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´╗┐Title: Ran Away to Sea
Author: Reid, Mayne, 1818-1883
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ran Away to Sea" ***

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Ran Away to Sea, by Captain Mayne Reid.

________________________________________________________________________
Although this book seems to be very much like the sort of book Kingston
wrote, it actually predates that author by a few years.  It tells the
story of a young boy, well brought up, who runs away to sea, despite his
parents' wishes.  Unfortunately he asks for a place on board a ship
where many of the officers and crew are the vilest villains, and the
trade they engage in is slaving, despite that trade having been banned
half a century previously.

The story is told with all that sense of humour that Mayne Reid brings
to his works, though there are some harrowing moments when the treatment
of the "cargo" is being described.

This edition appeared just fifty years after the first edition, and it
may have been slightly condensed, because the earlier edition had many
more pages, though the edition used here has quite small, though very
better job.

________________________________________________________________________
RAN AWAY TO SEA, BY CAPTAIN MAYNE REID.



CHAPTER ONE.

I was just sixteen when I ran away to sea.

I did not do so because I had been treated unkindly at home.  On the
contrary, I left behind me a fond and indulgent father, a kind and
gentle mother, sisters and brothers who loved me, and who lamented for
me long after I was gone.

But no one had more cause to regret this act of filial disobedience than
I myself.  I soon repented of what I had done, and often, in after life,
did it give me pain, when I reflected upon the pain I had caused to my
kindred and friends.

From my earliest years I had a longing for the sea--perhaps not so much
to be a sailor, as to travel over the great ocean, and behold its
wonders.  This longing seemed to be part of my nature, for my parents
gave no encouragement to such a disposition.  On the contrary, they did
all in their power to beget within me a dislike for a sea life, as my
father had designed for me a far different profession.  But the counsels
of my father, and the entreaties of my mother all proved unavailing.
Indeed--and I feel shame in acknowledging it--they produced an effect
directly opposite to that which was intended; and, instead of lessening
my inclination to wander abroad, they only rendered me more eager to
carry out that design!  It is often so with obstinate natures, and I
fear that, when a boy, mine was too much of this character.  Most to
desire that which is most forbidden, is a common failing of mankind; and
in doing this, I was perhaps not so unlike others.

Certain it is, that the thing which my parents least desired me to feel
an interest in--the great salt sea--was the very object upon which my
mind constantly dwelt--the object of all my longings and aspirations.

I cannot tell what first imbued me with a liking for the sea, for I had
such a liking almost from the years of childhood.  I was born upon the
sea-shore, and this fact might explain it; for, during my early life,
when I was still but a mere child, I used to sit at the window and look
with admiring eyes on the boats with their white sails, and the
beautiful ships with their tall tapering masts, that were constantly
passing and repassing.  How could I do otherwise than admire these grand
and glorious structures--so strong and so graceful?  How could it be
otherwise, than that I should imbibe a longing to be on board of them,
and be carried afar over yonder bright blue water?

As I grew older, certain books had chanced to fall into my hands, and
these related to the sea--they told of lovely lands that lay upon its
shores--of strange races of men and animals--of singular plants and
trees--of palms and broad-leaved figs--of the banyan and the baobab--of
many things beautiful and wonderful.  These books strengthened the
inclination I already felt to wander abroad over the ocean.

Another circumstance aided in bringing about the climax.  I had an uncle
who had been an old skipper--that is, the master of a merchant-ship--and
it was the delight of this old gentleman to assemble his nephews around
him--there was a goodly number of us--and tell us tales of the sea, to
which all were ever eager to listen.  Many a budget did he deliver by
the winter fireside--for, like the storyteller of the "Arabian Nights,"
a thousand and one tales could he tell--stories of desperate adventures
by flood and field--of storms, hurricanes, and shipwrecks--long voyages
in open boats--encounters with pirates and Indians--battles with sharks,
and seals, and whales bigger than houses--terrible conflicts with wild
beasts--as bears, wolves, lions, and tigers!  All these adventures had
our old uncle encountered, or said he had, which to his admiring
audience was pretty much the same thing.

After listening to such thrilling narrations, no wonder I became tired
of home, no wonder my natural inclination grew into a passion I could no
longer resist.  No wonder I ran away to sea.

And I did so at the age of sixteen--the wonder is I did not go sooner,
but it was no fault of mine that I did not; for from the time I was able
to talk I had been constantly importuning my parents for leave to go.  I
knew they could easily have found a situation for me, had they been so
minded.  They could have bound me as an apprentice on board some of the
great merchant vessels sailing for India, or they could have entered me
in the Royal Navy as a midshipman, for they were not without high
interest; but neither father nor mother would lend an ear to my
entreaties.

At length, convinced they would never consent, I resolved upon running
away; and, from the age of fourteen, had repeatedly offered myself on
board the ships that traded to the neighbouring seaport, but I was too
small a boy, and none of them would take me.  Some of the captains
refused because they knew I had not the consent of my parents; and these
were the very kind with whom I should have preferred going; since the
fact of their being such conscientious men, would have ensured me good
treatment.  But as these refused to take me I had no other resource but
to try elsewhere, and I at length succeeded in striking a bargain with a
skipper who had no scruples about the matter, and I was booked as an
apprentice.  He knew I was about to run away; and more than this,
assisted in the design by letting me know the exact day and hour he was
to take his departure from the port.

And I was aboard at the time specified; and before any search could have
been made for me, or even before I could have been missed, the vessel
had tripped her anchor, spread her sails, and carried me off beyond the
possibility of pursuit.



CHAPTER TWO.

I was not twelve hours on board--twelve minutes I might almost say--
before I was completely cured of my sea fever; and I would have parted
with the best tooth in my head to have set my legs once more on land
again.  Almost on embarking I was overhauled by sea-sickness, and in
another hour it became so bad that I thought it would have turned me
inside out.

Sea-sickness is a malady not pleasant under any circumstances--even to a
first-cabin passenger, with a steward to wait upon him, and administer
soothing prescriptions and consoling sympathy.  How much more painful to
a poor friendless boy treated as I was--sworn at by the surly captain--
cursed and cuffed by the brutal mate--jeered and laughed at by the
ruffian crew.  Oh! it was horrid, and had the ship been sinking under me
at that moment I verily believe I should not have made the slightest
effort to save myself!

Forty-eight hours, however, gave me relief from the nauseous ailing, for
this like many other diseases is often short-lived where it is most
violent.  In about two days I was able to stand up and move about the
decks, and I was made to move about them with a vengeance.

I have above characterised the captain as "surly," the mate "brutal,"
and the crew a set of "ruffians": I have spoken without exaggeration.
With an exception or two, a more villainous gang I never encountered--of
course not before that time--for that was not likely; but never since
either, and it has several times been the fortune of my life to mix in
very questionable and miscellaneous company.

The captain was not only surly, but positively ferocious when drunk or
angry, and one or both he generally was.  It was dangerous to go near
him--at least for me, or any one that was weak and helpless--for it was
chiefly upon the unresisting that he ventured his ill-humour.

I was not long on board before I incurred his displeasure by some
mistake I could not possibly help--I had a taste of his temper then, and
many a one afterwards, for his spite once kindled against anyone was
implacable as the hate of a Corsican, and never became allayed.

He was a short, stout, "bluffy" man, with features perfectly regular,
but with fat round cheeks, bullet eyes, and nose slightly upturned--a
face which is often employed in pictures to typify good-nature, jollity,
and an honest heart; but with little propriety is it so employed in my
opinion, since under just such smiling faces have I, during a long
life's experience, encountered the greatest amount of dishonesty
combined with dispositions most cruel and brutal.  Such a man was the
skipper into whose tender care I had so recklessly thrown myself.

The mate was an echo of his captain.  When the one said "no" the other
said "no," and when either said "yes," the other affirmed it.  The
principal difference between them was that the mate did not drink, and
perhaps this lengthened, if it did not strengthen, the bond of
friendship that existed between them.  Had both been drinkers they must
have quarrelled at times; but the mate never "tasted" as he affirmed,
and when his superior was in his cups this enabled him to bear the abuse
which not unfrequently the captain treated him to.  In all matters of
discipline, or of anything else, he was with the captain, for though
brutal he was but a cowardly fellow and ever ready to fawn upon his
master, "boot-lick" him as the sailors termed it.

There was a second mate, but this was a very secondary kind of a
character, not worth description, and scarcely to be distinguished from
the common "hands" over whom he exercised only a very limited control.

There was a carpenter, an old man with a large swollen rum-reddened
nose, another crony of the captain's; and a huge and very ugly negro,
who was both cook and steward, and who was vile enough to have held
office in the kitchen of Pluto.  These were the officers of the ship,
and for the men, they were, as already stated, as villainous a crew as I
ever encountered.  There were exceptions--only one or two,--but it was
some time before I discovered them.

In such companionship then did I find myself--I just fresh from the
tender protection of parents--from the company of kind friends, and
associates.  Oh!  I was well cured of the sea fever, and would have
given half my life to be on land again!  How I reproached myself for my
folly!  How I reproached that friend of the family--the old salt--whose
visionary adventures had no doubt been the cause of my sea longings! how
in my heart I now execrated both him, and his fanciful stories!  Would I
had never heard them! would that I had never run away to sea!

Repentance had arrived too late to be of any use.  I could no longer
return--I must go on, and how long? merciful heaven, the prospect was
horrible!  Months of my painful life were to be endured.  Months! nay
years,--for I now remembered that the wretch of a captain had caused me
to sign some agreement--I had not even read it, but I knew it was an
article of indenture; and I was told afterwards that it bound me for
years--for five long years--bound me not an apprentice but in reality a
slave.  A slave for five years to this hideous brute, who might scold me
at will, cuff me at will, kick me at will, have me flogged or put in
irons whenever the fancy crossed his mind.

There was no retreating from these hard conditions.  Filled with bright
visions of "life on the ocean wave," I had subscribed to them without
pause or thought.  My name was down, and I was legally bound.  So they
told me both captain and mate, and I believed it.

I could not escape, no matter how severe the treatment.  Should I
attempt to run away from the ship, it would be desertion.  I could be
brought back and punished for it.  Even in a foreign port the chances of
desertion would be no better, but worse, since there the sailor finds it
more difficult to conceal himself.  I had no hope then of escaping from
the cruel thrall in which I now found myself, but by putting an end to
my existence, either by jumping into the sea or hanging myself from the
yard-arm--a purpose which on more than one occasion I seriously
entertained; but from which I was diverted by the religious teachings of
my youth, now remembered in the midst of my misery.

It would be impossible for me to detail the number of cruelties and
indignities to which I was forced to submit.  My existence was a series
of both.

Even my sleep, if sleep it could be called, I was not allowed to enjoy.
I possessed neither mattress nor hammock, for I had come aboard in my
common wearing clothes--in my school-jacket and cap--without either
money in my pocket or luggage in my hands.  I had not even the usual
equipments of a runaway--the kerchief bundle and stick; I possessed
absolutely nothing--much less a mattress or hammock.  Such things a
skipper does not find for his crew, and of course there was none for me.
I was not even allowed a "bunk" to sleep in, for the forecastle was
crowded and most of the bunks carried double.  Those that were occupied
by only one chanced to have for their tenants the most morose and
ill-natured of the crew, and I was not permitted to share with them.
Even still more inhospitable were these fiends--for I cannot help
calling them so when I look back on what I suffered at their hands--I
was not even allowed to lie upon their great chests, a row of which
extended around the forecastle, in front of the respective bunks, and
covered nearly the whole space of the floor.  The floor itself did not
leave room for me to lie down--besides it was often wet by dirty water
being spilled upon it, or from the daily "swabbing" it usually received.
The only place I could rest--with some slight chance of being left
undisturbed--was in some corner upon the deck; but there it was at times
so cold I could not endure it, for I had no blanket--no covering but my
scanty clothes; and these were nearly always wet from washing the decks
and the scud of the sea.  The cold compelled me to seek shelter below,
where if I stretched my weary limbs along the lid of a chest, and closed
my eyes in sleep, I was sure to be aroused by its surly owner, who would
push me rudely to the floor, and sometimes send me out of the forecastle
altogether.

Add to this that I was almost constantly kept at work--by night as by
day.  I may say there was no drudgery--no "dirty work"--that was not
mine.  I was not only slave to captain, mates, and carpenter, but every
man of the crew esteemed himself my master.  Even "Snowball" in the
"caboose"--as the cook was jocularly termed--ordered me about with a
fierce exultation, that he had one white skin that he could command!

I was boot-black for the captain, mates, and carpenter, bottle-washer
for the cook, and chamber-boy for the men--for it was mine to swab out
the forecastle, and wait upon the sailors generally.

Oh! it was a terrible life.  I was well punished for my one act of
filial disobedience--well rewarded for my aspirations and longings for
the sea.  But it is just the role that many a poor sailor boy has to
play--more especially if like me he has run away to sea.



CHAPTER THREE.

For many long days and nights I endured this terrible oppression without
complaining--not but that I could have complained and would, but to what
purpose? and to whom?  There was none to whom I might appeal--no one to
listen to my tale of woe.  All hands were equally indifferent to my
sufferings, or at least seemed so, since no one offered either to take
my part, or say a word in my favour.

At length, however, an incident occurred which seemed to make me in some
measures the protege of one of the sailors, who, though he could not
shield me from the brutalities of the captain or mate, was at least able
to protect me from the indignities I had hitherto suffered at the hands
of the common men.

This sailor was named "Ben Brace," but whether this was a real name or
one which he had acquired at sea, I could never tell.  It was the only
name that I ever heard given him, and that by which he was entered in
the ship's books.  It is quite possible that "Ben Brace" was his real
name--for among seamen such appellations as "Tom Bowline", "Bill
Buntline," and the like are not uncommon--having descended from father
to son through a long line of sailor ancestry.

Ben Brace then was the name of my protector, and although the name is
elsewhere famous, for the sake of truth I cannot alter it.  How I came
to secure the patronage of Ben was not through any merit of my own, nor
indeed did it arise from any very delicate sympathy on his part.  The
companionship in which he had long lived had naturally hardened his
feelings like the rest--though not by any means to so great an extent.
He was only a little indifferent to human suffering--having witnessed
much of it--and usage will make callous the most sensitive natures.
Moreover, Ben had himself suffered ill-treatment, as I afterwards learnt
from him--savage abuse had he suffered, and this had sunk into his
spirit and rendered him somewhat morose.  There was some apology for him
if his manner was none of the gentlest.  His natural disposition had
been abused, for at bottom there was as much kindness in his nature as
belongs to the average of men.

A rough, splendid seaman was Brace--the very best on board--and this
point was generally conceded by the others--though he was not without
one or two rivals.

It was a splendid sight to see Ben Brace, at the approach of a sudden
squall, "swarming" up the shrouds to reef a topsail, his fine bushy
curls blowing out behind, while upon his face sat that calm but daring
expression, as if he defied the storm and could master it.  He was a
large man, but well proportioned--rather lithe and sinewy than robust,
with a shock of dark-brown hair in their thick curls somewhat matted,
covering the whole of his head; for he was still but a young man, and
there were no signs of baldness.  His face was good, rather darkish in
complexion, and he wore neither beard nor whisker--which was rather odd
for a sailor, whose opportunities for shaving are none of the best.  But
Ben liked a clean face, and always kept one.  He was no sea dandy,
however, and never exhibited himself, even on Sundays, with fine blue
jacket and fancy collars as some others were wont to do.  On the
contrary, his wear was dark blue Guernsey shirt, fitting tight to his
chest, and displaying the fine proportions of his arms and bust.  His
neck a sculptor would have admired from its bold regular outline, and
his breast was full and well rounded, though, like that of all sailors,
it was disfigured by tattooing, and over its surface when bare, and on
his arms, you might have observed the usual hieroglyphics of the ship--
the foul anchor, the pair of pierced hearts, with the B.B., and numerous
other initials.  A female figure upon the left breast, rudely punctured
in deep-blue, was no doubt the presumed portrait of some black-eyed
"Sal" or "Susan" of the Downs.

Such was Ben Brace, my new-found friend and protector.

How I came to secure his protection was by a chance incident, somewhat
curious.  It was thus:--

I had not been long on board before I made a discovery that somewhat
astonished me, which was, that more than half the crew were foreigners.
I was astonished at this, because I had hitherto been under the
impression that an English ship was always manned by English sailors--
including of course Scotch and Irish--either of whom make just as good
sailors as Englishmen.  Instead of being all English, or Scotch, or
Irish, however, on board the _Pandora_ (for that I had learnt was the
name of the ship, and an appropriate name it was), I soon perceived that
at least three-fourths of the men were from other countries.  Were they
Frenchmen? or Spaniards? or Portuguese? or Dutch? or Swedes? or
Italians?  No--but they were all these, and far more too, since the crew
was a very large one for the size of the ship--quite two score of them
in all.  There seemed to be among them a representative of every
maritime nation in the world, and, indeed, had every country in sending
its quota selected the greatest scamp within its boundaries, they could
hardly have produced a finer combination of ruffianism than was the crew
of the _Pandora_!  I have already hinted at exceptions, but when I came
to know them all there were only two--my protector Brace, and another
innocent but unfortunate fellow, who was by birth a Dutchman.

Among the mixed lot there were several Frenchmen, but one, named "Le
Gros," deserves particular notice.  He was well named, for he was a
stout, fat Frenchman, gross in body as in mind, with a face of ferocious
aspect, more that half covered with a beard that a pirate might have
envied--and indeed it was a pirate's beard, as I afterwards learnt.

Le Gros was a bully.  His great size and strength enabled him to enact
the part of the bully, and upon all occasions he played it to
perfection.  He was a bold man, however, and a good seaman--one of the
two or three who divided the championship with Ben Brace.  I need hardly
say that there was a rivalry between them, with national prejudices at
the bottom of it.  To this rivalry was I indebted for the friendship of
Ben Brace.

It came about thus.  By some trifling act I had offended the Frenchman,
and ever after did he make it a point to insult and annoy me by every
means in his power, until at length, on one occasion, he struck me a
cruel blow on the face.  That blow did the business.  It touched the
generous chord in the heart of the English sailor, that, despite the
vile association in which he lived, still vibrated at the call of
humanity.  He was present, and saw the stroke given, and saw, moreover,
that it was undeserved.  He was lying in his hammock at the time, but
instantly sprang out, and, without saying a word, he made a rush at Le
Gros and pinned him with a John Bull hit upon the chin.

The bully staggered back against a chest, but in a moment recovered
himself; and then both went on deck, where a ring was formed, and they
went to work with the fists in right earnest.  The officers of the ship
did not interfere--in fact the mate drew near and looked on, rather as I
thought with an interest in the combat, than with any desire to put an
end to it, and the captain remained upon his quarter-deck, apparently
not caring how it ended!  I wondered at this want of discipline, but I
had already begun to wonder at many other matters that occurred daily on
board the _Pandora_, and I said nothing.

The fight lasted a good while, but ended as might be expected, when a
fist combat occurs between an Englishman and Frenchman.  The latter was
badly thrashed, and that portion of his face that was not already black
with hair was soon turned to a bluish-black by the rough, hard knuckles
of his antagonist.  He was at length felled to the deck like a great
bullock, and obliged to acknowledge himself beaten.

"Now you danged parley voo!" cried Brace, as he gave the finishing blow,
"don't lay finger on that boy again, or I'll give you just twice as
much.  The boy's English after all, and gets enough, without being
bullied by a frog-eatin' Frenchman.  So mind what I say, one and all of
ye," and as he said this he scowled round upon the crowd, "don't lay a
finger on him again ne'er one of you."

Nor did they one or any of them from that time forth.  Le Gros's
chastisement proved effectual in restraining him, and its example
affected all the others.

From that time forth my existence became less miserable, though for many
reasons it was sufficiently still hard enough to endure.  My protector
was strong to shield me from the crew, but I had still the captain, the
carpenter, and the mate for my tormentors.



CHAPTER FOUR.

My condition, however, was greatly improved.  I was allowed my full
share of the "lob-scouse," the "sea-pies," and "plum-duff," and was no
longer hunted out of the forecastle.  I was even permitted to sleep on
the dry lid of a sailor's chest, and had an old blanket given me by one
of the men--who did it out of compliment not to myself but to Brace,
whose good opinion the man wanted to secure.  Another made a present of
a knife, with a cord to hang it around my neck, and a tin platter was
given me by a third.  Such are the advantages of having a powerful
patron.  Many little "traps" were contributed by others of the crew, so
that I soon had a perfect "kit," and wanted nothing more.

Of course I felt grateful for all these odds and ends, though many of
them were received from men who had formerly given me both cuffs and
kicks.  But I was never slow to forgive, and, friendless as I had been,
I easily forgave them.  I wanted all these little matters very badly.
Boys who go to sea in the usual way go well provided with change of
clothes--often two or three--with plates, knives, fork, and spoon, in
short, a complete apparatus for eating.

In my hurry to get away from home I had not thought of bringing one
single article of such things; and, consequently, I had nothing--not
even a second shirt!

I should have been in a terrible fix, and was so, in truth, until the
day on which Ben Brace thrashed the French bully; but from that time
forward my condition was sensibly better.  I felt grateful, therefore,
to my protector, but another incident occurred shortly after, that not
only increased my gratitude to the highest degree possible, but seemed
also to make the man's friendship for me still stronger than before.

The incident I am about to relate is one that has often occurred to
sailor boys before my time, and no doubt will occur again, until
governments make better laws for the regulation of the merchant service,
with a view to control and limit the far too absolute power that is now
entrusted to the commanders of merchant-ships.  It is a positive and
astounding fact, that many of these men believe they may treat with
absolute cruelty any of the poor people who are under their command,
without the slightest danger of being punished for it!  Indeed, their
ill-usage is only limited, by the length of time their unfortunate
victim will stand it without making resistance.  Among sailors, those
who are known to be of an independent spirit and bold daring, are
usually permitted to enjoy their rights and privileges; but the weak and
unresisting have to suffer, when serving under mates and captains of
this brutal kind, and it is to be regretted that there are too many such
in the merchant navy of England.

The amount of suffering endured under such tyranny is almost incredible.
Many a poor sailor of timid habits, and many a youthful sailor boy, are
forced to lead lives that are almost unendurable--drudged nearly to
death, flogged at will, and, in short, treated as the slaves of a cruel
master.

The punishment inflicted--if it can be called punishment where no crime
has been committed--is often so severe as to endanger life--nay, more,
life is not unfrequently taken; and far oftener are sown the seeds of
disease and consequent death, which in time produce their fatal fruit.

Of course every one admits that the commander of a ship at sea should
possess some extraordinary powers over his men, beyond those which are
allowed to the master of a factory or the surveyor of a public work.  It
is argued that without such, he could not answer for the safety of his
vessel.  There should be one head and that should be absolute.  This
argument is in part true.  Every sensible man will admit that some
extraordinary powers should be granted to the captain of a ship, but the
mistake has hitherto lain, not so much in his possessing this absolute
power, as in the want of an adequate punishment for him whenever he
abuses it.

Hitherto the punishment has usually either failed altogether, or has
been so disproportioned to the crime, as to be of no service for example
to others.  On the contrary, it has only encouraged them in their
absolute ideas, by proving almost their complete irresponsibility.  The
captain, with his mates at his back, his money, and the habitual dread
which many of his crew feel for him, can usually "out-swear" the poor
victim of his brutality, and often the latter is deterred from seeking
redress by actual fear of still worse consequences in case he may be
defeated.  Often too the wearied sufferer, on getting once more to
land--to his home, and among his friends--is so joyed at the termination
of his torments, that he loses all thoughts of justice or redress, and
leaves his tyrant to depart without punishment.

The history of emigration would furnish many a sad tale of petty tyranny
and spite, practised on the poor exile on the way to his wilderness
home.  There are chapters that might be written of bullyism and
brutality--thousands of chapters--that would touch the chords of
sympathy to the very core of the heart.  Many a poor child of
destitution--prostrated by the sickness of the sea--has submitted to the
direst tyranny and most fiendish abuse on the part of those who should
have cheered and protected him, and many a one has carried to his far
forest home a breast filled with resentment against the mariner of the
ocean.  It is a matter of great regret, that the governments of
migrating nations will not act with more energy in this matter, and give
better protection to the exile, oft driven by misfortune in search of a
new home.

A pity it is that better laws are not made for the guidance and
restraint of merchant captains, who, taking them altogether, are
naturally as honest, and perhaps not less humane, than any other class
of men; but who thus entrusted with unbridled will and ill-defined
powers, but follow the common fashion of human nature, and become
tyrants of the very worst kind.

It is true that of late some salutary examples have been made, and one
who richly deserved it has suffered the extreme punishment of the law;
but it is to be feared that these good examples will not be followed up;
public feeling will subside into its old channel of indifference, and
the tyranny of the skipper-captain,--with that of his brutal coadjutor,
the mate,--will be allowed to flourish as of yore, to the torture of
many an unfortunate victim.

These remarks are hardly applicable to my own particular case, for the
fiends who tortured me would have done so all the same if the best laws
in the world had existed.  They were beyond all laws, as I soon after
learnt,--all laws, human or divine--and of course felt neither
responsibility nor fear of punishment.  They had no fear even to take my
life, as will be proved by the incidents I am about to relate.



CHAPTER FIVE.

One of the disagreeables which a boy-sailor encounters on first going to
sea is the being compelled to mount up "aloft."  If the master of the
vessel be a man of considerate feelings, he will allow the apprentice a
little time to get over the dread of climbing, by sending him only into
the lower rigging, or no higher than the main or foretop.  He will
practise him a good deal upon the "shrouds," so as to accustom his feet
and fingers to the "ratlines" and other ropes, and will even permit him
to pass a number of times through the "lubber's hole," instead of
forcing him to climb back downwards by the "futtock shrouds."

A few trials of this kind will take away the giddiness felt on first
mounting to a high elevation, and thus a boy may safely be denied the
use of the lubber's hole, and may be sent up the futtock shrouds, and
after that the topgallant shrouds, and so on to the royals,--if there be
any on the ship,--and by thus gradually inducting him into the art of
climbing, he will get over the difficulty without dread and without
peril--for both of these may be encountered in first climbing to the
upper rigging of a ship.  It is usual then for masters, who are humane,
to permit boys to become somewhat accustomed to the handling of ropes
before sending them into the highest rigging.

But, alas! there are many who have not this consideration, and it is not
uncommon for a youth, fresh from home and school, to be ordered up to
the topgallant crosstrees, or even the royal-yard, at the very first go,
and of course his life is imperilled by the ascent.  Not unfrequent have
been the instances in which the lives of boys have been sacrificed in
this very way.

Now it so happened that for two weeks after I had set foot upon board
the _Pandora_ I had never been ordered aloft.  I had not even had
occasion to ascend the lower shrouds, though I had done so of my own
will, as I was desirous of learning to climb.  In all my life I had
never been higher than the branches of an apple-tree; and since I had
now chosen the sea for my profession--though I sadly repented my
choice--I felt that the sooner I learnt to move about among the rigging
the better.

But, singular to say, for the first two weeks after embarking myself on
the _Pandora_ I found but little opportunity of practising.  Once or
twice I had climbed up the ratlines, and crawled through the lubber's
hole to the maintop; and this I believed to be something of a feat, for
I felt giddy enough while accomplishing it.  I would have extended my
enterprise by an attempt to ascend the topmast shrouds, but I was never
allowed time, as the voice of either captain or mate would reach me from
below, usually summoning me with an oath, and ordering me upon some
other business, such as to mop out the cabin, swab the quarter-deck,
black their boots, or perform some other menial act of service.  In
fact, I had begun to perceive that the drunken old skipper had no
intention of teaching me anything of the seaman's craft, but had taken
me aboard as a sort of slave-of-all-work, to be kicked about by
everybody, but by himself in particular.  That this was in reality his
design became every day more evident to me, and caused me disappointment
and chagrin.  Not that I was any longer ambitious of being a sailor, and
could I have transported myself safely home again at that moment, it is
not likely I should ever afterwards have set foot upon a ratline.  But I
knew that I was bent upon a long voyage,--how long or whither bound I
could not tell,--and even though I might be able to desert from the
_Pandora_ when she reached her port,--a purpose I secretly meditated,--
how should I act then?  In a foreign land, without friends, without
money, without the knowledge of a trade, how was I to exist, even if I
could escape from the bondage of my apprenticeship?  In all likelihood I
should starve.  Without knowing aught of seamanship, I should have no
chance of getting a passage home again; whereas, if I had been allowed
to practise with the rest, I might soon have acquired sufficient
knowledge to enable me to "work my passage," as it is termed, to any
part of the world.  This was just what I wanted, and it was on this
account I felt so much aggrieved at finding it was the very thing I was
not to be taught.

I had the hardihood on one occasion,--I know not what inspired me,--to
make a remonstrance about this to the captain.  I made it in the most
delicate manner I could.  My immediate answer was a knock-down, followed
by a series of kicks that mottled my body with blue spots, and the more
remote consequence of my "damned impudence," as the captain called it,
was worse treatment than ever.

I would soon have learnt to climb had I been left to myself, but I was
not allowed even to practise that.  I was always called below by one or
the other of my tyrants, and with an oath, a cuff, or a kick, ordered
upon some piece of "dirty work."

Once, however, I was not ordered "alow," but "aloft;" once I was allowed
to have my fill of climbing.

Snatching an interval when I thought both mate and master were asleep, I
had gone up to the maintop.

Every one who has looked upon a full-rigged ship must have noticed some
distance up the main-mast a frame-wood or platform, like a little
scaffold.  A similar construction may be observed on the fore and
mizen-mast, if the ship be a large one.  This platform is called the
"top," and its principal object is to extend the ladder-like ropes,
called "shrouds," that reach from its outer edge to the head of the mast
next above, which latter is the topmast.  It must here be observed that
the "masts" of a ship, as understood by landsmen, are each divided into
a number of pieces in the reckoning of a sailor.  For instance, in a
ship or barque there are three which are called respectively the main,
fore, and mizen-masts--the main-mast being near the middle of the ship,
the fore-mast forward, towards the bows, and the mizen-mast "aft," near
the stern or poop.  But each one of these is divided into several
pieces, which pieces have distinct names in the sailor's vocabulary.
Thus, the "main-mast," to a sailor, is not the whole of that long
straight stick which rises up out of the middle of a ship's deck, and
points like a spire to the sky.  On the contrary, the main-mast
terminates a little above the platform just mentioned, and which, from
that circumstance, is designed the "maintop."  Another mast, quite
distinct from this, and made out of a separate piece of timber there
begins, and runs up for nearly an equal length, but of course more
slender than the main-mast itself, which latter supports it.  This
second is called the "main-topmast."  Above that a third is elevated,
supported upon the topmast head by cheeks, trestles, and crosstrees.
This is shorter and more slender than the main-topmast, and is named the
"main-topgallant-mast," and above this again, the "main-royal-mast" is
similarly raised--though it is only in the largest and best rigged
vessels that a "royal-mast" is used.  The "main-royal-mast" terminates
the structure, and its top, or head, is usually crowned with a flat
circular piece of wood, called the "main-truck," which is the most
elevated point in the ship.  The fore and mizen-masts are similarly
divided, though the latter is much shorter than either of the others and
rarely has topgallant-sails, and still more rarely "royals."

I have given this explanation in order that you may understand that the
maintop to which I say I climbed was not the most elevated point of the
mast, but simply the platform near the head of the main-mast, as
understood by sailors.

This platform is, in the common parlance of the crew, frequently
designated the "cradle," and it merits the appellation, for in a vessel
at sea and under a breeze it is generally "rocked" about, either in long
sweeps from side to side, or backward and forward from stem to stern,
according to the ship's motion.  It is the pleasantest part of the ship
for one who is inclined to solitude, for once upon it, you cannot see
aught of what is going on below, unless you look over the edge or down
through the lubber's hole already mentioned.  You may hear the voices of
the crew, but not distinctly, as the surge of the sea itself, and the
wind drumming upon the sails and whistling through the shrouds, usually
drowns most other sounds.  To me it was the greatest luxury to spend a
few minutes in this retired spot.  Sick of the association into which I
had so heedlessly thrown myself--disgusted with the constant blasphemy
ever in my ears, and above all, longing for repose, I would have given
anything to have been permitted to spend my leisure hours in this aerial
cradle, but I found no leisure hours nor moments for such indulgence,
for my unfeeling tyrants gave me neither rest nor repose.  The mate, in
particular, seemed to take pleasure in rendering my existence as
miserable as he could, and, discovering that I had a predilection for
the "top," seemed determined that of all other places I should not go
there to rest myself.

One day, however, believing that he and the captain had both gone to
sleep,--as they sometimes did in fine weather--I took the opportunity of
ascending to my favourite perch; and, stretching my wearied limbs along
the hard planks, I lay listening to the sad sighing of the winds and the
waters.  A sweet breeze fanned my brow, and, notwithstanding the danger
which there was in falling asleep there--for there was no "top armour"
or netting upon the _Pandora_--I was soon in the land of dreams.



CHAPTER SIX.

My dreams were by no means of a pleasant nature.

How could they be, considering the life I was compelled to lead?  With
my spirit hourly harassed by indignities, and my body wearied with
overwork, it is not likely I should have sweet dreams.

Though not sweet, however, they were short enough--at least my sleep was
so, for my eyes had not been closed above five minutes when I was rudely
awakened, not by a voice, but by a smart thwack upon the hips,
administered by no light hand, and with an instrument that I knew by the
feel to be what, in sailors' parlance, is called a "rope's end."

It needed no repetition of the stroke to awake me and cause me to start
to my feet; had it done so, I should certainly have caught it again as
sharply as before--for, on springing up, I saw the hand of the fellow
who had struck me raised aloft to repeat the blow.  He did repeat it,
but my sudden rising spoiled his aim, and the rope's end doubled loosely
over my shoulders.

I was not a little astonished on recognising the ruffian.  It was the
French bully--Le Gros!

I knew that he had the disposition to flog me with a rope's end, or
anything else--for he still harboured a heart full of malice against
me--I well knew that he was not wanting in the will; had we been in some
corner of the earth all alone by ourselves, I should not have been
astonished at him flogging me almost to death--not a bit of it.  But
what surprised me was his daring to do so there and then.  Ever since
Brace had thrashed him, he had been as mute as a mouse--morose enough
with me, but never offering any insult that might be resented by my
protector.

What had happened then to cause this change?  Had he again fought with
Brace and beaten him?  Or had my patron taken some offence at me and
withdrawn his protection, thus leaving the ruffian free to chastise me
for his own especial pleasure?

Surely some change must have taken place in our mutual relations, else
Le Gros would never have dared to raise his hand against me in the
manner he was doing?

Therefore was I surprised and puzzled--could it be that, finding me all
alone upon the top, he had taken the fancy into his head that he could
there give me a drubbing without being seen?

Surely that could not be his idea?  If not seen, I could be heard.  I
might easily cry out, so that my protector would hear me; or even if he
could not, I could tell him afterwards, and though that would not save
me from the drubbing it would get me the satisfaction of seeing Le Gros
catch one as well.

These reflections passed almost instantaneously through my mind--they
occupied only a few seconds--just the interval that elapsed from the
time I first stood to my feet till I recovered from the surprise I felt
at being confronted by the Frenchman.  It was a short pause, for the
bully had again elevated the rope's end to come down with another
thwack.

I leaped to one side and partially avoided the blow, and then rushing in
towards the mast I looked down the lubber's hole to see if Brace was
below.

He was not visible, and I would have cried out for him, but my eyes at
that moment rested upon two objects and caused me to hold my voice.  Two
individuals were upon the quarter-deck below, both looking upward.  It
was not difficult to recognise them--the plump, jolly, false face of the
skipper and the more ferocious countenance of his coadjutor were not to
be mistaken.  Both, as I have said, were looking upward, and the wicked
expression that danced in the round bullet eyes of the former, with the
grim smile of satisfaction that sat upon the lips of the latter, told me
at a glance that the Frenchman and I were the objects of their
attention.

The unlooked-for attack on the part of Le Gros was now explained:--he
was not acting for himself, but as the deputy of the others! it was
plain they had given him orders, and from the attitude in which they
stood, and the demoniac expression already noticed, I felt satisfied
that some new torture was intended for me.

I did not cry out for Brace, it would have been of no use.  The brave
fellow could not protect me from tyrants like these.  They were his
masters, with law on their side to put him in chains if he interfered,
even with his voice--to shoot or cut him down if he attempted to rescue
me.

I knew he dare not interrupt them, no matter what cruelty they might
inflict.  It would be better not to get him into trouble with his
superiors, and, under these considerations, I held my tongue and awaited
the event.  I was not kept long in doubt about their intentions.

"Hang the lazy lubber!" shouted the mate from below--"snoring in broad
daylight, eh?  Wake him up with the rope's end, Frenchy!  Wallop him
till he sings out!"

"No," cried the captain, to whom a better programme had suggested
itself.  "Send him aloft!  He seems fond of climbing up stairs.  Drive
him to the garret!  He wants to be a sailor--we'll make one of him!"

"Ha! ha!" rejoined the mate with a hoarse laugh at the wit of his
superior; "the very thing, by Jove! give him an airing on the
royal-yard!"

"Ay--ay!" answered Le Gros, and then, turning to me, with the rope held
in menace, he ordered me to ascend.

I had no alternative but obey, and, twisting myself around the topmast
shrouds, I caught the ratlins in my hands and commenced climbing upward.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

I climbed with slow and nervous step.  I should have gone much slower
but that I was forced upward by Le Gros, who followed me with the rope's
end, with which he struck me behind whenever I made a stop.  He
delivered his blows with fiendish spite, striking me about the legs and
over the posteriors, and trying to hurt me as much as possible.  In this
he succeeded, for the hard-knotted rope pained me exceedingly.  I had no
alternative therefore but to keep on upward or submit to his lashing.  I
kept on.

I reached the topmast crosstrees, and mounted upon them.  Oh! it was a
fearful sight to look down.  Below me was nothing but the sea itself,
for the masts, bent over by the breeze, were far from being
perpendicular.  I felt as if suspended in the air, with not even the
earth beneath me--for the surface of the sea was below, glittering like
the sky itself.

Beneath me, however, at my feet, was the dark, scowling face of Le Gros,
who, with threatening voice and gestures, ordered me upward--still
upward!

Upward! how could I climb father?  Above me extended the topgallant
rigging.  Upon this there were no rattlins, nothing to rest the foot
upon--nothing but the two black rigid ropes converging until they met at
the head of the mast.  How could I ascend them?  It seemed beyond my
power to do so.

But I was not even allowed to hesitate.  The brute swung himself near,
and continued plying the knotted cord upon my shins, at the same time
uttering oaths and ferocious threats that he would cut every inch of
skin off my body if I did not go aloft.

I had no alternative but to try, and, placing myself between the ropes,
I commenced drawing myself upward.  After a severe effort I succeeded in
getting upon the topgallant yard, where I again paused--I could go no
further.  My breath was quite gone and I had scarce strength to hold by
the rigging and prevent myself from falling.

The royal-mast still towered above, and below, threatened the dark face
of Le Gros.  There was a smile upon it in the midst of its scowling--a
smile of satisfaction at the agony he saw I was undergoing at that
moment.

I could still hear the voices of the fiends below, calling out the
commands: "Up with him, Frenchy--up to the royal-yard!"

I thought I heard other voices, and that of Brace repeating the words,
"Avast there! avast! the lad's in danger."

I looked in a slanting direction toward the deck.  I saw the crew
standing by the forecastle!  I thought there was confusion among them,
and a scuffle, as if some were taking his part, and others approving of
what was going on; but I was too frightened to make an exact observation
at the moment, and too much occupied by the ruffian who was nearest me.

"Up!" he cried, "up, or pe Gar!  I flog you to ze death for von land
lobber--I vill sacr-r-e!"

And with this threat he again plied the instrument of torture, more
sharply than ever.

I could not stand it.  The royal-yard was the highest point to which
they intended to force me.  If I could reach it then they would be
satisfied, and would cease to punish me.  It is a perilous feat, even
for one who has had some practice in climbing, to reach the royal-yard
of a big ship, but to me it appeared impossible that I could accomplish
it.  There was but the smooth rope--with neither knot nor loop to aid
hand or foot.  I must go up it hand over hand, dragging the whole weight
of my body.  Oh! it was a dread and perilous prospect, but despair or
rather Le Gros, at length forced me to the trial, and, grasping the
smooth stay rope, I commenced climbing upward.

I had got more than half-way--the royal-yard was almost within reach--
when my strength completely failed me.  My heart grew weak and sick, and
my head swam with giddiness.  I could sustain myself no longer, my grasp
on the rope gave way, and I felt myself falling--falling--at the same
time choking for want of breath.

For all this I did not lose consciousness.  I still preserved my senses
through all that terrible descent; and believed while falling that I
should be killed by the fall, or, what was the same thing, drowned in
the sea below.  I was even sensible when I struck the water and plunged
deeply below the surface, and I had an idea that I did not drop directly
from the royal-mast into the sea, but that my fall was broken by
something half-way down.  This proved to be correct, as I afterwards
learnt.  The ship chanced to be under full canvas at the time, and the
maintopsail, swollen out by the fresh breeze, had caught me on its
convex side as I came down.  From this I had bounded off again, but the
impetus of the fall had been thus lessened; and the second pitch into
the sea was not so violent as it would otherwise have been.  Otherwise,
indeed, I should have been crushed upon the surface of the water, never
to breathe again.  Another circumstance happened in my favour: my body
had turned round as I parted from the top, and I was going head
downward; but, on striking the sail, the attitude was reversed, and I
reached the water in a perpendicular position, with my feet downward.
Consequently, the shock was less, and, sinking deeply in the waves, I
was saved.  All these points I learned afterwards, from one who had
anxiously watched me in my descent.

When I rose to the surface of course it was with confused senses, and
with surprise that I still lived--for I had been certain on letting go
my hold that I was being hurled into eternity--yes, I fully believed
that my end had come.

I now perceived that I was still living--that I was in the sea--that
waves were dashing around me; and on looking up I saw the dark ship at a
cable's distance from me, still passing away.  I thought I saw men
standing along the taffrail, and some clinging upon the shrouds; but the
ship appeared to be going fast away, and leaving me behind in the water.

I had learnt to swim, and, for a boy, was a good average swimmer.
Feeling that I was not hurt I instinctively struck out, though not to
follow the vessel, but to keep myself from sinking.  I looked around to
see if there was anything I might cling to, as I fancied that something
might have been thrown out from the ship.  I could see nothing at first,
but as I mounted upon the top of a wave I noticed a dark round object,
between me and the hull, which, notwithstanding that the sun was in my
eyes, I made out to be the head of a man.  He was still at some
distance, but evidently nearing me, and as it approached I recognised
the thick curly hair and countenance of my protector Brace.  He had
leaped overboard and was swimming to my rescue.  In a few seconds he was
by my side.

"Ho!" cried he, as he drew near and saw that I was swimming, "all right
my lad! swim like a duck, eh?--all right--don't feel hurt, do you?  Lean
on me, if you do."

I answered that I felt strong enough to swim for half-an-hour if
necessary.

"All right then," he rejoined; "we'll get a rope's end in less time than
that, though maybe you fancy you've had enough of rope's end?  Hang the
inhuman scoundrels.  I'll revenge you yet, my lad.  Ship ahoy!" he
shouted, "this way with your rope! ahoy! ahoy!"

By this time the ship had worn round, and was returning to pick us up.
Had I been alone in the water, as I afterwards ascertained, this
manoeuvre would not have been executed; or, at all events, but very
little pains would have been taken to rescue me.  But Brace having
jumped overboard rendered it necessary that the ship should be put
about, and every effort made to recover him, as he was a man of too much
importance among the crew to be sacrificed with impunity.  Neither mate
nor captain dared leave him to his fate; and, consequently, the orders
were given to "wear-ship."

Fortunately the breeze was light, and the sea not very rough; and as the
vessel passed near to where we were swimming, ropes were thrown out
which both of us were able to seize, and by means of which we were soon
hauled up, and stood once more safely upon deck.

The spite of my tormentors seemed to be satisfied for the time.  I saw
nothing of any of them when I got aboard, nor during the remainder of
that day, as I was permitted to go below and remain in the forecastle
during the whole of the afternoon.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

Strange to say, I received somewhat better treatment after this
occurrence, though it was not from any remorse at what had happened, or
that either mate or captain had grown more humane or friendly.  The
reason was very different.  It was because both perceived that what they
had done had produced an unfavourable impression upon the crew.  Many of
the men were friends and admirers of Brace, and, along with him,
disapproved altogether of the conduct of the officers, so that in the
forecastle and around the windlass there was a good deal of disaffected
talk after this event, often spoken loudly enough.  Brace, by his
behaviour in leaping overboard to the rescue, had gained favour--for
true courage always finds admirers whether they be rude or refined--and
the number of Brace's friends was increased by it.  I heard that he had
really interfered when I was being forced aloft, and had shouted out
contradictory orders to those of the mate.  This accounted for the
confusion I had noticed on deck, and which was the result of several of
his friends endeavouring to restrain him, while others were joining him
in his appeal.

Both Captain and mate on the quarter-deck had heard all this, but
pretended not to notice it.  Had it been any other man than Brace they
would have instantly put him in irons, or punished him still more
severely,--especially if he had chanced to be one of the weaker and less
popular of the crew.  As it was, they took no steps in the matter, and
no one was punished for the expressions of remonstrance that had been
used.  But both captain and mate had noted the disaffection; and that
was the reason why I was afterwards treated with more humanity, or
rather with less cruelty--for insults and indignity were still
occasionally offered me by one or the other.

I was from this time permitted to practise with the sailors, and had
less of the dirty work to do.  A sort of simple fellow, the Dutchman
already mentioned--who was also much played upon,--shared with me the
meaner drudgery, and had more than half of the spleen which the captain
and mate must needs spend upon somebody.  Indeed, the poor Dutchman,
who, although a harmless creature, was a wretched specimen of humanity,
came well-nigh being killed by their cruelty; and I have no doubt but
that the injuries inflicted upon him, while on board the _Pandora_,
would have brought him to an earlier grave than Nature designed for him,
had it not been his sad fate to meet death at a still earlier period,--
as I shall have occasion to relate.

The cruelties committed upon this man by the captain and mate of the
_Pandora_ would be incredible if told,--incredible, because it would
scarce be believed that the human heart is capable of such want of
feeling.  But it seems to be a law of wicked natures, that where cruelty
has once commenced its career and meets with no resistance on the part
of its victim, the vile passion, instead of being satisfied, only grows
stronger and fiercer, just like it is with savage beasts after they have
tasted blood.  So seemed it with the officers of the _Pandora_, for if
they even had cause for revenge against this poor sailor, they certainly
took ample satisfaction; but it was just because they had no reason for
revenge,--just because there was no resistance on the part of their
victim that they delighted to torture him.

I remember many of their modes of torture.  One was to tie him up by the
thumbs, so that his toes just touched the deck, and there keep him for
hours together.  This position may appear easy enough to one who has
never experienced it.  It is far otherwise,--it is a torture worthy of
the Inquisition.  It soon elicits groans from its victim.  Another mode
of punishment--or rather of amusing themselves--practised by the
worthies of the _Pandora's_ quarter-deck on this poor sailor, was to
sling him in his own belt half-way up to the yard-arm, and there leave
him dangling about.  This they jocularly called "slinging the monkey,"
adopting the name of a favourite sport often practised by the sailors.
Once they shut him up in an empty cask, and kept him for several days
without food.  A little biscuit and water was at length passed through
the bung-hole, which the poor wretch greedily devoured barely in time to
save himself from perishing of hunger and thirst.  But there are other
modes of chastisement too horrible and too abominable to be told, all of
which were practised upon this unfortunate man--unfortunate in having no
friend, for strange to say he received but little sympathy or
commiseration from the rest of that wicked crew.  Though a harmless
creature enough, he was one of those unfortunates whose habits prevent
them from making either friends or associates.

It seemed as if the poor fellow's misery was to me an advantage, and
shielded me from a good deal of ill-treatment I should otherwise have
experienced.  He stood between me and our common tyrants as a sort of
breakwater or "buffer," upon which their inhumanity expended most of its
strength!

I pitied him for all that, though I dared not make exhibition either of
my pity or sympathy.  I had need of both for myself, for although I have
said that my condition was improved, I was still miserable--wretched as
I could well be.

And why? you will ask,--Why wretched now, when I had got over most of
the first difficulties, and was steadily progressing in the profession I
had so ardently desired to belong to?  It is quite true I was
progressing, and rapidly.  Under the tutorship of Brace I was fast
becoming a sailor.  In less than a week after I had made my plunge from
the royal rigging, I could climb to the royal-yard without the slightest
fear--ay, I had even in a fit of bravado gone higher, and put my hand
upon the main-truck!  In a week's time I knew how to twist a gasket, or
splice a rope, as neatly as some of the sailors themselves; and more
than once I had gone aloft with the rest to reef topsails in a stiffish
breeze.  This last is accounted a feat, and I had creditably performed
it to the satisfaction of my patron.  Yes, it is quite true I was
speedily being transformed into a sailor; and yet I was far from being
satisfied with my situation--or rather I should say--I was miserably
ill-satisfied--perfectly wretched.

You are surprised and demand the reason.  I shall give it in a few
words.

I had not been many days on board the _Pandora_ when I observed
something which I fancied odd about the ship.  I first noticed the
manner and discipline, or rather want of discipline, of the crew, far
different from what I had read of in books, which told of the exact
obedience and punctilious respect between those who served and those who
commanded.  It might be, however, that those of which I had read were
ships of war, and that in others the discipline was very different.  As
I had no previous knowledge of seamen, or their mode of life, I
concluded that the rude behaviour of the _Pandora's_ crew might be a
fair specimen of it, and I was both pained and humiliated by the
conclusion.  It was a sad realisation--or contradiction rather--of all
my young dreams about the free happy life of the sailor, and I was
disgusted both with him and his life at the very outset.

