James O. Brayman.

Thrilling Adventures by Land and Sea online

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a moment, - muscles, sinews, and bone. In the next moment, Sambo and
Cuffee were at his side; and lifted him into the boat, convulsed with
pain, and fainting with loss of blood. Brook was taken on board,
bandages and styptics were applied, and in due season the youth
recovered.

The place of his lost limb was supplied by a wooden one; and industry,
temperance, probity, and zeal, supplied the place of a regiment of legs,
when employed to prop up a lazy and dissipated frame.



ADVENTURE WITH PIRATES.

FROM "FORTUNE'S ADVENTURES IN CHINA."

Early in the morning, the whole fleet was in motion, starting all
together, for the sake of mutual protection. The wind and tide were both
fair, and we proceeded along the coast with great rapidity, and were
soon out of sight of the Min and its beautiful and romantic scenery. The
plan of mutual protection soon seemed to be abandoned, and the vessels
soon separated into threes and fours, each getting on as well and as
fast as it could. About four o'clock in the afternoon, and when we were
some fifty or sixty miles from the Min, the captain and the pilot came
hurriedly down to my cabin, and informed me that they saw a number of
Jan-dous, right ahead, lying in wait for us. I ridiculed the idea, and
told them that they imagined every junk they saw to be a pirate; but
they still maintained that they were so, and I therefore considered it
prudent to be prepared for the worst. I got out of bed, ill and feverish
as I was, and carefully examined my fire-arms, clearing the nipples of
my gun and pistols, and putting on fresh caps. I also rammed down a
ball upon the top of each charge of shot in my gun, put a pistol in each
side-pocket, and patiently awaited for the result. By the aid of a small
pocket-telescope, I could see, as the nearest junk approached, that her
deck was crowded with men; I then had no longer any doubts regarding her
intentions. The pilot, an intelligent old man, now came up to me, and
said that he thought resistance would be of no use; I might manage to
beat off one junk, or even two, but I had no chance with five of them.
Being at that time in no mood to take advice, or be dictated by any one,
I ordered him off to look after his own duty. I knew perfectly well,
that if we were taken by the pirates, I had not the slightest chance of
escape; for the first thing they would do, would be to knock me on the
head and throw me overboard, as they would deem it dangerous to
themselves were I to get away. At the same time, I must confess, I had
little hopes of being able to beat off such a number, and devoutly
wished myself anywhere rather than where I was. The scene around me was
a strange one. The captain, pilot, and one or two native passengers were
taking up the boards of the cabin floor, and putting their money and
other valuables out of sight, among the ballast. The common sailors,
too, had their copper cash, or "tsien," to hide; and the whole place
was in a state of bustle and confusion. When all their more valuable
property was hidden, they began to make some preparations for defense.
Baskets of small stones were brought up from the hold, and emptied out
on the most convenient parts of the deck, and were intended to be used
instead of fire-arms, when the pirates came to close quarters. This is a
common mode of defense in various parts of China, and is effectual
enough when the enemy has only similar weapons to bring against them;
but on the coast of Fokien, where we were now, all the pirate junks
carried guns; and, consequently, a whole deck-load of stones could be of
little use against them.

I was surrounded by several of the crew, who might well be called "Job's
comforters," some suggesting one thing and some another; and many
proposed that we should bring the junk round and run back to the Min.
The nearest pirate was now within two or three hundred yards of us, and,
putting her helm down, gave us a broadside from her guns. All was now
dismay and consternation on board our junk, and every man ran below,
except two who were at the helm. I expected every moment that these also
would leave their post; and then we should have been an easy prey to
the pirates. "My gun is nearer you than those of the Jan-dous," said I
to the two men, "and if you move from the helm, depend upon it, I will
shoot you." The poor fellows looked very uncomfortable; but, I suppose,
thought they had better stand the fire of the pirates than mine, and
kept at their post. Large boards, heaps of old clothes, mats, and things
of that sort, which were at hand, were thrown up to protect us from the
shot; and, as we had every stitch of sail set, and a fair wind, we were
going through the water at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour.

