The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Boy's Book of the Sea

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Title: The Boy's Book of the Sea

Author: Eric Wood

Release date: March 13, 2022 [eBook #67614]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1915

Credits: Brian Coe, David E. Brown, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


“Shells fell upon her like hailstones, sweeping her decks, crashing into her sides.... She was on fire”



Author of “The Boy’s Book of Heroes,” “The Boy Scouts’ Roll of Honour,”
etc., etc.




Naval Warfare—Old and New 1
A comparison of ancient and modern naval warfare
is most interesting, and here, in the stories of the
Battles of Trafalgar and the Bight of Heligoland, the
comparison—nay, contrast—is particularly striking.
The Men who Discovered the World 29
The men who ventured forth on the unknown seas
laid the foundations of nations and commerce, and
opened up new worlds; and the stories of their voyages
are amongst the finest in the world’s history.
Some Early Buccaneers 45
The glamour of romance has been thrown around
the buccaneers, and not unjustly, for anything more
romantic—not to say exciting—it would be hard to
imagine than the story of those men who, from being
hunters of wild animals, became scourers of the seas:
heroic ruffians!
Morgan: Buccaneer and Governor 57
Sir Henry Morgan, most renowned of the buccaneers,
was a born leader of men and a doer of mighty
deeds. He would have made a capital admiral or
general; as it was, he was merely a buccaneer, who
later forsook that profession for the safer one of
Governor of Jamaica.
Under the Jolly Roger 76
Who has not read with many a thrill the imaginative
stories of pirates? But no novelist can conceive
anything more dramatic than the deeds of the real
pirates whose tales are told here.
Blockade Running 94
For peril, adventure, and courage blockade running
would be difficult to beat, and the man who succeeds in
slipping through earns all the money that he gets.
Adventures on a Desert Island 102
The life and adventures of our old friend Robinson
Crusoe have always entertained us—old and young;
but we have no need to go to fiction to find adventures
quite as thrilling as any poor old Robinson Crusoe
experienced. Here is a tale of shipwrecked and
castaway mariners.
Adrift with Madmen 113
When the “Columbian” was burnt in the Atlantic
one of her boats, laden with sixteen men, was adrift for
thirteen days—days of terror, in which men went mad
from thirst.
Francis Drake’s Raid on the Spanish Main 122
Drake and Hawkins went slave-trading on the
Main, and, having been played a treacherous trick
by the Spaniards, a few years later Drake went back
to take his revenge; and though ill-luck stepped in and
kept him from doing all he would, yet he exacted good
toll, and came back well pleased.
A Gallant Fisherman 140
The men who garner the harvests of the seas have a
perilous, adventurous life; here is a fisherman’s yarn
of heroism.
Fire at Sea 145
There are few things more terrible than fire at sea,
where salvation depends, not on outside help, but on
the resource and heroic work of the endangered sailors.
Romance of Treasure-Trove 158
Scattered about the Seven Seas are islands on which
tradition has it that vast hoards of treasure have been
hidden; and men have fitted out expeditions to find
them. Sometimes they are successful—sometimes not.
Adventures Under Sea 166
Father Neptune’s kingdom down below has been
invaded by presumptuous man, who not only goes upon
the sea in ships, but under as well; while when the
need arises he doesn’t even bother about a ship! These
are stories of divers and submarines.
Chasing Pirates in the China Sea 177
Some tales of modern pirating. 
A Voyage of Danger 186
Of all the chapters in the sea’s history few are
more thrilling than those which tell of mutiny, and the
affair of the “Flowery Land” is a classic.
The Guardians of the Coast 196
Coastguards and lighthousemen are hardy, noble
men, whose duties are manifold and arduous. Here
are some stories of the men who keep watch and ward
over the coasts, and in the doing of it win for themselves
Great Naval Disasters 206
The Loss of the “Formidable” (1915) and the
“Victoria” (1893).
Incidents in the Slave Trade 219
Although Britain spent millions of pounds to put
down the slave trade, yet she also had to spend the lives
of many gallant sailors before the work was done.
A Race to Succour 226
A story of a brilliant achievement by American
revenue men and lifeboatmen.
A Tragedy of the South Pole 233
The quest of the South Pole lured men for years to the
ice-bound regions of the earth, and at last success crowned    
the efforts which cost life and treasure and gave undying
honour to the conquerors.
Stories of the Lifeboat 247
The lifeboatmen are the saviours of men who sail
the seas, and their story is one of sublime indifference
to death and of glorious heroism.
Tales of the Smugglers 260
Stories of smugglers have always had a fascination,
and these incidents of smuggling days are full
of thrill and virility.
Modern Corsairs 274
When the Great War of 1914 turned the armed
hosts of Europe loose, the British Navy found before
it a gigantic task: the keeping open of the trade routes.
German cruisers and armed liners swept hither and
thither, holding up merchant vessels, as the privateers of
olden days did; and the “Emden” and the “Königsberg,”
etc. became the corsairs of the twentieth century.
The Wreckers 282
False lights that lured the mariner astray and on to
the rocks; bold, unscrupulous men who lay in wait
for the ships to run to their doom; the looting of vessels
rendered helpless—all these things and many others go
to make up thrilling chapters in the story of the sea.
The Tragedy of a Wonder Ship 295
The “Titanic” was the finest ship in the world.
She was pronounced unsinkable—but, out of the night
there loomed an iceberg which ripped her plates asunder
like so much paper, and the safest ship in the world
dived beneath the surface with hundreds of unfortunate
passengers and crew.
Mysteries of the Sea 309
Queer stories of ships that disappeared. 

List of Illustrations

Shells fell upon her like hailstones, sweeping
her decks, crashing into her sides. She was on
Sword in hand, Roberts led his men to the fight,
dashing through a very hail of shot
The funnels and ventilators were belching forth
mighty columns of flame, every part of the ship
was ablaze
Though her men worked hard at the pumps, they
could not save her
Kennedy, with a couple of middies and fewer than
thirty men, rushed aboard
A mighty gale caught Diaz, and carried his frail
craft before it
Promptly boarded the Vice-Admiral. ‘Surrender!’
yelled the Buccaneers
There was a whoosh! whoosh! of a rocket heavenwards—the
warning to the blockading fleet
Weybhays and his men fell upon the pirates 108
‘For the honour of the Queen of England, I must
have passage this way!’ cried Drake, and discharged
his pistol
The ship was now in one blaze, and her masts began
to fall in
Swinging from this side to that as he was attacked,
the diver managed to ward off the tigers of
the deep
To the rigging they fled, scrambling up in frenzied
It was simply agonising to watch the wretched men
struggling over the ship’s bottom in masses
She fought bravely against the tumult, but was
driven back again and again
Men, strong-limbed, full-blooded, with the zest
and the love of life in them, stood calmly by




Trafalgar and Modern Fights in the North Sea

NOT the least remarkable of the changes which have taken place during the last hundred years—it is less than that, really—are those which have come to pass in the sphere of warfare; and the accounts of the battles here given show how different naval fighting is to-day from what it was in Nelson’s time. Then wooden ships, now steel leviathans; then guns that fired about 800 yards, now giant weapons that hit the mark ten miles off; then close fighting, boarding, hand-to-hand conflicts, now long-range fighting, with seldom, if ever, a chance to board. Then shots that did what would be considered little damage beside that wrought by the high-explosive shells which penetrate thick armour-plate, and which, well-placed, can send a ship to the bottom. Then none of those speeding death-tubes, the torpedoes, which work such dreadful havoc with a floating citadel; then casualties in a whole battle no more than those suffered by a single ship nowadays. And so one could go on, touching on wireless telegraphy, fire-control—that ingenious system which does man’s work of sighting the guns—aircraft and submarines, which constitute so serious a factor in present-day warfare. But the story of[2] Trafalgar, that well-fought battle against a noble foe who is now a gallant ally, and those of the North Sea, 1914 and 1915, will show the revolutions in modern naval warfare.

Nelson had determined to meet and beat Villeneuve, in command of the allied French and Spanish fleet, which left Cadiz at the end of September, 1805. The French admiral did not know how near Nelson was. To-day the means of communication are vastly different, and battleships are able to discover the proximity of their foes much more easily than in those other days. It is one of the great changes in naval warfare. So it was that the allied fleets were dogged until Nelson decided it was time to strike.

On the 21st the rival fleets met. The English fleet was in order of battle—two lines, with an advanced squadron of eight fast-sailing two-deckers. Nelson, in the Victory, led one column, Collingwood, in the Royal Sovereign, the other.

About half-past eight Villeneuve ordered his fleet to draw up in such array and position that, if necessary, they could make for Cadiz; but the manœuvre was badly executed, and the fleet assumed a crescent-shaped formation, into which the English columns were sailing.

Nelson was longing for the fight; so were his men. But, although the officers on board the Victory were eager for the fight, they would have been content to forgo the honour of opening the fight in favour of some other ship, fearing lest Nelson should be killed.

Nelson was asked: “Could not the Temeraire take the foremost place of the column?”

Nelson replied:

“Oh, yes, let her go—if she can!”

Captain Hardy hailed the Temeraire to give her instructions; but, meanwhile, Nelson was moving[3] about the decks giving orders that made the Victory leap forward and hold her place in the vanguard.

“There!” he said to Hardy, as he came back. “Let the Temeraires open the ball, if they can—which they most assuredly can’t! I think there’s nothing more to be done now, is there, till we open fire? Oh, yes, stay a minute, though. I suppose I must give the fleet something as a final fillip. Let me see. How would this do: ‘Nelson expects that every man will do his duty?’”

Hardy suggested that “England expects” would be an improvement. Nelson agreed. The order was given; and the message was soon fluttering in the breeze.

What shouts of enthusiasm greeted the signal in Trafalgar’s Bay! Every man took it as a message to himself, and forthwith vowed to do what was expected of him.

“Now,” said Nelson. “I can do no more. We must trust to the great Disposer of events and the justice of our cause. I thank God for this opportunity of doing my duty!”

For all his apparent good spirits the Admiral had a foreboding of impending ill, and when Captain Blackwood left him to take up his place on the Euryalus, the Admiral gripped him by the hand and said:

“God bless you, Blackwood! I shall never see you again.”

The battle was opened by the French ship Fougueux, which fired upon the Royal Sovereign.

“Engage the enemy more closely,” was now Nelson’s signal, and the English closed in upon the foe. Collingwood broke through the enemy’s line astern the Santa Anna. He reserved his fire until he was almost at the muzzles of their guns, then, with a roar, his port broadside was hurled at the Santa Anna, and four[4] hundred men fell killed and wounded, and fourteen of the Spaniard’s guns were put out of action.

The starboard guns spoke to the Fougueux at the same time. Owing to the dense smoke and the greater distance, the damage done was not so great.

“By Jove, Rotherham!” cried Collingwood to his flag-captain. “What would Nelson give to be here?”

“And,” says James in his Naval History, “by a singular coincidence Lord Nelson, the moment he saw his friend in his enviable position, exclaimed: ‘See how that noble fellow Collingwood carries his ship into action.’”

Collingwood now pressed still closer on the Santa Anna, and a smart battle began between the two great ships, till four other ships bore down upon the Royal Sovereign, so that she was very soon the centre of a ring of fire. So close were the ships, and so continuous was the fire, that often cannon-balls met in mid-air, though more frequently they fell on board and did much damage. Badly aimed shots often passed over the Royal Sovereign, and found their mark on the decks of French or Spanish vessels. Presently the four new-comers veered off when they noticed that other British ships were bearing down upon them.

With a roar the British Belleisle sent a broadside into the Santa Anna as she passed; and then Collingwood was alone with his foe. For over an hour the duel raged, and the Royal Sovereign, although she carried a dozen guns fewer than the Santa Anna, suffered less. Battered, mastless, with hundreds of men lying in pools of blood, the Santa Anna still fought on, refusing for a long time to strike her colours. At last, however, there was nothing for it but to give in, and the Spanish flag fluttered down the mast.

When the battle began the foe opened fire at the[5] Victory, which they knew was Nelson’s flagship. The English Admiral had made sure that he should not be lost sight of, for he had hoisted several flags lest one should be carried away. The Victory’s maintopgallant sail was shot away, and broadsides were hurled at her, but still she kept on.

Nelson wished to encounter Villeneuve, and, despite a raking fire poured in upon him by the Santissima Trinidad, he kept on his way, taking the Victory into the thick of the fight. He refused to have the hammocks slung higher lest they should interrupt his view, although they would have afforded shelter from the enemy’s fire. Men dropped all about the ship, shots ploughed up the deck or bored their way through the sides, yet the gallant Victory held on her way for the Bucentaure, which Nelson knew carried Admiral Villeneuve.

Eight ships, however, surrounded her, and made it impossible for the Victory to be brought alongside. These, belching forth their heavy fire at her, smashed her wheel, hurled her mizzen-mast overboard, shattered her sails. The wind had dropped, too; the Victory was almost at a standstill, and it was impossible to bring a gun into action.

Pacing his quarter-deck Nelson waited for his time to come. While doing so, a shot passed between him and Hardy, bruising the latter’s foot, and tearing the buckle from his shoe. Both stopped in their promenade, looking anxiously at each other.

“This is too warm work to last long, Hardy,” said Nelson.

“The enemy are closing up their line, sir,” said Hardy. “See! We can’t get through without running one of them aboard!”

“I can’t help that,” said Nelson, “and I don’t see[6] that it matters much which we tackle first. Take your choice. Go on board which you please.”

Villeneuve on the Bucentaure was therefore given a treble-shotted, close-range broadside, which disabled four hundred men and put twenty guns out of action, and left the ship almost defenceless.

Then, porting his helm, Nelson bore down on the Redoutable and the Neptune. The latter veered off, but the former could not escape the Victory, which she therefore received with a broadside. Then, fearing that a boarding party would enter her, the lower deck ports were shut. Meanwhile the Temeraire had fastened on to the Redoutable on the other side, and the most momentous episode in that great day’s work took place. In it we can see the difference between the naval fighting of a century ago and that of to-day, the latter being fought at long range, with no attempt at boarding.

The Victory’s guns were depressed so that they should not do damage to the Temeraire, and broadside after broadside was poured into the Redoutable, which made a brave show. The two ships were almost rubbing sides (now we fight at eight-mile range or more!), and men stood by the British guns with buckets of water in their hands, which, immediately the guns were fired, they emptied into the hole made in the Redoutable’s side lest she should catch fire, and so the prize be lost.

In the Redoutable’s top riflemen were posted, and throughout the fight picked off man after man—a practice which Nelson himself abhorred. It was from one of these snipers that the great Admiral received his death-wound.

While pacing the poop deck, Nelson suddenly swung round and pitched forward on his face. A ball had entered in at the left shoulder, and passed through his backbone.

[7]Hardy, turning, saw three men lifting him up.

“They have done for me at last, Hardy,” Nelson said feebly.

“Oh, I hope not!” cried Hardy.

“Yes,” was the reply; “my backbone is shot through!”

The bearers carried him down the ladders to the lower deck. On the way, despite his awful agony, Nelson had thoughts for nothing but the battle; he ordered that new tiller ropes should be rigged to replace those which had been shot away at the moment the Victory had crashed into the Redoutable. Then, that they might not recognise him, he covered his face and stars with his handkerchief.

They carried him into the cockpit. We will leave him, and return to the conflict.

The men in the Redoutable’s top still kept up their galling fire, as also did the guns of the second deck, and in less than fifteen minutes after Nelson had been shot down, no fewer than fifty of the Victory’s officers and men had met a like fate.

Then the French determined to board. As it was impossible to do this by the bulwarks, they lowered their main yard and turned it into a bridge, over which they scrambled on to the deck of the Victory.

“Repel boarders!”

It was a cry like that of a wild beast, and it brought the lion’s whelps from the lower decks. They hurled themselves at the venturesome Frenchmen. With pistol and pike, cutlass and axe, the English fought with the ferocity that had made them so dreaded in the past; when other weapons failed they fought with bare fists, hurling the trespassers overboard.

It cost the Victory thirty men to repel that attack. But it cost the Redoutable more; and very soon not[8] a Frenchman was left alive on the decks of Nelson’s ship.

As we have said, while the Victory was engaging the Redoutable on one side, the Temeraire was tackling her on the other, the three ships hugging each other with muzzles touching muzzles. Soon after the attempt to board the Victory, the Temeraire lashed her bowsprit to the gangway of the Redoutable so that she could not escape. Then she poured in a raking fire until the Frenchman was compelled to surrender, though not before she had twice been on fire, and more than five hundred of her crew had been killed or wounded.

Some of the Temeraire men then turned to deal with the Fougueux, which had attacked her during the fight with the Redoutable.

Captain Hardy was too busy with the Redoutable to do much; but Lieutenant Kennedy quickly set a party to man the starboard batteries. With these they opened fire at about one hundred yards, and crash! the Fougueux’s masts fell, her wheel was smashed, her rigging shattered, and she was so crippled that she ran foul of the Temeraire, whose crew lashed their foe to them, and Kennedy, with a couple of middies and fewer than thirty seamen and marines, rushed aboard her.

Five hundred Frenchmen were still fresh for battle on the Fougueux, but the Britishers did not hesitate. With a bound they were on the enemy’s deck, and, slashing and hacking at the crowd that came up against them, drove them back and still back. Dozens were killed and others leapt overboard to escape the whirlwind that had fallen upon them. The remainder scuttled away below, the English clapped the hatches on them, and the ship was won.

“Kennedy, with a couple of middies and fewer than thirty men, rushed aboard”

Meanwhile the Victory had been pouring a heavy[9] fire into the Santissima Trinidad on one side and the Redoutable on the other. Through and through the former was raked, her deck swept clear of men, until the Spaniards dived overboard and swam off to the Victory, whose crew helped them aboard.

The Belleisle, which had hurled her broadside into the Santa Anna early in the conflict, had been pounced upon by about half a dozen ships of the enemy, which poured in a deadly fire, battering her sides, tearing her rigging to pieces, and twisting her mizzen-mast over the aft guns, putting them out of action. Sixty men also had been sent to their account, but the rest fought on with British courage.

The Achille bore down upon her and attacked her aft, the Aigle, assisted by the Neptune, fell on her starboard, aiming at her remaining masts and bringing them down.

“Crippled, but unconquered,” masts gone by the board, nearly all the guns useless, men mostly killed or wounded, the Belleisle’s few remaining men stood to their three or four guns and hurled defiance at the foe. Pounding away for all they were worth, not a man flinched—except at the thought that the flag had been shot away. They fastened a Union Jack to a pikehead, waved it defiantly, yelled out a cheer of determination, and fought on again, keeping their ship in action throughout the battle, refusing to strike the pikehead flag.

The English Neptune assailed the Bucentaure, and brought her main- and mizzen-masts down; then the Leviathan came up, and at a range of about thirty yards gave the French flagship a full broadside which smashed the stern to splinters. The Conqueror completed the work thus begun, and brought down the flag.

A marine officer and five men put off from the[10] Conqueror to take possession. Villeneuve and two chief officers at once gave their swords to the officer, who, thinking that the honour of accepting them belonged to his captain, refused the weapons, put the Frenchmen in his boat, pocketed the key of the magazine, left two sentries to guard the cabin doors, and then pulled away to rejoin his ship. For some time the little boat searched for the Conqueror, which had gone in quest of other foes. Eventually, however, the boat was picked up by the Mars, whose acting commander, Lieutenant Hennah, accepted the surrendered swords, and ordered Villeneuve and his two captains below.

The Leviathan next tackled the Spanish San Augustino, which opened fire on her at a hundred yards. The Leviathan replied with fine effect, bringing down the Spaniard’s mizzen-mast and flag. Then she lashed herself to her foe. Clearing the way for boarders by a galling fire, the English captain sent across his boarding party. A hand-to-hand fight took place, and the Spaniards were steadily but surely forced over the side or below, and at last the ship was won.

The French Intrépide, seeing the plight of her ally, now bore down on the Leviathan, raking her with fire as she came, and getting her boarders ready for attack. They did not board, for the Africa pitted herself against the Intrépide, and smaller though she was got the best of it, and the Frenchmen were compelled to strike their flag.

Meanwhile the Prince and the Swiftsure were engaged with the Achille, into which many English ships had sent stinging shots, bringing her masts to the deck, and making the ship a blazing mass. Unable to quench the flames, the crew began cutting the masts, intending to heave them overboard.

The Prince, however, gave her a broadside which[11] did the cutting, and sent the wreckage down into the waists. The whole ship immediately took fire. The Prince and the Swiftsure, ceasing fire, sent their boats to save the Frenchmen. It was a noble but dangerous act, for the heat discharged the Achille’s guns, and many of the would-be rescuers perished as a result. Blazing hulk though she was, the Achille kept her colours flying bravely, her sole surviving senior officer, a middy, refusing to strike. The flames reached her magazine, and with colours flying she blew up, carrying all her remaining men heavenwards.

Meantime, Nelson lay dying in the cockpit of the Victory in agony, yet rejoicing that he was victorious. The rank and file were kept ignorant of his condition, though the Admiral himself knew that the end was near, and urged the surgeons to give their attention to others. “He was in great pain, and expressed much anxiety for the event of the action, which now began to declare itself. As often as a ship struck the crew of the Victory hurrahed, and at every hurrah a visible expression of joy gleamed in the eyes and marked the countenance of the dying hero.”

Every now and then Nelson asked for Hardy. “Will no one bring Hardy to me?” he cried; and when at last Hardy came, the two friends shook hands in silence.

“Well, Hardy, how goes the day with us?” asked Nelson presently.

“Very well, my lord. We have got twelve or fourteen of the enemies’ ships, but five of their van have tacked, and show an intention of bearing down on the Victory. I have therefore called two or three of our fresh ships round us, and have no doubt of giving them a drubbing.”

“I hope none of our ships have struck, Hardy?”

“No, my lord; there is no fear of that.”

[12]“Well, I am a dead man, Hardy, but I am glad of what you say. Oh, whip them now you’ve got them; whip them as they’ve never been whipped before!”

Hardy then left him for a time, returning somewhat later to report that some fourteen ships had been taken.

“That’s well,” cried Nelson, “though I bargained for twenty. Anchor, Hardy, anchor.”

Hardy suggested that Admiral Collingwood might now take over the direction of affairs.

“Not while I live, Hardy!” said Nelson. “Do you anchor.”

“Shall we make the signal, sir?”

“Yes,” answered Nelson. “For if I live, I’ll anchor.”

For a little while Hardy looked down at his admiral.

“Kiss me, Hardy,” said Nelson; and Hardy kissed him. “Don’t have my poor carcass hove overboard,” whispered Nelson, as Hardy leant over him. “Get what’s left of me sent to England, if you can manage it. Kiss me, Hardy.”

Hardy kissed him again.

“Who is that?” asked the hero.

“It is I—Hardy.”

“Good-bye. God bless you, Hardy. Thank God, I’ve done my duty.”

Then Hardy left him—for ever.

Nelson was turned on to his right side, muttered the words that he would soon be gone. Then, after a little silence, he sighed and struggled to speak, but all he could say was:

“Thank God, I have done my duty!”

Then Nelson died; and England was the poorer by her greatest sea captain.

Hardy took the news to Collingwood, who assumed command, and refused to carry out Nelson’s instructions[13] to anchor, because the fact that a gale was blowing up would make it unsafe to do so.

The battle was now over; the allied fleets had been defeated, eighteen of their ships were captured, and with these Collingwood stood out to sea. The enemy, however, recaptured four of the prizes, one escaped to Cadiz, some went down with all hands, others were stranded, and one was so unseaworthy that it was scuttled; and only four were taken into Gibraltar.


Now for a different picture!

It was the early hours of August 28, 1914. Under cover of the darkness and the fog, the first and third flotillas of our destroyers, commanded by Commodore R. Y. Tyrwhitt, under orders from the Admiralty, had crept towards Heligoland Bight, preceded by submarines E6, E7, E8, and followed by the first battle cruiser squadron and the first light cruiser squadron.

The submarines, submerged to the base of their conning-towers, swept into the Bight, and when the grey fingers of the dawn crept across the sky the Germans behind the fortress saw what they imagined was a British submarine in difficulties, with sister ships alongside, and two cruisers, Lurcher and Drake, in attendance, intent only on giving her assistance until help could reach them.

It was nothing more than a trap, into which the Germans fell.

A torpedo boat destroyer swung out of the harbour, making full steam ahead for the apparently helpless submarines, who kept their hazardous positions until they saw that the Germans had come far away from the island fortress. Then, one after the other, they sank, and simultaneously the cruisers swung about and raced madly away from the German torpedo craft.

[14]Search though they did, the Germans found no trace of the submarines; all they could see were light cruisers tearing away from them at full speed. These cruisers had acted as an additional decoy, and other destroyers slipped out, bent on making short work of the Britishers who had dared to flaunt themselves within sight of Heligoland. Then, in the distance, appeared the funnels of other British cruisers and destroyers; and it would seem that the Germans realised that they had fallen into a trap, and endeavoured to escape, for Commodore Tyrwhitt’s dispatch says: “The Arethusa and the third flotilla were engaged with numerous destroyers and torpedo boats which were making for Heligoland; course thus altered to port to cut them off.” This was from 7.20 to 7.57 A.M., when two German cruisers appeared on the scene and were engaged.

It was a gallant fight. The jolly Jack Tars of Britain had been waiting these many days for a smack at the foe, who had not dared to come out and meet them until it seemed they were in overwhelming force; and now, when the opportunity had come, they entered into the fight with a zest worthy of the Navy that rules the seas. They watched their shots; the gunlayers worked methodically, as though at target practice; and when a shot went home, men cheered lustily and rubbed their hands with glee.

And the Germans began to think they had a handful of work before them, despite numbers.

They had a bigger handful soon! Here and there, with startling suddenness, periscopes dotted the water, to be followed by the grey shells of submarines, which, getting the range for their torpedoes, as quickly disappeared, and became a menace to the German ships. It began to dawn upon the foe that they were being trapped.

[15]“Full speed ahead!” had come the command when the Germans were sighted, and on went the destroyers in the van. “We just went for them,” said one of the sailors afterwards; “and when we got within range we let them have it hot!”

Hot it was, when at last they did come to grips. But before that happened other things were to take place. The cruiser Arethusa, leader of the third destroyer flotilla—a new ship, by the way, only out of dock these forty-eight hours, of 30,000 horsepower, with a 2-inch belt of armour, and 4-inch and 6-inch guns—sped on towards the Germans, who, owing to the morning mist, could not see how many foes they were to meet, and fondly dreamed they were in the majority.

The German cruisers, like the destroyers, were successfully decoyed out to sea, and then the real fighting began.

The Arethusa tackled some of the destroyers and two cruisers, one a four-funnelled vessel. A few range-finding shots, then the aim was obtained, and a shell put the German’s bow gun out of action. The Fearless and the Arethusa were now in “Full action,” and, together with the destroyers of the flotilla, were quickly engaged in a stern piece of work.

The saucy Arethusa didn’t budge when the second cruiser (two funnels) came at her, but simply fired away for all she was worth. For over half an hour she fought the Germans at a range of 3,000 yards. What would Nelson have thought of this long-distance fighting? And “it was a fight in semi-darkness, when it was only just possible,” wrote one of her crew, “to make out the opposing grey shadow. Hammer, hammer, hammer, it was, until the eyes ached and smarted and the breath whistled through lips parched with the acrid fumes of picric acid.”

[16]It was a gallant fight. Those deadly 6-inch guns of hers did their proper work, and battered at the Germans; while, on the other hand, the Germans battered away at her; apparently misliking her entertainment, the four-funnelled German turned her attention to the Fearless, which kept her men as busy as bees for a time. About ten minutes, and the Arethusa planted a 6-inch shell on the forebridge of the German, and sent her scurrying away to Heligoland. But the Arethusa had not escaped injury in the stern fight, and once or twice, but for the gallant assistance of the Fearless and the destroyers, she seemed likely to be even more severely damaged, if not destroyed. As it was, a shell entered her engine-room, all her guns but one were put out of action, a fire broke out opposite No. 2 port gun, and was promptly handled by Chief Petty Officer Wrench.

Presently the Arethusa drew off for a while, like a gladiator getting his wind, ready to come back again.

And while the Arethusa’s crew were working like niggers putting things to rights, the Fearless standing by to help, the British destroyers were engaged in swift, destructive, rushing-about conflicts, now with opposing destroyers, now with German cruisers. Two of the British “wasps” tackled a couple of cruisers, for instance. Getting in between their larger foes, they placed the latter in such a quandary that they did not know what to do. To fire meant risking hitting each other, and, seizing the hazardous opportunity, the destroyers worked their will upon their opponents; and then, when it was not possible to do more, sped off into the haze. The Liberty and Laertes did good work during these early hours of the fighting. They opposed themselves to several German craft, roared out their thunderous welcome “to the North Sea,” and, with well-aimed[17] shots, sent one boat out of the fighting line with a hole clean through her hull, wrenched off the funnel of another, smashed up the after gun of yet a third, and blew the platform itself to pieces.

Aye, ’twas a glorious scrum! Yet not without its nasty knocks for the Britishers. Standing on his bridge, working his ship, Lieutenant-Commander Nigel Barttelot heard the crash of a shell as it struck his mast; and before he could move the whole structure had fallen with a crash upon the bridge, killing him and a signaller instantly.

The Laertes, too, received her punishment. Her for’ard gun was damaged, and its crew either killed or wounded, while the ’midship funnel was ripped from top to bottom, and a shell sang its horrific way into the dynamo-room, while another made havoc of her cabin.

Presently the Arethusa, her wreckage cleared away, her guns—some of them—working again, steamed into the battle area, and, undaunted as ever, took on another couple of German cruisers. “It looked as if she was in for a warm time,” said one of the crew; “but the fortunate arrival of our battle squadron relieved the situation.”

The first light cruiser squadron came first, and engaged the Germans.

There is much meaning in that “fortunate arrival.” It had been planned and carried out to a nicety. Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty and the two cruiser squadrons had been waiting, as arranged—waiting for the time to come when he should go to the aid of the torpedo flotillas. While waiting the squadrons were attacked by German submarines, which were not successful in wounding any of the ships. A German seaplane, scouting over the North Sea, espied the squadrons, and sped[18] back to Heligoland with the news. They brought out reinforcements, which made the flotillas signal to the vice-admiral for help. This was before noon.

The first light cruiser squadron came first, and swept the Germans with a tornado of fire. Then, when the Fearless and the first flotilla were returning, while the light cruiser squadron engaged the enemy, the battle cruiser squadron came up: the Lion, the Princess Royal, the New Zealand, and the Invincible, armed, the first two, with 13.5 guns, and the others with 12-inch. The work that the Arethusa and her smaller fry had commenced was now carried to a finish. The German cruisers Mainz and Köln shook to the impact of the rain of shells poured upon them; great holes were torn in their sides, flames spurted out, and roared their angry way about the ships. The Mainz, more badly wounded, was in a sinking condition before the arrival of the battle cruisers, and now, tortured by the horrific projectiles, began to sink rapidly by the head. With a siss! siss! as the flames met water, and a roar as the boilers exploded, the good ship Mainz, after a plucky fight, went to her last anchorage, followed later by the Köln.

Destroyers which had been battering at the unfortunate Germans now ceased their fire, and sped towards them on errands of mercy, seeking to save their foes. A large number of the crew of over 350 of the Mainz still lived, and the destroyers’ crews were horrified to see that German officers were shooting at their own men as the ship began to sink rapidly by the head. The Lurcher (Commodore Roger J. B. Keyes) rescued 220 of her crew.

British sailors helping to rescue the crew told later that the scene on deck was terrible. Steelwork had been twisted and bent as hairpins bend; the deck was a[19] shambles—grim testimony to the deadly character of the British fire.

While the destroyers were still fighting, after the sinking of the Mainz and Köln, a third German cruiser, the Ariadne, appeared on the scene, and, after the destroyers had tackled her unsuccessfully, the battle cruisers, turning from their earlier victims, spoke to her in the language of death. Shells fell all about her, battering her sides, gouging great holes in her, wrecking her so completely that within a short time she was going down to keep the Mainz and Köln company. Later it was reported that yet a fourth cruiser had been set on fire.

We must now go back to the destroyer action, which was no less sharp than the other. The small craft sped here and there, firing their 4-inch guns as rapidly as possible, and inflicting damage on one another. Out of the chaos of the fighting there shone the bright light of foes who would show mercy. The German destroyer V187 was so badly mauled that there was no hope for her or her crew, and the British destroyer Goshawk ordered the others to cease fire while she lowered her boats and sought to rescue the Germans, who, however, heeding not the humane mission of their foes, opened fire on the Goshawk at a range of about 200 yards. The German official reports eulogised this as “a glorious fight,” but the British tars saw in it something other than “glorious.” Forced to fight even when they would save, they opened fire in reply; and in double quick time the V187 was silenced, and began to settle down, her men being flung or leaping into the shell-whipped seas. British boats now endeavoured to save the lives of the men who had fired at them when they would have done so before, and several boats managed to pick up survivors.

[20]But, as if the blatant callousness of V187 were not enough, a German cruiser came swinging up, and opened a deadly fire upon the destroyers—the boats whose errand was a merciful one. The destroyers, picking up what boats they could, made away at full speed; but some boats, containing Britishers and Germans, were left behind. At that moment, Lieut.-Commodore Leir, of submarine E4, appeared on the scene, and engaged the cruiser, which altered her course before he could get the range. Down went E4 for safety’s sake.

The two boats of the Defender, left thus, were in a precarious situation, shells flying all about them and their ship far away. Then, to their amazement, there appeared on the surface the periscope of a submarine; then, presently, the conning-tower. It was E4 again. This time she hailed the boats, and, though she was a plain mark for the cruiser’s fire, she remained on the surface, bent on saving whom she could. She could not embark them all, but took a lieutenant and nine men of the Defender. There were also two of the officers and eight men of V187, unwounded, and eighteen wounded men, and, unable to take them on board, Leir left an officer and six unwounded men to navigate the British boats to Heligoland, taking steps to see that they were provided with water, biscuits, and a compass. It was the British sailor all over!

Thus it was that the Battle of the Bight was fought—and won—by the tars of Old Britain. They had hankered long after the outcoming of the Germans, who sulked in their harbours, and had had to be lured out. Boldly had the Germans issued forth when the odds had seemed all on their side, when they saw before them but a few small vessels; and, to their credit be it said, they fought well when the truth came to them. It was the first engagement in the war worthy[21] of the name of a naval battle, and the British reaped the honours, though, when the tally was taken, they had not escaped scot free. There were battered ships amongst those that put into port later. The Liberty had fourteen great holes in her port bow, her bridge was smashed, her searchlight gone, her wireless installation vanished, and nothing but a stump remained of her mast. The Laertes, hit four times, had had to be taken in tow for a while, and the Arethusa, who had started the fight in good style, had, as we have seen, received much beating about. The Fearless also had honourable wounds, receiving no fewer than nineteen hits, though none of them in a vital part.

Beginning in the early morning, with the sea-mist shrouding the sea, the battle had continued for six or seven hours; and then the Germans, knowing themselves outmatched, drew off, dropping mines as they went, while the British squadrons, finding there was nothing more to be done when the Germans had scurried to the shelter of their harbour, also drew away, without a ship lost, and with but comparatively few men hors de combat. During the return journey some of the British cruisers were attacked by submarines but escaped damage. The saucy Arethusa, wounded pretty badly, steamed away at about six knots until 7 o’clock, and then, finding it impossible to proceed farther, drew her fire in all boilers except two and called for assistance. Up came the Hogue, at 9.30, and took her in tow, while the Amethyst took in tow the Laurel, which had also suffered a fair amount of damage.

Thus, with the blood surging through their veins as they thought of the victory won, and longing for the day to come when they might once more meet their foes, the British tars steamed to port. Five months later there was another action on a large scale.

[22]What would the hero of Trafalgar have said if anyone had suggested to him the possibility of a running battle in which the opponents should never be nearer than eight miles? He would probably not have regarded it as a fight! In those good old times the guns could not carry much more than a thousand yards, and the end very often came by boarders, and the capture of the ship in a hand-to-hand fight. Nowadays sea fights are at long range; and yet another account of a battle in the North Sea (January 24, 1915) shows how greatly methods of warfare have changed. It is difficult to imagine the story of such a fight, as will be understood when the classes of ships engaged are considered: mighty battle cruisers, such as the Lion, whose guns can fire 10 miles, hurling a broadside of 10,000 lbs. twice in every minute; light cruisers, speedy destroyers, and submarines; while over all hovered the long grey shapes of airships and the darting forms of seaplanes dropping bombs. And all the time the battling ships are tearing through the seas at top speed, belching forth terrible high-explosive shells.

The battle of January 24 was the outcome of a German attempt to raid the east coast of England, as had been done before—Yarmouth first, then the Hartlepools, Scarborough, and Whitby. In the case of the last three towns a large number of defenceless women and children had been murdered by the German fire, and the War Lord proclaimed it a mighty victory for his navy. Issuing forth again, in the hope of achieving something as noble, the German admiral brought with him four battle cruisers, six light cruisers, and two flotillas of torpedo craft and submarines. When about thirty miles off the English coast they were sighted by a light cruiser, which engaged them and[23] signalled to Admiral Beatty’s squadron the news of the coming of the foe. Instantly the British vessels, which had been cleared for action for over an hour (it was now 7.30 A.M.), closed up and prepared to chase the raiders, then 14 miles away. Admiral Beatty’s force, thus once more destined to play its part in the drama of war, consisted of the battle cruiser squadron—Lion (flagship), Tiger, Princess Royal, Indomitable, New Zealand, and several light cruisers and torpedo craft. The battle cruisers were Britain’s most formidable fighting ships, outcome of what proved to be a far-sighted policy, namely, that of big guns; the first three carried twenty-four 13.5-in. guns, and the last two sixteen 12-in. guns, against which the German Derfflinger (a new ship) had eight 12-in. guns, the Moltke and Seydlitz twenty 11-in., and the Blücher twelve 8-in. guns. It will be seen, therefore, that the British ships had the superiority in weight and range.

As soon as the news was brought to the admiral he gave instructions for the destroyers to chase the enemy and report his movements, while the squadron steered south-east, “with a view to securing the lee position, and to cut off the enemy, if possible.”

The Germans, immediately they realised that they had been seen, and that they were about to be met by a large force, turned tail and ran away. It must not be thought that this was a sign of cowardice; far from it, for in all probability the German manœuvre was deliberate, and in keeping with the policy that had arranged the larger number of heavier guns in the stern of the ships, so that, in the event of a running fight, such as this was destined to be, the fleeing ships would not be at a disadvantage. The British ships have the majority of their guns fixed to fire ahead. One great disadvantage attaching to pursuers lies in the fact that[24] the ships fleeing before them may drop mines, into which the chasing ships might run.

Working at a speed of from 28 to 29 knots an hour, the British squadron raced after the Germans, gradually overhauling them, and at 20,000 yards opened fire upon the foe, keeping at it until, at 18,000 yards’ range, the shots began to tell, and the fire was returned by the Germans. The fight had begun in real earnest. The German destroyers made a plucky attack, in the hope of torpedoing the British ships, but the “M” division of British destroyers raced ahead of the cruisers and engaged the Germans and drove them off. The German destroyers belched forth great clouds of smoke, which screened the cruisers from their pursuers.

The British Lion, of course, led the way. Steering clear of the German submarines, which were to the starboard, she pounded after the great cruisers, and her great shells began to fall in a shower upon the Blücher, which, being the slowest ship, was at the tail of the German line. Not only the Lion, but practically every British ship poured in smashing salvoes. They fell upon her thick as hailstones, sweeping her decks, crashing into her sides, smashing upon her guns and wrenching them from their turrets, disabling whole gun crews. Funnels were sent toppling over, masts fell; a shell pitched in the very heart of the ship, where a large number of men were gathered, and killed them all. Her armoured sides were riddled through and through; she was on fire; but she still kept up her replies with the guns left her, and her men cheered as they fought, although they knew they were fighting a losing battle. Instructions had been given that the flag was not to be struck, and that she was to go down with it flying. Within half an hour of the opening of the battle 300 or 400 men were killed or wounded.[25] She was an unforgettable sight. She turned to port, to give her men a chance to put out the fire, but after awhile swung back and made after the other ships.

Without waiting to see the result of their attack on the Blücher, the British big ships pounded on their way after the other vessels. A devastating cyclone of shells fell upon the Derfflinger, which caught fire forward and had many guns put out of action, while the Seydlitz or the Moltke steamed on like a sheet of flame. The roar of the guns, the crash of the explosions, the thunder of the great engines of war as they romped through the seas, the flashes of fire as shells left the maws of the terrific weapons—all went to make up a scene of horror, of impressiveness. It was a battle between rival giants at giants’ distance, while simultaneously another battle was raging between the smaller cruisers and torpedo craft. There is no doubt that one reason why the Germans chose a running fight was that they hoped to be able to lure their pursuers into the minefield round about Heligoland. But, after chasing them for about a hundred miles, Admiral Beatty, realising that it was hopeless to catch them before they reached the field, turned back from the great cruisers and set his attention upon the smaller ships, seeking to turn them off, drive them down upon the British cruisers which were in hot pursuit. He did great damage amongst them, despite the difficulty of the work, there being so many ships engaged. Though many of them were very seriously mauled, they succeeded in getting to the minefield—with guns dismounted and hulls battered.

About 11 o’clock the Lion had her speed reduced very considerably, owing to a chance shot that had caught her in the bows and damaged her feed-tank, putting her port engines out of action. Admiral Beatty[26] therefore changed his flag to a destroyer, and, later, to the Princess Royal, which then took the foremost place in the fight. The Lion, whose starboard engine also got out of working order later, and had only one engine working, was shielded by the Tiger, which pluckily placed herself in the way of the enemy’s fire, and in doing so lost half a dozen of her men, though she gave the Germans a good battering in return. The Lion was then taken in tow by the Indomitable, and eventually taken into port. An eye-witness on the Tiger told of the part the Tiger played in this thrilling action between big ships:

“On the gun-deck, where I was stationed, you could hardly see one another for the smoke, but our chaps stuck it like Britons. They did work hard; but they did it with a good heart, and I believe at one time our ship was engaging three of the enemy’s ships. Four of their ships were on fire, but they could still keep on firing, and I believe one or two of our poor chaps who got on deck to have a look at them did not live long. I myself was very anxious to go on deck and have a look, but I am glad I did not. I saw the start, and then went below. We lost ten of our chaps, and several were wounded.

“A message came down from the deck, ‘All hands on deck to see the enemy’s ship sink,’ and in less than five minutes after we could see nothing of her, and our destroyers drew near to pick up survivors.

“Our ship at one time stood all the brunt of the firing, as we sheltered the leading ship in our line when she got winged. Still, thank goodness for everything, we are still alive and happy. I do not think they will want to meet us again.”

Meanwhile, the Blücher was living her last moments. Suddenly, while the Germans’ guns were[27] pounding away, there slipped from behind the bigger ships the saucy Arethusa, intent on finishing the work thus well begun. The Blücher, being wounded almost to the death, had no way upon her, and offered a fine mark to torpedo. Commodore Tyrwhitt, of the Arethusa, knowing this, gave instructions, and, as the Blücher fired her remaining guns in rapid succession, a couple of torpedoes sped through the seas towards her. The second caught her amidships, exploded, and rent a great gap in her. Listing already, she now simply heeled over “like a tin can filled with water,” as one eye-witness put it.

It was a dramatic moment, crowded with heroism. Her flag was still flying, and her men were crying, “Hoch! Hoch!” as they lined the side of the vessel, ready to jump clear. From the Arethusa there came the cry of “Jump!” and almost at the same time hundreds of men leaped into the water, most of them equipped with inflated rubber lifebelts, which kept them afloat until the boats lowered by the English picked them up. While the British tars were employed in this humane work there swung out from Heligoland an airship and a seaplane, which hovered over the rescuing boats and dropped bombs. Such methods naturally aroused the anger of the British, who promptly, for their own sakes, had to give up the work of rescue, and leave many struggling Germans to find death when they might have had life.

The Indomitable, before she took the Lion in tow, had her share of the fighting, as had the other battle cruisers. After having tackled the Seydlitz, she was attacked by a Zeppelin which dropped a bomb about forty yards away from her bridge. The Indomitable gave her a taste of shrapnel, as did the Tiger, and she cleared off. Then a torpedo was launched at the Indomitable by[28] the Blücher; but the speed of the British ship saved her.

In addition to the Blücher sunk, other ships suffered considerable damage, as we have seen. Previously one of them had been engaged by the light cruiser Aurora, which opened a terrific fire upon her. The first shot carried the midship funnel clean away, and others, poured in rapidly, swept the decks and battered her hull, so that she was soon in a deplorable condition and was fleeing at top speed for the safety of harbour. Only the proximity of the minefield and the accident to the Lion “deprived the British fleet of a greater victory.” It was not until the foremost cruiser, the Derfflinger, was within half an hour’s run of the mined area that Admiral Beatty gave up the chase, well pleased with the work that had been done.

It had been a great fight and a brilliant victory; it had shown that the British Navy was true to its traditions, that it could fight as well as exert silent pressure upon the foe; that the commanders were fearless men, and that the men behind the guns knew how to handle their great weapons. The feature that stands out most prominently is the accuracy of the British fire as contrasted with that of the German; in the latter case shots seemed to fall anywhere but on the British ships, as is clear when the only casualties were seventeen men wounded on the Lion, one officer and nine men killed, and two officers and eight men wounded on the Tiger; and four men killed and one man wounded on the Meteor, which ship was attacked by the Zeppelin, while none of the ships were at all badly damaged, and would be ready for sea again in a few days.

A fine victory, well won, and at little cost!



Stories of the Early Voyagers

IT is difficult for us who live in these days of swift travel, wireless telegraphy, palatial ships, and so forth, to realise what it meant to go a-voyaging in the Middle Ages and thereabouts. Then men set out chartless, at one time compassless, in ships which were mere cockle-boats, to traverse unknown seas (there are no unknown seas to-day!) in quest of new lands, not knowing really whether there were any new lands to discover. They went, as it were, into the darkness of the unknown, with all its terrors and dangers; and going, discovered the world.

Tradition had it that out in the Atlantic were some islands called by the ancients the Fortunate Islands; and the thirst for wider geographical knowledge came with the discovery of these, and the discovery of Madeira, in the fifteenth century; and out of the mists of the legends there shone elusive islands which, though men sought, they could not find. Then, as men grew bolder, and travelled overland to Cathay, or China, to bring back wonderful stories, with all the glamour of the East about them, Europeans cried for more and more light upon the world beyond Europe.

And the age of discovery began.

In the mind of every voyager was the one great objective—Cathay. But the way there? One school[30] said westwards; the other said that only by circumnavigating the coasts of Africa could Cathay be reached. We know now, as they discovered after many, many years, that both routes led to the East, but that in between Europe and Asia, via the West, lay a mighty continent of whose existence they had never dreamed; and which, when they did discover it, they thought was Asia.

We cannot go into details of the many voyages which were undertaken both to the south and the west; we must content ourselves with the first voyage round the Cape of Good Hope, the first sea trip to China, and the first voyage of the great Columbus.

“A mighty gale caught Diaz and carried his frail craft before it”

It fell to the lot of Bartholomew Diaz to achieve the first of these great epoch-marking events in the world’s history. Many men, under the patronage of Prince Henry the Navigator, of Portugal, had passed along the African coast, and by 1484 Diego Cam had partly explored the Congo; but two years later Diaz, heedless of the fears and warnings of his crew, sailed past the Congo, with the firm determination to get into the Indian Ocean, or at least to pass the extremity of Africa, if there were an extremity. Of that no one was sure. Diaz went round that point without knowing it; a mighty storm caught him, and carried his frail ship before it, and when the gale passed over Diaz found himself off a coast which trailed away eastwards and ever eastwards. His men, fearful of they knew not what, beseeched him to turn back, but for several days Diaz held on his way. This eastward trend of the coast meant something, though what it was he could not say. At last the crew refused to go any farther; the unknown held too many terrors for them, and they considered they had done sufficient. They had gone farther, they knew, than any mariners before them. [31]Why keep on at the risk of being lost? So Diaz had reluctantly to give way. He turned his vessel round, passed down the coast, going southward, with the land on his right—to him a significant fact. He realised its full significance later when, passing a great promontory, which, because of the storms that prevailed there, he called the Cape of Storms, he found the land still on his right, while the ship was sailing northwards. He had been round Africa!

Promptly Diaz landed, and, as was the custom, erected a pillar in the name of the King of Portugal, and thus laid claim to the new land he had discovered. Then home he went, full of joy at his achievement, to receive a mighty welcome at Court when he had told his story. The name of the southernmost cape thus discovered was renamed the Cape of Good Hope; and thus it has been known ever since.

One would have thought that this voyage would have spurred on other voyagers to follow in the track thus laid down; but for some reason or other it was ten years before an expedition was dispatched to carry it farther and try to reach Cathay by that route. Vasco da Gama was the leader of this expedition, which left the Tagus on July 7, 1497, five years after Columbus had set out for the unknown West. It consisted of three ships, which became separated soon after starting, only to meet at Cape Verde Islands. Then for four months they fought their way through storms until they reached St. Helena, where, although they were badly in need of provisions, they could get none, because the natives were so unfriendly. So southward they went, and at last came to the Cape of Good Hope, which it took them two days to sail round, owing to the terrific storm that raged. The crew, terrified at the tumultuous seas, prayed da Gama to turn back.

[32]“We cannot pass this awful cape!” they cried.

“If God preserve us,” answered da Gama boldly, “we will pass the cape and make our way to Cathay. For that honour will be given us, and we shall get much wealth.”

But, though he thus appealed to their cupidity, the crew were not to be calmed; and their dissatisfaction gave rise to conspiracy. They intended to mutiny, and force da Gama to turn back, or else kill him out of hand, and then do what they wanted to do.

Da Gama, however, received information of the plot from some of the men who were still faithful to him, and were willing to follow him where he would lead. Knowing that stern measures would be necessary now that softer ones had failed, da Gama plotted on his own account. He had each man brought into his cabin to discuss the matter, and as soon as a head showed inside the door the man was seized and put in irons. In this way every one of the dissatisfied men was taken prisoner; and da Gama found himself left with a mere handful of men to work the ship. Yet did he persist in going on; he would not be deterred, and, though all worked hard in face of what they thought was certain death, yet they weathered the cape, and presently were on the way up the east coast of Africa. Then da Gama freed his prisoners, who were shamefaced as they came on deck, to find themselves in this new sea, safely past the storm they had feared.

On Christmas Day, after having been in at various places, da Gama came to Natal, named thus in honour of the Nativity, broke up one of his ships there, as she was unseaworthy, and then went on, reaching Mozambique on March 10. Here he met trouble again. Mozambique was in the possession of the Moors, who did a fine trade with the Indies and the Red Sea, and,[33] naturally, resented the intrusion of the Portuguese. They saw their trade being taken from them. They therefore did all they could to destroy or capture the intrepid voyagers, who, however, outwitted them every time. At each place where they put in they fell foul of the Moors, until they reached Melinda, where they were received with honour, and were able to secure as many provisions as they wanted.

Da Gama, always with his eyes open to discover what commercial advantages were to be gained from his voyage, saw with delight that at Melinda there were many large ships which bore the riches of India in their holds; and, realising that that meant much to Portugal, as soon as the monsoons would allow him, hurried on his way across the Indian Ocean, having secured the services of a good native pilot. On May 20, 1498, the two ships reached Calicut—the first vessels which had arrived in India by the direct sea route.

It was an epoch-marking accomplishment, for it opened up the Far East to Europe in a way that had not been done before; trade could be carried on much more easily than by the overland route, with its many dangers. All the riches of the East—spices, peppers, and what not—were to be had by the Portuguese now. The commercial importance of the voyage was greater than that of any voyage yet undertaken, for even that of Columbus had not begun to bear the fruit it was to bear later on.

Da Gama, however, found that things were not so rosy as they had seemed; the Moors held the trade of Calicut in their hands. It was the trading centre of the merchants of Ceylon and the Moluccas—indeed, of all the Malabar coast—and the Moors there, like those at Mozambique, feared the coming of the Europeans. When they discovered that da Gama had obtained permission from the zamorin, or native chief, to trade, they[34] plotted for his destruction, inducing the zamorin to take him prisoner and capture his ships, telling him that these white men would surely come in their hundreds and take possession of his territory. Of course, the native viewed the prospect with anything but pleasure, and when da Gama, laden with rich gifts, landed, he tried to capture him. Da Gama, however, slipped through his fingers, reached his ships, and sailed away, vowing to return and to take vengeance.

