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Title: William Dampier
Author: Russell, William Clark
Language: English
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English Men of Action

WILLIAM DAMPIER


[Illustration: PUBLISHER'S LOGO]


First Edition 1889. Reprinted 1894


[Illustration: WILLIAM DAMPIER]


WILLIAM DAMPIER

by

W. CLARK RUSSELL



London
Macmillan and Co.
And New York
1894

All rights reserved



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE
  CHAPTER I

  THE BUCCANEERS—NAVIGATION IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY—FEATURES OF
  THE VOCATIONAL LIFE OF THE EARLY MARINER                             1


  CHAPTER II

  DAMPIER'S EARLY LIFE—CAMPECHÉ—HE JOINS THE BUCCANEERS, 1652-1681    15


  CHAPTER III

  DAMPIER'S FIRST VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD, 1681-1691                   44


  CHAPTER IV

  THE VOYAGE OF THE “ROEBUCK,” 1699-1701                              85


  CHAPTER V

  THE VOYAGE OF THE “ST. GEORGE,” 1702-1706-7                        107


  CHAPTER VI

  THE VOYAGE WITH WOODES ROGERS, 1708-1711                           138


  CHAPTER VII

  CONCLUSION                                                         183



CHAPTER I

     THE BUCCANEERS—NAVIGATION IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY—FEATURES OF
     THE VOCATIONAL LIFE OF THE EARLY MARINER


In or about the middle of the seventeenth century the island of San
Domingo, or Hispaniola as it was then called, was haunted and overrun
by a singular community of savage, surly, fierce, and filthy men. They
were chiefly composed of French colonists, whose ranks had from time to
time been enlarged by liberal contributions from the slums and alleys
of more than one European city and town. These people went dressed in
shirts and pantaloons of coarse linen cloth, which they steeped in the
blood of the animals they slaughtered. They wore round caps, boots of
hogskin drawn over their naked feet, and belts of raw hide, in which
they stuck their sabres and knives. They also armed themselves with
firelocks which threw a couple of balls, each weighing two ounces. The
places where they dried and salted their meat were called _boucans_,
and from this term they came to be styled bucaniers, or buccaneers, as
we spell it. They were hunters by trade, and savages in their habits.
They chased and slaughtered horned cattle and trafficked with the
flesh, and their favourite food was raw marrow from the bones of the
beasts which they shot. They ate and slept on the ground, their table
was a stone, their bolster the trunk of a tree, and their roof the hot
and sparkling heavens of the Antilles.

But wild as they were they were at least peaceful. It is not clear
that at this stage, at all events, they were in any way associated
with the freebooters or rovers who were now worrying the Spaniards in
those seas. Their traffic was entirely innocent, and it was assuredly
the policy of the Don to suffer them to continue shooting the wild
cattle without molestation. Unfortunately for themselves, the Spaniards
grew jealous of them. They regarded the West Indies and the continent
of South America as their own, and the presence of the foreigner was
intolerable. They made war against the buccaneers, vowing expulsion or
extermination. Both sides fought fiercely. The Spaniard had discipline
and training; on the other hand, the buccaneer had the art of levelling
as deadly a piece as the Transvaal Boer of to-day. The struggle was
long and cruel; the Spaniards eventually conquered, and the hunters,
quitting San Domingo, sought refuge in the adjacent islands. In spite
of their defeat, troops of the buccaneers contrived from time to time
to pass over into San Domingo from their head-quarters in Tortuga,
where they hunted as before, and brought away with them as much cattle
as sufficed them to trade with. The Spaniards lay in ambush, and shot
the stragglers as they swept past in chase; but this sort of warfare
proving of no avail, it was finally resolved to slaughter the whole
of the cattle throughout the island, that the buccaneers should be
starved into leaving once and for good. No act could have been rasher
and more impolitic. The hunters finding their occupation gone, went
over to the freebooters, and as pirates, as their history shows, in a
short time abundantly avenged their indisputable wrongs.

Novelists and poets have found something fascinating in the story of
the buccaneers. The light of romance colours their exploits, and even
upon the maturest gaze there will linger something of the radiance with
which the ardent imagination of boyhood gilds the actions and persons
of those fierce sea-warriors. It is unhappily true, nevertheless,
that the buccaneers were a race of treacherous, cruel, and profligate
miscreants. Their name was at a later date given to, or appropriated
by, such men as Clipperton, Cowley, Dampier, Woodes Rogers, and
Shelvocke, whose behaviour as enemies, whose skill and heroism as
seamen, and whose discoveries as navigators, greatly lightened the
blackness of the old traditions. But the buccaneers of the Spanish
Main,—the men who are the principal figures in the annals of the
freebooters, the people whose lives are contained in such narratives as
those of Joseph Exquemeling, De Lussan, De Montauban, Captain Charles
Johnson, in Von Archenholtz's brief but excellent history, and in
other works,—were rogues and ruffians without parallel in the history
of villainy. They owned indeed many extraordinary qualities, which,
exerted in honest fields of action, might have been deemed virtues of
a high kind. Their courage was great, their achievements wonderful,
their fortitude worthy of noble causes, their capacity of endurance
unrivalled in sea story. No skilfuller body of seamen were ever
afloat. But their history is loathsome for the cruelties it relates.
Olonois or Lolonois, Braziliano, Morgan, Bat, Le Grand, and others
famous as pirates, were monsters whose like is nowhere to be matched.
The relation of their sailings and landings and marchings, their
assaults, pillagings, defeats, and triumphs, is a sickening narrative
of barbarities; but it must be admitted, coupled with extraordinary
examples of courage in some instances absolutely sublime, and of
unconquerable resolution.

It was inevitable that the successes of these pirates should prove a
temptation to English seafaring men. Small vessels were fitted out in
British ports or the Colonies, and sailed for the West Indian Seas
to pillage the Spaniard wherever he might be found on land or water.
Often it happened, as Harris, the editor of a voluminous collection
of voyages, tells us, that crews were embarked and pilots engaged
without being apprised of the object of the voyage, “and nothing was
said about the true design until they were at sea, where they (the
captains) were absolute masters.”[1] To this order belongs that race
of English buccaneers of whom Dampier may be advanced as the most
conspicuous example. They possessed all the high-spirited qualities,
the daring, the courage, the endurance of the Morgans and Bats and
Brazilianos, but they were seldom or never wantonly cruel; they burned,
they sacked, as freely as the others; they pillaged churches with as
little compunction; poverty and sickness pleaded to them in vain when,
with firelocks in one hand and firebrands in the other, they thundered
through the deserted street and marked their progress with flaming
houses. But when human life was in their power they respected it; they
fought and behaved as though the king's flag flew over their heads;
there was something of the sentiment of honourable naval warfare in
their lawlessness; and to their credit let this stand, that though they
professed themselves as no more than privateersmen, their behaviour
will certainly bear comparison with the state-sanctioned and instructed
conduct of the officers and crews of the expedition under Commodore
Anson.

But my business is with Captain William Dampier only. Morgan and the
cut-throats who preceded or followed him have found apologists and
admirers in plenty. Happily Dampier's chief claims upon the attention
of posterity are based upon adventures of a very different kind from
those which rendered buccaneering one of the most infamous pursuits
that the wickedness or misery of mankind ever invented.

It is impossible to appreciate the intrepid seamanship of the early
navigators without first taking a view of the art of navigation as it
was in their time, and understanding the shapes, bulk, and rigs of the
vessels in which they cruised in search of plunder or started on long
voyages of discovery. In these days one is so used to the facilities
of science for traversing the deep with swiftness and certainty, that
it is necessary to bend the mind with some severity of thought to
compass the difficulties of the old sailors and honour their triumphs
justly. In the first place, their ships were so unwieldy that it was
scarcely possible to get them to beat against the wind, or, to use
the old-fashioned term, to “ply.” An example of this will be found in
Anson's _Voyage_. It is there recorded that the _Centurion's_ consort,
the _Gloucester_, was descried on June 21st from the island of Juan
Fernandez some eight or ten miles to leeward, beating or reaching
into the bay. The weather thickened and she disappeared. Five days
afterwards she again hove in sight, and for a whole fortnight she was
stretching away first on one, then on the other tack, in vain effort to
reach the island; nor was it until July 23rd that she was able to enter
the bay, and then only because the wind had shifted, and permitted
her to head for her destination with a flowing sheet. Thus for above
a month was this ship striving to get to windward and traverse three
leagues on a taut bowline!

The old vessels were cumbrously rigged. At the head of their lower
masts they carried huge round tops as big as a ballroom. Forward their
bowsprit was encumbered with massive spritsail and sprit-topsail
yards. Their sides were loaded with great channels embellished with
enormous dead-eyes for setting up shrouds as thick as hawsers. They
seldom exposed canvas above their topsails, though the topgallant-sail
had long been introduced, as we know by a passage in Sir Walter
Raleigh's Remains.[2] Their sterns were high and pink-shaped—that
is, broad at the water-line and narrowing at the taffrail. They
were built with deck upon deck in the after-part, the topmost being
called the “topgallant-deck” by the English, and the “poop-royal”
by the French and Spaniards; with the consequence that they were
dangerously deep-waisted, though with their extraordinary height of
side aft they floated, to the eye, like castles. As if this were not
enough, the structure where it was loftiest was crowned with enormous
poop-lanthorns of a size to hold “wind enough to last a Dutchman a
week!”

Structures thus shaped—the length rarely exceeding three times the
beam—and propelled by low-seated canvas, could do little or nothing
against head-winds and seas; and as a result the old narrators are
repeatedly telling us that they were forced to _hull_, or _try_,—in
other words, to heave their ship to, often in breezes in which a
sailing vessel of to-day would expose a topgallant-sail over a
single-reefed topsail. A succession of favourable gales would indeed
put life into the clumsy waggons and furnish them with some sort of
despatch, but as a rule the passage that is now made in sixty days was
hardly completed by the early navigators in a twelvemonth. Their ships
were unsheathed. It is true that Sebastian Cabot caused the ships under
the command of Sir Hugh Willoughby to be protected with thin sheets of
lead to guard against the worm “which many times pearceth and eateth
through the strongest oake”;[3] but I cannot discover that this example
was continued, and it is at least certain that the vessels commanded
by Dampier and his buccaneering companions breasted the surge with no
other coating on their bottoms than pitch and tallow. Hence in all long
voyages there was frequent occasion to careen, practicable only by
tedious deviation in search of a convenient place, and by wearisome
detention, that the hull might be listed over and the accumulation
of shells and weed removed. Another formidable difficulty lay in the
scurvy. This is a distemper still with us, but in those days it was
incredibly fateful. Few ships from Europe managed to pass the Horn
without the loss of half, and often two-thirds, of their crews from
this dreadful scourge. The “chirurgeons” could do nothing. There was no
remedy but to bring up off some fruitful coast and send the men ashore.
Whenever practicable this was done; but often it happened that the
ship's company were dying in fives and tens every day, with the vessel
herself a thousand miles out upon the ocean. The old navigators overdid
their pickling. The brine they soaked their meat in made it harder
and less nourishing than mahogany before they were out of the English
Channel. Of all the wonders of the early voyages none surprises me so
much as the capacity of the people to subsist upon the victuals shipped
for them.

In Dampier's time navigation as an art had scarcely made a stride since
the days of Columbus and the Portuguese discoverers. The instruments
for measuring the sun's altitude were the astrolabe, the cross or
forestaff, and Davis's backstaff,—engines for mensuration ludicrously
primitive, as will be supposed when viewed side by side with the
sextant of to-day. The mariner made shift with these contrivances to
determine his latitude within a degree or two, but he had no means of
ascertaining his longitude. There were no chronometers, there was no
portable Greenwich time, no aids whatever towards the solution of what
was regarded down to the days of Maskelyne and the Commissioners of
Longitude as the greatest marine problem that ever perplexed the mind.
Apparently the old practice was to run down the parallels and then make
direct easting or westing for the desired destination. Or they took “a
departure,” as it was called, from any point of land, and calculated
the meridians by the log. Or, as an alternative, the early navigators
employed dead-reckoning, as we still practise it—that is, they found
out a vessel's place on the chart by putting down her rate of sailing
as it was to be ascertained at regular intervals by “heaving the log,”
and by allowing for leeway and difference of courses. In Captain Thomas
James's _Strange and Dangerous Voyage in the years_ 1631-32[4] there is
included a list of the instruments provided by him for his undertaking
to discover the north-west passage into the South Sea. A few of the
items will furnish the reader with a tolerable idea of the primitive
character of the nautical implements with which the mariner in the
days of James, and later yet in the days of Dampier, embarked on his
voyages into the remotest parts of the world in quest of new lands
or in search of short cuts. James begins the list with “a quadrant
of old-seasoned pear-tree wood, artificially made and with all care
possible divided with diagonals, even to minutes. It was a four-foot at
least (semi-diameter).” Next: “An equilateral triangle of light wood,
whose radius was five-foot at least, and divided out of Petiscus's
table of tangents.” “A quadrant of two-foot semi-diameter of light wood
and with like care projected.” Then: “Four staves for taking altitudes
and distances in the heavens.” The captain also took with him “a staff
of seven-feet long, whose transom was four-foot divided into equal
parts by way of diagonals that all the figures in a radius of 10,000
might be taken out actually.” “Another of six-foot near as convenient
and in that manner to be used. Mr. Gunter's cross-staff, three Jacob's
staves projected after a new manner and truly divided after the table
of tangents, two of Mr. Davis's backstaves with like care made and
divided.” These were the captain's instruments for measuring the height
of the sun. Other items comprised “six meridian compasses ingeniously
made; four needles in square boxes; four special needles (which my good
friends Mr. Allen and Mr. Marre gave me) of six inches diameter, and
toucht curiously with the best loadstone in England; a loadstone to
refresh any of these if occasion were, whose poles were marked for fear
of mistaking.” Further, Captain James carried a watch-clock, “a table
every-day calculated, correspondent to the latitude according to Mr.
Gunter's directions in his book, the better to keep our time and our
compass to judge of our course.” A chestful of mathematical books, the
Collections of Purchas and Hackluyt, and “two pair of curious globes.”

Such was the scientific equipment of a man bound on a Polar voyage in
the year 1632. It is not to be supposed that such mariners as Dampier
and his buccaneering associates went half as well furnished. Indeed
their poverty in this direction was so great that one may read here
and there of their employing their leisure on shipboard in making
quadrants to replace those which were lost or worn out. Their Norie,
Raper, and Nautical Almanac in one was the crude _Speculum Nauticum_
of Wagener, made English by Anthony Ashley in 1588, and universally
known by the seamen in those days as _Waggoner_.[5] Sir Thomas Browne,
writing in 1664 to his son Thomas, a naval officer, says, “_Waggoner_
you will not be without, which will teach the particular coasts, depths
of roades, and how the land riseth upon the several points of the
compass.” It will not be supposed that _Waggoner's_ instructions were
very trustworthy. The art of surveying was scarcely understood; charts
even in Dampier's time were absurdly ill-digested, and portions of the
world are barely recognisable in the grotesque tracings. Therefore
it happened that the early mariner was forced to depend upon his own
judgment and experience to a degree scarce realisable in these days of
exact science and matured inventions. He hardly understood what was
signified by the variation of the compass, and there was very little
outside the Pole Star that was not doubtful. But happily for him there
was no obligation of hurry. There was no managing owner to worry him.
Prompt despatch was no condition of the charter-party. His was the day
of ambling, and he was happy if he could confirm with his lead and
log-line the reckonings he arrived at with his forestaff.

It is proper to remember all these conditions of the sea-vocation in
reviewing the life of William Dampier. The habit of self-reliance
makes the character of the sea-worthies of his age admirable, and it
qualified them for their great undertakings and achievements. They were
helped with nothing from science that can be mentioned with gravity.
The ocean was to them as blank as it looks to the landsman's eye,
and it was their business to find out the roads to the wonders and
mysteries which lay hidden leagues down behind its familiar shining
line. If a sailor nowadays is at fault he can seek and find the hints
and assurances he desires in twenty directions. He has Admiralty charts
of incomparable accuracy. He has a deep-sea lead with which he can
feel the ground whilst his ship moves through the water at fourteen
knots an hour. He has instruments for indicating the angle to which
his vessel rolls, and for showing him instantly her trim as she sits
upon the water. He has a dial that registers on deck, under his eye,
the number of miles his ship has made since any hour he chooses to time
her from. His chronometer may be accepted as among the most perfect
examples of human skill. Dampier and such as he wanted all these
adjuncts to their calling. But it cannot be disputed that they were the
better sailors for the very poverty of their equipment in this way.
It forced upon them faith in nothing but their own observation, so
that there never was a race of sailors who kept their eyes wider open
and examined more closely those points which have long since slided
into the dull prosaics of the deep. No one can follow them without
wonder and admiration. We find them in crafts of forty, twenty, even
ten tons—boats half-decked and undecked—exploring the frozen silence
of the North Pole, beating to the westward against the fierce surge
of the Horn, seeking land amidst the vast desolation of the southern
ocean, and making new history for their country upon the coast of
North America and in the waters of the Mozambique. Their lion-hearts
carry them all over the world, and they have nothing to help them but
the lead-line over the side and a quadrant big enough to serve as a
gallows. Nor was the ocean quite as it is now. In Dampier's time it
was still gloomy with mysteries, and there lingered many a dark and
terrifying superstition, whose origin was to be traced to those early
Portuguese and Spanish sailors who chanted a litany when they saw St.
Elmo's Fire glittering at the masthead, and exorcised the demon of
the waterspout by elevating their swords in the form of crosses. The
mermaid still rose in the tranquil blue waters alongside, and with
impassioned eyes and white and wooing arms courted the startled seaman
to share her coral pavilion at the bottom of the sea. The enchanted
island, steeped in the purple splendour of a radiance that owed nothing
of its glory to the heavens, was yet to be discovered by seeking. The
darkness of the storm was thronged with gigantic shadowy shapes of
fleeting spirits. Amid the tranquillity of the midnight calm, dim fiery
figures of undeterminable proportions floated in the black profound,
and voices as of human creatures could be heard out of the hush on the
deep syllabling the names of the listening and affrighted crew. It is
true that the Jack of Dampier's time was not so amazingly superstitious
as we find him in the pages of Purchas and Hackluyt. He was not quite
so young-eyed as the ancient mariner of the Elizabethan and preceding
ages. Nevertheless he was still exceedingly credulous, and he never
embarked on a voyage into distant parts without a mind prepared for
marvels of many sorts. Also let us remember the shadowiness of the
globe whose oceans he was to navigate, the vagueness of countries now
as well known to us as our own island home. Australia was rising upon
the gaze of the world like a new moon, the greater part of whose disk
lies in black shadow. Islands which now have their newspapers and
their hotels were uncharted, were less real than the white shoulders
of clouds dipping upon the sea-line. Of countries whose coast had been
sighted, but whose interiors were unknown, wild guesses at the wonders
within resulted in hair-stirring imaginations. These and more than
there is room to name are conditions of the early mariner's vocational
life, which we must take care to bear in mind as we accompany him
in his adventures, or certainly we shall fail to compass the full
significance of his magnificent resolution, his incomparable spirit,
and his admirable intrepidity.



CHAPTER II

1652-1681

DAMPIER'S EARLY LIFE—CAMPECHÉ—HE JOINS THE BUCCANEERS


There is an account of Dampier's early life written by himself in
the second volume of his Travels. I do not know that anything is to
be added to what he there tells us. A man should be accepted as an
authority on his own career when it comes to a question of dates and
adventures. The interest of this sailor's life really begins with his
own account of his first voyage round the world; and though he is a
very conspicuous figure in English maritime history, the position he
occupies scarcely demands the curious and minute inquiry into those
parts of his career on which he is silent that we should bestow on the
life of a great genius.

William Dampier was born at East Coker in the year 1652. His parents
intended him for a commercial life, but the idea of shopkeeping was
little likely to suit the genius of a lad who was a rover in heart
whilst he was still in petticoats; and on the death of his father and
mother his friends, finding him bent upon an ocean life, bound him
apprentice to the master of a ship belonging to Weymouth. This was in
or about the year 1669. With this captain he made a short voyage to
France, and afterwards proceeded to Newfoundland in the same ship,
being then, as he tells us, about eighteen years of age. The bitter
cold of Newfoundland proved too much for his seafaring resolutions,
and, procuring the cancellation of his indentures, he went home to his
friends. But the old instinct was not to be curbed. Being in London
some time after his return from the Newfoundland voyage, he heard of
an outward-bound East Indiaman named the _John and Martha_, the master
of which was one Earning. The idea of what he calls a “warm voyage”
suited him. He offered himself as a foremast hand and was accepted. The
voyage was to Bantam, and he was away rather longer than a year, during
which time he says he kept no journal, though he enlarged his knowledge
of navigation. The outbreak of the Dutch war seems to have determined
him to stay at home, and he spent the summer of the year 1672 at his
brother's house in Somersetshire. He soon grew weary of the shore,
and enlisted on board the _Royal Prince_, commanded by the famous Sir
Edward Spragge,[6] under whom he served during a part of the year 1673.
He fought in two engagements, and then falling sick a day or two before
the action in which Sir Edward lost his life (August 11th), he was sent
on board the hospital ship, whence he was removed to Harwich. Here he
lingered for a great while in suffering, and at last, to recover his
health, went to his brother's house. As he gained strength so did his
longing for the sea increase upon him. His inclination was soon to be
humoured, for there lived near his brother one Colonel Hellier, who,
taking a fancy to Dampier, offered him the management of a plantation
of his in Jamaica under a person named Whalley; for which place he
started in the _Content_ of London, Captain Kent master, he being then
twenty-two years old. Lest he should be kidnapped and sold as a servant
on his arrival, he agreed with Captain Kent to work his passage out as
a seaman. They sailed in the beginning of the year 1674, but the date
of their arrival at Jamaica is not given.

His life on that island is not of much interest. He lived with Whalley
for about six months, and then agreed with one Captain Heming to
manage his plantation on the north side of the island; but repenting
his resolution, he took passage on board a sloop bound to Port Royal.
He made several coasting voyages in this way, by which he tells us he
became intimately acquainted with all the ports and bays of Jamaica,
the products and manufactures of the island, and the like. In this
sort of life he spent six or seven months, and then shipped himself
aboard one Captain Hudsel, who was bound to the Bay of Campeché to
load logwood. They sailed from Port Royal in August 1675; their cargo
to purchase logwood was rum and sugar. There were about two hundred
and fifty men engaged in cutting the wood, and these fellows gladly
exchanged the timber for drink. They were nearly all Englishmen, and on
the vessel dropping anchor, numbers of them flocked aboard clamorous
for liquor. “We were but 6 Men and a Boy in the Ship,” says Dampier,
“and all little enough to entertain them: for besides what Rum we sold
by the Gallon or Ferkin, we sold it made into Punch, wherewith they
grew Frolicksom.” It was customary in those times to shoot off guns
when healths were drunk, but in Dampier's craft there was nothing but
small-arms, “and therefore,” he says, “the noise was not very great
at a distance, but on Board the Vessels we were loud enough till all
our Liquor was spent.” Dampier was well entertained by these fellows
ashore. They hospitably received him in their wretched huts, and
regaled him with pork and peas and beef and dough-boys. He thought
this logwood-cutting business so profitable, and the life so free and
pleasant, that he secretly made up his mind to return to Campeché
after his arrival at Jamaica. Having filled up with wood, they sailed
in the latter end of September, and not very long afterwards narrowly
escaped being wrecked on the Alacran Reef, a number of low, sandy
islands situated about twenty-five leagues from the coast of Yucatan.
The vessel was a ketch, the weather very dirty. Dampier was at the
helm, or whipstaff as the tiller was called, and describes the vessel
as plunging and labouring heavily: “Not going ahead,” he says, “but
tumbling like an egg-shell in the sea.” In spite of their being in
the midst of a dangerous navigation, the crew, finding the weather
improving, lay down upon the deck and fell asleep. The stout build of
the round-bowed craft saved her, otherwise it is highly improbable that
anything more would ever have been heard of William Dampier.

Young as he was, his powers of observation, the accuracy of his memory,
and what I may call the sagacity of his inquisitiveness, are forcibly
illustrated in this passage of his account of his early life. Even
while his little ship is bumping ashore, and all hands are running
about thinking their last moment arrived, Dampier is taking a careful
view of the sandy islands, observing the several depths of water,
remarking the various channels, and mentally noting the best places
in which to drop anchor. He has a hundred things to tell us about the
rats and sea-fowl he saw there, of the devotion of the booby to its
young, of the sharks, sword-fish, and “nurses,” of the seals, and
the Spaniard's way of making oil of their fat. In this little voyage
Dampier and his mates suffered a very great deal of hardship. They ran
short of provisions, and must have starved but for two barrels of beef
which had formed a portion of their cargo for purposes of trucking, but
which proved so rotten that nobody would buy them. Of this beef they
boiled every day two pieces; their peas were consumed and their flour
almost gone, and in order to swallow the beef they were forced to cut
it into small bits after it was cooked, and then to boil it afresh
in water thickened with a little flour. This savoury broth they ate
with spoons. Speaking of this trip Dampier says: “I think never any
Vessel before nor since made such traverses in coming out of the _Bay_
as we did; having first blundered over the _Alcrany Riff_, and then
visited those islands; from thence fell in among the _Colorado Shoals_,
afterwards made a trip to _Grand Caymanes_; and lastly visited _Pines_,
tho' to no purpose. In all these Rambles we got as much experience as
if we had been sent out on a design.”

They were thirteen weeks on their way, and eventually anchored at
Nigril. Here occurred an incident curiously illustrative of the customs
and habits of nautical men in the good old times. Their vessel was
visited by Captain Rawlings, commander of a small New England craft,
and one Mr. John Hooker, a logwood-cutter. These men were invited into
the cabin, and a great bowl of punch was brewed to regale them as
well as their entertainers. Dampier says there might be six quarts in
it. Mr. Hooker, being drunk to by Captain Rawlings, lifted the bowl
to his lips, and pausing a moment to say that he was under an oath
to drink but three draughts of strong liquor a day, he swallowed the
whole without a breath: “And so,” adds Dampier, “making himself drunk,
disappointed us of our expectations till we made another bowl.” Six
quarts equal twenty-four glasses. Probably no bigger drink than this is
on record! But those were days when men mixed gunpowder with brandy,
and honestly believed themselves the stouter-hearted for the dose.

On the vessel's arrival at Port Royal the crew were discharged.
Dampier, whose hankering was after the logwood trade, embarked as
passenger on board a vessel bound to Campeché, and sailed about the
middle of February 1676. He went fully provided for the toilsome
work—that is to say, with hatchets, axes, a kind of long knives which
he calls “macheats,” saws, wedges, materials for a house, or, as he
terms it, a pavilion to sleep in, a gun, ammunition, and so forth. His
account of the origin and growth of the business he had now entered
upon is interesting. The Spaniards had long known the value of the
logwood, and used to cut it down near a river about thirty miles from
Campeché, whence they loaded their ships with it. The English, after
possessing themselves of Jamaica, whilst cruising about in the Gulf,
frequently encountered many vessels freighted with this wood; but being
ignorant of the value of such cargoes, they either burnt or sent the
ships adrift, preserving only the nails and iron-work. At last one
Captain James, having captured a big vessel full of wood, navigated
her to England with the intention of fitting her out as a privateer. He
valued his prize's cargo so lightly that on the way home he consumed a
portion of it as fuel. On his arrival he, to his great surprise, was
offered a large sum for the remainder. This being noised about started
the trade amongst the English. Of course the Spaniards opposed the
cutting down of the trees, and sent soldiers to protect their property;
but the English speedily learnt to recognise the timber as it grew,
and, hunting for it elsewhere, met with large forests, and so without
regard to the Spaniards they settled down to the trade and did pretty
well at it. The work previous to the arrival of Dampier employed nearly
three hundred men who had originally been privateersmen and gained a
living by plundering the Spaniards, but who, on peace being made with
Spain, lost their occupation and were driven to logwood-cutting by
hunger. But their tastes as pirates remained tenacious, and perhaps by
way of keeping their hand in, they formed into little troops, attacked
and plundered the adjacent Indian towns, brought away the women and
sent the men to Jamaica to be sold as slaves. Dampier further informs
us that these privateersmen had not “forgot their old drinking bouts,”
but would “still spend thirty or forty pounds at a sitting on board
the ships that came hither from Jamaica, carousing and firing off guns
three and four days together.” Eventually their evil habits led to
their ruin, for the Spaniards finding them nearly continually drunk,
fell upon them one by one, seizing them chiefly in their huts, where
they lay stupefied with liquor, and carried them to prison or to a
servitude harder than slavery. Logwood was then worth fourteen or
fifteen pounds a ton. The toil must have been great, for some of the
trees were upwards of six feet round, and the labourer had to cut them
into logs small enough to enable a man to carry a bundle of them.
Dampier speaks also of the bloodwood which fetched thirty pounds a
ton, but he does not tell us that he dealt with it. He speedily found
employment amongst the logwood-cutters. On his arrival he met with six
men who had one hundred tons of the wood ready cut, but not yet removed
to the creek side. These fellows offered Dampier pay at the rate of a
ton of the wood per month to help them to transport what they had cut
to the water. The work was laborious. They had not only to transport
the heavy timber, but to make a road to enable them to convey it to the
place of shipment. They devoted five days a week to this work, and on
Saturdays employed themselves in killing cattle for food. During one of
these hunting excursions Dampier came very near to perishing through
losing his way. He started out alone with a musket on his shoulder,
intending to kill a bullock on his own account, and wandered so far
into the woods that he lost himself. After much roaming he sat down to
wait till the sun should decline, that he might know by the course it
took how to direct his steps. The wild pines appeased his craving for
drink, otherwise he must have perished of thirst. At sunset he started
afresh, but the night, coming down dark, forced him to stop. He lay on
the grass at some distance from the woods, in the hope that the breeze
of wind that was blowing would keep the mosquitoes from him; “but in
vain,” says he, “for in less than an Hour's time I was so persecuted,
that though I endeavoured to keep them off by fanning myself with
boughs and shifting my Quarters 3 or 4 times; yet still they haunted me
so that I could get no Sleep.” At daybreak he struck onwards, and after
walking a considerable distance, to his great joy saw a pole with a hat
upon it, and a little farther on another. These were to let him know
that his companions understood that he was lost, and that at sunrise
they would be out seeking him. So he sat down to wait for them; for
though by water the distance to the settlement was only nine miles, the
road by land was impracticable by reason of the dense growths coming
down to the very side of the creek where Dampier sat waiting. Within
half an hour after his arrival at the poles with the hats upon them,
“his Consorts came,” he says, “bringing every Man his Bottle of Water,
and his Gun, both to hunt for Game and to give me notice by Firing
that I might hear them; but I have known several Men lost in the like
manner and never heard of afterwards.” At the expiration of the month's
agreement he received his ton of logwood, and was made free of the
little colony of cutters. Some of the men, quitting the timber-cutting,
went over to Beef Island to kill bullocks for their hides, but Dampier
remained behind with a few others to cut more logwood. He worked
laboriously, but his career in this line of business was ended not
long afterwards by the most violent storm “that,” he says, “was ever
known in those Parts.” He has described this storm in his _Discourse
of Winds_. He there says: “The Flood still increased and ran faster
up the Creek than ever I saw it do in the greatest Spring Tide, which
was somewhat strange, because the wind was at South, which is right off
the Shore on this Coast. Neither did the Rain anything abate, and by 10
a Clock in the Morning the Banks of the Creeks were all overflowing.
About 12 at Noon we brought our Canao to the side of our Hut and
fastened it to the Stump of a Tree that stood by it; that being the
only refuge that we could now expect; for the Land a little way within
the Banks of the Creek is much lower than where we were: so that there
was no walking through the Woods because of the Water. Besides the
Trees were torn up by the Roots and tumbled so strangely across each
other that it was almost impossible to pass through them.” Their huts
were demolished, their provisions ruined. It was in vain to stay, so
the four men who formed Dampier's party embarked in their canoe and
rowed over to One-Bush-Key, about sixteen miles from the creek. There
had been four ships riding off that key when the storm began, but
only one remained, and from her they could obtain no refreshment of
any kind, though they were liberal in their offers of money. So they
steered away for Beef Island, and on approaching it observed a ship
blown ashore amongst the trees with her flag flying over the branches.
Her people were in her, and Dampier and his companions were kindly
received by them. Whilst on Beef Island he was nearly devoured by an
alligator. He and his comrades started to kill a bullock. In passing
through a small savannah they detected the presence of an alligator by
the strong, peculiar scent which the huge reptile throws upon the air,
and on a sudden Dampier stumbled against the beast and fell over it. He
shouted for help, but his comrades took to their heels. He succeeded
in regaining his legs, then stumbled and fell over the animal a second
time; “and a third time also,” he says, “expecting still when I fell
down to be devoured.” He contrived to escape at last, but he was so
terrified that he tells us he never cared for going through the water
again so long as he was in the Bay.

