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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHurricane Hurry - Chapter 16
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Hurricane Hurry - Chapter 16 Post by :24HourCash Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :1335

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Hurricane Hurry - Chapter 16

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

OUR QUARTERS AT OU TROU.--MY ASTHMATIC COMPANION.--ILLNESS AND DEATH OF CAPTAIN WILLIAMS.--THE MELANCHOLY BURIAL-GROUND.--TRY TO KILL TIME, BUT IT KILLS MOST OF MY COMPANIONS.--STARTLING NEWS.--LIFE IN THE VILLAGE.-- OUR CONDITION BECOMES WORSE.--DEATH OF MORE OF MY COMPANIONS.--ORDERS FOR OUR RELEASE ARRIVE.

Our mansion at Ou Trou consisted of three rooms, for which the liberal-minded copper-coloured owner insisted on our paying nineteen dollars a month. This was to serve as the habitation of twenty officers ranking as lieutenants. The midshipmen had another house appropriated to them of much the same character. Ours had out-houses connected with it, rather more extensive than the building itself, and as it was impossible for us all to stowaway in the house, especially in such a climate as that of Saint Domingo, we came to the resolution of drawing lots to determine who should occupy the outer buildings. An inspection of a comfortable barn in England will give no idea of these unattractive edifices. To increase their undesirableness as abodes for men, most of them were already occupied by mules or horses or cows or donkeys. When we gave signs of our intention to dispossess them, the owner asserted that we had no power to do so; they were the first tenants, and had the right of occupation in their favour.

"Now, gentlemen, are you all ready?" exclaimed the senior officer present; "we must settle this important matter. Four persons in each room is as many as they can possibly contain, the remainder must abide by the lot which falls to them. Two in the stable where the old horse now lives, two in the cow-shed, two in the tumble-down barn, and two in the large stable, where the mules and donkeys have till lately held their revels."

This last edifice was in tolerable repair, and, provided its four-legged inhabitants were turned out, we considered would make a very tolerable abode. One after the other of us drew lots. Lieutenant Manby of the Minerva found himself the occupier of the shed with the old horse, and I was beginning to hope that I might obtain a berth in the house, when, lo and behold! I found that I was destined to share my abode with him. He was, as everybody who knew him would agree, a first-rate excellent fellow, so with regard to my human companion I had reason to consider myself fortunate; but the old horse, with the thermometer often at a hundred, was a considerable drawback to any comfort we might hope to find in our abode. Our landlord probably suspected that we should turn him out, so the very first night that we retired to our new abode the fellow made his appearance and told us to remove him at our peril.

"But the horse may eat us!" urged Manby.

"More likely that you will eat the horse," answered the Frenchman, who was a bit of a naturalist. "He is graminivorous; you are carnivorous. He can't eat you, but you can him."

"He may bite, though!" I suggested.

"No, he has no teeth; he is too old for that," replied the Frenchman, laughing.

"Ah! but his odour; that isn't pleasant to delicate olfactories," I observed humbly.

"Oh, that's nothing when you are accustomed to it," replied the tyrant, grinning from ear to ear. "You are too particular. Just let him take his side of the building, and do you take the other, and you will be completely at your ease."

As it was useless arguing with so pertinacious a disputant we were compelled humbly to submit. The horse had one stall--we took possession of the other. To make ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would allow, we collected all the hay and straw and reeds, so as to form a thick layer of dry materials between our bodies and the damp ground--for damp it was, in spite of the heat of the climate. It was too late in the day for us to attempt more, and, weary in mind and body, we climbed up into our nests, and were soon asleep. I was awoke by the wheezing and coughing of the asthmatic old horse, and, looking up, I saw what appeared to me an extraordinary phenomenon. Suddenly the air around us was filled with bright sparkles of light. Now they flashed on one side, now on the other; now the whole space above our heads was illuminated; then all was darkness; then the lights--thousands of them there appeared to be--burst forth once again, more brilliantly than ever. I could not help rousing up Manby, to ask him what he thought about the matter.

