« 上一頁繼續 »
off from the land, took her without firing a gun, cut her cables, and made out to sea before the matter was perceived in the town. As soon as the fact was understood, a Spanish man-of-war, of thirty guns, slipped her cables from the harbour, and crowding all her sails for a pursuit, began rapidly to gain upon the sloop; upon which the English master brought forward his Spanish prisoners,-bound and placed them in a position to receive the whole of the enemy's fire. When the Spaniard came up
and commanded the English to strike, they answered by directing the Captain of the Spanish prisoners to point out the exposed condition of himself and his men. His representation at length succeeded in inducing the Spanish man-of-war to retire again toward the town, of which movement the English forth with availed themselves by making the best of their way to sea: but before the Spanish ship got back to the shore, she was met by several armed boats, in one of which was the governor himself, who gave a peremptory order to regard nothing, but retake the Spanish prize and capture the English pirates at all hazards; and the man-of-war accordingly tacked once more and resumed the chace with her utmost speed. The English, perceiving what had happened, and finding that their pursuers gained upon them, resolved to quit their sloop and give battle in their prize-ship, which carried twenty guns; but their great difficulty was, that, while they had but seventy-one men of their own, they had two hundred Spanish prisoners, who, if let loose by any chance in the hurly-burly, would destroy them; and the only resource appeared to be the terrible one of putting their prisoners to death. Upon receiving the intimation of this painful expedient, the Captain of the Spanish prize, who spoke tolerable English, addressed himself to the English master and mates to this effect:“Gentlemen, you took us fairly, of which we make no complaint; but if you expose us to the fire of our countrymen who are coming up, as you did before, we must inevitably perish. Now, should they fire upon us, I have this to say, that, as they will thereby prove themselves to have no consideration for us, so we ought to have none for them ; and (to cut the matter short, as the time is so), if you will give us liberty we will freely fight under your command, and endeavour to defend your vessel as though it were our own." This proposal being approved by the other prisoners, the English selected sixty combatants,-placing them at the great guns, but without arms, so as still to have a command of them; and the remaining one hundred and forty were left bound under hatches, where two sentries were placed, with charged patareroes and orders to fire in upon them should anything like disturbance appear. These precautions having been taken, and escape by flight being impracticable, the English lay to, and waited for the enemy's onset.
When the Spanish man-of-war came within hail, the commander ordered the British to strike instantly, and without resistance; “ Otherwise,” said he, we shall have no regard even to our own friends on board with you, but shall sink or take you, and put every man of you to death." The Captain of the Spanish prisoners made answer from among the English, that, if a gun were fired, every Spanish prisoner would fight against the assailants as enemies. The commander replied, that he had no choice but to obey the orders of the governor, who had just left him and gone ashore; and, with that, the Spanish vessel poured a broadside amidst the English. They returned it, both with their small arms, and with their great guns, which were well plied by the prisoners. In about half an hour, the enemy prepared to board with their boats, but were so briskly received, and so damaged by the British hand-grenades, that they were obliged, after great loss, to make for their ship: and in the meantime some English sailors got up into the maintop with more grenades, which they discharged from that position with such effect as to kill and wound more than thirty men. Again the Spaniards attempted to board--firing and shouting as they came on, by way of intimidation; but the shouts and the firing were returned by the British, and with good interest: for one of the British shots carried away the enemy's main-mast, and threw him into such confusion, that, if the British had attempted further flight, he would have been disabled from pursuing them. But flight was no longer in the minds of the English ; vengeance now occupied every thought. The next fire having struck away the rudder of the Spanish ship, she was no longer capable either of tacking or of steering. The British, profiting by the advantage, tacked their own ship, and raked the enemy fore and aft, splitting two of his guns, and sending the splinters in all directions among the crew, by which sixteen of them were killed. The Spaniards, however, continued to fight gallantly, until a shot, entering the powderroom, blew the main-deck, with several of the Spanish sailors, into the air. The yells and groans of the wounded and the dying were now incessant and fearful; and, in the general dismay, the British were preparing to board, when the Spanish vessel gave tokens that she was about to sink, and struck her colours, amid the cries of her sailors for quarter and help. These were immediately granted, and the British boats, together with those of the beaten enemy, saved the whole remainder of the Spanish crew, being, however, only 95 out of more than 400 men. The loss on the British side was eleven of the Englishmen and twenty-six of the Spanish prisoners, who had all fought bravely, and with the desperation of men assured of death if taken by their own countrymen.