The shot from the pirate fell considerably short of us, I was therefore
enabled to form an opinion of the range and power of their guns, which
was of some use to me. Assistance from our cowardly crew was quite out
of the question, for there was not a man among them brave enough to use
the stones which he had brought on deck; and which, perhaps, might have
been of some little use when the pirates came nearer. The fair wind and
all the press of sail which we had crowded on the junk proved of no use
to us. Again the nearest pirate fired on us. The shot this time fell
just under our stern. I still remained quiet, as I had determined not to
fire a single shot until I was quite certain my gun would take effect.
The third broadside, which followed this, came whizzing over our heads
and through the sails, without, however, wounding either the men at the
helm or myself.

The pirates now seemed quite sure of their prize, and came down upon us,
hooting and yelling like demons, at the same time loading their guns,
and evidently determined not to spare their shot. This was a moment of
intense interest. The plan which I had formed from the first, was now
about to be put to proof; and, if the pirates were not the cowards which
I believed them to be, nothing could save us from falling into their
hands. Their fearful yells seem to be ringing in my ears even now, after
this lapse of time, and when I am on the other side of the globe.

The nearest junk was now within thirty yards of ours; their guns were
loaded, and I knew that the next discharge would completely rake our
decks "Now," said I to our helmsman, "keep your eyes fixed on me, and
the moment you see me fall flat on the deck, you must do the same, or
you will be shot." I knew that the pirate, who was now on our stern,
could not bring his guns to bear upon us, without putting his helm down
and bringing his gangway at right angles with our stern, as his guns
were fired from the gangway. I therefore kept a sharp eye upon the
helmsman, and the moment I saw him putting the helm down, I ordered our
steersman to fall flat on their faces behind some wood, and, at the same
moment, did so myself. We had scarcely done so, when bang! bang! went
their guns, and the shot came whizzing close over us, splintering the
wood about us in all directions. Fortunately none of us were struck.
"Now, mandarin, now! they are quite close enough," cried out my
companions, who did not wish to have another broadside like the last. I,
being of the same opinion, raised myself above the high stern of our
junk; and while the pirates were not more than twenty yards from us,
hooting and yelling, I raked their decks, fore and aft, with shot and
ball from my double-barreled gun.

Had a thunderbolt fallen among them, they could not have been more
surprised. Doubtless, many were wounded, and probably some killed. At
all events, the whole of the crew, not fewer than forty or fifty men,
who, a moment before, crowded the deck, disappeared in a marvellous
manner; sheltering themselves behind the bulwarks, or lying flat on
their faces. They were so completely taken by surprise, that their junk
was left without a helmsman; her sails flapped in the wind; and, as we
were still carrying all sail, and keeping on her right course, they were
soon left a considerable way astern.

Another was now bearing down upon us as boldly as his companion had
done, and commenced firing in the same manner. Having been so successful
with the first, I determined to follow the same plan with this one, and
to pay no attention to his firing until he should come to close
quarters. The plot now began to thicken; for the first junk had gathered
way again, and was following in our wake, although keeping at a
respectful distance; and three others, although still further distant,
were making for the scene of action, as fast as they could. In the
meantime, the second was almost alongside, and continued giving us a
broadside, now and then, with his guns. Watching their helm as before,
we sheltered ourselves as well as we could; at the same time, my poor
fellows who were steering, kept begging and praying that I would fire
into our pursuers as soon as possible, or we should be all killed. As
soon as we came within twenty or thirty yards of us, I gave them the
contents of both barrels, raking their decks as before. This time the
helmsman fell, and, doubtless, several were wounded. In a minute or two
I could see nothing but boards and shields, which were held up by the
pirates, to protect themselves from my firing; their junk went up into
the wind, for want of a helmsman, and was soon left some distance
behind us.

While I was watching this vessel, our men called out to me that there
was another close on our lee-bow, which I had not observed on account of
our mainsail. Luckily, however, it proved to be a Ning-po wood-junk,
like ourselves, which the pirates had taken a short time before, but
which, although manned by these rascals, could do us no harm, having no
guns. The poor Ning-po crew, whom I could plainly see on board, seemed
to be very much down-hearted and frightened. I was afterward informed,
that when a junk is captured, all the principal people, such as the
captain, pilot, and passengers, are taken out of her, and a number of
the pirates go on board and take her into some of their dens among the
islands, and keep her there until a heavy ransom is paid, both for the
junk and the people. Sometimes, when a ransom can not be obtained, the
masts, and spars, and everything else which is of any value, are taken
out of her, and she is set on fire.

