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Title: The Armed Ship America - or, When We Sailed From Salem
Author: Otis, James
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Armed Ship America - or, When We Sailed From Salem" ***

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                        THE ARMED SHIP AMERICA

                       WHEN WE SAILED FROM SALEM


                          ARMED SHIP AMERICA
                       WHEN WE SAILED FROM SALEM

                              JAMES OTIS

                               AUTHOR OF
                     FORT SCHUYLER,” “JENNY WREN’S
                         BOARDING-HOUSE,” ETC.

                            Illustrated by
                             J. W. KENNEDY


                         DANA ESTES & COMPANY

                           _Copyright, 1900_
                        BY DANA ESTES & COMPANY

                            Colonial Press:
            Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
                        Boston, Mass., U. S. A.

“In the United States every possible encouragement should be given to
privateering in time of war with a commercial nation. We have tens
of thousands of seamen that without it would be destitute of the
means of support, and useless to their country. Our national ships
are too few in number to give employment to one-twentieth part of
them, or retaliate the acts of the enemy. By licensing private-armed
vessels, the whole naval force of the nation is truly brought to
bear on the foe; and while the contest lasts, that it may have the
speedier termination, let every individual contribute his mite, in the
best way he can, to distress and harass the enemy, and compel him to
peace.”--_From a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, July 4, 1812._


A package of manuscript, the pages of which had evidently been cut from
an old ledger or journal, each leaf yellowed by time and worn as if
with much use, lately came into the possession of him who, rightfully
or wrongfully, claims to be the author of the yarn spun between these
covers. Both sides of the paper were covered with writing in a boyish
hand, and much of the subject matter related to private affairs such
as could be of no especial interest to the general reader. All that
had reference to the cruise of the private-armed ship _America_, and
the doings of the writer, Nathan Crowninshield, and his comrade, Simon
Ropes, has been preserved herein. It is set down very nearly as it
was written eighty years ago, by the lad from Salem, who, at the time
of preparing the manuscript, was living on Staten Island in New York
Bay. That it is a true and faithful account of the eventful cruise, we
know full well, since the more important happenings have been verified
by documents to be found in the custom-houses at Salem, Boston, and
Portland, Maine.


 CHAPTER                              PAGE
      I. AN OPPORTUNITY                 13
     II. UNDER WAY                      28
    III. OMENS                          43
     IV. GHOSTS                         59
      V. THE PRISONERS                  74
     VI. A STERN CHASE                  89
    VII. A LIVELY SCRIMMAGE            105
     IX. THE OUTBREAK                  134



      WAY TO THE HEAD OF THE DOCK.”                   _Frontispiece_

      BOTH SIMON AND ME.”                                        30

      SCHOOL,’ THE CAPTAIN SAID.”                                46

      HATCHWAY, A WHITE MASS.”                                   62

      ONE OF YOU THIS NOON.’”                                    87

 “WHAT A CHEER WENT UP FROM OUR MEN.”                           131

 “WE DIVIDED OURSELVES INTO TWO WATCHES.”                       135

      FOUND ITS WAY THROUGH MY BODY.”                           140




It is not my intention to claim that Simon Ropes, son of that famous
mariner, Captain Joseph Ropes, or myself, Nathan Crowninshield, nephew
and cousin of the well-known Salem firm of ship-owners, the Messrs.
George Crowninshield and Sons, bore any important part in the war
between the United States and Great Britain which was begun in the
year 1812; but that we two lads did all which might be expected from
youngsters of our age is a fact that can be proven by more than one
sailing-master or seaman hailing from the Massachusetts coast.

It is near to eight years since Simon Ropes and I signed articles for a
cruise on board the private-armed ship _America_.

Then Simon, who was the elder, had just turned fifteen years, and I was
three months his junior.

Why we were allowed to ship on board such a famous craft as the
_America_, should be set down first in this tale, which I am writing
simply in order that, after we have grown to be old men, it may be
possible for us to recall more minutely the events in which we bore
some little share than if we trusted solely to memory.

If, perchance, this poor attempt at what a clerkly mind might fashion
into a most entertaining story should at any time come into the
possession of others, it is well that I repeat why it has been written,
lest strangers think I did it simply for the self-glorification of
Simon and myself, instead of which the tale has been preserved, if it
so chance it be preserved any length of time, for the purpose of making
public the doings of all on board that armed ship hailing from Salem,
which wrought so much injury to British shipping.

The _America_ was built in Salem, in 1804, and should have been given
some other name because of the fact that many have since believed her
to be the same craft which made a cruise in 1802, when the United
States was at war with France.

Our ship was Salem built, of three hundred and fifty tons burthen,
carrying twenty guns, and with a complement of from one hundred and
fifty to one hundred and seventy-five men.

She was then, and I believe of a verity is now, the fastest ship
afloat, being credited with having brought into port, during this last
war, one million, one hundred thousand dollars’ worth of property; with
having destroyed nearly as much more, and netting her owners, between
September of 1812 and April, 1815, six hundred thousand dollars.

She is owned by the Messrs. George Crowninshield and Sons, the senior
member of which firm is my uncle, a whole-souled, generous man, as
all who know him can testify, and none better than myself; for from
the time my father, Captain Benjamin Crowninshield, died, which was
in 1810, Uncle George cared for the widow and son of his brother more
tenderly than the majority of men care for their own.

It was in August of the year 1812 when the _America_ was overhauled and
made ready for a privateering cruise. Previous to that time she had
been in the merchant service, and earned for herself much credit, it
being stated by those who sailed her that there was nothing afloat to
which she could not show her heels.

When the people of the United States had finally discovered that
patience ceased to be a virtue, that the time was arrived when we
as a nation should protect our own seamen against Great Britain’s
press-gangs, my uncle and cousins decided that the good ship _America_
should take part in the struggle, by teaching the Britishers a much
needed lesson at the same time that she brought in many dollars to her

Captain Joseph Ropes, Simon’s father, was allowed to be the most
skilful navigator and the ablest sailing-master in the United States.

In view of what has been done since then by privateersmen from
Portland and Baltimore, it would seem as if that which has just been
set down is a rash statement, and yet must I hold to it, for when the
war broke out Captain Joseph could have commanded any vessel, outside
the navy, which struck his fancy.

We of Salem believed, and this belief was afterward proven to be
correct, that the _America_ was by long odds the finest craft of her
kind afloat, and therefore the people along the Massachusetts coast
took it for granted that she would be commanded by Captain Ropes.

The ship was well worthy such a master, and certain it was she would
never come to grief through any carelessness or misjudgment of his.

Therefore, when it was announced that Captain Ropes would sail the
_America_, no one in or around Salem expressed surprise, or even
intimated that a better choice could have been made.

While the ship was being fitted for sea, Simon and I, as may be
supposed, were constantly on board of her, watching the men as they
put in place the twenty formidable-looking guns, and listening to the
yarns told by old Joshua Seabury, who had, during the war with Tripoli,
proven himself as good a gunner as he was seaman, than which no greater
praise could be bestowed.

“Master Josh,” we lads designated him, and very careful were we to tack
on the “Master” since the day he flogged Daniel Kelley with a rope’s
end, for daring to call him “Josh.”

A good friend to Simon and me was the gunner, and, before he had been
given the charge of superintending the arming of the _America_, he
spent much time with us two lads, spinning yarns of his adventures with
the Tripolitan pirates.

There was not another lad in Salem allowed to come over the rail of
the _America_ while Master Josh was aboard, and even though one of us
was the nephew of the owner, and the other the son of the captain,
we two would have been denied the privilege but for the fact of our
friendliness with the old gunner.

We little dreamed, during the early days of the war, that through the
old man’s friendship we would become members of the famous ship’s crew,
for where there were so many eager to sign articles it did not seem
likely Captain Ropes would lumber his craft with green lads.

From the first hour the work of arming the ship was begun, Simon and I
watched keenly every portion of the work, and I question if a single
block was put in place, if the smallest rope or hawser was stretched,
without our knowledge. When Master Josh desired to send word ashore,
either Simon or I was selected as the messenger. In case any trifling
task within our power was to be performed, the old sailor called upon
us for assistance, as if we were in duty bound to render it, and
right proud were we of such distinction, for it was a distinction
to be ordered here or there by a man who had fought the Tripolitan
pirates,--a man who had borne his share in the destruction of the
_Philadelphia_ when she lay beneath the guns of Tripoli.

Well, this condition of affairs, so far as we two lads were concerned,
went on throughout the month of August, and until the ship was so
far in readiness for the cruise that the water and provisions were
being put on board. Then Simon and I were literally astounded by a
proposition which the old gunner made as if it was the natural outcome
of events.

We two lads were lounging around the gun-deck after the day’s work had
come to a close. Master Josh was seated on a small-arms-chest smoking
his pipe and enjoying a well-earned rest before turning in.

Simon, believing we had earned the right to hear a yarn from the old
gunner, began leading up to the subject by asking questions concerning
the destruction of the _Philadelphia_, knowing full well that once we
could get Master Josh warmed up to the affair, he would hold to it so
long as we might be able to listen.

On this night the scheme was not a success, much to our disappointment.
He answered Simon’s questions curtly, while his mind seemed to be far
away from that which he ordinarily was only too willing to hold forth
on, and I was beginning to feel as if we had been in a certain measure
defrauded of our rights, when Master Josh said suddenly, startling me
almost out of my wits by the boldness of the idea:

“Are you two lads countin’ on shippin’ aboard this ’ere craft?”

“Do you mean Nathan and me?” Simon asked, in astonishment.

“Ay, lad, and why not ‘Nathan and me’?”

“Why not?” Simon repeated. “Do you allow that my father would take
on two boys, when able seamen are tumbling over each other in their
eagerness to ship aboard the _America_?”

“Well, what of that?” and the old man puffed vigorously at his pipe.

“I reckon we would stand little chance against those who are begging
Captain Ropes for permission to ship aboard this craft,” I said, and
for the hundredth time there came into my heart the thought that, if
we might be allowed to join the crew, it was possible we could show
ourselves worthy the great honour; but yet I realised how hopeless was
such an ambition.

“How old was your father when he first went to sea?” Master Josh asked
of Simon.

“Nearly three years younger than I am now.”

“An’ I allow some captain gave him a chance, else he never’d earned the
name he’s made.”

“That goes without saying,” Simon replied, as if in bewilderment, for
he failed to understand what the old man was driving at.

“Then it stands to reason he should do as good a service for his own
son; an’ if George Crowninshield can’t serve his nephew a friendly turn
at a time when everything is to be gained, things have come to a pretty

Simon and I stared at the old man in silence, for it seemed much as if
he had taken leave of his senses.

From the moment it was known that the _America_ would be armed as a
privateer, the ablest seamen from far and near were coming into Salem
with the hope of being allowed to ship on board her, and one could not
walk the length of the town without hearing on this corner or on that
speculations as to who would be the lucky men when the articles were
ready for the signing.

The old gunner smoked on, as if the subject had come to an end so far
as he was concerned, and, the hope which had been so often in my heart
growing stronger, I ventured to ask, but with a certain hesitation as
if I were simply proving my folly:

“Do you suppose, Master Josh, that it would be of any use for Simon and
me to beg of Captain Ropes or Uncle George that we be allowed to go on
this cruise?”

“Do you suppose, Nathan Crowninshield, that Captain Ropes or Uncle
George would get down on their knees an’ beg you two to come on this
’ere cruise, if it so be you never let on that you was achin’ for the
chance?” Master Josh asked, mockingly.

I caught at the words eagerly, believing, as I afterward came to know
was the truth, that in them lay a suggestion to us.

The old man had no mind to openly advise us lads to apply for a berth
aboard the _America_, but would have been well pleased for us to do so.

Instead of continuing the conversation, Master Josh smothered the fire
in the bowl of his pipe with his thumb, and, without giving further
heed to us, walked forward, leaving Simon and me staring at each other
as we tried to put into shape the thoughts aroused by his words, which
were forming themselves in our minds.

How long we sat there gazing at each other like a couple of stupids I
know not, but after a certain time it flashed across me that we were
showing ourselves dull indeed by not following the advice contained in
the old man’s words, and moving closely to Simon, as if fearing some
one might overhear and make sport of us for having such high and mighty
notions, I whispered:

“Surely it can do no harm if we apply for berths on board this ship?”

“Are you so puffed up as to believe that we might be allowed to sign
articles?” Simon asked, in a scornful tone, and, now grown bold because
of increased hope, I said, as if having weighed well the matter,
although of a verity it had come only with Master Josh’s speech:

“There’s an old saying, that if nothing be ventured nothing can be
gained, and surely we shall be in no serious condition if your father
and my uncle refuse permission for us to become members of the crew.”

“We are like to gain their laughter and scorn; but nothing more,” Simon

“Well, and surely that is not so serious a matter. In these times two
men will hardly give many hours to making sport of a couple of lads,
and, as Master Josh has said, they will never ask us to join the crew
unless we show a desire.”

“I am not of the mind to make such a simple of myself,” Simon replied,
doggedly; whereat, nettled by his words, I said, bravely:

“If you but come with me I will do the talking, and afterward, if it so
be your pleasure, you may deny that there was in your mind any idea we
might be taken on.”

He looked at me for a moment as if questioning whether I was in my
right mind, and then said, in the tone of one who would drive a sharp

“If you make the request known this night, Nathan Crowninshield, I will
stand by your side while the words are spoken, and take upon myself
such blame as may follow; but it must be done before we go to bed, for
I’ll not try to sleep while there’s any prospect of such a possibility.”

“By those words you are admitting there is a chance that we be allowed
to ship.”

“Perhaps so.”

“Then come with me, and we’ll have the matter settled at once. I am
ready to do even more than make a simple request, on the possibility
that we might leave port on board this ship.”

“My father was to be in your uncle’s counting-room to-night, so I heard
him tell mother, and if your courage holds good, we two may be laughed
at by all the clerks in the Crowninshields’ office before an hour has

Simon could have pursued no wiser course, had he wished to urge me on
to such a step; for by his tone I understood him to intimate that I was
afraid to make the attempt, and without further parley I cried:

“Follow me, unless it so be you are afraid! I count on asking
permission from the captain and owner of this ship to sail in her, when
she goes forth to work destruction upon British craft.”

Then, perhaps, fearing lest the courage should ooze out at my fingers’
ends, I went rapidly on deck, over the rail, and headed straight for
the office of the owners.

Under almost any other circumstances I would not have dared to enter
that portion of the counting-room where my Uncle George transacted the
more private business of the concern; but at this time I was made bold
by desperation, knowing full well that a delay of five minutes or more
might serve to shake the resolution I had formed.

My Uncle George and Captain Ropes were holding what I could well fancy
was a private consultation on matters concerning the ship, and both
looked up in surprise, not unmixed with anger, when we two lads stood
before them.

I knew from the expression on my uncle’s face that it was in his mind
to say something harsh concerning our intrusion; and, feeling as if I
had destroyed what little chance we might have had by such a display of
rudeness, I blurted out the request which was formed in my mind, before
either of the gentlemen had time to speak.

“We have come to ask that we be allowed to ship on board the _America_,
and do so because of certain words just let fall by Master Josh,” I
said, using every effort to speak distinctly, and at the same time
rapidly. “My excuse for thus venturing here unbidden is that I dared
not wait longer lest I lack the courage to make the request.”

“What has Joshua Seabury been saying to you?” my uncle asked, sharply.
“Why should he above all others think that two boys may be allowed to
call themselves members of an armed ship’s crew?”

Being thus called upon to defend myself, as it were, I repeated in
substance the few words the old man had spoken, laying considerable
stress upon the fact that Captain Ropes was three years younger than
Simon and me when he first went to sea, and urging that, if Master Josh
would take us under his tuition, we should beyond a question pay our
footing, even though we might not earn the smallest wages.

