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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHurricane Hurry - Chapter 6
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Hurricane Hurry - Chapter 6 Post by :24HourCash Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2337

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Hurricane Hurry - Chapter 6

CHAPTER SIX

ONCE MORE AT SEA.--DRIVE A SCHOONER ON SHORE.--BLOWS UP.--MERCER'S DEATH.--CAPTURE A SLOOP.--SENT AWAY IN HER.--A GALE.--ENGAGEMENT WITH PRIVATEER.--BEAT HER OFF.--SENT TO NEW YORK AS COMMODORE OF PRIZES.-- JOVIAL LIFE ON SHORE.--ILL CONDUCTED EXPEDITIONS.

We were once more at sea, and truly glad were all hands on board to find themselves in deep water again. The shore of Long Island, faint and low, was just discernible astern, while Sandy Hook and the highlands of Neversink arose in the distance over our starboard quarter. As I looked on the far-off shore I could not help thinking of the scenes of strife and destruction which, in all probability, were going on there, and feeling heartily glad that we were away from them for a time. We had quitted Turtle Bay on the 3rd and dropped down to Staten Island. On our passage down we ran on board a transport and carried away our larboard fore-chains, cathead, and small bower-anchor stock, not to speak of having so severely damaged the transport that she nearly sank. On the 12th of the month, having repaired damages, we put to sea with his. Majesty's ship Daphne in company. We were on our way to the mouth of the Delaware with the intention of capturing, burning, sinking, or otherwise destroying all vessels of every description belonging to the colonists which we could fall in with, an odd method, it would seem, of bringing them to reason and making them loyal subjects of his Majesty, though our proceedings did not strike me in that light just then. For a couple of days we had a fair wind, which carried us nearly up to our cruising ground. On the 14th Captain Hudson made a signal to the Daphne to go in chase of a sail seen to the southward, and shortly afterwards another sail was seen standing towards us from the westward. We soon made her out to be a man-of-war, and on exchanging signals she proved to be the Kingfisher sloop-of-war. Within an hour after she joined us. As we continued our course to the southward the look-out at the mast-head hailed the deck. "A sail in the south-east," said he.

"What is she like?" asked Captain Hudson.

"A suspicious-looking craft--a schooner, sir; a merchantman of some sort," was the answer.

This announcement put us all on the alert, and as soon as every stitch of sail we could carry had been clapped on the ship several officers were seen going aloft with their spy-glasses slung by rope-yarns over their shoulders to have a look at the chase. I was among the number, so was Mercer. We soon afterwards made the land, which as we drew near we recognised as Cape May. We were rapidly over-hauling the chase, which was steering directly for the coast, and it was a question whether we should come up with her before she ran on shore or got under shelter among any rocks which might be there. There is nothing so exciting in a sea life as a chase; the discussion as to what the stranger may prove, friend or foe, with or without a cargo, armed, and likely to show fight, or helpless, worth having or valueless; and, more than all, whether or not one is likely to overtake her. There is only one thing beats it, and that is to be chased, and I cannot say that the sensations are so agreeable. We were most of us in high spirits at the thoughts of making a capture; the first, we hoped, of a number of prizes we should take during our cruise. The only person who did not take an interest in the affair was Mercer. He was grave and careworn as before; indeed, it struck me that his melancholy had increased lately. He was sitting close to me at the fore-top mast-head.

"Hurrah! we are overhauling her; we shall soon be up with her!" I exclaimed.

"Hurry," said he, turning round suddenly, "I cannot bear this life. I wish to do my duty, to remain faithful to my allegiance, and yet, I care not who knows it, all my sympathies are with those England has made her foes. I have but one resource; I must quit the service. I would that I could reach some desert isle where I could hide my head far from the haunts of men. I would even welcome death as an alternative. Hurricane, do you know I have of late felt as if my days were already numbered, and that my stay on earth will be very short. Once the thought would have made me unhappy; now I contemplate it with satisfaction, even at moments as a welcome boon."

