Page images
PDF
EPUB

was

weigh, and sweep in close to that in broadsides, but by single guns, as dwarf palm there."

fast as they could pepper, some of The smoke had come from a the shot coming through and through spot close under its shade.

both sides of the polacre. We im“ Hurrah !” shouted the men. mediately hauled off for the oppo

The anchor catted-the site bank of the river, but presently sweeps were manned—the guns took the ground on a bank, where were loaded with grape—the ma- the current, setting strong down, rines stood to their arms, and in soon jammed us hard and fast. two minutes we were once more We were about two cables' length at anchor, with the two boats in from the brig at this time, and the tow, within half-pistol shot of the sun was now near setting. The fibank. All remained as still and ring continued, the flashes became quiet as before. Not a breath stirred brighter, the smoke itself began, as the leaves of the mangrove bushes, the sky darkened, to grow luminous, or of the dwarf palms that grew and presently the polacre appeared close to the river brink. I was sure to be sinking. “She is settling fast we were directly opposite the spot down forward,” said I; “by the from whence the shots were fired. powers, she is sinking, sure enough,

Whenever we were fairly settled in there there she goes; what a list our position, we let drive both guns. to port she is getting !” Presently The grape pattered in the water, and she fell over on her beam-ends on rattled amongst the leaves of the the mud, with every thing under trees, but all continued still as water but about ten feet of the death on shore. We loaded and fired quarter bulwark, and the masts and again, but as we had only one boat rigging, which the setting sun was untouched, Mr Sprawl and I de- now gilding; while the long shadows termined, instead of attempting a of the bushes and dwarf palms on landing, in order to cope with ene- the western bank gradually crept mies whom we could not see, to across the whole breadth of the weigh and sweep towards the brig, unwholesome stream, chasing the with the intention, if opportunity blood-red gleam of the sinking sun offered, of boarding her. But the first from the water, and then from moment we turned our stern to the the river brink, where it lingered shore, and began to pull in that direc- for a moment, and then gradually tion-bang-several cannon were a- rose until it rested on the topmost gain fired at us, but in this instance branches of the trees on the low they were loaded with round and bank opposite, from which it speedgrape, and two of the shot told, but ily disappeared, and the only objects fortunately only one of the people that vouched for his being still above was hurt, and that not serionsly. the horizon, were the wand-like tops

“ Pull, men, like fury; give way, of the tall masts, that shone like and clap the hull of the brig between burnished brass rods for a brief you and our honest friends there." moment, and then blackened under Crack,- another rally from the the fast falling darkness, which ramasked battery, and one poor fellow pidly shrouded the whole face of was this time knocked over, never the dull flat melancholy margin of to rise again ; in another minute, we the dark rolling stream; while creephad swept round the stern of the ing churchyard-looking vapours, as polacre, and were alongside. I laid if the pestilence no longer walked hold of the manrope—“Now, men, in darkness, but had become palpathere can be no tricks here, or they ble to the senses both of sight, smell, would have shown themselves be- and feeling, presently shrouded every fore now, so, follow me.” The fore- object on the shores from our view, most manrope gave in my grasp, like a London fog; while myriads of and a gun exploded on board. I fell musquittoes attacked us in every way, back on the deck of the felucca. and several white cranes fitted past “ Cast off your fastenings, and sheer and around us, like ghosts, sailivg off, my lads, or we may get a hoist slowly on their wide-pread wings, we don't dream of.”

and the chirping and croaking of At this instant the battery on numberless insects and reptiles came shore began once more to play, not off strong from the banks, borne on the stagnant putrid exhalation that rable job, so that she leaked very was like to poison us; and the rush- little. ing of the river, that in the daytime The lieutenant in command and we could not hear, sounded loud and I now went below, and immehoarse, and rippled, lip, lipping diately sent for the three midshipagainst the stem as we lay aground, men who were detached on the and then circled away in dark frothy same service with us. We had some eddies in our wake.

grog and a piece of rancid mess beef, We lay still for several hours and as turning in was out of the without seeing any light, or heare question, we lay down on the deck ing any noises on shore that indi. and on the lockers, and by the help cated the vicinity of our danger- of boat cloaks and blankets, we were ous neighbours. Once tempted by endeavouring to make ourselves as the apparent quietude, the boat comfortable as we could, when the shoved off a stroke or two in the sound of a cannon-shot was once direction of the polacre, with the more heard. intention of setting fire to her, if pos- “Why, what the deuce," said I, sible; but when within pistol-shot of “we are making no movementtheir object, a loud voice from the what can the fellows mean ?” shore sang out in a threatening tone There was 'no saying; — they -"Cuidado,”* when the officer wise. might, from the success they had met ly pulled round, and returned to us. with in neutralizing the attempts of