Because of the fear--I might almost say the belief, that our request
would be treated with disdain, and thinking another opportunity to make
our wishes known might not present itself, I succeeded in stating our
case fairly well, as I believed.

Before having concluded with all the arguments which presented
themselves to my mind, I saw Captain Ropes look at his son in a
friendly fashion, and then glance inquiringly at my uncle, whereat the
latter, observing the mute question, answered:

“Two lads like those would simply be so much useless lumber aboard the
ship, eh, captain?”

My heart sank at what I believed was the beginning of a refusal; but
rose very suddenly when Simon’s father replied, with an air which told
that he considered our request in a certain degree important:

“Unless we count on setting some of the men to do boy’s duty, we are
like to need a few lads, Master Crowninshield.”

“Ay; but you want such as have had some experience.”

“If old Joshua Seabury cares to take these two lads under his wing,
I’ll answer for it they will be experienced before we get well settled
down to our work,” the captain replied, grimly, and Simon furtively
kicked me, as if to say that fortune was smiling upon us.

“I question much if your mother would give her permission for you to
join the _America’s_ crew, Nathan,” my uncle said, after a brief pause.

“She is willing, sir, that I become a sailor, as was my father before
me, and surely could not refuse her permission if I should have such
opportunity of serving an apprenticeship as would come under the
command of a sailor like Captain Ropes.”

“You have turned that nicely, my lad,” Simon’s father said, with a
chuckle, “and if it so be Master Crowninshield is willing to trust you
aboard the _America_, my boy shall go, too; but I give you both fair
warning that you will be treated the same as any lads whom I had never

“We ask for nothing more than that, sir,” Simon said, quickly, and I
understood, although the formal permission had not really been given,
that we two boys were favoured far above many able seamen of Salem,
inasmuch as we would leave port on board the staunchest and swiftest
privateer afloat.

Well, not to make too many words of what is in fact a short story, it
is enough for me to say that, when Simon Ropes and I went to bed that
night, it was with the knowledge that on the following morning we might
present ourselves to the old gunner as lads belonging to the _America_,
under his charge.

It is true my mother wept some while I gleefully told her of the good
fortune which was mine; but never a word did she speak against the
project, for again and again had we talked of the day when I should set
off to follow in my father’s footsteps.

She must have realised that in a lifetime I might never hope to have
such an opportunity of becoming a sailor as now presented itself,
and while I doubt not that her heart trembled as she thought of our
engaging in a regular battle, no remonstrance was made against it.

Simon Ropes and I did not give words to the exultation both felt, when
we parted for the night.

Already had we begun to realise the responsibilities which would be
ours. Even now we understood somewhat of the sorrow that must come when
we parted with our mothers, and had a vague idea that when we left
Salem it might be never to return.

Therefore it was we gave token of our joy only by a silent clasp of the

I am not ashamed to set it down that my pillow was wet with tears that
night, as I lay thinking of the many days which must pass before I
should see my home again, if indeed I ever did, and I dwelt much longer
on my mother’s grief and my own loneliness, when we should be parted,
than on the glory which might be mine in case I lived to be clasped in
her loving arms again.



Although there was no possibility the _America_ could leave port within
ten days, under the most favourable circumstances, Simon Ropes and I
presented ourselves on board next morning before the sun had risen, as
if fearing the privateer might get under way while we were making ready.

Having counted on surprising Master Josh by announcing that we were
to sign articles as members of the crew whenever the papers were made
ready, we were disappointed.

I believe the old man had been firmly convinced that Simon’s father and
my uncle would allow us to ship, once the desire was made known, for he
treated our coming as a matter of course, and, to our great surprise,
ceased from that moment to be the friendly friend we had ever known him.

Instead of asking if we would kindly do this or that, or explaining
that it would be to our advantage if we learned to make such a splice
or tie a particular knot, he drove us to work like slaves, and one
would have fancied that we met him for the first time on that morning.

Having partaken of a scanty breakfast, owing to our eagerness to be
on board the ship at an early hour, it was by no means pleasant to
run here or there at the old gunner’s call, or, when one was doing
his best, to be sharply reprimanded because he had not succeeded in
accomplishing more.

In fact, the change in his manner was so decided and disagreeable that
I came to believe something had gone wrong over night, and took counsel
with Simon concerning it.

The result of our conference was that we made up our minds to demand an
explanation from Master Josh, and without delay.

We were ready to obey him while he spoke us in friendly fashion, but
when it came to being ordered about as if we were hardly better than
the dirt beneath his feet, we were disposed to raise forcible and
emphatic objections.

Simon insisted that I should be the one to demand an explanation,
promising to stand close behind me meanwhile, thus showing that he was
in full accord with all I said, and without delay we sought out the old

At the time he chanced to be working upon Number One gun, on the
starboard side, and although it is certain he saw us approaching, never
so much as a sign of consciousness did he give.

This seeming indifference nettled me quite as much as had his suddenly
assumed tone of command, and I broke out hotly, asking why it was that
he took unto himself so many high and mighty airs without due cause, so
far as we could understand.

The old man ceased his work very suddenly when I began to speak, and,
before having come to the end of the reproaches, I believed of a verity
he was minded to raise his hand against me.

He evidently thought better of it, however, for when I was come to an
end of words, the old gunner straightened himself up, surveying both
Simon and me from head to foot, after which he asked, in what sounded
very much like a jeering tone:


“Did I understand you two lads aright this morning, when it was allowed
that you’d the same as shipped aboard the _America_?”

“Of course you did,” I said, quickly, not realising what turn he was
giving to the situation. “There could have been no mistake when we said
that permission had been given us, both by Captain Ropes and my Uncle

“Then it is allowed that you are the same as members of the crew, eh?”

“How else can it be?”

“That was the way I understood it, and now hark ye, lads. Is it in your
mind that boys aboard ship are to be dandled an’ petted? Have you got
the idee that every man Jack of us must take off his hat ’cause one of
you happens to be son of the captain, an’ the other a nephew of the

I looked at Simon, not knowing what reply to make to such a question,
and he gazed at me in mute astonishment.

“You may as well make up your minds as to what you count on bein’
aboard this ship, ’cause the matter’s got to be settled mighty
soon,” the old gunner said, solemnly. “I took it for granted that you
was rated as boys; but if it so be you’re reckonin’ on makin’ the
cruise for pleasure, an’ settin’ yourselves above the others with high
an’ lofty airs ’cause of your relationship, why, then, we’ll have a
plain understandin’ from the start. It ain’t allowed that passengers
may mosey ’round here for’ard,--leastways it never has been on any ship
I was aboard of; so you’ll excuse me for takin’ the liberty of settin’
you about a sailorman’s duties, otherwise I’ll call the crew of the
captain’s gig to escort you into the cabin, where you seem to belong.”

The old man tugged at the lock of hair over his forehead, as he scraped
with one foot, in what he believed to be the proper kind of a bow, and
started aft as if to carry out his threat.

Now, although I had never been to sea, I knew enough of a sailorman’s
life to understand that if the remainder of the crew got the slightest
inkling of what had just happened, our lives would be far from pleasant
during the cruise; therefore, I checked him by clutching at his arm,
imploringly, as I cried:

“We were in the wrong when we complained, Master Josh. Surely you have
known us long enough to believe that we no more intend to shirk our
duties than to play the part of passengers. It was because you had
changed so completely that we came to you with the questions in our

“Accordin’ to your talk, it seems that you understand the matter
without my goin’ into very many explanations,” the old man said, grimly.

“What you have said is the same as an explanation, sir,” Simon meekly
replied. “If you will please set us about some task we’ll agree never
to raise another question, however changed your manner may be.”

“Well, I allow it’s jest as well if we let it drop at that,” the old
gunner said, thoughtfully, “an’ for the sake of your peace of mind in
the future, I’d have you youngsters understand that, once we’re under
way, you will be expected to do such work as is given to boys, without
turnin’ rusty in case one of us don’t happen to handle you with gloves
on. Sailorin’ is a serious business, but nothin’ as compared with
privateerin’. On a cruise like the one we’re countin’ to make, it’s a
matter of jumpin’ to orders from the youngest to the oldest, an’ no
back talk. I had the idee that you was to be took under my wing, so to

“Have you seen Simon’s father or my uncle?” I asked, quickly, now
beginning to understand why the old man had turned about so suddenly in
his behaviour.

“It may be I had a bit of a chin with one or the other of ’em last

“And you were told to jump down on us the first thing, this morning, so
that we might know our stations without being allowed time in which to
make fools of ourselves?”

“I can’t rightly say it was exactly as you put it, lad. I was given to
understand that it depended on me to make sailormen out of you, if it
so be there was stuff enough of the kind inside your young skins, an’
such bein’ the case, from this out there will be no explanations made.
When things don’t go to suit you, I’m allowin’ you’d best swallow ’em,
or take the chances of knowin’ how heavy the rope’s end is when it’s
laid on a lad’s back in proper fashion. Now then, if you’ve had enough
of this cacklin’, get to work, an’ see to it you stick at the job, for
there’ll be no sodgerin’ aboard this ship either by young or old, that
you can depend on.”

It can well be understood that from this moment we held our peace
whether affairs were to our liking or not, and, also, that we never
again presumed upon the friendliness which the old gunner had
previously displayed; but buckled with a will to whatever task we were
set at.

Before this day came to an end both of us realised fully that we were
no more than any other two boys who might have been allowed to ship
aboard the privateer, and that no favours were to be shown because of
relationship either to the captain or owner.

Now, it is not my purpose to set down here anything more than may be
necessary to a thorough understanding of what Simon Ropes and I did and
saw while we were aboard the _America_, and because there was nothing
of interest in the fitting out of the ship I count on passing over all
which occurred from the day we were taught our true station among the
crew of the ship, until she was gotten under way, at half-past eleven
o’clock on the morning of Monday, September 7th, in the year of grace

I do not reckon on making mention of the parting with my mother.

It was far too sad a scene to be described in written words, and
too sacred, according to my way of thinking, to be held up for the
amusement or derision of youngsters.

It is enough if I say that when I went on board, less than an hour
before the ship was gotten under way, my eyes were red and swollen with
much weeping, and I met Simon Ropes, who looked as if his experience
had been much the same as mine.

There was no need of words between us. Each understood what was in the
other’s heart, and at that moment, if it could have been done without
holding ourselves up to the scorn of our acquaintances, I believe of
a verity both of us would have fled from the ship, even though we had
formally signed the articles, and, therefore, would be looked upon as
deserters if we went on shore without permission.

For my part, I know that never before nor since has my heart been as
heavy as on that September morning when I made my way through the
throng of men, women, and children that lined the shore, to the boat
which was in waiting to carry me on board.

My schoolmates would have gathered around me, envious of what they were
pleased to term my good fortune. At another time their words would have
been like sweetest music in my ears; but on this morning it was as if
they mocked me, so bowed down was I by the grief born of that first
parting, and I refused to hold any converse with them, thereby laying
myself open to the charge of being “stuck up.”

I said to myself that, had I realised what it might cost a lad to leave
his mother,--the best friend he can ever know in this world,--not all
the glory nor the money that could be gained during the most successful
privateering cruise would have tempted me to bring so much of grief
upon her.

However, I had shipped as a boy aboard the _America_. There was never
a lad of my acquaintance in town who had not been made aware of this
fact, and the shame of being called a coward prevented me from doing
that which I most desired.

Simon and I were aboard the same boat, but neither spoke during the
short passage from the shore to the ship.

When we came over the rail the old gunner was standing near by and my
heart warmed toward him as never before, because of the words which he
spoke at that sad time:

“Find something with which to keep yourselves busy, lads,” he said, in
a most friendly tone. “Having been through with this kind of business
myself, I’ve got a pretty good idee of how you’re feelin’, an’ there’s
nothin’ better calculated to make you worse than idleness. Hard work
an’ plenty of it is what will do you a power of good for the next four
an’ twenty hours.”

And hard work we got.

It was as if Master Josh racked his brains to set us task after task in
rapid succession, one coming upon the heels of the other so rapidly
that we absolutely had no time for thought, and afterward I understood
how wholesome was his medicine.

As I have said, the shore was lined with people waiting for the
_America_ to get under way, and when finally the anchor was tripped, a
shout went up from the throng which thrilled our hearts, and caused me
for an instant to forget that in the town was a woman weeping,--a woman
who loved me dearly, as I did her.

Well, we were off at last, and the first and worst wrench caused by the
breaking of home ties was over, so far as I was concerned, save that it
left my heart sore and bruised.

By noon we were off Baker’s Island heading due southeast, and I
realised that the voyage was really begun, when the good ship rose and
fell upon the ocean swell with a motion well calculated to upset the
stomach of a landsman.

Simon Ropes and I considered ourselves fairly good sailormen, and yet,
before night came, we were paying the same penalty, and in quite as
severe a form, as the veriest landsman who ever ventured outside the

This sickness was, in a certain degree, a benefit, since it caused
us to forget the loneliness which had come upon us with the parting,
and not until eight and forty hours had passed did we venture to show
ourselves above the gun-deck.

Once in the open air, after our long sojourn below, it was as if we had
suddenly emerged upon a scene of warfare.

The ship was under easy canvas, and needed but little conning. Both
watches were on deck, and the third officer, Mr. Tibbetts, was
instructing the crew in the use of small arms, Captain Ropes and the
remainder of his officers acting as spectators, but taking a hand, now
and then, in the lessons.

I may as well say here that, from this time forth, whenever the weather
permitted, and there were no important tasks to be performed, the men
spent their time working the great guns, or drilling with small arms,
and such practice never came to an end throughout the cruise, however
expert we grew to be.

No one gave any heed to Simon and me, until Master Josh chanced to
espy us, and then, although we were feeling far from well, it became
necessary for us to join in the drill.

We left port at noon on Monday, and had not attempted to get out of our
hammocks until Wednesday was well-nigh spent.

By the time supper was served, however, we were quite ready for the
food, thanks to the labour performed, although it was dished up in
anything rather than a palatable fashion, as compared with what we had
been accustomed to in our homes.

I was not a weak-stomached lad; but sitting around a mess-kid, filled
with greasy-looking stuff, which was given the name of hash, and taking
my share with half a dozen tarry-handed sailors, who were neither
careful of their person nor their language, drinking, if one drank at
all, the odd-looking stuff which was called tea, would have destroyed
the appetite that had come upon me, save for the fact that I had fasted
so long.

Before a week passed, however, Simon and I were equal to the emergency,
and in good condition to get our full share of whatsoever was served,
save when it came to the allotment of rum, of which each man had half
a pint poured into his pannikin, twice a day, and at this our stomachs
rebelled. We never could bring ourselves to drink it, but traded the
stuff for whatsoever our messmates chose to offer in exchange.

Until Thursday night we had such weather as would delight fresh-water
sailors, with, perhaps, a trifle overmuch wind, in the opinion of
landsmen, and then came our first experience of a storm at sea, when
the ship rose and fell, seeming now to throw herself against the great
walls of water, or again rolling until it was as if she lay completely
on her beam ends.

The howling of the wind, the rattle of cordage, the groaning of
timbers, and the shrieking of the waters when they leaped inboard,
as if eager to overwhelm us, was sufficient to terrify all save the
stoutest-hearted, and yet, after a time, even before the gale was at
its height, Simon and I came to take it all quite calmly. By observing
those around us, we could see that there was not even the shadow of a
fear in the hearts of any, because all knew full well the strength and
staunchness of the ship, and to them the gale was a friendly one, since
it carried them more swiftly in the desired direction.

Since Master Josh had taken us under his wing, we were assigned to the
same watch with him, and although, where the crew was so large, there
was absolutely nothing for boys to do, the old man never allowed us to
shirk our duties in this respect.

We were forced to remain on deck, exactly as if the welfare of the ship
depended upon our being there, and no exception was made during this
first storm.

