Sidor som bilder

they should be able to make up for lost | heroic country have come to be the insigtime by speed at sea. On the contrary, nificance it is? they were forty days in reaching Madeira, This port of St. Catherine's on the coast a distance sometimes accomplished in ten of Brazil was the second station at which or twelve, says the Chaplain, who pauses the squadron paused, and already its wants in his simple vivid story to describe that and inperfections were apparent. Sickisland and its excellent wines, “which ness had appeared in the crowded ships. seem to be designed by Providence for the The Centurion alone sent eighty patients refreshment of the inhabitants of the torrid from its thronged and airless forecastle to zone,” he says, with enthusiasm. Here the big hospital-tent established on shore, they were slightly excited by a report of — patients rather increased than diminished some strange squadron which had been seen in number by the moist heat of the climate at sea, and which was the Spanish fleet and other local disadvantages. Then some . looking for them, full information having deficiency was found in one of the ships, come of all their intentions. This fleet, the little Trial, one of the stanchest of the however, never met the expedition of which squadron, which had sprung her masts and it was in search. It drifted off into the otherwise disabled herself. While the sick great sea, into the storms, and came to men were carried on shore to gain what destruction peaceably without any aid from equivocal advantage they could among the Anson's guns. “The Spanish sailors, be- mosquitoes on the marshy coast, and a ing for the most part accustomed to a fair- busy scene of industry arose in all the weather country, miglit be expected to be ships - the carpenter's bammer and the very averse to so dangerous and fatiguing sailmaker's needle going from morning to a navigation," our Chaplain says, with in- night--the Commodore in painful impasular complacency. His conviction, how- tience overlooked these necessary but illever, that the opposition between England timed labours, counting the days till be and Spain is no thing of the moment, but could set sail. It was “near a month" bean everlasting national feud, comes out in fore the Trial was ready a month every the simplest amusing way, though the fact day of which was paid for by the lives of was not the least amusing to him. It never the men, since every day delayed the passeems to occur to him that an English ship sage of Cape Horn, the point to which all is likely to visit these coasts with other than looked forward with alarm but too well hostile intentions. And there is a certain founded. They should have been roundPortuguese governor, Don José Sylva de ing that dangerous headland when they Paz, of whom he writes as a Times' cor- were leaving St. Catherine's, so far behind respondent might write of an ill innkeeper, were they. And with hearts full of anxiety, warning the British tourist against his and such fear as brave men need not blush bouse. This man not only ruled a port to acknowledge, they set out at length, on which geographers had declared to be the 18th of January, from the but halfhealthy and convenient, but which the friendly port. Twenty-eight graves at St. squadron found neither the one nor the Catherine's had been filled from the Cenother - a very sufficient ground of irrita- turion's crew alone, and yet ninety-six sick tion — but secretly sent word to the Span- were mournfully re-embarked to take their iard of the whereabouts of the English fleet. chances upon the bitter seas. The Com“ The same perfidy every British cruiser modore, however, was fully aware of the may expect who touches at St. Catherine's, dangers he was about to encounter, and while it is under the government of Don prepared for them with characteristic pru-. José Sylva de Paz," cries our Chaplain, dence. In case of misadventure happening with a vehemence which has something to one, each ship had its distinct instrucstrangely humorous and pathetic in it, as tions. There was a trysting-place at St. his voice comes hushed across the dead Julian; another at the island of our Lady century. Blow little the risk of being be- of Succour much-needed patroness; antrayed to the Spaniard would alarm any other at Juan Fernandez, an isle which roBritish cruiser nowadays! Indeed, at this mance liad already made her own. In the special juncture of affairs, every reference landlocked waters at St. Catherine's the to the yet unfallen, yet powerful, sea-going little council of commanders calmly looked empire, with its colonies and fabulous gal- the facts in the face and braced themselves leons, strikes one as the most curious sar- to their work. Then they went forward casm. Spain and England rivals for the with their lives in their bands. The story dominion of half a world! By what won- sounds more like that of a blind man gropderful magic of evil can that old noble ling his precarious way through a district