I did my utmost to turn my friend's mind from the gloomy contemplations which occupied it. I had conceived of late much greater regard for him than I had when we first met; there was much that was generous and romantic in his character which attracted me, besides which his courage and coolness in danger had often excited my admiration. I had been, as I have said, using all the arguments I could think of to turn his thoughts into another channel, when he replied--

"I know that I am wrong to give way to these feelings. My religion teaches me to trust in God's good providence and to believe that all He orders is for the best. I spoke as I did from weakness and want of faith; still I tell you that I am certain before long I shall meet my death. I am endeavouring to prepare for that awful moment; but it is at times, notwithstanding what I have just said, very, very hard to contemplate."

After speaking much in the same strain as before, I told him that I had known so many people oppressed with the same feeling that he suffered from, of approaching death, who had lived very many years afterwards, that I put not the slightest faith in such prognostications. "At the same time," I continued, "many a man who expects to lose his life when going into battle does so; but then he would have been killed whether he expected it or not; so, my dear Mercer, I hope you will live to see peace restored, and to enjoy many happy days at home."

Mercer shook his head, then took a long, eager look at the shore towards which we were approaching.

The Kingfisher had been somewhat more to the south than we were when we sighted the chase. At first she had evidently hoped to double Cape May and to run up the Delaware, but, that hope being cut off, her only mode of escape was to make directly for the land; and it now became evident to Mercer and me, as we sat on our lofty perch, that it was the intention of her crew to run her on shore. Our conversation was brought to a conclusion by our being obliged to descend to attend to our duties on deck.

The poor little schooner had but a small prospect of escape with two big ships in chase, but the man who commanded her was a gallant fellow, and it was evident would persevere while a chance of escape remained.

"Fire the foremost gun, Mr Willis, and bring that fellow to," said Captain Hudson as we got her within range.

"Ay, ay, sir," answered the first lieutenant, going forward to see the order executed.

Still the chase seemed to have no notion of giving in. Shot after shot was fired, none striking her, and soon the Kingfisher joined in the practice, with like effect.

"I believe the fellow will manage to run his craft on shore before he strikes," observed the captain. "He has very likely a valuable cargo on board."

"Powder or arms for the rebels probably, sir," said Mr Heron. "We shall have to cut him out."

"I expect so, and intend to give you charge of the expedition," replied Captain Hudson. "I hope that you will give as good an account of the foe as you did at Kip's Bay, Mr Heron."

The second lieutenant made a face as if he did not like the subject.

We were now rapidly overhauling the chase. We had been standing in on a line a little to the north of her, to prevent her hauling across our bows and beating up to windward along-shore in shallow water, which it was just possible she might attempt to do. Thus every chance of escape on that side was cut off from her. At length one of our shots struck her and carried away her main-topmast. Our crew gave a loud hurrah. It was replied to by her people in bravado. Several successive shots did further damage, yet still she would not give in. Her crew might have hoped to draw us on shore, but Captain Hudson was too wary to be thus taken in.

"Shorten sail, Mr Willis," he shouted, "and make the signal to the 'Kingfisher' to do the same."

Just as our canvas was reduced and the heads of the ships turned off shore, gracefully bowing to the sea which rolled in, there was a shout from those who were on the look-out on the chase. She had run on shore. As she struck the rocks both her masts went by the board. Captain Hudson on this ordered three boats from us to be manned and two from the Kingfisher, to go in and try to get her off, if not to destroy her, for which purpose we took the usual combustibles. Mr Heron went in one, and had charge of the expedition. Mercer went in another, and I had command of a third. The Kingfisher, at the same time, stood in as close as she could, and then furling sails was warped in with springs on her cables, to cover us in case we should be molested. The schooner had run in within a reef which protected her somewhat from the sea. As we drew near, I saw that her crew were still on board. My boat had taken the lead of the others.