Much of his narrative here is devoted to accurate and well-written
descriptions of the character of the country, and of its animals,
reptiles, and the like. There is an amusing quaintness in some of his
little pictures, as, for instance: “The Squash is a four-footed Beast,
bigger than a Cat: Its Head is much like a Foxes; with short Ears and a
long Nose. It has pretty short Legs and sharp Claws; by which it will
run up trees like a Cat. The skin is covered with short, fine Yellowish
Hair. The flesh is good, sweet, wholesome Meat. We commonly skin and
roast it; and then we call it pig; and I think it eats as well. It
feeds on nothing but good Fruit; therefore we find them most among the
Sapadillo-Trees. This Creature never rambles very far: and being taken
young, will become as tame as a Dog; and be as roguish as a Monkey.”

The minuteness of his observation is exhibited in a high degree in his
account of the beasts, birds, and fish of Campeché and the district. He
uses no learned terms. A child might get to know more from him about
the thing he describes than from a dozen pages of modern writing on
the subject supplemented even by illustrations. It was wonderland to
him, as it had been to other plain and sagacious sailors before him.
His accounts remind us again and again of the exquisitely naïve but
admirably faithful descriptions of beasts and fish by the navigators
whose voyages are found in the collections of Hackluyt and Purchas.

It is not very long after he had quitted Campeché that we find him
associating with privateers, and becoming one of their number. He
writes of this in a half-apologetic manner, complaining of failure
through a violent storm and of a futile cruise lasting for several
months, and talks of having been driven at last to seek subsistence
by turning pirate. There is no hint in his previous narrative of any
leanings this way. Probably thoughts of the golden chances of the rover
might have been put into his head by chats with the logwood-cutters.
The Spaniard had long been the freebooter's quarry. His carracks and
galleons, laden almost to their ways with the treasure of New Spain,
had handsomely lined the pockets of the marauding rogues, and such
was the value of the booty that scores of them might have set up as
fine gentlemen in their own country on their shares but for their
trick of squandering in a night what they had taken months to gain at
the hazard of their lives. The temptation was too much for Dampier;
besides, he was already seasoned to hardships of even a severer kind
than was promised by a life of piracy. For, as we have seen, he had
out-weathered the bitter cold of Newfoundland, he had worked as a
common sailor before the mast, he had served against the Dutch, he had
knocked about in Mexican waters in a vessel as commodious and seaworthy
as a Thames barge, and he was now fresh from the severe discipline of
the logwood trade. His associates consisted of sixty men, who were
divided between two vessels. Their first step was to attack the fort of
Alvarado, in which enterprise they lost ten or eleven of their company.
The inhabitants, who had plenty of boats and canoes, carried away
their money and effects before the fort yielded, and as it was too dark
to pursue them, the buccaneers were satisfied to rest quietly during
the night. Next morning they were surprised by the sight of seven ships
which had been sent from Vera Cruz. They got under-weigh and cleared
for action. But they had no heart to fight; which is intelligible
enough when we learn that the Spanish admiral's ship mounted ten guns
and carried a hundred men; that another had four guns and eighty men;
the rest sixty or seventy men apiece, well armed, whilst the bulwarks
of the ships were protected with bulls' hides breast-high. Fortunately
for them, the Spaniards had no mind to fight either. Some shots were
exchanged, and presently the Spanish squadron edged away towards the
shore, “and we,” says Dampier, “glad of the deliverance, went away
to the eastward.” How long he remained with the pirates he does not
say. Apparently he could not find his account with them. He left
them to return to the logwood trade, at which he continued for about
twelve more months. He then tells us that he resolved to pay a visit
to England with a design of returning again to wood-cutting, which
no doubt was proving profitable to him, and accordingly set sail for
Jamaica in April 1678. After remaining for a short time at that island
he embarked for England, and arrived at the beginning of August.

He did not remain long at home. In the beginning of the year 1679 he
sailed for Jamaica in a vessel named the _Loyal Merchant_. He shipped
as a passenger, intending when he arrived at Jamaica to proceed to the
Bay of Campeché, and there pursue the employment of logwood-cutting.
But on his arrival at Port Royal in Jamaica in April 1679, after a
good deal of consideration, he made up his mind to delay or abandon
his wood-cutting scheme, for he tells us that he remained in that
island for the rest of the year in expectation of some other business.
Whatever his hopes were they could not have been greatly disappointed,
for we read of him as having, whilst in Jamaica, purchased a small
estate in Dorsetshire from a person whose title to it he was well
assured of. He was then, it now being about Christmas, 1679, about
to sail again for England, when a Mr. Hobby persuaded him to venture
on a short trading voyage to what was then termed the country of the
Mosquitoes, a little nation which he describes as composed of not
more than a hundred men inhabiting the mainland between Honduras and
Nicaragua. Dampier consented; he and Mr. Hobby set out, and presently
dropped anchor in a bay at the west end of Jamaica, where they found a
number of privateersmen, including Captains Coxon, Sawkins, and Sharp.
These men were maturing the scheme of an expedition of so tempting a
character that the whole of Mr. Hobby's men quitted him and went over
to the pirates. Dampier stayed with his companion for three or four
days, and then joined the pirates also. What became of Mr. Hobby he
does not say. There is here a shamefacedness in his avowal not hard to
distinguish. Perhaps as he sits writing this narrative he wonders at
the irresolution he exhibited, and his curious caprices of decision.
He starts for Jamaica to cut logwood at Campeché; on his arrival he
changes his mind and prepares for his return; he is then diverted from
his intention by Mr. Hobby, with whom he embarks on a well-considered
adventure, which he relinquishes to become pirate before his
associate's ship has fairly got away from Jamaica! It is these sudden
changes of front, however, and the unexpected turns of fortune which
they produced, which keeps Dampier's narrative sweet with fresh and
ever-flowing interest.

His adventures from the date of his leaving Mr. Hobby down to the month
of April 1681 he dismisses in a couple of pages. Ringrose, however, has
written very fully of the expedition in which Dampier apparently served
as a foremast hand, and to the pages of his work it is necessary to
turn to obtain the information which Dampier omits.[7] The fleet of the
privateers consisted of nine vessels; the largest of them, commanded
by Captain Harris, was of the burden of one hundred and fifty tons,
mounted twenty-five guns, and carried one hundred and seven men; whilst
the smallest, commanded by Captain Macket, was of fourteen tons, her
crew consisting of twenty men. They sailed on March 23rd, 1679, for the
province of Darien, their designs being, as Ringrose candidly admits,
to pillage and plunder in those parts. But they do not appear to have
arrived off the coast until April 1680, this being the date given by
Ringrose, who says that there they landed three hundred and thirty-one
men, leaving a party of sailors behind them to guard their ships. They
marched in companies; Captain Bartholomew Sharp's (in whose troop, I
take it, was Dampier) carried a red flag, with a bunch of white and
green ribands; Captain Richard Sawkins's company exhibited a red flag
striped with yellow; the third and fourth, commanded by Captain Peter
Harris, bore two cream-coloured flags; the fifth and sixth a red flag
each; and the seventh a red colour with yellow stripes, and a hand and
sword thereon by way of a device. “All or most of them,” adds Ringrose,
“were armed with Fuzee, Pistol, and Hanger.” This is a description that
brings the picture before us. We see these troops of sailors carrying
banners, dressed as merchant seamen always were, and still are, in
twenty different costumes, lurching along under the broiling equatorial
sun, through forests, rivers, and bogs, trusting to luck for a drink of
water, and with no better victuals than cakes of bread (four to a man),
called by Ringrose “dough-boys,” a name that survives to this day,
animated to the support of the most extraordinary fatigues, the most
venomous country, and the deadliest climate in the world, by dreams of
more gold than they would be able to carry away with them.

But the whole undertaking was a failure. They attacked and took the
town of Santa Maria, and found the place to consist of a few houses
built of cane, with not so much as the value of a single ducat anywhere
to be met with. Their disappointment was rendered the keener by the
news that three days before their arrival several hundred-weight of
gold had been sent away to Panama in one of those ships which were
commonly despatched two or three times a year from that city to convey
the treasure brought to Santa Maria from the mountains. Their ill-luck,
however, hardened them in their resolution to attack Panama. The
city was a sort of New Jerusalem to the imaginations of these men,
who thought of it as half-formed of storehouses filled to their roofs
with plate, jewels, and gold. They stayed two days at Santa Maria,
and then on April 17th, 1680, embarked in thirty-five canoes and a
periagua, and rowed down the river in quest of the South Sea, upon
which, as Ringrose puts it, Panama is seated. Their adventures were
many; their hardships and distresses such as rendered their energy and
fortitude phenomenal even amongst a community who were incomparably
gifted with these qualities. Ringrose, whose narrative I follow, was
wrecked in the river by the oversetting of his canoe, and came very
near to perishing along with a number of his comrades. He fell into
the hands of some Spaniards, with whom, as they understood neither
English nor French, whilst he was equally ignorant of their tongue,
he was obliged to converse in Latin!—a language in which, I suspect,
not many mariners of to-day could communicate their distresses. He
and his shipmates narrowly escaped torture and a miserable death, and
eventually recovering their canoe, they started afresh on their voyage,
and were fortunate enough next morning to fall in with the rest of the
buccaneers, who had anchored during the night in a deep bay.

Trifling as these incidents are, it is proper to relate them as
examples of the life and experiences of Dampier during this period of
his career. Unfortunately, until one opens his own books one does not
know where to look for him. In whose troop he marched, in whose canoe
he sat, in what special adventures he was concerned, whether he was
favoured for his intelligence above the others by the commanders of
the expedition, cannot be ascertained. When Ringrose wrote, Dampier
was still a mere privateersman, a foremast hand, a man without
individuality enough to arrest the attention of the sturdy, plain, and
honest historian of the voyage in which they both took part. Indeed,
there is no reason to suppose that Dampier at this time was regarded by
his fellows as better than the humblest of the shaggy, sun-blackened
men who, with fuzees on their shoulders and pistols in their girdles,
tramped in little troops through the swamps and creeks and over the
swelling lands of the Isthmus, or who in their deep and narrow canoes
floated silent and grim upon the hot and creeping river in search of
the unexpectant Don and his almost fabulous wealth.

Dampier introduces a curious story in connection with Panama and the
South Seas in his first volume. He says that when he was on board
Captain Coxon's ship, there being three or four privateers in company,
they captured a despatch boat bound to Cartagena from Porto Bello. They
opened many of the letters, and were struck by observing that several
of the merchants who wrote from Old Spain exhorted their correspondents
at Panama to bear in mind a certain prophecy that had been current
in Madrid and other centres for some months past, the tenor of which
was—_That there would be English privateers that year in the West
Indies, who would make such great discoveries as to open a door into
the South Seas_. This door, Dampier says, was the passage overland to
Darien through the country of the Indians, a people who had quarrelled
with the Spaniards and professed a friendship for the English. At all
events, these Indians had been for some time inviting the privateers
to march across their territory and fall upon the Spaniards in the
South Seas. Hence when the letters came into their hands they grew
disposed to entertain the Indians' proposal in good earnest, and
finally made those attempts to which I have referred in quoting from
the pages of Ringrose. The cause of the friendship between the English
buccaneers and the Darien Indians is a story of some interest. About
fifteen years before Dampier crossed the Isthmus a certain Captain
Wright, who was cruising in those waters, met with a young Indian lad
paddling about in a canoe. He took him aboard his ship, clothed him,
and, with the idea of making an Englishman of him, gave him the name of
John Gret. Some Mosquito Indians, however, begged the boy from Captain
Wright, who gave him to them. They carried him into their own country,
and by and by he married a wife from among them. Through the agency
of this John Gret, who always preserved an affection for the English,
a friendship was established between the buccaneers and the Indians.
Presents were made on each side, and a certain secret signal was
concerted whereby the Indians might recognise their English friends.
It happened that there was a Frenchman among one of the buccaneering
captain's crew. He was artful enough to commit this signal, whatever
it was, to memory, and on his arrival at Petit Guavres he communicated
what he knew to his countrymen there, and represented the facility with
which the South Seas might be entered now that he had the secret of
winning over the Indians to help him. On this one hundred and twenty
Frenchmen formed themselves into a troop, with the buccaneer, whom
Dampier calls Mr. la Sound, as their captain, and marched against
Cheapo, an attempt that proved unsuccessful, though the simple Indians,
believing them to be English, gave them all the assistance that was in
their power. “From such small beginnings,” adds Dampier, “arose those
great stirs that have been since made in the South Seas, viz.: from the
Letters we took and from the Friendship contracted with these Indians
by means of John Gret. Yet this Friendship had like to have been
stifled in its Infancy; for within few months after an English trading
Sloop came on this Coast from Jamaica, and John Gret, who by this time
had advanced himself as a Grandee amongst these Indians, together with
5 or 6 more of that quality, went off to the Sloop in their long Gowns,
as the custom is for such to wear among them. Being received aboard,
they expected to find everything friendly, and John Gret talkt to them
in English; but these English Men having no knowledge at all of what
had happened, endeavoured to make them Slaves (as is commonly done),
for upon carrying them to Jamaica they could have sold them for 10 or
12 Pound apiece. But John Gret and the rest perceiving this, leapt
all overboard, and were by the others killed every one of them in the
Water. The Indians on Shoar never came to the knowledge of it; if they
had it would have endangered our Correspondence.”

On April 23rd the buccaneers entered the Bay of Panama, and the city,
offering a fair and lovely prospect, as Dampier afterwards tells
us, lay full in their view. The old town that had been sacked and
burnt by Henry Morgan in 1670 lay four miles to the eastward of the
new city; but amongst those now suburban ruins the cathedral rose
stately and splendid, and Ringrose, enraptured by the sight, vows
that the building viewed from the sea might compare in majesty with
St. Paul's. The Panama at which Dampier gazed was almost new, built
of brick and stone, with eight churches amongst the houses, most of
them unfinished. Many of the edifices were three stories high. A
strong wall circled the place, crowned with seaward-pointing cannon,
and these defences were backed by a garrison of three hundred of the
king's soldiers, whilst the city itself supplemented that force by
a contribution of eleven hundred militiamen. Such was the Panama of
which our handful of audacious buccaneers were coolly proposing the
sacking, and doubtless the burning. It seems, however, that when they
arrived most of the soldiers were absent, and Ringrose tells us that
had they attempted the town at once instead of attacking the ships in
the bay, they must have made an easy conquest. The desperate energy,
the hot and furious courage, of an earlier race of pirates were wanting
in them. They lingered long enough to enable the city to render its
capture impracticable, and then, feigning a sentimental interest in the
condition of the Indians, they despatched word to the Governor that if
he would suffer the natives to enjoy their own “power and liberty,”
and send to the buccaneers five hundred pieces of eight for each man,
and one thousand pieces of eight for each commander, they would desist
from further hostilities. A civil message was returned, and they were
also asked from whom they received their commission; to which Captain
Sawkins responded in a style which he may have borrowed from the
tragedies of Nathaniel Lee: “That as yet all his company were not come
together; but that when they were come up, we would come and visit
him at Panama, and bring our commissions on the muzzles of our guns,
at which time he should read them as plain as the flame of gunpowder
could make them.” All this was mere windy, hectoring talk, and nothing
followed it. The buccaneers were growing mutinous with famine, and as
it was clear there was nothing to be done with Panama, Captain Sawkins,
who was chief in command, gave orders to weigh anchor, and the pirates
sailed away without a ducat's worth of satisfaction for the prodigious
hardships they had endured.

Whilst they lay at anchor before Caboa the two chief commanders,
Sawkins and Sharp, went ashore with sixty or seventy men to attack
Puebla Nueva. Ringrose dates this attempt May 22nd, 1680. The
inhabitants were prepared, and the only issue of a sharp engagement was
the death of Captain Sawkins and the loss of several of his people.
This defeat led to a mutiny among the buccaneers. Eventually Captain
Sharp, who was now chief in command, called the men together and
proposed to them to remain in the South Sea and then go home by way
of the Horn, adding that he would guarantee that every man who stayed
with him should be worth a thousand pounds by the time he arrived in
England. This scheme of cruising in the South Sea against the Spaniards
had been Sawkins's fixed project, and he was so great a favourite
that had he lived it is probable the whole of the crew would have
accompanied him; but Sharp did not enjoy the general confidence of his
people, and a number of the men sullenly and obstinately refused to
linger any longer in these waters. Ringrose was amongst those who were
weary of the hazardous and unremunerative adventures of the buccaneers,
and would have been glad to leave the ship. Had he done so there would
have been no record of this voyage of Dampier; but he was wise enough
to fear the Indians and to dread the sufferings of an overland journey
in the rainy season. He therefore resolved to remain with Captain
Sharp, amongst whose adherents was William Dampier. Sixty-three of
the men left them, and then on Sunday, June 6th, 1680, Captain Sharp
and his people steered away to the southward with the intention of
plundering Arica.

On approaching the coast they found the bay guarded by numerous parties
of horsemen, whilst the tops of the hills were also lined with men.
They withdrew without firing a gun. Better luck, however, befell them
on October 29th at Hilo. This place they took without difficulty, and
found it stored with quantities of pitch, tar, wine, oil, and flour.
The sacking of Hilo was a sort of holiday jaunt for the freebooters,
who feasted delightfully on olives, lemons, and limes; on cakes, on
flagons of cool wines, on great strawberries, and sweetmeats and other
delicacies. As they marched up the valley the Spaniards accompanied
their progress upon the hill-tops, and rolled great stones down upon
them, but no man was hurt; whilst to the explosion of a single musket
every visible Spanish head was instantly ducked out of sight. Much
that strikes one as marvellous in the achievements of the buccaneers
in the South Sea vanishes when one thinks of the abject cowardice of
the American Spaniards. Had their troops been composed of priests
and old women, they could not have fled with livelier hysterical
nimbleness from the sight of the English colours. The picture is
humiliating, though it is not wanting in the ridiculous. All through
the buccaneering annals, as in Anson's and the voyages of others, one
is incessantly meeting with this sort of thing:—A boat filled with
armed privateersmen approaches the beach. A numerous party of horsemen,
bristling with sabres, lances, and muskets, stand as in a posture to
dispute their landing. But as the boat draws near the horsemen retreat,
and in no very good order, back to behind the town as the seamen spring
ashore. They are finally seen on the summit of a hill in company with
several troops of foot soldiers, who, whilst their bands play and their
banners proudly flutter, gaze downwards at the twenty or thirty sailors
who are firing the houses of their town and lurching seawards with
sacks of silver on their backs.

Ringrose calls a halt at the “Isle of Plate,” as he writes it, to tell
us a little story: “This Island received its Name from Sir _Francis
Drake_, and his famous Actions. For it is reported that he here made
the Dividend of that vast quantity of Plate which he took in the
_Armada_ of this sea, distributing it to each Man of his Company by
whole Bowls full. The _Spaniards_ affirm to this Day that he took at
that Time twelvescore Tons of Plate, and sixteen bowls of coined Money
a Man; his number being then forty-five Men in all; insomuch that they
were forced to heave much of it overboard, because his ship could not
carry it all. Hence this Island was called by the _Spaniards_ the _Isle
of Plate_, from this great Dividend, and by us _Drake's Isle_.”

Traditions of this kind were very nicely calculated to keep the
buccaneering heart high. Our genial freebooter has also another yarn
to spin in connection with this coast. He says that in the time of
Oliver Cromwell the merchants of Lima fitted out a ship armed with
seventy brass guns, with a treasure in her hold of no less than thirty
millions of dollars, “all which vast sum of money,” he says, “was given
by the merchants of Lima, and sent as a present to our Gracious King
(or rather his father) who now reigneth, to supply him in his exile
and distress, but that this great and rich ship was lost by keeping
along the shore in the Bay of Manta above mentioned or thereabouts. The
truth whereof is much to be questioned.” Be his stories true or false,
however, it is pleasant to sail in the company of an old seaman who
has an anecdote to fit every bay or headland of the coast along which
he jogs. Unhappily Ringrose, who begins very well, drifts fast into
the unsuggestive trick of “loggings,” telling us in twenty pages at a
stretch that on Monday the sun rose at such and such an hour, that on
Tuesday it blew a fresh gale, that on Wednesday there was a ring round
the moon, that on Thursday they had made thirty leagues in twenty-four
hours, and so forth. It is by comparing the best of the early mariners'
narratives with Dampier's that one remarks his eminent superiority as a
writer, observer, and describer.

As they sailed down the American seaboard they captured a few small
vessels, but their booty was inconsiderable. On December 3rd, 1680,
they attacked the city of La Serena. They routed the Spaniards, who, in
flying, carried away the best of their goods and jewels. An offer of
ransom was made, and the price fixed was ninety-five thousand pieces
of eight. It was soon rendered plain, however, that the enemy had no
intention of paying, whereupon the buccaneers fired every house in
the town to the end that the whole place might be reduced to ashes.
Before the ship sailed she was very nearly burnt by a curious Spanish
stratagem. A horse's hide was blown out with wind to the condition of a
bladder. A man got upon it and silently paddled himself under the stern
of the privateer, between whose rudder and sternpost he crammed a mass
of oakum, brimstone, and other combustible matter. This done, he softly
fired it with a match and sneaked away ashore. The buccaneers observing
the dark mass on the water, concluded it to be a dead horse, and gave
it no particular heed. On a sudden the alarm of fire was raised; the
rudder was seen to be burning and the ship was full of smoke. After
some trouble the flames were extinguished, and then suspecting some
stratagem in the object they had previously lightly glanced at, they
sent the boat ashore, where the puffed-out hide was found with a match
burning at both ends of it.

By Christmas Day they were at anchor off the Island of Juan Fernandez.
It is noteworthy that Ringrose, in his journal under date of January
3rd, says that their pilot told them that many years ago a ship was
cast away upon this island and only one man saved, who lived alone
upon it for over five years before any vessel came that way to carry
him off. It is curious that none of the biographers of Defoe should
refer to this statement in dealing with the inspirations of the great
writer's masterpiece. Whilst lying at this island there was trouble
amongst the men, which resulted in Captain Sharp being deposed. A
number of the crew wanted to go home at once; others were for remaining
in those seas until they had got more money. A man named John Watling,
an old privateer and a seaman of experience, was chosen in the room of
Sharp. It was shortly after this that the buccaneers were alarmed by
the unexpected apparition of three men-of-war. They instantly slipped
their cables and stood out to sea, leaving behind them in their hurry
that famous Mosquito Indian, of whom it is uncertain whether it was to
his or to Selkirk's adventures that Defoe owed the idea of Robinson
Crusoe. The vessels which surprised them were large and heavily armed,
one of them being eight hundred and another six hundred tons. They
hoisted the “bloody flag,” as it was called, meaning that no quarter
would be given. The buccaneers did the same, but they were in truth
very unwilling to fight. Watling, indeed, either could not or would not
dissemble his fears. Fortunately the Spaniards proved thorough cowards.
Despite the bluster of their no-quarter signal flying at the masthead,
they never offered to approach the privateer, which, glad enough to
escape, next day stood away north-east for Arica.

I will not charge Watling with cowardice, but he exhibits a quality
of timidity sufficiently accentuated to account for a very cruel
disposition. Of this man, who had manifested many signs of alarm
at sight of the Spanish ships-of-war, a black act of wickedness is
recorded a few days later. Amongst the prisoners on board was an
old white-haired Spaniard. Watling questioned him about Arica, and
believing that he lied in his answers ordered him to be shot. The
former commander, Captain Sharp, vehemently opposed the execution of
this cruel sentence, but finding his appeal disregarded he plunged
his hands in water and, washing them, exclaimed, “Gentlemen, I am
clear of the blood of this old man, and I will warrant you a hot day
for this piece of cruelty whenever we come to fight at Arica.” The
prophecy was fulfilled. On January 13th, 1680, the buccaneers were off
that town, and ninety-two men going ashore attacked the place with
incredible fury. We read of them filling every street in the city with
dead bodies. In a short time Captain Watling was shot through the
heart, whilst there were slain besides two quartermasters and so many
of the men that further efforts were rendered hopeless. The survivors
appealed to Captain Sharp to lead them out of their difficulties and
get them back to the ship. The enemy surrounded them, they were in
great disorder, and there was no one to command them. Sharp, bitterly
resenting their behaviour to him, which had led to his being supplanted
by Watling, hesitated. “But,” says Ringrose, “at our earnest request
and petition he took up the command-in-chief again, and began to
distribute his orders for our safety.” They succeeded in fighting their
way to the beach, and got on board at ten o'clock at night, after a
desperate battle that had lasted the whole day. On putting to sea again
there was much mutinous growling, and when off the Island of Plata,
on April 17th, 1681, the quarrels rose to such a pitch that there was
nothing for it but separation. The trouble lay in a number of the men,
now that Watling was dead, desiring the reappointment of Sharp. This
was warmly opposed by others. The matter was put to the vote, and the
Sharpites proving the more numerous, the dissentients agreed to leave
them—the arrangement being that the majority should keep the ship,
whilst the others should take the long-boat and canoes and return by
way of the Isthmus, or seek their fortunes as they chose in other
directions. The out-voted party numbered forty-seven men, one of whom
was William Dampier.



CHAPTER III

1681-1691

DAMPIER'S FIRST VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD[8]


“April 17, 1681,” writes Dampier, “about Ten a Clock in the morning
being 12 leagues N.-W. from the Island _Plata_, we left Captain _Sharp_
and those who were willing to go with him in the Ship, and imbarqued
into our Launch and Canoas, designing for the River of _Santa Maria_ in
the Gulf of _St. Michael_, which is about 200 leagues from the Isle of
_Plata_.” The boats which carried them were a launch and two canoes;
and their provisions consisted of a quantity of flour mixed with twenty
or thirty pounds of powdered chocolate. That no man should venture the
crossing of the Isthmus on foot who, by health or feebleness of will,
might prove unequal to the march, it was settled at the start that
any one who faltered on the journey overland should be at once shot to
death: “For,” says Dampier, “we knew that the Spaniards would soon be
after us, and one man falling into their hands might be the ruin of
us all by giving an account of our strength and condition; yet this
would not deter 'em from going with us.” When abreast of Cape Passao
they captured a small vessel and sailed to Cape St. Lorenzo, where they
disembarked, after removing their provisions and clothes and scuttling
their little ship. It was now May 1st, 1681.

The march of Dampier and his companions across the Isthmus of Panama
is a feat that ranks amongst the most memorable of the traditions of
travel and adventure. The qualities of the climate of that part of
the world have found emphasis in our time in published accounts of
the mortality among the people employed out there on the great French
engineer's scheme of a canal. The land is watered by numbers of rivers
filled with alligators; it is darkened and often rendered impenetrable
by dense growths of tropical vegetation crowded with snakes; and in
many places it is blocked by barriers of hills and mountains belted
with miasmatic vapours. Our little company of buccaneers crossed the
Isthmus in twenty-three days, in which time, according to Dampier's
account, they travelled one hundred and ten miles. Their adventures
were few, but the hardships constant and severe. For the most part they
slept all night in the open, and repeatedly arose in the morning from
their beds of mire with clothes saturated by storms of rain. Their
surgeon, Lionel Wafer, was badly hurt in the knee by the explosion
of a parcel of gunpowder,—an accident that gave his companions much
anxiety, “being lyable ourselves every moment to misfortune,” says
Dampier, “and none to look after us but him.” On several occasions
many of them were nearly drowned whilst fording rivers swollen with
rains. The difficulties in the road of their progress may be gathered
from a single incident. They had arrived at the banks of a river which
they were obliged to cross. The water was deep and the current ran
swiftly. It was proposed that those who could swim should assist those
who were helpless in this way to the opposite bank; but then, how were
they to transport the guns, provisions, and other articles that they
carried? They decided to send a man over with a line, who, by means of
it, would be able to haul the goods across, and then drag those ashore
who could not swim. A fellow named Gayny secured the end of the line
around his neck and plunged into the river, but the current kinked and
entangled the rope in some way and threw the swimmer on his back. He
had slung a bag containing three hundred dollars over his shoulder, and
this weight, helped by the drag of the line, drew the unfortunate man
under, and he was seen no more. They finally succeeded in crossing by
felling a tall tree, which happily spanned the river and served them
as a bridge. Their food consisted of fish and such animals as they
could contrive to shoot, particularly monkeys, whose flesh they ate
with relish. It was not until May 23rd that they came in sight of the
Atlantic, which it was then the custom to speak of as the North Sea,
and the next day they went on board a French privateer commanded by
a Captain Tristian. Some of their comrades had died by the way, and
some had been left behind. Amongst the latter was Wafer, the surgeon,
who a few weeks afterwards was met by Dampier while cruising in the
neighbourhood of La Sound's Key. Some Indians came aboard, and brought
with them the surgeon and survivors of the others who had been left on
the Isthmus. “Mr. Wafer,” says Dampier, “wore a clout about him, and
was painted like an Indian; and he was some time aboard before I knew
him.”[9]

Captain Tristian, having Dampier and his comrades in the ship, set
sail, and arrived in two days at Springer's Quay, where they found
eight privateers lying at anchor. Four of them were English; two of ten
guns each, and both carrying one hundred men; a third of four guns and
forty men. The others were less formidable. The Dutch vessel mounted
four guns and carried sixty men, and was commanded by one Captain
Yanky. The Frenchmen were respectively of eight guns and forty men, and
six guns and seventy men. Here, by guessing at the crews of the smaller
ships, we arrive at a body of pirates numbering between five and six
hundred fearless, determined, ferocious ruffians! It is conceivable
that the Spaniards in those waters should have lived in a state of
terror. The wonder is that the swarms of miscreants who preyed upon
them should have left them a house to dwell in or a ducat to conceal.

After many debates it was agreed amongst the masters and crews of
these vessels to attack a town the name of which Dampier says he has
forgotten. The vessel into which our hero found himself drafted was
a French craft of eight guns and forty men, commanded by a man named
Archemboe. The fleet weighed, but during the night they were scattered
by a hard gale, and when day broke Archemboe's ship was alone. Dampier,
with others of his comrades who were with Archemboe, speedily learnt
to hate their French associates. The sailors were utterly worthless
in bad, and lazy, lounging loafers in fine, weather: “The saddest
creatures that I was ever among,” writes Dampier, “but though we had
bad weather that required many hands aloft, yet the biggest part of
them never stirred out of their hammocks but to eat.” Later on they
fell in with Captain Wright, who belonged to the fleet, and Dampier's
English shipmates induced this man to fit out a prize of his for them;
Dampier himself joining Wright, whose vessel, a _barco longo_, mounted
four guns and carried fifty men. Shortly after this Wright, in company
with the Dutchman, Captain Yanky, started on a cruise along the coast
of Cartagena.

Dampier's narrative here is a very close, curious, and interesting
description of the islands of this part of the sea and of the shores
of the mainland. He also prints pages of notes about the birds common
to those parts, the pearl-fishery, and other matters of a like kind.
The charm of a sailor-like simplicity is in everything he says. “I have
not been curious,” he writes in his preface to a _New Voyage Round the
World_, “as to the spelling of the Names of Places, Plants, Fruits,
Animals, etc., which in many of the remoter parts are given at the
pleasure of Travellers, and vary according to their different Humours:
Neither have I confined myself to such names as are given by Learned
Authors, or so much as enquired after them. I write for my Countrymen,
and have therefore for the most part used such names as are familiar
to our English Seamen and those of our Colonies abroad, yet without
neglecting others that occur'd.”

Let Dampier's literary defects be what they may, assuredly
unintelligibility is not one of them.

The cruise, in a buccaneering sense, was not a profitable one. They
captured a few small vessels, but their prizes yielded them little more
than some tons of sugar, marmalade, cocoa, hides, and earthenware. They
then resolved to separate, and after dividing the plunder they parted
company, having enough vessels in the shape of prizes to carry them
wherever they might choose to go. Twenty of them, amongst whom was
Dampier, putting their share of the booty into a small bark, set sail
for Virginia and arrived there after an uneventful passage in July,
1682. In this country Dampier lived for thirteen months, but of his
life he tells nothing, merely hinting that a great many troubles befell
him.

Amongst the crew of the vessel commanded by the Dutchman, Captain
Yanky—one of the piratical commanders with whom Dampier was associated
after crossing the Isthmus—there had been a quartermaster named John
Cooke, a Creole. On Yanky capturing a Spanish prize, Cooke, by virtue
of his position according to the practice of the buccaneers, claimed
and obtained command of her. But the privateersmen were of mixed
nationalities, and the French, growing jealous of the Englishmen,
plundered and stripped the men who had been their shipmates and
companions-in-arms, and turned them naked ashore. Captain Tristian,
however, whose ship, it will be remembered, Dampier and his comrades
boarded on the Darien coast, took pity upon the English, and carried
ten of them, one of whom was Cooke, to the Island of Tortuga. Whilst
they lay there at anchor the English rose, seized Tristian's vessel,
and sailing away with her made two captures of importance, one of
which they navigated to Virginia, where they arrived in April, 1683.
Having sold the cargo of this prize they fitted her out as a privateer,
mounting her, Captain Cowley says in his _Voyage_, with eight guns,
though Dampier makes the number eighteen. They called her the
_Revenge_. Dampier with many others volunteered to sign articles for
her, and when she set sail her crew, according to Cowley, consisted of
fifty-two, but according to Dampier of seventy men.