Another circumstance attracted my attention at the same time--that was
the number of hands on board the _Pandora_.  She was not a very large
ship--not over 500 tons by registry.  In fact she was not a "ship,"
speaking technically, but a "barque;" in other words, a ship with her
mizen-mast rigged unlike the other two, or without a "square" topsail.
In this, and a few other points, lies the difference between a barque
and a ship--though the former is also usually smaller.

The _Pandora_ was large enough for a barque,--carried a full suit of
sail, even to flying-jibs, topgallant studding-sails, and royals; and
was one of the fastest sailors I have ever known.  For her size,
however, and the amount of merchandise she carried, I could not help
fancying that she had too large a crew.  Not over half of them seemed to
be employed, even while wearing ship--and I was convinced that half of
them could have done the work.  I had been told often--for I used to
make inquiry about such matters--that a crew of from ten or twenty hands
was sufficient for a vessel of her size; what then could the _Pandora_
want with twice that number?  I counted them over and over.  There were
forty of them all told, including the worthies of the quarter-deck and
Snowball in the caboose!

The circumstance made an impression upon me--somewhat undefined it is
true--but day by day, as I observed the reckless and disgusting
behaviour of both officers and men, and overheard some strange
conversations, suspicions of a most painful character formed themselves
in my mind and I began to dread that I had got into the company of real
ruffians indeed.

These suspicions were at length confirmed, and to the fullest extent.

For several days after setting sail the hatches had been down and
covered with tarpaulings.  The weather had continued breezy, and as
there was little occasion to go below they had been kept thus, though
now and again a half-hatch had been lifted as something was required
from the lower deck or the hold.  I myself had not been sent below on
any errand, and had never seen the cargo, though I had been told that it
consisted chiefly of brandy, and we were going with it to the Cape of
Good Hope.

After a while, however, when the weather became fine, or rather when we
had sailed into a southern latitude where it is nearly always fine, the
tarpaulings were taken off, the hatches--both main and fore--were thrown
open, and all who wished passed down to the "'tween decks" at their
pleasure.

Curiosity, as much as aught else, took me below; and I there saw what
not only confirmed my suspicions but filled me with disgust and horror.
The cargo, which was all down in the hold, and none of it on the lower
deck, certainly appeared--what it had been represented--a cargo of
brandy; for there were the great puncheons, scores of them, in the hold.
Besides these there were some boxes of merchandise, a quantity of bar
iron, and a large pile of bags which appeared to contain salt.

All this I saw without any uneasiness.  It was not these that produced
within me the feeling of disgust and horror.  It was a pile of
manufactured iron that lay upon the lower deck; iron wrought into
villainous shapes and hideous forms, that, notwithstanding my
inexperience, I at once recognised as shackles, manacles and fetters!
What wanted the _Pandora_ with these?

But the secret was now out.  I needed to employ conjectures no longer.
The carpenter was at work upon some strong pieces of oak timber, which
he was shaping into the fashion of a grating, I perceived that it was
intended for the hatchway.

I needed no more light.  I had read of the horror of the "middle
passage."  I recognised the intention of the carpenter's job.  I no
longer doubted that the _Pandora_ was a slaver!



CHAPTER NINE.

Yes--beyond a doubt I was on board a slave-ship--one regularly fitted up
for the inhuman traffic--manned for it.  I might also say armed--for
although there were no cannon, I observed a large number of muskets,
cutlasses, and pistols, that had been brought upon the deck from some
secret hiding-place, and distributed to the men to be cleaned and put in
order.  From all this it was plain that the _Pandora_ was bent upon some
desperate enterprise, and although she might not sustain a combat with
the smallest vessel of war, she was determined that no mere boat's crew
should capture and rob her of her human freight.  But it was to her
sails more than to her armour that the _Pandora_ trusted for success;
and, indeed, built and rigged as she was, few ships of war could have
overhauled her in open water, and with a fair wind.

I say that I no longer doubted of her true character.  Indeed the people
on board no longer made a secret of it.  On the contrary, they appeared
to glory in the occupation, regarding it in the light of achievement and
enterprise.  Over their cups they sang songs in which the "bold slaver"
and his "jolly crew" were made to play the heroic, and many a coarse
jest was uttered relating to the "black-skinned cargo."

We had now passed to the southward of Gibraltar Straits, and were
sailing in a track where there would be less likelihood of falling in
with English men-of-war.  The cruisers, whose sole business it is to
look after the slave-trade, would be found much farther south, and along
the coasts where slaves are usually shipped; and as there was no fear of
meeting with them for some days to come, the _Pandora's_ crew had little
else to do than enjoy themselves.  A constant carousal, therefore, was
kept up, and drinking, singing, dancing, and "skylarking" were practised
from morning to night.

You may be surprised to know that a ship so evidently fitted out for
slave-traffic could have thus openly and directly sailed out of a
British port.  But it is to be remembered that the period of which I am
writing was many years ago; although so far as that goes, it would be no
anachronism to lay the scene of my narrative in the year 1857.  Many a
slave-ship has sailed from British ports in this very year, and with all
our boasted efforts to check the slave-trade it will be found that as
large a proportion of British subjects are at present engaged in this
nefarious traffic as of any other nation.

The attempt to put down the African slave-trade has been neither more or
less than a gigantic sham.  Not one of the governments who have engaged
in this scheme of philanthropy have had more than a lukewarm interest in
the matter, and the puny efforts they have made have been more for the
purpose of pacifying a few clamorous philanthropists, than with a real
design to stop the horrid traffic.  For one slave-ship that is captured
at least twenty pass free, landing their emaciated thousands upon the
shores of the western world.  Nay--worse than ever--the tyrant who, with
railroad speed, is demoralising the millions of France, lends his
ill-gotten power to re-establish this barter of human souls, and the
slave-trade will ere long flourish as luxuriantly as ever.

It would have been an easy matter for Great Britain long since to have
crushed out every vestige of the slave-trade, even without adding one
item to her expenditure.  What can be more absurd than the payment of
300,000 pounds to Portuguese slave-merchants to induce them to abandon
the traffic in slaves?  Why it is a positive premium upon crime--an
indemnity for giving up the trade of pillage and murder!  I say nothing
would have been easier than for England to have put an end to the very
existence of this horror years ago.  It would only have required her to
have acted with more earnestness, and a little more energy--to have
declared that a slave-dealer was a pirate, and to have dealt with him
accordingly--that is, hanged him and his crew, when taken, from the
yard-arm of their ship--and there was not a nation in the world that
would have dared to raise voice against such a course.  Indeed it is a
perfect absurdity to hang a pirate and let a slaver escape: for if it be
admitted that a black man's life is of as much value as a white man's,
then is the slaver doubly a murderer, for it is a well-known fact, that
out of every slave cargo that crosses the Atlantic, full one-third
become victims of the middle passage.  It is, therefore, a positive
absurdity to treat the captain and crew of a slave-ship in any milder
way than the captain and crew of a pirate ship; and if a like measure of
justice had been constantly served out to both, it is but natural to
suppose that slavers would now have been as scarce as pirates are, if
not a good deal scarcer.  How the wiseacres who legislate for the world
can make a distinction between the two sorts of ruffians is beyond my
logic to understand, and why a slaver should not be hanged as soon as
caught is equally a puzzle to me.

In years past this might have been done, and the slave-trade crushed
completely.  It will be more difficult now, since the despot of France
has put the stamp of his licence on the inhuman trade, and the
slave-dealer is no longer an outlaw.  It would be a very different
affair to hang to the yard-arm some French ruffian, bearing his
commission to buy souls and bodies, and under the signature of imperial
majesty.

Alas, alas! the world goes back; civilisation recedes--humanity has lost
its chance, and the slave-trade goes on as briskly as ever!

I was too young at the time of my first voyage to moralise in this
philosophic manner; but for all that I had imbibed a thorough disgust
for the slave-trade, as, indeed, most of my countrymen had done.  The
period of which I am speaking was that when, by the laudable efforts of
Wilberforce and other great philanthropists, our country had just set
before the world that noblest example on record--the payment of twenty
millions of sterling pounds in the cause of humanity.  All glory to
those who took part in the generous subscription.  Young as I was, I
like others, had heard much of the horrors and cruelties of the
slave-trade, for at that time these were brought prominently before the
public of England.

Fancy, then, the misery I experienced, at finding myself on board a ship
actually engaged in this nefarious traffic--associating with the very
men against whom I had conceived such antipathy and disgust--in fact
myself forming one of the crew!

I cannot describe the wretchedness that came over me.

It is possible I should have been more shocked had I made the discovery
all at once, but I did not.  The knowledge came upon me by degrees, and
I had long suspicions before I became certain.  Moreover, harassed as I
had been by personal ill-treatment and other cares, I did not so keenly
feel the horror of my situation.  Indeed, I had begun to fancy that I
had got among real pirates, for these gentry were not uncommon at the
time, and I am certain a gang of picaroons would not have been one whit
more vulgar and brutal than were the crews of the _Pandora_.  It was
rather a relief, therefore, to know they were not pirates--not that
their business was any better,--but I had the idea that it would be
easier to get free from their companionship; which purpose I intended to
carry out the very first opportunity that offered itself.

It was about the accomplishment of this design that I now set myself to
thinking whenever I had a moment of leisure; and, verily, the prospect
was an appalling one.  It might be long months before I should have the
slightest chance of escaping from that horrid ship,--months! ay, it
might be years!  It was no longer any articles of indenture that I
dreaded, for I now perceived that this had been all a sham, since I
could not be legally bound to a service not lawful in itself.  No, it
was not anything of this sort I had to fear.  My apprehensions were
simply that for months--perhaps years--I might never find an opportunity
of escaping from the control of the fiends into whose hands I had so
unwittingly trusted myself.

Where was I to make my escape?  The _Pandora_ was going to the coast of
Africa for slaves; I could not run away while there.  There were no
authorities to whom I could appeal, or who could hold me against the
claims of the captain.  Those with whom we should be in communication
would be either the native kings, or the vile slave-factors,--both of
whom would only deliver me up again, and glory in doing so to gratify my
tyrant.  Should I run off and seek shelter in the woods?  There I must
either perish from hunger, thirst, or be torn to pieces by beasts of
prey--which are numerous on the slave-trading coasts.  One or other of
these would be my fate, or else I should be captured by the savage
natives, perhaps murdered by them,--or worse, kept in horrid bondage for
life, the slave of some brutal negro,--oh! it was a dread prospect!

Then in my thoughts I crossed the Atlantic, and considered the change of
escape that might offer upon the other side.  The _Pandora_ would no
doubt proceed with her cargo to Brazil, or some of the West India
islands.  What hope then?  She would necessarily act in a clandestine
manner while discharging her freight.  It would be done under cover of
the night, on some desert coast far from a city or even a seaport, and,
in fear of the cruisers, there would be great haste.  A single night
would suffice to land her smuggled cargo of human souls, and in the
morning she would be off again--perhaps on a fresh trip of a similar
kind.  There might be no opportunity, whatever, for me to go ashore--in
fact, it was not likely there would be--although I would not there have
scrupled to take to the woods, trusting to God to preserve me.

The more I reflected the more was I convinced that my escape from what
now appeared to me no better than a floating prison, would be an
extremely difficult task,--almost hopeless.  Oh! it was a dread prospect
that lay before me.

Would that we might encounter some British cruiser!  I heartily hoped
that some one might see and pursue us.  It would have given me joy to
have heard the shot rattling through the spars and crashing into the
sides of the _Pandora_!



CHAPTER TEN.

Of course I did not give utterance to these sentiments before any of the
_Pandora's_ crew.  That would have led me into worse trouble than ever.
Even Brace could not have protected me had I given expression to the
disgust with which my new associates had inspired me, and I acted only
with the ordinary instinct of prudence when I held my tongue and
pretended not to notice those matters that were queer.  Withal, I could
not altogether dissemble.  My face might have told tales upon me; for
more than once I was taken to task by my ruffian companions, who jeered
me for my scruples, calling me "green-horn", "land-lubber", "son of a
gun", "son of a sea-cook," and other like contemptuous appellations, of
which, among sailors, there is an extensive vocabulary.  Had they known
the full measure of contempt in which I had held them, they would scarce
have been satisfied by giving me nicknames only.  I should have had
blows along with them; but I took care to hide the dark thoughts that
were passing in my bosom.

I was determined, however, to have an explanation with Brace and ask his
advice.  I knew that I could trust him, but it was a delicate point; and
I resolved to approach him with caution.  He might be angry with me; for
he, too, was engaged in the same nefarious companionship.  He might be
sensitive and reproach me for a meddler.

And yet I fancied he would not.  One or two expressions I had heard him
drop casually, had led me to the belief that Brace was tired of the life
he was leading--that he, too, was discontented with such a lot; and that
some harsh fate had conducted him into it.  I hoped that it was so; for
I had grown greatly interested in this fine man.  I had daily evidence
that he was far different from his associates,--not hardened and wicked
as they.  Though under the influence of association men gradually assume
the tone of the majority, yet Brace had a will and a way of his own,--
there was a sort of moral idiosyncracy about him that rendered him
unlike the rest, and which he appeared to preserve, notwithstanding the
constant contamination to which he was exposed by his companionship with
such fellows.  Observing this, I resolved to make known to him the cause
of my wretchedness, and to obtain his advice as to how I should act.

An opportunity soon offered--a chance of conversing with him unheard by
the rest of the crew.

There is a pleasant place out upon the bowsprit, particularly when the
foretop-mast stay-sail is hauled down, and lying along the spar.  There
two or three persons may sit or recline upon the canvas, and talk over
their secrets without much risk of being overheard.  The wind is seldom
dead ahead, but the contrary; and the voices are borne forward or far
over the sea, instead of being carried back to the ears of the crew.  A
meditative sailor sometimes seeks this little solitude, and upon
emigrant ships, some of the more daring of the deck-passengers often
climb up there--for it requires a little boldness to go so high aloft
over the water--and pour into one another's ears the intended programme
of their trans-oceanic life.

Brace had a liking for this place; and often about twilight he used to
steal up alone, and sit by himself, either to smoke his pipe or give way
to meditation.

I wished to be his companion, but at first I did not venture to disturb
him, lest he might deem it an intrusion.  I took courage after a time,
and joined him upon his perch.  I saw that he was not dissatisfied--on
the contrary, he seemed pleased with my companionship.

One evening I followed him up as usual, resolved to reveal to him the
thoughts that were troubling me.

"Ben!"  I said, in the familiar style in which all sailors address each
other.  "Ben!"

"Well, my lad; what be it?"

He saw I had something to communicate, and remained attentively
listening.

"What is this ship?"  I asked after a pause.

"She a'n't a ship at all, my boy--she be a barque."

"But what is she?"

"Why, a'n't I told you she be a barque."

"But what sort, I want to know?"

"Why, in course, a regular rigged barque--ye see if she were a ship the
mizen-mast yonder 'ud be carryin' squares'ls aloft, which she don't do
as ye see--therefore she's a barque and not a ship."

"But, Ben, I know all that, for you have already explained to me the
difference between a ship and a barque.  What I wish to ascertain is
what kind of a vessel she is?"

"Oh! what kind; that's what you're after.  Well, then, I should say a
faster sailer never set figure-head to the sea; she's got just one
fault, she be a little too crank for my liking, and pitches too much in
a swell.  If she's not kept in plenty o' ballast, I won't wonder to see
them masts walk overboard one of these days."

"You won't be offended at me, Ben; all this you've told me before--it is
not what I wish to know."

"An what the old scratch do you want to know?  Be hanged, my lad, if you
don't puzzle me."

"Answer me, Ben; tell me the truth.  Is she a merchant vessel."

"Oho! that's what you're driving at!  Well, that depends upon what you
may call a merchant vessel.  There be many sorts o' goods that comes
under the name o' merchandise.  Some ships carry one sort, and some
another."

"What sort does the _Pandora_ carry?" asked I, interrupting him.

As I put the question, I laid my hand gently upon the arm of the sailor,
and looked earnestly in his face as I awaited his reply.

He hesitated for a moment, until he saw that he could not well evade
giving me an answer, and then answered with the simple word--"Niggers."

"It 'ud be no use playin' hide and seek about it, lad.  You must 'a
found it out in time--the _Pandora's_ no merchantman--she be a trader--a
regular slaver."

"Oh, Ben," I said, appealingly, "is it not a terrible life to lead?"

"Well, it's not the life for you, my boy, and I'm sorry you've got into
such hands.  I saw you when you first comed aboard, and would have put a
word in your ears, if I had got a chance; but the old shark nailed you
afore I could get speaking to you.  He wanted a boy and was determined
to have you.  When you comed the second time, I was below in my bunk,
and in course you were brought off with us.  No, little Will, it's not
the life for you, lad."

"And for you, Ben?"

"Avast there, my youngster!  Well, I won't be angry with you, it's but
nat'ral you should think so.  Maybe I'm not so bad as you think me."

"I don't think you bad, Ben; quite the contrary.  It is for that reason
I spoke as I did.  I think you very different from the others.  I--"

"Maybe you're right, boy; maybe not.  I warn't always bad.  I was once
like yourself and didn't care for such as these; but there are tyrants
in the world as makes men bad, and they've made me."

Here the sailor paused and uttered a sigh, while an expression of
extreme bitterness passed over his face; some harsh recollection was
stirring within him.

"How, Ben?"  I ventured to ask.  "I cannot believe it.  They may have
made you unhappy, but not wicked.  I know you are not."

"You are kind, little Will, to say this to me.--You are very kind, my
boy; you make me feel as I once did feel, and I'll tell you all.
Listen! and I'll tell you all about it."

There was a tear in the sailor's eye, the first he had shed for many a
long year.  Upon his weather-bronzed face I observed a mingled
expression of tenderness and sadness.

I placed myself to listen attentively.

"It's a short story," he continued, "and won't take many words.  I
warn't always what I am now.  No, I was a man-o'-war's-man for many a
year, and, though I say it myself, there warn't many in the service as
knew their duty or did it better.  But all that went for nothing.  It
was at Spithead--we were lying there with the fleet, and I chanced to
run foul o' the master's-mate o' our ship.  It was all about a bit o'
lass that we met ashore, who was my sweetheart.  He was a-makin' too
free with her, and my blood got up.  I couldn't help it, and I
threatened him--only threatened him.  There's what I got for it.  Look
there, little Will!"

As the sailor finished speaking, he pulled off his jacket, and raised
his shirt over his shoulder.  I perceived across his back, and up and
down, and in every direction, a complete network of long scars--the
scars of old weals--which the "cats" had made upon his flesh.

"Now, my lad, you know why I'm driven to a ship like this.  In course I
desarted the navy, and afterwards tried it in the merchant-sarvice, but
go where I would, I carried the Cain-mark along with me, and somehow or
other it always came out, and I couldn't stand it.  Here I'm not the odd
sheep in the flock.  Among the fellows below there, there's many a back
as well striped as mine."

Ben ceased speaking, and I, impressed with the brief history of his
wrongs, remained for some time silent.

After awhile I again ventured to broach the subject that lay nearest my
heart.

"But, Ben," said I, "this is a horrid kind of life to lead; surely you
do not intend to continue it?"

A shake of the head was all the answer I received.

"I could not endure it," I continued; "I have resolved to make my escape
whenever an opportunity offers.  Surely you will aid me?"

"Both you and myself, lad."

"Oh!  I am so pleased."

"Yes," continued he, "I am tired of it, too.  I have been thinking how I
can leave it.  This I'm determined shall be my last voyage--leastwise,
in this trade.  I've been thinking, my boy, of giving 'em the slip, and
taking you along with me."

"Oh, how glad I shall be--when may we go?"

"There lies the bother, my lad; you see there's no place in all Africa
where we could get off, or, if we did, it would only be to wander among
these black savages, and likely enough get murdered by them.  No; we
can't get clear of the _Pandora_ this side the Atlantic.  We must stick
by her, and make the voyage; and on the far side we'll manage it, I
warrant you."

"'Tis a long time to suffer."

"You ain't a-going to suffer--I'll take care o' that; but keep quiet,
and don't show that you are not contented enough--not a word to anybody
about what's been said this night,--not a word, my lad!"

I promised faithfully to observe the directions given, and, as Brace was
now called to his watch upon deck, I went down along with him, feeling
lighter at heart than I had done since I first set foot on board the
_Pandora_.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

I need not detail the incidents that occurred during the remainder of
our run to the African coast.  There is not much variety in a journey
upon the sea.  A shoal of porpoises,--a whale or two,--some
flying-fish,--a few species of sea-birds,--sharks and dolphins,--are
nearly all the living creatures that are ever seen, even upon the
longest voyages.  Most of our course lay due southward, and directly
across the northern tropic, and, of course, the weather was hot nearly
all the time,--so hot that the pitch oozed out from the seams of the
planking, and the soles of our shoes parted with a creaking noise every
step we took over the deck.

We were in sight of several sail,--most of them were Indiamen,--some
outward bound from England, and some on their way home from the East.  A
few smaller craft we saw, brigs and a barque or two, and, as they
carried English colours, we concluded they were traders to the Cape, or
Algoa Bay.  None of them,--neither these nor the East Indiamen--seemed
desirous of cultivating the _Pandora's_ acquaintance; and all, in
meeting or passing, allowed her a "wide berth."  Of course, the slaver
was equally desirous of avoiding them; and, therefore, none of these
vessels were "spoken."

There was one ship, however, that did not appear to shun us.  On the
contrary, the moment the _Pandora_ came in sight of her the strange
vessel changed from the course in which she had been steering, and with
all sail set came running towards us.  As we were now in the Gulf of
Guinea, and about a hundred miles or so from the Gold-coast, the
probability was that the vessel that had so boldly headed towards us was
a cruiser, and consequently, the very sort of craft that the _Pandora's_
people did not desire to fall in with.  Indeed, this point was soon
settled beyond dispute; for the behaviour of the strange vessel, and her
peculiar rig--which was that of a cutter--combined with the fact of so
small a craft sailing boldly towards a barque so large as the _Pandora_,
all went to prove that she was either a war-cruiser in search of
slave-ships, or a pirate,--in either case, a vessel much better manned
and armed than the _Pandora_.

It was hardly probable that the cutter was a pirate; though, had it been
upon a different part of the ocean it would have been probable enough,
for at that time pirates were by no means as scarce as they are at
present.  But it was not a favourite locality with pirates.  The
merchant-craft that traded along this part of the coast were usually
small vessels with insignificant cargoes, and, when outward bound,
carried only such bulky articles as salt, iron, and rum, with toys and
trinkets; which, though sufficiently attractive to the black savages of
Dahomey and Ashantee, were not the sort of merchandise that pirates
cared to pick up.  They were sometimes more richly freighted in their
homeward trip, with gold-dust and elephants' teeth, and pirates could
find a market for these.  There were still some of these freebooters
upon the African coast, for there they could find many a secure
rendezvous, but they were never so numerous there as in the West Indies
and elsewhere.  Had the cutter been met with at an earlier period--that
is, while we were further out on the Atlantic, and upon the track of the
Cape traders and Indiamen--then the people of the _Pandora_ might have
taken her for a pirate, and very probably would have taken less trouble
to get out of her way--for these gentry were far less afraid of a pirate
than of an honest warship.  They knew that the pirates looked upon
traders of their kind as kindred spirits--almost birds of the same
feather; and that, therefore, they would have but little to fear from
their brother outlaws.  They knew, moreover, that they had nothing to
lose but a few casks of brandy and rum; the iron, salt, and toys which
formed the remainder of the _Pandora's_ cargo, being goods that a pirate
would not be bothered with.  The brandy and rum would be all he would be
likely to rob them of, and of these there were only some half-dozen
puncheons--for I had ascertained that most of the great casks in the
hold were water-butts filled with water, and of course intended to
supply the living cargo on their voyage across the Atlantic.

A pirate, therefore, reasoned the crew of the _Pandora_, would only rob
them of their six puncheons of spirits, and that would be all.  Perhaps
he might take a fancy to the fine barque, and insist on pressing some of
them into his service.  That would be a misfortune to the owners; but,
as for the crew themselves, I was under the belief that very few of them
would have required "pressing."  Most of them would have been willing
enough to take a hand at buccaneering, or any other sort of villainy.

As the cutter drew near, however--for she was drawing near--it became
evident she was no pirate.  Indeed, she made no secret of what she was,
for the British flag was run out to her peak, at once proclaiming her a
British vessel of war.  It is true a pirate might have used that signal
for a decoy; but, considering the time and place, it was not likely, and
the _Pandora's_ people did not entertain the thought of its being one.
The cutter was a British cruiser beyond doubt.  That was their full
belief and conviction.

No flag could have been more unwelcome to the eyes of the slaver's crew
than the one now spread to the breeze from the peak of the cutter's
main-sail.  Had it been the Portuguese ensign, or the Spanish, or even
the French, they would have dreaded it less; for, notwithstanding the
promises of these nations to aid in putting a stop to the slave-trade,
it is well-known that they have acted with great lukewarmness in the
matter.  Indeed, worse than that--since the governors of their
Transatlantic possessions--even the captains of their ships of war--have
been known, not only to connive at the slave-traffic, but actually to
assist in carrying it on!  Had it been a ship of one of these nations
the _Pandora_ would have been less desirous of escaping from her.  She
would have been brought-to, perhaps; and after a slight examination--
with a word or two of secret intelligence between her captain and the
commander of the war-vessel--allowed to go about her business; and this
would have ended the affair.  But no such an easy _conge_ would be given
by the commandant of a British cutter; for, to the honour of the British
officers be it said, that in all such cases they have performed their
duty, and carried out with energy the designs of their government.

The crew of the barque, therefore, on perceiving that it was in reality
a British cruiser that was in the wake, were put into the greatest
confusion and trouble.  I say in the wake, for long since the _Pandora_
had turned stern towards the strange vessel, and was making all sail to
escape.

It was evident that the cutter was a fast sailer, and knew it--else she
would have used more strategy in making her first approach.  On the
contrary, she had taken no pains whatever to conceal her character; but,
setting her head right for the _Pandora_, had given chase at once.  The
barque had been equally prompt in showing her stern; and for some hours
a regular tail-on-end run was kept up between the two vessels.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

For my part, I awaited the result with the deepest interest.  I watched
the two ships as they sped; and, with my eye, kept constantly measuring
the sea between them.  My heart was full of hope, and beat joyfully as I
observed that the distance was gradually decreasing, and the cutter each
minute seemed larger upon the waves.

There was but one drawback to the exultation which I felt--and that was
a serious one.  Brace had confessed to me that he was a deserter from
the Royal Navy.  If taken he might be recognised.  The stripes upon his
back would lead to suspicion--for there are brands almost peculiar to
the navy--proofs of his desertion would be sought--perhaps easily
obtained, and then I knew the terrible punishment he would have to
undergo.  For my own sake I wished the cutter to capture us.  For the
sake of my friend--the preserver of my life--I wanted the _Pandora_ to
escape.  I wavered between two hopes--now my own horrid situation was
before me--the disgust I felt for the life I was compelled to lead, the
hopelessness of getting away from it; and when these thoughts came into
my mind I looked with longing eyes towards the pursuer, and wished her
nearer and nearer.  Then my eyes would rest upon poor Brace, as he
hurried over the decks--Using all his efforts to aid the _Pandora's_
speed--my thoughts would undergo a complete revulsion, and my late hopes
would suddenly change into fears.  For a long while I awaited the
result, with this singular alternation of contradictory emotions.

During all this time there was a stiff breeze blowing, and this it was
that gave the cutter the advantage.  As already intimated to me by Brace
the barque was a "crank" vessel, and carried sail badly under a wind;
though, in fair weather, or with a light breeze, she was one of the
fastest sailers on the sea.  It was for this quality she had been chosen
for the peculiar trade in which she was employed--for swiftness, not
stowage, are the points of advantage in a slave-ship.  The poor negro is
usually packed as closely as any other species of merchandise, and a
large cargo of them can be stowed in a small space--for it is rare that
the slightest consideration of humanity enters the thoughts of their
inhuman stevedore.

The barque then had been built for fast sailing--but more especially in
light winds, such as those denominated "trade-winds," and others that
are usually encountered between the tropics and the "line."

The cutter, also, sailed well in a light wind, but equally well in a
stiff breeze--when under the stronger impetus of a gale--and as it had
now freshened almost to a gale the latter vessel was having the
advantage.  Even under such a wind she still continued to carry most of
her sail--her main and second jibs above being hauled down, along with
her gaff-topsail while her storm, spitfire, and third jibs were still
kept bent to the breeze.

The barque, on the other hand, had to haul down both royals and
topgallant-sails, and close-reef her topsails.  She was thus far from
going at her fastest, but it blew so freshly it would have been
dangerous for her to have spread another inch of canvas, and her people
well knew it.

Under these circumstances the cutter was evidently gaining upon her; and
if the breeze should continue at the same rate for two hours more the
_Pandora_ must certainly be overhauled and captured.

As soon as her crew became convinced of this, they set to work to hide
all the implements of their nefarious trade.  The manacles and shackles
were put into a cask and headed up.  The hatch-gratings, which the
carpenter had been so long in making, were broken up and disfigured--so
that their purpose could not be recognised--and the muskets, pistols,
and cutlasses were stowed away in some secret part of the hold.  There
was no intention of making use of these, and showing fight against such
an adversary.  Small as was the cutter in comparison with the barque,
the crew of the latter knew very well that that of the former would far
outnumber them, and that any attempt at resistance to such a well-armed,
sharp-toothed little ship of war would only bring her guns upon them,
and end the conflict in the loss of at least half their number.  They
entertained no hope, therefore--except to escape by fast sailing--and as
this was now well-nigh given up, they set to work to prepare themselves
for passing an examination.  Several of the crew actually hid themselves
in order to avoid the suspicion which their numbers might create; for,
as I had already observed, there were too many hands for a ship engaged
in the ordinary way of commerce.

At a last measure the old skipper had got out his "ship's papers,"
which, of course, had been prepared for such an emergency, and which
were to show that he was "all right."

In this way the _Pandora_ now awaited the nearer approach of her hostile
pursuer.

The cutter had gained rapidly, and had at length got within less than a
mile's distance, when a gun was fired from her bow-ports that sent the
shot ricochetting over the water, and close to the hull of the barque.
A signal was also hoisted for the latter to "lay-to."

My heart beat wildly within my breast.  It seemed as if the hour of my
deliverance had arrived; and yet I felt a contrary belief--a
presentiment that it was not yet to be!  Alas! that presentiment proved
too true.  With all the appearances in favour of our being captured it
was not to be.  The destiny of the _Pandora_ was different.

Almost as if the firing of the gun had been a signal to the weather, and
the wind suddenly began to lull, and at each moment grew lighter and
lighter--till it was no longer a gale, but a soft and gentle breeze.
The sun, that was now setting, no doubt had caused the change and in a
few minutes' time the sails became relaxed and fell flapping against the
yards.

With a quick eye the change was observed by the crew of the _Pandora_,
and the advantage understood.  Instead, therefore, of yielding obedience
to the signal from the cutter, all hands rushed quickly aloft--the
topsails were unreefed to their fullest spread--topgallants and royals
were unfurled, and even the studding-sails bent, till the whole rigging
of the barque was covered with canvas.

The effect was almost immediately perceptible.  Although the cutter now
fired her guns as fast as she could load them, I could perceive that she
was every moment losing ground, and her shots now fell short of the
barque.

In another hour she was miles in our wake; and ere the darkness of night
closed over the sea, and hid the little vessel altogether from my sight,
I saw, with a sad heart, that she had dwindled to a mere speck upon the
edge of the horizon!



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

The chase, which had lasted for nearly the whole of a day, carried the
_Pandora_ a hundred miles out of her course before she had fairly
distanced the cutter; but she had to run still fifty miles further to
make sure that the latter had lost sight of her, and, of course,
abandoned the pursuit.  The last part of the run, however, was made in a
direction diagonal to that in which she had been chased; and as the
morning broke, and there were no signs of the cutter nor any other sail,
the slaver once more headed in for the coast.  She was now so far to the
south of the line on which she had encountered the cruiser, that,
whether the latter kept on in the pursuit, or returned as she had come,
in either case she would be too distant from the barque to make her out.
The darkness of the night had also favoured the slaver's escape, and,
when morning came, her commander felt quite sure that the cutter was
cruising far to the north of him, and beyond the range of the most
powerful telescope.

The deviation which the _Pandora_ had made from her course did not
signify much to such a light sailer as she.  She soon made up the loss;
for next day the wind had veered round so as to answer for her course;
and, as it blew but lightly, she was able to go under studding-sails, at
the rate of ten and twelve knots an hour.

She was now heading directly for the African coast, and, before the sun
had set, my eyes rested on the land--that land so long famous, or rather
infamous, for its commerce in human beings--for the hunt, and the
barter, and sale of men, women, and children!

During the night the barque stood off and on at several miles' distance
from the shore, and with the earliest light of morning ran close in.

There was no port nor town.  Not even a house was in sight.  The land
was low, scarce rising above the sea-level, and appeared to be covered
with a dense forest to the water's edge.  There was neither buoy nor
beacon to direct the course of the vessel, but, for all that, the
captain knew very well where he was steering to.  It was not his first
slaving expedition to the coast of Africa nor yet to the very port he
was now heading for.  He knew well where he was going; and, although the
country appeared to be quite wild and uninhabited, he knew that there
were people who expected him not far off.

One might have fancied that the _Pandora_ was about to be run ashore,
for, until she was within a few cables' length of the beach, neither
bay, nor landing-place presented itself to our view, and no orders had
been given to drop anchor.  It is true that most of her sails had been
hauled down, and she was moving but slowly through the water, but still
fast enough to strike with violence if permitted to approach much
nearer.

Several of the crew, who were on their first voyage to this coast, began
to express their surprise; but they were laughed at by the older hands
who had been there before.

All at once the surprise was over.  A little wooded point was rounded,
and the line of the beach--which but the moment before had appeared
continuous--was now seen to be broken by a long, narrow reach of water,
that ran far back into the land.  It proved to be the mouth of a small
but deep river; and, without reconnoissance or hesitation, the barque
entered across its bar, and, standing up stream, came to anchor about a
mile inland from the sea.

Opposite to where we had anchored I could perceive a strangely-built hut
standing near the bank, and another and larger one further back, and
partially screened by the trees.  In front of the former, and close to
the water's edge, was a group of dark-looking men, making some signals
which were answered by the mate of the _Pandora_.  Other men were down
in a long canoe that was riding upon the water, and some were getting
into it, as if about to be rowed out to us.

I saw the palms upon the bank--they were the first trees of this kind I
had ever seen growing, but I easily recognised them by the pictures I
had seen in books.  There were other large trees, not less singular in
their appearance, and differing altogether from the kinds I had been
accustomed to look upon at home; but my attention was soon drawn from
the trees by observing that the men in the canoe had parted from the
shore and were paddling towards us.

The river was not over two hundred yards in width, and as the barque was
anchored about midway, of course the canoe had not far to come.  In a
few seconds it was alongside, and I had a fair and full view of its
dusky rowers.

As I regarded them the reflection passed through my mind, that if these
were a fair specimen of their countrymen, the less acquaintance with
them the better; and I could now comprehend the remark of Brace, that to
desert from the ship on the African coast would be sheer madness.
"Bad," said he, "as are these fellows on board the _Pandy_, still they
have white skins and something human about them; but as for the rascals
we are to meet over yonder they are devils, both soul and body--you
shall see 'em, my boy, and judge for yourself."  These remarks my patron
had made some days before, when we were talking of our intention to
escape; and as I looked into that long canoe, and scanned the faces of
the half-score of men that sat within it, I was forcibly struck with the
truthfulness of the assertion.  A more ferocious set of men I never
looked upon--very devils did they appear!

There were eleven of them in all, and most of them were as black as
shoe-leather, though there was a variety of colour, from jet-black to a
bad tawny-yellow.  It was evident they were not all of one race, for
there is scarcely any part of the western coast of Africa where there is
not an admixture of different races,--arising, no doubt, from the
long-continued slave-traffic between the coast and the interior.  If
these eleven gentlemen differed slightly in colour, there were other
points in which they differed not at all.  All of them had thick lips,
beetle-brows, short kinky wool upon their heads, and the most ferocious
and brutal expression upon their faces.  Eight out of the eleven were
naked as at the hour of their birth, with the exception of a narrow
swathing of cotton cloth around their hips and thighs.  These eight used
the paddles, and I could perceive that they had spears and old muskets
in the boat beside them.  The other three were of superior class.  Two
of them were better clad than the eight rowers--but no better looking--
while the third presented to the eye an aspect at once so hideously
tierce, and yet so ludicrous, that it was difficult to determine whether
you ought to laugh at or to fear him.

This man was a true negro,--black as gun powder, gross as a water-butt,
and of enormous dimensions.  His face was not so negrofied (if I may use
the word) as some of his companions', but it had a still worse
expression than that of the very thick-lipped kind, for it was not
stupid like theirs.  On the contrary, it exhibited a mixture of ferocity
with a large share of cunning--a countenance, in fact, full of all
wickedness.  It resembled a good deal the faces I have afterwards
observed in India,--among the fat despotic princes that are still
permitted to misrule some portions of that unhappy land,--and a large
black beard, whiskers, and moustache, added to the similitude.

It was not the face, nor the great size of the man that rendered him
ridiculous.  Quite the contrary.  A glance at these had rather an
opposite tendency.  What was laughable about him was his costume; and if
he had been done up for a farce upon the stage, or a Christmas
pantomime, he could not have been dressed in a more ludicrous manner.
Upon his body was a uniform coat of bright-scarlet cloth, the cut and
facings of which told that it had once done duty in the army of King
George.  It had been a sergeant's full-dress coat, for the _chevrons_
were still upon the cuffs,--and a stout sergeant he must have been,--one
of the stoutest in the army.  The coat was a large one, yet, withal, it
was a tight fit for its present wearer, and did not come within a foot
of buttoning upon him.  The sleeves, moreover, were too short by inches,
and the huge black wrists of the negro appeared in strange contrast with
the bright sheen of the scarlet.  Behind, the skirts forked widely
apart, showing the huge buttocks of the wearer, that were covered by the
tails of a striped sailor's shirt reaching a little below; and below
this again, the huge, thick, black thighs and lower limbs were naked to
the toes.

An old cocked-hat with faded lace and feathers, that no doubt had once
graced the head of some admiral or commodore, sat high upon the woolly
crown of her new acquaintance, and completed the absurd _tout ensemble_.
There was a long knife stuck in his belt, and a large crooked sabre
dangling between his limbs.

It would have been laughable enough--such a singular apparition under
other circumstances--but I perceived on the part of the _Pandora's_ crew
no disposition to laugh.  A strict order from the captain had been
issued against such behaviour; and enjoining all on board to receive
"His Majesty King Dingo Bingo" with all courtesy and respect.

So, then he of the tight coat and cocked-hat was a king--King "Dingo
Bingo!"  The two that were partially clad were his councillors, and the
eight black canoe-men a portion of his bodyguard.

I did not make all these observations while the new comers were in the
canoe.  There had been no time for that.  The moment they approached the
side of the barque, ropes had been thrown to them, and the canoe was
hauled close up.  A ladder had already been let over the gangway, and up
this "His Majesty" climbed, and was received on board with all the
honours.

Joyful salutes passed between him and his well-known acquaintance, the
captain; and, without more ado, the latter led the way across the
quarter-deck, and conducted his majesty to the cabin with apparent
formality, but yet in a frank and jovial manner that proved the two to
be old friends--the best friends in the world.

The mate did his best to entertain the two "Councillors of State," while
the men of the bodyguard remained below in the canoe.  His majesty had
no fear for his personal safety.  He knew the slaver and her master.  He
had been expecting them, and therefore needed to ask no questions about
country or character.  The skipper and the king understood each other.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

I could not tell what was said between these two worthies, but I knew
what was to be done.  His majesty had a crowd of poor negroes not far
off--no doubt shut up in the large building which could be partially
seen through the trees.  These he had procured from some back country in
the interior--partly by traffic with other king-monsters like himself,
and partly by means of man-hunting expeditions, which he had made with
his ferocious troops.  It was highly probable, too, that among the
victims about to be transported were many who had been his own subjects;
for these African potentates do not scruple to make merchandise of their
own people, when cash or "cowries" run short, and their enemies have
been too strong to be captured.

Just such a crowd then had King Dingo Bingo got together; and the joyful
smile that lighted up the jovial face of the skipper, as he reappeared
upon deck, proved that it was a large crowd, and that he was sure of a
full "cargo" without further trouble or delay.  Often competition among
the slave-vessels renders it difficult to obtain a full "freight;" and
in such cases the white slave-dealers, who dwell upon the coast (for
there are many such), and the native chiefs become terribly exacting.
Then indeed, the first cost of the human merchandise forms an important
item in the invoice, and the profits on the other side are
proportionately diminished; but where there is no competition the price
of the black is considered a mere trifle; and, taken in "barter" as he
is, a whole ship's load of such "bales," as they are jocularly called
among slavers (by the Spaniards termed "bultos"), is not such an
expensive investment.  The purchase of the vessel, the wages and keep of
the crew (necessarily a large one), are the main items of outlay in the
books of a slaver.  As for the food of the living cargo, that counts for
little.  It is of the simplest and coarsest kind that can be procured,
and usually consists of two staple articles; the African millet--known
more commonly as a species of sago--and palm-oil.  Both are easily
obtained on any part of the western coast where the slave-trade exists;
for there both these articles form the common food of the country.  The
millet is a well-known grain; but there are many sorts of grain in
different parts of the world which go under this name, and yet are
obtained from plants that are very distinct in character.  As for the
palm-oil, it is at present one of the most important items of African
commerce, and thousands of tons of it are annually imported into England
and France, where it is used in the manufacture of yellow soap.  It is
extracted from the nut of a large palm-tree, whole forests of which may
be seen in the western countries of tropical Africa, with the fallen
nuts lying scattered over the ground as thick as pebbles; and, up to a
late period, scarce cared for by the native inhabitants.  The demand for
palm-oil, however, has of late years stimulated even the indolent
negroes to the manufacture of the article, and these immense
palm-orchards are now carefully preserved, and their fruit gathered at
the proper season.

It is the pulpy covering of the nut that yields the oil, which becomes
hard as soon as it cools--so hard that it requires to be cut with a
knife, or scooped out by some sharp instrument.  In this state it is
used by the negroes just as we use butter, and forms a staple article of
their daily diet.

Since both the millet-sago and the palm-butter can be purchased in
Africa cheaper than any other food, of course these are shipped on board
the slave-vessels for the consumption of the unfortunate captives, and
beyond these no other food is thought of.  Water alone is their drink,
and to provide this, the hold of a slave-ship is usually crammed with
large casks, as was the case with the _Pandora_.  These casks serve as
ballast on the return-trip, when the vessel is without her freight, and
then they are kept full--generally with salt-water, as this in most
ports is more conveniently got at; and on the coast of Africa, as the
place of embarkation is usually a river, the salt-water is easily
emptied out and fresh substituted.  With these explanations I shall now
return to our skipper and his royal guest.

It was plain that the former was in excellent humour.  He had King Dingo
Bingo all to himself, and was promised a full cargo.  His majesty seemed
not less pleased with the interview.  He came forth out of the cabin
staggering with partial intoxication, clutching in one hand a half-empty
bottle of rum, while in the other he held various glittering trinkets
and pieces of gaudy wearing apparel, which he had just received as
presents from the captain.  He swaggered about the deck, once or twice
tripping upon his long steel scabbard.  He talked in loud praise of his
warlike achievements, boasting of the many villages he had sacked, of
the captives he had made, and ever reminding his host of the fine cargo
he had collected for him.  There were five hundred of them, "young and
strong."  They were shut up safely in the "barracoon,"--such was the
name of the large building--and to-morrow, that day, or whenever the
captain was ready, he would deliver them over.  So promised the king.

Of course the captain was not quite ready.  His majesty's "plunder" had
to be got out of the hold, and boated ashore; the water casks had to be
emptied--for it was sea-water they contained--and then refilled from the
river; and these things done the barque would then take on board her
five hundred "bultos."

After a good deal more swaggering and swearing--for this African royalty
could speak a little English, and knew most of its most blackguard
phrases--his sable majesty once more betook himself to his boat, and was
rowed back to the bank.  The captain, taking his mate and some
half-dozen of the sailors along with him, followed soon after in the gig
to complete the debauch--for King Dingo Bingo had invited him to a royal
entertainment in his timber palace upon the shore.

I looked after with longing eyes--not that I had any desire to be, of
their company--far from it, indeed--but gazing upon the beautiful forms
of vegetation that adorned the banks of this savage river, listening to
the sweet music that came from a thousand bright-plumed songsters amid
the woods, I longed once more to set my feet upon the firm earth; I
longed to be alone, to wander alone and free, away under the shadow of
those majestic trees.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

It is very probable I should have longed in vain--very probable I should
not have been allowed to set foot upon the shore, but for my protector
Brace.  My work was still that of the swab and mop, and shoe-brush, and
I was kept closely employed at such "chores" from morning to night.  The
others were permitted to go ashore almost at their pleasure--except
during their working-hours, and then they were back and forward several
times in the day, unloading the cargo of rum, and salt, and iron, that
was forthwith delivered up to King Dingo Bingo.

I endeavoured several times to go with them in the boat, but was always
repulsed by some one, usually by the mate or captain himself.

Every day as the sun rose over the glistening tree-tops, tinging their
rich verdure with hues of gold, I sighed for liberty, and I would have
given aught I possessed, to have been allowed to roam freely through
those bright woods.  Only one who has been for months cooped up within
the confined boundaries of a ship, until tired to death of its
monotonous life, can have any idea of the intense longings that I
experienced.  I was even worse off than one who may have been thus
situated.  I was not only cooped up but ill-treated.  I was not only a
prisoner, but a slave, harshly used, and thoroughly disgusted both with
my master and associates.  If but for a single hour, therefore, I would
have made any sacrifice to have been permitted to take a stroll in
yonder wild woods, that on both sides of the river stretched away as far
as the eye could reach, for I had viewed them from the royal-mast-head,
and saw that they were interminable.

I cannot tell why the captain and mate were so opposed to my going
ashore.  It might be that they were suspicious of me, and feared I might
run away from the ship.  Knowing the harsh treatment to which they were
in the habit of submitting me, it is not strange they should suspect me
of such an intention.  My position could hardly be worse, even among
savages; and, therefore, it was natural enough they should have their
fears of my leaving them.

They had no desire to part with me on such terms.  I had proved of great
service to them in the capacity of cabin-boy and attendant; and they
found my services very convenient.  Though they would have cared little
for drowning me, or knocking me on the head, to gratify a whim of their
own, they would have been sadly grieved had I succeeded in running away
from them; and, evidently suspecting that I might harbour such an
intention, they took care that I should not have the slightest
opportunity of carrying it out.  I was not permitted, therefore, to set
my foot in any of the boats that were constantly going and coming
between the ship and the shore.

There was one other of the _Pandora's_ crew who was dealt with in a
similar manner, and this was poor "Dutchy", as the sailors called him.
They might well suspect him of a design to run away.  Bad as was the
treatment I received, it was humane and civil when compared with the
almost continuous cruelty practised upon the Dutchman; and instinct
itself should have prompted him to flee from it at the very first
opportunity that offered.

Unfortunately, instinct had this very effect; or rather, I might say,
human flesh and blood could stand it no longer; and Dutchy determined to
desert.  I say unfortunately, for the attempt proved a failure, and had
an awful termination.  It ended in the death of this poor sailor--a
death that was hideous and appalling.

I shall relate the incident in a few words:--

A few days after coming to anchor Dutchy had communicated to me his
intention of deserting from the ship.  He had made me his confidant, in
hopes that I might join him in the enterprise--for the poor fellow knew
there was not another on board who had ever spoken to him a word of
sympathy.  This I had done, and, consequently, had won his regard.  He
knew, moreover, that I, too was a persecuted victim; and, therefore,
believed I might be as willing as himself to get away beyond the reach
of the common tyrant.  It is true I was so, but the advice of my patron
Brace had rendered me content to wait for a better opportunity--to wait
for our arrival upon the other side of the Atlantic.  I had made up my
mind to endure till then; knowing that a voyage from the west coast of
Africa to the Brazils, the destination of the _Pandora_, would be but a
few weeks in duration, and confident, from what Brace had promised me,
that there I should part from the hated crew.

For these reasons I refused to accede to Dutchy's proposal, and
endeavoured to dissuade him from his design; advising him also to wait
for our arrival on the other side.

My counsels proved vain.  Flesh and blood could stand it no longer.  The
poor fellow had been persecuted to the utmost limit of endurance, until
he could endure no more; and, under the impulse of despair, he made his
fatal attempt.

One night, when nearly all on board were asleep, a plunge was heard
close by the side of the vessel, as of some one who had fallen or leaped
into the water.  The cry of "a man overboard!" was heard from the few
who were awake on the watch; and echoed from mouth to mouth, till the
sleepers--most of whom were on deck in their hammocks--were aroused.

The night was almost as clear as day--for there was a full round moon in
the heavens; and up to this time there had been perfect stillness and
silence.  The men, wondering who had gone overboard, rushed to the side,
and looked into the water.  A small, black object above the surface
indicated the head of a man.  It was in motion, and a slight plashing
noise, with the long ripple made upon the water, showed that some one
was in the river and swimming with all his might for the shore.

Perhaps some one had seen poor Dutchy as he made this fatal plunge, for
at that moment the cry was given out that it was he who was endeavouring
to escape.

Both mate and captain were on the alert.  On account of the heat they,
too, had been sleeping in hammocks swung over the quarter-deck, and in a
moment they had sprung out upon their feet.  Both ran to arm themselves;
and before the deserter had made half-way to the bank his tyrants were
leaning over the side, each grasping a loaded musket.

