Page images

although, if present, I could not bear to see them miserable, yet when at a distance—so mysterious is the human heart!—I derived a certain pleasure from the anguish I had caused, This kind of bliss, however, was short-lived; the duties of my new station were very different from what I had anticipated, and, as I concealed my name and rank, the sailors paid me no respect on account of either. Being a novice on board, and placed in the degrading capacity of an apprentice, I encountered some rough usage, for however poets and playwrights may rave about the humanity, and high feeling, and nice sensibility of the British tar, he is, on his proper element, any thing but an angel. The vulgar minds of my shipmates soon disgusted me, their discourse repelled me, and the fatiguing employments in which I was engaged filled me with self-reproach. Still I could not so far humble myself to those who were eager to forgive and embrace me, as to acquaint them with the step I had taken; and, buoyed up with stubborn pride and the hope of seeing strange countries, I resolved to make one voyage, at least, before I would write to my father.

We sailed from Liverpool early in spring, and the vessel had hardly got fairly under weigh, when my heart sickened within me. In spite of my stubborn nature I wished myself along with those I loved. Pride, however, once more came to my aid, and, as I could not play the woman before the sailors, I denied access to the bitter tears that swelled in my eyes; and when the disease incident to a first sea voyage subsided, [ set about the discharge of my irksome and repulsive duties with a seeming alacrity. In a short time I won the praise of the captain; and the encomiums even of such amphibious animals as sailors flattered my vanity. I essayed new trials, mounted up aloft, tied my cravat, in the marine fashion, carelessly over my loose shirt collar, and affected to laugh at the coarse, blunt wit of the quarter-deckin eight weeks we neared the South American coast, and the novelty of the scene occasioned some relief to Vol. ii. Sept. 1829. N

my breast, devoured by mortification. Every thing around us was new to me ; the scenery, as we ascended to Buenos Ayres, was different from any thing I had ever seen; and the people, when I went ashore, appeared quite another generation to any with whom I had been familiar. Our stay here, however, was but short; and I never witnessed a finer morning than that on which we lost sight of the shores of the new world. I felt some regret as they receded from my view, but the anticipation of seeing India, to which we were now destined, served to cheer my spirits, sometimes inclined to droop, when I looked upon my companions, thought of home, or contemplated the menial oflice in which I was engaged.

For some weeks our voyage was singularly prosperous; but as we approached the Indian seas the breeze died away, and we were totally becalmed. The depressing influence of the climate, in the absence of cooling breezes, could not wholly damp our spirits. Morning and evening were, in the midst of this vast ocean, delightful: the retiring and ascending sun exhibited magnificent spectacles of rich and sublime grandeur. The sky appeared one vast field of variegated gold, and even the night had charms for me upon which I could be content to gaze for ever. The pastime to which the sailors resorted in the absence of employment could not withdraw me from the contemplation of the serene ocean beneath, and the beautiful sky above, until one began to lose its placidity and the other its brilliancy. In the hour of repose a storm had collected, and, though the captain was not entirely unprepared for its approach, it burst dismally and terribly upon us. The scene was new to me, but its novelty had no tendency to make it less frightful. The heavens and the earth appeared as if confounded together in wild confusion, and the vessel laboured through the war of elements with an apparent fatigue, as if she too participated in the apprehension which irresistibly forced itself upon us.

The habitual deference which the sailors paid to* captain retained among them, for a time, a proper degree of subordination; but the violence of the storm continuing, the water increasing in the hold, and the "ggiog getting confused, a sullen aspect spread itself over the countenances of the men; a sense of mutual danger seemed to have reduced us all to a perfect equality, and each considered himself fully competent to give advice in this emergency. The captain lound no fault with their presumption, he listened and dehated with them, and much of that time which, if properly employed, might have obviated shipwreck, was spent in useless discussion about unattainable remedies.

We had been three days at the mercy of the winds and waves, when the violence of the storm increased. In that moment the stoutest heart on board quailed with fear; and the presence of apparent danger recalled the sailors to their duty. They looked pale and wan: their mouths were open, their eyes glared, and their nostrils were distended. Suspense, and fear, and terror, were painted on every face, and a kind of incipient delirium was beginning to seize upon them, when a man from the topmast cried out 'Breakers ahead!'