After cleansing the vessel of the blood and mangled bodies, the English Master called up the Spanish prisoners, to partake of some refreshment, and to receive the thanks which they had merited by their bravery; and made an offer that, as the British meant to pursue their voyage in the prize-ship, on board of which they had been fighting, the English sloop, victualled and ready fitted-up, should be the property of the Spanish Captain, to take whither he would. The Spanish Captain, smiling, said, he would not take her without paying a price ; but, added he, I have no money myself to pay for her, I'll engage, if you will act upon a stratagem of mine, to furnish you with a good price and something over." Accordingly the long boat was sent on shore, (for the destruction of the man-of-war had left po armed force in the harbour to prevent the communication,) and the Governor was acquainted that unless he immediately sent fifty dollars a man, as the ransom of the prisoners, they would be tied in couples back to back, and thrown into the sea. Immediately there was a movement in the townthe money was raised—and in twelve hours eleven thousand dollars were brought to the British Master. Of this sum he had 5000, (the price of the sloop being included,)--and of the remaining 6000, one moiety was divided among the English crew, and the other moiety allotted to the
Spanish Captain. The next day the ransomed men—that is, the crew of the Spanish man-of-war,—were sent on shore with such of the other prisoners as were willing to accompany them; and the remaining prisoners, in number about eighty, set off with their Captain in the English sloop, for the South Sea. The English Master, with his crew, remained on board the prize-ship, and brought her safely to Jamaica, where the booty was divided, with an extra share to the man who swam on shore to give notice to the wood-cutters.
In company with the narrator of the adventures which have just been related, Falconer pursued his voyage to Campeachy Bay, where the party arrived on the 6th of October, and instead of stealing their logwood, fairly bought and paid for it. On the 15th, having completed their cargo, they began their return voyage to Jamaica, which, says Falconer, “ generally takes two months, because we are obliged to ply it all the way to windward,”.
And now began a series of adventures, occupying a space of about ten months, which, if they be true, are perhaps the most remarkable that were ever crowded into such a period.
One morning, a buat had been hoisted over, to look after a wreck discovered in the water, and, not having been slung up again, it followed in tow at the stern of the ship. Falconer, who had been dirtied with bottling a small cask of wine in the hold, went down into the boat to wash; and when he had dressed himself again, pulled an Elzevir Ovid out of his pocket, and sat reading in the boat till dusk. As he pored upon the leaves, wrapt up in what he read, a storm began to rise, so suddenly and violently, that the rocking of the ship made it difficult for him to climb into her, as usual, up the side, and induced him to call for the ladder of ropes that hung over her quarter. He put his little book into his breeches pocket, and caught the ladder; but as he stepped upon it, the ropes, whether for want of proper fastening above, or from rottenness, for the ladder was seldom used, broke; and the boat having swung from under him, he dropped into the sea. The ship was now driving rapidly before the storm. The Master tacked her as rapidly to save him as the force of the tide and tempest would allow; but she had swept too far: and through the duskiness of the evening, and the storm together, he lost all sight of her. He was now alone in the dark deep sea.
Possessed with the most dismal fears, he yet preserved his presence of mind and energies of body; and having kept himself above water, for about four hours, as nearly as his fears would enable him to compute, he was carried by the current toward a shoal, and thrown at last by a wave on the sand, where he clambered beyond the immediate range of the sea. But the darkness prevented him from ascertaining the nature of the ground, and fearing that he was but lodged upon a bank, which, at high tide, would be overflowed, he sat down to rest his limbs, which were weary and numb with long swimming, -and to prepare himself for death, which was all he expected, by commending himself to his Creator.
" At last,” says he, “I fell asleep, though I tried all I could against it, by rising up and walking, till I was obliged to lie down again. In the morning, when I awaked, I was amazed to find myself among four or five very low sandy islands, but all separated half a mile or more, as I guessed, from the sea. With that I began to be a little cheerful, and walked about to see if I could find anything that was eatable ; but, to my great grief, I found nothing but a few eggs, that I was obliged to eat raw. This laid my condition before my eyes in a most horrid manner, and the fear of starving seemed to me to be worse than that of drowning."
He took shelter for several nights beneath some bushes of a wood, which he calls Burton wood, but suffered dreadfully from drought. After living for a week on eggs alone, he discovered a booby, a kind of gray water-fowl, sitting on a bush.
" I ran immediately,” says he, “as fast as I could, and with a stick knocked him down. I never considered whether it was proper to eat or not; but I sucked the blood, and ate the flesh with such a pleasure as none can express but them that have felt the pain of hunger to the same degree as myself. Its flesh seemed to me to taste something like a duck's, but stronger, and a little fishy, and it is such a booby, that it will not get out of your way without beating.”
Of this stupidity Falconer took advantage, by killing these birds for his daily sustenance. They were the more easily taken, because they build on the ground. He broiled them on a fire of sticks, and put himself upon an allowance of this food. There was another kind of bird, whose eggs he ate; but he did not taste the bird itself, being satisfied with the boobies, and loth to try experiments.
