Page images
PDF
EPUB

mustered, but the second officer was sick. I recognised no one of those mustered, and therefore regretted the necessity of seeing the sick man, who turned out to be the rascal who commanded the boat's crew, which committed the atrocities. We secured him well, and soon marched him off to his companions, whom we delivered to the nearest magistrate ; we hastened off, for we had yet more work to do, without which the business would have been incomplete.

PART V.

It is to be easily supposed, that when securing the persons, we did not neglect the property of the prisoners; but as time pressed, we did not stay to examine it; that, belonging to the second officer, we ticketed separately, and locking it up in the room where Groves and his companion's goods were, put a seal upon the door and left Boyce as a watch, that no person might tamper with the landlord, for we suspected that there was much booty. Land and myselt hastened off to Bow-street, and gave our depositions, on which a search warrant and another for the apprehension of Cross, as he was called, though that was not, as I have before said, his real name. Another officer besides Land was ordered to accompany us, lest our man might by chance escape. We proceeded to the bottom of the street where his house was situated, and finding that there was a back door as well as a front one, it was agreed that the new officer should take up his position in that place, to prevent any one passing through it or over the wall. One other assistant we had, who was stationed in front of the house, lest by chance any one should pass that way. These arrangements being made, Land knocked at the house door, which after some delay was opened by a servant maid, who asked us what we wanted, to which we stated our wish to see her master. He, she said, was busily employed and would never receive strangers who would not tell their business. This we refused to do, and urgently pressed the necessity of our visit. As the girl still persisted and refused to let us further in, I pondered on the propriety of making good our entrance, with the means we had. The maid servant at last said, she would go and see what her master would do, and retired up stairs. We paced the hall for some minutes awaiting her return, but in vain ; a longer period elapsed and still she did not come. On this we no longer delayed to commence a strict search in all the rooms for Cross, though our labours were at first of no effect, for having gone from the cellar to the garret and down again, we could not discover master or inaid. We at first began to fear that he had succeeded in. making his escape, but as both the men posted at the door way, declared that no soul had quitted the house, and as we were pret. ty certain that he was in, when we first came, there could be little doubt of his having some cunningly contrived place of concealment. It behoved us, therefore, to set all our wits to work again, and try to unkennel the fox. It was a work of some labour, as many of the rooms were filled with lumber, and some with unopened packages; but after overhauling the contents of a cellar from one end to the other, by the feeble light of a candle, we found the object of our search sitting couched up in a corner, reduced to the least possible size which his body and bulk admitted of, so as to prevent his being spied; but the vigilanteye of the police officer perceived the bundle in the corner which we had not yet removed, and from what we at first thought an old bag of clothes, out came Cross. I cannot depict the horror expressed in his countenance on being dragged from his hiding place; it seemed as if he was scarcely conscious of existence. But when brought out into the open light of day, he cast his eyes on me, a sudden hope came across him, that perhaps he might prevail on me to assist him. With earnest prayers and supplications did he entreat me to let him go, threw himself at my feet asking me what my kind old guardian had done to injure me, and offering me thousands of pounds, to release him. Compassion almost got the better of me, though if I bad the inclination I had no longer the power of doing him good, but when I thought of all the guilt that he had incurred, the misery he had caused, the blood which had been spilled through his machinations and what I myself suffered from his agents, I spurned the hoary wretch from me, and thanked heaven that I had been essential to bringing him to justice. We bound his hands behind him and transferred him, as the safest place to the Parish watchhouse. We then made a search for any of the plundered articles from ships, and in this we were supereminently successful. The store rooms were amply supplied with such a miscellaneous collection of valuables, cloths, shawls, jewels, &c. that it was impossible they could have been collected in any fair way ; but the most important of our captures, was a small box of papers relative to his different concerns, which afterwards formed the clearest proof of his professed agency in piratical concerns. It seems to have been specially his business, to receive and dispose of in England and the other countries of Europe, articles which had been plundered, and to remit the proceeds to those concerned. The property was so bulky, that we could not get it all away with us, and so were compelled to leave it in the house, the doors of which we locked and sealed, and took care to take the servant also with us to Bow Street for examination. Our next

essay was to visit Blackwall and relieve Boyce of his charge, and search those prisoners' chests for property. On none of them was any particularly suspicious thing found except on the second mate, whom we had captured on board the ship; he had locked up in his chest a fine Troughton's reflectingcircle, and a telescope of very superior construction. On applying to the maker of the circle and searching his books it was discovered by the number which was still perceptible, though endeavours had evidently been made toerase it, that it had been sold some years ago to the captain of the vessel, which had been taken. It was with such proofs as these, that with the utmost joy we proceeded to the Police Office, where the prisoners had already arrived, the magistrates congratuled us much on our successful and energetic exertions, which they said deserved great praise and were calculated to do us much honor. For my own part I rejoiced more at the vindication of my own character than any thing else; and perhaps a little feeling of vindictiveness, for the injuries I had sustained, might have been unconsciously mixed up with it.