full of snares and pitfalls, than of a daring savage and gloomy than the whole aspect British squadron traversing, the subject of this coast." seas. They went on sounding at every Had this description. been written tostep; casting the lead, sometimes into mea- day, no doubt the voyager would have sureless depths of ocean, sometimes in sixty, found a certain enthusiasm for this grand eighty, forty fathoms, the bottom varying by-way through the seas. He would have as the depth did. All along the coast of discovered lights about it, and reflections Patagonia they proceeded in this cautious unseen by the anxious practical eye of the way, looking out with ever-growing anxiety eighteenth century. But we doubt whether for the worst, which was not yet reached. Art itself could have made a more effective This caution was but half, if even so much point than the contrast of this sullen awful as half, for themselves; they were groping passage through which the silent ships sped for the good of England: making such breathless, the little Trial leading the way sketches as their skill permitted, rectifying – with the supposed brightness beyond, their charts, lighting up the seas with divine to which the mariners looked forward, seelights of safety for those who might follow. ing through those gloomy portals of rock At St. Julian, close to the scene of sternest only a silvery Pacific Ocean and the end danger, the Trial is again in trouble with of their enterprise. They held their breath, those unlucky masts, which are too lofty for half, perhaps, from the shadow of death the latitude, and have to be cut and hacked overhanging them in the pinnacles of those and mended, while the Commodore pain- horrible rocks, but at least as much from fully restrains bis impatience, and the expectation, feeling at last - were but this Chaplain bas leisure to find out about the passage made — the grand difficulties surwild horses and wild cattle, and the won- mounted, and their work within reach of ders of the lasso, there first displayed to their hands. We presumed we had nothcurious eyes. And then once more the ing before us from hence but an open sea," fated squadron is under way. Going softly cries the Chaplain, bursting forth out of à tâtons, feeling its way, ship by ship steals the cliff-shadows into a short-lived outforward with a certain solemnity to that break of the prevailing hope, " till we arawful strait of Le Maire, which was to rived on those opulent coasts where all our carry them into the scene of their mission. hopes and wishes centred. We could not Between the bristling coast of Tierra del help persuading ourselves that the greatest Fuego and the wild rocks of Staten Land difficulty of our voyage was now at an end, lay this horrible ghostly passage. In those and that our most sanguine dreams were days men had not learned to love nature in on the point of being realised; and hence her grand and gloomy aspects; and per- we indulged our imaginations in those haps it would be hard at any time to ex- romantic schemes which the fancied pospect from the sailor any enthusiasm of ad- session of the Chilian gold and Perumiration for two awful lines of deadly cliff, vian silver might be conceived to inspire." and the gloomy channel between them. The morning was lovely, bright, and mild Tierra del Fuego, the Chaplain tells us, - the finest day they had seen since they was “of a stupendous height, covered left England - the sun, no doubt, blazing everywhere with snow; " and, on the other upon the snow, though that is not a hand, “Staten Land far surpasses it in the point which the Chaplain thinks worth wildness and horror of its appearance; mentioning: There was a brisk breeze, seeming to be entirely composed of inac- which burried them through the dreaded cessible rocks without the least mixture of passage in about two hours, though it was earth or mould between them. These between seven and eight leagues in length. rocks terminate in a vast number of ragged And the hearts of the anxious Commodore points which spire up to a prodigious height, and bis men rose within them. Surely and are all of them covered with everlasting here was fortune smiling upon them at

The points themselves are on every last ! side surrounded with frightful precipices,

Alas! it was only now they were upon and often overhang in a most astonishing the dreaded Cape, their terror throughout manner; and the hills which bear them are their voyage. Instead of proving, as they generally separated from each other by nar- hoped, a gateway into the soft Pacific, the row clefts which appear as if the country wild channel was but the avenue to dehad been frequently rent by earthquakes; struction. “ The day of our passage was for these chasms are nearly perpendicular, the last cheerful day that the greatest part and extend through the substance of the of us would ever live to enjoy," says the main rocks almost to their very bottoms ; Chaplain, mournfully; and it is here that 80 that nothing could be imagined more the tragic interest of his narrative begins.