“You may as well take all that comes to a sailorman’s lot, lads,”
Master Josh said, when we were ordered to the spar-deck, on the morning
after the storm had burst upon us, while the ship was tumbling,
plunging, and pitching at such a rate that the most experienced of the
crew were forced to clutch at this thing or that, in order to make
their way forward or aft. “If you get in the habit of stayin’ below,
just ’cause there happens to be a little breeze, your chances of ever
bein’ rated as able seamen will be small.”

We literally clawed our way up on the spar-deck, Simon shouting in my
ear, for the din was so great that only by the severest exertions could
he make himself heard:

“If this is what Master Josh calls a ‘breeze,’ I hope we may never be
afloat in one of his gales.”

Our coming on deck was needless, since no one called upon us for any
service, and we would have been unable to perform the slightest task
even had it been required.

We took up our stations near the foremast, where we might the better
hold ourselves steady, and there remained, knowing full well that we
were not adding to our store of knowledge in the slightest degree.

So far as making sailormen of ourselves was concerned, we might just as
well have remained in the hammocks on the gun-deck, and it would have
been vastly more comfortable, for we were wet to the skin within five
minutes after having come above.

Save for the fact that the men went about their duties unconcernedly,
with no show of alarm, and behaving much as if this sort of weather was
not only to be expected but pleasing, I should have believed the ship
was in the greatest danger, and in truth it was many minutes before I
could look up at the waves, which now and then towered far above us,
without feeling positive that death was very near at hand.

After a time, however, we became in a certain degree accustomed to the
tumult, and found it possible to watch what was going on around us with
some degree of intelligence.

I noticed with mild curiosity that five men were on the maintopmast,
and wondered whether it was their purpose to snug down the canvas, or
if the captain had it in his mind to show more sail to the howling wind.

They were so nearly above me that I could not clearly observe their
movements, and while I stood gazing at them, rather because I had
nothing else with which to occupy my mind than that their movements
particularly interested me, a sharper gust of wind than we had so far
felt came swooping down upon us, causing the ship to lay over until her
yard-arm ploughed off the tops of the white-capped billows.

The little company aloft continued at their task as if there was
nothing in the situation to cause alarm, and slowly, inch by inch as
it were, the gallant craft came up nearly to an even keel, only to be
whirled back once more by what was like unto a cloud of wind, and then
was mingled with the shrieking and howling and hissing the sound as of
splintering wood.

Even as I gazed the spar was carried away, the heavy ropes snapping
like whip-cords under a tremendous strain.

It was as if my heart stood still, and breath failed me when those five
brave fellows, one of whom lived in Salem within a stone’s throw of
my mother’s dwelling, were engulfed in that angry sea, upon which it
seemed as if no craft smaller than our ship could possibly live.

Fortunately, others beside myself had seen the disaster, and then,
although I did not realise it at just that moment, we came to
understand of how much advantage was the constant drill and practice to
which the men had been subjected since the hour of leaving port.

Captain Ropes chanced to be on deck at the fatal instant, and there was
no more of confusion or apparent excitement when the ship was put about
than if we had been executing some ordinary manœuvre in fair weather.

At the first cry betokening danger every man went to his station, and
the orders which came from the quarter-deck were obeyed almost as soon
as spoken, with such effect that it seemed to me as if no more than
three minutes elapsed before our course was completely changed.

I came to understand, however, that much more time had passed than I
supposed, on seeing how far away was the splintered spar to which our
shipmates were clinging, knowing full well that whatsoever of aid was
possible in such an angry tumult of waters would be given them.

But for the fact of having been on board the _America_ at this time, I
could set down a most thrilling description of what might have occurred
from the moment the spar was carried away until the half-drowned men
were brought aboard; but having been there, I am forced to say it was
all as commonplace, and the work performed as methodically, as during
the simplest manœuvre which can be imagined.

In less than half an hour our five messmates were with us once more,
and all hands were engaged in making ready a new spar.

The extra amount of labour required, and the short deviation from
our course, appeared to Simon and me to be the only result of this
accident; but when we were below once more, where we could hear the
men yarning and arguing as sailors will, I came to understand that the
mishap might work serious mischief in the future.

One and all of the crew insisted that we had begun the voyage with a
bad omen; that this breaking of a new spar when we were hardly more
than out of port, was a sign that the cruise would be a disastrous
one, more particularly since it occurred on a Friday, and the foremost
among the croakers was none other than Master Joshua Seabury, he whom
Simon Ropes and I looked up to as the ablest, bravest seaman that ever
jockeyed a yard-arm.



It was only after the gale had died away, and a new topmast had been
sent aloft, that we lads came to understand how much mischief or
trouble, whichever you choose to term it, might come of that disaster
which had terminated so happily.

Once our watch was at leisure, the men began speculating upon the
significance of what they were pleased to call an “omen,” and those
whom I had looked upon as the bravest appeared to be the most
disheartened by the mishap.

The breaking of the spar, which was doubtless brought about by some
serious defect in the timber, dismayed them, and one and all argued as
if eager to prove that the accident was but the forerunner of direst

Master Joshua looked grave as any owl while he told a yarn of a vessel
which had lost a spar while leaving port, and was never heard of
afterward, declaring solemnly that the mishap had come about solely as
a means of warning the crew not to sail in the craft.

“But if they had already left the port, how would it be possible for
the men to go back, even though the captain had been willing to stand
by and see his crew desert?” Simon asked, innocently, whereat Master
Joshua fell into a passion, because “a boy” had dared make such foolish
inquiries regarding what was as “plain as the nose on a man’s face.”

“It ain’t for the likes of you to be askin’ questions about the signs
that are sent to sailormen,” he roared, shaking his fist at the lad who
was simply trying to gain what might prove to be useful information.
“Anybody who ain’t a natural born fool knows that sich things are seen
by them as live on the ocean, an’ the pity of it is there are idjuts
what can’t take warnin’.”

“Then you’re ready to believe that this ’ere cruise won’t be a payin’
one, eh?” the captain of Number Four gun asked, seriously.

“Accordin’ to what I’ve seen in this ’ere world, I wouldn’t want to
put very many hopes on the _America’s_ ever gettin’ into the home port

After this gloomy prediction, for such it was because of the tone in
which the words had been spoken, all hands began to look down in the
mouth, and it can well be imagined that even Simon and I were feeling
far from cheerful.

Had any other member of the crew suggested such a possibility, simply
because we had carried away a topmast immediately after leaving port,
I could have laughed at him; but Joshua Seabury was, to my mind, the
ablest seaman afloat, and all he said carried great weight with it, so
far as I was concerned.

The old man lighted his pipe in a sorrowful manner, as if saying to
himself that the good ship might founder before he could finish his
smoke, and the remainder of the crew began to spin yarns regarding
signs and omens of which they had heard, until the whole boiling of
them were worked up into the most doleful frame of mind.

Had the word been passed just then that a British privateer was in
sight, I question if any undue excitement would have been shown by our
men, so positive did all appear to be that we were on the eve of some
great disaster.

At first Simon and I were disposed to laugh at these senseless
forebodings, even though Master Joshua himself had been the first to
give them words; but, later, it appeared to me as if much mischief
might befall us because the men were so bent on persuading themselves
that the carrying away of the topmast, especially on a Friday, was a
token that some more than ordinarily serious danger threatened.

It would be reasonable to suppose that every privateersman was in
danger so long as he remained afloat searching for the enemy; but to
peril which had so good a foundation, these superstitious sailors gave
no heed.

It was to them as if we had been protected until the moment after the
topmast fell, and then we were not only left to our own devices, but
given to understand that we could not escape even the ordinary dangers
of the sea.

In reading over what has just been set down, I find that I have failed
in giving a good idea of the state of mind into which every man Jack
among us had fallen.

Perhaps at the time Simon and I did not fully realise what all this
arguing, speech-making, and yarn-spinning on the subject of omens might
amount to, but we had more than an inkling when, at a late hour on the
second night after the topmast fell, while we were lounging about the
deck simply because our watch was supposed to be on duty, Captain Ropes
called for us to come aft.

Up to this moment he had given no heed whatsoever to Simon; it was as
if the lad ceased to be a relative of his the moment he came aboard
the ship as one of the crew, and I was feeling more than a trifle sore
because my comrade’s father appeared to be copying so perfectly after
Master Josh.

“I’m not asking you lads to tell tales out of school,” the captain
said, when we had followed him into the after-cabin where he had his
quarters; “but I would like to know if the men are still chewing over
the loss of the topmast.”


Simon, who had seemingly failed to observe that his father no longer
treated him as a son, at once gave a very good description of the
situation of affairs forward, and when his story was come to an end the
captain dismissed us exactly as he would have dismissed two lads whom
he had never met before; but I guessed that he was disturbed in mind
because of the foolish fears of the men.

We two lounged forward again, once we were at liberty, and I would have
spoken with Simon concerning his father’s odd behaviour, but that the
lad cut me short by saying, quite curtly:

“Before coming on board I was told plainly what might be expected,
therefore I can’t complain. My father first went to sea with an uncle,
and now he is giving me the same treatment which he then received.”

“But where would be the harm if he allowed us the run of the cabin, now
and then?” I asked, petulantly. “It would please me right well to sit
at his table once or twice in a week.”

“That you will never do while we are members of the crew,” Simon
replied, with a laugh, “and perhaps it is quite as well.”

“I’d like to know how you can figure that out?” and now I was grown
quite hot. “If my uncle was on board, I venture to say both of us would
be eating there every day in the week.”

“Which might not be to our advantage. Now the men treat us as belonging
to their mess; but if we ate in the cabin while pretending to do duty
forward, father says our lives would soon be made burdensome, and
surely he ought to know.”

To my mind the argument was a feeble one, not worthy a brave man like
Captain Ropes; but I held my peace, understanding that it could hardly
be pleasing for Simon to hear me criticise his father.

While the crew discussed the supposed ominous omen, I brooded over the
fancied injustice of the captain toward Simon and myself, and in a very
short time succeeded in believing that I was a veritable victim.

Simon Ropes displayed more sound common sense than all the remainder
of us put together, and from that time when he stood up like a man
battling against the fancies and whims of the men, with never one, not
even I who counted myself his comrade, to back him, I came to know the
lad for the hero he afterward proved himself to be when the decks were
slippery with American blood.

Within two days after the topmast had been carried away the men were
in very nearly a mutinous mood, some claiming that the _America_
should put back sufficiently long to cast off the spell of ill fortune
which had been thrown over her, and others declaring that at the first
opportunity they would desert, believing they were morally entitled to
do so in order to save their own lives.

“If it was only a case of standin’ up in a fair fight, no matter how
big might be the odds against us, I’d willingly take my chances with
the others, because I shipped for such work,” one of the younger men
of the crew said more than once in my hearing. “But this flyin’ in the
face of bad luck, with a warnin’ plain before us, is more’n I bargained

As a matter of course, his messmates should have reported him for
uttering words which were well calculated to destroy the discipline
of the ship; but it was as if nearly every man on board, save the
officers, were in much the same way of thinking.

It was not simply the carrying away of a spar which so disturbed the
crew; but, rather, the manner in which it was done, together with the
time of the accident, all of which we lads heard discussed during
nearly every hour while we were off duty.

The topmast was a new spar, and there was no apparent reason for its
breaking; the gale was not heavy enough to cause the mishap, and the
men refused to entertain the very reasonable explanation that there
had been some defect in the timber, which escaped the notice of the

Then again, the accident had occurred on the first Friday after
leaving port, and before we had sighted the sail of an enemy. Such
a combination of circumstances, so the old shellbacks declared, was
sufficient to stamp the affair as an omen of the most pronounced

The fact that all the men who had been aloft were saved, without even
so much as a scratch, was brought forward by Simon, whenever the crew
would condescend to listen to him, as a good reason why we should look
upon the matter as one of good rather than bad significance, but day by
day the mutinous talk grew louder.

The topmast had been carried away on the eleventh day of September,
and not until the twenty-third of the same month did we fall in with a
craft of any description.

The absence of vessels when we were in the track of the enemy’s
merchant-ships was, to this superstitious crew, only additional proof
that they were correct in their fancies.

The sun was just showing himself above the horizon on the day
last mentioned, when the lookout shouted what, under different
circumstances, would have been most welcome news.

A craft of some description was in sight; but so far away that it was
impossible to make out anything save what, to Simon and I, looked like
nothing more than the wing of a sea-bird outlined against the clear sky
to leeward.

Certain it is the men would have grumbled had our ship’s course not
been altered on the instant, and then, when this was done, even before
the captain knew what kind of a craft he was steering for, every man
Jack of them began making the most dismal predictions.

Now we were to learn the meaning of the omen, the men said, walking
moodily to and fro as if certain that death was very close aboard. We
would find the stranger an English frigate, at the very least, and the
cruise of the _America_ as an American vessel would come to an end
before sunset.

I believe of a verity that, had we fallen in with a Britisher who
carried no greater weight of metal than ourselves, these predictions
would have come true, so dispirited were the crew, and while we slowly
drew nearer the strange sail, Simon and I stood well forward, burning
with the most painful anxiety, fancying we were approaching some
terrible doom.

Before two hours had passed, such a lady for sailing was the ship, we
could see clearly the topsails of the chase, and the most outspoken
grumbler among us declared that she was nothing more formidable than a
British merchant-brig.

The majority of the crew began to recover their courage and their
spirits; but a few of the older shellbacks insisted that, whether the
stranger was a peaceful merchantman or a heavily armed privateer, we
were about to learn the true meaning of the omen.

And so we did learn the meaning, or, rather, that it had no meaning at
all,--at least, nothing that was to work us harm at the beginning of
the voyage.

Within an hour of noon we had overhauled and brought to the British
brig _James and Charlotte_, Lavitt, master, from Liverpool, bound for
St. John’s with a cargo of hats, dry goods, and a general assortment of

One gun had been fired to bring her to, and no more powder than the
single charge was burned in the capture of what all hands knew beyond a
peradventure was a valuable prize.

It would have pleased me well had I been allowed to board her; but
Captain Ropes was not disposed to spend any idle time when there were,
perhaps, other merchantmen to be overhauled.

Without delay a prize-crew of six, under command of Mr. Tibbetts, was
thrown on board, after which we stretched away on our course with
eleven prisoners in the hold, and the master of the captured brig
quartered aft, he having passed his word of honour to make no attempt
to communicate with the other Britishers.

The tongues of those off duty began to wag furiously once we stood away
from the brig, and now had come the time when those who argued the
strongest that we were doomed to some terrible misfortune, and among
whom was Master Josh, were forced to bear such ridicule as only a crew
of sailormen can invent.

Simon and I believed that the capture of this first prize, which was
a rich one, such as should go far toward tasselling our neckerchiefs
with dollars, would bring to an end all the mutinous talk we had been
hearing, and, during the remainder of this day, we were correct.

Next morning, however, the croakers had decided that one vessel
captured was no sign the omen was for the good rather than the bad, and
straightway began figuring how the traverse might be worked to bring
ruin upon us.

This last stage of the believers in omens was not as serious as the
first, since there were very many who contented themselves with
reckoning how much would be coming to us from the prize, in case Mr.
Tibbetts succeeded in getting her to a home port, and when one sets
dollars against old women’s whims, the odds are decidedly in favour of
the former.

Now from this time out we had so much of drill during fair weather,
that the croakers really did not have time to present their foolish
views in detail, and we two lads counted on the matter dying a natural
death; but in this we were mistaken.

Were I to set down here all we did or said while the _America_ cruised
here or there, without sighting any save a friendly sail, the words
would fill an enormous book, and, when they had been read, would amount
to nothing.

Life aboard ship, as Simon and I soon came to understand, grows very
monotonous after a certain time, and we who had nothing more exciting
than the continual drills with small arms, exercise at the great guns,
and lessons in working ship under every emergency, soon grew sick at
heart because of the lack of adventure.

