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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCaptain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 17. An Exciting Discovery--The Cove Wins A Name
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Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 17. An Exciting Discovery--The Cove Wins A Name Post by :healthyways2101 Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2767

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Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 17. An Exciting Discovery--The Cove Wins A Name


The next morning, at breakfast, Walter proposed that he and Harry Higginson should, after school, go down to the neck and shoot ducks, for Clump had reported that he had seen several flying over the cape. Our salt tute was at the table, and Harry, in reply, turned to him and said--

"Captain, won't you take my gun this afternoon and go with Walter in my place? Bob and I have a little secret service to attend to, which can't be postponed; so will you shoot the ducks for me?"

"No, Harry," the Captain replied, "I shall not think of shooting here, where we have the hunter of the Ottawa--the companion of Ollabearqui, the slayer of moose and panther-cats--ha! ha! Eh, Mr Clare?"

"Well, Captain Mugford, I will accept your kind offer, as I should like very much to have a few hours' shooting with Walter. I shall try it; but a fowling-piece and birds on the wing are different things from a rifle and running game as large as those I used to practise on, and I imagine that Walter will not commend me as the Indian did," was Mr Clare's answer.

After the morning lessons and dinner were over, Harry and I stole off together to make an investigation of last night's mystery. We took our way to the cove, which was soon to win a name. Although but three-quarters of a mile from our house, that part of the cape about the cove was the roughest and most inaccessible quarter in our possessions. I do not know that any of us ever climbed down to the water there before. The attractions in every other direction of fishing, bathing, shooting, and boating were so numerous that we had not carried our explorations in that direction. You may possibly remember there are places, sometimes within little more than a stone's-throw of your house, with which you never think of making acquaintance. Just such a place was the cove. It did not invite us particularly. It was not on the route of any of our pleasure expeditions, and, as I have said, there were points of interest in every other direction. But just above the cove was a high knob-shaped piece of grass and shrubs, dotted with many slabs of sharp stones that stood up like tombstones, and made the knoll look so much like a grave yard that we used to call it "our cemetery." There the sheep liked to feed just before night. It was a favourite spot, where they often came for their evening bite.

We crossed that, and commenced a scramble down a jagged, rocky declivity almost perpendicular. It reminded us of the cliffs in the islands of Orkney and Shetland, pictures of which, with the men suspended by ropes getting eggs from the nests that fill the crevices, have interested every boy in his geography book. With bruised hands and knees, and rather tattered trousers, we reached a ledge just above the high-tide mark. The cove was a perfect harbour. A boat there would be defended from every gale but a south-wester, and partly from that, whilst it would also be completely hidden unless from a boat right off the entrance of the cove, or unless some one peered over the dangerous cliff above; and what would one think of looking for in there? But we found enough to excite our astonishment. First there were a strand of rope and an oar on the narrow ledge, which we followed a couple of yards, and then saw an opening between two immense strata of stone. We looked in, and a ray of light that came through the fissure at the other extremity showed us a number of kegs, several bales of goods, sails, numerous coils of rope, and various other articles. We climbed in, and found also a rusty flintlock musket, standing between two barrels. If not as much frightened, we were as much astonished as Robinson Crusoe, when he discovered in the sand the print of a human foot.

As hastily as the difficulties would allow, we climbed up the rocks, and hurried towards the house, talking eagerly with each other while we ran as to what those kegs and bales might contain. Had they been hidden there by smugglers, or by whom? Were they now our property? What was to be the result?

Out of breath we reached the house, to find for our audience only Captain Mugford. He was reading in the sitting-room, and put down his book to hear our exciting revelation. When we had told him all, he asked us not to go to the cove again, until Mr Clare and he had had time to act on the information we had given, and told us to caution the other boys in the same way if we met them before he did. "And now," said he, "I will go out and meet Mr Clare and Walter--down on the neck, are they not? I have no doubt that the cave is the storehouse of smugglers."

"Smugglers!" we exclaimed.

"Yes," he answered, pulling on the pea-jacket that always came off in the house, and stowing his pipe in the breast-pocket. "Yes, smugglers, good-for-nothing scoundrels! who enjoy the good laws of the country, and all the advantages which a settled Government and established institutions give them, and yet play all sorts of tricks to avoid paying the required taxes to support that Government; while they do their best to prevent honest, straightforward-dealing traders from gaining a livelihood. Then, see to what an expense they put the country to keep up an army of coastguard men and a fleet of revenue vessels. There's the _Hind sloop of war, with a crew of a hundred and twenty men, and some fifty cutters, large and small, with crews of from fifteen to forty men, on this south coast alone. If it wasn't for these idle rascals of smugglers, these men might be manning England's fleets, or navigating her merchantmen to bring back to her shores the wealth which makes her great and powerful. People talk of the Government paying for all this. Silly dolts that they are! It is not the Government pays; it is they who pay out of their own pockets; and when they encourage smugglers, which they too often do, they are just increasing the amount of their own taxes; and if they don't feel the increase much themselves, they are cheating their neighbours, though they have the impudence to call themselves honest men. I have no patience with those who encourage smugglers, and would transport every smuggler who is caught to Botany Bay, and still think the fate too good for him."