The voyage of the _Revenge_ was written by Cowley as well as by
Dampier—that is to say, a large portion of this voyage is included in
Dampier's first volume of his Travels. Cowley's account is very full,
wanting indeed the flavour of Dampier's style, and the vitality and
archness of his descriptive powers; but in one sense Cowley is more
interesting than the other—I mean, that as a freebooter he writes with
far more candour than Dampier, whose narratives everywhere repeat by
implication the direct apology he makes in the preface to his first
volume:

“As for the Actions of the Company, among whom I made the greatest
part of this voyage, a Thread of which I have carried on thro' it,
'tis not to divert the Reader with them that I mention them, much
less that I take any pleasure in relating them: but for method's sake
and for the Reader's satisfaction; who could not so well acquiesce
in my Description of Places, etc., without knowing the particular
Traverses I made among them: nor in these, without an Account of the
Concomitant Circumstances. Besides that, I would not prejudice the
truth and sincerity of my Relation, tho' by omissions only. And as
for the Traverses themselves, they make for the Reader's advantage;
however little for mine, since thereby I have been the better inabled
to gratify his Curiosity; as one who rambles about a Country can give
usually a better account of it, than a Carrier who jogs on to his Inn,
without ever going out of his Road.”

Cowley had not Dampier's sensitiveness; indeed, he might not have
considered his conscience as a buccaneer unduly burdened. It is
manifest that as he wrote he was still smarting under the trick that
had been put upon him, and to gratify his resentment he related
baldly all the truth he could recollect. He had been prevailed upon
by Cooke to sail as master in the privateer, which was professedly
bound to San Domingo, that her commander might at that island obtain a
commission to legalise his acts at sea; but in reality Cooke's first,
real, and only design was wholly one of piracy, and nothing was said
to Cowley about it until the ship was well clear of the land, when,
of course, he was forced to fall in with the scheme.[10] This was in
the year 1683. Dampier was now thirty-one years of age, and fairly,
but unconsciously, started on the first of those voyages which
were to make him in his day and to succeeding times one of the most
distinguished of the circumnavigators of the globe.

The _Revenge_ sailed from Achamack on August 23rd in the year just
named. Nothing for many weeks broke the monotony of the passage save
the incident of a heavy gale of wind which the vessel encountered off
the Cape Verd Islands. Cowley dwells lightly upon this storm as if
he would make little or nothing of it, but Dampier insists upon its
being the most violent he had ever experienced in any part of the
world. Indeed he has preserved an account of it in those chapters in
the second volume of his Voyages, which he entitles, “A Discourse of
Winds, Breezes, Storms, Tides, and Currents.” The nautical reader will,
I hope, thank me for transcribing a passage that is more curiously
illustrative of the seamanship and sea-technicalities of the period of
history to which this narrative belongs than any like account by other
hands that I can call to mind.

“If after the Mizan is hall'd up and furled, if then the ship will
not wear, we must do it with some Headsail, which yet sometimes puts
us to our shifts. As I was once in a very violent storm sailing from
_Virginia_, mentioned in my _Voyage Round the World_, we scudded before
the Wind and Sea some time, with only our bare Poles; and the ship,
by the mistake of him that con'd, broched too, and lay in the Trough
of the Sea; which then went so high that every Wave threatn'd to
over-whelm us. And indeed if any one of them had broke in on our Deck
it might have foundered us. The master,[11] whose fault this was, rav'd
like a Mad Man and called for an Axe to cut the Mizan Shrouds, and turn
the Mizan mast overboard: which indeed might have been an expedient
to bring her to her course: The Captain was also of his Mind. Now our
Main-yard and Fore-yard were lowered upon a Port-last, as we call it,
that is down pretty nigh the Deck, and the Wind blew so fierce that we
did not dare to shew any Head-Sail, for they must have blown away if
we had, neither could all the men in the ship have furled them again;
therefore we had no hopes of doing it that way. I was at this time on
the Deck with some others of our Men; and among the rest one Mr. _John
Smallbone_, who was the Main instrument at that time of saving us.
Come! said he to me, let us go a little way up the Fore-shrouds, it may
be that that may make the Ship wear: for I have been doing it before
now. He never tarried for an Answer, but run forward presently, and I
followed him. We went up the Shrouds Half-mast up, and there we spread
abroad the Flaps of our Coats, and presently the Ship wore. I think we
did not stay there above 3 Minutes before we gain'd our Point and came
down again; but in this time the Wind was got into our Mainsail, and
had blown it loose; and tho' the Main-yard was down a Port-last and our
Men were got on deck as many as could lye one by another, besides the
deck full of Men, and all striving to furl that Sail, yet could we not
do it, but were forced to cut it all along by the Head-rope, and so let
it fall down on the Deck.”

A noticeable thing of their outward run is that they took above five
months to sail from the coast of Virginia to abreast of Cape Horn. They
got no sights after making Staten Island until they had entered the
South Sea, and were obliged to grope their way in their square-built,
round-bowed, and clumsy old craft past the stormiest headland in the
world, through weather blind with snow and black with cloud, and over
seas running in mountains to the pressure of five hundred leagues of
gale. When to the westward of the Cape they encountered one Captain
Eaton in a privateer that had been equipped and despatched from London
to plunder the Western American coast, and proceeded with him to Juan
Fernandez, where they arrived eight months after leaving Achamack.
Their first act was to send a canoe ashore to obtain news of the
Mosquito Indian who had been left on the island three years before by
Captain Watling. This Indian, who proved to be alive, is a figure in
the history of romantic adventure scarce less conspicuous in his way
than Alexander Selkirk or Peter Serrano. He was in the woods hunting
for goats when Captain Watling and his men, alarmed by the apparition
of three Spanish ships, slipped their cable and sailed away, and all
that he had with him at the time consisted of a gun and a knife, a
small horn of powder, and a handful of shot. Afterwards, by notching
his knife to the condition of a saw, he contrived to cut the barrel of
his gun into pieces, out of which he manufactured harpoons, lances,
hooks, and a long knife. He was thus enabled to provide himself with
food, such as flesh of goats, fish, etc. He built himself a hut a
short distance from the sea, and lined it with goat-skins. His apparel
consisted of a skin wrapped about his waist. There was another Mosquito
Indian amongst the buccaneers, a man named Robin, who was the first
to leap ashore to greet his brother black. Dampier tells us that
first Robin threw himself flat on his face at the feet of the other,
who, helping him up and embracing him, fell flat on the ground at
Robin's feet, and was by him taken up also. “We stood,” he says, “with
pleasure to behold the surprise and tenderness and solemnity of this
Interview, which was exceedingly affectionate on both Sides; and when
their ceremonies of civility were over, we also, who stood gazing at
them, drew near, each of us embracing him we had found here, who was
overjoyed to see so many of his old friends come hither, as he thought,
purposely to fetch him.”

They sailed from Juan Fernandez on April 8th, still in company with
Eaton's ship. During the month of May they captured several vessels,
in one of which, besides a quantity of marmalade, they found a stately
and handsome mule designed as a gift for the President of Panama,
and an immense wooden image of the Virgin Mary. They were, however,
unfortunate enough to miss what would have better pleased them than
mules and images; for when this ship started from Lima she had eight
hundred thousand dollars on board, but on her arrival at Guanchaco news
of a privateersman then hovering off the port of Valdivia came to the
ears of the merchants, who thereupon instantly removed every stiver out
of the vessel.

The recital, even in an abbreviated form, of the adventures of these
buccaneers upon the Western American seaboard would make a book of
nearly half the thickness of Dampier's first volume. As a mere journal
of exploits perhaps the narrative grows after a while a little tedious.
One sea-fight is like another; the assaults by land lead to nothing;
the prizes captured at sea are insignificant. Yet Dampier's page
continues to charm us by the vivacity of his descriptions of coasts, of
storms, of the corposant, of the turtle, and by a hundred unlaboured
and unconscious felicities of phrase.

When off Cape Blanco Captain Cooke died. He was ill when at Juan
Fernandez, and continued so till within two or three leagues of the
Cape, when he suddenly expired, though Dampier tells us he seemed that
morning to be as likely to live as he had been some weeks before; “But
it is usual for sick Men coming from the Sea, where they have nothing
but the Sea-Air, to die off as soon as ever they come within view of
the Land.”

The command devolved upon Edward Davis, the quartermaster of the
ship. Cooke's body was taken ashore, and whilst some of the crew were
burying it three Indians approached, believing the men to be Spaniards,
and were made prisoners, though one of them shortly after escaped.
The others told the buccaneers of a farm where there was plenty of
cattle to be had; and the attempt to steal the bullocks is marked by
one of those incidents which convey a fuller idea of the resolved and
desperate character of the freebooters, their perils, expedients,
and astonishing escapes, than could be communicated by volumes of
descriptions of their battles by sea and attacks by land. Twelve men
slept ashore, intending when the morning came to drive the bulls and
cows which were feeding in the savannas down to the beach; but when the
afternoon of the next day arrived they were still ashore, and their
shipmates aboard the vessel growing uneasy, ten men were sent in a boat
to see what had become of them. On entering the bay they observed the
twelve fellows on a small rock half a mile from the shore standing
in water to above their waists. It seems that, having slept through
the night, they had risen betimes to catch the cattle, when they were
suddenly surprised by forty or fifty armed Spaniards. The privateersmen
drew together in a body, and retreated without disorder or confusion
to the beach, but on arriving there they found their boat, which they
had dragged out of the water, in flames. The Spaniards now made sure
of them, and being numerous, ventured upon several sneers and scoffs
before attacking them, asking them, for instance, if they would be so
good as to do them the honour to walk to their plantation and steal
their cattle and take whatever else they had a mind to, and so forth;
to all which menacing and savagely deriding flouts the buccaneers
answered never a word. The tide was at half-ebb; a privateersman
catching sight of a rock a good distance from the shore, just then
showing its head above water, whispered to the others that it would
be as good as a castle to them if they could get there. Meanwhile the
Spaniards were beginning to whistle a shot amongst them now and then.
One of the tallest of the buccaneers waded into the water to try if the
distance to the rock could be forded. The depth proved nowhere great;
so the twelve marched over to the little distant stronghold, and there
remained till their shipmates came for them. They stood about seven
hours in all, and must have perished had the boat not then arrived, for
the water was flowing, and the tide thereabouts rose to eight feet. The
enemy watched them from the shore, but always from behind the bushes,
where they had first planted themselves. “The _Spaniards_,” says
Dampier contemptuously, “in these parts are very expert in heaving
or darting the Lance; with which upon occasion they will do great
Feats, especially in Ambuscades: And by their good Will they care not
for fighting otherwise, but content themselves with standing a loof,
threatening and calling Names, at which they are as expert as the
other; so that if their Tongues be quiet we always take it for granted
they have laid some Ambush.”

Not very long after this Captain Davis and Captain Eaton separated,
bringing the date to the second day of September 1684, and on the 24th
Dampier's ship arrived at La Plata and anchored. Whilst lying at this
island the privateers were joined by Captain Swan in a vessel named the
_Cygnet_. This ship had been freighted by certain London merchants for
honourable traffic with the Spaniards in the South Seas, but when she
was at Nicoya there arrived a troop of privateersmen from overland,
and Swan's men, bringing the pirates aboard, forced their captain to
go a-buccaneering. That Swan was as reluctant to oblige them as he
afterwards represented himself to have been to Dampier, is possible; it
is certain, however, that on meeting with Davis he threw most of the
goods he had been freighted to trade with overboard, that his ship,
by being “clear,” as it is called, might be the fitter to fight and
chase. He seems to have been a man of some foresight. Anticipating
a time when there might happen such a scarcity of provisions as to
force them out of those seas, he taught his men not only to eat, but
actually to relish the oily, salt, and rancid flesh of penguins and
boobys. “He would commend it,” says Dampier, “for extraordinary good
food, comparing the seal to a roasting pig, the boobys to hens, and the
penguins to ducks.”

The only land-attack of consequence was the attempt on Guayaquil by
Swan and Davis. It was badly concerted and half-heartedly undertaken.
They landed at about two miles from the town, and being unable to push
their way through the tangled growths by night, sat down to wait for
daylight. An Indian, who offered to pilot them, was attached to one
of Davis's men by a string. The privateersman losing heart, secretly
cut the string, and, when the guide had gone some distance, bawled out
that the Indian was off and that somebody had cut the cord! What there
was in this to terrify the others is not easily seen, but it is true,
nevertheless, that their consternation was so great, not a man would
venture a step farther. It was not long before they returned to their
ship, and so ended their attempt on Guayaquil. The only material issue
of this cheap adventure was their capture of three vessels, on board of
which were no less than one thousand negroes,—“all lusty young men and
women,” says Dampier, who laments that they did not convey the whole
of them to the Isthmus of Panama, and employ them in digging for gold
in the mines at Santa Maria. His idea might seem full of promise to
him, but it takes another complexion when examined by the light of the
experience of the twelve hundred men who embarked at Leith for Darien
on July 26th, 1698.

On December 23rd, 1684, they sailed for the Bay of Panama, and nine
days later, whilst proceeding from Tomaco towards Gallo, one of their
canoes captured a pacquet-boat sailing from Panama to Lima. The
Spaniards buoyed the bag of letters and threw it overboard, but it
was picked up by the buccaneers, who gathered from the despatches
that the President of Panama had sent the mail-boat they had seized to
hasten the sailing of the Plate Fleet from Lima. Dampier says that the
privateersmen “were very joyful of this news,” which is intelligible
enough when we consider that the King of Spain's treasure alone on
board this fleet was commonly valued at twenty-four millions of
dollars, whilst the worth of the galleons was still further increased
by their carrying a vast amount in what was termed merchants' money,
besides rich commodities of all sorts. It was at once settled that the
buccaneers should intercept this fleet. They were in number now two
vessels and three barks, and on February 14th, 1685, having finished
the business of careening, cleaning, and watering their craft, they
stood away for the Bay of Panama. Whilst they lay off the Island of
Tobago they were nearly destroyed by a singular stratagem. A man
feigning to be a merchant came to them from Panama. He professed to act
as by stealth, in which the buccaneers found no cause for suspicion,
for it was common enough for Spanish merchants to traffic privately
with them, notwithstanding the prohibition of the governors. It was
arranged that this merchant should fill his vessel with goods, and
bring her by night to the English, who were to shift their berth to
receive her. He came, but with a fire-ship instead of a cargo-boat,
and approaching the English close, hailed them with the watchword that
had been settled upon. The privateers growing suspicious, ordered the
vessel to bring to, and on her not doing so, fired into her. Her crew
instantly jumped into their boats, after firing the ship, which blew
up and burnt close alongside of the privateersmen, “so that,” says
Dampier, “we were forced to cut our cables in all haste, and scamper
away as well as we could.” Swan was also imperilled by another Spanish
device. His ship lay about a mile distant, with a canoe made fast to
his anchor-buoy. Just as the fire-ship blew up, Swan noticed something
floating on the water close aboard of him. He peered, and discerned
a man upon it softly paddling the contrivance towards his vessel.
Probably the fellow suspected he was discovered, for he suddenly dived
and disappeared.

Nothing particular happened till the 24th, when, being again at anchor
off the Island of Tobago, about eighteen miles south of the city of
Panama, they observed a number of canoes filled with men. They kept
still, watching them the while; then lifting their anchors, approached
and hailed them. They proved to be English and French privateers
who had marched across the Isthmus; two hundred French and eighty
Englishmen distributed amongst twenty-eight canoes under the command of
Captain Grognet and Captain Lequie. These men stated that there still
remained on the Isthmus at least one hundred and eighty Englishmen,
commanded by Captain Townley, who when last heard of were busily
employed in the construction of canoes to convey them to the South Sea.
All the English of the party were immediately taken into the service
of Captain Davis and Captain Swan, whilst one of the prizes was given
to the Frenchmen. They were now a strong company of men. First of all
there was Captain Davis in his ship of thirty-six guns, with a crew of
one hundred and fifty-six determined rogues, chiefly English; Captain
Swan, sixteen guns and one hundred and forty men, all English; Captain
Townley, one hundred and ten men; Captain Grognet, three hundred
and eight men, all French; Captain Harris, one hundred men, chiefly
English; Captain Branly, thirty-six men; besides three barks serving
as tenders, and a small bark for a fire-ship—in all, nine hundred and
sixty men. Formidable as this force looks, however, on paper, there
were but two of the vessels—namely, Swan's and Davis's—which mounted
guns. The rest had only small arms. On the 28th the Spanish fleet hove
in sight: fourteen sail, besides periaguas rowing twelve and fourteen
oars apiece. The admiral's ship carried forty-eight guns and four
hundred and fifty men; the vice-admiral, forty guns and four hundred
and fifty men; the others were only a little less powerfully armed and
manned. Here we have the materials of a terrible fight, and we look
with confidence to the buccaneers for a glorious victory. But never was
failure completer. Nothing was done till the afternoon had darkened
into evening, and then a few shots were exchanged. When the night
came down the Spaniards anchored, and the buccaneers observed a light
flaming in the admiral's top. It remained stationary for half an hour
and was then extinguished. Soon afterwards it was again exposed, and
the buccaneers, believing it to be still aboard the admiral, flattered
themselves with having the weather-gage. But when the morning broke
they found, to their disgust, that this light had been a stratagem, and
that they were to leeward. The Spaniards sighting them, immediately
bore down under a press of sail, and the buccaneers ran for it. “Thus,”
says Dampier, “ended this day's work, and with it all that we had been
projecting for five or six months; when instead of making ourselves
masters of the Spanish fleet and treasure, we were glad to escape
them; and owed that too in a great measure to their want of courage to
pursue their advantage.” He adds that the failure was largely owing to
the cowardice of Captain Grognet and his men, whose only part in the
manœuvring was running away.[12]

The buccaneers were now growing disheartened by their ill-luck.
On August 25th, 1685, Davis and Swan separated, and Dampier, who
had heretofore served under Davis, joined Swan, not, as he assures
us, from any dislike of his old captain, but because he understood
that it was Swan's intention before long to go to the East Indies,
“which,” he exclaims, “was a way very agreeable to my inclination.”
It was not, however, until March 1st, 1686, that they took leave of
the Mexican coast and started on that voyage which led to Dampier's
circumnavigation of the globe. They went in two ships, one commanded
by Swan, and the other by a man named Teat. In number they were one
hundred and fifty men—one hundred aboard Swan, and fifty, exclusive
of some slaves, in the other vessel. Their start was for Guam, one
of the Ladrone Islands, and the vagueness and uncertainty of the
navigation of those days finds a singular illustration in Dampier's
surmise as to the actual distance between Cape Corrientes and their
destination. He tells us that the Spaniards reckoned the distance about
two thousand three hundred and fifty leagues, whereas the English
calculations reduced it to less than two thousand leagues. The truth
being unknown to the crews, they entered upon the voyage with something
of that despondency and apprehension which the mariners of Columbus
felt after they had lost sight of land. The hope of plunder heartened
them somewhat, for Swan talked to them of the Acapulco ship and of a
profitable cruise off the Philippines; but in sober truth with but
little conscience in his assurances and exhortations, for the man had
long since grown sick of privateering, and his main object in sailing
for the East Indies was the desire to find an opportunity to escape
from a calling which he was honest enough to consider dishonourable.

They sighted Guam on May 20th, 1686, and it was fortunate both for
Swan and Dampier that the land hove in sight when it did, for they had
scarcely enough provisions to last them another three days; and Dampier
declares, “I was afterwards informed the Men had contrived first to
kill Captain Swan and eat him when the Victuals was gone, and after
him all of us who were accessary in promoting the undertaking of this
Voyage. This made Captain Swan say to me after our arrival at Guam,
_Ah!_ Dampier, _you would have made them but a poor Meal_, for I was
as Lean as the Captain was lusty and fleshy.” Dampier's chapters are
now wholly made up of description. He is copious in his accounts of the
natives, of the cocoa-nut, the lime-tree, and the bread-fruit; and then
carrying us on to Mindanao, he fills many pages with lively remarks on
the trade of the Dutch, the climate, winds, tornadoes, and rains. It
is manifest throughout that he is very unsettled, without any scheme
of life, without a ghost of an idea as regards his future. He waits
patiently but with a vigilant eye upon fortune, and is ready to address
himself to any adventure, no matter how slender of promise. Just as
he would have carried the thousand negroes to Darien to dig gold for
himself and his associates, so whilst at the Philippines would he have
been glad to settle down among the Mindanayans. There were sawyers, he
tells us, carpenters, brickmakers, shoemakers, tailors, and the like,
amongst the men, who were also well provided with all sorts of tools.
They had a good ship, too, and he conceives that had they established
themselves in that island they might have ended as a very flourishing
and wealthy community. But his schemes served no other purpose than
to enable him to digress in his narrative when he came to relate his
adventures.

The ship lay so long at Mindanao that the men grew weary and mutinous;
some of them ran away into the country, others purchased a canoe
designing to proceed to Borneo. Those of the ship's company who had
money lived ashore, but there were many (Dampier amongst them) who were
without a halfpenny, and who were therefore obliged to remain on board
and subsist on the wretched stores of the vessel. These fellows became
very troublesome; they stole iron out of the ship and exchanged it for
spirits and honey, of which they made punch, so that there was a great
deal of drunkenness and ill-blood amongst them. Finding that Swan paid
no heed to their request that he would start on further adventures,
and discovering certain entries in the captain's journal which greatly
incensed them, they resolved to run away with the ship; a threat there
is every reason to suppose Swan secretly wished them to carry out. He
knew that the crew were bent on piracy, and that their next step must
prove nothing but another buccaneering cruise. He had previously told
Dampier that he was forced into this business by his people, and that
he only sought or awaited an opportunity to escape from it, adding
bitterly, “That there was no Prince on Earth able to wipe off the stain
of such Actions.” He was apprised of his men's design, but does not
appear to have lifted a finger to hinder them. On January 14th, 1687,
early in the morning, Dampier being on board, the crew weighed anchor
and fired a gun, being yet willing to receive Captain Swan and others
of their shipmates who were on shore. No answer was returned, whereupon
without further ado they filled their topsails and started, leaving the
commander and thirty-six men behind them.

The subsequent fate of Swan and his men is worth a brief reference.
They remained for some considerable time on the island, and then some
of them managed to obtain a passage to Batavia. Captain Swan and
his surgeon, whilst rowing to a Dutch ship that was to convey them
to Europe, were overset in their canoe by some natives, who stabbed
them whilst they were swimming for their lives. Others of the men who
remained at Mindanao were poisoned.

By this time Dampier was as heartily weary as ever Swan had been of the
voyage, if not of privateering, and waited for a chance to give his
comrades the slip. Meanwhile the vessel, after cruising off Manila,
where they took a couple of Spanish craft, proceeded from one island
to another, from one port to another, until, the monsoon being close
at hand, they decided to skirt the Philippine Islands, and, heading
southwards towards what was then known as the Spice Islands, enter
the Indian Ocean by way of Timor. The object of all this roundabout
navigation is not very plain. Dampier asserts that the crew were
in great fear of meeting with English or Dutch ships; still it is
difficult to understand their motive in straying so wide afield from
the common maritime highways of that period. They were now on the
Australian parallels, in the shadow of a world lying dark upon the
face of the ocean. As privateersmen they had little to hope or expect
from pushing into regions full of mystery and peril. Dampier says that
being clear of the islands they stood off south, intending to touch
at New Holland “to see what that country would afford us.” One would
wish for his dignity as a navigator that he had avowed, on his own
part at least, a higher motive for the exploration. It does not seem
to enter his head, at this point of his career at all events, that
the discovery of the true character and area of the Terra Australis
Incognita might bring to the marine explorer of its rocky coasts
honours scarcely less glorious, renown certainly not less enduring,
than were won by the mightiest of the old navigators. It is proper to
remember, however, that Dampier was but a common sailor in this ship
that had been run away with, and that his expectations, and perhaps
his ambition, scarcely rose above those of a privateersman; though how
far he resembled his shipmates in other directions we may gather from
his narrative, which he builds wholly upon the journal he faithfully
kept throughout; never remitting his strict practice of laborious
observation whether in storm or in shine, whether amidst the bustle and
activity of a chase, or the languor and listlessness of a long spell of
tropical calm.

“New Holland,” he says, “is a very large tract of land. It is not
yet determined whether it is an island or a main continent; but I am
certain that it joyns neither to Africa, Asia, or America.” Why he is
certain he does not tell us, but he is too sagacious to err, though
whilst he thus thinks, all that he sees of the vast territory is “low
land with sandy banks against the sea.” He devotes several pages to
descriptions of the natives, telling us that they have no houses, that
they go armed with a piece of wood shaped like a cutlass, that their
speech is guttural, that in consequence of the flies which tease and
sting their faces, they keep their eyelids half closed; and so forth.
One extract from several pages of most admirable, quaint description
will, I trust, be permitted.

“After we had been here a little while, the Men began to be familiar,
and we cloathed some of them, designing to have had some service from
them for it: for we found some Wells of Water here, and intended to
carry 2 or 3 barrels of it aboard. But it being somewhat troublesome to
carry to the Canaos, we thought to have made these men to have carry'd
it for us, and therefore we gave them some Cloathes; to one an old
pair of Breeches, to another a ragged Shirt, to a third a Jacket that
was scarce worth owning; which yet would have been very acceptable at
some places where we had been, and so we thought they might have been
with these People. We put them on, thinking that this finery would have
brought them to work heartily for us; and our Water being filled in
small long Barrels, about 6 gallons in each, which were made purposely
to carry Water in, we brought these our new Servants to the Wells, and
put a Barrel on each of their Shoulders for them to carry to the Canao.
But all the signs we could make were to no purpose, for they stood like
Statues, without motion, but grinn'd like so many monkeys, staring one
upon another: For these poor Creatures seem'd not accustomed to carry
Burdens: and I believe that one of our Ship Boys of 10 Years old, would
carry as much as one of them. So we were forced to carry our Water
ourselves; and they very fairly put the Cloaths off again, and laid
them down, as if the Cloaths were only to work in. I did not perceive
that they had any liking to them at first; neither did they seem to
admire anything that we had.”

To the part of New Holland these privateers touched at they gave no
name. Dampier speaks of the latitude of it being 16° 50', but his
reckonings are not to be trusted. To judge by the tracings of the map
of this portion of the world in his first volume, the coast which they
first sighted was that of North Australia, and they probably anchored
off either Bathurst or Melville Island. Be this as it may, they did
not linger long. Dampier endeavoured to persuade the men to sail to
some English factory, but in return for his advice they threatened to
leave him ashore on the sands of New Holland, “which,” says he, “made
me desist.” They soon saw as much of Terra Incognita as satisfied
them, and on March 12th, 1688, they weighed with the wind at north
north-west and steered their ship northwards. They arrived at Nicobar
on May 5th, and here Dampier resolved to leave the vessel. Obtaining
leave to go ashore, he was landed on the sandy beach of a small bay
where stood two untenanted houses; but he had not enjoyed an hour of
liberty when some armed men came from the ship to fetch him aboard
again. Resistance was as idle as entreaties, and he was forced to
return; but on his arrival he found the vessel in an uproar. Others,
taking courage by his example, had also determined to leave the ship.
Amongst them was the surgeon. This man the captain flatly refused to
part with, and the hubbub was great. All this confusion and quarrelling
seems to have helped Dampier, for, after a deal of squabbling, we find
him and two others obtaining permission to quit the ship. They were
put ashore with their effects, and entering one of the unoccupied
houses, hung up their hammocks to prepare for the night. Presently more
men arrived, and they were now numerous enough to protect themselves
against the natives. It was a fine clear, moonlight night, and the
little company of buccaneers walked down to the beach to wait until the
ship should weigh and be gone, fearing their liberty whilst she stayed.
At twelve o'clock they heard her getting her anchor and making sail,
and presently she was gliding slowly and silently seawards, glistening
white against the ocean darkness to the rays of the high moon.

Next day Dampier and his associates purchased a canoe, and passed over
to the south end of the island, where they victualled their little
boat with fruit loaves, cocoa-nuts, and fresh water, so that when the
monsoon came on to blow they might be in readiness to sail for Acheen.
It is consistent that a man who had traversed on foot the dangerous
and poisonous Isthmus of Panama should parallel that accomplishment
by a remarkable boat-voyage. The craft was a canoe of the size of a
London wherry, deeper but not so broad, sharp after the whaling pattern
at both ends, and so thin and light that when empty four men could
lift her. She carried a mat-sail, and outriggers to prevent her from
capsizing. In this little ark Dampier and his shipmates embarked—eight
men, four of whom were Malays—and started for Acheen on May 15th, 1688.
The breezes were light, the atmosphere sultry. Sometimes they rowed,
sometimes left the sail to do its work, but at the end of two days, to
their great mortification, they found the Island of Nicobar still in
sight a little over twenty miles distant. On the 18th they remarked
a great circle round the sun, an appearance that caused Dampier to
suppose that bad weather was at hand. His foreboding was true; wind and
sea rose, and but for the outriggers the canoe must have been swamped.
Still the gale freshened, and there was nothing for it but to scud.
There occurs here a characteristic passage. It reads like an extract
from _Robinson Crusoe_, and nothing in all Dampier so conclusively
proves the source whence Defoe drew the colours which he employed in
the composition of his chief and most engaging work.

“The Evening of this 18th day was very dismal. The Sky looked very
black, being covered with dark Clouds, the Wind blew very hard, and
the Seas ran very high. The Sea was already roaring in a white foam
about us; a dark night coming on and no Land in sight to shelter us,
and our little Ark in danger to be swallowed by every Wave; and what
was worse for us all, none of us thought ourselves prepared for another
World. The Reader may better guess, than I can express, the Confusion
that we were all in. I have been in many eminent Dangers before now,
some of which I have already related, but the worst of them all was
but a Play-Game in comparison with this. I must confess that I was in
great Conflicts of Mind at this time. Other Dangers came not upon me
with such a leisurely and dreadful Solemnity: A Sudden Skirmish or
Engagement, or so, was nothing when one's Blood was up, and push'd
forward with eager expectations. But here I had a lingering view of
approaching Death, and little or no hopes of escaping it; and I must
confess that my Courage which I had hitherto kept up, failed me here;
and I made very sad Reflections on my former life; and looked back
with Horrour and Detestation on actions which before I disliked, but
now I trembled at the remembrance of. I had long before this repented
me of that roving course of my life, of which kind, I believe, few Men
have met with the like. For all these I returned Thanks in a peculiar
manner, and this once more desir'd God's assistance, and Composed my
Mind as well as I could, in the hopes of it, and as the Event shew'd, I
was not disappointed of my hopes.”

But Dampier was a thoroughbred seaman. The canoe was superbly handled,
and after a terrible time of violent storms the low land of Sumatra was
descried on the morning of the 20th. Fever-stricken by the excessive
hardships and fatigues they had endured, insomuch that they were
too weak to stand up in their canoe, our adventurers drifted into a
river, and were supported by some natives to an adjacent village.
Here Dampier stayed for ten or twelve days in the hope of recovering
his health, but finding that he did not improve, he made his way to
Acheen, where he was so dosed by a Malay doctor that he came very near
to expiring. On regaining his health, he entered with Captain Weldon
of the ship _Curtana_ for a voyage to Tonquin. The first part of his
second volume is devoted to a description of his travels in Tonquin,
Acheen, Malacca, and other places.[13] There is but little narrative,
nevertheless the work is singularly interesting, and as literally
accurate as a Chinese painting.

Dampier was very willing to accept Captain Weldon's offer of this
voyage, as the vessel carried a surgeon whose advice he was in great
need of. Moreover Weldon promised to purchase a sloop at Tonquin and
make him master of her for a trading voyage to Cochin China. Nothing
noteworthy marked their passage. On their arrival at the Bay of Tonquin
they navigated the ship about twenty miles up the river and anchored.
The chief markets and trade of the country were then at Cachao, a
city eighty miles distant from the highest point at which the river
is navigable by vessels of burthen. Dampier, in company with the
captains of other ships, proceeded in large boats towards Cachao.
It was scarcely more than a jaunt for our hero, whose main business
in going the journey was to talk over the proposed voyage to Cochin
China with the chief of the English factory. Dampier remained for a
week with the Englishmen at the factory, and then returned to his own
ship, “where,” says he, “I lay on board for a great while, and sickly
for the most part; yet not so but that I took a boat and went ashoar
one where or other almost every day.” The result of this intrepid
observation is a full and interesting account of Tonquin, the habits
and customs of the people, their attire, sports, punishments, religion,
and literature. His health hindered him from several undertakings which
he might have pursued with advantage. For example, rice being dear at
Cachao, Weldon hired a vessel to procure that commodity at adjacent
places to supply the markets. It was a speculation by which Dampier
might have got money, but he was too ill to bear a part in it. He lay
five or six weeks in a miserable condition, then flattered himself
that he was sufficiently recovered to go on a walking tour through
the country. To this end he hired a native guide, who charged him a
dollar for his services, “which,” he says, “tho' but a small matter,
was a great deal out of my Pocket, who had not above 2 Dollars in all,
which I had gotten on board by teaching some of our young Seamen Plain
Sailing.” He started about the end of November 1688, and the proverbial
heedlessness of the seaman is not less suggested by his poverty than by
his resolution to attempt such a trip as this. He has but a dollar in
his pocket with which not only to bear his own but his guide's charges,
and yet he is fully aware that his weakness is bound to increase the
cost of his travels by obliging him to proceed by short stages. He says
he was weary of lying still and impatient to see something that might
further gratify his curiosity. They took the east side of the river,
and trudged along mutely enough, as we may suppose, since the guide
could not speak a word of English, whilst Dampier did not understand
a syllable of Tonquinese. At the villages they arrived at they were
sufficiently fortunate to procure rooms to sleep in and a couch of
split bamboos to lie on. The people treated Dampier very civilly; they
cooked his repasts of rice for him, and lent him whatever they had
that was serviceable to him. His practice was to ramble about all day,
and return to his lodging when it was too dark to see anything more.
His luggage was small—limited to what he terms a “sea-gown,” which his
guide carried, and which served him as a blanket at night, whilst his
pillow was often a log of wood. “But,” he says, “I slept very well,
though the weakness of my body did now require better accommodation.”

