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Frederick Marryat.

Poor Jack; and The settlers in Canada online

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safe to the French coast ; " at the same time he gave me
a pinch.

" If you do not you shall not live a minute," said the
captain (another pinch from Bramble). I now understood
him, and I also went down on my knees^ and pretended to
cry. " We can't take her out if this weather lasts," said I,
whimpering. " It's impossible."

"No, no! not if this weather lasts," said Bramble, "but
as soon as it changes we will do it."

" Very well, so long as you do it when you can, that
is all I ask. Now," said he to the officer he had before
addressed, "you'll have twenty men keep a sharp look-out

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POOR JACK

and don't lose a moment in getting under weigh as soon
as you can."

The captain then returned to the privateer -with the rest
of the men, leaving the ship in charge of the prizemaster.
The privateer was boomed off; but whether she dropped her
anchor near to us, or remained under weigh, I could not tell.
The men who had held the pistols to our heads now went
away with the others to plunder, according to the manners
and customs of all privateer's-men, of whatever nation they
may happen to be. Bramble and I walked aft.

" Pinned once more, by all that's blue ! Well, it can't be
helped but we're not in a French prison yet."

" Why did you go down on your knees to those fellows ? "
said I, rather sulkily.

"W T hy, because I wished them to think we were chicken-
hearted, and that we should not be watched, and might have
a chance who knows?"

" Two against twenty are heavy odds," replied I.

" That depends upon whether you trust to your head or
your arms. It must be head work this time. You see, Tom,
we have so far a chance, that we cannot weigh till it clears
up they know that as well as we do. I'm pretty sure it
will be thick all to-morrow, and perhaps longer; so you see
something may turn up by that time. We are well in, and
right in the Channel, for vessels up or down. I say again
we are not in a French prison yet. They can't take her out
of this we must do it ; and we may run on shore if we like :
and I tell you what, Tom, if it wasn't for Bessy, I'd just as
soon that my brains should be blown out as that these
French fellows should take such a rich prize. Now let's go
below we mustn't be seen talking together too much ; but
look out sharp, Tom, and watch my motions."

The officer who had charge of the vessel now came on
deck, and looked round him : he could speak English
sufficient to carry on a conversation. The weather was very
thick, and the rain drove down with the wind ; he saw that
it was impossible that the ship could be moved. He told
us that we should have a hundred guineas each and our
liberty if we took the ship safe either to Ostend or any
French port. We replied that we should be very glad to
do so, as it would be ten times as much as we should have

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received for piloting her up the Thames ; and then we went
down below. In the meantime the men were sent for on
deck, divided into watches, and when the watch was set the
others went down below again. After taking a glass or
two of wine, for the Frenchmen had soon rummaged out
what there was to be drunk in the cabin, Bramble and I
returned on deck. We found the Frenchmen in charge of
the watch diligent : one was looking out forward, another
at the taffrail ; the remaining three were walking the deck.
Bramble went to the gangway, and I followed him.

"Tom, I see the hatchway grating is on deck I only
wish we once had them all beneath it."

" I only wish we had all but the watch I'd have a try
for it then," replied I.

"No, no, Tom, that wouldn't do; but we must trust to
Providence and a sharp look-out. See where you can put
your hand upon a crowbar or handspike, in case you want
it ; but don't touch it. Come, there's nothing to be done
in any way just now, so let's go down and take a snooze
for an hour or two ; and, Tom, if they ask us to drink, drink
with them, and pretend to be half fuddled."

We went down again, and found the privateer's-men
getting very jolly ; but they did not offer us anything to
drink, so we laid on some spare sails outside the cabin, and
tried to go to sleep, but I could not, for I was very unhappy.
I could see no chance of our escape, as nothing but a man-
of-war would be likely to interfere and re-capture us. I
thought of Virginia and Lady O'Connor, and then I thought
of poor Bessy, and having left her in such an unfriendly way,
perhaps to remain in a French prison for years. Bramble
and I were fully aware that the promises of the prizemaster
were only to cajole us, and that once in a French port, had
we claimed the fulfilment of them, a kick would have been
all which we should, in all probability, receive for our pains.

About one o'clock in the morning I rose and went on
deck. The watch had been relieved, the weather also
looked brighter, as if it were going to clear up, and I be-
came still more depressed. Bramble soon followed me.