The two other piratical junks which had been following in our wake for
some time, when they saw what had happened, would not venture any
nearer; and at last, much to my satisfaction, the whole set of them
bore away.



A SEA FOWLING ADVENTURE.

One pleasant afternoon in summer, Frank Costello jumped into his little
boat, and pulling her out of the narrow creek where she lay moored,
crept along the iron-bound shore until he reached the entrance of one of
those deep sea-caves, so common upon the western coast of Ireland. To
the gloomy recesses of these natural caverns, millions of sea-fowl
resort during the breeding season; and it was among the feathered tribes
then congregated in the "Puffin Cave," that Frank meant, on that
evening, to deal death and destruction. Gliding, with lightly-dipping
oars, into the yawning chasm, he stepped nimbly from his boat, and
making the painter fast to a projecting rock, he lighted a torch, and,
armed only with a stout cudgel, penetrated into the innermost recesses
of the cavern. There he found a vast quantity of birds and eggs, and
soon became so engrossed with his sport that he paid no attention to the
lapse of time, until the hollow sound of rushing waters behind him made
him aware that the tide, which was ebbing when he entered the cave, had
turned, and was now rising rapidly. His first impulse was to return to
the spot where he had made his boat fast; but how was he horrified on
perceiving that the rock to which it had been secured was now completely
covered with water. He might, however, still have reached it by
swimming; but, unfortunately, the painter, by which it was attached to
the rock, not having sufficient scope, the boat, on the rising of the
tide, was drawn, stern down, to a level with the water; and Frank, as he
beheld her slowly fill and disappear beneath the waves, felt as if the
last link between the living world and himself had been broken. To go
forward was impossible; and he well knew that there was no way of
retreating from the cave, which, in a few hours, would be filled by the
advancing tide. His heart died within him, as the thought of the horrid
fate which awaited him flashed across his mind. He was not a man who
feared to face death; by flood or field, on the stormy sea and the dizzy
cliff, he had dared it a thousand times with perfect unconcern; but to
meet the grim tyrant there, alone, to struggle hopelessly with him for
life in that dreary tomb, was more than his fortitude could bear. He
shrieked aloud in the agony of despair - the torch fell from his
trembling hand into the dark waters that gurgled at his feet, and,
flashing for a moment upon their inky surface, expired with a hissing
sound, that fell like a death-warning upon his ear. The wind, which had
been scarcely felt during the day, began to rise with the flowing of the
tide, and now drove the tumultuous waves with hoarse and hideous clamor
into the cavern. Every moment increased the violence of the gale that
howled and bellowed as it swept around the echoing roof of that
rock-ribbed prison; while the hoarse dash of the approaching waves, and
the shrill screams of the sea-birds that filled the cavern, formed a
concert of terrible dissonance, well suited for the requiem, of the
hapless wretch who had been enclosed in that living grave! But the love
of life, which makes us cling to it in the most hopeless extremity, was
strong in Frank Costello's breast; his firmness and presence of mind
gradually returned, and he resolved not to perish without a struggle. He
remembered that, at the farther extremity of the cavern, the rock rose
like a flight of rude stairs, sloping from the floor to the roof; he had
often clambered up those rugged steps, and he knew that, by means of
them, he could place himself at an elevation above the reach of the
highest tide. But the hope thus suggested was quickly damped when he
reflected that a deep fissure, which ran perpendicularly through the
rock, formed a chasm ten feet in width, in the floor of the cavern,
between him and his place of refuge. The tide, however, which was now
rising rapidly, compelled him to retire every instant, further into the
cavern, and he felt that the only chance he had left him for life was to
endeavor to cross the chasm. He was young, active, and possessed of
uncommon courage, and he had frequently, by torch-light, leaped across
the abyss, in the presence of his companions, few of whom dared to
follow his example. But now, alone and in utter darkness, how was he to
attempt such a perilous feat? The conviction that death was inevitable
if he remained where he was, decided him. Collecting a handful of loose
pebbles from one of the numerous channels in the floor, he proceeded
cautiously over the slippery rocks, throwing at every step a pebble
before him, to ascertain the security of his footing. At length he heard
the stone, as it fell from his fingers, descend with a hollow,
clattering noise, that continued for several seconds. He knew he was
standing on the brink of the chasm. One quick and earnest prayer he
breathed to the invisible Power, whose hand could protect him in that
dread moment - then, retiring a single pace, and screwing every nerve and
muscle in his body to the utmost tension, he made a step in advance, and
threw himself forward into the dark and fearful void. Who can tell the
whirlwind of thought that rushed through his brain in the brief moment
that he hung above that yawning gulf? Should he have miscalculated his
distance, or chosen a place where the cleft was widest - should his
footing fail, or his strength be unequal to carry him over, what a death
were his! Dashed down that horrible abyss - crashing from rock to rock,
until he lay at the bottom a mutilated corpse. The agony of years was
crowded into one moment - in the next, his feet struck against the firm
rock on the opposite side of the chasm, and he was saved. At least, he
felt that he had for the moment escaped the imminent peril in which he
was placed, and, as he clambered joyfully up the rugged slope at the end
of the cave, he thought little of the dangers he had still to encounter.
All through that long night he sat on the narrow ledge of a rock, while
the angry waves thundered beneath, and cast their cold spray every
instant over him. With the ebbing of the tide, the sea receded from the
cavern; but Frank hesitated to attempt crossing the chasm again; his
limbs had become stiff and benumbed, and his long abstinence had so
weakened his powers that he shrank from the dangerous enterprise. While
giving way to the most desponding reflections, a stentorian hilloa rang
and echoed through the cavern; and never had the human voice sounded so
sweetly in his ear. He replied to it with a thrilling shout of joy, and,
in a few minutes, several persons with torches appeared advancing. A
plank was speedily thrust across the fissure, and Frank Costello once
more found himself amid a group of his friends, who were warmly
congratulating him upon his miraculous escape. They told him that, from
his not having returned home the preceding night, it was generally
concluded that he had been drowned, and a party of his neighbors
proceeded in a boat, early in the morning, in search of his body. On
reaching "Puffin Hole," they discovered his boat fastened to a rock, and
full of water, as she had remained on the ebbing of the tide. This
circumstance induced them to examine the cavern narrowly, and the happy
result of their search is already known.