We could hear the frigate in the the boats to disturb or destroy the ofling through the livelong night, fi- wreck, have overvalued the strength ring signal guns every ten minutes, of their own position, for this shot which we durst not answer, without had been aimed at us; and as we had the certainty of being speedily blown now plenty of water, we instantly to pieces by our invisible antagon- weighed, and dropped down the ists. About ten o'clock, I went river out of range. All now remainin one of the boats with muffled ed quiet until the day dawned, and oars, and made directly for the bank streaks of dull grey cold light apopposite where we had been fired at, peared in the eastern horizon. There which, on a nearer approach, I found was not a single warm tint in the to be free of mangroves, and to con- sky, although we were in a regular sist of a black overbanging scaur, that vapour-bath of pestilential effluvia, had been scarped out by the rush of and were any thing but cold. An the stream, reflected across from the hour before daylight the fog sauk jutting point on the side where the down on us even thicker than before, slavers had intrenched themselves. so that every thing was hid from our All continued still, and here we view beyond ten paces' distance; but skulked for a full hour, when we as it drew nearer sunrise, this watery stole out, and pulled gently towards canopy rose, and gradually evapothe wreck, which, either from a fresh rated in a dropping mist, until the in the river, or the rising of the tide, gorgeous east once more reassumed was now entirely under water. But its supremacy, and the stars sparkwe had not advanced above fifty led, and the reddening firmamentgave yards towards our object, when the token that day was at hand. The same unearthly

beware" swung across the black rushing of the stream, · Midge, ahoy,” sang out a voice and was again reflected in a small from the bow of a boat, that had on echo from the opposite side, as if the instant stuck its snout round the a water fiend had been answered point below us. Before we could by a spirit of the air. We got back answer, the yawl, full of enquiring to the felucca, and now made up our messmates, was alongside. minds to while away the time until “ Hillo, Master Sprawl - hillo, the day broke, in the best way we Master Brail, what sort of an aftercould. All hands were now set to noon have you spent ?-Slept sound, cooper the damaged boat, of which eh ?—But why the devil did you we contrived to make a very tole- keep blazing away and wasting his

sun rose

• Literally,-- Take care

mind your eye.

we DOW

[ocr errors]

Majesty's powder in minute guns in own boat, we could communicate this way?"

without being overheard)—" why, “What were you after the whole supposing we do carry his position night through, eh ?” sung out old -cui bono, what advantageth it us ? Pumpbolt, the master of the Gazelle. The slaves, which, when the Midge

“ Come on board, my lad,” said first saw him, and chased him, were 1_" come on board, will ye, and you on board, are once more back into shall hear the whole story."

cover, and have all been landed; so if They came on board, and after we could even weigh the polacre lengthier explanation than the reader and carry her to Cape Coast, I very would willingly listen to, it was de. much fear we should be unable to termined, reinforced as