He was answered by a simultaneous cry of horror. There was something piteous in the fixedness of the men; each stood motionless at the information, and before they could recover from the terror of the moment the vessel struck.

I shall never forget the horror of that moment: the crash of timbers was dreadful, the shock was tremendous, and, whether from the effect of the rebound or the madness of fear, my eyes lost their blessed power of sight, and I sank bewildered on the deck. A sense of danger, however, soon aroused me from my stupor; the masts fell overboard, the sails idly flapped about me, and the ship, a moment before compact and sea-worthy, was now a mass of floating fragments. The surrounding waves were covered with the cargo, and the sailors, each solicitous only for self, were, with

a kind of furious sagacity, eagerly providing for their safety. Already oneor two had gained the rock, round which the plashing spray formed a circle of mist, and they were being every moment joined by others.

I cannot now recall my thoughts: a sense of danger urged me forward, and, strange as it may appear, I had no thoughts of death. Anxious to avoid it, I could not consider it near me, and, although one of the last to quit the wreck, I did not neglect the means necessary to enable me to reach the rock. But this place of refuge was already occupied: its summit afforded room only for two or three, and several others clung to its sides. With a dreadful selfishness they refused to be incommoded by their companions in danger. 1'hose who had not yet secured a hold of the rock were inhumanly driven hack, and when I attempted to grapple a projecting fragment, the mate, who stood near, spurned me with his foot. My youth, my cries, had no effect upon them: they were seized with a horrid fury, and could not he considered accountable beings.

Driven from one point I struggled to effect a footing at another, but every where I encountered a similar proof of the inhumanity of man under circumstances which might be supposed to call forth his best feelings. Their cruelty filled me with despair, but there was no time for reproaches: the wind caught my hastily constructed raft, and in a moment I was beyond their reach of bearing. Brutes as they were, I could not see myself forced from their presence but with regret; and, as the darkness of night descended, I bent my eyes towards the spot where I had left them, apparently a prey to all the horrors of famine. Now and then I thought I could hear their horrid screams through the darkness of the night, and, ill as they had used me, I sent up one ardent prayer for their safety. It was the first time in this dreadful peril that I had thought of God; and the reproach of neglect came associated with a holy confidence which suffused my eyes with tears. There was a pleasure in weeping—there was, in spite of the wildness of that storm, a rapture in prayer, and, though all was fury, and darkness, and dismay, around me, I felt that I should not die. I thought of home, of parents, kindred, and country; and, even in the jaws of death, derived a certain happiness from the anticipation of the future. We all know we shall die, but we never think that the moment of dissolution has arrived.

As the morning broke upon my raft the storm ahated; in an hour or two all its fury had subsided, and the evidence of an oriental climate was written on the clear golden sky above, and the placid waters about me. I stood up and gazed around: no whitened sail was near me, but my heart rejoiced to see, at some little distance, numerous islands, studded with buildings, and covered with verdure. I floated, as I thought, towards them, but still they receded from me; the mirage of the desert haunted the ocean, and cheated my strained and aching sight. Night came on and morning arose, but no sight of tangible land; my thirst was excessive, a fever raged through my brain, and the burning sun almost consumed my undefended flesh. In the hope of assuaging my thirst I turned my open mouth to the breeze, and bathed my temples in the waves, but the fury of the disease refused to be assuaged by such gentle means, and, to my horror, I detected myself once or twice indulging in those fits of delusion which deceptiously paints every thing around its victim in the most seductive colours. Knowing that I could no longer rely upon the continuance of my sanity, I bound my leg to the raft and sat down upon it, the picture of sad and gloomy despair. The fowls of air hovered around me, as if anticipating their horrid repast, and I was glad when the presence of night relieved me from the sound of their terrible croaking.

Exhausted with thirst, hunger, and fatigue, I sank upon the raft, and can remember only my dreams. They were of the most frightful kind, and when I awoke I could hardly think that I was still upon earth. With a shudder I cast my eyes upon the blessed sun:

« PreviousContinue »