The night, on which he killed the first of the booby-birds, was marked by another piece of good fortune, the descent of a copious rain. It was accompanied with a storm of thunder, and the reddest lightning he had ever seen; and it soaked through his scanty clothes, which were but a cotton waistcoat and breeches, with thread stockings, and thin shoes ; but it left a good deal of fresh water in several cavities of the ground. In order to store up this supply, he managed, with his hands, assisted by a stick, to scoop, at the foot of a tree, a hole or well big enough to contain a hogshead of water ; paved it with stones, and by stamping and beating the sides close, made a reservoir capable of holding water for a long time. Into this reservoir he conveyed the contents of the rainpools from the several spots around, by making a bucket of his shirt, which, when well soaked, would carry the water to short distances without much leakage; so that in a couple of days the well was filled. From day to day, as he killed the booby birds, he broiled them, and stored them in a sort of clay cupboard, which he built by mixing earth and water; and the fowls, thus dressed, remained for some time free from taint; but the cupboard was soon so dried by the sun, that it cracked, and fell to pieces.
His only amusement was from the Elzevir Ovid, which had remained in his pocket, and, though greatly stained by the sea-water, was still legible enough. With this companion, he would sit under a Burton bush, in the heat of the day, till he fell asleep, though a little annoyed by the sun, against which, having lost his hat in his fall from the rope-ladder, his head had no protection. He contrived, however, to thicken the shadow of the bushes by strewing them with chicken weed; and afterwards wove some twigs and green stripes of bark into a basket cap, which he lined with a fragment of linen from the sleeve of his shirt.
One morning, after he had bathed, he heard a flouncing in the water, Nov.-VOL. LI. NO, CCIII.
and, turning to see whence the noise came, beheld a huge fish, which had run itself aground. His description of this monster is so strange, that a friend, he tells us, advised him to leave it out of his narrative, as a thing that nobody would believe. “But,” says Falconer, “I replied, I did not care for that, as I was satisfied in myself it was true." subjoin the description, as he gives it, without hazarding an opinion upon its accuracy; for indeed, after the authentication of the ornithorynchus paradoxus, one's credit for zoological sagacity is as likely to be damaged by disbelief, as by credulity.
“ The fish was about fifteen feet long; it had a head like a horse, and out of the mouth came two horns, curled like a ram's horn, only twice as large; it had but one eye, and that was at the extremity of the nose. It seemed, as it flounced, to be something of a changeable ash colour, with a tail that tapered to the end in a sharp point. It looked so terrible to me that I was afraid to approach it; as it laboured, it seemed to groan. It lay in this hole of water half an hour, with its body in, and its tail out; and as soon as the tide came up to it, it shaked its tail to and fro, as a dog does when he seems pleased, all the while it felt the water. It struggled but now and then, and at last, when the water was pretty high, it turned its head, and made a noise something like the clucking of a hen with chickens, but louder; and when it had water enough to swim away, it lay moving up and down a quarter of an hour, being, as I suppose, hurt with its struggling."
A similar fish is said to have been shown as a public exhibition at Mexico, but of the length of only eight feet and a half. It was carried about in a cart, till the stench of it became so intolerable, that the Viceroy ordered it to be taken out a couple of leagues to sea, where it was cast into the water. The only discrepancy between the Mexican account and that of Falconer is, that what Falconer describes as a single eye, is stated by those who saw the Mexican specimen, and with greater probability, to have been an orifice for spouting water. The animal appears to have two eyes on the top of the head, (but not larger than a musket ball,) which, from their smallness and backwardness, scem to have escaped the observation of Falconer.
Day after day rolled on, and a month had now been passed in this hopeless solitude. He had explored his own island, which was nearly circular, and about two miles in circumference, having a good anchorage to the west, in very deep water :-within two fathoms of the shore. He would walk the beach, and wish, and watch for the sight of a sailnay, even a wreck, which might have thrown on shore a few necessaries to make his life more endurable, would have been almost welcome ; but this thought his better and more Christian reflection resisted ; and then he would divert his mind by conversing with himself aloud in question and answer, that long solitude might not rust in him the faculty of speech.
Such were his thoughts and pursuits, when, on the 8th of November as he reckoned, a storm arose, which continued till noon; and at some distance from the shore, labouring with the waves, he beheld a small and almost helpless vessel. He saw her, driven nearer and nearer to the land where he stood, and at last, with the violence of the tempest, perfectly thrown out of the water upon the shore. He ran to her aid, and found four men, the whole of her crew, busied in saving what they could from