Leaving Calicut in a rage, the voyager traded with another chief at Cannanore, and, having laden his vessels with rich spices and peppers, set out on the return voyage, reaching Lisbon in September, 1499; and the whole nation went wild with delight at the glorious vista opened to it.

Da Gama went back to Calicut later on to take his revenge. He allied the King of Cannanore with him, and wrought havoc with the zamorin’s trading vessels; then sailed to Cochin China, where he established a factory—the first factory in the East, and the beginning of Portuguese power in the Orient.

We must now go back a few years, and glance at the story of the first voyage of Columbus, the man who stands out as a landmark in the history of the world. He marks the beginning of the new geographical knowledge; the old world is one side of him, the new the other. For years he had been studying all the maps and charts that he could get hold of, and had imbibed the new knowledge that was being taught regarding the shape of the earth, until at last he came to believe that Asia could be reached by sailing to the west. He tried this Court and that, only to receive rebuffs and meet with delays that sickened him. He sent his brother Bartholomew to the King of England; but his messenger was captured by pirates, and when he was[35] released, and proceeded on his way to the English Court, where his proposal was accepted, it was too late; Christopher Columbus had set forth upon his venture perilous, under the patronage of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, who, after much vacillation, and not a little treachery, had agreed to father the expedition, which consisted of three small vessels. These were the Santa Maria, on which Columbus himself sailed, the Pinta, commanded by Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and the Nina, captained by Pinzon’s brother, Vincente Yanez Pinzon.

After receiving the blessing of the Church, the expedition set sail from Palos with a pressed crew, for few men could be found willing to embark on such a desperate venture. In less than a week they were compelled to put in at the Canaries to refit the ships, which had been buffeted about by adverse winds and stormy seas. When this work was done, Columbus set out again, despite the murmurings of his pressed crew, who often cast longing eyes back to the East, hardly daring to think of what might await them in the West, whither men had not ventured before. The unknown held dread terrors for them, and at every league they became more disaffected, so that Columbus found it necessary to keep two reckonings—one correct, for himself, and the other incorrect, for the satisfaction of the crews. His own showed the real distance from home; theirs showed them that they were nearer home than they had imagined themselves to be.

Two hundred leagues west of the Canaries a ship’s mast was seen floating, and the frightened crews became more scared than ever; they took it for a portent of their own fate. Then the needle of the compass showed a variation; it ceased to point to the North Star, and this was the most dreadful thing of all to these men, who knew nothing of hemispheres. Columbus did his utmost[36] to cheer and inspire them with confidence, telling them of the glory that awaited them when the voyage was over, and assuring them that they could not be a very long way from land. As if to prove him true, next day, September 14, two birds hovered round the ships; later weeds were seen floating on the surface of a kind that grow on river banks and among rocks; then, later still, more birds were seen—birds that they knew never slept on the sea. And all these things seemed to be heralds of land.

So the dissatisfied crew took heart again, and, with a steady breeze helping them, the ships sped on their unknown way, every man eagerly looking out across the vast sea in the hope of being the first to sight the land, the reward for which was to be a pension.

But as day succeeded day, and no land was seen, the spirits of the adventurers drooped, and when they ran into a vast sea of weeds, which made it difficult for the vessels to hold on their way, all hopes of ever reaching home again were dashed to the ground. Then the wind dropped, and the ships were becalmed. Never did Fate play so scurvy a trick with a mariner as it did with Columbus, who knew that the success of his voyage—the great ambition of his life—depended upon the men who sailed with him. He heard their murmurings, knew that it would not be long before they broke out into open mutiny; but still he would not swerve from his purpose.

Then one day they came to him with determination in their eyes and black murder in their hearts. They would go back, they said; they would venture no farther on this mad voyage which could lead to nowhere but death. They had, indeed, made up their minds to pitch him overboard if he would not turn the ship about and go home.

[37]Columbus, firm in his own belief that land lay to the west, and determined that he would not turn back until he had seen it, stood before the mutineers boldly. He argued with them, coaxed them, even bullied them, vowed he would hold on to the course he had mapped out. Then, seeing that he must temporise, he promised that, if they would stand by him for three more days, he would turn back if no land were discovered. He gained his point; the crew returned to their duties, and, by the greatest good luck, shortly afterwards new signs of land came to cheer the men.

Besides a quantity of fresh weeds, such as grow in rivers, they saw a green fish of a kind that keeps about rocks, then a branch of thorn with berries on it, and recently separated from the tree, floated by them. Then they picked up a reed, a small board, and, above all, a staff, artificially carved.

And where there had been mutiny and threats there was now discipline and rejoicing; and no man murmured, or thought of the distance they had come. All were eager to be the first to catch sight of the land they believed to be near. Columbus himself, overwhelmed with joy at the thought that triumph was at hand, did not sleep that night, and had the ships hove to, lest they miss the land in the night darkness. On each vessel every man was wide awake, straining his eyes through the darkness. At about one o’clock Columbus thought that he saw a light shining in the west, far away from the ships. He immediately pointed it out to; the men on his vessel; but with one exception they attached little importance to it. They thought themselves fools when, an hour later, a sailor cried:

“Land! Land!” And, pointing, showed them a dim outline on the horizon. Daylight came, and with[38] it clearer vision; and before them stretched a low, tree-covered island.

The sight of it drove them almost wild with joy. Here, after weeks of voyaging through seas unknown, they had come to land, when they had told themselves there was no land to be found, when they had harboured thoughts of murder against the man who led them. They threw themselves on deck at his feet, and implored his forgiveness; and Columbus knew that he had these men fast in his grip, that they would follow him anywhere.

As for himself, his pleasure knew no bounds; all the dreams of the years were to be fulfilled, all his hopes were to be realised, the glory of reaching Asia via the west was to be his. Had he but known! Had he but realised that something even greater than this had been achieved; that near at hand lay a vast continent undreamt of by his fellows, despite the tradition that the Norsemen had hundreds of years before found a country to the west, far north from this spot.

On October 12, 1492, Columbus, in all the glory of his official robes as representative of the majesty of Spain, landed on the island with his men and the officials sent by the King to give authority to the expedition. The Royal Standard of Spain was planted, and the adventurer fell upon his knees, kissed the ground, and declared the land to belong to the dominions of the Spanish sovereigns.

The island was inhabited, and from the natives Columbus learned that it was named Guanahani. The Spaniards renamed it San Salvador—its present name. It is one of the group known as the Bahamas, at the entrance of the Gulf of Mexico.

The natives themselves, when they saw the strange ships coming towards the island, fled, not knowing what[39] they might be, for never had they seen anything like them. As they were not pursued, however, they plucked up enough courage to come back, and very soon were making friends with the new-comers, who, thinking they were on one of the islands off the coast of India, called the natives Indians—the name still borne by the aborigines of the New World.

Almost every one of the natives was bedecked with ornaments made of gold; and the Spaniards were eager to find out whence the metal came. The natives told them by signs that it came from the south—far away; and the three vessels were presently ploughing the seas again, exploring the coast of San Salvador, by the aid of several guides. Other islands were seen in the neighbourhood, and these, too, were explored, Columbus believing that they tallied with Marco Polo’s description of certain islands lying off China. But no trace of gold was found; each time the natives pointed them to the south, and referred to a great king, whom Columbus imagined to be the Great Khan.

Then one day he gathered that near at hand was a great island called Cuba, and from the description given him believed it to be Cipango (Japan), which reports had credited with vast riches—gold and precious stones. So to Cuba the three ships sailed, reaching the island at the end of October, and taking possession of it in the name of the King of Spain.

Here the natives, after a time, received him kindly, and the answers to the sign-questions he put to them made him more convinced than ever that this was Cipango. He therefore searched it, seeking for the Great Khan; but at last gave up in despair, and sailed off to discover other islands. At this time Martin Pinzon, in the Pinta, deserted him, and, although Columbus waited many days for his return, he did not[40] come back; and when, in December, Columbus set sail, he went with only two ships. On December 6 they sighted a large island, which, because of its beauty and similarity with Spain, they named Hispaniola. Here, again the natives were friendly, and parted with many of their gold ornaments in exchange for little trinkets the mariners had brought with them. What filled them with joy that they could hardly contain was the news that the island abounded in riches. Gold, they were told, was to be obtained in plenty; and Columbus, who had taken the island in the name of Spain, resolved, when misfortune robbed him of another of his ships, to leave some of his men behind to learn the language of the natives, trade with them for gold, and explore the island for gold mines.

The disaster, which left him with only one ship, occurred through negligence. The Santa Maria was wrecked, and Columbus and his crew only escaped with great difficulty. By hard work they managed to get all the goods and guns out of her before she went to pieces, and with the latter Columbus built a fort for the security of the men he intended to leave behind, calling it La Navidad.

Then, on January 4, 1493, Columbus set sail from Hispaniola in the smallest of the vessels he had come out with, namely, the Nina, steering eastward along the coast. Presently he fell in with Pinzon, whom he reproved for his desertion. Pinzon asserted that he had been separated in a storm, but actually he had left Columbus, intending to return home and claim the honours that were due to his leader. Columbus, however, rather than have bitterness aroused, hid his anger, and the two ships sailed in company until February 1, when a terrific gale separated them again.

So dreadful was the storm that Columbus despaired[41] of ever reaching home with his wonderful news; and many were the vows taken as to what the mariners would do if Heaven spared them. Lots were cast as to who should undertake a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalope, and it fell to Columbus. But the storm still held on. Then they all vowed to go in their shirts to a church of Our Lady, if she would vouchsafe them a safe voyage home.

The poor Nina, tossed about, seemed as though she would turn over at every big wave that broke upon her; all her provision casks were empty, and so she was in a poor way through lack of ballast. Columbus solved that problem by filling the casks with water, which steadied the ship, and enabled her to ride out the storm, during which Columbus had been afraid lest he should never reach Spain with the wonderful news of his discovery. He therefore wrote down an account on parchment, which he signed and sealed, wrapped in oilcloth and wax, and consigned to the deep in a cask. Another copy was packed in a similar way, and set upon the top of the poop, so that if the Nina went down the cask might float and stand a chance of carrying its precious contents to some port, or be picked up by some ship. But, fortunately, the storm eased off, and presently they reached harbour at St. Mary’s, one of the Azores.

The mariners, exhausted after their struggle with the storm, but grateful for having been able to come through it, saw a hermitage on a hill, and resolved that some of them should undertake a pilgrimage of thanks at once. So half the ship’s crew went ashore in their shirts, carrying candles; but hardly had they landed when the Portuguese Governor of St. Mary’s came down with a large body of soldiers and took them prisoners. The Portuguese were jealous of the great sailor, and what he had achieved.

[42]Columbus was angry at this treachery. He vowed that if his men were not given back to him, he would land the rest and sack the whole island. The Governor gave in.

Leaving these inhospitable shores, the mariners sailed away for home, only to meet with another storm which caused them to make more vows. Then the sailors worked hard, and managed to get the ship running before the storm, which drove her into the Tagus.

Forced to take shelter in another Portuguese port, therefore, this time Lisbon, Columbus went ashore, where the King of Portugal received him with many expressions of delight and congratulation, though beneath the smiling face was a jealous heart. Portugal had taken so great a part—had been the pioneer, in fact—of the exploration of the century, that the king felt that this accomplishment of Columbus was a personal affront! His counsellors advised him that the best thing to do was to kill Columbus and his men out of hand, and, taking his charts, send an expedition out to take possession of the new lands.

King John, however, would not consent to the murder of Columbus, whom he dismissed; and then ordered his own mariners to hurry off with an expedition to take by force of arms the lands which had been discovered for Spain. It may be said that when the question of ownership of these lands was laid before the Pope of Rome, that arbiter of the fate of people and nations in the fifteenth century, the Portuguese were made to understand that Spain had the prior claim on the new territory.

It was on March 15 that Columbus arrived at Palos, less than eight months after he had set out from that port on a voyage from which few ever believed he would return. And now, here he was! Great crowds[43] met him and hailed him, and marched in procession with him to the church, where he gave thanks to Heaven for the success of his voyage. Then, he sent a letter to the king, who commanded him to attend Court, where he was received with all due honour, and told his wonderful story which thrilled the king and queen, and soon set all Spain by the ears. He had brought many evidences of the truth of his tale, including several natives and many gold ornaments; and according to the terms of the engagement entered into, he was appointed Governor-General of all the lands discovered. Then, still believing that he had found the way to the East, he went out again on September 25, 1493, discovering new islands, and going to Hispaniola, which he found was rich with gold. His fort had been destroyed, however, and his men killed by the natives. With his adventures during this voyage we have no time to deal. There was dissatisfaction amongst some of his followers, and accusations were made against him which necessitated his going back to Spain to clear himself, which he succeeded in doing. In 1498 he was allowed to go out again, and it was on this voyage that he discovered the mainland of America, although he never knew it. First he landed on an island which he called Trinidad (its present name), in honour of the Holy Trinity, and from there he could see land, which, believing it to be an island, he called Isla Santa (Holy Island). It was, as a matter of fact, the mainland of America. He went down the coast as far as Grenada, and began to think that the length of it pointed to the fact that it was more than an island: that it must be the mainland of Asia.

Passing over the trials of Columbus which followed upon the accusations made against him at Court, we must go on to a brief résumé of his fourth and last[44] voyage. On this, which started from Cadiz in May, 1502, he went seeking a strait by which he could get farther east. He reached Honduras, then later, Veragua and Nicaragua, the farthest point reached being El Retrete, when he sailed for Veragua again, thence to Hispaniola. Many troubles beset him. Jealous followers brought him sorrows; disorders at Hispaniola brought him displeasure at Court, and he sailed for home, reaching Spain in November, 1504, to die two years later in neglect; “no local annals mention even his death.” And he, the greatest mariner who had ever lived, the man who had brought to Spain—although no one realised it then—a New World, with all its treasures.



The Beginning of Buccaneering

THE buccaneers were educated in a hard school. From being peaceful hunters in the woods of Hispaniola they developed into hunters on the seas, seeking more valuable game than oxen. They took up this new profession from a sense of being ill-treated, and primarily with the object of obtaining vengeance.

In the early part of the seventeenth century there were on the island of Hispaniola a number of Frenchmen who lived by buccaneering—a word derived from the Indian word boucan, meaning, first, the hut in which the flesh of oxen was smoked, and, secondly, the wooden frame on which the meat was dried. Eventually the hunters themselves received the name of buccaneers, from which it will be seen that there was nothing sinister in the name or profession at the outset. In course of time larger numbers of Frenchmen gathered at Hispaniola to follow the wild industry, and the Spanish rulers of the island came to the conclusion that they would rid Hispaniola of them.

The buccaneers at the best were not an inviting-looking crowd, nor were they the most gentle of men. Their mode of life made them rough and wild, and their attire gave them an appearance of ruffianism. Long blouses or shirts, covered with grease and blood-stains, and held in at the waist by strips of green hide; short drawers that reached only half-way down the[46] thigh, sandals of hog’s skin or bull’s hide; short guns, called “buccaneering-pieces,” slung from their shoulders, short sabres from their waists, calabash powder-horns and skin bullet pouches hanging at either side, with mosquito nets rolled up at the waist—imagine men thus rigged out, with unkempt hair and not too clean a skin, and you have buccaneers in all their glory. Certainly they were not calculated to inspire confidence when one met a little band of about a dozen out hunting, with dogs following the quarry. But, at any rate, they were comparatively peaceful—except when, after a successful hunt, and a still more successful piece of trading by which they got rid of their spoils, they were out on a carousal.

Now, as we have suggested, the Spaniards grew jealous of the growing prosperity of the buccaneers; had the latter been Spanish, all would have been well, but the Dons, ever since the New World had been discovered for King Ferdinand, had sought to keep it and its wealth for themselves; so that, when the Frenchmen on Hispaniola grew in numbers and wealth, it seemed to the Spaniards a case for repressive measures. They therefore instituted mounted patrols of lancers, armed with lances. There were some four hundred of these, and their work was to harry the buccaneers as much and as often as possible.

This warfare between the lancers and the buccaneers went on for many years; but the Spaniards found that the hunters refused to be intimidated; and if the truth were known, they probably enjoyed the occasional bout with the Spaniards. In any case, they would not give up their hunting for all the lancers in Hispaniola. The Spaniards therefore resorted to other means. If the buccaneers would not go, then their livelihood should be taken from them, and the powers that were in Spain[47] sent orders for the destruction of all the wild cattle in Hispaniola.

The orders were carried out to the letter, and the buccaneers, finding themselves without the means of living and trade, shook the dust of Hispaniola from their feet, and in 1637 made their way to the island of Tortuga, about six miles to the north of Hispaniola. There their already large numbers were increased by the coming of a cosmopolitan crowd of ruffians, till, feeling themselves strong enough, they determined to take vengeance on Spain for having cast them adrift.

They fell upon Hispaniola, not once nor twice, but time after time, until the Dons came to the conclusion that Tortuga must be under the yoke of Spain and the buccaneers be swept away. So, timing their descent well, they went over to Tortuga when the French were away on the mainland, hunting, and the English were far off on a cruise. Landing soldiers, they took the island within an hour, seizing a large number of hunters before they had time to defend themselves. Some they killed out of hand, others they made captive, but a good many succeeded in escaping to certain hiding-places, whence, with the coming of night, they slipped down to the shore and hurried off to the mainland in canoes.

The Spaniards, feeling that this vigorous action would be sufficient to keep Tortuga within bounds, sailed back to Hispaniola. But, instead of having quashed the buccaneers, they found that they had but added fuel to the fire, for when the rovers came back from cruising and hunting, and discovered the condition of their island, they were filled with anger. They went mad! Off to the French island of St. Christopher they sailed, and Governor De Poncy, falling in with their plans, sent an expedition to Tortuga, which was recaptured,[48] and put in such a state of defence that the disillusioned Dons had a shock next time they went over to carry out a second attempt at terrorism. Two hundred Spaniards bit the dust that day, and the buccaneer—the real buccaneer—was born.

For the Spaniard was successful in his efforts to kill the hunters’ trade; he stamped out the trading-hunter and gave life to a particularly romantic kind of pirate-freebooter. The men of Tortuga fell to preying upon the shipping of Spain. They were determined to have their revenge.

It would appear from all accounts that the first successful buccaneer who took to sea-roving was one Pierre le Grand, a native of Dieppe, who had found his way to the New World in quest of fortune. Baffled in his attempts to make the smiling lands yield up their wealth, he gathered a congenial company about him, and went to sea in a small boat holding himself and a crew of twenty men. The exploit that made him famous was that by which he captured the vice-admiral of a Spanish fleet near Cape of Tiburon, to the west of Hispaniola.

They had, it seems, been at sea a good while on the look-out for a prize worth having, and, finding none, were getting disheartened—and hungry, incidentally, seeing that they had used up most of their rations. Then, like a gift from the gods, there came into view a Spanish fleet, with a large ship standing some distance off from the rest. Pierre decided that it would be impious to let such an opportunity slip. He knew that it was a case of long odds, because the Spaniard was a fine vessel, and no doubt well manned; but, nothing venture, nothing have! So, waiting until the dusk of evening, Pierre, who had received solemn oaths from his companions that they would stand by him to the[49] last, sailed towards his prey, hoping in his heart that the Dons might be unprepared for battle.

He did not know it then, but later he found out that the captain of the ship had had the little cockle-boat pointed out to him, with the suggestion that it might be a pirate craft; whereupon the gallant sailor had exclaimed:

“What, then, must I be afraid of such a pitiful thing as that is? No! though she were a ship as big and as strong as mine is!”

Determined to hazard all upon a gambler’s throw, when Peter drew near the great Spaniard, under cover of the twilight, he made his surgeon bore holes in the sides of his boat, so that, with their own vessel sinking quickly beneath them, his men might be impelled to put all their energy into the attempt to board the Spanish ship.

So, with “all or nothing” as the unspoken battle-cry, the buccaneers swarmed up the sides of the ship, hurled themselves aboard without being seen, and rushed pell-mell to the captain’s cabin, where they found him playing cards.

Pierre le Grand held the trump card—in the shape of a loaded pistol, which he promptly presented at the captain’s head, calling upon him to surrender.

“Jesus bless us!” cried the Spaniard. “Are these devils, or what are they?”

The uninvited guests showed what they were; while Peter the Great kept the captain quiet, others rushed to the gun-room, seized all the arms, and then dispersed about the ship, taking prisoner whoever preferred that to being killed out of hand. There was no gainsaying them, and the captain gave in, with the result that Pierre found himself master of a fine ship filled with treasure, and a crew that he hardly knew what to do with. He[50] solved the problem by setting ashore all he didn’t want, and the rest he kept on to sail the ship to France. For the gay buccaneer discovered that he was rich enough to retire, and never again showed his face in the New World.

But if he did no more pirating himself, he set fire to the buccaneers of Tortuga, who told themselves that what Pierre le Grand had done they could do. If they had but ships! They were going to set up in “business” that required good craft, and there they were with only canoes. Well, canoes would do to get them where they could find suitable ships, and, pushing off day after day, the buccaneers cruised about Hispaniola and the neighbourhood, seizing small Spanish vessels carrying tobacco and hides. These they took back to Tortuga, disposed of the cargoes profitably, fitted out the vessels, and set out to sea again, now to seek larger ships; with the result that, in a couple of years, a score of buccaneer ships were sailing the seas proudly, taking toll of the Spaniards for having stopped their peaceful livelihood.

Of these earlier buccaneers we must mention another Peter—Pierre François. Like Peter the Great, his forerunner, he had been cruising about a long time without a satisfactory prize turning up; and as away at Tortuga were a number of men—whom we, in these modern days, call “duns”—waiting for him to settle up various little accounts, he thought it behoved him, for his creditors’ sake, to garner a harvest that was worth while.

So, standing out from the neighbourhood of Hispaniola, Pierre François ventured farther afield. Away down at Ranceiras, near the River Plate, there was a fine rich bank of pearl, to which year after year the Spaniards sent about a dozen large ships a-pearling, each squadron having a man-o’-war to protect it.

“Promptly boarded the Vice-Admiral. ‘Surrender!’ yelled the buccaneers”

[51]Pierre François felt he would like to have some of the pearls which other men had obtained. When he came up with the fleet, he found the warship, the Capitana, of twenty-four guns and a couple of hundred men, lying half a league away from the rest of the vessels; and, well versed in the ways of the wily Spaniard, he knew that the man-o’-war would be certain to hold the greater part of the harvest of the sea. Wherefore, of course, Pierre decided that nothing less than the Capitana would pay him for the trip down the coast.

But first he must put himself in the way of being strong enough to take the war vessel, and to this end he resolved to capture one of the other ships to begin with. Pretending that his ship was a Spanish craft, he pulled down his sails, rowed close to the shore till he reached the pearl-bank, and then promptly boarded the Vice-Admiral, of eight guns and threescore men.

“Surrender!” yelled the buccaneers.

“Never!” cried the Spaniards, and fell to fighting stubbornly; and then did what they said they wouldn’t do—they surrendered.

So far so good. Pierre was elated. But he did want that man-o’-war!

First he sank his own vessel, which was in a pretty bad way. Then he hoisted the Spanish flag on his prize and sailed away. The captain of the Capitana, fearing that one of his convoy was running off with treasure—those Spaniards never trusted each other!—set sail after the runaway. Pierre let him come, and then, when within hailing distance, made his prisoners yell: “Victoria! Victoria! We have taken the thieves!”

Whereupon the Capitana, believing that everything was all right, hove to, drew off, and disappeared in the darkness, promising to send to fetch the prisoners away in the morning.

[52]During the night François decided to slip away. Perhaps he didn’t like the look of the Capitana after all; perhaps he was satisfied with his haul. He should have been, for it contained pearls of the value of 100,000 gold pieces of eight, and a large store of provisions. But he had come to the end of his lucky lode, for the Capitana, having, apparently, grown suspicious, suddenly hoisted sail and followed in pursuit. Pierre hoped to be able to show a clean pair of heels before daylight came. But Dame Fate played him a nasty trick; the wind fell, and left him becalmed. And when dawn broke he saw that the Capitana, becalmed also, lay within sight, waiting for the wind to freshen.

Evening came, and with it a breeze; and instantly Pierre hoisted all sail and stood away, with the Capitana in hot pursuit. Then Pierre found he had made a mistake; the ship was unable to bear the burden of so much sail as he had hoisted, and the fickle wind, bursting upon him, brought his mainsail down with a rush.

That did it! The Capitana sped through the water towards the Vice-Admiral, and, coming within range, sent a few shots hurtling at her, expecting to see her haul down the flag. Instead of which Pierre, resolved to fight in the hope of coming out best, opened out with his eight guns, and pounded away for all he was worth. He took the precaution first of clapping his prisoners in the hold and nailing down the hatches. And then, with but twenty-two men fit to fight—the rest were either killed or wounded—he prepared to give battle. For hours they fought, bravely and well; but all in vain. The man-o’-war was too much for them, and at last Pierre signified his willingness to surrender—on conditions. These were that they shouldn’t be made slaves, nor be made to work on the plantations. The Spaniards[53] agreed; and within a short time François and his men were on board the Spanish vessel—prisoners.

They were taken to Carthagena, where the Spaniards broke their word, and made the prisoners slaves for three years, after which they were sent to Spain.

Bartholomew Portugues, another of the early buccaneers, sailing off Cuba in a small vessel of three guns and thirty men, fell to chasing a big Spaniard of twenty big guns and seventy men. The Spaniards showed fight, and beat Bartholomew off with losses he could ill afford. But, determined to succeed or die, the buccaneer brought his vessel back again, and, getting alongside, led his crew aboard the Spanish ship. All fighting like demons, in the end they captured it, and found themselves in possession of a vessel worth having, with a treasure on board of 120,000 lbs. of cocoa and 75,000 crowns.

Joyful over their good fortune, the buccaneers bethought themselves of returning to Jamaica, whence they had set out; but, as they were now but twenty all told, they did not know how to keep their prisoners. They solved that problem by bundling them into a small boat and turning them adrift, after which they hoisted sail and set off to Cuba to repair, as the wind was not favourable for Jamaica.

All would have gone well had they not fallen in with three large ships bound for Havannah, which, becoming suspicious, gave chase, and, as they were much faster vessels than the new-found prize of the buccaneers, they quickly overhauled it, battered at it with their guns, and before long had made the captors captives, with whom they set sail for Campechy.

Portugues had a reputation that was not warranted to make him loved in Campechy, and when he arrived there men lifted up their voices and cried:

[54]“Behold, this is Bartholomew Portugues, the biggest scoundrel in the world, who has done more harm to Spanish trade than all the other pirates put together.” And in due course the governor, in the name of the King of Spain, sent soldiers, who took the buccaneer to another ship, where he was clapped into irons to await the morning—and the gallows, which were promptly erected. Bartholomew, made aware of the preparations being made in his honour, considered it necessary to do something on his own account for his safety. So in the night he freed himself from his shackles, and, being ingenious and a non-swimmer, fashioned strange water-wings, in the shape of a couple of leathern jars he found in his cabin. Then, having waited till silence on the ship told him that everyone was asleep—excepting, he surmised, the sentry at his door—he resolved to make a bid for freedom. The sentry he stabbed with a knife he had concealed, and then slipped over the ship’s side, clambered down the mainchains into the sea, and, supported by his jars, made his way to shore.

Into the woods he darted, and for three days hid there, on a diet of wild herbs, listening to the sounds of baying bloodhounds and angry citizens seeking him high and low. Fortunately for the buccaneer, his place of concealment was in a hollow tree partly covered by water, which put the bloodhounds off the scent.

In due course the searchers became convinced that the pirate had eluded them, and gave up the search, and Bartholomew decided it was safe to venture forth. He wanted to get to Gulfo Triste, 160 miles away, and thither he bent his steps. It was a long way and a weary way, and a hungry and thirsty way, too, for he had no provisions and little water. He came to rivers that he must cross, and he had no boats. He found a board[55] with a few old nails in it, and out of these he fashioned crude knives, with which he laboriously cut down branches of trees, and made a raft by which to cross the rivers. Sometimes the rivers were fordable, but were filled with alligators. At these he flung stones to scare them away, and then sallied forth across the stream. Once a mangrove swamp lay between him and the place where he would fain go. There was no road; only the swamp, that would swallow him up if he put foot upon it. He solved the problem of progress by swinging from bough to bough of the mangrove, travelling for miles in that way. Truly, Bartholomew was a hardy traveller!

Thus for a whole fortnight the buccaneer kept on his lonely way, and at last reached Gulfo Triste, where he found what he had hoped would be there—a buccaneer ship, careening.

The pirates were friends of his, and he poured into their attentive ears the story of his adventures and misadventures. They listened even more attentively when he told them that, if they would help him, he would put in their way a ship that would enable them to brave any vessel that the Spanish Dons might send out against them; besides which it contained goodly treasures.

“Give me a boat and thirty men,” he said, “and I will go back to Campechy and bring back the ship that took me prisoner.”

His friends gave the boat and the men, and Bartholomew set out, hugging the coast, and eight days later came to Campechy. Then, under the cover of darkness, he put his boat alongside the great vessel, scrambled up her side, and prepared to rush. The sentry challenged him. Bartholomew, in Spanish, murmured soothingly that they were part of the crew[56] returning, after an evening ashore, with smuggled goods, and the sentry kept quiet. He was quieter still soon, for a knife-thrust laid him low.

Then, with a rush, the buccaneers fell upon the watch, overpowered them, cut the cable and set the vessel adrift; after which they ran below. The sleeping crew awoke in a great fright, and, with pistols at their heads, were compelled to surrender.

The ship was won!

Bartholomew, however, seemed dogged by hard luck, for while he was making his way past the Isle of Pines, bound for Jamaica, a great storm burst upon him, and drove his prize upon the rocks, where she held fast until she was broken to pieces.

The ship was lost!

The buccaneers, however, succeeded in escaping to Jamaica in a canoe, from where, according to Esquemeling, the chronicler of the dark deeds of the bold pirates, “it was not long before Bartholomew Portugues went on new adventures, but was never fortunate afterwards.”



Tales of the Remarkable Exploits of the Greatest Buccaneer

BEFORE telling the story of the buccaneer who became Governor of Jamaica, we must mention the change which had taken place in the methods of the buccaneers. From being mere rovers of the sea, bent on taking toll of shipping, they had developed into a brotherhood which made bold attempts on cities. The Spaniards, weary of their depredations and finding that they could not cope with them, had reduced the amount of shipping, so that the buccaneers had to turn to more profitable fields of enterprise. Hence, says Esquemeling, “the pirates finding not so many ships at sea as before, began to gather into greater companies, and land upon the Spanish dominions, ruining whole cities, towns and villages; and withal pillaging, burning, and carrying away as much as they could find possible.”

And now to Captain Henry Morgan, the most famous of the buccaneers. He was a Welshman, who, after various little “affairs,” found himself in command of a pirate vessel, with which he was successful. Later, he allied himself with Mansvelt, a notorious buccaneer, and after the death of that worthy, Morgan was appointed to the command of the Brethren of the Coast.

At the head of his band of rogues, he captured the towns of Port au Prince, Cuba, and Porto Bello, Panama—both after stiff fights—and from the latter he extracted[58] a heavy ransom, was cheeky to the governor of Panama, after he had waylaid and beaten an expedition sent out to wipe him off the Spanish main, and promised the governor that he would come later and sack his city for him!

Then he turned his attention to Maracaibo.

First of all, he held a review of his force; it consisted of eight ships and five hundred men, quite a formidable little army. With these he sailed, and in due course arrived off Maracaibo. The buccaneers held off till night came, sailing in under cover of the darkness until they arrived near the bar. The Spaniards, sighting the strange vessels, were taking no risks, and opened fire immediately, pounding away at the pirates as they put out their boats and manned them, ready to sweep in and land. Of course, Morgan’s ships gave the Spaniards as much as they received, and during the day a fine little fight was kept up. Then night came again; and Morgan, meaning to take advantage of it, swooped in, to find that the Spaniards in the fort had bolted precipitately when night fell.

They had taken the precaution, however, of setting a fuse train to a barrel of gunpowder, sufficient to hurl the fort and the buccaneers into the Great Unknown. Fortunately, Morgan’s men, scouring about for such a likely thing, hit upon it in about a quarter of an hour, and soon destroyed the fuse.

That done, the fort was ransacked and demolished. Next day, free from hindrance of the fort, the eight pirate ships passed into the harbour, and went on to Maracaibo. The water, however, being too shallow to allow of the ships passing up, the buccaneers took to small boats and canoes, and in this way made their way to the town. Landing, they immediately rushed Fort De la Barra, only to find that it was deserted;[59] the Spaniards here had fled like their comrades farther down, as also had the people in the town, with the exception of a few old folk.

Truly, Morgan was having an easy time.

Searching the town to make sure that there were no soldiers hidden in the houses to open fire upon them as they passed through the streets, and finding none, the buccaneers dispersed about the city, some taking up their abode in the church, for nothing was held sacred to these terrible scourgers of the sea and sackers of cities.

Although Morgan captured a number of fugitives and a good deal of booty, he realised that there was nothing much to be gained from Maracaibo, and decided to assault Gibraltar. First he sent a batch of prisoners to the city, to warn the inhabitants that they must surrender, or else they would receive no quarter; and almost immediately followed them with his ships. Gibraltar, however, was determined not to surrender at the behest of a scoundrelly buccaneer, and Morgan was met by a terrific cannonading.

Nothing daunted, the buccaneers accepted their welcome philosophically, counting it but the bitters before the sweets. Early next morning, they landed and marched on the town, taking the safe route through the woods, the Spaniards in the fort little expecting them to come by that way. However, the dons, aware of the reputation of Morgan, had followed the example of their compatriots at Maracaibo and had fled, leaving only one old man to receive the buccaneers. They had taken all the munitions of war, all the treasure, and as much of their goods as they could cope with, and they had spiked all the guns.

There were a number of murderous and cruel incidents connected with the prisoners they succeeded in[60] taking later on. From one of these unfortunate men they learned of a certain river where there was a richly laden ship and four boats filled with treasure; he also told them that he knew where the governor of Gibraltar was hidden.

This was good news. Morgan went off with a large force to capture the governor, and sent another body of men to take the ship and the boats. Morgan was unsuccessful in capturing the governor, who had heard of his coming and had taken up a strong position on a mountain; so that the buccaneer had to forgo the pleasure of capturing him, and, moreover, had to make a perilous retreat, owing to the fact that the rains had come and the ground was swampy—sometimes, indeed, the men had to wade waist deep. Many female prisoners and children died of exposure; some of the buccaneers died also, and all their powder was wet and useless, so that, if the Spaniards had had the gumption of mice, they would have fallen upon Morgan and utterly routed him. But they hadn’t; and they didn’t.

Morgan, therefore, arrived safely back at Gibraltar, where two days later his other men turned up, bringing the four boats and some prisoners, but little treasure. The Spaniards had taken it out of the ship and the boats.

Having held Gibraltar for five weeks, and having committed all sorts of cruelties to extract treasure from the prisoners taken, Morgan decided that it was time to be moving. He first of all sent prisoners into the woods to collect a ransom for the city, failing which the place would be burnt out. The searchers came back minus ransom; they could not find anyone who would give them money, they said. Morgan was furious; but the inhabitants begged him to allow them time, offering to give themselves up as hostages. Morgan, who was[61] anxious to get back to Maracaibo before the Spaniards had had time to refortify it, agreed to this, and eventually sailed away, taking a goodly treasure with him and all the slaves he had captured.

Reaching Maracaibo, he found that the Spaniards had not yet come back, but learned from an old man that three Spanish men-o’-war were lying at the entrance to the river, waiting for him, and that the fort had been repaired. Here was a pretty pass! Safety lay in getting out, and three battleships were hovering about!

Morgan, however, like the bold adventurer he was, refused to regard himself as caught. He sent a messenger to the admiral of the Spanish ships, Don Alonzo del Campo d’Espinosa, with an ultimatum!

“Ransom of 20,000 pieces of eight for Maracaibo, or I’ll burn the city!” was the trend of that ultimatum; as though Morgan were master of the situation.

The messenger came back, bringing a letter from d’Espinosa, informing Morgan that, seeing his commission was to secure the buccaneers, and as he had a good backing of ships, besides the repaired fort, he would see Morgan to the deuce before he took any notice of the latter’s ultimatum. He made one concession, however; that if Morgan would refund all he had taken, and quit the Spanish Main for England, he would allow him to pass freely. Otherwise, the Spaniards would give fight, and put every buccaneer to the sword.

Morgan read the letter, said a few strong things about Spaniards in general and d’Espinosa in particular, and then called a council of his men in the market-place of Maracaibo, and was gratified to know that they would all stand by him in a vigorous offensive against the Spaniards. One of them propounded a[62] scheme for destroying the Spanish vessels. Fireships! That was the suggestion.

Notwithstanding their determination to fight, the buccaneers had another try at corrupting d’Espinosa. They sent saying that they would compromise by doing no damage to the town, or exact ransom from it; and that they would release half the slaves taken, all other prisoners, and forgo any ransom from Gibraltar, if the Spaniards would allow them to pass through unmolested. D’Espinosa, of course, refused the terms, and gave the buccaneers two days to fall into line with his own suggestion. He would have done better if he had attacked them out of hand, for Morgan immediately began to put himself in fighting form. He secured his prisoners, had all arms prepared, and then fixed up a fireship. She was drenched with tar and brimstone, logs of wood were placed upright on her decks, surmounted by hats, to resemble men; dummy cannons were fixed in her portholes and on her decks.

All being ready, they went down the river to seek the Spaniards, the fireship leading the way. At night they came within sight of the enemy, dropped anchor, determined to fight all night if the Spaniards attacked. But morning came, and the foe had not opened the battle, so Morgan opened it instead. He sent the fireship ahead; she grappled the admiral’s ship, and almost simultaneously burst into flame. Instantly there was confusion on the Spanish ship, which tried to cut herself free. But in vain; the flames caught her rigging and canvas, even her timber, so that within a very short time the stern of the ship was ablaze, the forepart sank, and the great ship perished. Meanwhile, the other Spaniards were horror-stricken; one ship ran for the shelter of the fort—anywhere to get away from such a fate; the Spaniards sank her themselves rather than[63] that she should fall to the foe. The third ship was attacked by the buccaneers and captured; and Morgan knew that his bold plan had been successful.

The buccaneers, gladdened at their victory, landed, with the intention of assaulting the fort; but, finding it well armed and manned, and they themselves having only small pieces with them, thought discretion the better part of valour for the time, though they had a little fight with the Spaniards, just for fun, which cost them thirty men dead and as many wounded. The Dons, fearing another attack both by land and sea, entrenched themselves during the night; but Morgan was not intending to assault them again, but rather to find a way out, for the fort still stood between him and escape. First of all he left one ship near the scene of the fight, to watch the vessels which had been burnt, and which he heard contained a large treasure. Then he returned with the prize to Maracaibo, where he refitted her, and then went back to his other ships near the fort.

Master of the situation, he now sent to the governor demanding the ransom—now 30,000 pieces of eight and 500 cows; otherwise, the city should be burnt in eight days. In two days the cows were forthcoming, and 20,000 pieces of eight, the ransom finally agreed upon. Meanwhile, the governor was working hard at getting the fort in a thorough state of repair, so that he might dispute the passage of the pirates as they tried to force their way through. Having salted all the meat supplied him, Morgan asked the governor to allow him free passage. It was refused. The buccaneer replied by threatening to hang his prisoners in the rigging, so that they should be shot by the fort guns as the vessels swung past. The governor refused to budge, even when the prisoners made a frantic appeal to him.

[64]“All right,” was Morgan’s answer. “If he will not let me pass, then I’ll find a way without him.”

The vessel which he had left near the burnt ship had been successful in getting many pieces of eight out of her, and a large quantity of plate and molten gold.

As the governor refused him safe passage, Morgan, having divided the booty of the expedition, amounting to 250,000 pieces of eight and a large quantity of merchandise, turned his attention to finding the means whereby to escape. Fertile in invention, cool in execution, he soon found a way. It was a bold piece of strategy that he hit upon. On the day he had decided to leave despite the governor, he sent boats, fully manned, to the shore, but instead of landing, the men, under shelter of the trees overhanging the river, simply lay down in the boats, which were pulled back to the ships, only to be sent off again to follow the same procedure. The Spaniards in the fort, seeing such large numbers of men apparently coming ashore, prepared themselves for a fierce night attack. They therefore mounted all their big guns on the landward side, which was just what Morgan had hoped they would do!

Night came; the buccaneers weighed anchor, and with lights out and no sails set, but trusting to the tide, they drifted down river till they were abreast of the castle, when they spread their sails with all haste and made for the open sea. Instantly the Spaniards perceived how they had been hoodwinked, and in frantic haste moved their guns back to their original positions, and began firing at the buccaneers, who, however, favoured by a good breeze, were able to swing by without receiving much damage.

Safely past the fort, Morgan hove to, and in the morning sent some of his prisoners to the governor, who dispatched boats so that the others might be sent[65] ashore, Morgan, however, detaining the hostages from Gibraltar, as the city had not yet paid its ransom. Then the buccaneers, giving the Spaniards a parting salvo of seven great guns, dipped their flags in derision and went away, to run into a great storm, which threatened to do what the Spaniards had not been able to do—destroy them. However, they rode it out, and eventually reached Jamaica, highly pleased with themselves.

As was the custom with the buccaneers, Morgan’s men soon dissipated the fortune they had made in their raid on Maracaibo and Gibraltar, and the chief was besieged by men who wanted him to undertake another expedition. Nothing loath, Morgan called a council of buccaneers at Port Couillon, on the south of Hispaniola, on October 24, 1670. Here he propounded a mighty big scheme, and one that had to be carefully worked out. First, provisions were necessary, and the buccaneers sent an expedition to the mainland to scour for maize, while another went hunting for animals; and when all these were obtained they met again at Port Couillon, where the final arrangements were made. Everything being ready, they set sail for Cape Tiburon, where they were joined by a number of other ships, which brought the fleet up to thirty-seven vessels and two thousand men, all well armed, and each ship with large guns aboard. Morgan, finding himself the leader of such a formidable expedition, organised it properly, forming it into two squadrons, appointing a vice-admiral and other officers for the second squadron, he himself leading the first.

Having fixed these little matters up, the buccaneers discussed their expedition. Where should they go? The votes fell for Panama, which was counted the richest city to plunder. As they were not familiar with the overland route, they decided to seize guides from the[66] island of St. Catherine, and in due course the armada appeared off the fort of that place. They sent messengers demanding its surrender, and the governor gave in, whereupon the buccaneers busied themselves in laying in all the stores they wanted; and that being done, enlisted three pretty rogues to act as guides to them in their great venture.

Then Morgan sent off a fairly large party to assault the castle of Chagre, as a sort of preliminary canter; and when this had been successfully done, he himself went to the castle, rebuilt it, and so secured his line of retreat—if Fate should make it necessary for him to flee before the Spaniards at Panama. Five hundred of his ruffians were left as a garrison, and 150 guarded the ships, 1,200 going with Morgan when he set out for Panama, which he did as soon as everything was ready.

The buccaneer received information that the Spaniards were aware of his projected expedition, and had prepared against it, placing ambuscades on the line of route. But, instead of scaring Morgan, it really only made him alter his plans to the extent that, instead of carrying as many stores as he would have done, he relied upon sending the Spaniards scurrying from their ambushes, and taking their stores for himself.

On January 18, 1671, therefore, the buccaneers left Chagre in boisterous spirits, with songs on their lips, and with the good wishes of their comrades ringing in their ears. Drums were beaten, flags waved, blunder-busses were fired, as the intrepid 1,200 embarked in boats and canoes.

Their troubles began at once. The day was hot, the boats none too commodious to contain all the men, and the result was that the buccaneers were sun-scorched and cramped as they made their way up the river against the stream, with the water lapping over the gunwales,[67] so crowded were the craft. Six Spanish leagues only were covered that first day, and when evening fell the buccaneers scrambled ashore to seek for food. They found little or none. Morgan had not bargained for the Spaniards taking such effective measures to render his expedition a failure; but the Dons had given instructions all along the route that every particle of food was to be removed, animals driven away, and what could not be cleared off to be destroyed. Esquemeling says that “this day, being the first of all their journey, there was amongst them such scarcity of victuals that the greatest part of them were forced to pass with only a pipe of tobacco, without any other refreshment.” The following day the journey was resumed, but the same troubles beset them, and when they arrived at Cruz de Juan Gallego, in the evening, they had to abandon their boats and canoes, because the river was shallow and filled with fallen trees.

Morgan’s guides told him that two leagues farther on the country was good for travelling on foot, and the buccaneer, leaving 160 men to guard the boats, set out next morning to cut a way through the thick jungle. The travelling was so hard that the men could not cope with it, and, fearing lest, if they got through, they would be worse than useless to withstand an attack, Morgan went back to the river, determined to make a portage. He sent the strongest of his men by land, and embarked the remainder on the canoes, which forced a way up river and met the other party—hungry, weary, disappointed at not having come across either Indians or Spaniards. They wanted food so badly, and could find none.

From this point Morgan divided his army into two parties, one going by land, the other by river, with a guide scouting before them on the look-out for ambuscades.[68] Incidentally, the Spaniards also had their spies, who were so efficient that they could warn the Spaniards six hours before the coming of the buccaneers. It was in this way that Morgan came to an ambuscade too late to meet the Spaniards, 500 of whom, he judged, had been there. Not a scrap of food was left behind; the only things about were a few leathern bags, upon which the buccaneers fell ravishingly, and quarrelled amongst themselves as to the biggest shares! After they had feasted themselves upon the tough rations, they moved forward again, to come to another place where an ambuscade had been made, only to find it as deserted and as barren as the other. They searched here, there, and everywhere for food, finding none. Not a horse, not a cow was to be seen; they could not find even rats, and on the fifth day they were so famished that it seemed as though the expedition would be a failure. Then they lighted upon a grotto, and in it found two sacks of meal, wheat, etc., and a couple of jars of wine and some fruits. Such heaven-sent gifts! Morgan caused them to be distributed amongst the weakest of his men, whom he put in the canoes, making the others go by land.

Next day they came to a plantation with a barn in it filled with maize. They broke that barn open, and fell to eating the corn raw, and then distributed the rest. Unfortunately for them, they presently saw what they thought was an ambuscade of Indians. They felt that now they would be sure to find food, and, throwing their maize away, rushed at the ambuscade; but the Indians slipped away, carrying everything with them, and standing on the other side of the river, taunted them, and, shooting arrows, succeeded in killing several of the buccaneers.

The way now lay across the river, and it was necessary to wait until next day to cross. That night the[69] men began to grumble, cursing Morgan for a fool, and vowing that they would go back. However, better counsels prevailed, and in the morning, having seen to their arms, they crossed the river, and travelled on to the village of Cruz. Smoke issuing from the houses cheered them up, for they said, “Where there’s smoke, there’s food!”

Again they were disappointed, for the Spaniards had fled with everything eatable and of value, setting fire to the houses ere they left. A few cats and dogs were found; they made a feast for the buccaneers that day. Then some nosing scoundrel discovered a few jars of wine and a sack of bread. They fell upon those goodies with a will; and then almost died after drinking the wine, which was too strong for their weakened stomachs. This little matter delayed them till next morning, for the men were too ill to move, and it was a case of everyone walking now, because the river was too shallow to take them farther. Morgan, therefore, next morning sent his canoes back, lest they should be captured, and with the remainder of his men marched forward, meeting that day with the first opposition. A flight of some four thousand arrows darkened the air, and caused a panic amongst the buccaneers, who could not see whence they had come. Presently, however, they espied a band of Indians in a position which, if defended stanchly, would have prevented the buccaneers passing. But, contenting themselves with shooting a few more arrows, the Indians took to their heels. Then, a little later, the raiders met another company, and had a stiff little fight with them. Yet again, in a wood, Indians appeared, backed by a number of Spaniards. These, however, soon fled, and the pirates held on their way, experiencing in the evening and during the night a terrific rainstorm, which caused them much hardship,[70] as the majority had to sleep out in the downpour, a few being told off to occupy some small huts in which the arms and powder were stored.

The ninth day came, and the buccaneers ascended a hill, from the summit of which they caught the gleam of the great South Sea. And, better still, fertile plains rolled beneath them, with herds of cattle quietly browsing.

Down the hill-side raced the buccaneers, hurling themselves amongst the cattle, which they killed and cut up for eating, many not waiting to cook the meat.

Having thus satisfied their animal cravings, they moved forward, sending out a band of fifty to scout, in the hope of being able to capture some prisoners, from whom they might learn the disposition and strength of the Spaniards. Morgan was growing anxious at the elusiveness of the Dons, fearing, no doubt, that they were simply leading him on into a well prepared trap. But he never swerved from his intention; he had come to take Panama and sack it, and he would do so despite all the Spaniards in the New World. Towards evening a couple of hundred Dons appeared and shouted at the buccaneers, who, however, could not catch what they said; and soon after the Spaniards had gone away the picturesque horde of pirates came in sight of Panama. Mighty cheers rent the air, trumpets blared, ragged caps were flung up; the men who had found the utmost difficulty in dragging themselves along the tortuous paths now leaped for very joy. They already had by anticipation the wealth of Panama in their hands!

They pitched their camp that night with Panama before them, barely contenting themselves with the idea of having to wait until the morning before the work really began. They need not have worried; the Spaniards saw to it that they had little rest. Fifty horsemen trooped[71] out of the city, headed by a trumpeter, who blared away at them, while the Dons cried in derision: “Come on, ye dogs! We shall meet ye!” and then rode back, leaving an outpost to keep an eye upon the buccaneers. Almost immediately afterwards the great guns of Panama began to speak their taunts, and the pirates found themselves bombarded by heavy fire, which, however, did little damage.

Morning came, and the raiders prepared for the assault of the city. There was little need for silence as they moved forward, and the buccaneers made a terrible row, what with shouting, singing, and trumpeting. They were an army by no means to be despised; about a thousand strong, with loot as their aim, and what they lacked in the way of uniform—for they were as ragamuffin an army as ever took the field—they made up in courage and equipment. On they went, and then suddenly came to a standstill at the word of command from their chief. One of the guides had remembered that there was a better way to enter the city than risking an encounter by going in full view of the Spaniards. It was a difficult road, passing through a thick wood, but Morgan decided to take it. So the army turned off, and the Spaniards, seeing them do so, were filled with dismay, for they had not dreamt the foe would take that road, and had fixed all their batteries to oppose them on the other.

It ended by the buccaneers coming on the town at a side totally unprepared for attack, and the Spaniards had hastily to leave their barricades and batteries. From the summit of a hill the pirates looked down upon Panama—and what seemed to them a whole host of Spaniards. The governor had turned out all his forces, consisting of two squadrons of cavalry, four regiments of foot, and a fair amount of artillery. The sight of so[72] many foes for a while struck fear into the hearts of the ragged horde, who had known but little fear till then. Some of them spoke of going back. But, taking counsel amongst themselves, they decided that, after all, it was desirable to do what they had come out for, and to go into the fight with fierce courage, giving and taking no quarter.

Morgan divided his army into three battalions, sending in advance a company of 200 real buccaneers—that is, the hunters of wild cattle.

And the fight began.

The Spaniards sent forward their cavalry at the gallop, shouting “Viva el Rey”; but the rain had soddened the ground, and the horses became unmanageable, especially when the pirates’ advance guard dropped to their knees and sent in a withering fire of well-aimed shots. But the Dons put up a bold defence, foot aiding horse, artillery supporting both, till presently Morgan manœuvred so that the infantry were obliged to separate from the cavalry. And then the buccaneers knew they were on the way to victory.

The Spaniards, however, had a card up their sleeve. When they debouched from the city, they brought with them a herd of wild bulls, in charge of a band of Indians. It was one part of the army with which they meant to oppose the buccaneers. Finding that the battle was going all against them, the Dons gave the word, and the herd of bulls, maddened by the cries and lashes of the Indians, went full pelt across the plain, straight for Morgan’s gallant little army. It looked as though there were going to be a bull-fight instead of a battle between men. Instead of that, the noise of the conflict, which still went on between buccaneers and Spaniards, so scared the bulls that they turned and ran away. A few, however, broke through the English battalion, but[73] did no more damage than to tear the colours. The result was that the buccaneers found themselves with enough meat to last them many days.

