Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/375

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take to but the unmerciful waves, which at this time bore a dreadful aspect."

At dawn, Flinders climbed on to the Porpoise by the help of the fallen masts. As the light grew, it was seen that about half a mile distant lay a dry sandbank above high-water mark, sufficiently large to receive the whole company, with such provisions as could be saved from the ship. Orders were at once given to remove to this patch, that gave promise of temporary safety, everything that could be of any service; and the Cato's company, jumping overboard and swimming through the breakers with the aid of planks and spars, made for the same spot. All were saved except three lads, one of whom had been to sea on three or four voyages and was wrecked on every occasion. "He had bewailed himself through the night as the persecuted Jonah who carried misfortune wherever he went. He launched himself upon a broken spar with his captain; but, having lost his hold in the breakers, was not seen afterwards."

The behaviour of the Bridgewater in these distressing circumstances was inhuman and discreditable to such a degree as is happily rare in the history of seamanship. On the day following the wreck (August 18th) it would have been easy and safe for her captain, Palmer, to bring her to anchor in one of the several wide and sufficiently deep openings in the reef, and to take the wrecked people and their stores on board. Flinders had the gig put in readiness to go off in her, to point out the means of rescue. A topsail was set up on the highest part of the reef, and a large blue ensign, with the union downwards, was hoisted to it as a signal of distress. But Palmer, who saw the signal, paid no heed to it. Having sailed round the reef, deluding the unfortunates for a while with the false hope of relief, he stood off and made for Batavia, leaving them to their fate. Worse still, he acted mendaciously as well as