It goes without saying that, during this time of comparative idleness,
Simon Ropes and I were educated into very fair sailors, as well as
privateersmen, and, before many weeks had passed, came to believe we
could hold our own with the oldest shellback on board.

Now and then Captain Ropes condescended to speak with us; but a
stranger would not have believed that my comrade was his son, or I the
nephew of the ship’s owner.

As a matter of course we two lads were thoroughly instructed as to our
duties in event of an engagement, and day after day did we serve the
gunners with ammunition, which it was necessary we should carry back to
the magazine when the drill was at an end.

When the days lengthened into weeks after the capture of our first
prize, and we came across nothing flying the British flag, the croakers
sprang up very strong once more, and during our watch below we heard
so much about omens and signs that I literally turned sick at heart
whenever I came across a group who were harping on the loss of a new
topmast on the first Friday after leaving port.

The prisoners must have had a sorry time of it; they were kept in the
hold, except two hours each day when they came up for fresh air and
exercise, and I dare venture to say that they longed as heartily as
did our crew that another capture might be made, because then their
chances of being sent ashore would be so much the greater.

Simon and I saw but little of these unfortunates, for the very good
reason that we kept out of their way so far as possible.

It was by no means pleasant to watch the poor fellows when they came
on deck eager and thirsty for a breath of sweet air, and we made it
our business to be engaged in some other part of the ship while they
were pacing to and fro on deck, guarded by eight or ten men with loaded
muskets in their hands.

During all this long, weary time of watching, hoping, and predicting
evil, we came to know what a gallant craft was ours.

There was ample opportunity to test her sailing qualities under every
condition of weather, and never a man on board who did not come to
believe she could overhaul or show her heels to anything afloat.

We skirted along the coast of Portugal, passing the island of St.
Michael on the fifth of October, and yet not until a full month later,
that is to say, on the sixth day of November, did we sight another
craft flying the cross of St. George.

During all this time our croakers had kept their tongues wagging
industriously, declaring that the next time we saw the British flag
it would be at the topmast head of an English ship of the line, which
would speedily verify the predictions represented by the faulty topmast.

It was as if we had been at sea half a lifetime when the lookout
reported a brig-rigged craft to windward, and after she was brought
into view of us on deck we knew beyond question that we had almost
within our clutches another British craft.

The cruise did not bid fair to be what is known as a “lucky” one if
the game was to be found so few and far between; but we were ready to
welcome anything that might break the monotony, even though it should
be a Britisher that far out-classed us.

A little fighting then, with some blood-letting, would have been good
medicine for those who were grown mutinous once more, and I fancied,
from what could be told by the expression on the faces of the officers,
that a regular battle, providing we might get the best of it, would be
welcomed, even though there were no dollars to be gained.

We were not to overhaul this second Britisher without some labour,
as we soon came to understand, for the brig was a smart sailer, and
more than once before she was brought to did it appear as if she might
succeed in giving us the slip, despite the good qualities of our ship.

From ten o’clock in the forenoon until nearly daybreak next morning,
we staggered on under full press of canvas, not gaining more than two
miles in all that time, and then Master Josh began to breed discontent
by declaring that we were astern of no less a craft than the _Flying
Dutchman_ herself.

“We’ll board her even if she’s full to the scuppers with ghosts,”
the boatswain said, smiting his thigh with his hand as if bent on
splintering the bone. “We’ve had enough of signs an’ tokens since
this ’ere cruise began, an’ I’m comin’ to believe that our ill luck
is caused by it. I’m not settin’ myself up to put this whole ship’s
company into proper trim; but this much I’ll swear to, the next man
who begins to croak about what’s goin’ to happen jest because a
cross-grained timber went adrift in a gale, will come mighty nigh
havin’ to settle the question once an’ for all with me. I’m not a
fightin’ man naturally, neither am I willin’ to hear so much chin over
nothin’ more’n might have been expected.”

Both Simon and I were fully prepared to see these words provoke such
a quarrel as only the master-at-arms could quell; but to our surprise
not a word was spoken in reply. Every man Jack of the croakers held his
peace, although there were many among them, notably Master Josh, who
might have given the boatswain more of a task than he wanted, had it
come to a game of fisticuffs.

Most likely the fact that we were in chase of what might prove a rich
prize prevented the men from indulging in a fight; but certain it is
that the challenge, for it could be taken as nothing less, was not

I noted with considerable satisfaction, however, that we heard no more
about omens during the remainder of the race, which came to an end
about noon, with the British brig _Benjamin_ lying to about half a mile
to leeward, and Captain Ropes calling off a prize-crew to take her in

This craft, the second we had taken, was bound for England from
Newfoundland, laden with fish, and commanded by James Collins.

We took from her the mate and seven men, leaving on board her captain,
one man, and a boy, and sent from the _America_ Joseph Dixon and
eight men, with orders to make any port in the United States north of

There was no time spent in overhauling the prize. As soon as the
prisoners could be brought aboard we were off, leaving Master Dixon to
his own devices, so far as keeping clear of British armed vessels was

Both Simon and I had hoped the prisoners taken from the _James and
Charlotte_ would be sent away; but instead of thus clearing the ship,
we received an addition of eight others, and, what concerned us two
lads most nearly, we were told off to care for the enemy in the way of
keeping them supplied with food and water.

It was the most distasteful task ever set me; but there was no use
in trying to cry off from it, and, even had it been ten times worse
than really was the case, I would not have uttered a single word of
complaint, save, perhaps, to my comrade, for there had been full and
plenty of grumbling on this cruise.

Our duties, as we soon learned from the second officer, consisted in
carrying from the cook’s quarters to the hold the food served out for
each meal, and also to have an eye over the prisoners during a certain
portion of each day, when the full crew was required to be on deck at
the regular drill.

Thus it was that we two lads found ourselves beyond control of Master
Josh, who had not proven himself a very good instructor, owing to the
severe attack of fear and grumbling which had come upon him with the
carrying away of the topmast, and I for one was not sorry to make
the change, although almost any other duty than that of guarding and
feeding the prisoners would have been more to my liking.

I could not prevent a certain feeling of pity for these poor fellows,
who were thus kept in close confinement for no other reason than that
their king was at war with the United States, and it is possible that
both us lads did somewhat toward making the imprisonment less irksome
at times.



By waiting upon the prisoners, Simon Ropes and I gained certain
information of greater or less value, although there was in the task
nothing to give us pleasure.

When it had been announced that we were at war once more with the
British king, I believed that all Englishmen were our sworn enemies, as
I held it my duty to be theirs; but before we two lads had been four
and twenty hours in our new station aboard the _America_, I came to
understand that at least a certain portion of the Britishers were, in a
degree, friendly toward us.

As, for instance, these sailors whom we held prisoners complained quite
as bitterly as had we, because the king’s ships impressed their men,
and it really seemed as if the mariners of both countries had equal
cause for complaint, although, as a matter of course, it was not as bad
in the case of the Britisher to be impressed, in order that he might
help defend his country, as it was for the American to be taken against
his will into the service of a monarch whom he had no reason to love or

These Britishers, weary of the long imprisonment, were more than
willing to hold converse with us lads, and as we loitered in the dark
hold, after having brought their food, we heard many and many a story
of cruelty practised by the officers of the English navy against their
own people, until it seemed as if the king’s subjects had quite as much
reason to rise against his Majesty as had we in ’76.

However, it is not for me to set down such information as is doubtless
known to many of our people already; but I must confine myself to the
principal events which occurred while Simon Ropes and I served on board
the armed ship _America_, and now has come the time when the most
thrilling of our experiences is to be related.

It was on the second night after we had parted company with the
_Benjamin_, and there was no more than air enough stirring to give the
ship steerageway, while a certain mist hung over the water, partially
obscuring the faint light of the stars.

At sunset, not the faintest glimmer of a sail had been seen, in either
direction, and while the breeze held so light it was certain nothing
would heave in sight, therefore were the men on the lookout more
careless, knowing full well their watchfulness would be vain.

Simon and I had come up from the hold about eight o’clock, having
loitered there a certain length of time after the guard was changed, in
order to talk with the prisoners, and, coming on to the gun-deck, saw
there the men separated in little groups, as they had been almost every
night since that Friday mishap.

We knew full well what was the subject of their conversation or
discussion, whichever it might be called, and, wearied with the theme,
we continued on to the spar-deck, not minded to hear for the hundredth
time what fate befell this craft or that, to whose crew had been given
an omen similar to the one which came to us shortly after leaving Salem.

Only a small portion of the watch on duty were awake. There was nothing
to be done, and the majority of the men, wearied with the work of the
day, were taking advantage of every opportunity for cat-naps, when the
officers’ backs were turned.

Simon and I, new to the duty of caring for prisoners, were heavy-hearted
because of the suffering which we knew the poor fellows were enduring,
and felt no desire for slumber. Indeed, had we been so minded, there was
nothing to have prevented our turning in at that moment, since we were
no longer forced to serve with either watch, save at such times as all
hands might be called.

Just abaft the mizzenmast was our favourite lounging-place at such
times, and there we went on this night, thinking only of those whom we
had left in the ship’s hold, forgetting, for the time being, the evil
predictions of Master Josh and his messmates.

I was not conscious of gazing in any one direction. In fact, there
was nothing to be seen. Owing to the gloom, the men, as they moved
listlessly about, appeared to be faint shadows rather than human
beings, and the air was so light that we failed to distinguish the
break of foam, as the waves swept either side our craft.

It was as if we were motionless, save for the lazy swell on which the
ship rose and fell so gently that one was hardly conscious of any

Simon and I were speaking of what had been told us by one of the
prisoners, who, three years before, had been taken out of a British
merchantman by one of the king’s ships.

We discussed the injustice of thus making slaves of free men, and
unconsciously, perhaps because of the quiet everywhere around, our
voices sank into whispers.

Then it was that suddenly I saw rising out from the forecastle hatchway
a white mass.


I failed to distinguish any semblance of a human form, and yet, even
in the darkness could see that this--whatever it might be--occupied no
more space than would have been taken up by a man’s body.

Fear seized upon me at once, but even in my terror and bewilderment, I
wondered how it was possible for me thus plainly to discern anything
at such a distance, while the darkness was so dense as to prevent my
seeing members of the watch standing near at hand.

Just for an instant I fancied myself the victim of a delusion; but as I
sat bolt upright, gazing forward with my very heart in my eyes, Simon
Ropes grasped me by the arm nervously, yet firmly.

Then I knew that he had seen the same shape, and was no less alarmed
than I.

An exclamation of fear from out the darkness, twenty paces or more
away, told that we two were not the only ones who had seen this
strange sight, and immediately came a hail from the quarter-deck:

“Who’s that yelling like a baby?”

“It’s me; Tim Stubbs.”

“What’s the matter?”

“There’s a ghost, sir, come out of the forecastle hatch.”

“Have you turned fool?” the officer asked, angrily, and I dimly
understood that it was Mr. Fernald, the second mate, who was speaking.

“It’s a ghost all the same, sir,” the man replied, in quavering tones,
while at that moment the shape, or whatever it might be, seemed to fade
away, and on the instant was gone.

“It is out of sight now, sir,” some one shouted from near the foremast;
“but it was a ghost all the same, an’ that I’ll swear to!”

“Get below there, Stubbs, an’ see who’s trying to make a fool of you,”
Mr. Fernald cried, whereat the sailor slouched slowly off, muttering
to himself, and I knew full well that if any search was to be made Tim
Stubbs would not be the one to conduct it.

Immediately the apparition, if so it can be called, had vanished, one
could hear from this point and that on deck the voices of the men in
hoarse whispers or mutterings, thus showing that nearly all of the
watch had seen the singular thing.

Mr. Fernald most likely understood that the discipline of the ship
depended upon putting an end to any such fancy as that we had a ghost

Not contenting himself with having ordered Stubbs below, he ran forward
at full speed, calling loudly for a lantern as he dropped through the
forecastle hatch.

I doubt if a single member of the watch followed him.

There had been so much talk of omens and signs since the first Friday
that the minds of the men were in good condition to believe whatsoever
smacked of the superstitious, and at the moment--ay, for many a long
day afterward--I was firmly convinced that the form which had risen
through the hatchway was not of this earth.

What with the shouting of the mate, his rapid footsteps on the deck as
he ran forward, and the muttering of the men, no little disturbance was
created, thanks to the stillness of the night, and while Simon and I
crouched abaft the mizzenmast, not daring to so much as speak, we heard
Captain Ropes’s voice as he came up from the cabin:

“What’s goin’ on here?” he asked of the helmsman, and the latter
replied, as if giving the most commonplace information:

“There’s a bloomin’ ghost for’ard, sir, an’ the second officer’s gone
to catch him.”

The captain gave vent to an exclamation of impatience, and striding to
the break of the quarter-deck, he shouted:

“Forward there!”

“Ay, ay, sir,” came from a dozen voices.

“What’s the cause of this disturbance?”

“There’s a ghost in the forecastle, sir.”

I heard the captain literally snort as he smothered an exclamation of
anger, and a moment later he asked:

“Where is Mr. Fernald?”

“Gone after the ghost, sir.”

“What do you mean by that?” was the angry question.

“There was a big something white popped up out of the fo’castle, sir,
an’ it smelled like a graveyard.”

“There was regular fire come out of its face,” another added, whose
imagination was more vivid.

“Let’s go back an’ tell father what we’ve seen,” Simon whispered to
me, and I caught at the suggestion eagerly, anxious to hear what
explanation the captain might make of the strange thing which had
appeared to us.

Silently as possible, lest the men should think we were gone aft
talebearing, the lad and I moved back to the break of the quarter-deck,
and were close at the captain’s feet before he observed us.

“Who is that?” he asked, peering down, and Simon replied:

“It’s me, father, and Nathan Crowninshield. We saw what the man called
a ghost, and were frightened by it.”

“Then you had best go ashore when next we make port, an’ say that you
are not fitted for sailormen,” the captain cried, sharply. “Are you all
turned fools that a shadow shall persuade you there’s a ghost aboard?”

“It was not a shadow, sir,” I made bold to say. “Simon and I were
sitting just abaft the mizzenmast, and I saw something white rise
out of the forecastle hatchway, even before any one spoke. Then it
disappeared as the men began calling one to another.”

“What was it like?” the captain asked, with a scornful laugh.

“Like nothing, sir,” Simon replied. “It was simply a white shape, but
there was no fire about it, as one of the men has stated, neither did I
detect any odour.”

“Of course you didn’t, because there was nothing in the hatchway. Most
likely it was a reflection of the canvas.”

“How could there be a reflection on a night like this, sir?” a voice
asked from out the darkness. “This ’ere is worse than a fog-storm for
smother, an’ if them as were amidships saw something come out of the
fore-hatchway, it is more than could be done if one of the crew was
nearabout there.”

All this was truth, as I realised on the instant.

Strain my eyes as I might, it was impossible to see the figure of the
speaker, and yet I knew full well that the white form in the hatchway
had loomed up clearly, not indistinctly, as it would seem should be the
case if it were a gleam from a piece of canvas.

Before the captain could reply to the sailor, Mr. Fernald came aft
carrying a lighted lantern, and Simon’s father asked, impatiently:

“Well, what did you find?”

“Nothing, sir. I reckon some of the men must have been playing pranks.”

“They will have cause to regret anything of the kind, if I can catch
them at it,” the captain said, angrily, and then, wheeling about, went
straight into the cabin, followed by the second officer, who doubtless
understood, as did I, that Simon’s father preferred the report should
be made where none of the crew might overhear.

Once the two officers left the deck, it was as if every man’s tongue
had suddenly been unloosed, and the watch below, most likely disturbed
by the running about, came pouring up to learn the cause of the unusual

Then it was we learned the result of the second officer’s search.