Having thus delivered himself, our worthy nautical instructor strode out to meet our fresh tute.

We took the news to Clump and Juno, who received it in mingled terror and amazement; and then we ran to find Drake and Alf, and pour it out to them.

Well, we had frequently heard about the doings of smugglers, but to have them burrowing on our cape, and be in a plot for their overthrow, were better than volumes of "Flying Dutchmen," "Pirates of the Gulf," "Gulliver's Travels," "Roderick Randoms," or even possibly of "Robinson Crusoes," and all other such made-up stories. Here they were fresh; we had watched their boat the night before; we had just come from their cave; and there was plenty ahead to imagine.

"Hurrah for our cape!" said Harry; "was there ever a jollier place for fun?"

Those days were palmy times for smugglers. High duties, in order to raise a revenue for carrying on the wars in which England had been engaged, had been placed on nearly all foreign articles. Wines, spirits, tobacco, silks, laces, ribbons, and indeed a vast number of other manufactures, were taxed more than cent per cent on their value, and some, if I recollect rightly, two or three hundred per cent. In fact, the high duties acted as an encouragement to smugglers, foreigners as well as Englishmen, and the whole coast swarmed with their luggers and other craft. Sometimes large armed cutters were employed, and their bold crews did not hesitate to defend themselves if attacked by revenue vessels, and sometimes came off the victors. The most disgraceful circumstance connected with these transactions was, that there were large mercantile houses in London who in some instances actually employed the smugglers, and in others gave them direct encouragement by receiving the silks and ribbons and laces, and other goods of that description, and disposing of them openly as if they had paid duty. Here, were men of wealth, and intelligence, and education, for the lust of gain inducing their fellow-men to commit a serious crime. They had relays of fleet horses, with light carts and wagons, running regularly to the coast, in which the smuggled goods were conveyed up to London. They bribed, when they could, the revenue men, and they had spies in every direction to give notice of the approach of those whom they could not bribe. They had lookout men on the watch for the approach of an expected smuggling vessel, and spots-men to select he best place on which she could run her cargo. They had also large parties on the beach, frequently strongly armed, to assist in landing the goods and to carry them up to the carts, or to the caves and other hiding-places, where they were stored when the carts were not in readiness. Every stratagem and other device was employed to draw the revenue men and military away from the spot where it was proposed to run a cargo. Sometimes a few goods, or bales of rubbish to look like goods, were landed in a particular spot, and allowed to fall into the hands of the coast guard, while the real cargo was being landed some miles away and rapidly conveyed up to London. When hard-pressed by a revenue vessel, if of a force too great to render fighting hopeless, the smuggling craft would throw the whole of her cargo overboard, so that when overtaken nothing contraband might be found in her. When the smugglers' cargo consisted of spirits, under such circumstances the casks, heavily weighted, were frequently, when in sight of land, dropped overboard, the landmarks on the shore being carefully taken. Thus the smuggler could return, when not watched, and regain her cargo. Sometimes the keen-eyed revenue officers had observed her proceedings when letting go the kegs, and on her return they could no longer be found. Sometimes the hard-pressed smuggler had not time to sink her cargo, and the kegs, still floating, were made prizes of by the cutter. At other times they were captured when on the point of being landed, or when actually landed, and it was on these occasions that the fiercest battles took place between the smugglers, aided by their numerous coadjutors on shore, and the revenue officers. If the lives of any of the revenue officers were lost during these encounters, the smugglers who were seen to have fired, when captured, were hung, while the less criminal in the eye of the law were transported, or imprisoned, or sent to serve on board men-of-war. It is scarcely too much to say that a large portion of the coast population of England was engaged in this illicit traffic. It bred also a great amount of ill-feeling between them and the coast guard, whom they endeavoured to mislead, annoy, and injure by every means in their power. Our worthy salt tutor had friends among the revenue officers, with whom he sided strongly; indeed, his natural good sense and right feeling would have prevented him from supporting a class of men who were so clearly acting against the laws of the country and all rules of right and justice.

Our tutors that evening held a consultation on board the brig, and decided that it was their duty to go over the next morning to inform the commander of the coast guard of the discovery Harry and I had made, and to let him take the steps which he might consider necessary. We two, of course, for the time became perfect heroes of romance, and could talk of nothing else during the evening but of smugglers and smuggling adventures. Captain Mugford possessed a large amount of lore on that subject, some of which he produced, much to our edification. He gave us an account of the fight between the _Peggy smuggling lugger and the _Bramble King's cutter. Three men were killed and five wounded on board the revenue cruiser, and a still greater number of smugglers lost their lives, though the lugger escaped on that occasion. She was, however, afterwards fallen in with by the very same cutter, when the smugglers showed fight at first; but so fiercely were they attacked by the brave commander of the cutter, that, their consciences making cowards of them, they yielded after a short struggle. It would have been difficult to convict the crew then on board of the murder of the cutter's people on the previous occasion, had not one of their number turned king's evidence. The captain and mate and two other men were accordingly hung, and the rest transported; but this summary mode of proceeding in no way put a stop to smuggling. The profits were too large, the temptations too great, to allow even the risk of being hung or transported to interfere with the traffic.