Either would have been in good time to have sent a bullet through the
unfortunate victim; but though his blood was to be on their heads, it
was not destined that he should die by their hands.

Before either had time to take aim, a second ripple was observed in the
water--running diagonally to that made by the swimmer--and at the head
of this ripple, and causing it, was seen a long dark, monster-like form.

"A crocodile! a crocodile!" shouted the men upon the barque.

Both captain and mate held their fire, and lowered their muskets.  They
saw that the work would be done as well without them; and I am positive
that I perceived at that moment a grim smile of satisfaction on the
faces of both!

"Poor Dutchy!" cried a voice, "he'll never reach the bank!  It's all up
with him--he'll be swallowed whole, bones, body and all.  See!"

It was almost literally as the man had predicted.  As he uttered the
final exclamation the dark monster--now within a few feet of its
victim--made a rapid dash forward, its long, notched back rose high
above the water; and seizing the swimmer between its strong, bony jaws,
commenced dragging him under.  A wild scream of agony pealed from the
lips of the unfortunate man, that echoed afar into the surrounding
woods; but before the echoes had died away, the monster with its victim
had sunk beneath the surface; and a few bloodstained bubbles were all
that remained to mark the spot where the terrible incident had occurred.

"Served him right!" vociferated the captain, with a fearful oath;
"served him right, the good-for-nothing lumber--he's not much loss, we
can spare him, I dare say."

"Ay, ay!" assented the mate, also with the embellishment of an oath, and
then added:--

"A lesson to all runaways!  If the son of a sea-cook had stayed where he
was he'd have missed that; but if the fool likes better to be in the
belly of a crocodile than the forecastle of a good ship, he's had his
choice.  All I've got to say is, it's a queer craft he's chosen to ship
aboard o'."

The captain answered this sally with a horse laugh, in which he was
joined by several of the unfeeling crew; and then both mate and captain,
having restored their muskets to the rack, betook themselves once more
to their hammocks and fell asleep.  The sailors, grouping round the
windlass, remained for awhile conversing upon the awful incidents that
had transpired, but the tone of the conversation proved that the
occurrence gave them but little concern.  Some even laughed as they
talked; and jests were uttered as to whether Dutchy had made a will, and
who was to be heir to his "property."  As the poor fellow in reality
possessed no property--his whole effects consisting of a few tattered
rags of dress, a tin platter, with an old knife, fork, and spoon--the
joke was all the more piquant, and the fellows laughed heartily at it.

It was finally agreed upon that they should "raffle" for Dutchy's "kit"
in the morning; and this point being settled, one by one dropped off,
some to sleep in their bunks in the forecastle, and others upon the deck
or in hammock slung to the spars and rigging.

All were soon asleep, and silence once more brooded over the scene.  I
alone could not sleep, but stood looking over the side of the vessel, my
eyes fixed on the spot where the unfortunate man had been last seen.
There was nothing to guide the eye--not a trace of the short, sanguinary
struggle.  The crimsoned froth had long since floated away, and the dark
wafer flowed on without even a ripple upon its surface; but for all that
I could still see with the eye of my fancy--that horrid picture--the
hideous monster, with its victim grasped transversely between its horrid
jaws, and I could still hear the scream of agony echoing far off in the
woods.

Of course it was but fancy.  There was no sound stirring even of wind or
water.  Above and around reigned an impressive stillness, as if Nature
herself, by that dread event, had been awed into silence!



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

I was glad when morning dawned, for I slept but little that night.  The
sad fate of the poor sailor lay heavily upon my spirits during the whole
of the next day, and I could not help thinking that some such ending
might happen to myself.  It was the constant dread I was in of the
brutal violence of mate and captain that produced these unpleasant
forebodings; for I regarded these men as the real murderers of the
unfortunate man.  The crocodile only came in as an accessory, and had no
such creature appeared upon the scene the Dutchman would, no doubt, have
perished all the same by the bullets of their muskets.  The monster had
only forestalled them, and hastened the event by a few seconds of time;
and it was evident that had they shot the man instead--these reckless
ruffians--they would have been equally disregardful of consequences--
equally without remorse or regret.  No wonder I felt that my life was
insecure--no wonder my mind was filled with forebodings.

During the whole of that day the death-scream of the poor sailor seemed
to echo in my ears, in sad contrast with the coarse mirth and loud rude
laughter that rang over the decks of the _Pandora_.  On board it was a
day of jubilee.  King Dingo Bingo was entertained by the captain, and
brought not only some of his chief men with him, but also his harem of
black-skinned beauties, between whom and the rough men of the crew,
love-making, dancing, and carousing was kept up to a late hour in the
night.

The paltry cargo of goods which the barque had carried was by this time
taken on shore and delivered to his commercial majesty; who, in return,
had counted out his captives and made them over as slaves to the
skipper.  Before they could be taken aboard, however, the vessel
required some alterations.  New gratings were to be made--instead of
those destroyed during the chase--and bulkheads were to be strengthened
and repaired, for it was intended to partition off the males from the
females.  It was not any idea of decency that prompted this arrangement,
but simply convenience.  Moreover, the water-butts had to be emptied of
the salt-water which they contained, and fresh substituted in its stead,
all which work would require a considerable time for its performance.
The last thing would be the embarkation of the cargo.  This would be the
easiest of all, as each "bale" was able to transport itself from shore
to ship, and take its place without giving the least trouble.  The
stowage of such a cargo was accounted handy.  The slaves, therefore,
remained in the barracoon, and the preparations for their embarkation
went on.

I still yearned to visit the shore.  My heart was sick of the scenes
daily witnessed on board, and I believed that if I could only get a
day's excursion into the wild woods it would be a real happiness.  I
even fancied it would strengthen me to bear the voyage of the "middle
way," of the horrors of which I had heard something, and about which I
felt forebodings and apprehensions.

It was not even the prospect of my own sufferings that caused me this
uneasiness.  It was the thought of the tortures I should witness--the
appalling spectacle of the crowded steerage--the endurance and misery of
those hapless negroes, who were to be penned together with scarce room
to sit down--not enough to lie down--who were to be kept thus for long,
long weeks on scant food and drink--half famished--half dead with
thirst--panting and fainting under tropic heat and foul air, many of
them actually destined to perish from these causes!  Such spectacles
should I be called upon to witness--perhaps to take part in.  It was
this prospect that gave me pain, and no wonder it should.

My own life was wretched enough--full of regrets.  It was not an
absolute fondness for the profession of the sea that had lured me from
home.  It was rather an ardent desire to see foreign lands--in short,
that longing for travel and adventure which every boy experiences to
some degree, but which with me was a passion.  I fancied that a sailor's
life would enable me to indulge in this propensity; but, alas! here was
I in Africa itself, in the midst of its wild and sublime scenery, and
yet scarce allowed to look upon it!  I was more like a prisoner gazing
through the grating of his gaol upon the free world without--like a bird
who sees through the wires of its cage the bright-green foliage, amidst
which it would gladly disport itself.

But I was not without hopes of being able to gratify my longings.  Brace
had made me a promise, that as soon as he himself should be allowed a
day to go ashore, he would try hard to get permission for me to
accompany him.  This was my hope, and I was cheered at the prospect,
though not without doubts that my patron's request might be denied by
the unfeeling brutes.

Meanwhile I made the most of my situation, and endeavoured as best I
could to vary its miserable monotony by observing whatever of Nature
could be seen around.  Even within the circumference of my vision from
the _Pandora's_ deck, there was much that was new to me and interesting.
The country around was entirely without inhabitants.  The houses upon
the banks of the river were mere temporary dwellings.  They constituted
the "factory" of King Dingo Bingo--that is, his slave-mart; but his
majesty did not reside there.  His town and palace were farther up the
river, where the country was higher and more healthy--for here, near the
sea, the climate was rife with malaria, and all the diseases for which
the west coast of Africa is so notorious.  The king only visited this
place at "intervals," sometimes only once a year, when the _Pandora_ or
some other vessel came for her cargo of slaves--the chief product of
King Dingo Bingo's dominions.  Then would he descend the river with his
"crop," gathered from all parts--the produce of many a sanguinary
conflict--many a bloodstained man-chase, in which he and his myrmidons
had been engaged.  He would bring with him his picked bodyguard, and his
following of wives and women; for the visit to the slave-ship, with her
cargo of strong waters, was the signal for a series of coarse
festivities on the grandest scale.

At all other times of the year the factory would be deserted, its huts
uninhabited by man, and its barracoon empty.  Fierce beasts of prey
would occupy the place where man had dwelt--scarce less ferocious than
themselves--and Nature would be left to her silence and solitude.

For this reason the scene around had its charms for me.  Its very
wildness was charming, and, even within the circumscribed circle of my
view, I saw much to gratify my curiosity and give me pleasure.

I saw the gigantic "river-horse," wallowing through the flood, and
dragging his clumsy body out upon the bank.  Of these I observed two
sorts--for it is a fact, though scarce known to naturalists, that there
are two distinct kinds of the hippopotamus found in the rivers of
Western Africa--the one least known being a much smaller animal than the
hippopotamus of the Nile and the Hottentots.  I saw daily, almost
hourly, the huge crocodiles, lying like dead trees along the edge of the
stream, or swimming rapidly through the river in pursuit of their finny
prey; large porpoises, too, leaping high above the surface, sometimes
passing the vessel so near that I could have struck them with a
handspike.  These were from the sea, making long excursions up the river
in search of a favourite food that floated plenteously in the
fresh-water.  Other amphibious creatures I perceived at times--a large
water-lizard that almost rivalled the crocodiles in bulk--and I once had
a peep at the rare creature, the "red water-bog" of the Cameroons--for
the little river we were anchored in was not far from the same latitude
as the Cameroons itself, and the same species inhabited both.

Land animals, too, occasionally made their appearance on the bank,
within sight of the barque.  A lion was observed skulking through the
trees; and huge monkeys, both red and black ones, appeared through the
branches, whose wild, sometimes human, voices could be heard at all
times of the night,--moaning, screaming, and chattering.  Beautiful
birds, too--wood-pigeons, parrots, and strange kinds of water-birds--
were constantly hovering over the river, flying from bank to bank, or
perched on the tops of the trees, giving utterance to their varied
notes.

In truth it was an animated scene, and had I been allowed time and
leisure I could have regarded it for a long while without being wearied
with its monotony.  As it was, however, those voices and movements of
the beasts and birds only increased my longings to visit their wild
wood-haunts, and make nearer acquaintance with those of them that were
innocent and beautiful.  With what joy then did I learn from Brace that
upon the morrow he was to have "his day," and that he had succeeded in
obtaining leave for me to accompany him!

The boon had been granted in a surly manner--not to me, but to Brace
himself, who had represented that he wanted me to assist him.  He was
going upon a hunt--for, like most of his countrymen, Brace had a little
of the sportsman in him--and he would need some one to carry his game.
For this reason was I allowed to go along.

For my part, I cared not for the reason.  I was too happy in the
prospect to cavil about the motives; and I prepared to accompany my
patron with a feeling of joyful anticipation, such as I had never
experienced before at the prospect of any happiness in store for me.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

Next morning, just after daybreak, Brace and I started upon our
excursion.  A couple of sailors, friends of my companion, rowed us
ashore and then took back the boat I was not easy in my mind until I saw
the boat return without us; for I was still apprehensive that my tyrants
might repent of their generosity, hail the boat, and have me taken back.
I was not happy until I had put some bushes between myself and the
river's bank, that hid me from the view of the barque.

Then, indeed, did I feel happy--so much so that I danced over the ground
and flung my arms wildly around me--until my companion began to think I
had suddenly taking leave of my senses.  If I felt happy at the prospect
of this temporary freedom, how much more was I joyed by the reality?  I
cannot describe the peculiar sensations I experienced at that moment.
My feet once more rested on the welcome earth, after having for two long
months pressed only the slippery deck; once more I walked under the
shadow of noble trees, and around and above me, instead of stiff spars
and black tarred ropes, I beheld graceful boughs and bright-green
leaves.  Instead of the wind drumming upon the sails, or the storm
screeching harshly through the taut rigging, I heard only a soft breeze,
singing playfully through the twigs, and bearing upon its wings the
melody of many a sweet songster.  Far more than all--I was once more
free--free to think, and speak, and act--not one of which had I been
free to do since the day I stepped on board the _Pandora_.

No longer were those frowning faces before my eyes; no longer rang in my
ears those harsh voices--harsher from jests, ribald and blasphemous
utterings.  No; I saw only the jovial face of my companion; I heard only
his cheerful voice--more cheerful because he too was in high spirits
with the prospect of our day's enjoyment.

We soon buried ourselves in the woods--far beyond hear and hail of the
barque--and then conversing agreeably with one another, we took our time
about it, and trudged leisurely along.

I have said that Ben was a bit of a sportsman.  Of course then our
excursion was a hunting one, and we carried the implements of the
chase--though it would hardly be just to give this title to the weapons
we carried.  Ben shouldered a ship's musket of very large dimensions--an
old piece of Queen Anne, with a flintlock and heavy iron ramrod--the
whole making a load that would have borne down a grenadier; but Ben was
strong enough to have carried a small cannon, and thought nothing of the
weight.  For me he had provided a stout pistol--such as are used by
dragoons, and by sailors when boarding an enemy's ship--and these were
our weapons.  For the rest we had about a pound of small shot, which my
companion carried in his tobacco-pouch, and a quantity of powder safely
corked in a bottle that had once held that favourite English beverage
"ginger beer," and the identity of whose stout form and grey complexion
could not be mistaken even in the forests of Africa.  For wadding, we
had brought with us some oakum, well `flaxed' out, and thus armed and
equipped we were ready to do slaughter upon all birds and beasts that
should chance to come in our way.

We walked a good distance without seeing either one or the other, though
we met with many signs and traces of both.  We were constantly within
hearing of birds, that sang or chattered among the trees, both above our
heads and around us.  From the noises we knew we were within shot of
them, but we could not see a feather to guide us in taking aim.  The
reason of this was, that the leaves were so thick upon the trees the
birds were hidden by them.  No doubt they saw us well enough and no
doubt we might have seen them, had we known the exact spot in which to
look; for it is a well-known fact, that Nature has given to her wild
creatures such forms and colours as peculiarly adapt them to their
several haunts; as the brown of the hare, resembling the withered gorse
or fallow; the speckle of the partridge, to assimilate it to the
stubble, and many other examples that might be adduced.  In tropic
climes this law of Nature is also carried out.  The spotted leopard or
panther, though of bright colours that strike the eye when the animal is
viewed in its cage, are scarce discernible among the red and yellow
leaves that strew the ground in a forest; the parrots that frequent the
evergreen foliage are themselves of this colour; while others who haunt
more upon rocks, or the grey and brown trunks of giant trees, are
usually of more sombre hue--for there are rock-parrots both in Africa
and America, as well as those that dwell only among trees.

For this reason my companion and I went a long way without finding a
feather.  It was not destined, however, that we should be altogether
unsuccessful in our day's sport.  Our patience was at length rewarded by
the sight of a large dark-coloured bird, which we observed sitting very
quietly upon a tree that was dead and leafless, though still standing.
The bird was upon one of the lower branches, and apparently buried in
deep thought; for it sat without moving either head or neck, limb or
wing.

I stopped a little behind, and Ben advanced to obtain a shot.  He
possessed some hunter craft; for, as he had told me, he had done a
little poaching in his younger days, and this skill now stood him in
stead.  Keeping behind the trunks of the trees, and silently gliding
from one to another, he at length arrived within shot of the one on
which the bird was perched.  The simple creature appeared to take no
heed of him, although part of his body was several times within sight of
it, and any English bird would have long before taken to flight.  Ben
crept very near, in order to make sure of the shot.  He concluded that
we were not likely to meet with many chances, and, as he was resolved
not to go back empty-handed, he was determined to be on the safe side
and not make a miss of it.  But if the bird had been dead and stuffed it
could not have awaited him more composedly, and Ben crept on until he
was within about a cable's length from the dead tree.  He then levelled
his "Queen Anne" and fired, and, since it was almost impossible for him
to have missed, the bird fell to the shot, as an Irishman might say,
"killed dead."

Of course we both ran forward and secured the prize; though neither of
us knew what sort of game we had got.  It was a very large bird--quite
as big as a turkey--and bore considerable resemblance to one, being of a
red colour about the head and neck, and upon these parts having no
feathers.

Ben believed it was a turkey--a wild one, of course; but I could not
agree with him in this point, for I remembered having read that wild
turkeys are found only in America and Australia, and that there are none
in Africa; though there are bustards and floricans, and several other
kinds that bear considerable resemblance to turkeys, and hence are often
called by the name.  It might be one of these we concluded, and,
therefore, just as good to eat as a turkey.  So, with this idea, my
companion tied the huge bird across his shoulders, and, once more
loading his musket, we kept on.

We had not proceeded more than ten paces farther when we came upon the
carcass of an animal, badly torn and partially devoured.  It looked like
it had been a deer, and Ben said that it was one; but, as I observed
that its horns were without antlers, and as I had also read that there
are no deer in Africa, except one species far north of where we were, I
told Ben that I thought, the carcass must be that of an antelope; for
these animals take the place of deer on the African continent, and
sailors, who know no better, call them deer.  Ben had never heard of an
antelope, though he had of a gazelle; and if I had called it by this
name he might have agreed with me.

An "ant'lope," however, he knew nothing about; and as his hunter-pride
would have been offended by contradiction, I allowed him to persist in
calling it a deer.

"Ay, ay! it be a deer, Will," he said, emphatically, as we walked away
from it--"nothin' else, my boy.  What a pity we can't scare up a livin'
'un--that 'ud be a nice cargo for our return-trip, w'udn't, my lad?"

"Yes," I answered, mechanically, without hearing what Ben said; for I
was at that moment thinking of something else.

We had observed how the carcass of the antelope--for antelope it was--
had been mangled and half eaten by some preying creature.  Ben said it
was wolves or jackals.  Likely one or more of these had made a meal upon
it; but there was one thing I had particularly noticed, and that was the
eyes.  I should rather say the places where the eyes had been; for the
eyes themselves were quite gone, and the sockets cleaned out to the very
bottom.  Now, I reasoned that no quadruped could do this.  The holes
were too small even for a jackal to get his slender snout into.  The
work must have been done by the beak of a bird; and what sort of bird.
Why, a vulture, of course!

Now, what kind of bird was Ben carrying upon his back?  Beyond all doubt
it was a vulture!  The locality in which we had found it, with the
carcass near at hand; its stupid behaviour in allowing the hunter to
approach so near; its general appearance, with the naked head and neck;
all these points confirmed my suspicion.  I had read that such is the
habit of vultures; that they are so tame in some parts of the world,
that one can get near enough to knock them over with a stick; and this
is especially the case immediately after they have gorged themselves
with carrion.  Now, the appearance of the carcass indicated that this
very bird had just finished its breakfast, and that would account for
its tameness.  Beyond a doubt our game was a vulture!

I had arrived at this conviction, but disliked to declare it to my
companion, and walked on after him saying nothing.  I thought I would
leave him to find it out for himself.

I had not long to wait for this event.  Before we had advanced a hundred
paces, I saw Ben suddenly untie the cord by which the bird was fastened,
and, lifting it over his shoulders, hold the body up nearer his nose--
then, uttering a loud exclamation, he pitched the game as far from him
as he could, at the same time crying out:--

"Turkey, i'deed--dang it, Will, 'tan't no turkey.  Shiver my timbers if
'tan't a stinking vulture!"



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

I pretended to express surprise, though I was bursting with laughter,
for I had become quite satisfied as to the species of the bird.  Indeed,
the horrid effluvium that came from the filthy creature, as my companion
carried it in front of me, was quite as strong as that of the carrion
itself; and it was this reaching Ben's nostrils that first led him to
suspect the genuineness of the game.  Ben would have known the bird had
it been the Pondicherry vulture--for he had been to the East Indies, and
had seen the latter--or the griffon vulture of yellowish colour, which
he had seen at Gibraltar, and on the Nile; but this one was smaller than
either, and was far more like a turkey than they.  It was in reality a
kind of vulture that is found in these parts of Africa, and is not known
anywhere else; for since that time I have visited most parts of the
world, and never saw another of the kind.  No wonder, then, my companion
was deceived--for he had never been at the place before, and had never
seen the bird--but now that he had smelt it, there could be no longer
any deception.  No game could have emitted such an odour.  It was
nothing else than a stinking vulture.

The expression upon Ben's face, as he flung the creature from him, was
ludicrous in the extreme, and I could have laughed at him with all my
might, but that I did not wish to add to my companion's chagrin.  I
therefore approached the bird, and examining it with a look of pretended
surprise, gave an affirmative rejoinder to Ben's emphatic declaration.
Leaving it where it had been thrown, we again faced forward, and jogged
leisurely along in hopes of finding some sweeter game.

We had not gone much farther when we entered a forest of palm-trees, and
one of the ardent longings of my youth here met with its full
gratification.  If there was anything in foreign lands I had longed
particularly to behold, it was a forest of palm-trees.  I had heard that
such existed in South America, Africa, and in the Indian countries, and
I had read some descriptions of them.  But I now perceived that the most
glowing description can impart but a very imperfect idea of the
beautiful reality, for no work of Nature I have ever looked upon has
given me more delight than this--the aspect of a palm-wood.  There are
many species of palms that do not grow in forests, but only as single
individuals, or groups of two or three together, in the midst of other
trees.  Of course, too, there are many sorts of palms, more or less fine
looking, since it is believed that there are at least one thousand
species in existence.  All are not equally beautiful to look upon, for
some are stunted, others have crooked stems; still, others have short
mis-shapen trunks; and not a few appear with their leaves on the surface
of the ground, as if without stems altogether.

The sort of palm, however, that constituted the forest into which my
companion and I had now penetrated, was one of the most magnificent of
the whole tribe.  I did not then know what species it was, but since I
have learnt all about it.  It was no other than the oil-palm, called by
the natives of Western Africa the "_Mava_," and by botanists "_Elais
Guiniensis_," which, when translated into plain English, means the
"oil-palm of Guinea."

It is a palm that somewhat resembles the beautiful cocoa, and by
botanists is placed in the same family.  The trunk is very tall, of less
than a foot in diameter, and rising in a straight shaft to the height of
nearly a hundred feet.  On the top is a splendid head of leaves like
gigantic ostrich plumes, that gracefully curve over on all sides,
forming a shape like a parachute.  Each leaf is full five yards in
length, and of the kind called pinnate--that is divided into numerous
leaflets, each of which is itself more than a foot and a half long,
shaped like the blade of a rapier.  Under the shadow of this graceful
plumage the fruit is produced, just below the point where the leaves
radiate from the stem.  The fruit is a nut, about the size of a pigeon's
egg, but of a regular oval form, and growing in large clusters, after
the manner of grapes.  Around the shell is a thick fleshy covering, very
similar to that which encloses the common walnut, only more of an oily
substance and glutinous texture, and it is from this very substance that
the oil is manufactured.  Oil can also be extracted from the kernel, and
this last, though more difficult to be obtained, is of a superior
quality than that taken from the pulp of the rind.

Nothing in the vegetable world can be more beautiful than a full-grown
specimen of the oil-palm, with its cluster of ripe fruit, their
bright-yellow colour contrasting finely with the deep-green of its long
curling fronds, that seem intended, as it were, to protect the rich
bunches from the too powerful rays of a tropic sun.  I say nothing in
the vegetable world can be more beautiful than this, unless, indeed, it
be a whole forest of such trees; just such a forest as my companion and
I had now entered.  Even the rude sailor was impressed by the grandeur
of the spectacle that surrounded us, and we both stopped mechanically to
gaze upon and admire it.

Far as the eye could reach rose a succession of straight trunks, that
looked as if they had been shaped by mechanical skill and were only
columns supporting the verdant canopy above, and this canopy from the
curling of the fronds and the regular division of the leaflets, appeared
to form grand arches, fretted and chased in the most elaborate manner.
From the columns, near their tops, hung the rich-yellow clusters, like
golden grapes, their brilliant colour adding to the general effect,
while the ground underneath was strewed with thousands of the egg-like
nuts, that had fallen from over-ripeness, and lay scattered over the
surface.  It looked like some grand temple of Ceres, some gigantic
orchard of Nature's own planting!

I have thought--but long after that time--I have thought that if King
Dingo Bingo had but set his poor captives, and his bloody myrmidons as
well, to gather that golden crop, to press the oil from those pulpy
pericarps, what a fortune he might have been honestly the master of, and
what unhappiness he might have spared to thousands in whose misery alone
he was now making traffic!



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

For more than a mile we walked through this wonderful wood, and,
although we had admired it so much on first entering it, we were now
very desirous of getting out of it.  It was not that it was a gloomy
forest: on the contrary, it was rather cheerful, for the light, pinnated
leaves permitted the sun to shine through, and just screened his rays
sufficiently to make it pleasant and cool.  It was, therefore, rather
cheerful than gloomy.  The reason why we so soon grew tired of it was,
that it was anything but agreeable under foot.  The ground, as I have
already remarked was strewed with the fallen fruits.  The whole surface
was literally covered with them, just like an an apple-orchard after a
stormy night, only that the palm-nuts lay thicker upon the ground than I
had ever seen apples--so thick that there was no picking of steps among
them, and in some places it was impossible to set down the foot without
treading upon and crushing them.  Now the pulpy outer part, when thus
crushed, is almost as gummy and sticky as cobblers' wax, and the
consequence was, that walking over the nuts was no easy matter--in short
it was both difficult and disagreeable.  Sometimes a whole cluster of
them would adhere to the soles of our shoes, or, slipping from under our
feet, would threaten us with a fall, and thus our advance was
continuously impeded or interrupted.  It was quite as difficult to make
way as it would have been through deep snow or over ice, and it must
have taken us a full hour to get to the other side of the wood.

We reached it at length, and were very glad to see trees of another
kind, which, although far less beautiful than the palms, and with far
more gloomy shadows beneath them, grew upon ground that offered us good
footing, and we were now able to proceed without the danger of falling
at every step, or spraining our ankles.

Through this shadowy forest we kept on, but as no game of any kind was
seen we soon became tired of it, as we had been of the palms.  In fact,
travelling through thick timber is very tiresome to persons who are not
used to it--that is, to those who have not been reared in a
forest-covered country, or used to a forest life.  To such, the scene,
however striking at first, however picturesque it may be, soon appears
tame and monotonous.  There is a great sameness in it--the trees are
alike, the vistas that now and then open out all resemble one another;
the ground, bare of grass or covered with withered leaves, presents but
little attractions, either to the foot or the eye, and the traveller
wearies of listening to his own tracks, oft repeated, and longs for a
piece of open ground where he may look upon the blue sky above him, and
press the green carpet of grass beneath his feet.

Just in this wise did my companion and myself long to get out of the
deep wood and into some more open kind of country, where we might see to
a good distance around us, and where Ben thought we should be far more
likely to find game.

Our longings were gratified.  We had advanced about a quarter of a mile
beyond the palm-wood, when the forest appeared to end in front of us.
We saw the sun streaming through the trees, and a bit of blue sky as big
as a main-sail, and from this we knew there was an opening in the
timber.

We hastened forward with joyful anticipations; and a hundred yards
farther on came out upon the edge of a beautiful plain, that stretched
as far beyond as the eye could reach, with scarcely a tree to intercept
the prospect.  Here and there only stood single trees, or little clumps,
just as if the plain was a great park and these had been planted; but
there was no house within sight nor any sign of the presence of man.

We saw some animals, however, upon the plain which my companion believed
to be deer; but I again differed with him about the kind, for I knew by
their horns that they were antelopes.

No matter about that--we were both equally glad to see them--and whether
they proved to be deer or antelopes we were desirous of having a shot at
them.

We stopped for awhile, under cover of the bushes, to reconnoitre and
plan how we might approach them.  Of course there was no other way than
to "stalk" them; and that could only be done by taking advantage of the
little copses of trees that were interspersed over the plain.  One of
these, we noticed, was not very distant from the spot where the herd was
browsing, and we had fine hopes of being able to get into it unobserved.

As soon as we had taken all the bearings we set out; and after gliding
from clump to clump--sometimes on our feet, in crouching attitude, and
sometimes crawling upon our hands and knees--we at length got behind the
particular grove, near which was the game.

We took great pains to worm our way through the copse, for it was a
perfect thicket, and so full of thorny trees, such as acacias and aloes,
that we got well scratched for our pains.

At length, however, we came near enough to the other side for our
purpose; and, with quick beating pulses, we perceived that the antelopes
had kept the ground, and were now within range of the "Queen Anne."  Of
course I had no design of firing my pistol.  That would only have been
to waste powder and shot; and I had merely kept along with Ben to be
near and enjoy the sport.

Ben was not slow about the work.  He saw that there was no time to be
lost, for the timid antelopes were seen to toss up their tiny snouts and
snuff the gale, as if they suspected that some enemy was near.

My companion just then protruded the muzzle of "Queen Anne" through a
bush, and, resting the long barrel upon a branch, took aim and blazed
away.

And the herd ran away--every hoof and horn of them--so fast, that before
the echoes of the huge musket had died among the trees of the forest,
there was not an antelope in sight upon that wide plain, nor any other
living creature except Ben Brace and myself!

Ben thought he must have hit the animal at which he had aimed; but no
sportsman likes to acknowledge that he has missed entirely: and if we
were to believe the accounts of hunters, there must be an incredible
number of wounded beasts and birds that contrive to make their escape.

The fact was, that Ben's shot was too small for such game; and if he had
hit a hundred times with it, he could not have killed so large an animal
as these antelopes were.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

Ben was now sorry he had not brought a bullet with him, or, at all
events, some slugs.  Larger shot he could not have brought, as there was
none on board the barque.  But, indeed, in starting out our ambition had
not soared so high; neither my companion nor I had anticipated meeting
such fine game as a herd of antelopes, and we had prepared ourselves
just as we should have done for a day's fowling about the downs of
Portsmouth.  Birds we expected would be the principal game to be met
with, and, therefore, birds, and small ones only, had anything to fear
from us.  It is not likely that Ben would have shot the vulture had he
not crept so near; and then, even the small shot, projected so
powerfully by the huge piece, had penetrated its body and killed it.

We therefore greatly regretted not having provided ourselves with
"slugs," or a bullet or two, out of which we could easily have made
them.

Regrets were to no purpose, however.  We were too far from the barque to
go back for them.  It would be no joke walking so far in the great heat
that there was--besides, by going directly back we should have to pass
once more through the palm-wood, and this we had determined to avoid by
going round it on our return.  No; we could not think of taking the
backtrack just then.  We must do the best we could without the slugs,
and, so resolving, Ben once more loaded "Queen Anne" with the
snipe-shot, and we marched on.

We had not gone very far when a singular sort of a tree drew our
attention.  It stood all alone, though there were others of a similar
kind at no great distance.  The others, however, were much smaller, and
it was the largest that had drawn our attention.  Indeed, though the
smaller trees bore a general resemblance to this one--so that you could
tell they were of the very same kind--yet they differed very
considerably from it, both in form and aspect; and, but for the
peculiarity of the leaves, one might have taken them for trees of
altogether distinct species.  The leaves of both, however, were exactly
alike, and from this and other indications it was evident that both were
trees of the same kind, only that a difference of age had created a
difference in their aspect--as great as would be between a chubby,
rosy-cheeked child and a wrinkled old man of eighty.  The small trees,
and consequently the younger ones, rose upon a straight, round stem,
only a few feet in height.  Each was about the height of a full-grown
man, while the stem itself, or trunk as it should more properly be
called, was full as thick as a stout man's body; and what was curious in
a tree, it was even thicker at the top than at the base, as if it had
been taken out of the ground and re-planted wrong end upwards!  Upon
this clumsy-looking trunk there was not a single branch--not even a
twig, but just upon its top grew out a vast tuft of long, straight
spikes that resembled broad-sword blades, only that they were of a green
colour.  They pointed in every direction, radiating from a common
centre, so as to form a large head somewhat roundish, or globe-shaped.
Any one who has seen an aloe or a yucca-plant will be able to form some
idea of the foliage of the singular tree upon which my companion and I
stood gazing in wonderment.  The leaves were more like those of the
yucca than the aloe--indeed, so like the yucca was the whole tree, that,
from what I afterwards saw of yucca-trees in Mexico and South America, I
am convinced that these are very near the same kind--that is, they were
of the same habit and family, though, as I also learned afterwards,
esteemed different by botanists.

Then I had never seen a yucca, much less a tree of the kind we were
gazing at; of course I could only guess at what they might be.

Ben thought they were palms; but Ben was wrong again, for he was no
great discriminator of genus or species.  His opinion was based upon the
general aspect which the trees--that is, the smaller ones--presented.
Certainly, with their single, regularly rounded stem, crowned by the
radiating circle of leaves, they had something of the peculiar look of
palm-trees, and a person entirely ignorant of botany, who had never seen
one of the sort before, would, in all likelihood, have pronounced as my
companion had done, and called them palms.  In the eyes of a jolly-tar,
all trees that have this radiating foliage, such as aloes, and yucca,
and the zamias of South Africa, are palm-trees; therefore it was natural
for Ben to call the trees in question by this name.  Of course he saw
they were different from the oil-palms among which he had been
wandering; but Ben knew there were several sorts of palm-trees, although
he would not have believed it had he been told there were a thousand.  I
should have been compelled to agree with Ben, and believe these strange
trees to be veritable palms--for I was no more of a botanist than he--
but, odd as it may appear, I was able to tell that they were not palms;
and, more than that, able to tell what sort of trees they actually were.
This knowledge I derived from a somewhat singular circumstance, which I
shall relate.

Among the small collection of my boy books there had been one that
treated of the "Wonders of Nature."  It had been my favourite, and I had
read it through and through and over and over again a dozen times, I am
sure.  Among these "wonders" figured a remarkable tree, which was said
to grow in the Canary Islands, and was know as the "dragon-tree of
Oritava."  It was described by the celebrated traveller, Humboldt, who
measured it, and found its trunk to be forty-five feet in girth, and the
tree itself about fifty in height.  It was said to yield, when cut or
tapped, a red juice resembling blood, and to which the name of
"dragons'-blood" has been given; hence the tree itself is called the
"dragon-tree," or, sometimes the "dragons'-blood tree"--though it is to
be observed, that several other kinds of trees that give out a red juice
are also known by this name.  The trunk of this tree, said the
traveller, rose almost of equal thickness to the height of twenty feet,
when it divided into a great number of short, thick branches, that
separated from the main stem like the branches of a candelabrum, and
upon the end of each of these was a thick tuft of the stiff,
sword-shaped leaves--the same as I have above described.  Out of the
midst of these leaves grew the pannicles, or flower-spikes, and the
bunches of small, nut-like fruit.

Now the strangest part of Humboldt's account was, that this individual
tree was known to the Spaniards on their first discovery of the Canary
Islands--more than four centuries ago--and that from that time to the
present it has increased scarcely perceptibly in dimensions.  Hence the
great traveller infers that it must be one of the oldest trees in the
world--perhaps as old as the earth itself!

Now all this account except the last part of it--which of course is only
a philosophic conjecture--I believe to be true, for I have myself
visited the Canaries and looked upon this vegetable wonder, which is
still standing near the town of Oritava, in the island of Teneriffe.
Unfortunately, since Humboldt's visit, the tree, instead of increasing
in dimensions, has become less.  During a storm, in the month of July,
1819, one half of its enormous crown was broken off by the wind, but the
tree still continues to grow; and, as it is a great favourite of the
inhabitants, the wound has been plastered up, and the date of the
misfortune inscribed over the spot.

No doubt the great care taken of this venerable vegetable will ensure
its surviving for another century at least.

Now you will be wondering what all this after-knowledge about the
dragon-tree of Oritava has to do with Ben Brace, myself, or the trees
that had fixed our attention on the plain.  I shall tell you then what
it has to do with us.  In the book of which I have spoken there was a
picture given of the Oritava tree.  It was but a rude affair--a common
woodcut--but for all that it gave a very good idea of the aspect of the
great vegetable; and I well remember every leaf and branch of it--so
well that, when I afterwards saw the tree itself, I recognised it at
once.  But what was still more singular: as soon as I set my eyes upon
the large tree that had brought my companion and myself to a stand, the
old picture came vividly before my mind, and I was convinced that it was
a tree of the same sort as that described in my book.  Yes; there was
the thick, stout trunk, all gnarled and knotted with the marks of where
the leaves had once grown--there were the short, clublike branches,
separating from each other at the head--at the blunt ends of each were
the fascicles of bayonet-shaped leaves, and the pannicles of
greenish-white flowers--all exactly as in the picture!  I was convinced
that the venerable vegetable before us was no palm, but a true
dragon-tree; perhaps as old as that of Oritava.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

I communicated my convictions to Ben, who still persisted in calling the
tree a palm.  How should I know what sort of a tree it was, since I had
never seen one before?  I told Ben of the book and the picture but he
was still incredulous.

"Well then," said I, "I'll tell you how we can prove whether I am right
or no."

"How?" demanded Ben.

"Why, if the tree bleeds it must be a dragon."

"Bleeds?" echoed Ben, "why, my boy, ain't you mad? who e'er heard o' a
tree bleedin'?"

"Run sap, I mean."

"Oh that be hanged, lad!  Sure you know that any sort o' tree 'll run
sap; 'ceptin' it be a dead 'un."

"But not red sap!"

"What! you think yon ere tree 'ud run red sap, do ye?"

"I am almost sure of it--red as blood."

"Well, if it do then I'll believe 'ee, my lad; but it are precious easy
to try.  Let's go up to it, and gie it a prod with the knife, and then
we'll see what sort o' sap it's got in its ugly veins--for dang it, it
are about the ugliest piece o' growin' timber I e'er set eyes on; ne'er
a mast nor spar to be had out o' it, I reckon.  It sartinly are ugly
enough to make a gallows of.  Come on, my lad!"

Ben started forward towards the tree, and I followed him.  We did not
walk particularly fast, as there was no need to be in a hurry.  The tree
was not likely to run away from us like the birds and beasts.  There
were no signs of motion about it; and it would have taken a strong wind
to have stirred, either its leaves or branches.  It had a look of great
firmness, and more resembled cast-iron than a vegetable substance; but
as we drew nearer, its forbidding aspect was to some extent relieved by
the appearance of its flowers, the strong fragrance of which reached our
nostrils from a great distance off.

Immediately around the tree, and for several yards outwards, there was a
bed of tall, sedge-looking grass.  It was withered, and of a yellowish
colour, not unlike a piece of standing wheat, but much taller.  It
appeared a little trampled and tossed, as if some heavy animal had been
passing through it, and in one or two places had rolled in it.  This
might all very naturally be, in a country where large animals abound.
The antelopes might have been there, resting themselves under the shade,
and taking advantage of the fine grass to couch upon.

Neither my companion nor I took any heed of these signs, but walked
boldly up to the tree; and Ben, without more ado, drew his great
jack-knife, and struck the blade forcibly into the bark.

Whether there came out red juice or yellow juice, or any juice at all
neither of us waited to see; for as if the stroke of the knife had been
a signal, a huge animal leaped up out of the grass, not twenty feet from
where we stood, and remained gazing at us.  To our horror we saw that it
was a lion!  It needed no naturalist to recognise this fellow.  The
dun-coloured body, with dark, shaggy mane--the broad, full face, and
wrinkled jaws--the fierce, yellow eye, and bristled, cat-like snout,
were not to be mistaken.

My companion and I had both seen lions in shows and menageries, as who
has not?  But even had we never looked on one before, it would have been
all the same.  A mere infant might recognise the terrible animal and
point him out amidst all the beasts in the world.

Ben and I were horror-struck--perfectly paralysed by the unexpected
apparition; and remained so for some seconds--in fact, so long as the
lion stood his ground.  To our great joy that was not a long while.  The
enormous beast gazed at us a few seconds--apparently more in wonderment
than anger--and then, uttering a low growl to express some slight
displeasure at having his rest disturbed, he dropped his tail and turned
sulkily away.  And thus do lions generally behave at the approach of
man--especially if they are not hungry, and be not assailed by the
intruder.

He moved off, however, but very slowly--at intervals crouching down and
turning his head backward, as if "looking over his shoulder" to see
whether we were following.  We had no notion of such a thing.  Not a
foot did we intend to follow him, not even an inch.  On the contrary, we
had rather receded from our position, and placed the huge trunk of the
tree between him and us.  Of course this would have been no protection
had he chosen to return and attack us, but, although he did not go as
fast as we could have wished, he showed no signs of coming back and we
began to recover confidence.

We might have retreated upon the plain, but that would have been of no
use, and very probably would have been the means of drawing the lion
after us.  We knew very well he could soon overtake us, and of course a
blow apiece from his enormous paws would have knocked us into
"smithereens," or, as my companion more elegantly expressed it, "into
the middle of next week."

It is quite probable that had this lion been let alone, he would have
gone entirely away without molesting us.  But was he not let alone.  My
companion was a bold, rash man--too bold and too rash upon that
occasion.  It occurred to him that the enemy was moving off too slowly;
and fancying, in his foolish way, that a shot from "Queen Anne" might
intimidate the brute and quicken his pace, he rested the piece upon one
of the old leaf-marks of the tree, and, taking steady aim, banged away.

Likely enough the shot hit the lion--for he was not yet fifty yards from
the muzzle of the gun--but what effect could a load of snipe-shot
produce upon the thick hide of an enormous brute like that?

In the lion's mind, however, it produced the very opposite effect to
what my companion anticipated, for it neither caused him to run away or
even quicken his pace, nor yet frightened him any way.  On the contrary,
almost simultaneously with the report, he uttered a loud scream, and,
turning in his track, came bounding towards the tree!



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

No doubt in less than another minute Ben Brace and I would have ceased
to live.  I had made up my mind that both of us would be torn to
pieces--and certainly this would have been the result had my companion
not been a man of ready resources.  But fortunately, he was so, and at
that crisis conceived a means of escape from the danger that threatened
us.  Perhaps he had thought of it before.  It is most probable he had,
otherwise he would scarce have acted so imprudently as he had done--for
nothing could have been more imprudent than firing at a lion upon an
open plain with nothing but snipe-shot in the gun!

It is likely, however, that Ben had though of his means of retreat
before firing that shot, though what they were I could not imagine.  We
were upon the ground, with the thick trunk of a tree between us and the
lion; but of course, that would be no protection since the beast saw us,
and would soon come round to our side.  How then were we to retreat?
For my part I believed we should both be killed and devoured.

Ben was of a different opinion, and before I could do more than give
utterance to an exclamation of terror, he had caught me by the legs and
hoisted me high above his shoulders into the air!

"Now, lad," shouted he, "lay hold of the branch and hoist yourself up.
Quick!--quick! or the beast'll be on us."

I at once divined his intention; and, without waiting to make reply, I
seized one of the branches of the dragon-tree, and commenced drawing
myself upward.  The branch was just as high as I could reach with my
hands--even when held up in the arms of the tall sailor--and it was no
easy matter to raise my body up to it; but during the voyage I had
learned to climb like a monkey, and, after some twisting and wriggling,
I succeeded in gaining a lodgment among the limbs of the tree.

Meanwhile Ben was as busy as myself in making the ascent.  He had
resigned his hold of me, as soon as he perceived that I caught the
branch; and was now using all his energies, and all his craft too, to
get out of the way of the lion.  Unfortunately the limbs of the tree
were too high for him to lay hold of, and he was compelled to resort to
a different mode of climbing.  Of course, the trunk was by far too thick
for him to get his arms around it and climb by hugging--he might as
readily have hugged a wall.  Fortunately, however, the bark was full of
irregularities--little knots and notches, the scars of the old
leaf-marks, that had long ago fallen off, with some larger holes, where,
perhaps, whole branches had been broken off by the wind.  The quick eye
of the sailor at once perceived the advantage of these marks--which
would serve him as steps--and kicking off his shoes, he clutched the
trunk both with fingers and toes, and commenced climbing upward like a
cat.

It was sharp work, and he was obliged to take a little time and make it
sure.  Had he lost balance and fallen back, he would not have had time
to make a second attempt before the lion should arrive upon the ground;
and, well knowing this, he held on with "teeth and toe-nail."

By good fortune I had now squared myself face downward upon the branch,
and as the collar of Ben's guernsey came within reach of my hand I was
able to give him a help; so that the next moment he succeeded in getting
hold of a limb, and swinging himself into the fork of the tree.

It was a close shave, however; for just as Ben drew his dangling feet
among the branches the lion reached the ground, and, bounding upwards,
struck his paw fiercely against the trunk, causing the bark to fly off
in large pieces.  There was not three inches between the tips of his
claws and the soles of Ben's feet as this stroke was given; and had he
succeeded in grasping the ankle of my companion, it would have been the
last bit of climbing poor Brace would ever have made; for the paw of the
lion is like a hand, and he could easily have dragged his victim back to
the ground again.  It was a narrow escape, therefore, but as Ben
afterwards remarked, "an inch of a miss was as good as a mile," and the
sequel in this case proved the justice of the adage, for we were now
safe among the branches where the lion could not possibly reach us.

At the time, however, we were far from being satisfied upon this head,
and for a long while entertained no very confident feeling of security.
We both knew that lions cannot climb an ordinary tree.  They have not
the power of "hugging" with which some bears are gifted, and of course
cannot ascend in that manner.  Neither can they climb as cats do; for
although the lion if neither more nor less than a great cat--the biggest
of all cats--and is furnished with retractile claws, such as cats have,
yet these last are usually so worn and blunted, that the king of beasts
can make but little use of them in attempting to climb a tree.  For this
reason, tree-climbing is altogether out of his line, and he does not
make any pretensions to the art; notwithstanding all this, he can rush a
long way up the trunk by the mere strength of his elastic muscles, and
particularly where the bark is rough on the surface, and the trunk large
and firm as was that of the dragon-tree.

No wonder, then, that our apprehensions continued; no wonder they
increased when we saw the fierce brute crouch down at some paces distant
from the trunk, and, spreading out his broad paws, deliberately set
himself for a spring.

Next moment he rushed forward about two lengths of his body, and then,
bounding in a diagonal line, launched himself aloft.  He must have
leaped over ten feet in an upward direction--for his fore-paws struck
the tree just under the forking of the branches--but to our great relief
he was not able to retain his hold, and his huge body fell back to the
ground.

He was not discouraged by his failure; and, once more running outward,
he turned and cowered for a second spring.  This time he appeared more
determined and certain of success.  There was that expression in his
hideous face, combined with the extreme of rage and fury.  His lips were
drawn back, and his white teeth and red frothy tongue were displayed in
all their horrid nakedness; a hideous sight to behold.  We trembled as
we looked upon it.

Another fierce growl--another rush forward--another bound--and before we
had time to utter a word, we perceived the yellow paw of the lion spread
over the limb of the tree with his grinning muzzle and gleaming teeth
close to our feet!  In another instant the brute would have swung his
body up, but my companion's presence of mind did not forsake him at this
crisis.  Quick as thought was his action; and, before the lion had time
to raise himself, the keen blade of the sailor's knife had passed twice
through the great paw,--inflicting at each stab a deep and bloody gash.
At the same instant I had drawn the pistol, which I still carried in my
belt, and fired as fair as I could in the face of the monster.

Whether it was the knife or the pistol that produced the desired effect,
I will not undertake to determine; but certainly an effect was produced
by one or the other, or more likely both weapons deserve a share of the
credit.  Be this as it may, the effect was instantaneous; for the moment
the shot was fired and the stabs were given, the lion dropped backward,
and ran limping around the trunk of the tree, roaring and screaming in a
voice that might have been heard at the distance of miles!

From the manner in which he limped, it was evident that the wounds given
by the knife were painful to him, and we could perceive by the blood
upon his "countenance" that the shot, small as it was, had torn him
considerably about the face.

For a short time we were in hopes that after such a repulse he might
take himself off, but we soon perceived that our hopes were fallacious;
neither the stabs nor the shot had seriously injured him.  They had only
served to render him more furious and vengeful; and after tumbling about
for a while, and angrily biting at his own bleeding paw, he returned
once more to the attack, as before, endeavouring to spring up to the
branches of the tree.  I had reloaded the pistol.  Ben was again ready
with his blade; and, fixing ourselves firmly on our perch, we awaited
the onset.

Once more the lion bounded upward and launched himself against the
trunk, but to our great joy we saw that he fell far short of his former
leaps.  Beyond a doubt his limb was disabled.

Again and again he repeated the attempt, each time falling short as
before.  If fury could have availed, he would have succeeded; for he was
now at the height of his rage, and making such a hideous combination of
noises, that we could not hear our own voices when we spoke to each
other.

After several vain essays to reach us, the brute seemed to arrive at the
conviction that the feat was beyond his powers, and he desisted from the
attempt.

But he had no intention of leaving the ground.  On the contrary, we saw
that he was determined to make us stand siege, for, to our great
chagrin, we observed him trot a few paces from the trunk of the tree and
crouch down in the grass--evidently with the intention of remaining
there till we should be compelled to come down.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

Of course my companion and I kept our places in the top of the tree; we
could not do otherwise.  Had we attempted to come down it would only
have been to fling ourselves right into the jaws of the lion--who lay at
just such a distance from the trunk that he could have reached us by a
single bound, the moment we set foot upon the earth.  There he lay or
rather squatted, like a cat; though at intervals he rose and stretched
his body into a crouching attitude, and lashed his sides with his tufted
tail, and showed his teeth, and roared angrily.  Then for some moments
he would lie down again and lick his wounded paw--still growling while
he did so, as though he was vowing revenge for the injury!

When he saw that he had ceased to attempt climbing the tree, we were in
hopes he would get tired of the attack and go off altogether.  But those
hopes gradually forsook us, as we observed the pertinacity with which he
still continued to watch us.  If either of us made a motion among the
branches, he would instantly spring to his feet--as though he fancied we
were about to descend and was determined to intercept us.  This, of
itself, proved that he had not the slightest intention of moving off
from the ground, and convinced us that the siege was not to be raised
with the consent of the besieger.