On the afternoon of the third day of his travels he arrived in view of
a small wooden tower such as the Tonquinese erect as funeral pyres to
persons of distinction. He had never seen such a thing before, and as
his guide could not talk to him, he continued ignorant of its meaning.
There was a crowd of men and boys near it, and he also noticed a number
of stalls covered with meat and fruit. He very naturally concluded that
it was a market-place, and entered the crowd partly with the intention
of inspecting the tower, and partly with the idea of purchasing a dish
of meat for his supper. After satisfying his curiosity he approached
the stalls and laid hold of a joint of meat, motioning to a person
whom he supposed was the salesman to cut off a piece that should weigh
two or three pounds. In an instant the crowd fell upon him. They
struck out at him right and left, tore his clothes and ran away with
his hat. The guide, shrieking unintelligible protests and apologies,
dragged Dampier away, but they were followed for some distance by a
number of surly-looking fellows whose cries and gesticulations were
full of menace. It was not until long afterwards that Dampier gathered
the meaning of all this; when he was informed that what he had taken
to be a market was a funeral feast, and that the tower was a tomb
which was to be consumed along with the body in it after the feast was
over. “This,” says he, “was the only Funeral Feast that ever I was at
amongst them, and they gave me cause to remember it: but this was the
worst usage I received from any of them all the time that I was in the
Country.”

Two days later he arrived at a town called Hean, where he was received
in a very friendly manner by a priest attached to the French bishop;
this place, it seems, being the headquarters of the missionaries. After
some conversation the priest inquired if any of the English ships would
sell him some gunpowder. Dampier answered that he believed none of them
had powder to spare. The father then inquired if he knew how gunpowder
was made. On Dampier answering in the affirmative he begged him to
try his hand. The priest had all the ingredients with the necessary
machinery for mixing them, so after drinking a few glasses of wine
Dampier went to work. “The priest,” he says, “brought me Sulphur and
Salt-Peter, and I weighed a portion of each of these, and of Coals I
gathered up in the Hearth and beat to powder. While his man mixed these
in a little Engine, I made a small Sieve of Parchment, which I pricked
full of holes with a small Iron made hot, and this was to corn it.
When it was dry we proved it, and it answered our expectation.” There
is something not a little odd and impressive in this picture of the
buccaneer manufacturing gunpowder at the request of a holy father, who
watches him with the utmost anxiety as if he were sensible that the
propagation of his faith amongst the mustard-coloured masses of Tonquin
must depend a good deal upon the success of Dampier's experiment. It
was fish-day at the palace, but the priest was so well pleased with
Dampier and his gunpowder and his conversation that he ordered a fowl
to be broiled for his dinner, and when the night came procured a
lodging for him in a house kept by a Tonquinese Christian hard by.

Next morning Dampier dismissed his guide and started for Cachao by
water. He describes the boat as of the size of a Gravesend wherry,
with a kind of awning to shelter the passengers when it rained. The
sailors rowed all night, turn and turn about. At midnight everybody
went ashore to sup at some houses by the river-side; the owners of
which waited for them with lighted candles, arrack, and tea, dishes
of meat and other provisions ready cooked. Here they stayed an hour,
then entered the boat afresh and pushed onwards. The passengers were a
merry lot. They laughed incessantly and sang heartily, though Dampier
says their singing resembled the noise of people crying. Ignorant of
the language, he sat mute amongst these jolly travellers. Next morning
he was put ashore a few miles short of Cachao. There was a good path,
and stepping out briskly he entered the city by noon. He immediately
repaired to the house of an English merchant with whom Captain Weldon
lodged, and stayed with him a few days, but he was so enfeebled by a
wasting disorder which had fastened upon him that he was scarcely able
to crawl about. His illness was exasperated by disappointment, for
he now discovered that he had made his walking journey only to learn
that Weldon had abandoned his scheme to purchase a sloop to trade to
Cochin China. The moment he felt strong enough to travel he returned
to his ship, and Captain Weldon shortly afterwards joining the vessel,
they weighed anchor and sailed from Tonquin. It was now February,
1689. Nothing of moment happened during the passage to the Straits
of Malacca. The ship arrived at Acheen about the beginning of March,
where Dampier took leave of Weldon and went ashore. He gives in this
volume of his travels a long and interesting account of Acheen, and in
describing the soil of the country prints the following brief passage
of recollection. “The Champion Land, such as I have seen, is some
black, some grey, some reddish, and all of a deep mold. But to be very
particular in these things, especially in my Travels, is more than I
can pretend to, tho' it may be I took as much notice of the difference
of Soil as I met with it as most Travellers have done, having been bred
in my youth in _Somersetshire_, at a place called _East Coker_, near
_Yeovil_ or _Evil_: in which Parish there is a great variety of Soil
as I have ordinarily met with anywhere, _viz._ black, red, yellow,
sandy, stony, clay, morass, or swampy, etc. I had the more reason to
take notice of this, because this Village in a great measure is Let
out in small Leases for Lives of 20, 30, 40 or 50 Pound _per Ann._,
under Coll. _Helliar_, the Lord of the Mannor: and most, if not all
these Tenants, had their own Land scattered in small pieces up and down
several sorts of Land in the Parish; so that every one had piece of
every sort of Land, his Black ground, his Sandy, Clay, and some of 20,
30, or 40 Shillings an Acre. My Mother, being possest of one of these
Leases, and having all these sorts of Land, I came acquainted with them
all, and knew what each sort would produce (_viz._) Wheat, Barley,
Maslin, Rice, Beans, Peas, Oats, Fetches, Flax, or Hemp: in all which I
had a more than useful knowledge for one so young, taking a particular
delight in observing it.” Vague as is this reference to his shore-going
life, it is the only passage of the kind that I have met in his books,
and for this reason therefore I reproduce it at length.

Whilst he was at Acheen some of the people rebelled against the choice
that had been made of a queen. Dampier, with others, hastened to take
shelter in the ships in the road, fearing that if the rebels obtained
the upper hand they would imprison him. He had indeed good cause
to dread the effects of a prison upon his constitution, shaken and
almost shattered as it was by long illness. There were two vessels at
anchor, one of them fresh from England and short of provisions. He in
consequence boarded the other, whose stores were tolerably plentiful,
but she was so crowded with cargo that he could not find space to
swing his hammock in; and as repose was absolutely essential to him,
he carried his bed into the boat that had brought him off and lay in
her for three or four days, fed by the people of the ship. He could
obtain no rest. There happened a total eclipse of the moon, at which
he gazed from the bottom of his boat, but he says: “I was so little
curious that I remembered not so much as what Day of the Month it was,
and I kept no journal of this Voyage as I did of my other; but only
kept an account of several particular Remarks and Observations as they
occurred to me.” When the disturbance ashore was quieted he returned
to his lodging, and learning that the natives regarded the water of
their river as charged with medicinal virtues, he determined to bathe
in it, and after a few baths was so much benefited that he was able
to get about again. In May, 1689, he took charge of a sloop that had
been purchased by one Captain Tyler; but when the craft was loaded, the
owner changed his mind and gave the command to a man named Minchin,
who offered Dampier the post of mate. “I was forced to submit,” he
says bitterly, “and accepted a Mate's employ under Captain Minchin.”
They sailed in the middle of September for Malacca, at which place
some of the people left Minchin to join another vessel that had been
in company, so that Dampier and the captain were the only two white
sailors on board. Shortly after starting they carried away their
foreyard and brought up off a small island owned by the Dutch. Dampier
called upon the governor to request his permission to cut down a tree.
Our hero, as an old Campeché man, was not likely to be at a loss; and
leaving the tree ready to be carried to the ship, he returned to the
fort, dined with the governor, and then went aboard. Shortly afterwards
his captain, together with a passenger and his wife, came ashore. The
fare of the fort was exceedingly meagre, and the governor, to entertain
his guests, sent a boat to catch a dish of fish. The fish, on being
cooked, was served in dishes of solid silver, and eaten from plates of
the same metal; whilst in the centre of the table was placed a great
silver bowl full of punch. It was to prove but little better than a
Barmecide's feast. The governor, his guests, and several officers
attached to the fort seated themselves, but as they were about to begin
a soldier outside roared, “The Malays!” The governor, starting from
his chair, leapt out of one of the windows, the officers followed, and
all was consternation and uproar. “Every one of them,” says Dampier,
“took the nearest way, some out of the Windows, others out of the
Doors, leaving the three Guests by themselves, who soon followed with
all the haste they could make, without knowing the meaning of this
sudden consternation of the Governor and his people.” All being in
the fort, the door was bolted, and several volleys fired to let the
Malays know that the Dutch were in readiness for them. The alarm was
real enough. A large Malay canoe, filled with men armed to the teeth,
had been noticed skulking under the island close to the shore. The
captain and the passengers hastened on board, the vessel's guns were
loaded and primed for service, and a bright look-out kept all night.
Dampier, however, was not very much frightened. It rained heavily, and
he knew from experience that the Malays seldom or never made any attack
in wet weather. Next morning nothing was to be seen of the enemy, and
having rigged up the foreyard, Dampier and his companions set sail
for Acheen. Here he was seized with a fever, which confined him to
his bed for a fortnight. On regaining his health he returned to the
vessel with orders to take charge of her, and on New Year's Day, 1690,
sailed for Fort St. George with a cargo of pepper and other produce.
His description of Madras as it then showed, now two hundred years ago,
is interesting. “I was much pleased,” he says, “with the beautiful
prospect this Place makes off at Sea. For it stands in a plain Sandy
spot of Ground, close by the shore, the Sea sometimes washing its
Walls; which are of Stone and high, with Half-Moons and Flankers and
a great many Guns mounted on the Battlements: so that what with the
Walls and fine buildings within the Fort, the large town of _Maderas_
without it, the Pyramids of the English Tombs, Houses, and Gardens
adjacent, and the variety of fine Trees scatter'd up and down, it makes
as agreeable a Landskip as I have anywhere seen.” He tells us that he
stayed at this place for some months, where he met with a Mr. Moody,
who had purchased what Dampier calls a painted prince named Jeoly. Then
in July he sailed with a Captain Howel for Sumatra.

He arrived at Acheen in April, 1689, and afterwards obtained a berth
as gunner at Bencoolen, then an English factory. After some further
adventures of no importance, we find him again gunner of the fort at
Bencoolen, at a salary of twenty-four dollars a month. But it was not
long before he grew dissatisfied with the conduct of the governor,
and asked to be released. He was also eager to return to England.
First of all he had been a long time absent from his native country,
and next, he was in possession of the painted prince whom Mr. Moody
had purchased at Mindanao for sixty dollars, and he expected on his
return to England to make a good deal of money by exhibiting this
unhappy black, of whose tatooings he gives a very minute account. It
seems strange that such a man as Dampier should have been unable to
hit upon a better way of gaining a livelihood than by proposing to
turn showman in his own country, with nothing better to exhibit than
a poor, miserable black man, whose only wonder lay in having rings
and bracelets, crosses, and a variety of unmeaning flourishes pricked
into his skin. The governor was, however, by no means willing to let
him go, and Dampier at last was obliged to obtain by a stratagem
what was denied him as a right. On January 2nd, 1691, a ship named
the _Defence_, bound for England, dropped anchor in Bencoolen Road.
Dampier made the acquaintance of her master, a man named Heath, who
readily complied with his request to receive him on board. Jeoly was
first carefully shipped, and then one midnight Dampier crept through
a porthole of the fort and ran to the beach, where he found a boat
waiting to convey him to the _Defence_. Nothing that is noteworthy
happened during the passage home. The ship entered the English Channel
in September, 1691, and on the 16th of the same month “we lufft in,”
says Dampier, “for the Downs, where we anchored.”

Thus terminated William Dampier's first voyage round the world. Dating
from Virginia, August 22nd, 1683, his circumnavigation had occupied
eight years; but his previous seafaring experiences, counting from the
period of his starting from England in the _Loyal Merchant_ in 1679,
enlarged his absence to the long space of twelve years. Beyond greatly
extending his knowledge, his travels had done nothing for him. He had
started in quest of Fortune, and had found her as phantasmal as the St.
Elmo's fire at which he had gazed with wonder at the masthead. And all
that he brought home in the shape of property was the unhappy Prince
Jeoly, whom he sold after his arrival in the Thames, being in want of
money—to such a pass had buccaneering and the circumnavigation of the
globe brought him.



CHAPTER IV

1699-1701

THE VOYAGE OF THE “ROEBUCK.”[14]


Dampier tells us nothing of his private and home-going life after he
carries us to sea with him in the _Loyal Merchant_, and so little is
known of that side of his career that there is no means of supplying
his omissions except by conjecture. It is pretty certain that he was
very needy when he returned from his first voyage round the world. The
value of his Dorsetshire estate cannot be guessed, but even if he still
retained it, his views and endeavours are at this time those of a poor
man. In the first volume of his Travels, as we have seen, he treats of
New Holland as a privateersman would,—glances, to use his own metaphor,
at the fringe of the carpet without desire to examine the texture or
the body of it, and quickly shares the disgust of his shipmates, whose
dreams are wholly of plunder. But on coming home and reflecting, whilst
setting about the writing of his Travels, on the land he had sighted in
the distant southern ocean, it is conceivable that ambitious thoughts
should begin slowly to fill his mind. The world at large at that time
barely credited the existence of a continent south of the East Indies.
The draughts of Tasman, the relations of De Quiros, Le Maire, and
others, were regarded for the most part as travellers' tales. Dampier
might justly hope in an age when the colonising instincts of the
English were never keener, that money and honour must be the reward of
the man who should be the first to open out a country fabulous yet in
the judgment of mankind, and, by the light of discovery, resolve what
was still visionary and dark into a magnificent reality.

His next step, at all events, was to seek ministerial and official
help for a voyage of discovery to New Holland. He lived in the days of
Dryden and of the patron, and his dedications exhibit him as possessed
in a high degree of the art of literary congeeing. This undesirable
but profitable capacity of cringing serviceably supplemented the
reputation he had made for himself as a traveller. He found patrons in
Charles Montague, afterwards Earl of Halifax, President of the Royal
Society, and one of the Lord Commissioners of the Treasury; in Edward,
Earl of Oxford, one of the principal Lords of the Admiralty; and in
Thomas Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, who filled the office of Lord High
Admiral. His representations were successful, probably beyond his own
expectations, and in the beginning of the year 1699 he was appointed
to the command of His Majesty's ship _Roebuck_ of twelve guns, manned
by a crew of fifty men and boys, and victualled for a twenty months'
cruise. Confidence, such as this trust implies, in the character and
qualifications of a man whose rating even as a privateersman was but
that of an able seaman, handsomely testifies to the very high opinion
in which Dampier was held.

The nature of the soil, climate, and the general character of Terra
Australis, Dampier could only conjecture. The ideas he had formed of
this unknown continent were, that it was a vast tract of land situated
in the richest climates in the world, having in it especially all the
advantage of the torrid zone, so that in coasting it the navigator
might be sure of meeting with broad areas productive of the rich
fruits, the drugs and spices, and perhaps the minerals discoverable
in other parts in, as he concluded, the same parallels of latitude.
His scheme was to narrowly survey all islands, shores, capes, bays,
creeks, and harbours, fit for shelter as well as defence, to take
careful soundings as he went, to note tides, currents, and wind, and
the character of the weather, with a special view to the settling
of the best districts. He also proposed to closely observe the
disposition and commodities of the natives, though he candidly admits
that after his experience of their neighbours “he expected no great
matters from them.” The course he originally designed to take was to
the westward by way of the Straits of Magellan, so as to strike the
eastern coast of Australia; and there is very little doubt that had
he pursued his first intention he would have anticipated nearly every
discovery of importance in those waters subsequently made by his
celebrated successor James Cook. Unhappily his judgment erred in one
essential direction. He was of opinion that the lands lying nearest
the equator would best repay the explorer. Nor perhaps could he guess
how far he would have to penetrate the high latitudes if he stood
south; and having passed the greater portion of his seafaring life in
Mexican, Pacific, and Indian seas, his love of the sun, fortified by
recollection of the cold of the Horn and of the one bitter voyage he
took to Newfoundland, might suffice to determine him on pinning his
faith as an explorer and on limiting his curiosity as a sailor to the
summer regions of the globe. Yet his great knowledge of the equatorial
climates should certainly have warned him against a Northern Australian
and New Guinea quest. Further, there were the experiences of Tasman to
help him, whose relations are as finger-posts in the extracts of Dirk
Rembrantz. Had he steered westwards, the sighting of the New Zealand
coast to the south, or of the shining islands of the Paumotu and other
groups to the north, would have borne in the truth upon his ready and
sagacious mind, corrected his fears of cold weather, given him clear
views as to the southernmost extension of the Terra Incognita, and
perhaps have antedated the civilisation of Australia by half a century.
In an evil moment, intimidated by thoughts of the ice of Tierra del
Fuego, and worried by the murmurs and half-heartedness of a crew,
the majority of whom were quite young seamen, “only two in the ship
ever having passed the Line, and those two none of the oldest,” he
determined to prosecute his voyage to New Holland by way of the Cape of
Good Hope.

He sailed from the Downs on January 14th, 1699. His intention was to
proceed to Pernambuco, and thence directly to the coast of New Guinea;
but scarcely had a month elapsed when the crew began to give trouble,
to mutter their dislike of the proposed voyage, and even to talk of
obliging him to return to England. At Pernambuco, owing to the distance
of the anchorage from the town, the men would have found it easy to
slip the vessel's cables and run away with her; and not choosing to
venture any risk of this kind, Dampier steered for Bahia de Todos
los Santos. This was a considerable trading-port in his time, formed
of about two thousand houses. He found upwards of thirty large ships
lying in the bay, and speaks of a busy traffic in linen and woollen
goods, in hats and silk stockings, in biscuit, wheat, flour, and port
wine. His closeness of observation is once again exhibited in all that
he has to say about this place. Nothing escapes him. He gives you a
long catalogue of all the vegetables and fruits of the district, of
the birds, beasts of prey, dogs, monkeys, hogs, and the like, and
then comes to the sea, from which he produces a list of twenty-three
different kinds of fish. He sailed on April 3rd, and made a fair course
for the coast of New Holland. The quality of the reckoning of even an
expert mariner in those days may be gathered from his telling us that,
seeing a large black bird flying near the ship, he suspected that he
was much nearer the Cape of Good Hope than he had imagined, since it
was well understood that this sort of bird is never to be met with
farther than ninety miles from land. By his own account, he was two
hundred and seventy miles from the Cape; but next day, meeting a vessel
named the _Antelope_, bound to the East Indies from Table Bay, he found
that L'Agulhas bore only twenty-five leagues distant. The inaccuracy
of the computations of those times must needs excite the wonder of our
own age of exact science. In Matthew Norwood's _System of Navigation_,
“teaching the whole Art in a way more familiar, easie and practical
than hath been hitherto done,” published in 1692, though from internal
evidence I gather it to have been compiled in 1683-84, there is a
catalogue of the longitudes and latitudes “of the most principal places
in the world, beginning from the meridian of the Lizard of England.”
The latitude, as a rule, is tolerably approximate, but the longitude is
very much otherwise. For instance, the Cape of Good Hope is said to be
in 34° 24´ S. latitude, and in 25° 33´ E. longitude. Cape Frio is put
down as in 22° 55´ S. latitude, and 33° 59´ W. longitude. Cape Blanco
is entered as 47° 30´ S. latitude, 62° 52´ W. longitude![15] These are
representative of the whole of this singular table of calculations. Yet
Norwood was greatly esteemed as a navigator, and his book was to be
found in most ships' cabins. It is amazing that the early mariners were
not perpetually blundering ashore. By what secret instincts they were
advised I know not; yet it is certain they made as little of being a
hundred miles out of their course without knowing it, as we should in
these days of an error of the length of a ship's cable.

Dampier continued to sail to the eastwards, and on July 25th signs
unmistakable of the neighbourhood of land were witnessed in the form
of quantities of floating seaweed and moss; but it was apparently not
until August 2nd that the coast hove into view, on which date Dampier
says, “We stood in towards the land to look for an harbour to refresh
ourselves, after a voyage of 114 degrees from Brazil.” They coasted for
a few days in vain search of a secure anchorage, and then observing an
opening of the land they made for it, and brought up in two fathoms
and a half of water. This opening Dampier called Shark's Bay, a name
it has ever since retained.[16] He makes this bay to lie in 25° S.
latitude and 87° longitude E. from the Cape of Good Hope, “which is
less,” he says, “by a hundred and ninety-five leagues than is laid down
in the common draughts.” He paints a pretty picture of his first view
of this place, telling us of sweet-scented trees, of shrubs gay as
the rainbow with blossoms and berries, of a many-coloured vegetation,
red, white, yellow, and blue, the last preponderating, and all the air
round about very fragrant and delicious with the perfumes of the soil.
The men caught sharks and devoured them with relish,—a hint not only
of very bad stores, but of provisions growing scarce; for disgusting
as the salt-beef of the sea becomes after a long course of it, he must
have a singular stomach and a stranger appetite who will choose shark
in preference. One of the fish they captured was eleven feet long, and
inside of it they found the head and bones of a hippopotamus, the hairy
lips of which were still sound “and not putrefied.” The jaw was full
of teeth, two of them eight inches long and as big as a man's thumb;
“The flesh of it was divided among my Men, and they took care that
no Waste should be made of it, but thought it as things stood, good
Entertainment.”

They remained in Shark's Bay till the 10th, fruitlessly searching for
fresh water; then coasting north-east, they fell in with a number of
small rocky isles called Dampier's Archipelago, in latitude south about
20° 30´, and about 116° 30´ E. longitude. Here Dampier was so much
struck with the character of the tides that he concluded there must be
a passage to the south of New Holland and New Guinea to the eastward
into the Great South Sea. His meaning is not clear, but then he is in
the situation of a man who fires at a mark in the night; he misses, but
the ball speeds in the right direction. Their pressing want was fresh
water. Gangs of men were repeatedly sent ashore to seek it, but to no
purpose. Their first sight of the natives was on August 31st. All sorts
of signs of peace and friendship were made, but their gesticulations
were probably too violent, and might even have grown alarming as
contortions, and the wild men fled, menacing Dampier and his people as
they ran. The only sort of intercourse they succeeded in establishing
was a conflict. One of the barbarians was shot dead and an English
sailor wounded. Dampier says, speaking of these natives, that they had
the most unpleasant looks and the worst features of any people he ever
saw, “though,” says he, “I have seen a great variety of Savages.” He
judges that these New Hollanders were of the same race as the people
he had previously met with in his first voyage round the globe, “for,”
he exclaims, “the Place I then touched at was not above forty or fifty
Leagues to the N.E. of this, and these were much the same blinking
Creatures; here being also abundance of the same kind of Flesh-flies
teasing them, and with the same black Skins and Hair frizzled, tall,
thin, etc., as these were; but we had not the Opportunity to see
whether these, as the former, wanted two of their fore Teeth.” It
seems to me that he blackened his portraits of these uncomely people
for the same reason that we find him later on describing the country
sourly as though there had been little or nothing to admire; I mean
with the wish to render the failure of his voyage less disappointing
to his patrons at home. In short, he writes as if he would have people
suppose that New Holland is a savage and worthless land, inhabited by
loathsome monsters. One of the native princes he describes as painted
with a circle of white pigment about his eyes, and a white streak down
his nose, from the forehead to the tip of it. The breast and a portion
of the arms were also whitened with the same paint. If Dampier do not
exaggerate, then these embellishments which he portrays, supplementing
the natural hideousness of the savages, might well cause the youthful
Jack Tars who filled his forecastle to imagine themselves upon one of
those enchanted, demon-haunted lands, from which the ancient mariner of
the legends was wont to sail away with trembling despatch, his hair on
end and his eyes half out of his head.

“If it were not,” writes Dampier, “for that sort of pleasure which
results from the Discovery even of the barrenest spot upon the Globe,
this coast of New Holland would not have charmed me much.” There is
little of the enthusiasm of the explorer in this avowal; all through
his career, in fact, Dampier exhibits himself as a man of caprices
easily diverted from his first intentions, quickly sickened by failure,
though never discomfited by the harshest sufferings or by the most
formidable difficulties, so long as he can keep himself in spirits by
the assurance of some approach to good fortune attending the issue of
his adventure. Probably he was now willing to believe of New Holland,
despite the wise conjectures with which he vitalised his early scheme,
that all that remained to be seen was no better than what he was
now viewing. Or, the length of time his voyage had already occupied
had provided him with plenty of leisure for the contemplation of his
prospects, and he was beginning to think that he had been misled by
his original impulse, and that there was neither dignity nor profit to
be got out of a toilsome survey of an obscure, remote, inhospitable
coast. One sometimes likes to think of the return amongst us of such a
man as this. If one could summon the dead from their sleep of centuries
that they might behold the issue of the labours of the generations
whose processions filled the time between their Then and our Now, it
would be such old navigators as Dampier whom one would best like to
arouse. Think of Cabot and Cartier going a tour through the United
States, of Columbus taking ship by an ocean mail-steamer to the West
Indies, of Bartholomew Diaz listening to the eloquence of South African
legislators in the House of Assembly at Cape Town, of Mark de Niza at
San Francisco, of Tasman at Hobart Town! As we watch Dampier digging
for water amid the sand-hills of the Western Australian seaboard,
the reality of the living present becomes a wonder even to us who
are familiar with it. The shining cities, the flourishing towns, the
radiant congregation of ships flying the flags of twenty different
nationalities, every fruitful, every busy condition of commerce,
manufacture, science, art, literature, entering into and stimulating
the life of the highest form of human civilisation, are as miracles and
as dreams to us standing in imagination by the side of the lean figure
of this buccaneer, quaintly apparelled in the boots, belt, and broad
hat of his old calling, and gazing with him upon a land whose silence
is broken only by the cries of unfamiliar creatures, by the murmur of
the wind among the leaves of a nameless vegetation, and by the solemn
wash of the ocean surge arching in thunder upon a shore that, to the
minds of hundreds and thousands away in far-off Europe, is as unreal
and illusive as the islands of Plato and More. What heart would have
come to our stout navigator with but the briefest of all possible
prophetic glimpses into the future of that great continent on whose
western sands he searches for water, reluctant, dubious, half-dismayed!

There was much, however, it must be admitted, to dishearten him. The
behaviour of his crew was causing him anxiety; and about this time the
scurvy broke out amongst the men. Moreover, though his people hunted
diligently for fresh water, their labours were unrewarded. So Dampier
determined to shape a course for Timor, if, to use his own language, he
“met with no refreshment elsewhere.” He had spent altogether about five
weeks in cruising off the coast, covering in all, as he calculates, a
range of 900 miles, but without making any sort of discovery that was
in the least degree satisfactory to himself. He started afresh with the
intention to steer north-east, keeping the land aboard, as sailors say.
His chief and perhaps only desire at that time was to fill his casks
with fresh water. They once again then lifted their anchor on December
5th, 1699, but had not measured many miles when they discovered that
the numerous shoals along the coast would render an inshore voyage
impracticable. Dampier thereupon bore away seawards and deepened his
water from eleven to thirty-two fathoms. Next day but the merest film
of land was in sight, and on the 7th nothing of the coast was visible,
even from the masthead. By this time he was heartily weary of New
Holland. He confesses his disgust very honestly, and laments the weeks
he has wasted on the coast, which he believes he could have employed
with greater satisfaction to himself and with larger promise of success
had he pushed straight on to New Guinea. His men were drooping; the
scurvy was being helped by the brackish water they were obliged to
drink, and he could think of no better remedy than to shift his helm
and steer away for the Island of Timor.

He gives a very close and interesting description of this island. He
had certainly plenty of leisure for inspection, for he did not get
under weigh again until December 12th, whence, though he does not date
his arrival at Timor, we may gather that he must have stayed there
for at least three months. He now headed on a straight course for New
Guinea—the coast of which he discovered in the form of very high land
on New Year's Day, 1700. Islands studded the water on all sides, from
one of which some days afterwards they saw smoke rising. At sight of
this Dampier bore away for it before a brisk gale, and anchored in
thirty-five fathoms of water at the distance of about two leagues
from what proved a large island. Thus they remained during the night,
whilst all through the hours of darkness they observed many fires
burning ashore. In the morning they weighed again and sailed closer to
the land, anchoring within a mile of the beach; whereupon a couple of
canoes came off to within speaking distance of the ship. The savages
called to them, but their language was as unintelligible as their
gestures. Dampier invited them by motions to step on board, but this
they declined to do, though they approached so close that they were
able to see the beads, knives, hatchets, and the like, which were held
up with the idea of tempting them to enter the ship. Dampier then got
into his pinnace and rowed shorewards. He hailed the people there in
the Malay language, but they did not understand him. Numbers of the
wild men lurked in ambush behind the bushes, but on Dampier throwing
some knives and toys ashore they ran out, and, wading to the boat,
poured water on to their heads as a sign of friendship. He describes
these people as a sort of tawny Indians with long black hair, differing
but slightly from the inhabitants of Mindanao. He also noticed amongst
them a number of woolly-headed New Guinea negroes, most of whom he
suspected were slaves to the others. The crew gave them brandy, which
they drank with relish,—a behaviour that caused Dampier to suppose
that, let their religion be what it would, they were not Mahometans.
It is noteworthy that Tasman differs from Dampier to the extent of
describing these natives as resembling the savages of New Zealand. He
speaks of them as being armed with slings, darts, and wooden swords,
decorated with bracelets and rings of pearl, with rings in their
noses. Schouten had long previously found them a very ferocious and
intractable people, who would have made themselves masters of his
vessel if he had not fired upon them and put them to flight. But as in
these so in those days. The world was somewhat kaleiodoscopic, and the
combination of colours seen by the peering traveller at one time was by
no means the same assemblage of hues viewed by other eyes at another
time.

On February 4th the _Roebuck_ was off the north-west coast of New
Guinea. Here Dampier found some very pleasant islands richly wooded
and full of wild pigeons, and sweetened to the sight by vast spaces of
white, purple, and yellow flowers, which so perfumed the wind that the
fragrance could be tasted at a great distance from the shore. On one of
them he stood surrounded by a portion of his crew, and after drinking
the king's health, christened the spot King William's Island. Crossing
the equator they proceeded to the eastward, and then, partly with the
idea of escaping the perils of a navigation among shoals and islands,
and partly with the hope of being rewarded for their sufferings and
disappointments by some discovery of magnitude and importance, they
steered the ship for the mainland. They were now within sight of a high
and mountainous country, green and beautiful with tropical vegetation,
and dark with forests and groves of tall and stately trees. A number
of canoes came out to them, but the brief intercourse terminated in
the usual way: the intentions of the natives were misunderstood; a
gun was fired and several savages killed. Dampier's narrative at this
point deals for some pages chiefly with the natives of New Guinea,
though he shortly describes the islands and the aspect of the mainland
as he sails along. So far his tone is one of disappointment, but
nevertheless he keeps a very steady, honest eye upon the object of
his voyage to these unknown waters. “I could have wished,” he says,
“for some more favourable opportunities than had hitherto offered
themselves as well for penetrating into the heart of the New discovered
country as for opening a Trade with its inhabitants, both of which
I very well knew, could they be brought about, must prove extremely
beneficial to Great Britain.” Happily the conduct of his officers and
men had improved, and they seemed as willing as he to explore the new
land; but he writes with knowledge of the issue, and it is impossible
to miss in this narrative of his the subdued and faltering language
of a discouraged heart. On March 14th he was within view of what he
terms a well-cultivated country. He observed numbers of cocoa-trees,
plantations apparently well ordered, and many houses. His method of
opening communication with the natives was by firing a shot over a
fleet of canoes, which sent them paddling away home as fast as their
crews could drive them. Presently three large boats put off, one of
which had about forty men in her. The _Roebuck_ lay becalmed, and it
looked as if the blacks meant to attack the ship. A round shot was sent
at the canoes, the savages turned about, and a light breeze springing
up, the ship followed them into the bay. When close to the shore
Dampier noticed the eyes of innumerable dusky-faced people peeping at
the vessel from behind the rocks. A shot was fired to scare them, but
they continued peeping nevertheless. Dampier seems surprised after this
that the natives were unwilling to trade. The utmost they consented
to do was to climb the trees for cocoanuts, which they contemptuously
flung at the English with passionate signs to them to be gone.