"Give way, my lads, give way!" I shouted; "we shall have time to catch the fellows before they set their craft on fire." I was not aware at the time that they were not likely to do that same thing. The sea was breaking over her forward, but without much violence. She lay at about seventy to a hundred yards from the shore. I steered for her quarter, and as I and my men sprung on board, her crew tumbled over the bows into their boat, and made good way towards the beach. So precipitate had been their retreat that they left behind them two poor fellows who had been wounded by our shot. As our boats came round the stern of the schooner, and saw the rebels escaping, the two belonging to the sloop-of-war pulled away in chase, while Mr Heron and Mercer jumped on board. The Kingfisher's boats would have captured the rebels, but, just as they were about doing so, up started three or four hundred militiamen from behind some sand hills, while other bodies were seen rushing down from all directions towards us. They immediately opened so heavy a fire on the two boats that they were compelled to desist from the pursuit, and wisely beat a retreat to the schooner. The sloop-of-war on this fired on the people on shore. There were probably by this time a thousand or more possessed of every possible description of fire-arm. The Kingfisher dispersed those who had first shown themselves in an exposed situation, and knocked several of them over, but the rest kept up so very heavy a fire on us that we were glad to dive down below to get out of it. We at once found that it would be impossible to to get the schooner off, and we then set to work to examine her cargo. I had gone into the cabin, where I found the ship's manifest. I took it up to read it, as I concluded it would give me the information we required. I saw that some dry goods had been shipped, and some saltpetre, and I had just read "_Three hundred and sixty barrels of gunpowder_"--an article very much in request among the rebels--when there was a cry raised of "Fire, fire, fire!" Mr Heron had made the same discovery by seeing some suspicious black grains falling out of a cask, and he had just before beat a retreat.

"To the boats, to the boats, for your lives, my men!" I shouted, springing on deck, followed by my men. We tumbled into our boats with no little speed, and seized our oars, to place as much distance as we could between ourselves and the threatened danger. As I was leaving the vessel, I saw Mercer, with some of his people, apparently endeavouring to lift the two poor wounded Americans into his boat. It was but a glance, for the hurry and confusion of that awful moment prevented me seeing more.

"Give way, give way for your lives!" I shouted. No sooner did our heads appear above the schooner's bulwarks than the rebels redoubled their fire on us, but we cared not for them. We scarcely had got clear from the side of the ill-fated vessel, when a terrific, thundering, roaring noise assailed our ears; a vivid flash blinded us; a scorching heat almost consumed us; and as we bent our heads in mute dismay, nearer despair, after a few moments of awful silence, down came crashing about us burning fragments of timbers and planks and spars and sails, and, horror of horrors! pieces of what an instant before had been human forms, breathing with life and strength. The oars were knocked from the men's hands--dashed to atoms. Several of the men were struck down, shrieking with agony from the dreadful wounds the heavy pieces of burning wood and the hot iron inflicted; the very air was darkened for some moments,--and it seemed that the horrible shower would never cease. Even the enemy were awe-struck at the catastrophe, and ceased firing, as did the sloop-of-war. Our boats' crews took the opportunity to get out the spare oars, and to pull out to sea. As they did so they rose up and gave the enemy three cheers, which, as may be supposed, drew down on them hot fire in return. An important service had been accomplished in the destruction of the powder, but I was in no mood for cheering. Five boats had gone in, four only were coming out. The fifth floated, shattered and blackened, over the scene of destruction, but no one was in her. She was the boat commanded by Mercer. He and all his crew had been; swept to destruction. His anticipations of coming evil had indeed been speedily verified. Two short hours ago he and I were sitting side by side away from the crowded deck, talking of matters of deep importance, to fathom which I felt was far beyond my comprehension. Now, though scarce a remnant of his blackened form could be discovered, he, I trusted, was on his way to those realms inhabited by beings of bright intelligence, to whom all such mysteries are clear as noon-day. He died in full assurance of salvation through a merciful Saviour; his last act one of charity, of the noblest self-devotion.

"Which, then, is the happiest?"

"Not I, not I."

I bent my head and thought of what I was, of what I might become, unless protected by the loving mercy of a higher power than that of man's feeble will.

The next day we parted company from the Kingfisher, and went in quest of the Daphne, which joined us that evening, having missed the vessel of which she had gone in chase.