"The matter, Hurry!" he answered, yawning; "why, that our stable stands in a particularly damp situation, and that the place is full of fire-flies. You'll hear frogs croaking before long, and see great big water-snakes crawling about, and reptiles of all sorts. The snakes, they tell me, are harmless; but it is not pleasant to awake and find one encircling one's neck. However, we shall soon get accustomed to them, so people say, and that's a comfort. I don't know whether it is pleasanter to be asleep or awake. Just now, when you roused me up, I was dreaming that I was a horse, and that ugly copper-skinned landlord of ours was trying to put a saddle on my back to take a long ride, but I would not let him, and so he was thrashing me unmercifully. I dare say he would treat his beast much in the same way if left to himself."

"Do not let us be talking of our dreams. Our waking thoughts are sufficiently unpleasant," I observed.

After a time we managed to go to sleep again, but for some weeks scarcely a night passed without our being disturbed by unusual noises or by the visits of snakes or reptiles of some sort. Once we were invaded by a whole army of land-crabs, which were passing across the island, and it was some time before we could persuade them to turn aside from our door. Many paid the penalty of their temerity with their lives, and were cooked next morning for breakfast. By-the-bye, in the cooking department we were at first sadly deficient, but from the instruction we received from some of our French masters, we soon became great adepts in the art, and were independent of any help. One reason why we did not succeed at first was the scanty supply of food with which we were furnished. The Frenchmen, however, showed us where we might go out into the woods near the village, and gather vegetables and roots and nuts of all sorts for ourselves. After that we were never in want of the bare necessaries of life. We received an allowance from the French Government for our subsistence. The lieutenants received three shillings a day; the purser, master and surgeons only two; and the midshipmen but one shilling; on which, poor fellows, it was scarcely possible for them to exist. The captains were allowed more, I believe, and had a house found them some little way from Ou Trou, where they were able to live in somewhat less discomfort than we did. They used, however, their best exertions to lessen the inconveniences we were doomed to suffer; but the authorities paid but little attention to their representations. The residence hired by the midshipmen was even smaller and in a more dilapidated condition than ours, and from the smallness of their allowance, considering that their appetites were fully as good as ours, they were truly very badly off, poor fellows. We of the lieutenant's rank accordingly consulted together, and agreed to have our mess in common for them and for ourselves. The midshipmen gratefully accepted our offer, and each of us threw his pay into a common stock and appointed two caterers to make the necessary arrangements and to contract with one of the copper-coloured French shopkeepers to supply us with breakfast and dinner and to do our washing. These arrangements being made, we flattered ourselves that all would go on swimmingly. Certainly our provisions were better and more abundant than we had expected; but we fancied that we had fallen in with a liberal-minded man, who was anxious to treat us well. We had a dreary time of it, however. Day after day passed away much in the same way. We had no shooting or fishing--no musical instruments--so that we had not even music to relieve the monotony of our existence. We had but few books also; some of us read them; but, generally speaking, under the relaxing influence of the climate, we felt very little inclined for any literary pursuit. A few games were invented which served to kill time, but killing time is not a pleasant or inspiriting occupation, especially when a man reflects that time is sure to kill him in the end. We walked about the neighbourhood of our dreary abode as far as we were allowed to go, but we soon got weary of the negro huts, and the palm-trees and the rice fields and the coffee plantations, and the cocoa-nuts and plantains and bananas, and the monkeys and opossums and racoons, and parrots and humming-birds. I dare say, if we had not been prisoners and compelled, as it were, to see the wonderful productions of animal and vegetable life, we should have been highly interested in them--at least, we ought to have been. One or two of our surgeons, who had a little turn for natural history, contrived to pass their time by collecting specimens, and examining into the nature and habits of the animals which abounded in the country; but naval officers, especially in those days, did not trouble their heads much about such matters, and were somewhat inclined to look down upon those who did. We talked of our prospects--they were gloomy enough; we tried sometimes to sing, but for that we had not much spirits; and so the days passed away. It would have been surprising, even in a healthy climate, if disease had not attacked us under similar circumstances. For some time it stood aloof, but it came at last, and made ample amends for its delay by its violence. We had been about a month at Ou Trou, when one day we were all seated at dinner in a sort of courtyard, which being in shade served us as our mess-room and drawing-room, unless the weather was bad, when we had to retire into our hot, stifling little house. We were all in tolerably fair spirits that day. O'Driscoll had been telling some of his good stories, more than one song had been sung, and jokes were flying about, far more than was usually the case. There were a few absentees in consequence of sickness, and we heard also that Captain Williams, lately commanding the Active, was ill. Poor man! he severely felt the loss of his ship, though, having been compelled to yield to a vastly superior force, no blame was attached to him. His spirits, it was said, had never risen again since he was taken prisoner, and he was thus but ill able to combat with the baneful effects of the climate and the irksomeness of imprisonment. Just then, however, few of our party were thinking about anything but the present moment and the unusually good dinner we had been enjoying, when who should make his appearance near the head of the table but Monsieur Roquion our purveyor, with a smiling countenance and a long bill in his hand.

