Page images

"A ghastly sight it is to see

My Second bleeding there,
Distorted now those features, erst
So perfect and so fair;

No art can dress that gory tress
Of dark, luxuriant hair.

"This is a scene from history's page,
The triumph of might and wrong;

That barbarous age has passed away
With the power of the proud and strong;
But still in our day by law we slay

To teach the erring throng.

"To show our abhorrence of shedding blood
We send the murderer's soul,

Unfit, I ween, to meet his judge,

To a last and awful goal.

He who can draw good from such law
Must be my senseless Whole."


1. Donkey. 2. Ireland. 3. Smithfield. 4. Blockhead.



AMONG the letters preserved and kindly returned to me by Dr. Spruce is one partly written on board ship on my way home, giving an account of my somewhat adventurous voyage while it was fresh in my memory, and containing some details not given in the narrative in my "Travels on the Amazon." I will therefore print it here, as no part of it has yet been made public.

"Brig Fordeson, N. Lat. 49° 30′, W. Long. 20°.
"Sunday, September 19, 1852.


"Having now some prospect of being home in a week or ten days, I will commence giving you an account of the peculiar circumstances which have already kept me at sea seventy days on a voyage which took us only twenty-nine days on our passage out. I hope you have received the letter sent you from Para, dated July 9 or 10, in which I informed you that I had taken my passage in a vessel bound for London, which was to sail in a few days. On Monday, July 12, I went on board with all my cargo, and some articles purchased or collected on my way down, with the remnant (about twenty) of my live stock. After being at sea about a week I had a slight attack of fever, and at first thought I had got the yellow fever after all. However, a little calomel

1 These consisted of numerous parrots and parrakeets, and several uncommon monkeys, a forest wild-dog, etc.

Going on deck I found

set me right in a few days, but I remained rather weak, and spent most of my time reading in the cabin, which was very comfortable. On Friday, August 6, we were in N. Lat. 30° 30', W. Long. 52°, when, about nine in the morning, just after breakfast, Captain Turner, who was half-owner of the vessel, came into the cabin, and said, 'I'm afraid the ship's on fire. Come and see what you think of it.' a thick smoke coming out of the forecastle, which we both thought more like the steam from heating vegetable matter than the smoke from a fire. The fore hatchway was immediately opened to try and ascertain the origin of the smoke, and a quantity of cargo was thrown out, but the smoke continuing without any perceptible increase, we went to the after hatchway, and after throwing out a quantity of piassaba, with which the upper part of the hold was filled, the smoke became so dense that the men could not stay in it. Most of them were then set to work throwing in buckets of water, and the rest proceeded to the cabin and opened the lazaretto or store-place beneath its floor, and found smoke issuing from the bulkhead separating it from the hold, which extended halfway under the fore part of the cabin. Attempts were then made to break down this bulkhead, but it resisted all efforts, the smoke being so suffocating as to prevent any one stopping in it more that a minute at a time. A hole was then cut in the cabin floor, and while the carpenter was doing this, the rest of the crew were employed getting out the boats, the captain looked after his chronometer, sextant, books, charts and compasses, and I got up a small tin box containing a few shirts, and put in it my drawings of fishes and palms, which were luckily at hand; also my watch and a purse with a few sovereigns. Most of my clothes were scattered about the cabin, and in the dense suffocating smoke it was impossible to look about after them. There were two boats, the long-boat and the captain's gig, and it took a good deal of time to get the merest necessaries collected and put into them, and to lower them into the water. Two casks of biscuit and a cask of water were got in, a lot of raw pork and some ham, a few tins of preserved meats and vegetables, and some

[CHAP. wine. Then there were corks to stop the holes in the boats, oars, masts, sails, and rudders to be looked up, spare spars, cordage, twine, canvas, needles, carpenter's tools, nails, etc. The crew brought up their bags of clothes, and all were bundled indiscriminately into the boats, which, having been so long in the sun, were very leaky and soon became half full of water, so that two men in each of them had to be constantly baling out the water with buckets. Blankets, rugs, pillows, and clothes were all soaked, and the boats seemed overloaded, though there was really very little weight in them. All being now prepared, the crew were again employed pouring water in the cabin and hatchway.

"The cargo of the ship consisted of rubber, cocoa, anatto, balsam-capivi, and piassaba. The balsam was in small casks, twenty stowed in sand, and twenty small kegs in ricechaff, immediately beneath the cabin floor, where the fire seemed to be. For some time we had heard this bubbling and hissing as if boiling furiously, the heat in the cabin was very great, flame soon broke into the berths and through the cabin floor, and in a few minutes more blazed up through the skylight on deck. All hands were at once ordered into the boats, which were astern of the ship. It was now about twelve o'clock, only three hours from the time the smoke was first discovered. I had to let myself down into the boat by a rope, and being rather weak it slipped through my hands and took the skin off all my fingers, and finding the boat still half full of water I set to baling, which made my hands smart very painfully. We lay near the ship all the afternoon, watching the progress of the flames, which soon covered the hinder part of the vessel and rushed up the shrouds and sails in a most magnificent conflagration. Soon afterwards, by the rolling of the ship, the masts broke off and fell overboard, the decks soon burnt away, the ironwork at the sides became red-hot, and last of all the bowsprit, being burnt at the base, fell also. No one had thought of being hungry till darkness came on, when we had a meal of biscuit and raw ham, and then disposed ourselves as well as we could for the night, which, you may be sure, was by no means a pleasant

one. Our boats continued very leaky, and we could not cease an instant from baling; there was a considerable swell, though the day had been remarkably fine, and there were constantly floating around us pieces of the burnt wreck, masts, etc., which might have stove in our boats had we not kept a constant lookout to keep clear of them. We remained near the ship all night in order that we might have the benefit of its flames attracting any vessel that might pass within sight of it.

"It now presented a magnificent and awful sight as it rolled over, looking like a huge caldron of fire, the whole cargo of rubber, etc., forming a liquid burning mass at the bottom. In the morning our little masts and sails were got up, and we bade adieu to the Helen, now burnt down to the water's edge, and proceeded with a light east wind towards the Bermudas, the nearest land, but which were more than seven hundred miles from us. As we were nearly in the track of West Indian vessels, we expected to fall in with some ship in a few days.

"I cannot attempt to describe my feelings and thoughts during these events. I was surprised to find myself very cool and collected. I hardly thought it possible we should escape, and I remember thinking it almost foolish to save my watch and the little money I had at hand. However, after being in the boats some days I began to have more hope, and regretted not having saved some new shoes, cloth coat and trousers, hat, etc., which I might have done with a little trouble. My collections, however, were in the hold, and were irretrievably lost. And now I began to think that almost all the reward of my four years of privation and danger was lost. What I had hitherto sent home had little more than paid my expenses, and what I had with me in the Helen I estimated would have realized about £500. But even all this might have gone with little regret had not by far the richest part of my own private collection gone also. All my private collection of insects and birds since I left Para was with me, and comprised hundreds of new and beautiful species, which would have rendered (I had fondly hoped) my cabinet, as far as regards American species, one of the finest in Europe.



« EelmineJätka »