On the 20th we captured a small schooner from Philadelphia, bound to the West Indies, with flour and Indian corn, and, having taken out the crew: and the flour, we set her on fire, to the no small grief of her master and owner, who stood looking at her as we left her blazing away and lighting up the darkness of a November night. On the 24th a suspicious sail hove in sight, which we made out to be an English brig, though she showed no colours; but, as she did her best to get away from us, we made chase after her. A shot brought her to, when we found that she was bound from the coast of Guinea, had a thousand pounds' worth of ivory on board, and had been taken by the Congress and Chance privateers Her captors looked very blue, but had to submit to their fate. Captain Hudson ordered Kennedy, with four hands, to take charge of her, and to carry her into New York.

"We shall meet there I hope soon, Hurry," said he, as he was shoving off to take possession of his new command. "If we can but contrive to spend some little time there, we'll manage to amuse ourselves now that the place is free from those dunder-headed rebels."

"I hope so too. It will not be my fault if I do not follow you soon," I replied, "only, I say, Kennedy, take care that the brig is not recaptured by any of those same dunder-headed rebels."

"No fear, no fear; I'll keep too bright a look-out for that," he answered, laughing.

He had a fair wind and every prospect of a quick run, so that I hoped to find him at New York when I got the chance of going there.

On the 30th we again parted from the Daphne, and soon after gave chase to a sleep, which, after firing a few shots, we brought to. I was at once sent on board to take possession. I found her armed with eight carriage four-pounders, fourteen swivels and four cohorns, and laden with rum, porter, flour and bread, and I dare say she would have proved as ugly a customer to any small craft she might have fallen in with as she would have been a welcome guest at the port to which she was bound. Grampus and Tom Rockets had accompanied me as part of my boat's crew. Scarcely had I got on board when another sail was seen from the mast-head of the Orpheus, so Captain Hudson ordered me to keep them and another man, and to send the prisoners on board with the rest of the crew, which done, I was to cruise about in the neighbourhood to wait his return. A midshipman's personal comfort is not much considered on such occasions, so that I was unable to get any clothes or even a change of linen before my ship was standing away with all sail set in chase of the stranger last seen. My prize, I found, was called the Colonel Parry.

"What do you think of our craft?" said I to Grampus, who had been running his eye over her, inside and out.

"Why, Mr Hurry, she's seen no little service in her time, I'm thinking; and if so be there comes a gale of wind, she'll require delicate handling, or she'll be apt to go t'other way to what the schooner we last took did. Now, to my mind, sir, the weather doesn't look at all pleasant like, and I shouldn't be surprised but what we get a pretty heavy gale of wind before nightfall."

"I think so too," said I. "There's one comfort, if we do not fan in with the 'Orpheus' again for a month to come, we've provisions enough on board--we shall not starve."

Old Nol's prognostications were fulfilled even sooner than we expected; a black, heavy bank of clouds came rolling up towards us; and as the frigate's top-gallant sails, shining with peculiar whiteness against the dark mass, sank beneath the horizon, we were pitching our bows into a heavy sea under a close-reefed mainsail and foresail. We had made ourselves as snug as we could, but not a moment too soon. Had there been a trysail on board I should have set it. Even with the sail she had on her the vessel strained very much, and sometimes I thought she would make a perfect dip of it and go down head foremost. However, I had done all I could do, and must await the result.

"What's the matter now?" said I to Grampus, who had gone below for a short time.

"Why, sir, the old tub is taking in water rather faster than we are likely to pump it out."

"We must try, however," I answered. "Man the pumps, and let's do our best."

So to work we set. The weather was cool, and we were wet with the sea and spray, but the exercise kept us from feeling cold. We soon found that we made no sensible impression on the water in the hold, but yet it was something to keep the vessel afloat. While so employed, a loud bang saluted our ears; a heavier blast than usual had split both the mainsail and foresail. The sails soon shivered to tatters. I could find none with which to replace them, and there we lay, almost water-logged, at the mercy of the winds and waves. A long November night, too, was coming on, and I felt the very great probability that we might never be blessed by the sight of another dawn. Grampus took it very coolly; he had been in many similar situations; but Tom Rockets was far from happy.

"Oh, Mr Hurry," said he, as the gale rose higher and the seas tossed us helplessly about, ever and anon deluging our decks, "what is to become of us, sir? What will poor mother do when she hears that you and I are gone to the bottom in this outlandish country, where they seem to have nothing to do but to fight and shoot and knock each other on the head?"