Our caterers inquired why he had come.

"For to present my litte _compte to you, gentilmen," he answered, for he indulged occasionally in a few words of English, especially when he wanted to say anything very disagreeable.

One of the caterers took the bill, and we saw them both looking over it together, and pulling wonderfully long faces.

"What is the matter?" asked Delisle. "Anything wrong with the account? Let us know the worst. It cannot be very bad, I hope."

"Only our excellent friend here has brought us in a charge of a hundred dollars more than we expected to have to pay, or than we ought to pay," was the answer.

"Never mind; we'll contest it, and the fellow will have to go without the money, I hope."

Monsieur Roquion understood the remark, for he grinned widely from ear to ear.

"Go and get us a proper account, Master Yellow-face," said our chief caterer. "This little bill of yours is too much by half."

I don't know if the worthy understood what was said, but he refused to take back the account, and, after grinning at us a little longer, took his departure.

We finished our dinner without much concern about Monsieur Roquion and his bill; but we had unfortunately come to the end of our stock of wine and tea, and a few other luxuries, and where to obtain them except from Monsieur Roquion was a puzzle. The next morning we determined to try, so we went to his shop to order what we wanted; but he instantly met us with a hint that "_Le petit compte must first be settled."

We appealed to the commandant--a personage of whom I have not hitherto spoken, because I had nothing to say in his favour, but very much to the contrary. He replied that the demand was a just one. We suspected that he was to come in for his share of the spoil. We at length got angry, and said that we were cheated and would not pay. Thereat he grinned broadly, and informed us that it was his duty to see justice done to Monsieur Roquion, and that he should stop a portion of our allowances till the debt was paid. We protested loudly against this decision; but he only grinned the more, and with a bland smile informed us that might made right, and that we might take what course we liked.

We could do nothing but submit; and the next pay-day we found that he had determined to stop half our allowance. So we found ourselves reduced to eighteen-pence a day, while the poor midshipmen had only sixpence--a sum on which they could barely exist. We did our best to help them out of our own pittance; but to all of us it was like falling from affluence to penury. Misfortunes, it is said, never come alone. Certainly at that time we experienced plenty of them. We were all sitting together discussing what was best under our circumstances to be done, when Delisle, who had gone to see Captain Williams, came back with the report that he was much worse, and wished to see his son, who was a midshipman, and had been living with the others. Delisle went for the boy; and as he passed by, on his return, I saw that he looked especially sad. That evening notice was brought us that Captain Williams was dead, and his poor young midshipman son was left an orphan; and a prisoner in that far-off pestiferous land. Delisle brought the boy back with him, and with all the kindness of his heart endeavoured to console him.