We began to grow exceedingly apprehensive about our situation.  Hitherto
we had been terrified by the sudden attack of the lion, but these
moments of terror were short-lived, and, on account of the excitement
which accompanied them, we had neither time to reflect nor suffer; we
had not time to feel despair, and in fact had not despaired of safety,
even while the lion was using all his efforts to reach us, for we had
the belief that he could not get up.

Now, however, a new danger threatened us.  Though we felt quite secure
in our "roost" we could not remain there long.  It was by no means
comfortable, straddling the naked branch of a tree; but the comfort was
a small consideration.  We were both used to riding such a stock-horse,
and as for Brace, he could have gone to sleep with only the
flying-jib-boom between his legs, so that it was not the discomfort we
cared about.  There was something more serious than this to reflect
upon, and that was the prospect of being afflicted by hunger and thirst.
I need not say the prospect.  As for hunger, we were not yet suffering
for want of food; but already the sister appetite had begun to be felt,
and keenly too.  We had not tasted water since leaving the river, and
any one who has ever made a march under the tropical sun of Africa knows
that at every half-mile you feel the desire to drink.  Both of us had
been thirsty almost since the moment we parted with the boat, and I had
been looking out for water ever since.  We blamed ourselves for not
having brought with us a canteen, or water-bottle, and we already paid
for our negligence, or rather our ignorance--for it never entered into
our minds that such a provision would be necessary, any more than if we
had gone out for a day's fowling into the fields about home.

We had already been suffering from thirst, but now that we sat upon
those bare branches, with not a bit of shade to screen us from the
fierce rays of a noon-day's sun--and a hot tropical sun at that--we
began to feel the pangs of thirst in right earnest, and in a way I had
never felt them before.  Indeed, it was a most painful sensation, and I
thought if it was to increase, or even continue much longer, it would
kill me.  My companion suffered also, though not so badly as I.  He was
more used to such extremities, and could better bear them.

Perhaps had we been actually engaged in some work we should not have
felt this misery so keenly; but we had nothing to do but balance our
bodies upon the branches and calmly reflect.  So much the worse.  We
were able to comprehend our situation, and fully understand its perilous
nature.

The prospect was far from cheering.  Out of the tree we dared not go,
else we should be eaten up by the lion.  If we remained in the tree, we
should become the victims either of thirst or hunger, or both.

How were we to be relieved from this terrible alternative?  Would the
lion grow wearied with watching us, and wander away?  There was not the
least likelihood he would do so.  All his movements indicated an
opposite intention; and for our consolation, I now remembered having
read of the implacable nature of this fierce brute when wounded or
provoked--so far different from the generous disposition usually
ascribed to him, and which certainly he often displays when not
molested, or perhaps when not hungry.

Whether our lion was hungry or not, we had no means of judging; but we
knew he had been molested, and roughly handled too; his revengeful
feelings had been roused to their highest pitch; and, therefore,
whatever of vengeance was in his nature would now be exhibited.  Beyond
a doubt his ire was not going to cool down in a hurry.  We might wait a
long while before he would feel inclined to forgiveness.  We had no hope
from his mercy.  Perhaps the night might produce a change.  On this
alone we rested our hopes.

We never speculated on being rescued by any of our companions from the
_Pandora_.  Though Brace had friends among them, they were not the sort
of friends to trouble themselves much about what became of him.  They
might make a show of search, but there were twenty ways they could go,
without hitting on the right one; and to find any one among these
limitless forests would be a mere act of chance.  We had not much hope
of being rescued by them.

What little hope we had from this source rested upon a singular belief.
My companion suggested that the _Pandora's_ people, on finding we did
not return at night, might fancy we had deserted.  In that case it was
probable enough we might be searched for, and with sufficient zeal to
ensure our being found!

This was a singular conjecture, and both of us wished it might prove a
correct one.  Under this contingency there was a better prospect of our
being relieved.

By this time our thirst had become oppressive.  Our throats were parched
as though we had swallowed red-pepper, and our tongues could not produce
the slightest moisture.  Even the natural saliva had ceased to flow.

While suffering thus, an idea occurred to my companion: I saw him with
his knife make an incision in the bark of one of the branches.  The
point that had first led us to approach the great tree was now decided.
Red sap flowed from the wound:--it was the "dragons'-blood!"

In hopes of getting relief from this source, we both moistened our lips
with the crimson-juice, and swallowed it as fast as it oozed out.  Had
we been better acquainted with the medical botany we should have let
this liquor alone, for the dragons'-blood is one of the most noted of
astringents.  Alas! we soon discovered its qualities by experiment.  In
five minutes after, our tongues felt as if vitriol had been poured upon
them, and our thirst increased to a degree of violence and fierceness
that could no longer be borne.  Deeply did we now repent what we had
done; deeply did we rue the tasting of that blood-like sap.  We might
have endured for days, had we not swallowed those crimson drops; but
already were we suffering as if days had passed since we had tasted
water!

Our thirst had suddenly increased, and still kept increasing, until the
agony we endured was positively excruciating.  I cannot describe it.
Some idea may be had of its terrible nature when I assert that we
actually talked of descending from the tree, and risking our lives in a
knife-conflict with the lion, rather than endure it longer!



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

Yes; we actually talked of descending from the tree, and risking our
lives in a knife-conflict with the lion!

It is true it was a forlorn hope; but it is probable we should have
attempted it in preference to enduring the terrible agony much longer.
Fortunately we were not driven to this desperate alternative.  At this
crisis a happy idea came into the mind of my companion, and drove the
thought of the knife-combat out of our heads.

It will be remembered that we had with us a musket.  The great "Queen
Anne" must not be forgotten; though, for the time, it would seem as
though we had forgotten it.  That is not exactly the case.  We
remembered it well enough, for it was under our eyes, lying at the
bottom of the tree--where Brace had thrown it in his eagerness to get
out of the way of the lion; but it was out of our reach, and, moreover,
being empty, we had never thought of its being of service to us.  Even
could we have regained possession of, and reloaded it, we knew that the
snipe-shot would not kill the lion; and, therefore, we might load and
fire till we had exhausted all our ammunition, without any other result
than to render the brute more furious--if that could possibly be.  For
these reasons we had paid no attention to the "Queen Anne," and there it
lay right under us, apparently as useless as a bar of iron.

While plotting about the means of defence and attack we might make use
of in our intended final struggle, the "Queen Anne" once more came into
our heads; and Brace hit upon a plan by which the great piece might
serve us.  In fact, there was a probability we might extricate ourselves
by its aid, without the desperate conflict we had projected! and we only
wondered the idea had not occurred to us before.

This plan was to get hold of the gun and reload her, then provoke the
lion in some way, so that he would renew his attempts to ascend the
tree, and, when thus near, place the muzzle of the musket close to his
head and fire the contents right into him.  Even snipe-shot might do the
work, if delivered at such close quarters.

The first difficulty would be to get possession of the gun.  She was
lying under the tree, upon the same side where we had climbed up, and
not three feet from the great trunk; but, though so near, it was evident
that one or other of us must descend to the ground, before we could lay
a finger upon her.  Of course it would be impossible to do this without
the risk--nay, the positive certainty--of being assailed by the lion.
He lay only a dozen paces farther out, and, as already stated,
continually kept his eyes upon us.  A single bound would be enough, and
there would be no chance of escaping him.  How was the gun to be got at?

I have said that it was evident one or other of us would have to
descend; and, as this would be going directly to destruction, the idea
of doing so was not entertained for a moment.

Ben had fancied that he might "sling," me down after the manner of
monkeys, and that by this means we might get hold of the gun; but after
examining the branches and calculating the distance, we saw that the
height was too great, and the thing would be impossible.

Just then another idea came to our aid--an idea of Ben's conception--and
that was to make a running noose on the end of a piece of cord,
endeavour to get it round the gun, and then draw her up in the loop.
This would be a safe plan, if we could only accomplish it.

We had the cord--a sailor is rarely found wanting one.  It was the same
piece upon which the vulture had dangled; for Ben had unloosed it before
pitching away his bird.  It was both long enough and strong enough for
the purpose, and could not have suited better if it had been chosen at a
rope-factory.  Ben knew how to make a loop, and a loop was soon made to
his liking; and then the cord was let down slowly and gently, so as not
to close the noose before it reached the ground.  Guided by the adroit
hand of the sailor, the loop at length rested upon the earth, just
before the muzzle of the musket; and was then drawn slowly and smoothly
along the grass.  Fortunately, the barrel did not lie close to the
surface, and the cord passed easily underneath it; but Ben was not
satisfied until he had worked his loop nearly to the middle of both
barrel and stock, and quite over one of the swivels.  He then tightened
the noose by a jerk--such only as a sailor could give--and the taut cord
showed it was fast and secured.  In another half-minute my companion
held "Queen Anne" in his grasp!

It was but the work of a few minutes to load her, but this was done with
caution, as we feared to drop either the ammunition or the ramrod.  Of
course, had we lost either of these, the piece would have become
useless.  During all these proceedings, our antagonist had not remained
silent.  As he saw the musket ascending so mysteriously into the tree,
he seemed to fancy that some conspiracy was meditated against him, and
he had risen to his all-fours, and set up a loud growling.

Ben had now finished loading, and only waited for the lion to approach
the tree; but the brute showed no signs of coming nearer.  He continued
to growl and lash his tail angrily, but kept his ground.

Perhaps a shot from the pistol might tempt him nearer; and my companion
directed me to fire.  I did so, aiming at the lion.  Like enough the
shot only tickled him; but it partially produced the desired effect;
for, on receiving it, he made one bound forward and then stopped again--
still continuing to roar, and strike his sides with his long, tufted
tail.

He was now within less than ten paces of the muzzle of the piece, and he
was not going nearer at that time.  This was evident; for, after
remaining awhile upon all-fours, he squatted down upon his hips just
like a cat.  His broad breast was right towards us, and presented a most
lurking mark to aim at.

Ben was sorely tempted to level and pull trigger; but, still fearing
that even at that close distance the snipe-shot would scatter and do no
hurt, he held back.

He had directed me to reload the pistol and fire again, and I was busy
in doing so, when, all at once, my companion whispered me to desist.  I
looked at him to see what he wanted.  I saw that some new purpose was in
his mind.  I saw him cautiously draw the huge iron ramrod from the
thimbles, and then twisting a piece of oakum round its head, insert it
into the barrel, where the oakum held it fast.  I next saw him lower the
barrel, and lay the butt to his shoulder.  I saw him take aim, and soon
after came the loud bang and the cloud of smoke, which filled the whole
top of the tree, hiding both the earth and the sky from my sight.

Though I could not for some time tell the effect of the shot--neither
could Ben--on account of the thick smoke, our ears were gratified by the
sounds that reached us from below.  The voice of the lion seemed all at
once to have changed its triumphant roaring to a tone that expressed
agony and fear, and we were convinced that he was badly hurt.  We could
hear the whining, and snorting, and screaming, like that made by a cat
in the agonies of death, but far hoarser and louder.

All this lasted only a few seconds--while the sulphurous vapour clung
around the tree--and just as this was wafted aside, and we could see the
ground below, the noises ceased, and to our great joy we beheld the
enormous brute stretched upon his side motionless and dead!

We waited awhile, to be sure of this fact before descending from our
safe perch; but as we watched the brute and saw that he stirred not, we
at length felt assured, and leaped down to the earth.

True enough, he was quite dead.  The iron ramrod had done the business,
and was still sticking half-buried in his breast--its point having
penetrated to the heart.

A royal lion was game enough in one day.  So thought Ben; and, as we had
no desire to procure a second one in the same way, we agreed that this
should be the termination of our hunt.

Ben, however, was not going to return without taking back some trophies
of his hunter-skill; and, therefore, after we had obtained water to
assuage our thirst, we returned to the spot, and under the shade of the
great dragon-tree stripped the lion of his skin.

With this trophy borne upon Ben's shoulders, while I carried the "Queen
Anne," we wended our way toward the _Pandora_.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

It was the intention of Ben and myself to return direct to the barque.
We were quite satisfied with our day's hunting, and wanted no more game.

We set out therefore in a direction, that as we thought would bring us
back to the river.

We had not gone far, however, when we began to fancy that we were going
in the wrong course, and then we turned aside from it and took another.

This new one we followed for more than a mile, but, as no river
appeared, we believed we were now certainly going the wrong way, and
once more turned back.

After walking another mile or two, without coming to the river, we began
to think we were lost.  At all events we had certainly lost our way, and
had not the slightest idea on what side of us lay the river, or the
barque, or the barracoon of King Dingo Bingo.

After resting a bit--for we had got quite tired, fagging backward and
forward through the woods--we took a fresh start, and this time walked
on for three miles or more in a straight course.  It was all guess-work,
however, and a bad guess it turned out to be; for, instead of getting
into the low bottom lands that lay along the banks of the river, we
found ourselves coming out into a hilly country, which was open and
thinly timbered.  We saw plenty of game on all sides--antelopes of
several kinds--but we were now so anxious about our way, that we never
thought of stopping to have a shot at them.  At that moment we would
rather have seen the royal-mast of the _Pandora_ than the largest herd
of antelopes in the world.

One of the hills in advance of us appeared to be higher than the rest;
and as it also appeared the nearest, Ben proposed we should continue on
to its top.  By so doing we should gain a view of the surrounding
country, and would be likely to see the river, and perhaps the barque
herself.

Of course I made no objection--as I was entirely guided by my
companion's advice--and we at once set out for the hill.

It appeared to be only a mile or two distant; but, to our great
surprise, when we had walked a full mile it seemed no nearer than ever!

But this was not the worst of it, for when we had walked another mile,
we still appeared no nearer to the hill than when we had first started
for it; and then a third mile was passed over, and the distance that
intervened between us and the eminence was, to all appearance, but
slightly diminished!

Had it been left to me, I should have given up all hope of reaching that
hill, and would have gone back as we had come; but my companion was a
man of wonderful perseverance in anything he undertook, and now that he
had started for the hill, he was determined that no halt should be made
until we had got to the very summit of it--even though it should take us
till sunset to accomplish the journey.  So on we trudged, keeping the
top of the hill in view, and facing straight for it all the while.

It was a far longer journey than we had anticipated.  It could not have
been less than ten good English miles from the place where we had first
observed it, to the highest part, though when starting for it, it looked
only one!  But such is the pureness of the atmosphere in some parts of
the tropics, where there is no cloud in the sky and no mist over the
earth, that any one accustomed to an English view is easily deceived.

It was within an hour of sunset when Ben and I reached the summit of the
hill, after a tramp of ten miles at least; but we were rewarded for our
trouble by the splendid view we obtained, and particularly by the sight
of the river, which ran along one side, and which stretched away from
our position, like a belt of shining silver, till it met the white sea
in the distance.  We could just make out the _Pandora_ riding upon her
anchor, and we thought we could distinguish the cabins and barracoons of
King Dingo Bingo, peeping out from among the green trees.  The barque
looked no larger than a little boat, and although she appeared very near
the river's mouth, that was also an ocular deception, for we knew that
she was more than a mile up stream.

Of course the sight gave us joy--for we had really believed ourselves
lost, and had been feeling very uneasy all the afternoon.  Now, however,
that we saw the bearings and course in which the river ran, we could
easily make our way to it, and, by following its banks, would in time
reach the place of our destination.

One thing, however, was unpleasant enough.  We should not be able to get
back to the _Pandora_ that night.  We might get as far as the bank of
the river before the sun would be quite gone down; but we saw that the
country on both sides of the stream was covered with thick woods; and
unless a path could be found it would be slow travelling through the
timber, and after twilight it would be impossible to proceed.  It
appeared plain enough that we could not reach the _Pandora_ that night,
and we should have to spend the night in the woods.

Since this was to be, Ben thought we might as well stay upon the hill,
as go anywhere else.  We might have gone down to the bank of the river--
for it ran close to one side of the hill, perhaps not quite a mile from
the bottom of the slope--and we at first thought of doing so; but upon
reflection it seemed better for us to stay where we were.  We should be
in less danger from wild beasts by remaining upon the hill--upon which
there was not much timber--than by going down into the thick woods.  The
banks of the river we knew to be the place where wild beasts most
abounded, and the danger of being attacked by them would be much greater
there.  As to water, we could not be better off, for we had found a
beautiful spring near the summit, and had already quenched our thirst at
it.  We did not need to go to the river, so far as that was concerned.

The only thing of which we really stood in need, was something to eat.
We had not a morsel of either biscuit or meat, and we had both become as
hungry as hawks.  There was not the slightest prospect of a supper, and
we should have to go with empty stomachs until we could reach the
barque--perhaps not before noon of the following day.

We had grown so hungry that my companion now wished he had brought along
with him a piece of the lion's flesh, declaring he could have eaten a
collop of it well enough.  We had still with us the skin, but that was
too tough for us, hungry as we were.

We sat down near the spring, and began to consider what preparations we
should make for passing the night.  We thought it would be best to
gather a quantity of sticks and make a roaring fire--not that we were
afraid of the cold, for there was no such thing as cold.  On the
contrary, although it was near sundown, the air was still quite hot and
sultry.  Our object in talking about a fire was, in order to frighten
off any wild beasts that might approach our sleeping-place during the
night.

While we talked we grew hungrier, and at length our stomachs became so
craving that we could almost have eaten the grass!  Fortune, however,
proved kind to us, and saved us from becoming grass-eaters.  Just as we
were wondering what we could find to eat, we chanced to see a large bird
stepping out of some trees into the open ground.  It did not see us, for
it was every moment coming nearer.  It appeared to be browsing upon the
grass, as it moved along; and thus busy seeking its own food, took no
notice of anything else.

Ben had reloaded the "Queen Anne," after killing the lion.  The ramrod
had been crooked badly, but we had managed to get it straight again, so
that it would serve; and in order to be prepared for anything, a fresh
load had been rammed into the barrel.

Seeing the great bird coming so near, we quietly lay down, so as to hide
our bodies in the grass--while Ben placed himself behind a small bush,
through which he protruded the long barrel of the musket.

It seemed as if Providence had sent the bird for our supper; for the
foolish creature walked straight on, until it was hardly a dozen yards
from the muzzle of the "Queen Anne."  Just then Ben pulled the trigger;
and, notwithstanding the smallness of the shot, the great bustard--for
it proved to be a bustard--was rolled over on the grass, as dead as a
nail in a door.  So said Ben as he picked it up, and brought it into our
camp.

We now set to work upon the bird; and, after plucking, and cleaning it,
we kindled a fire, and placed it in the blaze to roast.  We might not
have cooked it in the most elegant manner, and perhaps it was a little
smoked; but if so, we did not notice this while eating it, for we both
ate heartily, and thought it the most delicious morsel we had ever
tasted.  Certainly after the salt meat, to which we had been so long
accustomed, a fresh bustard--which is one of the richest flavoured of
game birds--could not be otherwise than a delicacy; and so much did we
relish it, that before going to sleep we made a fresh onset upon the
bird, and very nearly finished it, large as it was.

We washed the supper down with a drink of cool water from the crystal
spring; and then we began to consider where we should stretch our bodies
for the night.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

At first we were inclined to remain where we had cooked and eaten our
supper.  The water was convenient, and there was long bunch grass upon
which we could rest very comfortably.

But although it was then warm enough, and we might have gone to sleep
without feeling any cold, we knew it would be different towards the
middle of the night.  We knew this from the experience we had already
had of this part of the country--for notwithstanding the great heat of
the sun during the day, at night there were heavy dews, and the air was
often foggy and chill.  Some nights on board the barque we had found it
cold enough for all the blankets we could get.  Perhaps it was not
absolutely so cold as we fancied it, for at this time I knew nothing
about the thermometer.  It is like enough that we felt the cold of the
night more keenly, on account of its contrast with the great heat of the
day; and as we were usually at hard work, and perspiring all day long,
of course our blood was not prepared for the change.

That day had been a particularly hot one, and in walking over the
palm-nuts, and toiling through thickets and other difficult places, we
had been in a profuse perspiration all day long.  As we had no blankets
to cover us--nothing but our very lightest clothing--we would be likely
to suffer during the night with the damp dew falling upon our bodies.
True, we had the lion's hide with us, but this, being fresh and still
raw, would not greatly benefit us.

Under these circumstances it occurred to us that we might as well take
shelter under some tree, which, if it failed to warm, would at least
protect us from the falling dew.

We had already noticed a grove at some distance along the slope of the
hill.  It appeared to promise the very shelter we wanted, and taking up
the gun, the lion-skin, what remained of the bustard, and some burning
faggots to make a new fire out of, we proceeded in the direction of the
grove.

This grove appeared of that kind usually termed a coppice or copse--such
as may be often observed in English parks.  It was of a circular form,
and covered about half an acre of ground.  None of the timber was tall--
not over thirty or forty feet in height, but as we drew nearer we could
perceive that it was all of one sort.  This we could tell by the leaves,
which were very large and of a shining green colour.  They were oblong,
and each leaf was divided into five leaflets, that were placed in
relation to each other like the fingers of a hand.  Even the leaflets
were like large entire leaves, and out of each bunch of leaves we could
see that there grew a large white flower hanging upon a long pendulous
flower-stalk with its top downward.  These flowers gave the grove a very
beautiful appearance--their splendid white corollas contrasting
elegantly with the deep-green of the leaves.

All these matters we noted as we drew nigh, for although the sun had
gone down, there was still light enough to view objects at a
considerable distance.

We noticed nothing else about this little copse that appeared peculiar,
until we had advanced close to its edge.  We only observed that it was
nicely rounded, just as if it belonged to some fine park and had been
kept neatly trimmed by the pruning knife of the park-keeper, or some
landscape gardener.  Of course this was a peculiarity--considering that
the grove grew in a wild uninhabited country, where no human hand ever
interfered with it, as we supposed.  But I had heard that such regularly
formed copses are often met with in wild regions, both on the table
plains of Southern Africa and the prairies of America, therefore there
was nothing remarkable that they should be found in Central Africa as
well.

On this account we had scarce made any remark about the singularity of
its shape, but approached it with no other intention than to obtain
shelter under it.  Its dense foliage, promising protection from dew, or
even rain, if it should fall, appeared to invite us; and we were
resolved to accept its proffered hospitality.

It was only when we got very close to it, that we perceived the true
nature of this singular grove--and then we noticed a peculiarity that
astonished us.  Instead of a grove covering nearly an acre of ground, as
we had conjectured, you may fancy our surprise on perceiving that the
hole copse consisted of but one tree!

Sure enough there was only one tree, and it was the vast umbrageous head
of leaves and flowers that we had mistaken for a whole grove!

But such a tree was that!  If we had been astonished by the dragon-tree,
our astonishment was now more than doubled, on beholding the gigantic
monarch of trees, that now spread widely before our eyes.  The
dragon-tree sank into a shrub in comparison with it.

If I were to give the dimensions of this enormous vegetable, I should
scarce be credited, but fortunately its giant proportions do not rest on
my authority alone.  Trees of a similar kind, and of the very same
species, have been described by botanists, and therefore their vast size
is well-known to the scientific world.

The one discovered by Brace and myself had a trunk of full a hundred
feet girth.  I cannot speak exactly, as I had no measuring string, and
it would have taken a pretty long cord to have gone round it: but Ben
measured it carefully with his arms, and pronounced it to be
"twenty-five fadoms."  Now Ben's "fadoms" were good fathoms, for he was
a long armed man; and, therefore I conclude that the trunk was at least
a hundred feet in circumference.  At the height of about a dozen feet
from the ground the trunk forked into a number of great branches, each
of which was like a tree of itself; and, in fact, some of them were far
thicker than most trees of the forest.  These branches stretched out for
many yards--at first horizontally, but as they tapered towards a point,
they began gradually to curve downwards, until their extreme ends--the
topmost twigs with their leaves--quite touched the earth.  It was for
this reason we had not been able to see the main trunk as we approached.
The foliage of the outer boughs concealed it from the view, and hence
had we mistaken the single tree for a grove or coppice.  It the more
resembled this on account of its height; for, as already observed, its
topmost branches did not exceed thirty or forty feet in clear altitude.
It was therefore not the tallest tree in the world, though it was
certainly one of the thickest.

Now it so chanced that I knew what kind of tree it was--even to its
name; my "wonder book" had not omitted to describe the vegetable
curiosity.  It was the great _baobab_.



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

I knew that the tree had other names as well as baobab; that the negroes
of Senegal call it the "monkey's bread-tree," the "sour gourd," and
"lalo plant," and my book had been minute enough to give the botanical
name, which is _Adansonia_--so called from a distinguished French
botanist, of the name of Adanson, who, long ago, travelled through
western Africa, and was the first to describe this wonderful tree.  I
even remembered Adanson's description of it, and his statement, that he
believed there were some baobab trees five thousand years old, or coeval
with the creation of the world.  He had himself measured some of them
seventy-five feet in girth, and had heard of others that exceeded one
hundred!  This I could now believe.  I remembered, moreover, that he had
stated, that the fruit of the tree was a large oblong body, full nine
inches long, of a dull greenish colour, and covered over the surface
with a hoary down; that it was like a gourd, and when opened exhibited
several cells, with hard shining seeds, immersed in a soft pulp; that
out of this pulp, the natives, where the tree grew, manufactured an
aciduous drink that was good for curing fevers; that the leaves when
dried and bruised, were, by the same people, mixed with their food, to
counteract too profuse perspiration; that moreover, the larger leaves
are used for covering their huts, and out of the bark they manufactured
a sort of cordage, and also a coarse kind of cloth, which the poorer
people wore around their thighs, forming a covering that reached from
the waist to the knees.  Vessels, also, were procured from the outside
shell of the fruit, which served in the same manner as those obtained
from the gourd or calabash-tree.

All these things did I remember at that moment, and intended to
communicate them to my companion as soon as we had got fixed for the
night; but as yet we had only arrived on the ground, and had learnt
nothing more about the gigantic vegetable, than that it was all one
single tree, for we could still make out the main trunk through the
glimmer of the twilight.  Of course the measurement made by Brace was an
after performance, and was not done till long after we had arrived on
the ground.

Well, we had arrived by this wonderful tree; and stooping down, and
entering under its branches, we saw at a glance it was the very place
for us to pass the night in.  A house could hardly have served us
better; and as for room there was enough to have accommodated the crew
of a three-decker.  It hardly mattered where we lay down--as under its
wide-spread canopy there was ample choice, and nowhere was the dew
likely to disturb our slumbers.

We were determined, however, to light a fire, for we were still in dread
of the wild beasts.  No wonder after such a day's adventures.

Though it was almost dark under the shadow of the tree, it was still
twilight beyond, and there was yet light enough for us to collect fuel
for our fire.  So throwing down our lion-skin, and other impediments, we
proceeded to gather the logs.  At a short distance off, we found a
quantity of dead timber, that would serve admirably for fuel, and three
or four double armfuls would be sufficient.

We were not slow in bringing them up; and, choosing a place under one of
the great horizontal limbs, we built our camp fire.  The limb was so
thick and broad underneath, that it formed a roof of itself ample enough
to shelter us from any rain that might fall, and the ground underneath
was as dry as tinder, so that we had every prospect of getting a
comfortable night's rest.

We built our fire at some distance from the main trunk; and as soon as
it was fairly kindled, we gave over work, and sat down beside it.

Ben had his clay pipe in his pocket; and, filling this with the narcotic
weed, he set to smoking with great contentment.  I was myself very
happy.  After my experience on board the barque, this free forest life
was positively charming, and I thought I should like to continue it for
ever.  Though I did not join my companion in a smoke, I sat down
opposite to him, and we both indulged in the pleasure of unrestrained
conversation.

I have said that, when we first entered under the shadow of the baobab,
it was quite dark there--just as dark as night itself--and we could not
see six feet beyond our noses in any direction but soon the fire blazing
up, enabled us to note our new quarters more particularly.  We could see
above our heads the long egg-shaped fruit hanging down from among the
large leaves, while strewed over the ground were many that had fallen
from over-ripeness, and the shells of others that had opened, and shed
their seeds, and were now dry and empty.

All these things were noticed in a few seconds of time--just while the
faggots were beginning to blaze; but our attention was called away from
such observations, and concentrated upon a single object, which at once
created within us an eager curiosity.

This object was an odd appearance that presented itself on the trunk of
the tree.  Directly beyond the fire, but--as already stated--at some
distance from it, rose the main trunk, like a vast wall.  The bark was
of a brownish grey colour, wrinkled and gnarled, and with many knots and
inequalities over its surface.  But in spite of this unevenness, as soon
as the flames brightened up, we noticed four regular lines, or cracks,
upon the trunk, meeting each other at right angles.  These lines formed
a parallelogram about three feet in length by two in breadth.  The
bottom line was about two feet above the surface of the ground; and the
parallelogram itself was outlined lengthwise against the tree.

As soon as we set eyes upon it, we saw that such a regularly formed
figure could not have arisen from any natural cause--the bark could not
have split itself into so perfect a shape.  It was clear that the thing
was artificial--that is, that it had been done by the hand of man.  In
fact, as we observed it more minutely, we could tell that this had been
so; for the marks of a knife or some other cutting instrument were
discernible in the wood--though the work had been done long ago, and the
colour gave no indication of when it had been done.  The lines were of
the same dull grey as the natural cracks on other parts of the tree.

Our curiosity being excited, my companion and I rose from the fire, and
approached the great trunk to examine it.  Had it been in an inhabited
country we should have thought nothing of it--for then we should have
fancied that some one had been cutting out figures in the bark of the
tree for their amusement--perhaps some idle boys--as I have often done
myself, and so had Ben, when he was an idle boy.  But during all that
day's ramble we had met with no human being, nor had we seen either sign
or track of one; and we were pretty certain, from what we had been told,
that this part of the country was altogether without inhabitants.
Therefore it was, that the figure cut upon the bark of the baobab
surprised us--for this was a sign that human beings had been there
before us--though it may have been ever so long before.

We approached the trunk then to examine it more closely.

As we came near, we observed that the lines were very deep--as if they
had been cut into the wood--but beyond this there was nothing
remarkable.  There was no other carving, as we had expected,--nothing
but this oblong figure, which had something of the shape of a small
window or door.  In fact, as we stood gazing at it, it suggested to us
the idea of a little door that opened into the side of the tree, for the
crack all round its edge looked black, as if we could see into some dark
cavity beyond it.

This idea occurred to me as I stood gazing at it, and Ben had a similar
fancy.

"Dang it, Will'm!" said he, stepping nearer to it, "it be a door, I
believe," and then, leaning forward, and striking it with his fist, he
exclaimed: "Shiver my timbers, if 'tan't a door!  Listen, lad! d'ye hear
that? it sounds as hollow as a empty cask!"

Sure enough, the stroke of the sailor's knuckles on the bark gave back a
hollow report--quite unlike that which would have been made by striking
the solid trunk of a tree.  Moreover, we saw that the part which had
been struck shook under the blow.  Beyond a doubt the tree was hollow,
and the part that had attracted us was neither more or less than a door
cut in its side.

This point was at once settled; for Ben with another "shiver my
timbers," raised his foot, and bestowed a lusty kick upon the part that
was loose.  It instantly caved in, and exhibited to our astonished eyes
a door in the side of the tree leading into a dark cavity beyond!

Ben immediately ran back to the fire; and taking up several of the
blazing faggots--and placing them side by side, so as to form a torch--
returned with them to the trunk.  Holding the torch before the mouth of
the cavity, we peeped in, when a sight met our eyes that produced
something more than astonishment--something very near akin to terror.
We both shared this feeling; and my companion, though a man, and a very
brave man, was quite as much terrified as I.  In fact, I saw that his
frame shook all over, and his hands trembled in such a manner, that
several of the faggots fell from his fingers, and he appeared for some
seconds to hesitate whether he would not fling the torch away and take
to his heels!

It is hardly to be wondered at, when one considers the strange sight
that was revealed to our eyes.  It would have tried the nerves of the
boldest mortal that ever lived, to have looked into that dark tree-cave,
without a previous knowledge of what was contained therein; and no
wonder that Ben Brace uttered a wild exclamation, and stood shivering in
speechless terror.

Within the trunk of the tree was a chamber.  It was of square form,
about six or seven feet in length, breadth, and height.  It was no
natural cavity of decayed wood, but had evidently been hollowed out by
the hands of men, not very exactly, but roughly hewn as if by an axe.

Along the back a portion of the wood had been left, resembling a bench
or banquette, and upon this bench were the objects that excited our
terror.  Three human forms were seated upon it, with their faces turned
towards the entrance.  They were sitting--as men ordinarily do when
resting themselves--with their backs leaning against the rearmost wall
of the chamber, and their arms hanging loosely by their sides--their
knees bent, and their limbs somewhat stretched out towards the centre of
the floor.

There was no motion on the part of any of the three; for although they
were human forms they were not living ones, nor yet were they dead
bodies!  No, they were neither living men nor dead men, and this added
to our consternation on beholding them.  Had they been alive, or only
corpses, the sight would have been natural; but they were neither one
nor the other.  In their time they had been both; but it must have been
a long while ago, for now they resembled neither!

They were all three shrivelled dried up as mummies, but they were not
mummies either.  They more resembled skeletons encased in suits of black
leather, that, although fitting tightly to their bodies, was
nevertheless wrinkled and puckered around them.  There was wool upon
their crowns--they had evidently been negroes--and their eyes were still
in their heads, though lustreless and dried up within the sockets like
the rest of the flesh.  One thing still preserved its lustre, and that
was their teeth.  The lips, shrivelled and drawn back, exposed these
fully to view; and in the mouths of all three the double rows of teeth
were shining like white ivory.  These, contrasting with the sombre hue
of their skins, and aided by the skeleton form of their heads, and the
gaunt prominence of their jaws, produced an appearance that was hideous
and unearthly in the extreme.

No wonder my companion shivered when he saw them.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

You will be surprised to hear, that I was not far more frightened than
he.  It would have been natural that I should--being younger and less
courageous, but in reality I was not.  In fact, after a little terror
which I experienced at the first shock, I was not frightened at all.

Of course such a wild, hideous spectacle--those three skeleton forms,
with rigid limbs and bodies, and rows of white grinning teeth--was
calculated to produce fear in any one, particularly when discovered in
such a singular place, and seen, as we saw them, under the glaring light
of a torch: and I will not deny, that at the first glance I was as badly
terrified as my companion, and perhaps even worse.

But my terror was short-lived, for almost in the next moment I was quite
free from it; and I stood regarding the skeleton bodies with no other
feelings than those of a keen curiosity--just as if I had been looking
at mummies in a museum.

I know you will be surprised at this exhibition of _sangfroid_ on my
part, and deem it extraordinary; but there is nothing extraordinary
about it.  It was easily explained, and I proceed to give the
explanation.

My "wonder book" is again the key--it was to this I was indebted for
ridding me of my fright, and once more giving me the advantage over my
unlettered companion.  In that book I remembered having read--of course
in the same chapter that treated of the baobab--how a curious practice
existed among some tribes of negroes, of hollowing out the great trunks
of these trees into vaults or chambers, and there depositing their dead.
It was not those who died naturally who were thus disposed of, but
malefactors--men who had been executed for some great crime; and whose
bodies were denied the right of burial in the regular way; for these
savage people have strong prejudices in such matters, just as we find
among the most Christian and civilised nations.

Instead therefore of flinging the bodies, of those upon whom capital
punishment has been inflicted, to the hyenas and jackals, and leaving
them to be devoured by these voracious brutes, the negroes give them a
species of sepulture; and that is as described, by closing them up in
vaults hewn in trunks of the baobab--and in my opinion a very
comfortable kind of tomb it is.  The bodies thus deposited do not
decompose or decay as those buried in the ordinary way; on the contrary,
from some preservative quality in the wood, or the atmosphere of the
place, they become desiccated, or dried up very much after the manner of
mummies, and in this state remain for hundreds of years.

You may wonder why the negroes, for the sake of mere criminals, take so
much trouble as to form these large vaults in the solid trunks of trees;
and especially with such rude implements as they are used to make them
with.  But this wonder will cease when I inform you, that the hallowing
out of a chamber in the trunk of a baobab is a mere bagatelle, and costs
but trifling labour.  The wood of this great tree is remarkably soft and
porous, and a cavity can be scooped out in it, almost as easily as in
the side of a turnip--at all events with not greater difficulty than in
a hard bank of clay or earth; and it is not uncommon for the negroes to
hew out large chambers in the trunks of the baobab for other purposes
besides the one above-mentioned.

Remembering to have read the account of all these matters, I had,
therefore, quite the advantage of my companion, who had never read a
word about them; and, when Ben turned round and perceived that I was
regarding the scene with perfect coolness, while he himself was shaking
in his shoes, he appeared quite astonished at my behaviour.

I soon explained to him the reason why I was so brave; on hearing which
Ben grew brave himself; and, after replenishing our torch by fresh
faggots from the fire, we both squeezed ourselves through the narrow
entrance, and stood within the chamber of the dead.  We were no longer
afraid, even to lay our hands upon the skeletons--which we found
perfectly dry and in no way decayed, either by being eaten with moths,
ants, or destroying insects of any kind--all of which must have been
kept away from them by the peculiar odour of the wood by which they were
surrounded.

Like enough the hyenas and jackals would have regarded this but little,
and would long since have dragged the bodies forth; but as already
stated there was a door--and a strong one, which had fitted exactly to
the entrance of the chamber, and which was evidently the thick, bark of
the tree, that had been carefully cut out, at the making of the chamber,
and then replaced.  This door fitting exactly had no doubt been firm
enough to resist any attack of wild beasts--at the time the bodies had
been first deposited within--but being now dry it had got loose, and
easily yielded to the sturdy kick of the sailor.

We remained for some time inside this curious apartment and examined
every corner of it minutely.  It was evident to us that it had not been
entered for years--as there was no sign of anything having been
disturbed in it.  Perhaps no human being had ever opened the door since
the dead had been deposited within; and although there was no means of
telling how long since that event might have taken place, the appearance
of the dry withered bodies plainly pointed to a very ancient date for
their interment.  Perhaps it may have occurred at a time when the
country around was thickly peopled with inhabitants; or at all events
when some tribe dwelt in the neighbourhood, who had long ago perished by
the hands of their enemies, or what is more likely had been made
captive, sold into slavery, and carried across the Atlantic to the
colonies of America.

Such reflections were passing through my mind as I stood within that
singular chamber, and gazed upon the three strange creatures that had so
long been its tenants.  I think the reflections of my companion were of
a different character.  I suspect he was at that moment thinking,
whether there might be some treasure entombed along with them, for he
was carrying his torch into every corner of the apartment, and eagerly
searching every crack and cranny with his eyes, as if he expected
something to turn up--perhaps a bag of gold-dust, or some of those
precious stones that are often found in possession of the savages.

If he had any such expectations, however, he was doomed to
disappointment; for, with the exception of the three skeletons
themselves, not one article of any kind--neither of dress or ornament--
was found in the place.

Having satisfied himself about this, and taken one more glance at the
three silent denizens of the tree-chamber, Ben, in a serio-comic
fashion, made a salaam to them, and wished them good-night.

We now returned to our fire with the intention of going to sleep; for
although it was not yet late, we felt wearied after the day's wandering
about and, stretching ourselves along the dry ground by the side of the
blazing faggots, we composed ourselves for the night.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

We both fell asleep almost instantaneously, but I am unable to say how
long we continued to sleep.  It did not seem more than five minutes, and
then we were awakened by a noise, that was loud enough and disagreeable
enough to have waked up the dead.  It was one of the strangest noises I
had ever heard in my life; and neither of us could make out what was
causing it, though there could be no doubt it proceeded from some kind
of animals.

At first we thought it was wolves, or rather hyenas and jackals--since
these are the wolves of Africa--and some of the sounds resembled the
voices of these creatures, with which we were already acquainted, from
hearing them every night around the barracoons of King Dingo, and along
the banks of the river.  But there were other sounds of a different
kind--shrill screams, and calls like the mewing of cats, and now and
them a chattering and gibbering that bore a resemblance to the voices of
human beings, or, more correctly, to the ravings of maniacs!

Evidently there were many creatures making these noises; but what sort
of beings they were, neither my companion nor I could form any
conjecture.  The sounds were harsh and disagreeable--every tone of them
calculated to produce terror in those who might listen to them,--and
they terrified us as soon as we were awake to hear them.

Both of us sprang instantly up, and looked around in affright, expecting
every moment to be attacked; but although we could hear the noises on
every side, we were as yet unable to see who or what was making them.
Our fire glimmered faintly, and enabled us to see only to a very short
distance around us; but in order to get a better view, Ben mechanically
kicked up the half-burnt sticks; and then a bright blaze was produced,
which lit up the whole space shadowed by the branches of the baobab.

As yet we could see nothing--for the noises proceeded out of the thick
darkness beyond; but we could perceive that they came from all sides--
from behind as well as before us.  Whatever creatures they were that
were uttering these horrid sounds were not all in one place; they were
everywhere around the great tree; we were in fact surrounded by a large
host of them--completely encompassed.

The sounds now appeared to grow louder and nearer; and as we stood
gazing out into the darkness, we began to perceive certain bright spots,
that scintillated and sparkled like jets of moving fire.  These spots
were round and a greenish lustre; and as we looked upon them we were
soon able to tell what they were--they were eyes!

Yes, they were the eyes of some animals, though of what sort we could
not guess.  That they were fierce creatures, perhaps beasts of prey, we
had every reason to believe.  Their wild cries, and the manner of their
approach proved this; for they were approaching--every moment drawing
nearer and nearer.

In a very few seconds they had got so close, that we could see them
distinctly enough, and no longer conjectured about what kind of animals
they were.  I knew them as soon as the light enabled me to get a view of
them.  I knew them from having seen some of their kind in a menagerie,
and my companion was even better acquainted with them--they were
baboons.

The discovery did not in any way tend to allay the apprehensions which
their voices had created.  Quite the contrary was the effect produced.
We both knew well enough the fierce disposition of these brutes--any one
who has ever witnessed their behaviour in the cage must be acquainted
with the fact, that they are the most spiteful and savage creatures that
can be imagined, and exceedingly dangerous to be approached.  And this,
too, after being tamed and constantly receiving kindness from the hand
of man!  Still more dangerous when in their native haunts--so much so,
that the woods which they inhabited are never traversed by the natives
without great precaution, and only when several persons well-armed go
together.

Now both my companion and I were well acquainted with these facts; and
to say that we were scared, when we saw the baboons approaching our
place of encampment, is only to declare the simple truth.  We were
scared and badly scared too--quite as much terrified as we had been by
the sight of the lion.

We saw, moreover, that these baboons were of the largest, and most
dangerous kind--for there are several different species of baboons in
Africa.  These were the hideous "mandrills," as we could tell by their
great swollen cheeks, of purple and scarlet colour, that shone
conspicuously under the light of our fire.  We could distinguish their
thick hog-like snouts, and yellow chin-beards as they advanced; and we
had no doubt about what sort of enemy was before us.

Had there been only one or two of these hideous brutes, an attack from
them would have been dangerous enough--far more so than an encounter
with hyenas or fierce mastiff dogs, for the mandrill is more than a
match for either.  But what was our dismay on perceiving that the brutes
were in great numbers--in fact a whole flock or tribe was on the ground,
and advancing towards us from all sides.  Turn which way we would, their
eyes were gleaming upon us, and their painted faces shining under the
blaze.  From all sides came their cries of menace--so shrill and loud
that we could not hear our own voices, as we spoke to one another!

About their design there could be no doubt: they were evidently
advancing to attack us: and the reason why they did not rush forward at
once may have been that they had some dread of approaching the fire; or
perhaps they had not yet made up their minds as to what sort of enemies
we were.

It was not likely, however, that the fire would keep them off for any
long period of time.  They would soon become accustomed to it; and, in
fact, every moment they appeared to gain confidence and drew nearer and
nearer.

What was to be done?  Against such a host we could not defend ourselves,
not for five minutes, had we been armed ever so well.  The powerful
brutes would have pulled us down in the twinkling of an eye, and torn us
to pieces with their strong hog-like tusks.  Defence would be idle--
there was no other mode of escape than to endeavour to get away from the
ground.

But how? to climb up into the tree would not avail us, though it had
saved us from the lion.  These mandrills could climb better than we;
they would soon overtake us, and tear us to pieces among the branches.

We next thought of running out into the open ground, and escaping by
flight.  Probably we should have made the attempt, but turn which way we
might we saw that the baboons were in the way--a complete circle of them
had formed around us, several ranks deep; and had we attempted to pass
through them, it was plain they could have seized upon us and dragged us
down.  In short, we were surrounded, and our retreat cut off.

We were fairly at a stand, and could think of no means of escape.  And
yet to remain where we were, was to be attacked to a certainty; for
every moment the threatening ranks were closing around us--still
continuing to utter the same horrid cries--which, probably, were partly
meant to terrify us, and partly to encourage each other in the outset.
I am very sure that but for the fire--which was no doubt a strange sight
to them--they would not have wasted time in the attack, but would have
sprung forward upon us at once.  But the fire, which they still appeared
to regard with some degree of suspicion, held them back.

Perceiving this, my companion bethought him of a means of farther
putting them in fear; and, calling me to follow his example, he caught
up one of the blazing faggots, and, rushing out towards the nearest,
waved the brand in their faces.  I did as I saw him, only going towards
the opposite side of the circle of our assailants.

The manoeuvre was not without its effect.  The baboons retreated before
this odd species of assault, but not so precipitately, as to leave any
hope of our being able to drive them off altogether.  On the contrary,
as soon as we stopped they stopped also; and when we returned towards
the fire to exchange our brands for others, they followed us up and came
as close as ever.  They grew even more furious and noisy--for the fact
that we had not injured any of them taught them to look upon our
firebrands as harmless weapons, and no longer to be dreaded.

We repeated the manoeuvre more than once; but it soon ceased to inspire
them with fear; and we had to wave the torches before their very snouts
before we could cause them to turn tail and run from us.

"This way won't do, Will'm," said my companion, in a voice that told his
alarm, "they won't be run off, lad!  I'll try 'em with a shot from the
old piece--maybe that'll send 'em a bit."

The "Queen Anne," was loaded, as usual, with small shot; and we had
thought of firing at them when they first came up; but we knew that the
small shot would only sting them, without doing any real injury, and,
consequently, render them more furious, and implacable.  We had,
therefore, abstained from firing the gun, until we should try the effect
of the firebrands.

Now, however, Ben was determined, that at least one of them should pay
the forfeit; and I saw him pushing the ramrod into the gun--just as we
had done when loading for the lion.

In a few seconds he had got ready; and then stepping forward till he
stood near the line of the threatening mandrills, he pointed the piece
at one of the largest and fired.

A scream of pain announced that he had aimed well; and the great brute
was seen sprawling over the ground, and struggling in the agonies of
death--while a crowd of its companions rushing from all sides gathered
around it.  At the same instant I had fired the pistol and wounded
another of them, which also became the centre of a sympathising group,
Ben and I, after firing, ran back to the fire.  It was impossible to
reload the gun--since the ramrod was now sticking in the body of the
baboon--but, even had we been in possession of a dozen ramrods, we
should not have found time to use them.  The effect of our shots, fatal
as they had been, was the very reverse of what might have been
anticipated.  Instead of intimidating our assailants, it had only
increased their courage; and now, forsaking their fallen comrades, they
returned to the attack with redoubled rage and with evident
determination to close with us without more ado.

We saw that the crisis had come; I had seized one of the largest of the
firebrands, and my companion held the musket clubbed and ready to deal
blows around him.  But what would these have availed against such
numbers? we should soon be overpowered, and dragged down--never more to
regain our feet--but to be torn to fragments by those terrible teeth,
gnashing and threatening all around us.

And this would most certainly have been our fate, had not that moment
offered a means of escape from our perilous position.

A means did offer itself, and it was odd we had not thought of it
before.

Just as we were at the height of despair--expecting every moment to be
our last--our eyes chanced to turn on the dark doorway that opened into
the side of the tree--the entrance to the chamber of the dead.  It was
still open--for we had not returned the bark slab to its place, and it
was lying where we had thrown it on the ground outside.  Both of us
noticed the doorway at the same instant, and simultaneously recognised
in it a means of escape--for both shouted as with one voice and rushed
towards it together.

Narrow as was the entrance we passed quickly through.  A rabbit could
scarce have glided more rapidly into its burrow; and, before any of the
pursuing mandrills could lay a tooth upon our skirts, we had got inside,
and were once more in the company of the skeletons.



CHAPTER THIRTY.

Do not suppose that we considered ourselves safe.  We were simply safe
for the moment--as our disappearance into the hollow of the tree, being
sudden and unexpected, had taken the mandrills by surprise, and they had
not followed us inside.  Nevertheless they had rushed after--the whole
troop of them at our heels--and from their demonstrations, it was
evident they would not delay long before jumping through the doorway,
and assailing us within the chamber.  They were already close to the
entrance, and with loud gibbering menaced us from the outside.  Another
moment, and we might expect them to charge in upon us.

The entrance was yet open--the slab lay outside, and we dared not go
back for it--we had nothing to use for a door--nothing by which we could
shut the brutes out; and all we could think of was to stand by the
entrance and defend it as we best might.  Ben with the long musket, and
I with a brand, which I still clutched, but which no longer blazed, and
could only be used as a bludgeon.  Should these weapons fail, we would
have to take out our knives, and make the best fight we could; but we
knew that if the baboons once got inside, so as to surround us, we
should not have long to live.

The screaming brutes had all come up, and we could see them plainly
under the blaze of the faggots.  They covered the whole space between
the trunk of the tree and the fire; and as near as we could estimate
their number, there were about three score of them.  They danced madly
about, uttering loud wails--as if lamenting their fallen comrades--and
then breaking out into more clamorous cries, that expressed rage and the
desire for vengeance.  They had not yet made their rush for the
entrance; but there was a large crowd of them standing, or rather
leaping about in front of it, that seemingly only waited for some signal
to spring forward.