Poor Tom's notion of the country was very naturally formed from his own experience.

"I hope, Tom, things are not so bad as you fancy," said I. "We must pray to God, and trust in His mercy to save us. He has power to hold us up if He thinks fit; and I have no doubt, too, that your mother and mine are praying for us, and I feel sure that He will listen to their prayers, if He does not to those of such careless, thoughtless fellows as we are."

"That's truth, Mr Hurry," put in old Grampus; "there's nothing like having a good mother to pray for one, depend on't. While my old mother lived, I always felt as how there was one who loved me, who was asking more for me than I dared ask for myself; and now she's gone aloft, I don't think she has forgotten her son, though I doubt if she would know his figure-head if she was to see him."

"I cannot say exactly that. Grampus," said I, "though it looks to me like true philosophy; but one thing I do know--and that the Bible tells us plainly--that, if we will but trust and believe on Him, we have an Advocate with the Father, ever pleading for us, bad as we may have been--He who came into the world to save us, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He knows how to plead for us better than any earthly parent, either alive or in heaven, for He so loved us that He took our nature upon Him, and He knows all things, and knows our weaknesses and temptations, and want of opportunities of gaining knowledge."

"That's true again, sir," observed Grampus; "that's what I calls right earnest religion--you'll pardon me for saying it, but to my mind the parsons couldn't give us better."

I told Grampus I was glad of his good opinion, and we talked on for some time much in the same strain. I had gained more religious knowledge lately from poor Mercer, who, during the last weeks we had been together, had been very assiduous in impressing his own convictions on me. There are occasions like this which bring people of different ranks together, and which draw out the real feelings and thoughts of the heart, when all know that any moment may be their last; a slight increase of the gale, one heavier sea than usual, the starting of a plank may send them all to the bottom. The pride of the proudest is humbled, the fiercest man is made meek. Those who live on shore at ease, and are seldom or never exposed to danger or are in hazard of their lives, can scarcely understand these things; priding themselves on their education, rank or fortune, they look down on all beneath them as unworthy of their thoughts or care, and I verily believe that some of them fancy that a different Creator made them--that they were sent into the world for different objects, and that they will go to different heaven when they die--that is to say, if they ever think of dying, or ever trouble their heads about an hereafter. I have often wished to get those young gentlemen in just such a position as I was that night, and they could not fail to learn a lesson which they would remember to the end of their days.

In the morning watch the gale began to abate.

"Come," said I, "let's turn to and see if we cannot lessen the water in the hold."

"Ay, ay, sir," replied Grampus. "We've a chance now, I think."

We therefore all set to work with a will--there is nothing like trying what can be done, however desperate affairs may seem--and before daylight we most certainly were gaining on the leaks. We now found a second jib in the sail-room, which we set as a trysail, though I had not much expectation of it standing, and by its means we hove the vessel to. This at once relieved her greatly, but, as day broke, the weather looked so unpromising that I had great fears we might very soon be in a worse position than before. Our comfort was, that we had now done all that men could do, so we went to breakfast with clear consciences on some of the good things left us by the former owners. We lighted a fire in the cabin, dried our clothes, warmed our bodies, and otherwise made ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would admit. On deck the aspect of affairs was not so cheering. Nothing was to be seen but dark green seas crested with foam around us, and black lowering clouds overhead, while a cold whistling wind did its best to blow our teeth down our throats. The wind, as I expected, soon breezed up again, and continued blowing heavily the whole day. The water, however, did not further gain on us, so I had hopes that we might still weather it out. Night came back on us without our having seen a sail or experienced any change for the better, and the morning came, and the next day passed away exactly as had the first. We had bread enough to eat, and flour to make dumplings, but we had no suet to put with them, so that they came out of the pot as hard as round shots; and we had rum and porter in a superabundance to drink; it was important, however, to use it sparingly, especially the former; but we had very few other things which could be called luxuries; no bedding, no change of clothes, and but a scanty supply of fuel. I had to lie wrapped up in an old cloak and a piece of carpet while Tom Rockets washed out my shirt and stockings. Day after day passed away and there we lay, pitching our bows under, hove-to at the most boisterous season of the year off that inhospitable coast, earnestly wishing for the return of the Orpheus, with the prospect, in the meantime, of being recaptured by an enemy's privateer, and the certainty of being taken should we make for any port but New York, which, as the wind then held, was a matter of impossibility. We did not, however, pipe our eyes about the matter but, following old Nol's advice, made the best of it.