Some of the men had seen him come down with the lantern and search
about the gun-deck, but it was certain he failed to find anything.

Now it can well be fancied into what a state of excitement we were
plunged, Simon and I among the others.

Those who had clung to the belief that the carrying away of the topmast
was an omen of ill fortune declared the apparition in white to be a
second warning, and I question if there was a man forward of the cabin
who did not feel decidedly uneasy in mind.

It was nearly morning before Simon and I could compose ourselves
sufficiently to turn in, and when, after a short time of slumber broken
by most disagreeable dreams, I leaped out of the swinging bed, it was
only to find the men in such a mental condition as it is difficult to

The crew of the _America_, who had deemed themselves a fit match for
twice their number of Britishers, were vanquished by a defective spar,
and a something the character of which I could not then decide upon.

Nor was it possible for Simon and I to laugh at their fears.

We knew full well that there had been a form in the hatchway which
showed itself even amid the gloom, and no one could give it a name.

Perhaps, if Mr. Fernald had not made an immediate search, we might have
persuaded ourselves that some one of the crew had been playing a trick;
but as it was, there had not been sufficient time elapse from the
vanishing of the apparition until the first officer went below with the
lantern for any mischief-maker to have concealed himself.

It is not my intention to make any attempt at setting down here all
that was said on the subject during the day. There is not time enough
in my life to write all the foolishness I heard before nightfall.

Both my comrade and myself had given little heed to the carrying
away of the topmast on Friday; but the whiteness in the hatchway was
something which disturbed us greatly, and I literally trembled when we
were forced to go into the dark hold to feed the prisoners.

The day passed without mishap or important event, however.

From the officers we heard nothing whatsoever concerning the matter,
and the men talked about it altogether too much to please me.

We saw no sail during this day, and when night came the ship was
bowling along before a six-knot breeze, which should have blown from
our minds all the fancies that had taken possession of them.

But the darkness found us one and all more given over to superstitious
fears than before.

Both watches remained on deck, and I knew that not a man loitered
below, unless he took especial precautions to hide himself, for when
Simon and I came up from our task in the hold, no person could be seen
on the gun-deck.

From the eldest to the youngest they shunned the darkness, and seemed
to believe safety could be found only in the open air.

Simon and I, having discussed the singular subject during the day until
we were sick and tired of it, were stretched at full length just under
the break of the quarter, amidships, listening to the buzz of voices
around us, and hearing now and then a hum of conversation from the
officers aft, who were pacing to and fro in couples, as if fearing that
this new phase of affairs might breed trouble.

It was a time when one would say the most adroit could not play a
trick, and yet suddenly, as distinctly as if the words had been bawled
through a speaking-trumpet, came the cry:

“Put back! The cruise is ended!”

For a single instant after the words rang out clear and sharp, not a
sound could be heard save the seething waves as the stem of the ship
divided them, or the whistling of the wind amid canvas and cordage.

Then came a quick, angry cry from the captain:

“Let every man come aft! Every one of you! We’ll break up this
tomfoolery before I’m many hours older!”

It was much as if the crew were eager to obey the order, and in a
twinkling the ship was crowded near the break of the quarter, until
Simon and I were like to be trodden upon.

Then came a command which we could not hear, and immediately afterward
the second and third officers went forward.

I understood full well that the captain counted on finding some one
skulking forward, who was trying to work upon the fears of the men,
which had been aroused by the apparition of the night previous.

However, in case the officers failed to find any one nearabout the
hatchway from which the voice seemed to come, it would hardly be a
fair test, since any one of those forward might have spoken the words,
although not without having been detected by some of his companions.

At all events, the search was carried on evidently with great care, for
fully fifteen minutes elapsed before the two officers reappeared, and
meanwhile Simon and I, being sorely crowded against the break of the
quarter, had made bold to clamber up, by the aid of the men, until we
could sit upon the edge of the deck.

We were not more than six feet distant from Captain Ropes when the
officers made their report, and I distinctly heard Mr. Fernald say:

“We found nothing, sir. There is not a man below save those in the hold
who are guarding the prisoners.”

“Where are the cooks?” the captain cried.

“Here, sir! Here, sir! Here, sir!” came from as many different points
amid the throng.

“Divide your watches, Mr. Fernald! Let us see who is skulking!” the
captain added, a moment later.

Those belonging to the starboard watch were sent to the starboard side,
and those in the port watch, opposite, until the men were ranged in
double lines from the quarter-deck forward, Simon and I taking our
places with the rest, after which the captain and Mr. Fernald made a
tour of inspection.

This investigation did not please Simon’s father, as was shown when it
had come to an end, and he called for us two lads to follow him with
lanterns, while Mr. Fernald was to write down each man’s name as he
stood in line.

In this manner, after considerable time had been spent, a list of the
crew was written out, including the helmsman, who, as a matter of
course, had not left his station.

Then we went below; found the guards on duty, and added their names to
the list.

This done, the captain went on deck, and after he had counted the
written names, as I knew because Simon and I held the lanterns that he
might see clearly, he advanced to the break of the quarter, and said:

“It is clear to me, my men, that there is some one on board bent upon
doing a mischief. You from Massachusetts have heads too hard to believe
that there may be such things as ghosts who show themselves in the
darkness and shout with human voices. It is not necessary for me to
tell you, as I would children, that such things are impossible,--that
one who has left this world has no desire to return. It would be a
foolish sailorman who, having gotten into a better place, should care
to come back, particularly on board ship. I repeat that some one of
you is trying to do a mischief, and warn all hands that before many
hours have passed I will discover the offender. Then you may be certain
there will be such punishment dealt out as won’t soon be forgotten.
If, however, the guilty man chooses now to acknowledge what is little
less than a crime, he shall be forgiven; but let him hold his peace
five minutes longer, and he will wish he had never shipped on board the

The captain paused as if really expecting that some member of the crew
would step forward and acknowledge that he had played the part of
ghost; but not a man moved.

I saw the old shell-backs look curiously at each other, some of them
with an expression on their faces which told plainly that, unless the
ghost himself came forward, the captain would gain no information.

Well, Simon’s father waited while one might have counted twenty, and
then said, in a voice which was far from firm, because of the efforts
to control his anger:

“The starboard watch may go below, and since it is a pleasure for
some one here to act the part of ghost, I will see to it that he is
converted into one before four and twenty hours have passed! Unless
you were all old women, there would be no necessity for any words. You
would know full well how ridiculous all this flummery is; but since
you have turned women and are ready to tremble at the lightest sound,
declaring it comes from another world, I will see to it the offender
is brought up with a round turn. In addition, I’ll give that man who
talks too much about this foolishness a round dozen by way of reminding
him that there’s nothing ghostly in the lash of the cat. Now get below!”

The starboard watch obeyed on the instant, and Simon and I, thinking
it might not be well to loiter on deck while the captain was in such a
temper, followed them.



I have made an attempt at describing the general situation on board the
_America_ while her crew had nothing more alarming to wag their tongues
over than the carrying away of the topmast, but have spent my time in
vain trying to show how they twisted that mishap into the ugliest kind
of an omen.

Previous to the appearance of the supposed ghost, it seemed as if the
conduct of the crew could not be more mutinous unless, indeed, they had
risen with deadly intent against their officers; but now we two came to
understand that the former condition of affairs was as nothing compared
with the present.

Then the men had no more weighty subject for conversation than
something which was really not out of the common, unless one chose
to so twist it in his mind, and there remained ample opportunity for
argument and individual belief.

Now, however, the situation was changed.

There was no opportunity for argument as to what had been seen and
heard, since every man Jack of us could do no less than give the same

It was no longer an omen which might be construed equally well to mean
good or evil; but a fact, to which the officers could testify as well
as the men.

When the starboard watch gained the gun-deck, after having been so
soundly rated by the captain, it was as if each man was paralysed with
fear by that mysterious thing which had come upon us.

During many moments no one spoke. Each seemed to be waiting for the
other, and not daring to venture a remark until the conversation had
been opened.

Those of the men whose hammocks were slung well forward clustered aft,
where some of the elder members of the watch were lighting their pipes
preparatory to a smoking-match, when, as we lads knew full well, all
the occurrences of the evening would be discussed.

None of the crew appeared willing to remain in the vicinity of the
forward hatchway, and more than one sat facing aft, lest there might
yet be some horrible thing to be seen in the bow of the ship.

During this time of silence the thought came to me suddenly that
Captain Ropes himself must have been in a certain degree impressed by
the voice, else would he have tried to convince the men that it was
nothing supernatural, instead of railing at them as he did.

The mind of a sailorman can be coaxed into almost whatsoever channel
you will; but it is not often possible to force it.

Simon remained very near my side, and I was truly thankful that he did
so, because it seemed to me as if I really needed close contact with
some human being upon whom I could rely, in order to aid me in warding
off the terrible thing which appeared to threaten all on board.

When the men’s tongues were finally loosened, there was no loud
talking, no angry exclamations, no vehement putting forth of this or
that opinion; all hands were subdued and solemn as though taking part
in some religious service the precise nature of which they did not
understand, and throughout the entire night--for no man so much as
dreamed of turning in--never a voice was raised to a high key.

Even Master Josh, who ordinarily felt bound to make himself heard
from one end of the gun-deck to the other whenever he put forth an
opinion, was as low-voiced as any woman, and failed to assert the
authority which he usually claimed belonged to him by virtue of age and

I might fill many pages while attempting to describe the scene which
was presented by the starboard watch during the time allotted it below,
and afterward by those of the port watch when they came off duty, and
yet not succeed in portraying the situation as it really presented
itself to Simon and me.

Therefore I will make no further effort at picturing it; but content
myself by saying that it was as fearsome a night as I have ever
experienced, and since that day both Simon and I have been in some
exceedingly painful situations.

There were two facts prominent in the minds of all. First, that some
ghostly visitor had come aboard, and second, that it was necessary for
the safety of all the _America_ be immediately steered on a direct
course for home.

On these two points there was no difference of opinion; but concerning
the outcome many were disposed to take the most gloomy view.

I believe of a verity that a full half of the crew were convinced we
should never see port again; that the ship and all on board were doomed
beyond the shadow of hope.

With such ideas in their minds, the men were in a most dangerous frame
of mind.

But few words were needed to bring about a veritable mutiny, and had a
single one of them offered himself as leader, I have no question but
that an attempt would have been made, within the hour, to force Captain
Ropes to do the bidding of those who should have obeyed him.

One can well fancy how much blood would have been spilled in event
of an uprising, and, bearing this evident fact in mind, it is not
difficult to image the feelings of Simon and myself as we stood betwixt
that most terrible tragedy of the sea--a mutiny--and the approaching
doom foretold by the ghostly visitor.

As I have said, no man occupied his hammock that night, and those who
had not remained on deck during the entire time of darkness sought the
open air with the first dawning of day.

As may be expected, Simon and I followed them, for we were not minded
to remain alone on the gun-deck, where it was yet dark, and I looked
forward with dread to the hour when we must go into the hold to carry
the prisoners’ food.

Captain Ropes and his officers must have been well aware of the
dangerous condition of mind into which the men were fallen, for no less
than three paced the quarter-deck constantly, and when an order was
given they took extra care that it should be obeyed promptly, as if
fearing lest the first indication of such delay as might be counted for
insubordination should prove to be the match that exploded a magazine
of fear and passion.

I observed, too, that all the officers carried their side-arms as they
would have done on the eve of an engagement, and they kept vigilant
watch upon every one of us.

As a matter of course, it would have been impossible to prevent the
men from talking among themselves; but I noticed that, when there was
any disposition on the part of the crew to gather into little groups,
some order was given which would necessitate their separation, and much
useless work laid out as if for no other purpose than to keep our time
fully occupied.

It was like unto standing upon the summit of a volcano which threatens
to belch forth flame and death at any instant, and the minutes were to
me as hours.

Then the word was passed from the cook-house that breakfast for the
prisoners had been made ready, and Simon and I went very unwillingly to
take charge of it.

It was evident that even we two lads would not be allowed to loiter in
our work, for Mr. Fernald called sharply after us, as we were going
slowly forward:

“Bear a hand there, lads! There is to be no sodgerin’ this mornin’!”

We quickened our pace, Simon whispering to me, as we did so:

“I wonder if he would step out lively in case it was his duty to go
below alone.”

“He did last night, when all the money in the world wouldn’t have
tempted me to drop through the fore-hatch.”

“That was because he had to do so, or own himself a coward before the

“And we are in exactly the same plight,” I said, taking heart as he
grew timid. “While it is a fact that I’m afraid to go below, I’d give
up all my share of prize-money rather than let Mr. Fernald understand
exactly what is in my mind.”

Like all imaginary dangers, this venturing into the hold of the ship
amounted to nothing, and when we were come to the prison, which on
board vessels is called the “brig,” I breathed more freely, for, having
once descended through the hatch where had appeared the apparition,
courage began to return.

The sailors who had acted as guard during the night welcomed our
coming, and went on deck as soon as might be, eager to learn the cause
of the disturbance during the evening previous.

We two lads were now in charge of the Britishers, and, save when they
were taken on deck for exercise, would be held responsible for their
safety until night came once more.

We served out the food as usual, and while doing so it appeared to me
as if one man was presenting himself a second time for the allowance,
whereupon I asked:

“Were you not the third in line when we began to serve breakfast?”

“If I had been you wouldn’t see me here now, because I’d be workin’ my
jaws over the scanty allowance.”

“There is nothing scanty about it,” Simon cried, indignantly. “You are
receiving the same amount of food as does any member of our crew.”

“Well, I’m not grumbling except you are trying to cheat me out of my
portion,” the man said, half apologetically, and without further ado
I handed him a pannikin, for we carried each man’s allowance in a
separate dish, to the end that the stronger might not take advantage of
the weaker, saying to myself as I did so:

“If that fellow has been served, as I fancy, we shall come out short
before all are fed.”

A moment later it appeared that I had wronged the man, for nineteen
pannikins had been passed into the brig, which was exactly the number
necessary if each prisoner was to receive one.

Even with this proof I felt puzzled, for it surely seemed as if one man
had gotten a double allowance, and, without really intending to do so,
I counted the prisoners as they were squatting here or there busily
engaged with the meal.

There were but eighteen.

Again I counted, arriving at the same conclusion.

It did not seem possible one man alone could have escaped, for if such
an opportunity had presented itself, why did not some of the others
take advantage of it? And yet where was this nineteenth prisoner?

On board the ship, as a matter of course.

Therefore, so I argued to myself quickly, if there had been an escape,
it must have occurred after Mr. Fernald searched the ship on the
evening previous, when was heard that strange voice, and yet the door
of the brig was securely fastened, while two men had, supposedly, kept
watch all night.

Now it came to me that I might be mistaken, although that was hardly
probable, and beckoning to Simon to come aft with me to such a distance
from the prisoners that the words could not be overheard, I asked him
the question:

“How many prisoners did we take from the _James and Charlotte_?”

“Twelve all told,” he replied. “Eleven came down here, and the captain
went into the cabin.”

“How many came to us from the _Benjamin_?”

“Eight, and they are all here.”

“That should make nineteen,” I repeated half to myself.

“Ay, of course it does. What have you in your head now?”

“Go and count the Britishers.”

“I can do that as I stand here,” and Simon commenced, stopping when he
had ended with eighteen, and beginning over again.

“Is there one missing?” he asked, as if doubting the evidence of his
own senses.

Well, we puzzled over that matter half an hour or more, examining every
portion of the brig without allowing the prisoners to understand what
we were about, and it was impossible to arrive at any other conclusion.

There were but eighteen men in the brig, and yet the prison remained as
it ever had been, so secure that anything larger than a cat could not
have gotten out.

Then we went aft a short distance, to discuss the matter, and Simon
repeated again and again this question:

“What could it advantage a man to escape from the brig, in case an
opportunity presented itself? By so doing he would shut himself off
from taking exercise in the open air once a day, and stand a chance of
getting mighty hungry.”