We stood in anxious expectation--holding our weapons ready to dash them
back.  We knew we could do nothing more than "job" them; and we were
apprehensive about the result.  Despite all our efforts, some of them
might get past us; and then we should be assailed in the rear, and of
course vanquished and destroyed.

"If we only could get at the door?" said I, looking towards the slab,
which could be seen where it lay outside.

"'Tan't possible," answered Ben, "the filthy beasts are all around it--
they'd pull us to pieces if we only showed nose outside.  Dash my
buttons.  Will! if I han't got a plan--we'll do without the door--you
keep 'em back while I stop the gap.  Here take the gun--its better'n
that stick--look sharp, lad!--knock 'em back--that's the way!"

And in this manner Ben continued to direct me, long after he had
delivered the musket into my hands.  I noticed that he had glided behind
me, but for what purpose I could not guess; but, indeed, I had no time
for guessing, as the baboons were now beyond all doubt resolved to force
an entrance, and it required all my strength and activity to keep them
back with the muzzle of the piece.  One after another sprang up on the
step of the narrow doorway, and one after another was sent rolling back
again, by blows that I gave with all the force I could put into my arms;
and these blows I was compelled to repeat as rapidly, as the strokes of
a blacksmith's hammer in the shoeing of a horse.

I could not have continued the exercise long.  I should soon have been
tired down at it; and then the implacable crowd would have rushed in;
but it was not necessary for me to work very long--for just then, I felt
my companion pressing past me towards the entrance, which the next
moment became darkened up.  Only through some chinks, could I
distinguish the blaze beyond, and only through these was the light
admitted into the chamber!

What had caused the interruption?  What was it that was stopping up the
entrance? was it the body of my companion, who was thus exposing himself
to the assaults of the infuriated crowd without?

Not a bit of it.  Ben Brace knew better than to sacrifice his life in
that idle way; and, on stretching forward his hand, and touching the
dark mass that was now interposed between us and the danger, I perceived
what it was.  It was one of the malefactors!

Neither more nor less was it than one of the mummies, which Ben had
seized hold of, and, after doubling it up, had crammed chuck into the
entrance, which it nearly filled from bottom to top.

The barricade was not yet complete; and my companion after directing me
to hold it in place, glided back to procure another of the same.  This
he soon brought forward, and after doubling it up as he had done the
first, and bundling it into the proper size and shape--regardless of the
snapping of bones and the crackling of joints--he pushed it in alongside
the other, until the two wedged each other, and completely shut up the
doorway!

Such a scene might have been comic enough--notwithstanding the sacred
character of the place--but neither my companion nor I were in any
humour for comedy.  Matters were still too serious; and although the
idea of this skeleton barricade was a good one, we were not yet assured
of safety.  It might only give us a temporary respite; for we feared
that our ferocious assailants would attack the mummies with their teeth,
and soon demolish the barrier that lay between us.

And this they certainly would have done, but for a contrivance which
occurred to us; and that was to leave two small apertures through which
we could still "job" them, and keep them off.  Two chinks were found
between the bodies of the malefactors, and these were soon worked to the
proper size--so that the musket could be protruded through one, and the
stick through the other--and by keeping these weapons in constant play,
we were able to push back the brutes, whenever they approached near
enough to seize hold of our skeleton barricade.

Fortunately the doorway sloped out from the chamber--after the manner of
an embrasure in a fortress--and on this account the bodies were wedged
tightly against the cheeks on both sides; so that although it would have
been easy to remove them from the inside, it would have required a
strong pull to have drawn them outward.  So long, therefore, as we could
prevent the mandrills from tearing them to pieces, we should be safe
enough.

For more than an hour we were kept at constant work, shoving our weapons
backward and forward like a pair of sawyers.  At length, however, the
assaults of the enemy outside, became feebler, and more desultory.  They
began to perceive that they could not effect an entrance, and as most of
them had by this time received a good punch in the head, or between the
ribs, they were not so eager to try it again.

But, although they at length desisted from their attempts to break in
upon us, we could still hear them as before.  We could no longer see
them--for the fire had gone out, and all was darkness, both outside and
within.

Not a ray of light reached us from any quarter; and we passed the night
in the midst of perfect darkness and gloom.

But not in silence: all night long the troop kept up its chorus of
screams, and howlings and wailings; and although we listened attentively
in the hopes that we might hear some signs of departure, our ears were
not gratified by any such sounds.

It was certainly one of the most unpleasant nights that either my
companion or I had ever passed.  I need not say that neither of us
slept, we had not a wink of sleep throughout the live-long night; nor
would it have been possible for Morpheus himself to have slept under the
circumstances.  We had heard of the implacable disposition which not
only the mandrills, but other baboon-monkeys exhibit when they have been
assailed by an enemy; we had heard that their resentment once kindled,
cannot be again allayed until the object of it either becomes their
victim, or else escapes altogether beyond their reach.  With the monkey
tribe it is not as with lions, buffaloes, rhinoceroses, or other
dangerous beasts that maybe encountered in the forests of Africa.  When
the enemy is out of sight, all these animals seem to forget the assault
that may have been made upon them, or, at all events, soon give over
their hostile intentions.  Not so with the baboons.  These monstrous
creatures possess an intelligence far superior to that of ordinary
quadrupeds.  In fact, they are capable of a certain amount of reasoning
power, which although far inferior in degree to that of the human
species, is nevertheless of precisely the same character.

There are some people who think it savouring of profanity to make an
assertion of this kind; but there are people of very weak minds, who are
afraid to look philosophy in the face, lest it should contradict some
favourite dogma, in which they have long been accustomed to put faith.
Such people will boldly give denial to the most positive facts, that may
be observed both in the geological and zoological world; and do not
scruple to give hard names to those who have the candour to acknowledge
these facts.  It is absurd to deny that monkeys are possessed of
reasoning powers; no man could stand five minutes in front of a monkeys'
cage in any of our great zoological gardens, without being convinced of
this fact.

With the baboons, the reasoning faculty is not so strongly developed as
it is in some other species of the ape tribe, as the great ourang and
the chimpanzee; but for all that, Ben Brace and I knew it was strong
enough to enable them fully to understand the situation in which we were
placed, and to know that we could not possibly escape from our
tree-prison without passing before their eyes.  We knew, too, that their
passions were still stronger than their reasoning powers; that after
such offence as we had given them, by killing one of their number--
perhaps a venerated leader of the tribe--wounding another, and
administering violent "punches" to nearly every individual in the gang,
there was not the slightest probability that they would suffer us to
escape without first trying the effect of a long siege upon us.

If this was to be the case, we could have no hope of escape.  The
mandrills might remain upon the ground as long as they pleased.  Some
might go off to obtain food and drink, while the others watched; and
thus they could relieve one another.  For that matter, drink was to be
had near at hand--at the fine spring where we had eaten our supper--
though, for any good it could do us, it might as well have been fifty
miles off.  Food too the monkeys could easily procure in the woods close
by the base of the hill, or they might sustain themselves on the large
fruit of the baobab, which was their favourite and peculiar food, and on
this account called the monkeys' bread-fruit.  In fact, my companion and
I now suspected that the great tree was their habitual place of resort--
their roost or dwelling-place--and that they had been just on their way
home, from their day's rambling in the woods, when they first came upon
us.  This would account for the fierce and unprovoked attack which they
had at once made upon our camp.

Under all these considerations then it was no wonder that neither of us
thought of going to sleep, but on the contrary, sat up throughout the
whole night, kept awake by a full apprehension of our peril.  We had
hopes--though we were far from being sanguine about it--that as soon as
day broke, our besiegers might be tempted to follow their habitual
routine, and might go off into the woods.

Alas! when morning came, we saw to our dismay that they had no such
design; from their cries and gestures we were satisfied that the siege
was to be sustained.  They were all there--all that we had seen upon the
preceding night--and it appeared as if there were many more.  No doubt
others had joined them from the woods; for there were not less than a
hundred of them.  The hideous brutes appeared all around--some squatted
on the ground, some up in the branches of the baobab--and in the midst
of a chattering group we could see the carcass of the one that had been
killed while close by was the wounded individual, also surrounded by
sympathising friends.

Now and again, a band would collect together; and apparently inspired by
a fresh burst of rage, would crowd up to the entrance of our asylum, and
renew their attack upon the barricade.  We, as before, would repel them,
until they perceived that their attempts were futile, and then they
would desist, and retire until something arising among themselves seemed
to instigate them to a renewed assault.

This was their conduct throughout the whole of that day, and during all
the time were we kept shut up in our gloomy cell.  We had strengthened
our barricade--by materials obtained from the third malefactor--and so
far felt safe enough; but we now began to have fears of another enemy--
one that was as terrible in its attack, and as powerful to destroy, as
either the mandrills, or the strong lion himself.  That enemy was not
new to us; we had already had an encounter with it; we had met it among
the branches of the dragon-tree, and we were now to meet it again beside
the trunk of the baobab.  It was thirst.

Yes, we already experienced its painful sensation.  Every moment it was
gaining ground upon us, and its pangs becoming keener and harder to
endure.  Should the siege continue much longer, we knew not how we could
endure it.

Should the siege continue?  It did continue throughout all that day, the
fierce brutes remained by the tree throughout all the following night;
and when the second morning dawned, we saw them around as numerous as
ever, and apparently as implacable and determined on vengeance as they
had been at their first onset!

What were we to do?  Without rest, without sleep, without food, but
worst of all without water, we could exist no longer.  To go out was to
be destroyed--torn to atoms--devoured; to stay where we were was to die
of thirst--a more lingering and painful death! what were we to do?

We were in deep despair--we had almost yielded up the hope of being
saved--not almost, but altogether.

We could have had no hope, except that our assailants might become tired
of the protracted siege and leave us.  But, as already observed, these
creatures possess intelligence that resembles that of human beings.
They perfectly comprehended our situation, and knowing it, were not
likely to give us any chance of escape; there was no hope.

In this belief had we continued for some time, sitting side by side in a
state of extreme dejection.  Neither of us said a word.  We had nothing
to say--no counsel to offer to each other.

We had several times talked over the possibility of fighting our way
through the host of mandrills, and escaping by swiftness of foot.  We
knew that, once in the open ground, we could run faster than they; for
although the baboons run well through thickets and woods--where they
occasionally help themselves forward by grasping the boughs of the
trees--and although upon open ground they progress faster than many
other kinds of monkeys, yet a man can outrun them.

This we knew, and were now very regretful that we had not made a burst
through their line, and gone off at first, as we should have done.
Afterwards it became more difficult to do so, as the crowd got greater,
and hemmed us in more closely, and we had looked upon it as altogether
impossible.  Now, however, that the terrible thirst was impelling us, we
had almost made up our minds to issue forth and run the gauntlet.  Ben
argued that it would be better to do so than perish by inches in that
dark cavern; and I was in the mind to agree with him.  We would be
certain to have a terrible struggle, and be badly torn; in all
probability one or both of us would fall: but the prospect appeared the
less dreadful on account of the suffering we endured from thirst.  I may
add that we were hungry as well; but this was but a secondary
consideration when compared with the pangs of the sister appetite.

Another cause of uneasiness now presented itself.  The baboons,
apparently becoming impatient at waiting so long for their vengeance,
seemed to have been forming plans of their own, and began to make fresh
attempts upon the skeleton barricade.  In twos and threes they attacked
it with their teeth; and at each assault portions of the dry skin and
bones of the mummies were carried off.  It was plain that if this should
continue much longer the whole three malefactors would be demolished,
and we could no longer defend the entrance.  Of course after that there
could be but one result--our destruction.

More than ever did we give way to despair; and, hardly deeming it worth
while to exert ourselves, we remained passively awaiting the crisis.

All of a sudden I perceived my companion rouse himself from his
despondent attitude and commence fumbling about over the floor.  What
could he be after?  I put the question.

"I've got an idea, Will!" was his reply, "shiver my timbers!" continued
he, "if I don't believe I can scatter them apes to the four points o'
the compass."

"How?"  I eagerly inquired.

"You'll see, lad! where be the skin o' the lion?"

"I'm sitting upon it," said I, "do you want it?"

"Yes--quick! give it me, Will!"

It was by a mere chance that the lion's hide had been brought inside the
chamber.  We had not used it as a cover--on account of its being still
raw--and, previous to the appearance of the baboons, it had been rolled
up, and laid in the entrance of the tree-cave as the fittest place that
offered.  In rushing inside, it had been kicked before us; and thus it
was that we happened to be in possession of it.

Without losing a second of time, I pulled it from under me, and handed
it to my companion.  I already suspected the use he intended to make of
it; and without further explanation, I went to work to assist him in his
design.

In ten minutes after, the body of Ben Brace was completely enveloped in
the skin of the lion; which was tied and corded around him in such a
manner, that it would have required sharper eyes than those of a baboon
to have discovered the counterfeit.

His design was to sally forth in this disguise and show himself to the
baboons, with the hope that the appearance of their king might terrify
them into flight.  If it did not produce this effect, Ben reasoned, that
we could be no worse off than ever, as he could retreat back into the
cave and we could barricade it as before.

There was certainly some probability that the plan might succeed.  We
knew that nearly all animals have a great dread of the lion, and that
the baboons are no exception to the rule.  Often the very sight of the
forest-monarch will terrify other wild beasts to such an extent that
they will run before him as from the presence of a human being.  The
ingenious plan, therefore, of counterfeiting the lion, which my
companion had conceived, was not without good probability of success;
and we were both cheered by the prospect.

To make sure that failure should not arise from haste or carelessness in
the preparations, we proceeded with due care and caution, and took
plenty of time to get everything complete.  We sheathed Ben's arms in
the skin that had covered the fore-limbs of the lion, stretching it out
till the paws concealed his knuckles.  The legs were wrapped in the hide
that had enveloped the posterior limbs of the great beast; and we had a
good deal of trouble before the "pantaloons" could be made to fit.  The
head was easily adapted to the crown of the sailor; and the ample skin
of the body met in front, and was there fastened by strings.
Fortunately we had plenty of cord.  That fine piece, that had already
done such good service, was still in our possession, and we again made
use of it to advantage.

At length the masquerading costume was deemed complete, and the lion was
ready to play his part.

We were cautious, too, about the disposal of the mummies, so that, in
case of need, they might serve us again: and, when all was arranged to
our satisfaction, we pulled them back out of the entrance.

Our manoeuvres had now attracted the attention of the besiegers--who
showed by their cries and movements that they were upon the alert.

Just at this crisis the lion sailed forth; and if ever there was a
helter-skelter among a troop of monkeys worth witnessing, my companion
and I saw it at that moment.  There was screaming and yelling, and
jabbering and gibbering, and a rushing in every direction--except that
which would have conducted towards the counterfeit lion--which beast was
all the while making the most violent demonstrations, and uttering loud
noises, that in deepness of baritone almost equalled the roar of the
forest-monarch himself!

What became of the baboons we could not tell--they seemed to vanish into
the earth, or the air: at all events in less than two minutes, from the
time the lion made his appearance outside the baobab, not one of them
was to be seen; and the tawny quadruped, all at once ceasing to roar
like a lion, could be heard emitting from his fierce jaws loud yells of
human laughter!

We stayed not much longer under the shadow of the baobab.  It was
dangerous ground.  The mandrills might discover the cheat and come back;
so, with this apprehension in our thoughts, we took a hasty leave of our
aged friends the mummies, and hurried rapidly down the hill.  We halted
only to drink, and then pushed onward.

It was near noon of the third day, from the time of our starting on our
expedition, before we astonished by our reappearance the crew of the
_Pandora_.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

The _Pandora_ was now rapidly made ready for her voyage across the
Atlantic.  The carpenter had finished his bulkheads and hatch-gratings,
and the men were daily engaged in emptying the salt-water out of the
casks and refilling them with fresh--a somewhat slow and troublesome
job.

While these preparations were going on, a messenger arrived at the
factory of King Dingo Bingo, who brought with him a report that put his
majesty into the most terrible state of uneasiness and alarm, and also
produced a very similar effect upon the skipper of the _Pandora_.

The messenger, or messengers--for there were three of them--were
negroes, of course.  They were of the kind known as Kroomen; that is, a
class of negroes found along most parts of the western coast of Africa,
who are greatly addicted to the sea, and make excellent sailors when so
employed.  They are, in fact, the "boatmen" of the African coast, or
"watermen," if you prefer it, but not unfrequently they ship for a long
voyage; and many vessels in the African trade are accustomed, when short
of hands, to make up their crew from among these Kroomen.

Three of these Kroomen, then, had suddenly made their appearance in the
river, with a report that spread consternation among the people of King
Dingo Bingo and those of the _Pandora_.

What was this report?

It was that a British cruiser had called in at a station some fifty
miles farther up the coast, and reported that she had been in chase of a
large slave barque--that she had lost sight of the latter out at sea,
but was still in search of her, and expected to find her to the south--
that the cruiser only stopped at the above-mentioned port to take in
water, and, as soon as that was accomplished, she should come down the
coast and search every nook and inlet to find the slaver.

Most of this information had been given confidentially to the chief
factor of the port, an Englishman, whose business lay in palm-oil,
ground-nuts, ivory, and other African products, and who was not supposed
to have any connection whatever with the slave-trade.  On the contrary,
he was one of those who lent his aid to its suppression: giving every
assistance to the slave-cruisers, and being on terms of friendship and
intimacy with their commanders.

But for all that, this comfortable John Bull was suspected--not by the
aforesaid commanders, however--of having very amicable relations with
his majesty King Dingo Bingo--so amicable that there were those who
hinted at a sort of partnership existing between them!

Be that as it may, it is certain that the Englishman had sent the three
Kroomen to warn King Dingo Bingo of his danger--for there was no secret
made of this fact on board the _Pandora_.  The Kroomen had ventured
round the coast in a small sail-boat, and entered by the mouth of the
river, having performed most part of the dangerous voyage in the night.

Their report, as I have said, produced consternation on all hands.
There could be no doubt that the cruiser was the cutter that had chased
us; and knowing that the slaver had gone southward after giving her the
slip, she would take that direction to look out for her, and would be
certain to explore every inch of the coast in her cruise.  Of course the
river would not be likely to escape her observation, and if she should
there find the _Pandora_, it would be all up with the slaver.  Probably
enough, the cruiser may have picked up a pilot, who knew all about King
Dingo Bingo and his slave-factory.  If so, it would not be long before
she would be down upon us.  She might be looked for every minute!

No wonder, then, that the report of the Kroomen carried consternation
with it.

As for the "king," he was far less terrified than the "captain."  His
villainous majesty had far less to fear from a visit of the cruiser.  He
had already made his bargain; and although the slaves were still in the
barracoon, they were no longer his, and it mattered not to him into
whose hands they fell.  He had received his full pay for them in the
rum, salt, and muskets; these had been landed and handed over, and as
soon as he could remove them beyond the reach of the cruiser, he would
be perfectly safe and at his ease.

This precaution he took as soon as the Kroomen had delivered their
report.  His followers were set to work, and in a few hours every
article that had been landed from the barque was carried away from the
"factory" and hidden far off in the woods.  When the work of removal was
over his majesty lit his pipe and filled his glass, and then sat him
down as coolly and unconcernedly as if there was not a cruiser on all
the African coast.

Very different, however, was the situation of the captain of the
_Pandora_.  It is true, he might also have hidden part of his property.
He might have run off the slaves into the woods and there concealed them
for a time; and it was amusing to see with what energy the "king"
counselled him to his course.  His majesty saw, that if this plan was
adopted, and the cruiser should appear in the river, then the barque
would be taken and the slaves left behind, and out of all this confusion
there must be some advantage to himself; there would be a chance that
the five hundred "bultos" would fall into his hands, and he would be
able to sell them a second time.  This was, indeed, a rich prospect,
and, without hinting to any probable advantage to himself, the old
rascal kept urging the skipper to adopt this plan with an anxiety and
importunity that was quite ludicrous.

But the captain could not be brought to comply with the advice.  He knew
the danger of trusting the five hundred slaves in the woods.  Most of
them might take "leg-bail" for it, and, maybe, his "dear friend" King
Dingo Bingo might not guard them from this so very carefully!  Some of
them might find their way to their own homes again, but a good many
would be likely to stray back to King Dingo's town, and it would be a
hard matter to identify goods that were so much like each other as
negroes are.

Besides, if he could even succeed in hiding the cargo, he could not hope
to hide the vessel.  The cutter, if she came near the river at all,
would be certain to find the barque, and equally certain to capture her.
That done, what would become of the slaves? what would become of the
captain himself, and his crew?  They would have difficulty enough either
to subsist, or find their way out of such an inhospitable land--for the
skipper well knew that, his fine vessel once gone, his dear friend Dingo
would behave towards him in quite a different manner.  Yes, the skipper
was an experienced man, and knew all that, and, knowing it, he lent a
deaf ear to the counsels of the "king."

As soon, therefore, as the report of the Kroomen reached him--for it did
not reach him until some time after his majesty had received it--he at
once formed a resolve as to how he should act, and that resolve was to
embark his cargo as speedily as possible, and, without wasting a moment,
stand out to sea.

This the wary skipper perceived to be his best plan; in fact, the only
one by which he could hope to save his vessel.  If the cruiser was
actually coming down the coast--and there could be no doubt but that she
was--his only chance would be to get out before she arrived opposite the
mouth of the river.  Should she once come there before he could put to
sea, then the barque would be regularly in the trap, and an armed boat
or two from the cutter would capture her without any difficulty, indeed,
without resistance; for rough, and brutal, and bold, as were the crew of
the slaver, they knew very well that it would be idle to resist the
well-organised attack of a ship of war, or half-a-dozen armed boats,
such as the cutter could set afloat.  The capture of the barque would,
therefore, be a thing of course, and the only chance her owner had of
saving her would be to put to sea at once.

The wind was light--it was blowing from the coast--both which
circumstances were greatly in favour of the _Pandora's_ escape.  The
contrary wind would be likely to hinder the cruiser from coming near, at
all events it would delay her, and then, should the slaver succeed in
getting out, a light breeze, as already seen, would be altogether in her
favour, and against her antagonist.

Elated by these hopes, but still under terrible anxiety, the captain
lost no time in getting his cargo aboard.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

All the slaver's boats were called into requisition, and the crew--every
man of them--were as busy as bees.

Perhaps Brace and myself were the only ones among them who had no heart
in the work; but, to keep up appearances, we were compelled to labour as
the rest.

The embarkation was easy enough, and the stowage still more so.  It was
a different affair from taking on board a cargo of heavy barrels and
boxes.  The living "bales" moved of their own accord, or were forced to
move, if they did not, and there was nothing further required than to
march them from the barracoon to the bank, then row them to the vessel,
hurry them over the side, and huddle them down the hatch to the
"'tweendecks" below.  The males and females were put into different
compartments, though this was not done out of any regard to decency, but
merely for convenience.  When "stowed" thus they would be easier managed
upon the passage--such was the experience of the slave-traders.  The
bulk-head that separated them was very slight, and they could
communicate through it with each other.

With the women were stowed all the younger slaves, both girls and boys,
and there were many children, poor little "piccaninnies," jet-black, and
naked as when born.  Indeed, most of the whole crowd were naked, both
men and women.  Some of the latter had a simple skirt of cotton, or
plaited palm-leaves hanging around them, and a few of the men had a
piece of coarse cloth about their thighs, but many were without even
this apology for a garment.  Whatever they may have worn in their native
place had been taken from them.  No doubt the followers of King Dingo,
when making them captives, had robbed them also of their scant wardrobe.
The men were manacled together in twos, and sometimes three and four in
a group.  This was to prevent any attempt at escape, and was the work of
his majesty.  Only a few of the women wore chains; most likely they were
those who possessed a stronger spirit than their wretched companions,
and had proved refractory on their inland journey, or while kept in the
barracoon.  These manacles were not removed by the people of the
_Pandora_, but just as the blacks had been delivered over, so were they
crowded aboard, chains, fetters, and all.

King Dingo Bingo stood upon the bank by the place of landing and watched
the embarkation, in which his bodyguard assisted.  The skipper was by
his side, and the two held conversation just in the same manner as if
they superintended the lading of a cargo of ordinary merchandise!  His
majesty occasionally pointed out some one of the slaves, and made his
remarks upon the qualities of the individual.  He was either a good
"bulto"--valuable article--or some refractory fellow that the captain
was desired to watch well on the voyage.  Many of the poor victims were
evidently well-known to this hideous monster, and, indeed, as already
hinted at, some of them were his own subjects!  King Dingo Bingo thought
nothing of that so long as he could sell them and get pay in return.
His relation to his people generally was that of complete master and
owner; and he felt towards them as a farmer to his hogs, or a grazier to
his cattle.  He and the captain gaily chatted and joked and laughed,
when any of the poor wretches passed them whose appearance was
calculated to excite ridicule; while to me the whole scene was one of
disgust and sorrow, and with sad, sad heart did I assist in the
spectacle.

The embarkation was still going on, and most of the unfortunate
creatures had been carried aboard, when the boat of the Kroomen was
observed coming rapidly up stream.  These had been sent down to the
mouth of the river to reconnoitre, and keep watch until the slaver
should be ready for sea.  In case the cutter or any sail should come in
sight, they had orders to row back as quickly as possible and give the
alarm.

The fact of them coming back at all was proof that some sail had been
made out; and the rapidity with which they were plying their oars not
only confirmed this belief, but showed that they had something very
important to tell.

Both Dingo Bingo and the skipper beheld their approach with
consternation, which was not allayed in the least when the Kroomen rowed
alongside and delivered their report.

A sail was in sight, sure enough, and not only in sight, but actually
heading in for the coast!  The Kroomen had no doubt about the sort of
craft it was.  They had seen the cutter before setting out from the
English factory.  They had noted her rig.  It was she.

The captain at first exhibited some signs of dismay, but after looking
up to the sky and around to the tree-tops, to note which way blew the
wind, he appeared to recover his spirits a little, and ordered the
embarkation to be hurried on.

Meanwhile the Kroomen were despatched back to the point of observation
at the mouth of the river, with orders to report from time to time the
progress which the cruiser was making.  The captain saw that the wind
was in his favour, and dead ahead for the cutter; it would be impossible
for her to enter the river so long as the wind remained in that quarter,
and as it was now within an hour of night, she would scarce attempt to
venture near the shore, at all events not before morning.  His hopes
were that she would cast anchor a mile or two from land, and that in the
darkness he would be able to run the gauntlet and get past her.  He
might catch a shot or two while doing so, but his cargo was worth the
risk, and, besides, he had now no other chance of saving either cargo or
vessel.  Should he remain where he was, both would be captured before
another night.

He had formed his resolution, therefore, to run the gauntlet as
described, that is, provided the cutter came to anchor far enough out to
sea to give him a chance.  His trust was in the wind, which from this
time forth he watched with the greatest anxiety.



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

The living freight was at length all taken aboard and stowed away
between decks, the grated hatches were fastened down, and a ruffian
sentry with musket and bayonet stood by each, ready to use his weapon
upon any of the poor wretches who might try to get on deck.

The captain only waited for the report of the Kroomen.

This came at length, and proved favourable, as the slaver had expected.
The cutter had failed to beat in to the shore.  She had given up, and
cast anchor at about two miles' distance from the river's mouth, there
to await a change in the wind, or the light of another day.  It was the
very course that the slave-captain had desired her to take, and which he
had expected.  From the position which the cutter occupied, and which
had been faithfully described by the boatmen, he had no doubt of being
able to get past her in the night.  He was once more in high spirits,
and sanguine of success.  Both he and his majesty were in a big humour,
and the rum-glass went merrily round.

This final carouse occurred upon shore, and in the quarters of his
majesty, whose "treat" it was.  The mate, with a boat, had gone down the
river to have a good view of the anchored enemy and become perfectly
acquainted with her position, with the object of making correct
calculations about passing her.

Meanwhile, the captain remained on shore, to enjoy the parting glass and
talk over future prospects with King Dingo Bingo.  Some of the crew were
there as well, among whom were Brace and myself--our purpose being to
man the captain's gig and row him aboard as soon as he should take leave
of his majesty and suite.

It still wanted about half an hour of sunset when the mate returned from
his reconnoissance and reported that the cutter was anchored just as the
Kroomen had described; and as the wind was still in the same quarter,
blowing directly from the shore, there was every probability that the
_Pandora_ would make her escape.  Both mate and captain knew the coast
well, and knew that they could run out by keeping well to the south of
where the cutter lay.  On that side the water was deep and open, and if
the wind held fair their chances would be good.  There was one thing,
however, which both feared, and that was the cutter's boats entering the
river before the _Pandora_ should have time to weigh anchor and drop
down to the sea.  It was possible enough that the cruiser knew the
slaver was in the river.  If so, and finding that she could not beat
near enough under the contrary wind, she might get out her boats and row
them up to the river's mouth, so as to blockade it.  The cruiser's
people might do this very thing in anticipation of the trick which the
slaver intended to serve them.  If, on the contrary, they were not yet
aware of the neighbourhood of the _Pandora_, they might not think of
coming in before the morning.  It is true they could not perceive the
slaver's masts--these were not visible from the sea--the tall teak-trees
and other giants of the forest interposed their umbrageous tops between,
and even the high truck of the barque could not be observed so far
inland.  But it was possible that the cruiser was acting upon
information, and if so she would know well enough where the slaver was
to be found, and might design to make the attack by means of her armed
boats that very night.

All this was probable enough--the slaver captain knew it to be so, and
hence his anxiety to be gone at the earliest moment.

As soon, therefore, as darkness should descend upon the earth it was his
intention to take in his anchor, drop quietly down the river, and then
make a bold dash to seaward.

His design was a sufficiently good one.  Though it appeared rash, there
was no rashness about it.  It was his only chance of saving his vessel,
and cargo too, for the one being captured he would be likely to lose the
other, and if the _Pandora_ but remained all night at anchor where she
now lay, she would, in all probability, be a prize before the morning.
Whether or not, her chances of escape in the daylight would be greatly
diminished.  The cutter would see her tall masts long before she could
get out of the river, and, of course, would have time to manoeuvre and
intercept her.  Whereas, by dropping down in the night, she might be
well out to sea before any one on board the cruiser should notice her at
all.

It was finally resolved then by the _Pandora's_ officers to sail the
moment the darkness came down; and both were wishing, in their own
blasphemous way, for a dark night.

It yet wanted a few minutes of sundown as the captain took his last
embrace of King Dingo Bingo, and stepped out of the "palace."  His
majesty came swaggering along to conduct his guest to the landing, while
several of the sable courtiers followed in his train.

All stood upon the bank while the captain was getting into his gig.
Brace and I, with the other men of the crew, had already seated
ourselves in the boat, and were holding the oars balanced and ready,
when all at once we were interrupted by a singular exclamation from the
king.

On looking up I perceived that his eyes were fixed upon me, and the fat
monster was gazing at me as if he desired to eat me up--while all the
while he kept jabbering to the captain in a language which I could not
comprehend.

Notwithstanding the time we had been at his factory, I had never
attracted the attention of his majesty before.  I don't think he had
ever seen me before--that is, to take particular notice of me.  I had
been, as already stated, all the time on board, with the exception of
that very evening, and the day I had spent with Brace in the woods; and
although the slave-king had been often aboard I had never come in his
way, as he usually stayed about the quarter-deck, or in the cabin.  It
is likely enough, therefore, that this was the first time he had set
eyes upon me to notice me.

But for what reason was he taking such particular notice of me now?
Although I could not tell what he said--for the captain and he talked in
a sort of bastard Portuguese (the best-known language in these parts);
yet I perceived by his countenance and the animated gestures which he
made use of, that either myself, or something about me, greatly
interested him.

Brace was sitting near me, and, without raising my voice above a
whisper, I asked him to tell me what the fuss was all about--for it had
now assumed something of this character--both the captain and the king
talking hurriedly, earnestly and loudly, in their barbarous jargon.

Brace's reply was--

"The king ha' taken a fancy to you--he wants to buy you!"



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

On hearing this explanation I at first felt inclined to laugh, but my
mirthful inclinations were soon dissipated.  The serious tone of my
companion's voice, and, above all, the earnest manner of the skipper and
king, as they talked the subject between them, at once proved that the
thing was no joke.

The captain did not at first appear desirous of acceding to the request
of the negro; but the latter appeared to press the point with so much
solicitation and earnestness that the white ruffian, stimulated by
feelings of cupidity, evidently began to yield.  Five blacks were
offered in exchange for me--so Brace said, and they were now squabbling
about a sixth!  The captain had, in fact, virtually consented to sell
me--it was only a question of price!

I was perfectly horrified when I learned this much.  Brace himself was
greatly troubled--for he knew well that the brute in whose power I was
would have no scruples in making such a bargain.  The only reason he
refused at first was because he had found me useful on board his barque,
but if he could add six able-bodied blacks to his cargo--six that would
fetch 200 pounds each on the Brazilian coast, that would be a
consideration that would far outbalance any service of mine.  Of course
he felt no responsibility about the matter.  To whom was he
accountable?--a slaver! an outlaw!  Where and when was I ever to report
or punish him!  Nowhere and never.  He might have sold me into slavery a
dozen times--taken my life, if it had so pleased him, without the
slightest danger of being called to account for it--and he well knew
this.

No wonder then I became horrified.  The idea of becoming the slave of
that hideous and greasy savage--that cruel monster--a wholesale dealer
in human lives--a trafficker in flesh and blood.  Oh! it was revolting!

I can hardly describe the remainder of that trying scene.  I was in such
agony I knew not how to act, or what to say.  I remember being told that
the bargain was concluded, that the king had agreed to give six blacks
for me, and the skipper had consented to take them; and to prove that
this was really so, I saw the latter step out of the boat and return to
the hut, arm in arm with the gross savage.  They were gone, so said
Brace, to conclude the bargain over a glass of rum.

I raved, and shouted, and threatened, and, perhaps at that moment,
blasphemed.  I was not master of my speech, nor yet of my actions.  I
was so appalled with the prospect before me that I could have thrown
myself into the river.  Oh! it seemed a horrible fate--thus to be sold
into worse than captivity--a slavery worse than death, to live the slave
of a barbarous monster, with no hope of deliverance, for whence could
deliverance come?  Oh! it seemed a horrible fate! and I was almost
frantic.

My cries and gestures only drew laughter from the crowd of blacks that
still lingered upon the bank, and some of them mocked and taunted me in
their native gibberish.  Even the men in the boat did not care much
about the matter.

Brace alone felt and sympathised with me, but what could he do?  I saw
from his manner that he felt powerless to protect me.  They would have
mastered and punished him, had he opposed their wishes.

I wondered, however, that he kept so cool and quiet.  I fancied he might
have shown more feeling; but I was wronging him.  He felt keenly, and I
soon learnt the cause of his being so silent.  He had been busy all the
while--busy with his thoughts--busy in maturing a plan for my escape.

As soon as the captain and king had gone back from the bank, my
companion shifted a little nearer; and in a low, muttering voice that
could not be heard by the rest, thus addressed me:--

"No help for't, my lad--sold you for six blacks.  Go along wi' king--
pretend to go willin', or they'll tie you.  Don't be obstropelous an'
get tied--be patient and keep sharp look out till `_Pandy_' trips
anchor, then gie 'em the slip--easy enough in the dark--keep down the
bank o' the river--near the mouth take to water--swim straight for
barque--I'll be on the look out and throw ye a rope's end.  Don't fear
to come on--old Mugs won't mind your getting aboard--only too glad to
get you back an' play Dingo Bingo a trick.  Mind an' do as I've told
you.  Avast, hush--yonder they come."

Delivered as this speech was, half in whisper, and half in interrupted
mutterings, I comprehended its reasonable design, and had just time to
promise obedience to its directions when I perceived the captain
returning to the boat.

He was not alone.  The king was waddling by his side, and just behind
them were six large negroes, chained two and two, and driven forward by
as many armed myrmidons of their own colour.

It was for the first six I was to be "swopped," or rather had already
been, for the bargain was concluded and the blacks were being delivered
over to form part of the slaver's cargo.

These new "bultos" were not slaves--at least, they had not been such ten
minutes before.  They were some of the regular followers of the negro
king; and, but a short while ago, carried muskets and formed part of his
military array, ready to kill or capture his enemies at his nod, or even
his friends if bidden.  But fortune is fickle to such heroes, and their
more favoured companions had just been directed to capture them and
deliver them over to a life-long bondage.

In a few minutes more they were huddled unceremoniously into the boat,
while I was pulled out of it with as little ceremony and handed over to
my new master upon the bank.

No doubt the skipper was surprised that I made so little opposition, and
the king seemed equally pleased--for he conducted me with a species of
drunken politeness into the palace and insisted upon my drinking with
him a glass of his best rum.

I looked through the apertures of the upright palms that formed the
walls of the hut.  I saw the gig cross over to the anchored vessel, and
those whom she carried mount over the gangway.  The boat was then rowed
astern, the tackle was let down from above, and in a few minutes she was
hauled high out of water to her place under the poop.

No longer had I a chance to reach the barque without swimming for it,
and for that was now to prepare myself.



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

I remembered the advice of Brace, and submitted, with as good grace as I
could, to the hospitalities of his black majesty.  I drank a portion of
his rum, and even appeared jolly!  He seemed greatly pleased with my
behaviour, and evidently esteemed me a good bargain; though the
slave-captain had screwed him far above his original offer.  His first
bid had been a fair exchange--man for man, or man for boy--a black for a
white, and he must have been strongly bent on the purchase to have given
six to one!

What could he intend me for?--a slave to wait upon him? hand him his
food when he should feel inclined to eat? his rum when he desired to
drink? fan the mosquitoes off him when he was asleep? and amuse him when
awake?  Was this the sort of life for which he had designed me? or was
he going to promote me to some higher employ? make me his private
secretary or clerk? his prime minister, perhaps? marry me to one of his
dark-skinned daughters? make a prince of me?

From the hospitable manner in which he began his treatment of me, I
really had thought, that if I continued to please him, he would give me
an easy life of it.  I had heard of such cases, where white men had
become the favourites of negro princes, and had been placed in offices
of high trust; and, perhaps, such would have been my destiny, had I
remained with King Dingo Bingo.

But even had I been assured of the best of treatment--even had I been
promised the highest office in his kingdom--the throne itself, with the
handsomest of his daughters for my queen--I should have held on to my
intention of running away from him all the same, and returning to the
barque.  It was certainly no Elysium to fly to--perhaps from the fire
into the frying-pan; but still there was the hope that my life on board
the _Pandora_ would not be of long continuance, and even there, under
the protection of Brace, they had of late treated me less cruelly.

As for King Dingo Bingo, I felt a loathing in his company that I cannot
describe.  I felt a presentiment of some terrible evil, and I was
resolved, if I did not succeed in reaching the barque, to run away from
him all the same and try my fortune in the woods.  Yes; notwithstanding
its lions and other fierce brutes, I was determined to escape to the
forest and live as I best might, or die if I could not live.

There was a thought in my mind.  I had heard them talk of the English
factory farther up the coast--fifty miles farther.  I might succeed in
getting there.  An Englishman was its chief.

True, they said he was a friend of King Dingo--a partner in fact--and
from what had transpired I had reason to believe that this was but too
true.  Still he was an Englishman.  Surely he would not give me up--
surely he dared not.  I thought, too, of the cruiser.  She would
protect, she would not give me up; but, on the contrary, would have
blown his black majesty to the skies for making such a demand.  If I
could only make known my situation--but how was that to be done?
Impossible!  By the morrow's sun she would be he longer on the coast.
She would be gone in pursuit of the _Pandora_--perhaps within another
hour!

I was loathing the presence of the negro king, who appeared trying, in
his rude manner, to be agreeable.  He plied me with rum, and I pretended
to drink it.  I could not understand his talk, though a few English
words, and those of the most vulgar in our language, were familiar
enough after my voyage in the _Pandora_.  But his majesty was by this
time so drunk that even his own people could with difficulty understand
him; and every moment he was yielding more and more to the potent
spirit.

I joyed at observing this--it would help my purpose.  I joyed to see him
stagger over the floor, and still more when he stumbled against a sort
of couch-bed and fell heavily upon it.

The next moment he was sound asleep--a deep, drunken sleep.  His snore
was music to my ears--though it resembled the dying snort of a prize ox.

At this moment I heard across the river the clacking of the windlass,
and the rough rasping of the anchor chain as it was drawn through the
iron ring of the hawse-hole.

Most of the royal attendants were out upon the bank to witness the
departure of the barque, just visible through the dim twilight.

I waited a few minutes longer, lest I should set forth too soon, and,
therefore, be pursued and overtaken before I could get down to the mouth
of the river.  I knew that the barque would move but slowly--the stream
was narrow and curved in several places, and therefore she could not use
her sails.  She would drop down by the force of the current, and I could
easily keep up with her.

The attendants of the king were in no way suspicious of my intentions.
They observed that I appeared well pleased with my new situation.  No
doubt most of them envied me my good fortune, and it is probable I was
looked upon as the "new favourite."  It was not likely I should run away
from such splendid prospects--not likely indeed!  Such an idea never
entered the mind of one of the sable gentlemen who surrounded me; and as
soon as his majesty fell asleep, I was left free to go about wherever I
pleased.  Just then it pleased me to skulk backward behind the great
barracoon, and a little further still into the thick woods beyond.  For
this point I took a diagonal line that led me back to the river bank
again--only at a considerable distance below the "factory"--and, having
now got beyond earshot of the negro crew, and altogether out of their
sight, I advanced as rapidly down the bank as the brushwood would permit
me.



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

I had observed before starting, that the barque had got up her anchor
and was slowly gliding down stream.  At intervals I turned a little out
of my way and came close to the edge of the water, to make sure that she
was not getting ahead of me; and then I would glide back into the path,
which ran parallel with the stream, but at several yards' distance from
the bank.

Guiding myself thus, I advanced at about the same rate as the vessel was
going, and every now and then had her under my eye through the openings
in the trees.

I had no difficulty in making her out, for, contrary to the wish of the
slave-captain, the night was a bright one, with a clear moon coursing
through a sky that was without a single cloud.

Slowly as sailed the barque, it was just as much as I could do to keep
up with her.  Had the path been open there would have been no
difficulty--but there was in reality no path at all, only a track made
by wild animals, which here and there was closed up above with trailing
vines and creeping plants, that stretched from tree to tree and hindered
my rapid advance.  Though beasts could go under these natural bridges
without impediment, a human being had to crouch under or climb over, and
all this required time.  There were so many of these obstructions that I
was greatly delayed by them, and found it just as much as I could do to
keep square with the vessel constantly moving onward.  I knew that I
must get a good way ahead of her, so as to choose a place for taking to
the water and swimming out to her as she passed down.  As the river grew
wider near its mouth I was likely to have a long swim for it.

Several times I was terrified by the appearance of wild beasts, whose
forms I could just distinguish in the obscurity that reigned under the
shadows of the trees.  I saw several kinds, and some of immense size
that went crashing through the underwood as I came suddenly upon them.
These must have been either rhinoceroses or the large hippopotamus--I
could not tell which under the shadows--but whichever they were, they
ran off at my approach.  I might have feared them more than I did, had
it not been that a greater fear was upon me.  I feared to hear the
voices of King Dingo Bingo and his black guards behind me.  I feared
this more than anything; and at intervals I stopped upon the path and
listened.

But indeed they would need to have been near for me to have heard them.
The forest was filled with other sounds, and only a very loud noise
could have been heard above the general chorus.  There was the shrill
chirrup of cicadas and tree-crickets, the hoarse croaking of toads and
frogs--some of these as loud as the routing of a bull--there was
screaming of cats, the barking of jackals, and the chattering and
howling of monkeys.  A perfect chorus of discordant sounds produced by
the barque moving down the river, and no doubt partially by my own
passage through the underwood.  One kind set the other a-going, and the
alarm and consequent noises proceeding from it spread to a far distance
through the forest.

I thought it less probable that I should be followed through the woods,
than down the stream itself.  When missed, a canoe was most likely to be
brought into requisition--perhaps the royal galley itself, with his
majesty to guide the pursuit.  They would remember that I had
disappeared just at the moment the barque weighed anchor, and would
suspect that I had gone aboard at once.  It was far more likely,
therefore, the search would be made upon the water, and the pursuers
would paddle their craft directly for the barque.  Under this belief I
gave uneasy glances up the river, whenever I could command a view of it.
As yet no pursuers appeared.

Another consideration troubled me.  The Kroomen had gone to the river's
mouth to watch the movements of the cruiser and report whether she had
launched any boats.  Now these fellows were entirely in the interest of
King Dingo.  They might see me as I swam to the barque, and, taking me
into their boat, carry me back to the factory.  They had been present
when the bargain was made, and knew all about it.  I must, therefore,
look out for their boat and avoid it.

With such thoughts and resolves passing through my mind, I once more
marked the progress of the vessel and, diving into the underwood, kept
on.

At length I reached a point where there was a bend in the river.  It was
not far from its mouth.  Beyond this place the stream widened into a
sort of bay.

It would not do for me to go beyond.  I should have too long a swim for
it; besides, the barque was about being got under sail--her canvas was
already loose; and once the sails were sheeted home, they would catch
the wind and carry her rapidly through the water--so rapidly that I
might not be able to get aboard.

I had gone far enough.  I had reached the point where it was best for me
to take to the water; and, flinging off my shoes and most of my
clothing, I stepped down to the water's edge and plunged in.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

The barque was not yet opposite me; but, by the rate at which she was
moving, I calculated she would be so by the time I could arrive in
midstream.

Brace had told me to swim for the bows--for he would be there with his
rope; while, in case I should not be able to lay hold of it another
would be ready at the gangway ports with a second rope.  One or other
would be sure to haul me in; but it would be better if I could get
aboard at the bows, as then I might not be observed either by mate or
skipper, and even should his majesty come after me I could be hidden
away about the forecastle.  The skipper, not knowing I was aboard,
would, of course, deny me with a will.  I was determined, therefore, to
do all I could to get aboard by the bows.

I was an excellent swimmer--not surpassed by any of the _Pandora's_
crew, except, perhaps, by Brace himself, who was one of the best in the
world.  I had practised a great deal in my schooldays in rivers,
fresh-water lakes, and the sea itself; and I thought nothing of swimming
a mile or more without rest.  Crossing from the bank of the river to
midstream--a distance of not over two hundred yards--was a mere
bagatelle, and I had no apprehension of not being able to accomplish it
at my ease.

But although I had no apprehension about my powers of swimming, I was
keenly sensible of danger from another source.  I had not thought of it
before that moment--for the excitement of escaping, and the difficulty
of making my way through the underwood, had driven every thought of
danger out of my head, except that of being pursued.  The peril from
behind had prevented me from dwelling upon dangers ahead; and, it was
only after I had plunged into the stream, that I became the victim of a
keen apprehension.  Then, and not till then, did I remember the fate of
the unfortunate Dutchman!--then, and not till then, did I think of the
crocodiles!

A horrid sensation came over me--a dread feeling of fear.  My blood ran
cold--far colder than the water of the stream--perhaps at that moment I
was within reach of a huge man-eating crocodile? at all events, within
sight, for some of these hideous monsters were sure to be near, either
by one bank or the other.  Indeed, as I was about to plunge in I saw a
long dark form by the shore, some twenty yards further down, which I had
taken for a floating log.  The noise made by my body striking the water
had caused it to move.  I thought then it was the current; but now,
under my keen apprehensions, I thought differently.  It was no dead
log--it was the motion of a living creature--beyond doubt a huge
crocodile!

This conjecture soon became a conviction.  A floating log would scarce
have settled there, against the sedgy bank, and where there was current
enough to carry it onward; it was no log, it was the great lizard
itself.

I could not restrain myself from half turning round, and raising my body
body high in the water to look back.  The clear moonlight gave me every
advantage, and I could perceive any object on the water almost as
distinctly as by day.

One glance was sufficient to make me aware of my perilous position.
Merciful heaven! my conjecture was too true!--the dead log was no log,
but an enormous crocodile!--its hideous shape was plainly seen; its long
cloven head and broad scaly back glittered high above the water, and its
snout was elevated and turned towards me, as though it was just getting
over a surprise, and coming to the knowledge of what sort of creature I
was.

Its surprise, however, was soon over, and before I could stretch myself
to swim on, I saw it lash the water into foam with its tail--as if to
set itself in motion--and the next moment it parted from the bank and
came rushing towards me!

Its body was now sunk below the surface, but its blunt, haggard head,
and sharp snout were projected high above the water.

I saw all this as I turned round again; and with a feeling of cold
horror upon me I swam on.

The barque was now near--her bows were not fifty yards distant, and the
crocodile was still more than a hundred behind me.  But I well knew that
these amphibious monsters can far outswim a man.  Through the water they
make progress as an otter, and with like rapidity.  I felt sure I should
be overtaken, and then--

The cold horror continued--I screamed out for help--I continued my cries
as I swam on!

I heard voices from the barque, in answer to my cries.  I could see
forms gliding about the head, and running out upon the bumpkin-shrouds,
and along the bowsprit I could distinguish the deep voice of Brace
uttering words of encouragement and direction.

I was under the bowsprit-end--I could see no rope--I looked in vain for
a rope--none had been thrown to me.  Oh, heavens! what was I to do?

Once more I raised myself in the water, and looked back.  It was an
appalling sight.  The black head of the crocodile glittered within ten
feet of me--I could see the jaws extended--the long, irregular tusks--
the strong, scaly limbs, as they paddled the water.

In another instant I should have felt those terrible teeth; and, gripped
between the hard jaws of the monster, as in a vice, would have been
dragged to the bottom of the dark waters had it been my destiny.