ADVENTURE WITH A COBRA DI CAPELLO

I might have slept some four or five hours, and a dreamless and
satisfying sleep it was; but certain it is - let scholiasts say what they
will, and skeptics throw doubts by handfulls on the assertions of
metaphysicians - that, before I awoke, and in my dreamless slumber, I had
a visible perception of peril - a consciousness of the hovering presence
of death! How to describe my feelings I know not; but, as we have all
read and heard that, if the eyes of a watcher are steadily fixed on the
countenance of a sleeper for a certain length of time, the slumberer
will be sure to start up - wakened by the mysterious magnetism of a
recondite principle of clairvoyance; so it was that, with shut eyes and
drowsed-up senses, an inward ability was conferred upon me to detect the
living from the presence of danger near me - to see, though sleep-blind,
the formless shape of a mysterious horror crouching beside me; and, as
if the peril that was my nightmate was of a nature to be quickened into
fatal activity by any motion on my part, I felt in my very stupor the
critical necessity of lying quite still; so that, when I at last awoke
and felt that as I lay with my face toward the roof, there was a thick,
heavy, cold, creeping thing upon my chest, I stirred not, nor uttered a
word of panic. Danger and fear may occasionally dull the sense and
paralyse the faculties, but they more frequently sharpen both, and ere I
could wink my eye, I was broad awake and aware that, coiling and coiling
itself up into a circle of twists, an enormous serpent was on my breast.
When I tell you that the whole of my chest, and even the pit of my
stomach, were covered with the cold, scaly proportions of the reptile,
you will own that it must have been one of considerable size.