"It's clearing up," said I, "but I don't think it will last."

" Never a bit," replied Bramble ; " in half-an-hour it will
be thicker than ever, so now I'll go and call the officer, and

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POOR JACK

tell him he had better get under weigh : that will make him
have less suspicion of us."

Bramble did so. The officer came on deck, the men were
turned out, and the windlass was manned ; for, although so
large a vessel, she had no capstan. The men hove in the
cable in silence, and were short stay apeak, when, as we had
foreseen, it came on thicker than ever. Bramble pointed it
out to the officer, who was perfectly satisfied that nothing
could be done ; the cable was veered out again, and the
men sent below.

" We hope you'll think of your pi'omise to us, sir," said
Bramble to the officer, as he was going down.

" Yes, I will, I swear," replied he, slapping Bramble on
the back.

The morning broke, and the weather continued the same ;
it was not possible to see ten yards clear of the ship, and, of
course, in such weather it was not likely that any other
vessels would be attempting to pass through the Channel.
At noon it cleared up a little, and the windlass was again
manned ; but in a short time the fog became thicker than
ever. The Frenchmen now became very impatient, but
there was no help for it ; they walked about the deck, swear-
ing and stamping, and throwing out invectives against the
fog and rain as they looked up at it. The night closed in ;
the men were kept on deck until eleven o'clock, when the
flood tide made, and then they were sent down again, as
nothing could be done until the ebb. At twelve o'clock
the weather became worse, the wind freshened considerably,
and veered more to the southward, the rain poured down in
torrents, and the men of the watch sheltered themselves
down the hatchway. The officer came up on the deck, and
called Bramble, who had been down below. Bramble told
him, what was very true, that the wind would probably shift
and the weather clear up in a few hours, and that we should
be able to weigh with the coming down of the ebb. He
asked Bramble whether he thought it would blow hard.
Bramble could not say, but it would be better that the men
should not turn in, as they might be wanted ; and that if the
foretopmast staysail was hoisted, she would lie better at her
anchor, and in case of parting, he would be able to manage
her till sail was set. This advice was followed, and all the

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POOR JACK

men sat up in the cabin drinking, those who had the watch
occasionally conning down to refresh themselves.

They gave us a glass of grog each that night, a proof that
they had drunk until they were good-natured. Bramble said
to me, as we sat down outside, " It will be clear to-morrow
morning, Tom, that's sartain it must be to-night or never.
I've been thinking of lowering the quai'ter boat down, when
they are a little more mizzled ; they are getting on pretty
fast, for Frenchmen haven't the heads for drinking that
Englishmen have. Now it pours down beautifully, and here
they come down again for shelter."

For three hours we watched ; it was then four o'clock, and
the men were most of them asleep or more than half drunk.
Those of the middle watch came down dripping wet, and
called the others to relieve them, but only two of them
answered to the call. They who had come down began to
drink freely, to warm themselves after their ducking, and by
half-past four, except the two men on deck, every French-
man was either fast asleep or muddled.

tf Tom," said Bramble, " now's our time. Slip up on deck,
go forward if no one is there, and saw through the cable as
quickly as you can ; it won't take long, for it's a coir rope.
As soon as you have got through two strands out of the
three, come aft."

I went on deck, and looked round ; I could not see the
two men, it was so dark. I then walked forward, and look-
ing well round to see that they were not on the forecastle, I
sat down before the windlass and commenced operations.
In a couple of minutes I had divided the two strands, and I
went aft, where I found Bramble at the binnacle, in which a
light was burning.

" I have done it," said I, " and if the wind freshens at all,
she will part."

"All's right," said Bramble, "those two fellows are fast
asleep under the taflfrail, covered up with the trysail, which
lies there. Now, Tom, for a bold push : go down once more,
and see how they are getting on in the cabin."

I went down : every man was asleep some on the locker,
some with their heads on the table. I came on deck ; it
rained harder than ever.

"This will be a clearing shower, Tom, depend upon it;

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POOR JACK

and the wind is freshening up again. Now, have you looked
out for a handspike or crowbar ? "

" Yes, I know where there are two."

" Then come with me : we must unship the ladder, and
pull it up on deck, and then put on the grating ; after that
we must take our chance : we may succeed, and we may not
all depends upon their not waking too soon."