[ocr errors]

Before they were well out of the shadow part well with vinegar," a precaution of the rocks, the terrible truth burst upon made needful by the “noisome stench” them. The blue sky darkened over, the and vermin, which had become “intolerawind changed, the tide turned — "furi- bly offensive.". This being so when things ously,” says the historian. A violent cur- went comparatively well, it may be imagrent (he can use no milder words), aided ined what these decks must have got to be by the “fierceness and constancy of the when every comfort and almost every hope westerly winds," drove them to eastward. had abandoned the unhappy mass of sufferFor forty days, almost without intermis- ing men, drenched with salt water, frozen sion, they were driven and tossed, play- with cold, worn with continual labour, who things of the waters, up and down in mis- flung themselves upon them to die. Durerable zigzags, about the awful Cape; now ing their terrible beatings about Cape menaced by “mountainous waves,' any Horn, the scurvy took stronger and stronger one of which, had it broken fairly over hold upon them. In April they lost fortythem, would have sent them to the bottom; three men from it on board the Centurion. now dashed almost to pieces by the rolling alone; in May double that number; in of the ship — their sails torn off by the June, before they reached Juan Fernanwinds, split by the frost --- their rigging dez, “the disease extended itself so procovered with ice, their bodies benumbed digiously that, after the loss of about two and disabled by the cold. Sometimes a hundred men, we could not at last muster fog came on; and the Commodore, himself more than six foremast men in a watch capstruggling for bare life, fired forlorn guns able of duty.” The officers themselves every half-hour, flashes of despair to (and, still more remarkably, the officers' keep the perishing ships together. Yet all servants) seem to have escaped the attacks this time, in the height of their misery, of this disease, fortified either by the trethere still lingered a cheerful assurance of mendous burden of responsibility, or by hope. According to all they knew, they that curious force of high spirit and finer had been making their way steadily to- mettle which carries so many absolutely wards the Pacific. It could not but be weaker men through the perils which slay near at hand, and their toils near a close. the strongest. Our Chaplain records the And with every day of storm the longing characteristics of the disease with that for that sea of peace, for those isles and grave and calm simplicity which distin“ opulent coasts," must have grown on the guisbes his style, revealing its full horrors, weary crews, who, any hour, any moment yet never dwelling unduly on them. Some - so they thought — might suddenly glide of its victims, he describes, lay in their into the rippling waters and sunny calm. bammocks eating and drinking, in cheerful It may be supposed, accordingly, what spirits, and with vigorous voices; yet in a was the consternation of the sailors, thus moment, if but moved from one place to strained to the supreme struggle, when another, still in their hammocks, died out they found that they had been betrayed of hand, all vital energy being gone from by an insidious current completely out of them. Some who thought themselves still their course, and saw once more the awful able for an attempt at duty would fall rocks of Tierra del Fuego frowning out of down and die among their comrades on atthe mists upon their lee.

tempting a stronger pull or more vigorous Before this time scurvy, most dreaded strain than usual. Every day, while winds of all the dangers of a long sea-voyage, and waves, roaring and threatening round, had made its fatal appearance among them. beld over the whole shipload another kind With their feeble old pensioners and rap- of death, must the dim-eyed mariners with idly made up crew, sickness had been rife failing strength and sinking spirit have in the ships from the very beginning of the gathered to the funeral of their dead. By voyage; and it is evident that Anson's this time their companion ships had all disgood sense and good feeling had fore- appeared, and the Centurion alone, with stalled sanitary science so far as to do all its sick and dying, tossed about almost at that was possible for the ventilation and the will of the waves upon that desolate cleanliness of his crowded vessel. So early sea. At last there came a moment when, as November the sickly condition of the destruction being imminent, “ the master crews and the want of air between the and myself,” our brave Chaplain, underdecks had been reported to him; and by took the management of the belm, while the time they arrived at St. Catherine's it every available soul on board set to work was found necessary to give the Centurion to repair and set the sails and secure the a “thorough cleansing, smoking it between masts, to take advantage once more in desthe decks, and after all, washing every peration of a favourable change of wind.