It is not my intention to give a detail of the examination of the prisoners before the magistrate, as many of the facts have been above narrated. A body of strong circumstantial evidence was made out against the whole of the parties, but it was deemed by the lawyers that there might be some doubt of a conviction as to the captain and others who had been captured at Blackwall, as I was the only witness against them, who could swear to facts. But the papers found in Cross's house tended very materially to strengthen the case ; some letters from Groves were found, forwarding to him requisitions for sapplies, stating progress made and expectations to come, but the writing being in a species of cypher and otherwise concealed by means of slang words, it was thought that though they produced mural, they might fail in causing legal conviction. It was singular, however, and very worthy of note, that the documents evinced and gave traces of other established piracy agencies in other parts of the world, especially South America, involving names and persons tolerably well known as apparently respectable, and who were least of all suspected of being accessories to such nefarious practices. From these it seems that they draw upon and remit to one another, and intermingle false commercial transactions with those which they really pursue, for the purpose of misleading enquiries, and carrying on their business with greater security. It also came to light, that Cross was connected with those disgraces of society, the slave-traders, and that when piracy was at a low ebb, by commanders going with their ships better armed and manned, (which they do atter a general alarm, until it has subsided) they made nothing of running up to Valparaiso, or Lima, to lay in stores, and then make a voyage to the Gold Coast, for their human cargo. I am glad to learn, that these papers have been very useful in directing the operations of our cruisers against the slave ships, and that they have been mainly instrumental in causing the capture of several, by pointing out the rendezvous, and agents principally engaged in the business. To return, however, to our narrative. I had before observed, that there was some doubt as to the full legal proof against the first mate, boatswain, and quarter master, (who had rapidly recovered from his wound) in consequence of the deficiency of oral testimony as to the facts; this was supplied in an astonishing, but complete and satisfactory matter. Jackson, the man whom I had wounded in the arm, on board my own vessel, was taken severely ill, after the amputation of his arm, and his life was for a long time despaired of; the clergyman of the place, where he was confined, attended him very assiduously, and with unremitting care. The conscience of the dying man was touched, and when asked, if he was prepared to go into his Maker's presence, loaded with guilt, and with a lie in his heart, his soul seemed bursting within him; at length he confessed his knowledge of some matters, but said, he had taken most solemn and binding oaths to conceal them. It cost the worthy priest some time to persuade the wretched man, that such engagements were in truth invalid, and that it behoved him to cleanse his heart of all such guiltiness, by giving a true account of the affair. Convinced by reason, and terrified at the thoughts of persisting in his silence, he at length made a full confession, confirming my statement in every particular, though it even went further, by giving an account of what had been done after I had been thrown overboard. After taking some other vessels, not English, they proceeded to Lima, where the crew separated in consequence of disputes among themselves. The crew declared, that the greatest share of the bonty was with held from them by Groves, under pretence of remitting it to his owners, whereas being all as one on board, in a venture, they ought to share, and share alike. On this the sailors began to desert, until at last there were hardly hands enough left to navigate the vessel, on which it was resolved to beach her on the Chili Coast, and then travelling onward, represent themselves as distressed mariners. As they had then no valuable property with them, having remitted the whole homeward, they had no hesitation in acting, as they had resolved on, which was done. This was as far as the penitent knew, he never having seen the Captain, &c. since then, for he himself had worked his way home in a Spanish brig. In regard to me, he said, that I was well known to have escaped the death they had prepared for me, and that on hearing it,

they had greatly blamed themselves for allowing even a chance of my escape, which was never intended by their launching me into the sea, but only to make death more terrible, and they were nearly putting to death the person who had proposed the sport. As to Cross, the prisoner knew nothing, as he had been engaged by Groves only, and he never enquired on whose behalf the Captain acted. After making this confession, surprising to say, Jackson's disease took a new turn and he began to recover speedily. Whether he repented or no of his communicativeness, I cannot say, but he could not recede from what he had so solemnly avowed, when he was as supposed in articulo mortis, and which was witnessed by several respectable individuals besides the clergyman. In this case as his own conviction in case of trial was put beyond a doubt, the crown thought proper to clench the case on the greater rascals by releasing this one, and proposed to him becoming King's evidence. The man did not much admire coming forward against his companions, but seeing no other way of eluding his fate, consented, and thus rendered the conviction of all the prisoners certain. After all the proof had been arranged, and the requisite inquiries finished, there was held a special Admiralty Sessions for the trial of these precious rascals, and I had the happiness to see them all arraigned on the charge of piracy and murder—they were placed at the Dock as follows. Cross, Groves, the second mate, first mate, boatswain, quartermaster, and lastly Dance. The court was crowded without precedent, to hear the history and see the trial of such notorious and desperate offenders, so that it was with some difficulty that persons could gain admittance. "I was the first witness called upon to prove the whole case against all the prisoners, and underwent a cross examination on their behalf, which in no way tended to shake my credibility, but merely to show which of them had been less active than the others, in fact it struck me, that the prisoners' counsel knowing from the strength of the case, that it must go against them, had given up the defence, and laid hold of the hope, that only the more guilty might suffer, and that the royal clemency might pardon the rest, or commute the last penalty to transportation. Jackson followed me in giving testimony ; he at first appeared very reluctant, and was something daunted by the frowns and scowls of his quondam friends ; but when once fairly launched, he sailed on steadily enough on his course, nor could the prisoners' lawyers make him fall off, though they gave him a smartish breeze of it. The direct proof here ceased. Land the policeman was then called, who proved the finding of the reflecting circle in the second officer's possession at Blackwall, and a shopkeeper from Trough

« EelmineJätka »