Charles James Lever.

The adventures of Arthur O'Leary online

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as she bent beneath the storm, I thought she was settling,
to go down by the head. I had little time, however, for
thought ; one wild cheer broke from the attacking ship —
its answer was the faint, sad cry, of the wounded and
dying on our deck. The next moment the grapples were
thrown into us, and the vessel was boarded from stem
to stern. The noise of the cannonade, and the voices
on deck, brought all our men from below, who came tuni-
l^ling up the hatches, believing we had struck.

" Then began a scene, such as all I have ever witnessed
of carnage and slaughter cannot equal. The Frenchmen,
for such they were, rushed down upon us as we stood
defenceless, and unarmed : a deadly roll of musketry
swept our thick and ti^cmbling masses. The cutlass and
the boarding-pike made fearful havoc among us, and an
unresisted slaughter tore along our deck, till the heaps
of dead and dying made the only barrier for the few

" A chance word in French, and a .'^igu of masonry,
rescued me from the fate of my comrades, and my only

THE smuggler's STORY. 8J

injury was a slight sabre-wound in the fore-arm, which 1
received in warding off a cut intended for my head. The
carnage lasted scarce fifteen minutes; but in that time,
of all the crew that manned our craft — what between
those who leaped overboard in wild despair, and thos3
who fell beneath fire and steel — scarce fifty remained,
appalled and trembling, the only ones rescued from this
horrible slaughter.

"A sudden cry of 'She's sinking!' burst from the
strange ship, and in a mioment the Frenchmen clambered
np their bulwarks, the grapples were cast off, the darV
mass darted onwards on her course, and we drifted awaj
to leeward — a moving sepulchre !

"As the clouds flew past, the moon shone out ancj
threw a pale, sickly light on the scene of slaughter, wherf
the dead and dying lay in indiscriminate heaps together —
so frightful a spectacle never did eye rest upon ! The few
who, like myself, survived, stood trembling, half stunned
by the shock, not daring to assist the wretched men as
they writhed in agony before us. I was the first to
recover from this stupor, and turning to the others, I
made signs to clear the decks of the dead bodies — speak I
could not. It was some time before they could be made
to understand me : unhappily, not a single sailor had
escaped the carnage ; some raw recruits were the only
survivors of that dreadful nig-ht.

" After a little they rallied so far as to obey me, and I,
taking the wheel, assumed the command of the vessel, and
endeavoured to steer a course for any port on the west
coast of England.

" Day broke at length, but a wide waste of waters lay
around us. The wind had abated considerably, but still
the sea ran high ; and although our foresail and trysail
remained bent, as before the attack, we laboured heavily,
and made little way through the water. Our decks were
quite covered with the dying, whose heart-rending cries,
mingled with the wilder shouts of madness, were too hor-
rible to bear. But I cannot dwell on such a picture. Of
the few who survived, scarcely three were serviceable.
Some sat cold and speechless from terror, and seemed
insensible to every threat or entreaty ; some sternly refused



to obey my orders, and prowled about between decks in
search of spirits ; and one, maddened by tlie horrors he
beheld, sprang with a scream into the sea, and never was
seen more.

" Towards evening we heard a hail, and on looking out
saw a pilot-boat making for us, and in a short time we
were boarded by a pilot, who, with some of his crew, took
charge of the vessel, and before sunset we anchored in

" Immediately on landing, I was sent up to London
under a strong escort, to give an account of the whole
aflair to the Admiralty. For eight days my examination
was continued during several Ik nrs every day, and at last
I was dismissed, Avith promotion to the rank of sergeant
Tor my conduct in saving the ship, and appointed, to the
■40th Foot, then under orders for Quebec.

" Once more at sea and in good spirits, I sailed for
Quebec on a fine morning in April, on board the " Aber-
crombie." Nothing could be more delightful than the
vovage. The weather was clear, with a fair fresh breeze
and a smooth sea ; and at the third week we dropped our
lead on the green bank of Newfoundland, and brought
np again a cod-fish every time we heaved it. Wo now
entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and began anxiously
to look for land.