It was

This was their last storm; but not even got into the bay, having lost three-fourths then were the troubles of this terrible voy- of her crew. Three weatherbeaten hulks, age at an end. They missed Juan Fer- with torn sails and broken masts; three nandez by one of those mistakes which groups of worn-out men escaped as from come in with bewildering certainty at such the dead, looked each other in the face in moments of desperation to enhance all suf- this lull of fate. With the whisper of the ferings. “ The Commodore himself was soft woods in their cars, and delicious noise strongly persuaded that he saw it,” but, and tinkle of running water, instead of the Overpowered by the scepticism of his offi- roaring of the winds and the sea, what salucers, changed his course in over-precau- tations, from the edge of the grave, must tion. Then at last the high hearts of the bave been theirs ! The brave Commodore expedition gave way. The water was fail- set to work, without the loss of an hour, to ing, to add to all the rest; men were dying remove the sick to shore: not a five and six every day. “A general de- among them laboured harder than he, the jection prevailed among us," says the his- leader, and his officers followed his examtorian.

at this moment, when ple, willingly or unwillingly. From one hope and heart were wellnigh gone, that vessel after another the helpless and sufferthe island of their hopes, all smiling ing were landed, to be healed and soothed in the sullen seas, with soft woods and out of their miseries. Green things of betgrassy slopes and sweet streams of running ter quality than grass, and fresh fish, and water, suddenly burst like a glimpse of flesh of goats, and new-made bread, conparadise upon their hungering eyes. soled the worn-out wretches, and rest stole

Nothing can be more touching than the into the souls of the almost lost. Anson sober, simple story, as it describes this de- for his own part, with a touch of sentiment liverance out of despair. The feeble crea- which speaks, out of the utter silence in tures, to whom water had become the first which he is content to leave himself, with a of luxuries, hastened on deck as fast as power beyond that of words, chose for himtheir tottering limbs would carry them, to self an idylic resting-place in this moment gaze with eyes athirst at a great cascade of of repose. living water flinging itself, with the wantonness of nature, over a rock a hundred “I despair of conveying an adequate idea of fect bigh into the sea. The first boat sent its beauty," says our Chaplain, who, let us on shore brought back heaps of grass, bav- hope, shared it with his master. ing no time to search for better vegetables. of ground that he chose was a small lawn that The spectre crew were four hours at work, lay on a little ascent, at the distance of about

In the front of his with the assistance of all the ghosts from half a mile from the sea. below who could keep their feeble legs, to tent there was a large avenue cut through the raise the cable, when it was necessary to woods to the seaside, which, sloping to the water change their anchorage, and could not

with a gentie descent, opened a prospect of the manage it with all their united strength. screened behind by a tall wood of myrtle, sweep

bay and the sbips at anchor. This lawn was But yet the haven was reached, the tempest ing round it in the form of a theatre. . over for the moment. The ship had but there were, besides, two streams of crystal settled to her moorings when a tiny sail water which ran on the right and left of the bore bravely up upon the newly arrived, tent, within one hundred yards’ distance, and and proved to be the Trial, valorous little were shaded by the trees which skirted the lawn sloop, which had held its own against all on either side.” the dangers encountered by the Centurion, and now found its way to the trysting- He thinks some faint idea of “the eleplace, with only its captain, lieutenant, and gance of this situation” may

be gleaned three men able to stand by the sails. A from a print which, unfortunately, is not fortnight later, some of the sailors, gazing to be found in the edition before us. A out from a height upon the sea, saw, or certain suppressed poetry of mind must fancied they saw, another sail faintly beat- have been in the man who, after such desing about the horizon. In .five days more perate encounter with primitive dangers, it appeared again, making feeble futile at- pitched his lonely tent between those runtempts to enter the safe shelter in which ning rills, with the bay and his ships at Anson lay. The watchful Commodore anchor softly framed at his feet by the sent out instant help, risking his boats and sweet myrtle boughs. Does not the reader refreshed convalescent men to save bis hear the sudden hush in the stormy strain,consort, and by this timely help kept them alive, until, after three weeks or more of " A sound as of a hidden brook, fruitless attempts, the Gloucester at last In the leafy month of June”?