We went to the hatchway, cut the cleat-lashings, hauled
fche ladder on deck, and then put on the grating.

" That will do, Tom, for the present. Now do you take
the helm, with a crowbar all ready by your side. I will go
forward and cut the cable ; if those fellows rouse up while
I am forward, you must do your best. I leave you, Tom,
because you are more powerful than I am."

" I'll manage them both, never fear," whispered I.

"When she swings, mind you put the helm a-starboard,
Tom," said Bramble in my ear.

This was the most nervous part of the whole trans-
action : the men abaft might wake, and I should have to
master them how I could and even if I did, the scuffle
might awake those below, who were not yet secured ;
although, for a time, it would be difficult for them to
get on deck. But fortune favoured us : the cable was
severed, the ship swung round, and Bramble returned aft,
and took the helm.

" Now is the time to see if I'm a pilot or not, Tom," said
he. " I think I can steer her through by compass, now that
it's nearly high water luck's all." It was fortunate that
we got the staysail hoisted for us, or we could have made
nothing of it.

" It's clearing up fast," said I, as I kept my eyes upon
where the men were lying abaft ; " and there'll be plenty
of wind."

" Yes, and we'll have daylight soon. Tom, I don't want
you : I should like you to step aft, and stand over those two
chaps ; if they wake, knock them senseless don't kill them,
as you can easily bind them while they are stupefied. And,
Tom, look about you for some seizings all ready. I wish
they would wake, for we are not safe while they are not
secure. Put a handspike by me, and, if necessary, I will
leave the helm for a minute, and help you : it's better that

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she should go on shore than they should master us. We're
pretty safe now, at all events : I see the land all's right."

It was now daylight. After this whispering with Bramble,
I went aft with a handspike in my hand ; and I had not been
there more than two minutes when one of the privateer's-
men turned the canvas on one side, and looked up. The
handspike came down upon his head, and he dropped sense-
less ; but the noise roused up the other, and I dealt him a
blow more severe than the first. I then threw down my
weapon, and, perceiving the deep-sea lead-line coiled up on
the reel, I cut off sufficient, and in a short time had bound
them both by the hands and feet. They groaned heavily,
and I was afraid that I had killed them ; but there was no
help for it.

" They are safe," said I, returning to Bramble.

" I thought I heard you, but I did not look round at the
time. Half-an-hour more, Tom, and, even with this wind,
we shall be safe and, Tom, our fortune's made. If they
wake below, we must fight hard for it, for we've a right to
salvage, my boy one-eighth of the whole cargo that's worth
fighting for. Depend upon it, they'll be stirring soon ; so,
Tom, go aft, and drag the trysail here, and put it on the
hatchway grating its weight will prevent their lifting it up
in a hurry. If we can only hold our own for twenty minutes
longer she is ours, and all right."

As soon as I had stowed the trysail on the hatchway
grating, I looked about to see what else I could put on the
skylight, which they might also attempt to force up. I
could find nothing but the coils of rope, which I piled on;
but, while I was so doing, a pistol was fii-ed at me from below,
and the ball passed through the calf of my leg ; it was, how-
ever, not a wound to disable me, and I bound it up with my
handkerchief.

" They're all alive now, Tom, so you must keep your eyes
open. However, we're pretty safe the light vessel is not a
mile off. Keep away from the skylight you had better
stand upon the trysail, Tom you will help to keep the
hatchway down, for they are working at it."

Another pistol was now fired at Bramble, which missed
him.

"Tom, see if there's no bunting aft, and if so, just throw

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POOR JACK

some over this part of the skylight, it will blind them, at all
events; otherwise I'm just a capital mark for them."

I ran aft, and gathered some flags, which I brought and
laid over the skylight, so as to intercept their view of
Bramble ; but whilst I was so doing another pistol-shot
was fired it passed me, but hit Bramble, taking off one of
his fingers.

" That's no miss, but we've got through the worst of it,
Tom I don't think they can see me now don't put that
English ensign on, but hoist it Union downwards. I shall
round-to now ; there's the men-of-war in the Medway. Why
don't the fools look out, and they will see that they can't
escape ? "

"They've only the stern windows to look out of: the
quarter-galleries are boarded up."

" Then, Tom, just look if they have not beat them out, for
you know they may climb on deck by them."