What my thoughts were - so made up of abhorrence, dread, and the
expectation - nay, assurance of speedy death, that must follow any
movement on my part - I can never hope to tell in language sufficiently
distinct and vivid to convey their full force. It was evident the
loathsome creature had at length settled itself to sleep; and I felt
thankful that, attracted by my breath, it had not approached the upper
part of my throat. It became quite still, and its weighty pressure - its
first clammy chillness becoming gradually (so it seemed to me) of a
burning heat - and the odious, indescribable odor which exhaled from its
body and pervaded the whole air - so overwhelmed me, that it was only by
a severe struggle I preserved myself from shrieking. As it was, a cold
sweat burst from every pore. I could hear the beating of my heart - and I
felt, to my increased dismay, that the palsy of terror had began to
agitate my limbs! "It will wake," thought I, "and then all is over!" At
this juncture, something - it might have been a wall-lizard, or a large
beetle - fell from the ceiling upon my left arm, which lay stretched at
my side. The snake, uncoiling its head, raised itself, with a low hiss,
and then, for the first time, I saw it, - saw the hood, the terrible
crest glistening in the moonshine. It was a Cobra di Capello! Shading my
eyes to exclude the dreadful spectacle, I lay almost fainting, until
again all was quiet. Had its fiery glances encountered mine, all would
have been over; but, apparently, it was once more asleep, and presently
I heard the Lascar moving about, undoing the fastenings of the tent, and
striking a light. A thought suddenly struck me, and, with an impulse I
could then ascribe to nothing short of desperation, though its effects
were so providential, I uttered, in a loud, but sepulchral tone,
"Kulassi! Lascar." "Sahib!" was the instantaneous response, and my
heart beat quicker at the success of my attempt. I lay still again, for
the reptile, evidently roused, made a movement, and its head, as I
suppose, fell on my naked arm. Oh God! the agony of that moment, when
suppressed tremor almost gave way to madness! I debated with myself
whether I should again endeavor to attract the attention of the Kulassi,
or remain perfectly quiet; or whether it would not be better than either
to start up at once and shake the disgustful burden from me. But the
latter suggestion was at once abandoned, because of the assurance I felt
that it would prove fatal; impeded by the heavy coils of the creature,
weak and nerveless from excitement, I could not escape its fangs. Again,
therefore, I spoke with the hollow but distinct accents which arise from
the throat when the speaker is afraid to move a muscle: - "Kulassi
Chiragh!" - Lascar, a lanthorn! "Latah own Sahib." I am bringing it, sir.
There was then a sound of clanking metal - light, advancing, flashes
across the roof of the veranda - and, at the noise of coming steps, lo!
one after one its terrible coils unwinding, the grisly monster glided
away from my body; and the last sounds that struck my sense of hearing
were the - "Ya illahi samp!" Oh God! a snake! - of the lascar; for I
fainted away for the first time in my life.

[Illustration]



COMBAT OF WILD ANIMALS.

We were conducted to a gallery which commanded a view of a narrow court
or area beneath, inclosed by walls and palisades. This was the arena in
which the spectacle was to take place. Unfortunately, the space allotted
to spectators was so narrowed by the great number of European ladies who
were present, that we could only find indifferent standing room, where,
in addition to this inconvenience, the glare of the sun was very
oppressively felt; but the drama which began to be acted in our sight in
the deep space below, was such that every discomfort was forgotten in
beholding it. We there beheld six mighty buffaloes, not of the tame
species, but the sturdy offspring of the Arni-buffalo of the hill
country, at least four feet and a half high from the ground to the
withers, with enormous widely-spread horns, several feet long. There
they stood, on their short, clumsy hoofs, and, snorting violently, blew
out their angry breath from their protruded muzzles, as if they were
already aware of the nearly approaching danger. What terribly powerful
brutes! what vast strength in their broad and brawny necks! It would
have been a noble sight, had not their eyes the while expressed such
entire stupidity.

A rattling of sticks, and the cries of several kind? of bestial voices
were heard - to which the buffaloes replied with a deep bellowing. On a
sudden, from an opened side door, there darted forth a huge tiger,
certainly from ten to eleven feet in length, and four in height. Without
much hesitation, he sprang with a single long bound right amid the
buffaloes; one of which, winding his body out of the reach of the
formidable horns, he seized by the neck with both claws and teeth at
once. The weight of the tiger almost overthrew the buffalo. A hideous


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Online LibraryJames O. BraymanThrilling Adventures by Land and Sea → online text (page 5 of 23)