In that climate decomposition follows death so rapidly that, almost before the human form is cold, it is necessary to commit it to the grave. We agreed, therefore, that early next morning we would all go and pay the last respects to the late unfortunate captain of the Active. Accordingly, snatching a hasty breakfast of dry bread and milk--for that was all the food the present low state of our finances would allow us to indulge in--we sallied forth, taking poor little Williams with us, whom we intended should act as chief mourner. When we arrived at the house, and went into the room where Delisle had last seen the body, it was no longer there. We searched about, but nowhere could we see it. In another room we found Captain Stott, late of the Minerva. His health, like that of his brother captain, had given way, and he looked very ill and wretched.

We told him that we had come to assist in burying poor Captain Williams.

"You have come, then, too late, gentlemen," he answered with a deep sigh. "Two ill-conditioned negroes came this morning with a guard of three or four soldiers, and informed me that they had come to remove the body. I protested vehemently, and, had I possessed force, would have prevented them, but it was in vain. The wretches, with taunts and sneers at our being heretics and unworthy of Christian burial, carried away the body of my friend and brother-officer, and, I conclude, have thrown him into the ground in some out-of-the-way place."

Captain Stott was too ill, or he would have followed the barbarians in spite of the soldiers. Two or three other people tried to do so, but were driven back with angry threats, and at last gave up the attempt. We were very indignant when we heard this, and resolved at once to go and try and find out where the wretches had buried the captain. We ascertained the direction they had taken and pursued them. We should soon have been at fault in that trackless part of the country, but we fell in with a little negro boy to whom I had been kind on more than one occasion, and he told us that he had followed the men at a distance, and undertook to show us the spot where our countryman had been buried. It was not far-off, and when we reached it our indignation became greater than ever. The authorities had evidently studied how they could most insult and annoy us.

In a piece of waste ground where offal and rubbish was cast, and where the bodies of the few malefactors who were ever brought to justice, as well as those of dogs and other animals, were deposited, they had ordered our poor friend to be interred. He had been placed there, fastened up in a piece of canvas, without a coffin and without ceremony of any sort. We stood with mournful countenances and with hearts full of bitterness and indignation over the foul spot, discussing among ourselves whether we ought not to dig up the body and carry it to the churchyard of Ou Trou, there to bury it among others who at all events had called themselves Christians. Our intentions must have been suspected, for in a few minutes a guard of soldiers made their appearance, and, threatening us with their pikes or halberds, made us desist. We then determined to go at once to the commandant. He received us with a look of haughty contempt. He remarked that our countryman was a heretic--that the priests considered that he had died out of the pale of their true Church like a dog, and that like a dog he must be buried.

"Does the holy religion of Christ teach you thus to treat your enemies?" exclaimed Delisle, indignantly. "We are Christians, as you call yourselves, and have, as such, a right to Christian burial."

"I know nothing about that matter," answered the commandant. "The priests say that you are not, that you are cut off from the only true Church, and are thus condemned to everlasting punishment. This being the case--and I am bound to believe it--what matters it where your bodies are placed?"

Such was the tenor of the reply we received from an officer holding a commission under the government of a nation which prided itself on being the most enlightened and civilised in the world.

Though in France the outward signs of religion were still adhered to, the _savants and _literati were already paving the way by their false philosophy for that terrific outbreak of popular fury which deluged their country in blood, and well-nigh rooted out all that was noble and good and worthy in the land. At this time in Saint Domingo, and probably in the other French dependencies, there was an ostentatious show of religion which was sadly belied by the manners and customs of the people. At all events, a person bearing his Britannic Majesty's commission was entitled, as a prisoner of war according to the law of nations, to all the respect due to his rank as an officer and a gentleman.