It was fortunate that Bramble mentioned this : I went aft
with the handspike in my hand, and when I was about to
look over, I met face to face a Frenchman, who had climbed
out of the starboard quarter-gallery, and was just gaining the
deck. A blow with the handspike sent him overboard, and
he went astern ; but another was following him, and I stood
prepared to receive him. It was the officer in command,
who spoke English. He paused at the sight of the other
man falling overboard and my uplifted handspike ; and I said
to him, " It's of no use look at the English men-of-war
close to you ; if you do not go back to the cabin, and keep
your men quiet, when the men-of-war's men come on board
we will show you no quarter."

We were now entering the Medway, and the Frenchman
perceived that they could not escape, and would only bring
mischief on themselves by any further assaults, so he got
into the quarter-gallery again, and spoke to his men. As
soon as I perceived that he was entering, I ran over to the
other side to the larboard quarter-gallery, and there again
I found a Frenchman had nearly gained the deck. I
levelled the handspike at his head, but he dodged, and
returned to the cabin by the way he came ; and after that
there were no more attempts at recovering the vessel. In
five minutes more we were abreast of the Euphrosyne, Sir

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POOR JACK

James O'Connor's frigate, which was now lying, with only
her lower masts in, alongside of the hulk. I hailed for
assistance, and let fly the foretopmast staysail sheet, while
Bramble rounded the ship to. The boats were sent on board
immediately ; and as we had not a cable bent, they made
the ship fast to the hulk astern of them. We stated our
case in few words to the officer ; and having ascertained that
Sir James O'Connor was on board, requested that we might
be sent to the frigate.

"Is it you?" said Sir James, as I came on the gang-
way ; " what is it all about are you hurt ? Come down in
the cabin."

Bramble and I followed him down into the cabin, and I
stated the whole particulars of the capture and recapture.

" Excellent most excellent ! I wish you both joy ; but
first we must have the surgeon here." Sir James rang the
bell ; and when the surgeon came he went on deck to give
orders.

The ball had passed through my leg, so that the surgeon
had little to do to me. Bramble's finger was amputated, and
in a few minutes we were all right, and Sir James came
down again.

" I should say, stay on board till you are able to get about
again ; but the ship will be paid off to-morrow, so I had
better send you up to Chatham directly. You are entitled
to salvage if ever men were, for you have earned it gloriously;
and I will take care that you are done justice to. I must go
now and report the vessel and particulars to the admiral, and
the first lieutenant will send you to Chatham in one of the
cutters. You'll be in good hands, Tom, for you will have
two nurses."

We were taken up to Chatham to the hotel, where we
found Lady O'Connor and Virginia very much surprised, as
may be imagined, at our being brought there wounded ;
however, we were neither of us ill enough to go to bed, and
had a sitting-room next to theirs.

This recapture made a great deal of noise. At first the
agent for the prize wrote down a handsome letter to us, com-
plimenting us upon our behaviour, and stating that he was
authorised to present us each with five hundred pounds for
our conduct. But Sir James O'Connor answered the letter,

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POOR JACK

informing him that we claimed, and would have, our one-
eighth, as entitled to by law, and that he would see us
righted. Mr. Wilson, whom we employed as our legal ad-
viser, immediately gave the prize agent notice of an action
in the Court of Admiralty, and finding we were so powerfully
backed, arid that he could not help himself, lie offered forty
thousand pounds, which was one-eighth, valuing the cargo
at three hundred and twenty thousand pounds. The cargo
proved to be worth more than four hundred thousand
pounds, but Mr. Wilson advised us to close with the offer, as
it was better than litigating the question ; so we assented to
it, and the money was paid over.

In a fortnight we were both ready to travel again. Sir
James O'Connor had remained a week longer than he in-
tended to have done at Chatham on our account. We now
took leave of them, and having presented Virginia with
five thousand pounds, which I had directed Mr. W T ilson to
settle upon her, we parted, the O'Connors and Virginia for
Leamington, and Bramble and I for Deal.



CHAPTER LI

Being the last chapter, the reader may pretty well guess the
contents of it.