" On the third morning after we made the ' Gulf,' a
heavy snow-storm came on, which prevented our seeing a
cable's lengtli ahead of us. It was so cold, too, that few
remained on deck ; for although the first of May, it was
about as severe a day as I remember. Anxious to see
something of the country, I remained with the look-out-
ahead, straining my eyes to catch a glimpse of the land
through the dense snow-drift. All I could distinguish,
however, was the dim outline of distant mountains, appar-
ently covered with snow ; but, as the day wore on, wo
came in sight of the long low island of Anticosti, which,
though considerably more than a hundi'ed miles in length,
is not in any part more than fifteen feet above the level of
tlio water.

" Towards evening the land became much clearer to
view ; and nov7 I could perceive tall, peaked mountains

THE smuggler's STORY. 83

some thousand feet in height, their bases ch\d with stunted
pine-trees — their white summits stretching away into the
clouds. As I looked, my astonishment was great to find
that the vast gulf, which at daybreak was some sixty
miles in width, seemed now diminished to about eight or
ten, and continued to narrow rapidly as wo pi'oceedcd on
our course.

" The skipper, who had only made the voyage once
before, seemed himself confused, and endeavoured to
explain our apparent vicinity to the land as some mere
optical delusion — now, attributing it to something in the
refraction of the light ; now, the snow. Although he
spoke with all the assurance of knowledge, it Avas evident
to me that he was by no means satisfied in his own mind
of the facts he presented to ours.

" As the snow-storm abated, we could see that the
mountains which lay on either side of us met each other
in front, forming a vast amphitheatre without any exit,

'"This surely is not the Gulf of St. Lawrence? ' said
I to an old sailor who sat leisurely chewing tobacco with
his back to the capstern.

"'No, that it ain't,' said he, coolly; 'it's Gaspe Bay,
and I shouldn't wish to be in a worse place.'

" ' What could have brought us here, then ? — the skipper
surely doesn't know where we are ? '

" ' I'll tell you what has brought us here. There's a
current from the Gulf Stream sets in to this bay at seven
or eight knots the houi-, and brings in all the floating ice
along with it There, am I right ? do yon hear that ? '

" As he spoke, a tremendous crash, almost as loud as
thunder, was heard at our bow ; and as I rushed to the
bulwark and looked over, I beheld vast fragments of ice
more than a foot thick, encrusted with frozen snow, flying
past us in circling eddies ; while, farther on, the large
flakes were mounting, one above the other, clattering and
crashing as the waves broke among them. Heaven knows
how much farther our mulish Cumberland skipper would
have pursued his voyage of discovery, had not the sound-
ings proclaimed but live fathom water. Our sails were
now backed ; but as the current continued to bear us
along, a boat was got out, and an anchor put in readiness

G 2


to warp us astern ; but, by an unhappy accident, the
anchor slipped in lowering over the side, stove in the boat,
and of the four poor fellows who were under it, one was
carried under the ice, and never seen again. This was a
bad beginning, and matters now appeared each moment
more threatening. As we still continued to di'ift with the
current, a bower-anchor was dropped where we were, and
Ihe vessel afterwards swung round head to wind, while
the ice came crashing upon the cut-water, and on the
sides, with a noise that made all else inaudible. It was
found by this time that the water was shoaling, and this
gave new cause for fear, for if the ship were to touch the
ground, it was clear all chance of saving her was at
an end.

" After a number of different opinions given and can-
vassed, it was determined that four men should be sent
ashore in the yawl, to find out some one who knew the
pilotage of the bay ; for we could descry several log-huts
along the shore, at short distances from each other. With
my oflicer's permission, I obtained leave to make one of
this party, and I soon found myself tugging away at the
bow-oar through a heavy surf. After rowing about an
hour, the twilight began to fall, and we could but faintly
perceive the outline of the ship, while the log-huts on
shore seemed scarcely nearer than at the moment when
we quitted the vessel. By this time large fields of ice
were about us on every side ; rowing was no longer possi-
ble, and we groped along with our boat-hooks, finding a
channel where we could avoid the floating masses.