But it was not so written in the book of fate.  Just as I had given
myself up for lost, I felt a strong hand clutching my garments by the
waist, and the instant after I was lifted clear out of the river, and
hoisted high into the air!  The crocodile made a rush forward and leaped
far above the surface; but I had been raised beyond his reach, and he
fell back with a plunge, and for some moments continued lashing the
water with his tail.  Then, seeing that his victim had escaped him, he
swam off, and disappeared round the side of the vessel.

I scarce knew how I had been so miraculously saved.  Despair and terror
had confused my senses; and it was only after I had passed above, and
set upon my feet upon the firm deck, that I understood all.

Brace was my preserver.  He had run out to the bowsprit-end, and from
that had slipped down the dolphin-striker, and let himself still lower
by means of a looped rope.  By this means he had been enabled to swing
himself down, so that he could reach the surface.  Fortunately, it was
at that moment that I had risen in the water to face the crocodile, and
had thus given Brace the opportunity of gripping me firmly and jerking
me aloft.

It was a very tight fit, however; and I vowed, that, unless forced to
it, I would never again bathe my limbs in the waters of an African
river.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

I have no doubt that the skipper knew all about my coming aboard.
Indeed, there had been such a noise made by the men while the crocodile
was in pursuit of me, that it was impossible that either he or the mate
could be ignorant of the cause of it.  I was taken down to the
forecastle, however, and heard not a word about being sent back.  In
truth, as Ben had already informed me in his mutterings, the skipper was
rather pleased than otherwise, at being able to overreach King Dingo,
and as he had found me useful to himself he had no desire to let me go.
It was only the large profit he expected by the exchange that had
tempted him to part with me; but so long as he had kept his bargain and
regularly delivered me over, his conscience was satisfied, and he was in
no way offended or displeased that I found my way back to the barque.
Unless, therefore, the canoe came after us and demanded me to be given
up, I would not have to go back to Dingo Bingo.

It was not until we were cleverly out of the river, and the _Pandora_
had spread her wings to the breeze, and was standing towards the open
sea, that I felt easy in my mind.  Many an uneasy glance did I cast up
the river as we floated slowly towards its mouth, noting every dark
object and every ripple that appeared upon its current.  It was not the
crocodile that caused me to look tremblingly back; it was a still more
hideous monster I dreaded--the long canoe with its row of sable rowers,
and King Dingo Bingo in the stern.

The thought of being taken back was dreadful in the extreme.  I should
no longer be treated with kindness; on the contrary, the spiteful
monarch would punish me for my attempt to escape, would revenge himself
for the deception I had practised upon him--would lead me a life of the
greatest misery.

Yes, it would be a sad affair to be retaken; and not till the _Pandora_
had swept out of the river's mouth--not till the Kroomen's boat had been
passed, and we were scudding out into the wide sea did I get over my
apprehension.

Then was I relieved from all uneasiness on the score of Dingo Bingo, and
the moment after had ceased to think of him and his brutal myrmidons.

Yes--the moment after--for a new scene was upon the stage--a new
spectacle was to be enacted of which I was to be a witness.

As soon as the the _Pandora_ had passed the river-bar she was visible to
the cutter, from the water-line to the truck, and so was the cutter to
her.  Both vessels had a full view of each other, or might have had, for
the moon was shining so clear that a ship could be traced at a long
distance off.  The cutter's people, however, did not appear to notice
the slaver, until the latter had got several hundred yards out to sea.
Perhaps the shadowy background of the forest obscured her, or the watch
may have been careless.  Whether or no, it was some minutes before there
was any movement on board the cruiser.  Then a movement was observed
which showed that she had discovered the barque.  The drum was heard
sounding the alarm, and her sails were unfurled with all the rapidity
which results from sufficient strength in a crew, combined with perfect
discipline.

Notwithstanding the advantage which the slave-captain had obtained from
the boldness of his attempt and the suddenness of his appearance, there
was one circumstance that had turned against him.  During the hour or
two that had intervened since the cruiser had dropped anchor, the wind
had veered round nearly a full quarter, and, instead of blowing direct
from the land, its course was now nearly parallel with the shore.

Of course the experienced skipper had observed the change long ago--it
required only a glance to perceive it--the cutter herself, now lying at
anchor, beam-ends to the shore, indicated the change, for the Kroomen
had reported, that when she first anchored her head was pointed directly
for the land.

The slave-captain with chagrin observed this change in the wind, and
with an apprehension he had not before felt.  Had the wind continued in
the same quarter as when the cruiser was first reported, he knew that he
could easily run out past her.  The breeze would have then been upon his
own quarter, and in that way his crank-vessel sailed best; and by making
good speed along the diagonal line, he had calculated on being able to
get past, with only the risk from a long shot or two.

The change, however, was against him.  The cruiser was directly out to
sea--about two miles from the river's mouth.  He could not sail to
windward of her, as that would be too close to the wind for his own
vessel, unless he kept within range of shot; and it so happened that to
leeward there was a shoal, or long sand-bank, that stretched almost from
the shore to where the cutter was lying.  There may have been a distance
of half a mile between the cutter and the edge of this shoal, but this
was not a sufficient width for running the gauntlet as the slave-captain
had intended.  The warship, running down the wind, would easily have
intercepted the barque before she could have passed through, and given
the latter such a broadside as would have crippled and brought her to at
once.

I was standing near the skipper and his mate, and listening to their
horrid execrations as they perceived the dilemma they were in.  I was
listening, because I was as much interested as they could have been in
the result--though with hopes and wishes directly antagonistic to
theirs--I was praying in my heart that we should be captured!  Even at
the risk of being killed by a broadside from one of my own country's
ships, I could not help desiring this termination to the affair.

Even though I had been but a few minutes aboard, since the lading of the
cargo, I was already impressed with the awful scene--I felt pity--keen
compassion--blended with loathing.  The horrid howling of the blacks,
crowded to suffocation below--their cries of entreaty, and, at times, of
menace--were a foretaste of what I should be compelled to listen to for
weeks, perhaps months.  Oh! it would be a fearful existence.  In my
heart I prayed that we should be captured.



CHAPTER THIRTY NINE.

I was beginning to draw hope from the behaviour of the slave-captain and
his mate.  Their apprehension increased as they saw the cutter expand
her sails and commence moving through the water.  So rapid was the
manoeuvre, it was evident she had not waited to take up her anchor, but
had cut the cable!  So said the people of the _Pandora_.

The mate appeared to urge some desperate course upon his superior.  His
words were--as I heard them:--

"We can't pass her--it's no use, by --, the other's our only chance--the
tide's well in--there'll be no danger."

"Try it, then!" was the captain's reply; "we'll be taken anyhow if we
don't, and, by --, I'd rather go to pieces on a reef than be taken by
this bloody so-and-so."

The blasphemous dialogue ended, and the mate hurried off to give some
directions to the crew.

I knew not what they meant to do, but in a few moments after, I observed
that the _Pandora_ suddenly changed her course and steered direct for
the cutter!  One would have thought she was going to run right down upon
the latter, as if to ride over her, or have a shot from her bow-ports;
and no doubt the warship was astonished at the manoeuvre, as were many
of the slaver's own crew.

The mate, however, who had counselled this movement, had a method in his
madness.  It was not his intention to rush upon destruction, so certain
as that would have been; and before the _Pandora_ had sailed three
cables' length in its new direction, she was seen to tack round, till
the wind lay upon her beam and her bowsprit once more pointed towards
the land!

This manoeuvre was still a mystery to most of the slaver's crew, who, of
course, acted only in obedience to orders.  There were a few of them,
however, in the confidence of their officers who knew the intention.

The cruiser evidently did not.  No doubt the idea of her commander was
that the barque was making back for the river, for towards that point
was she now heading.  Seeing that she could not escape out to sea, she
was giving up the attempt, and her crew were now resolved in running the
vessel either into the river again, or ashore anywhere, with the design
of abandoning her and making their escape to the boats.  Thus only could
the cutter's commander interpret the strange manoeuvre of the barque.
He never suspected a ruse, for there seemed no chance of affecting one.
But the cutter's commander was mistaken.  A ruse was intended, and, in
less than twenty minutes after, was carried out before the commander's
eyes, no doubt to his astonishment and chagrin.  If the slave-captain
and his assistant lacked humanity, they were not deficient in
seamanship, and their superior knowledge of the coast now gave them the
advantage.

As soon as it was perceived that the slaver had tacked and was heading
back towards the river, the cruiser also changed her course and followed
after.  Of course the latter made all speed, in full expectation of
either capturing the barque at once, on chasing her into the river,
where she would become an easy prey.  The only fear now among the
cutter's crew was, that the slaver's would either scuttle the barque, or
set fire to her on leaving; and, with the thoughts of prize-money in
their minds, this was their great source of apprehension.  But they were
determined to give no time either for scuttling or burning, and every
hand on board the warship was exerting himself to produce speed.

I have stated that there was a reef to leeward: it should rather be
called a shoal, since it was a sort of muddy sand-bank formed by the
current of the river, and running diagonally into the sea for a long
distance--a sort of low peninsula.  Now this sand-bank, where it joined
the land, was usually covered with water, and, during full tides, a
good-sized ship might cross over the miniature isthmus, and get out to
sea through the long reach of water between the sand-bank and the shore.
It was only at high-tide that this could be done, with a vessel drawing
any considerable depth of water.

For some ten minutes had the chase continued--one vessel following
directly in the wake of the other.  The barque was now close into the
land, and as if about to enter the river's mouth, while the cutter was a
half-mile astern, and just opposite the longitudinal edge of the shoal.

At this moment the slaver let slip her lee braces--her head came round
till the wind was right astern, and she stood right in behind the reef.
It was a moment of anxiety among her crew.  In another instant she would
strike or go free.  In another instant she would be bilging helplessly
among the sands of Africa, or would be on her course free and unimpeded
for the shores of America!

This time the triumph was for the wicked.  The barque scraped the sand
upon the bottom, but passed safely across.  The crisis was over, and the
hoarse huzza of that ruffian crew announced the victory!

Further pursuit was useless.  The cutter was still climbing along the
edge of the sandy shoal--slowly, for wind and tide were against her,
while the barque, with all sail set, was scudding down the opposite side
at the rate of twelve knots an hour!

Shots were fired from the cruiser's guns, but with little effect--a
broken spar and a rope or two cut in the rigging were easily set to
rights; and before the cutter could wear and get out to sea the
slave-ship was far, far away towards the rim of the horizon!



CHAPTER FORTY.

Of the cutter we never saw more.  When the sun rose there was no sail in
sight, and the slaver alone upon the ocean, was standing upon her
westward course, under a soft gentle breeze and a cloud of sail.  No
doubt the cutter had abandoned the chase near the coast--for her former
experience had taught her, that under such a light wind she was no match
for the barque.  She saw that the later had escaped--that it would be
useless to follow her out into the Atlantic--and she was constrained,
therefore, to go in search of other slavers that might prove less fleet
than the _Pandora_.

Under these circumstances the chase was abandoned, and the barque was
now free to traverse the wide Atlantic ocean, and deliver her human
cargo on the Brazilian shores.  It would be a mere accident if she met
with further interruption.  Possibly, an English man-o'-war of the South
American squadron might yet overhaul her; but far more likely she would
find her way into some quiet little Brazilian harbour--or into Cuba if
she preferred it--where she would be entirely welcome, and where her
owner would find not the least difficulty in disposing of his five
hundred "bales," or ten times the number if he had had them.

This then was the probable destiny of the _Pandora_.  Her voyage was to
be a success; five hundred more unfortunate beings were to swell the
ranks of slavery--her captain would be enriched--her crew would receive
bounty and live for a time in riotous debauchery--and all this at the
expense of every right of humanity--every principle of morality.

What cared they for this, either captain or crew?  They knew that
governments winked at their transgressions--that some openly approved of
them--some of these rough fellows were even intelligent enough to know,
that the apparently earnest endeavours on the part of the government of
Great Britain to suppress slavery and and the slave-trade were only
mock-earnest after all--a mere political pretence--a ruse against the
republicanism of America.  Yes; some of these rough fellows knew it, to
be sham--knew, too, that the sums annually expended by Great Britain on
the barbaric luxuries of an idle court would have been sufficient to
have stopped slave-dealing over the whole world--but that, instead, this
profuse waste only created slaves--white slaves, and a far greater
number than all the blacks that ever crossed the Atlantic.  Yes; many of
these rough fellows had wit enough to understand such matters; and it
is, therefore, less to be wondered at that they should fall into this
life of reckless outlawry.  Moreover, success once obtained there would
be no outlaws on the further side.  The rich skipper would take rank
among merchant-princes there.  He would go into the best company--and be
well entertained.  No matter that his hand was stained with blood and
his brow stamped with guilt.  Kings, princes, and emperors of our day
are similarly branded, but for all that, the dainty white hand of woman
is contented to grasp theirs in the cordial embrace of amity and
approval.  With such high examples before the world no wonder there are
slavers--no wonder there should be pirates.  It is only singular there
are not more of them.

Joyful and jolly were the crew of the _Pandora_ when they beheld the
cutter hull down upon the horizon, and saw that she abandoned the chase.
Their labour would now be of the easiest kind, for a run across the
Atlantic, from the Gulf of Guinea to the Brazils, is one of the easiest
of voyages to the seaman.  The trade-winds blow almost constantly in his
favour.  The trim vessel sweeps smoothly along, and the sails but rarely
require shifting.  It is more like floating with the current of some
gentle stream, than making way across the broad billowy bosom of the
Atlantic.

Alas! smoothly as we ran, it was far from being a pleasant period of
existence to me.  I was called upon to witness a scene of constant
suffering, daily--ay, hourly--my heart was wrung with pain, for there
was not an hour in which some agonising spectacle did not transpire
among the wretched denizens of the "half-deck."

I need not here describe the ordinary sufferings of the slave-ship.
They are recorded in many books; and I believe the most heartrending
tales that have been told are not a whit exaggerated.  My own experience
convinces me that most of them are within the boundaries of truth.  On
board the _Pandora_ these poor wretches were treated as is usual on
other slave-vessels.  They were kept below, close packed and without any
accommodation as to sleeping, or even for lying down.  They were obliged
to huddle together and lie over one another!  They had not even space
enough to be all seated at one time; and the air which they were
compelled to breathe was foul and exhausted of all healthy principle.
They were fed and watered just as a farmer would provender his hogs or
cattle; and in fact they were treated in all respects as cattle are,
when transported across the sea--perhaps not quite so well as these.
Even brutes would scarce have been used so cruelly.  They were only
permitted on deck four or five at a time, and only for a few minutes,
after which they were forced without ceremony to plunge back into their
loathsome quarters, and the merciless grating was shut down upon them.

Over this stood a sentry with loaded musket and bayonet--the latter of
which was called into requisition in the most wanton and cruel manner.
The object was to awe the poor wretches into such fear as would paralyse
all efforts at conspiracy or mutiny, for these are sometimes dreaded on
board the slaver.

Of course such treatment speedily produced its effect.  In a few days a
change was apparent upon both the faces and forms of the unfortunate
victims.  Their bodies became attenuated, their cheeks emaciated, and
their eyes sunk far into their sockets.  Their high cheek-bones rose
higher, and gave to their features a gaunt, wolfish appearance that was
hideous to behold; while the shining black departed from their
complexions, and their skin assumed a whitish powdered appearance, as if
they had been rolling in meal.

It was indeed an awful spectacle, this transformation of the image of
God into what had more of the semblance of the Devil--an awful
spectacle; and hourly was my heart wrung with grief and pain.

Not so the crew of the _Pandora_.  They ate and drank and were jolly all
the way.  They never even thought of the sufferings of the poor wretches
below, whose groans often echoed their laughter.  No, these blacks were
but brutes, to be bought and sold, and as such did they in reality
regard them.



CHAPTER FORTY ONE.

I shall spare the reader many details of this voyage of of the
_Pandora_.  There were but few incidents outside the vessel itself to
break the monotony--not even one sail was seen for two weeks after
leaving the Gulf of Guinea.  But there were incidents enough on board,
many horrid ones, of which I shall spare the reader the details.

One I must relate in all its particulars.  It will be found to contain
horrors enough for a thousand, which I would spare the reader if
possible; but by doing so my narrative must come to a sudden
termination, since in this incident lies the continuation of my story.

Incident is hardly the name for what I am about to relate.  It was more
than a mere occurrence; it was a dread and awful calamity; and in a
retrospect of the events of my life, this is the one which rises upon my
memory the saddest and darkest; indeed, at the time of its occurrence it
made upon my mind an impression so appalling, that it was a long while
before I could think of anything else.  Even now, long years after the
terrible drama, I was witness of, and partly an actor in, is often
passed in review before the eye of memory; and its horrid scenes appear
to me with all the painful vividness of reality.

Listen, then! and I shall make known the nature of this dread
occurrence.

As already stated, we had been about two weeks out to sea, with a
favouring wind nearly all the time, and had arrived in mid-Atlantic--
that is, about half-way between Cape Palmas in Africa and the most
easterly point of South America--of course, therefore, we were many
hundreds of miles from either shore.

The breeze continued fair, for we were sailing under the southern
trade-wind, and everything seemed to promise a quick passage to the
coast of Brazil.  I was myself gratified at our progress, for I looked
upon every day as a week of misery, and every hour a day, not only to
myself but to the poor creatures who lived only in torments, and by
these torments daily died.  Not daily, but hourly, I might almost say,
were they dying; and the plunge of their bodies, as they were
unceremoniously tumbled over the side, had become of as frequent
occurrence as the ringing of the watch bells.  Over the side were they
pitched in all their ghastly nakedness--just as a dead dog would have
been thrown--with not even a shot or a stone tied to them to sink their
corpses below the surface of the water.  On the contrary, many of their
bodies, swollen in an unnatural manner after death, remained upon the
surface of the sea, and could be seen in our wake bobbing up and down
upon the waves that had been made by the keel of the vessel in her
passage through the water!  Never for a very long period was this awful
spectacle before our eyes.  Though oft repeated it was usually a short
scene, and ended in an abrupt strife among the monsters of the deep,
amid the foam and spray flung aloft by the violent strokes of their
tails, until a cloud seemed to rest over the spot, concealing the
hideous struggle underneath.  Then as this cloud slowly settled away, it
could be seen that a human form was no longer there, but in its place
might be observed some mangled remains, with the sail-like fin of the
shark projected above the surface or gliding rapidly through the water.

This, at first, had been a painful spectacle to me, whilst, incredible
to relate, it afforded only amusement to the crew of the _Pandora_.  But
in a short while, it had been so oft repeated that it ceased to interest
them even as a momentary diversion; and I--my heart growing, not
hardened, I hope, but only practised to bear the pain--was less every
day touched with the hideous spectacle.

I had infinite opportunities of observing the habits of those
sea-monsters, the sharks.  Many of them, I have no doubt, had followed
us all the way from the African coast, for there were several with whose
aspect I had grown familiar, from having noticed them day after day.
Indeed several of them were marked by the cicatrices of old wounds,
which probably they had received in encounters with antagonists of their
own species, or in battles with some other voracious monsters of the
deep.  By these scars was I enabled to distinguish more than one; and I
am certain they had followed us all the way, for I had noticed some of
the marked individuals as we sailed out of the Gulf.  I had observed,
too, that there were several kinds of them, though the sailors took
little notice of the distinction, calling them all by their well-known
characteristic name of "sharks."  Indeed, my own observations of them
were not very minute or scientific.  I had too much upon my mind, as
well as upon my hands, to direct any thoughts beyond the boundaries of
the vessel; and it was only at intervals that I gave any attention to
the sea or its finny inhabitants.  One thing I could not help observing,
and that was, that the number of the sharks had daily increased, and
kept increasing; and now, at the end of two weeks, they could be seen
around the barque in dozens--sometimes gliding across her course, and
sometimes running in the same direction, like a shoal of porpoises!  At
other times they would be seen all around the vessel, looking up at her
sides as though they would leap aboard, and glaring greedily with their
eyes, like hungry dogs expecting a bone to be thrown them.

To one not accustomed to it, it would have been a fearful sight; but,
along with the rest, I had grown so used to these demonstrations that I
could look upon them without the slightest feeling of concern.

But to return to the relation of that fearful calamity I have promised
to describe.



CHAPTER FORTY TWO.

We were in the middle of the wide Atlantic, hundreds of miles from any
land.  Let this fact be remembered.

One morning I came upon deck rather later than usual.  Most generally I
was awakened out of my sleep, and at a very early hour, by the
thundering voice of the mate, and usually either with an oath or a rough
shaking--the latter always when the ruffian was near enough to
administer it.

On this particular morning, for what reason I could not divine, I was
permitted to lie still undisturbed; and taking advantage of the
indulgence, and, indeed, overpowered by sleep, of which I never had
enough, I lay still and slept on.

It was considerably after daylight when I awoke.  The sun was shining
down into the forecastle and lit up that little wooden chamber--which
was at most times as dark as a dungeon--with unusual brilliancy; and I
could see distinctly everything and every person in the place.  Of the
latter there were only two or three.  The bright light gushing into my
eyes told me that I had overslept myself, and that it was far past the
hour at which I should have been on deck and at work.  For this reason
the first idea in my mind was, that I was in for a rope's-ending from
the mate, which I might expect as soon as I made my appearance on the
quarter-deck.

It was no use, however, to think of "dodging" it.  I should be certain
to get it, sooner or later, and the sooner the better, thought I, since
then the dread of it would be off my mind, and the thing would be over.

Indulging in this view of the case, I slipped on my jacket and shoes
(these were the only portions of my dress I ever took off), and nerving
myself for the expected punishment, I sprawled up the ladder, and,
emerging, through the forecastle-hatch, stood upon deck.

On reaching the deck I had an impression that something was wrong in the
vessel; indeed, I had already some such impression before coming up.
There were only two men below in the forecastle--foreigners they were--
and they were conversing in their own language, which I did not
understand; but there was something in the expression of their faces
that struck me forcibly.  Both looked gloomy, though excited, and their
gesticulations, as they talked with each other, led me to believe that
they were discussing some serious event that had either happened, or was
about to happen, to the _Pandora_.

"Perhaps," thought I, catching hope with the thought, "perhaps there is
a sail in sight--a man-of-war with a British flag? perhaps the slaver is
being chased?"

I would have endeavoured to communicate with the men, and ask them what
had happened, but they chanced to be a brace of morose fellows who had
always shown ill-will towards me, and I refrained from putting any
questions to them.  I should find out by going on deck; and, my spirits
somewhat lightened by the conjecture I had formed, I sprang more
cheerfully up the steps.

As soon as I reached the deck my impressions were confirmed, though not
my conjectures; for almost the first thing that I did was to sweep the
sea with my glance, turning all round as I looked.  No sail was in
sight.  It was almost a perfect calm upon the water, and the sky was
blue and cloudless.  I could have seen the sail, had there been one, at
the distance of many miles; but neither sail nor spar appeared between
the barque and the horizon's verge.  It was not that, then, that was
creating the excitement aboard; for I now saw that there was an
excitement, and of no ordinary kind.

Both mate and captain were upon the quarter-deck, storming and swearing,
while sailors were hurrying to and fro, some plunging down the open
hatchways, and some returning up them, with gloom and ghastly paleness
upon their faces that indicated feelings of alarm and terror!

I noticed several water-butts upon the deck that had been brought
freshly from the hold.  Men were grouped around them--some knocking out
the bungs, and others with tin dippers suspended upon strings, plunging
them into the holes and apparently gauging the contents or trying the
water.

One and all, however, appeared to take an interest in the operations,
far above what they would have manifested in any ordinary labour of the
vessel, and I could tell from their looks and gestures that something
very serious was on the tapis.  What it was I could not guess.  I
fancied, however, that it was something connected with the water.

I became anxious to know the cause of this strange, sudden commotion.  I
looked for Brace, but could not see him.  Most probably he was down
below, in the hold where the water-butts were kept--for this seemed to
be the point of interest.  I, therefore, left the foredeck, and stepped
forward to the main-hatchway.

I was now close to the mate.  He saw me, but took no notice of me.  This
of itself was strange enough, and I now felt positively convinced that
some serious event had arisen, or was going to arise.

What could it be that was thus to save me from the expected castigation?
Something of great import--some dread danger!

I looked down the hatchway for Brace.  I saw him below, far down in the
bottom of the hold, busy among the great casks, rolling them over one
another.  There were others along with him--some standing by, and some
helping him.  Like those on deck, all wore gloomy looks, that bespoke
feelings of doubt mingled with apprehension.

I could endure the suspense no longer.  Only waiting till the mate
turned away his head, I glided into the open hatchway, and descended
first to the half-deck, and then down a ladder to the hold.

I scrambled over the casks until I was close to my friend.  I took hold
of him by the sleeve to draw his attention.  He turned round as I did
so.

"What is it, Ben?"  I enquired.

"Ugly news, Will! ugly news!"

"What news?"

"The water be out!"



CHAPTER FORTY THREE.

I was not so much affected by this laconic piece of intelligence, as I
might have been had I known more of the sea; and perhaps I should have
regarded it still less, but for the gloomy glances and apprehensive air
of those around me.  I was not stunned by it at the first announcement;
but it was not long before I became sufficiently alive to the terrible
meaning of those simple words--"The water be out."

Puzzled by the ungrammatical construction of the phrase, you are
probably inquiring what it meant.  I shall tell you.

It meant that all the fresh-water on board the _Pandora_ had been used--
that the water casks were empty, and that we were in the middle of the
Atlantic Ocean, with not the slightest chance of obtaining a fresh
supply--that it would be weeks before we could possibly reach land--that
under the burning tropic sun that was shining constantly down upon us,
one week would be enough for thirst to do its work; but if any should
survive that period, then a second week would finish them--in short,
within two weeks one and all of us were doomed to perish!  Black slaves
and white masters--tyrants and victims--the innocent and the guilty,
must all succumb to the same fate--every living thing on board the
_Pandora_ must die!

This then was the meaning of the four short words that were muttered so
despondingly by the sailor.  Words of dread import were they, a phrase
of fatal meaning.

I say that at first I did not clearly feel the full significance of the
information given me by Brace; but a very little reflection enabled me
to comprehend it; and I soon became as apprehensive as an of the others,
and took as earnest a part in the investigation that was going forward.

There was an investigation, and it was about this the crew of the
_Pandora_ were engaged.  It was not yet clearly made out that the casks
were empty.  In fact they were not--not half of them were so; and if it
had been a simple question of whether empty or full, it could have been
decided at once.  More than half of them were full--full to the very
bung.

But what were they full?  That was the serious question.  Of
fresh-water?  No.  The appalling discovery that had been made was, that
the water within them was salt! in fact, water out of the sea itself,
salt as brine!

This was indeed a fearful discovery; but it was easily explained.  It
was known from the beginning that these butts had been filled with
salt-water--to serve as ballast on the out voyage from England; and the
intention had been to empty them all into the African river and
substitute fresh-water instead.  It appeared now that this had only been
partially done!

Various explanations were offered for the dangerous neglect.  Neither
captain nor mate had superintended the duty.  Both had been too busy in
bartering and carousing with King Dingo Bingo and his boon companions--
and the irresponsible hands who had been set about the work were
half-drunk while executing it--many of the casks that had been emptied
of the sea-water were found to have been only partially refilled; and it
was also discovered that more than half of the others had never been
emptied at all!  Some of the crew alleged that others had told them that
these already contained fresh-water--that it would be no use bothering
about them--while the men who were named as having given this assurance
now stoutly denied it.  Mutual recriminations took place--the lie was
given and returned--filthy language was used profusely; and, what with
the quarrelling of the men, and the shouting and swearing of the
officers, a scene was carried on that might have rivalled an Irish row
in the infernal regions.

The principal reason why such a culpable error had been committed--and
this all hands knew--had been the appearance of the cruiser.  She had
caught them at their work, and suddenly put a stop to it.

Had she not arrived, it is probably enough that the men--however idle
and drunken--would have finished their work and provided water enough
for the voyage, but the unexpected appearance of the warship had driven
all ideas of the water casks out of their heads; and they had thought
only of shipping the "freight" and getting out of the river as speedily
as possible.

In reality the skipper was the man answerable for the whole misfortune.
He had allowed no time to complete the filling of the casks; and,
indeed, had he done so, he would never have set sail, but must have lost
both his barque and his cargo in the river.

It is probable enough he had never thought of the other horn of the
dilemma; indeed, it is certain he had not--else he would long before
have discovered the shortness of his supply, and taken some means to
remedy it.  No means had been used either to provide more water, or to
economise what there was.  Neither crew nor cargo had been upon rations
since the beginning of the voyage; water had been dealt out to all as
freely and lavishly as if the ocean itself had been a fresh-water lake.

I watched the investigation with painful forebodings.  I waited, as
patiently as I could for the result.

The report was at length delivered in presence of the whole crew.  Its
effect was like that of an electric shock upon all of them.  There were
but two casks on board that contained fresh-water, and these were only
half-full!



CHAPTER FORTY FOUR.

Yes--two half casks or one whole one--in all, about one hundred gallons
of fresh-water to serve for a crew of forty white men and a cargo of
five hundred black ones; to serve them for weeks!  Why, it would not be
a single day's allowance--far less, indeed--it would scarce give each of
them a drink!

I have said, that the announcement, as to the quantity of water
remaining, produced upon the crew a very marked effect.  Up to this time
they had been in a state of gloomy apprehension--still not without hope
that among the many casks, whose weight proclaimed them full, they would
find a few containing fresh-water.  All had now been carefully examined.
Every bung had been taken out, and the contents tasted; but in every
case disappointment was the result.  Nothing but the bitter brine of the
sea was found inside.

Every one of them had been examined and tried by several of the crew--
doubt and apprehension were at an end.  The truth had now been reached,
was known to a certainty by all--and the result was a general paroxysm
of despair.

Rage, too, freely exhibited itself.  Some, who considered themselves
innocent of having brought about this dilemma, accused and incriminated
those who were responsible for it; and some were bold enough openly to
charge the captain and mate with the neglect.  Mutinous language was
freely used, threats uttered aloud, and for awhile all discipline
appeared to have departed from the ship.

After a long time spent in stormy altercation and the profuse exchange
of oaths and menaces, the angry tone died away, and all parties began to
assume a more pacific bearing towards each other.  The common danger
made them friends again, or at all events put a stop to their useless
hostility; and at length, calming down to greater moderation, each
proceeded to offer suggestions, or listen to them, about what measures
should be adopted under the circumstances.

Of course, the first idea was, that the water should from this time
forth be measured out: but the question was, how much at a time? and how
often should the rations be issued?  This required a nice calculation to
be made; and in this calculation all had the greatest interest.  If too
large a quantity were to be allowed daily, then the stock might be
exhausted before relief should be near, and they must perish all the
same.  How long would a hundred gallons last? and at what rate might
they use it?  These were the two questions of importance.

These calculations were easy enough.  There were just forty of the
crew--officers included--and these last were now to be put on equal
rations with the rest; for, in this crisis of peril, the government of
the _Pandora_ had suddenly assumed the form of a republic.  Both captain
and mate had lost their authority, and hereafter everything was to be
conducted on the commonwealth system--share and share alike.

There were forty then in all, and, as near as could be ascertained,
about one hundred gallons of water.

After all, the prospects was not so bad--so thought they, as they
hurriedly ran over the calculation.  One hundred gallons to forty men
would be two and a half gallons, or twenty pints to each man--which
would give a pint a day for twenty days, and upon a pint a day they
could subsist.  In twenty days, and less time than that, they were
confident of coming within sight of land.  Even should they not reach a
haven before the twenty days were expired--should they be delayed by
calms, or contrary winds, they might reduce the ration still lower, and
by so doing extend the time.  Half a pint a day would enable them to
exist; and even far less in case of extreme necessity.  After all, their
prospect was not so perilous as they had at first judged it to be, and
they began to recover from the shook which they had received--for on the
announcement that there was only one hundred gallons left the quantity
had appeared as nothing to them, accustomed as they had been to drinking
and wasting that much daily.  The calculation, however, showed that,
with this quantity they might make shift without any great deprivation,
until land, or perhaps a ship, might appear in sight.

With regard to the latter contingency, they had already formed a
purpose.  If any ship came in view--excepting, of course, a ship of
war--they had come to the determination to chase and board her; and if a
supply of water was denied them they would take it from the vessel
_nolens volens_.  Perhaps, even more than water--for both captain and
crew were now so desperate that they would not have stuck at anything;
very little provocation would have transformed the slaver into a pirate.

Such were the views of the _Pandora's_ crew, and such their
determinations in regard to the use of the water.  Each man was to be
allowed a pint _per diem_; and, in case of any obstruction that might
prolong the voyage, the ration was to be reduced still lower--even to a
single glass a day, if this should become necessary.



CHAPTER FORTY FIVE.

During all these deliberations not one word was said about the five
hundred unfortunate wretches between decks!  It is a question whether
even a thought was spent upon them, except by myself, perhaps by Ben
Brace, and most likely the captain of the _Pandora_.  But if the skipper
thought of them, it was from no motives of humanity.  Profit and loss
were the only considerations that had any interest for him, and if he
was thinking of the poor creatures with regret, it was not any regret
for the horrid fate they were likely to meet with, but solely on account
of the pecuniary loss he would sustain by their destruction!

I feel certain that, up to the moment when their future plans had been
fully discussed and agreed upon, not one of that reckless crew had given
thought to the situation of the blacks.  Had these human beings been so
many head of cattle, they could not have entered less into the
calculations that had been made; for they were not considered at all.
Not one drop of water had been apportioned to their use.  No suggestion
of such a thing had been afforded--it would have been ridiculed as
preposterous.

It was only after everything had been settled, that mention was made of
them.  Then a rough fellow cried out, in a tone of mock surprise, that
smacked of a disgusting levity:--

"Thunder an' 'oun's! what's to be done with the niggers!"

"Ay, ay," shouted several, in a breath; "what is to be done with 'em?
There's no water for them--that's sartin."

"Why, what can be done?" responded an inhuman monster.  "Chuck 'em
overboard!"

"Dunder an' blitz!" exclaimed a ferocious German, who appeared pleased
with the idea; "dhat is de besht blan--wees not can do petter dhan to
glear 'em out from de sheep."

"_Pe Gar_!" cried the Frenchman, Le Gros, "it be von great big drown--
von grand splash in ze vater--_Sacr-r-r-e_!"

I cannot describe the feelings I had in listening to this conversation.
These men were actually serious, and yet jesting.  It is almost too
horrid to be credible, and yet it is true!

But they were serious--I knew they were--and I expected every minute to
hear that this horrible suggestion was adopted, and that the blacks were
to be thrown overboard!

But the villains were not unanimous; and for a length of time they
continued to discuss the question in the same half-serious, half-jocular
way.  It was awful to listen to that inhuman debate!

The slave-captain's wishes, however, were opposed to throwing his cargo
overboard; and, notwithstanding the mutinous disposition of the men, he
had still authority enough to carry the point.  He was obliged however,
to humiliate himself by resorting to argument.  His speech was
characteristic; and throughout the whole of it, there was not one word
about humanity.

He alleged that the niggers could only die, anyhow, and a few days could
make no difference to them.  Neither could it signify to them (the crew)
whether the blacks died of thirst or by drowning.  They could throw them
overboard, after the breath was out of them, all the same.  But some of
them might live it out.  He had known niggers to stand it a long while
without water--they could hold out much longer than white men--for in
this respect they resembled the ostriches, camels, and other animals of
their own country, that could go for whole weeks without drinking!  No
doubt many of them would die, and therefore be lost to him; but they
would not die if they could help it, and there were still the chances
that a good many would stick it out (these were the captain's words)
till they had made land, or overhauled some vessel; and though they
might be pretty far gone (another phrase of the speaker), a drink of
water would set their stomachs all right again.  So ran the ruffian
speech.

He further proceeded to point out to his audience the destitute
condition that he and they would be in, should they reach the Brazilian
coast without a cargo.  There would be no bounty--no spending-money--
nothing; whereas, if they could only get there with even a portion of
the negroes alive--even one out of five (a hundred out of the whole
lot)--there would still be a large sum realised; and he promised that he
would be liberal to all hands.

It was absurd, therefore, to talk of flinging the cargo overboard.  They
could do no harm as they were; there could arise no danger, since they
would keep the blacks securely under hatches; and, therefore, in every
way it was better to let these hold out as long as they could, and take
chance of bringing some of them to a market.  Such was the skipper's
speech; and I have followed his phraseology as nearly as I remember it.
It was an awful harangue, and my heart sickened within me as I listened
to it.

Meanwhile, the ill-starred victims who were the subject of these
deliberations were, happily for themselves, still ignorant of the horrid
fate with which they were threatened.  A few of them, whose gaunt faces
looked up through the grating, may have noticed that something was
amiss; but, ignorant both of the language and ways of their tyrant
gaolers, they could not possibly have known the danger in which their
lives were now placed.

Alas! alas! they would soon learn--too soon.  Soon would they experience
the agony of thirst; soon would they feel its horrid cravings.

Even at that moment was it drawing upon them; even then were they crying
for water--for, in consequence of the discovery that had been made,
their morning's allowance had not yet been served to them; and water was
always the thing they seemed most to covet and desire.  Its scarcity was
to them their greatest grief.  Even at that moment, as I passed the
hatchway, I could hear them calling for "water--water," some in their
native tongue, and others--in hopes of being better understood--in that
language best-known along the African Coast--the Portuguese--repeating
the word:--

"_Agoa_--_agoa_!"



CHAPTER FORTY SIX.

Unhappy beings!  I shuddered as I reflected on what was before them.
They were to endure thirst in all its gradations--from the simple,
scarce painful longing for water--which most of them already felt--to
the extremest agony and torture which that appetite can inflict.  But a
few days before, I had myself experienced thirst; but what signified
that compared to what they would be compelled to endure?  Simply
nothing--a mere foretaste, that enabled me to judge how terribly painful
thirst may become.  Yes; I shuddered as I reflected on what was before
them!

Little did I dream how short was to be the period of their endurance.
Little thought I, as I paced along the deck and listened to their cries
for water, that their sufferings from thirst would soon be at an end.

It was not their destiny to die from the want of water.  Alas! a far
more horrible doom was in store for them--a doom that I almost shudder
to recount.

As the day advanced, their cries for water--"agoa! agoa!"--became more
frequent and plaintive.  There were some who shouted in anger.
Wondering why they had been denied their customary allowance, there were
some who fancied it arose either from neglect on the part of their white
tyrants--whom they saw moving about perfectly indifferent to their
entreaties--or else from some capricious cruelty to torture and punish
them!  It is hard to say what might have been their imaginings; but many
of them exhibited symptoms of fury amounting almost to frenzy.  They
approached the grating with gestures of menace, and endeavoured by main
strength to force the strong woodwork from off the hatch.  Some gnashed
their teeth and frothed at the lips; beating their breasts with clenched
fists, and yelling their native war-cries, until their voices echoed far
over the waters!

To all these demonstrations the crew of the _Pandora_ paid no heed--
except that two sentries instead of one were placed over the hatchway
where the male portion of the slaves were confined.  This precaution was
taken, because it was now deemed possible that the negroes might make
their way upon deck; and, should they succeed in doing so in their
infuriated state, woe to the white men who had hitherto ruled them!

Both sticks and bayonets were used freely upon the frantic creatures,
until the carpenter with ready tools had strengthened the grating and
battened it down, beyond the possibility of its being raised up, or
broken by those who were striving underneath.

What added to the sufferings of the slaves, as also to the apprehension
of the _Pandora's_ crew, was that the wind had suddenly ceased, and it
had fallen to a dead calm.

The heat of the sun, no longer fanned by the slightest breeze, had grown
intolerable.  The pitch melted upon the ropes and in the seams of the
deck; and every article, whether of hemp, wood, or iron, was as hot as
if taken out of a fire.  We had arrived in that part of the Atlantic
Ocean, known among Spanish seamen as the "horse latitudes," because that
there, during the early days of Spanish adventure, vessels often got
becalmed, and their cargoes of horses, dying of the heat, were thrown
overboard wholesale.  This is one of the explanations given for the
singular appellation--though others have been assigned.

Into the "horse latitudes," then, had the _Pandora_ found her way; and
the complete calm into which the atmosphere had all at once fallen was
not only a source of suffering to all on board--but to the sailors an
object of new apprehension.

On first discovering the shortness of the supply of water, a calm sea
was the very thing they had most dreaded.  A storm they feared not to
encounter.  Through that--even though the wind were dead ahead--they
could still make way; but in a calm they could do nothing but lie quiet
upon the hot bosom of the sleeping ocean, wasting their days and hours--
wasting what was now more precious than all--their scanty supply of
water.

One and all were terrified at the prospect.  They were all men who had
made many a trip across the line, and had run the torrid zone both
eastward and westward.  They could read well the indications of the sky;
and from its present appearance most of them foresaw, and were not slow
to foretell, a long-continued calm.  It might last a week, perhaps twice
or three times as long.  Sometimes there is a month of such windless
weather in these latitudes.  If it continued only for the shortest of
these periods, then, indeed, would they be in danger, and no wonder they
were freshly apprehensive.

As the sun went down, his disc appeared red and fiery.  There was not a
cloud in the sky--not a curl upon the sea.

It was the last time that sun ever shone upon the _Pandora_--when
morning came, that bad, but beautiful barque, was a wreck upon the sea--
a field of floating fragments!



CHAPTER FORTY SEVEN.

You desire an explanation?  You wish to know how the _Pandora_ was
destroyed?

In the closing passages of the preceding chapter, I ran ahead of my
narrative.  I shall now return to it.

The night came down still, but not silent; at least not silent on board
the slave-ship.  The cries of the ill-fated beings below still loaded
the air--their voices growing hoarser and hoarser.  The ruffians might
cage their bodies, but they could not confine their tongues; and ever
and anon rose that awful din, pealing along the decks, and echoing far
out over the still bosom of the waters.

It seemed at length to grow unendurable, even to the men; and those, who
had before advocated throwing the slaves overboard, once more proposed
adopting this course.  The unexpected obstruction from the calm now
added force to their arguments.  They alleged that there was no chance
of the niggers holding out.  They would all be dead in a couple of
days--by suffocation as well as thirst--and why not settle the business
at once?  They had now to look out sharply for their own lives, and
better they should not be bothered any longer with these squalling
brutes.  (This was literally the language of one of those who advocated
the drowning of them.)  It was enough to drive a man mad to hear them,
and it would be only mercy to them (much the ruffian cared for mercy) to
make short work of it, and then the poor devils would have it over at
once.  This was the compassionate speech of one.

Another followed in a like strain, and said, interrogatively, "After all
what did it amount to?  The cargo was not such a great matter so long as
the ship was safe?  What signified all the niggers had cost?  What they
might fetch was another matter; but a man could not call that a loss
which he had never had; and, therefore, all the loss the skipper should
sustain would be the original outlay.  It wasn't a million.  He would
soon repair the damage.  Once they got the casks filled, they could
return to Africa, and King Dingo was the man to find them a fresh cargo.
Perhaps he would let them have it on credit, if they couldn't do better
(at this improbability several laughed); but the skipper need not go a
begging for credit.  He was not so easily broken up as that came to.  If
he himself was short, he had friends in Brazil--ay, and in Portsmouth,
too--who would soon find him the rhino."

The speech of this able logician turned the scale and settled the
question; and, despite the protestations and entreaties of the
slave-captain and one or two others, it was decided that the negroes
should be thrown overboard!

A few minutes were now given to a discussion as to the mode of effecting
this purpose; and it was finally agreed that the best way would be to
remove a single bar from the grating--so that only one of the victims
could come up at a time--and then, taking each aft out of sight of the
hatchway--so that they might not be seen by the others--to seize one
after another and cast them into the sea, whence there would be no fear
of their returning.  Doubtless many of them could not swim a stroke, and
those that could would not swim long, amidst that multitude of voracious
sharks that were beating around the barque!

The ruse of thus successively destroying the wretched victims, without
making known to their companions below, originated in no ideas of
mercy--it was a thought that sprang from simple convenience.  The
monsters knew that if those below were to get wind of the fate that
awaited them above, they would no longer come on deck; and to have gone
down amongst them to bring them up would have given trouble, and might
have been attended with danger.

It was heartbreaking to listen to the details of their plan, and know
that I could neither obstruct nor prevent it.  Had I put in my voice,
either to appeal or protect the unfortunates, it is likely enough I
should have been myself the first morsel given to the sharks.  I could
do nought but suffer in silence.

Indeed, I am not sure, had it been in my power at that moment to prevent
them from carrying out their design, whether it would have been right to
interfere.  Clearly it would not have served the cause of humanity.  A
death of some kind was certainly in store for these ill-starred beings--
either a slow, lingering death by the torture of thirst, or one more
rapid and far less cruel, such as that they were about to undergo.  It
might have been humanity to leave the ruffians to carry out their
intent, and shorten the sufferings of their black victims by the easier
death of drowning.

I had such a reflection at the moment, but I had no time to dwell upon
it, for just then a rush of men towards the slave-hatchway told me that
the monsters were actually on the way to carry out their diabolical
purpose!

They were on their way, and would have proceeded in their intent.  The
carpenter was there with his axe to strike off one of the bars of the
grating--he had already given a blow on the batten, another would have
been enough--and then the horrid scene would have begun; but at that
moment a cry came from the after-part of the vessel that caused the
carpenter to suspend his work, and look up in dismay.  Those who
surrounded him were startled as well as he, and all looked aft with
terror painted in their faces.  One and all were terrified by that cry,
and no wonder they were--it was the cry, of "fire!"  The ship was on
fire!



CHAPTER FORTY EIGHT.

At this cry all hands rushed toward the after-part of the vessel.  I ran
with the rest.

On reaching the quarter-deck we found the black cook, "Snowball," in the
hands of the captain and mate, who were beating him with thick ropes,
and causing him to "sing out" at the top of his voice.  Both were
excited and angry--swearing loudly as they struck the blows--and already
the man's back exhibited the keenness of their vengeance.

Some of the sailors--still apprehensive about the cry of fire which they
had heard--demanded an explanation, which was immediately given.
"Snowball" had gone down to the store-room under the main cabin--for the
purpose of drawing brandy from a large cask of this spirit that was kept
there.  The only access to the store-room was through a small hatch in
the floor of the cabin itself; and, as it was bulk-headed off from the
rest of the hold, of course the place was quite dark.  For this reason
the cook had carried with him, as he always did on such occasions, a
lighted candle.

It was not clearly explained how he had mismanaged--for the black as
well as most of the crew of the _Pandora_ were, ever since the discovery
about the water, in a state of half-intoxication.  Even at that moment
it was evident that both mate and captain were nearly drunk, and gave
but half-coherent replies to the eager inquiries of the men--who were
still under apprehensions from the cries of fire that summoned them aft.

The accident was afterwards explained by "Snowball" himself.  It
appeared that the brandy-cask was without a regular tap, or stopcock,
and that the cook was in the habit of drawing the liquor through the
bung-hole, by means of an ordinary dipper.  Somehow or other--of course
through the black's drunken negligence--the burning candle had slipped
from his fingers, and dropped right into the bung-hole; and, quick as a
flash, the spirit had caught fire, and smoke and flame issued in volumes
through the hole.

At first the cook, dreading chastisement, resolved not to make any
alarm; but, coming on deck, provided himself as quickly as he could with
a bucket of water.  With this he returned, and, pouring the water into
the cask, endeavoured by such means to stifle the flames.  It was all to
no purpose--the blue blaze flickered upward as before--each instant
becoming stronger, as the brandy itself grew hotter and more of the
spirit caught the fire.

It appeared that the cook had made several journeys back and forward
from the store-room to the deck, before confessing to what had occurred,
or warning any one of the peril in which the vessel was placed.

At length, however, his frequent passing to and fro with the
water-bucket attracted the attention of the mate; and then the discovery
was made that the brandy was on fire; for the black was now forced to
confess the truth.

Then it was that the cry of fire was raised which had called the crew
away from their demon purpose.

From the behaviour of the captain and his mate, it might have been
supposed that the fire had been extinguished; and, for a time, such was
the belief.  Surely, before setting on to belabour the culprit as they
were doing, they had seen that the fire was out?  Such would have been
the natural conclusion, and so everyone judged.  It soon came out that
they judged wrongly.  The two officers were half-mad with drink and
rage; and, without attempting to get the fire under, they had set upon
the black and were expending their anger in blows, while the latter kept
howling at the top of his voice, mingling with his cries for mercy the
more startling cry of "fire!"  It was this that had so suddenly alarmed
the crew.

Was the fire out? or was it still burning?  These were the questions
that passed from mouth to mouth in quick and apprehensive utterance.

As soon as it was ascertained where it had occurred, a rush was made
into the cabin--the men crowding together through the entrance, and
treading upon one another's heels in their haste to be assured of the
truth and relieved of the terrible suspense--for there is no calamity on
board a ship so much dreaded as fire.

The suspense of the _Pandora's_ crew was not of long duration.  It
became certainty--a certainty that the fire was not yet extinguished!
On entering the cabin, they saw this at a glance.  Thick sulphurous
smoke was rising through the open hatchway, and the cabin was already
filled with it.  There must be fire to produce such a smoke, and fire
still alive and active--for it was not the smoke of a fire that had been
lately extinguished!  No; it was still alive--still burning--still
spreading and increasing!  That was evident to all as soon as they
entered the cabin, and saw the smoke issuing up through the hatchway.

But if there remained any doubt on the mind of any one it was soon
removed; for, at that moment a loud explosion was heard in the
store-room below--like a blank-shot or the bursting of a steam-boiler--
and, almost simultaneous with the report, a gush of thick vapour,
mingled with blue flame, came rushing up the hatchway.



CHAPTER FORTY NINE.