JLOM, do you know that I very often find myself looking
about me, and asking myself if all that has happened is true
or a dream," said Bramble to me, as we sat inside of the
coach to Dover, for there were no other inside passengers
but ourselves. " I can't help thinking that great good for-
tune is as astounding as great calamity. Who would have
thought, when I would, in spite of all Bessy's remonstrances,
go round in that ship with you, that in the first place we
should have been taken possession of by a privateer in the
very narrows (he was a bold cruiser, that Frenchman) ?
After we were captured I said to myself, Bessy must have
had a forewarning of what was to happen, or she never
would have been, as I thought, so perverse. And since it

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POOR JACK

has turned out so fortunately, I can't help saying how for-
tunate it was that we did not allow her to persuade us ;
for had we not both gone, nothing could have been done.
Well, I think we may promise Bessy this time when we
meet her, that we will not trust ourselves to salt water again
in a hurry. What do you think, Tom ?"

" No ; I think the best thing I can do is to marry, and live
on shore," replied I.

"Yes, Tom, that's it. Give me your hand, you don't
know how happy you make me ; we'll all live together.
But where shall we live ? for the poor little cottage that
I thought quite big enough for us a month ago will not
do now."

" We have plenty of time to talk that over, father. I love
the cottage for many reasons ; although, as you say, it is not
large enough now for our means, or future way of living."

" And I love it too, boy ; I love to look out of the door
and see the spot where my Bessy rescued me from death.
God bless her ! she is a noble girl, Tom, though I say it who
but I'm not her father, after all, and if I were, I would
still say it."

" It is evident, by her letter to you, that she has been
most anxious about us. What will she say when she hears
we have both been wounded ? "

"Ay ! it wouldn't have done to have told her that, or she
would have set off for Chatham, as sure as we are sitting
here."

Here a pause ensued for some time, and we were busied
with our own thoughts : the silence was at last broken
by me.

" Father," said I, " I should like to ask my father and
Peter Anderson to come down to us ; they can easily get
leave."

" Is it to be present at your wedding, Tom ? "

" Exactly if Bessy will consent."

" Well, I have no doubt of that, Tom ; but she will now
require a little courting, you know why."

" Why, because all women like it, I suppose."

" No, Tom ; it is because she was in love before you were,
d'ye understand ? and now that things are all smooth, and
you follow her, why, it's natural, I suppose, that she should

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shy off a little in her turn. You must mind that, Tom ; it's
a sort of soothing to the mortification of having at one time
found herself, as it were, rejected."

" Well, I shan't mind that ; it will only serve me right for
being such a fool as not to have perceived her value before.
But how do you understand women so well, father ? "

" Because, Tom, I've been looking on, and not performing,
all my life : except in one instance in a long life, I've only
been a bystander in the way of courtship and matrimony.
Here we are at last, and now for a chaise to Deal. Thank
God, we can afford to shorten the time, for Bessy's sake,
poor thing ! "

We arrived at the cottage : the sound of the wheels had
called out not only Bessy and Mrs. Maddox, but all the
neighbours ; for they had heard of our good fortune. Bessy,
as soon as she had satisfied herself that it was Bramble and
me, went into the cottage again. Once more we entered
the humble roof. Bessy flew into her father's arms, and
hung weeping on his shoulder.

" Haven't you a kind word to say for Tom ? " said Bramble,
kissing her as he released himself.

"Does he deserve it, to leave me as he did, laughing at
my distress ? He had no right to treat me so."

"Indeed, Bessy, you do me injustice. I said at the time
that I thought there was no risk, and I certainly did think
there was none. Who would have expected a privateer half-
way up the Thames, any more than a vessel with twenty
men on board could be recaptured by two men ? "

" Well, Bessy, you ought to make friends with him, for
without his arm, your father would not have been back here
quite so soon. He beat down the Frenchmen, one after
another, in good style, when they attempted to recover the
vessel that he did, I can tell you, wounded as he was."

"Wounded ?" cried Bessy, starting, her eyes running over
me to find out where. .

" Yes, with a bullet in his leg ; I didn't like to say a word
about it in the letter. But I suppose if he had been killed
you would not have cared ? "

" O father ! " cried Bessy, as she turned towards me, and
I received her in my arms.

Bessy soon recovered her smiles, and thankful for our

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preservation and good fortune, and satisfied with our mutual
affection, we passed a most happy evening. Somehow or
another Bramble, having sent Mrs. Maddox on a message,



Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 31 of 58)