" The peril of this proceeding grew with every mo-
ment : sometimes our frail boat would be struck with
Buch force as threatened to stave in every plank ; some-
times she was driven high upon a piece of ice, which took
all our efforts to extricate her from, while, as we advanced,
no passage presented itself before us, but flake upon flake
of frozen matter, among which were fragments of wrecks
and branches of trees, mixed up together. The sailors,
who had undertaken the enterprise against their will, now
resolved they would venture no farther, but make their
way back to the ship while it was yet possible. I alono
opposed this plan • to return, without at least having


reached the shore, I told them, would he a disgrace — tho
safety of all on board was in a manner committed to our
efforts ; and I endeavoured by every argument to induce
them to proceed. To no purpose did I tell tliem this; of
no use was it that I pointed out the lights on shore, which
we covdd now see moving from place to place, as though
■we had been perceived, and that some preparations were
making for our rescue. I was outvoted, however ; back
they would go ; and one of them, as he pushed the boat's
head round, jeeringly said to me —

"'Why, with such jolly good foot-way, don't you go
yourself? you'll have all the honour, you know.'

" The taunt stung me to the quick, the more as it
called forth a laugh from the rest. I made no answer, but
seizing a boat-hook, sprang over the side upon a large
mass of ice. The action drove the boat from me. I heard
them call to me to comeback ; but, come what would, my
mind was made up. I never turned my head, but, with
my eyes fixed on the shore-lights, I dashed on, glad to find
that with every stroke of the sea the ice was borne on-
wards towards the land. At lenoth the sound of tha
breakers ahead made me fearful of venturing farther, fot^
as the darkness fell, I had to trust entirely to my hearing
as ray guide. I stood then rooted to the spot, and, as the
wind whistled past, and the snow-drift was borne in eddy
ing currents by me, I di'ove my boat-hook into the ice,
and held on firmly by it. Suddenly, through the gloom a
bright flash flared out, and then I could see it flitting along,
and at last I thou"ht I could mark it directing its course
towards the ship, I strained my eyes to their utmost, and
in an ecstasy of joy I shouted aloud, as I beheld a canoe
manned by Indians, with a pine torch blazing in the
prow. The red light of the burning wood lit up their
wild figures as they came along, now carrying their light
hark over the fields of ice, now launching it into tha
boiling surf; and thus, alternately walking and sailings
they came at a speed almost inconceivable. They soon
heard my shouts, and directed their course to where I
stood ; but the excitement of my danger, the dreadful
alternations of hope and fear thus suddenly ceasing, so
■stunned me that I could not speak, as they took me in


their arms and placed me in the bottom of the canoe. Of
our coui'se back to shore I remember little. The intense
cold, added to tbe stupefaction of my mind, brought on a
state resembling sleep ; and even when they lifted me on
land, the drowsy lethargy clung to me ; and only when
I found myself beside the blaze of a wood-fire, did my
faculties begin to revive, and, like a seal under the rays of
the sun, did I warm into life once more. The first thing I
did when morning broke, was to spring from my resting-
place beside the tire, and rush out to look for the ship.
The sun was shining brilliantly ; the bay lay calm as a
mirror before me, reflecting the tall mountains and the
taper pines : but the ship was gone, not a sail appeared in
jight ; and now I learned that when the tide began to
make, and she was enabled to float, a land-breeze sprang
up which carried her gently out to sea, and that she was
in all likelihood by that time some thirty miles in her
course up the St. Lawrence. For a moment, my joy at
the deliverance of my companions was unchecked by any
thought of my own desolate condition; the nest minute I
remembered myself, and sat down upon a stone, and gazed
out upon the wide waters with a sad and sinking heart."

.4jg) — i:^-



THE smuggler's story — (conchuJccl).

"Life had presented too many vicissitudes before me to
make much difTerencein niv temperament, whatever came
uppermost. Like the gambler, ay ho, if he lose to-day, goes
off consoling himself that he may be a winner to-morrow,
I had learned never to feel very acutely any misfortune,
provided only that I could see some prospect of itj not
being permanent ; and how many are there who go through
the Avorld in this fashion, getting the credit all the while
of being such true philosophers, so uinch elevated above
the chances and changes of fortune, and who, after all,
only apply to the game of life the same rule of action they
practise at the ' roiif/e et noir ' table !

" The worthy folks among whom my lot was now cast,
were a tribe of red men, called the Gaspe Indians, who,
among other pastimes peculiar to themselves, followed the
respectable and ancient trade of Avreekers, in which occu-
pation the months of October and November usually sup-
plied them with as much as they could do : after that, the
ice closed in on the bay, and no vessel could pass up or
down the St. Lawrence before the following spring.