The crew were now finding plenty of fresh water, and the ship's casks
were soon filled. In spite of the defiant posture of the savages, it
was agreed, after a consultation amongst the officers and men, to
remain where they were and attempt a better acquaintance with the
people of the coast. Next day whilst the boats were ashore, forty or
fifty men and women passed by; they moved on quietly without offering
any violence. Says Dampier, speaking of them: “I have observed among
all the wild Nations I have known that they make the Women carry
the burdens, while the Men walk before without carrying any other
load than their arms.” Extremes meet, and assuredly in some respects
the most polished nation in the world is within a very measurable
distance of the most savage. It does not appear that the obligation
of having occasionally to kill a few natives greatly interfered with
the friendly relations between them and Dampier's men. The ship's
company went ashore and slaughtered and salted a good load of hogs,
whilst the savages peered at them from their houses. “None offered
to hinder our Boats landing,” writes Dampier; “but, on the contrary,
were so Amicable, that one man brought ten or twelve Cocoanuts, left
them on the Shore, after he had shewed them to our Men, and went out
of sight. Our People, finding nothing but nets and images, brought
them away; these two of my men brought in a small Canoe; and presently
after, my Boats came off. I ordered the Boatswain to take care of the
nets, the images I took into my own Custody.” Thus they requited the
friendly disposition of these poor savages by plundering them. Who can
doubt that most of the massacres of European crews by the inhabitants
of countries often as beautiful and radiant as earthly paradises, the
glory and sweetness of which might easily be deemed to have subdued the
human beings found upon them to the tenderness and lovableness of the
inspirations of the soil, the fruit, the majestic forests, the shining
birds, should be the effect of traditions whose origin may be found in
the barbarities practised by the early mariner?

Dampier describes the country hereabouts as mountainous and wooded,
full of rich valleys and pleasant fresh-water brooks. He named it Port
Montague, in honour of the patron to whom he had dedicated his first
volume. The _Roebuck_ sailed from this place on March 22nd, and two
days afterwards, in the evening, Dampier, who was indisposed and lying
down in his cabin, was hastily called on deck to behold what the crew
regarded as a miracle. The wonder was no more than a burning mountain,
but then those were days when enchanted islands[17] were to be met with
at sea, and this great flaming scene was at once a prodigy and a terror
to the sun-tanned mariners, who stared at it over the rail with every
superstitious instinct in them astir. Tasman had viewed it, but the
honest old Batavian did not wield Dampier's pen. It was a grand sight
indeed,—a large pillar of fire crimsoning the north-west blackness,
rearing its blood-red blaze higher and higher for three or four minutes
at a time, then sinking till it seemed to have died, then rising afresh
flaming furiously. They got a better view of this volcano a little
later. “At every explosion we heard a dreadful noise like thunder, and
saw a flame of fire after it the most terrifying that ever I beheld.”
Streams of liquid light ran down to the foreshore and overflowed the
beach with incandescent lakes. The description of this burning mountain
is, I think, one of the finest passages in Dampier's writings.

All this while he supposed that he was still off the coast of New
Guinea; but following the trend of the shore, he arrived at those
straits which still bear his name, and then discovered that the little
country whose seaboard he had been exploring was an island. This
land he called Nova Britannia, or, as we now know it, New Britain.
Happy would it have been for the reputation of Dampier if, instead of
steering east through his straits, he had continued to skirt the New
Guinea coast to the south-east, for by so doing he must have rounded
into the Gulf of Papua, struck the channel called Torres Straits,
and, catching sight of Cape York, have been encouraged to pursue his
exploration of the coast of New Holland on that side of the great
continent whose fruitfulness, beauty, and conveniency have courted the
civilisation of Europe. It is true that the _Roebuck_ was provisioned
for twenty months only, but an ardent and ambitious navigator would
have made little or nothing of such a condition of his voyage as this
when close aboard of him were lands filled with fruit, hogs, fowls, and
fresh water. But there is no question that Dampier had long grown weary
of this business. He could see nothing but honour (and little enough of
that, as things went) to be got out of this journey, and as a poor man,
with the heart of a buccaneer in him besides, he would appreciate the
need of something more substantial than fame. Be this as it may, he had
now, it being April 26th, 1700, started on his return home, intending
on the way to call at Batavia to careen and doctor his crazy ship for
the long voyage to England. When clear of the straits a vessel hove in
sight at dusk, and as her manœuvrings were puzzling they loaded their
guns, lighted the matches, and made ready to fight her. She sheered
off, but was in sight at daybreak, and then proved to be nothing more
dangerous than a Chinese junk laden with tea, porcelain, and other
commodities, and bound for Amboyna. The _Roebuck's_ progress was very
slow; she was coated with weeds and barnacles, and in a sea-way her
timbers worked like a basket. It was not until June 23rd that they
arrived at the Straits of Sunda, and at the close of the month they
dropped anchor off Batavia. Here Dampier stayed for three months whilst
his ship was careened and repaired. Her condition was such that one can
only wonder that he and his crew ventured to sail home in her. We might
scarcely credit that Dampier's patrons honestly felt much faith in his
representations, and in the hopes he held out of vast and important
discoveries, when we find them putting him and his crew of boys into
a ship which time had made rotten probably some years before she was
equipped for this voyage, if it were not that the later experiences of
Anson exhibit the same profound departmental indifference and neglect
on an occasion which we may assume was regarded as far more significant
than Dampier's expedition. Of all the wonderful accomplishments of the
English sailor, nothing to my mind is so amazing as the triumphs with
which he crowns the cause of his country in defiance of the miserable
indifference of the British Admiralty to him and to his labours. The
best that Dampier could do with his ship was so to patch her up as to
enable her to carry her people home with the pumps going day and night.
They sailed from Batavia on October 17th, arrived at the Cape of Good
Hope on December 30th, and brought up at the island of Ascension in a
sinking condition on February 21st, 1701. Even whilst Ascension was
in sight the _Roebuck_ had sprung a fresh leak, and when she anchored
both hand and chain pumps were going. There was still a long stretch of
ocean for them to traverse, and a ship like a sieve to measure it with.
The tinkering of the carpenters apparently increased the mischief, and
whilst Dampier was waiting below to receive the news of the leak being
stopped, the boatswain arrived with a long face to tell him that the
vessel was sinking. “The plank was so rotten,” says Dampier, “it broke
away like Dirt, and now it was impossible to save the Ship; for they
could not come at the Leak because the water in the run was got above
it. I worked myself to encourage my Men, who were very diligent, but
the Water still increased, and we now thought of nothing but saving our
lives: Wherefore I hoisted out the boat that if the Ship should sink
we might be saved; and in the Morning we weighed our anchor and Warped
in nearer the shore, tho' we did but little good.” The men with their
clothes and bedding were sent ashore on rafts; the sails were unbent
and converted into tents for the use of Dampier and his officers; fresh
water and rice had been landed for the use of all, “but,” writes the
unfortunate commander, “great part of it was stolen away before I came
ashore, and many of my books and papers lost.” Luckily there was no
lack of turtle, but those who have visited Ascension will understand
the distresses of a numerous crew cast away upon an uninhabited island
of cinders and volcanic cones, with one green hill only far away in
the middle of the calcined heap for the eye to find refreshment in.
They were fortunate enough to discover a spring of fresh water; the
men carried their beds into the hollows of the rocks, and perhaps
thought themselves better off than in the wet, dark, half-drowned,
cockroach-laden forecastle of the _Roebuck_. Moreover, in addition to
turtle there were crabs, goats'-flesh, and sea-birds for food; and as
the air of Ascension is about the sweetest and most wholesome in the
world, the castaways kept their health and spirits, and managed on the
whole very well indeed.

Their imprisonment did not last long. On April 3rd four vessels hove
in sight, and in the course of the day anchored off the island. Three
of them proved English men-of-war—the _Anglesea_, _Hastings_, and
_Lizard_; the fourth was an East Indiaman named the _Canterbury_.
Dampier went on board the _Anglesea_ with thirty-five of his crew,
and the remainder were divided between the other men-of-war. The
ships proceeded to Barbadoes, but Dampier, with a keen sense of his
misfortunes, and anxious to justify himself to his patrons, accepted
an offer to return to England in the _Canterbury_. “The same earnest
desire,” he says, “to clear up Mistakes, to do myself Justice in
the opinion of the World, and to set the Discoveries made in this
unfortunate voyage in their proper Light, that it may be of use to the
World, how unlucky soever it proved to me, is the reason that induced
me to publish it; And I persuade myself that such as are proper Judges
of these sort of Performances will allow that I have Delivered many
things new in themselves, capable of affording much Instruction to such
as meditate future Discoveries, and which in other respects may be of
great utility to the present age and to posterity.”



CHAPTER V

1702—1706-7

THE VOYAGE OF THE “ST. GEORGE”


Dampier's circumnavigations brought him great fame. It was deemed,
and justly deemed, a remarkable feat to sail round the world in
those days. Very few men had achieved it, and the names of those who
had—the list prior to Dampier is brief enough—were written among the
stars. Dampier had circled the globe twice, had touched at all sorts
of strange and wonderful places, had held intercourse with all kinds
of astonishing people, had explored some of the secret recesses of
the other side of the earth, and was charged with experiences as
marvellous as those of the sailor who had doubled Cape Fly-Away and
dropped anchor in thick weather off No-Man's Land. His reputation
stood high for this. On the other hand, nothing was thought of his
discoveries. It is significant that the editor of the _Collection of
Voyages and Travels_, published by the Churchills in 1704, in speaking
in his “Introductory Discourse” of Dampier's books, says: “The third
volume is his _Voyage to New Holland_, which has no great matter of new
discovery.” This opinion probably expressed the judgment of the public
at large. There is indeed no great matter of discovery. Harris allows
the voyage but one merit, namely, “That it has removed for ever those
suspicions that were entertained of the accounts formerly given of
those countries.” “It has shown us,” he says, “a new Indies in which,
whenever that spirit of industry shall revive which first extended and
then established our commerce, we may be able to undertake settlements
as advantageous as any that have been hitherto made by this or any
other nation.”[18] But in sober truth, Dampier adds but little to the
stock of knowledge that had been already collected from the narratives
of Tasman, Pelsart, Schouten, and others who had touched at or been
wrecked upon the New Holland coast. It is probable that his failure,
coupled with the despondent tone that characterises his narrative,
went far to retard further exploration in the Southern Ocean. It was
no longer disputed that a vast body of land stood in those waters; the
testimony of previous navigators was confirmed; but what was to be
made of it? All that Dampier said in its favour was theoretical; all
that he had to report as an eye-witness, all that he could speak to
as facts, was extremely discouraging. He might even go further in his
conversation than in his written story in apologising for his useless
and disappointing cruise, and to his patrons add to the assurance of
his narrative such persuasion of tongue as would convince them that
there was nothing to be gained by further researches in Australian
waters. Indeed, the depressing influence of his recorded adventures I
venture to consider manifested by the directions given to the later
navigators. Byron in 1764, Wallis and Mouat and Cartaret in 1766, were
despatched on voyages round the world to search the South Seas for new
lands; but only one of them, Cartaret, deviated into Dampier's track,
confining his explorations in this way to a glance at New Guinea and
New Britain, to the discovery of New Ireland, lying adjacent to the
island Dampier had sailed round, and to giving names to the islands of
the Soloman and other groups. The world had to wait for Cook to confirm
the theories of Dampier, whose influence and example were by that time
little more than traditionary.

His fame, however, as a navigator, despite the disappointments of his
voyage, was unimpaired, and since employment was absolutely necessary
to him as a means of living, he wisely took care on his return to make
the most of his laurels whilst they were green. In 1702 he was busy
in looking about him for occupation. His thirst for discovery was
appeased, and he was now viewing the profession of the sea with the old
yearnings of the buccaneer. Fortunately for him, the War of Succession
began. The Spaniards and the French were once more the political
enemies of Great Britain, but the Don in particular was the cynosure of
privateering eyes. The heads of the merchants had been turned by the
triumphs of the freebooters. Wonderful tales had long been current of
the capture of treasure by little insignificant picaroons, and there
were many private adventurers who only needed the representations of
a person of Dampier's experience and credit to come willingly into a
freebooting scheme against the ships and possessions of the Spaniard in
the West Indies and the South Sea.

Speculative men of substance were found and an expedition equipped,
the ships being the _St. George_, Captain William Dampier, and the
_Fame_, Captain John Pulling. The vessels were liberally armed and
manned, and were commissioned—spite of the venture being wholly one of
privateering—by Prince George of Denmark, Lord High Admiral, to cruise
against the French and the Spaniards. The terms were, “No purchase, no
pay!” Dampier's proposal, adopted by the promoters of the expedition,
was to proceed first to the river Plate as far as Buenos Ayres, and
seize two or three Spanish galleons, which he said were sure to be
found there. If the plunder amounted to the value of six hundred
thousand pounds they were to return home. If, on the other hand,
nothing was done in the river Plate, they were to enter the South Seas
and cruise for the Valdivia ships which conveyed gold to Lima. If this
design failed, they were to attempt such rich towns as Dampier should
think proper. Finally, they were to coast the Mexican shore to watch
for the great galleon which in those days and long afterwards sailed
annually filled with treasure and valuable commodities from Manila to
Acapulco.

This was a broad programme, and Dampier's finger may be found in every
word of it. The Acapulco ship was indeed peculiarly the dream of
the buccaneer. In the galleon captured by Drake, Lopez Vaz tells us
there were eight hundred and fifty thousand pieces of silver, besides
many chests of treasure omitted in what was then termed the “bill of
custom.” Drake's men were employed six days in removing the jewels, the
cases of money, the tons of uncoined silver, and the services of plate,
which they found in their prize. Candish's capture of the galleon
yielded him one hundred and twenty-two thousand pesoes of gold; the
lading further consisted of silks, satins, musk, damasks, sweetmeats,
and quantities of fine wines. The value of the Manila ship that Dampier
was to seek and capture was appraised at nine millions of pieces of
eight, equal to about a million and a half of our money.

Our sailor was wise to provide himself with alternatives which would
also furnish his humour with opportunities for those sudden changes
which his capricious mind demanded as a stimulant to further efforts.
The story of this voyage is related by William Funnell,[19] who
went as mate in the ship with Dampier. It is noticeable that, as we
progress in Dampier's career, his individuality grows less and less
distinguishable. He is vague in Funnell's narrative, he is vaguer still
in Woodes Rogers's, and then he disappears.

There was trouble at the very onset of this voyage. Whilst in the
Downs Dampier and Pulling quarrelled, and the latter, apparently not
troubling himself about his agreement with his employers, made sail,
and started away on a cruise among the Canary Islands on his own
account. Dampier never saw him afterwards. On this a galley named the
_Cinque Ports_, memorable as Alexander Selkirk's ship, commanded by
one Charles Pickering, was despatched to join the _St. George_ in the
room of the _Fame_. She was a small vessel of some ninety tons burthen,
mounting sixteen guns and carrying a crew of sixty-three men. It is
declared that Pulling's defection ruined the voyage; but this is an
opinion scarcely reasonable in the face of the achievements of the
buccaneers, who many of them, in vessels much smaller than the _Cinque
Ports_, successfully engaged the forts and castles of powerfully
protected towns, and boarded and carried galleons big enough to have
stowed the conquerors' craft in their holds.

Dampier sailed on April 30th, 1703, from the Downs, and on being
joined at Kinsale by the _Cinque Ports_, proceeded with his consort
to Madeira. “By a good observation,” says Funnell, “I make this
island to lie in latitude of 32° 20´ N., and longitude, by my account
from London, 18° 5´ W.” This is an illustration of the value of good
observations in those days! Nothing of moment happened until their
arrival at an island upon the Brazilian coast. Here Captain Pickering
of the _Cinque Ports_ died, and Thomas Stradling, the lieutenant, took
command of the ship. There was also a quarrel between Dampier, his
chief officer, and eight of the crew, which terminated in the nine men
going ashore with their baggage. Disappointment had soured Dampier's
mind, and he was growing more obstinately fretful and quarrelsome.
Much of the anxiety caused him by the behaviour of his ship's company
was owing to his petulance, and to his lacking most of the qualities
which command respect or enforce obedience. In truth, there had been
nothing in his training to qualify him as a commander. He had passed
the greater portion of his seafaring life as a sailor before the mast,
amongst a community of bold and truculent ruffians who obeyed orders
for the general good, but who virtually admitted no superiority in the
persons whom they suffered to lead them. In a very short time, as we
have seen, Dampier had succeeded in disgusting his consort Pulling out
of an adventure, whose success might entirely depend upon his active
and cordial co-operation; and now we find him abandoned by his first
lieutenant and eight of the crew for reasons, I fear, it would be idle
to seek elsewhere than in his own temper. Off the Horn in January,
1704, the _Cinque Ports_ disappeared in the midst of a heavy storm.
She was a small ship for the huge seas of those desperate parallels,
and the worst was feared. Dampier's men were so disheartened that
little persuasion might have been needed to determine them to abandon
the voyage. Of all miserable times passed by the early mariner, the
most miserable and insufferable were those which they spent off Cape
Horn. Under reduced sail their little tubs showed like half-tide rocks
in the troughs. The decks were full of water, the seas thundered over
them in cataracts, the hatches, closed and battened down, kept the
atmosphere of the 'tween decks black and poisonous. The crew were
commonly so numerous as to be in one another's way, and imagination
can picture nothing more unendurable than a dark and vermin-ridden
forecastle crowded with half-suffocated men; the rigging and sails
frozen to the hardness of iron; spears of ice hanging from the catheads
and bowsprit, and from all other points from which water could drain;
the ship herself rolling and tossing with sickening fury, and quivering
to the thunder-shock of seas smiting her from an altitude of thirty
feet. Moreover, by the time a vessel arrived off Cape Horn, she was
usually short of provisions and water. She had already occupied months
in making the passage, and her stores were so bad as to be rejected
by the very rats, which, with the fearlessness and ferocity of famine,
crawled out of the blackness of the hold and nibbled the feet of the
sailors as they lay dozing on their chests. Captain George Shelvocke,
writing in 1726, has left us a gloomy picture, full of power, of the
Horn in winter. “I must own,” he says, “the navigation here is truly
melancholy, and it was the more so to us who were a single ship and by
ourselves in this vast and dreadful solitude; whereas a companion would
have mixed some cheerfulness with the thoughts of being in so distant a
part of the world exposed to such dangers, and, as it were, separated
from the rest of mankind. The very thoughts of the possibility of
losing our masts by the violence of such very stormy weather as we had
had were enough to cast a damp upon the clearest spirits.”[20]

It was not until February 7th that Juan Fernandez showed above the
horizon. Dampier concluded that it was some other island, and stood
away east, to the grief and disappointment, as one may suppose, of
his starved and scorbutic crew, tantalised by the spectacle of green
hills and sparkling falls of fresh water. On the 11th, having sailed a
considerable distance towards the American seaboard, he decided that
the land he had sighted was the island he sought, and thereupon shifted
his helm for it; and on his arrival, passing by the great bay, he saw,
to his own and to the great delight of his crew, the _Cinque Ports_
quietly lying at anchor, she having made the land three days before.
Both vessels were heeled and refitted, which, with the watering of
them, gave the crews plenty of employment; but whilst this was doing
another quarrel happened, this time between Captain Stradling and his
men. We may suspect Stradling's character from Alexander Selkirk's
hatred of him, though there is no doubt that Selkirk himself was on
the whole about as troublesome a seaman to deal with as ever stepped a
deck. Dampier, it is true, afterwards told Captain Woodes Rogers that
he considered Selkirk, who in the expedition I am now writing about was
master of the _Cinque Ports_, to have been the best man in that ship;
but then Dampier had quarrelled with Stradling and abhorred his memory,
and so, I do not doubt, made the most of Selkirk to Rogers, that he
might suggest rather than boldly affirm his former consort equal to so
base and cruel a deed as the marooning of a good and honest sailor;
albeit Rogers was perfectly well aware that Selkirk had gone ashore
of his own choice.[21] The quarrel between Stradling and his men rose
to such a height that the crew absolutely refused to go on board and
serve under him. Dampier was consulted, and after a deal of trouble
succeeded in persuading the fellows to return to their duty. It is
to be feared that this happy turn of what threatened to prove a very
grave difficulty owed little or nothing to Dampier's address or to his
popularity. It is a common saying at sea amongst sailors who dislike
their captain that they will weather him out even if he were the devil
himself; meaning that they will not suffer themselves to be defrauded
by his tyranny of their wages or such good prospects as the voyage may
promise. The sober-headed amongst Stradling's crew would not take long
to see the folly of abandoning an adventure that had brought them to
the very threshold of their hopes, particularly after having endured
all the distress and misery of the passage of the Horn in a vessel but
a very little bigger than a fishing-smack of to-day. It is more than
likely then that Dampier's counsel found most of them sensible of their
mistake and willing to resume work.

Whilst the people were ashore busy on various jobs relating to the
doctoring of their ships, the day being February 29th, 1704, a sail was
sighted, an alarm raised, and a rush made on board. The two vessels
instantly slipped their cables and stood out to sea. The stranger,
on perceiving the canvas of the two crafts growing large upon the
background of the island, bouted ship and went away under a press; but
Dampier clung to his wake, and the _Cinque Ports_ made all possible
haste to follow. The breeze blew briskly, and the _St. George_ was
thrashed through it so fleetly that she towed her pinnace under water
and was forced to cut her loose. Captain Stradling's boat, in which
were a man and a dog, also went adrift, but of her and her inmates
we get news later on. It was not until eleven o'clock at night that
the _St. George_ came up with the chase, and Dampier wisely deferred
hostilities until the day dawned. The stranger proved a Frenchman of
four hundred tons and thirty guns, full of men; and at sunrise on March
1st the _Cinque Ports_ and the _St. George_ attacked her. The galley,
however, was of little use, for after discharging a dozen guns she fell
astern, and left the game to be played out by Dampier. “We fought her
very close,” says Funnell, “Broadside and Broadside for seven Hours;
and then a small Gale springing up she sheered off.” Old conflicts of
this kind are quaint with the colours of an utterly extinct form of
marine life. The seamen fought with guns bearing strange names. The
heaviest marine-ordnance was the demi-cannon, whose bore was six and
three-quarter inches, and the weight of the shot thirty pounds and a
half. There were also the cannon-petro, that threw a twenty-four pound
shot; the basilisk, the weight of whose shot was fifteen pounds; the
sacre or sacar, as Sir William Monson spells it, a little piece of a
bore of three inches and a half that cast a shot weighing five pounds;
and smaller guns yet called the minion, the falcon, the serpentine, and
the rabanet, the last carrying a shot of half a pound. It is difficult
to conjecture the calibre of such ordnance as Dampier and his enemy
were armed with. Probably the cannon-petro was their biggest piece, and
they would also carry swivel-guns. It will be evident at all events
that such a vessel as the _Cinque Ports_, whose tonnage is put down
at ninety, and which is said to have been armed with sixteen guns,
must have mounted very light metal if only to render her seaworthy.
But besides their falcons and sacars and minions, they engaged with
other strange engines,—arrows trimmed with wild-fire, pikes flaming
with the same stuff for piercing a ship's side, shells called granados
filled with powder and thrown on to a vessel's deck with a fuze alight,
powder-pots formed of clay or thick glass, and stink-balls, for the
making of which old Norwood prescribes as follows:

“Take Powder 10l., of Ship-pitch 6l., of Tar 20l., Salt Peter 8l.,
Sulphur California 4l. Melt these by a soft heat together; and being
well melted, put 2l. of cole-dust, of the filings of Horses-hoofs
6l., Assa Fœtida 3l., Sagapenem 1l., Spatula Fœtida half a pound:
Incorporate them well together, and put into this matter Linnen
or Woollen-Cloathe, or Hemp or Toe as much as will drink up all
the matter: and of these make Globes or Balls of what bigness you
please. This Globe or Ball may be made venomous or poysonous, if to
the Composition be added these things following: Mercury Suplimate,
Arsnick, Orpiment, Sinaber, etc.”[22]

This horrible contrivance, when thrown among the surging crowd, threw
out volumes of poisonous and suffocating smoke. A sea-fight was a
fierce business—fiercer, perhaps, than we can realise when we contrast
the armaments of those days with the leviathan guns of the ironclad.
The devices for slaughtering were full of the genius of murder. They
had cohorns or small mortars fixed on swivels; caissons, called
“powder-chests,” charged with old nails and rusty bits of iron for
firing from the close-quarters when boarded; weapons named “organs,”
formed of a number of musket-barrels fired at once. Above all, they
had what I fear is lost to us for ever,—I mean the boarding-pike, the
deadliest of all weapons in the hands of the British sailor. The mere
naming of a yard-arm to yard-arm engagement lasting seven hours is hint
enough to the imagination of a man conversant with the tactics, the
brutal courage, the remorseless resolution, the deadly if primitive
fighting machinery of the sea-braves of the old generations. The
castellated fabric rolling upon the seas, echoing in thunder to the
blasts which roar from her wooden sides; the crowds of men swaying
half-naked at the guns; the falling spars; the riddled sails; the
great tops filled with smoke-blackened sailors wildly cheering as they
fling their granados upon the decks of the enemy, or silent as death
as they level their long and clumsy muskets at forms distinguished as
the leaders of the fight by their attire, combine in a picture that
rises in crimson-tinctured outlines upon the dusky canvas of the past,
and, though two centuries old, startles and fascinates as if it were a
memory of yesterday. But the old voyagers' references to such things
are grimly brief. They dismiss in a sentence as much as might fill a
volume; yet what they have to say is suggestive enough, and the fancy
is feeble that cannot colour their black and white outlines to the
fiery complexion of a reality, and vitalise them with the living hues
of the time in which the deeds were done.

The battle was ended by a small gale of wind coming on to blow, and
by the Frenchman running away. On board Dampier were nine killed and
several wounded. Funnell says that the sailors were anxious to follow
and fight the Frenchman again, and sink or capture him, fearing that
if he escaped he would make their presence known to the Spaniards. But
Dampier objected, protesting that even if the enemy should hear of
them and stop their merchantmen from leaving harbour, “he knew where
to go, and did not fear of failing to take to the value of £500,000
any day in the year.” This assurance sufficiently satisfied the men to
induce them to back their topsail to wait for the _Cinque Ports_, and
on her coming up with the _St. George_, Dampier briefly conferred with
Stradling, who agreed with him that they should let the Frenchman go.
The privateers thereupon headed on their return to Juan Fernandez to
recover the anchors, long-boats, casks of fresh water, and sea-lions'
oil which they had left there; along with five of the crew of the
_Cinque Ports_, who had been ashore on the west side of the island
when the ships hurriedly made sail after the Frenchman. The wind was
south, right off the land, and whilst they were struggling to fetch
the bay two ships unexpectedly hove in view. The _Cinque Ports_, being
near them, fired several shots, and then, having her sweeps out, rowed
to the _St. George_ to report that the strangers were Frenchmen, each
mounting about thirty-six guns. It is conceivable that Dampier might
not consider his ship, fresh as she was from a tough conflict, in a fit
state to engage these two large, well-armed vessels; nor, after the
part his consort had borne in the late action, was he likely to place
much faith in Stradling's co-operation. He thereupon determined to
stand away for the coast of Peru, an unintelligible resolution when it
is remembered that they would not only be leaving five of Stradling's
men behind, but furniture and stores absolutely essential to their
security and to the execution of their projects. They might surely have
lingered long enough in the neighbourhood of the island to persuade
the Frenchman that they were gone for good. A run of fifteen or twenty
miles would have put them out of sight. And they might also have
reckoned upon the unwillingness of the enemy to fight; for the French
equally with the Spanish seafarers in those days were commonly very
well satisfied with the negative victory of the foe's retreat.

The two ships fell in with the coast of Peru on March 11th. Funnell
makes the latitude of the land 24° 53' S. Thence they coasted to the
northwards, and on the 14th passed the port of Copiapo, used by the
Spaniards for loading wine, money, and other goods for Coquimbo. They
would have been glad to go ashore for refreshments, but were in the
unhappy situation of being without boats. On the 22nd, when off Lima,
they chased a couple of vessels which were steering for that port.
On coming up with the sternmost Dampier found her to be the ship he
had fought off the island of Juan Fernandez. The crew were eager to
engage her, so as to prevent her from entering Lima, still dreading
the consequence of the Spaniards gaining intelligence of English
freebooters being in those waters. Moreover Funnell asserts that not a
man on board doubted the possibility of taking her, because the crew
were now in good health, whereas when they had engaged her some twenty
or thirty of them were upon the sick-list. They also wanted her guns,
ammunition, and provisions, and proposed that the _St. George_ should
fight her whilst Stradling attacked the other; but Dampier was not of
their mind, and whilst all hands were hotly debating the matter, the
Frenchmen, if indeed they were both French, got into Lima. It would
be absurd to accuse Dampier of want of courage, but it is strange
that, after chasing the two strangers from no other motive that seems
intelligible than the design to fight and capture them, he should draw
off on discovering one of them to be his enemy of Juan Fernandez. He
was commissioned to attack the vessels both of France and Spain, and
as there was much to be gained by the conquest of the ships, his
reluctance or refusal as the chief of a crew eager for the fray is
unaccountable.

Funnell writes with no kindness for Dampier; but he doubtless speaks
the truth when he asserts that the men were greatly incensed by their
commander's refusal to fight, insomuch that something like a mutiny
might have followed had they not been mollified by the capture, in
the space of a few days, of two prizes—one of one hundred and fifty,
the other of two hundred tons. Meanwhile Dampier was maturing a
mighty project of landing on the coast and plundering some rich city.
Preparations for this great event filled the ship with business. All
day long the carpenters were employed in fitting out fabrics called
Spanish long-boats to enable the sailors to enter the surf with safety.
In every launch were fixed two patareros, swivel-guns of small calibre.
Fortune so far favoured them that, on April 11th, they met and took a
vessel of fifty tons, laden with plank and cordage, “as if she had been
sent on purpose for our service,” says Funnell. Carrying this useful
prize with them, they sailed to the island of Gallo, where they dropped
anchor and took in fresh water, and further prepared their ship and
the prize for the grand undertaking they were about to enter upon. At
the expiration of five days they were ready; but whilst they were in
the act of getting under weigh a ship was seen standing in. They were
in a proper posture to take her, and in a short while she was theirs.
The capture was unimportant, the craft being only fifty tons; but it
is noticeable for their finding on board a Guernsey man, who had been
taken by the Spaniards two years before as he was cutting logwood in
the Bay of Campeché, and who must have continued a prisoner for life
if they had not released him. Dampier's El Dorado was the town of Santa
Maria. It was to the mines lying adjacent to this place that he would
have been glad to convey the thousand slaves who had been captured in
an earlier voyage. It was his intention now to attack it, for he had
no doubt that it was full of treasure. But his evil star was dominant.
The enemy, apprised of his being in the neighbourhood, met him at all
points with ambuscades, which, Funnell tells us, cut off abundance of
the men. He may have lacked the power of organisation; he may have
been wanting in the quality to swiftly decide, and in the power to
unfalteringly execute; it is equally probable that his schemes were
perplexed and his hopes ruined by the insubordination of a crew whom
he was not sufficiently master of his temper to control. Be the reason
of the failure what it will, the men grew so weary of their fruitless
attempts on shore that they returned to their ship without regard to
the wishes of the commander. Then they were beset with new troubles,
chief amongst which was a great scarcity of provisions. Fortunately at
this critical juncture a ship of one hundred and fifty tons, ignorant
of their character, dropped anchor within gunshot of them. Needless to
say that she was promptly captured, and, to the delight of the hungry
and hollow-cheeked survivors of Dampier's mighty land-project, was
found filled to the hatches with flour, sugar, brandy, wine, thirty-two
tons of marmalade, a large stock of linen and woollen cloth, and,
in a word, such a store of food and goods as might have served to
victual and equip them for four or five years. Funnell was put on board
this prize on behalf of Captain Dampier and the people of the _St.
George_, whilst the master of the _Cinque Ports_—Alexander Selkirk—was
transferred to her as representing the interests of Captain Stradling
and his ship's company. The vessels then proceeded to the Bay of
Panama, and anchored off the island of Tobago.

They had not long arrived when Dampier and Stradling fell out. The
quarrel between the men was so hot that there was nothing for it but
to part company. One is willing to hope that Stradling was to blame.
He was a man of a coarse mind, a person of violent temper, and of a
low habit of thought; and nothing, probably, but the circumstance of
their being in separate ships and removed from each other hindered the
two captains from separating long before. Five of the _St. George's_
men went over to Stradling, and five of the _Cinque Ports_ crew joined
Dampier. It was now that some prisoners who were in the last prize
that had been taken affirmed that there were eighty thousand dollars
secreted on board of her. The money, they said, had been taken in very
privately at Lima, and it lay hidden in the bottom of the ship in the
part called the run. Dampier refused to credit this, and would not even
take the trouble to ascertain the truth by setting the men to rummage
the hold. His mind, Funnell tells us, was so full of great designs that
he would not risk them by such delay as a brief search might involve.
It is unfortunate for his reputation that a considerable portion of his
sea-going career has to be tracked through the relations of men with
whom he quarrelled, or who, by association with him during months of
the imprisonment of shipboard life, grew intimately acquainted with the
weaknesses of his character.