The Spaniards, disappointed at the failure of their ruse, held on with the courage of despair, fighting for two more hours, having the greater part of their cavalry killed, the rest fleeing for their lives. The infantry and artillery, however, kept up the fight till, with a rush, the buccaneers swept down upon them; and then, firing only the shots that were in their muskets, away the Dons went, flinging their arms aside as they ran. The buccaneers, battle-worn, were too weary to follow them, and hundreds managed to reach the safety of the woods, those few that remained on the field being killed out of hand.

Six hundred Spaniards died that day, while Morgan “found both killed and wounded of his own men a considerable number.” However, he was victorious, and making his men rest before going up to the city, examined a few prisoners who were brought in. One captain told him that the troops in Panama consisted of 400 horse, twenty-four companies of infantry of 100 men each, and 2,000 bulls, while in the city trenches had been made and batteries dotted about to enfilade the streets up which the buccaneers must go.

Morgan and his men, however, vowed to go on, and after resting marched forward against the city, which, when they approached, opened up a terrific fire from the batteries, the guns being loaded with pieces of iron and musket-balls. The cannonade wrought havoc with Morgan’s men, who, however, pressed forward, nothing daunted, and after a stern fight lasting three hours, they entered the city, rushing up the streets, which, guarded by the great guns, swept lanes through their ranks. It was a case of fighting from barricade to[74] barricade, taking battery after battery; fighting a way up one street, and then down another. For three hours the fierce fight went on, and still the buccaneers were winning.

Then came the end. Gathering his forces, the governor opposed the pirates gallantly, and a fierce hand-to-hand conflict waged, out of which the buccaneers came victorious, and the city fell. Morgan had achieved what he had set out to do. Through the streets the raiders rushed, killing every soul who opposed them, giving no quarter; and when the work of blood was done, Morgan called his men together.

He commended them on their gallant fight, and then scared them into sobriety. He knew what kind of men he had to deal with, and knew that, if they once fell to the lure of wine, they would be at the mercy of any small band of Spaniards who might return. Morgan lied to his men.

“All the wine in the city has been poisoned!” he cried. “Drink but one cup, and you will die!”

Sadly disappointed—for they loved nothing so much as debauchery, except it were a fight—the buccaneers promised to keep off the drink. Though some of them in their hearts told themselves that he lied, they were too scared to try to prove it. So Morgan became leader of a sober army of buccaneers!

Then there began the looting of the city. The inhabitants had taken the precaution of removing a great deal of their valuables; but there was still sufficient left to provide much spoil for the buccaneers, who ransacked every building in Panama. When all had been taken, Morgan commanded many of the largest houses to be fired. The people who still remained in the city had been tortured indescribably to make them reveal the secret hiding-places of their wealth, and a veritable[75] reign of terror lasted while the buccaneers remained in Panama.

It was not until February 24, 1671, that Morgan and the remains of his army evacuated the city; and when they did so they had 175 beasts of burden laden with gold, silver, and other precious things. They took 600 wretched prisoners with them to sell into slavery.

Truly, they had wrought well from their point of view. Morgan made every man allow himself to be searched to show that he had nothing concealed about him when they arrived at Chagre. Then, having sent to the island of St. Catherine to ask the prisoners he had left there to ransom the castle, and receiving the reply that the buccaneers could do just what they pleased with it, Morgan got down to the distribution of the spoils. In this matter there was some dispute; the buccaneers accused Morgan of having stolen part of the treasure. They were utterly discontented with the share of 200 pieces of eight each, knowing full well that the haul had been large enough to provide more. Morgan listened to their complaints, kept a still tongue in his head, kept, too, the treasure, and one night, going aboard his ship secretly, slipped out to sea, followed only by three or four vessels whose men were in the plot, and made for Jamaica.

There the buccaneering days of Captain Morgan ended. He changed his spots, became a law-abiding citizen, received pardon for his misdeeds, and ended up by receiving a knighthood! Before that great day, however, he had been Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica. Finally he was made Governor, with power to put down piracy. And of all the governors of Jamaica Sir Henry Morgan was the most severe on buccaneers and pirates!



Thrilling Stories of Pirates


The word conjures up visions of ferocious men with pistol in hand, knife in mouth, clothes stained with blood, planks run out of a ship’s side, and unfortunate, blindfolded men being driven to their death; treasure in galore; high jinks ashore till the call for action came again.

A pretty picture—perhaps; and only too well founded on fact.

When, in 1689, France and England joined hands in the determination to sweep the buccaneer from the seas, and to effect this closed all used harbours to him, the ruffian adopted new methods. As we have seen, the buccaneers were something of a community, recognised up to a point by different nations, and the French and English buccaneers waged private war against the Spaniard. The assumption of so much power, as shown by Morgan, made the nations anxious, and the result was that when they decided to put an end to the buccaneer, whether he only attacked Spaniards or not, that worthy, finding himself a general outcast, declared against everybody; he became a pirate to whom no ship was immune.

Previously the scourges of the sea had been able to use frequented harbours to dispose of their prisoners and treasure; now they found themselves compelled to[77] find new ports, and these were generally desert islands. Here they marooned their prisoners, or hid their treasure against the time when they could come and dig it up.

To take Blackbeard first.

Blackbeard was his nickname, given him because of the long whiskers that he wore, tied up with ribbons on occasions, if you please! Altogether Captain Edward Teach, to give him his right name, was a somewhat picturesque ruffian, with a sling over his shoulders to carry three brace of pistols, lighted matches under his hat, his beribboned beard and his flamboyant costume made up of things he had purloined during his cruises. He began life as a seaman on a privateer, rising to the command of a sloop in 1716. The sloop, by the way, was a prize captured by his friend Captain Hornygold, with whom in 1717 Teach sailed on a voyage down the American mains. After a fairly prosperous cruise the pirates parted company, Teach having command of a new prize, a large French Guineaman, and Hornygold going to Providence, where he surrendered to the King’s mercy, probably having had enough of the life adventurous and realising that a recent proclamation gave him an opportunity to leave his profession without sacrificing his life.

Blackbeard, however, was but just beginning, as it were, and he turned his Guineaman into a formidable fighting ship, mounting forty guns in her, and giving her the new name of the Queen Anne’s Revenge. All being ready, he sailed, and almost immediately fell in with a large ship called the Great Allen, off the Isle of St. Vincent. He soon overcame any resistance made, took out of her all that he wanted, marooned the crew, set fire to the ship, and sent her drifting out to sea, a flaming testimony to the methods he was going to adopt in his profession.

[78]A day or so afterwards he came up against a different kind of ship; she was an English man-o’-war, the Scarborough, thirty guns. There was a fine set-to for some hours, for Teach was nothing loath to accept a really good scrap when the opportunity arose, especially when, as in this case, he was stronger than his foe. The guns blared out their thunderous music, there were some near shaves for boarding; but in the end the Scarborough found that she had undertaken too big a task, and sheered off. Mighty pleased, Teach now got swelled head, and felt himself strong enough for anything, and felt stronger still when, sailing for the Spanish Main, he joined forces with another pirate, Major Bonnet, who, finding a planter’s life too monotonous, had taken to the sea as a gentleman adventurer. Teach soon found out that Bonnet was no sailorman, and likely to be more bother than he was worth in command of a ship; so he put one of his comrades named Richards in command of the sloop and took Bonnet on his own ship. It was no good Bonnet protesting; Teach spoke, and it was! He was an autocrat, this merry pirate!

The two vessels now put in at Turneffe, near the Gulf of Honduras, to take in water, and while doing this an unfortunate sloop, the Adventure, came along; whereupon Richards slipped out after her. All unsuspecting, the Adventure held on. Then came consternation—the pirate had hoisted the Jolly Roger!

And the Adventure struck and surrendered, which gave Teach another ship for his little Armada. Then away to Honduras, where they discovered a large ship, the Protestant Cæsar (Captain Wyar) and four sloops. Sailing boldly in, the pirates hoisted the black flag, banged away at the ships, and called upon them to surrender. Immediately Wyar and his crew took to[79] a boat and raced ashore, leaving the Protestant Cæsar at the mercy of the pirates, who took possession, and after rifling her, burnt her, as they did one of the sloops. The other three they let go.

Leaving Honduras, the pirates sailed about the neighbouring seas, taking prizes at their will and reaping a rich harvest. Finally, they came to anchor off the bar at Charlestown, Carolina, where they continued their depredations, capturing many ships, one of them a brigantine full of negro slaves. Blackbeard’s sojourn off Charlestown was nothing more or less than a blockade, and a very effective one; no ship dared try to enter or leave the port, and the whole trade of the town was at a standstill, while day by day Teach was adding to the number of his prizes.

Finding that he stood in need of a medicine-chest, Teach decided that the best way to get it was to apply to the Governor of Charlestown. Confident that he held the trump cards in the game, the pirate sent Richards and two or three other men into Charlestown, sending with them one named Marks, whom they had taken prisoner on one of the ships.

The pirates landed, swaggered into the town, bearded the authorities brazenly, and in none too courteous manner told them that they wanted medicines, and that the council of Carolina must provide them. If they were not forthcoming, and if the envoys were not allowed to return unmolested, then Teach threatened that he would burn every one of the large number of ships he had captured, would kill every man found on them, and send their heads to the governor.

Mr. Marks interviewed the council, and Richards and his companions sauntered about the town flaunting the people, who dared not lay a finger upon them! The council, in a quandary, argued about the matter[80] amongst themselves; but as the lives of so many people were at stake (by the way, one of their own number, Mr. Samuel Wragg, was a prisoner to Teach), they soon came to the conclusion that, however disgraceful it might be, there was nothing to be done but meet the pirates’ demands. So when the sloop went back it carried a medicine-chest worth nearly four hundred pounds!

Teach, true to his word, set the prisoners free, rifled the ships of a small fortune, and then sailed away to North Carolina. Here Blackbeard put into execution a little plot. He had succeeded in gathering a fine harvest of riches, and felt that it was a shame to have to share it with so many folk. He therefore decided to get rid of some of them. Running his own vessel ashore, while Israel Hands (in the plot with him) ran one of the sloops ashore as well, the precious pair rowed out to the third sloop with forty men, took possession of her, and marooned seventeen of her crew on a small deserted island well away from the coast. Fortunately for them, Major Bonnet, at this time in command of another sloop, came up two days later and took them off; otherwise they would have perished.

Having got rid of some of the crew, Teach now landed and, accompanied by twenty of his men, called on the governor of North Carolina, not with the intention of plundering him, but for the purpose of surrendering under the clement proclamation. Governor Charles Eden gave him his pardon, and the pirate, now fairly wealthy, soon became friends with him; so much so that when Blackbeard cast covetous eyes upon one of the ships he had captured some time before, the governor called the Court of the Vice-Admiralty, which condemned the vessel as a prize taken from the Spaniards by Captain Teach. This was straining[81] things rather, seeing that Teach had never held a commission in the King’s navy! No doubt Governor Eden made something out of the deal.

Teach’s idea in getting the ship was that he felt the time ripe for resuming the old life; and he felt that, with a friend at court, he would have a much easier time of it. So in June, 1718, after having married a young girl of sixteen (his fourteenth wife, a dozen still being alive!), Blackbeard put to sea, shaping his course for the Bermudas. He had a rollicking time for several months, taking rich prizes, terrorising the captains who traded thereabouts, and going back to North Carolina occasionally to square things up with the governor, who was now so far in the ditch that Teach felt strong enough to be saucy to him—just to teach him his place!

No matter what protests were entered at North Carolina, no matter how many angry captains appealed to the governor for redress and protection, nothing was done; and Teach held sway. Things assumed such a pass that a deputation of captains was sent to the Governor of Virginia, to request that steps should be taken against Teach. In the James River were two men-o’-war, the Lima and the Pearl, and two sloops were manned by sailors from the warships under command of Lieutenant Maynard, of the Pearl. Then, after a proclamation offering rewards for the apprehension, dead or alive, of the pirates, the sloops set out for where the pirates were at anchor in the Okercok inlet, in the James River. Maynard had taken the precaution to stop all vessels from going up the river, lest news of his coming should be given the pirates. Governor Eden, aware of the expedition, sent four pirates from Bath Town to warn Teach what was afoot. The pirate, however, had had[82] several other warnings, which he refused to believe, and he took the news the governor sent him with a grain of salt. The result was that Maynard was able to get within sight of the pirate vessels without hindrance. And then Teach believed!

Roaring out orders to the twenty-five men on board, he quickly cleared for action, determined to show fight. Then, when all was ready, he calmly sat down to supper and a carousal, knowing that the shoals were too dangerous for Maynard to attempt cutting him out till daylight came.

Hardly waiting for the sun to rise, Maynard next morning sent a boat ahead to take soundings in the intricate channel, and drew near to the pirate ship. Within gunshot, he was subjected to a heavy fire by Teach, who, when the sloops hoisted the King’s colours and raced at him with sail and oar, cut cable and tried to make a running fight of it. He brought all his big guns to bear upon the sloops, but these pushed on through the hail of shot, and, having no guns mounted, kept up a rain of small-arm fire. They hung on like leeches, dodged the pirate, and made him dodge to such an extent that Teach was at his wit’s end what to do, and at last ran ashore. Maynard’s sloop was of deeper draught than the pirate, and could not get near until the ballast was flung overboard and the water-casks staved in. Then, lightened considerably, she was able to get close enough to Teach to make him uncomfortable.

“Who are you?” yelled Blackbeard. “Where are you from?”

“We’re no pirates,” retorted Maynard, “as you can see by our colours.”

“Send a boat, then, so that I can see who you are,” said Teach.

[83]“Sorry,” answered Maynard, “but I can’t spare a boat. I’ll come aboard with the sloop, however, as soon as I can!”

“Seize my soul,” cried Teach, quaffing wine, “if I give you quarter, or take any from you!”

A sentiment with which Maynard told him he heartily agreed.

The pirate ship was now afloat again, and the battle started once more. As the sloops were no more than a foot high in the waist the crews were exposed to fire as they tugged at the oars; and Teach took advantage of this. He discharged a whole broadside of small shot, which killed twenty men on Maynard’s ship and nine on the other, which was disabled, and fell astern as the pirate vessel went broadside to the shore in order to present but one flank to attack. Maynard, fearing another broadside, ordered his men below, and he and the helmsman alone remained on deck as the sloop ran alongside the pirate.

Down below Maynard’s men were ready for the word of command that should send them scrambling up the pirate’s side. Up on Teach’s deck men lined the side with hand grenades made of case-bottles filled with powder, slugs, small shot, and fired with a quick-match; and as the sloop came alongside these were hurled down into her.

Teach, looking over, saw only Maynard and the helmsman alive, with many dead men lying about the deck, and, thinking that he had effectively put them out of the fight, cried to his men:

“They’re all knocked on the head except three or four. Let’s jump in and cut the rest to pieces!”

Down into the sloop, therefore, went Teach and fourteen of his cut-throats, expecting an easy triumph. The smoke from the grenades obscured things so that[84] Maynard could not see what had happened; but as it cleared away, and he realised that he had been boarded, he called upon his men, who swarmed up on deck and fell like an avalanche upon the pirates.

Maynard tackled Blackbeard himself. The two fired simultaneously, and Teach was wounded slightly, but not badly enough to prevent him from engaging in some sword play with Maynard. In the midst of that fighting crowd the two men fought hard and long, neither gaining much advantage, until at last Maynard’s sword snapped in two, and he seemed at the mercy of the pirate. He stepped back quickly, cocked his pistol; but ere he could fire Blackbeard had swung down upon him with his cutlass. For a moment it seemed that Maynard was done, but, with a yell, one of his men hurled himself at Teach, slashed at him with a cutlass that gashed his throat and neck and put him off his stroke, so that Maynard received only a slight wound on his finger.

Still the fight went on, thirteen men against fifteen, the odds in favour of the pirates. The deck was slippery with blood; men whom the firing had laid low were trampled upon as the yelling, cursing, hacking crowd swayed this way and that. Now the fight seemed to be going in favour of the pirates, now of the royal crew; and Teach cheered on his men savagely, cursing them, exhorting them.

Blackbeard, although wounded in several places, was a game scoundrel, and kept on with the fight; he was literally covered with pistols, which he kept drawing and firing; and when the fight ended he was smothered with wounds—twenty-five of them! And one wound was mortal, for he dropped dead to the deck, to keep eight of his fourteen company in death. The other six flung themselves overboard, but were[85] captured. Then, the second royal sloop coming up, the remainder of the pirates on the big sloop were attacked, and after a stiff fight they surrendered.

When the vessel was captured, it was found that Teach had arranged for it to be blown up, with its living freight, as soon as Maynard boarded her; and the negro who had had the task allotted to him was with difficulty dissuaded from carrying it out when he found out that Teach had been killed.

Blackbeard’s head was cut off and hung at the bowsprit end of the royal sloop, which sailed with it to Bath Town, where Maynard, having found papers incriminating Governor Eden, forced that gentleman to return the spoils that Teach had given him; and in due course sailed back to the men-o’-war with fifteen prisoners, who were brought to justice.

Captain Howell Davis, who adopted much the same tactics as the old buccaneers, mutinied against his captain and assumed command of the ship, which he turned into a pirate craft. After several little affairs, in which he gained much treasure and many reinforcements of men, till he had seventy under him, he aimed at something higher than merely holding up ships on the seas. He thought he would like to capture Gambia Castle, on the coast of Guinea, a place where there was always a good store of money. Sailing in, he sent all his men below, except a few who were needed to work the ship, and, coming to anchor under the fort, hoisted out a boat, manned it with six men dressed like any ordinary sailormen, and sent the doctor and the master with them as merchants.

The governor, named Foyle, had seen the ship come in, and sent a company of soldiers down to the shore to welcome the new-comers, who were taken into the[86] castle, where the governor greeted them kindly. The pirates lied glibly, telling the governor that they were from Liverpool, bound for Senegal, but, having been chased by a couple of French men-o’-war, had put in at Gambia for safety. Would the governor trade with them for slaves? Gathering that the merchants had a large cargo of plate and iron, the governor agreed to barter, asking incidentally whether they had any liquor aboard. Davis said they had, and promised him a hamper for his own use, if he would care to accept it.

Overwhelmed at the generosity, the governor invited Davis and his comrades to dinner with him; Davis accepted, but said that he must go on board first to see that everything was all right. He would return in time for dinner, bringing the liquor with him.

Davis had been taking notes of everything in the fort, and when he got back to his ship was able to assure his rascally crew that before night the fort would be in their possession—if they didn’t get drunk. They promised to be good, and to send twenty men on shore directly they saw the flag of the fort struck—the signal that Davis had captured it. Davis took the precaution, in the evening, of securing the crew of a little sloop that lay in the harbour, lest they should hear anything and give warning to the governor.

Then, taking the hamper of liquor, Davis entered his boat, which had a number of men in it, each armed with two pairs of pistols, carefully hidden, and with instructions to mingle with the soldiers in the guard-room while Davis was engaged with the governor. When Davis fired a pistol through the governor’s window they were to set about the soldiers at once, and seize all the arms in the guard-room.

In due course the pirate was with the governor,[87] waiting dinner, and making a bowl of punch to while the time away. Never was man more surprised than that luckless governor when, in the midst of the convivialities, Davis poked a pistol in his face, and told him that unless he surrendered the castle and all the money it contained, he would shoot him like a dog!

What could a man do? the governor evidently asked himself. Foyle gave in. Davis and the coxswain, the master and the doctor, having closed the door, took possession of all the weapons in the governor’s room, and loaded all the pistols. Then Davis fired through the window, as arranged. Instantly his men in the guard-room got to work; they placed themselves between the soldiers and their piled-up arms, and, with cocked pistols at the heads of the soldiers, called upon them to surrender. They did so; it was no use trying to resist ruffians who were so well armed! The soldiers were locked in the room, the flag was struck, reinforcements came from the ship, and during the day the pirates enjoyed themselves to the full, plundering everything, and reaping a fairly rich harvest. Davis, who felt he wanted more men, prevailed upon certain of the soldiers to join him; the others he placed on board the sloop, having taken the precaution of removing all sails, etc., from her, so that they could not escape.

Then, having got all that was to be obtained, Davis ordered the fortification to be destroyed and the guns dismounted, and, considering it time to be gone, weighed anchor. Just as the ship was setting sail the pirates saw a vessel bearing down upon them. Not knowing what kind of a ship she might be, whether friend or foe—they had very few friends, and far too many foes!—Davis had all his men to arms to receive the new-comer, who, when near enough, let fly a shot across[88] the pirate’s bows and hoisted the black flag! Davis, overjoyed at the turn of events, returned the compliment both with shot and flag, and in a few minutes the two captains were hobnobbing together. Davis found that the new-comer was a pirate under the command of a Frenchman named La Bouse; and, joining forces, the precious pair sailed down the coast to Sierra Leone.

Here they saw a tall ship riding at anchor, and decided that she would make a good prize. The thing that worried them was that she did not attempt to escape, which made them wonder whether she might not be a heavily armed vessel, who felt sure of herself and didn’t mind a fight. However, Davis sailed in boldly, and his ship literally staggered back as she received a full and heavy broadside; and up went the stranger’s flag—a black one! Truly Davis was meeting some queer adventures! It did not take long to explain matters, and Davis and La Bouse found themselves in company with another band of pirates, under a rogue named Cocklyn. They fraternised together for three days, the first two being spent in true pirate fashion—feasting and debauching; on the third a council of war was held, at which it was agreed to join forces, Davis being appointed to supreme command. However, the friends soon quarrelled amongst themselves, and the three captains nearly came to blows one day while they were engaged in a debauch.

Davis decided that the affair must end at once, before worse happened.

“Hark ye, Cocklyn and La Bouse!” he cried. “I find that, by strengthening you, I have put a rod into your hands to whip myself. However, I am still able to deal with you both; but since we met in love, let us part in love, for it’s very plain that three of a trade can never agree.”

[89]The other pirates saw the wisdom of Davis’s opinion, and the result was that they parted company. We will leave the others, and follow Davis to his tragic end. Ambitious as ever, he captured a big Dutch ship with thirty guns in her, and, mounting twenty-seven more, sailed to the Isle of Princes, which he thought to raid. To the governor he passed himself off as the captain of an English man-o’-war searching for pirates. The governor welcomed him and feasted him, and, to return the compliment, Davis, presenting him with a dozen slaves, invited him on board to a feast, asking him to bring some of the chief men and friars from the island. The governor agreed, and Davis was highly pleased, for he had fashioned a little plot whereby, as soon as the governor boarded the ship, he and his friends were to be taken prisoner, and held to ransom for £40,000.

Poor Pirate Davis! He was doomed to disappointment on this occasion. A negro, watching his opportunity, that night slipped overboard, swam to the shore, burst like a tornado upon the governor, and warned him of the plot.

Next morning, when Davis went ashore, the governor met him with smiling face, invited him to join him at the house in a little refreshment, and, chatting affably, the party walked up. Presently the governor shifted somewhat, and at a given signal a withering volley was poured in at the pirates, who, with one exception, fell to the ground. The plot had failed!

Davis, wounded in the bowels though he was, rose to his feet and endeavoured to get away; he dropped in his tracks, and in the moment of death pulled out his pistols, and fired them point-blank at his pursuers.

When those on board the ship saw what had happened, they hurried away post-haste, and, once clear[90] of the island, elected a new captain. The choice fell upon Bartholomew Roberts, and a really fine pirate chief he made. He was a born fighter and leader of men; he stood no nonsense from anyone, and the man who disputed his authority knew it to his cost. He cared for nobody, and, although we need not follow his whole career, he did so much damage amongst shipping, both off Africa and America, that his name became a byword amongst mariners. He was a terror of the seas.

He cut a picturesque figure when he went fighting. He would overhaul a ship, pound at her for all he was worth, and then, entering his longboat, row over and tackle her. All his men were extravagant in their tastes regarding dress, but Roberts was worse than all; he dressed in a rich crimson damask waistcoat and breeches, wore a large black hat with a crimson feather, a gold chain round his neck, with a diamond pendant, a silk band hanging from his shoulders to carry his pistols. Thus, sword in hand, he led his men to the fight, dashing, very often, through a very hail of shot, and, with shouts and curses, urging his men on as they tried to board. A stiff fight very often ensued, and then the pirates, having run the gauntlet of fire, scrambled up the side of the ship and, after a fierce hand-to-hand fight, had her beaten.

“Sword in hand, Roberts led his men to the fight, dashing through a very hail of shot”

But, though he played this game many a time with much success, Nemesis was at hand. The Royal Fortune, as he called his last ship, had as consort the Ranger, and the two ships caused such depredation that the British cruiser Swallow scoured the seas to find them, eventually running them to earth in the River Gaboon. The Royal Fortune lay well up the river, but the Ranger was at the mouth, and, seeing the Swallow approach with portholes closed, her crew hugged themselves[91] with delight in anticipation of another prize. They thought she was a sugar ship, and they badly wanted sugar. They therefore hoisted sail and gave chase, which was just what the Swallow wanted. Lieutenant Sun, in command, had realised that the Ranger had made a mistake, and he led her on till she was well away from the river and out of gunshot of the Royal Fortune, which he meant to tackle later on.

The pirates, lured on by the thought of the sugar cargo sped after the Swallow, drew near enough to fire their bow chasers, and then opened on the quarry. Up went the black flag at the same time—as though the Swallow wanted to be told who they were!—and then, after a little further chase, drew alongside and prepared to board. The ruffianly looking crew lined the side of the Ranger. That moment the lower ports of the Swallow opened, and a terrific broadside crashed into the side of the astonished pirate. They had been bitten, deceived. They cursed their foes and drew off, though not before the black flag came fluttering down to the deck. Then, having hoisted another Jolly Roger, they tried to get away; but the Swallow was swifter than their own ship, and her guns better handled, with the result that, after a running fight of two hours, the black flag came down again, this time struck by the pirates; and the Ranger was captured.

They were a cheerful lot of pirates which the Swallow took aboard; they did not seem to mind the prospect of the gallows, but joked and laughed, and treated the whole affair as a huge joke. They even tried to blow the Ranger up before they were taken off, with the pirates and the Navy men on board. Lieutenant Sun sent the Ranger into port with a prize crew, and then made off for the Gaboon River again, to tackle Roberts, in the Royal Fortune. While the fight had been going[92] on, Roberts had been busy; he had captured a ship, and was sailing away with her when the Swallow sighted him on February 9, 1722. Sun kept as far away as possible, so that Roberts should not suspect he was being followed, and allowed him to anchor in a bay near Cape Lopez for the night. Roberts, who, if he had known, might have given the Swallow the slip, remained there, all unconscious of the fate coming to him. He was at breakfast next morning when news was brought him of a tall ship being near at hand. Roberts said it must be the Ranger returning, or a slave ship; anyway, it was nothing to get into a turmoil about. He soon found his mistake, for the stranger hoisted her colour, opened her ports, and showed Roberts that he was in for a scrap.

“It’s only a bite!” he cried. “Get ready!”

While his men rushed to arms, Roberts stood on his deck in all the glory of his pilfered attire. There came to him one of his men who, a deserter from the Navy, had once sailed aboard the Swallow, and knew her powers.

“She sails best before the wind,” he said; “and we can escape, if we want to, by running for it.”

Roberts thought a while. He knew that he was in a tight corner, for the Swallow’s men were brilliant fighters, and she was a sturdy ship. He decided, after all, he would run for it, making up his mind that, if everything else failed, he would either run the ship ashore, and let his men shift for themselves, or else dash down upon the Swallow, board her, and blow up both ships!

So the orders were given, and the Royal Fortune swooped down upon the Swallow, intending to give her a broadside as she passed. The Swallow opened fire as the black flag fluttered aloft; Roberts returned it,[93] and then swung away. But, just as he thought he was safe, the Royal Fortune failed them. Something went wrong; she did not answer to the helm, and failed to catch the wind. The Swallow drew near!

What Roberts would have done it is impossible to say; what he did, however, was to die at that moment. A grapeshot hurtled across the deck, struck him in the throat, and killed him outright. He dropped to the deck in a sitting posture. The helmsman, thinking he was fooling, cursed him roundly, and tried to get him on his feet, but, finding the pirate chief dead, began to cry, and prayed that the next shot might kill him off too. The remainder of the ruffians seized the captain and pitched him overboard, as he had instructed them to do in case of death.

Then, leaderless, they scarcely knew what to do; they were half drunk most of them, and though they put up a little resistance, and some of them sought to blow up the magazine, they at last struck their flag; and the Swallow had cleared Roberts and his herd off the sea.

So much for some of the pirates of long ago.



Tales of Adventure in Eluding Watchful Blockaders

THE Great War of 1914-15 showed what the command of the sea really meant. It showed that even although the greatest navy in the world had little opportunity in the early stages to meet its foes in a decisive battle—through the latter lurking in their harbours—yet there was much work to be done: the guarding of the ocean routes, the exertion of silent pressure upon the enemy, who found his shipping held up in harbour, and was unable to import food by the coast even before a blockade had been declared. On the other hand, in another chapter we have shown how German raiding cruisers also played havoc with the Allies’ shipping, and pounced upon outlying places—only at last to be brought to book. Here we are concerned only with ships that have run blockades, slipping through the cordon drawn around coasts, running the risk of being sunk or captured.

“There was a whoosh! whoosh! of a rocket heavenwards—the warning to the blockading fleet”

To go back to an earlier date, and a war which was as nothing compared with the world war, we find that during the American Civil War the Federals imposed a strict blockade of the southern ports whence the much-needed cotton was shipped. As a result cotton soared in price, and men found a means to make fortunes by slipping into blockaded ports with cargoes of stuff wanted by the Confederates and taking cargoes of cotton in their place, and then running the gauntlet of[95] the watchful ships. Blockade running attracted hardy adventurers of all nationalities—men to whom adventure was the spice of life, and who, incidentally, found the spice pretty hot!

One of the most daring of these runners was Captain Hobart, an Englishman who joined the Royal Navy in 1836, worked hard and well in the suppression of the slave trade in South America, served later in the Crimean War, retiring in 1860. When the Civil War broke out he took service as a blockade-runner, and many were the daring trips he made. Wilmington was his favourite port, although at the mouth of the river the Federal fleet were in strong force, bombarding Fort Fisher and keeping up the blockade, holding up ships that were not fortunate enough to slip by in the night, and chasing those which did not stop on command.

Hobart didn’t stop, although on one occasion he was chased for many miles by a Federal cruiser. In his cotton-laden ship he had slipped out of the river and passed Fort Fisher at eleven o’clock one night, knowing full well that lying off the mouth of the river were twenty-five ships waiting to catch such as he.

It was pitch dark, and the blockade-runner, with no lights showing, went at full steam ahead through the channel over the bar, guided only by the faint lights the Confederates had cunningly placed to enable ships to enter the river safely. Hobart navigated his vessel by these, and crossed the bar; and then saw that a large barge had been placed by the Federals at the entrance for the purpose of signalling if any ship tried to slip out. The cotton ship almost ran the barge down, but by quick manœuvring avoided doing so, and steamed on. Next instant there was the whoosh! whoosh! and a rocket sped heavenwards—the warning to the blockading fleet. Then there was the boom of a gun; but[96] Hobart pushed forward, turned eastward, steaming a mile or so from the coast. Now and then there came the sound of guns being fired, sometimes quite close at hand; but they saw no ship, neither were they seen by any apparently, for nothing untoward happened until about nine o’clock the next morning, when through the rising mist they saw a large cruiser bearing down upon them.

It was a case of running for it, and the cotton ship sped on with her engines pounding out every ounce of power there was in them. After her came the cruiser, gaining at every yard, for the cargo of the runner was very heavy, and she was unable to show a clean pair of heels to the pursuer.

Some of the bales of cotton were shifted aft in order to sink the screws as deep as possible, and so increase the speed; but even this did not help them much, and the cruiser was still gaining. Then Hobart had a stroke of luck. About a mile in front of him he saw peculiar ripples which he knew betokened the proximity of the Gulf Stream. If he could only get his ship into the stream quickly he might stand a chance of escape, for the Gulf Stream, going at the rate of three miles an hour, would help them on their way considerably. The course was altered at once, and the cotton ship sped on towards the stream, into which she entered; and immediately her speed was accelerated. Meanwhile, the cruiser had also changed course, but had not got into the bosom of the stream, with the result that after a time Hobart found he had gained some seven miles on her.

Then about twelve o’clock the cruiser entered the stream, and again the distance between the two ships lessened, till by five o’clock only about three miles separated them; and shortly after the cruiser opened[97] fire without result. Seven o’clock, and she was still nearer, for her shots went over the cotton ship, and Hobart began to think it was a case of giving up. Then night fell, and the sky was overcast; fortunately the cotton ship was in shadow cast by the moon shining over edge of clouds. This made a huge difference to their chance of escape, for when it came out from behind the clouds it showed the chasing cruiser quite plainly, but did not reveal her quarry, although she was barely a mile away. Luck was certainly on Hobart’s side!

Changing his course, in order to confuse his pursuer, who was still firing guns in rapid succession, although she could not see her aim, Hobart presently gave the order to “Stop!” and the cotton ship came to rest, steam was blown off under water, and the still and silent ship remained there till presently the men on board saw the cruiser go racing past them, firing madly at nothing!

Hobart got that cargo of cotton through all right!

Another Confederate blockade-runner was Captain William Watson, of the Rob Roy schooner. He was also a dispatch-carrier on the occasion we are about to narrate, Major-General Magruder having entrusted him with important documents which he was to deliver to the Confederate States consul at Havana.

The night decided on to make the run was dark, and there was a good strong wind, but an uncertain one; outside the mouth of the Brazos River lurked a number of Federal cruisers and gunboats. Watson had for company two other schooners, the Hind and the Mary Elizabeth. The Rob Roy took the pilot aboard and led the way down the river and over the bar; the Rob Roy and the Mary Elizabeth managed to get away without being seen, but the Hind dropped astern and was captured. Once clear of the mouth[98] of the river the other two schooners sped under all the sail they dare hoist, having to be sparing with it lest the white show against the cliffs and reveal their presence. They had something like ten or eleven hours of darkness before them, and hoped to be well away from the watchful cruisers by that time. A gale sprang up, for which they were thankful, as it carried the ships along at a rattling pace. The Mary Elizabeth, however, was separated from the Rob Roy, which romped through the seas at a speed that delighted Watson, for by noon next day they had come a hundred and thirty miles without anything unforeseen happening. The only unfortunate thing was that the ship was now in the track of Federal cruisers searching for blockade-runners between New Orleans and Point Isabel; and while Watson was thinking seriously of this the wind dropped and the schooner was becalmed. The sails were lowered, so that the ship should not be so noticeable to any passing vessel, and Watson paced his deck eating his head off with impatience, expecting every minute to see a cruiser on the horizon. At two o’clock he saw a ship which he knew spelt danger. Instantly he made up his mind what to do. In the Brazos River they had picked up a couple of sweeps, and these were brought into use, together with boat oars. Then all the men available bent their backs to the task of rowing the schooner! They steered her so that she would go out of the course of the new-comer, and after working like niggers for goodness knows how long they managed to get her three miles, and then saw the other vessel pass them seven miles away. Watson thanked his lucky stars that he had taken in his sails, for the bare poles he knew would be scarcely visible to a steamer at such a distance away.

So far, so good. Towards evening a light breeze[99] came up, sails were set once more, and the schooner went on her way until early next morning, when the wind dropped again, and the sails were lowered as before. She was becalmed for that day and the following night; and in the morning there appeared a large ship which some of the men aboard were sure was a man-o’-war. So it was out sweeps again to get the schooner out of danger. When they were some nine miles away from the man-o’-war the wind came up, which—strange how men get what they want when they would rather be without it!—they regarded as unfortunate, for they dared not hoist sail lest they be discovered.

Eventually, however, it was decided to take the risk, and every inch of canvas was crowded on, and away sped the Rob Roy, Watson hoping to get clear before the man-o’-war had a chance to hoist her sails. They had gone some distance when they noticed that the wind had caught the warship, and that she had hoisted all her canvas and was pelting along after them as fast as she could sail. Watson suddenly tacked, and the large vessel, keeping on her port tack, passed by to leeward some six miles away. Then, when she tacked about to follow them, Watson went back to his old course, and once more gained on her, for every time the warship changed course she had to lose way.

So the queer chase went on; but the warship gained upon the Rob Roy, and Watson’s one hope was that he would be able to keep at a safe distance, out of range of her guns, until night fell, when he would stand a better chance of giving her the slip. The sailors on the man-o’-war, anticipating that the wind would soon drop, worked hard to get their vessel as near to the runaway as possible, so that if that should happen they might be able to tackle her in their boats. Watson knew this,[100] and still kept tacking about to increase the distance, until at last the wind did fall and the two ships were becalmed.

The man-o’-war was some four miles off then, and Watson had his sweeps and oars out again, the men falling to with a will; but as there was a slight sea against them they were not able to propel the ship so far as they had done previously. Soon Watson saw a couple of boats put off from the warship, their men pulling with all their might, hoping to catch the schooner before the breeze came up again. When they were a mile away the wind came, and the Rob Roy, aided by the sweeps, began to make some way, but not sufficient to outpace the boats, one of which came to within a quarter of a mile. The men on board now began to think that all was up, that they might just as well surrender; and Watson got his dispatches ready to throw overboard. He had wrapped them in canvas, weighted with a piece of chain, so that they should sink and not fall into the enemy’s hands.

Just when it seemed that they must be overhauled the wind became stronger, and the men, working hard at their sweeps, the sails bulging out as they caught the breeze, carried the schooner along at a pace that soon left the boats far behind; and the men stood up and waved their hands tauntingly to the sailors who had thought to have them in a few minutes.

A rifle-shot rang out across the waters, then others, and the bullets whistled across the deck, narrowly missing the men. The warship now made after her boats, to pick them up, and this gave the Rob Roy a better chance of escape. Then the wind freshened so much that Watson became nervous; too much wind was not good for the overladen Rob Roy, and the sea was getting very boisterous. To make matters worse, the[101] schooner was leaking very badly, and some of the men had to be told off to work the pumps for all they were worth.

As night fell the warship had gained considerably, and opened fire with her guns, the shots, however, falling short. Then the Rob Roy was hidden by the darkness. Watson at once changed his tack in order to baffle the pursuer, and all through the night the schooner scudded before the wind, and by morning had left the cruiser far behind, reaching Tampico in due course without further adventure.



The Story of Some Castaways—and a Scoundrel

IN October, 1628, there sailed from the Texel a Dutch ship, the Batavia, under the command of Captain Francis Pelsart. Now Pelsart wasn’t the best of navigators, and after having been at sea for nine months he lost his way on a trackless ocean, and, though he did not know it, he was close to the islands known as Houtman’s Abrohos, or Houtman’s Rocks, off the west coast of Australia—the seas in that quarter of the globe not being, as every schoolboy knows, the best known in those far-off days. As a matter of fact, Captain Pelsart was having a run of hard luck—lost, sick, and with a coming wreck in front of him, and not far off, either. While Pelsart lay in his cabin, without warning of any kind except the booming of the breakers, the Batavia went pounding on a shoal off Houtman’s Rocks, where she stuck fast.

Jumping out of his cabin, Pelsart rushed on deck, and, seeing the position of things, soundly rated the master for his neglect; whereupon that worthy pointed out, quite convincingly, that he wasn’t to blame, seeing that as the place where they were had not been visited by anyone else before—so far as he knew—how was he to know the reefs and shoals? This argument, of course, commended itself to Pelsart, who, realising that the best must be made of a bad job, bethought himself of getting the Batavia off the shoal. He had the[103] cannon with which the ship was armed pitched overboard, in the hope that this would lighten her sufficiently to float her. But the Batavia refused to be floated, and when a sudden and heavy squall came down on her Pelsart really thought everything was over; but the Batavia weathered it all right, and, taking a last desperate chance, the captain ordered the mainmast to be cut away. This was done, but in such a way that, instead of going clear over, it fell on the deck.

Convinced finally that there was no chance of getting his ship off, Pelsart wondered what was to be done for the safety of his passengers and crew. Just a little distance away, in the bright moonlight, he could see two small islands, while some three leagues off lay a larger island. He resolved to have the islands inspected to see what they were like, and therefore sent the master of the ship on that errand. Meanwhile, on board the Batavia reigned a miniature pandemonium; women were shrieking, children crying, grown men were raving; and the ship was beginning to break up, so that altogether poor Pelsart had his hands full, and was relieved when the master returned and reported favourably on the islands. There were, all told, 230 people on board, and, women and children going first, 120 were landed on the large island and forty on the smaller one near at hand, leaving seventy still to be landed. These also would have been rescued but for the fact that the crew behaved as no sailors ever should; they began to drink heavily, and got out of hand, for which reason only a very few barrels of water were landed, and twenty barrels of bread. Now, one would imagine that a castaway crowd’s first thought would be to conserve the food they had got, but this particular crowd did quite the other thing, and began to waste both food and water, with the result that one of the[104] crew went back to the ship, by which Pelsart was still standing, telling him not to send any more provisions for a while. Pelsart therefore went ashore, leaving an officer and seventy men on the ship.

Arrived on shore, the captain discovered that the tale brought to him was quite correct; scarcely any water was left. Resolved to make this good, he tried to return to the ship to supervise the sending of further barrels; but the weather had become too rough for him to venture, and he had to hold back. Meanwhile, the ship’s carpenter, taking his life in his hands, swam ashore with the news that the ship’s crew on board were in a pretty bad way, and that unless something were done they would be all flung headlong into the sea when the ship broke up. Pelsart, unable to go himself, prevailed upon the carpenter to go back and tell the crew to hold on a while, and busy themselves with making rafts on which to float to shore. But the crew, although they did all they could, were unable to get to shore because the sea was now running heavier than ever, and to trust oneself on the pounding waves was to court disaster. Therefore they had to remain on the wreck, while Pelsart fumed and fretted at the thought of not being able to do anything for them.

Neither the larger island nor the smaller one, on which Pelsart himself was stranded, had any water besides that which had been brought; and this was little enough, in all conscience. The people who had been so prodigal of it at the beginning now came to see that without water they would surely perish. What was to be done? Water they must have; and they urged Pelsart to go to some of the neighbouring islands in quest of it.

With a captain’s loyalty to his ship’s company,[105] Pelsart refused to go without the consent of all. Why should he take the main chance of being able to get away to safety while all the others remained stranded, cast away without means of sustenance? No, if he went at all, everyone must agree to his going. The folk on the small island argued with him, but argued in vain.

“I’ll go over there,” he said, pointing to the larger island, with its 120 poor souls, “and get their consent; or else I’ll go back to the ship and perish with her.”

There was no gainsaying that, anyway; and so they let him push off the boat, taking in her a crew sufficient to work her. They were a wily clique, that crew! When the captain got well away from the island they refused to take him to the other island. They feared, no doubt, that the people there would not agree to Pelsart’s going, and they knew that out at sea Pelsart was helpless against them. The captain raved, threatened; but raved and threatened in vain. They would not let him go, and when he jumped up and made as though he would fling himself overboard and swim back, they none too gently grabbed at him and held him down by force.

Pelsart scowled and growled at his mutinous crew; but neither black looks nor hard words moved them, and eventually Pelsart had to come to an arrangement whereby he agreed to go in search of water, provided he received a manifesto, signed by all his men, approving of this. Things being fixed up thus, the captain at last set out on his quest; and a long, long quest it proved to be.

Day after day he sailed amongst the islands, seeking water, but finding none; and all the time the supplies were running short. At last he resolved to go farther afield, and struck off across the trackless sea,[106] and in a little while found himself off the coast of Australia, then a continent without a shred of civilisation. He hit the coast at the spot where Geraldton now stands, and tried to put in at a small cove; surf, however, romped at the boat, and flung her back each time she pushed her nose shorewards. Pelsart at last gave up in despair and sailed to the northwards, following the coast, looking for a likely spot to land. In due course this was found; but when they did land the men found no water, and only succeeded in frightening a few natives, who fled for their lives at the sight of the strange white men. Off again, to land, probably, at the North-West Cape, where they found water—rain water! This was not at all hopeful, and, as the coast had been trending away to the east, Pelsart determined to strike north-east, where he knew lay Batavia, in Java.

Twenty-two days after leaving his shipwrecked company Pelsart found himself at Batavia, having sailed nearly sixteen hundred miles in an open boat. At Batavia, in due course, Pelsart was able to obtain a frigate, with which he set out to return for his castaways.

Meanwhile, however, things were happening on the islands away down south. And such things!

The men whom Pelsart had left on the wreck had succeeded in getting off in safety after many days of anxious waiting, and the last man to leave was the supercargo, an ex-apothecary of Haarlem who rejoiced in the name of Jerom Cornelis, and who had ambitions. He wanted to be a pirate, and thought that he had found a splendid opportunity. He worked out his plans with delightful thoroughness. First he would kill off all the honest men of the company, and then, having formed his pirate crew, take the captain by surprise when he came back, as he firmly believed he would.[107] Probably Cornelis’s further plans allowed for seizing Pelsart’s boat, and sailing away with it until he came up with some large vessel, whose crew his piratical company would eventually succeed in overpowering, when they would find themselves in possession of a ship suitable for their purpose of scouring the seas.

But the first step was to get rid of the true men; and as there seemed to be more of this calibre than Cornelis felt he could deal with at one operation, he resorted to an artful ruse. Forty men, under the chaplain and a Mr. Weybhays, were dispatched to another island in search of water, with instructions to light three fires as a signal of success. The little band were successful, and lighted their beacons as agreed. But there was no answer!

What had happened? They were soon to know. Even at the fair distance he was away Mr. Weybhays could see that something untoward was taking place on the island, and presently several men sprang into the sea and began swimming towards him for dear life. What a tale they told when they reached the island! Hardly had Weybhays left when Cornelis and his scoundrelly crew had begun to butcher the honest men left behind, and had succeeded in killing nearly forty! Now Weybhays knew why he had not received the answering signal; he had evidently been sent off merely to get rid of him and his company while the ex-apothecary did his fell work, after which, no doubt, their turn would come.

In this latter surmise Weybhays was right; but first Pirate Cornelis had other fish to fry. Away on the smaller island were some forty men who had been landed before Pelsart departed, and Cornelis decided to go over and wipe out all those who would not throw in their lot with him. What he was afraid of was that[108] either party might be able to warn Pelsart on his return, and thus frustrate Cornelis’s evil plan. So, without loss of time, the pirates rowed over to the small island, landed, and after a little trouble with the men, who did not really want to die, succeeded in killing them off, saving only seven youngsters and five women. On the island, also, they found a number of chests which had been washed ashore from the wreck, and these they broke open. They were filled with rich apparel, and the pirates bedecked themselves in wonderful attire, Cornelis incidentally forming a bodyguard clothed in scarlet livery. He felt almost a king, I’ll wager!

For some days the pirates had a gorgeous time, drinking and rioting, for some of the rum casks had been washed ashore. Then, considering it time he got to pirate’s business again, the captain-general, as he called himself, decided to tackle Weybhays and the forty odd men he had with him. Gathering all the arms he could find, Cornelis took twenty-two men with him in two light shallops, and went over to settle accounts with Weybhays.

Weybhays very nearly settled Cornelis, whose crew got a good thrashing and put back to their island, a sadder and angrier crowd. The pirate-in-chief, however, refused to be scared, and, arming thirty-seven men, went back to the attack. He wondered vaguely why he had got beaten before, for Weybhays’ men were unarmed, except for roughly fashioned clubs, fitted with long nails. Cornelis felt that it was a bad start for a pirate gang, and determined to wipe the stain out. Instead of which, when the second expedition got near the island, Weybhays and his men, dashing out into the water, fell upon the pirates with vigour, and, after a fine scrimmage, succeeded in driving them back, beaten a second time.

“Weybhays and his men fell upon the pirates”

[109]Cornelis felt hurt. He could see his plans being altogether upset unless he could cope with Weybhays, and clearly he and his dastardly crew were no match for that fearless man and his gallant company when it came to fighting. He must try other means; and try them quickly, lest Pelsart return and Weybhays be able to warn him.

Cornelis therefore thought of a scheme to outwit Weybhays. Amongst the latter’s party were two French soldiers, whom the pirate thought might be willing to come to terms with him and play the traitor—if he could but get into communication with them. He opened up negotiations with Weybhays, hoping thereby to be able to correspond with the Frenchmen.

He promised Weybhays that, if the latter would return the boat he had, his party should not again be attacked, and that some of the salvage from the Batavia should be given up. Weybhays agreed to this after a while, and Cornelis hugged himself as he thought that, without a boat, Weybhays could not warn Pelsart when he appeared; and he hugged himself more when, during the negotiations, he succeeded in smuggling letters to the Frenchmen, offering them six thousand livres each if they would turn traitor to Weybhays, who had insisted upon the treaty being drawn up in proper order and being signed by both parties.

The captain-general, sure in his own mind that the Frenchmen could not resist the temptation of his gold, waited serenely for the morning to come, when he was to go over to Weybhays’ island and sign the treaty; but in the meantime the gallant French soldiers had decided that it was better to be honest than to be pirates, and they therefore warned Weybhays.

Morning came, and with it Cornelis and three or[110] four of his men. He was in high spirits, anticipating that he was about to get the better of Weybhays. Instead, he received a shock. Weybhays, making no sign that he knew aught of Cornelis’s stratagem, went down to the beach and helped him run his boat up; and then, before Cornelis knew what had happened, Weybhays and his men fell upon him, knocked him on the head, and put hors de combat two of his companions, the others succeeding in escaping in the boat.

Poor old Cornelis! When he came round he found himself trussed like a fowl for the cooking. Gone all his lofty hopes, shattered all his ambitions. Weybhays had triumphed.

But away on the other island Cornelis’s ruffianly crew were plotting and planning on his behalf—also on their own, by the way, for they felt that Cornelis was the corner-stone of their own safety, and that unless he were free they did not know how to cope with Pelsart, should he return. So without delay they tumbled into their boats and went over to Weybhays’ island, intending to do great deeds and rescue Cornelis. Weybhays was ready for them, and sent them scuttling off again—soundly beaten!

And then a frigate appeared on the horizon; and though the pirates did not know it, albeit they made a very good guess, Pelsart was standing on her deck, looking across at the islands he had left so many days ago. He was wondering what had happened during his absence, whether his company were still alive, or whether they had starved to death or died of thirst. He little knew that there had been worse foes than hunger and thirst at work!

Presently a column of smoke lifted its filmy head over one of the islands, and Pelsart realised that some at least still lived. A boat was lowered immediately,[111] filled with provisions, and Pelsart embarked in her and started to make for the island. At the same instant a small boat sped out from Weybhays’ island; in her was Weybhays, who, when he reached Pelsart’s boat, hastily told the captain his story, and urged him to return to the frigate, named the Sardam, lest the pirates put out and overpower him.

Pelsart looked at Weybhays as though he were bereft of his senses; but confirmation of his words was soon forthcoming, for suddenly a couple of boats shot out from the larger island, and began speeding towards Pelsart’s boat. That was enough. Off went Pelsart to the frigate, followed hard by Weybhays. It was a race for life; and Pelsart won. Just as he had scrambled aboard the pirate boats drew alongside.

And a gallant-looking crowd they were! Their fanciful costumes showed signs of bad handling by Weybhays, but their weapons—swords and pistols—looked very workmanlike, and when Pelsart asked them what they meant by daring to come near the ship in such a condition, they replied that they would very soon show him. And they began trying to board the frigate.

Pelsart’s answer was quick and to the point.

“You see that gun?” he cried, pointing to one of the frigate’s cannons, frowning down at them. “If you don’t surrender—and at once—I’ll have it sink you where you lay!”

There was no arguing with that gun. The pirates laid down their arms, very soon to be joined by their whilom captain-general, and in a little while were on board the Sardam—in irons. Their piracy had come to an inglorious end.

That night the frigate lay off the islands, and next day a boat was sent off to try conclusions with the remainder[112] of the mutineers, who, however, seeing that the game was up, flung down their arms and surrendered.

There is little more to be told. The wreck was salved of all that was valuable in her; the gold and silver that Cornelis and his ruffians had purloined was collected and taken on board the Sardam, where, of course, the remainder of Weybhays’ company had already found quarters. And then Pelsart held a court. Cornelis and his would-be pirates were tried, and executed on the spot. It was no time for delay, because the Sardam contained a goodly treasure, and to keep Cornelis would be to run the risk of the ambitious scoundrel breaking out again. Then Pelsart weighed anchor and went his way, after a series of adventures such as seldom fall to a man’s lot.