One story led to another, and at length our skipper came out with one which was voted, by general acclamation, to be superior to all the others. I cannot pretend to give it in old Mugford's language, so I present it in my own, keeping, however, closely to the facts he narrated. He called his tale:


Some forty years ago, ay, more than that, I belonged for a few months to a revenue cruiser, on board which I volunteered, soon after my return from my second voyage, I think it was, or about that time. The cutter was stationed off this coast, and a hard life we had of it, for in those days the smuggling craft were large armed vessels, full of desperate men, who, when they could not outsail, more than once beat off the cruisers of the king. Among the most daring of his class was a fellow called Jan Johnson, though from having at different times many other names, it was difficult from them to determine to what nation he belonged; indeed, it was suspected that he was an Englishman born on this very coast, with every inch of which he was intimately acquainted.

He seemed to take absolute delight in setting at defiance all laws of God and man, and, among many other acts of atrocity, he was strongly suspected of the murder of a revenue officer. The officer had, it appears, been the means of taking a valuable cargo of goods belonging to Johnson, who some time after encountered him, when in discharge of his duty, near this place. It is supposed that the smuggler had attacked the unfortunate man, and, being by far the more powerful of the two, had grappled with him, and, plunging a long knife into his bosom, had thrown him over the cliffs. The next morning the body was discovered above high-water mark, with a knife known to belong to Johnson close to it, and on the top of the cliffs were seen the impressions of men's feet, as if engaged in a fierce struggle. A handkerchief, similar to one the smuggler had been observed to wear, was found in the dead man's grasp, and at a late hour of the night he had been met without one round his throat. A reward was therefore offered for his apprehension, but notwithstanding the sharp lookout we kept for his craft at sea, and the vigilance of the revenue people on shore, he had hitherto escaped capture.

He commanded at this time a large lugger, called the _Polly_, a fast-sailing boat, which could almost eat into the wind's eye, and when going free nothing could hope to come up with her; so that our only chance of capturing her was to jam her in with the shore, or to find ourselves near her in a calm, when we might get alongside her in our boats.

So daring was the smuggler that, though he well knew his life was at stake, he still continued to carry on his free trade with the coast, where he had many friends; yet, notwithstanding that his vessel was constantly seen, she was never approached except by those he trusted.

It was towards the end of October--I remember the time well--the days were growing shorter, and the night-watches darker and colder, when, after cruising up and down a week or so at sea, in hopes of falling in with a prize, it came on to blow very hard from the south-west. Our skipper was not a man to be frightened by a capful of wind, so, setting our storm sails, we stood off shore and faced the gale like men; for, do ye see, it is just such weather as this was that the smugglers choose to run across the channel, when they think no one will be on the lookout for them. Towards evening, however, it came on to blow harder than ever, so that at last we were obliged to up with the helm, and run for shelter into harbour; but just as we were keeping away, a sea struck the cutter, carried away our stern boat, and stove in one of our quarter boats. In this squall the wind seemed to have worn itself out, for before we made the land it suddenly fell, and by daylight a dead calm came on, followed by a dense fog. Our soundings told us that we were within a short distance of the coast, so that our eyes were busily employed in trying to get, through the mist, a sight of it, or of any strange sail which might be in the neighbourhood. At last, for an instant the fog lifted towards the north, like when the curtain of a theatre is drawn up, exposing close in with the land the white sails of a lugger, on which, as she rose and fell on the heavy swell remaining after the storm of the previous night, were now glancing the bright beams of the morning sun, exposing her thus more clearly to our view.

Before we could bring our glasses to bear, the fog again closed in, but every eye was turned in that direction to get another sight of her; we, doubtless, from our position, and the greater thickness of the mist round us, remaining hid from her view.

"What think you, Davis? which way shall we have the breeze when it does come?" asked our skipper of the old quartermaster, who was the oracle on such occasions.

"Why, sir, I should say, off the land; it looks clearer there away than it is out here."

As the old man delivered himself of this opinion, he turned his one open eye towards the point he indicated: for, though he had two orbs, and they were piercers, he never used more than one at a time--we youngsters used to suppose, to give each alternately a rest.

As he spoke, the fog once more opened a little.

"And, what do you say to yonder craft?" continued the skipper.

The old man's right eye surveyed her intently before he answered--

"I thought I knowed her, sir. As sure as we're alive she's the _Polly_, with Jan Johnson on board."

How he arrived at the latter conclusion we did not stop to consider. The words had an electric effect on board.