It needed no conjuror to explain that report.  Every one knew what it
meant.  It was caused by the exploding of the strong iron-bound cask--
burst open by the gas engendered by the fire within.  Of course the
spirit was now spilled over the floor of the store-room and everywhere
on fire; so that every combustible article within reach--and of these
there were many--would soon catch the flame.  There were dry barrels of
biscuits, and quantities of bacon, hams, with lard, oil, and butter.  It
was remembered that there was a barrel of pitch, too, close to where the
brandy-cask had been kept.  All these would catch freely and burn
rapidly and readily--especially the barrel of pitch, the head of which
was open.  It was thought there was no gunpowder for, although there had
been a large quantity of coarse blasting-powder aboard, it was part of
the original freight, and had all been delivered to King Dingo Bingo in
exchange for the slaves.  So at least was it supposed at the time, and
this hypothesis served a useful purpose--since it enabled the crew to
act with more coolness than they would otherwise have done.  There is no
situation more calculated to destroy presence of mind than to be aboard
a ship on fire, and to know that somewhere among the flames there is a
barrel of powder.

Of course the crew of the _Pandora_ did not stand idle or inactive.
They ran in every direction in search of means to extinguish the fire.
Buckets were collected from all parts of the deck, and water was
procured from pumps and over the sides.  This was heaved down the
hatchway of the store-room--bucketful after bucketful--but apparently
without any good purpose.  Still the flames raged and the water did not
reach them; at all events, it failed to extinguish them.

Of course no one dared venture below.  The smoke and fire forbade it--
any attempt to go down would have been a rash sacrifice of life, and no
one thought of making it.

For nearly ten minutes the men continued to draw water, and dash it in
bucketsful down the hatchway; but all to no purpose.  The fire gained
strength.  The smoke grew thicker and hotter, from the pitch and other
combustible substances that had now evidently caught the flames.  It
poured up in vast volumes till the cabin became filled.  It was no
longer possible to approach the hatchway, no longer possible even to
enter the cabin.  One or two who ventured in were half-stifled before
they had gone six feet inside, and came reeling back like men who were
drunk!

The buckets were thrown aside.  They could no longer be of service--as
no one could get near the hatchway to pass water down it, and it was of
no use throwing it elsewhere.

But the hour of despair had not yet arrived.  Sailors are men who rarely
yield to despair; at all events not while the slightest chance remains
to beget hope; and, bad as may have been their moral character, the crew
of the _Pandora_ were not cowards.  Linked with a thousand crimes they
had the one virtue of courage--though brute courage it may have been.

Not yet did they despair.  Other resources were now thought of.  A piece
of hose was attached to the spout of the pump, and carried to the door
of the cabin; and by means of this water was still poured in.

But this contrivance proved unavailing.  The mouth of the hose could not
be got into the hatch, as it was impossible any longer to enter the
cabin, and the water was spilled on the floor.  It so chanced that the
stern of the vessel sat high.  The casks that had been emptied were all
in the after-hold, while the full ones containing the sea-water were
stowed forward.  Hence the barque was higher abaft than at the bows.
For this reason the water thrown upon the cabin floor by means of the
hose-pipe, instead of remaining there, came running back towards the
gangways as fast as it was poured in.

This produced a new consternation; for the men had conceived hopes that,
after deluging the cabin from the pumps, the water would run through the
open hatch and then extinguish the fire below.

As soon as it was perceived that this purpose could not be accomplished,
then, indeed, did symptoms of despair make their appearance upon the
faces of the crew; and they began to turn their eyes upon one another
with glances of interrogation and looks that proclaimed the knowledge
that their plan had proved a failure.  No one had the courage to say so,
and the pumping went on--though it was evident, from the slowness of the
motion and the want of energy exhibited, that the men who were working
the handle were exerting themselves, only with a sort of mechanical
effort that would soon yield to despondency and despair.

And so it yielded.  Without any one saying a word, all seemed tacitly to
have arrived at the same conclusion--that their efforts were idle; and
all at once the pumping was suspended, the handle was dropped, the
hose-pipe lay flattened along the deck, and the water ceased to flow!

By this time the whole after-part of the vessel was shrouded in smoke
that had been oozing out from the door and windows of the cabin, and
which, in consequence of the stillness of the night, was not carried
away.  Slowly it ascended into the air, and so straight upwards that the
edge of the cloud had not yet approached the main-deck--although the
whole of the mizen-mast was enveloped by the thick smoke and invisible
to its very peak.  Most of the quarter-deck covered, and the cabin was
now completely hidden from view by the vapoury volume that clustered
above and around it.  As yet there was no flames to be seen, but the
hissing, crackling sound coming up from below, at intervals fell upon
the ear, and told that the fierce element was still raging there, and
would soon exhibit itself in all its red and terrific splendour.

No one waited to watch its progress.  No longer did any one think of
attempting to extinguish, or even to check the fierce destroyer.  All
hopes of saving the vessel were given up; the _Pandora_ must be
abandoned; and now was heard that heart-thrilling summons to the
sailor--that last despairing cry--

"To the boats! to the boats!"



CHAPTER FIFTY.

There were three boats belonging to the barque _Pandora_.  They were the
"long-boat," the "pinnace," and the "captain's gig."  These would have
been enough to have carried the whole crew--indeed the long-boat herself
would have contained all hands, or nearly.

Thirty was reckoned her full complement, though, in a case of distress,
forty persons might have found room in her, and she would have floated
with that number, though not in a rough sea.  She had been a good boat
in her time, but was now old and worn, and there was a rotten plank or
two among her timbers.  She was not the boat originally made for the
_Pandora_.  This had been lost in a gale; and the one now aboard was an
old weather and water-worn veteran, hurriedly obtained for the voyage.
The pinnace would have carried some fifteen men, had she been fit to go
into the water, which she was not.  She had met with an accident while
in the river, and had not yet been repaired.  She was not slung at that
moment, but lying in the scuppers along the main-deck, where the
carpenter had for days past been repairing her.  The repairs, however,
were not completed, and the boat could not go to sea.  The long-boat and
gig then must take the whole crew; and it was agreed that twenty eight
should get into the former, while the remaining twelve could be stowed
in the gig.

Of course this agreement was made by a kind of rambling general
consent--for there was no deliberation about anything, the whole crew
being now half-mad with haste and excitement.

A large number of the men had rushed at once towards the long-boat, and
there I followed them.  They soon swarmed up to the bulwarks, and set to
work to poise the davits outward, and get the rigging in order for
lowering the boats.  I did not see Brace among them; and, fancying he
might have gone with a party towards the gig, I started aft to find
him--as it was my intention to go in whatever boat carried him.  The gig
was suspended at the stern, just under the taffrail; and to reach this
point I had to pass through the smoke that enveloped the cabin.  But
although the atmosphere seemed perfectly stagnant, the cloud of smoke
leant a little towards the larboard side, and on the opposite, or
starboard side, the way was partially clear.  I had observed one or more
persons glide through towards the stern, and I followed them.

On arriving upon the poop, I saw that there were five or six persons
there, engaged in launching the gig.  They were working with all their
might, and apparently hurried by some extreme apprehension of terror.
Three of them I recognised as the captain, mate, and carpenter, and the
others were men noted as their allies and firm friends.  They had
already lowered the boat nearly to the water; and just as I looked over
the taffrail I heard the plash, as her keel dipped into the sea.  I saw
that there were some articles--the compass, with charts, and a few other
things like boxes or barrels--already lying in the boat; but as yet none
of the men had got into her.

On glancing at those who were around, I perceived that my friend was not
among them; and I was turning to go back towards the main-deck, when all
at once the six men who had lowered the gig--I now saw there were but
six--passed suddenly over the taffrail, and gliding down the
davit-tackle, dropped into the boat.

Surely, thought I, they are not going to row off without their full
complement of twelve?  That was the understanding, and it was further
agreed that all hands should help in lowering the long-boat before the
gig should be launched; the latter, being small and light, could be got
into the water in a few seconds of time, and half-a-dozen men would be
enough; whereas, launching the great long-boat, getting her over the
bulwarks, and then lowering her safely into the sea, was a work that
required both time and the help of all hands.

That all were to assist in it had been specially arranged, in the
hurried consultation which had been held after the cry had arisen, "To
the boats!"

No doubt that those now engaged about the long-boat supposed that all
hands were there; for in a crowd of forty men the absence of five or six
is not readily noticed, and, as it was no longer daylight, the faces of
none could be easily distinguished.  The mate and captain would not have
been missed more than any others.  Their authority existed no longer,
and their silly behaviour in belabouring the cook, when they should have
been using the time to better advantage by endeavouring to stifle the
fire, had led to the belief that both were "half-seas over," and,
therefore, no attention had been afterwards paid to any orders from
either of them.

It was they and the four men with them I had observed passing abaft as I
was looking for Ben, and I thought at the time that they were skulking,
as if they did not wish to be seen!

As I stood upon the poop, this conjecture was confirmed.  The six were
evidently about to steal the gig away, without waiting for the others
she was to have carried.

I was irresolute how to act.  I could not myself prevent them.
Remonstrance from me would have been laughed at, and I had not the
strength to stay them.  To call out would have been of no use.  The
sound of the fire roaring and crackling below, the hoarse shouting of
the men themselves, the yells and vociferations of the slaves forward,
produced a medley of noises amidst which my cries would not have been
heard, or, at all events, their object would not have been understood.

Another thing--it was too late to create any noise about it; for before
I could make up my mind to do one thing or the other--either to cry out
or run back--the gig was resting on the water, the six runaways had
dropped into her, and the next moment had cut the davit-tackle and set
the boat free!

They appeared to act with extreme haste--as if they apprehended being
hindered from getting off, or were afraid that more would come up and
leap in along with them so as to overload the boat.

I could not comprehend why they were in such a desperate hurry.  There
could be no danger of the gig being overloaded--as it was agreed she
should only take twelve--and I knew that most of the crew would far
prefer to go by the long-boat; moreover, there was as yet no danger from
the fire, for, although smoke was oozing out by the binnacle, it would
be a good while before this part could be ablaze.  There was no one by
the wheel.  The perfect calm that had continued since near morning
rendered a steersman superfluous, and the wheel stood idle and
neglected.  The compass was gone.  It was it I had observed in the
bottom of the boat.

I could not comprehend then why the captain and his five associates were
in such a way to be off, and thus desert the rest of their comrades in
misfortune.  There was some mystery in it.

There was a mystery, which in another moment was cleared up, and by the
dastardly skipper himself, I was still standing by the taffrail, when
the davit-tackle was cut, and saw the gig-oars shoved out and ready to
pull away.  The skipper himself grasped an oar.  At that moment he
looked up and noticed me.  He half rose from his seat, and in drunken
accents hiccuped out--

"Ahoy, there!--you boy, Bill!--tell 'em t' look sharp--hiccup--in
getting out long b't--sharp, d'y' hear.--L'em be quick about it--
quick,--hiccup--for by--hiccup--there's a barrel of pow--hiccup--powder
aboard!"



CHAPTER FIFTY ONE.

The astounding intelligence, conveyed by the final sentence of this
staggering speech, deprived me for the moment of the power of motion.

"A barrel of powder aboard!"  These were his very words, and I had no
reason to doubt that they were true.  On the contrary, his behaviour,
and that of those who were with him, went far to prove their truth.  On
no other supposition could I account for their haste to be gone; but the
hypothesis of the powder at once explained it.  Beyond a doubt the
speech was true.  There was a barrel of powder aboard!  Both he and the
mate were aware of it.

The dastards had made a sort of compromise with their consciences in now
declaring it.  They had preserved silence about it until they were
themselves safe.  If they had divulged the secret sooner, the whole crew
might have followed them into the gig--dreading to stay any longer on
board--and, therefore, they might not have got off so snugly.  Now,
however, that they were themselves beyond danger, there could be no harm
in letting the others know it, as it might quicken their efforts at
escape.  Of course they did not desire to see their old associates blown
into the air--if it could be helped without any risk to themselves--but
they had taken good care to remove the risk, before offering any hint
about the probable catastrophe.

The skipper, as soon as he had given utterance to the appalling speech,
sank back upon his seat; and, pulling along with the rest, the gig moved
rapidly away.

I say that the astounding intelligence deprived me of the power of
motion, and equally so of speech.  It occurred to me to ask for an
explanation--an additional averment as confirmation of its truth; but,
before I could recover myself, it was too late--the boat was almost
beyond hail.  It would be no use shouting after.  They would not hear,
or, if they did, would not heed me; and what mattered it, for I could
not doubt but what the man had said was meant as serious truth.  Though
not sober, he would hardly have jested then, and in such a fashion.  The
time and the circumstances were too solemn for jest--even for him,
unfeeling fiend that he was.

No; he had spoken but the truth--the simple truth.  Beyond all hope of a
doubt there was a barrel of powder on board the _Pandora_!

Where was it?  In the store-room, now filled with fire? where else was
it likely to be? on the half-deck, or in the hold?  No--not probable--
none of us had ever seen it there.  There had been no powder observed in
any part of the vessel to which the common sailors had access; none
since the cargo was delivered to King Dingo.  It must then be in the
store-room, or in the captain's own state-room? in either case
contiguous to the flames--in either case close to where I was standing!

The thought roused my senses from the state of stupefaction into which
they had fallen.  The idea of self-preservation gave me new energies;
and I lost no time in hastening away from the spot.  It was a mere
instinct to place myself as far from the danger as I could.  I sprang
from the poop and ran forward upon the main-deck.

I was now at a loss as to how I should act.  My first impulse had been
to rush forward among the men and proclaim the intelligence communicated
by the captain.  I was on the point of doing so, when some good angel
seemed to whisper "prudence."

I was always considered a boy of "quick-parts," and the life I had been
lately leading had wonderfully sharpened my intellect.  Just then it
occurred to me, if I divulged the terrible secret it could do no good,
but on the contrary, might beget great mischief.  I saw that the sailors
were exerting all their strength to get out the boat, and were making
what haste they could.  No power on earth could have caused them to go
faster.  The dread of the flames, now beginning to flow through the
cabin-windows, was stimulus enough.  Any additional dread would only
paralyse them.  I determined, therefore, to keep the fearful knowledge
within my own breast.  I thought of imparting it only to Ben, and for
him I now went in search.

I soon discovered him.  He was among a crowd up over the davits, working
with all his might.  I could not get near him, and of course could not
communicate with him without being overheard by the others.  I therefore
resolved to remain sole possessor of the dread secret till a better
opportunity offered itself.

I set to work with the rest, heaving and hauling; but, amidst all I had
but one thought.  I scarce knew what was going on, or what I was myself
doing.  I was every moment in expectation of that loud report--that
horrible explosion that would fling us all into eternity!  I worked
mechanically and often wrong; once or twice I caught myself hauling the
wrong way.  Some of them noticed this and rudely kicked me aside.  Oh!
the keen apprehension!

The boat was at length cleared of the bulwarks and swung over the sea;
and then the lowering commenced.  This operation was not so difficult,
and in a few minutes more she rested upon the water.  The men gave a
cheer at their success.

Many at once glided into the boat; while others remained above and on
the sides, passing down some necessary articles--some bread and water--
such things as could be most readily got at.

At this moment two men lifted between them a heavy barrel; and rolling
it over the bulwarks, commenced lowering it downward.  The size and
shape of the barrel proclaimed its contents.  It was a cask of rum, and
its weight proved that it had never been broached, but was quite full of
the potent spirit.  No one objected to its being taken into the boat.
There were no protesters in that crew, but several now offered to assist
in lowering it down.  A bight of rope was thrown around the cask, and
the letting down commenced.

It had scarcely balanced over the copper sheathing of the bulwark, when
the bight of rope--hurriedly cast around it--slipped off, and the heavy
barrel fell with all its weight into the bottom of the boat.  Not
exactly into the bottom but upon one side--a little below the
water-line, as the boat lay.

A heavy crash was heard--not the firm concussion of the barrel striking
on the elastic timbers of the boat; but more as if something had broken
underneath where it fell.  The barrel had fallen angularly and endways;
and the sharp projecting end of the oaken staves had struck between two
of the ribs of the boat, and fair upon the face of her outside planking.
As if the hand of a demon had guided it, the rum cast in its descent
had fallen upon one of the decayed planks; and the crash that had been
heard was the sound of the plank springing out of its bed and breaking
crossways at the same time!

A wild cry rose from out the boat, as those who were below saw the
catastrophe that had happened.  It was visible even from the deck above;
for looking over I perceived a thick gush of water pouring through the
side of the boat.

Some of the men leaped out of her and came climbing up again; while
others remained endeavouring to staunch the hole, and with buckets that
were now thrown to them, commenced baling out.

They did not continue long at this.  It was clearly a hopeless task; the
huge breach could not be mended, and the boat filled ten times faster
than they could bale her out.  They soon abandoned the attempt; and,
dropping the buckets, followed their companions up the side.

In less than ten minutes after, the long-boat had gone to the bottom of
the sea.

"A raft! a raft!"



CHAPTER FIFTY TWO.

"A raft! a raft!"

This was the cry that now echoed along the decks, while men were seen
hurriedly seizing hold of spars, ropes, and axes.

But there was another cry and an angrier one.  It arose from the few who
had rushed towards the stern in hope of themselves appropriating the gig
and whose disappointment at finding she was gone, found vent in oaths
and shouts of vengeance.

They had no need to go aft of the burning cabin to make the discovery.
Over the quarter the gig was seen--distinctly seen under the clear
moonlight, several cable-lengths from the barque, and fast rowing away.
Six forms were in the boat--six only--and the men at once knew that they
were the captain, mate, and four of their favourites.  No explanation
was required.  The behaviour of those in the gig told the tale of
itself.  They had deserted their companions in distress--had basely
stolen away.

"Gig ahoy! gig ahoy!" was screeched after the departing boat, but to no
purpose.  Those in the gig paid no heed to the hail, but only appeared
to row faster away.  They seemed to dread being followed by the
long-boat and overtaken; and well might they have a dread of it, for if
the betrayed crew could have laid hands upon their _ci-devant_ officers
at that moment, they would have shown them but scant mercy.

As for the latter, they were apparently rowing with all their might--as
if they wanted not only to get beyond earshot of their old associates,
but out of sight altogether.  Belike the ears of both captain and mate
were keenly bent, and their eyes too--unfeeling as the hearts of both
were, they must have been stirred in the anticipation of that awful
catastrophe, which both surely expected.  They might have wished for a
time to be deprived both of sight and hearing.

As I have said, there was a cry of vengeance along the deck.  Some, who
but the moment before were skulking aft with a similar purpose, were now
loud in their denunciations of the dastardly conduct of the officers;
and, goaded by the two passions of disappointment and rage, shouted
after them the most opprobrious epithets and bitterest threats.

But the little boat was by this far off upon the water; and the
necessity for immediate action soon called the men from these idle
demonstrations.

All hands set to work at the formation of the raft.

The ability and despatch with which sailors can construct a raft, would
be almost incredible to a landsman who had never seen the thing done.
It is not from mere concert or organisation among themselves--though
there is something in that.  Not much, however, for well-drilled
soldiers are as clumsy at such a work as farm-labourers.

Though the principal material of a raft be timber, the sailor with his
rope will far sooner bind it together than the carpenter with his hammer
and nails; and bind it far safer and surer.  The rope is the sailor's
proper weapon, and its use he understands better than all others.  He
knows at a glance, or by a touch, whether it be the thing for the
purpose intended--whether it be too long or too short, too weak or too
stout--whether it will stretch or snap, or if it will hold securely.  He
knows, as if by instinct, what sort of knot should be used for this, and
what sort for the other--whether a "reef-knot" or a "bowline," a
"diamond" or an "overend"--whether a "clove-hitch," a "clinch," or a
"cat's paw"--all these modes of splicing and trying, with five times as
many more, are secrets only known to the sailor.

And only he can rapidly cut down a mast, or detach a spar from its
rigging, and get them overboard without delay.  The aid of a landsman
would be of little service in operations like these.

Like bees the men went to work--every one of the thirty and four.  Some
handled the saws and axes--some carried spare-yards and spars, some with
their knives attacked the running gear and provided the ropes.  All were
equally busy--all equally interested in the result.

In a few minutes the main-mast came down with a crash, falling over the
side, and grinding the bulwarks beneath it as if they had been hurdles
of reeds; and in a few minutes more its rigging was all cut loose--both
running and standing--its shrouds and stays--sheets, braces, and lifts.

The great mast, with its yards still attached, soon rested upon the
water alongside the wreck--for the _Pandora_ might now be called a
wreck--and upon these, as a foundation, the raft was speedily laid.  The
spare spars and yards, the gaffs and booms, were thrown upon top, and
soon lashed firm by those who had descended to the water, and who now
found footing upon the huge floating mass of timber.  Empty casks were
bunged and flung overboard, and these added essentially to the safety of
the structure and its capability of carrying a greater weight.  Sails,
too, were thrown loosely over all, and then, last of all, the biscuit
and water--such quantities of each as could be found amid the confusion.

At length the raft was deemed complete.  It could not have exceeded
fifteen minutes from the sinking of the long-boat, until the cheering
fact was announced, that the raft was ready!



CHAPTER FIFTY THREE.

But short as was the time it appeared an age to me.  With that dread
secret shut up in my breast, every minute seemed an hour; and I knew not
the moment that was to be our last.  When the long-boat went down, I had
resigned all hope--not dreaming that a raft could be got ready before
the explosion would take place.

It is metaphorical to say that every minute seemed an hour; but so tardy
did the time appear that I began to wonder why the awful event was so
long delayed.  Perhaps, thought I, the powder may be far down, covered
over with other things--such as boxes and bales--and the fire has not
yet been able to get at it?  I knew that a barrel of powder, even when
thrown into the midst of a red-hot fire, takes a considerable time to
explode.  An intense heat must be generated in the wood before the
powder inside will ignite; and, for this reason, the barrel must be a
good while exposed to the fire.  Perhaps the flames had not yet reached
it?  Was this the reason why the catastrophe was delayed?

Or was it that the powder was not in the store-room, or the cabin
either, or in the after-part of the vessel at all?  About its
whereabouts the skipper had said nothing, and it was upon this point I
had desired explanation as the gig rowed off.  A knowledge of this might
have been of the greatest importance; but the captain had not even
thrown out a hint.  What after all if there was no gun-power on board?
What if the man had meant it as a jest--ill-timed and unfeeling though
it was?

What if he had intended it not as a piece of pleasantry, but an act of
refined cruelty?

There were circumstances that favoured this last supposition.  For the
preceding twenty hours he had been at loggerheads with the crew.  Ever
since morning, since the commencement of the water trouble, the men had
been sulky and mutinous, and both mate and captain had been slightly
treated--their orders in most cases altogether disregarded.  In fact,
both had been bearded and threatened, and several angry altercations had
occurred between them and the crew.  It was natural they should feel
spiteful and desirous of having revenge--natural for such men as they
were--and might it not be to gratify this feeling, that the skipper had
shouted back that gratuitous piece of intelligence, that there was
gunpowder on board?

Fiendish as such conduct may appear, there was probability in the
supposition.  It would only be in keeping with the character of the man.

I really began to hope that such might be the case; and it again
occurred to me to seek Ben and communicate the secret to him.  He would
be more likely to know whether the skipper had spoken truly or in cruel
jest; and, if the former, perhaps he might be able to guess where the
dangerous material was concealed, and might yet be in time to move it
beyond the reach of the fire.

These reflections occupied me but a few seconds of time; and as soon as
I had made them I hurried over the decks in search of my friend, with
the design of making the disclosure of my secret.

I found him among the rest, busy about the raft.  He was wielding an
axe, and cutting away some of the sheeting of the bulwarks, to help in
its construction.  I caught him by the sleeve, and with a gesture drew
him a little to one side; and then in a whisper I made known to him the
parting speech of the captain.

I saw that the announcement startled him.  Brave man though he was, it
was enough to bring the paleness to his cheeks, and cause him to stand
for some moments speechless and irresolute.

"You're sure he said that--sure o' it, Willim?"

"Quite sure--they were his very words."

"A barrel o' powder aboard!"

"He said it just as they rowed off.  I've been thinking he might have
done it out of spite--to frighten us?"

"No, no, lad, it's true--shiver my timbers! if it an't.  The
powder--'twas believed we'd turned it all over to King Dingo.  Now I
remember something.  I thought I seed the skipper hide a barrel o' it
after it was counted out; he stole it from the nigger, for sartin.  I
thought so at the time, but warn't sure.  Now I be sure.  There be a
barrel aboard, sure as we're livin'!  Heaven o' mercy--we're lost,
lad!--we're lost!"

The momentary relief, which I had experienced from my late conjecture,
was at an end; and my apprehensions were now as acute as ever.  It was
no jest then--the skipper had been in earnest.  The gunpowder was on
board--the stolen barrel--and for this theft we were now to be
sacrificed while the thief himself had escaped!

Brace stood for some seconds, as if paralysed with the intelligence I
had given him.  He seemed to watch and listen for the crisis, and so did
I.

After a short while, however, my companion recovered his presence of
mind and appeared busy thinking out some plan of deliverance.

But a few seconds only was he silent, and then, making a sign for me to
go after him, he glided towards the bows of the vessel.

No one saw or followed us, and there was nobody forward beyond the
windlass.  At the moment all were busy amidships, in getting the great
mast overboard, and cutting away the strong ropes of the rigging.

Brace continued on over the bow-bulwarks, until he had got between the
bumpkin and bowsprit-shrouds, and close to the figure-head of the
vessel.  Here he stopped and beckoned me towards him.  I crawled over,
and stood by his side.

"Not a word, lad!--not a word of what you've heard!  It can do no good,
but only harm.  If they get to know't, they'll knock off work--every one
o' 'em--and then we must all either roast or drown.  Let 'em go on with
the raft--maybe there'll be time enough yet.  Almighty grant that there
may be, Willim!  For all that, 'tan't no harm to try and save ourselves
if we can.  The powder's sure to be about the cabin, and we'll stand a
better chance here forrard.  But we 'ant a-goin' to stop here longer
than we can help.  Look sharp, now, and give me a hand!  These two
planks 'll float us.  You cut some rope, then, while I knock 'em off--
there, cut clear the jib-sheets and downhauls--that'll do--quick, lad!
quick!"

Thus directing me, Brace, who had brought the axe along with him
commenced knocking off the great broad boards that stretched on both
sides from the bulwarks to the figure-head, and upon which the name of
the vessel was painted.  With a few strokes of the axe the strong man
was able to detach them; and, as soon as this was done, he slung them in
the ropes I had already obtained, and lowered them down to the water.

Climbing out upon the bowsprit, he next detached the dolphin-striker,
and it also was lowered down, while I made myself useful by cutting
through the martingales, also the fore-topgallant and royal-stays, that
fastened this spar in its place.  Several other pieces of timber yielded
to the axe; and all, having been thrown downward, floated together upon
the motionless surface of water.

Brace, now perceiving that there was enough to make a raft to carry the
two of us, flung the axe into the shrouds; and, gliding down a rope upon
the floating timbers, called upon me to follow him.  It was at this
moment I heard the cry from the main-deck that the great raft was ready;
and, looking back, I perceived that the men were hurrying over the side
and descending upon it.  If I remained but a moment longer I should be
the last upon the burning wreck.

No!--not the last--far from it.  There were nearly five hundred more--
five hundred human beings on board the _Pandora_! and though they were
men with black skins, they had lives to lose--lives as precious to them
as ours were to us.

A terrible spectacle was comprehended in that backward glance--a sight,
the remembrance of which never fails to send a chill through my veins,
and a shuddering through my frame.



CHAPTER FIFTY FOUR.

During all this time what was the behaviour of the unfortunate blacks?
Where were they? what were they doing?  What was being done for them?
Were any steps being taken for their safety?

The two last of these questions may be answered by saying, that up to
that moment, with the exception of myself, perhaps, not one on board had
given a thought either to them or their fate!  With regard to their
whereabouts, they were still between decks, and under grated hatches;
and as to what they were doing, it would have been hard to tell that--
hard even to guess it.  One thing they were doing; they were crying
frantically, and screaming as if they had all gone mad--but this was no
new thing, it had been their behaviour throughout that whole day.

In their hurrying to and fro, while launching the long-boat, and
afterwards while gathering materials for the raft, the men passed
frequently near them; and then the cries of the blacks would, for the
moment, be uttered in a louder voice, and in more earnest tones,--
sometimes of entreaty, but oftener of rage and menace.

As no notice was taken of them, and those to whom they appealed passed
carelessly on, their voices would sink again into the deep continuous
murmur of despair.

It is probable that up to this period--the moment when the raft was
ready--the only agony which they had experienced was thirst; for I
noticed, on last passing them, that their cries had not changed.  It was
still _agoa_! _agoa_!--water! water!  This, with the want of air and
room, the desire to get upon deck, were the impulses that had been
urging them to such furious and frantic demonstrations.

It is most probable, then, that up to the period I have mentioned they
had no particular dread--at least, no dread of the awful doom that now
threatened them so nearly.

The smoke of the burning cabin rather inclined aft than forward, and had
not reached them, and the flames were not yet sufficiently bright to
illumine the whole vessel with any unnatural light.  Of course, from
their position under the hatches, neither cabin nor deck was visible to
them; and until either smoke or flame, or a brilliant light shining
through the grating, should reveal the awful truth, they could not
possibly be aware of their peril.  No one had volunteered to announce it
to them, because no one thought it worth while!

They may have observed that all was not right--they may have had
suspicions that there was something amiss.  The unusual movements of the
crew--the noises heard upon deck--the hurried trampling of feet, and the
gestures of the sailors, as these passed within sight, with the
terrified expression of their countenances--which could scarce have been
unnoticed--for it was still clear enough for that--all these matters
must have excited the suspicions of the close kept crowd, that there was
something amiss on board the barque.  The crashing sound of axes, and
then the shock and heavy lurching of the vessel, as the mast came down,
may have excited other apprehensions besides that of perishing by
thirst; and, though they continued their cries for water, I observed
that they conversed among themselves in hurried mutterings that bespoke
alarm from some other cause.

But as none of them knew anything about a ship or her ways--the
_Pandora_ was the first they had ever looked upon--of course they could
not arrive at any conclusion as to why the unusual movements were going
forward.  Guided only by what they heard, they could hardly guess what
was being done.  They could not imagine there was a danger of being
wrecked--since there was neither wind nor storm--and after all it might
be some manoeuvre in navigation which they did not comprehend.  This
probably would have been their belief had they not observed the odd look
and gestures of such of the sailors as at intervals came near the
grating.  These were so wild as to convince them that something was
wrong--that there was danger aboard.

The commotion had produced fears among them, but not proportioned to the
peril.  They knew not the nature of their danger, and their alarm had
not yet reached its crisis: but they were not destined to remain much
longer in doubt.

Just at this moment a jet of red flame shot upward through the smoke--it
was followed by another, redder and more voluminous--then another, and
another, until the blaze rose continuous, and stood several feet in the
air.

The moon became eclipsed by the brighter light--the whole vessel was
yellowed over, as if the sun had returned above the ocean.

The crackling of the burning timber now sounded in their ears--the fire,
having escaped from the embrace of its own smoke, seethed fiercer, and
rose higher into the air, until the top of the ascending flames could be
seen through the grating of the hatches.

But it needed not that the flames should be seen--their light, and the
hissing, crackling noise that proceeded from them, proclaimed the dread
nature of the catastrophe.

Then arose a cry--a wild, agonising cry--out of the bosom of that dark
hold--out of the hearts of that ill-fated crowd--a cry that for some
moments drowned the fierce seething of the flames, and the crashing,
crackling sounds of the fire.  I shall never forget that cry--none who
heard it could fail to remember it till their last hour.

It was just at this crisis that I had turned to look back.  Awful was
the sight that met my eyes--awful the sounds that fell upon my ears.
Under the bright gleam of the blazing ship, I saw the black faces and
round woolly heads pressing against the bars of the grating.  I saw
glaring eyes, foaming lips, and teeth set in terror, glittering white
under the corruscation of the flames.  I saw smoke oozing up the grated
hatch--the fire was fast creeping forward--its foul harbinger was
already among them--oh! what an awful sight!

I could not bear it--I could not have borne it in a dream--it was too
much for human eyes--too much for the heart of man.  My first impulse
was to turn away, and glide down beside my companion--who was waiting
patiently upon the raft below.

This was my first impulse, which suddenly gave way to another.  My eye
had fallen upon the axe--still lying across the bowsprit-shrouds, where
Brace had thrown it.

The weapon suggested a purpose; and, eagerly seizing it, I faced once
more towards the burning vessel.  My purpose was to return on deck--
strike off the batten--and set the grating free.  I knew the risk--I had
forgotten the presence of the powder--but if it were to be my death I
could not restrain myself from acting as I did.  I could not live to
behold such a terrible _holocaust_--such a wholesale burning of human
beings!

"At least," thought I, "they shall not perish thus.  Though their fate
be sealed, they shall have a choice of death--they shall choose between
burning and drowning--the latter will at least be easier to endure."

It was this last reflection that had prompted me to my purpose.

Bending downward, I hurriedly communicated my design to my companion.  I
was gratified with his reply.

"All right, Willim! good work--do it!--do it--set 'em free, poor
creetirs.  I was thinking o't myself--tho' 'twas too late--haste 'ee,
lad--look sharp!"

I waited not for the end of his speech; but springing back to the deck,
rushed towards the hatch.  I thought not of looking below--indeed, the
smoke was now coming up so thickly that I could scarce see the terrified
faces.  The glimpse I had of them was sufficient to satisfy me, that, in
a few minutes more, those glaring eyes would have been blind, and those
hoarse voices hushed in death.

I remembered where one batten had been removed, and where the other had
been attacked by the axe.  I renewed the attack--striking with all the
strength and dexterity I could demand.

My efforts proved successful; and, after half-a-dozen blows, the spikes
yielded, and the cleet of timber flew off.

I did not stay to raise the grating; I knew that would be done by the
pressure from below; and, gliding back, I once more climbed over the
bows.

One glance back, as I passed over the head, told me that my purpose had
been fully accomplished.  Instantly as I parted from it the grating was
flung off, and I saw the stream of black forms pouring upwards and
spreading itself over the deck!

I stayed to observe no more; but, sliding down a rope, was received in
the arms of my companion.



CHAPTER FIFTY FIVE.

During my short absence, Brace had not been idle.

He had got his little raft compacted--its timbers tied together--and it
now carried us both without even dipping under water.  The two spars,
the dolphin-striker, and half of the spritsail-yard were laid parallel
to each other, and transversely to these were the broad pieces, that
exhibited in large letters the name of the ill-fated barque.  There were
several other pieces of timber, a handspike or two, and an oar--which
Brace had picked up as he glided towards the head--and over all was a
piece of sail-cloth, or tarpaulin.  The whole formed a raft just about
large enough for two, and safe enough in calm weather, but under a gale,
or even a strong wind, such a structure would have been overwhelmed at
once.

But my companion had no intention of going to sea with such a craft.
His idea had been that he might get it ready before the great raft could
be finished, and the sooner escape from the dangerous proximity of the
powder.  Even if it had taken him quite as long to prepare it, there was
still a greater chance of safety by our being so far forward upon the
vessel.  If the powder had exploded there would have been a chance of
our not being blown to atoms.  The after-part of the vessel might be
shivered in pieces, and, of course, the rest would soon sink; but still,
by keeping out by the head, there were many chances in our favour.  It
was from these considerations that the sailor had hurried away from
amidships, and set to making his raft at the bows.  It was only intended
as a temporary retreat--to enable us at the earliest moment to get
beyond the circle of danger; and, should the men succeed in completing
the larger structure, ours could afterward be brought alongside and
joined on to it.

The large raft was completed as soon as our little one, and all hands
had gone down upon it.  As I returned on deck to strike up the hatch, I
saw not a soul of the _Pandora's_ crew.  They had all gone out of the
vessel, and betaken themselves to the raft.  From the deck I could not
see either them or the raft--as the latter was still close in under the
beam-ends of the barque.

As soon as I had got fairly down, my companion pushed off, and the next
moment the great raft came under our view.  Both it, and those who were
on it, were seen as distinctly as though it had been daylight--for the
burning vessel was no longer a combination of flame and smoke.  Her
whole quarter-deck, from the taffrail to the main-hatch, was enveloped
in a bright flame that illumined the surface of the sea to the distance
of miles.  Under this light, we perceived the raft and the men standing
or crouching upon it.

They had pushed off some ten or twelve yards from the side of the
vessel, in order to be clear of the flames.  There was another reason
that induced them to get some distance away, and that was the fear that
there might be powder aboard.  Although no positive alarm had been given
to that effect, there existed a doubt about the thing, and they were not
without apprehensions.  There were other men besides Brace who knew
something, or had heard something, about the stolen keg, but who, not
being certain about the matter, did not like to make known their
suspicions.  There might be powder yet; and it was, therefore, with a
feeling of relief that all hands had sprung upon the raft, and got it
out of the way of such dangerous contingency.  No doubt it was this
suspicion about the gunpowder that had influenced them all to exert
themselves so strenuously in the work.  So far as there was any danger
from the flames, they might have continued on board a while longer--for
it would still be many minutes, before the conflagration could extend
forward and embrace the whole of the vessel.

The men had not stayed aboard a moment longer than was required for them
to complete the necessary work; and, once on the water, they were seen
to be working as anxiously as ever to push off the raft--as though they
dreaded contact with the barque from some other cause than the danger of
the fire.

This was in reality the case; for, now that the raft was fairly afloat,
those who suspected the presence of gunpowder were heard freely
declaring their suspicions; and all stood looking upon the conflagration
with eyes of expectancy--expecting every moment to hear an explosion!

It was just at that moment that Brace and I, passing round the
larboard-bow, came in sight of the crew; and, without a moment's
hesitation, my companion using the oar, and I doing what I could with a
handspike, set our little raft in motion, directing it as well as we
could towards the other--with which we supposed in a few seconds we
should be able to come up.

In this, however, we were disappointed.  Just then we observed a strange
movement among the men on the raft, who, after standing for some seconds
in attitudes that betokened surprise, and with voices and gestures that
confirmed it, were seen hastily renewing their efforts to put themselves
at a still greater distance from the wreck; and not only hastily, but in
a manner that bespoke some degree of terror!

What could this mean?  Surely the flames could not reach them now?
Surely they were beyond all danger from an explosion of gunpowder--even
had there been a hundred barrels instead of one?  The blowing up of a
whole magazine could not have harmed them at that distance off?  Surely
it was not this that was exciting them?

I first looked to Brace for explanation, but his actions, at the moment,
were as mysterious as any.  He was on the forward part of our little
craft, kneeling upon the planks and using his oar in the manner of a
paddle.  I saw that he was endeavouring to direct our course towards the
raft; so as I with the handspike; but my companion, instead of working
leisurely and deliberately--as he had hitherto been doing--was now
rowing with all the haste and strength he could put into his arms--as if
he was in dread that the raft would get away from us, and was doing his
utmost to overtake her!

He had said nothing as yet; but I could see his features distinctly
under the brilliant light, and the expression upon them, as well as the
earnest endeavours he was making to increase our speed, convinced me
that he, too was under some feeling of terror.

Was it the fear of being left behind by those on the raft?  No; it could
not be that; for, though neither was going faster than a cat could swim
we were evidently making better speed than they; and it was plain we
were getting nearer them at every stroke of the paddle.  The great raft,
indeed, lay like what it was--a raft of logs; and, although the men had
oars, it was only with great difficulty it could be pushed along, and
moved slowly and heavily through the water.  Why should Brace be at all
uneasy about our overtaking it?

But it was not that that was urging him to such haste.  The conjecture
only held possession of my thoughts for an instant.  In the next instant
I perceived the cause of terror.  I saw what alarmed both my companion
and the crew upon the raft.



CHAPTER FIFTY SIX.

Up to that instant I had not looked back towards the burning barque.  I
would rather not have done so.  I dreaded to look back; moreover, I was
so eagerly employed in helping to propel our floating plank that I had
scarce time for looking around.

Now, however, I was constrained to raise my head and glance back upon
that terrific spectacle.  It explained at once why the crew of the
_Pandora_ were so eager to be gone from the spot.

The fire had burned forward to the stump of the main-mast, and, fed by
the large quantities of black pitchy ropes--the shrouds, stays, and
ratlines--was sending up strong bursts of smoky flame.  Red tongues were
shooting out forward, as if to grasp the rigging of the fore-mast that
still stood untouched.  But the most singular, or rather the most awful,
part of the scene was that presented on the foredeck and the whole
forward part of the ship.  Upon the windlass, the bulwarks, the
fore-mast shrouds, around the head, and out to the bowsprit-end, was a
continuous swarm of human forms, so thickly clustered that scarce any
part of the vessel could be seen, except the fore-mast, with its spars
and rigging towering high above.  Five hundred there were--perhaps not
so many--as some of them, happily for themselves, had gone out of the
world before that dread hour.  But nearly five hundred there were, and
of course they covered every part of the forward deck, and even the
sides and bulwarks, from the selvage of the approaching flames to the
bowsprit-end.  Some had gone out even farther, and could be seen
swarming like bees and balancing their bodies on the jib-boom.  In fact,
but for its awful character, the scene suggested the hiving of bees that
had crowded every leaf and twig upon the branch of a tree.

Both males and females were there--for both had succeeded in making
their way on deck--but amid that thick swarm their sex could not be
distinguished.  Strange to say, they were no longer black!  Not one of
them looked black--on the contrary, they appeared red!  Their faces, the
skin of their naked bodies, even the woolly coverture of their crowns,
showed blood-red under the glaring light of the blazing pitch; and this
singular transformation added not a little to rendering the scene more
terrific--for there was something supernatural in this altered
complexion.

The whole scene might have been compared to the final of some grand
theatrical spectacle--it had all the grandeur, the red light, and the
scenic embellishment--but in two circumstances it widely differed from
the fictitious imitation.  There was not that variety of forms and
colours in the tableaux, and, moreover, the characters were not as upon
the stage--in poses and attitudes that betokened rest.  On the contrary,
all were in motion.  Their arms were tossing wildly above their heads,
while they themselves were leaping upward or dancing to and fro wherever
they could find footing.  They were shouting in tones of despair,
screaming in agonised accents; while some, who had evidently gone mad,
were gibbering and laughing in voices that bore a striking resemblance
to that of the hyena!

The strong light enabled me to trace everything minutely--alas, too
minutely!  I could see the white gleaming teeth, the frothing lips, the
eyes glaring in madness or terror.  We were still scarce a cable's
length from them.  I could note every movement as if I had been in their
midst, or within ten feet of them.  They all stood fronting in the
direction of the raft; and for this reason I could note their gestures,
and even distinguish the expression upon their features.

Among other things I saw women--I knew they were women only from their
being smaller than those around--I saw women lift up little dark forms
as high as they could raise them, and hold them out in the direction of
the raft.  They were their children, their infant piccaninnies, and this
was intended as a supplication to the white runaways to come back and
save them.  Others stretched forth their arms and stood in attitudes of
entreaty; while men--the stronger and fiercer ones--shook their clenched
fists in the air and hurled after us loud cries of menace.

Awe-inspiring as was the spectacle, it was neither the threats of the
men nor the supplications of the women that was causing all commotion
among the crew on the raft.



Part of the blaspheming and loud talk that could be heard there arose
from anger that the blacks had been let out; and we could hear several
voices inquiring, in harsh angry tones.  "Who has done it?  Who has done
it?"

These questions were not asked simply thus, but with the embellishments
of horrid oaths and exclamations that cannot be repeated.

It was just as my companion and I were parting from the bows, that we
heard these questions asked, and so earnest was the tone of the
inquirers, that I at once saw that I had placed myself in a position of
danger.

It appeared that I had committed an imprudence.  My humanity had hurried
me to an act that could be of no service in saving the lives of those I
intended to benefit, but was likely to bring destruction upon all--
myself among the rest.

I can scarce say that I repented of what I had done.  I should have done
the same deed again.  I could have not restrained myself.  I had
followed the promptings of mercy.  How could I have acted otherwise?

I had such reflections at the moment, or something like them.  I cannot
exactly describe my thoughts, for a tumult of strange emotions was
passing through my mind.

I now perceived the danger which threatened the two rafts: I perceived
it on looking back toward burning the vessel: the blacks were
threatening to swim after, and seek refuge upon the rafts.  Large
numbers of them showed that they had formed this intention.  It was
apparent from their movements and attitudes.  They were swarming over
the bulwarks and down the sides.  They had gathered along the beam-ends
and seemed every moment on the eve of launching their bodies into the
water!



CHAPTER FIFTY SEVEN.

No wonder the sailors were alarmed.  Should the blacks carry out their
intention, enough of them might reach the raft to sink her--enough of
them, perhaps, to fling the white men into the sea and themselves take
possession of that frail chance for life.  Whatever might be the event,
it was clear that if they came on, certain destruction must result to
one or other, or most likely to all.  As for my companion and myself, we
appeared in a position of greater peril, even than those upon the raft,
for we were between them and the threatened danger.  But we had no fears
from this source; we were certain that if no accident arose to our craft
we could propel it faster than a man could swim--though so little faster
that it would have been a tight race had we been pursued.  However,
having so many yards of start we had little to fear.

We kept on, intending to overtake the raft and fasten our floating
planks alongside it; and this purpose, after a few minutes, we succeeded
in effecting.

Brace had cautioned me as we came up to say nothing, of what I had done.

"For your life say nothing, for certainly," said he, "they will throw
you into the sea and me along with you.  Say not a word," whispered he,
as a final caution--"not a word, even if they question you.  I'll answer
them if they do."

He was called upon to do so, and dexterously did he execute his design.

"Hilloa!" hailed several as we approached--"who are ye?  Ho!  Brace and
that precious boy Bill.  Was it you that let the niggers above board?
Was it either of you?"

These questions were put with the usual vulgar embellishments.

"No!" responded Brace, in an indignant tone and of course telling the
truth as far as he was concerned--"How could we?  We were down by the
bows, and couldn't see 'em.  I wonder how they did get loose?  They must
a broke through when ye knocked off the batten.  I seed nothin' of 'em
till we were out in the water.  I was under the head makin' this bit o'
raft.  I was affeerd there wouldn't be room for all--lend a hand here
one o' ye, and hitch this thing on--it'll help to keep a couple o' us
afloat anyhow."

By this appeal for help my companion dexterously turned the
conversation, so that no further questions were asked about who set free
the blacks.  Indeed, there was no opportunity to talk any more upon the
matter, for at this crisis the attention of every one upon the raft had
become earnestly fixed upon that dark, red cloud that clustered along
the side of the vessel.

Strange to say the negroes had been for some minutes in this position--
with every appearance of a purpose to leap outward into the water and
swim towards the raft--and yet, not one of them had sprung forth!  They
seemed like men determined to do a thing, but who waited for a signal
from some leader.  Either that, or some one to take the lead himself and
set the example--just like a mob of soldiers crowded together on the
field of battle--as soldiers always are at such times--prepared to
charge forward and rush even upon death itself, if some bold spirit will
only give the word and go forward in advance of them.  So stood the
crowd of blacks, threatening to plunge into the sea and yet hesitating
to do so.

We wondered at their hesitation.  What could they mean by holding back?
The raft appeared the only chance for their lives--though a poor respite
it would be.  Nevertheless, men who are about to be burned or drowned
will cling to a less hope than that.  Why, then, did they not jump
overboard and swim after, as all expected them to have done before this?
Could they swim? or could they not?  These were the questions that now
passed rapidly from mouth to mouth on board the raft, and were answered
with equal rapidity, though the answers were but guesses, and did not
correspond.  They were both negative and affirmative.  Some alleged that
they could not.  If this were true, then the position of affairs could
be explained at once: the hesitation of the blacks to take to the water
would, upon this hypothesis, be easily understood.  However, there were
but few who held this opinion.  It was quite improbable that it could be
the true one--quite improbable that in all that crowd there was not any
one who could swim--for even one would have taken to the sea in hopes of
finding refuge upon the raft--forlorn as the hope may have been.  No,
the negative supposition was not to be entertained for a moment.  It is
well-known that most of the natives of Africa not only swim but are most
excellent swimmers.  Their mode of life renders the art a necessity
among them.  Living on the banks of great rivers, by the shores of those
immense lakes in which Central Africa abounds, often requiring to cross
streams that are deep and rapid, and where no bridges exist, these
people are compelled by their very wants to become experts swimmers.
Besides, their hot climate renders the exercise a pleasant one, and many
tribes of them spend half their time in the water.

It was highly improbable that they could not swim--all, or nearly all,
of them.  No, this was not the cause of their hesitancy.

And what was?

This question was answered by one of the sailors--though all of us at
the same moment perceived the cause.

"Look yonder!" cried the man, pointing along the water; "look yonder;
yon's what cows 'em--the sharks!"



CHAPTER FIFTY EIGHT.

The stretch of water that lay between the raft and the burning vessel
glittered under the yellow light like a sea of molten gold.  On its calm
surface the blazing barque was mirrored, as though another was on fire
below; but the perfect image was broken by occasional rippling, as if
some living creatures were stirring through the water.  The very
intensity of the light, dazzling our eyes, prevented us from scanning
the surface with any degree of minuteness.  It was like looking against
the sun as the bright orb rises or sets over the sea.  The strong light
glancing along the water produced a sheen and a sparkle that
half-blinded us; and, although we had observed an occasional eddy or
rippling motion upon the surface, we had not thought of the cause until
that moment.

Now, however, that our attention was called to this moving of the waters
we had no difficulty in making out the cause.  It was the sharks that
were darting about--now rushing impatiently from point to point; now
lying in wait, silent and watchful, like cats, ready to spring upon
their prey.  Here and there we could see their huge dorsal fins standing
like gaff-topsails above the surface, now cleaving the water like huge
blades of steel, anon dipping below to appear again at some point nearer
to their expected prey.

From the number of these fins that we observed above water, we came to
the conclusion that there must be hundreds of these voracious creatures
around the blazing barque.  In fact there was a perfect "school" of
them, like porpoises or minnows--for the longer we gazed the greater
number of fins and rippling eddies were detected, until at times it
appeared as if the whole surface was thickly covered with these preying
fish!