We returned to our home, wondering who next among us would be carried off to be put into that revolting receptacle of the dead. We had now seriously to turn it in our minds how we should be able to exist. A bright idea struck me--I would become a gardener. There was a considerable portion of ground attached to our mansion. I had had some little experience before in my life; others also knew something about the art, and so we hoped that our united stock of knowledge would produce us a good supply of vegetables. We had unfortunately but little money to purchase tools, or seeds or plants, but we did not disdain to turn beggars. We borrowed what tools we could, and manufactured spades and hoes and rakes out of wood. They were not very neat, but they answered our purpose. Seeds cost but very little; many were given us, others we bought. The poor unsophisticated, ignorant blacks were very kind-hearted, and gave us all they could spare. Thus our garden became our greatest source of amusement, and at the same time a most profitable employment.

Often for days together we had no other food but that which our garden produced. We had yam, cassava, choco, ochro, tomatoes, Indian kale, Lima beans, potatoes, peas, beans, calalue, beet-root, artichokes, cucumbers, carrots, parsnips, radishes, celery and salads of all sorts; nor must I forget the magnificent cabbage-trees some two hundred feet high--not that we planted them, by-the-bye--or the fruits, the cocoa-nut, plantain, banana, the alligator pear, the cashew, papaw, custard apples, and others too numerous to mention; the recollection of which even now makes my mouth water, as it did sometimes then, when we saw but could not obtain them. If it had not been for our garden I believe that we should one and all of us have succumbed to that fell climate. In vain we endeavoured to learn how the war was going on. No news was ever allowed to reach us but what was of the most disheartening nature, and Monsieur Roquion always contrived to bring it with a grin on his countenance which we knew meant mischief, though we could not make up our minds to believe him or not. One day he came in with a smile on his countenance, and shrugging his shoulders--

"Very sorry for you, as we do not here benefit by your loss," he remarked, endeavouring to put on a look of perfect sincerity. "You have, undoubtedly, heard the sad news. Your brave Admiral Keppel has been defeated in the channel. Most of his ships have been sunk or taken, and he himself has been captured and is a prisoner in France."

Days and days passed away and we heard no more, and though we used every exertion to discover the truth, no one we met could contradict it. Next we heard that the successful French fleet had pursued Admiral Byron on his voyage to America, had brought him to action and completely dispersed and destroyed his fleet. We daily talked the matter over among ourselves. We could scarcely believe that the sun of England had set so low, and yet what right had we to doubt the truth of what we heard? We had ourselves been captured by the enemy, and might not others have been equally unfortunate?

Then we heard that the French had blocked up Lord Howe in New York, and that the American patriots had triumphed over the British army and were everywhere successful. How earnestly we longed for letters which might inform us of the truth! but our cunning captors took care that we should not get them. Perhaps they themselves believed the reports they spread among us. One thing we knew, that in spite of all their reverses, the English were not likely to give in without a desperate and prolonged struggle, and that, therefore, our captivity might be continued to an indefinite period. I therefore considered if I could not make myself more comfortable than I had hitherto been. I called Tom Rockets to my councils. He, faithful fellow, had been constantly in attendance on me.

"To my mind, sir, the best thing to do would be to keep chickens," he observed with a look of simple earnestness. "My old mother used to keep them, and I helped her to feed them, and I know all their ways; and if we could get a few we could keep them in this here stable of yours, sir, and they would well-nigh feed themselves."

I thought Tom's proposal so good a one that I forthwith put his plan into execution. I had made several friends among the negroes by stopping and talking to them and exchanging a joke occasionally. Not that what I said was always very comprehensible to them, nor were their replies to me, but they understood my signs as I did theirs, so that we got on very well.

"Now, Tom," said I, "we will go out and buy these same chickens. You know a laying hen from an old cock, I suppose?"

"Lord love ye, yes, sir," was Tom's answer, with a grin. "And if so be ye wants any of the rhino, I've saved three dollars, which will go far to buy them; and you know, Mr Hurry, sir, it will be an honour and pleasure to me if you will take them. I've no use for them, and may be, if they stop burning in my pocket, I shall only drink them up some day."