"You are right, Davis--you are right!" exclaimed our commander; then, in a tone of vexation, "And we have only one boat to chase her. If there comes a breeze, that fellow will sneak alongshore, and get out of our way. He calculated on being able to do so when he remained there, and no doubt has information that the revenue boats belonging to the station are sent off in other directions."

Every glass was now turned towards the direction where the smuggler was seen; for you must remember the mist quickly again hid her from us. Our skipper walked over to where the carpenter was employed in putting the boat to rights; but soon saw that there was a good day's work or more before she could be made to swim.

"It will never do to let that fellow--escape us!" he exclaimed briskly. "Mr Robertson," addressing his senior officer, a passed midshipman--an oldster in every sense of the word I then thought him,--"pipe the gig's crew away, with two extra hands, and let them all be fully armed. Do you take charge of the ship; and if a breeze gets up, press every stitch of canvas on her, and stand after the lugger. That fellow may give us some work; and I intend to go myself."

Having given these orders, he dived into his cabin, and quickly reappeared, with his cocked hat on and his sword by his side.

I belonged to the gig.

The boat was, as you may suppose, quickly ready. The order was given to shove off, and away we pulled, with hearty strokes, in the direction of the lugger. The fog for some time favoured our approach towards the spot where we guessed she was to be found, for we could no more see her than the people on board could us. Never, when roasting in the tropics under a burning sun, have I wished more earnestly for a breeze than we now did that the calm would continue till we could get alongside the long-looked-for craft. Not a word was spoken above a whisper, though we knew that the splash of our oars in the water would soon betray our approach to the sharpened ears of the smugglers, even before they could see us. We redoubled, therefore, our efforts to get alongside, when a light air coming off the land much thinned the intervening mist, showing us the _Polly_, with her largest canvas spread to catch the breeze, and now, as she loomed through the fog, appearing twice her real size, while her people clearly made us out. In a moment her sails were trimmed, her long sweeps were run out, and she was moving through the water, though not near so fast as we were pulling.

"Give way, my boys, give way," shouted our skipper, all necessity for silence being now removed. "Give way, and the lugger is ours."

With a hearty cheer the men bent to their oars and sent the boat flying through the calm blue water, casting aside the light sparkling foam which bubbled and hissed round her bows, as the story books about seagoing affairs say, such as you youngsters are so fond of reading. Well, the breeze freshened, however, before long, and we found that, though still decreasing our distance from the lugger, we were not gaining on her as fast as when she first made us out. We had, however, got within about a quarter of a mile of her, when we saw a man jump on the taffrail, and wave his hat at us as if in derision. Even at that distance, some of our people declared they recognised him as Jan Johnson, whom all of us knew well enough by sight. The next instant a skiff was launched from her decks, into which he jumped, and pulled as hard as he could towards the shore, to which he was already nearer than we were to him.

Here was a dilemma for our skipper. If we followed the outlaw, his lugger would very likely get away; and if we made chase after her, he would certainly escape, and she, probably, even if we came up with her, would not be condemned. The thought of the murdered man decided our commander, and in a moment the boat's head was turned towards the shore in chase of the skiff. Away we went, as fast as six ash oars in stout hands could send us through the water, while Johnson, still undaunted, continued his course; yet, in spite of his audacity, he well knew that it was with him a matter of life and death. It was indeed astonishing, when putting forth all his vast strength, how fast he sent along his light skiff; indeed, we gained but slightly on him in our six-oared galley, and we soon saw that he would reach the shore before we could overtake him.

"Give way, my lads, give way," shouted our skipper, though the men were straining every nerve to the utmost. "Give way, and we shall soon be up with him."

Talk of the excitement of a stag-hunt! it is tame in comparison with the interest men take in the chase of a fellow-creature. There is something of the nature of the bloodhound, I suspect, in our composition which delights in the pursuit of such noble game. A few minutes more decided the point, a cry of vexation escaping us as his boat touched the shore, and, coolly drawing her up on the strand, he was seen to make towards the woods.

"Shall I bring him down, sir?" asked the seaman who sat in the sternsheets with a musket, marine fashion, between his knees.

"No, no," was the answer. "We must take the fellow alive; he cannot escape us, if we put our best feet foremost."

Just as our boat's keel grated on the sand, Johnson disappeared among the rocks and trees, and we could hear a shout of derisive laughter ringing through the wood.

"After him, my boys, after him," shouted our skipper, as we all leaped on shore. "A five-pound note to the man who first gets hold of him."