"Any sail in sight, Grampus?" I used to ask as I turned out in the morning.

"No, sir, only clouds and water; but better them than an enemy, you know, sir," was his general reply.

Now and then a sail would appear in the horizon, but either we were not seen or they were peaceable merchantmen, anxious to make the best of their way to their destined port. At last one morning, after I had been keeping the middle watch, old Grampus' voice roused me out of a sound sleep.

"Come on deck, Mr Hurry, sir, if you please! I don't like the looks of her at all."

In a moment my head was up the companion-hatch. The weather was worse than ever. A thick driving mist formed a dense veil on every side, but I could just discern through it the sails of a large schooner standing directly for us from the eastward.

"She is American, I suspect, Grampus," said I.

"No doubt about it, sir," he answered. "Our cruise is up, I'm afraid, and we may make ready for a spell on shore, and nothing to do."

"We might beat her off, though," I observed. "There is nothing like putting a bold face on the matter, and it would never do to yield without striking a blow."

"Ay, sir, with all my heart," said he cheerfully; "the guns are all loaded, and I made Tom and Bill get up some powder and shot in case they were wanted, before I called you, sir. You'll excuse me, sir, I thought there was no harm."

"All right, Grampus," I answered, laughing at his having calculated on what I should certainly propose doing. Bill Nettle was a good man and true, so that I knew I could thoroughly depend on all my small crew, and, having made every preparation, we waited till the schooner got within range of our guns. We had not long to wait. The gale bore her quickly towards us, and I almost thought she intended to run us down. Were she to overpower us there was too much sea to allow her to send a boat on board to take possession. She got within range, still she did not fire.

"She is unarmed, I suspect," said I.

"No, no, sir," replied Grampus. "She is armed, depend on that. She is up to some trick or other."

On she came, passing close to us. The American flag was flying from the peak. I could not make out the mystery. In another moment, however, it was explained. For an instant the fog lifted, and showed us a large ship under a press of sail, standing directly after her. We cheered at the sight, for we had no difficulty in recognising the Orpheus, and at the same moment we ran out and let fly every gun we could bring to bear at the rigging of the stranger. One shot, directed by chance, certainly not by skill, struck her main-topmast, and down it came tumbling on deck. We hastened to reload our guns as fast as we could. She gave us a broadside from her guns in return, but the shot were thrown away. She stood on, however, but we had not a little diminished her chance of escape. The Orpheus was soon up to us, passing within hail.

"Well done, Mr Hurry, well done!" shouted Captain Hudson. "We will send you help as soon as we can."

His commendation was no little satisfaction to me. It was a fine sight to see the noble ship sweeping by, her white canvas looking whiter amid the dark clouds and the sheets of foam which surrounded her, as, pressed by the gale, she heeled over, till her lee guns dipped in the water as she plunged on through the heaving seas which she majestically cast aside in her course. I longed to be on board her, though I should have speedily changed from a commander into a midshipman. Away she went, her vast form growing each instant more indistinct, like one of the genii one reads about in tales of romance, till she disappeared altogether in the thick driving mist, and once more we were left alone, so that her very appearance seemed almost like a dream, and I began at last to question whether I really had seen her. We watched anxiously for her, trying to pierce through the gloomy atmosphere, but no sign of her could we discern, and night once again closed round us in our solitude. The weather did not improve, so we spent another day at pile driving, neither a pleasant nor a profitable occupation. The second morning after the event I have described was as dark and lowering as before, but, as I went on deck after breakfast, Grampus cheered me by saying that he thought it was going to mend a bit. We were looking to the south-east, when simultaneously all hands uttered a loud cheer. The clouds seemed to burst asunder, the mist lifted, the bright sun shone forth, and, surrounded by his glorious rays, beneath a canopy of blue sky, our noble ship appeared, standing towards us, with the schooner and a sloop in her wake. There was, however, still too much sea on for her to send a boat without some risk; indeed, before she could well have done so, another sail hove in sight, and she was away in chase.