" It was for some time to me a puzzle how people so
completely barbarous as they were, possessed such com-
fortable and well-appointed dwellings ; for not only had
they log-huts well jointed and carefully put together, but
many of the comforts of civilized life were to be seen in
the internal decorations. The reason I at length learned
from the Jhief, in whose house I dwelt, and with whom I
had already succeeded in establishing a sworn friendship.
About fifteen years previous, this bay was selected by a
party of emigi-ants as the locale of a settlement. They
had been wrecked on the island of Anticosti themselves,
and made their escape to Gaspe with such remnants of
their effects as they could rescue from the wreck. There


they built houses for themselves, made clearings in the
forest, and established a little colony, with rules and regu-
lations for its government. Happily for them, they pos-
sessed within their numl)cr almost every description of
artificer requisite for such an undertaking, their original
■vitention being to found a settlement in Canada ; and
thus carpenters, shoemakers, weavers, tailors, millwrights,
being all ready to contribute their aid and assistance to each
other, the colony made rapid progress, and soon assumed
the appearance of a thriving and prosperous place. The
forest abounded in wild deer and bears, the bay was not
less rich in (ish, while the ground, which they sowed with
potatoes and Indian corn, yielded most successful crops ;
and as the creek was never visited by sickness, nothing
<;ouM surpass the success of their labours.

" Thus they lived, till in the fall of the year a detach-
ment of the Gaspe Indians, who came down every autumn
for the hcrring-fisherjr, discovered that their territory was
occupied, and that an invading force were in possession of
their hunting grounds. The result could not be doubted :
the red men returned home to their friends with the news,
and speedily came back again with reinforcements of the
whole tribe, and made an attack upon the settlement.
The colonists, though not prepared, soon assembled, and
being better armed, for their firearms and cutlasses had all
been saved, repelled their assailants, and having killed and
wounded several of them, drove them back into the forest.
The victory, however complete, was the first day of their
misfortunes : from that hour they were never safe ; some-
times a marauding party of red men would dash into the
village at nightfall, and carry away some of the children
before their cries could warn their parents. Instead of
venturing, as before, into the ' bush ' whenever they
pleased, and in small numbers, they were now obliged to
go with the greatest circumspection and caution, station-
ing scouts here and there, and, above all, leaving a strong
garrison to protect the settlement against attack in their
absence. Fear and distrust prevailed everywhere, and
instead of the peace and ])rosj)erity that attended the first
year of their labours, the land now remained but half tilled,
the hunting yielded scarcely any benefit, and all their

THE smuggler's STORY. 89

efforts were directed to their safety, and tlieir time con-
sumed in erecting outworks and forts to protect the village.

" While matters were in this state, a large timber-
ship, bound for England, struck on a reef of rocks at tlie
entrance of the bay. The sea ran high, and a storm of
wind from the north-west soon rent her in fragments.
The colonists, who knew every portion of the bay well,
put out the first moment they could venture to the wreck,
not, however, to save the lives and rescue the poor fellows
who yet clung to the rigging, but to pillage the ship ere
she went to pieces. The expedition succeeded far beyond
their most ardent hopes, and a rich harvest of plunder
resulted from this venture ; casks of powder, flour, pork,
and rum were landed by every tide at their doors, and
once more the sounds of merriment and rejoicing were
heard in the village. But how difi'erent from before was
it ! Then they were happy and contented settlers, living
like one united family in brotherly affection and kind good-
will ; now, it was but the bond of crime that bound, and
the wild madness of intoxication that excited them. Their
hunting-gTOunds were no longer cared for ; the fields, with
so much labour rescued from the forest, were neglected ;
the fishing was abandoned ; and a life given up to the
most intemperate abandonment, succeeded to days of
peaceful labour and content. Not satisfied with mere
defence, they now carried the war into the Indian settle-
ments, and cruelties the most frightful ensued in their
savage reprisals.

" In this dangerous coast a winter never passed with-
out several wrecks occurring, and as they now practised
every device, by false signals and fires, to lure vessels to
their ruin, their infamous traffic succeeded perfectly, and
wrecking became a mode of subsistence far more remuner-
ative than their former habits of quiet industry.