And, except a youth who was left in charge of the boat, away we all went, helter-skelter, in the direction the outlaw had taken. He made, it appeared, straight inland, for we could hear his shouts ahead of us as we rushed on, hallooing to each other from among the trees. Not one of the party seemed inclined to get before the other--not so much that one was unwilling to deprive the other of the promised reward, but I suspect that no one was anxious to encounter Johnson singlehanded, well armed as of course he was, and desperate as we knew him to be. Our commander, being a stout man and short-winded, was soon left far behind, though, as he hurried on, puffing and blowing with the exertion he was using, his voice, as long as we could hear him, encouraged us in the pursuit. We had thus made good half a mile or more, when coming suddenly to the confines of the wood, or copse it might rather be called, a wide extent of open ground appeared before us, but not a trace of the fugitive could be perceived. Some of the foremost ran on to a spot of high ground near at hand, whence they could see in every direction, but not a figure was moving in the landscape. In the meantime our skipper came up, and ordered us to turn back and beat about the wood.

We had been thus fruitlessly engaged for some time, when we were recalled to the shore by a shout from one of our people, and, hastening down to the beach, we beheld, to our dismay, our own boat floating some way out in the bay, while Johnson, in his skiff, was pulling towards his lugger, now creeping alongshore out of the reach of the cutter, which still lay becalmed in the offing. What was most extraordinary, the lad who had been left in charge of the boat was nowhere to be seen, and, as far as we could make out, he was neither in her nor in Johnson's skiff. You may just picture to yourself our rage and disappointment; indeed, I thought, what from his exertions and excitement, our commander would have been beside himself with vexation. After we had stood for a moment, looking with blank astonishment at each other, he ordered us, in a sharp voice, some to run one way, some another, along the shore, in search of a boat by which we might get on board our galley, for she was too far off for anyone to attempt to swim to her. At last, some way on, we discovered, hauled up on the beach, a heavy fishing-boat, which with some work we managed to launch, and, by means of the bottom boards and a few pieces of plank we found in her, to paddle towards our gig. In our course, we picked up two of our oars which had been thrown overboard, and we were thus able to reach her sooner than we could otherwise have done. What could have become of our young shipmate? we asked each other; but not a conjecture could be offered. Johnson could not have carried him off; he would not have ventured to have injured him, and the lad was not likely to have deserted his post. At last we got alongside the gig, and on looking into her we saw Jim Bolton, our young shipmate, stretched along the thwarts, to which he was lashed. At first we thought he was dead; but a second glance showed us that a gag, made out of a thole-pin and a lump of oakum, had been put into his mouth. On being released it was some time before he could speak. He then told us that he was sitting quietly in the boat, when suddenly a man sprang on him with a force which knocked him over, and before he could collect his senses he found himself lashed to the thwarts with a lump in his mouth which prevented him crying out, and the boat moving away from the shore, and that was all he knew about the matter.

As Jim Bolton was very much hurt, we placed him in the fishing-boat with a midshipman who volunteered to look after him, and anchored her to await our return, while we with hearty goodwill pulled away in full chase of the smuggler. By this time, however, a fresh breeze had come off the land, which filled the sails of the lugger just as Johnson sprang from his boat upon her deck, and before a breath of air had reached the cutter he had run her far out of sight, winding his way among those reefs yonder. Seeing there was no chance of overtaking him in the gig, we pulled on board, and as soon as the uncertain air put the vessel through the water, we made chase in the direction we calculated the _Polly would take. For some time we cruised up and down over the ground where we thought we might fall in with her, but could see nothing of her, and we then returned to take out the midshipman and Jim, and to restore the boat to the fisherman.

We, with several other cruisers, were employed for some weeks in looking out for Johnson, but neither he nor the _Polly was ever again heard of on this coast.

Ten years passed away, and I belonged to a brig in the West Indies, that clime of yellow fevers and sugar-canes. In those days the slave-trade flourished, for, as we had not become philanthropists, we did not interfere with those whose consciences did not prevent them from bartering for gold their own souls and the blood of their fellow-creatures. There was, however, a particular craft we were ordered to look after which had made herself amenable to the laws, having gone somewhat out of the usual line of trade, by committing several very atrocious acts of piracy. She was commanded, it was said, by an Englishman, a villain of no ordinary cast, who never intentionally left alive any of those he plundered to tell the tale of their wrongs. He sailed his vessel, a schooner carrying twelve guns, under Spanish colours, though of course he hoisted, on occasion, those of any other nation to suit his purpose. We all knew both him and his schooner, for before her real character was suspected, we had for some days laid alongside her at the Havanna, and were in consequence selected by the admiral to look out for her. We had been so employed for several weeks, when, one day towards noon, we made out a sail to the southward, towards which we ran down with a light northerly wind. As we neared her, which we rapidly did, we saw that she was a lofty ship--a merchantman evidently--and that she was not only not moving through the waters, but that her braces were loose, and her yards swinging about in every direction. Not a soul was looking over her bulwarks when we came within hail, but the men in the tops sang out that they could see several people lying about the decks either asleep or dead. We ran almost alongside, when I was ordered to board her with one of the gigs. Never shall I forget the scene which met my sight as I stepped on her decks; they were a complete shambles: a dozen or more men lay about in the after part of the ship, the blood yet oozing from deep gashes on their heads and shoulders, not one of them alive; while on the steps of the companion-ladder were two women, young and fair they appeared to have been, clasped in each other's arms, and both dead.