The Burning of the “Columbian,” and the Sequel

ON May 3, 1914, there flashed across the ether a wireless message, picked up at Sable Island, as brief as it was dramatic: “Hurry up! We are on fire!” No ship’s name was given, nor indication as to position, and the world held its breath and wondered.

Then, two days later, the Cunard liner Franconia picked up a boat containing thirteen survivors from the steamer Columbian; and as they had been adrift since the 3rd, a connection was at once seen between the faint, incoherent wireless message and the Columbian. A little later the Manhattan rescued fourteen more Columbian survivors, including Captain McDonald, from whom it was found that yet a third boat, with sixteen men, was missing. Immediately all the ships round about were notified, and a search was prosecuted; but it was not until thirteen days after the disaster that the boat was found, and in her were only five men. The rest had died.

Behind this epitome there is one of the great tragic stories of the sea.

It was during the night that, with startling suddenness, there was a terrific explosion which shook the ship from stem to stern. First Officer Tiere, whose watch it was, instantly gave the fire call, and the crew—some of whom were asleep, others at their posts of duty—rushed up on deck. Smoke issued from below, and told them[114] what had happened. Then there was another mighty explosion, in the coal bunkers this time, and the whole deck was ripped up as though it had been made of tin-foil. There followed clap after clap, as hatches were burst open by other explosions, and in an incredibly short time the whole ship was one blazing mass. So instantaneously had the calamity fallen upon them that there was no time to lose, no time even to dress or to put sufficient provisions into the boats, which were immediately lowered. Men, scantily attired, some only in vests and pants, tumbled into them, and strong backs bent to the oars, seeking to pull away from the terrific heat and to get out of the range of danger from the ship, which seemed as though she must soon go down.

What followed was a nightmare—especially for those in First Officer Tiere’s boat, the story of which is to be told here. She carried sixteen souls, with only a twenty-gallon cask of water and a tank of biscuits to last them till—till they were picked up. In these days, when the seas are ploughed by thousands of ships, it seems incredible that a boat should be at the mercy of wind and wave for many days before being picked up; but it is always the unlikely thing that happens, and these castaways little realised how long it was to be before they were rescued. Soon it seemed to them as though rescue would never come. But that is anticipating.

When the boat pushed off from the flaming Columbian there was a strong southerly wind blowing, which carried them to the northward. They had no navigating instruments on board, and the weather was misty; they were thus helpless in their endeavours to keep in the track of shipping, on which their sole chance of rescue depended.

Anxious eyes peered through the darkness to catch[115] glimpses of passing lights; at any moment they knew that some mighty leviathan might push out of the blackness, and smash into their frail craft before they could cry aloud, even if their voices would be heard above the noise. Fortunately this did not happen, and towards morning their eyes were gladdened by the gleam of lights in the distance, coming nearer and nearer. Salvation was at hand, they told themselves, and hunted about, seeking matches, so that they might give a feeble light to the racing greyhound. But not a dry match could they find; a great sea had been shipped as the boat was lowered, and every match was useless.

Torn with agony, those sixteen men stood up in their boat and screamed themselves hoarse, hoping against hope that the sound would carry to the big ship, which, because of her size, they believed was the liner Olympic. But, though they yelled till their voices cracked and they were exhausted, no sign came that they had been heard, and the Olympic, a floating, gleaming palace, passed them by.

Despair now seized them; but, as the grey fingers of the dawn crept up, they took heart again, believing that they could not be passed by in daylight as they had been in the darkness. They were to be disillusioned once more, for presently they saw, about six or seven miles away, a large tramp steamer, to which they signalled frantically, using Tiere’s raincoat on an oar to wave with. They waved till their arms ached, taking it in turn; but the tramp passed on, and left them despondent, crazed.

During the afternoon hope was born afresh; away—far away—they saw a big liner heave in sight, and then come to a standstill. Eyes strained across the water, and presently the castaways realised that the[116] new-comer was taking a boat on board; and they came to the only conclusion possible, that one of the other lifeboats, more fortunate than they, had been noticed. Strange as it may seem in the reading, and tragic in the event to those who watched, the rescue ship saw them not, although she steamed away in a circle, as though looking out for any other waifs. She was the Franconia, and her human salvage was thirteen souls, while within a few miles of her there tossed a boat with sixteen men on board, who cried in their anguish as they saw her steam off, their hopes dashed for the third time.

First Officer Tiere now found plenty of work to do. The sea was very rough, and the lifeboat pitched and rolled dangerously. There was no fear of her sinking, because she was fitted with air-tanks, but the ever-present danger was that she would be overturned as the great seas played shuttlecock with her. The men worked hard at baling her out; and then, to give her some sort of steadiness, rigged up a sea anchor out of oars and old canvas, and so held her head to the seas. All the time a sharp look-out was kept for signs of vessels, but none was seen, and Tiere, realising how serious things were getting, apportioned the rations. The water was allotted out—a pint a day per man, with a biscuit per meal; and for a week they subsisted on this fare, thinking themselves fortunate. Then the water began to give out, and the portion was reduced. But economy in this direction meant suffering; the men, weak and faint from want of food, parched with thirst, became delirious; and although there was some rain on Thursday, the 7th, and some more on the following Monday, it did not increase their water-supply sufficiently to make any difference.

And some of the men, maddened with thirst, took[117] to drinking sea-water. It was the beginning of the end. One man died, mad, on the 11th, and they dropped him overboard, Tiere saying what part of the burial service he could remember. Next day another man died, and two more on the following morning—all of them victims to their insatiable thirst, which grew more maddening as, against all advice, they swallowed great gulps of sea-water.

Tiere, fighting for their lives, when they would not fight themselves, commandeered the sole dipper they had in the boat, so that they could not drink so much; then, when, exhausted, he would lie down to snatch a few hours’ sleep, they would creep round him and steal the dipper, and drink the water that meant death until he awoke and fought for the cup. Whereupon, with the pangs of thirst eating into their very vitals, the raving men, shouting curses at him for his interference, and defying him to stop them, would lean over the gunwales and lap up the water like dogs.

Then came delirium; raving, cursing, struggling mad they went. And then into the Great Unknown, singing in their madness.

Even the men who contented themselves with the small portion of fresh water which Tiere had allotted to them, even these knew the agonies of that dreadful voyage, which was leading nowhere; mists and fogs hung around them all day; the cold winds of night blew upon them and, in their weakened strength, sapped at the very roots of their life.

Thus the nightmare held on, with death and awful suffering to make these unfortunate men sure that it was real. They were almost foodless now, as well as waterless.

On the Friday there came the most tragic incident of all: Jakob, a big Russian, an oiler of the Columbian,[118] thrown off his balance by thirst, had imbibed great quantities of salt water. The effects soon began to show themselves, and Jakob, a raving maniac, sat in the bow of the boat with an axe in his hand, vowing he would kill the whole crew.

“I’m going to shore—getta drink,” he cried, and the fear-stricken men expected every moment to see him hurl himself overboard. Instead, he sat muttering foolishly, toying with the axe they dreaded, leering viciously at them, gesticulating savagely. Tiere, weakened, emaciated, staggered along towards the six-foot Russian; he must get that axe away. There was a mist before his eyes, a vagueness in his mind, and a half-formed thought that somehow the Russian would bring the end sooner were he not disarmed. He talked to him, hardly knowing what he said, bullied him, coaxed him, humoured him, while the crew looked on in anxiety; and the madman at last gave up the axe. Then Tiere made him lie down, settled him as comfortably as possible, and himself went to snatch a little sleep, of which he was sorely in need.

For a while all was still; darkness was now upon them; only the howl of the wind and the lap, lap of the water against the sides broke the silence. Then slowly along the boat there crept a dark form, with madness in its eyes; it was Jakob, and in his hands he carried the boat stretcher. He was making aft to where the other men were, intent on killing them all. Fortunately someone saw him coming, and instantly all were alert, ready for him.

Cursing in Russian and broken English, Jakob hurled himself upon them, vowing to murder them all. He wanted the water that was left, and he would have it. Aye, he would have it! The wretched men, gathering up the remnants of their once full-blooded[119] strength, tackled him bravely, wrenching the stretcher away and seeking to tie him up. How they fought, to the danger of being pitched overboard to death, and with the prospect of being kicked to pulp by the Russian’s heavy boots! It was like a scene from some book of wild adventure, that fight in so strange a setting; yet to these men it was real, and life and death hung upon its issue. There was no light by which to see whether one struck friend or foe, only the curses of the Russian to show when a blow landed upon him; and the night was made hideous by yells as the frenzied men struggled madly for control. At last it was over: the giant lay inert in the bottom of the boat, tied securely and lashed to a thwart, where for five or six hours he lay screaming, cursing, struggling to release himself, and then died.

Despair—it is a feeble word to describe their feelings—was now upon the remaining men, who for another week were tossed about, hither and thither, until they had lost all count of their bearings. The sun kept behind the clouds, and fogs and mists enwrapped them in their wet, cold folds. In one sense this was a blessing in disguise; it kept the pangs of thirst under somewhat. But as they shivered in the bottom of the boat, huddling together to keep each other warm, they were in no mood to thank Heaven for fogs which they knew hid them from passing vessels. By Saturday morning eleven men had died and been thrown overboard, and the five survivors looked dumbly at each other, reading in bleared eyes the question, “Whose turn next?”

It was the turn of Peter Preive, the mess-room steward, of whom a strange story is told. Before he left Antwerp on the Columbian he had dreamed a dream—that he would be a fortnight adrift in an open boat[120] before he died. On the morning of the thirteenth day Preive lay at the point of death, for the hundredth time telling his comrades his dream and assuring them they would be picked up on the morrow.

It sounds like fiction, but it is solid fact, and those mariners took heart of courage: if some parts of the dream had come true, why not another? And so they lived on, as they had for some days past, with Preive’s dream as encouragement, though they could not altogether look with equanimity upon the prospect before them; ere the fourteenth day dawned some of those five that remained might have gone to join their comrades!

They had been reduced now to trying to make a paste out of the boot leather and the remains of the biscuits—anything to stave off hunger. But even their craving stomachs could not take kindly to the mixture, and the men knew that they were now face to face with death at last. They looked in the biscuit tank again, and found there—crumbs, simply a few crumbs, which they scooped up in order to mix some more of the unpalatable paste. And then, like a messenger of hope, they saw a smudge on the horizon, watched it grow larger and denser, saw the hull of a ship grow out of the mist. Four of them yelled themselves hoarse again, waved their signal, took out their oars and tugged away at them like mad. They bent their backs to the work, they pulled till their arms ached, and got hardly any way on her; they were too weak to pull against the sea effectively. Then the big ship stopped, and they saw her taking some soundings. She got up steam again and moved forward; and the castaways knew that they had been seen.

The reaction set in; the men who had borne up for thirteen days against hunger, thirst, who had fought[121] against madness and death, crumpled up and fell in the bottom of their boat. They were done.

Meanwhile the big ship was punching her way towards them. She was the Seneca (Captain Johnson), who had been searching for the missing lifeboat for many days, having crossed from the spot where the Columbian burnt out to Nova Scotia and back time after time without sighting the unfortunate men. The captain had, indeed, given up hope of ever finding them; and when the look-out sighted the boat, and the Seneca plunged towards her at full steam, Captain Johnson scarcely believed it possible that anyone could be alive in her.

When they came up with her they saw the five men lying in the bottom of the boat, helpless, emaciated, eyes sunken, bodies trembling. Preive, alive when the Seneca came up, died from the shock of the sight of her; Tiere, who had commanded all through, and had done much to encourage the others, tried to lift himself up, but fell back exhausted, and the other four living men had to be helped out of their boat.

Their cruise was at an end. They were saved; but the terror of it will never leave them.



How Drake Took Toll for Spanish Treachery

IN 1567 Francis Drake had accompanied John Hawkins on a slave-trading expedition to the Spanish Main; the worthy pair had gone across to Africa, where they had captured a number of Africans, whom they shipped to the West to sell as slaves, seeing that the Spaniards were sorely in need of labourers. Now, it was a maxim with the Dons that the Wealthy West was for Spaniards only, and they very much resented the coming of the Englishmen, so that, while professing the desire to trade with them, they really played them false; and it was only by the skin of their teeth that Hawkins and Drake managed to escape to England, even then having to leave a number of their men in the hands of the Spaniards.

Drake was angry. He vowed vengeance. Henceforth he determined not to go on trading expeditions, but to sally forth to the Spanish Main to take toll of the riches that the Spaniards were harvesting year by year. He did nothing in a hurry; he worked things out, went on a voyage or so to get the lie of the land, and in 1572 left Plymouth—bound for Panama! On one of his previous voyages he had laid up stores at a place on the mainland which he had called Port Pheasant, because he had seen a great number of those birds flying about there. Arrived at Port Pheasant on[123] this new voyage, he received a mild sort of shock. Nailed to a tree was a leaden letter:

Captain Drake,

If you have fortune to come into the port, make haste away, for the Spaniards which you had with you last year have betrayed this place, and taken away all that you left here. I departed hence this present 7th of July, 1572.

Your loving friend,
John Garret.”

Now, although Drake knew the seriousness of the position, he refused to be frightened away. He had work to do—the fitting up of his pinnaces—and he resolved to do this before leaving. He therefore set his men to work, and in a week was ready to sail for Nombre de Dios, his first place of call on the Spaniards. Just as he was about to start there came to the port an English barque commanded by Captain James Rouse, who threw in his lot—and his thirty-eight men—with Drake; and the company set sail for Nombre de Dios. At a small island called the Isle of Pines they stopped a while, and Drake appealed to the cupidity of his men, in the hope of making them even firmer than ever in their determination to do their utmost.

“Comrades,” he cried, “before us lies the world’s treasure-house. You are brave; and with your help I am confident of success. Follow me, and yours shall be the Spaniard’s wealth; yours shall be the fame that comes from great deeds, and we shall be able to take to your Queen much treasure and have good stores for ourselves!”

That put good heart into his men, and when they[124] came to Nombre de Dios they were ready for anything, although they murmured, some of them, against attacking in daylight, as was Drake’s intention. However, Drake had to alter his plans, for when they came into the harbour they found a big ship there. Someone aboard saw them, and the vessel was headed for the shore to give the alarm. The English soon stopped her little game; the pinnaces raced after her, headed her off to seaward, and then, feeling safe, the men landed, fondly believing that they were unnoticed.

They were mistaken. While the rest of the garrison slept or made merry, or were on guard to landward against an attack from Cimaroons, one gunner was at his post in the fort. One gunner, one shot, and the town was in alarm; and away went the Spaniard racing into the town to tell of the coming of the hated English. There ensued a hubbub in Nombre de Dios; bells rang out their tocsin call, trumpets blared, drums rolled, and men rallied up to withstand the foe. As for Drake, he grasped the situation promptly, and had his plan working without delay. He divided his men into two companies, leading one himself and sending the other forward under his brother John and John Oxenham, hoping by this means to delude the Spaniards into thinking that a large force had come against them.

It was a queer scene. Every man Jack of Drake’s companies carried a firepike, whose flaming torch lit up the place weirdly; they made unearthly noises on trumpets, and rent the air with war-cries which struck terror into the Spaniards. So much so that, hearing the advance of men from two quarters, the Dons, forgetting all about the treasure in their stores, took to their heels and ran for dear life.

It was all so easy, thought the Englishmen; and[125] then found they had counted their chickens before they were hatched, for when they reached the market-place they saw that the Spaniards had taken new courage and had massed themselves for a gallant fight. Moreover, they, too, had resorted to a stratagem; they had strung a line of lights across the dark street, and made it appear that there were many, many men with torches awaiting the foe!

Nothing loath to accept a good fight, Drake’s men plunged in; and although the Dons met them boldly and fought well, nothing could stop the men out for treasure and revenge. Using their firepikes as weapons, they charged the Spaniards, and although Drake and others were wounded, and the trumpeter was killed, they put the Dons to flight, and found themselves in possession of Nombre de Dios, with the treasure of King Philip theirs for the taking!

They hurried to the governor’s house, where they saw much treasure in the form of stacks of silver bars; they marched to the treasure-house, which Drake ordered them to force open. They proceeded to do so. But just then a terrific thunderstorm broke over the town; the men were drenched to the skin, their bows, with which they had done good work in the attack, were loosened and rendered useless, so that they began to fear lest the Spaniards, whom they could hear massing on the hills after their flight, should burst down upon them, when they would be practically powerless against them.

They spoke of going back to the boats, but Drake, who heard them, chaffed them for their cowardice. He knew it wasn’t that!

“You would fly!” he cried. “On the very threshold of the world’s treasure-house you would fly! I have brought you to the mouth of the treasury of the world,[126] which if you do not gain none but yourselves will be to blame! Break open the treasure-house!”

And without waiting to see if they followed he sprang at the door to set them the example; but even as he did so his sight failed him, the strength which had been ebbing with the flow of the blood from his wound gave out, and he fell, a crumpled heap, at the threshold!

Instantly all were alarmed, and they fell to binding up his wound. That done, they urged him to come away. But Drake refused to budge; whereupon, knowing how much depended upon his safety, they picked him up in their strong arms and carried him to his pinnace. Not all his entreaties or threats could move them, and the only satisfaction he could get out of them was:

“What’s the good of the treasure of the Spanish Main if we have not Francis Drake?”

Thus it was that Drake found himself back in his pinnace, heading out for sea. But the night’s adventures were by no means over. In the harbour they found a big ship coming in. They promptly boarded her and took her, finding her to be well stocked with wines and other good things; and, taking her along with them, they made their way to a small island a little distance from Nombre de Dios, where they rested and refreshed themselves.

The Spaniards discovered where they were, and sent a messenger to Drake; they wanted to make sure who had attacked them. Drake received the emissary courteously, answered his questions frankly, assured him that the English arrows were not poisoned, and that he was indeed Francis Drake; gave him a present for himself, and then sent him back with a message to the Governor.

“Tell him,” he said, “to keep his eyes open, for if[127] God lend me life and leave I mean to reap some of your harvest which you get out of the earth and send into Spain to trouble all the earth!”

Away went the Spaniard and delivered his message, no doubt to the consternation of the Governor.

In a couple of days Drake felt that it was time to go to the Isle of Pines, where he had left Rouse and his men. Arrived here, he told of his misadventures, and Rouse, growing disheartened, washed his hands of the whole affair and went home; which Drake didn’t really mind, for he preferred to work on his own, and was by no means despondent. He decided that he would tackle Carthagena, the chief town on the Spanish Main, which, if he could surprise it, would amply repay him for his voyage.

The Governor of Nombre de Dios, however, had taken the precaution of warning Carthagena of the proximity of the Dragon, as they called Drake now, so that when the English appeared off Carthagena they were met by shots from the town, which told Drake that his surprise attack would not come off. He knew, too, that the town was too strong to attempt to assault it openly, so he contented himself with seizing a number of ships lying at anchor in the harbour—right under the noses of the Spanish guns.

Then he sailed from Carthagena, deciding to lie low awhile in the Gulf of Darien till the excitement had subsided, when he would sally forth again. One thing worried him: he hadn’t sufficient men to man the ships and the pinnaces. He resolved to get over the difficulty by sinking one ship—the Swan—commanded by his brother John. He had to do this secretly, for he knew that his men would never consent to her being sunk. So, taking old Tom Moore, his carpenter, into his confidence, he succeeded in overcoming his qualms and[128] arranging for him to bore holes in the ship’s bottom; and in due course the Swan began to fill and to settle down. Drake, passing by in one of his pinnaces, asked John what was the matter with his ship; had she sprung a leak? Instantly it was “All hands to the pumps!” But pumped they never so quickly the water gained, and soon the men had to abandon the ship, which presently plunged beneath the surface; and Drake had achieved his purpose.

Then away to the Gulf of Darien, where they rested and amused themselves at various good old English games. Here Drake learnt from a negro he had with him, one Diego, that the Cimaroons, who hated the Spaniards like poison, would no doubt be willing to join forces with him against them; and Drake sent his brother John to the mainland to negotiate with the Cimaroons. The mission was successful, and John returned to report that the Cimaroons, eager to take their vengeance on the Spaniards for all the evil they had wrought, would be willing to co-operate with the English, and would lead them anywhere they liked. Drake, following the counsel of the Cimaroons, decided to postpone operations until the rainy season was over. Now, as the waiting period had to be filled in somehow, or his men would grow weary of waiting, Drake, knowing that inactivity is the worst thing for sailors and soldiers, determined to be up and doing on the sea. So, moving to a safer harbour, he made that his headquarters, leaving there a number of men under command of John. With the remainder he set out in a couple of pinnaces to see what was to be picked up along the coast. First he dashed into Carthagena harbour, and cut out two frigates from under the muzzles of the guns; later, when the Spaniards grew weary of being at the mercy of the Dragon, and sent out two big ships to take him, Drake[129] met them, and though they were well armed and well manned he sent them scurrying back to their harbour. One of his two prizes he sent to the bottom, and the other he burnt; and then, wanting to feel terra firma beneath his feet, pulled to the shore. Something told him that the Spaniards had prepared an ambush for him; but Drake determined to land, and, springing ashore, he defied the hidden Spaniards to do their worst! And instead of doing that they bolted!

Meanwhile, John Drake had been busy. He did not want to be out of all the fun, so one day, espying a Spanish ship, he put off in a pinnace, taking only one man with him, and tried to capture her. The result was a foregone conclusion—both the intrepid and foolhardy Englishmen were killed. John was never so lucky as Francis!

Thus it came about that when Drake returned to his headquarters to give his men a rest he found his brother gone, and suffered an agony of spirit, for the hardy mariner had loved his brave brother. Still, what is done cannot be undone, and the Englishmen had to resign themselves to fate. The hot weather having now set in, they had other troubles to think about; fever had laid its fell grip upon them, and took a heavy toll during the time of rest. Then came the Cimaroons with news of the Spanish fleet. This heralded the dispatch of the treasure from Panama across the Isthmus of Darien—a journey which up till then had been unattended by danger from a European foe, although now and again, no doubt, the Cimaroons had sought to get a blow in at the Spaniards.

Drake now intended to give the Dons a shock; he meant to march inland and waylay the treasure mule-train. He had only eighteen of his men who were fit to travel, but he picked out thirty Cimaroons and Pedro[130] to go with him. Pedro, by the way, had whetted the curiosity of Drake by telling him of a great sea far away beyond the hills, and the adventurer told himself that this must be the wonderful South Sea of which the men of the past had spoken. He decided to have a look at it, with a view to future exploring.

So off across the isthmus went the little band of black men and white—strange companions, who had at least one bond of sympathy, namely, hatred of the Spaniards. The Cimaroons knew the way, and led by the most favourable route—through forests and over hills and across rivers. On every side were new and strange sights to the Englishmen, who marched by day, and slept by night in branch-houses built by the Cimaroons to shelter them from the mists which bring fever.

After a fairly uneventful journey, the company arrived at the other side of the isthmus, and found before them a high mountain, up which they toiled, to see, as Pedro had told them, the great sea. The summit being reached, they saw that on a tree-trunk the Cimaroons had cut steps, and in its branches had erected a platform. Drake clambered up to this, and stood there facing the sea—the mighty Pacific rolling before him, the great Atlantic spread out behind him. He had come within sight of the South Sea—the first Englishman to do so.

A moment’s silence. The sight seemed too much for the adventurer; then, bursting out a vow that he would be the first Englishman to sail its waters, he cried:

“But one thing do I ask of Heaven, and that to sail once in an English ship in that sea!”

Then, having feasted his eyes upon the scene before him, he called up his company, and there, one by one,[131] the English sailors registered their vows to follow him wherever he went, and when.

But there was no time to dally. Pressing work must be attended to; the future must be left to itself. So away towards Panama City Drake and his men went, cutting their way through the forest and keeping a good look-out lest they be surprised by Spaniards. However, they escaped notice, and after two days’ hard work came to open country, and before them lay Panama, the city of gold and silver; and away in the harbour rode the treasure fleet, waiting to disgorge its rich cargoes.

The day was still young when they came within sight of their objective, and, knowing that they must not be seen yet, Drake kept his men under cover until night, meanwhile sending a Cimaroon to spy out the land and to discover when the treasure-train would set out on its journey to Nombre de Dios.

Anxiously the adventurers waited, longing to get to business, wondering whether it might happen that they would have to wait hidden very long. But presently the spy came back with news that cheered, and made them feel that they had the treasure in their hands already! That very night the treasure-train was to set out for Nombre de Dios—a train of fifty mules, heavy laden, to be followed the next night by two other trains of like size. How those Englishmen’s fingers itched!

But they knew there would be stern work before them ere their hands laid hold on the treasure, and, wasting no time on anticipatory visions, they marched forward through the darkness till they came to the junction of the Nombre de Dios and Panama roads. Here Drake disposed his forces carefully, dividing them into two companies of eight Englishmen and fifteen Cimaroons—a company on each side of the road, under[132] command of Drake and John Oxenham respectively. The companies were posted, not exactly opposite each other, but in such positions that one could seize the hindmost mules and the other the foremost, and so get the Spaniards between two fires.

There followed an anxious time of waiting, during which a man dared hardly breathe, let alone speak. Then through the night air came the cheery tinkling of bells, and they knew that the train was approaching. The only thing that worried them was that the tinkling came from two ways—from Venta Cruz and from Panama. They knew that the treasure-train would not come from Venta Cruz; but the question was which would get there first?

They needn’t have worried; the whole matter was settled for them! One of Drake’s men had been drinking too much, and the neat brandy had got into his head; so that when he heard the bells he got muddled and lost his sense of locality. When the bells from Venta Cruz drew nearer he thought they were the bells from Panama. Now, the former heralded only the approach of a single Spanish officer, who would have been allowed to proceed without molestation had not the drunken sailor raised himself up from the long grass to hurl himself at the Spaniard. Quick as lightning a Cimaroon hauled him back. But too late; the officer had seen the white shirt which the man wore—as did his comrades, for identification—and, suspicious that there should be anyone lying in wait at such a spot, and at such a time, he urged his mule on towards Panama at top speed, expecting to be followed.

But none followed him; for Drake’s orders were to lie low, even now.

On, therefore, went the officer, to meet the treasure-train, which was in charge of the Treasurer of Lima,[133] who was naturally pretty startled to see the galloping figure.

“A miracle has happened!” cried the officer. “El Dragon has come—though how, Heaven only knows—and he lies in wait for the treasure!”

Now, the Treasurer of Lima, like most of his compatriots, had a wholesome dread of Drake, and though it passed his comprehension that such a thing should have taken place, yet he considered it wise to adopt precautionary measures, lest there should be any truth in the scared officer’s apparently wild tale.

So, keeping back the actual treasure-train, he sent on a line of mules, two of them with loads of silver, the rest with provisions, just to act as a decoy; and Drake, having kept his men quiet, and hearing the tinkling of the bells as before, imagined that everything was going quite smoothly, and that after all the Spanish officer had not seen the drunken sailor.

The mule-train came to the ambush; there rang a shrill whistle-call, and the Englishmen and the Cimaroons leapt to their feet, fell upon the Spaniards, seized the mules, and began to rifle their packs, expecting to find a rich haul of treasure.

And all they found were the two loads of silver and an assortment of victuals!

However, there it was; and the important thing was to square things up somehow, and to get back to the coast before the Spaniards could stop them. The way back lay through Venta Cruz. It was the easier way, and Drake vowed he’d go by that road, even though it meant fighting his way through. He must hurry on before the men of Panama had time to warn Venta Cruz. The Cimaroons pledged themselves to follow him through thick and thin, and with this assurance Drake immediately set out.

[134]The Cimaroons went on in front as scouts, and presently reported that they had located the presence of Spanish troops by the smell of the gun-matches. Whereupon Drake got ready to fight, thinking he might have to cut his way through. On they went, silently, carefully; but soon the Spaniards saw them, and they were challenged.

“Who goes there?” they cried.

“Englishmen!” came back the bold, proud, staggering answer that wellnigh sent the Spaniards fleeing for their lives.

“In the name of the King of Spain, yield!” cried the captain of the troop.

“Never!” bellowed Drake. “For the honour of the Queen of England, I must have passage this way,” and discharged his pistol full at the captain. Then, with good Queen Bess’s name on their lips, the English opened fire upon the Spaniards, who responded promptly, with fatal effect to one Englishman and wounds to others, including Drake himself. Still the little band kept up their fire, and presently the Spanish fire slackened somewhat, and Drake’s whistle sounded the “Charge!” There was a sharp volley of English shot, a flight of Cimaroon arrows, and then “St. George and England!” yelled the English, “Yo peho, yo peho!” cried the Cimaroons, and away they went at the Spaniards, scattering them, sending them helter-skelter into Venta Cruz, whither the foe followed them—into the heart of the city!

And that little mixed band captured Venta Cruz, and ransacked it! But for all their roughness and eagerness for treasure, the English behaved, as Englishmen always do—courteously; and neither women nor children nor unarmed men had aught to say against them for their treatment.

“‘For the honour of the Queen of England, I must have passage this way!’ cried Drake, and discharged his pistol”

[135]Staying only long enough to take what treasure they could find, Drake and his men pushed on from Venta Cruz towards the coast, which they reached in due course, to find the sick men well, though it was but natural they were all downcast at the failure of the journey to Panama.

Shortly afterwards, Drake joined hands with a French privateer, and proceeded to make other plans for capturing some of the treasure from the South. He knew that by this time the Spanish Main would be up in arms and watchful against him; but he had come a long way, and felt he ought to be paid for his trouble.

Oxenham was sent with a pinnace to cut out a provision ship; which he did, capturing a fine frigate laden with sufficient food to serve their purpose. Drake himself went along the coast towards Veragua, stopping a frigate on the way, relieving her of some of her treasure, and gathering from the captain—probably under pressure—that in the harbour at Veragua there rode a Spanish ship with over a million of gold in her hold. This was fine news indeed, and off to Veragua hastened Drake, staying for nothing.

The pinnace shot into the harbour—and received a broadside from the Spaniards, who were warned of their coming! Back went Drake. Clearly, his luck was out!

But he would have one more try. He discovered that a treasure-train was due at Nombre de Dios from Venta Cruz, and he made up his mind to make an attempt to intercept this near Nombre de Dios. Putting back to his harbour, he boarded his little fleet, consisting of the French privateer and a couple of frigates captured from the Spaniards. The Pacha, his own ship, was unseaworthy by this time, and he left her “to the Spaniards” as something in return for those he had[136] captured! Sailing along the coast for another harbour, he left his vessels there, and embarked in his pinnaces with fifteen Englishmen, twenty Frenchmen, and a number of Cimaroons. On March 31 he landed the majority of his forces at a river near Nombre de Dios, leaving the remainder to watch the pinnaces.

Striking inland, the mixed band came within easy distance of Nombre de Dios, and took up positions along the road, waiting for the coming of the treasure-train as they had waited before. Across the still night air came the sounds of carpenters hard at work repairing the ships which awaited the treasure for King Philip; and then, just at the break of day, there came the tinkle of bells—the sweetest of music to the adventurers’ ears!

They could hardly believe their eyes; coming towards them were 190 mules, heavily laden, as the Cimaroons had told them, with gold and silver—so much that they wouldn’t know what to do with it! Thirty tons of silver and gold awaited the taking—when they had disposed of the guard of forty-five Spanish soldiers.

Drake’s whistle rang shrilly again, and on the instant the raiders were amongst the Spaniards, who, fighting bravely, kept their attackers busy for a while. But the allies were not to be daunted, and presently the Spaniards, thinking discretion the better part of valour, took to their heels and ran.

Letting them go, Drake and his men fell upon the mule-trains and, tearing open the packs, found that this time the lines had fallen in good places for them. There was so much treasure, they could not carry it all! They, therefore, hurriedly hid about fifteen tons of it in the burrows of land crabs, in the bottom of a shallow river, under trees—anywhere they could think of; and,[137] every man carrying as much as he could bear of gold, they started for the coast.

Meanwhile, the scared Spaniards had given the alarm in Nombre de Dios, and while the raiders hurried off with the loads, troops were sent out after them. Coming up with the deserted and rifled treasure-train, they rejoiced to find some of the mules still laden, and these they sent into the city while they looked about them, knowing that the Englishmen could not have taken all the rest away. They discovered many of the hiding-places, and seeing that they had succeeded in locating the major portion of the treasure, they contented themselves with gathering it up (employing 2,000 Mamoras and negroes to do this), and sending it post-haste to Nombre de Dios, preferring not to go after the bold raiders.

Drake, meantime, was hastening to the coast, where he expected, naturally, to find his pinnaces. But when, elated at their success, his men came within sight of the coast, their pinnaces were no longer there, and in their places were seven Spanish pinnaces!

More hard luck! Here he was, with the first good haul he had made, and yet unable to get away with it. He told himself—and his men—that come what might he was going to get to his frigates somehow. Fortunately for the boaster, the Spanish pinnaces, unaware of the presence of the raiders so near at hand, weighed anchor and set out for Nombre de Dios. But the question that faced Drake was how to get away? No pinnaces! He solved the problem by building a raft at once, rigging up a sail out of an old biscuit sack, and calling for three volunteers to go with him to find the pinnaces.

Everyone volunteered, but he took the three he wanted, and then set out on his crazy craft. At times it[138] threatened to capsize, at others it had them waist deep in the water; and at all times while they sailed the blazing sun poured down upon them. At last they saw the pinnaces they had lost; but the men in the boats did not see them, and they were too far off for a hail to reach them. The pinnaces were lost sight of as they rounded a headland, and Drake, taking the risk, beached his raft and tore along the shore, in the hope of finding the boats run up on the beach.

Sure enough, when the four racing men turned the headland they saw the pinnaces lying ashore, and, incidentally, gave the sailors a scare, for they thought that this sudden appearance betokened the failure and pursuit of Drake. Drake, feeling it too good a joke to miss, let them believe this for a time, and enjoyed the crestfallen look on their faces. Then, with a shout, he told them all, and away went the pinnaces to bring back the treasure and the men left behind.

In a little while all were on board the ships, jubilant at their success, though three Frenchmen were missing. Drake sent a party ashore to search for these, and to bring back the treasure that had been hidden. Only one Frenchman was found, and none of the silver, which, as we have seen, had been unearthed by the Spaniards.

Drake was angry at the loss, but taking comfort that he had really managed to get a good haul, decided that it was time to return to England. First of all he laid in a stock of food by capturing a provision ship as they sailed tauntingly by Carthagena. Then, with hearty farewells to Pedro and his Cimaroons, whom they allowed to take whatever they wanted out of the ships, Drake and his merry men set sail for England, where they arrived on Sunday, August 19th, 1573, and were received with great joy by the people, who, forgetting[139] all about the preacher, rushed out of church to welcome the coming of the man who by this time had grown to be one of their idols.

Queen Elizabeth, however, gave him a dubious welcome—that is, publicly—for she was just then desirous of being at peace with Spain; though it is by no means certain that she was not as delighted as Drake at the success of his voyage, which had gained him much wealth and a fine reputation as a leader of men.



A Brave Rescue in a Storm

CAPTAIN ALBERT GEMPTON, of Brixham, ranks amongst those men who have helped to make England the mistress of the seas, being a gallant hero with a whole host of brave deeds to his credit. A fisherman—a son of Devon, which has produced so many hardy sons of the sea—probably one of the most arduous pieces of work he ever undertook was when he went to the rescue of two lads on a fishing smack off Lundy Island on December 16, 1910. Incidentally, it shows the kind of thing that very often befalls the fisherman, who, going out to reap the harvests of the seas, encounters untold dangers, while we at home go to our breakfast tables, and all unthinking eat the fish to catch which may have cost a man his life.

On this particular day there had been a severe storm, which swept along the coast and caught many fishing vessels at their work, a good number of them being wrecked and all hands lost. The smack Friendship was off Lundy Island when the storm broke out, and for a time bravely battled against it; she held two men and two apprentices, and these gallantly worked her, seeking to get into port. But Fate was unkind; first the skipper was taken bodily by the angry waves and carried overboard, and was not seen again. Then, almost immediately afterwards the other man suffered a like fate; and the two apprentices, mere lads learning the trade[141] of the sea, found themselves alone on a smack they knew not how to manage.

To make matters worse, it was night; and for hours the two boys struggled gamely with their vessel, fighting the elements as best they knew how. The great waves reared white-crested heads, swooped down upon the smack, filling it with water; now she was on the crest of a terrific wave, now in the trough, and the boys thought that each moment would be their last. Their one hope was to keep the water under, and for hours and hours they worked hard at the pumps; but as fast as they pumped the water out more swept in, and they gave themselves up for lost. One, two, three o’clock came and passed, and still they were fighting for life, and with little hope of coming through. Then their hearts gave a bound; they wiped the water from their bleared eyes and looked across the waste of sea, scarcely believing what they saw. A light!

Forgetting the necessity for working the pumps without cessation, they rushed to the side and yelled themselves hoarse, seeking to attract the attention of the men on the boat they knew was there. Above the roar of the storm their voices were soundless; they might have yelled till Doomsday and never been heard. But those men on the other vessel had seen—which was just as good—and with sail set she rode before the wind, drove her way through the water, and made for the derelict. It was hard going, but Captain Gempton knew that his little smack, the Gratitude, was a sturdy sailer; and he realised that something was amiss.

After a stern struggle the Gratitude came near enough to the Friendship to bawl out for information; and the two boys yelled out the story of their plight.

“Save us!” they cried. “Save us! We’re alone, and the water’s gaining on us!”

[142]“Righto, sonnies!” cried Gempton. “Keep pumping. We’ll have you off in a twinkling!”

They were brave words, but Gempton knew that a “twinkling” was a comparative term. It would be no light task to get alongside the Friendship without smashing into her, bobbing up and down as she was to the will of the waves. He manœuvred his vessel carefully to get her into the best position from which to try to effect the rescue, knowing that it would be asking the boys to jump to death to leap out and try to swim to the Gratitude. If they were to be got off, they must be fetched; and he knew it.

But try as he would, the Gratitude could not be got within distance from which the boys could be saved. There was only one way to do it; and that was to lower a boat and row over to the smack.

“I’m going, boys!” said Gempton presently. “Lower away!”

And his men hoisted the boat. Gempton, swathed in his oilskins, took his seat in it; and at the same time another man, John Tidmarsh, jumped in with him.

“I’m coming too, skipper,” he said.

“Good,” said the captain; and the two men took their seats, each of them carrying a lifebuoy. Then, pushing off, they bent their backs to the oars, and sought to pull the boat over the waves. What a tussle that was! What a fight against the elements! The wind caught them and hurled them forward; the waves broke upon them and hurled them backwards. Huge mountains of water fell upon them, swamping the boat, almost filling it; and while one man rowed the other bailed. Then on again—only to meet the same fate; bail again, and then onward through the darkness and the noise of Nature till eventually they came near to the Friendship.

[143]Then was careful handling called for, lest the boat be dashed into the side of the smack and broken to pieces.

“Easy!” cried Gempton; and Tidmarsh grasped his oars, plied them masterfully, and just as it seemed that the boat was going to be smashed, she swung round and missed the Friendship by the fraction of a yard. And meanwhile the two boys were pumping for very life, straining eyes through the darkness to catch a glimpse of the heroes making for them.

“They’ll never do it,” said one of them.

“God grant they do!” said the other. “See—they’re here!”

Sure enough, Gempton had brought his boat alongside, where she lay rocking at the mercy of the waves, but held in check by the firm hands on the oars.

“Quick!” bawled Gempton. “Quick, for your lives!” And instantly the two boys forsook their pumps and rushed to the side, ready to jump overboard at the word.

“Jump!” “No!” The two words seemed to come simultaneously. Gempton had given the first, Tidmarsh the second, as the boat swung away from the smack. Then, with a mighty tug at the oars the boat was brought back again. “Jump!” And this time a boy jumped, landing in the boat, and sending it pitching and tossing, and threatening to overturn it. Again she swung out, only to be pulled back; and once more a boy jumped, and landed fairly in her.

They were saved! Not yet. The journey to the Gratitude had still to be made, and now the wind was against them, blowing down upon them in greater fury, as though angry at being robbed of the prey it had fought for all through the hours of the howling night. It had seemed hours getting out to the Friendship; it[144] seemed years getting back. Time and time again the water broke in upon them, and filled the boat so that she could not easily ride the storm; the boys bailed like madmen, and kept on bailing, and the two men held on at their oars and rowed in the race against death.

They reached the Gratitude, where, with the waves breaking upon them, and the wind battering at them, the little company of four climbed perilously into the ship—exhausted all of them, grateful two of them, and well pleased the other two for having been able to effect the rescue.



Tragic Tales of Burning Ships

IT is almost impossible to imagine anything more appalling than a fire at sea. The floating home of perhaps scores, maybe hundreds, of people blazing away, iron and steel melting in the fierce heat, explosions taking place here, there and everywhere; men trapped in cabins and being roasted to death; heroic sailors fighting the flames which there is no fire brigade to fight for them—all these things go to make up a scene of horror that beggars description.

Such were the circumstances on December 8, 1914, when the oil-tank steamer Vedra took fire off Walney Island. She had left Sabine, in Texas, some while before, and run the gauntlet of the few German commerce raiders in the Atlantic; and Captain Brewster was telling himself, when he arrived off Barrow on December 7, that his voyage was at an end, and that he would soon be able to unload his cargo of benzine. He counted his chickens before they were hatched, for Dame Fortune was bent on playing him a scurvy trick. For some time the weather had been rough, and the Vedra had been forcing her way through in the teeth of a gale which played shuttlecock with her. But the sturdy steamer had fought hard and long to get to her port; and now she was within sight. Across the darkening waters signals were sent for a pilot to come aboard and guide her into harbour.

[146]Meanwhile, the storm increased in fury, and the Vedra found herself fighting against the titanic forces of the deep. Now on the crest of a wave, now in the trough the vessel lay, hovering at times, it seemed, on the very edge of the pit of destruction, and at others diving down, down, down, and then righting herself as by a miracle.

The waiting men saw a tug put out and head towards their ship.

“The pilot,” they muttered. “He’s in for a rough trip!”

A rough trip it was, and one that was never finished, for ere he could reach the Vedra the latter was taken up, as it were, by giant hands and flung shorewards; then swung about again and hurled towards Walney Island. Firm as a rock Captain Brewster stood to his post, and worked his ship like the mariner he was; but it was a hopeless task, and very soon there was a grinding that told she had run ashore. The engines were immediately reversed, and the ship strained to her utmost in the effort to get off the shore. As the waters poured over her she seemed to shake herself like a great dog. There was the hum of the engines below, the swish of the propeller as it churned up the water, but never a move backward did the Vedra make; rather, she bumped more heavily and got farther in. She was fast held.

Captain Brewster, realising now that it was useless to try to float her by her own engines, signalled to the shore for assistance, and the guardship Furness, lying off the port, immediately put out and hurried to render what aid she could, while at the same time the tugs Walney and Cartmel pushed their noses through the water in her direction. Captain Hill, of the Furness, worked his vessel as near to the Vedra as was possible[147] with safety, and then, calling on the crew to stand by, hurled a hawser towards her. Time and time again the hawser was flung, only to fall short; but at last it was successfully thrown, and caught by some of the Vedra’s crew. It took but a little while for them to hitch it securely; and when this was done the word was given to the Furness, whose engines were reversed, and away she bore till the hawser stretched taut from ship to ship.

But the Furness found she had undertaken a task that defied all her strength, and, strain though she did with every ounce of steam in her and every horsepower in her engines, she could not make the Vedra budge from the fast hold in which she had been caught. Suddenly, too, there was a crack that sounded above the roar of the wind, and the Furness went staggering back as a child staggers when someone lets go of a rope he is straining at. The hawser had snapped in two. A sharp command, and the Furness eased up, and once more she steamed towards the Vedra; another hawser was hurled, and again, eventually, was hitched on. Then back she pulled, more carefully than ever this time, with the hawser tightening between the two vessels. Would it hold? Would the Vedra move? Would the Furness’s engines stand the strain? Such were the questions that raced through many a mind in those anxious moments. On the Vedra, the captain still at his post, men waited tensely, holding on to anything at hand, lest they be pitched off into the boiling sea below, while the whole ship seemed to throb to the racing of her engines as they worked at high pressure. But she refused to move.

Things were now assuming a very serious aspect, though the coming of the two tug boats at this time, under command of Commander Bisset, R.N., Harbour-master[148] of Barrow, heartened the captain and crew, who refused to heed exhortations thrown at them to leave the vessel.

“No!” bawled the captain through his funnelled hands. “I’ll not leave her till there’s no hope. I think we can refloat her!”

So, as the men would stick to their duty, there was nothing to do but to strive the utmost to get the ship off, and the tugs and the guardship worked nobly with this end in view; but all unavailingly. And while they worked the news had been signalled along the coast, and the lifeboats at Piel and Fleetwood put out to succour the stranded mariners. Just as the Piel boat reached the spot, however, a great calamity had come to pass.

The buffeting of the wind and sea bumped the Vedra heavily at every blow. The straining of her engines had begun to tell; the engines soon gave up the fight and refused to work any more; and the vessel lay a helpless hulk, at the mercy of the elements—wind and water, which were soon to be reinforced by a third—fire! While the firemen below had been working like niggers to keep their engines going, other men had been busy at the pumps, pumping the oil out of the tanks in order to lighten the ship and give her a better chance of life. But pumped they never so feverishly, never so lustily, they could not work fast enough; they were fighting against Nature, which, red in tooth and claw, delights to show man that, despite his ingenuity, he is but puny.

Just as the engines gave up, the copper oil tank gave way, and instantly the oil began to run out. Now, it has always been a problem with oil-ships, this bursting of the tanks when the vessel goes ashore—a problem with a very serious point in it, and that is that[149] the oil is then almost certain to run into the engine-room. It did so in this case; while the men at the pumps were sweating with their exertions, the oil was running quickly towards the engine-room. There was no stopping it, and very soon it reached the engines. There was a burst of flame, followed by a terrific explosion.

Horror-stricken, the men in the ships lying around looked across the troubled waters at the now flaming vessel. They knew only too well what had happened, and how utterly helpless everything was; but they steamed forward as closely as they dared, and in the brilliant light could see men standing about the rails of the vessel with agony-drawn faces and already scorched clothes.

The men on the Vedra? Down in the engine-room there were only things that once were men; trapped in that inferno, every man of them had been burned to death. Some, standing on deck, had rushed, as many as possible, to the weather side of the ship, where, as the flames were blown away from them, they stood a better chance of escape. Here they clung, maddened with fear, waving a jersey to attract attention—as if any attraction were needed! The light from the blazing ship showed clearly and distinctly to the watchers the whole tragic scene. Others, who were in the fo’c’sle, were caught in a trap, and the would-be rescuers could see them at the portholes, frantically calling for the help that could not be given them.

All around the ship the sea was a blazing mass, for the oil which had been pumped overboard had caught fire. The two lifeboats sped through the sea towards the flaming ship, but were driven back by the intense heat. Ever and anon there were reports as of great guns—with a roar the oil tanks exploded, and[150] added to the volume of flame which enveloped the hapless ship and men. Then lesser reports; the steel plates of the vessel were being blown out.

“No hope—no hope!” cried the entrapped men; and then, driven mad by despair, determined to take all risks. Some of them flung themselves overboard into the flaming cauldron. They were never seen again.

Then there took place one of those deeds of heroism which will never die while men have lips to tell of courage and endurance. The chief engineer was seen by those on the tugs to be standing on the poop with three other men; hurriedly they saw him give his comrades a lifebuoy each. They expected to see him don one himself, but, looking again, realised that he had not one left. In the brilliant light they could see him urging his comrades to jump; could see them reluctant to leave him; but, pressed by the brave man, at last they leapt clear of the ship—into the sea of fire on which were floating several lifebuoys and belts thrown out by the tugs and lifeboats. They disappeared for a moment, then came to the surface again, and could be seen striking out towards the Furness, which, pushing as near as was possible, went to their rescue. By the greatest of good luck, after a fearful struggle for life against sea and fire, two men, Second Engineer McLoughlin and Fourth Engineer Dixon, were picked up, sadly burnt, almost exhausted, but alive. The third man was not so fortunate, and was not seen again.

“The funnels and ventilators were belching forth mighty columns of flame—every part of the ship was ablaze”

Meanwhile, the chief engineer had himself jumped overboard, without any lifebuoy, and fought his way yard by yard through the sea of flame till he came within an arm’s length of the boat which had been put off to rescue him. As though angry at being robbed of the other men, the sea, seeming to gather in fury, at that moment picked up the engineer on a tremendous[151] wave and hurled him back into the inferno, then back against the death-ship, battering him to death.

It was evident now that there was no hope for any other of the stricken crew. The funnels and ventilators were belching forth mighty columns of flame—every part of the ship was ablaze. Only one man was still visible on deck, and he was so scared that he could do nothing but cry agonisingly for help.

“Jump!” they yelled to him. “Jump!”

“I can’t swim!” was the tragic answer; and, fearing to trust himself to the treacherous sea, he remained where he was, to become the victim of a still more treacherous foe.

So ended the tragedy of the Vedra. Although the tugs and lifeboats loitered about all night in the hope of finding some survivor, they were unsuccessful. Morning came. The ship was still burning furiously, great columns of flame and smoke ascending to such a height that they were visible at Fleetwood and Blackpool, twenty miles away. Her plates were red hot; all her tanks had long since exploded with terrific reports; and when night fell she was nothing but a shapeless skeleton, glowing in the sea, which itself was like a burning oil well.

Out of a crew of thirty-six only two men were taken off, and that despite all the gallant efforts that were made. Even of these two only one lived, for a week later one of them died in hospital from burns and shock.

The story of the burning of the Earl of Eldon, one of the finest trading vessels then afloat (it was on September 27, 1834, that the fire was discovered), is an instance of the spontaneous combustion of a cargo such as has often sent good ships to their doom. The Earl of Eldon left Bombay on August 24, carrying[152] forty-five souls, including three ladies and a baby amongst her passengers. She was laden with cotton bales, screwed so tightly that when the time came to move them, in order to try to save the ship, it was found impossible to shift them sufficiently. Before the cotton was put aboard it had been allowed to get thoroughly wet through, but, knowing the danger of wet cotton in a ship’s hold, the owners had had it dried before shipment. Apparently the drying had not been thorough, because the only explanation of the fire on the Earl of Eldon is that, in just the same way that a haystack takes fire from the firedamp that generates inside it, so the cotton bales generated their own fire. As stated above, the first signs of anything wrong were discovered on September 27, when some of the passengers noticed steam issuing from the fore-hatchway. Captain Theaker, however, assured them that it was only steam, which was a usual thing on cotton-loaded ships. Presently, however, the smoke became so dense that the passengers were really alarmed, and an officer of the Madras Artillery, who was on board as a passenger, was not at all surprised when Captain Theaker knocked at his door and informed him that part of the cotton was on fire, and that he wished all the gentlemen passengers to come on deck for consultation. The rest of the story cannot be better told than in the words of the Indian officer.

“Being assembled,” he says, “the captain stated the case to be that some part of the cargo appeared to have spontaneously ignited, and he proposed removing the bales until they should discover the ignited ones, and have them thrown overboard, as also those which appeared to be in the same damaged condition. He said that there did not appear to be immediate danger, and that he hoped we might be able to avert it altogether.[153] However, at eight o’clock the smoke became much thicker, and began to roll through the after-hatchway—the draught having been admitted forward in order to enable the men to work. Several bales were removed, but the heat began to be intolerable below; the smoke rolled out in suffocating volumes, and before nine o’clock we discovered that part of the deck had caught fire; in short, the men were obliged to knock off work. The captain then ordered the hatches to be battened down, with a view to keep the fire from bursting out, and to hoist out all the boats and stock them in case of necessity. This was done, and about half-past one the three ladies, two sick passengers, an infant, and a female servant were put into the longboat, with two hundred and sixteen gallons of water, twenty gallons of brandy, and biscuits for a month’s consumption, together with such pots of jam and preserved meats as we could get at, and the day’s provision of fresh and salted meat.

“It was now about two o’clock; the hatches were then opened, and all hands set to work to endeavour to extinguish the fire. The main hatch being lifted, and a tarpaulin removed, there was a sail underneath which was so hot that the men could hardly remove it; when they did, the heat and smoke came up worse than ever, and it being now known from inspection that the fire was underneath that part, orders were given to hoist out the bales until the inflamed ones could be got at; but when the men laid hold of the lashings to introduce a crane-hook, they were found to have been burned through beneath, and came away in their hands.