I thought this too probable, but still I was unwilling to take the honest, generous-hearted fellow's money. I had myself scraped together a couple of dollars, with which I expected to be able to purchase a cock and five or six fowls, and I thought that would be enough. Tom and I accordingly set out on our expedition, with our dollars in our pockets. Before long we reached the hut of an old negro and his wife, where I had seen some good-looking fowls. Looking about, however, we saw none of them. As we were going away old Quasho made his appearance, followed by Quashie, his better half. In vain, however, did we tell them we wanted some fowls; I had forgotten the French word, and they did not understand us.

"I think as how I can make them know what we wants, sir," said Tom and he began crowing away at the top of his voice; then he cackled most lustily and began running about as a hen does before she begins to lay an egg, and finally, having provided himself with a round stone, he produced it as if he had just deposited it in a nest. Then he pulled out one of his dollars and held it up before them. Quasho and Quashie clapped their hands with delight at the significance of the action, and away they scuttled into the woods, soon returning with a couple of hens.

"Bons, bons!" cried Tom, taking them, but not giving up the coin. Again he crowed and again he cackled, and gave the old couple a shove to signify that they were to go off and bring more fowls. It did not suit them, it appeared, to comprehend what he wanted, but Tom was not to be done, so at last Quasho exclaimed--

"Jiggigery, niggery, hop," or some words which so sounded, and away scuttled the old lady, bringing back a couple more hens.

Tom, having secured them by the legs under his arm, allowing them to peck away at his back, attempted the same manoeuvre, but the old people put on such a look of dull stolidity that I was certain they would give no more fowls for the dollar. I told him, therefore, to give up the dollar, and we continued on our way to another hut, where, for another dollar, we got the same number of fowls. Three dollars were thus expended, and, with our newly-acquired farm produce, we returned in triumph to my stable.

Manby was highly amused at the notion of my turning egg and chicken merchant, which I told him it was my intention to do. In that country food of all sorts for my fowls was easily procured, so I had no difficulty in collecting an ample supply. This became one of my chief occupations. Tom Rockets and I used to go out into the woods with bags, and come back loaded with nuts and seeds and roots for my pets. The consequence of their being thus amply supplied with provisions was that they quickly took to laying eggs, and thus in a short time I had four or five eggs every morning. Some of these Tom and I ate, and others we sold or exchanged for meat. They, with the produce of our kitchen garden, enabled us to be pretty well independent of the provisions furnished us by the authorities. Thus, what I at first thought a misfortune turned out to be a real benefit, because the necessity of procuring food made me exert myself, and afforded me an occupation of interest. I gave them all names, and I knew each of them, and they soon learned to know me and to come at my call. Whichever I summoned came flapping up to me, cackling or crowing as the case might be, whether cock or hen. I was rather proud of the nickname which my messmates gave me of "the farmer." Often, when they were almost starving after our mess was broken up, I was able to supply myself and Tom with a comfortable breakfast and dinner. Never, indeed, were dollars better expended. I have already mentioned the various reports of disasters to the British arms, both by sea and land, which reached us from time to time. Soon after I got my fowls we were told, as an undoubted fact, that Jersey and Guernsey had been taken by surprise, and that every man, woman, and child in them had been destroyed on account of their loyalty to England; but the most terrific and heart-rending news came at last. It was that England herself had been invaded; that the enemy, having gained a secure footing in the country, had won three or four pitched battles, and had finally taken London, after a terrific resistance, when half the population were slain. Probably, under other circumstances, we should not have believed this last report unless it had been fully authenticated, though, unguarded as the shores of England at that time were, we knew that it was possible; but, dispirited and ill as many of us were, we were fully prepared to give credence to any story even of a less probable character. For two or three weeks we were left in the most dreadful state of doubt and uncertainty as to whether England still existed or not as an independent nation. Some of us fully believed that liberty no longer was to be found except in the highlands of Scotland and among the mountains of Wales.