On descending below, we discovered an old lady and a venerable, old gentleman on the deck of the state cabin with the marks of pistol bullets in their foreheads, while at the door of an inner cabin lay a black servant with his head completely twisted round.

I will not mention all the sights of horror we encountered; the murderers seemed to have exerted their ingenuity in disfiguring their victims. There were several other dead people below, and at last, searching round the ship, we found stowed away in the forehold a seaman, who, though desperately wounded, still breathed. When brought on deck and a few drops of spirits were poured down his throat, he after some time came to himself, then told us that they had in the morning been attacked by a pirate, who, after they had made a desperate resistance, had carried them by boarding, when every soul in the ship was cut down or thrown into the sea except himself; that he, having fallen down the hatchway just before the pirates rushed on board, had stowed himself away amongst the cargo, and there after some time had fainted from loss of blood. While he lay there, he could hear the shrieks of his shipmates and the shouts and execrations of their butchers, he expecting, every instant, to share the fate of the rest. At last all was silent, the pirates made an ineffectual attempt to scuttle the ship, but were hurried off, probably, by seeing a sail which they mistook for us, or for some other cruiser.

Scarcely had the unfortunate fellow given this account, when the man at the mast-head of the brig hailed that there was a sail on the lee bow, and we were ordered forthwith to return on board. We all hoped that this might prove the pirate, for we were anxious to punish the miscreants. Taking, therefore, the wounded man with us--for being, thanks to the yellow fever, already short of hands, we were compelled to abandon the ship--we made sail in chase. For some time we carried a fresh breeze with us, while the stranger, which we soon made out to be a large topsail schooner, lay almost becalmed; but before we got her within range of our guns the wind also filled her sails, and away she went before it with every stitch of canvas they could pack on her. We also used every means of increasing our rate of sailing; but though our brig was reckoned a remarkably fast vessel, we found that, since we had both the same breeze, we had not in any way decreased our distance from her.

It was, however, a satisfaction to find that she did not outsail us before the wind, though there was every probability that, should she haul her wind, she would be able to do so; we therefore kept directly in her wake, to be ready to run down on her, on whichever tack she might haul up. At last, as the breeze freshened, we gained somewhat on her, when she hoisted Spanish colours: she had hitherto shown none, but this did not prevent us from trying the range of our bow-chasers on her, to bring her to. Several guns were fired without effect; at last a shot struck her main boom and severely wounded it. I never saw a better aim. After this, finding we lost ground by firing, we did not for another hour throw a single shot, nor had the schooner as yet returned our compliment, though she showed no inclination to heave to.

Away we bowled along before the breeze, throwing aside the now white-crested waves from our bows as we tore through the water. Every brace was stretched to the utmost, our spars bent and cracked, but not a sheet was slackened, though our captain kept his glance anxiously aloft to see how long he might let them bear the pressure. Again we overhauled her, and got her within range of our long guns, when a shot, directed more by chance, as the sea was running high, or, it might be said, a just Providence weary of the miscreants, than by skill, killed the man at the wheel, and lodged in the mainmast. Before another man could run to the helm the vessel yawed to port; the boom, already wounded, jibbed over and parted amidships, rendering the huge mainsail of no use, and creating much confusion on board. There was now no fear of her being able to haul her wind for some time, and coming up, hand over hand, with her, we ranged alongside.

If we had before any doubts of her real character, we had now none, for the Spanish ensign being hauled down, a black flag was hoisted at each mast-head, and the accursed pirate was confessed. The outlaws, doubtless knowing that victory or death alone awaited them, showed their dark symbols in the hopes of intimidating our men, and made up their minds to fight it out to the last. At the same moment they let fly their whole broadside, which, though it did some damage, served to warm up the blood of our people, and made them return it with a hearty good will.

For half an hour or more, as we ran on, we thus continued exchanging broadsides, considerably thinning their crowded decks; but as some of our spars were wounded, our captain, fearing lest any being carried away, the enemy might escape, determined without delay to lay him on board, and to try the mettle of true men against their ruffian crew of desperadoes.

After receiving her broadside and pouring in ours, we put our helm to port, for she was, you must know, on our starboard side, when, running our bow anchor into her fore chains, our grappling irons were thrown, and we had her fast. With a loud cheer, our boarders sprang to the forecastle, and on to the rigging of the enemy.

Never shall I forget, if I was to live as long again as I have done, which is not very likely, the set of ferocious countenances which met our sight as we rushed on board. It was fearful work we were about, but our blood was up, and there was no quarter asked or given on either side. We did not stop to think. The pirates knew that there was no pardon for them, and seemed determined to sell their lives dearly. Our onset was too furious to be withstood, and in a minute we had cleared a small space on the schooner's decks abaft the foremast, but beyond that every foot was desperately disputed.