On May 19th the _St. George_ parted company with the _Cinque Ports_,
and steered northwards with the intention of cruising off the Peruvian
coast. The subsequent recorded career of Stradling is very brief. His
men were too few to qualify him for achievements in the South Sea. He
repaired to Juan Fernandez for shelter and refreshment, where, as all
the world knows, Alexander Selkirk left him, partly on account of his
hatred of the captain, and partly because of the unseaworthy condition
of the galley. Not long afterwards the _Cinque Ports_ foundered off
the American coast, with the loss of all hands excepting Stradling and
seven of his men, who were sent prisoners by the Spaniards to Lima, in
which city Stradling was still living when Dampier came afterwards into
these waters as Woodes Rogers's pilot. What afterwards became of him is
not known.

Nothing of interest occurred in Dampier's progress north for nearly a
month, and then on June 7th they captured a vessel bound to Panama,
laden with sugar and brandy and bales of wrought silk. In this ship was
a letter addressed to the President of Panama by the captain of the
French man-of-war they had fought. It was all about the action with the
_St. George_, and the writer boasted of having killed a great number
of the English, whilst he himself had sent ashore at Lima thirty-two
of his men, all whom had been disabled either by the loss of a leg or
an arm or an eye; and he added that, had Dampier chosen to follow and
re-engage him, he must have been captured. Funnell prints this with
evident relish as justifying the attitude of the crew of the _St.
George_, and as an impeachment of Dampier's judgment and possibly his
courage. In another letter it was related that the two French ships at
which Stradling had fired, and from which Dampier had made sail, had
picked up the boat containing the man and dog that had broken loose
from the _Cinque Ports_; also that they had taken off the men who had
been left on the island, together with the privateersmen's anchors,
cables, long-boat, and stores. It was further ascertained from these
letters that the Spaniards had fitted out two ships to cruise in
search of Dampier—one of thirty-two brass guns, twenty-four pounders
each; the other of thirty-six guns of the same calibre; each vessel
had three hundred and fifty seamen and one hundred and fifty soldiers,
all picked men. It does not seem, however, that Dampier allowed his
projects to be diverted by these men-of-war. He knew they were off
Guayaquil, and on June 21st we find him in the bay named after that
port with a sail in sight, which next day proved to be one of the
Spanish ships—the one of thirty-two guns. “Being pretty near each
other,” says Funnell, “they gave us a Broadside, but we did not mind
them.” Dampier's chief anxiety was to get the weather-gage. The wind
was half a gale, and in manœuvring the _St. George's_ foretop-mast
went over the side. Hatchets were seized and the wreckage cut away,
and the instant his ship was clear Dampier put his helm up and got
his vessel before it. This inspired the enemy with wonderful spirit.
He crowded all the canvas he dared show to that wind, and started in
pursuit; whereupon Dampier, observing that his behaviour was animating
the Spaniards with courage, resolved to bring the _St. George_ to the
wind and fight it out. Funnell relates this incident very brightly.
“Captain Dampier's opinion was that he could sail better upon one Mast
than the Enemy, and therefore it was best to put before the Wind; but,
however, chose rather to fight than to be chased ashore: So hoisting
the bloody Flag at the Main-topmast-head with a Resolution neither to
give or to take Quarter, we began the Fight, and went to it as fast as
we could load and fire. The Enemy kept to Windward at a good Distance
from us; so that we could not come to make use of our Small-arms: But
we divided the two Watches; and one was to manage the Guns whilst the
other looked on; and when those at the Guns were weary, the other were
to take their Places till they had refreshed themselves. By this means
we fired, I believe, five Guns to the Enemy's one. We fired about 560,
and he about 110 or 115; and we fought him from twelve at Noon to Half
an Hour to Six at Night, altho' at a good Distance; for he kept so far
to Windward of us that our Shot sometimes would hardly reach him, tho'
his would at the same time fly over us.” The cannonading—it came to no
more—terminated when the darkness fell. Dampier lay hove-to all night
waiting for the morning, but at daybreak nothing was to be seen of the
Spaniard. The action was merely a shooting match, and the privateers
had not a man killed nor even hurt by the enemy.

Our hero's next step was to seek provisions and water. The district,
however, yielded him nothing, and he was forced to rest satisfied with
the lading of a couple of small vessels, which he captured. One of
them he fitted out as a long-boat, and called her the _Dragon_. They
were now in the Gulf of Nicoya and at anchor close to Middle Island,
as Funnell terms it; and here it was they careened their ship, all
hands going ashore and building tents for the cooper and sailmaker,
and for the storage of goods and provisions. Whilst this was doing
Dampier sent his mate, John Clipperton, and twenty men armed to the
teeth for a cruise in the _Dragon_. He found his account in this little
expedition, for at the end of six days the _Dragon_ returned with a
Spanish craft of forty tons freighted with brandy, wine, and sugar.
Amongst her people were six carpenters and caulkers, who had been
shipped by the owner for the purpose of repairing her, and these men
Dampier immediately set to work upon his own ship. The bottom of the
_St. George_, after she had been careened, is described as resembling a
honeycomb. Nowhere was the plank much thicker than an old sixpence; so
sodden and rotten was the wood that Funnell declares in some places he
could easily have thrust his thumb through it. They were without timber
to sheath her, and all that could be done was to stop the leaks with
nails and oakum.

Whilst the ship was in the hands of the carpenters Dampier and
Clipperton fell out, and the mate, with a following of twenty-one
men, mutinously seized the bark that the _Dragon_ had brought in,
lifted her anchor and sailed away outside the islands. Shelvocke,
who was afterwards associated with Clipperton, gives this man so bad
a character in his book that, if he possessed the same qualities as
Dampier's mate which he afterwards exhibited as Shelvocke's consort,
one can only wonder that the captain of the _St. George_ had not long
before marooned or pitched him overboard. The loss of these twenty-two
men was a serious blow, but the defection might have resulted more
seriously even than this to Dampier, for all the _St. George's_
ammunition and the greater part of her provisions were in the bark
when the mate seized her. Fortunately Clipperton was not wholly a
villain. Shortly after his departure he sent word that he would put the
stores belonging to the _St. George_ ashore in a house, keeping only
what he required for his own use. He was as good as his word; canoes
were despatched, and the powder and provisions were recovered. This
man Clipperton was afterwards the hero of some strange adventures.
Harris calls him a man of parts and spirit, but not the less was he the
completest rogue at that time afloat. He professed to have left Dampier
for the same reason that had caused Alexander Selkirk to live all alone
by himself,—I mean the craziness of the ship; but surely he must have
been a rascal to have abandoned Dampier in the hour of his need. Yet he
was not wanting in the audacious courage that was the characteristic
of his buccaneering compeers. In his little bark, armed with two
patareros, he sailed to the coast of Mexico, captured a couple of
ships, one of which he sunk; whilst for the other being new he demanded
ten thousand pieces of eight by way of ransom, and got four thousand.
He then sailed to the Gulf of Salinas, cleaned his cockle-shell of a
boat, and made for the East Indies, reaching the Philippine Islands in
fifty-four days. He afterwards bore away for Macao, where his crew left
him. He returned to England in 1706, and in 1718 obtained command of
the _Success_, consort to the _Speedwell_, whose captain, Shelvocke,
was under him. He abandoned Shelvocke, and though they afterwards
met in the South Sea, declined to consort with him in any way. His
adventures are one of the most interesting chapters in the annals
of the buccaneers. He returned home in or about the year 1722, and
shortly afterwards died of a broken heart, utterly destitute.

But to return to Dampier. By October 7th he was again in a condition
to embark upon further adventures. One notices with admiration his
resolution to keep the sea in an under-manned craft so rotten and
crazy that he might reasonably fear the first gale of wind must pound
her into staves. But the forlorn hope was often the old buccaneer's
best opportunity. Exquemeling, or Esquemeling as the name is sometimes
spelt, tells of the pirate Le Grand that when famine-stricken in a
small boat in company with a few armed men, he ordered one of his
people to bore a hole through the craft's bottom whilst approaching the
vessel he meant to board, that success might be as sure as desperation
could render it. There was something probably of Le Grand's spirit
in Dampier's policy. His men were few, and he might have found it
necessary to animate them by an alternative whose issue could only mean
either conquest or destruction.

He was now cruising for the Acapulco ship, the most romantic and golden
of all the hopes and dreams of the privateersman. There were no limits
to the fancies her name conjured up. Imagination was dazzled by visions
of chests loaded with virgin gold and unminted silver, by cases of
costly ecclesiastical furniture, crucifixes, chalices, and candlesticks
of precious ore, images glorious with jewels, plate of superb design,
treasure equalling in value the revenues of a flourishing principality.
They fell in with her on December 6th, in the morning. The crew,
Funnell drily tells us in effect, had looked out for her as though
there were no difference between seeing and taking her. They were
indeed in the right kind of mood for fighting. Their appetites had
been whetted by disappointment, and they were weary of a cruise that
had yielded them little more in the way of captures than provisions,
which their necessities quickly forced them to consume. They were also
sulky with the defection of comrades, and every piratical instinct in
them was rabidly yearning after a prize which would enable them to
sail straight away home, with plenty of money for all hands in their
hold. They pluckily bore down to the tall fabric whose high sides were
crowned with the defences of bristling tiers of guns, and saluted her
with several broadsides. The galleon, not suspecting them to be an
enemy, was unprepared; the sudden bombardment threw her people into
confusion, and the sailors—wretched seamen, as the Spaniards even at
their best were in those days—tumbled over each other in their clumsy
hurry to defend themselves. There was one Captain Martin on board with
Dampier, who, though born a Spaniard, had been bred and educated in
London. He had been taken out of a ship captured by the _St. George_
in the preceding October. This Martin, whose sympathies appear to
have been with the English, advised Dampier to take advantage of the
confusion in the galleon, and lay her aboard. Indeed it hardly required
a practised seafaring eye to perceive that, if the Spaniard once got
his batteries to bear, he would, to employ Martin's language, “beat
the _St. George_ to pieces.” The value of the ship was reckoned at
sixteen million pieces of eight. That Dampier should have hesitated
is incomprehensible. Boarding was his only chance; he must have known
that; and yet he would not board. Hesitation was of course fatal. The
enemy brought his guns to bear, and it was then impossible for the _St.
George_ to lie alongside of her. The privateersmen had nothing to throw
but five-pound shot; the galleon, on the other hand, mounted eighteen
and twenty-four pounders. In a very short time the _St. George_ was
struck between wind and water in her powder-room, and two feet of plank
were driven in under either quarter; after which nothing remained to
Dampier but to make his escape whilst his crazy ship continued to swim.

The bitterly disappointed crew clamoured to return home. Fortune was
against them, and the superstitions of the forecastle were confirming
the experiences of the voyage. Further, there were scarcely provisions
enough to last them for another three months, whilst the ship herself
was in a condition to fall to pieces at any moment. Less than this
might sufficiently justify the mutinous posture of the disgusted men.
Nevertheless Dampier persuaded them to prolong the cruise for another
six weeks, promising at the expiration of that time to carry them to
some factory in India, “where,” says Funnell, “we might all dispose
of ourselves, as we should think most for our advantage.” This being
settled they proceeded to the eastward, keeping the land in sight, but
though they passed Acapulco and other considerable ports, I do not
observe that Dampier attempted a single town, or even sought a prize
on the water. Apparently the sole object of this trip was to find a
convenient place for watering the ship and the prize which they had
with them,—that is to say, the bark out of which they had taken Captain
Martin,—preparatory for their departure. But on January 6th, 1705, a
month after their encounter with the Manila ship, there happened what
Funnell speaks of as a revolution in their affairs, “for thirty of our
Men,” he continues, “agreed with Captain Dampier to remain with him in
the South Seas, but with what View or on what Terms remained to us who
were not of that Number an impenetrable secret.” It is as likely as not
that this was no new caprice on the part of Dampier, and very possibly
his motive in asking the men to continue the cruise for another six
weeks was that he might have time to induce them to continue with him
for an indefinite term upon the South American seaboard. Funnell's
party consisted of thirty-three men, which represents the force of
Dampier's crew at that time to have been sixty-three, not counting
himself. That thirty should decide to remain with him, and that
thirty-three should be, so to speak, forced to abandon him without
having any knowledge whatever of the understanding between their
shipmates and the commander, is so inexplicable that I suspect some
blunder or concealment in Funnell's narrative at this point. It is,
indeed, just probable that Funnell and his thirty-two associates were,
by reason of bad health, disaffection, and other causes, scarcely worth
mustering. Yet they made shift nevertheless to carry their wretched
little vessel to the East Indies, and one might suppose that Dampier
would still have found his account in men who could prove themselves
qualified for such a navigation as that. Or it is conceivable that
Funnell and the others were sick of the cruise and afraid of the ship,
whilst Dampier—that he might prevent the whole crew from abandoning
him—made golden promises under a pledge, of secrecy, which proved
sufficiently potent to work upon the imaginations of thirty of the
men, and to determine them to give their captain another chance.

Be all this as it may, the _St. George_ and the bark proceeded
amicably together to the Gulf of Amapalla, at which place they arrived
on January 26th, and the people at once went to work to divide the
provisions between the two ships. Before the bark sailed two of the
men who had resolved to stay with Captain Dampier left him, and joined
Funnell's party, which now numbered thirty-five—namely, thirty-four
English and a negro-boy. Meanwhile Dampier's men were busy in refitting
their craft. The carpenter stopped the holes which the cannon-balls of
the galleon had made in her with tallow and charcoal, not daring to
drive in a nail. Four guns were struck into the hold, which yet left
sixteen mounted, a greater number than Dampier had men to fight, if the
need arose, “for,” says Funnell, “there remained with him no more than
twenty-eight Men and Boys, and most of them landmen; which was a very
insignificant Force for one who was to make War on a whole Nation.” One
might think that the spectacle of such a ship as this would inspire
even a larger spirit of desertion than her crew manifested. Certainly
there was nothing in the aspect of the tottering and rotten vessel to
coax Funnell and his companions back into Dampier's service. They were
supplied with four pieces of cannon, along with a fair proportion of
small arms and ammunition, and on February 1st they bade farewell to
their old associates and started on their perilous voyage.

The subsequent adventures of Dampier need not take long to relate. As
we have seen, his crew consisted of twenty-eight men only; the _St.
George_ was in a pitiable condition, her seams open, every timber in
her decayed, her sails and rigging worn out, and in no sense was she
fit to keep the sea. Dampier was in the situation of a gambler who
has lost all but the guinea which he now proposes to stake. Indeed,
we find him throughout confiding a great deal too much in luck. It is
seldom that he attempts to force fortune's hand by prompt, vigorous,
and original measures. One by one his brother officers had abandoned
him; his crew had deserted him by the score at a time; and yet in a
ship rotten to the heart of her, and with a beggarly following of
twenty-eight gaunt and dissatisfied men, he clings to the scene of his
distresses and his disappointments with no further expectation than the
gambling hope that, since he is at the very bottom of the wheel, the
next revolution must certainly raise him. Had he and his twenty-eight
men come fresh to these seas, they might have flattered themselves
with brilliant prospects; smaller companies of buccaneers had achieved
incredible things, enlarged their ranks as they progressed, shifted
their flag from ship to ship, until they found themselves in possession
of a fleet equal to any such force as the enemy in those waters had it
in his power to send against them. But Dampier's men were dissatisfied
and miserable, surly and despondent with disappointment, and exhausted
by privation and severe labours. They looked at the future as promising
but a darker picture of what they had already suffered. It was indeed
time for them to go home; the privateering spirit amongst them was
moribund; all heart had been taken out of them. It speaks well for
Dampier's personal influence, whilst it also illustrates his singular
genius of persuasion, that he should have succeeded in keeping these
men together by representations in which possibly he had as little
faith as they. He told them that there was nothing easier than to make
their fortunes by surprising some small Spanish town, and that the
fewer there were of them, the fewer there would be to share the booty.
They listened and sullenly acquiesced—animated, perhaps, by a faint
expiring gleam of their old buccaneering instincts. Thereupon Dampier
attacked Puna in Ecuador, then a village formed of a small church and
about thirty houses. The night was dark when he landed, the inhabitants
were in bed; no resistance was offered, and the place was captured
without trouble. Having plundered this town, they sailed to Lobos de
la Mar, where they let go their anchor, whilst they deliberated what
they should do next. On the way to this island they captured a small
Spanish vessel full of provisions. Dampier called a council, and it
was resolved that they should quit the _St. George_ and sail away to
the East Indies in their prize. It is manifest from this resolution
that their easy plundering of Puna, and their equally easy capture of
the bark,[23] had failed to reconcile them to a longer cruise against
the Spaniards. Having transferred everything likely to be of use to
them from the _St. George_, they left that crazy fabric rolling at her
anchor and steered westwards for the Indies.

What adventures they met with on their way I do not know. Harris says
that on their arrival at one of the Dutch settlements their ship was
seized, their property confiscated, and themselves turned loose to
shift as they best could. Dampier succeeded in making his way home.
He arrived, as was customary with him, a beggar. But the reports of
his voyage considerably enlarged his reputation. The world pitied
the misfortunes whilst it admired the ambitious efforts and the bold
projects of a seaman of whose nationality every Englishman was proud.
By command of the Queen he was presented to her, kissed her hand, and
had the honour of relating his adventures to her. But all this left
him poor, and it was now his business once more to look about him for
further occupation.



CHAPTER VI

1708-1711

THE VOYAGE WITH WOODES ROGERS[24]


Dampier probably obtained the next berth we find him filling through
the influence of Woodes Rogers. There is no doubt that it was owing
to Dampier's influence and representations that the expedition under
Rogers was equipped and despatched. Harris tells us that he addressed
himself to the merchants of Bristol, who listened to his proposals
with patience and interest. At all events his experience would enable
him to submit to them that his own, and indeed the failures of others,
were owing, not to the voyage being a dangerous or difficult one, not
to the courage nor to the superior strength of the enemy, not to any
lack of the right kind of qualities amongst the crews, but simply to
those undertakings having been badly organised at the start, unwisely
officered, and injudiciously conducted. The Bristol merchants fully
agreed with him, and illustrated the spirit of their concurrence by
fitting out two ships and refusing him any post of command. He and
Rogers had long been acquainted, as may be gathered from several
passages in his voyages. There is little question that it was Dampier's
reputation which procured him his appointment as pilot to his friend;
but I take it that Rogers warmly supported Dampier's solicitations,
and that the advocacy of the chief commander proved powerful enough
to neutralise, or at least to qualify, the prejudice which our hero's
misfortunes as a freebooter and his half-heartedness as an explorer had
excited against him.

As a pilot there was no man then living better qualified. He had
spent long months of his life in the South Seas, and his knowledge of
Indian and Pacific waters was varied and extensive. His name was also
formidable to the Spaniards, a detail of considerable moment in the
catalogue of privateering merits. His dignity could suffer nothing by
his acceptance of the post of pilot to the expedition. Many sea-words
have changed their old signification, and when we now talk of a pilot
we think of a man whose business it is to navigate ships through short
spaces of dangerous waters. There were of course pilots of this kind in
Dampier's day. But in addition there were mariners selected for their
knowledge of distant parts to accompany ships in voyages round the
world, or to the ports of remote nations. The post was an honourable
one; the pilot stood alone; he had not indeed the captain's general
powers, but his duties were attended with many privileges, and he was
looked up to as a person of authority and distinction. It was such a
position then as Dampier would have been willing to accept even though
he had earned the value of an estate by his last voyage.

The expedition was promoted, as has already been said, by a number of
Bristol merchants. Twenty-two names are given as representing only a
portion of this very large committee of adventurers. The chief command
was entrusted to Captain Woodes Rogers, a man who had suffered much
from the French, and who was eager to repair as well as to avenge his
injuries by reprisals. He had long been known as an intelligent officer
and an excellent seaman. He had also a name as a disciplinarian,
and he was further remarkable for the swiftness and sagacity of his
decisions in moments of difficulty and peril. In point of literary
merit his book is worthy to rank with Shelvocke's narrative, though the
form and spirit of both are manifestly inspired by Dampier's volumes.
The captain next in command was Stephen Courtney, who was also a
member of the committee and the holder of a considerable share in the
speculation. Rogers's second captain, or chief mate as he would now be
called, was Thomas Dover, a physician by profession, who in his old age
wrote a work called _Dr. Dover's Last Legacy to his Country_, in which
he so effectually recommended the use of quicksilver that “ladies as
well as gentlemen of rank and fortune bespangled the floors and carpets
with this metal, and scattered their diamonds wherever they went to
dance or to play.”[25] It is strange to hear of a doctor of medicine
going as lieutenant of a buccaneering craft; but it is stranger yet to
read that Dover's bad temper was the cause of his being chosen. Yet his
chief recommendation lay in his violent tongue, which, it was argued,
would effectually prevent him from winning adherents, so that there
was no chance of his weakening the expedition by heading or creating
a party![26] The captain under Courtney was Edward Cooke, a person of
talent and observation and of no small literary ability, whose hatred
of the French was only equalled by Rogers.

The venture was thoroughly matured before it was launched. Stringent
rules and regulations serving as articles of war were drawn up and
signed by the promoters, who called the document “The Constitution.”
The experiences as well as the advice of Dampier may be traced in these
rules. It was required that in case of death, sickness, or desertion,
a council should be called of all the officers of the ships, that the
person selected should be the unanimous choice, and that all attacks
by sea or land should first be generally debated by the whole body of
officers. In case of the votes for and against being equal, Captain
Dover, as President of the Council, was to have the “double-voice.”
The manifest object of these articles was to stop the bickerings which
commonly attended the undertakings of the privateers, and which were
often the cause of their failures and defeats, by importing the general
voice into every decision. The ships were the _Duke_, of three hundred
tons, thirty guns, and one hundred and seventy men, with Rogers and
Dover as first and second captains; and the _Dutchess_, of two hundred
and seventy tons, twenty-six guns, and one hundred and fifty-one
men, whose first and second in command were Courtney and Cooke. Both
vessels were commissioned by Prince George of Denmark to cruise on the
coasts of Peru and Mexico against the Queen's enemies, the French and
Spaniards.

Dampier was on board Woodes Rogers: the story of the expedition,
therefore, must be followed to its conclusion, though, unfortunately,
our hero has no longer an individuality. His name indeed occasionally
occurs, but he vanishes as a figure, and we are merely conscious as we
follow the narrative that we are in his company, and that though he is
lost to view he is sharing in the exploits and dangers, in the hopes
and fears, of the crowd of resolute men whom he pilots.

The two ships set sail from Bristol, or rather from Kingroad, at the
mouth of the river Avon, on Monday, August 1st, 1708, and arrived at
Cork on the 9th in company with several other ships which had sailed
under the convoy of a man-of-war called the _Hastings_. Until the
27th they were busy in thoroughly preparing the ships for the voyage.
Here also they received a number of men to take the place of others
who had been brought from Bristol, but who, even in the short trip
across the St. George's Channel, had proved themselves worthless as
sailors. When they weighed on the morning of the 28th their crews were
unusually strong. Rogers says that he doubled the number of officers as
a provision against mutinies, and also that there might be plenty of
qualified persons to take command in case of death. The _Duke_ indeed
was so full of men that she was obliged to leave a portion of the
boatswain's stores behind to make room for the people. The proverbial
qualities of the sailor show humorously at the outset of this voyage.
All hands knew that they were to sail immediately, yet we read that
“they were continually marrying whilst we staid at Cork.” An instance
is given of a Dane whom a Roman Catholic priest had united in holy
wedlock to an Irishwoman. Neither understood the other's tongue, and
they were forced to hire an interpreter before they could tell each
other how fond they were. The inconvenience of unintelligibility,
however, did not cool their fervour; on the contrary, it was noticed
that this Dane and his Irish wife were more affected by their parting
than any of the other couples, “And,” says the narrative, “the Fellow
continued melancholy for several Days after we were at Sea. The rest
understanding each other, drank their Cans of Flip till the last
Minute, concluded with a Health to our good Voyages and their happy
Meeting, and then parted unconcerned.” The number of sailors in both
ships when they weighed was three hundred and thirty-three, one-third
of whom were foreigners. Many of them were by trade tinkers, tailors,
haymakers, pedlars, and fiddlers; there were also a negro and ten boys.

Rogers was glad at the start to sail under convoy of a man-of-war.
The holds of both the _Duke_ and the _Dutchess_ were flush to the
hatches with provisions; the 'tween-decks were crowded with cables,
with bags of bread, and casks of water; so that it would have been
impossible to engage an enemy without throwing a large quantity of the
stores overboard. There were one hundred and eighty-two men aboard the
_Duke_ and one hundred and fifty-one aboard the _Dutchess_, and the
crowding, when the tonnage of the ships is thought of side by side
with their choked holds and 'tween-decks, must have rendered life at
the start intolerable to the privateersmen. Despite their condition,
however, they agreed to the proposal of the captain of the man-of-war
that they should cruise a few days off Cape Finisterre; the crews of
the vessels were thereupon mustered, and the nature and intention of
the expedition explained to them, in order that such of the men as
should show themselves discontented might be sent home as mutineers in
the _Hastings_. All professed themselves satisfied with the exception
of “one poor Fellow,” says Rogers, “who was to have been Tything-man
that year, and was apprehensive his Wife would be obliged to pay 40
Shillings for his Default. But when he saw everybody else easy, and
strong hopes of plunder, he likewise grew quiet by degrees, and drank
as heartily as anybody to the good Success of the Voyage.” Yet, despite
the assurances of the men, a mutiny happened whilst Rogers was on
board a Swedish vessel he had chased, whose papers exempted her. The
ringleaders were the boatswain and three of the inferior officers. Ten
of the men were put in irons, and a sailor seized to the “jeers” (as
the tackles were called which hoisted and lowered the fore and main
yards) and punished by the usual process of whipping and pickling. The
outbreak was so serious that all the officers went armed, not knowing
what was next to happen. After some further trouble and much anxiety
the mutiny was quelled, but it needed all Rogers's valuable qualities
as a commander to deal with it.

I do not doubt, had Dampier been in charge, that the disturbance would
have ended in the ruin of the voyage. Of the unruliness of the crews of
that day, hundreds of examples may be gathered from the contemporary
records. The seaman of Dampier's age was undeniably a lion-hearted
man, incomparably intrepid in his conflicts whether with the elements
or with the enemies of his country; but it is equally true that most
of his characteristics were those of the savage. He was a ruffian in
his behaviour, he was a brute in his tastes, he conversed in a dialect
that was almost wholly formed of oaths, and he pursued his calling in
a skin soaked with the liquor that was served out to him by the gallon
at the time. The average merchant-sailor of the last century has been
sketched by Fielding in his _Voyage to Lisbon_. “It is difficult,” he
says, “I think, to assign a satisfactory reason why sailors in general
should of all others think themselves entirely discharged from the
common bands of humanity, and should seem to glory in the language
and behaviour of savages! They see more of the world, and have most
of them a more erudite education, than is the portion of landmen of
their degree.... Is it that they think true courage (for they are the
bravest fellows upon earth) inconsistent with all the gentleness of
a humane carriage, and that the contempt of civil order springs up
in minds but little cultivated at the same time, and from the same
principles, with the contempt of danger and death? Is it——? In short,
it is so.” Happily we may now say it _was_ so! But the reason is not
hard to find. _Roderick Random_ is a full and satisfying reply to
Fielding's interrogatory. The sailor of that day was a brute because
his life was that of a brute. He was for long months at a time absent
from every possible refining influence. He was fed on provisions such
as a dog would recoil from. His sea-parlour was a black, wet hole,
filled with vermin and loathsome with bad smells. His punishments
were beyond expression inhuman; he was whipped until his back became
a bloody mass, into which brine was rubbed that his sufferings might
be rendered more exquisite. He was hoisted to a yard-arm, then dropped
suddenly into the water and hauled violently under the ship's keel, and
this was repeated until he was nearly drowned. He was lashed half-naked
to the mast, and so left to stand for a period often running into days,
insulted by his shipmates, and exposed to the scorching heat or the
frosty sting of the parallels in which the ship happened to be; he
was loaded with irons and immured for weeks in a dark and poisonous
forepeak, whose only tenants besides himself were the huge rats of
the vessel's hold. It was not, then, that the sailor regarded himself
discharged, as Fielding suggests, from the common bands of humanity; he
knew nothing of humanity, whether during his brief and roaring orgies
ashore or during his long and bitter servitude upon the high seas. The
traditions of those days still linger, and the sailor of our own times
suffers to a certain extent from prejudices which were excited and
perpetuated by the bold and reckless savages of the age of Dampier and,
later on, of Fielding. But I am speaking of the average merchantman;
it is readily conceivable that the buccaneer or privateersman should
have gone far beyond him. He recognised no restrictions save those
which were absolutely essential to his safety at sea; his profession
of piracy rendered him insensible to cruelty by familiarising him with
many of the most violent forms of it; he slept like a wild animal upon
the hard deck, with a rug for his cover and nothing else between him
and the stars. Dampier grimly says in his chapter on the winds: “'Tis
usual with Seamen in those parts to sleep on the Deck, especially
for Privateers; among whom I made these Observations. In Privateers,
especially when we are at an Anchor, the Deck is spread with Mats
to lye on each Night. Every Man has one, some two; and this, with a
Pillow for the Head and a Rug for a Covering, is all the Bedding that
is necessary for Men of that Employ.” For one day the freebooter might
feast on the fifty delicacies of a plundered ship, and for weeks his
food would be so coarse and innutritious as to fill his eyes with the
fires of famine and pale his cheek to the haggardness of the corpse. It
needed exceptional and extraordinary powers of command to control such
wretches. The qualities of the men in charge of Rogers and Courtney
are significantly expressed by their early mutiny. Many of them were
seasoned buccaneers—ruffians whom not even the common hope could keep
straight. Fortunately for his employers, Rogers knew how to handle them.

On the 18th the two vessels captured a small Spanish ship which they
carried to Teneriffe. There were some male and female passengers on
board, and she was laden with what would now be called a general cargo.
The English merchants, to whom possibly a portion of this cargo was
consigned, objected to the capture, and represented that they would be
in danger if the bark were not restored. The agent of the privateers,
a man named Vanbrugh, went ashore and was detained, and it came very
near to Rogers and Courtney bombarding the town of Oratava. When
the inhabitants saw the vessels standing in with tompions out and
all hands at quarters, they offered to satisfy the demands of the
buccaneers, who thereupon sold the prize for four hundred and fifty
dollars and then made haste to sail away, very glad of the chance to
once more “mind their own concerns,” as Rogers puts it. On the last
day of September they dropped anchor in the harbour of St. Vincent,
one of the Cape de Verde Islands. Scarcely were they arrived when
fresh disturbances arose amongst the men. The mutiny originated in
altercations touching the distribution of plunder, and with the hope
of terminating these incessant and perilous brawls, the commanders
went to work to frame such articles as they believed would inspire
the seamen with confidence in the intentions of their superiors. The
paper they drew up is preserved, and it is of interest as illustrating
a form of marine life that for generations has been as extinct as the
ships in which the privateersmen sailed. First of all it was settled
that the plunder taken on board any prize by either ship should be
equally divided between the companies of both ships. Any man concealing
booty exceeding the value of a dollar during twenty-four hours after
the capture of a prize was to be severely punished, and to lose his
share of the plunder. Article the fourth provided that “If any prize
be taken by boarding, then whatsoever is taken shall be every man's
own as follows: viz. a Sailor 10 pounds, any Officer below a Carpenter
20 pounds, a Mate, Gunner, Boatswain, and Carpenter 40 pounds, a
Lieutenant or Master 80 pounds, and the Captains 100 pounds each,
above the gratuity promised by the owners to such as shall signalise
themselves.” It was further agreed that twenty pieces of eight should
be given to him who first saw a prize of good value. Another article
provided that every man on board, after the capture of a prize, should
be searched by persons appointed for that purpose. This agreement was
signed by the officers and men of both ships, and was perhaps the best,
if indeed it was not the only, expedient that Rogers could have hit
upon for silencing the constant mutinous growlings of the rapacious
rogues under his command, unavailing as it subsequently proved.