The first gleam which banished these dreadful surmises was the announcement which reached us on the 5th of November, that Captain Philips, of the 60th Regiment, and Mr Rankin, a passenger in the Minerva, were forthwith to be set at liberty. They received permission to go at once to Jamaica under a flag of truce.

We could scarcely believe this information when we heard it, and it was only when we saw them setting off with joyful countenances, bidding us all farewell, that we were convinced of its truth. It also assured us that the various accounts we had from time to time heard of the disasters which had befallen the power of Great Britain were very contrary to what was the case. The invasion of England had long been a favourite scheme of the French, and I thought then, as I have since, that some ambitious general or sovereign will find it one of the very best cards he can possibly play to make the attempt for the purpose of gaining supreme power in the country, or of securing the position he may before have obtained.

Death was now busy among us. On the 20th of November Captain Stott's steward died--a faithful fellow, who had willingly followed his master into captivity. Near the village was a wide savannah--an extensive open, level space, destitute of trees, and overgrown in most parts with a rank vegetation, and dotted with pools of water, among which snakes and venomous reptiles of all sorts delighted to roam. Here the poor man was carried by a couple of blacks and cast into a hole they dug for the purpose.

Very soon after this event, which I find recorded in my journal, I most unexpectedly received a box containing linen and clothes, sent me by a friend at Jamaica. In the pockets of some of the clothes I discovered a packet of letters. Two of them were from home. What a thousand thoughts and feelings and regrets did their contents conjure up! Many, many months had passed away since I had heard from any of my relations and friends in Old England, and I had begun almost to fancy that I was forgotten, and should never receive any more letters. I read these over and over again, and then I went in search of Delisle, that I might have the pleasure of reading them to him. He and I were like brothers, and like a brother he entered into all my feelings, and was almost as much interested in the contents of my letters as I was myself. One of them was from my sister Lucy--a sweet, good, pretty girl. I described her to him, and, poor fellow, from my portrait, (I am sure it was not overdrawn, though), he fell in love with her. He was ever afterwards talking of her, and constantly asking to see her letters, and I agreed to introduce him when we got home, whenever that might be, and he promised, if she would have him, to marry her. So it was settled between us. No one will find fault with him or me for what we did.

I must not forget another important letter from the friend who sent the box. In it he told me that the admiral had most kindly kept a vacancy open for me as a lieutenant on board the Ostrich, but at last, when he could not arrange my exchange, he had been reluctantly compelled to fill it up. This, of course, added to my annoyance at having been made prisoner. The parcel of clothes was very valuable, for I found that they would fetch a high price in the place, and as in that warm climate a very small supply was sufficient, I resolved on selling the greater portion of them. This I forthwith did, at a price which enabled me to pay all my debts at the hucksters' shops, and gave me a good sum besides. I thought that it would have been inexhaustible, and accordingly feasted sumptuously for several weeks, and entertained my friends freely in my stable, or rather in front of it, where, under the shade of a grove of cocoa-nut trees, I used to spread my board.

On the 2nd of December, Mr Camel, who had been purser of the Active, and the son of Captain Williams, were sent to Jamaica on their parole in a cartel, but no one else of our party was allowed to leave the place. Reports had just been going about to the effect that we were all to be forthwith exchanged, and therefore, when we found that they were false, an overpowering despondency sprung up among us. To increase the misery of our condition, a report reached the commandant, invented by some malicious person, or perhaps by the authorities themselves, to increase the harsh treatment to which we were subjected, to the effect that we had formed a plot to set fire to the village, and that, taking advantage of the confusion thus created, we intended endeavouring to make our way to the sea, and then to seize some small vessel and escape in her to Jamaica. It was not likely that a number of officers who had given their parole to remain quiet would be guilty of an act so dishonourable as to endeavour to escape. It was, however, believed, and we were in consequence even more severely treated than before. I say believed, but I should be more correct if I said that the authorities pretended to believe it. We had now a guard constantly set over us, and whenever we went out we were narrowly watched. The food with which we were furnished was worse than ever, and when we complained of the purveyors or hucksters the commandant replied that he could not interfere, and that we must take what was offered us, and be thankful that it was no worse. Often many of our poor fellows had not the bare necessaries of life, and it was only by great exertion that I was able to procure them, as I have described, for myself and a few of my more intimate friends. I had not supposed that so degenerate a race of Frenchmen existed, for when they saw us all rapidly sickening and advancing towards the grave, instead of relaxing their system of tyranny, they only increased their ill-treatment, and made us believe that they really wished to put us to death by inches.