We had gained some ground forward, when, from the after part of the vessel, a determined band, led by the captain, pressed us hard. Twice we were driven back almost to our own ship, many of our men losing the number of their mess, but, finally, determined courage got the better of desperation. Inch by inch we drove the pirates aft--the chief of them, to do him justice, keeping always in the front rank, and I believe he killed, with his own hand, more of our people than did all his crew together, though he himself did not receive a scratch. During all this time the marines kept up a hot fire, pikes and pistols were used through the ports, and such guns as could be brought to bear were fired from each of the ships. I have seen plenty of hard fighting, and let me tell you, my boys, though it is very fine reading about, it is very dreadful in reality; yet never in my life have I gone through hotter work, on a small scale, than I did that day--the vessels, too, all the time rolling and pitching tremendously, and tearing away each other's rigging; indeed, it is surprising we did not both founder on the spot.

Well, we at last managed to clear the fore part of the schooner, by cutting down some and driving others of the pirates overboard, but fifty fellows still held the after part of the deck, uttering fearful oaths and execrations--they continued fighting on--when the deck lifted; fearful shrieks arose, a loud, dull sound was heard, and many of the pirates were hurled into the air, their mangled remains falling among us. For an instant every hand seemed paralysed, and we looked round to see what would happen next; but the explosion had been only partial, and during the confusion the remainder of the band making a rush forward, we again set to at the bloody work, and drove them back. A second attempt to fire the magazine was made, and failed. We were, by this time, secure of victory, though the remnant of the pirates refused to yield.

Their captain, whom I have spoken of, I now saw leap into the main rigging, when, waving his bloody sword above his head, he hurled it with the fiercest imprecations among us, severely wounding one of our people, and then, with a look of despair not to be forgotten, he plunged into the raging ocean, where a troop of sharks were ready to devour him. At that moment it struck me that I had seen his features in times long passed, and I found afterwards I was right.

When their leader was lost, the rest of the pirates submitted, and we had barely time to remove them, and to cut ourselves clear of the schooner, when, with the dying and dead on board, she went down; and on the spot where she had been, the hungry sharks were seen tearing their bodies in pieces, while the sea was tinged around with a ruddy hue. We afterwards fell in with the ship the pirates had attacked, for which we got a good round sum as salvage money, besides other substantial marks of the gratitude of the merchants in the West Indies, for having destroyed one of the greatest pests their trade had for a long time known.

The pirates were hung at Port Royal, in Jamaica, and the evening before their execution, one of them, for reasons I will some day tell you, desired to see me. I visited him in his cell, and from him I learned that the chief of their band, whose dreadful death I had witnessed, the man who had led them into crime and ruin, was, as I suspected, Jan Johnson, the smuggler.

The next morning Mr Clare and Captain Mugford went over to ---, where they found Commander Treenail, to whom they gave all the information they possessed about the smugglers' cave. He heard this account with surprise, for he did not suppose it possible that any spot of ground had remained in that neighbourhood unvisited by his people. However, he was a man of action; and immediately that he comprehended the facts of the case, he signalled from his residence to a cutter which lay off in the bay to get under way, and to wait for him to come on board. "You will accompany me, gentlemen," he said to our tutors; "and as soon as we can get the lads on board who discovered the cave to show us its entrance, we will lose no time in routing out these smuggling vagabonds."

The old lieutenant commanding the cutter was waiting with his gig for Captain Treenail at the quay, and they, with our tutors, were quickly on board the _Scout_.