Their numbers, too, seemed to be continually increasing.  On looking out
to sea others might be noticed swimming up, as if they had come from a
distance.  No doubt that red conflagration was a signal that summoned
them from afar.  Like enough the sight was not new to them--it was not
the first time they had witnessed the burning of a ship and had been
present at the spectacle; before now they had assisted at the
denouement, and were ever after ready to welcome such a catastrophe, and
hasten towards it from afar.

I really could not help thinking that these monsters of the deep
possessed some such intelligence, as they swam around the fated barque--
casting towards it their ogreish expecting looks.

They came around the raft as well--indeed, they appeared to be thicker
there than elsewhere--as though we who stood upon it were to be the prey
that would first fall into their ravenous jaws.  So thick were they,
that two or three could be seen side by side, swimming together as
though they were yoked; and at each moment they grew bolder and came
nearer to the timbers.  Some already swam so close to the raft, that
they were within reach of a blow from the handspikes, but not any one
attempted to touch them.  On the contrary, the word was passed round for
no one to strike or assail them in any way.  Just then they were doing
good work; they were to be let alone!

Little as the sailors would have liked to see such shoals of these
dreaded creatures at any other time--for between sailor and shark there
is a constant antipathy--just then the sight was welcome to them.  They
knew that they themselves were out of reach of the hideous monsters; and
at a glance they had comprehended the advantage they were deriving from
their presence.  They saw that they were the guardians of the raft--and
that, but for them, the blacks would long since have taken to the water
and followed it.  The fear of the sharks alone restrained them; and no
wonder it did, for the whole surface of the sea between the blazing
vessel and the raft now seemed alive with these horrid creatures!

It was no longer wondered at that the negroes had not precipitated
themselves into the water and swam after us.  It would have been a bold
leap for any of them to have taken--a leap, as it were, into the very
jaws of death.

And, yet, death was behind them--death quick and sure, and, perhaps, of
all others the most painful--death by fire.  In setting the poor
wretches free, I had been under the humane impression that I had given
them the easier alternative of being drowned.  I now saw that I was
mistaken.  No such alternative was in their power.  There was no longer
a choice between burning and drowning.  It now lay between burning and
being devoured by the sharks!



CHAPTER FIFTY NINE.

An awful alternative it was, and for a long while the ill-starred
victims seemed to linger in their choice.  Hard choice between two
horrid forms of death!  Little did it matter which, and the knowledge of
this rendered them indifferent whether to spring forth or stand still.
Death was before them as well as behind--turn which way they might,
death stared them in the face--soon and certain--and on every side they
saw its threatening arm--before, behind, above, and around them.  The
utter hopelessness of escape had numbed their energies--they were
paralysed by despair.

But even in the hour of the most hopeless despair there arrives a crisis
when men will still struggle for life--it is the last struggle--the
final conflict as it were, with death itself.  No one yields up life
without this effort, though it be ever so idle.  The drowning man does
not voluntarily permit himself to sink below the surface.  He still
strives to keep afloat, though he may not have the slightest hope of
being rescued.  The effort is partly involuntary--it is the body that
still continues to battle for life, after the mind has resigned all
hope--the last stand that existence makes against annihilation.  It may
be a purely mechanical effort--perhaps it is so--but who ever saw a
strong man compelled to part suddenly with life, that did not make such
a struggle?  Even the condemned criminal upon the gallows continues to
strive till the breath has parted from his body.  Something like this
last despairing effort aroused the energies of that hesitating crowd
that clustered upon the burning barque.  The crisis at length came.

The flames were fast rushing forward, and spreading over all the deck.
Their red jets, spurting out beyond the selvage of smoke, began to touch
the bodies of their victims, and pain them with the fierce sting of
fire.  It produced no augmentation in their cries of agony.  These had
long since reached the climax, and the voices of those who uttered them
had been already raised to their highest pitch.  But the close proximity
of the flames, and the absolute certainty of being now destroyed by
them, caused a general movement throughout the living mass; and, as if
actuated by an universal impulse, or guided by one common instinct, all
were seen making a sudden descent upon the water.

Those who had been hitherto standing along the side were not the first
to leap.  It was they who were farther back, and of course nearer to the
flames, who first took to the water; and these, rushing over the
bulwarks--and even stepping upon the shoulders of those who were
clustered there--without further hesitation flung themselves headlong
into the sea.  But the impulse seemed to communicate itself to the
others, and almost instantaneously--as if some one had proclaimed a way
to safety and was leading them on to it--the whole crowd followed the
foremost and went plunging into the water.  In a few seconds not an
individual could be seen--of all that dark swarm that had so lately
crowded the fore-part of the vessel, not one was now visible on board.
Simultaneously had they deserted the burning wreck!

A wild scene was now presented in the water.  The whole surface was
thick with human forms, plunging and struggling together.  Some were
evidently unable to swim, and, with their bodies half erect, were
tossing their arms about in vain efforts to keep above the surface.
Here and there several clung together, until two or three--or in some
instances larger groups--dragged one another below, and sank to the
bottom together.  Strong swimmers were observed separating from the
rest, and forging out into the open water.  Of these the heads only
could be seen, and rapidly closing upon them the dark vertical fin that
told the presence of the pursuing shark.

Then could be heard the wild, despairing cry--then could be seen the
quick rush of the monster upon his prey--the water lashed by his tail--
the foam thrown up, already tinged with the blood of the victim--and,
after that, the surface returning to its level--the eddies and red
frothing bubbles alone marking for a few moments the scene of each
tragical crisis.

Oh! it was an awful spectacle to look upon--this wholesale ravening of
sharks--and even those who were upon the raft, with all their inhumanity
and heartless cruelty of disposition could not behold it without
emotion.

It was scarce an emotion of pity, however.  Perhaps of all, Brace and I
were the only ones who felt pity.  Some were indifferent, but the
majority of them--although a little awed by the tragical scene--were
actually glad at beholding it!  It may be wrong of me to say they were
glad--what I mean is, that they felt a secret satisfaction at what was
going on--springing not from pure wanton cruelty of heart, but rather
from an instinct of self-preservation.  Hitherto, these men had been in
great dread of the blacks overtaking the raft--they were not yet free
from the fear--and, of course, with this in their minds, they regarded
with satisfaction the wholesale ravage that the sharks were committing.
By this their own danger was every moment diminished--hence it is that
they were gratified at the hideous spectacle.

But numerous as were the sharks, there were not enough of them to make
total destruction of that vast crowd of human beings.  After the first
general attack the ravenous brutes appeared to become scarcer and
scarcer, until but one here and one there, could be seen rushing upon
their prey.  The greater number, having already secured a victim, were
satisfied and perhaps had gone down to their haunts in the darker deep--
while hundreds of human heads were still observable above the surface of
the water.

The flames, still flaring brilliantly, illumined the sea as if the day
was shining upon it; and it could be observed that the faces of the
survivors were all turned in the direction of the raft, towards which
they were swimming with all their strength.

Once more the sailors became inspired with apprehension--once more they
dreaded that their last hour was come, and that they themselves might
soon be struggling among the sharks.



CHAPTER SIXTY.

There was much shouting among the white men and many wild exclamations,
but no time was lost in idle talk--for every one was doing his best to
propel the raft.  The shouts were only an accompaniment to their
actions.  Nearly every one wielded some implement, which had been
grappled in the hurry of the moment.  Some were provided with oars,
others had only handspikes, and still others assisted in paddling with
pieces of board that had been obtained from old coops, or the bulwarks
broken by the falling mast.  Those who could find nothing better
stretched themselves along the edge of the raft and beat the water with
their hands, in order to aid in producing a forward motion.

But the great masses of timber--not yet firmly lashed together--lay
loose and loggish upon the water, and moved very slowly and irregularly
under such ill-assorted propulsion: and, notwithstanding that the raft
had obtained a hundred yards the start of the swimmers, its occupants
began seriously to dread being overtaken.

They had reason to fear it.  There could be no doubt that the pursuers
were gaining upon us, and this soon became evident to all upon the raft.
Nay, more, they were gaining rapidly; and, at the rate at which they
were swimming, five minutes could not pass before they would overtake
us.

Those upon the raft were now quite conscious that such would be the
event.  Paddle and beat the water as they might they could not propel
the heavy timbers beyond a certain rate of speed--not so fast as a man
could swim.  Notwithstanding their exertions, and the advantage of their
long start, they saw they were going to be overtaken.

It could not be otherwise--there was nothing now to obstruct the
pursuit--nothing to stay the pursuers.  The sharks, having sated their
appetites, had let most of the swimmers escape.  Occasionally one was
seen to go down with a shriek, but this was the exception--the rest swam
freely on.

What was their motive in following us? was it vengeance, or a despairing
hope of being saved?  Perhaps both,--but no matter which, there were
enough of them to overpower the white men by sheer strength; and, once
they succeeded in reaching us, it was not likely they would fail to
avenge themselves for the wrongs that had been put upon them.

Should they succeed in overtaking the raft they would easily climb upon
it; a few might be kept back, but it would be impossible for thirty men
to repulse hundreds; and the crowd would soon crawl over the edge, and,
with their additional weight, sink the frail structure to the bottom of
the sea.

Should they succeed in reaching the raft--there was no need of any
supposition--they would be certain to overtake it--even at that moment
there were some of them scarce ten yards off, and coming nearer at every
fresh stroke of their arms.  These, however, were the strongest
swimmers, who were far ahead of the rest.  The main body were still
twenty yards further off; but it was plain that the slowest of them swam
faster than the raft was moving.

Most of the sailors began to give way to despair.  The wicked deeds of
an ill-spent life were rising before them.  To all appearance their last
hour had come.

And mine, too--at least, so believed I at that moment.

It was hard to die thus--by such horrid means, and in such company.
Sound in health, the love of life was strong within me; and under this
impulse I almost repented what I had done.  It was I who had brought
about this last terrible contingency, and my own life was now to be the
forfeit.  Yes; I had acted imprudently, rashly, and I will not deny that
at that moment I came near repenting of what I had done.

It was not a time for reflection.  The crisis had arrived.  We must all
yield up life.  The sea would soon receive us within its ample embrace.
Masters and slaves, tyrants and their victims, must all perish together!

Such were the thoughts that were rushing through my brain, as I saw the
black swimmers approach.  I no longer felt sympathy or pity for them.
On the contrary, I viewed them as enemies--as dreaded monsters who were
about to destroy and devour us--to engulph us all in one common
destruction, and among the rest myself--their late benefactor.  Really,
at that moment, in the confusion of my thoughts, I was regarding these
unfortunate creatures as though they were voluntary agents--as though
they were actuated by gratuitous cruelty and revenge, and not victims of
despair struggling for the preservation of their own lives.

My senses had become confused; my reasoning faculties had forsaken me;
and, in common with those around me, I regarded the pursuers as enemies!

Under this impression--false though it may have been--I was the less
disposed to sympathise with them, when I saw the first who came near the
raft beaten back by the oars and handspikes of the sailors; for to this
it had now come.

It was a cruel scene that followed.  I took no part in it.  Though ever
so desirous that my life should be saved, I could never have gone to
such extremes to preserve it.  I was but a looker-on.

I saw the foremost swimmers struck upon the head, or pushed away by
violent "jabbing" from the oars and handspikes.  I saw some disappear
below the surface, as if they had gone to the bottom under the blow,
while others, not injured, swam off, and then circled round as if to get
ahead of us.

Though the fierce, angry shouts, and the still fiercer actions of the
white men intimidated the foremost swimmers, these demonstrations did
not drive them away.  They only kept out of reach of the oars and
handspikes, but still followed on.  Indeed, they no longer followed; for
the raft was no longer in motion; the rowers had enough to do without
propelling it further, and it had now come to a stand still!



CHAPTER SIXTY ONE.

It soon became evident that the foremost swimmers, who had been for the
moment repulsed, had no intention of turning back.  Why should they?
Behind them they had left no hope--not a plank to cling to--only a ship
on fire blazing upward to the skies and now almost hid under the flames.
Even she, before they could reach her, would be burned down to the
water's edge.  Why should they think of swimming back?  No; the raft was
the only thing upon the whole face of that wide sea upon which human
foot might now find a resting-place.  Though it would be but a straw
among so many, at that straw had they determined to clutch, so long as
life remained.

They had no design of leaving us, but now swam round and round the
floating spars, evidently waiting until their main body could come up,
so that all might rush forward together and get possession of the raft.

This was plainly their intention: and, knowing it, the white men were
fast yielding to despair.

Not all of them.  There were some of those rough men who still preserved
their presence of mind; and in that perilous hour, when all hope
appeared to have vanished, these men suddenly hit upon a plan to save
the raft, and the lives of those upon it, from the apparently inevitable
fate that threatened them.

I was, myself, in a state of half-stupor.  I had watched the movements
of the poor wretches in the water till my head grew giddy, and I scarce
knew what was going on around me.  My face was turned towards the
blazing ship, and I had not for a long while looked elsewhere.  I heard
the sailors ejaculating loudly, and shouting words of encouragement; but
I supposed they were encouraging each other to repel the attack of the
swimmers, who were now on all sides of the raft, forming a sort of
irregular ring around it, of several feet in depth.  I was expecting
that we would soon be sinking into the sea!  I was stupefied, and I
thought I was dreaming.

All of a sudden I was aroused from my stupor by hearing a loud huzza.
It came from the sailors behind me.  I could not tell its meaning till I
turned round, and then, to my surprise, I saw a piece of sail spread out
transversely across the raft, and held by several men in a vertical
position.  There was one at each end and one in the middle, who, with
their arms extended upward, held the sail as high as they could reach.

For what purpose were they doing this?  I needed not ask the question.
I saw that there was wind blowing against the canvas.  I felt the breeze
upon my cheeks.

I looked back to the water.  I saw that the raft was moving rapidly
through it.  There was a rushing along the edge of the timbers--there
was froth where the spars were cleaving the sea.  I looked for the
swimmers.  I saw their round heads and grim faces, but no longer around
the raft--they were already in its wake, every moment falling further
away.  Merciful heaven! at least from that terrible fate were we saved.

I kept gazing behind.  I still saw the dark heads above the water.  I
could no longer distinguish their faces.  I thought they had turned them
away.  I thought they were swimming back toward the blazing barque.

They may have turned back, but with what hope?  They could have had
none; though despair may have driven them in that direction as well as
any other.

It was a sad beacon to guide them; nor did it serve them long.  They
could not have got near it--not half-way--before that event, so dreaded
by Brace and myself, came to pass.  The crisis had at length arrived.

Wherever the powder had been kept, it was long before the fire had
reached it--far longer than we had expected; but the searching flames
found it at last, and the concussion came.

It was a terrific explosion, that resembled not the report of a cannon,
but a hundred guns simultaneously fired.  Bed masses were projected far
up into the heavens, and still farther out to the sea, hurtling and
hissing as they fell back into the water.  A cloud of fiery sparks hung
for some minutes over the spot; but these at length came quivering down,
and, as soon as they reached the surface, were observed no more.  These
sparks were the last that was seen of the _Pandora_.

The crew at this moment were awed into silence.  There was silence far
over the sea; yet for nearly another hour that silence was at intervals
broken by the death-shriek of some exhausted swimmer or some victim of
the ravening shark.

The breeze still continued to blow, the raft moved on, and long before
morning the _Pandora's_ crew were carried far away from the scene of the
terrible tragedy.



CHAPTER SIXTY TWO.

The breeze died away before the morning, and when day broke there was
not a breath stirring.  The calm had returned, and the raft lay upon the
water as motionless as a log.

The men no longer tried to propel it; it could have served no purpose to
make way--since, go in what direction we might, there would be hundreds
of miles of the ocean to be crossed, and to sail a raft over that long
distance was not to be thought of.

Had there been a stock of provisions and water, sufficient to have
lasted for weeks, then such an idea would have been more feasible; but
there was nothing of this, and the idea of sailing in search of land was
not entertained for a moment.  The only hope was that a sail might
appear in sight, that some ship might be passing across the ocean, and
come sufficiently near to see us and pick us up.  One and all were
agreed that this was our only chance of being saved.

A cheerless chance it appeared when examined in all its bearings; so
cheerless, indeed, that only the most sanguine of the party drew any
hope from it.  Notwithstanding the hundreds of thousands of ships that
are constantly ploughing the mighty deep, and sailing from port to port,
you will meet with but a very few of them on any long voyage you may
make.  You may go from England to the Cape of Good Hope, without seeing
more than one or two sail during the whole passage! and yet that would
be travelling upon one of the great highways of the ocean--in the track
of all the ships sailing to the vast world of the East Indies, and also
to those prosperous commercial colonies of Australia, whose mercantile
marine almost rivals that of England herself.  Again, you may cross the
Atlantic upon another great water-way--that between Liverpool and New
York--and yet between one port and the other, you may see less than
half-a-dozen sail, and sometimes only two or three, during the whole of
your voyage.  Vast and wide are the highways of the great ocean.

With a knowledge of these facts, but few of the men indulged in any very
strong expectation of our coming in sight of a sail.  We were in that
very part of the Atlantic where the chances of such an encounter were
few and far between.  We were out of the line of navigation between any
two great commercial countries; and although formerly Spanish vessels
had travelled a good deal near the track we were in--in their
intercourse with their South American colonies--this intercourse had
been greatly diminished by revolution, and most of the traffic with
these countries was now carried on in vessels belonging to the United
States, and these were not likely to sail so far to the eastward as we
were.  Portuguese ships still traded to the Brazils in considerable
numbers, and upon these we built most of our hopes--these and the
chances that some ship engaged in the same traffic as the _Pandora_
might be crossing westward with slaves, or returning for a fresh cargo.
There was yet other vessels that occasionally navigated this part of the
Atlantic--cruisers on their way from the African coast to the Brazils,
or warships from Gibraltar, going round the Horn into the Pacific, or
passing from the Cape of Good Hope to the West Indies.

All these chances were eagerly brought forward by the men, and discussed
with every circumstance of minuteness.  Every point was produced that
seemed to promise a hope of deliverance; for most, if not all, of these
outlaws were seamen of experience, and well knew the ways of the ocean.
Some held the opinion that our chances of being picked up were not so
bad after all.  There was a sail that could be rigged, by means of oars
and handspikes, and spread out so as to be visible from afar.  Some ship
would be certain to come along and see us, and then all would be right
again.

So talked those of more sanguine temperament; but the wiser ones shook
their heads and doubted.  They reasoned in an opposite strain, and made
use of arguments, the force of which could not be denied, and which
produced great discouragement.  There are some who seem always to prefer
exhibiting the darker side of the picture--perhaps not from any pleasure
that it gives them to do so, but, by accustoming themselves to the worst
view of the case they may be the better able to endure it when it comes.
Otherwise, in the event of success, that they may derive all the
greater enjoyment from the reaction.

These last alleged that the chances of meeting with any vessel in that
solitary part of the ocean were slight, very slight indeed; that even if
there were ships--hundreds of them--how could they approach the raft
during a calm?  Of course the ships would be becalmed as they themselves
were, and would have to remain so as long as the calm continued.  This
would be likely to last for weeks, and how were they to exist for weeks?
How long would their provisions keep them alive?  Not weeks; a few days
perhaps, not more?

These remarks led to an immediate examination of the stock of provisions
that had been brought away from the wreck; and every article on the raft
was now turned up and scrutinised.  Strange to say the only thing of
which there was a tolerable supply was water.  The large cask that had
hitherto stood on deck--and which was still nearly half-full--was now
upon the raft.  It had been bunged up and rolled overboard, and then
safely deposited among the spars, where it floated of itself.  What
water may have been carried away in the gig no one knew, but certain it
was that the cask was still nearly half-full.

This discovery produced a momentary cheerfulness--for, in such cases,
water is usually the most important consideration, and ofttimes the very
one that is neglected.

But the joy was of short continuance; when every article upon the raft
was overhauled, and every portion of it carefully searched, the only
food that could be found was a small bag of biscuits--not enough to give
two biscuits to each of us--not enough for a single meal!

This astounded intelligence was received with cries of chagrin and looks
of dismay.  Some shouted in anger.  One half recriminated the other.
Some had been entrusted specially to provide the food.  These alleged
that a barrel of pork had been put upon the raft.  Where was it?
Certainly there was a barrel; but, on breaking it open, to the dismay of
all, it proved to be a barrel of pitch!

A scene now ensued that it would be impossible to describe.  Oaths,
exclamations, and angry words passed freely, and the men almost came to
blows.  The pitch was thrown into the sea, and those who had put it upon
the raft were threatened with a similar fate.  Their negligence would
prove fatal to all.  But for them there might still have been a chance;
but now, what hope?  With two biscuits apiece, how long could they
exist?  Not three days without suffering the extreme of hunger.  Ere a
week should pass, one and all must perish!

The probability, nay, the positive certainty, of such a doom produced a
scene of despondence--mingled with angry excitement on the part of those
who called themselves "betrayed"--that it would be difficult to paint.
Harsh revilings were freely used; and threats of throwing the
delinquents into the sea continued to be uttered at intervals during the
whole night.

There was still another barrel upon the raft, that had been better left
upon the burning wreck.  But it was not likely that it should be
forgotten.  Its contents were of a nature too highly prized by the
sailor who fears death by drowning, or any other sudden or violent
means.  It is supposed to make death easy, and, therefore, the
despairing wretch clings to it as a friend.  It is a sad resource, an
awful termination to human existence; but often is it appealed to in the
last moments of misery.  I need not say that this barrel contained rum.

Whether it was the same that had been lowered into the long-boat with
such pernicious effect I cannot say.  Perhaps it was.  It may have
floated and been picked up again; or it may have been still another one,
for among the stores of the ill-fated barque there was a plentiful
supply of this horrible liquor.  It constituted the chief "tipple" of
the dissipated crew--the main source of their indulgence and bestial
enjoyment.  A vile cheap stuff it was, freely served out to them, scarce
kept under lock and key; and there was not an hour in which one or other
of them might not have been seen refreshing himself at this odious
fountain.  If the barrel of pork had been forgotten and left behind,
here was a substitute; and the sight of this reeking cask, strange to
say, produced a cheering effect upon numbers of those savage men.  Many
were heard proclaiming, in a sort of jocular bravado, that if the rum
wouldn't keep them alive it would help them to die!



CHAPTER SIXTY THREE.

As soon as day dawned every eye was bent upon the horizon.  Not a point
of the whole circle that was not scanned with the minutest earnestness
by one and all.  Round and round they turned, sweeping the surface with
anxious glances, and raising themselves as high as they could in order
to command the most distant view.

But all ended in disappointment.  No sail was in sight; nothing that had
life or motion; not even fish or fowl broke the monotony of that vast
surface of sleeping water.

There were no signs of the gig: she must have rowed off in some
different direction; no signs either of the wreck, the breeze had
carried us far from it; but even had we remained near, there might have
been seen no traces of it.  All had long since gone to the bottom of the
sea.

The sun rose higher and higher, and at noon stood right over our heads.
We had no protection from his beams--they were almost hot enough to
blister us.

The calm continued--there was not enough motion in the air to have
wafted a feather, and the raft lay as still as if it had been aground.
It only moved, when those who were on it passed from place to place.

There was not much changing about.  There was no great room for it.
There were in all thirty-four of us, and the bodies of the men--some
sitting and others lying--covered nearly the whole space.  There was no
reason for moving about.  Most were sullen and despondent, and kept the
places, they had first taken, without the energy to stir out of them.
Others were of lighter heart, or, under the influence of the rum which
they drank freely, were more noisy.  Now and then there was wrangling
among them.

The sea was frequently scanned, round and round, to the very borders of
the sky.

This duty was neither forgotten nor overlooked.  There was always some
one rising to his feet and gazing outward, but only to return to his
former position, with that disheartening look that proclaimed how vain
his reconnoissance had been.  Indeed, silence itself was a sufficient
reply.  No one would have discovered a sail, without making instant
announcement of it.

At noon we were all suffering from thirst; they who had been regaling
themselves with rum worse than any--for this is the sure result.

Water was served out from the cask--in equal quantity to each.  It was
agreed that all should share alike, both of the water and the bread--and
of the former it was resolved that each should receive a pint a day.  In
any other situation the allowance might have been sufficient, and
existence might be supported upon it; but under that broiling sun, that
seemed to dry up the very blood in our veins, our thirst became almost
insupportable, and the pint of water could be gulped down without
affording the slightest relief.  I am certain that half a gallon would
scarce have sufficed to quench my thirst.  What rendered the pint of
water still more insufficient was, that it was no longer cool water.
The sun, basking down upon the cask that lay only half covered, had
heated the staves--and, consequently, the water within--to such a
degree, that the latter tasted as if half-way towards boiling.  It may
have checked the progress of thirst, but it did not alleviate the pain.

The water might have been kept cooler, by throwing the idle sail over
the cask; but even this trifling precaution was not adopted.

The men were gradually giving away to despair--the torpor of despondency
was fast laying hold upon them, and under this influence no one seemed
to possess energy enough for any precaution--however easy it might have
been.

As to the serving out of the food, that occupied only one act.  To be
put upon daily allowance out of such a store was altogether out of the
question.  A simple partition was all that was required, and the bag of
biscuit was emptied out and its contents equally divided around.  There
proved to be two biscuits apiece, with a small surplus, and for this
last the crew held a "raffle"--each time a single biscuit forming the
prize.  For these prizes the men contended with as much eagerness, as if
there had been large sums of money staked on the result; and, indeed, it
would have been a large sum that would have purchased one of those
precious morsels of bread.

The "raffling," combined with the "rum"--which was now also meted out--
produced for some time a noisy excitement.  But this was soon over; and
the sullen silence of despondency again ruled.

Some, already ravenous with hunger and reckless of consequences, ate
their two biscuits at once--while others, endowed with greater prudence
or stronger powers of endurance, only gnawed a small portion, and kept
the rest towards a future and more pressing necessity.

Thus passed the time till near sunset, with no event to cheer us--no new
prospect to beget a hope.

When near sunset, however, a grand excitement was produced, and all the
sweet joys of hope were again felt.

One of the men who had arisen to his feet, and was gazing over the sea,
suddenly cried out:--

"A sail--a sail!"

It would be impossible to describe the wild joy that these words
produced--men leaped to their feet, vociferating glad huzzas as they
repeated the words "a sail, a sail."  Some pulled off their hats and
waved them in the air--some leaped and danced about as though frantic,
and even the most despairing behaved as if suddenly called to a new
life.

I have said it would be impossible to picture that scene; but still more
impossible to describe the contrast which, but the moment after, might
have been witnessed upon the raft, when it was ascertained that the cry
was a false alarm.  No sail was in sight--there had been none--nothing
could be seen of ship or sail over the wide circle of the ocean--nothing
moved upon the glass-like face of that vast mirror.

A false alarm, entirely without foundation.  Why the man had uttered it
was soon explained.  The wild expressions that were pouring from his
lips, with the grotesque gestures he was making with his arms proved
that he was mad!



CHAPTER SIXTY FOUR.

Yes, the man was mad.  The awful occurrences of the preceding night had
deprived him of his reason, and he was now a raving maniac.

Some cried out to throw him into the sea.  No one opposed this counsel.
It would have been carried into execution--for several were prepared to
lay hold of him when the maniac, apparently well aware of their
intention, scrambled back into his former position; and, cowering down,
remained silent and scared-like.  It was not probable he would harm any
one--he was left alone.

The excitement of this incident soon passed away, and the gloomy looks
returned--if possible, gloomier than before, for it is ever so after
hopes have been raised that terminate in disappointment.

So passed the evening and a portion of the night.

At the same hour as upon the preceding night--almost the same minute--
the breeze again sprung up.  It could be of little service--since there
was no chance of our being carried by it to land--but it was cool and
refreshing after the intense torrid heat we had been all day enduring.

Some were for spreading the sail; others saw no use in it.  "What good
can it do?" inquired these.  "It may carry us a score of miles hence, or
perhaps twice that.  What then?  It won't bring us in sight of land--nor
a ship neither.  We're as likely to see one by lying still.  What's the
use of moving about?  If we haven't the wherewith to eat and must make a
die of it, we may as well die here as a score of knots farther to
leeward.  Set your sail if you will--we won't either hinder or help."

Such language was used by the despairing part of the crew.

There were those who thought that by sailing, we should be more likely
to fall in with a vessel.  They thought they could not be worse, and
might drift to a better place, where ships were more frequent--though
they acknowledged that there were equal chances of their going away out
of the track.

The truth is, that not one knew within hundreds of miles of where we
were, and to sail in any course would have been mere guess-work.

By men in misery, however, motion is always preferred to rest; and the
knowledge that you are going, and going forward, produces a soothing
influence on the spirits.  It begets a hope that you will come in sight
of something that may aid you; and these hopes, however ill-founded,
enable you to pass the time more lightly.  On the contrary, by remaining
in one fixed place, for a like period of time, you fret and chafe much
more under the uncertainty.

With this feeling upon them, most of the men were in favour of bending
the sail, and it was accordingly bent.

The night before it had been held aloft by several of the men--as the
only object then had been to get the raft beyond reach of the swimmers.
When that end was accomplished, the sail had been allowed to drop, and
the raft had drifted a good distance without it.

To-night, however, a mast was raised--or rather, a pair of them--
consisting of oars and handspikes spliced together--and between the two
the canvas was extended, without yard, gaff, or boom.  There was no
design to manoeuvre the sail.  It was just spread like a blanket,
transversely to the raft, and left for the breeze to blow upon it as it
listed.  When this was done the raft was left to its own guidance, and,
of course, drifted to leeward as fast as it could make way--apparently
at the rate of three or four knots an hour.

The men once more resumed their recumbent positions, and all remained
silent.  Some fell asleep, and snored as though they were happy!  Others
slept, but their dream-talking told of troubled visions--recalling,
maybe, dark scenes of guilt.  A few seemed to lie awake all the
live-long night--at intervals tossing about, as though kept on the alert
by thirst, hunger, or the apprehension of approaching death.

Brace and I sat close together.  We still occupied the slight raft he
had made--as there was but little room upon the other--and this one, now
forming part of the whole structure, was as good a position as we could
have chosen--in fact the best, as the sequel proved.

There was a sail upon it--the jib or flying jib, I know not which--and a
piece of old tarpauling; and these, spread over the planks, kept them
together, and gave us a softer bed to recline upon.

We conversed together at times, though not often.  Now and then the
brave sailor had endeavoured to cheer me by holding out hopes--but so
hopeless had our situation now become that he at length desisted.  He
felt that it would be only mockery to hold out the slightest prospect of
our deliverance.  He, too--the bravest of all that blind--was fast
surrendering himself to despair.

The breeze died away before daybreak, just as on the previous night--and
another morning came, but showed no sail on all that boundless sea.

Another hot sun rose and circled overhead through the same cloudless
heaven, and set red and fiery as ever.

There passed another night, and once more the wind carried us through
the water; and then several other days and nights--I ceased to count
them--came and went with almost the same monotonous routine, varied only
by bickerings among the men--sometimes most fiendish quarrels, in which
knives were drawn and used almost with fatal effect.

Strange time for disagreement and deadly conflict!

Even wild animals--the fiercest beasts of prey--when under the influence
of a common danger will yield up the ferocity of their nature.  Not so
these wicked men--their vile passions in this dread hour seemed only to
become stronger and more malignant!

Their quarrels were about the merest trifles--the serving out of the
water, the rum, the supposition of some one that he was not getting fair
play in his allowance--but so frequent had they become, that they
themselves grew to be a monotony.  Every hour a fierce brawl disturbed
the deep repose and otherwise breathless silence that characterised the
intervals between.

If these incidents had grown monotonous and no longer failed to interest
me, there was one upon the eve of occurring that was well calculated to
produce within me an interest of the most powerful kind--calculated to
stir my soul to its very utmost emotion.

I have said that this incident was on the eve of occurring--it was a
hideous purpose already matured, though kept secret from my companion
and myself.  Neither Brace nor I had the slightest suspicion of it until
the hour in which it was openly declared.



CHAPTER SIXTY FIVE.

It was probably on the sixth day after parting from the wreck--though I
am not certain about the day--that the horrid design reached its
development.  It had been hatching for a while before, and upon that day
came to a crisis.

It was now several days since food had been tasted by any one--the two
biscuits each had been long since eaten--most of them at the moment of
being given out.  Of course every one upon the raft was suffering the
pangs of hunger, and had been enduring them until the appetite had
reached the extremity of painfulness.

Some looked emaciated, with eyes deeply sunken, and cheeks bony and
hollow.  Others, strange to say, had a fat, bloated appearance; but this
must have arisen from swelling, or some unnatural cause--it could not be
that famine had given them flesh.  All--one and all--had that peculiar
expression about the eyes, and around the mouth, that may be noticed in
the visage of a hungry dog, or still more perceptibly in a half-starved
wolf.

About this period there seemed to be some secret intelligence among
them--not all of them--but among those who acted as leaders--for even in
their reduced condition, there were those of stronger body and more
energetic spirit, who maintained a sort of leadership over the rest.
What this intelligence was I could not tell, nor indeed, should I have
taken notice of the indications of its existence, had it not been for
what occurred afterwards.  I observed them now and then whispering to
one another; as they did so casting side-glances towards Brace and
myself.  At other times I caught now one, and now another, gazing upon
me, and with a wild wolfish look, that rendered me, though I could not
tell why, singularly uneasy.  I noticed that they appeared as if they
did not like to be detected while thus looking at me; and ever as I
returned their glances they suddenly lowered their eyes or averted their
faces.  They then appeared as men who have been detected in some mean or
guilty action.

As it appeared to me that they looked in a similar manner at my
companion, and at one another as well, I fancied that the strange
expression that had struck me must be one characteristic of extreme
hunger, and I thought no more about it.

On the following day, however, I observed that the whispering among them
increased; and was accompanied with a greater variety of gesticulation
and excitement.

Brace also noticed it, and guessed better than I what all this
freemasonry meant--at least he was nearer the truth, for he was still
ignorant of the full purpose of those ruffian conspirators.

He whispered to me what he supposed they were after--with the design of
breaking the terrible truth to me as gently as possible.  But I had now
better than half divined it, and his communication did not startle me.

"Some one got to die, lad.  I s'pose they're talkin' o' castin' lots who
it'll be--well, we must take our chance along with the rest."

Just as Brace had finished his speech one of the men rose up upon the
raft; and, calling the attention of the others, begged to make a
proposal to them.

The speech by which he introduced his proposal was brief, indeed, and to
the point.  In fact, he came to the proposition almost at once, which
was simply--that one of the party must die to save the rest--that they
had still water--but no food; and all must perish unless they could
eat--that they could not eat unless--

But I cannot repeat the dread arguments which he made use of, brief
though they were--for his speech was short, and, having delivered it, he
sat down again.

There was a short pause, and then another rose and addressed the crowd.
This man coincided in the views of him who had spoken, and added to the
proposal a suggestion for carrying it out--that was, that the one who
was to die should be chosen by lot.  This, of course, both Brace and
myself expected.  It was not likely that any one was going to volunteer.

What was my terror, and the anger and alarm of my companion, when one of
the strongest and most brutal of the whole crew--the ruffian Le Gros--
rose up, and in a loud and serious tone, not only objected to drawing
lots, but proposed me for the victim!

Brace sprang instantly to his feet, and uttered a cry of indignation.
It was expected that this cry would have been echoed by the others; and
with almost any other band of men upon the face of the earth or the face
of the ocean, such would have been the reception of the foul proposal.

But both my companion and I soon perceived, with dismay, that there came
no such echo from that ruffian crew.  On the contrary, several backed
the proposal itself, and in such majority--I might almost say unanimity,
that it was plain that most of the men who spoke had already
predetermined the case.  It was evident, from their prompt acquiescence,
that they had been prepared for it; and this accounted for that
mysterious whispering that had been carried on during the preceding day.
Some few, evidently, had not been in the secret; but these were weak
individuals, whose opposition would not have been regarded, and who,
indeed, appeared ready enough to chime in with the majority.

The French bully went on to justify his proposition by argument.  We
were not all equal, he said--there were able seamen--and common
sailors--and I was but a boy.  Why should I have a chance like the rest?
It was preposterous.

Brace opposed his arguments--appealed to the crew--to their sense of
justice and fair play--let lots be cast, said he, and let him take his
chance with the rest--that was the only fair and honest mode--the only
way worthy of men.

Bah! these were not men.  One and all were but too glad to grasp at any
means that would deliver them from the perilous raffle.  The sophistic
arguments of Le Gros satisfied them.  The infamous motion prevailed.  It
was decreed that I should die!



CHAPTER SIXTY SIX.

Yes--it was decreed that I should die.

The time and the mode alone remained to be determined; but these points
were soon settled.  For the former it was to be then--instantly--and as
to the mode, I was to be bled to death!

These resolves were made with a despatch that allowed no time for
reflection--scarcely time for speech or protestation.  The ferocious
wolves were eager for their prey.

It was their determination to act promptly to the time; for, without
further hesitation, half-a-dozen of the most forward in the business
advanced towards me--evidently with the intent to put their design into
execution!

And, beyond a doubt, they would have done it--had I been alone and
unprotected--beyond a doubt they would have killed and eaten me!  But I
was not alone--I was not without a protector.  As the fierce cannibals
advanced, Brace sprang between them and me, and drawing his clasp-knife,
threatened to cut down the first who should lay a finger upon me.

"Off!" cried he, "off, you cowardly swabs!  Lay your hand upon the lad,
and I'll make mince-meat o' ye.  He may be the first to be eaten, but he
arn't the first that'll die for it--there's more than one o' ye'll have
to kick the bucket afore he does.  Blowed if thar arn't!  So now ye
cowardly hounds! come on if you dare."

The dastards, cowed by the intrepid bearing of Brace, halted in their
advance and hung back--though no one of them ventured a reply.  They
seemed to have been taken by surprise; for although they knew that Brace
opposed the design, they had no idea he would attempt to struggle
against the whole crew.  Surprise, therefore, held them back, mingled
with some little fear--for the determined attitude which Brace had
taken, and the shining blade of his knife, promised death to some of
them; and, as each feared it might be himself, no one desired to be the
foremost.

I had thrown myself alongside my brave protector, resolving to do battle
and die by his side--though not much could my puny arm have effected
against the host of strong ferocious men who assailed us.  Still it
would be better to die thus, than to be butchered in cold blood; and
under this belief I nerved myself for the encounter.

At this crisis a change appeared to take place in the attitude of my
companion: some new thought had struck him; and, waving his hand in a
peculiar manner--which signified to our antagonists that he had some
proposal to make--he succeeded in obtaining silence.  He then addressed
them as follows:--"Comrades! arn't it too bad there should be
quarrelling atween us at such a time as this, when we're all in trouble
alike?"

Brace's late tone of defiance had changed to one of half entreaty, and
it was evident he was about to propose some compromise.  Indeed, it
would have been madness in him to have carried the conflict farther, as
it could only have resulted in the death of us both.

"Comrades!" he continued, "it's a dreadful thing to die, but I know that
some one must be made a sacrifice for the rest, and that are better than
we should all go.  Ye must know then when this thing happens it be the
usual way to draw lots about it."

"We shan't have it that way!" cried one, adding to his response the
emphasis of an oath.

"Well, then," continued Brace, without losing his pacific demeanour,
"since you're agreed that it shan't be that way, and that the boy must
be the first, and since you're all agreed to it, it's no use o' me
standin' in the way.  I agree to it wi' the rest."

I was startled at the words, and involuntarily turned my eyes upon the
face of the speaker.  Was he serious? was he really about to give me up?
to surrender me into the hands of those ruthless men?

He took no notice of me; and his unflinching attitude, and glance still
bent in the same direction, told me that he had not yet done speaking.

"But," said he after pause, "with these conditions."

"What conditions?" asked several, interrupting him.

"Why only this," replied Brace, "that the boy be let live till the
morning.  I only ask for him till the sun rises; and then if there be no
sail in sight, ye can do as ye please.  It's only fair the lad should
have a chance for his life; and if you don't agree to give him this
chance," continued the speaker, once more placing himself in a
determined attitude, "if you don't, then all I've got to say is, that
I'll fight for the lad as long as I can stand over him, and if he be
first ate he won't be first killed--that I can promise ye.  Now?"

Brace's speech produced the desired effect.  His auditory, though
reluctantly, agreed to the proposal.  Even those heartless fiends could
not help acknowledging that it was no more than fair; but, perhaps, the
determined and resolute bearing of my protector--as he stood, drawn up
and ready, with that keen blade shining in his strong, firm grasp--had
more influence upon their decision than any feeling of fair play.

Whether or not, the reprieve was granted; and those who had been
menacing my life drew back--though still muttering their discontent--and
shrunk once more into their places.



CHAPTER SIXTY SEVEN.

I can ill describe the emotions that agitated my bosom.  Though
delivered from the terror of immediate death, there was nothing in the
respite to give me any feeling of joy.  It would be only a short
procrastination of my doom, for certainly in the morning I must die.
The slender chances of our seeing a sail were scarce worth
contemplating; and I derived no consolation by dwelling upon such a
contingency.

My fate, therefore, I looked upon as sealed.  My protector could not
save me.  He had done the utmost in his power, in procuring the reprieve
that was to give me this slight chance for my life.  If it failed, he
would undoubtedly have to keep his word and surrender me up.

I felt as the condemned criminal whose hour of execution has been fixed,
and who knows it--with perhaps, only the difference that I could look
forward to the event with a clear conscience.  I felt not as a criminal,
but a victim--a martyr among ruffians.

Of course I thought not of sleep--all sleep was banished from my
eyelids.  With such a prospect before me how could I sleep?  Sadly at
that crisis did I think of home, of parents, and kindred.  Bitterly did
I repent that I ever ran away to sea!

Alas! like many others who have acted disobediently and rashly--my
experience had been too dearly purchased--my repentance came too late.

To-morrow by sunrise must I die; and oh! such a dreadful doom!  My fate
would never be known; for, though I was made a sacrifice, it was not
likely that my executioners would long survive me.  The chances that any
of them would ever reach land were slight indeed; and, even if they
should, it was not likely they would ever divulge that secret.  I should
never more be heard of; neither friends or kindred would ever know my
sad fate, and it would be better that they should not.  Oh! it was a
dreadful doom!

Suffering under such reflections, I lay stretched along the plank; my
protector was still by my side--so near that our shoulders touched, and
our heads were close together--I could have heard anything he might have
said, though uttered only in a whisper; but for a long time he did not
address a word to me.  He appeared to be busied with his own thoughts--
as if buried in some deep cogitation--and did not desire to be spoken
to.  Noticing this, I too remained silent.

The night came down and promised to be dark, most of the preceding
nights had been very clear, as there had been moonlight and scarce a
cloud in the sky for weeks before.  On this day, however, and
particularly towards the close of it, black clouds had shown themselves
above the horizon, and although the sea was still under a calm, it
appeared as if some change was at hand.

After the sun had set, these clouds rose higher and higher--until a
black pall of them covered the whole firmament, completely shrouding the
moon, and, not only hiding her from our eyes, but hindering her beams
from casting their light over the sea.

The surface of the water, instead of glittering around us, as it had
done upon preceding nights, was now of a grey, gloomy complexion--for it
reflected the colour of the clouds that hung over it.  Both wore fit
emblems of my own sad spirit.

Almost mechanically I remarked to my companion this change in the
heavens, and spoke about the darkness of the night.

"So much the better, lad," was his laconic reply, and he again relapsed
in silence, as if he did not desire to be led into conversation.

I lay for awhile pondering upon his reply.  How was it better?--what
signified the darkness?--what advantage could be gained by that?  A dark
night could not bring ships upon the sea; nor could it save me from the
doom that had been decreed.  The sun would rise all the same; and at his
rising I must die!  The darkness could not avail me!  What could he
mean?

I pondered a long while upon his answer, but could not make out its
signification.  Had he intended it as a phrase of encouragement--
something to hold out a hope to me--something to cheer me? for
indefinitely it had this effect--or was the answer given mechanically
and without thought?

The former I dared not hope.  Since the moment in which my respite had
been granted, he had not spoken nor offered a word of hope, for certain
was I that he had none to offer.  What then meant he by the words he had
just uttered--"So much the better, lad?"

I would at length have asked him; but, just as I had made up my mind to
do so, I perceived that he was twisting himself about, and before I
could speak to him, he had turned his head away--so that he could no
longer have heard me in a whisper.  Not desirous that others should
overhear the question I was about to put to him, I remained silent and
waited for a better opportunity.



CHAPTER SIXTY EIGHT.

It had now grown extremely dark--so much so that I could scarce
distinguish the form of my companion, though he was close by me--and the
great raft itself with the bodies reclining upon it, was only
distinguishable as a shapeless black mass.  I could perceive the spread
sail better than anything else, as this was of a whitish colour and
stood up outlined against the gloomy grey of the sky.

But, dark as it was, I noticed that Brace on turning away from me had
his knife clasped in his hand, with the blade still open and ready for
use!  What could he intend with this?

All at once it occurred to me that he suspected something--that he was
apprehensive that the ruffians might not desire to wait for the morning
as agreed--but might attempt to carry out their purpose in the night;
and under this suspicion he had placed himself between them and me--
determined to keep guard over me.  The position he had taken gave colour
to this supposition, and the attitude he was in almost confirmed it.

As I have before stated, Brace and I still occupied the floating planks
which we had bound together, and these were attached to the raft at what
might be called its stern--that is, when the raft moved through the
water by means of sail, our position was behind, and in the wake.  Now,
as my companion had turned himself, he lay with his head towards the
raft, and, as I thought, in a half-crouching attitude--though the pitchy
darkness prevented me from being sure of this.  At all events he was so
placed, that any one attempting to approach me must first pass over his
body; and, therefore, did I believe--seeing the knife in his grasp--that
his object was to guard me.

I have said that it had now grown extremely dark; but in addition to
this I perceived that the breeze had arisen--just about the same hour as
on other nights.  This night, however, it was much fresher than before--
so fresh that the raft swept briskly along--making a rushing noise in
the water, and leaving a foamy track behind her.

Lulled into a kind of stupor, I lay for some time listening to this
noise; and was only aroused from my reverie by observing that the sound
of the water became all at once less loud and distinct--as though the
raft was moving more gently through the sea--then I ceased to hear it
altogether!

Surely, thought I, the sail has come down, and the raft is no longer in
motion.

I lay for a while listening attentively; to my surprise I could still
distinguish the sound of rushing water; but it now appeared as if at
some distance, and every moment getting further away!

I was about to spring up and seek an explanation of this strange
phenomenon, when a wild cry came pealing across the water, followed by a
confused noise of loud voices.

"We are saved!" thought I, "some ship is near!" and I actually shouted
these words, as I sprang up from my recumbent attitude.

"Yes," replied a voice, which I knew to be that of Brace, "we're saved
from them anyhow--yonder they go, the cowardly swabs! they don't catch
us, while this breeze lasts--that they don't."

To my astonishment I now perceived that Brace and I were alone; and, far
in the shadowy darkness, I could just make out the white sail of the
raft still scudding away before the breeze!

There was no mystery about it.  Brace had cut the ropes that had bound
our planks to the raft, and had silently permitted them to drop astern.
That was what he had been doing with his knife!

Of course the wind, acting upon the sail, had soon carried the great
raft far out of reach, and it was now several hundred yards to leeward
of us.  The darkness had prevented any of the crew from noting what was
passing; but they had at length discovered our escape, as their wild
shouts and angry vociferations testified.  We could hear them calling us
by name, at the same time uttering threats and cries of disappointed
rage.

"Don't fear them any more," coolly remarked my companion, "can't reach
us with that slow craft--we can row faster than they can swim.  But best
make sure, however--the farther we're from 'em the better--lay hold,
lad! here's an oar for you--pull with all your might!"

I took the oar as my companion directed, and commenced rowing.  I saw
that Brace had another oar--which he had managed to bring away from the
raft--and under the two blades our little craft was propelled rapidly
through the water.  Of course we rowed right into the wind's eye--for by
so doing we took the opposite direction to that in which the crew was
carried.

For a long time we continued to hear their wild, hoarse cries behind us;
but the voices grew fainter and fainter, as the raft drifted to leeward;
and at length we could hear them no more.

We rowed on till morning light; and then resting from our toil, we stood
up, and scanned the surface of the sea.

There was no sail in sight--no object of any kind.

The raft had disappeared behind the convex swell of the water;--we were
alone upon the ocean!

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Reader!  I might describe other scenes of peril, through which my brave
companion and I passed, before that joyful hour, when our eyes rested
upon the white sails of a ship--a strong, fine ship that lifted us from
the bosom of the ocean, and carried us once more to land--ay, even to
our native land.  I shall not weary you with the details.  Suffice it to
say, that we were rescued--else how could I be living to tell the tale?

Yes--I still live, and so does my companion--both of us still follow the
sea, but no longer under the rule of an arbitrary tyrant such as the
captain of the _Pandora_.  No! we are both captains ourselves--I of an
East Indiaman; and Ben the master--and part owner, too--of a fine barque
in the African trade--a barque quite equal to the _Pandora_.

But not that African trade--no.  My old friend is an honest dealer.  His
merchandise is not black men, but yellow gold-dust, white ivory,
palm-oil, and ostrich plumes; and after each "trip" to the African
coast, Ben--as I have been given to understand--makes a "trip" to the
Bank of England, and there deposits a very considerable sum of money.  I
rejoice in his prosperity, and I have no doubt that you, reader, will do
the same.

We are not ignorant of the fate of the slaver's crew.  Not one of them,
either those in the gig or on the raft, ever again saw the shore.  They
perished upon the face of the wide ocean--miserably perished, without
hand to help or eye to weep over them.  No eye beheld them but that of
the Omnipotent--no hand but His was near; and it was near--for it was
the hand of God that avenged their victims!

THE END.





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