On the 4th, poor young Bruce, a midshipman of the Minerva, died, and was buried in the savannah among many of our countrymen who had already fallen victims to disease. Captain Stott, we heard, was sinking fast, and on the 15th he too succumbed to sickness and, I truly believe, a broken heart. Some of his friends attended him to the last, and a large body of us went up to keep guard, to prevent his body being carried away, as had been the case with Captain Williams.

As soon as he was dead, we lieutenants carried him to our own house and in the morning we sent a deputation to the commandant, saying, that as Captain Stott was one of the oldest officers in his Majesty's service, we considered that he ought to be buried with as much form and ceremony as circumstances would allow in the public cemetery of the place. Our request was, however, peremptorily refused. We all of us, accordingly, assembled in our uniforms, and bore the body of the old captain to the savannah, where, at a lonely spot, we dug a grave with such implements as we possessed, and, prayers being said, deposited him in it near his midshipman and steward.

There they rest, in that scarcely known locality, free from that trouble and care which has followed many of those who attended them to their graves. Some of those were, however, soon to be laid to rest alongside them. Perhaps it was through some feeling of humanity that, a few days afterwards, the son and nephew of Captain Stott--two little fellows scarcely more than ten years old--were allowed to go to Jamaica under charge of Mr Varmes, purser of the Minerva. Bartholomew, one of the lieutenants of the same ship, was very ill of the fever. He had scarcely been able to creep to the burial of his late commander, but still he had some hopes of recovery. Our medical man had very little experience of the nature of the fell disease which was attacking us, so that those taken ill had but a small chance of getting well.

I was sitting one day by the side of poor Bartholomew, endeavouring to afford him what consolation I could. Alas! with regard to his worldly prospects there was little I could offer. I tried to point to higher things--to the world to come. Unfortunately men do not think enough of that till they are on its very threshold. He was expressing a hope that he should get better, and I entertained the same; suddenly the door of the room was thrown open, and Adams, another of the Minerva's lieutenants, rushed into the room with an animated countenance--

"Cheer up, Bartie, old fellow!" he exclaimed. "An order has just arrived for our release. I have seen it, and we are to set off at once for Jamaica."

"Hurrah!" exclaimed the other lieutenant, lifting himself up in his bed. "Then I shall not have to leave my bones in this horrid hole. Hurrah! On, my fine fellows, on!"

He waved his hand above his head as if he had his sword in it, and was leading a party of boarders. I heard a rattling sound. I looked at his countenance. An awful change had come over it. Before I could even support him he fell back in his bed and was dead. Adams and I stood for a moment like persons petrified, so sudden and shocking was the event. We bore him at sunset to our field of the dead in the savannah, and there the hands of his friends and brother-officers laid him beside the grave of his late captain. Adams, however, got away and reached Jamaica in safety. Thus ended, in gloom and almost hopeless despondency, that, to us prisoners, ever memorable year of 1778. For what we could tell to the contrary then, we might have to remain till peace was restored, or till England succumbed to the enemies gathering round her.

Proud of our country as we were, and confident of the bravery of her sons, what had we to hope for? Although at sea the ancient supremacy of our flag had been ably upheld, on shore, either from want of good generals or from our pernicious military system--perhaps from both causes combined--no brilliancy had been shed on the British arms; indeed, we only heard of defeats, ill-conducted expeditions, and disasters of all sorts, which often made our hearts sink to the very depths of despondency.

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