it not be better to take possession of it again? It will hold two comfortably, and I think we shall get on as well, if not better, in a boat than in the woods without compass and without guide.”
“I agree with you,” said the captain; “but what shall we do?”
“Let us retrace our steps; let us pull again, with the ebb-tide, for the mouth of the river, and then coast it along shore; we may arrive at some settlement, if we do not starve by the way.”
“I agree with you,” he said, “it will be the best plan; we must conceal ourselves in the day, and coast along at night.”
We waded into the river, got into the boat, and again pulled out. The boat being light now pulled well, and we made good speed; and at daylight we were clear of the river, and close to a small island near the mouth of it. Upon this we agreed to land, to try if we could procure food, for we were much exhausted, and also to conceal ourselves from the natives. We ran our little boat on shore, and concealed her among some bushes which grew down at the water’s edge. We looked well round, but could see nothing, and we then walked out in search of food; we found some wild plums, which we eagerly devoured; and going down again to the beach, where there were some rocks, we found shell-fish, of which we broke the shells between two stones, and made a meal of. After our hunger was satisfied, we lay down under the shelter of the boat, and fell fast asleep. We were so tired that we did not wake up till it was nearly dark, when we agreed to start again, and pull along the coast to the northward. We were just launching our boat, when we perceived a canoe about three miles off, steering for the mouth of the river to the island. This stopped us, and we remained in our hiding-place. The canoe approached, steering directly for the spot where we lay concealed, and we imagined that they had discovered us. Such, however, proved not to be the case, for they ran on shore about fifty yards from us, and, hauling up the canoe, they got out and walked away on land. There were four men, but it was now too dark to distinguish any more. We remained quiet for a quarter of an hour, when I proposed that we should embark.
“Have you ever managed a canoe?” said the Portuguese captain to me.
“I have been in one in Africa very often,” I said, “but they are dug-outs, as we call them.”
“So have I, and I do not think there is so difference between them and these canoes. Can you paddle?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“So can I,” he said. “Now observe, the best thing we can do is to take possession of that canoe; and then we shall get on better, for our boat will always attract notice, whereas a canoe will not; besides, it will prevent these Indians, if they are come to look for us, which I suspect they have, from following us.”
“I think you are right,” I said; “but how shall we manage?”
“In this way. You shall shove off our boat and walk by its side, dragging it up to where the canoe lies; I will go to the canoe, launch it, and then we will make off with both till we are too far out to be taken; then, when we have got into the canoe, we will turn our boat adrift.”
I agreed to the proposals. We launched our boat very quietly, and I walked in the water up to my knees, drawing it after me till I arrived opposite to the canoe. The Portuguese crept on his hands and knees till he had gained the canoe, pushed her off, and joined me. We made her fast to the tow-rope of our own boat, then got into the boat, and pulled away from the island.
We had not gained more than a hundred yards when the whiz of an arrow met our ears. The Indians had discovered us, it was evident. Two or three more arrows came flying by us, but we had now got well out, and they fell harmless. We continued to pull till we were half a mile from the island, and then we laid on our oars. The stars shone bright; there was a young moon, so as to enable us to see pretty well. We found the paddles of the canoe lying on the cross-pieces. We had nothing to take from the boat but our tow-rope and the two small oars; these we put into the canoe, and then, getting in ourselves, we let the boat go adrift. We put her head to the northward, between the island and the main, and paddled away as fast as we could.
The captain was a much better hand than I was, and he therefore took the office of steersman. The water was as smooth as glass, and we made rapid progress, and did not discontinue our exertions, except now and then resting for a few moments, till the morning dawned, when we could hardly distinguish the island we had left, and found ourselves about five miles from the mainland. We had now time to examine the contents of the canoe, and had much reason to be gratified with our acquisition. It had three bear-skins at the bottom, several pounds of yams, cooked and uncooked, two calabashes full of water, bows and arrows, three spears, a tomahawk, three fishing-lines and hooks, and some little gourds full of black, white, and red paint; and, what we prized more than all, some flints and a large rusty nail, with rotten wood to serve as tinder.
“We are fortunate,” said the captain; “now, before we pull in for the shore we must paint ourselves like Indians; at all events, you must black yourself, as you have no shirt, and I must do the same, although I do not require it so much as you do.”
“Let us have something to eat and drink first,” replied I, “and we will proceed to our toilet afterwards.”
- How a musket is "fixed" is not obvious
- Clearly Musgrave or Marryat was using a questionable translation, Portuguese would be "Sierra do Espinhaco
- Is this just privateering, or his entire life in general?
- Marryat completely confuses his two styles of narration here: "the reader may recollect" is followed almost immediately by another fourth-wall breaking, this this addressed to "my dear Madam"!
- Likely [[w:gangrene|]]
- IE. Don't stand on sentimentality
- What currency is this? Portuguese Escudos, British Pounds?
- Literally, subtraction, but obviously the implied meaning is w:embezzlement, w:fraud and [[w:thievery|]]
- 2,690,639.82 GBP
- The Devil, possibl.
- An interesting request for tolerance, given the times, and the tone of several books by the same author with STRIDENTLY Anti-Catholic tones
- A uniquely [[w:Iberia|]]n punishment, see w:garrotte
- That is, capture them by flipping them over
- "Turtle" was once both singular and plural, similar to wikt:fish and wikt:moose.
- Or, in total, 62½ w:Spanish reals
- An important concern: Some ports, while nominally held by one country or another, were in reality little better then "Buccaneer Republics"
- Possibly a corruption of "w:peg leg"
- 67,266 GBP