“The case now appeared bad, indeed. However, we cut a bale open and tried to remove it by handfuls, but the smoke and heat became so overpowering that no man could stand over it, and water only seemed to[154] have the effect of increasing it, in the quantities we dared to use, for had the captain ventured to pump water into the ship to extinguish the fire, the bales would have swelled so much as to burst open the deck, and have increased so much in weight as to sink the ship, so that either way destruction would have been the issue. Under these circumstances, perceiving the case to be utterly hopeless, the captain called us together on the poop, and asked if anyone could propose any expedient likely to avail in extinguishing the fire and saving the ship, as in that case ‘we will stick by her while a hope remains.’ It was unanimously agreed that all had been done that could be done; the men were all perfectly sober, and had been indefatigable in their exertions, but one and all seemed coolly and positively of opinion that the case was hopeless. The heat was increasing so much that it became dangerous to leave the poop; the captain therefore requested us to get into the boats, told off and embarked his men, and at three o’clock he himself left the ship, the last man, just as the flames were bursting through the quarter-deck. We then put off, the two boats towing the longboat. The ship’s way had been previously stopped by backing her yards. She was now in one blaze, and her masts began to fall in. The sight was grand, though awful. Between eight and nine o’clock all her masts had fallen, and she had burned to the water’s edge. Suddenly there was a bright flash, followed by a dull, heavy explosion—her powder had caught. For a few seconds her splinters and flaming fragments were glittering in the air, and then all was darkness, and the waters had closed over the Earl of Eldon!

“The ship was now in one blaze, and her masts began to fall in”

“Sad was the prospect now before us! There were in the longboat the captain and twenty-five persons, including an infant four months old; the size of the boat[155] 23 feet long by 7⅓ feet broad. In each of the others ten individuals, including the officer in charge. One of the boats had some bags of biscuit, but the chief provision was in the longboat. We were, by rough calculation, above 1,000 miles from Rodrigue, and 450 from Diego Garcias, the largest of the Chagos Islands; but to get there we must have passed through the squally latitudes we had just left, and been subject to variable winds and heavy weather or calms, neither of which we were prepared to resist. Seeing, then, that our stock was sufficient, we determined on trying for Rodrigue. About eleven o’clock we accomplished rigging the boats and were under sail. We carried a lantern lashed to our mast in the longboat to prevent the other boats from losing us during the night; and when day broke sent them sailing in all directions around to look-out for ships. While the wind was light they could outsail us, but when it became strong, and the sea very high, the difference of speed was rather in our favour, as the weight and size of the longboat enabled her to lay hold of the water better.

“On the third day of our boat navigation, the change of the moon approaching, the weather began to wear a threatening aspect; but as we were in the Trade, we did not apprehend foul or contrary winds. In the course of the night it blew fresh, with rain. We were totally without shelter, and the sea, dashing its spray over us, drenched us, and spoiled a great part of our biscuit, though we happily did not discover this until we were nearly out of the want of it.

“In the course of the next day the weather grew worse, and one of our small boats, in which was Mr. Simpson, the second mate, with nine others, was split by the sea. She came alongside, and we put the carpenter into her, who made what repairs he could, but[156] with little hope of their answering. We then proceeded to fasten a spray-cloth of canvas along our gunwale, having lashed a bamboo four feet up the mast, and fixed it on the intersection of two stanchions at the same height above the stern. The spray-cloth was firmly lashed along this, so as to form a kind of half-pent roof, and had it not been for this imperfect defence we must have been swamped; and we still shipped seas to so great an extent that four men were obliged to be kept constantly employed in bailing to keep her clear of water. Towards evening it blew hard with a tremendous sea, and, not thinking the other damaged boat safe, we took in her crew and abandoned her. We were now thirty-six persons, stowed as thick as we could hold, and obliged to throw over all superfluities. We had not more than eight inches of clear gunwale out of water!

“This night I shall never forget. Our situation was indeed awful. Wet, crushed, and miserable, the night passed away, and the day broke at last. A tremendous sea came roaring down, and I held in my breath with horror; it broke right over our stern, wetted the poor women to their throats, and carried away the steersman’s hat. The captain then cried out, in a tone calculated to inspire with confidence he afterwards told me his heart did not re-echo:

“‘That’s nothing! It’s all right! Bail away, my boys!’

“He never expected us to live out that night; but, harassed as he was in mind and body, he gallantly stood up, and never by word or deed betrayed a feeling that might tend to make us despair. He stood on the bench that livelong night, nor did he ever attempt to sleep for nearly forty-eight hours.

“The morning broke and passed away, and, after the change of the moon, the weather began to moderate,[157] and we enjoyed a comparative degree of comfort. We had three small meals of biscuit and some jam, etc., and three half-pints of water per day, with brandy, if we liked it. The men had one gill of spirits allowed them daily. We had plenty of cigars, and whenever we could strike a light we had a smoke, and I never found tobacco so great a luxury. The ladies were most wretched, yet they never uttered a repining word.

“On the thirteenth evening we began to look out for Rodrigue. The captain told us not to be too sanguine, as his chronometer was not to be depended upon after its late rough treatment. The night fell, and I went forward to sleep, and about twelve was awoke by the cry that land was right ahead. I looked and saw a strong loom of land through the mist. The captain had the boat brought to for an hour, then made sail and ran towards it, and at half-past two it appeared still more strongly. We then lay to until daylight. I attempted to compose myself to sleep, but my feelings were too strong, and after some useless attempts I sat down and smoked with a sensation I had long been a stranger to. With the first light of dawn, Rodrigue appeared right ahead, distant about six miles, and by eight o’clock we were all safely landed. A fisherman who came off to show us the way through the reefs received us in his house, and proceeded to feed us, and in the meantime sent to tell the gentlemen of the island of our arrival. Two of them came down immediately, and, having heard our story, said that we had been miraculously preserved. They then gave our bundles to their negroes, and took us to their houses, where everything they had was set before us—clean linen and a plentiful dinner. They shook us down four or five beds in an outhouse, and we enjoyed what we had not known for the last fortnight—a sound sleep.”



These are True Stories of Treasure, and they are as Strange as Fiction

INTERWOVEN with the story of the sea there is a vast amount of romance that wraps itself around hidden treasure. Ever since the days when the pirates roamed the seas at their own sweet will and took toll of shipping, these tales of treasure have been told. Dotted about here and there are small islands where tradition has it that the pirates hid their hoards of gold, silver, and precious jewels, intending to come back for them at some future date; but, being caught and hauled to justice, they died with their secret unrevealed, and the treasure remained. Then someone was told—or perhaps imagined—that such-and-such an island held it, and expeditions would be fitted out to seek for the treasure, which, as time rolled on, grew in size and value till it assumed fabulous proportions.

Of course, there are hidden treasures secreted by the old pirates, and there are, too, other hoards which it would be well worth while to salvage, if the exact places were known. One can go back as far as the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula and find mention of richly laden ships which foundered with all their treasure; two galleys, for instance, containing plate, gold, art treasures, and many jewels were lost in the Lake Nemi, and nothing has ever been recovered, although[159] the lake at this spot is only little more than a hundred feet deep.

Coming to a much later date, the seventeenth century, there is an authentic record of the recovery of a vast quantity of lost treasure which was lost off Hispaniola, when a great Spanish galleon went down very many years before. A ship’s carpenter named John Phipps by some means became aware of this sunken treasure, and after some time prevailed upon the Duke of Albemarle to fit out an expedition to recover it. That expedition lasted a year, and folks at home began to think that Phipps’s idea had been all moonshine, and that nothing had come of it. Then one day the one-time carpenter turned up with treasure worth £300,000. The story was romantic. Phipps had been searching about the sea round Hispaniola, for he had no sure idea as to exact locality, and perhaps he himself had a suspicion that his information had been incorrect, for he could find no trace of the wealth he sought. Then one day, when off Port de la Plata, looking over the side of the Periaga, a man “spied,” says the account written by a New England historian, “a feather growing, as he judged, out of a rock, whereupon one of their Indians (whom they had brought for the purpose) dived in, and, bringing up the feather, brought them withal a surprising story that he perceived a number of great guns in the watery world where he had found his feather, the report of which great guns exceedingly astonished the whole company, and at once turned their despondencies for their ill-success into assurances that they had now lit upon the true spot of ground which they had been looking for; and they were further confirmed in their assurances when, upon further diving, the Indian fetched up a ‘Sow,’ as they styled it, or lump of silver, worth[160] perhaps two or three hundred pounds. This news was communicated to Phipps. ‘Then,’ said he, ‘thanks be to God, we are made’; and so away they went, all hands to work.... Now, most happily, they fell upon that room in the wreck where the bullion had been stored up, and they so prospered in this ‘new fishing’ that in a little while they had, without the loss of any man’s life, brought up thirty-two tons of silver! For it was now come to measuring silver by tons. Thus did there once again come into the light of the sun a treasure which had been half a hundred years groaning under the water. Besides that incredible treasure in plate of various forms thus fetched up from seven or eight fathoms under water, there were vast riches of gold and pearls and jewels.”

Carpenter Phipps received a boisterous welcome in England when he returned, and was knighted, and in due course became Governor of Massachusetts.

Sometimes seekers after treasure go forth on their quest and are never heard of again. In 1888, for instance, there left the Thames a little steamer called the Seabird, which was destined, so it was said, for coastal work in South America. Some three months later she was seen off Descada, and from that time to this has not been heard of. Plainly one of those mysteries of the sea referred to in another chapter; but a mystery with something behind it. The accepted explanation is that the owners had gone to seek treasure-trove buried by La Fitte, a French pirate, in the early days of the nineteenth century, on one of the Leeward Islands, either Marie Galanti or Descada, where the Seabird was sighted. There might be little in that to connect the Seabird with treasure-hunting, were it not for the fact that when she left the Thames she had two divers aboard, who were ranked on the books[161] as steward and cook’s mate. Twelve months after the Seabird disappeared the mother of Rider, the “steward,” heard from her son, who sent her a draft on a San Francisco bank for £100, and a letter saying that she would hear from him again, and that he and the “cook’s mate,” Cadman, had been “lucky.” He was as silent as the grave as to the fate of the Seabird; and neither he nor any of the crew has been heard of since.

If the pirates were alive, and would only speak! If Blackbeard, that picturesque scourge of the sea, could but reveal the place where he hid his treasure, unseen even by his own men, what a rush there would be! What a hoard might be found! Though not perhaps so large a one as the tales that are told lead one to suppose. Poor old Captain Kidd’s hidden wealth, for instance, started with £300—according to a man who sailed with him—and after the captain was hanged it grew and grew and grew until it was so large that not one, nor two, but dozens of places were necessary to hold it! So do myths arise from the flimsiest of facts.

During the sixteenth century, when English ships scoured the seas to wring wealth from Spain, many a Spanish ship was sunk, with all her treasure, rather than it should fall into the hands of the “English devils”; and when the Invincible Armada was put to flight, and, storm-tossed, sought to reach home by sailing round the north coast of Scotland and the west coast of Ireland, numbers of the vessels were wrecked; and, as they contained huge treasures, fortunes might be gained by properly organised search parties with the latest dredging and diving apparatus.

Sometimes the romance of treasure-trove is over-clouded by tragedy; and very often for nothing. The story is told of the foundering of the American ship[162] Reliance, Captain Harding and his crew of twelve men barely escaping with their lives in the boats. Then a storm broke upon them and separated the boats, and Hiram Manly, mate, and nine men found themselves alone on the watery waste, being buffeted about, in danger every minute of being swamped. They worked desperately to keep her afloat, happy to be so far safe. Then one man was washed overboard by a huge wave, another fell dead from his exertions, and the survivors, day after day under pitiless sun, and night after night, held on their way, economising the few provisions and little water they had, becoming delirious as the anxiety told on them. Two more men were lost one night—perhaps the madness seized them, and they flung themselves overboard to end it all; perhaps a wave took them. But, whatever it was, they disappeared without a sound. The survivors, after what seemed an eternity of suffering, were at last flung upon a coral island, where they found water, which, because of the uncontrolled thirst upon them, killed two of them. Then fish was found; Hiram built a fire from drift wood, lighted it by the crystal glass of a watch and the sun’s rays, and then went to rouse his sleeping comrades. One man was dead.

Then the three castaways fell to eating their first good meal for many a day, and afterwards set out to explore the island, Manly going in one direction and the other two—Dillon and Harper—in another. They found no sign of human beings, and presently Dillon and Manly met.

“Where’s Harper?” asked Manly.

“We’ll never see him again,” was the reply. “He’s dead.”

“Dead!” cried Manly. “Where did it happen, and how?”

[163]“Sharks!” said Dillon. “He went to bathe, and—and they got him!”

“Did the body come ashore?” Manly asked, filled with horror, and wondering when his own turn would come. “Let’s go and see!”

“No!” exclaimed Dillon. “It’s no use. We should never find him!”

But Manly persisted, and ran off in the direction from which Dillon had come; and in half an hour came upon the body of Harper, with a knife wound in his chest!

Instantly Manly’s thought flew to the agitation of Dillon when he suggested seeking the body, and he knew that there had been treachery. But why? Why should Dillon kill Harper, a man with nothing of value on him? Not even his clothes were worth having, torn and ragged as they were.

Manly raised himself from beside the dead man, turned, and, turning, saw Dillon creeping towards him with an open knife in his hand. Weaponless, Manly for a moment was filled with terror; then, catching up a handful of sand, he flung it into the murderer’s eyes, blinding him for the minute. Then, with a bound, Manly was upon him, clutching him by the throat and wrestling for the knife. For a long time the two men fought, biting, scratching, Dillon seeking to use his knife, Manly trying to seize it; but at last, with a sharp twist, Manly sent the murderer headlong to the ground, and the next instant was upon him, and, joy! he had the knife.

Again they fought.... And Dillon met the fate of the man he had killed.

Panting from his exertions, Manly sat on the sand beside the dead man, and his bleared eyes looked out to sea. He leapt to his feet, weariness all gone, all[164] thought of the tragedy forgotten; he waved his hands frenziedly, yelled hysterically:

“A sail! A sail!”

Away out there was a ship.

Tearing his shirt from his back, Manly rushed to the water’s edge and waved it long and feverishly, waved it till there came from the ship the boom of a gun, that told him he had been seen. And then reaction set in; he dropped senseless to the earth.

They found him thus; found Dillon, too, lying dead, and knew that some tragedy had been enacted on the silent, lonely strand. When Manly came round he blurted out his story, telling all.

“But why should he have killed Harper?” said the officer who had come ashore with the boat party.

“It fails me,” said Manly.

The next moment the pair were startled as a seaman rushed towards them with a cry upon his lips. He placed something in the officer’s hand. They were two small golden coins.

They were coins such as Manly knew none of his comrades had possessed, and there was a gleam in his eyes as he looked at the officer, neither speaking a word.

Quietly they walked over to Dillon, searched him, and found three more coins of the same kind.

“Reckon that was the motive, sir,” said Manly. “They found these while they were exploring the island, and Dillon, thinking he had come across treasure-trove, decided to kill us both off. Harper went first, and my turn would have come very soon. Thank God I went in search of Harper!”

The officer agreed with Manly in his suggestion, and soon had his men searching the beach; but not another coin was discovered. Instead, they found the[165] skeleton of a man—of some poor mariner, no doubt, who had been cast ashore, his worldly possessions consisting of the five gold coins that had roused the cupidity of Dillon, and had brought tragedy upon them.

Presently Manly was taken on board the Bristol, and sailed away from the coral island, the scene of a tragedy of treasure that never existed.

Everyone has heard of the treasure of Cocos Islands, off Panama, to which many expeditions have been sent, though without success. The treasure was hidden by a pirate named Beneto Bonito, and hidden so securely that, although many expeditions—some of them recent ones—have been sent out to find it, none has yet succeeded. But, despite failure, year after year men go forth, secretly and well equipped, seeking the hoards of riches that they fondly believe they will some day find.

Perhaps they will.



Strange Happenings to Submarines and Divers

MAN, not content with fighting Father Neptune for mastery on the seas, has gone farther than that, and has sought to show that he is not afraid of any terrors beneath the seas: he would be master over all. So men have become divers; so ships which can sink and rise again have been made. And the diver and the submarine boat have added to the tale of man’s conquest over Nature; their chapter is as full of vigour and vim and adventure as any chapter in the tale.

We are not concerned with the make-up of the submarine, but with the adventures of the brave and hardy sailors who man them, and the part the boats play in great naval wars. The latter may be dismissed by saying that the submarine’s work is to dash forth from the security of harbours, and make sudden attacks upon the bigger craft of the enemy in the hope of reducing their number. These were the tactics employed by Germany in the great war of 1914-15. Aware that Britain’s navy was vastly superior to her own, and that the only hope for success in a great encounter would be when the British navy had been reduced, Germany kept her Dreadnoughts and other big craft safe in her harbours, contenting herself with sending out submarines to strike sudden blows at the British patrolling vessels guarding the seas. Britain employed her submarines for the purpose of luring the Germans from their harbours[167] (as the account, given in another chapter, of the Battle of the Bight of Heligoland shows).

While British and German submarines were playing the risky game of scouring the seas, French submarines were not idle; and in the latter days of December, 1914, there was told the story of an adventure as thrilling as ever fictionist wove for the delight of his readers.

The number of the submarine was not given; neither was the name of the place where the incident took place. All that was told was that on a certain Saturday morning the submarine left port, and at three o’clock on the following morning had reached its objective—namely, an enemy port. Two miles out the boat dived, and going at the rate of about three miles an hour, made for the entrance of the port where the Frenchmen hoped to find some battleships which would provide good targets for their torpedoes. In due course they reached the entrance; it was guarded by a boom, on the other side of which were several battleships and destroyers.

Chagrined at the fact that the boom prevented them from firing at the warships, the French sailors hung about awhile in the hope that the enemy would perhaps issue forth. Meanwhile, the officer kept his eye upon the mirror, which through the periscope showed him what was going on, and which, incidentally, was a source of danger to the submarine; for the eye of the submarine, sticking up about eighteen inches above the surface, is easily seen in good light by the look-out of a battleship; and in time of war a very sharp watch is kept for these bobbing “eyes,” which betoken the presence of death-dealing boats. The Frenchmen knew their danger, but they had come out to do something, and refused to give up until they found it impossible to carry out their mission.

[168]So they stayed there—waiting for something to happen.

Then it happened.

The man at the mirror saw the battleships and destroyers moving, and, giving the order to stand by, he waited until they passed within a short distance of the submarine. They were anxious moments for every man in her; they knew that at any minute some watcher on the enemy’s decks might detect them and heavy shells come hurtling towards them, perhaps to snap the periscope and turn the cigar-shaped craft into a blind, helpless thing, when, if she kept below, she might run foul of a ship’s bottom, and if she rose to the surface be at the mercy of the waiting foes. Into such moments is crowded the spice of war, and these gallant Frenchmen were quite prepared for it.

Luckily the foes passed by without noticing the lurking boat, and the officer, anxious to get within a distance which would enable him to take a more accurate aim, gave orders for the submarine to draw nearer to them. Stealthily she approached, every man in her at tension and at his post, ready for the time to come when they could launch their death-tube.

Suddenly the boat seemed to shiver, then to strain as a dog strains at the leash, then to shiver again; and there was a grinding noise. Then the boat came to a standstill, though her engines were still going.

Instantly the men sprang into action, seeking the cause of this unfortunate event. What had happened? they asked themselves. They soon knew. Investigation showed them that steel cables had caught the rudder of their boat and held her prisoner. Apparently this was a method adopted by the enemy to trap them, for the cables drew them upwards—ever upwards, till they were close to the surface, and at the same time torpedoes[169] came swishing through the water towards them. Time after time these death-tubes sped at them, to miss them by merest fractions of inches, it seemed. Simultaneously shells fell thick and fast around them, sending the water up in great spouts. It was literally an inferno, from which the Frenchmen realised that there was little chance of escape. But what chance there was they took.

Boxed up in their little citadel they waited for death—waited for the crash that would tell them a shell had found its target; waited for the explosion which would end the suspense and bring the death that was so slow in coming. This waiting in helplessness was far worse than taking the chances of death in an encounter with the foe when they were free to fight manfully against them.

But though they knew that death was so near to them, and though escape seemed impossible, yet they bent their every effort in an attempt to free the boat from the grip of the cables. They filled the water tanks to their utmost capacity, and every man joined in pressing on the steering wheel; the perspiration of energy and anxiety stood upon their brows as they worked; the atmosphere was electric; they knew that the next few minutes must decide their fate. How they worked! What prayers for life they prayed, these men of death!

Suddenly the grim silence of the interior was broken by the cries of the men—cries of joy. With her engines at full speed, the little craft had fought and strained against the impeding leash, had fought victoriously, for with a jerk the cables broke away and the submarine bounded forward; the men at the wheel felt it answer to their pressure, and down the boat went at full speed to a depth of sixteen metres.

They were saved!

[170]Ecstatic in their joy at deliverance the Frenchmen embraced each other, and for a moment forgot that above them rode the giant foes who, unaware yet that they had escaped from the cables, were no doubt still potting away at the spot, and still sending their torpedoes in that direction. But very soon the sailors came back to the world of action, and realised that they were still far from safe; they must hurry away immediately if they would escape. There was little chance of doing any damage to the foe, who were now on the qui vive; and only one course was open to the French, and that was to get away. They dared not rise to the surface, and they had to chance their luck and keep below. For two hours—hours full of anxiety—they went along under water, well aware that they were pursued by the foes, whose guns continually spoke as the periscope was fired at. Knot after knot was eaten up, and still the pursuers kept on after them; but at last they were shaken off, and the men in the submarine knew that they were indeed safe.

But, cautious even now, they still remained beneath the surface till the shades of evening fell; and then, and then only, did they dare to rise, after having been submerged for nothing short of twelve hours! Twelve hours as full of peril and thrill as any hours man ever spent!

They were not even then out of the wood; for shortly afterwards they sighted another of the enemy’s ships, and again they had to dive and go on their way beneath the water; but eventually they reached their port safely, happy to have escaped, but chagrined at not having been able to do any damage to the foe.

Because we do not reap the benefits in daily life of the work of the diver, few of us give him much[171] thought; but for a hazardous, heroic vocation, that of the man in the diving suit is probably without equal.

A thousand little things may happen, and each one of them be sufficient to cut the slender thread of life for the diver; a man in the boat above, for instance, may make a slight mistake, and—but there is no need to moralise. Take the case of John Edward Pearce, a diver, who one day in 1868 was hard at work in eighty feet of water, where the sunken barque Mindora lay off Dover. You couldn’t have seen the diver, of course, but the cutter riding to the swell, and the man aboard her holding the lifeline, would have told you plainly enough that below the water was a man working amidst the remains of what was once a proud little ship.

That man with the line was in touch with the man below; he held the thread of life and death. Suddenly he received a signal from below, and called out to another man, a diver:

“Slack away the wreck rope!”

“Aye, aye!” cried the man. And it was done. Then the two men waited, expecting to see the diver’s helmet appear above the surface, and ready to haul him aboard.

But there was no sign of Pearce; only something was happening down there, for the man with the lifeline could tell by the pull.

“What’s he up to?” the diver asked, for he knew that it was unusual for a diver to give the signal to come up and then to remain below.

“I don’t know,” was the reply, “but he seems to have gone back into the hold again.”

“Reckon you’re wrong,” said the diver. “The line’s too deep for him to be in the hold. Something’s gone wrong.”

[172]They signalled down to Pearce again and again, but getting no answer began to haul away at the hoisting tackle.

After an anxious time of straining at the ropes, they succeeded in bringing the diver to the surface, hauled him into the cutter, unscrewed his helmet and—thought him dead. Applying artificial respiration immediately in the hope of his being alive, and forcing brandy between the clenched teeth, they were fortunate enough to bring Pearce round; and then the mystery was explained. The signal man had made a mistake; he had called “Slack away!” when he should not have done, with the result that the diver had slipped from the deck of the sunken Mindora, to fall heavily on the floor of the ocean, cutting his air supply and knocking himself unconscious. A few moments more down there, with the air supply cut off, and he would inevitably have died of suffocation.

This was by no means the only adventure that befel Pearce in the course of his work in the depths, and although the following incident took place in a river, and not at sea, it may be included in this record. He was at work on the s.s. London, which had sunk in the Tay, and his task was to attach the bales of cotton with which she was laden to the large drag hooks which men in the vessel above were letting down to him. What made the job a ticklish one was the fact that the water was thick, and, as he himself said, “I had to do all my work by feeling!”

It is easy to imagine that Pearce found it very hard to manipulate the drag hook which, after hauling a bale up, would descend to him again, perhaps narrowly missing knocking him on the helmet, to the danger of the glass front, which, breaking, would mean death. However, this did not happen; instead, after he had fixed[173] the four-pronged hook in a bale it slipped, and in doing so, and before Pearce could jump aside, caught him in the palm of his hand. The winches above, of course, were hauling away at the chain which, going up, carried Pearce with it, and soon he found himself in intense agony on the upper deck of the London. By good luck he managed to wrench the hook out of his palm just then, and the chain went upwards without a load, and the men above believed that the bale had slipped as it was being hoisted. They little knew what kind of a load it had had on it—a human load! Once free of the hook Pearce, suffering severely, and feeling faint from loss of blood, gave the signal to be hauled up, and in a short time was on the surface. The men in the lighter quickly attended to him, and they found that his palm had been torn completely open, and that the hook had penetrated the third finger. That accident cost Pearce three months’ work, and for a long time he despaired of ever being able to use the hand again.

Jim Hartley, diver, had an adventure of another kind under the sea. A vessel had sunk off Honolulu, and Hartley, who was stranded at the island after roving around a bit, undertook to explore the wreck if a diving suit could be found. The island was ransacked and a suit found, whereupon Hartley donned it, and rowed out in a small sloop with one man to help him. The people on the shore had told him to beware of sharks, and Hartley took with him a large knife—and it was a good job he did! The first time he went down he couldn’t do much good, because he landed amongst a lot of sharp rocks which threatened to cut his airpipe; so he went up again, and ventured down on the next good tide. This time he lighted on the sunken ship, which had a big hole in her port bow. Thinking he would inspect the other side Hartley started to go[174] round, when there was a swirl of water, a sudden darkening, and a jerk at the signal line and air pipe.

Instinctively Hartley knew that a big fish had fouled him, and thoughts of sharks entered his mind. Looking up through the now cloudy water, he saw a huge shark. Presence of mind is the great thing for a diver to possess, and Hartley had it. Quick as lightning he dropped on to his back and lay there, waiting for the shark to come, knowing that in that position he had a better chance if it came to a fight than he would have if he stood upright. His great fear was that the shark might cut the air-hose, and that if the man in the sloop caught sight of the shark he might begin to haul up. In that case, the diver knew that he would be at the mercy of the great fish, which would swoop down upon him as he was going up, and while he had no leverage for his feet.

Fortunately the man in the sloop did not see the shark, and Hartley, lying there on his back, with his large knife held in his right hand, waited—anxiously, watchfully—wondering what the shark would do. As though playing with its prey the huge fish swam back a few yards, then forward again, and this time it was lower down, and so nearer to the supine man, who expected that every minute the shark would swoop down upon him. But no; back it went again, only to swim forward once more until it was three feet above him.

This was Hartley’s opportunity; he knew that if the shark hauled off again, the next time it would come right on to him, and then——Hartley took opportunity by the forelock; he rose from his back, and, with a terrific lunge, thrust his knife at the shark. Instantly the water was dyed red, the great tail lashed the water angrily and caught Hartley a terrific thwack, which sent him headlong to the ground again. The water was[175] now so thick that it was impossible to see anything, and life depended on being able to find the signal line. Groping about in the dark, by great good luck the diver caught the rope, gave it a sharp tug that told the man above to haul away, and up went Hartley, nervous until he reached the surface lest the blow he had given the shark had not been sufficient to give it its quietus. However, all was well, and in due course the diver was able to go down again and complete his work.

A more terrifying fight with a shark was that which a diver once had in a diving bell. In this case the diver sat on a small seat suspended in the bell, which slowly descended into the water. To the horror of the diver, when the bell rested on the bottom forty feet down, he discovered that he had a companion—a shark! The great fish darted hither and thither about the bell, and a whisk of its tail knocked the diver off his seat. Quick as lightning the man scrambled to his place again and sat there, a hopeless prisoner, with the tiger of the seas almost brushing against him as it swooped around the bell, seeking to find a way out of the prison. It grew angrier and angrier every moment, and the diver knew that it would soon turn upon him unless he could manage to kill it at once. Round and round the bell went the maddened fish; silent, anxious, the diver waited for his chance; and as the shark drew near to him, he made a sudden grab at its dorsal fin with one hand, and with the other drove a sharp tool into the gleaming side.

It was but the beginning of things. The blow seemed to make the shark more angry than ever; and the blood-red water was lashed to a fury as the fish turned and swept down upon the man, seeking to catch him in its capacious maw. How he held on to his seat the diver never knew, but he did so; and every[176] time the shark dashed near him he stabbed at it viciously with the tool. It was, indeed, a duel to the death, this fight between the stabbing man and the flashing fish. The diver, who had given the signal to be hoisted up, prayed that the men above would not take long, for he was becoming weary of the struggle. His arms were aching, his head was swimming, and, despite all his pluck, there was the haunting dread that the giant fish might be victorious. Luckily for the man the shark was also weakened, though even in its death agonies it made attacks upon the diver, who was presently gladdened at the sight of daylight and the ship. Quickly the crew had the bell aboard, and before their eyes was a strange sight: a dying shark, in death-travail, lashing its tail on the deck, and a man, faint, weary, nauseated, who dropped beside the victim.

Here is another picture of a man’s adventure among sharks. A cattle ship had been wrecked. A diver went below to overhaul it, and found that a school of sharks had got there before him, attracted by the smell of the feast they nosed about after. Laying a charge and blowing off the hatches, the diver saw the carcasses of the cattle rise from the hold, to be attacked immediately by the hungry sharks which swarmed about him. There were two alternatives open to him: either to remain below and risk having his airpipe severed, or to go up and risk being attacked as he went. He chose the latter as being the lesser of two evils. So the signal was given; the men above began to haul him up. As he went he had to pass through the school of voracious fish, some of which turned their attention away from the dead cattle to the living man. Swinging from this side to that as he was attacked, the diver managed to ward off the tigers of the deep, and, by a very miracle, reached the surface with no more hurt than an injured hand.

“Swinging from this side to that as he was attacked, the diver managed to ward off the tigers of the deep”



Tales of Modern Pirate Hunting

IT must not be supposed that all pirates lived in the far distant past, or that there are no pirates nowadays. It is true that the picturesque gentlemen whose acquaintance we have made so far have disappeared from the high seas, but fellow rogues of theirs still ply their trade far away in the East. The coasts of China have always been infested by pirates; of course, they are not so numerous or so open in their methods to-day as they were, say, forty or fifty years ago, for China has awakened from her lethargy of ages, and her ancient civilisation is being supplanted by a newer one which will not tolerate pirates. As a matter of fact, the old Chinese civilisation did not tolerate them; but the officials were so slack, and so cowardly, that the freebooters laughed at them and their efforts to suppress piracy. It was for this reason that Great Britain had gunboats in the Far Eastern waters whose mission it was to destroy the pirates—rout them out of their strongholds, and sink or capture their junks.

The Gulf of Tonquin, the island of Hainan, and the length of coast from that point to Macao, were—and are—what might be termed the hunting-ground of the Chinese pirates. Macao, as a glance at the map will show, is on the opposite side of the Canton River to Hong-Kong, the British naval base. The trading was done chiefly from Hong-Kong to the northward, the[178] country below Macao being practically unknown to Europeans. The British steamer Takon was held up on April 27th, 1914, by pirates off Kian, to the north of Macao. It was late at night, and the captain was on his bridge. The pirates swarmed along the deck, killing as they went, and instantly all was confusion. There were two hundred and thirty people on board, including passengers and crew, and it was a bold attempt the pirates made. The officers and crew opposed them nobly, and tried to force them back; but nothing could stop them. Across the deck they went towards the bridge where the captain stood, revolver in hand, blazing away at them as fast as he could. Here so good a stand was made, that the pirates found they would be unable to win, and, while some kept the captain and his few men engaged, others rushed below and set fire to the ship. Very soon the vessel was a blazing mass, with women and children screaming, pirates jumping overboard to escape capture, the crew launching boats and trying to get the women and children off.

Naturally, after the turmoil of the fight, there was much confusion, for people had lost their heads, and though incoming steamers rescued over a hundred and fifty from the ship, which was burnt to the water’s edge, when the toll was taken next morning it was found that a hundred and eighty were missing, including the chief officer, Evans, who had been last seen clinging to a floating oar. Of the rescued, some showed signs of the encounter with the pirates, several of whom had been killed and a number of others wounded.

To go farther back, in 1865, a large junk, with a fine cargo of opium, left the port bound for Swatow in the north. Now, as the junk was well armed and well manned, having no fewer than a dozen 12- to 18-pounder guns and some forty-five men on board, it seemed unlikely[179] that she would be molested by the pirates. For this reason a number of people sailed in her, thinking themselves safe. The better not to be noticed by any prowling piratical craft, the junk slipped out of harbour at evening, but, the wind falling, she had to anchor about nine o’clock a few miles from the outer roads of Hong-Kong, the crew, despite their strength, and the passengers, despite the crew, feeling anything but at ease in their minds; at any moment they knew they might be swooped down upon by a number of pirate junks, and then—well, here is the “then.”

At midnight, while the passengers were tossing about uneasily, a dark shape loomed out of the night, there was a grating of ship’s side against ship’s side, the patter of running feet on deck, and before the crew or the passengers could gather themselves together—before they even knew what was afoot—they were clapped under the hatches, prisoners to pirates. Eighty-three people had been captured by, perhaps, half that number!

Once having secured their prisoners, the pirates set the junk’s sails, and under cover of the darkness took her back towards Hong-Kong, keeping well away from the coast until they were on the south side of the island. Here, at daybreak, they ordered the prisoners to come up on deck one by one.

They came; and as each one showed head above the hatch, he or she—for there were women and children aboard—was seized by the pirates, bound hand and foot, and pitched headlong into the sea; these ruffians didn’t trouble about planks! A man stood too much chance of being saved if he walked off a plank, and very little if flung overboard with his feet and hands tied.

Eighty-two of the batch were treated in this way,[180] the sole exception being a child of twelve years of age, whom they decided to keep and turn into ship’s boy. Then away went the pirates to a snug little harbour near Macao, where they shared their spoil—no little lot, either, for the ship had been well laden. Then the captured junk was burnt, and the pirates broke up into little companies and went anywhere they felt inclined, to spend their ill-gotten gains, and then to return to their trade.

Seven of the rogues, taking the little boy with them, boarded a steamer bound for Hong-Kong. The pirates, used to such ventures, maintained a fine pose, but the poor little laddie, scared out of his wits and wondering what was likely to happen to him, attracted the attention of the captain.

“What’s the matter?” asked the captain. And, with nervous glances about him, lest a pirate should catch him confiding to the kind-hearted man, the boy told him the story of the tragic night on the junk. Telling him to say nothing to anyone else, the captain, when the steamer arrived at Hong-Kong, stopped in the middle of the river, and hailed the police-boat. This arriving, the whole batch of passengers, numbering over a hundred, was lined up, and the boy made to pick out the seven pirates, who were taken prisoners and sent to the lock-up.

The people of Hong-Kong were in a fine stew over the matter already, for the previous evening one of the men who had been flung overboard had, by a miracle, succeeded in getting his hands and feet free, and, being a good swimmer, made his way to a small island near at hand, whence he took a fishing-boat to Hong-Kong and told his story. But though the authorities made inquiries none of the pirates were captured, except the seven mentioned, who were duly tried and hanged.

[181]The terror which the pirates struck into the inhabitants of the small coast towns—and large ones, too—is clearly shown in the following story, told by Captain St. John, R.N., who commanded one of the gunboats detailed to tackle the rovers. He was cruising about the coast in 1865, shortly after the incident above-mentioned, when a sampan hailed him, and the fisherman in it cried excitedly:

“Have got pilong!” (pirate).

“Where?” he was asked.

“Can makee see,” was the answer. And he pointed to a couple of junks which were making out to sea. That was enough for St. John. After them he went, and the junks had no chance against the steam gunboat, which rapidly overhauled them. Before the British vessel could get alongside, however, a number of other junks swung out from the shore, and there began a miniature battle—much noise, much smoke, though probably not much damage on the part of the official junks, anyhow; for it was left to Captain St. John to effect the capture of the pirate junks. Anchoring off shore with his prisoners, the captain interviewed the mandarin who came aboard. In true Oriental fashion the latter thanked the Britisher for what he had done, considering it a vast achievement to have captured a couple of junks and twenty-one men.

“These two junks,” he said, “have given me a great deal of trouble for four days; they have blockaded the place; neither a fishing nor a trading junk has been able to get out!”

Naturally, Captain St. John was surprised that two miserable junks, with twenty-one men and a two-pounder gun, could have effectively shut up a port in such a way. The mandarin excused himself and his people by saying that they were very, very scared of[182] pirates, and on being asked if he hadn’t any soldiers, replied that he had eight hundred ashore. Eight hundred soldiers, and a hundred or so junks knocking about the harbour, and yet the two pirate craft could hold up a whole port’s trade for over half a week! And the port had 4,000 inhabitants!

“Well,” said the captain to the mandarin, “if I were a Chinaman, I think I would turn pirate at once. They must lead very jolly, independent lives!”

“Yes, they do,” answered the mandarin, not appreciating the captain’s humour. “The only things they fear are English gunboats.”

Pickshui, one of the strongholds of the pirates, had already been burned down twice by Captain St. John; but, having been rebuilt, it was determined that once and for all it should be razed to the ground. A large expedition, consisting of fifty-three war-junks, sixteen hundred Chinese troops, four English gunboats and a steamer was detailed to do this, Captain St. John being in command, though the part of his own little force was rather to encourage the Chinese than anything else. The armada arrived off Pickshui, which from its situation was as good a place for the pirates to lurk in as could be found. The way in was through a channel between two islands, and vessels passing through were at the mercy of the pirate junks inside. The mandarin in charge of the Chinese section of the expedition knew this, and was pathetic in his refusal to venture in, or allow his own ships to do so, unless an English gunboat led the way. So in went the English, followed by the Chinese, who, indicative of their dread of the pirates, directed a heavy fire upon the village before they dared land a single man. Then, when they had plucked up sufficient courage, the celestial warriors leaped ashore, and a great mass of them rushed at the village,[183] from which the inhabitants fled in terror. Then looting began; and afterwards the village was burned to the ground—for the third time.

But the work was not done; large numbers of pirates were hidden amongst the trees, and kept up a continual fire upon the Chinese troops who were told to clear them out of the woods. Eight hundred of the soldiers were detailed for this task, and for a time they kept up a brisk, though useless, because ill-directed, fire upon the pirates. Then they refused to advance a single inch; it was only courting death, they said.

“My troops cannot take the place!” cried the mandarin to Captain St. John, in an awful agony of spirit.

“Go in at them,” exclaimed the captain, “and they’ll run as fast as their legs can carry them!”

A blank refusal was the only answer, and the captain realised that if the expedition was to be a success, he would have to make it so. He therefore promised to help, and, taking one sailor and one marine, he landed and went to where the Imperial cowards were waiting. The mandarin, fear written all over his face, took his stand with his men, but the captain and his two companions went forward alone, getting close up to where the pirates were concealed.

These three intrepid men opened fire upon the lurkers, and what all the desultory firing of the Imperial troops had failed to do, they did; they alone sent the pirates fleeing for their lives!

And that little affair upset the ruffians at Pickshui!

How scared the pirates were of a handful of Englishmen is shown by an encounter which Captain St. John had with them in another little bay, where the gunboat could not enter, the entrance being too narrow and the water too shallow. As the pirate junks would be lined[184] up inside, ready to meet with a heavy fire any attacking boats, some other way had to be devised, and the captain hit on a method which, as it turned out, was successful. He landed at a spot some distance from the entrance, taking seven men with him, and arranging for another boat to put out when the gunboat reached the entrance of the channel.

The way to the pirates’ rendezvous lay through a quarter of a mile of scrubby bush and long grass, and up the side of a hill. Cautiously this ground was covered and the summit of the hill reached. Down in the bay lay three large junks, broadside on to the entrance, ready to give a good fight to any who tried to get in. Their men were at the guns, twenty-six in all—a fair armament, and one likely to cause havoc in any boats which dare attempt to enter. As for men, there were about ten to one against the English; but the job had to be done.

Grounded on the shore was a small sampan, hidden from the junks by some trees; and Captain St. John resolved that he would have this sampan. Just as he had made up his mind to obtain it, the gunboat appeared at the entrance and the pirates began to get to business. But before they had a chance to fire, St. John and three of his men had scrambled into the sampan, pushed off, and took them in the rear. They were seen immediately, before ever they got near enough to board, and the three other men, who were coming along the shore, were also seen.

Never were mortals so scared as were those poor pirates! Seven men—white men, Englishmen! So vast an army had come out against them! It was more than piratic endurance and pluck could stand; and over the side went the raiders, some being fortunate enough to drop into the boats alongside, others tumbling headlong[185] into the water. Such a scene you never saw! Such yells of fear you never heard!

And four of those seven men were in a sampan that simply refused to be steered, but spun round and round and round, so that they could neither get aboard nor grab any of the pirates. Then, to add to the consternation of the ruffians, another boat, with more Englishmen, appeared in the entrance; and there were no men at the guns to fire the grapeshot which they had hoped would blow the sailors from the sea!

And instead of doing that the pirates splashed and scrambled about in frantic efforts to reach shore, all of them managing to do so except about half a dozen who were taken prisoners. Then the Englishmen had a bonfire, the junks forming the fuel for it.

Truly, pirate-hunting in the Far East is a fine sport!



The Mutiny on the Flowery Land

IT is significant to note that, in the merchant service, most of the mutinies on the record of shame have as their ringleaders—and rank and file—foreign sailors aboard British ships; and the mutiny on board the Flowery Land was no exception.

The Flowery Land, laden with wines, and a mixed cargo besides, left the Port of London on July 28, 1863, bound for Singapore. Crew and officers numbered twenty, the captain bearing the honest, if common, name of John Smith; with him, as a passenger, sailed his brother George.

They had not been at sea long before Captain Smith found that he had a very tough set of men to deal with. They were a cosmopolitan crowd—Spaniards, Turks, Greeks, Norwegians, Chinamen, and a sprinkling of Englishmen, these latter being Karswell, the first mate, and William Taffir, the second mate. The seamen, being far from sweet-tempered, and giving evidence every now and then of insubordination, had to be taken pretty strongly in hand, which took the form of rope’s-ending some of them occasionally to quell their unruly spirits. Such treatment, however, only seemed to arouse the antipathy of the crew, who secretly plotted against the captain and his officers; and when one day George Carlos, the Greek, after a particularly flagrant piece of insubordination, was hauled on deck and strapped to[187] the bulwark for a while, it made them more determined than ever to get their own back. Not that this treatment of Carlos was anything out of the way; it was a very frequent form of punishment for the law-breaker at sea. And, as a matter of fact, Carlos did not get all he deserved, for Captain Smith took pity on him, and had him released sooner than he need have done, and went so far as to physic him and let him go to his bunk for a rest.

But what harsh treatment did not effect, kind was unable to, and Carlos nursed revenge in his heart. With his cosmopolitan comrades he worked up a mutiny which broke out on September 10, at about three o’clock in the morning.

The captain was below at the time, and Karswell was on deck, it being his watch; and the conspirators had timed things so that the two could not help each other. Suddenly the storm burst; one party made a rush for Karswell, who, taken unawares, was felled to the deck with handspikes.

“Mercy!” he cried in his agony; but the ruffians were out for blood, and, not heeding his cries, struck him again and again, battering in his head and smashing his face. Then, having taken so much of revenge, they picked the still screaming man up from the deck, carried him to the side, and heaved him into the sea.

Meanwhile, down in the cabin, the captain had heard the noise, and, jumping up, had rushed half-way up the companion-way. He got no farther; several men met him, including Francisco Blanco and Brasilio de los Santos, and, armed with handspikes and daggers, they fell upon him with fury. Clinging to the ladder, seeking to work his way up, the captain was hacked, stabbed, and stabbed again, and then chased below and beaten till his body was racked with pain.

[188]Taffir, the second mate, also roused by the hubbub, tried to get on to the deck, but was stopped by a struggling crowd on the companion, who were treating another man as they had treated the captain. A handspike sent him spinning down again; but once more he ran up, and caught hold this time of the man, and tried to pull him out of danger. He did not know then what had happened to Smith, and he called out lustily on the captain for help. There was no answer; only another blow that sent him hurtling below.

Picking himself up, he ran to the captain’s cabin, only to find it empty. From there he hurried to the main cabin, and here the flickering light of the untrimmed lamp showed him the captain lying in a pool of blood. The mutineers had finished him off there. He was dead. Half maddened by the horror of it all, Taffir rushed to the berth of the captain’s brother. That also was empty. George Smith had been beaten on the head with handspikes till the life was out of him, and then had been pitched overboard. Realising now that there was little mercy being shown to whoever fell into the mutineers’ hands, Taffir sought safety in his own cabin, where he locked himself in, and waited in anguish for about three-quarters of an hour, refusing to answer the calls of the seamen as they pounded at his door.

In the meantime the mutineers were having a clean sweep up; they knocked the carpenter, Michael Anderson, on the head, and ransacked the ship to see what they could find. Then they bethought themselves of Taffir again. Although he did not know it, Taffir was destined to be saved, for the sole reason that, now that they had disposed of the other officers, he was the only man who knew anything about navigation; and, even when you’ve got a ship in your hands, it’s not much use unless you can do something with it.

[189]So down they went to Taffir’s cabin, and on his refusing to open the door to them, they smashed it in and marched into the cabin, where, as bloodstained, ruffianly looking a crew as man ever saw, they stood in a half-circle round his berth.

“Come out!” cried John Lyons, a Spaniard. “Come out!”

Thinking that acquiescence was the safest thing, Taffir got out and stood before them.

“Are you going to kill me?” he asked, anxiously waiting for the answer, and half fearing what it might be. He had little reason to expect mercy from men who had so far shown none.

“No,” said Lyons. “But we’ve killed the skipper and the mate, and the captain’s brother has got away somewhere. We want you to work the ship to somewhere. Will you do it?”

For a moment or so Taffir thought. To say “Yes” was to lend himself to the crime; to say “No” was to ask for death. And, after all, refusing would do nothing for the men who had been killed, whereas to agree might lead to the bringing of the ruffians to justice.

“All right,” he said presently, and the party went on deck again.

Going to the main cabin, Taffir saw that Captain Smith’s body had a rope round it, and that Watto, the Turk, was going to haul it up on deck to heave it overboard.

“Hold! Let me sew it up in canvas,” cried Taffir, with all the sailor’s reverence for the dead; and the mutineers, knowing that, after all, they must humour the mate, consented. Taffir performed his sad office, and Captain Smith had a decent burial at sea, minus the service.

It was five o’clock before Taffir went up on deck,[190] and as he did so he passed Santos, who flourished a big knife at him, as though he would much like to do with Taffir as he had done with the captain.

Having seen that the ship was going all right, Taffir went back to the cabin, and remained there till about eight o’clock, when all the hands except the man at the wheel came down to interview him.

“Come into the captain’s cabin,” said Lyon sternly.

“What for?” Taffir asked, though he had already guessed what was afoot.

“We want to see what money and clothes he’d got,” was the reply; and although he did not say so, Lyons’s idea was that, if they got Taffir there, and made him share with them, they could say that he was a party to the whole affair.

Needs must when the devil drives; and so Taffir went into the cabin, standing by while Santos, Blanco, Carlos, Watto, and Lopez ransacked it for everything of value. They broke open boxes and chests, wrenched open the desks, and, gathering all the money they could find, took it into the main cabin, where they laid it upon the table for division.

“Dole it out in seventeen parts,” said Lyons to Taffir.

“No!” screamed the Turk. “Make it eight!”

“Shut up!” said Lyons threateningly, and Taffir thought that the thieves were going to quarrel amongst themselves. However, the matter was smoothed over, and Lyons had his own way.

Into seventeen parts the money was divided.

“Here’s yours,” said Lyons to the mate.

“I won’t touch a cent of it,” said Taffir, seeing what the idea was.

“You’ll do as I tell you,” cried Lyons, “or——”

He let the rest go by default, and Taffir knew what[191] he meant. There was nothing for it, and, taking the share, the mate carried it to one of the writing-desks and put it in there, though he never saw it again. Perhaps the greedy Turk had it.

Next the mutineers allotted out the captain’s clothes, though they did not give Taffir a share of them. When they came to Smith’s watch they decided that, as they couldn’t very well divide that, they would keep it till they landed, when they might be able to sell it. The timepiece was therefore put into the writing-desk with Taffir’s money; but that also disappeared, and later was a source of trouble.

Having settled up these little matters fairly amicably, the question was to get to land, and Taffir was made to navigate the vessel, while the crew, when it was not necessary for them to work, regaled themselves with champagne and overhauled the cargo for valuables.

For some days everything went on smoothly, and then a ship was sighted. She proved to be the Friends, of Liverpool, and Taffir steered the Flowery Land towards her. Acting on instructions from Carlos, who was in charge of the ship, and had ordered her to be set for Buenos Ayres, under threat of death Taffir told the Friends’ captain that she was the Louiza, bound for Valparaiso.

Then the two ships parted company; and barely had the Friends got away when the crew rushed towards Taffir, and, with daggers drawn, stood and jabbered at him like so many monkeys. Although he couldn’t understand what they were saying, there was no mistaking their attitude. Evidently they were angry with him for something, and it would have gone ill with Taffir had not Lyons come along. Quieting the angry crew, he abstracted from them the fact that they thought Taffir had just told the Friends the whole story of the[192] mutiny. Lyons soon put them right on that little matter, and they went back to their champagne, appeased.

The incident showed Taffir how slender was the thread on which his life hung, and he knew that he would have to be careful, for if these men suspected that he was playing them false there was little doubt that they would kill him out of hand, and risk what happened afterwards. They were like so many madmen, and one day Taffir saw the Turk go up to the Chinese steward and gash his arm open with a large knife for no apparent reason whatever. It turned out that they were forcing him to collect all the ship’s papers, which they threw overboard. Then they had a row about the captain’s watch, which was missing, and accused Taffir of having stolen it. It never was found, and was a sore point all through.

On October 2 land was sighted, and now that they had no further use for him, the mutineers sent Taffir to Coventry. No one spoke to him or took any notice of him; they even refused to let him work the ship, which they turned about. They sent Taffir to his cabin then, where he remained all day. At night Blanco went down and ordered him up on deck, where he found that they were clewing up the sails and getting the boats out.

“What are you going to do?” he asked Lyons.

No answer; only surly looks.

“What’s going to be done with the ship?” he asked another of the Spaniards present, Marsolino. “And what about me? Are you going to kill me?” For Taffir was convinced that momentous things were about to take place.

“We’re going to scuttle the ship,” said Marsolino. “And as for you”—he leered—“as for you, I’m not[193] going to kill you—but I rather think Blanco is,” he added grimly.

Naturally, Taffir was now all anxiety. Here he was, with a ship full of mutineers whose hands were already stained with innocent blood, and who were evidently preparing to leave the ship he had navigated for them. What a prospect was before him! He could almost feel the dagger eating its way into his body as the bloodthirsty Blanco looked across at him every now and again.

Three-quarters of an hour of such anxiety passed, and then Taffir was flung into one of the boats, which contained the cook, the steward, Frank Powell, Watto, and the ship’s boy, named Early. Evidently he was not going to be murdered after all. In another boat, riding at the stern, were several other men, while the rest were still on board the Flowery Land.

Presently the boat in which Taffir had been thrown was pulled away from the ship, but had only gone about a hundred yards when those on the Flowery Land called her back. Taffir’s heart sank. Was he, after all, going to be hauled back to death? He took heart again the next instant, for the men in the boat, with the exception of Watto, did not want to go back, and refused to pull towards the ship. Powell, who steered, refused to turn her head round, and Taffir thanked him in the silence of his own heart. Suddenly Watto, seizing an oar, threatened to knock Powell’s brains out if he didn’t do as he was told; and the boat’s head swung round, and she sped towards the ship. They were anxious moments for poor Taffir, whose mind was not set at rest when Lyons, on the Flowery Land, ordered the lot of them to get back on deck.