“Now I am positive that the fellow to whom I spoke took two allowances.”

“How can it avail the man who is free, if there be one outside? With a
guard kept night and day, nothing could be passed out from the brig.”

I failed to answer his question, yet the fact remained that,
apparently, one of the prisoners was missing, and lest we should have
made a mistake in supposing nineteen had been confined in the brig, I
proposed to go quietly on deck and ask some one of the men the same
questions I had asked Simon.

He, however, refused to be left alone, and I did not count him a coward
because of his fears.

What with the apparition and ghostly voice, and the possibility that a
Britisher might be roaming around the hold ready to make an attempt
in case a single sentinel should be left on duty, it was by no means
cheerful to take one’s chances alone.

Those sailors who had been acting as guard during the night left their
muskets, when they went on deck, according to custom, nearabout the
ladder leading to the gun-deck, in case we might need them.

Heretofore the weapons had remained undisturbed, because while the door
of the brig was firmly secured it did not seem as if we had any use for

Now, however, I armed myself with a musket, Simon doing the same, and
once more we retired out of ear-shot for consultation.

There was in my mind a very well-defined idea that we should, without
delay, acquaint the captain of our discovery, and yet I was eager to
first avoid the possibility of a mistake by questioning some of the men
as to the number of prisoners we had taken aboard, lest we be laughed
at for entertaining cowardly fears.

My mind was in such a whirl, what with one thing and another happening
during the past four and twenty hours, that I was not willing to accept
as evidence the fact that the cooks had filled nineteen pannikins with

I suggested as much to Simon, whereupon he declared that nothing would
induce him to remain in the hold alone; but that if I was so eager the
matter be settled at once, he would go on deck, leaving me to stand

Then I suddenly came to the conclusion that no great harm could be
done, at least during this forenoon when we were keeping careful
watch, and it might be as well that we wait until the prisoners were
taken out for exercise.

The Britishers must have understood that there was something unusual in
the wind, for it had been our custom to pass the time in conversation
with them, whereas we now held ourselves aloof, not even offering to
tell them what the weather might be.

They talked in low tones among themselves for awhile, and finally one
called out:

“What was the rumpus last night?”

“How did you know there was any?” I asked, thinking to learn how much
they had heard.

“A man would need to be both blind and deaf who couldn’t understand
something was wrong when all hands were runnin’ back an’ forth. One of
the officers came down here and searched the hold as if he’d lost his

“It seems you know more about it than we do, for I could not have said
the hold was searched last night.”

“It may have been that your mate was on a tour of inspection; but
at all events he gave this part of the craft a pretty thorough
overhauling. Did anything go wrong?”

I was not minded that the prisoners should know in what condition was
our crew, lest, if a favourable opportunity presented itself, they
might think it possible to rise against us successfully, although it
would have been a ridiculous notion for eighteen men, unarmed, to
attack one hundred and fifty, with all the weapons on the ship at
their disposal.

Therefore I refused to answer the question by holding my peace, and,
most likely understanding that there was some good reason for my
silence, the Britishers gave over questioning.

The time had come when a half a dozen or more of our men should come
down to take the prisoners on deck for exercise, and when they arrived
I was resolved to ask that some of them act in our stead while we went
aft for an interview with the captain.

We waited impatiently, Simon and I both puzzling our brains over the
supposed fact that one of the Britishers was missing, at the same time
that we speculated with fear upon the events of the previous evening.

The hours passed, and no one came to our relief.

The unfortunate men, whose only pleasure, I might almost say comfort,
consisted in an hour spent in the open air, began to complain bitterly,
and ask us again and again why the necessary exercise was forbidden

“We have no reason to suppose that you will not be taken on deck,”
Simon said, petulantly, after the question had been asked a dozen
times. “Unless there may be a chance of taking another prize, some of
the crew must surely be here very soon.”

These words of my comrade served to explain to my satisfaction why we
had been left so long alone.

Beyond a question something had come in sight, and the _America_ was
in close pursuit, which would explain why the Britishers were denied
their brief time of comparative liberty.

It seemed to me as if it must be two or three hours past noon, when a
voice from the hatch which led into the hold cried out:

“Here’s your grub, lads! Come up an’ get it!”

Quickly I ran to the foot of the ladder, shouting Mr. Fernald’s name at
the full strength of my lungs, for although it seemed impossible one of
the mates would have performed such a task as bringing food from the
galley, the voice sounded strangely like his.

No reply was received to my outcries, and when I gained the top of the
ladder the gun-deck was deserted.

Nearby the hatchway were the pannikins of food; but I gave no heed
to them as I stood gazing around me, rapidly giving way to fear and

“What’s the matter?” Simon cried, coming hurriedly to the foot of the

“That’s what I don’t know. Here are the prisoners’ dinners, and yet no
one has come to relieve us.”

In silence, and like two stupids, I stood at the top and he at the foot
of the ladder, gazing at each other in what was very like terror, and
then, understanding that we were giving the Britishers an exhibition of
cowardice, I said, sharply:

“If they have neglected us, it is no reason why we should not do our
duty. Stand by to take this grub, and I’ll pass it down.”

Simon obeyed, and when all the pannikins were ranged in front of the
brig ready for distribution, I came below, saying to the prisoners as I
did so:

“We don’t count on giving a double portion to any one of you this noon,
so form in line and hold your pannikins in plain sight until all are


There was in front of the brig a small bar which, on being removed,
gave an aperture sufficiently large to pass in food or water, and
through this the prisoners were served.

As a matter of course, there was one pannikin left after each man had
gotten his portion, and I fancied all the Britishers looked grievously
disappointed because we had thus been careful in the distribution of

“What are we to do with this one?” Simon asked, lifting the remaining

“I reckon we had better divide what is in it, for it seems much as if
we had been forgotten this day.”

“But surely they count on relieving us for a time.”

“They haven’t done so as yet, and whoever brought the grub was in a
tremendous hurry.”

“What do you suppose can be happening on deck?” the lad asked, in a
whisper, and I, rendered irritable because a similar question was in my
own mind, causing me decided fear, replied, sharply:

“What good can come of our speculating about matters on deck? We have
been set to this work, and should be men enough to take what comes, or
get along on what fails us, without grumbling.”

“It must be they have sighted a Britisher, and are giving chase,” the
lad said, as if trying by thus speaking to persuade himself such was
the case, while I, now become a prey to gloomy fears, said, without
believing what I spoke:

“That must be the reason why whoever brought the grub was in such a
hurry to get on deck again.”

This reply appeared to satisfy Simon; but I was very near to believing
that the _America’s_ crew had broken forth in open mutiny.



We two lads were given over to fear and anxiety, as the hours went by
and no one came to relieve us.

We had partially satisfied our hunger with the contents of the
nineteenth pannikin, and had plenty of water close at hand with which
to quench our thirst; but even though we had suffered for both these
necessaries, it would have been as nothing compared to the distress of
mind while imagining that the worst might be happening on deck.

The prisoners must have understood, both because they had not been
taken out for exercise and owing to our being thus neglected, that
something serious was in the wind.

For a time they plied us with questions, and then, realising that we
either could or would not afford them any satisfaction, gave over the

I fancied they appeared disturbed, as if it were possible to guess
somewhat of the situation, and I also wondered if there were really
another man, who, having by some mysterious means gotten out of the
brig, lurked about near at hand ready to do whatsoever he might toward
releasing his comrades.

Before noon we understood that the wind was increasing in force, for
the ship plunged into the deeps of the waves and clambered up again in
such manner as told that she was labouring heavily.

Other than by the motion of the craft it was impossible to even guess
what might be going on above, save that we might be in pursuit of an

We knew full well our crew was so strong in numbers that a dozen men
might have been spared, even in the midst of the most furious tempest,
to relieve us for at least so long as would be necessary to get our

Because of our mental anxiety, it was impossible to form any fair idea
regarding the passage of time; but it seemed to me as if the night must
have come, when Simon said, in a whisper, his voice quavering wofully:

“Would you be willing to stay here alone, while I went on deck to learn
what may be happening?”

“It seems positive one of the prisoners is outside the brig, and it
might be that, when there was only a single boy on guard, he would make
an attempt at setting his comrades free,” I replied, rejoicing that I
had so valid an excuse to give; for, of a verity, I should have been in
sore distress at being forced to remain there alone, even though all
the Britishers were safe within the prison.

“I would give much to know why they have seemingly forgotten us,” the
lad said, with a long-drawn sigh.

“Then stay here, and I’ll find out in a twinkling.”

“If it is dangerous for you to be here alone, surely I should not be
asked to take the chances.”

“I’m not asking you; but simply showing how we may learn what has

“Some one must come in course of time, no matter how much mischief has
been done, and perhaps it is just as well if we wait patiently,” he
said, with an effort to speak in a cheery strain, and at that instant I
could have cried aloud with joy, for the gleam of dull light from the
hatchway was shut off by the figure of a man.

It was Tim Stubbs, who had come thus tardily to our relief, and I dare
venture to say he was never before greeted so warmly or heartily.

Both us lads ran toward him, laying hold of his garments before he
could descend the ladder, as if we feared he might reconsider his
purpose of paying us a visit.

“Had quite a long spell of standin’ watch, eh, boys?” he cried,
cheerily, glancing quickly around, to make certain all was well.

“We’ve been here all day, and the cooks have even forgotten to bring
the prisoners’ supper. What is the matter?” I cried, impatiently.

“I reckon the Britishers can hold on till night before they howl for
another feed.”

“Isn’t it dark yet?” Simon asked, in surprise.

“Dark, lad? No, nor it won’t be for three or four hours. The crew have
just been served with dinner. I got through with my share of the grub
first, an’ slipped down here without orders, to see how you was comin’

“What has happened that you’ve been kept waiting so long for something
to eat?” Simon cried, and I began to despair of getting any information
from this sailor, who had stood our friend ever since we recovered from
the attack of homesickness and seasickness.

“First an’ foremost, the wind got up a bit, all in a jump, an’ we had
a lively job gettin’ the old hooker snugged down to it. Then we’d no

“Have we run into another gale?” Simon interrupted.

“Well, lad, I allow we’ve got what you might call a leetle more’n half
a full breeze, with the chances that there’ll be greater weight to the
wind before mornin’.”

“Was it so bad that, out of all the crew, none could come down here to
relieve us a few moments?” I asked, irritably, for there was in my mind
a sense of being needlessly neglected.

“Not exactly that, lad; but we’d no sooner snugged her down in good
shape, when a Britisher heaves in sight. Nothin’ would satisfy the
old man but that we must shake two reefs out of the topsails, an’ set
the maintopgallantsail. It wasn’t what you might call easy work, an’,
accordin’ to my thinkin’, we’re likely to carry away another spar
before midnight.”

“And you’ve been at that work all day?” Simon cried, incredulously.

“Well, it amounts to that, for we’ve humped ourselves lively since the
word was given to shorten sail, which didn’t come till nigh on to noon.
The old man racked his brains all the mornin’ to find somethin’ to keep
us busy, an’ you can make up your mind that there was no sodgerin’
while he stumped the quarter-deck, lookin’ sour enough to shame

“Why weren’t the prisoners taken on deck for exercise?”

“That’s a question the captain may best answer. All I can say is,
that every man Jack of us has been on the clean jump since you came
below. If the old man thinks he can work last night’s business out of
our heads, he’s makin’ a big mistake. The port watch had no more’n
got below than they fell to jawin’ about it livelier than ever. Josh
Seabury says there’s a chance to save our lives if the _America’s_
course is changed right soon.”

“You’ll hardly see the ship heading for home while there’s a Britisher
in sight, and I should think the men would be ashamed to speak of such
a possibility,” Simon cried, stoutly, and it was no more than right for
him to say whatsoever he might by way of defending his father.

“Well, the Britisher is in sight, an’ that’s about all you can say,”
Tim Stubbs replied, reflectively. “We’ve picked up somethin’ this time
that ain’t to be overhauled in short order. It’s a question in my mind
which craft is the best sailer. Both of ’em has the same rig, an’ it’s
a toss-up whether we’re gainin’ ground or fallin’ astern.”

“Are we carrying much sail?” Simon asked.

“You’ll think so when you look aloft. We’re dressed out in fine-weather
style, with every rag tuggin’ at the spars fit to jump ’em clean out
of the old hooker, even if they was the best timber ever cut. If the
_America_ holds all her sticks till mornin’, I’ll be willin’ to say
that I didn’t hear any ghost’s voice last night, nor see a bit of white
in the fore-hatchway.”

“Is it a ship we’re chasing?” I asked, with a view of preventing Stubbs
from dwelling on that very disagreeable happening.

“Ay, lad, an’ a clipper. I counted that the _America_ could outsail
anything that ever floated; but she’s come mighty nigh to meetin’ her
match this time. I’ll venture to say there isn’t the difference of half
a cable’s-length betwixt us and her, from what there was when she first
hove in sight. She brought down a fog bank with her, an’ was showin’
topgallantsails when we sighted. It ain’t any two to one but that she
carries as much metal as we, an’ even if we overhaul her, there won’t
be any child’s play to follow.”

“If the Britisher is well armed, why should she run away?” Simon asked,
now grown so interested in the chase that the fears which had assailed
him were almost forgotten.

“Most likely she can’t make up her mind how heavy we are, or she
may have no stomach for a fight jest now; but it’s certain that we
won’t put a prize-crew on board, if it so be we overhaul her, which I
misdoubt, without payin’ a good price for the privilege.”

It can well be imagined that the prisoners were listening eagerly to
all Stubbs was saying.

We three had remained near the foot of the ladder, within four or five
yards of the door of the brig, and the sailor spoke in a tone so loud
that they could not fail to catch every word.

As I came suddenly to realise this once more, my thoughts went back
to the fact that one of the men had succeeded in getting out of the
prison, and straightway the desire to give such information to the
captain or Mr. Fernald grew strong within me.

For an instant I made up my mind to explain the situation to Stubbs,
but checked myself as I came to understand that it was my duty to first
make the captain acquainted with what we had learned.

“Is there any good reason why you can’t hold on here for a spell?” I
asked, abruptly, interrupting the sailor as he was about to tell us
more regarding the chase.

“There’s no knowin’ when all hands may be called, an’ while the old man
has got such a lively bee in his bonnet I wouldn’t like to be missin’
when wanted.”

“But it isn’t reasonable to keep us here all day on a stretch, without
food, when there are so many aboard who must be idling,” I cried, hotly.

“I grant you that, lad; but it’s the captain’s business to send orders
that you be relieved.”

“If you’ll stand here five minutes, I’ll tell the captain what you
are doing, and why we pressed you into service,” Simon said, eagerly,
whereupon I, believing that one of the prisoners was probably lurking
about close at hand ready for mischief, understood that it would not be
safe for Stubbs to remain on duty alone unless we had first warned him
of the possible danger.

“Stubbs shall stay here with me, and you may go on deck, Simon,” I
cried, giving my comrade a look which I hoped he would understand as
meaning that he was to acquaint his father with what we had learned.

The lad nodded his head as if in reply to my glance, and, without
waiting for the sailor’s permission, ran up the ladder at full speed.

I asked Stubbs if the men still felt disturbed by last night’s
occurrences, whereupon he replied, in a tone which plainly told that he
thought me a simple for venturing such a question:

“After you’ve seen a thing, an’ heard a thing speak, how’re you
goin’ to get it out of your head, simply because the captain gives
the command that you must? We’ll allow that the carryin’ away of the
topmast on a Friday didn’t signify nothin’, an’ that Josh Seabury is
way off his reckonin’ when he holds that it was a warnin’ for us to
bring this ’ere cruise to an end. That leaves us free an’ clear up to
last night, when that bloomin’ thing popped out of the fore-hatchway.
Now you’ll agree, as must every honest man, that shadows don’t show
white, an’ stars can’t throw out any light when the mist covers ’em
entirely. It couldn’t be anything more or less than a ghost, lad.”