" One long reef of rocks that ran from the most south-
erly point of the bay, and called by the Indians ' the
Teeth,' was the most fatal spot of the whole coast; for
while these rocks stretched for above a mile to sea, and
were only covered at high water, a strong land current
drew vessels towards them, which, with the wind on shore,
it was impossible to resist.


" To this fatal spot each eye was turned at cinyoreak,
to sec if some ill-starred vessel had not struck during the
night. This was the last point each look was bent on as
the darkness was falling ;~and when the wind howled, and
the sea ran mountains high, and dashed its white foam
over their little huts, then Avas every one astir in the
village. Many an anxious gaze pierced through the mist,
hoping some white sail might gleam through the storm, or
some bending spar show where a perishing crew yet cried
for help. The little shore Avould then present a busy
scene ; boats were got out, coils of rope and oars strewed
on ever}' side, lanteins flitted rapidly from place to place.
With what energy and earnestness they moved! how their
eyes gleamed Avith excitement, and how their voices rung
out, in accents of hoarse command ! Oh ! how horrible to
think that the same features of a manly nature — the bold
and daring courage that fears not the rushing Avave nor
the sweeping storm, the heroic dai'ing that can breast the
wild breakers as they splash on the dark rocks, can arise
from impulses so opposite ; and that humanit}'' the fairest,
and crime the blackest, have but the same machinery to
Avork with !

" It was on a dark November night — the heavy sough
of a coming storm sent large and sullen. Avaves on shore,
where they broke with that Ioav, hollow cadence, that
seamen recognize as boding ill. A dense, thick fog ob-
scured all oVjjects seaward ; and though many scouts Avere
out upon the hills, they could detect nothing: still, as the
night gi'cw more and more threatening, the Avreckers felt
assured a gale Avas coming, and already their preparation
was made for the approaching time. Hour after hor.i*
passed b}' ; but though the gale increased, and blew Avith
A'iolence on the shore, nothing could be seen, ToAvards
midnight, howcA'cr, a scout came in to say that he thought
lie could detect at intervals, through the dense mist and
Bpray, a gleaming light in the direction of 'the Teeth.*
The drift Avas too great to make it clearly perceptible, but
still he persisted he had seen something.

" A party Avas soon assembled on the beach, their eyes
turned towards the fatal rocks, Avhich at low Avater rose
some twelve or fifteen feet above the surface. They gazed

THE smuggler's STOr.T. 91

lonpf and anxiously-, but nothing could tlioy mate out, till,
as thuy were turning away, one cried out, ' Ay, see there —
there it is now ! ' and as he spoke, a red forked (lame shot
up through the drifting spiay, and threw a lurid flasli
upon the dark sea. It died away almost as quickl3', and
though seen at intervals again, it seemed ever to wax
fainter and fainter. ' She's on fire ! ' cried one. ' No,
no; it's a distress signal,' said another. ' One thing is
certain,' cneda third, ' the craft that's on " the Teeth " on
such a night as this won't get off very readily ; and so,
lads, be alive and run out the boats.'

" The little colony was soon astir. It was a race of
avarice, too ; for, latterly, the settlement had been broken
lip by feuds and jealousies into different factions, and each
strove to overreach the other. In less than half an hour,
eight boats were out, and, breasting the white breakers,
headed out to sea. All, save the old and decrepit, the
■women and children, were away ; and even they stood
watcliing on the shore, following with their eyes the boats
in whic-h they felt most interested.

" At last they disappeared in the gloom — not a trace
could he seen of them, nor did the wind carry back their
voices, over which the raging storm was now howling.
A few still remained, sti'aining their eye-balls towards the
spot where the light was seen — the others had returned
towards the village — when all of a sudden a frightful yell,
a long-sustained and terrible cry arose from the huts, and
the same instant a blaze burst forth, and rose into a red
column towards the sky. The Indians were upon them.
The wai'-shout — that dreadful sound they knew too well —
resounded on every side. Then began a massacre which
nothing in description can convey. The dreadful rage of
the vengeful savage — long pent up, long provoked — had
now its time for vengeance. The tomahawk and the
scalping-knife ran red with blood, as women and infants
rushed madly hither and thither in flight. Old men lay
■svcltering in their gore beside their daughters and grand-
children ; while the wild red men, unsated with slaughter,

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 8 of 40)