condemn her.” were, that if we could make out the “ But the honour and glory?" whereabouts of the fort that had so quoth I. annoyed us, we should make a dash " Both be-ahem," quoth he;"but at it, even were we to have broken if you think it an object to have a heads in prospect. As to attacking brush, why, come along, it is all the the battery in front, where there was day's work.” no standing ground, it was utterly was a younger man by ten out of the question; so, as the tide years than our friend, and, boylike, I was now low ebb, and the slaver gloried in the opportunity ; so we nearly high and dry on the bank, again began to scull along the clear although, in the hole we bad dropped deep creek, overhung by the same into, the felucca was floating quietly luxuriant umbrageous screen of man. out of cannon-shot, we left her in groves, as impervious to the sun and charge of ten hands, and crowding light as if it had been a continuous the other boats, we gradually drop- artificial arbour. I cannot describe ped down with the current along the beauty and coolness of this shade shore, three in all, the damaged -water clear and pellucid as crystal boat having been repaired, as al- under foot; a long distinct view ready mentioned, and with no fewer through forests of naked mangrove than six-and-forty seamen and twen- stems on each side, while overhead ty marines, keeping a bright look- there was a perfect screen of green out for the smallest opening in leaves, as if the stems of the trees and the mangroves that could afford an bushes had been merely naked and entrance. At length we did arrive leafless artificial supporters to the at such an opening; it was a narrow luxuriant web of verdure that rested creek about thirty feet broad, over- on the trelliswork formed by the hung with the everlasting man- interlacing of their boughs aloft, and grove, which formed an arch over- which spread out in a delicious cohead by the weaving of the thickly vering over the whole shore. We leaved branches together, forming a dislodged innumerable birds of shade utterly impervious to the sun's every variety, from the tall floating rays. I was in the sternmost boat; ghostlike crane to the chattering pa. the next to me was commanded by roquet; and more than one owlAitted. the first lieutenant of the frigate, old away from us, and flew up through the Davie Doublepipe, and as we sculled branches above, until the sun struck along in the clear creek, for here it him, when, with a whirling flaff and was translucent as a mountain lake, a rustling brush through the topmost whatever the water might be in the leaves, le came down overhead like river, our boats came close together. a shot, until, restored by the green Sprawl, whose experience of the twilight, he recovered himself, and coast, and, in truth, of expeditions of once more sailed away along the narthis kind, greatly surpassed my own, row creek, and disappeared round immediately asked me to shift from the corner of it ahead of us. In one aft where I sat, forward to the stem instance, a boy in the bow of my boat of the boat. The men continued to struck one down with a boat-hook, pole along, as there was no room for so that the bird fell crack against ihem to ply their oars.

Lieutenant Sprawl's head as he sat in " I say, Master Brail,” quoth he the stern-sheets of the boat ahead. -(as he sat in the stern-sheets and Hillo, Brail, my man," quoth he, I was stowed away in the bow of my “where away-what are you after?"

[ocr errors][merged small]

upon her.

[ocr errors]

This narrow canal was absolutely as if the weight attached to it had alive with fish-they surrounded us been more than it could bear. on all sides; and although we could “ Aha,” thought I, “we are getdiscern some dark suspicious-look- ting near the earth of the fox any ing figures at the bottom, which we how—the scent is high." conjectured to be alligators, still We carried on. The path contithere was no perceptible motion nued cut up to a great degree, but amongst them, and we all continued no other evidences of our being on quietly to scull along, until the the proper trail occurred; and as we headmost boat took the ground for a could not fall in with a tree tall moment, and we all closed bang enough to afford us a glimpse of the

lay of the land about us, had we " What is that ?" sung out old ascended it, we had no alternative Bloody Politeful.

but to stand on. Lord only knows,” answered “ No chance of doing any good the midshipman beside him; when a here,” grumbled an old quartermasloud snorting noise, approaching to ter, close to where I was, struggling a roar, a sound that hovered between nearly knee-deep in mud. “We shall the blowing of a wbale and the bel- catch nothing but fever here." lowing of a bull half choked in a Hillo," said a little middy, as we marsh, echoed along the green arch. braced up sharp, round a right

"Now what customer can that angled corner of the pestiferous be?” quoth your humble servant. path—"hillo, the road stops here;"

"A hippopotamus,” said one of and so it certainly appeared to do the launch's crew; and before we about pistol-shot, or nearer, ahead could hear any thing more, an ani- of us, where a mound of what mal with a coarse black leather skin, seemed green furze bushes was heapand a most formidable head, about ed up about six feet high across the the size of a small Highland cow, (it path. Whether this was a casual must have been but a young one,) interruption thrown up by the nafloundered down the creek past us, tives, or an impediment cast in our stirring up the mud as thick as tar way by our concealed amigos, I all round aboutbut we had other could not tell. A loud barking of work in hand, so he escaped with- dogs was now heard abead of usout a shot. We pulled on, and pre- and presently a balt was called, and sently, the mangroves settled down the word was passed along to see right across the narrow creek, twist- that the priming of the muskets was ing their snake-like branches to- dry and sound; and all of us instinct gether into an impervious net. They ively drew his cutlass a finger's were still entirely leafless below, and breadth or so from its sheath, to see the topmost branches alone gave out that it would come readily to one's foliage, as if their bare black tortu- hand, should need be. The first lieuous boughs had been an arbour sup- tenant, who, disdaining the common porting a covering of superb vines. ship cutlass, had buckled on a most But all this I have described already enormous Andrea Ferrara with a Ahead our course was thus most huge rusty basket-hilt, advanced effectually stopped, but a small boldly towards the enclosure, when muddy path branched off to the a smooth-faced, very handsome dark right, and we determined to follow young man suddenly raised his head it.