“But there are no such things, Stubbs!” I cried, hoping to convince
myself by speaking in a loud tone. “No one but a foolish old shellback
like Master Joshua would ever allow that there are ghosts.”

“When you see a thing, you’re bound to believe in it, no matter what
any one else may say,” the sailor replied, stubbornly. “But as Josh
Seabury asks: Allowin’ that all hands of us fell to dreamin’, an’
neither you, nor me, nor the rest of the watch saw anything, what do
you make of the order for us to put back to port? Who or what was it
yelled the words in sich a way as no livin’ man can yell, an’ what did
the thing mean by sayin’ the cruise was ended?”

It would have been better for my own peace of mind if I had not brought
the conversation around to this point.

Instead of convincing Stubbs there were no such things as ghosts, he
had, by repeating Master Joshua’s arguments, almost persuaded me that
we had seen and heard a veritable spirit, whose mission it was to warn
us of impending danger.

I fell silent, and the sailor began filling his pipe as he walked
toward the prison, bent on holding friendly converse with those who,
through the unlawful acts of the king, had unwittingly become our

The Britishers questioned him eagerly concerning the chase, and he
freely gave the desired information, discussing with them the chances
of overhauling the ship, which he appeared to consider were very slight.

I did not care to listen, even though I burned to learn all that had
taken place while Simon and I were forced to remain in the darkness.

Talking with Stubbs concerning the events of the previous evening had
aroused all my nervous fears, and I was quite prepared to believe that
whosoever had escaped from the brig was making ready to attack us,
although what might have been gained if all the prisoners were at that
moment released from the brig, I could not have explained.

Standing with my back to the ladder lest some one might creep up from
behind, and my musket ready for immediate use, I waited, feverishly
impatient, for Simon’s return.

He came after perhaps half an hour had passed, although the time seemed
to me much longer than that, and I saw at once he had failed in his

“You didn’t speak with your father!” I cried, in a tone of reproof, and
indeed for the instant it was to me as if the lad had failed because of

“It couldn’t be done,” he said in a half-whisper. “Word has been passed
that none of the crew are to come aft even so far as the break of the
deck, without being summoned, and the third officer stands there,
holding for dear life on the mizzen-shrouds, lest the heavy waves sweep
him over the rail, to stop any who dare make the venture.”

“I should have tried it at all hazards. There isn’t an officer on board
who would have prevented you from gaining speech with your father.”

“That was what I believed, but soon learned my mistake. The boatswain
pulled me back, and when I told him that I must speak with the captain
at once on important business, he swore he’d put me in irons if I
didn’t go forward.”

“What is the meaning of such orders?” I asked, indignantly, and Simon
whispered in my ear:

“Master Joshua told me the port watch had sworn the ship should be put
about without loss of time, and were making for the quarter-deck when
the captain and two of the mates drove them back at the point of their
pistols. It’s little less than mutiny, and the men openly admit as

“But surely you wouldn’t be mistaken for a mutineer!”

“The third officer and the boatswain must obey orders, and you know
full well that I don’t count as being the captain’s son while we’re
members of the crew.”

Surely the situation must be serious if such precautions had been
taken, and I said to myself that the cruise was indeed likely to be
ended very shortly, omens or no omens, unless there was a speedy change
in affairs.

Then, after a pause, and rather for the sake of continuing a
conversation than because I had any real curiosity regarding the
matter, I asked:

“Did you see the Britisher?”

“Ay, and she’s staggering under the same canvas as we. It doesn’t
seem possible either craft can stand up very long under such a press
of sail. It is blowing a full gale; our decks are awash, and the ship
is burying herself to such an extent that every third or fourth wave
sweeps over her from stem to stern. It’s enough to make a fellow turn
pale with fear, to stand there five minutes watching the surge towering
on either hand, ahead and astern, even above the mastheads. Twice,
while trying to make my way aft, I was like to being washed overboard.
Some of the men say that my father is doing his best to make good the
words spoken by the ghost last night, for it surely seems as if the
cruise would be ended very shortly.”

Simon’s courage was no better than mine, and verily we were an unhappy

At that moment there came before my eyes a picture of the home in Salem
where my mother awaited the return of her son, and I wondered why I
should have been such a fool as ever to leave her when there was no
real need for so doing.

Then I bethought me of our own immediate trouble, and asked, angrily:

“Did you learn why we have been left here so long? Are we to be

“I question much if those aft remember that we were left in charge of
the prisoners, or, remembering it, if they suppose that we have not
been relieved.”

“If both watches have been kept on deck since daylight, who could have
taken our places?” I cried, angrily.

“With a veritable mutiny on hand, a gale of wind, and a Britisher to
be caught, we two lads don’t cut any great figure on board just at
present,” Simon replied, with a faint smile, and then I understood that
his heart was even more sore than mine, because of having been denied
the privilege of going aft, particularly since he had seldom made the

Tim Stubbs discovered about this time that he should be on the
gun-deck, and would have left us hurriedly but that I clutched at his
arm, holding him sufficiently long to ask:

“Do you intend that we shall spend four and twenty hours here alone,
with nothing to eat?”

“It isn’t anything I can help, lad. I’ll speak to the bo’sun about it,
if I get the chance.”

Then he freed himself from my grasp and was gone, leaving Simon and me
gazing discontentedly into each other’s eyes.

Lest he who chances to read these lines should be brought to think that
Simon Ropes and I were babies, who could not remain on duty twelve
hours at a stretch without weeping and wailing over it, let me call
attention to the general situation, which was sufficient to take the
heart out of lads far stronger than we two.

Had it been necessary for us to stand guard four and twenty hours,
or even twice that length of time on a stretch, because we were in
pursuit of an enemy, the labour would have seemed as nothing. Or, had
any ordinary event in a sailorman’s life rendered it important that
we should perform even a more laborious task, not a word of complaint
would have been heard from our lips.

It was the nameless dread which had come upon us since the evening
previous; the haunting fear that one of the prisoners was lying in wait
to make a sudden attack; the possibility that the men might rise in
mutiny,--it was all these which rendered us timid and peevish.

We gave way to terror unnecessarily at this particular time, however,
for Tim Stubbs had hardly more than left us before two old shellbacks
came down to relieve us, stipulating, as we hastened toward the ladder
in our eagerness to breathe the fresh air once more, that we should
bring them news of the chase from time to time.

“We’ll keep you posted,” I cried, “and you in turn are to be on the
alert every instant. Have your muskets where they may be come at
handily, and be quick at facing about in case you hear any unusual
noise from behind.”

Some of the prisoners looked at me oddly as I gave this advice, which
was as near as I cared to come at revealing what I believed to be the
true state of affairs, and one of the sailors asked:

“Have you lads grown chicken-hearted from bein’ down here in the dark?
What need have we of muskets while the Britishers remain safe behind
them ’ere wooden bars?”

“There’s no knowing what might happen,” I replied, speaking gravely in
order that the words should have more weight. “It isn’t safe to think
everything is in proper order when there’s a chance that appearances
may be deceitful.”

I was looking full in the face of one of the prisoners as I spoke, and
it seemed to me that the fellow changed colour; but of this I could not
be positive.

However, I did not stop many seconds to observe the effect of my words.

It seemed to me certain I could succeed in gaining speech with the
captain, regardless of the orders that no one should go aft, and I
followed Simon on deck, feeling that such time of suspense as had been
caused by the Britishers would soon be at an end.

On the gun-deck we found the watch off duty, or a certain number of the
men, crouching very close together in private converse, and this, to my
mind, boded no good.

They ceased talking as Simon and I approached, which was additional
proof that they had been plotting mischief.

Surely the gale, which appeared, judging from the ship’s motions, to be
increasing in force each instant, and the knowledge that we were in hot
pursuit of an enemy, should have kept their thoughts from mutiny; but
that which they had seen and heard was too mysterious and uncanny to be
driven from their minds, whatever the counter attraction.

Simon and I literally clawed our way along, forced to keep a firm
hold continually upon something, else the terrific upward bounds and
downward plunges of the ship would have flung us headlong against the

I had never before found it so difficult to keep my footing; never
believed a huge ship could be tossed in such fashion by the wind and

It seemed to me in the highest degree foolhardy to continue the chase
under such circumstances, and I questioned if it had not already been

“What sail are we under?” I asked of the man nearest, bawling the words
in his ear because the uproar even down there between decks was so
great that one was forced to shout in order to make himself heard.

“Carryin’ everything that can be jammed on her,” the sailor replied,
with a growl of discontent. “The captain is bound to make good the
words of the ghost, an’, accordin’ to the looks of things, I’d say the
cruise is like to be ended in short order.”



It surely seemed as if the possibility of capturing the chase might
have kept the men’s thoughts, for a time at least, from those
mysterious happenings which had sown the seeds of mutiny among us; but
yet such was not the case.

For my part, the gale which was buffeting the ship, because she dare
show such a press of canvas that at times it appeared as if the fabric
lay upon her beam ends, was enough to banish all thought of that which
occurred and could not readily be explained.

Had the _America_ been snugged down in proper condition to meet the
furious blasts, the tempest might have howled yet louder without
causing a single sensation of uneasiness or fear, because we knew full
well that the good ship was fit to meet any ordinary tumult of nature.

But when, in the midst of what might almost be called a tempest, her
captain had ordered that she be given as much canvas as could be
carried, without literally burying her, then was the situation such as
seemed to demand the attention of every one.

Had these mutinously inclined sailors cried out against Captain
Ropes’s thus forcing the ship to her utmost point of endurance, then
would there have been method in their madness.

Instead of this, however, they allowed their minds to dwell upon the
past, shrinking before the imaginary evils, and apparently giving no
heed to the imminent danger which threatened.

As these thoughts came into my mind, I stood clasping with both hands
the stanchion, lest I be hurled like a shuttle-cock around the deck,
lost in amazement because the men could be so keen in following their
own superstitions, and so dull to present surroundings.

Simon, who had been following close at my heels, and was now swaying to
and fro at my side as he clutched the same support, said, after we had
surveyed the groups of mutinous sailormen:

“Let us try to go on deck. It may be that we shall succeed in having
speech with my father, and it appears to me necessary he should know
what we have learned.”

Anything was preferable to remaining there, so I said to myself,
although doubting if it would be possible for us to gain the spar-deck.

Waiting until the ship was comparatively steady for an instant, we
forsook the stanchion to make a rush for the next nearest stationary
object to which we could cling, and thus, by short stages, after no
little expenditure of time, succeeded in gaining the hatch, which had
been left open only sufficiently wide to admit of the passage of a
man’s body.

Here we stood on the ladder, with our heads just showing above the
combing, witnessing such a terrifying spectacle as I had never before

To describe the ship as she literally wallowed through the foaming
waters, is beyond my power.

There were times when it appeared to me as if the gun-deck was two feet
beneath the surface, and, in a twinkling, both of us lads were drenched
to the skin, although, as I have said, only our heads and shoulders
were exposed.

The labouring craft, carrying such a press of canvas as prevented her
from rising to the waves, literally ploughed her way through them.
The spars groaned as they buckled to the wind, until it appeared each
instant as if they must go by the board. Now and then, when we were so
far beneath the yawning chasms of water that the force of the gale was
shut off from us momentarily, the slatting of chains and bolt-ropes
made a din so great that it could not have been equalled by an army of
blacksmiths hammering at their anvils.

A wilder or more awe-inspiring scene cannot be imagined, and to Simon
and me, inexperienced as we were in a seafaring life, the peril
appeared exceeding great.

Now and then, far in the distance, directly over the bow, could be seen
the topsails of the chase, who must have been making as heavy weather
of it as we were, and I said to myself that it was no longer a question
of measuring strength between Britisher and Yankee, but simply a
contest which would be decided in favour of the ship that had been most
carefully and strongly constructed.

To pursue an enemy under such conditions seemed little less than
madness; yet I afterward came to believe that Captain Ropes’s
recklessness, at such a time, was far more potent toward subduing the
mutiny of the crew than any other course he might have pursued.

There was no need for us to discuss the question of trying to gain
speech with the captain.

It would have been literally impossible for either of us to have made
our way aft to the quarter-deck, even though no one stood ready to
oppose us, and this Simon understood as well as I.

Clutching me by the arm to attract attention, for in such a place one
might have bawled himself hoarse, without making his words heard twelve
inches away, Simon motioned for me to descend, and with no little
difficulty we made our way once more to the gun-deck.

Here, in a corner which was sheltered by one of the gun-carriages,
we contrived to carry on a fragmentary conversation, during which it
was agreed that the crew should not be told of what we had discovered
regarding the prisoners until we could gain speech with the captain.

While the ship was labouring so violently, there was little danger that
those in the brig would attempt any mischief, however favourable an
opportunity presented itself, and we would be warranted in holding our
peace, so long as both of us remained on the alert.

As a matter of course, under ordinary circumstances, we would not have
hesitated to inform the men that one of the Britishers had escaped,
and this would have been clearly our duty; but now, while they were in
a state of mutiny, so to speak, it seemed advisable that we keep secret
what had been learned.

It was impossible to pay a visit to the cook’s quarters for the purpose
of getting food, and we knew beyond a peradventure that all hands must
content themselves with bread and water until the gale had so far
abated as to render work in the kitchen possible.

Although such a task was in the highest degree distasteful, we lads
descended into the hold after having held this brief consultation, and
there remained, much to the surprise of those sailors who were on guard.

Here the tumult, save as shown by the plunging and rolling of the ship,
was comparatively slight, and we might have indulged in conversation
without great exertion; but neither of us felt inclined for words at
such a time.

I fancied Simon Ropes was much in the same frame of mind as myself. It
seemed as if death was close upon us, and that the next instant might
seal our doom.

The Britishers were naturally eager to learn what was being done, and,
thinking they would be more disposed to defer any plans of escape which
might have been made, if the truth were known, I readily explained to
them the situation as it had been presented to me.

After this was done, Simon and I, each holding a loaded musket, and on
the alert for any noise which might proclaim the whereabouts of that
man who had succeeded in getting out of the brig, sat with our backs
against the bulkhead, having in such position a full view of those who
should be closely guarded.

Even now, as memory goes back, I am surprised that we lads were not
wholly overcome by terror.

The ship staggering under canvas enough to bury her; the tempest raging
and howling, eager to destroy the handiwork of man; the mutinous crew
on the gun-deck plotting, perhaps, against their officers, and in the
hold nineteen men ready to risk their lives in an effort to escape.

It was a series of perils which one would say must finally overwhelm
us, and I saw but little hope in the future.

There is no reason why I should dwell at length upon all these terrors,
for they menaced us until we lads were numb with despair.

During all that night the _America_ staggered on, like some living
thing pursued by the furies, and, meanwhile, Simon Ropes and I shared
the duties of the guard, not daring to tell them that we knew of more
danger in the work than they imagined.

At some time in the evening ship’s biscuit and cold boiled pork had
been served, for the cooks were unable to prepare even a pannikin of
tea, and when morning came the situation remained unchanged.

One of the sailors who had stood guard with us attempted to make his
way on deck, and came back reporting much the same state of affairs as
when we had tried to gain speech with Captain Ropes.

The hours passed slowly; breakfast was the same as the supper of the
night previous, and we munched the dry bread, washing it down with
water from the scuttle-butt which had been lashed in the hold to supply
the prisoners, while our bodies were bruised and sore from being flung
about, despite all our efforts to remain in one position, when the
motions of the ship were most violent.

As the forenoon wore on, I fancied that the ship laboured less heavily,
and those of the sailors who remained in the hold with us predicted
that the gale would have come to an end before sunset; but none
believed we might be able to come up with the chase.