How proud Harry and I felt when the _Scout's gig pulled up to the wreck, and we were summoned to show the way to the smugglers' cave. We jumped with alacrity into the gig, feeling as if we had the whole weight and responsibility on our shoulders of leading some important expedition. Captain Treenail received us very kindly, and cross-questioned us minutely as to the whereabouts of the cave and the various articles we had found within it. The cutter, when rounding the cape, had kept some distance from the little bay near which the cave lay, so that, even had smugglers been on the watch near it, they would probably not have been alarmed; the captain had hopes, therefore, that not only their goods but they themselves would be taken. To make the matter more sure, it was arranged that one party, led by Walter, who knew the cape as if he had been born on it, should go by land, accompanied by Mr Clare; while our salt tutor, with the rest of us, was to go in the cutter. Five seamen, with a petty officer, formed the land party, all well armed. They were to proceed cautiously across the downs, watching the movements of the cutter, and keeping themselves as much as possible under cover, so as not to be seen by any smugglers who might be on the lookout. As soon as the boat which took them on shore returned, the cutter's foresail was let draw, and with a fresh breeze she stood out of our cove. Our hearts beat quick as we glided rapidly on towards the scene of our proposed exploit. We might possibly soon be engaged in a scene of real fighting. There might be ten or perhaps even fifty smugglers concealed in the cave, with large stores of silks, and tobacco, and spirits; and if so, it was not likely that they would give in without striking some hard blows for their liberty. The breeze freshened, and our speed increased, though, as the wind was off the land, the water was smooth. Every inch of canvas the cutter could carry was clapped on her, that we might have the better chance of taking the smugglers by surprise. She heeled over to the breeze till her lee gunwale was under water, while we stood holding on to the weather rigging, and looking out for the entrance to the little cove. We neared it at last. Our hearts beat quicker than ever as we luffed up round a point which formed one of the sides of the little cove. Sail was rapidly shortened, the foresail hauled down, the jib-sheet let fly, and in half a minute we were at anchor. The next instant the crew, already fully armed and prepared, flew to the falls, and two boats were lowered, into which they and we, with Captain Treenail, the commander, and one of the mates of the cutter, and our own salt tutor, immediately jumped. Literally, before a minute had elapsed, two boats were pulling as fast as boats could pull for the shore. Harry and I now felt ourselves of more consequence than we had ever been in our lives before. We were expected to show the way to the cavern, and therefore, as soon as the boats touched the shore, we leaped out, and, pointing to the spot where the mouth of the cavern was to be found, ran towards it along the beach at full speed, followed by the officers and men, who might have had better sea legs, but certainly had not such good shore legs as we possessed. We were some little way ahead of the rest, and our object must have been very evident to any persons acquainted with the existence of the cavern. Just then the report of a firearm was heard, and a bullet whistled by us close to our ears. It did not stop us though, but made us dart on still more rapidly; and as we did so we saw a man climbing up the cliff above the cavern. Had any of the men with muskets been with us, they might have shot him. He turned round for an instant, and shook his fist at us; but before our companions came up he had disappeared. It took some time before the seamen who volunteered to go managed to climb up the slippery rock to the mouth of the cavern. When once two or three had gained a footing, they let down ropes, by which the rest easily got up. The forlorn hope, as the first party might be called, then dashed into the cavern, expecting, perhaps, to meet with a hot fire of musketry. Not a sound, however, was heard; no one appeared; on they boldly went. The smugglers might have had still more deadly intentions, and, it was possible, had prepared a mine to blow up anyone venturing into their cave. They were capable, according to our salt tutor's notion, of any atrocity. Still the forlorn hope went on without meeting with any impediment. More seamen entered, led by Captain Treenail, and others followed, till we were all inside; and torches being lit, the cavern was thoroughly examined. Not a human being was discovered, but the cave contained a far larger amount of bales of silks, and ribbons, and tobacco, and kegs of spirits, than we had supposed. It was, indeed, a far larger seizure than the coast guard on that station had ever before made. They were proportionably delighted, though they would have liked still more to have caught a dozen or two of smugglers, though not quite so valuable a prize as they would have been during the height of the war, when they would have been sent off to man our ships, and to fight the naval battles of old England.

When we found that no one was inside we told Captain Treenail of the man we had seen climbing up the cliff. He instantly ordered some of the most active young men of the cutter's crew to go in chase; but after hunting about for some time, they could find no possible way of getting up, and therefore had to abandon the attempt. The next thing was to convey the captured goods to the cutter. This occupied some time, as there were literally several boatloads of goods, to the value, I fancy, of a couple of thousand pounds. It must have been vexatious in the extreme, to any of the smugglers witnessing our proceedings, to see their property thus carried off before their eyes. It must have made them vow vengeance against those who captured it, and against us especially, who, they must have suspected, had given the information respecting the cave.

Among the articles found in the cavern was a rusty old musket. The old lieutenant, Mr Mophead, commanding the cutter, was a curiosity. I should like to describe him. He was very fat and very short, and very red-faced, which is not surprising, considering the hot suns which had shone on that face of his, and the vast amount of strong liquor which he had poured down his throat. Just as the last boatload had been got on board, Walter and his party appeared, not having seen any smugglers. Mr Mophead politely invited him on board. As soon as the boats were hoisted up, and the cutter was once more under way, standing from harbour, Mr Mophead took the musket in his hand, and, approaching Walter, said, with great form, "Mr Walter Tregellin, with Captain Treenail's leave--and I am sure that he will give me leave--I beg to present to you this weapon, that you may hand it to your respected father. He may like to possess it, to remind him how the cutter _Scout_, Lieutenant Mophead commander, was the means of relieving his property of a nest of smugglers, who would very soon, in my opinion, have taken possession of it."

Walter took the musket respectfully, though he could not help smiling; and our salt tutor blew his nose steadily for ten minutes. The same old musket my father afterwards gave to Harry and me, the discoverers of the smugglers' cave; and Harry relinquished all his rights in it to me.

It hangs now in my study, not far from the dog-collar--another memento of those good old times. We got back to our own cove in a very short time, and we landing, the cutter returned, with her valuable cargo, to her usual port. Clump, who had remained to take care of the house, informed us that he had been watching the downs above the cave, and that he had seen several men pass across the downs, and, running quickly, go towards the boat harbour often mentioned. They then jumped into a boat and pulled across the harbour to the village, where they disappeared. Such was the termination of the adventure for that day; but the romance, unfortunately for us, had not come to an end.

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