Why they were called back Taffir did not know, and was not told; probably it was because the others[194] did not want one boat to start before the rest. Anyhow, for a long time Taffir was kept on deck; and though he could see but little in the darkness, he heard the noise made as the scoundrels loaded the boats, not forgetting the champagne, bottles of which they lowered into the craft riding at the sides. The Chinese steward fell into the water while trying to get aboard from the boat, and while struggling for life was pelted with bottles of champagne till he sank. Taffir saw his own fate there.

Soon, however, as though to prolong his agony, they threw him into a boat, this time the one in which Lyons and Blanco were to sail. The fact that it was Blanco’s boat was anything but pleasing to Taffir, who remembered what Marsolino had told him, and trembled for his life. Durrano and Lopez, other Spaniards, also got into this boat, which was presently pushed off; and almost immediately afterwards the Flowery Land, which had been scuttled, and had begun to settle some time before, gave a final plunge and dived beneath the surface. Through the darkness Taffir could see the Chinese boy and the cook clinging to the top; they had been left to their fate, and not a hand was held out to save them.

Lyons’s boat towed the other towards land, which was reached at four o’clock in the afternoon of October 9. Taffir was told that, if he valued his life, he was to say that the vessel was an American ship from Peru, bound for Bordeaux, and that she had foundered a hundred miles from land, that the captain had got into one boat, and had not been seen since, and that the two boats which had come ashore had been at sea for five days and nights.

In his heart Taffir had made up his mind to tell of the tragedy as soon as an opportunity presented itself. That night the party slept at a farmhouse, and the[195] next day the farmer drove them to Rocha. Watching his time, Taffir managed to find out that at a place called Camp, twenty miles away, was a man named Ramoz, who could speak English; and one night he slipped out of Rocha and made his way to Camp. He located Ramoz, to whom he told his tale, and later he was taken to the authorities, where once more he recited the events that had taken place on the Flowery Land, with the result that eight of the mutineers were captured, and in due course put on their trial at the Central Criminal Court, London. Lyons, Durrano, Santos, Watto, Blanco, Marsolino, and Lopez were found guilty of murder, Carlos being acquitted.

Altogether, the mutiny of the Flowery Land is a lurid story of the sea.



Stories of Coastguards and Lighthousemen

ALTHOUGH the coastguard and lighthouseman live their lives on land, they are inalienably a part of the sea and its story. Day by day, night by night, they are on guard along the coasts, and never know what may happen; but, whatever it is, they are ready.

And they are always modest of their achievements, as the letters I have received from some of them testify. It’s the hardest thing in the world to get them to talk about themselves; but, by dint of judicious questioning, I managed to get some of them to give me the plain stories of what really did happen.

The first concerns Lighthouseman William Hunter, of Flamborough Head, who, standing outside the lighthouse on a fine morning, talking with his superior officer, saw a gallant little band of boys of the Lads’ Brigade coming along. Presently there was a sharp command, and the lookers-on saw the boys disperse, and in a few minutes the laddies were scattered here, there, and everywhere, enjoying themselves to the full.

But suddenly there was the blare of bugles, the cries of boys, the hoarse shouts of men, and Hunter turned quickly to his officer and said:

“There’s something wrong!”

“Go and have a look,” was the reply; and off went the lighthouse-keeper. Following the sounds, he found himself down on the beach, just below the lighthouse.[197] What a sight met his eyes! Before him was a group of boys staring up the cliff, fear writ large upon their faces as they saw one of their comrades clinging frenziedly to a shrub, able neither to go up nor to come down, while down on the beach, amongst the boulders, lay the huddled form of another boy.

The two boys had been engaged in a wild scramble up the cliff, seeing which could reach the top first. Half-way up the foremost boy had displaced a large stone, which hurtled down, hit his comrade, and sent him tumbling down to the beach, where he now lay with a broken arm.

As soon as the boy above realised what had happened, fear took possession of him; his wits left him, and he, finding that he had reached a position where it was impossible to move with safety either way, he sent up haunting screams for help! As though the call had been necessary! The boys on the beach had seen the accident, and instantly the bugles had blared out their calls for help. And so Hunter had arrived on the scene.

Like lightning he dashed across an intervening gut of water, slipping over seaweed as he went, and stumbling over rocks till he reached the foot of the cliff. Then, hand over hand, gingerly but quickly, Hunter made his way up the cliff, seizing anything that seemed likely to afford a handhold to help him up; now making a fierce grab for a shrub as the earth gave way beneath him. And at last, after a feverish few minutes, during which the watchers down below held their breath and the folk above sent for further help, he came almost within reach of the boy.

“Hold on, sonny!” he cried. “I’m coming!”

“Come quickly!” cried the boy, shaking with fear. “I can’t hold out much longer!”

[198]Spurred on by the evident terror of the lad, Hunter covered the last few feet quickly, and came alongside him just in the nick of time, for the youth was almost exhausted. His hands were bruised and cut from clutching at stones, and the lighthouseman’s were little better.

“You’re all right now, sonny,” he said. “We’ll soon have you down.”

But, though he said the comforting words, there was a little thought at the back of his mind that it might be some time before they reached safety, for he, too, found that the position was none too safe a one; that while he himself might have been able to get away alone, he could not hope to carry the unfortunate boy without further help. There was no use in looking down; help could not come that way. But it might come from above, and, glancing up, his heart gave a great bound as he saw that the coastguards, under Chief Officer Young, had arrived on the scene, bringing with them the one thing that was necessary—a rope! It was a very lifeline to Hunter.

Down the rope fell; and then the lighthouseman saw that, owing to the projecting edge of the cliff, it hung more than an arm’s length away from him. He would have to move carefully away in order to reach it. The boy seemed to realise this, and before Hunter moved an inch he called out in fear:

“Don’t leave me, sir. I can’t hold on!”

“Now, see here, laddie,” was the reply. “You’re all right. I won’t let go of you. But I’ve got to get that rope. Keep still.” And, holding on to the boy with one hand, he moved gingerly away, digging his heels deep in the cliffside as he did so to get a purchase. Once, twice, nay, thrice he tried to catch the rope, and at last did so; but the strain of holding the boy at the same time that he reached out for it was terrible, and[199] the soft earth gave way more than once, threatening to send the pair of them hurtling below.

So far, so good. The next task was to fasten the boy on the rope. Once again footholds had to be dug in the cliff—deep holes that would not give way beneath his weight as he laboured. Adept at knotting, accustomed to work of this kind, Hunter soon had the boy fast in the rope. And then:

“Lower away!” he cried; and the coastguards let the rope out inch by inch, while the rescuer steadied it, and kept it from swinging round and round.

“Easy!” he yelled, as clods of earth and great stones, dislodged by the rope as it slid over the edge, came tumbling about his ears, threatening to knock him from his perch, threatening, too, to smash into the boy being lowered to safety. And “easy” it was! Those coastguards knew their work.

At last it was done; the boy was on the beach, thoroughly shaken, dreadfully scared, but safe, thanks to the pluck of the lighthouseman, who was soon hauled to the top, and, as he told me, “went indoors and forgot all about it” until later he received a letter from the secretary to the Carnegie Hero Fund Trustees, commending him on his bravery and suitably rewarding him, though it goes without saying that his best reward was the knowledge that he had been able to save the life of the unfortunate youth.

Even when the sun is shining in a blue sky overhead there is an awesome splendour in the majestic ruggedness of the coast about Land’s End; but when the grey fingers of the dawn are creeping into the heavens, and the elements are waging a tumultuous war, when waves dash with tremendous force upon the rocks, to break upon them with a resounding roar, and when some[200] unfortunate ship has been caught in the grip of the storm, then the scene is sufficient to strike terror into strong hearts.

Such was the scene on the morning of March 15, 1914, at five o’clock, when the coastguard at Sennen Cove was alarmed to see signals of a vessel in distress. Away along the coast could be seen the dark hull of a ship, stationary, except when great seas beat upon her and shook her from end to end. Ever and anon the rockets whizzed into the air, brilliant appeals for help. Instantly all was activity; the life-saving apparatus and the lifeboat were summoned, and the work of rescue had begun.

Coastguard A. Oddy, of Sennen, was in charge of the life-saving apparatus. There was no time to be wasted, for the scene of the wreck was four miles away, and every minute was precious, for it could not be long before the vessel broke in two, hurling her human freight to an awful death.

The wagon was got ready, the horses put in, and away went the wagon at top speed. Just as daylight was breaking the coastguards reached the point of the coast off which the unfortunate ship lay. What a sight met their eyes! The ship, the Swedish barque Trifolium, had been taken up by the waves and hurled ashore as though she had been but a shuttlecock. She was held fast by the rocks, with a boiling sea around her, with mountainous waves rearing angry heads, which dropped with a staggering shock and a thunderous roar upon the deck, long since deserted by the crew. To have remained there would have been to court death, for no man could keep a footing on that sloping deck, swept every minute by heavy seas.

“To the rigging they fled, scrambling up in frenzied haste”

So to the rigging they fled, scrambling up in frenzied haste, and hanging on like grim death, watching, waiting[201] for some answer out of the darkness to their appeals for help. As they saw the life-savers pull up upon the shore they raised a faint cheer. They were numbed, wet to the skin; they had been staring death in the face for what had seemed an eternity; and now help was at hand. Men would cheer then, even if it were with their last breath!

Oddy and his companions immediately set to work to rescue those seven luckless men. The tackle was got out, the rocket apparatus fixed up, and the next instant a rocket went speeding away across the tumult of the waters, carrying a lifeline. It went right over the vessel, as also did a second one that was fired; but, though the lines were across their ship, the men in the rigging dared not leave their hold, precarious though it was, to fix the lifelines, by means of which they could have been hauled ashore. To have left the rigging for the deck would have been fatal. The avalanche of water that fell upon the ship, and swirled away every loosened thing, was too terrifying to face; certain and awful death lay that way.

So, with help so near, the sailors clung to the rigging, wide-eyed, anxious-faced, wondering what could be done, what would happen. Very soon they realised that whether they jumped or not, there was nothing but death before them, for the ship, buffeted by the waves, rolled dangerously on the rocks, and seemed as if about to heel over.

One man, taking his fate in his hands, watched his opportunity, and, fully dressed in oilskins as he was, suddenly let go of the rigging and jumped. Luckily he jumped wide enough, and plunged into the boiling surf below; had he fallen on to the deck he would have been smashed to pieces. His friends in the rigging gasped, staggered at the risk he took; the watchers on[202] the shore shuddered as they saw him disappear beneath the waters; but all heaved a sigh of relief when they saw him reappear and begin to battle with the seas. He was making for one of the lifelines.

Cumbered with his oilskins, weighed down by his heavy sea-boots, the man struck out boldly for the line. Yard by yard he drew nearer to it, and it seemed that he would reach it; then he was caught upon the crest of a wave, was flung high, dropped low, and the line was as far away as ever! Yet once again he made for it, and, after a terrific fight, he managed to grasp the line. Staying awhile to take breath and gather his strength for the final struggle, he turned towards the shore, and began to haul himself along by means of the rope. The men in the rigging watched and waited; it meant much to them, this fight with the sea, for if their comrade won through, they might do so as well. The rescuers on shore stood to their work, waiting for the man to come nearer in, and ready to plunge to his assistance, if necessary.

Yard by yard he drew nearer, and the coastguard could see that he was almost at the last gasp; it was a case of going to his help. Instantly Coastguard Oddy answered the call of duty. With neither lifeline nor lifebuoy he went into the boiling sea. By a stroke of luck he missed the hidden rocks, on which he might have been pounded to death, and in a few moments reached the now drowning man, whom he seized with a strong hand, and snatched from the maw of the sea in the very nick of time. Then he set out to the shore with his burden. It was, indeed, a fight for life, the struggle of a brave man with the force of a mighty sea, which, as though taunting him, let him get within an ace of safety, and then flung him back into the angry cauldron of the deep. Foiled, but by no means beaten,[203] Oddy once more set his teeth and struck out for the shore, still holding his precious burden. On and on he went, and then back again, only to push forward with more determination; and the coastguard fought his fight to such good purpose that at last he was again near the shore, found a footing, drew himself up, and proceeded to drag the helpless man after him.

But in the moment of his victory the angry foe, as if to rob him of this life won from the jaws of death, returned to the fray; a mighty wave swooped down upon him, there was a noise as though heaven and earth had met as the wave fell in a thunderous roar upon the rocks, the sailor was wrenched from Oddy’s grasp, and he himself flung heavily on to the rocks.

He had tried valiantly—but he had failed! So said the men who watched him in his fight for a fellow-man’s life. They saw him now, unable to move, his legs jammed between rocks so that he could not free them. It seemed but a matter of minutes ere he should be sacrificed on the altar of heroism.

Oddy strained every effort to free himself. Even in that moment of peril he wondered what had happened to the sailor, and realised that unless something almost miraculous happened the end had come. There was no fear of death, only the thought of having failed in what he had so bravely set out to do. And for it all to end like this!

Then the miracle happened. The very sea that had conquered him set him free! Wave after wave had broken over him, and presently one of greater volume than any of the others hit him with such force that it did for him what he himself had tried so vainly to do; it lifted him out of the imprisoning rocks. He was free! Flung face downwards on the rocks, Oddy felt the sea rushing over him, and as the force of it spent itself[204] he got upon his feet, and, counting not the danger, went back for the drowning man.

He found him—whether alive or dead he knew not—but without loss of time struck out with him for the shore, and, after another stern fight, succeeded in getting him into safety—alive. It had all been worth while!

Meanwhile, the men on the Trifolium had been watching anxiously and hopelessly, for it seemed to them that it was useless to expect to be saved. But as soon as they saw their comrade safely ashore they took heart. If it were possible to save him, then they might all be saved. A second man plunged boldly into the surf, seized a lifeline, and hauled himself within reach of the shore. Several of the coastguards pluckily went to his assistance and got him out.

Before the other five men on the vessel had time to follow the example of their comrades the sea had completed its fell work. It pounded upon the hapless ship, wrenched her plates apart, battered her sides and tore great holes in her. Held fast as she was by the cruel rocks, there was but one end to her—she broke her back. The great iron vessel parted amidships as though she had been a toy, and in that instant, with death all around them, the five men in the rigging jumped. They were in the nick of time; another minute, and they would have been crashed to death with the wreck of what was once a proud vessel. Three of them found lifelines, and were hauled towards the shore; and once again Oddy plunged into the surf and succeeded in bringing one of them to safety, while in the case of the others, Oddy and two other life-savers joined efforts and managed to rescue them. The remaining two men who had been on the ship unfortunately died; one was killed by a falling mast, the other was drowned, and though he was got[205] ashore, and artificial respiration was used for nearly four hours, it was all in vain; death had claimed him.

For seven hours the rescuers had watched and worked, and had not worked in vain; and when Lieutenant A. S. Chambers, R.N., the divisional officer, arrived on the scene, he had the gratification of knowing that, although he had not been present, his men had done their duty nobly.



The Loss of the Formidable and the Victoria

“YOU never know when anything may happen,” wrote Captain Noel Loxley, of H.M.S. Formidable a day or so before 1915 elbowed 1914 into the past; and before the New Year was much more than an hour old H.M.S. Formidable was holed by a German torpedo, and Loxley and a gallant band of noble sailors died like heroes for their king and country.

The Formidable left Sheerness on December 31 with a crew of 750 men, all in high spirits, to keep vigil on the Channel. At 1.30 next morning she was steaming at about eighteen knots, fighting her way through a south-westerly gale, a bright moon shining overhead when not obscured by thin clouds that sifted a drizzly rain upon her as she drove at the high seas.

Suddenly, above the howl of the wind and the thump of the engines, there was the report of a thunderous explosion on the starboard bow. The ship seemed to shiver, then reel. Down in the stokeholds men looked at each other in wonder; like the noise of a distant gun the sound came to them, and they thought, and hoped, that it meant an engagement with the enemy. Then again, from port, this time, there came another of those muffled reports—so near that they knew something had hit their ship.

“Torpedoed!” said one. “By Heaven, they’ve got us!”

[207]And up on the bridge, standing there with his commander, Ballard, Captain Loxley also muttered “Torpedoed!” Its periscope hidden by the darkness and the swelling of the seas, a German submarine had crept up within striking distance, had launched her two death-tubes, seen them take effect, and then slunk away into the night.

Immediately he realised what had happened, Loxley, as calm as though he were at practice, ordered the water-tight doors to be closed and the men to be piped to collision quarters. Up on to the deck the startled men swarmed—startled men, truly, but calm—men who could stand at attention in the face of death and laugh and joke about “A fine New Year’s gift for us, this!” Men who could cry as they stood naked and shivering on the deck, “Here we are again! Undress uniform—swimming costume!” Men, too, who could enter into the spirit of the captain on the bridge, who could signal to another ship in the neighbourhood:

“Keep off! Submarines are about!”

Loxley knew what might happen to that ship if she stood by, as he had no doubt her officers would be prompted to do. Only a month or so before three British cruisers had been sunk in the North Sea, two of them through standing by to help the other. The Admiralty had issued an order that in such circumstances ships were not to attempt rescue work, but, as if to make assurance doubly sure, Loxley had given his signal; he wanted no risks to be run; he and his men were willing to take their chance of life and death without bringing others into danger. It is the spirit of the British Navy.

But if he would not allow others to help them, he used all his efforts to save his crew. There was no hope for the Formidable, he knew, and she would have to be abandoned. She was listing to starboard already.

[208]“Out pinnaces and the launch!” was the order, and while the boat crews worked to carry it out there came another: “’Way barges 1 and 2!” Lieutenant Simmonds superintended the lowering of the boats, and by his fine work earned Loxley’s encomium, “Well done, Simmonds.”

Into one boat there scrambled seventy or eighty men, and she got away from the starboard side; soon after a second boat, with seventy men, pushed off from the port side, and, acting on instructions, she remained near the sinking ship for about an hour. All this time the gale had been blowing fiercely, and mountainous seas made the work of hoisting away the boats anything but easy. It was, indeed, found impossible to lower further boats, because the ship listed so much that only the starboard boats could be hauled out. One barge which they tried to launch slipped in the davits, and hurled her crew of sixty men into the water below. Dozens of men leapt overboard and swam to the two successfully lowered boats, and the captain, thinking of others all the time, told the boats to stand by and try to pick them up. The darkness, however, prevented this being done.

Meanwhile, on the Formidable was a strange scene. On the deck stood lines of men, naked many of them, calm all of them, puffing away at cigarettes or passing along a smoke to a comrade who had not brought his up from below. From somewhere there came the sound of a piano; a man sat playing breezy tunes to cheer his comrades in the face of death. In the stokeholds begrimed heroes stuck to their posts until, with a lurch, the ship knocked them off their feet and sent the fires rushing out at them; heroes who, when the word came, raked out the fires, while elsewhere engineers shut off the steam—all so that, when the ship sank, there should be no explosion.

[209]Not a man lost his head. Their example was pacing the bridge, smoking, just as though the ship was riding in harbour with anchors down. “Steady, men; it’s all right!” he cried to them. “Be British! There’s life left in the old ship yet!”

But there was not much life; listing, she gave a sudden plunge, and all knew that it was the end.

“Every man for himself!” came the order; and those that could jumped as she took her final plunge. About half the company got clear of her; but the two boats could not take many, and in addition to those in the boats only seventy were saved—by a light cruiser which later came upon the scene.

Loxley went down with his ship, as did hundreds of the men, standing in line, saluting the Old Jack for the last time. “The last impression on my mind,” said a survivor, “was of a long line of saluting figures disappearing below the skyline.”

For the men in the two boats there now began an anxious time. Many of them had no clothes beyond vests and pants—some none at all, and these had to be wrapped in the few blankets that were in the boats. The night was bitterly cold, the gale was blowing its hardest, the sea was running high. The first boat that put off found her difficulties at once; she shipped water by the ton, and the men had to improvise bailers. Those who had boots on took them off, and used these; a blanket, held at each corner by a sailor, was also brought into play for the purpose; caps and coats, too—every man doing something to clear the boat of water. For hours they toiled, expecting every minute to be their last. All through the night, till early morning, they drifted whither the waves would take them, and when dawn came they found themselves out of sight of land, with never a ship in view.

[210]During the night they sang the modern warriors’ song, “Tipperary,” till they grew tired even of that; and the daylight brought them no relief from the monotony, till, about nine o’clock, their hearts gave a great leap. A liner appeared on the horizon. Shouting lustily, they hoisted a blanket on an oar and waved it madly, seeking to attract attention; but the liner changed her course and dipped over the horizon, leaving them to the waste of waters.

This hope of being taken up by a passing ship was renewed no less than eleven times during the day, each time to be dashed to the ground; and one survivor later said that he didn’t think much of the look-out on those ships.

As the day progressed the gale became stronger, and the boat was pitching and rolling, swinging high upon the crest of a wave, now racing down into the trough, the men becoming drenched through again and again, those who were nearly naked suffering extreme agony. No less than nine of them died of exposure.

At about one o’clock land was sighted; but when the crew, pulling sixteen oars, tried to make it, they found that they could not cope with the strong tide that was running. Darkness came, and found them still adrift. Then their eyes were gladdened by the sight of two red lights gleaming in the distance, and Leading Seaman Carroll, who had been the life and soul of the party, wielded his oar, with which he had all along been steering, and kept the boat headed for the lights of hope. Fortunately for them, the wind and tide were now with them; otherwise, so exhausted were they, never would they have made the haven—for haven it was. They heard the sound of breakers, saw in the shimmering moonlight the white foam of the water, pulled like mad to the “Pull, boys, pull!” of Petty Officer Bing, and[211] after seven miles of stiff rowing were caught in a mighty wave that carried them straight to the beach at Lyme Regis, where very soon crowds of people gathered to give them help and drag them ashore, for they were too exhausted to help themselves. They had been adrift twenty-two hours.

It is time now to return to the second boat, which, after having picked up as many swimming men as possible, had to get away from the Formidable, lest she be dashed into her side by the raging sea. The story of the sufferings of the men in her is much the same as the others; but in this case nearly all the oars were smashed and the boat had a hole stove in her side. One of the men, whipping off his pants, stuffed them into the gap, and then sat there to keep them from being washed away. The little craft filled with water time and time again, and they bailed her out as fast as they could.

About nine o’clock in the morning someone noticed a large fishing smack to windward, and an oar was hoisted, with a black scarf on it as a signal of distress. It was seen by John Clark, third hand on the smack Providence (Captain Pillar, Brixham), and he immediately told the captain and his comrades, the second hand, Dan Taylor, the cook, and Pillar, the boy. Instantly they fell to work, set the storm jib, shook out a reef in the mainsail, and stood after the boat, which by this time had drifted far away, and was continually hidden by the heavy seas. Through the now blinding rain the smack pushed, and, coming near, found that it was impossible to get close enough on the present tack to do any good. Captain Pillar therefore decided to take a desperate chance; he would gybe the boat—that is, swing all her sails over violently—and get upon the other tack, which would put him in a much better position to effect the rescue of the men.

[212]This was done successfully; and then the fishermen tried to get a rope to the boat. Three times they failed, but at the fourth attempt the rope pitched into the boat, where it was made fast, the other end being round the capstan of the smack. Then, working his vessel in a manner that won the praise of every sailor there, Pillar hauled the boat to a berth at the stern, and eventually got her to leeward.

Once alongside, Pillar gave the word, and the sailors began to jump aboard the smack. It took half an hour to get that bunch of men off, so difficult was the work as a result of the gale; over thirty feet the waves mounted sometimes, and many a man wellnigh tumbled into the sea, from which his chance of rescue would have been small.

When all were safe on board the Providence, Captain Pillar turned her about and made for Brixham, his men meanwhile attending to the comforts of the sailors, who were exhausted and frozen to the bone. Hot coffee and food were served out, and never did men enjoy a meal as they did on board the Providence on that January afternoon. Near Brixham the Providence fell in with the Dencade, which took her in tow and brought her into Brixham, where the people on the wharves heard the lusty voices of men singing “Auld Lang Syne,” as though for hours they had not been adrift, helpless, hopeless, as though they had never felt the shock as the Formidable received her fatal wound, as though they had never stood face to face with death.

It is the cheery fortitude of the British Jack Tar that has helped old England to the command of the sea; and it is such men as Captain Pillar and his gallant crew who reveal the courage that lives in the hearts of men whose work keeps them in the field of peace—where as great victories are won as on the field of battle.


While, during war, great disasters such as that of the Formidable are to be expected, when the wings of the Angel of Peace are spread the shock of a catastrophe is infinitely greater, because it comes when there seems to be no reason why it should. Such was the case of the loss of the Victoria battleship in June, 1893. A steel-armoured turret-ship of 10,470 tons and 1,400 horsepower, 39 guns and 8 torpedo-tubes, she was the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon, commanding the Mediterranean squadron, which, in addition to the Victoria, consisted of twelve other vessels, including the Camperdown, the ship which rammed her.

The squadron was steaming line abreast, bound from Beyrout for Tripoli, and going at eight knots an hour, when the admiral, calling his staff in, decided to form the squadron in two columns ahead, six cables’ length (1,200 yards) apart, the course to be later on reversed by the lines turning inwards. Staff-Commander Hawkins-Smith pointed out that, as the turning circles of the Victoria and the Camperdown (the latter leading the port column) were six hundred yards (or three cables’ length), the inward turn would involve a collision between this vessel and the Victoria, which was leading the starboard column.

“It will require at least eight cables, sir,” said Hawkins-Smith, to which Tryon replied, after a moment’s thought:

“Yes, it shall be eight.”

The staff-commander left the cabin; and then the admiral gave instructions to his flag-lieutenant to signal the order for the manœuvre he had in mind—to line ahead at six cables apart. Tryon had evidently changed his mind.

On board the Victoria several officers approached the admiral, and queried him on the matter, pointing out[214] that he had agreed that eight cables’ length was wanted. But he adhered to his command, saying: “That’s all right; leave it at six cables.”

So the fatal order fluttered in the breeze.

Rear-Admiral Markham, on the Camperdown, was staggered.

“It is impossible!” he exclaimed. “It is an impracticable manœuvre!” and did not answer back, thus giving the Victoria to understand that he had not grasped the signal. “It’s all right,” he said to Captain Johnstone. “Don’t do anything. I have not answered the signal.” And then gave instructions for the flag-lieutenant to ask for fuller instructions.

Meanwhile, on the Victoria other signals were being hoisted, asking Markham why he was not obeying orders, and reproving him for it. The rear-admiral, knowing it was his duty to obey, decided to do so, thinking that Tryon must be intending to make a wider circle, and so go outside the Camperdown’s division.

The two ships therefore turned inwards, Markham and his officers watching the Victoria closely to see what she would do. On the flagship, too, officers were discussing the movement, and Captain Bourke asked Tryon whether it would not be as well to do something to avoid the collision he saw was inevitable. It was a case for haste, he knew, and he had to repeat his question hurriedly: “May I go astern full speed with the port screw?”

“Yes,” said Tryon at last, and Bourke gave the order. But it was too late; three minutes and a half after the two ships had turned inwards the Camperdown, although her engines had been reversed, crashed into the starboard bow of the Victoria, hitting her about twenty feet before the turret and forcing her way in almost to the centre line.

[215]Instantly excitement reigned on the Victoria; but the crew, never losing their heads, rushed to carry out the orders which were now flung hither and thither:

“Close the water-tight doors!”

“Out collision mats!”

“All hands on deck!”

In rapid succession the orders came; the doors were shut tight, the mats were hung over the side, where, so great was the gap left when the Camperdown backed away, the water rushed in in torrents. Captain Bourke, having visited the engine-rooms to see that all that was possible had been done, rushed up on deck, and there found that the Victoria had a heavy list to starboard. On the deck all the sick men and the prisoners had been brought up in readiness, and all hands except the engineers were there, too.

All this time the only thought in every man’s mind had been to save the ship; actually, no one imagined that the fine vessel would presently make a final plunge and disappear. Tryon had, indeed, signalled to the other ships not to send the boats which were being lowered. Having received the report that it was thought the Victoria could keep afloat some time, Tryon consented to her being steered for land. But the helm refused to work.

The admiral now signalled: “Keep boats in readiness; but do not send them.” And then, turning to an officer, said: “It is my fault—entirely my fault!”

The seriousness of the position was now breaking upon him, though even then he did not realise how near the end was. The crew worked hard but orderly, hoisting out the boats, or doing whatever they were told, while down below the engineers and stokers kept at their posts, albeit they knew that they stood little chance if the ship dived beneath the surface.

[216]Presently the men were drawn up on deck, four deep, calm, cool, facing death without a tremor or sign of panic, which would have been calamitous.

“Steady, men, steady!” cried the chaplain, the Rev. Samuel Morris; and steady they were, till Tryon, seeing that all hope was gone, signalled for boats to be sent, and gave orders for every man to look after himself.

“Jump, men, jump!” was the command; and they rushed to the side, ready to fling themselves overboard. As they did so the great ship turned turtle, and men went tumbling head first into the sea, down the bottom of the ship as she dived, her port screw racing through the air.

The scene that followed beggars description; but the following extract is from a letter written to the Times by a midshipman who was on one of the other ships. He was sent off in a boat to rescue the struggling men in the water.

“It was simply agonising to watch the wretched men struggling over the ship’s bottom in masses”

“We could see all the men jumping overboard,” he wrote. “She continued heeling over, and it was simply agonising to watch the wretched men struggling out of the ports over the ship’s bottom in masses. All this, of course, happened in less time than it takes to write. You could see the poor men who, in their hurry to jump over, jumped on to the screw being cut to pieces as it revolved. She heeled right over, the water rushing in through her funnels. A great explosion of steam rose; she turned right over, and you could see all the men eagerly endeavouring to crawl over her bottom, when, with a plunge, she went down bows first. We could see her stern rise right out of the water and plunge down, the screws still revolving. It was simply a dreadful sight. We could not realise it. Personally, I was away in my boat, pulling as hard as we could to the scene of the disaster.... After pulling up and down for two[217] hours, we reorganised the fleet, leaving two ships on the scene of the disaster; and, making for Tripoli, anchored for the night. No one can realise the dreadful nature of the accident.

“However, dropping the Victoria for a minute, we must turn to the Camperdown. She appeared to be in a very bad way. Her bow was sinking gradually, and I must say at the time I thought it quite on the cards that she might be lost also; but, thanks to the indomitable way in which the crew worked, they managed to check the inrush by means of the collision mat and water-tight doors. All last night, however, they were working hard to keep her afloat.

“You can imagine our feelings—the flagship sunk with nearly all hands, the other flagship anchored in a sinking condition. We have a lot of the survivors of the Victoria on board, but their accounts vary greatly.... Anyhow, what is quite certain is that the admiral did not realise the gravity of his situation, or else he would have abandoned the ship at once, instead of trying to save her. The discipline was magnificent. Not until the order was given did a single man jump overboard.

“The last thing that was seen was the admiral refusing to try to save himself, whilst his coxswain was entreating him to go. Another instance of pluck was exhibited by the boatswain of signals, who was making a general semaphore until the water washed him away. Unfortunately the poor chap was drowned. Many of the survivors are in a dreadful state of mental prostration. Most people say that Admiral Markham should have refused to obey the signal, but I think that Admiral Tryon infused so much awe in most of the captains of the fleet that few would have disobeyed him. However, he stuck to his ship to the last, and went down in her.”

[218]Thus was the Victoria lost; less than a quarter of an hour after being struck she was lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean, Admiral Tryon and 400 gallant seamen going with her.

At the court-martial Captain Bourke was absolved of all blame for the loss of the ship, the finding being that the disaster was entirely due to Admiral Tryon’s order to turn the two lines sixteen points inward when they were only six cables apart.



Stories of the Traffic in Human Merchandise

WE shall not here deal with the history and abolition of slavery, because every schoolboy knows all about that, and will doubtless be glad to have something more exciting. And of excitement there is abundance in the annals of slavery. The trade was always attended by risks, even before the days when it was illegal to ship slaves, for there was ever the danger of the negroes breaking loose and running amok on the ship; or, what was perhaps worse, the holds of the slavers were often little less than death-holes, with fever and cholera rampant. Altogether, it was a game with big profits—and mighty big risks, as the following story will show:

It was back in 1769 that the slaver Delight (Captain Millroy) was the scene of an uprising of negroes, which resulted in a rousing fight and fatal effects to a good many aboard.

About three o’clock one Sunday morning Surgeon Boulton and the men with him in the aft-cabin were awakened by a chorus of screams and shrieks overhead, a rushing of feet, a pandemonium of noise which told that something serious was afoot. Boulton slipped out of his bunk and dashed towards the captain’s cabin, half guessing what was taking place. He reached the cabin, and, entering, shook Millroy fiercely to awaken him. He had barely succeeded in rousing the captain[220] when a billet of wood came hurtling through the air and caught him on the shoulder, and a cutlass pierced his neck. Turning, Boulton saw that a couple of negroes had, all unseen and unheard, crept below, intent on putting the captain hors de combat while he was asleep; and, finding the surgeon interfering with their plot, they attacked him in quick time. Millroy, now properly aroused, joined forces with Boulton, who forgot his own danger in the thought of what was happening above, and the pair chased the negroes on to the deck, Boulton carrying a pistol and the captain a cutlass.

When they reached deck they found themselves in a very inferno. Hundreds of negroes were swarming all over the place, some armed with wooden spars, others with cutlasses; and with these weapons they were hard at it taking vengeance on their captors. The herd of savages flung themselves upon the seamen, cutting off legs and arms, mutilating bodies dreadfully, their yells making the air ring. Boulton and the captain, realising that it was a case for prompt and vigorous action, hurled themselves into the heaving fight with a will. Down went one negro, killed by Millroy’s cutlass; then another; while Boulton did all he could. But the “all” of these two men was but little, and presently Millroy fell to the deck, overpowered by numbers, and literally hacked to pieces. Boulton, more fortunate, escaped injury, and made a dash for the rigging, up which he scrambled till he came to the maintop, where he discovered the cook and a boy had already taken refuge.

Perched on their lofty platform, the three looked down upon deck, watching as though fascinated the drama being enacted before their eyes, seeing the now maddened negroes wreaking vengeance on the men who[221] were bearing them from freedom to slavery. The bloodlust was upon them, and they searched the ship to take their fill.

Suddenly the watchers saw two men come up from below and make a rush across the deck to the rigging. Like lightning the negroes dashed after them, and one man was brought to deck by a dozen billets flung at him, and his body was cut to pieces. The second man, more fortunate, managed to reach the rigging, and clambered up like a monkey.

The negroes, having satisfied themselves that they had accounted for all the crew with the exception of those in the maintop, whom they decided to deal with presently, ransacked the ship, seeking arms; and meanwhile Boulton, knowing that safety depended upon weapons, went on a tour of exploration. He wormed his way into the foretop to see what might be there, and luckily found a knife, with which he set out to return to the maintop. On the way the negroes saw him, and began to pelt him with billets of wood, all of which missed, however; so that Boulton reached his comrades safely. The one dread in the minds of the four survivors was that the negroes would find the arms-chest, in which case it seemed to them hopeless to expect to escape. While the slaves remained armed only with wooden spars and cutlasses, Boulton did not feel particularly anxious, knowing that he and his companions would be able to tackle any who dared to ascend the rigging to try and get them down. One thing that kept him hopeful was the fact that another slaver, the Apollo, was almost within hailing distance, and the Delight, unsteered and sails untrimmed, was rapidly drifting towards her, which would make the men on the Apollo aware that something had happened. But Boulton’s luck was out. The negroes found the[222] arms-chest, and, breaking it open, armed themselves with muskets, and set to work in earnest to put the survivors out of action.

Shot after shot sang by the maintop, and one of the men there, fearing that he would be killed if he stayed, and might be saved if he trusted himself to the mercy of the negroes, like a madman descended to the deck. Barely had his foot touched it when a negro fell upon him with an axe and split his head in two; and a dozen pairs of hands seized him and pitched him overboard to the sharks which were following the ship, their appetites whetted by the feasts already given them by the negroes.

While this was going on, other slaves were still shooting away at the maintop, fruitlessly; and Boulton was calling madly on the Apollo, now not far away. Presently the captain of the other vessel, realising what was afoot, gave the word, and a broadside hurtled across the deck of the Delight, in the hope of frightening the slaves. They seemed to take little notice of this, however, and Boulton began to fear that all was over, especially as the negroes, seeing that they could not hit the men in the maintop, ceased fire, and a giant black, cutlass in one hand and a pistol in the other, sprang into the rigging, bent, apparently, on storming the position. Boulton waited calmly. He had no weapons but his knife and a quart bottle; but he felt that he was in a good position to meet an attack. Presently the negro’s head appeared above the platform, and then—whack! The bottle fell upon it with a sickening thud, the black lost his hold, and went hurtling into the sea.

Meanwhile, the Apollo was firing at the Delight, and the latter was returning the fire as well as it could, the negroes evidently knowing that to give in was to[223] court disaster, and to lose what they had stood in a fair way to gaining. For four hours they fought the Apollo, and at the same time kept up their fusillade on the maintop.

Then came the end. Not because the negroes were not able to keep up any longer, but because a shot from the Apollo fell into a barrel of gunpowder and exploded it, with the result that the Delight took fire, and the slaves could not cope with the flames and their enemy at the same time. The revolt fizzled out as quickly as it had arisen. While the negroes rushed about seeking to put out the fire, Boulton, taking his life in his hands, descended to the deck, at the same time that a boat set out from the Apollo with a crew to tackle the flames and the negroes, who, filled with consternation, now stood quietly by watching the fire-fighters. They were absolutely cowed; they had made their bid for freedom, and had failed, and they knew it. They allowed themselves to be driven below and secured. The result of their revolt was that nine of the crew of the Delight were butchered, one man on the Apollo was killed, and eighteen of the negroes found death instead of liberty—perhaps death to them was better than freedom; certainly better than the lot of those poor human cattle they left behind them.

Such incidents as this were of frequent occurrence, and the recital of one must suffice.

After the Abolition Act had been passed, severe measures were brought into operation, giving the Navy a wide scope—so wide that, even although a vessel had no slaves on board, yet, if the naval officers had reason to suspect that slaving was her business, they could apprehend her. Special ships were fitted out and commissioned to deal with the traffic in the South Atlantic, both off Central America and the West Coast of Africa.[224] So effective were the measures taken that the slavers resorted to all manner of disguises to turn suspicion away from their vessels, which had hitherto been of a distinctive kind—long, rakish craft with tall spars, the whole effect being one of beauty, and the idea being speed. The traders changed all this by having ships more after the fashion of the ordinary merchant vessel, so that the hunters had a more difficult task in front of them. But they worked energetically, and swept the seas month after month, on the look-out for the human cattle-ships, and, as all the world knows, succeeded in clearing them from the seas.

The subjoined account from the Sierra Leone Watchman for November 15, 1846, gives a striking picture of the conditions against which the Navy were doing such good work.

The vessel referred to is the Brazilian brigantine Paqueta de Rio, captured off Sherbro:

“The 547 human beings—besides the crew and passengers (as they styled themselves), twenty-eight in number—were stowed in a vessel of 74 tons. The slaves were all stowed together, perfectly naked, with nothing on which to rest but the surfaces of the water-casks. These were made level by filling in billets of wood, and formed the slave-deck. The slaves who were confined in the hold—it being utterly impossible for the whole of them to remain on deck at one time—were in a profuse perspiration, and panting like so many hounds for water. The smell on board was dreadful. I was informed that, on the officers of the Cygnet boarding the slaver, the greater part of the slaves were chained together with pieces of chain, which were passed through iron collars round their necks; iron shackles were also secured round their legs and arms. After the officers had boarded, and the slaves were made to understand they were free,[225] their acclamations were long and loud. They set to work, and, with the billets of wood which had hitherto formed their bed, knocked off each other’s shackles, and threw most of them overboard. There were several left, which were shown to me. We will leave it to the imagination of your readers what must have been the feelings of these poor people when they found they were again free—free through the energy and activity of a British cruiser. On examining the poor creatures, who were principally of the Kosso nation, I found they belonged to, and were shipped to, different individuals; they were branded like sheep. Letters were burnt in the skin two inches in length. Many of them, from the recent period it had been done, were in a state of ulceration. Both males and females were marked as follows: On the right breast ‘J’; on the left arm, ‘P’; over women’s right and left breasts, ‘S’ and ‘A’; under the left shoulder, ‘P’; right breast, ‘R’ and ‘RJ’; on the right and left breasts, ‘SS’; and on the right and left shoulder, ‘SS.’ This is the same vessel that cleared out from here about three weeks previous to her capture for Rio de Janeiro. The slaves were all embarked from the slave factories at Gallinas, under the notorious Don Luiz, and the vessel under way in five hours; and had there been the slightest breeze she would have escaped. Among the slaves there were two men belonging to Sierra Leone—a man named Peter, once employed by Mr. Elliott, the pilot. He stated that he had been employed by a Mr. Smith, a Popohman, to go to Sherbro to purchase palm-oil, and that whilst pursuing that object he was seized and sold by a Sherbro chief named Sherry.”



An Incident of the United States Revenue Service

THE records of the revenue men of the United States teem with heroic deeds done in the execution of their duty. The present story is typical of the thrilling determination of men who will not be beaten, and incidentally shows a healthy rivalry between the revenue men and the lifeboatmen.

On January 11, 1891, the three-masted schooner Ada Barker encountered a terrific storm which played shuttlecock with her, and after a fierce conflict pitched her on to the Junk of Pork, the euphonious name of a large rock near outer Green Island, off the coast of Maine. The Junk of Pork rises a sheer fifty feet out of the water, and all round it are reefs and boulders, a literal death-trap to any unfortunate vessel that should get caught there. The Ada Barker, after having her sails torn to shreds and her rigging hopelessly entangled, began to ship water, and though her men worked hard and long at the pumps, they could not save her; then she was bowled on to the outer reef at night; the bottom dropped out of her, and she heeled over. To the men on board it seemed that the end of all things had come, and they gave themselves up for lost.

“Though her men worked hard and long at the pumps, they could not save her”

As the ship heeled they heard the sound of something striking against a rock; then again, as the ship rebounded and fell forward once more. Eager to take[227] the most slender chance of life, they scrambled to the side, and saw that the mast was hitting against the Junk of Pork.

“Boys!” cried the captain. “That’s our one chance!”

The sailors knew what he meant. They had looked about them. To jump into that boiling surf was to leap into the jaws of death; they would be smashed to pulp, or drowned like rats. They saw now, however, that the rock before them could be reached by scrambling up the mast, which was crashing against it. But they must hurry; and hurry they did. Like monkeys they swarmed up the mast, caring nothing for torn hands nor the flapping canvas, which slashed them like whipcords and threatened to knock them off into the cauldron below. They fought their elemental fight, and one by one six men dropped on to the Junk of Pork; and for hours and hours they clung to their precarious perch, buffeted by strong winds, swamped by heavy seas and crouching in terror as a mountain wave reared its head and, as if angry that the men had escaped, broke upon them with a thunderous roar. At other times they were flung headlong on the rock by a gust of wind which howled at them as if seeking to drown their voices as they yelled for help, in the hope that some ship might be near and hear them through the noise of the gale.

All through the long, dreadful night they remained thus, glad to have found even so bleak a haven, but wondering whether, after all, they would be rescued. Then their eyes were gladdened by the sight of a ship away out on the horizon. Rising and falling as the still boisterous seas kept up their see-saw motion, she was coming in their direction. Would she see them? They knew that at the distance the ship was away they[228] could not be visible yet; yet, cold, drenched to the skin, almost exhausted by exposure, they stripped themselves of their shirts and waved—waved like madmen, fearing they would be passed by. Had they but known it, the officer of the watch of the coming boat—the United States revenue cutter, of Woodbury—thought he could see dark forms on the flat top of the storm-wracked Junk of Pork in a state of frantic activity. Levelling his glasses, he soon saw the forms of the six men waving the torn and tattered shirts; and he knew that some ship had been wrecked during the storm which the Woodbury herself had encountered and fought sternly against for hours on end since she left Portland.

It took but a few moments for everyone on the cutter to be made aware of the position of things.

“We’ll make her, boys” said Captain Fengar, who was in command. “We’ll have those chaps off the Junk of Pork!”

“Aye, aye, sir!” was the chorus; and, with engines pounding out every ounce of steam, the cutter pushed her nose through the water, fighting hard against the storm, which was raging as fiercely as ever. Nearer and nearer they drove, whistling anon to encourage the stranded mariners, who, weary and exhausted, cried for very joy as they realised that they had been seen and that help was coming. Help was coming! Their madness of anxiety gave way to a delirium of joy. Then their hearts sank into an abyss of despair.

The cutter was very near to them now, but the sea was too rough for her to venture close to the rocks; the reefs were one cauldron of boiling surf, and the stranded men knew that no boat from the cutter could hope to live in such a sea, or hope to escape destruction on the reefs if she ventured near.

Help had come—and had proved helpless!

[229]They threw themselves down upon the rock and clutched at the bare surface. They were frenzied. They wondered how much longer they could withstand the gnawings of hunger, the agonies of thirst; how much longer, too, they could retain enough strength to keep their footing on the rock-top. They even thought of leaving their precious haven and trying to reach the wreck of their once proud little ship, where there was indeed food and water. But second thoughts showed them that certain death lay that way, while there was hope that the cutter might be able to get to them. They saw that she was hovering about, cruising here and there to keep headway with the storm, her whistle shrieking out encouragement, and letting them know that she was standing by, in the hope that the storm would abate and enable them to launch their boats.

Night came, but the gale still raged, and Captain Fengar decided that there was only one way to bring about the rescue he was determined to effect, and that was to put back to Portland and bring dories with which to land on the rock at dawn next day. He could not hope to do much good during the night, even if the storm eased off somewhat; the danger of the breakers was too great. So, whistling across to the wretched men on the rock, he let them know that he was going away, but would come back, and then save them.

The first shock of realising that they were to be left alone again wellnigh crazed the men; they felt that they would prefer to wait there for death with company than wait alone for salvation. But away went the cutter, whistling as she went in answer to the wavings of the sailors; and as the final scream died away the men sank down upon the rock in desolation of despair, with nothing but the howling of the wind and the roar of the breakers to keep them company.

[230]The cutter sped through the night, passing Cape Elizabeth on her way, and giving the bearings of the wreck to the lifeboat station there. Reaching Portland, she took her dories and raced back to the Junk of Pork, arriving there an hour after daybreak. The feelings of the now almost dead mariners may be better imagined than described when they heard the siren of the cutter calling to them, telling them of the coming of hope and help. They forgot the raging storm, for they knew that these men who had come back had brought the wherewithal to save them.

On the cutter the revenue men were busy preparing to launch the boats and the small white cutter, when the lifeboat from Cape Elizabeth hove in sight. The very sight of her acted as an additional spur to them, for they regarded this little matter as particularly their own, and although they themselves had warned the lifeboatman of the wreck they felt that it was their duty to effect the rescue. They vowed to themselves that they would get the men off the rock.

“Now, boys,” cried Captain Fengar, “we want to get those men off ourselves! Hustle!”

And they hustled. In the twinkling of an eye as it seemed a couple of boats were lowered and the men were in their places.

“You must not fail,” said Fengar as they pushed off. “God bless you!” And away they went towards the boiling surf, beneath which they knew lurked hideous, treacherous rocks. Lieutenant Howland, an old whaler, had charge of the first boat, and with him went Third Lieutenant Scott and Cadet Van Cott, who had entreated the captain to allow him to go. Seamen Haskell and Gross manned the second boat. Like madmen the Woodbury men pulled, straining every effort to win in the race they had set themselves, knowing[231] that the Cape Elizabeth lifeboat was sweeping through the seas towards the rock. As for the lifeboat, its crew were tired, weary with much fighting of the storm. But they were game; they realised what the Woodbury men were intent on doing, and they themselves determined to do their best to beat them in this race for the lives of six unfortunate men. It was surely one of the queerest contests ever engaged in, and at the back of it was but one idea—to win through to the rock and get the stranded mariners to safety.

The first honours went to the Woodbury men; the dory manned by Haskell and Gross got there ahead of all; they swept through a narrow channel between the reefs, were wellnigh battered to pieces against the foot of the Junk of Pork, hailed the men on top—as though they needed hailing!—and the next instant a man leaped clear of the rock and tumbled into the dory, which pitched and rolled dangerously at the impact. Then, realising that they could not stay there any longer, Haskell and Gross turned their dory about and made for the channel again; careful steering took her safely through, and then, buffeted by the waves, they pulled feverishly towards the cutter, where they eventually got their man safely aboard.

Meanwhile, Howland was keeping his men at it; the race now lay between him and the lifeboat, and he meant to win. With shouts and heave-ho’s, Howland urged his men on; and on they went, while across the waters came the shouts of the lifeboatmen as they bent lustily to their task.

The revenue boat won by a neck! With a thud she hit the breakers just ahead of the lifeboat, shivered, and then, lifted up by a giant comber, cleared a submerged reef, delved on the other side, and came up almost filled with water. Shaking herself as a dog shakes the water[232] from his coat, she righted, and Lieutenant Scott leaped boldly into the surf; but as he did so the undertow took the boat and, as he still had hold of her, dragged him under water. For a moment his comrades thought him gone, but presently he came up, almost frozen, but still hanging on to the boat. And the next moment a roller caught the boat and pitched her on to a slice of rock.

Almost simultaneously the lifeboat plunged at the breakers. For a second she hesitated. Her men were debating whether they should shoot clear or land. They saw the revenue men land. Where they could go, there could the men of Cape Elizabeth; and they put the nose of their boat at it, heading straight for the rocks. Less fortunate than the others, the lifeboat banged into a mighty rock, which stove in her bow and rendered her unmanageable.

Instantly the winners of the strange race saw that the lifeboat was helpless and in danger; the men on the Junk of Pork could wait; they were safe! The revenue men plunged into the surf, waded and swam to the lifeboat, seized hold of her, and dragged her on to the strip of rock. It was all done as in a flash; hesitation would have meant disaster. But it was done, and the rivals stood together at the foot of the Junk of Pork. Then, resting awhile from their herculean labours, they set about the rescue of the stranded mariners, who were very soon in the revenue boat, and being rowed across to the Woodbury cutter, which, when all was done, steamed back to Portland, after forty hours of hard fighting for the rescue of half a dozen men; forty hours well spent, too.



The Thrilling Story of Scott’s Expedition to the Antarctic

THE age-old dreams of hundreds of men have been realised; the ends of the earth have yielded up their secrets—the Poles have been discovered. Peary to the North, Amundsen and Scott to the South, hardy adventurers all, with the wanderlust in their souls and science as their beckoner—these men went forth and wrested from the ice-bound regions something of what had been refused to the scores of men preceding them; some of whom had come back, weak, despondent, while others left their bones as silent witnesses to their noble failure to achieve what they set out for.

Of all the many expeditions which have set forth to the Polar regions, none was more tragic than that commanded by Captain Robert F. Scott. In practically the hour of his triumph he failed, because, no matter how efficient an organisation, no matter how far-sighted policy and arrangements may be, there is always the uncertain human element; there comes the point when human endurance can stand out no longer, when the struggle against the titan forces of Nature cannot be kept up. And then there is failure, though often a splendid failure.

Such was that of Captain Scott; he reached the goal he had aimed at for many years only to find that he had been forestalled by a month, and then, overtaken by unexpected bad weather, he and the men with him[234] had to give up the struggle when within eleven miles of just one thing they stood in need of—fuel with which to cook the hot meals that meant life. The story is one that makes the blood course through the veins, makes the heart glow, makes the head bow in honour; because it is a story of matchless bravery, heroic fortitude and noble effort.

The Terra Nova, Scott’s ship, carried a complement of sixty men, each one of them picked because of his efficiency, each one having his allotted work. Geologists and grooms, physicist and photographers, meteorologists and motor-engineer, surgeons and ski-expert and seamen, men to care for dogs, and men to cook food—a civilised community of efficient, well-found, keen, and high-idealed men. It was, in fact, the best-equipped Polar expedition ever sent forth. Scott went out not merely to discover the South Pole, but also to gather data that should elucidate many problems of science. He took with him all the apparatus that would be necessary for this purpose, and when the Terra Nova left New Zealand, on November 26, 1910, there seemed good reason for the conviction that success must attend the expedition.