above the green defence—“ Que It appeared a good deal poached, quieren ustedes, amigos mios?" as if from the passing of a number “ What's that to you,” rejoined I; of people recently along it; and we give us a clear road, my darling, or had not proceeded above twenty maybe we shall cooper you, after a yards when we came upon a spare very comical fashion.” studding-sail boom, to which some I had scarcely uttered the words heavy weight had been attached, for when a discharge of grape flew over two slings were fastened round it, our heads, crashing amongst the shewing, by the straight and wire- branches, and sending them down like appearance of the rope, how se- in a shower on our heads, while all vere the strain had been; and the the neighbouring trees, like Jacob's spar itself was broken in the midst, wands, became, in the twinkling of

VOL. XXXV. NO. CCXIX.

Y

soft paste,

an eye, patched with white spots, had been cleared by the hatchet, from the rasping of the grape-shot. while branches were thickly strewed

“ Forward,” shouted Ďavie Dou- on the surface nearer the platform, blepipe_“follow me, men,” when— to afford a footing across it. But rattle-a platoon of musketry was these branches had been removed fired at us.

The grape had missed, for a space of ten feet, at the spot from a wrong elevation of thegun; not where we boarded, and the slimy 80 the small arms—two of our party ground appeared there poached into were shot dead and three wound.

that no footing might ed; but the spring was neverthe. be afforded to an attacking force. less made. We scrambled across the About thirty desperadoes,

as already brushwood that had been heaped on mentioned, were busily engaged on the road, and over the stockade, the platform, endeavouring to slew about six feet high, that it masked, the carronades round, so as to face the and presently found ourselves in the point of attack. They were all armpresence of thirty determined fel- ed with boarding pikes, or cutlasses, lows, who were working like fiends while several had large brass bellin the endeavour to slew round se- mouthed trabucos, or blunderbusven eighteen.pound carronades, that ses, which threw five or six muskethad been mounted on a stage of loose balls at a discharge. Most of them planks, and pointed towards the ri. were naked to their trowsers, and ver. Apparently they had been up- they all wore a blue, yellow, or red able to accomplish this with more sash drawn tight round the waist, than one, the gun that had just through which several had pistols been fired, which had slid off the stuck; while their heads were coverstage, and was now useless, from ed, in general, by a blue cloth cap, the giving way or rather sinking of like a long stocking, to the end of the timber which constituted the which was fastened a thick silk or platform, in the mud, two of the woollen tassel, either hanging down number having already, in the at- the back, or falling over the side of tempt, capsized and sunk right out the head. Those who wore shirts of sight in the semisolid black filth, had them of a woollen striped stuff, which hereabout composed the bank common amongst the Biscayan boatof the river. So aid from the can- men. One elderly man—a large non they now had none; but never athletic Hercules of a fellow, baredid men shew a more daring front- headed, and very bald, with his they stood their ground, exchan. trowsers rolled up to his knees, ging blow for blow most manfully; displaying, his dark brawny legs

The fort or battery was a stock- and naked feet, dressed in one of aded enclosure, about fifty yards the aforesaid striped shirts, and square. Towards the river face, there who wore a broad-brimmed, narrow was a platform, composed of loose conical-crowned hat, with a flaming planks, which were bedded on a quick- red riband tied round it close to the sand of running mud, (being half an spreading brim, and with a trabuco Irishman, I hope the phrase is pa- in his hand, the piece held in a way tent to me,) on which were mount. that it might be instantly levelled at ed, as already stated, seven carron- us-stood in advance of the others. ades, eighteen-pounders ; and the These ferocious-looking rascals had brushwood between them and the most formidable auxiliaries, in three river grew so thick and close, that Spanish blood-hounds, as yet held in the water could not be seen, ale leather Jeashes, but who were jumpthough opposite the muzzle of eaching and struggling, open-mouthed, cannon the leaves were scorched and barking, and panting to get at and blackened, and the stems shew- us, until they were almost strangled, ed the white splinter marks of the while their eyes were straining in shot. The wooden stage extended their heads, or rather starting from about twelve feet in breadth land- their sockets, and the foam was ward, but beyond it the whole inside dashed right and left from their coalof the fort was black soft mud, black muzzles. They were most through which, on the side farthest superb creatures, all three of a bright from the river, protruded the stumps bay colour, and about the height of a of the haggled brushwood, where it tall English stag-hound, but much

« PreviousContinue »