They weighed on October 8th and steered for the coast of Brazil. In
spite of thoughtfully-framed articles, handsome concessions on the
part of the captains, and the taut discipline of the quarter-deck,
the spirit of mutiny continued strong. The men were too numerous; the
ship's work made demands upon only a portion of them at a time; the
crew had therefore plenty of leisure, which they employed in haranguing
one another into insubordination. As an example of the difficulty of
dealing with these men, it is related that a fellow named Page, who
was second mate of the _Dutchess_, was ordered on board the _Duke_
to exchange posts with a man similarly rated. Captain Cooke was
sent to fetch him; Page refused to come; a dispute followed, fists
were doubled up and the men fell to blows. They managed at last to
convey the mutinous mate to the _Duke_, but before they had time to
charge him with his offence, he sprang into the sea and started to
swim back to his ship. He was recaptured, lifted over the side and
punished—probably spread-eagled and man-handled, after the old fashion.
Disturbances of this kind were not calculated to gild the prospects of
the sober-headed. In the _Dutchess_ they had eight of the ringleaders
of a party (who had proposed to run away with the ship) under hatches
in irons. There were repeated attempts to desert after the vessels
had come to an anchor on November 18th off the coast of Brazil. Two
sailors escaped into the woods, but were so terrified by the sight of
a number of monkeys and baboons which they mistook for tigers, that
they plunged into the water to the depth of their waists, and stood
bawling for help until a boat was sent to fetch them aboard. One thinks
of Dampier, hot-tempered and prone to despondency, talking with his
friend Rogers about the troublesome posture of the crew, expressing
many doubts as to the practicability of the voyage, and perhaps
suggesting adventures remote from the prescription of the Bristol
merchants. An incident peculiar to the old piratical life steals out
in this part of the story. Early one morning the people who were on
the look-out on the quarter-deck sighted a canoe gliding silently and
shadow-like shorewards. It was hailed and ordered to come aboard; but
no other answer was returned than the swifter plying of the oars. The
pinnace and yawl were manned and sent in pursuit, and on approaching
the canoe one of them fired into it to bring it to. It held on bravely
nevertheless, but was captured as its stem smote the beach. One of
her people was a friar, who with quivering knees instantly owned to
possessing a little store of gold, obtained, as the rough sailors
surmised, “by his trade of confessing the ignorant.” The father was
very politely treated, but he did not seem to value the attention paid
him by Captain Rogers. What he wanted was his gold, which there is no
reason whatever to suppose he ever received. He talked of obtaining
justice in Portugal or England, and was answered by the hurricane
shout to the forecastle to get the ship under-weigh.

The vessels were now fairly bound for the passage of the Horn. The
crew, who in the torrid zone growled continuously and piratically in
their gizzards, were no sooner in the high latitudes than they grew
reasonable. It was the summer season in that hemisphere, but Dampier
carried them so far south that all hands nearly perished of cold. At
least a third of the people of both ships were down with sickness; and
they barely escaped a languishing and miserable end by the good fortune
of prosperous winds, which blew them swiftly northwards under more
temperate heights. It was necessary to make land speedily for the sake
of the men's health, and Juan Fernandez was fixed upon. They steered
for the island, but the charts differed and they could not find it.
Dampier was as much at a loss as the rest, and wondered at not being
able to hit it, telling how often he had been there, and how he carried
a most accurate map of the island about with him in his head. In order
to find it they were forced to sail in sight of the coast of Chili,
so as to obtain “a departure,” and then stretch away west upon the
parallel of it, or thereabouts. They fell in with it at last, but not
until after much fruitless scouring of the seas.

The name of Dampier is intimately associated with the passage that now
follows. There is nothing, perhaps, in what may be termed the romantic
chapters of the maritime annals more picturesque and impressive than
the discovery by the _Duke_ and _Dutchess_ of Alexander Selkirk on the
island of Juan Fernandez. The accentuation the story obtained from
the genius of Defoe makes it immortal. But even as a mere anecdote,
without better skill brought to bear upon it than is found in the
plain relations of Rogers and Cooke, its interest is so remarkable,
it is so brimful of fascinating inspiration, that of all sea-stories
it bids fair to be the longest remembered. Indeed it must be said
that a great number of people, otherwise pretty well informed, are
familiar with the name of Dampier only in connection with the strange,
surprising adventures of Mr. Alexander Selkirk. The narrative belongs
peculiarly to Dampier's experiences. Selkirk was mate of the _Cinque
Ports_ when her captain, Stradling, was Dampier's consort, and he was
still that ship's mate when Stradling quarrelled with Dampier at King's
Island in the Bay of Panama. The tale is related by Woodes Rogers and
by Cooke,[27]—an old-world tale indeed, which every schoolboy has by
heart; yet I cannot satisfy myself that its omission on the score of
triteness only would be desirable in a volume that professes to recount
the most striking passages in the naval career of William Dampier.
Cooke's version is fuller than Rogers's—that is to say, he wrote two
accounts of it, his reference to it in his first volume being deemed
meagre and unsatisfactory by the public, who had been set agape by the
wonderful yarn; but Rogers's narrative is the better written; besides,
as Dampier is aboard the _Duke_, it is proper to allow his captain to
speak. The full story is much too long for quotation at large in these
pages; I therefore select the following as amongst the most striking
passages. They were off the island on February 1st, 1709, and sent the
pinnace ashore with Captain Dover in charge.

“As soon as it was dark, we saw a Light ashore. Our Boat was then about
a League from the Island, and bore away for the Ships as soon as she
saw the Lights: We put our Lights aboard for the Boat, tho' some were
of Opinion the Lights we saw were our Boat's Lights: But as Night came
on it appeared too large for that. We fired our Quarterdeck Gun and
several Musquets, shewing Lights in our Mizen and Fore Shrouds, that
our Boat might find us whilst we were in the Lee of the Island: ...
All this Stir and Apprehension arose, as we afterwards found, from one
poor naked Man who passed in our Imagination, at present, for a Spanish
Garrison, a Body of Frenchmen, or a Crew of Pirates.”

Next day they sent their yawl ashore, and as this boat did not return,
they despatched the pinnace to Seek her. Rogers then continues:

“Immediately our Pinnace returned from the Shore and brought abundance
of Crayfish with a Man cloathed in Goat-skins, who looked wilder than
the first Owners of them. He had been on the Island Four Years and Four
Months, being left there by Captain Stradling in the _Cinque Ports_;
his Name was Alexander Selkirk, a Scotsman who had been Master of the
_Cinque Ports_, a Ship that came here last with Captain Dampier, who
told me that this was the best man in her, and I immediately agreed
with him to be a Mate on board our Ship: 'Twas he that made the Fire
last Night when he saw our Ships, which he judged to be English....
The reason of his being left here was a Difference between him and his
Captain; which, together with the Ship's being leaky, made him willing
rather to stay here, than go along with him at first; and when he was
at last willing to go the Captain would not receive him.... He had with
him his Cloaths and Bedding, with a Firelock, some Powder, Bullets, and
Tobacco, a Hatchet, a Knife, a Kettle, a Bible, some Practical Pieces,
and his Mathematical Instruments and Books. He diverted and provided
for himself as well as he could; but for the first eight Months had
much ado to bear up against Melancholy and the Terror of being left
alone in such a Place. He built two Huts with Pimento-trees, covered
them with long Grass, and lined them with the Skins of Goats, which he
killed with his Gun as he wanted, so long as his Powder lasted, which
was but a Pound; and that being almost spent, he got Fire by rubbing
two Sticks of Pimento Wood together upon his Knee. In the lesser Hut,
at some Distance from the other, he dressed his Victuals; and in the
larger he slept, and employed himself in Reading, singing Psalms,
and Praying, so that he said he was a better Christian while in this
Solitude than ever he was before, or than he was afraid he should ever
be again. At first he never eat anything till Hunger constrained him,
partly for Grief and partly for want of Bread and Salt: Nor did he go
to Bed till he could watch no longer; the Pimento Wood, which burnt
very clear, served him both for Fire and Candle, and refreshed him
with its fragrant Smell.... By the Favour of Providence and Vigour of
his Youth, being now but thirty Years old, he came at last to conquer
all the Inconveniences of his Solitude and to be very easy. When his
Cloaths were out he made himself a Coat and a Cap of Goat-skins, which
he stitched together with little Thongs of the same that he cut with
his Knife. He had no other Needle but a Nail; and when his Knife was
worn to the Back he made others as well as he could of some Iron Hoops
that were left ashore, which he beat thin, and ground upon Stones.
Having some Linen Cloth by him, he sewed him some Shirts with a Nail,
and stitched them with the Worsted of his old Stockings, which he
pulled out on purpose. He had his last Shirt on when we found him in
the Island. At his first coming on board us he had so much forgot his
Language for want of Use that we could scarce understand him; for he
seemed to speak his Words by halves. We offered him a Dram; but he
would not touch it, having drank nothing but Water since his being
there; and it was some Time before he could relish our Victuals.”

It is easy to imagine the interest with which Dampier would listen to
the recital of his old associate's strange adventures. Cooke tells
us that Selkirk had conceived “irreconcilable aversion to an officer
on board the _Cinque Ports_, who, he was informed, was on board the
_Duke_, but not being a principal in command, he was prevailed upon
to waive that circumstance and accompany Captain Dampier, for whom he
had a friendship.” Whoever the person may have been, the Scotchman's
dislike of him was bitter, and it was to Dampier's persuasions that
Rogers owed the services of a man who proved of the utmost use to him
whilst lying at the island by enabling him to supply the ships with
fresh provisions and by facilitating the business of taking in wood and
water. It is observable that Rogers styled Selkirk the governor of the
island, a half-humorous and half-pathetic fancy (when one thinks of
the desperate loneliness of the unhappy man), which Defoe afterwards
adopted when making Robinson Crusoe speak of his possessions and
territories, his castles and his dependents.

The vessels arrived, as we have seen, on February 1st, and by the 3rd a
smith's forge had been conveyed ashore, the coopers were hard at work,
and there were tents, or “pavilions,” erected for the commanders and
the sick. But it was their business not to lose time, for they had long
before—that is to say, when they were at the Canaries—heard that five
large French ships were coming to search for them in the South Sea; so
that very quickly, all the sick men happily recovering rapidly with
the exception of two who died, they had refitted their ships, taken in
wood and water, and boiled down and stowed away about eighty gallons of
sea-lions' oil to use for the lamps, that they might save the candles.
This done they set sail, after holding a consultation, which resulted
in further regulations for the preservation of discipline; and on May
15th captured a little vessel of sixteen tons, whose master furnished
them with the reassuring news that seven French ships, which had been
cruising off this part of the coast for some time, had six months
previously gone away for the Horn, and it was added they were not
likely to return. There was other news besides of a kind to make their
mouths water, particularly that the widow of the deceased Viceroy of
Peru would shortly embark for Acapulco with her family and the whole
of her fortune, and probably break her journey at Payta. They were
also told that some months previously a ship had sailed from Payta for
Acapulco with two hundred thousand pieces of eight on board, together
with a rich cargo of liquors and flour. More useful information was
conveyed in the statement that a certain Señor Morel was waiting in
a stout ship filled with dry goods for a vessel expected from Panama
richly laden, with a bishop aboard, and that both craft would put to
sea together. The idea of a bishop was commonly associated in the
buccaneering mind with visions of the sacred splendours of the altar
and the fruits of long years dedicated to painful hoarding. So it was
straightway resolved by Rogers and his people to start for a cruise off
Payta, meanwhile exercising all possible precaution against discovery
lest larger designs should be spoilt.

A few days after they had come to this determination Captain Rogers
and Captain Dover fell out. Rogers says that Dover charged him with
insolence; Captain Cooke, on the other hand, takes Dover's part in
his story of this passage. Difficulties of this kind were incessantly
occurring amongst the buccaneers, and on the eve, too, very often of
the execution of big projects. The quarrel, however, is not dwelt
upon at length; probably the disputants quickly saw the wisdom of
calling a truce that they might attend to the serious business of
what is grandiloquently termed “the conquest of Guayaquil.” The great
undertaking was settled thus: Dover was to command a company of seventy
marines, Rogers another company of seventy-one officers and sailors,
Courtney a third company of seventy-three men, and Dampier was to
have charge of the artillery, with a reserve force of twenty-two
seamen. Meanwhile Cooke was to command the _Dutchess_ with forty-two
men, and Captain Robert Fry the _Duke_ with forty men; bringing up
the whole force to a total of three hundred and twenty. In addition
there were blacks, Indians, and prisoners, to the number of two
hundred and sixty-six; forming an army of five hundred and eighty-six
people for the captains and officers to look after. The appetites
of the buccaneers were shrewdly sharpened by the understanding that
bedding, wearing apparel, gold rings, buttons, buckles, gold or silver
crucifixes, watches, liquors, and provisions, should be reckoned fair
plunder to be equally divided; but money, women's earrings, loose
diamonds, pearls, and precious stones, were to be held as belonging to
the merchants. On the 15th there was a smart engagement between the
privateersmen's boats and a Spanish ship, in which Rogers lost his
brother, who was second lieutenant on board the _Duke_. The vessel was
captured, and proved to be the craft in which the bishop had sailed;
but he had gone ashore at Point St. Helena, leaving the ship to carry
his property to Lima. She had seventy blacks and a number of passengers
on board. The lading consisted of bale goods, and a considerable
quantity of pearls were found in her. Captain Cooke took charge, and
the prisoners were divided between the _Duke_ and _Dutchess_.

The little bark of sixteen tons which they had taken some time
previously they named the _Beginning_, and on April 21st in the morning
she was sent to cruise close inshore to see all clear for the landing
of the men. The report she brought was that there was a vessel riding
close under the point whose crew, on sighting the _Beginning_, had
hurried ashore and vanished. On this the privateersmen rowed towards
the town of Guayaquil. The night drew down dark; the men pulled
stealthily with muffled oars; an hour before midnight they saw a light
suddenly spring up in the town, towards which they continued to row
very softly until they were within a mile of it; when on a sudden they
were brought to a halt by hearing a sentinel call to another and talk
to him. Concluding they were discovered, the buccaneers pulled across
the river, and lay still and very quiet, waiting and watching. In a
few minutes the whole town flashed out into lights, the resonant notes
of a great alarm-bell swang through the soft wind, several volleys of
musketry were discharged, and a large fire was kindled on the hill to
let the town know that the enemy was in the river. The officers in
charge of the boats, confounded by this unexpected discovery of their
presence, fell to a hot argument and grew so angry that their voices
were heard ashore. The Spaniards, who could not understand them, sent
post-haste for an Englishman who was then living in the town, and
brought him, very secretly, close to the boats that he might interpret
what was said. But before he arrived the privateersmen had concluded
their arguments.[28] They remained all night in the river, and next day
contented themselves with capturing a number of vessels, and receiving
the governor under a flag of truce to treat with him about the ransom
of the town and ships. But nothing came of the interview; and at
four o'clock in the afternoon, on April 23d, the whole force of the
buccaneers landed and attacked the place. The Spaniards fired a single
volley and fled; the English pressed forward and seized the enemy's
cannon, from which every gunner had run saving one, an Irishman, who
gallantly stuck to his post until he dropped mortally wounded. The
seamen marched through both towns—the Spaniards flying pell-mell before
them firing the houses as they tramped forwards, and leaving gangs of
men behind them to guard the churches. There was a thick wood on the
right of the place, and all night long the enemy continued to fire
from among the trees at the English sentries, but without injuring a
man. From time to time bodies of horse and foot showed themselves,
but only to wheel about and fly to the first musket levelled at them.
Meanwhile a party of twenty-two men went in the _Dutchess's_ pinnace
up the river, and sacked every house they came across. The enemy was
easily kept at bay, and the buccaneers had no trouble in sending booty
and provisions in quantities to their ships. In due course messengers,
flourishing flags of truce, came to talk about ransoming the town,
and after much discussion, the offer of thirty thousand dollars was
accepted, of which twenty-five thousand were paid.

The depredations of the buccaneers had been indeed serious enough to
threaten the townspeople with absolute ruin if the sacking was not
speedily arrested. Scarcely had they withdrawn from Guayaquil when
they took a ship full of meal, sugar, and other commodities, making
the fourteenth prize they had captured in those seas! The town itself
handsomely repaid the labour and danger of assaulting it; about twelve
hundred pounds' worth of plate and jewellery, many bales of valuable
dry goods, and a great store of merchandise of all kinds, exclusive
of wines, waggon-loads of cocoa, several ships on the stocks, and two
freshly-launched vessels of four hundred tons each, valued at eighty
thousand crowns. But for their approach having been discovered they
might have found even a handsomer account than this in the capture of
the place, for it afterwards came to their ears that the inhabitants
in their flight carried away with them money, plate, and jewels to
the value of two hundred thousand pieces of eight. Indeed the unhappy
Spaniards seem to have been plundered on all sides, for in going the
rounds the privateersmen took a number of negroes and Indians laden
with goods, which they promptly confessed were stolen, “and we were
afterwards informed that in the Hurry the Inhabitants had given Plate
and Money to Blacks to carry out of the Town, and could never hear of
it after.”

On May 11th we find Rogers, Dampier, and their companions running
before a strong gale of wind for the Galapagos Islands. A number of the
crew were prostrated with a malignant fever contracted at Guayaquil,
where, about a month before the buccaneers' arrival, there had raged
an epidemic disease of which ten or twelve persons perished every day;
until the floors of the churches being filled with bodies, the people
dug a great hole close to one of the structures where sailors had been
stationed as guards. In this hole lay a pile of putrefied corpses, and
the seamen only quitted their posts to return to their ships poisoned.
On the 18th they were off a couple of large islands, and sent boats to
seek for fresh water. The errand was fruitless, though the searchers
went three or four miles into the country in their hunt. Their business
now was to go where fresh water was to be had, for of the two crews
there were no less than one hundred and twenty men down with fever;
Captain Courtney was dangerously ill, and Captain Dover was devoting
his leisure to prescribing for him. So they made sail for Gorgona,
capturing a few vessels as they proceeded, and, anchoring on June 13th,
at once distributed their sick amongst the prizes, and set to work
to careen and repair the _Duke_ and _Dutchess_. By the 28th they had
restored their provisions and mounted their guns, having in fourteen
days caulked, rigged, discharged, and reloaded their ships; a smart
piece of work that greatly astonished the Spanish prisoners, who said
that their people usually took a couple of months to careen a vessel at
ports where every necessary appliance for this business was to be had.
The unhappy captives indeed, whilst watching or assisting the English,
would scarcely marvel at their triumphs by land and sea when they
observed their ceaseless and vigilant activity,—how, without regard to
the climate, they worked from the break of day till darkness stopped
their hands, and how, with swift and unerring judgment, they devised
expedients for the remedying of difficulties which in the eyes of
their astonished prisoners appeared at the time to be insurmountable.
“The Natives of Old Spain,” says Rogers, “are accounted but ordinary
Mariners; but here they are much worse, all the Prizes we took being
rather cobbled than fitted out for the Sea; so that had they such
Weather as we often meet with in the European Seas in Winter, they
could scarce ever reach a Port again as they are fitted; but they
Sail here Hundreds of Leagues.” Admissions of this kind are as good
as saying that seizures in the South Sea went, as achievements, but a
very little way beyond the mere act of hailing a ship and bidding her
strike. The boldness of the English buccaneers is not very conspicuous
in such encounters. Most of the vessels they took were navigated by
crews of yellow, nervous men, utterly worthless as seamen, with neither
heart nor muscle as combatants; whilst the cabins were crowded with
priests, women, and sea-sick merchants, who increased the disorder
caused by the appearance of a privateer by lamentations and tears, by
wild appeals to the saints, and passionate adjurations to the shivering
crew. The capture of such craft was as easy as catching flies. The
qualities of the English South Seamen of those days must be sought
in the records of their assaults on land, their boarding of tall and
powerfully armed galleons, their murderous resistance to the attacks of
ships-of-state of great tonnage crowded with soldiers and sailors and
carrying ten guns to the Rover's one.

Whilst Rogers and his people were at Gorgona they equipped one of their
prizes named the _Havre de Grace_ as a third ship to act with the
_Duke_ and _Dutchess_. She was called the _Marquis_, and Captain Cooke
took command of her. The business of fitting her out as a war vessel
occupied them from June 29th to July 9th, and when she was finished
they made a holiday of it, sitting down to a hearty meal and drinking
the Queen's health with loud huzzas, and then the health of the owners
with more huzzas, and then their own healths until their eyes danced in
their heads. Spite of the general joy, however, the _Marquis_ proved
something of a failure, for Cooke says that her masts were new and
too heavy for her, and that being badly stowed she was exceedingly
tender, by which is meant that she heeled or lay over unduly to light
pressures, and scarcely made headway when on a wind, “so that the
_Duke_ and _Dutchess_ were fain to spare a great deal of sail for me
to keep up with them.” Before lifting their anchors the commanders
and officers of the ships met together to value the plunder in order
to divide it. One kind of commodities they appraised at four hundred
pounds; the silver-hilted swords, buckles, snuff-boxes, buttons, and
silver plate at seven hundred and forty-three pounds fifteen shillings,
taking the piece of eight at four shillings and sixpence. By this
time there were upwards of eighty thousand pounds' worth of property
and treasure on board destined for the owners. Dampier, we may well
suppose, shared in the high hopes and good spirits of his shipmates.
This was the only promising privateering expedition he had ever been
engaged in, and if their luck continued he might reasonably flatter
himself with the belief that he would even yet snatch an independency
out of the reluctant maw of the sea. They had rid themselves of their
prisoners by sending them away in some of the prizes. The female
captives spoke well of the treatment they had received, and ingenuously
confessed that they had met with far more courtesy and civility than
their own countrymen would have extended to persons in their condition.
The honourable and humane behaviour of the English buccaneers towards
their female prisoners became a tradition, which was perpetuated and
confirmed by the wise policy of Commodore Anson.[29]

They sailed on August 11th, and nothing noteworthy happened till
September 6th, on which date we find Dampier dining with Captain
Rogers on board the _Duke_ in company with Cooke and Courtney. Cooke
complained bitterly of the crankness of his ship the _Marquis_, and
objected to the evolutions of the other vessels which obliged him to
tack. They were bound to the Galapagos, and he affirmed that they could
have made the islands without beating to windward. Dampier said, No;
he knew where those islands were, and had described them in one of his
voyages; and he asserted that they were now to the westward of them.
The others agreed with Cooke, but Dampier was pilot, and was therefore
suffered to have his way. They were right and he was wrong; but an
error of a hundred miles or so was reckoned a very trifling blunder in
those hearty, plodding times. A curious old sea-picture is suggested
by this discussion in the cabin of the _Duke_. The rough bulkheads,
the low upper deck, the quaint lanthorn swinging over the table from
a beam, and indicating by its oscillations the ponderous rolling of
the tall, squab, round-bowed fabric; the privateersmen sitting round
the table attired in the wild and picturesque apparel of the early
South Seamen—these are features to bring the scene in clear outlines
before the eye of the imagination. One beholds them poring upon their
old-fashioned charts, pointing to the singular configurations of the
mainland and islands with hairy hands, and disputing with little
anxiety on a difference between easting and westing measuring as many
leagues as the space from the Lizard to the Western Islands. Indeed the
real flavour and charm of the buccaneer's life are not to be expressed
by any mere method of historical treatment. The hand of the artist is
wanted, with imagination vigorous and discerning enough to strictly
correspond with the traditionary truth.

On their arrival at the Galapagos they took in a good supply of turtle,
many of which were upwards of four hundred pounds in weight. Rogers
writes of the turtle as if he had never seen it before. “I do not,” he
says, “affect giving Relations of strange Creatures, so frequently done
by others; but where an uncommon Creature falls in my Way I cannot omit
it.” This is how the captain describes the “uncommon creature.”

“The Creatures are the ugliest in Nature; the Shell, not unlike the Top
of an old Hackney-coach, as black as Jet; and so is the outside Skin,
but shriveled and very rough. The Legs and Neck are long and about the
Bigness of a Man's Wrist; and they have Clubbed Feet as big as one's
Fist, shaped much like those of an Elephant, with five Nails on the
Forefeet and but Four behind, and the Head little, and Visage small
like Snakes; and look very old and black. When at first surprised they
shrink their Head, Neck, and Legs, under their Shell.”

This is the kind of simplicity that makes the perusal of the old
voyages wonderfully refreshing and delightful. The old fellows looked
at life with the eyes of a child but with the intelligence of a man;
and so it happens that their representations combine a most perfect and
fascinating simplicity with the highest possible qualities of acuteness
and sagacity.

On October 1st the ships were off the Mexican coast. When the form
of the land grew visible Dampier told Rogers that it was hereabouts
he attacked the Manila ship in the _St. George_. He might have been
right, but Rogers does not speak as if he thought so, for he says:
“Captain Dampier indeed had been here, but it was a long time ago,
and therefore he seemed to know but little of the Matter; yet when
he came to land in Places he recollected them very readily.” They
suffered much from scarcity of fresh water, and sent the pinnace to
explore some islands—the Tres Marias—lying off Cape Corrientes. On one
of them they found a human skull, which was supposed to have belonged
to an Indian who, with another poor wretch of his own race, had been
left there by Captain Swan some twenty-three years before. Dampier of
course well remembered the circumstance; he had been with Swan in the
_Cygnet_ at the time, and could recollect that provisions being scarce
they had left the unhappy Indians to make, as Rogers says, a miserable
end on a desert Island. To judge, however, from the refreshments these
uninhabited spots yielded, the Indians could not have perished from
starvation. The buccaneers met with hares, turtle-doves, pigeons, and
parrots, on all of which they fared sumptuously. The sick thrived,
and the general health of the crews was never better. On November 1st
they were in view of the high coast of California. It was much about
the date when Sir Thomas Candish had taken the Manila ship, and,
strangely enough, their keels ploughed the very tract of water in
which that remarkable feat had been achieved. The memory, aged to us,
but lacking nothing of its old lustre, was to those men comparatively
recent, and the recollection was one to animate them with great hopes
and stern resolves. They were indeed bent now on the adventure whose
successful issue had loaded Candish's ship with treasure. They were
on the look-out for the galleon, and that nothing might be omitted
to render fortune propitious, they again put in force the rules
which had formerly been laid down for cruising, established fresh
regulations, and made clear every dubious item in their programme of
proceedings and plunder. It was this galleon that was to make their
fortunes; she it was also that formed the grand hope of the Bristol
committee of merchant adventurers; and the design of capturing her was
the mainspring of the whole expedition. After a consultation it was
agreed that they should dispose themselves thus: the _Marquis_ was to
keep off the land at a distance of from six to nine leagues at least;
the _Duke_ was to cruise at a range that would cover forty-five miles;
and the _Dutchess_ was to occupy the waters between her consorts.
There were, of course, false alarms; as, for instance, on the 28th the
_Marquis_ fired a gun, which was promptly answered by the _Dutchess_,
on which the _Duke_ hauled her wind for the coast. It then turned out
that the _Marquis_ had mistaken the _Duke_ for the Manila ship, and
fired as a signal for the _Dutchess_ to chase. They had to wait a
long time before the vessel they wanted hove in sight. It was now a
month later than the usual time of her appearance in this part of the
sea where she was being waited for, and the anxiety of the buccaneers
was increased by their inability to obtain any intelligence of her.
Provisions were again scarce, and even on short allowance there was
barely bread enough to last for seventy days,—a serious matter in the
face of the inevitable run later on to the Ladrone Islands, which
promised to occupy fifty days at the very least. This most unfortunate
dearth of stores, coupled with the growing dejection and mutinous
sulkiness of the men, determined Rogers and his brother commanders to
give themselves another week's chance, and then, if the galleon did
not appear, to sail away to the Indies.

In order to save time the _Dutchess_ was despatched to a convenient
bay to take in water and wood, etc., that as one ship obtained these
stores another might take her place, thus always leaving two on the
look-out. By the 4th she had taken in what was necessary, and the
_Marquis_ replaced her to refit. Until December 21st nothing happened;
then on the morning of that day, when the _Duke_ was in the act of
shifting her helm for the place where the _Marquis_ was refitting, the
look-out man aloft hailing the deck, shouted that he saw a sail bearing
west about twenty miles distant. The English ensign was immediately
hoisted, and in a few minutes both the _Duke_ and the _Dutchess_ were
standing towards the stranger; but on a sudden it fell stark calm, and
as conjecture was hopeless and expectation insupportable, the pinnace
was manned and sent to see what she could make of the distant ship. In
reading Rogers's account, you find your sympathies curiously enlisted
on behalf of those two stagnated buccaneering vessels, and witness
with but little effort of imagination the crowds of weather-darkened,
fiery-eyed men, some in the rigging, some at the masthead, some leaning
in impetuous pose against the rail, staring their very hearts out under
the sharp of their hands at the cotton-white outline, glimmering like
the tip of a sea-bird's pinion on the edge of the distant gleaming
horizon, whence the swell rolls in folds of oil to the wet and flashing
sides of the ships; the officers on the quarter-deck peering their
hardest through the lean and unsatisfying perspective-glasses of those
days; Dampier and Rogers together rehearsing their intentions and
recalling their experiences in voices subdued by excitement; above all,
the old, worn, but gallant _Duke_ wearily dipping her faded, blistered
bends to the swing of the breathless sea, making in anticipation of the
withering roar of her ordnance, now grinning mutely along her sides, a
little thunder of her own with the beating of her dark and well-patched
canvas against the huge tops and massive cross-trees of her swaying
masts. “All the rest of the Day,” says Rogers, “we had very little
Wind, so that we made no great Way; and the Boat not returning, kept
us in a languishing Condition, not being able to determine whether
the Sail was our Consort, the _Marquis_, or the _Acapulco_ Ship. Our
Pinnace was still in Sight, and we had nothing to do but to watch her
Motions: We could see that she made towards the _Dutchess's_ Pinnace,
which rowed to meet her. They lay together some time, and then the
_Dutchess's_ Pinnace went back to their Ship which gave us great
Hopes.” An officer was sent to the _Dutchess_ to ascertain what the
stranger was, and to concert measures, if she should prove an enemy,
for engaging her. When he was gone Rogers hoisted the French colours
and fired a gun; the strange vessel answered, which satisfied them
that she was not the _Marquis_. It is manifest from this that these
privateersmen had no private code of signals amongst them. Indeed
detection seems to have been entirely a matter of the exhibition of the
national bunting, in which there was just the same sort of deception
then as there was in later years, and as there ever will be. Shortly
after the ship had responded, the officer returned with the report
that she was the Manila galleon. The statement fired the spirits of
the crew; they hove all their melancholy reflections on the shortness
of their provisions overboard, and could think of nothing but the
figures they would make when they arrived home with the vast treasure
out yonder, stowed snugly away under their hatches. “Every moment,”
says Rogers, “seemed an hour till we came up with her.” It was arranged
that the two pinnaces should stick to her skirts all night and burn
flares, that their own and the position of the chase might be known;
and it was further settled that if the _Duke_ and _Dutchess_ were so
fortunate as to come up with her together they were to board her at
once: a resolution which Dampier, recalling his experiences in the _St.
George_, was pretty sure to strengthen by his advice.

At dawn the chase was upon the weather-bow of the _Duke_, about three
miles away, and the _Dutchess_ within a couple of miles to leeward of
her. Rogers threw his sweeps over and rowed his ship for above an hour;
a light breeze then sprang up and softly blew the vessel towards the
enemy. There was no liquor in the ship, nothing to fortify the spirits
in the shape of a dram; so a large kettle of chocolate was boiled and
served out to the crew, who, when they had emptied their pannikins,
went to prayers. But whilst they were in the midst of their devotions
they were interrupted by a broadside from the Spaniards. It is not
often that one reads of the English buccaneers going to prayers before
falling to their business of slaughtering and plundering. Perhaps they
had learnt to despise this kind of ceremony from the behaviour of the
French freebooters, who were wont to sing Te Deum and force captive
priests to celebrate Mass in the cathedrals and churches which they
had despoiled. If the Spaniards saw Rogers's privateersmen on their
knees, something of irony might have been intended by their manner
of cutting short their worship and supplications. The Don was fully
prepared; his guns loaded, his little army of men at stations, and
casks of gunpowder hanging at his yard-arms ready to fall and explode
when the attempt should be made to board. The action began at eight
o'clock, and the _Duke_ for some time fought the galleon single-handed.
The conflict was a brief one. The Spaniards had no stomach, and after
Rogers had poured in a few broadsides the enemy “struck her colours
two-thirds down.” His flag was thus flying when the _Dutchess_ came
up and fired five guns at the big ship along with a volley of small
shot. It was mere waste of powder; the galleon had already submitted
and was silent. The victory, it must be admitted, was cheaply earned,
yet there is little doubt that such was the temper of the buccaneers
they would have fought to the last man for this golden prize. She was
a large vessel named _Nostra Seniora de la Incarnacion Disenginao_,
mounting twenty guns and twenty swivels, and carrying one hundred
and ninety-three men, of whom nine were killed and several wounded.
The fight lasted three glasses, that is three hours. Rogers was shot
through the left cheek; the bullet destroyed the greater part of his
upper jaw, and some of his teeth were found upon the deck where he
fell. He was obliged to give his orders in writing to hinder the flow
of blood, and to escape the agony of attempting to articulate. Only
one man besides himself was wounded. Having repaired the trifling
damage they had sustained, they steered for the harbour where the
_Marquis_ lay, and anchored. They found their consort fully equipped
and ready to sail, and her people in good spirits and eager for
action. At night a consultation was held respecting the disposal of
the hostages, and as a second Manila ship was daily expected, they
debated plans for capturing her. After some talk it was agreed that
the hostages should be set at liberty; but the discussion about the
expected galleon ended in something like a quarrel. Rogers, speaking
in the heat of the moment, had censured Courtney for not having shown
the promptitude that was necessary in attacking the _Nostra Seniora_.
This Courtney of course resented as a reflection upon his honour. When,
then, Rogers proposed to cruise in the _Dutchess_ for the coming Manila
ship, Courtney insisted upon making the search in the _Marquis_. The
question was put to the vote, Rogers's proposal overruled, and his
people obliged, to their great mortification, to remain in the harbour.
This incident is related so obscurely both by Cooke and Rogers that I
confess I do not fully understand it. The _Duke_ was in good condition,
and why the three instead of the two ships did not start on a cruise
which, as the sequel proves, demanded even more than their united
strength, is a riddle I am unable to solve.