The voyage out to the Polar Sea was uneventful, except that early in December a great storm arose, and called for good seamanship to keep the vessel going; and even then she was very badly knocked about. She made a good deal of water, and the seamen had to pump hard and long; but at last, under steam and sail, the Terra Nova came through safely, and was able to go forward again, and by December 9 was in the ice-pack, which was that year much farther north than was expected. This held them up so that they could not go in the direction they wanted to, and had to drift where the pack would take them—northwards. Christmas[235] Day found them still in the pack, and they celebrated the festivity in the good old English style. By the 30th they were out of the pack, and set off for Cape Crozier, the end of the Great Ice Barrier, where they had decided to fix their winter quarters. They could not get there, however, and they had to proceed to Cape Royds, passing along an ice-clad coast which showed no likely landing-place. Cape Royds was also inaccessible owing to the ice, and the ship was worked to the Skuary Cape, renamed Cape Evans, in the McMurdo Sound.

A landing was effected, and for a week the explorers worked like niggers getting stores ashore, disembarking ponies and dogs, unloading sledges, and the hundred and one other things necessary to success. The hut, which was brought over in pieces, was also taken ashore, a suitable site for it cleared, and the carpenters began erecting it.

During these early days misfortune fell upon them. One of their three motor-sledges, upon which great hopes were built, slipped through the ice and was lost.

By January 14 the station was almost finished, and Captain Scott went on a sledge trip to Hut Point, some miles to the west. Here Scott had wintered on his first expedition, which set out from England in 1901. In this his new expedition the hut was to be used for some of the party, and telephonic communication was installed. In due course the station was completed; there is no need for us to go into all the details of the hard work, or the exercising of animals and men, but a short description of this house on the ice may be of interest. It was a wooden structure, 50 feet long by 25 feet wide and nine feet to the eaves. It was divided into officers’ and men’s quarters; there was a laboratory and dark-room, galley and workshop. Books were there, pictures on the walls, stove to keep the right temperature.[236] Stables were built on the north side, and a store-room on the south. In the hut itself was a pianola and a gramophone to wile away the monotony of the long winter night. Mr. Ponting, the camera artist, had a lantern with him, which was to provide vast entertainment in the way of picture-lectures on all kinds of subjects. Altogether, everything was as compact and comfortable as could be wished.

Naturally, there were various adventures during these early days; once the ship just managed to get away from the spot where almost immediately afterwards a huge berg crashed down, only a little later on the same day to become stranded. Luckily, by much hard work, the seamen managed to get her off.

On January 25 the next piece of work was begun—namely, the laying of a depot some hundred miles towards the south. Both ponies and dogs were used for this work, which took nearly a month—the Barrier ice was always dangerous—and both the outward and inward journeys were beset by bad weather, bad surfaces, hard work, disappointments and many dangers. Once, a party was lost, and found only after they had experienced much suffering.

It was not until April 13 that the depot laying party returned to the hut, minus some of their animals, which had succumbed to the rigours of the climate and the stiff work demanded of them. A few days later the long winter night set in, and the men had to confine themselves to winter quarters to wait until the coming of the sun before the main object of their voyage could be attempted. The ship had returned to New Zealand meanwhile.

The long winter months were filled up with scientific studies of the neighbourhood, and evenings were occasions for lantern lectures and discussions on all[237] kinds of subjects, including those which concerned the expedition. There was plenty of work to do; things had to be prepared, as far as was possible then, for the final dash; the animals had to be looked after; and they were a source of trouble, because it was essential that they should be kept fit. A winter party was organised and sent to Cape Crozier, a journey that took them five weeks under “the hardest conditions on record.” It was well worth while, for many were the valuable observations made.

Always the scientific aspect of the expedition was kept in view; and when the sun returned a spring journey to the west was undertaken, Scott and his little party being absent thirteen days, 175 miles being covered in that time.

We now come to the great journey to the Pole—a journey of 800 miles. On October 24 the two motor-sledges were sent off, after a good deal of trouble, Evans and Day in charge of one, and Lashly of the other; they were the forerunners of the expedition to the Pole. On the 26th, Hut Point rang up to say that the motors were in trouble, and Scott and seven men went off to see what they could do. They came up with the motors about three miles from Hut Point, and found that various little things were causing trouble. Eventually, these difficulties were overcome, and the sledges started off again, and Scott and his party went back to Cape Evans to get ready for their own journey south.

“The future is in the lap of the gods; I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success.”

Thus wrote Captain Scott the night before he set out on his last great journey, and reading the remarkable journal which he left, one is forced to the conclusion that he was right; if ever man deserved success, if ever achievement with glory and safety should have been[238] vouchsafed, it should have been to Scott; but the lap of the gods is often a sacrificial altar on which men lay down their lives for the sake of great ideals.

It was on November 1 that the Southern Party set out. It consisted of ten men, in charge of ten ponies drawing sledges, and two men leading the dogs which were to take the ponies’ places when the latter were done. Everything was favourable for the send-off, and the company arrived at Hut Point, the first stoppage place, quite safely. From there they pushed on again in three parties, the slowest starting first, and the others following at sufficient intervals for all to arrive at the end of the day’s stage at the same time. The motor party going on in front were putting up cairns for guidance, and Scott himself on the journey to One Ton Depot had placed landmarks to guide them. On the 4th Scott came across the wreck of the sledge worked by Captain Evans and Day—a cylinder had gone wrong, and the motor had had to be abandoned, the men going on with the other sledge. This was the first bit of ill-luck, but the days to come were to bring much more. The dash to One Ton Depot consisted of hard going over rough surfaces; there were blizzards, trouble with the ponies; snow walls had to be built to protect the animals at camp after a long and hard night’s toil, during which they had journeyed seldom more than ten miles. Night was chosen because it enabled them to escape the sun, which even in that latitude was sufficient to make them sweat as they forced their way over the terrible ground. They reached One Ton Depot at last, and then picked up the motor party, commanded by Evans, on November 21. The motorists had been waiting six days, unable to go any farther.

The little band now plunged forward again, meeting the same difficult surface, having the same trouble with[239] the ponies, one of whom had to be shot on the 24th, the day on which the first supporting party, consisting of Day and Hooper, were sent back to the base. Two days later a depot was laid, Middle Barrier Depot, and on the 28th, when ninety miles from the Glacier, another pony was shot, and provided food for the dogs. Ninety miles were still to be covered, and there was only food for seven marches for the animals. It would be stiff going, for Scott was relying upon the ponies getting him to the foot of the Glacier.

Having laid another depot on December 1, thus lightening the load, and hoping to be able to make good progress, they were furiously opposed by the elements. On the 3rd, the 4th, and the 5th, blizzards blew down upon them, impeding them, making the work trebly difficult, and the last one holding them up for four days, during which food, precious food, and much-needed fuel were being consumed without any progress being made. Impatient, bitterly cold, with the animals getting worn out, Scott and his companions had to keep to their tents, eager to go on, but realising that to venture forth was to court disaster. Experienced Polar explorer though he was, Scott was at a loss to account for the character of the weather at this, the most favourable, only practicable, time of the year. It was disheartening, especially when they had to start on the rations that they had reckoned would not be needed until they reached the summit of the Glacier. But at last the blizzard blew itself out, and, stiff and cold, the party set out again, each day finding their ponies becoming weaker, until on the 9th, at Camp 31, named the Shambles, all these were shot.

Then it was a case of the dogs pulling the sledges, and on the 10th the explorers began the ascent of the Beardmore Glacier, the summit of which was thousands[240] of feet above them. Meares and Atkinson left for the base on the 11th, and the reduced party trudged forward and upwards, now having to go down again to avoid some dangerous part, toiling manfully up the Glacier, in danger of falling into crevasses, sinking into soft snow, which made the surface so difficult that after trudging for hours and hours only four miles were covered when they had hoped to do ten or more. By the 22nd, when the next supporting party left, they had climbed 7,100 feet (the day before they had been up 8,000 feet) and then a heavy mist enshrouded them, and hung them up for some hours—when every minute was precious.

When they started on the 22nd there were but eight men, and these toiled on day after day, meeting all sorts of trouble, running all kinds of risks, but never stopping unless compelled, dropping a depot on the last day of the year, and sending back three men on the 4th. This left only Scott, Captain Oates, Petty Officer Evans, Dr. Wilson and Lieutenant Bowers to make the final dash to the Pole. They had over a month’s rations, which was considered ample to do the 150 miles that separated them from their goal.

The party now had the small ten-foot sledges, which were neat and compact, and much lighter than the twelve-foot sledges which were sent back. The dogs had now gone back, and all the pulling was done by the men. The difficulty of the surface made them leave their skis behind on the 7th, but later on that day the surface become so much easier that it was decided to go back for the skis, which delayed them nearly an hour and a half. They were now on the summit, and were held up by a blizzard which, though it delayed them, gave them the opportunity for a rest which they sadly needed, especially Evans, who had hurt his hand badly while attending to the sledges. On the 9th they were able to[241] start again, now swinging out across the great Polar plateau. They cached more stores on the 10th, and found the lightening of the load very helpful. But even then, so hard was the pulling, that on the 11th, when only seventy-four miles from the Pole, Scott asked himself whether they could keep up the struggle for another seven days. Never had men worked so hard before at so monotonous a task; winds blew upon them, clouds worried them because they knew not what might come in their wake; snow was falling and covering the track behind them, sufficient to cause them some anxiety, for they wanted that track to lead them home again via their depots upon which safety depended.

The weather! Day by day the weather worried them; only that could baulk them in their purpose, and never men prayed so much for fine days as did these. The 16th found them still forcing their way onward, with lightened loads again, having left a depot on the previous day, consisting of four days’ food; and they knew that they were now only two good marches from the Pole. Considering they carried with them nine days’ rations, while just behind lay another four days’, they felt that all would be well if the weather would but keep clear for them.

The thing that now troubled these men who toiled so manfully against great odds was the thought that lurked in their minds that when they reached the Pole they might find that they had been forestalled. For they knew, everyone of them, that the Norwegian, Amundsen, was bent on achieving what they were hoping to do: on being first at the Pole. They knew, too, that things had been more favourable for him from the very outset; that he had been able to set out from a much better spot than they had. What if they attained the goal, only to find a foreign flag flying bravely in the breeze? The thought[242] was maddening; but the Britishers were sportsmen. And when months before Scott had heard that Amundsen was in the South, instead of trying for the North Pole, as he had given out when he started, the gallant captain had made up his mind to act just as if he had no competitor.

Next day, the 16th, all their hopes were dashed to the ground. Away out across the white expanse there loomed a tiny black speck, and immediately Scott’s thoughts flew to Amundsen. Some of his companions said it was one thing, others another. As they pulled hard at their loads the five men debated amongst themselves, trying to cheer each other up, seeking to cast aside the horrible thought that would force its way into their minds.

And then, the black spot was reached. It was a black flag, tied to a sledge bearer. It was the sign that the Norwegians had won in the race.

All around were signs of a camp, which to the filmed eyes of the explorers were the tokens of their failure to be first.

“It is a terrible disappointment,” wrote Scott in his diary, “and I am very sorry for my loyal companions. Many thoughts come and much discussion have we had. To-morrow we must march on to the Pole, and then hasten home with the utmost speed we can compass. All the day dreams must go; it will be a wearisome return.”

And the next day the Pole was reached, and from out its solitude and austerity the great explorer cried:

“Great God! This is an awful place, and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority....”

The great goal had been won; but the joy of achievement was dimmed; Amundsen’s records and[243] tent were found there, the Norwegian flag had been hoisted and flaunted bravely in the wind. They had been forestalled by over a month.

Having fixed up their “poor slighted Union Jack,” as Scott called it, the explorers turned northwards again, and began to retrace their footsteps over the Polar plateau, which had cost them so much labour to cross, then down the great Glacier with ever worsening weather. The men themselves, who had been so fit coming out, were now beginning to show signs of their gigantic labours; perhaps now, when the day dreams were over, and hopes long deferred had been fulfilled and dashed to pieces at one moment, they were disheartened; there was not the spur of achievement before them. Evans and Oates began to show signs of weariness—those two strong men of the party. Evans had his nose and fingers frostbitten and suffered much agony. Then, while descending the Glacier, he tumbled on the Glacier, fell among rough ice which injured his head, and gave him a touch of concussion of the brain. Dr. Wilson injured his leg, and snow-blindness was causing him much trouble. All these things impeded the party, to whom time was everything; food depended on picking up the depots on the right days—perhaps hours; and when, as often happened, the track was not easily found, the anxiety of the explorers was considerably increased.

Then Evans grew worse; from being self-reliant, and the man on whom the party had been able to look for help in any circumstances, he became weak and wellnigh helpless; he lagged behind, and the party had to wait for him to catch up. On February 17 at the foot of the Glacier, after a terribly hard day’s work, Evans—poor man!—was so far behind when the party camped, that his comrades became anxious and went[244] back for him. They found him. The limit of human endurance had been reached. “He was on his knees, with clothing disarranged, hands uncovered and frostbitten, and a wild look in his eyes.” They got him to the tent with great difficulty, and he died that night. Scott mourned his loss; and his journal is full of his praises of the petty officer who had been so indefatigable a worker and so adaptable a man, doing everything his inventive genius could think of to lighten the work for the explorers.

One day was now much like another to the four men left; they pushed on and on, picking up depots as they went, and suffering every day from the bitter cold, and feeling the effects of the hard work. On March 16, Captain Oates went out. Frostbitten hands and feet had made life burdensome for him, and he knew that he was a burden to the gallant men with him; without him, they could progress much quicker.

“Go on without me,” he had said, earlier in the day. “I’ll keep in my sleeping bag!” But they had prevailed upon him to keep on. Like a hero he forced himself to struggle on until they camped at night. When the morning came he awoke. Of him in those last moments Scott said: “He was a brave soul.... It was blowing a blizzard. He said: ‘I’m just going outside, and may be some time.’ He went out into the blizzard, and we have not seen him since.... We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death; but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman.”

He had sacrificed himself for the sake of the others. “Greater love hath no man than this.”

Reduced now to three men, the little party struggled on gamely, fighting against the weariness that was upon them, making with all haste for One Ton Depot. They[245] had expected ere this to have met the dogs which were to come out to help them back, but misfortune had overtaken Cherry Garrard, who had been waiting at One Ton Depot for six days held up by a blizzard. He had not sufficient food for the dogs to enable him to go south, and he knew that the state of the weather might easily make him miss Scott, whereas to wait at the depot was to be on hand when Scott did turn up.

Now the dire peril of their position forced itself upon them; though they fought to drive the thoughts away, manfully cheering each other up, none of them believed that they would ever get through, and on March 18, when twenty-one miles from the depot, the wind compelled them to call a halt. Scott’s right foot was frostbitten; he suffered from indigestion; they had only a half fill of oil left and a small amount of spirit. It meant that when this was gone, they could have no more hot drink—which would bring the end.

Despite their sufferings they went on again, until on the 21st they were camped eleven miles from the depot, a blizzard raging round them, little food, no fuel, and knowing in their hearts that when the next day dawned they could not continue the journey perilous and laborious; the end was at hand.

Days before Scott and Bowers had made Dr. Wilson give them that which would enable them to put an end to their misery; but now to-night, when face to face with death, they resolved that they would die natural deaths; it should not be said of them that they shirked. Each morning until the 29th they got ready to start for the depot that was so near, with its food, its fuel, its warmth, its companions; and each day they found the blizzard howling about them, as effectual a barrier as if it had been a cast-iron wall.

“We shall stick it out to the end,” wrote Scott on[246] the 29th, “but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far.

“It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more.

“For God’s sake look after our people!”

And so they died, these heroes and gentlemen; and through Scott’s last letters which were found with the dead bodies in the tent on November 10 there is but one thought running: the care of the people left behind and the praises of the men who had accompanied him. Never were such eulogiums written. “Gallant, noble gentlemen,” he called them, as death brooded over him; and throughout every line there was the spirit of cheeriness which takes life—and death—as becomes a hero who knows that failure was no fault of his own, that man can do no more than fight nobly against the forces arrayed against him.



Noble Deeds of Brave Men

THE bluff and hearty men, heroes every one, who live all around the coasts, ready to launch their lifeboats to go to the aid of shipwrecked mariners, have a bright page in the history of the sea. They are the saviours of those who go down to the sea in ships, and on every errand of mercy they literally take their lives in their hands, place themselves on the knees of the gods ready for sacrifice.

Sometimes the gods accept the sacrifice.

It happened so in the case of the Fethard lifeboat which, on February 20, 1914, pushed off to the assistance of the Norwegian schooner Mexico, wrecked on the rocky island of South Keeragh. The Mexico, losing her bearings when off the south coast of Ireland, was driven into Bannow Bay, missed stays when her crew tried to put her about, was caught by the fierce S.S.W. gale and the strong tide, and driven close to the South Keeragh Island.

On the mainland it was quickly observed that the Mexico was in a dangerous position, and about 3 P.M. the lifeboat Helen Blake shoved off to her assistance. The gallant lifeboatmen pulled their hardest, hoping to reach the spot in time to help the Mexico before the howling wind and the strong tide had finished the work begun; but, though they tugged as they had never tugged before, they were too late. The Mexico was[248] picked up like an india-rubber ball and flung against the rock island. There was a grating sound as the hull crashed into the rocks; the ripping of her bottom seemed like a clap of thunder; and then the heavily laden ship, carrying tons of mahogany logs, bumped and bumped again upon the rocks, which held her fast.

The men in the lifeboat, now fifty yards away, held their breath for a moment as they saw the disaster; then on they went again, carried this time not of their own free will, but by the relentless elemental forces. A heavy breaker caught the boat, broke over her in a mighty volume of water, and filled her up to the thwarts.

“Let go the anchor!” was the cry; and instantly the anchor was flung overboard. But, before it could bring her up, three or four following seas, as though eager to ensure destruction, caught the boat, and with her freight of heroes, hurled her with a mighty crash against the rocks. She smashed to pieces as though she had been built of china.

Fourteen men she had carried; and in an instant fourteen men were struggling for dear life in the midst of a boiling sea. Pygmies fighting against the giant forces of Nature, children beating puny hands upon the leering face of death, striving to force the black angel back; such were these men who, seeking to save others, were in danger of losing themselves. And in the titanic struggle nine men were lost.

Five of them won. Buffeted against the rocks, clutching and loosing, they fought for handhold and foothold, and at last, scrambling over the slippery points, they managed to fight to safety.

Then, weary and half dead themselves, they thought of what they had come out to do. The Mexico was still bumping dangerously upon the rocks, men clinging[249] to rigging, or to anything near at hand, lest the waves wash them away, or the lurching of the ship pitch them overboard—to death. And those heroes, who had felt the wings of the Angel of Death brush against them as he passed by, began the task of saving the men on the Mexico.

How they did it they never realised; but they knew they worked hard, and one by one, by means of ropes, they brought eight men off the wrecked ship on to the island. It is but a bald statement of the fact that, but with untellable heroism, indomitable determination, and sublime indifference to death and danger behind it.

With no boats, no food or water except what the Mexico men had managed to bring with them, and that all-insufficient, the thirteen men found themselves stranded on a barren island, with a raging tempest about them and no help in sight.

They passed the first night in shivering despair, huddling together to warm each other. Morning came, and brought no signs of succour, though during the night other lifeboatmen had sought to sally forth to their help, but had been beaten back by the anger of the gale.

The Wexford boat, James Stevens, and the Kilmore boat, The Sisters, had swept through the darkness towards them, their men fighting gallantly and the boats wrestling bravely with the waves and wind; but all to no avail. They had to put back, her mission unfulfilled.

Meanwhile, a message had been sent to the Chief Inspector of Lifeboats in London, Commander Thomas Holmes, R.N., who was dispatched immediately to take charge of the operations.

Presently the stranded men saw through the haze of the storm a black dot, tossing about on the bosom[250] of the sea. It was the lifeboat Fanny Harriet, from Dunmore East, whose gallant crew were making an attempt to reach them. She fought bravely against the tumult, but was driven back again and again, until her crew, realising that it was hopeless to stay out any longer, reluctantly put back to harbour. Then once again, and yet again, the Kilmore boat plunged into the sea, followed by the Wexford boat, James Stevens. Yet all they could do was useless, and they were forced to return to shore. Father Neptune was winning.

When Commander Holmes arrived on the scene at 3 P.M. on the Sunday he found the Fanny Harriet lying in harbour at Fethard, her men eating their heads off as they thought of their enforced idleness. Something about the commander brought back to these heroes the determination to succeed; and the boat was launched again, and fought her way towards the island. Once again, however, they were frustrated. The ground swell prevented them from getting anywhere near the island, and the stranded men wrung their hands as they saw her turn about. Hungry, thirsty, they looked forward to nothing but death. Already one of their number, a man from the Mexico, had succumbed to the exposure, and they saw in his fate the picture of their own, unless help came soon. They covered him up with some canvas and clods of earth.

“She fought bravely against the tumult, but was driven back again and again”

To the imperilled men the night of Saturday, the 21st, had been a terrible one. The gale that swept them was the worst known on the south coast of Ireland for many years, and the lifeboatmen, who had passed through many terrors of the sea, knew that they stood little chance of being taken off. For the thirteen men there were but two small tins of preserved meat and a few limpets. On the schooner were provisions in[251] plenty, but it was impossible to get into her to fetch them off; and, with food so near, they were face to face with hunger. Water, there was none; their drink consisted of a little brandy and half a pint of wine, which the Mexico’s captain had managed to bring with him when leaving the vessel. The biting wind blew down upon them, cutting them to the bone; the spray flung up by the breaking waves drenched them, and they had no shelter from the pouring rain. Yet the Fethard men bore up bravely, encouraging the Norwegians and giving them hope, for they knew that no efforts would be spared to get them off.

As, one by one, they saw the lifeboats try to reach them, only to be beaten back, not all the cheering words of the Irishmen served to keep up the spirits of the foreigners; and in their own hearts the Fethard men realised the hopelessness of it all. They might stay there until death came; for succour, it seemed, could never come.

But in Fethard Commander Holmes was not idle. When the Fanny Harriet came back on the Sunday evening, he telephoned to Wexford, informing the lifeboatmen that, on the Monday morning, another attempt would be made, and asking them to proceed to the scene on the chance that the weather would have moderated sufficiently to allow of something being done. Of course, the Wexford men said “Yes,” and, all being arranged, at six o’clock in the morning Holmes entered the Fanny Harriet. She carried a Dunmore East crew, and a Fethard man to pilot them, for the whole locality was strewn with hidden rocks and boulders. Fortunately, the gale had subsided somewhat, and the lifeboat was able to approach the vicinity of the wreck. Her men could see the stranded wretches, who waved at them frantically, urging them onwards.

[252]But the ground swell breaking outside the remains of the Mexico was still so heavy that it was necessary for the lifeboat to cruise round the island before a spot could be found whence it was possible to approach the shore. At last the boat was anchored in a fairly good position some hundred yards off the rocks; and the lifeboatmen immediately attempted to effect communication with the castaways. Rocket after rocket was fired, and eventually they succeeded in getting a stick-rocket ashore with a cod-line attached. By this means a strong line was hauled in by the men, and a small skiff which had been brought by the lifeboat was attached to the line, and veered successfully to within ten yards of the island. It seemed that rescue was really at hand, and the shivering, exhausted men brightened up. They would be saved!

Then their hopes were dashed to the ground. A heavy sea caught the skiff, a great wave broke upon her, filled her, and drove her with a crash against the rocks, which smashed her to pieces. But one ray of hope came to those men. A lifebuoy which was in the skiff was washed near to the shore, and a man plunged in, grasped it, and brought it ashore, and felt that all was not lost.

Commander Holmes hailed them, and sought to get them to trust themselves to the lifebuoy, which the rescuers would drag through the seas with its living burden. It was asking much, and all knew it. It meant casting oneself upon the mercy of a tumultuous sea, meant giving oneself up to the danger of being flung upon rocks and boulders, to be dashed to death. The stranded men looked at each other; no one spoke. Then one man, the desire of life surging through him, took up the buoy, to which the rope had been fastened, placed himself in it, and hurled himself into the water,[253] to be pulled into the lifeboat—safe! Another man, seeing this, followed his example; but the others, worn out by their experiences, preferred to wait for some surer way to safety than that, and elected to stay on the island.

While this was going on, the Wexford boat arrived on the scene, having been towed out by her tug. It was now a quarter past eight in the morning, and she anchored close to the Fanny Stevens, but in a rather better position; and, to the rapture of the men on the island, she had brought with her a strong punt, which was more suitable for the work in hand than the skiff brought from Fethard.

Two men of the Wexford boat, heroes both of them, volunteered to work the punt. They were William Duggan and James Wickham. They got into her, veered her down, with a rope attached to her bows, from the James Stevens, and, after a fearful experience, seized the opportunity that a “smooth” offered, and got her close enough to the rocks to snatch two of the men. Then, with a heave-ho! they dragged them into the punt, which was at once hauled back to the lifeboat.

Then out again in the same way the two heroes went. But this time they were not fortunate enough to escape damage. A wave caught them, and, as though the punt had been a toy yacht, flung her upon the rocks, which she hit with a crash; and, when the retiring waves dragged her back, the two men found that she had a hole in her side. Resourceful, calm, they grabbed up a loaf of bread and some packing, and with this stopped up the hole that had threatened to send the boat to the bottom; and then struck out once more for the rocks. That time two more men were saved; and so the work went on, Duggan and Wickham getting to shore no less than five times, taking off two men at each attempt,[254] until the whole party of weary and almost frozen men were brought to the lifeboat. Death had been in attendance all along; but they braved it. They stuck stubbornly to their self-appointed task, and they succeeded.

It took but little time for the tug to take the lifeboats in tow, and in due course the survivors of the tragic wreck were landed. The end had come to one of the most heroic episodes in the history of the lifeboat. Nay, not the end, for there was still the work of caring for those whom the death of the gallant men had left behind; and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution did all in its power to assist, while Their Majesties of Norway contributed to the fund opened, as also did the Storthing. And, later, the men who had worked so heroically, and had done so well, had their efforts recognised, though to them the greatest satisfaction was in knowing that they had wrought well, and had snatched precious lives from the greedy maw of the sea.

A still more recent instance of heroic endeavour on the part of the lifeboatmen was on the occasion of the wreck of the hospital ship Rohilla. She had been taken over by the Government for use as a hospital ship, and on Friday, October 30, 1914, when on her way to Dunkirk, she ran into a terrific E.S.E. gale. She had 229 people on board, including a medical staff and five nurses, bent on doing their best for the maimed heroes who had fought for country and honour on the battlefields of Belgium and France.

The official report of the Royal Lifeboat Institution, on which this story is founded, is a vivid and graphic description of a tremendous calamity.

It was soon after four o’clock in the morning that the Rohilla encountered the storm, and, though her[255] captain and crew did their very utmost, she ran on to a dangerous reef of rocks and lay at the mercy of a furious sea. Captain Neilson, who commanded, tried to get all the men to go forward, but those on the poop and aft could not cross the after part, over which giant seas were breaking. Pounded by mountainous waves, the Rohilla quickly broke in halves, and many of those on the after part of the ship were washed away at once, and perished. As soon as she struck, signals of distress were made, and Coxswain Thomas Langlands was promptly called. The sea was far too heavy to do anything until daybreak, when the No. 2 Lifeboat, John Fielden, was hauled on skids under the Spa Ladder—a gangway from the East Pier at Whitby to the cliff—and along the rocky scaur to the scene of the wreck. This necessitated getting the boat over a sea-wall eight feet in height—a most formidable task.

In transporting the boat she was stove in in two places. She was, nevertheless, launched, and succeeded in reaching the wreck, which lay surrounded by a mass of rocks. Twelve men and five women were saved and brought ashore. The boat was then again launched, and, after a fearful struggle with terrific seas, got to the vessel and saved eighteen more, the heavy waves which swept through the ship or broke over her deck filling the lifeboat time after time. Unfortunately, the boat soon became unfit for further service, owing to repeated bumping on the rocks. Captain John Mil-burn, a member of the local committee, then sent for the Upgang lifeboat, which was, with great difficulty, transported to the vicinity of the wreck.

By means of ropes the boat was lowered down the almost precipitous cliffs, and preparations were made for her launch, but nothing could be done in the tremendous seas running. In the meantime the Teesmouth[256] motor lifeboat and the lifeboat stationed at Scarborough had been called by telephone to the assistance of those still on the wreck.

Meanwhile, the Whitby coastguards were firing rockets in rapid succession, in the hope of getting lines to the ship; but only one was secured—and this was of no use to the shivering people who were on the bridge, which at any moment might give way.

The Scarborough lifeboat, Queensbury, in tow of the steam trawler Morning Star, started as soon as possible. It was quite dark when they arrived, and in the gale it was hopeless to establish communication with the wreck. Both craft, however, remained at hand through the night, and the endurance of the lifeboatmen was severely tested during their long vigil. At daybreak, finding that it was still impossible to get near the wreck, they returned to Scarborough.

In view of the tremendous seas making up the river at Teesmouth, it was decided not to dispatch the boat until daybreak next morning. This decision was conveyed to Whitby by telephone, and at 5 A.M. next morning the crew left Redcar for Teesmouth, accompanied by the Tees Commissioners’ tug. In crossing the bar the lifeboat encountered tremendous seas, and, as a result of falling into the trough of a mountainous wave, she sprang such a serious leak that she became disabled, and it became necessary for the tug to take the crew on board and tow the lifeboat back to Middlesbrough.

On Saturday morning the Upgang crew made a further attempt to rescue the survivors who were huddled together on one small portion of the wreck. For over an hour the crew struggled manfully to reach the wreck; but the sea and the strong current running between the “Nab” and the wreck was too strong for[257] them, and eventually the men became totally exhausted, and had to give up their hopeless task.

When the unfortunate men on the wreck, who had held on so bravely throughout the night, saw the hope of being rescued diminishing, some of them jumped overboard and attempted to swim ashore, and a number of the onlookers, with heroic disregard for their own safety, rushed into the boiling surf and succeeded in dragging many to the shore.

The Whitby No. 1 Lifeboat, in tow of a steam trawler, also got within half a mile of the wreck, but the sea was too heavy for them to approach any nearer, and the boat reluctantly returned to harbour.

It now became apparent that only a motor lifeboat would be able to render effective help, and the Tynemouth motor lifeboat was summoned by telegram. On Saturday afternoon the gallant crew, under the command of Coxswain Robert Smith, and accompanied by Captain H. E. Burton, R.E., hon. superintendent of the motor lifeboat, started on their perilous journey. To reach Whitby they were obliged to travel a distance of forty-four miles through the night and storm, unaided by any coast lights, which were all extinguished on account of the war. Thanks, however, to Captain Burton’s intimate knowledge of the Yorkshire coast, their gallant exertions met with the success which they deserved, and at 1 A.M. on Sunday morning, November 1, the boat was skilfully brought into Whitby Harbour.

Four hours later, this boat, with Lieutenant Basil Hall, R.N., Inspector of Lifeboats for the Southern District, on board, and the Whitby second coxswain as pilot, left harbour for the wreck, a supply of oil being taken to subdue the waves.

The rescue of those who had survived the terrible[258] ordeal for fifty hours is well described by the representative of the Yorkshire Post, who witnessed the scene, and from whose report we give the following extracts:

“The light was just rising over the sea at half-past six o’clock when the boat crept out of the harbour again, and breasted the breakers like a seabird as she headed straight out into calmer water. The lifeboat, looking fearfully small and frail, throbbed her way towards the wreck. Nearer and nearer she got; and then, when within 200 yards of the Rohilla, she turned seawards.”

She was burning flares, and from the shore a searchlight was playing upon the group of huddling people who had spent so many hours in darkness and the stress of storm.

“Presently, when she had passed a few fathoms beyond and away from the wreck, she stopped dead, and discharged over the boiling sea gallons and gallons of oil. It seemed that the ocean must laugh at these puny drops, yet the effect was remarkable; within a few seconds the oil spread over the surface of the water, and the waves appeared suddenly to be flattened down as by a miracle. In the meantime the lifeboat turned about, raced at full speed past the stern of the wreck, and then turned directly towards the shore. The most dangerous moment came when she was inside the surf and broadside on to the waves; but, guided with splendid skill and courage, she moved forward steadily, and a cheer of relief went out from the shore when she reached the lee of the wreck, immediately beneath the crowded bridge.

“But there was not a moment to be lost, for already the effects of the oil were beginning to pass off, and the waves were noticeably higher. Quicker than thought a rope was let down to the lifeboat, and immediately figures could be discerned scrambling down into[259] the boat. In less than a quarter of an hour more than forty men had been rescued. While the rest were preparing to leave the wreck, two enormous waves swept over the wreck and enveloped the lifeboat. Each time the tough little craft disappeared for a moment, reappeared, tottered, and righted herself gamely. Indeed, not a man was lost, not a splinter broken. Closer still she hugged the vessel’s side, till every man aboard—fifty of them in all—had been hauled into the rescuing boat.

“The last man to leave his lost ship was the captain, and as he slipped into the lifeboat the crew of the latter gave a rousing cheer that was echoed again and again by the people ashore.”

Even now the lifeboat had not finished its work; there was danger ahead. Great heads reared at her; a tremendous sea swamped down upon her, and she nearly capsized; but, shaking herself free, she laboured away, making fair progress. Then another huge wave rose at her, threatened her with destruction, was met boldly. Struck broadside on, the lifeboat was almost on her beam-ends. Watchers on the shore held their breath. Would she withstand the shock? She did, and swept gallantly forward, and at last reached the harbour mouth.

What cheers went up then! Men on shore cheered the gallant rescuers, who cheered back, while the rescued men in the boat joined their voices with the others. Then the boat came to the quay, and men ran down the steps to help the saved ashore, where they were soon taken to shelter, after having passed through a terrible experience.



Stories of Smugglers’ Ways and Smuggling Days have always had a Fascination

ANYTHING more adventurous than the lives of the old smugglers would be hard to find. Nowadays a man seeks to get prohibited goods into the country by using false bottoms to his trunks, or swathing his legs in bandages of rich lace; and maybe a woman smuggler cuddles to her bosom a “baby” of most wonderful make-up—laces, tobacco, scent! But there is little of the adventurous about that smuggling to-day, and we have to hark back to the days when men literally took their lives in their hands in the effort to outwit the Government and to avoid paying the taxes.

The strangest thing about smuggling is that all classes of people were engaged in it—sailors, soldiers, fishermen, justices of the peace, and even clergymen! When a village depended almost entirely for its trade upon the illicit running of goods, perhaps it is not to be wondered at that the parson had his sympathies with his parishioners.

A good instance of this is to be found in the story of the smugglers of Morwenstowe, Cornwall. A visitor from an inland town, strolling along the beach, stumbled upon the scene of a “landing” one evening. The ship lying in the offing, the boats hurrying to the beach laden with kegs of brandy, the people lining the shore, waiting to roll the kegs away to safety, soon[261] made him realise what was afoot; and, being honest, he was staggered. And being also very temperate, he was shocked to see men knocking in the heads of kegs and taking their fill of brandy, and becoming so far intoxicated as to quarrel amongst themselves.

“What a horrible sight! Have you no shame?” he cried, addressing the crowd in general. “Is there no magistrate at hand? Cannot any justice of the peace be found in this fearful country?”

“No, thanks be to God!” came the answer from somewhere amongst the busy crowd. “None within eight miles.”

“Well, then,” exclaimed the visitor, “is there no clergyman hereabout? Does no minister of the parish live among you?”

“Aye, to be sure there is,” was the reply.

“Well, how far off does he live? Where is he?” asked the virtuous gentleman, who next moment received another shock.

“There! That’s he, sir—yonder with the lanthorn,” was the answer that came to him; and looking in the direction indicated, he saw a venerable-looking man, in his parson’s clothes, holding the light while his parishioners worked at robbing the State!

When smuggling began it would be hard to say, except that one would be safe in supposing that as soon as a thing was taxed attempts were made to slip it into the country untaxed. As, however, it is not intended here to try to outline the history of smuggling, we need not worry about that, but content ourselves with picking out here and there some of the choice passages from the history.

Something historical, however, must be allowed to intrude, because it had a great bearing upon smuggling; and that is, that prior to 1816 there were[262] no systematic attempts made to prevent the illicit importation of taxed goods. True, the Government had excise men and revenue cutters on guard; but they were all too few, owing chiefly to the fact that the great wars of the eighteenth century took up most of the men, while the general slackness tended to make it fairly easy for the “free trader,” as he was called, to slip into some cove and unload his illegal cargo. Sometimes, indeed, the revenue men themselves had lapses and “ran” goods in on their own account! In 1816, however, following the conclusion of the great peace, the Government instituted a regular system of smuggling prevention. Kent and Sussex having been the favourite playground of the smugglers, the coasts of these two counties were blockaded. A man-o’-war, the Hyperion, was stationed at Newhaven, in Sussex, and the Ramilles in the Downs, off Kent; and the martello towers which had been erected along the coasts against the coming of Napoleon’s armies were used to house their crews. To all intents and purposes these sailors were the first coastguards, and in due course the system of blockading was carried out all round the coasts of Britain, chiefly by means of the revenue men and cutters. On these the Government drew, and duly formed the “Preventive Water Guard,” whose crews were stationed at certain spots along the coasts to keep watch and ward day and night.

It is true that at the end of the seventeenth century there were Riding Officers, whose work was to patrol the south-east coast on the look-out against wood smugglers. But as there were only about three hundred of them, and these all civilians, they were by no means an effective check to the smugglers. Later on they were permitted the assistance of the dragoons, who naturally resented being placed under the direction of civilians,[263] with the result that there was much friction, and the service, instead of being improved, suffered a great deal, the soldiery incidentally finding it a paying game to keep in with the smugglers.

In 1822 changes were made, and the civilian riding officers disappeared and their places were taken by men from the cavalry regiments, and at the same time the Board of Customs was given sole control of the preventive services, which then consisted, as we have seen, of the revenue cutters, Preventive Water Guard, and Riding Officers. Seven years later something more was done—the coastguard proper was born. No man was eligible for the service unless he was between twenty and thirty years of age and had served six years at sea or seven years’ apprenticeship in fishing-boats. The new force justified its creation, and in a few years took charge of the work that had been done by the revenue men who had been detailed for the blockade system along the east and south coasts; and then, later, the revenue men were made liable to service on board the men-o’-war; so that to-day the coastguard force is a part of the Royal Navy, and has even had its taste of active service, having been found of immense use, for instance, in the Crimean War.

So much for the dry bones of history as seen in the development of the coastguard force, which is bound up with the story of smuggling, from which we will now cull some instances.

The smuggler was honest—in some ways. For instance, away back in the latter half of the eighteenth century there lived a man who, named John Carter, received the sobriquet “The King of Prussia.” Carter’s home was at Porth Leah, in Mount’s Bay, that wonderful place in Cornwall. To Porth Leah was later given the name of Prussia Cove, in honour of the[264] “honest smuggler,” who did things so thoroughly that he erected a battery with which to keep the revenue cutters at bay, cut a road by which he could transport his cargoes from the harbour—which he also built; and out of the many caves along the coast fashioned cellars in which to store his goods. In fact, Porth Leah was what one might call a smugglers’ community.

The “King of Prussia” had a regular trade with regular customers, to whom he would, like any other trader, make definite promises of delivery; and, being a stickler for good business, he never let anything stand in the way of his carrying out his contracts. One day, while he was away, the excise officers found a cargo just arrived at Porth Leah from France. They promptly seized the cargo and carried it off to Penzance, and put it in the Custom House store under guard. Thus it was that Carter, coming back, found his cargo gone—and he had promised to deliver it to his customers on a certain day.

“See here!” he exclaimed to his men. “Whaat be I to do? I be an honest maan, and must keeap me woord. I tell ’ee, men, we be gwine to d’liver they goods ’cordin’ to pledge!”

His men knew that when Carter felt that his reputation as an honest man was at stake he would take strong measures, and got themselves ready against the coming of night. In due course they embarked on their ship, and, armed to the teeth, as becomes men going on a perilous errand, sailed across to Penzance. Arrived here, they fell upon the few Customs officers left in charge, and before they knew what had happened the latter were prisoners and the smugglers were rifling the stores, seeking their confiscated cargo. Not a thing did Carter or his men take away that wasn’t their own. They weren’t out thieving! Away they went with their[265] cargo to Porth Leah, where they quickly stowed it in their cave-cellars, ready to ship again when the time came for Carter to deliver his goods as per contract!

Thus, while saving his reputation the King of Prussia added to it, for when, the next morning, the revenue officers came to the Custom House and found what had happened, they soon made up their minds who had been at work:

“It was Jack Carter,” they said. “He always was honest, and took nothing that wasn’t his own.”

The romantic stories of smugglers abound in incidents connected with the caves they used for hiding their illicit cargoes. All along the coasts may be seen these galleried caves, and if you can get hold of the oldest inhabitant, he will tell you tales of wonder and danger. One oldest inhabitant of a Dorset village told me such a story once.

It would seem that on a certain night a cargo was to be run, and one by one, at this inn and the other, men gathered to await the coming of night. When twilight fell, men were posted at different points of the cliff to keep a look-out for a revenue cutter, and in the event of one coming, to endeavour to warn the men bringing the smuggling vessel in. No cutter appeared, and in due time—almost to the minute arranged—the smugglers came into view. Word was sent to the inns, and the men hurried down to the shore, helped to pull the vessel up, and then began the work of unloading her. Methodically, as though each man had been trained to the work, the smugglers set about the task, getting barrels, casks, and what not ashore in an incredibly short time; and while one batch did this, another hoisted the bales on their own backs or the backs of pack-horses. Then away they went into the night, making for their secret store-house.[266] This was a cave with a small entrance, barely large enough for a man to squeeze through; but inside it opened out into a large, roomy place with niches cut. In these holes the goods were stored as, one by one, men came in with them; and the work was almost done when there came from outside the sounds which told them that trouble was afoot. The revenue men, perhaps warned by some gossiper of what was going on, had dashed round a headland in their cutter and interrupted the work.

Before the smugglers knew what had happened the cutter had swept into the little cove, there was a sharp command of “In the King’s name!” followed by roars from the smugglers, who, thus trapped, began to think of safety. The horses that were at hand were whipped up, men seized whatever lay near them, and before the revenue men could land they were running inland, keeping clear of the cave so that the Government men should not find it. As quickly as possible the Customs men leaped ashore, rushed after the fleeing men, called upon them to surrender, were answered by curses, and immediately opened fire.

It was the signal for a free fight. Armed, all of them, the smugglers dropped their burdens and turned about. Shots rang out, the pistols flashed fire, cries of men arose; revenue men fell to the ground, smugglers bit the dust, but it seemed that the officers must win, when suddenly there was a rush. Under cover of the darkness the men in the cave had slipped out, made a detour, and then, with shouts and shots, fell upon the revenue men, and in a few minutes had put them to flight.

Then, wasting no time on the wounded officers, the smugglers went back; some got into the boat and slipped out with her, while the rest finished the work of hiding the goods.

[267]The “run” was over, and for several weeks the smugglers remained quiet, lest they should be traced as having taken part in the murderous affray.

We have referred above to the smugglers of Kent, and these gentry were by no means the honest kind of folk like the Cornishmen. A typical case of Kentish smugglers’ ways is that of the Hawkhurst gang, who, under their leader, Thomas Kingsmill, earned such a reputation for ruffianism that a special body called the “Goudhurst Militia” was raised to resist them, and many a stiff fight did the two bands have. The most disgraceful happenings in the career of the Hawkhurst gang were those that followed the affair of the Poole Custom House, where an illicit cargo of tea, valued at £500, had been taken into store by the officers. This cargo had been destined for Sussex, and the Hawkhurst gang and the Sussex men made a compact to break open the Custom House and rescue it.

Accordingly, on October 6, 1747, the smugglers set out for Poole, having arranged that thirty of them were to make the attack and thirty were to keep a look-out on the various roads. Arriving at Poole late at night, they sent a couple of men into the town to see if the way was clear.

One of the scouts came back with information that a large sloop lay in the harbour, in such a position that she might easily train her guns on the door of the Custom House and blow them to the winds if they dared to attack. The Sussex men were scared, and, preferring to lose the tea than their lives, turned back as if to go away. But Kingsmill cried:

“If you won’t do it, we’ll go and do it ourselves!”

The result was a consultation, during which another man came from the harbour to say that the tide was low and that the sloop could not bring her guns to[268] bear on the raiders. The consultation came to an end, and the smugglers went forward, riding down a little back lane on the left of the town until they came to the seashore, where they left their horses. Then on to the Custom House, which they soon broke open, and, taking their tea, carried it to their horses, packed it, and rode away mightily pleased with themselves. Next morning they arrived at Fordingbridge. Here they had breakfast and fed their horses, going on afterwards to a place called Brook, where they obtained a pair of steel-yards and weighed the tea, which was then divided amongst the men.

The news of the raid set the Customs folk by the ears, and a reward was offered for the apprehension of the raiders, but months passed by without the Government officials being able to obtain a clue. “A striking commentary, surely,” says Lieutenant H. N. Shore in “Smuggling Days and Smuggling Ways,” “on the state of merry England in the year of grace 1747! Here was a body of thirty armed men riding into a seaport town, storming the ‘King’s warehouse,’ and passing openly and undisguised the following morning with their booty through a portion of the most civilised and thickly populated part of England, and yet not a single individual of the many who witnessed the passage of the strange cavalcade, and were acquainted with many of those composing it, could be induced to come forward and assist the authorities in bringing the offenders to justice.”

Eventually, however, a clue was obtained. In the February following the raid one named Chater, a shoemaker of Fordingbridge, was going, in company with a Customs officer named Galley, to make a call upon Major Batten, J.P. for Sussex. The couple arrived at the small village of Rowland’s Castle, and put up at[269] the “White Hart” for refreshment, and probably, after dining not wisely but too well, they let slip the information that they were bound for Major Batten. Now there were few people in those days who were not hand in glove with the smugglers, and the least suspicious sign was always conveyed to the smugglers to be on their guard. Widow Payne, who kept the inn, had two smuggler sons, and these she at once dispatched to give warning; and in due course men began to drop into the “White Hart.” They chummed up with the strangers, drank and talked with them, and at last Chater, inveigled outside, volunteered the information that he was on his way to swear against one of the men who had taken part in the Poole Custom House affair. Galley, Chater’s companion, began to wonder what was afoot, and came outside to see; and had no sooner shown his face out of the door than he was knocked head over heels.

“I am a King’s officer,” he exclaimed, “and——”

“A King’s officer, are you?” said his assailant. “I’ll make a King’s officer of you; and for a quartern of gin I’ll serve you so again!”

The smuggler’s mates gathered round, and realising that open methods would be rash, succeeded in soothing the irate King’s officer; and the company went back to the inn to drink and feast. Sad to relate, Chater and Galley got drunk, and had to be put to bed; and when they awoke they found themselves on the back of a horse, being carried they knew not whither, but with men slashing at them with whips and crying:

“Whip ’em, cut ’em, slash ’em, curse ’em!”

The smugglers had at first made up their minds to hide them for a while, until the commotion had blown over, and then send them away to France; but the smugglers’ wives had considered this too mild treatment,[270] and had called out for their death. “Hang the dogs!” they cried. “For they came to hang us!”

Eventually, however, gentler measures were suggested, and it was decided that the men were to be secreted until it was discovered what was to be done with the smuggler who had been arrested—the man against whom Chater was going to give evidence. Each of the ruffians had agreed to give threepence a week towards the keep of the two men, but, drink-maddened, they soon forgot this, and set to work to belabour the unfortunate men, who at last rolled under the horse’s belly, and hung thus while the animal was driven like mad, the hoofs striking the men’s heads as they went. Then they were hoisted on to the horse’s back again, and the whipping renewed until the poor fellows were a mass of bruises and weals and too exhausted to keep on the horse’s back. They were then untied, slung across other horses, and carried on through the night, till the men cried out in their agony to be shot through the head.

Presently unconsciousness came to their relief. Arrived at Rake, near Liss, the smugglers drew up at the “Red Lion,” and induced the landlord to admit them. Here they imbibed afresh, and, drink-sodden, no doubt, they took Galley’s body and buried it in a sand-pit—probably while he was alive, for when the corpse was exhumed it was found that his hands were before his face, as though held there to protect it.

Chater, exhausted and running blood, was taken to the village of Trotton and chained to a post in a turf house, with two smugglers to guard him, and with barely enough food to keep him alive, pending the decision of the smugglers as to what to do with him. Next day they spent in revelry, and at night they repaired to the turf house, where one of them, drawing a large clasp knife, went up to Chater and cried:

[271]“Down on your knees and to prayers! I’ll be your butcher!”

Chater, who was frightened almost to death, knelt, and the next instant received a kick in the back. Gasping, he asked tremblingly what had become of Galley.

“We’ve killed him, curse you!” cried one of the ruffians. “And we’ll kill you!” And drawing his clasp knife, slashed it across the man’s eyes and nose, almost cutting out both eyes and slitting the gristle of his nose! A second slash made a terrible gash on Chater’s forehead, and after several other barbarities the unfortunate man was tied on a horse and carried to “Harris’s Well,” in Lady Holt Park, where they thought to drown him. First, however, they tried to hang him; but the rope was too short to admit of a sufficient drop, and he hung over the well. What did the smugglers do but cut the rope and send him hurtling down the well head first; and then, finding that he still lived, they pitched stones down at him until they were absolutely certain that he was dead!

A more revolting case it would be hard to conceive; and as the smugglers took every precaution to hide traces of their crime, they considered themselves safe. They overlooked one thing, however. Galley’s greatcoat had been dropped on the journey from Rowland’s Castle, and it was found later on, bloodstained, and sent to the Customs men, who at once knew that the smugglers had been at work. A large reward was immediately offered, and a free pardon promised to anyone who would “peach”; but as the smugglers had vowed amongst themselves not to “inform,” and had, indeed, been terrified by one of their leaders, who swore to kill any informer, “whether one of themselves or anybody else,” and as even the Custom officers were[272] timid in face of the open threats made by the smuggling community, it did not seem likely that the butchers would ever be brought to justice. It may seem incredible that such should be the case, but the picture painted by a contemporary writer brings the facts home. “The smugglers had reigned a long time uncontrolled,” says this writer. “They rode in troops to fetch their goods, and carried them off in triumph by daylight; nay, so audacious were they grown that they were not afraid of regular troops that were sent against them into the country to keep them in awe.... If any one of them happened to be taken, and the proof ever so clear against him, no magistrate durst commit him to jail. If he did, he was sure to have his house or barns set on fire, or some other mischief done him, if he was so happy as to escape with his life!”

But, Nemesis! What all the efforts of the King’s officers could not accomplish an anonymous letter brought about. This letter, written by someone who was in the know, was sent to the authorities, and it told them of the likely place in which Galley’s body would be discovered. Search was made, and the body found. A second unsigned letter gave the name of a man concerned in the crime. This man was arrested, and, fearing for his life, turned King’s evidence, told everything, and the King issued a proclamation that unless they surrendered themselves to justice at a day appointed the smugglers would be outlawed; and a reward of £500 was promised for the apprehension of everyone who should be convicted.

In the end seven of the murderers were caught and put in prison. A special assize was held at Chichester, January 16, 1749—nearly twelve months after the crime—and the seven were sentenced to death, five of them to be hung in chains as a warning.

[273]Later two more of the gang were captured and executed, and in April of 1749 the Hawkhurst gang came to an end, for the crimes laid to its account roused the Government to vigorous action, the smugglers were caught one by one, and at last Kingsmill, the ringleader, was hanged at Tyburn.



How the German Rovers were Destroyed

THE outbreak of the Great War of the Nations found various German warships in the Atlantic and Pacific, ready to prey upon the Allies’ shipping, and day by day the news flashed across the world of merchant ships sunk or captured, and this despite the fact that Great Britain, France, Russia and Japan were scouring the seas to find the destroyers. First one and then another of the German marauders was caught and sent to its doom. But even then a fair number were abroad; several of them—the Dresden, the Nürnberg, Leipzig, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau—were tackled by Admiral Craddock, in command of a British squadron of much inferior strength. The Germans won, only a few weeks later to be trapped by Admiral Sturdee and a strong squadron off the Falkland Islands. In the battle that ensued the Germans lost, and the vessels were sent to the bottom.

Before the battle of the Falklands took place, however, there had been certain other events of scarcely less importance—namely, the hunting down of the Königsberg and the Emden, the most noted of the German corsairs. That they did fine work for their country, even British tars will admit. They were as slippery as eels, and turned up in the most unexpected places and at the most inconvenient times for the British trading vessels. But at last Nemesis overtook them.