On the 14th of the month we spoke his Majesty's ship Mermaid, with a convoy from England to New York. On the 15th the Orpheus took a schooner from Martinique, with a cargo of claret, so that with another sloop she had taken she had now five prizes. It was not, however, till the 26th of the month that a boat boarded me from the ship, with written directions from Captain Hudson to take under my command all the prizes, and to proceed with them to New York. I, in return, sent for my bedding and chest, and a few other things from the purser, which I required, and as soon as I had got them I hoisted the signal to my squadron to make sail for the port of our destination. A midshipman had been put in charge of each of the prizes, and as soon as we had lost sight of the ship we ran close to each other to discuss the plans of amusement which each of us were already enjoying by anticipation. Delisle commanded one of the schooners, Ragget another, Nicholas had one sloop, and Drew the last capture. We were, as may be supposed, a very merry set. It did not occur to us that our enemy's cruisers might pop down on us before we got into port, as does a cat among a party of mice at play. We were almost as helpless as mice in the paws of a cat, for so few men were sent away in each prize that we had scarcely strength to work them, much less to fight or make sail on an emergency. In this instance fortune favoured us. We made Sandy Hook on the 28th, and before evening were all safely moored alongside the wharf, among twenty-nine other vessels of various rigs captured by the Orpheus.

As several other ships of war had sent in prizes, we altogether formed a very jovial set of midshipmen. There were seven of us from the Orpheus alone, and, as I was senior officer, they were generally my guests. I had really a very elegant cabin, nicely fitted up with every convenience, and a comfortable stove, besides which I collected from the various prizes an ample stock of good things to supply the wants of the inner man. Never indeed had I enjoyed more perfect luxury, or greater rest and relaxation, without one anxious care, one unhappy moment to extract the sweets from my existence, free from all the rubs and kicks and snubs midshipmen seem the natural heirs to, so I smiled at fortune and defied its frowns.

I was for a short time, however, made to quake, for after the Orpheus had, during December, sent in several prizes, she arrived herself with two others, and some of my messmates had to return on board. But Captain Hudson, whose good opinion I had won, gave me directions, to my infinite contentment, to remain in charge of the prizes. I had also a sufficient number of companions to bear me company. Numberless were the pranks we Orlopians played. Some might now make me blush, though, generally, if not wise they were harmless. I remember that we did our skipper and the captain of the Daphne out of three cases of claret which they had marked for their own use. It happened that, as we were preparing to keep Christmas Day, some one bethought him of the three cases. They were sent for. One of them was broached at dinner-time, and found so excellent that we drank up the whole; but, as we were doing so, our consciences were alarmed, and we ordered the bottles and corks to be kept. The next day we employed ourselves in refilling them from the casks, and in carefully corking and sealing them. Some time afterwards I was dining with our captain, when one of the cases was produced. The opinion of the guests was asked. Some thought it excellent. Delisle, who was there, looked at me, but we kept our countenances. Our first lieutenant, who was considered a judge, pronounced it good, but he found very little difference between it and the wine in cask.

Among other things we came on some casks of limes--excellent things, be it known, in the composition of punch. The said fruit we accordingly ate up or used for that purpose, and filling the casks with wet hay, some rotten limes, and the stuff they were packed in, returned them to the hold. On examination, the casks of limes were found to have been entirely spoilt. Such tricks are, however, I must own, not only unworthy of imitation, but scarcely fit to be recorded.