On Christmas Day the _Dutchess_ and the _Marquis_ put to sea, and
when they were gone Rogers posted two sentinels on the top of a hill
that he might instantly be apprised of a third sail heaving in sight.
Before twenty-four hours had elapsed the signal was made, and in
hot haste Rogers started to the assistance of his consorts, though
the stout-hearted sailor was in no condition for further adventures
just then. He was indeed so weak from loss of blood that he could
scarcely stand. His head and throat were swollen, and the effort to
speak caused him excruciating pain; but he turned a deaf ear to the
entreaties of the officers and surgeons that he would remain in harbour
on board the prize. The galleon was in sight at daybreak, and by noon
the _Marquis_ had succeeded in bringing her to an engagement. The wind
was light, and it was almost impossible to manœuvre the vessels; so
that though the _Dutchess_ and the _Marquis_ continued at intervals to
fire at the Manila ship until dusk, the _Duke_ even at midnight was
still at a considerable distance from the enemy. When the day broke
the wind shifted, and Rogers was able to bring his guns to bear. The
fighting was now severe, and continued so for four hours; the galleon
was hotly defended, though her people lay so concealed in their close
quarters that the privateersmen could scarcely make any use of their
small arms. It was only when a head appeared or a port was opened that
they found a mark for their muskets. The eagerness of the buccaneers
defeated their seamanship. Their vessels were repeatedly falling foul
of one another and throwing the crews into disorder. The guns of the
_Marquis_ were so small that her firing was to little or no purpose.
At last it came to Rogers signalling to Courtney and Cooke to come
on board him with other officers; and then every man telling of the
injuries his ship had sustained, and all admitting that it would
jeopardise too many lives to board or attempt to board the lofty
galleon, it was resolved to let her go—that is to say, they agreed to
keep her company till night, and then in the darkness to lose her, and
make the best of their way back to the prize they had already secured.
In sober truth the enemy had proved too many for them. The _Duke's_
mainmast was so wounded that Rogers expected every moment to see it go
by the board. Her rigging, too, was so shattered by shot that she had
to sheer off in order to knot and splice, being scarcely manageable.
The _Dutchess_ also had her foremast badly wounded, her sails were in
rags, and the ends of her standing rigging were trailing overboard.
Further, there were not above one hundred and twenty men in all three
ships fit for boarding, “and those but weak,” says Rogers, “having
been very short of Provisions;” and that nothing might be wanting to
complete the list of the reasons of their failure, their ammunition was
very nearly expended. Rogers was again wounded, this time in his left
foot. In the _Dutchess_ they had twenty men killed and disabled. The
_Marquis_, on the other hand, came off without the loss of a single
person. The galleon was a handsome ship, very large, carrying the flag
of the admiral of Manila. She was making the voyage for the first time.
Her name was the _Vigonia_; she was pierced for sixty guns, forty of
which were mounted, along with an equal number of brass swivels. Her
crew numbered over four hundred and fifty men, and there were many
passengers besides. It was supposed that she was worth ten millions
of dollars; but it is doubtful whether, even if the buccaneers had
succeeded in boarding, they would have taken her, for Rogers says:
“After my Return into Europe I met in Holland with a Sailor who had
been on board the large Ship when we engaged her; and he let us into
the Secret that there was no taking her; for the Gunner kept constantly
in the Powder-room, declaring that he had taken the Sacrament to blow
the Ship up if we boarded her; which made the Men, as may be supposed,
exceedingly resolute in her defence. I was the more ready to credit
what this Man told me because he gave as regular and circumstantial
account of the Engagement as I could have done from my Journal.”[30]

On the first day of the new year, 1710, they were again in harbour
alongside their great prize; and now being anxious to leave these
seas, they put their prisoners on board one of the smaller captures
with water and provisions enough to last them for a voyage to
Acapulco, and then addressed themselves to the urgent business of
repairing and making all ready for their departure. They renamed the
galleon the _Batchelor_, and a quarrel arose touching the appointment
of a commander for her, a post regarded by them all as of dignity
and importance. Captain Dover, asserting his claims as a merchant
adventurer, and representing the considerable sum of money he had
risked in this expedition, demanded the berth. Rogers and others,
among whom, no doubt, would be Dampier, objected that Dover knew
nothing whatever of navigation, and voted for Cooke. Finally, at the
cost of many high words and much strong feeling, it was decided at a
full council that Captain Fry and Captain Stretton should have entire
control of the navigation of the _Batchelor_ under Captain Dover,
Alexander Selkirk to be the master and Joseph Smith the chief mate. The
island of Guam was then fixed upon as a rendezvous, and on January 10th
the buccaneers weighed for a run to the East Indies.

They were when they started in no very enviable condition. Their stores
were scanty; their live stock consisted of four hens; and of wine or
spirits they had barely the contents of a dozen bottles. The rations
were limited to a pound and a half of flour and a small piece of meat
for a mess of five men, with three pints of water a man on twenty-four
hours for drink and cooking. Rogers was ill with his wounds, and many
of the crew were sick and weak and unfit to do the work of the ship.
Hunger drove the men into robbery. A few days after they sailed some
pieces of pork were missed. Fortunately, in the interests of justice,
the thieves were discovered, and punished by every man of the watch
giving them a stroke of the cat-o'-nine-tails.

What follows now is little more than a journal of the voyage, rendered
for the most part tedious by description and by the introduction of
incidents of little or no interest. Dampier's name seldom occurs; when
it is mentioned it is always in reference to something that helps
to accentuate characteristics noticeable in his own account of his
adventures. For instance, in April, when they were off a point of land
which they took to be the north-east point of Celebes, the vessel was
proving very leaky; which, added to the general ignorance of the ship's
situation, filled the crew with melancholy and irritation. “Captain
Dampier,” says Rogers, “discouraged us very much: He had been twice
here, and therefore what he said among the Seamen passed without
Dispute, and he laid it down as a thing certain that if we could not
reach Ternate or find the Island of Tula it was impossible for us to
get any Refreshment, there being nothing to be met with on the Coast
of New Guiney.” It had been thus with Dampier whilst buccaneering off
the New Holland shore; thus had it been with him too when hunting for
water on the sand-hills of the Western Australian seaboard, his foot on
the margin of a vast region of earth which he had neither temper nor
heart to explore, though he had travelled many thousands of miles in a
crazy ship and with a troublesome crew for no other purpose. This trick
of discouraging the people he led, or was one of, is the secret of his
failure as a commander and explorer. Rogers, a bolder and more hopeful,
and certainly in many respects an equally sagacious man, was not likely
to feel grateful for Dampier's melancholy shakes of the head, and his
gloomy, prognosticating countenance; but his own experiences left him
nothing to say, for though the ships spent the best part of the month
of May off the coast of New Guinea, all that Rogers could observe that
seemed to him worth mentioning was, “It is most certain these Islands,
which are scattered through the Streights, and few or none of which are
peopled, would all of them bear Spice, and afford immense Riches to
this Nation, if they were settled.”

They were in great distress whilst they were in these seas. The men
mutinously resented the wise reduction in the quantity of the food
served out to them; and to save serious disturbance Rogers was forced
to return to the old scale. They sighted land, but did not know what
it was, nor could Dampier help them. Having searched for Borou, an
island of the Indian Archipelago, they resolved to steer to Batavia,
touching at Bouton for provisions. Accordingly they stood away to the
south-west before a strong gale of wind at east. But their progress
was obstructed by some small islands, into one of which they must
have run in the dead of night had the weather not cleared suddenly
and discovered it to them. It was not until Tuesday, June 17th, 1710,
that they arrived at Batavia. At sight of the town the crews were so
rejoiced that they could do nothing but hug and shake one another
by the hand, and bless their stars and question if there was such a
paradise in all the world; “And this,” says Rogers, “because they had
Arrack for Eight Pence a Gallon, and Sugar at a Penny a Pound.”

The ships were in a deplorable condition, particularly the _Marquis_,
which was so rotten with worms and wear that it became necessary to
hire another craft to carry her lading. They sailed from Batavia on
October 14th, and proceeded direct to the Cape of Good Hope, where
they arrived without misadventure and without any incident occurring
in the passage that is worth repeating. Shortly after they had entered
Table Bay twelve sail of Dutch ships came in, which, with the English
vessels then at anchor, made altogether twenty-three ships riding in
the spacious and beautiful haven. The picture is about one hundred
and seventy years old, and it is difficult to realise that the ocean
traffic of those dim times to the Indies by way of the Cape should
have been considerable enough to crowd the spacious surface of the
waters on whose margin stand the ivory-white structures of Cape Town.
Retrospect is often corrective. We have a right to compliment ourselves
upon what we have done and are doing; but it does not seem to me that
our marine achievements can be compared as illustrations of human skill
and determination with the examples of the adventurous genius of an
age when the greater portion of the antipodean world lay in darkness;
when navigation was little better than guesswork; when the art of
shipbuilding was crude, rude, and primitive; when there was nothing
but the heavens to consult for weather; when the tyranny of the winds
was only to be dominated by a kind of perseverance that must be ranked
among the lost qualities of human nature. Despite these conditions the
early mariner crowded the oceans with fabrics laden with the produce of
the known continents, and rolled stubbornly to his hundred ports, often
in suffering and often in distress indeed; yet on the whole freer, in
his valiant ignorance, from disaster than is the sailor of the current
hour. There is no longer need for ships to halt and bait at Table Bay.
The propeller thrashes them to their destination with the punctuality
of the railway-train; or they are wafted by pyramids of canvas—the
graceful and elegant result of centuries of experiment—on a journey to
New Zealand or Japan, which they complete in less time than the old
seafarer took to find his way from the English Channel to Madeira.
But the very existence of the facilities of the engine-room, of the
nimbleness of the clipper-moulded keel, of the capacity of the towering
and exquisitely-calculated heights of cloths to snatch a desired power
of propulsion from the teeth of the antagonistic gale, is, I take it,
an admission of our own weakness when we contrast the ocean-machinery
with which science has dowered us with the contrivances with which
the early seamen triumphed over the forces of Nature and created new
worlds as heritages for a self-complacent posterity. Those twenty-three
ships at anchor in Table Bay, surveyed by the eyes of Dampier and his
toil-worn comrades, make but a little part of a great marine pageant;
yet it is a detail to constrain the gaze. Fancy reconstructs them; they
cease to be visionary; they float before us as substantial fabrics,
brave with pennons and the glitter of brass guns and the gay raiment of
their time. They illustrate the most strenuous of all the periods of
the world's maritime life; for the infancy of navigation was over, and
it had already put on the proportions of a youthful giant, the impulse
of whose unripened vitality was urging it to extraordinary efforts.

Before the ships under Rogers sailed, six more vessels entered the bay,
along with several English Indiamen and a large Portuguese carrack from
Brazil; and when the hour of departure came the homeward-bound (in
all, English and Dutch, numbering twenty-five) rolled stately under
swelling canvas out of Table Bay,—a spectacle that, remote as it is,
and visible only to the gaze of fancy, cannot but stir the imagination
when one thinks of the floating castles, with their swelling sails and
their brilliant streamers, as the van of the ever-growing procession
that was in time to whiten the remotest seas, and crowd the harbours
of countries of which some were then without the impress of a European
foot.

The ships progressed merrily. They touched at St. Helena, and seven
days later at Ascension, and after a passage of three months from the
Cape of Good Hope dropped anchor in the Texel. Rogers and his brother
commanders had now to act with much circumspection; they were informed
by letters from their owners that the English East India Company,
jealous of their success, had appointed a secret committee to inspect
their charter as to privileges; they were also enjoined to exercise
the utmost caution in respect of the Dutch East India Company, and
strict orders were issued that no officer or sailor should on any
pretence whatever be suffered to take any goods on shore, or purchase
the least trifle from any stranger who visited the ships. They remained
in Holland until September 30th, 1711, then sailed from the Texel
under convoy of four of Her Britannic Majesty's ships, and on October
14th the _Duke_ and _Dutchess_ arrived off Erith, at which place the
_Batchelor_ had come to an anchor some short time before. Thus ended
one of the most memorable of all the voyages ever undertaken by the
English buccaneers. The cargo and treasure obtained by this expedition
were valued at between three and four hundred thousand pounds, and
Cooke tells us that, after allowing for all deductions, such as cost of
convoy, agency, lawsuits, and thefts, the net profits amounted to one
hundred and seventy thousand pounds.



CHAPTER VII

CONCLUSION


As Dampier steps over the ship's side the reader is prepared to learn
that no more is heard of him. He is a shadow amongst a congregation of
shades, and when he quits his comrades his first stride carries him
into absolute obscurity, and he vanishes like a puff of tobacco smoke.
One would be glad to be able to do more than give a mere handshake of
farewell to such an English sailor as this. It would be pleasant to
be able to follow him, to learn what sort of life he led, what new
adventures, if any, he met with, what his health was, and what his
means, the pleasures he took ashore, and the esteem in which he was
held by those with whom he conversed before that dark old soldier
Death quietly beckoned him out. I think we may take it that he never
married whilst he pursued his sea-life; but when he came ashore for
good he was tolerably advanced in years, and it would not be safe to
conjecture what he did then. He had never known the comforts of a
home, and the old seaman might find a kind of excuse for marrying in
that reflection. Captain Cooke says that the net profits of Rogers's
voyage (see previous page) were fairly divided amongst the officers
and crew. This is to be doubted. Before the officers and crew touched
a penny the Bristol merchants, of whom there was a great number in the
venture, would take their share, and we may suppose that their dividend
did not leave the balance a very big one for the many people who had
claims upon it. A man named Hatley, who sailed in 1719 with Shelvocke
and Clipperton, was wont to declare that “he knew by woeful experience
how they were used on board the _Duke_ and _Dutchess_; that they were
never paid one-tenth of their due, and that it plainly appeared how a
certain gentleman designed to treat them, by his bullying them, and
endeavouring to force them from Gravesend before they had received
their river pay and impress money.”[31] Dampier's claims were no doubt
ranked amongst those of the officers; but whatever his share might have
been, it is not very conceivable that, invested, it yielded him an
income sufficient for his plainest requirements.

He was fifty-nine years old when he returned from his last voyage. Even
assuming that his health was good enough to suffer him to go on using
the sea, it is more than probable that at the age of sixty he would
exhibit no further taste for the hard, perilous, and unremunerative
calling. Considering the eminence he had achieved, it is strange that
there are no discoverable contemporary references to this portion of
his life; none, at all events, that I have been able to meet with or
hear of, though I have not spared inquiry. This silence might sanction
the conjecture that on his return he went into the country, perhaps to
his little Dorsetshire estate, if it be reasonable to suppose that he
had not parted with it in the time of his poverty, and died not long
afterwards amid the obscurity of rural and provincial surroundings. But
speculation is fruitless, and even unwise, in the face of the chance of
the story of his ending being some of these days lighted upon; for the
literary digger was never more active than he is now, and a spadeful of
the old mould of time may yet be thrown up with information enough in
it about this circumnavigator to answer all questions as to his closing
years. Anyway I think we may be pretty sure that he never went to sea
again. A sailor ages rapidly on the salt-beef, honeycombed biscuit, and
stormy weather of his vocation, and at fifty is commonly as old in body
and mind as the landsman at seventy. Dampier was a seaman when he was a
boy, and no man, even in those strenuous ocean-going days, ever lived a
harder and more wearing life. He had spent years in the most unhealthy
and enfeebling climates in the world; he had starved on rotten food,
lain unsheltered on deck through the damp and fever-breeding nights
of the West Indian and Panama parallels; he had had more than most
men's share of worry and anxiety; he had drunk deep of the cup of
disappointment, and he had sounded poverty to its depths. We may then
fairly consider him as an old man at sixty, and assume with confidence
that as he wanted both the taste and the opportunity for further
seafaring, the last voyage he ever took in this world was as pilot to
his friend Woodes Rogers.[32]

There is a tradition that he was known to Defoe, which Sir Walter Scott
traces to a passage in the _Review_. Whether Defoe knew Dampier in the
flesh or not, his literary obligations to him appear considerable.
_Captain Singleton_, published in 1720; the nautical passages in
_Colonel Jack_, published in 1722; _A New Voyage Round the World_,
published in 1725; together with a variety of ocean incidents to be
met with in _Roxana_, _Moll Flanders_, and in others of the voluminous
publications of this master, seem to me directly inspired by Dampier's
writings. There were indeed Cowley, Wafer, Ringrose, Cooke, and the
contemporary buccaneering authors to consult; but it is only necessary
to contrast Defoe's tales of the sea, the marine passages in his shore
stories, and his accounts of foreign countries, with the descriptions
of Dampier, and more particularly the reflections with which he
interpolates his narratives, to perceive the true source of some of the
finest of the imaginations of the author of _Captain Singleton_ and
_Robinson Crusoe_. Defoe exhibited his gratitude in an odd form. Here
are some opening passages in his _New Voyage Round the World_:

“It has for some ages been thought so wonderful a thing to sail the
tour or circle of the globe, that when a man has done this mighty
feat he presently thinks it deserves to be recorded, like Sir Francis
Drake's. So, as soon as men have acted the sailor, they come ashore
and write books of their voyage, not only to make a great noise of
what they have done themselves, but, pretending to show the way to
others to come after them, they set up for teachers and chart-makers to
posterity. Though most of them have had this misfortune, that whatever
success they have had in the voyage they have had very little in the
relation, except it be to tell us that a seaman, when he comes to the
press, is pretty much out of his element, and that a very good sailor
may make but a very indifferent author.”

Language of this sort does not sound very graciously in the mouth of a
man whose best work is owing to the hints he obtains from the people
whose labours and publications he ridicules. I hope I shall not be
deemed heterodox if I say that, in my humble judgment, great as is my
veneration for Defoe, in point of interest neither his _New Voyage_
nor his _Captain Singleton_ is to be compared with the narratives of
Dampier, Cooke, Rogers, and Shelvocke; whilst there is a quaintness and
freshness about their plain, manly, sailorly style which I instantly
miss on turning to Defoe's later books. It is quite true indeed that
when the _New Voyage Round the World_ was written the circumnavigation
of the globe was no longer considered an extraordinary feat; but
then forty-two years had elapsed since Dampier had sailed with the
buccaneers from Virginia on his first tour, and in that interval the
experiences of the journey—deemed remarkable at the time—had been
often enough repeated by his own and the voyages of others, to rob
the accomplishment of all its wonder. Dampier's best merits have
been fairly expressed by Sir Walter Scott, whose reference to him in
connection with the life of Defoe was inevitable. He speaks of him
as a mariner “whose scientific skill in his profession and power of
literary composition were at that time rarely found in that profession,
especially amongst those rough sons of the ocean who acknowledged no
peace beyond the Line, and had as natural an enmity to a South American
Spaniard as a greyhound to a hare, and who, though distinguished by
the somewhat mild term of buccaneer, were little better than absolute
pirates.” This is true, but more may be said. Dampier was not only
the finest sailor of his day—I mean in the strictly professional
sense of the word—his travels are to this hour foremost among the
best-written and most interesting in the language. Seafaring and
literary qualifications are a rare combination even in our own age of
stiff marine-examinations, of a race of naval officers distinguished
for their culture and their breeding, and of a merchant navy whose
masters and mates are, in the higher ranges at least, persons of
education and intelligence. But in Dampier's day the sailor, whether
he fought for the throne or for merchant adventurers, or toiled for
himself as a sea-carrier, was a coarse, unlettered man. The union in
Dampier of the qualities which he exhibited must have rendered him
something of a prodigy to his contemporaries, whilst it forms his
claim upon the attention and esteem of posterity. No mariner ever
observed more closely. In his _Discourse of Winds_ he anticipates half
the contents of the volumes of Piddington and Reid.[33] One would
say indeed that Dampier never passed an hour without pulling out his
notebook. Piddington particularly calls attention to the accuracy of
the old sailor's touches in his picture of the banks of red clouds
which herald the bursting of a typhoon in the China seas. He also
refers to Dr. Franklin's Letters, in which there is a paper of extracts
from Dampier's Voyages that was read at the Royal Society—he does not
say when—and quotes at large, as substantiating a theory of his own,
a passage in the extracts descriptive of the appearance, motion, and
danger of the waterspout. So in a score of other directions. No bird
of strange plumage meets Dampier's eye but his pen, with microscopic
fidelity, reproduces its hues, form, and tricks of flight and movement.
He will pause in his narrative to describe a fish, and make you see it
as clearly as though you leaned over the side with him watching it. All
variety of products he carefully notes. He has also a quick eye for
human nature, detects and dryly represents the characteristics of his
shipmates, and sketches with humorous gravity the hideous New Guinea
savage whose tatooings he enlarges upon, or the primrose-coloured
Chinaman whose tail he measures. He is probably at his best in the
Supplement he wrote to the _Voyage Round the World_. The mariner must
have received with gratitude this remarkable description of the towns
and coasts of the Dutch possessions in the East Indies and of Tonquin.
There was nothing in “Waggoner” at all resembling such writing as this,
nothing so trustworthy, nothing indeed in any other existing sea-volume
so helpful to the sailor. He was the best hydrographer and geographer
of his age, and in truth in many respects I hardly know where to look
for his equal when I reflect upon what he did, and consider the heroic
obstinacy with which he persevered in his high resolution to observe
and note down all that he saw in defiance of the distractions of a life
of hardship, conflict, and brutal association, and despite the lack of
the twenty scientific conveniences which now facilitate the labours of
the navigator and explorer.

And perhaps those who respect his memory most will be best pleased
to think he was a failure as a buccaneer. I have already quoted a
passage from his preface in which he does not dissemble the repugnance
with which he recurs to his life of piracy. Nothing could be more
intelligible than the disgust and loathing that possessed him when he
sat in silence writing his book, and thinking of the character of the
persons whom it was necessary he should refer to as his intimates.
They were sailors indeed, but they were also brutes; no man knew that
better than Dampier; no man was better acquainted than he with the
vices, the profligacy, the horrors of the every-day speech of the men
whose company he had kept for months and years.[34] That quality of
sympathetic adhesion which the French call _esprit de corps_ was not
likely to exist in a man who, when he had parted from his shipmates,
found the recollection of them insupportable. Indeed he was but a poor
buccaneer. He was as courageous as the best man he ever sailed with;
plunder he loved as well as the rest; but he despised and detested
his associates, and probably only held his own amongst them by the
exaction of that sort of respect which such fellows would feel for a
man of education, of wide experience, and the best navigator of his
time. The reason of his failure as a commander his own narratives
make clear. His books show that he understood human nature, but his
actions prove that he could not control or direct it. Nor is it hard
to see why he was unsuccessful as an explorer. He appeared to exhaust
his energy in theories, so that by the time he addressed himself to
action nearly all his enthusiasm was gone. The importunities which
led to his being placed in command of the _Roebuck_ and despatched to
the Southern Ocean must have been eloquent. No doubt he was perfectly
sincere in his representations. As a privateersman he had sighted the
shores of the unknown land of the antipodes; how far south it extended
he could not imagine, but vast portions of it lay under heights which
by analogous reasoning he could prove fertile and beautiful, rich in
promise to the coloniser, and assuring an enlargement of the dominions
of the sovereign by the acquisition of a territory possibly vaster
than the whole of Europe. All this, we may take it, he fully believed,
and eagerly, impetuously, and eloquently expressed. But the passage
from England to Western Australia was a long one. His ardour had
cooled before he was off the coast of Brazil. He was chagrined by the
behaviour of his crew, and there were other causes to cloud and chill
his excitable and impressionable nature. You can see that he had lost
all heart, or at least all appetite, for the quest he had undertaken
long before the coast of New Holland rose over his bows. Men of
Dampier's temperament may be able to write engaging narratives of their
adventures, and exhibit all the solid virtues of the sober, as well as
all the airy qualities of the poetic, observer; but they are not formed
of the stuff of which explorers are made. Their pulse beats too hotly
at the start and too languidly towards the end. Yet the world does well
to hold the name of Dampier in memory as a skilful seaman, an acute
observer, an agreeable writer, and a thorough Englishman.


THE END


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, _Edinburgh_.



FOOTNOTES:

[1] Harris's _Collection_, “Cowley's Voyage,” vol. i. 1748.

[2] _A Discourse of the First Invention of Ships_, p. 7. Ed. 1700.

[3] Hackluyt, i. 243. There is also a reference to sheathing in Sir
Richard Hawkins's _Observations_ in Purchas, vol. iv. p. 1387. In
1673 an order was issued by the Lord High Admiral to sheath some of
the ships of war with lead; but on Sir John Narborough a few years
afterwards objecting to it, the practice was discontinued.—See
Schomberg's _Naval Chronology_, vol. i. 75.

[4] Preserved in Churchill's _Collections of Voyages and Travels_,
1704, vol. ii.

[5] The buccaneers had “Waggoners” of their own. One was compiled by
Basil Ringrose, who called it the _South Sea Waggoner_ (_circa_ 1682).
Another by Captain Hack, the author of a _History of the Buccaneers_,
was published in or about 1690.

[6] Dampier calls him Spragg, others Sprague.

[7] Ringrose's account will be found in _The History of the Bucaniers
of America_, 2 vols., 4th edition, 1741, under the section entitled
“The dangerous Voyage and bold Adventures of Captain Sharp, Watling,
Sawkins, Coxon, and others in the South Sea.” It is proper I should
state here that the editions of the books I name are those from which I
quote.

[8] “_A New Voyage Round the World_, describing particularly the
Isthmus of America; several Coasts and Islands in the West Indies;
the Isles of Cape Verd; the Passage by Terra del Fuego; the South
Sea coasts of Chili, Peru, and Mexico; the Isle of Guam, one of the
Ladrones, Mindanao, and other Philippine and East India Islands, near
Cambodia, China, Formosa, Laconia, Celebes, etc.; New Holland, Sumatra,
Nicobar Isles; the Cape of Good Hope, and Santa Hellena. Their Soil,
Rivers, Harbours, Plants, Fruits, Animals, and Inhabitants. Their
Customs, Religion, Government, Trade, etc.” By Captain William Dampier.
Fourth Edition, 1699. This is vol. i. of the Travels.

[9] Wafer afterwards published an account of his adventures in “_A New
Voyage and Description of the Isthmus of America_; giving an account
of the author's abode there; the form and make of the Country, Coasts,
Hills, Rivers, etc. Woods, Soil, Weather, etc. Trees, Fruit, Beasts,
Birds, Fish, etc. The Indian Inhabitants, their Features, Complexions,
etc.; their Manners, Customs, Employments, Marriages, Feasts, Hunting,
Computation, Language, etc. With remarkable Occurrences in the South
Sea and elsewhere.” It is a tedious book.

[10] Cowley's _Voyage_: Harris's _Collection of Voyages and Travels_,
vol. i., 1744. Also Cowley's Voyage, in Captain William Hack's
_Collection of Original Voyages_. 1698.

[11] Cowley.

[12] Ravenau de Lussan, who was with Grognet in this action, gives us
a French version of the business: “About two the Spaniards sent out a
ship of eight and twenty guns to hinder Captain Grognet from joining
us, as understanding by some Spaniards who had been our prisoners that
he was the strongest in small arms of any in our fleet, and that they
were so much the more fearful of him, when they came to know his crew
consisted of Frenchmen!” This man calls Davis “David,” and says he was
a Fleming, and he writes Swan's name “Sammes.” His story is printed in
_The Bucaniers of America_ already referred to.

[13] The title runs thus:—“_Voyages and Descriptions_. Vol. ii. In
Three Parts, viz. 1. A Supplement of the Voyage round the World,
Describing the Countreys of Tonquin, Achin, Malacca, etc.: their
Product, Inhabitants, Manners, Trade, Policy, etc. 2. Two Voyages to
Campeachy; with a Description of the Coasts, Product, Inhabitants,
Log-wood-Cutting Trade, etc., of Jucatan, Campeachy, New Spain, etc. 3.
A Discourse of Trade-Winds, Breezes, Storms, Seasons of the Year, Tides
and Currents of the Torrid Zone throughout the World; with an Account
of Natal in Africk: its Product, Negro's, etc. 1699.”

[14] _A Voyage to New Holland, &c., in the Year 1699_, by Captain
William Dampier. 1709.

[15] It may spare the reader the trouble of referring to a map, to say
that the longitude of the Cape is 18° 29´ E.; Frio (Brazil) 41° 57´ W.;
Blanco (Peru) 81° 10´ W.

[16] It was hereabouts that Francis Pelsart was wrecked in the
_Batavia_ in 1629.

[17] For instance, Ringrose (Dampier's companion in Sharp's voyage)
writes under date of January 9th, 1681: “There was now a great rippling
sea, rising very high. It is reported there is an enchanted island
hereabouts, which some positively say they have sailed over.“

[18] The statements of Harris, who may be claimed as a contemporaneous
authority, are interesting on this account. He writes, of course,
without the prejudices of Dampier's sea-associates.

[19] ”_A Voyage Round the World_, containing an account of Captain
Dampier's expedition into the South Seas, 1703-4, with the Author's
Voyage from Amapalla on the West Coast of Mexico to East India,” 1707.

[20] _A Voyage Round the World by the way of the Great South Sea_,
by Captain George Shelvocke. Second Edition, 1757, p. 76. The whole
description of his passage of the Horn, with his sketch of Staten
Island, “covered with snow to the very wash of the sea,” is admirable.

[21] I should add, however, that on Selkirk repenting his rash
decision, and requesting leave to return to his duty, Stradling refused
to receive him on board.

[22] Norwood's _Navigation_, already referred to.

[23] This term “bark” is used generically by the old writers. Rigs
were few, and vessels, it would seem, took their names from their
dimensions, as galleon, carrack, galley, and the like. In our own
times—and it has been so for a century and a half, at least—a craft is
defined by her rig. Thus a vessel rigged as a ship would be called a
ship though she were only fifty tons.

[24] “_A Cruising Voyage Round the World_: first to the South Seas,
thence to the East Indies, and homewards by the Cape of Good Hope.
Begun in 1708 and finished in 1711. Containing a Journal of all the
Remarkable Transactions; particularly of the taking of Puna and
Guayaquil, of the Acapulco ship, and other Prizes. An Account of
Alexander Selkirk's living alone four years and four months on an
Island; and a brief Description of several Countries in our Course
noted for Trade, especially in the South Sea, etc.” By Captain Woodes
Rogers, 1712.

[25] _An Historical Account of all the Voyages Round the World_, vol.
i. 1773.

[26] But as a member of the committee he might also have claimed a
right to participate in the dangers as well as in the commercial risks
of the expedition.

[27] In _A Voyage to the South Sea trade, and round the World_.
“Wherein an Account is given of Mr. Alexander Selkirk, his manner of
Living, and taming some Wild Beasts, during the four years and four
months he lived upon the uninhabited Island of Juan Fernandez,” 1712.

[28] The Englishman afterwards joined the privateersmen, and told them
this story.

[29] In speaking of the English buccaneers it is necessary to
distinguish them from the pirates pure and simple, such as Morgan,
Teach, and the other beauties whose lives are given in Captain Charles
Johnson's delectable volumes.

[30] Moreover, there was a number of pirates on board with their booty,
for the preservation of which, we may take it, they intended to fight
hard.

[31] _A Voyage Round the World_, by Captain George Shelvocke, p. 38.
The “certain gentleman” was probably Captain Dover.

[32] Since this was written I have been reminded of the discovery of
Dampier's will at Somerset House many years ago. This proves him to
have died in Coleman Street, in the parish of St. Stephen, London,
early in March 1714-15. The bulk of his property was left to his cousin
Grace Mercer, spinster, of London, and the remainder to his brother
George. His wife is not mentioned, nor the value of the property. See
an article by Admiral Smyth in the _United Service Journal_, 1837,
and _The Dictionary of National Biography_, vol. xiv. Art. “Dampier,”
which, I may perhaps add, was not published till some time after my
volume had passed through the press.

[33] The former writer observes with great justice: “We are perhaps
too much accustomed to rely on our instruments nowadays, and we
neglect those signs which must after all have been the barometers and
simpiesometers of Drake, Cavendish, Dampier, and all our daring band of
naval and commercial navigators up to the end of the last century, and
still are so for our hardy fishermen and coasters.” _The Sailor's Horn
Book_, p. 240, 1851.

[34] Captain William Snelgrave, in his _A New Account of Guinea and
the Slave-Trade_, 1754, paints a lively picture of the behaviour and
conversation of privateersmen. “I took leave of the Captain and got
into my Hammock, tho' I could not sleep in my melancholy Circumstances.
Moreover the execrable Oaths and Blasphemies I heard among the Ship's
Company shock'd me to such a degree, that in Hell itself I thought
there could not be worse; for tho' many seafaring men are given to
swearing and taking God's Name in vain, yet I could not have imagined
human Nature could ever so far degenerate, as to talk in the manner
those abandoned wretches did.” P. 217.



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  ┌───────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────┐
  │ Transcriber's note:                                               │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.      │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant  │
  │ form was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.     │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.             │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Footnotes were moved to the end of the book and numbered in one   │
  │ continuous sequence.                                              │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Other correction:                                                 │
  │ p. 20: 1776 changed to 1676. (... and sailed about the middle of  │
  │ February 1676.)                                                   │
  └───────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────┘





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