- The piece With what a profound harmony does this again for the knowledge, if the Commodore momentary, vision of repose and tender and the Chaplain could prevent it. Thus quiet fall into the tale, all ajar with the the two set to work for their country danger of warring winds and waves ! as soon as they had got their sick on shore,

While Anson was drawing this breath of and were at liberty for a stroke of independtranquillity and health, and taking up ent toil. How they found a goat with its again, undismayed, the thread of his plans ears slit, one of Alexander Selkirk's flock, against the enemy, the other admiral, Ver- our Chaplain tells us by the way; and Crunon, with his splendid fleet and armament, soe with his umbrella seems to come out of had collapsed all into nothing. Long be- the woods as he speaks, and give a friendly fore, indeed, in April, while dauntless An- nod to the narrator. For it is not the first son, without a thought of turning back in time we have seen Juan Fernandez, or his mind, was going through his 'agony found it a shelter from the tempest. The round Cape Horn, the struggle was over reader pauses over the halcyon moment, for that rival who had outshone, outnum- almost longing to believe that it is a combered, and swallowed up his poor little ex- munity of Crusoes that have now got pospedition. The big fleet which sailed amid session of the isle, and that there, on the the cheers of England had beat back, all soft lawn between the brooks, the seaman broken, disgraced, and discomfited, to Ja- will stay and forget his toils. Vain fancy! maica — driven miserably away from before there where he sits, intent upon the distant the face of that old Spanish foreshadowing bay and the ships at anchor, it is how to get of a yrim Sebastopol, known as Cartha- at his work again, how to resume those toils, gena — ere our little squadron painfully got how to plunge once more into conflict with itself together in the bay at Juan Fernan- seas and Spaniards, rich galleons and prydez.. Our. Commodore, of course, could ing, guarda-costas — that is all the burden know nothing of that disaster, and indeed of his thoughts. was still pondering in his mind how even The reckoning which remained to be yet, even now, his ragged shipwrecked made, however, when the sufferers came to band might carry something home to bal- life again, and the ghastly death-angel deance the conquests of those rustling gallants. parted from hovering over the ships, was Never could a greater contrast have been; enough to discourage the stoutest heart. and it was well for England that the chief Two hundred and ninety-two men had seaman of so critical an age was not poor died out of the Centurion alone since the popular Vernon recriminating with his commencement of the voyage; the GlouGeneral at Jamaica, but Anson, musing cester, though a smaller ship, had lost an alone on the island lawn, just out of the equal number; the Trial, about half of her jaws of death, planning a thousand daring crew. Out of fifty pensioners and seventyadventures, with his eyes fixed on the de- nine marines on board the Centurion, only ceitful quiet of that Southern Sea.

four of the one and eleven of the other surAnd to carry out the other part of his vived. Every pensioner on board the Gloucharacter, it is evident that the Chaplain-cester had perished; and of forty-eight masecretary — who must by this time have rines only two remained. Thus the foregrown to be a stout sailor, with clear eyes bodings of the Commodore, and of the of his own and a modest courageous soul — helpless veterans themselves, and of reason, got little rest even in this interval of re- if the authorities had cared anything about pose. He has scarce drawn breath from reason, were fully carried out. The three his tragic narrative, and still labours at ships had started from England with nine bis breast with a suppressed passion, when hundred and sixty-one men on board — all he is about again, setting down his master's that they could now muster among them was distinct seamanlike instructions, topograph, three hundred and thirty-five; a number ical account of the island, and guide to greatly insufficient for manning the Centumariners. As Anson groped along the un- rion alone,” says the Chaplain, with dejecknown coast, coming up to the climax of tion, “ and barely capable of navigating all tempest which drove soundings out of the the three with the utmost exertion of their level of possibilities, so now he surveys the strength and vigour." A chill of bitter disrocks and inlets about his island, indicating couragement evidently overwhelmed the where the British cruiser may and may not steadfast heart of the Commodore as he attempt to anchor, and settling once for all numbered his remnant. A Spanish squadin sound numbers where that isle of Safety ron was out in search of him, he knew; and is to be found. A mistake in respect to “ however contemptible the ships and saithis had cost him seventy men - but never lors of this part of the world may have English sea-captain should pay so dearly been generally esteemed," says the histo


« FöregåendeFortsätt »