I must now give a glance at the position of the belligerent armies at this period. Washington, having crossed the Hudson into the Jerseys, had been compelled by the desertion of a considerable number of his troops, who had enlisted only for short periods, to retreat across the Delaware, while some of the most fertile tracts of the country fell into the hands of the Royalists. General Lee, an officer of considerable talent and daring, was surprised and captured by a body of British cavalry; while the other rebel generals found themselves, with diminished and disheartened forces, separated from each other, and without resources or means of recruiting; indeed, the revolutionary cause appeared to have arrived at its lowest ebb, and great hopes were entertained that a speedy conclusion would be made to the sanguinary contest. Perhaps the Americans were not so badly off as we supposed. That they were not asleep was proved by their gallant and well-conducted surprise and capture of Colonel Rahl and a thousand Hessian troops at Trenton on Christmas Day, an enterprise which inspirited the Americans, and was a severe loss to the Royalists. The Hessian commander was mortally wounded, and died the next day; and most of his men, being marched into the interior, settled in the country. Soon after this occurrence Washington was appointed military dictator, and through his consummate conduct the prospects of the rebels began to revive.

Of course the progress of the war was the constant subject of conversation while I was at New York, and I consequently heard a good deal about it. Before I end this chapter, I think it may prove interesting if I give a slight sketch of the warlike proceedings which had occurred up to this period on the Canadian frontier, as well as some of the proceedings of General Washington and his army.

Lakes Champlain and George, approaching as they do the upper waters of the Hudson, have always been considered the key to the northern provinces from Canada. Their possession has therefore been looked on as of the first importance; and Ticonderoga, the chief fort at the head of Lake Champlain, has been the scene of many bloody encounters. I heard a good deal about the matter afterwards from Edward Fleetwood Pelew, whose brother Israel was long a messmate of mine, and who was himself engaged in the affair I have to relate. General Gates commanded the American forces in the north, and he had strongly fortified Ticonderoga. Our army in Canada was at that time under the command of Sir Guy Carleton, a very brave and dashing officer. The success which Sir William Howe had met with on the seaboard inspired him with an ardent desire to signalise himself in the north; and he hoped to be able to expel the rebels from their posts on the lakes, and, by a triumphant march down the banks of the Hudson, to form a junction with the main body of the British army at New York. To effect this object he fitted out a fleet of small craft of every description on which he could lay his hands on Lake Champlain. It was placed under the command of Captain Pringle. The Americans got notice of what was going forward, and got a fleet together under the orders of General Arnold. Our fleet were ready by the first week in October, and made sail up the lake in search of the enemy. They cruised for some time, and were almost in despair of falling in with the American squadron, believing that it must have run for shelter to the extreme southern point of the lake, when, as with a fair wind they had already passed Valcour Island, they caught sight of the enemy drawn up across the channel between that island and the main. Our flotilla instantly hauled their wind, and stood in to attack the enemy. The Americans, to do them justice, behaved gallantly, and no man could have fought his vessels better than did Arnold; but our force was overpowering, and they got dreadfully cut up. Some Indians were landed on the island, who, getting on their flanks, galled them terribly with their rifles. Still they fought on till darkness came to their aid. Our larger vessels could not get into the channel, or they would have been completely cut up. At night the British squadron had to haul off; and, when morning dawned, it was found that Arnold, and such of his vessels as still kept afloat, had made his escape up the lake. Several of them were, however, overtaken and captured, while others were sunk or run on shore and burnt. Arnold with the remnant took shelter under Ticonderoga. This success was not followed up by Sir Guy, as he found that Ticonderoga was so strongly garrisoned that he could not hope to take it without considerable loss both of men and time, and he would afterwards have had to advance through a difficult country in the middle of winter with a vigilant enemy ever on the watch to harass him. He therefore returned with his army to Montreal.

General Washington, meantime, after he had retreated from New York with his shattered forces, endeavoured to hold the country to the westward on both sides of the Hudson. The greater part of his army occupied a rocky and mountainous district known by the name of the Highlands. There he carried on a sort of Fabian warfare, ever avoiding a regular engagement, always on the defensive, and retreating when pursued. So ill-formed and ill-disciplined were the American forces at this time that he had no other resource than to act as he did. His army was still further weakened by the loss of Fort Washington with a garrison of nearly three thousand men, which was gallantly taken, after a desperate defence, by Lords Percy and Cornwallis, and a body of Hessians under Colonel Rahl, of whom I have before spoken.

Altogether, it seems surprising that our generals should not have been able at this juncture to crush Washington, and put an end to the rebellion. A higher Power than either of the belligerents ruled otherwise.

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