[275]There was the Emden, for instance. She was at Tsing-tau when war broke out, and immediately started out on her marauding cruise. Slipping out of the harbour she steamed off for the Straits of Malacca, with enemies hot upon her track. She hoodwinked them, and while they were going southward, she swept into the Bay of Bengal, sinking various vessels as she went, and finally shelling Madras, setting fire to the oil tanks there.

Thence she went to Ceylon, sending four more boats to the bottom, making nine in all. Another she sent into port with the crews of the sunken ships, and yet a further one—the collier Buresk—she held on to for the sake of the coal she carried. So, aided by wireless installations in different places and by supply ships, she kept on her destructive way, until by October 19 she had captured half a dozen more ships.

Then something happened to annoy her. H.M.S. Yarmouth, which had been following her doggedly, seized some of her supply ships; and the Emden slipped into hiding for a while, though trading vessels still went in dread, expecting her to turn up suddenly.

She did turn up suddenly, though her quarry was something better than merchant shipping. On October 21—Trafalgar Day—a four-funnelled cruiser swept into Penang roadstead, and the French destroyer Mousquet and the Russian light cruiser Jemtchug little thought that this was the Emden, which they knew had only three funnels. What had happened was that Captain von Müller, her commander, had rigged up a jury funnel out of woodwork and canvas, thus altering altogether the appearance of his ship.

The Jemtchug saluted her with “Who are you?”

Yarmouth!” was the audacious answer. “Coming to anchorage!” And the Emden immediately swung[276] round stern on to the Jemtchug. Forthwith she loosed one of her deadly torpedoes at the Russian, following it up with a shower of shells from her 4-inch guns. Down went the Jemtchug, the French boat going after her almost immediately, stricken to death by the crafty Emden.

Having thus completed the destruction of her unsuspecting foes, the German corsair went into hiding again, but on November 9 appeared off the Cocos Islands—to meet her doom.

For the Australian cruiser Sydney received an interrupted wireless message from the Cocos to the effect: “Strange warship ... off entrance,” and at once sped off at full steam, and at 9.15 the look-out saw the tops of the coco-nut trees of the Keeling Islands in the distance. Five minutes later the Emden’s funnels were sighted, twelve or fifteen miles away. Game, the German opened fire at a long range, the Sydney waiting for a little while, and then sending her explosive replies. It was a gallant fight; the Emden made some fine firing practice, smashing the Sydney’s No. 2 starboard gun almost immediately, and putting practically all the crew out of action. The Australian’s aft control was blown to pieces, and a fire broke out, which her men soon got under while the fight raged.

The crew of the Sydney worked well that morning, as the letter of one of her officers testifies:

“The hottest part of the action for us was the first half-hour. We opened fire from our port guns to begin with. I was standing just behind No. 1 port, and the gunlayer (Atkins, First-Class Petty Officer) said: ‘Shall I load, sir?’ I was surprised, but deadly keen there should be no ‘flap,’ so said: ‘No, don’t load till you get the order.’ Next he said: ‘Emden’s fired, sir.’ So I said: ‘All right, load, but don’t bring the gun to the[277] ready.’ I found out afterwards that the order to load had been received by the other guns ten minutes before, and my anti-‘flap’ precautions, though they did not the slightest harm, were thrown away on Atkins, who was as cool as a cucumber throughout the action.

“All the time we were going 25 and sometimes as much as 26 knots. We had the speed on the Emden, and fought as suited ourselves. We next changed round to starboard guns, and I then found the gunlayer of No. 1 starboard had been knocked out close to the conning-tower, so I brought Atkins over to fire No. 1 starboard. I was quite deaf by now, as in the hurry there had been no thought of getting cotton-wool.

“This is a point I won’t overlook next time.

“Coming aft the port side from the forecastle gun I was met by a lot of men cheering and waving their caps. I said: ‘What’s happened?’ ‘She’s gone, sir, she’s gone.’ I ran to the ship’s side, and no sign of a ship could I see. If one could have seen a dark cloud of smoke, it would have been different. But I could see no sign of anything. So I called out: ‘All hands turn out the lifeboats, there will be men in the water.’ They were just starting to do this when someone called out:

“‘She’s still firing, sir,’ and everyone ran back to the guns. What had happened was a cloud of yellow or very light-coloured smoke had obscured her from view, so that looking in her direction one’s impression was that she had totally disappeared. Later we turned again and engaged her on the other broadside.”

But, although she was still fighting gamely, the Emden was in a poor way; her three funnels and her foremast were shot away, and she was on fire aft. To complete the work so well begun, the Sydney swung[278] round again, and opened on her with the starboard guns, which sent her running ashore on North Keeling Island. Then, having fought for an hour and forty minutes, and realising that the Emden could not escape, the Sydney went in chase of the German’s collier. Coming up with her, they found that the crew had opened the seacocks and that she was sinking rapidly. The crew was taken off, and the Sydney steamed back to have a look at the Emden. It was four o’clock when she arrived, and almost immediately the Germans hauled down their colours and hoisted a white flag; they were surrendering. In the ordinary course the Sydney would now have sent boats out on rescue work, but it was too late in the evening to do that, especially in view of the fact that at any moment another German cruiser—the Königsberg—might come into sight, when the Sydney would need to be ready to tackle her. She therefore steamed away till morning, picking up a German sailor as she went, making the fourth they had managed to rescue during the day.

Early next morning the Sydney looked in at the cable station, to find that a landing party from the Emden had smashed the instruments, and then stolen a schooner and escaped.

A little after eleven o’clock the Sydney went back to where the Emden had run ashore, and an officer was sent over to her. He was helped aboard by the Germans, and found the vessel an absolute shambles. One hundred and eighty men were killed. Captain von Müller gave his parole, and the wounded were quickly got over to the Sydney, where they were attended to. The remainder of the crew were then transhipped, and the Sydney sped off for Colombo, where she received a mighty welcome, though she went in silent, for her captain had ordered that there should be no cheering[279] over the defeat of gallant foes, who had always behaved like gentlemen to those whom they had captured.

When we recall that during the days of her marauding cruise the Emden had captured and sunk shipping to the value of little less than four and a half million pounds, it will be seen that the Sydney had done some very good work in bringing her career to an end.

The Königsberg, which the Sydney had half expected to turn up at the Cocos Islands, met her doom at the hands of the British light cruiser Chatham in the Rufigi River, German East Africa. The Königsberg had also been a danger on the seas, but she had only succeeded in sinking one trading vessel and disabling the obsolete cruiser Pegasus. The latter had snapped at the Germans at Dar-es-Salaam in German East Africa, and had then gone over to Zanzibar to repair. She was, however, surprised by the Königsberg while her crew were hard at this work. Before they knew what was what a hail of shells was poured into the Pegasus, which shivered from the shock; her steel work was bent and twisted, men fell dead or wounded, and very soon the Pegasus men knew that they were fighting a hopeless battle. But they fought it as became men with the tradition of unconquerable pluck behind them.

Their ensign was sent hurtling to the deck by a lucky shot; a man seized it in his hand and held it aloft, a sign of defiance to their overwhelming opponent. That man died waving the flag; another snatched it from his dead hand, and flaunted it bravely; and when the Königsberg, her work done, steamed away, the British ensign still floated in the breeze above the shattered Pegasus.

This one-sided action took place on September 19, and just over a month later the Königsberg was run[280] down by the Chatham, and her career came to an end. The Chatham found her hiding in the Rufigi River, six miles up stream. The British cruiser, owing to her great draught, could not go up after her, and the Königsberg landed part of her crew, who dug themselves into entrenchments on the Mafia island at the entrance of the river, expecting an attempt to assault them. The Chatham, however, shelled her and the entrenchments, but the dense palm groves amid which she lay made it impossible to tell with what effect. To ensure that she should not escape, the Chatham took measures to bottle her up; a German East African liner, the Somali, was sunk in the mouth of the river, and later the s.s. Newbridge was also used for this purpose. This ship (Captain Willett) had a cargo of coal on board. She was protected aft by sandbags and sacks of coal, and her steering gear and engine-room were shielded by steel sheets so that the Königsberg’s fire might not prove too destructive as the Newbridge made her way up river.

The men in the entrenchments on Mafia Island were prepared for the coming of the Newbridge. By some means the Germans had discovered that she was to be sent; and as they were armed with Maxims and quick-firers, it looked as though the collier would receive a pretty warm reception. She did!

Lieutenant Lavington, in command, and Captain Willett and two other lieutenants were the sole officers on board, six or seven bluejackets and a few artificers and stokers comprising the crew—a gallant company going on a dangerous errand. As soon as the Newbridge got within range the Germans on the island began firing, without much effect. Then, having passed the island, in spite of a perfect hail of bullets and shrapnel, she was moored into the position decided[281] upon, and the last stages of the work begun. Down in her hold were several charges of guncotton, with an electric wire connected to the launch that had followed the ship. Having opened her port tank, so that the water might pour in and give the Newbridge a list up stream, and make her satisfactorily withstand the strong current running, the crew slipped into their boats alongside, the connection was set up; and there followed three loud explosions. The Newbridge sank; and the Königsberg was effectually bottled up.

For the men who had hazarded everything on this mission the serious task now before them was to get back to the open sea; and to do this they had, of course, to pass the island, with its force of Germans. They sped back as quickly as they could, meeting a shower of shot, which caused considerable damage; but at last the gantlet was run and the intrepid men were safe on board.

Less than a week later the Königsberg was sunk. As she was hidden by the dense foliage, and had taken the precaution of covering herself with leaves, the British had, as we have said, much difficulty in telling whether the shell fire was effective. In order to get the exact position, therefore, an aeroplane, brought by the Kinfauns Castle, was used. The whirr of her engine, as she reconnoitred over them, told the Germans that the end was very near, and they were quite prepared for the well-placed shots which quickly followed the dropping of smoke bombs, signalling the position of the lurking cruiser. The great, destructive shells smashed into her, wrought havoc all through her, broke her as though she had been a cardboard toy; and very soon she sank. The Pegasus had been avenged.

These two cases are typical of the way the British Navy dealt with the modern corsairs and showed Germany that Britannia still rules the waves.



Stories of Human Ghouls

THERE are few things more fiendish to be found in the story of the sea than the wholesale system of wrecking which was in practice from early times up to comparatively recent years. The wreckers were nothing less than ghouls who preyed upon mariners whom they had lured to destruction. Very severe laws were made to deal with them, but it is to be feared that they were very ineffective.

On September 11, 1773, the Charming Jenny, Captain Chilcot, was battling bravely against a storm off the Isle of Anglesea. For a while all went well, and Chilcot thought that he could weather the storm. Away in the distance there suddenly appeared lights as of ships passing in the night. But, had he known it, they were false lights—lanterns tied around horses’ necks. Scoundrelly men were leading the horses along the cliff-heads, taking care that they were near the rocks which poked their cruel noses above water. Chilcot, taking these lights for those of ships passing in the night, steered his vessel towards them, thinking he would thereby be safe.

Then, when it was too late, he discovered his mistake; there was a crunching, grinding noise as the Charming Jenny hurled herself on the rocks, and in an incredibly short time went to pieces, carrying all her crew to destruction with the exception of Chilcot and[283] his wife, who were fortunate in getting on to a piece of wreckage, and after some hours of agony and exposure were washed ashore in an exhausted condition and were scarcely able to move. There, on the beach, they lay for a while, hoping for succour, instead of which there came—the wreckers. These, when they were satisfied that their fell work had been successful, hurried down from the cliffs and, searching the shore, came upon the almost lifeless bodies of the man and woman.

Chilcot they seized and took away, stripped him of his clothes, even cut the buckles from his shoes, and then left him to shift for himself. His first thought was for his wife, and hurrying as fast as he could to the shore, he found her—dead. The wreckers had killed her and carried away the bank bills and seventy guineas she had in her pocket.

The significant thing about this incident was that Chilcot, getting assistance from two kindly people near by, put the authorities at work, with the result that three men were arrested, and found to be well-to-do folk—one of them, indeed, so wealthy that he could offer £5,000 bail when he was arraigned at Shrewsbury Assizes! Probably these gentry had fattened on the misfortunes of dozens of other unfortunate mariners.

An incident of wrecking in Cornwall in 1838 is typical in many respects. The wreckers in this case were the miners of Sennen, who one day noticed a ship trying to beat up the Channel against a fierce storm. As it was daylight, the miners grumbled at the fate which seemed as though it had sent a prize to taunt them, for they could not lure the ship to destruction while it was light. But knowing, with that instinct of the coast-dwellers, that the storm would hold on for some time, and that the ship could not hope to make much[284] headway, they set a number of men on watch on the cliffs to keep the ship in sight until night fell. Meanwhile the wreckers went on with their mining. When night fell they rushed to the coast, and soon were sent to a particularly dangerous part. They carried a lantern, which they set on a cliff-head.

To the mariners on the battling ship it seemed like a beacon. Where they had been buffeting blindly before, with no light to guide them, now they were able to take bearings. The captain set his course by the light, but, past masters in their craft, the wreckers manipulated the light so that the skipper was deceived, and, although he did not know it, he was gradually getting closer and closer to the shore.

Crash! The ship hit the rocks, and at once realising that he had been trapped, the skipper shouted commands; men flew to do his bidding, but the ship refused to budge; she was fast on the rocks.

Then the wreckers fell to work. There were no fewer than two thousand of them, and while the captain and crew were intent on getting ashore, the wreckers busied themselves in taking out everything of value, stripping the ship clean. The captain, knowing that the fiends had lured him to destruction, rallied his men together to oppose them. But what could a handful of men do against such a horde? Although the mariners put up a gallant fight, they were defeated and many of them cut down.

Then the coastguard turned up. Again only a handful to oppose thousands, who, in possession of a rich prize, were determined nothing should rob them of it. So there was another fight, fierce hand-to-hand tussles at first, for the coastguards did not wish to kill; then, when the wreckers began to menace their very lives, the coastguards opened fire. This only enraged the[285] wreckers more, and they fell upon the officers, who were at last driven off, unable to cope with the force arrayed against them.

Then the wreckers completed their fell work.

In 1731—during the reign of George II., that is—there sailed from Copenhagen a Danish East Indiaman, the Golden Lion, with a valuable cargo, including twelve large chests of silver valued at about £16,000. Captain Heitman, of the Golden Lion, after encountering bad weather in the Channel and being driven northward to the Kerry coast, at last put into the Bay of Tralee, near the northern shore of which there lies another bay, called the Bay of Ballyheigue, abounding with sunken rocks and sandbanks, a place of terror to mariners.

How it happened is not clear, but on October 28 the Golden Lion entered this treacherous bay. It has been asserted that the men of Kerry lured her by false lights, though they vowed their innocence. In any case, the Golden Lion was in a serious fix, and the only way to save the crew was for Captain Heitman to steer his ship ashore. This he did, and succeeded in saving the sixty men comprising the crew, and also the £16,000 of silver and various other things, though the Golden Lion herself became a total wreck.

To the credit of the Kerry men be it said that for a long time the Danes were hospitably treated by them; the officers were housed at Ballyheigue House, and their treasure was allowed to be stored in an old tower, at the south-west corner of the court belonging to the house. The crew were taken in to billet at various houses round about. Meanwhile, Heitman sent news to London and Copenhagen of his misfortune; but it would appear that these never reached their destination, being held up in Ballyheigue, and the Danes had to wait long, and as patiently as they could, for news that never came.

[286]Then there began to be a change in the attitude of the Kerry men. Thomas Crosbie, owner of Ballyheigue House, died, and a relative named Arthur Crosbie came to the help of his widow and mother, executors of the late host. Now, Arthur Crosbie was a queer customer—hard up, crafty, always with his nose in other people’s business. He felt that the Danes should be made to pay something out of their hoard for all the hospitality shown them. Heitman, nothing averse to doing so, objected, however, to the charges put down by Crosbie—namely, £4,000—and he sent a letter of complaint—though how it got through goodness only knows—to Dublin. The authorities at Dublin sent back a message that the Danes were not to be imposed upon; and Crosbie knew that he had been foiled.

But only in one direction, for his crafty mind soon set to work to devise a plan whereby he could get some of that treasure in the vaults beneath the square tower of Ballyheigue House; and he was not alone in his plotting, for others of the Kerry men were of much the same mind as he was.

A pretty plot was in the way of being hatched.

A man named Cantillon (a distant relative of the Crosbies) started things seriously. He conferred with David Lawlor, who kept an inn at Tralee, in April, 1732, and the result of their confab was that they paid a visit to the farm at Beinaree belonging to the Protestant Archdeacon of Ardfert, the Rev. Francis Lauder, who was also a J.P. The plotters told their scheme to one named Ryan, tithe-proctor and steward to the archdeacon, and he eagerly threw in his lot with them. The prize was worth it. He promised to do his best to get other helpers, and that night he tackled John Kevane, a labourer on the farm.

Now, Kevane was wary; he was not at all opposed[287] to the plot, but he wanted to be sure that it had substantial backing in the shape of “the gentlemen of the county.” Ryan was evasive on this point.

“I’m going to see the master,” he said, “and feel sure that the gentry will consent to it.” But Kevane was not at all convinced, and reserved his opinion.

Having so far committed himself, Ryan naturally had to follow the matter up with Kevane and get him into the plot, lest he gave information; and next day he tried again to persuade him.

“If the gentry are really in it,” said Kevane at last, “then some of them ought to appear in it, so as to spirit up the folk.”

“We can’t ask them to do that,” answered Ryan craftily; “it would hardly do. But I can tell you, Kevane, that their servants are going to help us.”

This sounded reasonable to Kevane, who therefore agreed to enter into the conspiracy, and very soon Cantillon, Lawlor, and Ryan found themselves with a fairly respectable (or disreputable) following, including William Banner, the butler, and Richard Ball, the steward at Ballyheigue, Captain Stephen Macmahon, and John Malony, his mate.

There was one other man Cantillon was anxious to have in with him. This was Denis Cahane, a poor smallholder at Kilgobbin, who refused at first, but at last asked time to think it over. Thinking it over, he felt he would like advice, and, having been told that the gentry were in it, had a talk with his landlord, Mr. John Carrick, a J.P. The magistrate soon put Cahane right, and told him to have nothing to do with the matter, and the poor chap gave his promise.

“Keep it quiet, sir,” he said tremblingly, “or they’ll kill me for an informer!”

Cahane knew Cantillon and his roguish comrades!

[288]The following Sunday, May 16th, Cantillon was coming for Cahane’s answer, and the smallholder, worried almost to death, interviewed the Protestant vicar in the morning, after the service at Kilgobbin. To him he poured out his story, asking him to keep his informant’s name secret. The vicar promised, and then went to see Mr. Carrick, whom he asked to warn Lady Margaret Crosbie of the plot, so that she might put the Danes upon their guard. Carrick promised, and then broke his word; whereupon, some days later, the vicar himself called upon Lady Margaret and told the whole of the tale.

Lady Margaret thanked him, and promised to warn the Danes and get them to remove the chests of silver from the vault to her house, where it would be quite safe.

As a matter of fact, the good kind lady was in the plot, and she did not warn the Danes. The conspirators were able, therefore, to set about maturing their plans which, with so many people concerned, it is not surprising became common knowledge amongst the peasants, rumours even reaching Tralee Custom House, whence Heitman was advised to obtain a guard of troops from Tralee barracks.

One would have thought that, in view of this information, Heitman would have taken every precaution; but he did not. Instead of applying for soldiers he contented himself with asking Lady Margaret to let him have some of the arms which had been put under lock and key when the Golden Lion was wrecked; and when his request was refused, and yet another that he might gather all his crew into the ground floor of the square tower, he apparently shrugged his shoulders and let the matter slide!

Then Dick Ball turned traitor; he confided to one[289] of the Danes, John Suchdorf, that there was going to be an attempt to steal the silver. But for sheer foolishness these mariners want beating. Suchdorf shrugged his shoulders, laughed all over his honest face, and told Ball it was a really fine joke he was trying to play on him! And he doesn’t even seem to have told the captain, though perhaps it would have done no good if he had.

It came about, then, that when the plotters considered the time ripe everything was clear. The day determined on was June 5, when Lady Margaret had a few friends come to her house on a visit.

At dinner that evening Captain Heitman and his officers were invited to join the party, probably to keep them out of the way, for while the convivialities were in progress our old friend Suchdorf noticed that three men were prowling about the foot of the square tower; and a little later saw Lawlor and a companion go into Ballyheigue House. In view of what he had been told previously, had Suchdorf been anything but a muddle-headed man, he would have suspected what was afoot and rushed off to Captain Heitman; but he did nothing, said nothing, not even when, about seven o’clock, he came upon Ball and Malony and three or four others gathered about the tower. So the plot, which was coming to a head, was allowed to progress unimpeded, and soon after midnight, when everyone had retired to rest, there was a fine hullabaloo—guns were firing, men were shouting, women screaming, and doors being banged, opened and shut noisily as folk awoke.

The work was in hand!

When they were sure that the people were in bed the conspirators had rushed the tower, and, with cutlass and pistol, had fallen upon the sentries which Heitman always had there. There was a stiff, stern fight for a[290] short while, and two of the sentries fell to the ground, dead, the third managing to get away, wounded and bleeding, to arouse Suchdorf and his other comrades. Suchdorf now began to realise that there had been something in Ball’s story, and, jumping out of bed, he dashed down to the door, followed by Alexander Foster, Peter Mingard, and George Jenesen. They put up a fine show, and succeeded in forcing the thieves out of the tower and fastening the door; after which they hurried upstairs and, looking out of a window, saw “a great multitude, whose faces were blacked.”

Here was a fine to do; the whole countryside seemed to be come out against them, and the four men had only a case of arms and one gun amongst them, and only enough powder and ball for one charge! They conferred amongst themselves, and realising that they could make but little resistance, and that futile, they would be better not to make any at all, lest “it might be the means to have them murdered.”

Meanwhile, in Ballyheigue House all was excitement. Heitman, hearing the noise, and realising that his silver was perhaps in danger after all, dashed downstairs, to find the hall filled with the guests and other occupants of the house.

“My silver!” he cried. “It is being stolen! Help me to drive the thieves off!” He hurled himself at the door, trying to pull back the bolts. Before he could do this, however, Lady Margaret, crafty woman that she was, threw herself in front of him, and beseeched him not to be foolhardy!

“They will kill you!” she cried. “Stay here!”

And Heitman stayed, while away over at the tower things were moving pretty briskly. The conspirators had forced their way in, and, working like Titans, got all the silver-chests out, and by various means took them[291] into certain places previously arranged. The holy Lauder, archdeacon and magistrate, had considerately lent his chaise and horses, and these bore away three of the chests to his farm, where they were broken open and their contents divided amongst the thieves. Six chests were left at Ballyheigue, to be shared later; one was carried to Tralee for the same purpose, but was afterwards seized by the soldiers; and two others were hidden safely at Ballygown.

And the Lady Margaret and her family received half the proceeds!

Poor Captain Heitman! When it was too late he called for the aid of the authorities; and although the soldiers managed to seize the chest that was taken to Tralee, and though Heitman offered a tenth part of the treasure to anyone who would give information that would lead to the recovery of the treasure, all he ever got back was some £4,000. A good part of it probably went across the seas in Malony’s ship.

Justice was very tardy; after many weeks nine or ten of the thieves were caught, though only three were convicted. One was hanged, but a second cheated the gallows by committing suicide; and the third was pardoned, because Heitman thought he might turn King’s evidence, as did some of the others who were caught. Seeing that the “gentry” were in it, it is not surprising that justice was tardy, and that Heitman was kept in Ireland until the autumn of 1735, waiting for justice and his treasure—and got neither.

Whether the Kerry men had lured the Golden Lion to her destruction or not, there is no doubt that they were of the family of wreckers.

It was in 1817—on February 19, to be precise—that the Inverness went ashore in the Shannon, through her[292] captain mistaking Rinevaha for Carrigaholt. Everything would have been all right, and the ship been able to float at the next spring-tide, had not the peasants considered it too good a chance to throw away. It was like turning good luck away! So, banding themselves together, they went down to the shore, boarded the Inverness, and, their numbers being large and their methods none too gentle, succeeded in scuttling the ship and tearing away all her rigging, having taken the precaution of sending to shore the barrels of pork and other provisions with which the vessel was loaded. Then they robbed the crew—even to their shirts, which they used as bags to carry their plunder in!

The news spread, and next day the police appeared on the scene, and found the peasants still hard at work collecting their salvage. Although there were only twelve policemen, a sergeant and the chief constable, they pluckily threw themselves into the fray, routed the wreckers, and stood guard over the provisions that still remained on shore. All night they kept their vigil; but with the coming of dawn they found themselves surrounded by thousands of peasants. Angry at being robbed of their prey, the wreckers had aroused the countryside, determined to get back what they had lost.

They advanced in three companies, shouting threats, waving hats, cheering—to keep their spirits up, probably—and vowed they would have the salvage as well as the arms of the police guard. Although they knew they had a ticklish job in front of them, those policemen were staunch and bold; they refused to be intimidated. Forming into one body, they faced the three mobs and waited for them to come on. They came on; and there ensued a miniature battle; sticks and stones were flung at the police, the wreckers charged down upon them with scythes and axes, and the police replied[293] by firing their pistols. But it was all in vain; the mob was overwhelming in numbers, and the chief constable saw that they could not hold out very long. He must have help.

Off went one of the policemen, a mounted man, making for Limerick, pursued by fleet-footed men, who, however, were soon left behind. In less than two hours he returned with Major Warburton and a body of twenty cavalry, with infantry behind them. They dashed down upon the shore, to find that the police had been compelled to retire, which they had done in an orderly manner, and that the wreckers were once more upon the Inverness, hard at it breaking it up. Warburton and his men boarded it; a hatchet blow narrowly missed the major, who promptly turned and presented his pistol at the would-be murderer, and so scared him that he flung himself overboard. But he did not escape, for one of the soldiers charged at him as he waded ashore and cut him down.

The wreckers now saw that they had brought a hornet’s nest about their ears, and began to think of escaping. They flew for their lives, pursued by the soldiers, who wounded some and took many prisoners.

The thoroughness of the wreckers’ work may be gauged by the fact that only nine barrels of pork were saved, and that the bowsprit, gaff, and spars of the ship had been stolen; all her sails and rigging had been taken away, her anchors and cables—and even her pump!

An extract from an old book gives in the words of one present a picture of another wreckers’ incident:

“On Friday, October 27, 1811, the galliot Anna Hulk Klas Boyr, Meinerty, master, from Christian Sound, laden with deals, for Killala, was driven ashore at a place called Porturlin, between Killala and Broadhaven.[294] The captain and crew providentially saved their lives by jumping on shore on a small island or rock. At this time the stern and quarter were stove in. The crew remained two hours on the rock, when they were taken off by a boat and brought to the mainland.

“Shortly after, the captain’s trunk, with all the sailors’ clothes in general, came on shore, which the country people immediately began to plunder, leaving the unfortunate wreck. Then they cut away all they could come at of the sails, rigging, etc., while hundreds were taking away the deals to all parts of the country. Though the captain spoke good English, and most pitifully inquired to whom he might apply for assistance, yet he could not hear of any for fourteen hours, when he was told that Major Denis Bingham was the nearest and only person he could apply to. With much difficulty he procured a guide, and proceeded to Mr. Bingham’s, a distance of twenty miles through the mountains.

“In the meantime, after thirty-six hours’ concealment of this very melancholy circumstance, Captain Morris, of the Townshead cruiser, who lay at Broadhaven, a distance of about ten miles from the wreck, heard of it, and approaching it landed with twenty men well armed. In coming near the wreck he first fired in the air, in order to disperse the peasantry, which had no effect; he therefore ordered his men to fire close, which had the desired effect, when he immediately pursued them into the interior, from three to five miles distance, dividing his party in different directions, when, by great exertion and fatigue, they saved about 1,800 deals and a remnant of the wreck.

“Captain Morris had some of the robbers taken, but, his party being so scattered, they were rescued by a large mob of the country people.”



The Story of the “Titanic” Disaster

ON Wednesday, April 10, 1912, there steamed out of Southampton the largest boat in the world—a wonder ship, a veritable floating palace. She was bound for America. It was her first voyage, and it was her last, for five days later, from out the night, there loomed the white form of a gigantic iceberg, which crashed into her starboard side; and the Titanic and most of the people aboard her had entered upon their last two hours of life.

There is a magic in figures, but even those which tell of the size of the giant ship fail to carry the tale of her greatness. Still, they must be given in order to show how this mammoth of the ocean was as a pygmy in the grip of the elemental forces.

She was a three-screw vessel of 46,328 tons gross and 21,831 tons net. Her length was 852 feet, and her breadth 92 feet. From top of keel to top of beam she was 64 feet, while her hold was almost 60 feet deep. Her horsepower was 50,000. She was pronounced unsinkable, having fifteen water-tight bulkheads and a water-tight inner bottom, extending nearly the whole breadth of the vessel, and several other water-tight divisions. She was fitted with six independent sets of boilers, wireless telegraphy, submarine signalling, electric lights and power systems; telephones and telegraphs communicated between the various working positions;[296] three electric elevators were installed to carry passengers from one deck to another; and every appliance necessary to enable the ship’s officers to ascertain depth of water, speed of the vessel, and a hundred and one other things, were provided, while life-saving appliances to the requirements of the Board of Trade were included in her equipment. There were concert-rooms, smoking-rooms, swimming baths, tennis courts, restaurant, libraries—everything in the way of modern luxury.

And yet when the crash came to this floating palace, this realisation of the shipwright’s dreams, out of the 2,201 souls she carried, only 711 were saved—a tragic comment upon the impotence of man against the forces of Nature.

The Titanic sailed from Southampton to Cherbourg, from Cherbourg to Queenstown, then across the Atlantic by the then accepted outward-bound route for New York, her passengers amazed at the luxury of the wonder ship which was bearing them to the New World. The first two or three days were uneventful, and on the 14th the magnificent lounge was turned into a scene of fairy delight for a gala dinner. Beautiful music filled the lounge and filtered through to other parts of the ship; well dressed men and women sat and talked, or strolled about after dinner in the camaraderie of fellow-voyagers, all unsuspecting of the catastrophe that was hastening down upon them from out the darkness of the night.

Earlier in the day a wireless message had been received from s.s. Caronia, informing Captain Smith that “West-bound steamers report bergs, growlers, and field ice in 42° N. from 49° W., April 12,” the Titanic then being about latitude 43° 35′ N. and longitude 43° 50′ W. This was at 9 A.M., and at 1.42 P.M., when the vessel was about 42° 35′ N., 45° 50′ W., another[297] wireless message was received, this time from s.s. Baltic, saying that “large quantities of field ice” had been seen that day in 41° 51′ N., longitude 49° 52′ W.

In order to understand the significance of all these warnings, flashed across the ether, it is necessary to remember the following facts:

Icebergs are gigantic masses of Polar glacier carried out to sea, only about one-eighth of their mass being above the surface.

Growlers are small icebergs.

Field ice is frozen sea-water floating in a looser form than pack ice, covering large areas of the Polar seas, broken up into large pieces, driven together by current and wind, thus forming an almost continuous sheet of ice.

All these forms of ice masses are dangerous to shipping, and the ocean routes were mapped out so that vessels might be able to steer clear of them. As a matter of fact, although icebergs and field ice had been seen as far south before, it was many years since field ice had been observed so far south as at the time of the Titanic disaster. Two further messages were received on the ship during the day, one of them giving news of large icebergs; but, except for the officers and men whose watch it was, everybody on board the Titanic turned into bed, to dream of wonderful things, no doubt, and to wake up to a nightmare of horror.

Suddenly the stillness of the vast vessel was broken by a thudding crash, a ripping of steel plates. Something had happened. Some heard the sound—those in the steerage, who were near that portion of the ship which was a city, and those officers who were on deck and the bridge. The rest, asleep, lulled into the land of dreams by the motion of the ship, were awakened by the strange feeling of stillness that suddenly pervaded[298] everything; there was no longer the throb of the engines; the vibration of the ship ceased, and people were roused by the utter emptiness of things, as it seemed. Heads popped out of cabins and state-rooms, people strolled up corridors asking each other “Why?” and “What?” and so forth; and getting no answer that meant anything except assurances that all was well—all must be well! Was not this the safest vessel in the world? And so they went back to bed.

But other people, those whose duty it was to keep awake, to have their fingers upon the pulse, as it were, of this leviathan, did not sleep. First Officer Murdoch and his watch were on the bridge; the captain was in his room. Murdoch, peering through the blue-blackness of night, had seen a haze before the ship, and, quick to realise what was before them, he issued sharp commands, which were obeyed instantly; but all too late. That haze resolved itself into ice—a massive, towering mountain of ice—into which the Titanic’s bows cut their way. The ice that the ether waves had been telling about all day had loomed out upon them like a spectre in the night; nay, like the impersonation of Death.

Captain Smith rushed to the bridge when he felt the ship stop.

“We have struck ice, sir,” was the first officer’s reply to his question.

“Close the water-tight doors!” was the captain’s order, only to be told that this had already been done. A movement of switches, and Murdoch had set bells a-tingling and great steel doors a-sliding in their grooves; bells to warn anyone that the doors were being closed, so that they might not be cut off.

But no closing of water-tight doors was to be sufficient to save this giant ship. The damage wrought by that white, translucent mass ran over a length of some[299] three hundred feet, and it had all been done in—one trembles to write it—ten seconds. Twenty knots an hour had the vessel been travelling, and in ten seconds she had ripped her way along the ice for three hundred feet, tearing her plates apart as though they had been brown paper, and letting the water in in tons.

The carpenter sounded the ship; Phillips, the Marconi operator, was instructed to get ready to send out a call for assistance, in case it was wanted. The carpenter made his report; and, because of its character, Captain Smith went back to the Marconi room, and messages were sent out to all steamers within reach. Still later, but only by a few minutes, the C Q D and the S O S—international signals for help—were dispatched, to be followed by:

“We have struck a berg! Come at once!” Seventy-eight miles away that message was picked up by the Carpathia, which answered: “Coming at once!”

And, meanwhile, what of the population of the floating palace whose vitals were being swamped by hundreds of tons of water? She was listing heavily to starboard. In various parts of the ship a few people were still awake, asking what was afoot, for none had yet been told what had taken place. If there is one thing the master of a vessel dreads it is panic, and passengers must be kept in ignorance while there is a chance to obviate the danger. But rumours floated here and there. “We’ve struck an iceberg,” said one now and again; and, as if that were nothing to be alarmed about, folks shrugged their shoulders and turned into bed. So sure was everyone of the safety of this masterpiece of science and industry that the thought of danger never entered their heads.

It was a fine joke, apparently, to have struck an iceberg, and a berg was a rare sight to most of those[300] people, who thought more of that than of the ship. The great spectral mass was a thing of wonder; its towering peak told them something of its gigantic size, since but one-eighth of it showed above the surface. “What a corker!” said someone, and then went to bed.

Meanwhile, firemen were coming up from below; and each set who came up reported that the water was pouring into their stokeholds.

Captain Smith, convinced by the list of the ship that there was indeed grave danger—she was very much down by the head, and diving now and again at the rate of six or twelve inches—gave instructions that the passengers should be gathered on the boat-decks; and the inhabitants of the “safest ship in the world” received the command that could have but one meaning, namely, that the vessel was in danger of going down. Through miles of corridors and companion-ways stewards raced with the news, rousing folk from the sleep of peace to the nightmare of reality, yet careful, every one of them, not to cause panic. Reassuring, optimistic, with unquenchable faith in the unsinkableness of the boat, they told the passengers who asked questions that they thought everything would be all right.

“The Board of Trade regulations say that in times of danger the passengers must put on lifebelts,” said one steward; “and even if the boat should sink, she will be able to keep up for forty-eight hours at least.”

“Men, strong-limbed, full-blooded, with the zest and the love of life in them, stood calmly by”

Those words are a picture of the attitude of wellnigh everybody on the Titanic, which was, as a matter of fact, within the last minutes of her life; but, obeying the call, they trooped up in their scores and hundreds to the decks. Some grumbled at being brought from warm beds to a cold, ice-strewn deck; others grumbled[301] at the stringency of the British Board of Trade. Imagine the scene, if you can: long lines of stewards guarding the boats; a mighty crowd of men, women, and children, some dressed, others half dressed, more with only a blanket thrown about their night-clothes, dozens of them struggling into lifebelts. Many were now anxious-eyed as, inexperienced as they were, they saw that awful list to starboard, saw the tense looks on the faces of some of the officers who knew.

The women and children, now mustered on the boat-deck, were waiting while the lifeboats and collapsible boats were got ready, for the tragic cry of the sea, “Women and children first!” had rung out; and men, strong-limbed, full-blooded, with the zest and the love of life in them, stood calmly by and smoked while this was done, telling themselves even now that the boat could not sink.

Boat crews were shipped; and then the craft were swung out, though not without trouble, seeing that, being new, the tackle was not easy to work; and the women and children, ill-clad to withstand the rigours of that bitter night, were helped into the boats and lowered away, out of the floating palace they had thought so safe into a wide expanse of sea, with all its possible dangers. Some women, indeed, refused to leave the ship; they would not go without their husbands, pleaded that they be allowed to come. Like heroes, the men refused to go, and so husbands and wives stayed on the ship of death.

While the work of embarking these helpless people was proceeding officers stood ready with revolvers, lest the passion for life seize the men and send them rushing towards the boats. There was only one rush; some poor steerage passengers, foreigners, who had been near enough to the point of impact with the iceberg to realise[302] the terror of it all, charged down upon one boat. An officer stopped them with a couple of shots, and strong hands pulled them back. Their places were taken in the boat by their wives and children, for, in this time of disaster, social distinctions were forgotten, cast aside like the trappings of life that they are, and rich women and poor, ragged and well dressed, old and young, were herded together in the same boat—companions in distress. The rich man’s child was cuddled to some poor woman’s bosom; the offspring of some “down and out” nestled in the arms of a bejewelled dame of high society.

The work went on, the heartrending scene in this tragedy of the sea was played through to the accompaniment of the noise of escaping steam, the sobbing of wives and children as they said farewell to husbands and fathers, and the peculiar noise that a crowd makes in circumstances of stress; while from various parts of the ship there were the sounds of rockets being fired, brilliant appeals for help which cast strange lights round and about the doomed vessel. And more, this drama had its own music; floating up from below came the sounds of piano and orchestra playing lively tunes, which cheered the leaving women and the staying men, who cried to each other: “Au revoir! We’ll meet in New York!”

Down, down, down, seventy feet or more the boats were lowered, some having to pass the exhaust of the condensers, and running the risk of being swamped. An incident connected with one of these boats is worth mentioning. It was described by Mr. Beezley, a schoolmaster, who was in her as helper. There were no officers on board to help them work the boat, and no petty officer or member of the crew to take charge; and when it was seen that the boat was in danger of being[303] swamped by the water from the exhaust, one of the stokers cried: “Someone find the pin which releases the boat from the ropes and pull it up!” No one knew where it was. “We felt,” said Mr. Beezley, “as well as we could on the floor and along the sides, but found nothing. It was difficult to move among so many people. We had sixty or seventy on board. Down we went, and presently we were floating with our ropes still holding us, and the stream of water from the exhaust washing us away from the side of the vessel, while the swell of the sea urged us back against the side again.

“The result of all these forces was that we were carried parallel to the ship’s side, and directly under Boat 14, which had filled rapidly, and was coming down on us in a way that threatened to submerge our boat.

“‘Stop lowering 14!’ our crew shouted; and the crew of No. 14, now only twenty feet above, cried out the same. The distance to the top, however, was some seventy feet, and the creaking of the pulleys must have deadened all sound to those above, for down she came, fifteen feet, ten feet, five feet, and a stoker and I reached up and touched the bottom of the swinging boat above our heads. The next drop would have brought her on our heads. Just before she dropped another stoker sprang to the ropes with open knife in hand. ‘One,’ I heard him say; and then ‘Two,’ as the knife cut through the pulley ropes.”

Almost immediately the exhaust stream carried the boat clear, and the other boat slipped into the water, on exactly the same spot that the first one had occupied. It was indeed a narrow shave, for the two boats almost rubbed gunwales.

Leaving the boats as they are being got away, let[304] us go to some other part of the ship to see what is happening.

Down below, in the engine-room and stokeholds, begrimed heroes were working hard at their duty. The black squad always occupies the most dangerous place in a ship at such times; and to the credit of these men, who are hidden from the gaze of the people who stroll leisurely about decks, or while away the hours in concert room or card room, let it be said that they rarely fail in the moment of danger. On the Titanic, those men whose engine-rooms and stokeholds had not been flooded, and who knew they would be wanted, stayed below; the engines in the principal engine-room, which was still protected by its bulkhead, must be run to keep the pumps working and the dynamos running which supplied the electricity for light and the wireless. If the pumps could be kept going, then the vessel could float long enough for help to come; if the wireless could be kept working, then help could be appealed for across the ether waves; and while the men below strove, some at drawing fires to prevent explosions, others at stoking fires that were safe, up in the Marconi cabin two men were sticking to their posts. The men, Phillips and Bride, were heroes, and their names will be remembered while men remember the story of the Titanic.

They had sent out the first messages for assistance—SOS, the new call for ships at sea, changing it occasionally to CQD, the old signal. Then, when things grew more serious than ever, and the news was brought down to them, the instruments began to buzz out longer messages, that told ships scores of miles away what had happened, and what was happening. And now and again there came a voice from the ether through the apparatus on the operators’ heads, telling them that the signals had been caught, and that this ship and that[305] ship was coming at full speed. From seventy miles away the Carpathia’s operator sent such a message; from 300 miles away the Olympic also sent her message saying that she was coming. And thus it went on, this long-distance conversation on which so much depended, and which might stop at any moment, for the captain had told Phillips and Bride that the dynamos might not be able to hold out very long. It was the last quarter of an hour, and Phillips, forgetting all about himself, refusing to think of escape, stood to his work, tapping out the messages, urging the rushing ships to put on every ounce of steam. And Bride, no less a hero, bethought him of Phillips’s safety. He went and got their lifebelts, put one on Phillips and one on himself.

Captain Smith looked in just then, and said: “Men, you have done your full duty; you can do no more! Abandon your cabin now. It is every man for himself. Look out for yourselves. I release you.”

“But Phillips clung on,” said Bride, “sending, sending. He clung on for about ten minutes after the captain released him. The water was then coming into our cabin.”

A hero? Every inch a hero and a man! But what of another man? The one who, creeping silently into that cabin, where a man stood hazarding his life, juggling with death, lest haply he might do some good for that helpless crowd above, tried to slip the lifebelt from the hero’s back? What of that man? He had had a lifebelt himself, but, too scared to fetch it, had thought of an easier way. Bride, catching him in the act, had a desire for blood. “I suddenly felt a passion not to let that man die a decent sailor’s death,” he said. “I wished he might have stretched a rope or walked a plank. I did my duty. I hope I finished him; but I do not know.”

[306]Phillips went down with the ship he had tried to save. Bride, more fortunate, came through alive, as will be seen. He reached the deck just as the end came. The last boat had gone—and there remained on the ship some fifteen hundred souls, hundreds of them clinging now in terror to each other. The gay tunes of the orchestra changed to the solemn strains of a hymn. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the starboard was sinking, dipping deeper and deeper, the stern rising higher and higher, hundreds of people being clustered there, waiting for they dared not think what. The full terror of it all was now beginning to sink into minds that had refused to accept the possibility of disaster. The water lapped up higher and higher, and men scrambled up the sloping deck, seeking to outrace the water, which soon covered the bridge and carried the captain away from the ship, holding in his arm some poor, lonely babe who had been forgotten in the hurly-burly. “Boys!” he had cried lustily ere he went, unwillingly, for he would have stayed by his boat but for that wave that washed him overboard. “Boys, you can do no more! Look-out for yourselves!” And men prepared to cast themselves into the sea, realising now that there was no hope to be found in this ship on which so many hopes had been set. But, instead of jumping, they now found themselves compelled to hang on like grim death to anything that was at hand—rails, stanchions, deck-houses, ropes—to save themselves from being washed away, for the stern was now towering high above the water, and the deck seemed like a sheer precipice, down which one might slip—to death.

Imagine the sight. A massive hulk, gleaming with a thousand lights, belching forth showers of sparks from a solitary funnel; a crowd of clinging figures; a crowd of figures, unable to cling, sliding down that[307] steel road to death. Imagine the sounds. Hear the thud and the crash of the engines as, overbalanced, they tore themselves from their beds and hurled themselves across the ship, to pound against the steel sides and burst them with a deadening explosion; hear the horrific cracks as the decks bend; hear, from under water, a mighty explosion, followed quickly by another and another; hear the roar as the fire-spouting funnel tumbles into the sea; hear, above all, the cry torn from a thousand throats as the people on the stern of the boat felt the last tremors, the death-struggles of the leviathan! Imagine this sight and these sounds, and if you have the imagination of a Poe you will not have glimpsed a hundredth part of the terrors of that last two minutes of the life of the Titanic.

And the next minute there was no Titanic afloat; but the sea was dotted about with hundreds of black dots, each dot a soul struggling for life, each striving to reach something that might be floating near it—deck-chairs, gratings, wreckage of all sorts, and every little bit worth its weight in gold to him who might be so fortunate as to get it. To follow all these people in their efforts for life is, of course, impossible. And there is no need, for each was but a picture of the other.

Mr. Lightoller, the second officer, had a remarkable experience. As the ship took her final plunge he had dived, to be drawn down against the grating that covered the blower of the exhaust. An explosion hurled him up to the surface again, where, having barely filled his lungs, he was sucked down again, and drawn to the side of the sinking ship, near the funnel draught pipes. Yet once more was he blown upwards by the force of a terrific explosion, and when he came to the surface he found himself near a collapsible boat; Lightoller clung to this, to which Bride himself and[308] half a dozen other people were also hanging. It was capsized; but it provided some sort of refuge.

The gallant captain, who had gone overboard with the baby in his arms, fought his way through the swimming crowd, making for one of the boats which were still in the vicinity, hoping to effect some rescues. He went, not to save himself, but the child. He reached the boat, cried “Take the child,” handed it up to the willing hands outstretched for it, and then, refusing to be taken into the boat, cried “Let me go!” and swam back to where the ship had disappeared.

There were many acts of heroism in that dreadful sea. A man swam up to the capsized lifeboat, now overladen. “Will it hold another?” he asked. Those men on the boat knew, positively, that if one more man were on her, she would pitch them all off, and they said so, not jealously, not selfishly. And as unselfishly, the man who wanted to live cried: “All right! Good-bye! God bless you all!” And turned away, only to sink almost immediately.

Another man, clinging to a crate, heard someone ask: “Will it hold another?” He did not know; all he knew was that here was a man who loved life as he himself loved it; and the crate might offer a chance. “Try it!” he cried; “we’ll live or die together!”

The story of the great disaster is told, and yet there are some things which cannot be recounted—horrors, endings and partings. Into the Great Unknown many hundreds had gone. Fewer hundreds were saved by those giant ships rushing to their aid, brought by the call out of the vast silences of the night.

The appalling horror of it all staggered the world; but the great fact stood out that Man the Ingenious is no match for Nature the Mighty!



Strange Disappearances of Ships at Sea

IT is only to be expected that the sea, with all its glory and wonders, its tragedies and its romances, should have its mysteries too. Some of them have been cleared up; others remain unsolved to this day, despite all the ingenious attempts at explanation that have been made. Some of them go back to the distant past, such as the Gloriana mystery. She was a British brig, and in 1775 the captain of a Greenland whaler ran across her amidst the ice-fields at 77 degrees north latitude. She was a weird spectacle as she picked her way through a narrow channel between two great icebergs, which seemed to be closing in to crush her, with no one making an attempt to steer her safely through the danger. The Greenlander looked in amazement. The Gloriana’s sails were torn to shreds and frozen hard, her rigging was a tangled mass that had not been trimmed for Heaven knew how long; on her decks great mountains of snow were reared, and her sides glistened with ice; she was a spectral ship of the icy seas, a sight to strike fear into the heart of any superstitious sailor. For a while the captain of the whaler did not know what to do; the strange spectacle awed him; but clearly it was his duty to look into the matter, and at last, summoning up courage, he lowered a boat and rowed over to the Gloriana.

[310]If he had been amazed before, he was staggered now. Clambering up the ice-cold side, he glanced in at a porthole and saw a man sitting at the cabin table, holding a pen as though about to write in the log-book that lay open before him. But there was no sign of life about the man. He was stiff, cold, dead! The Greenlander, stiffening himself up to the task before him, got aboard, walked gingerly, awesomely into the cabin and found himself standing by the side of a dead man, frozen hard. Peering over the dead man’s shoulder, he found that the last entry in the log was dated Nov. 11, 1762—thirteen long years before! What had happened? How came it that this man sitting in his cabin, writing, had met death so suddenly that he could not finish entering his log? The Greenlander could not say; no one could ever tell; and the mystery was made no clearer when it was found that there were several other dead bodies about, one of them being a woman. And not one showed any sign that would lead to the solution of the mystery of how they had met their death.

Then take the Marie Celeste, which, leaving New York on Nov. 7, 1872, with a cargo of petroleum and alcohol, was met a month later off the Azores by the brig Dei Gratia. Hailing her, the captain of the latter ship received no answer, and something arousing his curiosity, he went aboard—to find not a soul on her. To heighten the mystery, there were no evidences of mutiny, panic or disorder of any kind; the log showed nothing that could have caused the desertion of the ship, the last entry being dated ten days before the Dei Gratia came up with her. One boat was missing, and that alone showed how the crew, five men, and the captain and his wife and child had gone. All the gear was in order, her rigging being properly made fast,[311] her companion-ways were open. Down in the cabin a little organ had open music lying in front of it, a sewing-machine had a piece of unfinished work in it, the men’s chests in the fo’c’sle were unopened and not ransacked, the captain’s dinner was half cooked in the galley.

And all was silent. Though a score or more theories have been advanced, no one has yet cleared up the mystery of what tragic happening had taken place on the Marie Celeste to make her crew desert her.

These mysteries of the sea are not all of an early date; even recent years have them on record. Thus in 1910 the Inverness-shire, which left Hamburg in March, bound for Saint Rosalia, in California, was met off the Falkland Islands in June by the Italian steamer Verina, with no living being aboard except a few cats. She, too, was in perfect order so far as arrangement went. Food was in a pot on the galley fire, an open copy of the “Ancient Mariner” lay on the captain’s table, as though he had been interrupted in his reading of the weird tale of the sea. Perhaps he could tell a weirder one than that. The sails were set, the deck shipshape, the cargo intact, and from the pack of cards which lay scattered about the mess-room table it would seem that the crew had been disturbed in a quiet game. And the explanation of it all? It was said that the crew, thirty of them, had become obsessed with the idea that the ship was unlucky; they broke out into mutiny, refused to obey orders, and the ship was deserted. In due course the Verina towed her into Port Stanley, where, of course, she received her share in the salvage.

In 1913 the tank steamer Roumanian came across a ship which was acting so queerly that the captain decided to investigate. It was ten days out from Port Arthur. The strange ship was a sailing vessel, but[312] though some of her sails were set, they answered no useful purpose, for she was buffeted about at the will of the fickle winds. It took the Roumanian an hour or two to catch up with the erratic ship, and when she did so her captain boarded and found that she was the Remittent, a Norwegian barque. She was crewless, and the explanation of her queer actions was that the rudder was unlashed and was banging about as the vessel swung to the waves. There was nothing missing; her papers were all intact, her cargo was there, her water was fresh, her provisions plenty; and yet there wasn’t a man aboard, and no indication as to why there wasn’t. And all her lifeboats swung at the davits. Inquiries later showed that the Remittent had left Rio Grande do Sul on Oct. 25, 1912, with a captain and a crew of six men. The Roumanian towed her for many days, and then, a gale breaking upon them, had to cast her adrift, a danger to all shipping.

It is this aspect of the unmanned ship that makes her a thing to be disposed of. Whether derelict or simply deserted, she is a menace to other ships; she may loom out of the darkest night and crash into another vessel, to the danger of all aboard. On the other hand, she may voyage for months—nay, years—and never come into collision. For instance, the Fannie E. Woolsten, an American ship, was wrecked in 1891 off the United States coast, whence her battered hulk drifted across the Atlantic, passed down the coasts of Europe, and then swung out across the Atlantic again, going ashore a hundred or so miles north of the place where she had been wrecked, having covered 10,000 miles in her strange cruise.

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Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

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