Then it was that all of us were astounded by a call to quarters, and
the bo’sun’s mate who brought us the order announced that the hatch on
the gun-deck leading to the hold was to be fixed in place with bars,
in order that the prisoners’ guard might be at liberty to take their
proper stations with the remainder of the crew.

It seemed absolutely impossible that Captain Ropes could have it in
mind to open an engagement under such conditions of the weather, and
yet the order brought to us told plainly that we were come within range
of the chase, and also that she was disposed to show fight rather than
surrender peaceably.

The sailormen who were with us looked grave and disturbed as they
prepared to obey the command, and we two lads were literally bewildered
by mingled fear and astonishment.

However, the hatch was secured in place so firmly that, even though all
the Britishers succeeded in getting out of the brig, they could not
leave the hold.

When we stood on the gun-deck once more, quivering with fear at the
thought of taking part in a battle, I, despite all my timorousness, did
not fail to see all the details.

The ports had been opened, and through one or the other, from time to
time, came great jets of water as the waves dashed against the ship,
flooding the deck until our gunners stood knee-deep in the briny surge.

The hatchway leading to the magazine was guarded by two men, who held
it in place as the seas came aboard, and stood ready to open it for the
gunners’ assistants whenever they were forced to descend for ammunition.

I question now, since having come to know more regarding such affairs,
if sailormen ever took part in a queerer engagement than we were making
ready for.

Fancy loading heavy guns when the powder must be held in the arms of
the men lest it be rendered worthless by moisture! Think of two or
three sailors holding their coats or strips of tarpaulin around the
cartridge while it was being placed in the muzzle of the piece, to
guard against a sudden inrush of the water! Picture to yourself the
ship plunging, rising, rolling, and tossing about while the men made
ready to shed the blood of their fellow creatures!

Now and then, as the fabric rose heavily upon the mountains of water,
we could see to leeward, half a gunshot distant, a ship which looked to
be the very counterpart of our own, save that the cross of St. George
was floating where we displayed the stars and stripes.

All show of mutiny had disappeared from the faces of the crew, so far
as I could make out.

The strangeness of the situation had driven away all discontent, and
once more was the _America_ manned by big-hearted, whole-souled Yankee

During the drills which had been carried on regularly from the
beginning of the cruise, Simon and I came to know that our stations
in time of an engagement were at Master Joshua’s gun, and although it
was not possible lads like us could be of any assistance in carrying
ammunition while the ship was plunging so violently, we went to our
posts as if counting on rendering all necessary service.

“Yonder is a prize well worth the taking, lads,” Master Josh shouted as
we approached, and it was easy for us to understand that he had in mind
something different from omens and signs of danger. “She’s every inch
as good a sailer as the _America_, and but for the carrying away of her
topmast, we never should have overhauled her.”

“She must be an armed vessel, else we would not have been called to
quarters,” I ventured to say, speaking like a simple, for such a
statement under the circumstances was needless.

“Ay, lad, but carrying less metal than do we.”

“In such case I should think it would be wiser for her to surrender
than fight,” Simon added.

I knew by my own heart that he was wishing such might be the case, for
an engagement at any time was by no means to our liking, and while the
gale raged so furiously it seemed doubly terrible.

“She’s reckonin’ on cripplin’ us by some lucky shot, and thereby makin’
her escape. Marksmanship won’t count for a great deal in this weather,
and it’ll be more by accident than good wit if a single ball hits its

“Are Simon and I to bring up ammunition?” I asked, yet knowing full
well we could not accomplish the task.

“We’ll leave that for some of the other sailormen this time, lad. You
wouldn’t get one charge in a dozen up here without wetting it. It’ll
be a case of firing whenever there’s a chance, which won’t be often,
accordin’ to my way of thinkin’, an’ we can afford to take our time
about it.”

Men were stationed from the ladder of the after-hatchway to the
quarter-deck, not more than two feet apart, that the captain’s commands
might pass from one to the other, and those on deck were clinging to
life-lines, so I was told, lest they be washed overboard by the angry

“Fire as often as you can reload, and strive to cripple her spars
rather than the hull!” came the word, whereupon the engagement was
opened by Master Josh himself.

It was only with difficulty we could hear the report of the gun above
the roar of the tempest; but while the ship was rising on a towering
wave we were able to watch the flight of the missile.

It overshot its mark, and the old gunner gave vent to an exclamation of

Then I saw a cloud of smoke emerge from one of the Britisher’s ports,
and almost immediately it was dispersed by the rising wind.

She also had opened fire, and, like us, her first shot was a vain one.

This engagement was not like unto any I ever dreamed of, and when half
an hour had passed neither ship was the worse for it, so far as could
be seen.

Both craft held their course, neither sailing faster nor slower than
the other, but moving onward at the same relative distance, as if we
were engaged in a friendly race.

The fact that none of the Britisher’s shots had come aboard gave me
courage, and I almost brought myself to believe that they would not be
able to hit us.

Not being forced to perform any duties, Simon and I acted as spectators
of this odd battle, and were speculating upon the chances that our
gunners might succeed in shooting away one of the enemy’s spars, when
suddenly there was a hideous crashing of the timbers, cries of pain at
the gun nearest to us but one, and for the first time I saw the white
deck crimsoned with the blood of my countrymen.

Fortune had favoured the Britisher so far, at least, and now fear took
possession of me.

The lifeless bodies of two men, and one of them he with whom I had been
speaking five minutes before, were rolled to and fro on the deck as the
ship leaped and plunged, while another was being helped to the cockpit
by comrades, that his wounds might be dressed.

From that moment I failed to realise all that took place. After the
first flush of cowardice, a fever took possession of me.

I prayed fervently that our next shot might work more injury than
theirs had done; the thirst for blood was full upon me, and I saw
everywhere before my eyes that ominous crimson hue.

For how long a time this singular battle was waged I knew not; but
afterward came to learn that no less than two hours elapsed, from the
time Carleton and Hawley had been killed, before the Britisher hauled
down the cross of St. George.

Three times had the _America’s_ hull been struck, and our gunners
declared that we had sent home no less than ten shot, one of which
wounded the enemy’s mizzenmast, within six feet of the deck, so badly
that it fell ten minutes later, while another carried away all the
spars above the mainmasthead.

During this time the wind had lulled until it was no more than a full
sailing breeze, but the sea was yet running mountains high.

No blood had been spilled aboard our craft after the first successful
shot, and even while the engagement was on had the sailors cared for
the bodies of their two dead messmates.

Well, the prize was ours, providing we could board her, and I came out
of the fever of excitement nervous and trembling, as if having lived
four and twenty hours under the very shadow of the death angel’s wings.

The _America_ was hove to, for it would be useless to think of boarding
the stranger while the sea was so high, and until the next morning we
lay close by the prize.

Meanwhile, Simon and I, aided by two of the sailors, kept watch over
the prisoners.

During all this time we had had no opportunity to speak with the
captain, and, in fact, made no especial effort to do so.

The chance would come later without our seeming to court it, and
meanwhile four armed men should be able to prevent that single
Britisher, who lurked somewhere in the hold, from doing us a mischief.

The prisoners remained in the brig, apparently unable to escape from
such close quarters, and, despite all our efforts, neither my comrade
nor I could discover in what way one of them had gotten free.

The capture of the ship was a godsend to us at that time, for, with
such a prize before them, the men who had been on the verge of
mutiny could not well insist that the omens had been for evil, and
it was, during this night at least, as if they had forgotten all the
disagreeable and mysterious events.

At daybreak next morning, Simon and I, having taken turns at sleeping
during the night, went on deck. Before us, not more than two miles
away, lay the captured ship.

The sea was yet boisterous, but not to such an extent as would prevent
our taking possession of the stranger, and already were the boats

We came soon to learn that our prize was the _Ralph Nickerson_, of and
for London from Quebec, laden with lumber, and carrying eight guns with
a strong crew.

Her burthen was full twenty tons more than ours, and a finer craft
could not be found outside the United States.

“If it so be that we succeed in carryin’ her to port, there’s fifty or
sixty thousand dollars’ worth of prize-money, my boys!” one of the men
said to his companions, as a group of old shellbacks stood amidships
watching our boats pulling toward the Britisher. “Sixty thousand
dollars added to what we’ve already taken won’t be small pickin’s for
any of us.”

“We’ll hope to have more of the same kind of omens,” Mr. Fernald, who
chanced to pass in time to hear the remark, cried, cheerily. “You who
have been persuading yourselves that we were bound straight for Davy
Jones’s locker must feel rather small this morning. The cruise isn’t
ended yet, and we’ll put that ship into Salem, or I’m a Dutchman!”

“That’s all very well, sir,” one of the older men replied; “but what
about the ghost that can talk?”

“It strikes me that he’s a liar,” Mr. Fernald said, laughingly.
“Or else he’s out of his latitude when he attempts to predict for
sailormen. Suppose we had heeded whatever it was that tried to frighten
us, and put about for home? It would have been the same as throwin’
away fifty thousand good dollars.”

The majority of the sailors on deck began to look foolish, realising
how groundless had been their fears, and it was left for Joshua Seabury
to revive the superstitions which had been temporarily driven away by
the smell of burning powder.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” he cried. “No one can say with
certainty that we’ll carry yonder ship into port, and who knows how
soon we’ll be layin’ under the lee of a British frigate, waiting for
them to board us?”

“You should hide your head in shame, Joshua Seabury!” Mr. Fernald said,
angrily. “A man like you, counted as being the best gunner on the
Massachusetts coast, one who fought with credit at Tripoli, to give way
like a baby because some one of your messmates played a foolish trick!”

Having said this, the officer turned on his heel, as if regretting that
he had stopped to bandy words with the men, and went aft, Simon and I
following with the hope that we might find an opportunity of speaking
to Captain Ropes.

He was standing near the wheel, glass in hand, watching the movements
of the boats, and no one checked us as we went toward him.



When we came near the captain both us lads halted, and neither dared
make any effort at attracting his attention, save we might do so by

We stood two or three feet away, much like culprits who had come to
beg for pardon, and there waited until the commander of the _America_
chanced to take the glass from his eyes.

Seeing us quite by accident, as it were, he looked wondrously
surprised, as if it were difficult for him to realise that we could
have so far transgressed sea customs as to venture unbidden on the

Although Captain Joseph Ropes should have been the one to show respect
when he and I met, because of the fact that he was my uncle’s employee,
and I was a step above him in station when we were ashore, I dared not
open my mouth, while he gazed at me curiously, with an expression of
severe disapproval upon his face.

But for the fact that Simon was with me, and succeeded in plucking up
heart at that moment, the interview which we had been waiting for so
long would have come to naught, owing to my being tongue-tied.

My comrade, however, rendered desperate, as he afterward told me, by
the thought that we might be forced to go forward again without having
communicated our secret, stepped close by his father’s side, and said,
in a low, yet emphatic tone:

“Nathan and I have discovered that which we believe you should know at
once, sir.”

Captain Ropes glanced around quickly to learn if any other might have
overheard his son’s words, and then said, in a low tone:

“Tell me quickly what you have learned, and do it in such manner that
no one may suspect we are holding private converse.”

“There are but eighteen prisoners in the brig, sir, and yet by Nathan
Crowninshield’s reckoning, as well as my own, there should be nineteen.”

“Nineteen were sent below,” the captain said, after a brief pause,
during which I fancied he was running over in his mind the number of
Britishers taken.

“There are but eighteen now, sir.”

“Are you two lads the only ones aboard ship who know that one of the
men is missing?”

“So it would seem, sir. The cooks send nineteen pannikins when meals
are served, and one of the prisoners comes forward twice for rations,
in order to hide the absence of his companion.”

“So! And that’s the ghost, eh? You lads have done me a service which
shall be rewarded later. Have you spoken with any of the crew on the

“No, sir; we thought it best to come first to you, and should have done
so yesterday, had it been possible to get aft.”

“You have acted wisely; continue to hold your peace, and share guard
duty with the sailors in order that he who has gained his liberty may
not do a mischief. When the proper time comes, we’ll have a search for
the missing man. Go forward now, and remember that this matter is not
to be mentioned to the men.”

I was more than a little disappointed with the result of the interview,
as Simon and I, obeying the captain’s command, took up our proper
stations once more.

There had been in my mind the idea that some startling change would be
the result of our communication, and yet I fancied Captain Ropes looked
upon the matter as of but little importance, even though he declared we
had rendered important service.

We lads might have conversed at greater length with the commander of
the ship and yet failed of attracting the attention of our messmates,
so intent were all upon watching the _America’s_ boats as they neared
the prize.

Taking possession of the _Ralph Nickerson_ did not vary from previous
work of this kind.

The commander of the ship, having surrendered when he hauled down his
flag, received our men with due submission, and when the boats returned
they brought with them thirty-three sailors, the first officer, and the
captain, as prisoners.

The sea yet ran high, and it was no slight task to get the Britishers
aboard safely, for many of them were so disgruntled and stubborn over
being captured as to take the chances of being drowned rather than help
themselves in the slightest degree.

John Proctor, our fourth mate, and eleven men were sent on board the
_Ralph Nickerson_ as a prize-crew, and such of the enemy’s men as had
been left in their own craft already were agreed, in consideration of
being set at liberty when port was made, to aid in working the ship.

No more than three hours were thus spent before the captured vessel
was under way, steering westward, and the _America_ laid on such a
course as it was believed would bring her in the track of the enemy’s

The wounds which the prize had received during the engagement would be
attended to on her passage to the United States. While all the injuries
might have been speedily repaired had we laid alongside of her so that
our crew could aid in the work, Captain Ropes did not consider it wise
to remain near at hand, lest a British cruiser should heave in sight,
and, on seeing the two ships hove to, understand all that had occurred.

Now that my mind was set at rest concerning what the seamen believed
had been a ghostly visitor, I found new cause for alarm.

First, however, let me set down the conclusion which Simon and I
arrived at concerning that which had so alarmed our crew.

The fact that one of the prisoners was missing from the brig seemed to
us--and from the expression on Captain Ropes’s face I fancied he looked
at the matter much the same as we did--conclusive proof that he who was
at liberty had played the part of ghost, although how it might have
been contrived we did not attempt to explain.

Of course we knew full well that there were no such things as spirits,
even though we had been seriously alarmed, and it was not necessary we
should reason out the entire scheme in order to say with good certainty
that it had been brought about by the Britisher who should at this
moment have been in the brig.

It was to me as if the visit of the supposed ghost had never occurred,
the new danger being so imminent as to drive all else from my mind.

This peril lay, so I believed, in the number of prisoners we had on

There were, or should be, fifty-two in the hold, and three aft. Our
crew, which numbered, when we left port, one hundred and sixty-three
all told, had been weakened considerably by the prize-crews thrown
aboard the captured craft.

Twelve men in all were sent to the _Ralph Nickerson_, eight took charge
of the _Benjamin_, and seven were sent into the _James and Charlotte_,
making twenty-seven in all.

This reduced our number to one hundred and thirty-six, and although
such a force should overwhelm fifty-five Britishers if they took it
into their heads to rise, the enemy was sufficiently strong, more
particularly if our people were taken by surprise, to cause serious

While thus casting about to find food for anxiety, I took well into
account the fact that, should the prisoners succeed in releasing
themselves, they would fight desperately, and not be blamed for so
doing, since they could only look forward to imprisonment when we made
the home port.

And they had good cause for venturing their lives in the effort to
escape, if they knew how their countrymen treated such of the Americans
as were captured, because they might reasonably conclude that we of
the United States would be equally brutal with those who fell into our

It must not be supposed that I remained idle in order to cast up all
these accounts which might work to our disadvantage.

I have simply set down here that which came into my mind like flashes
of light, as Simon Ropes and I walked forward to obey his father’s

As the captain had left the matter, we were responsible in a certain
degree for the prisoners, and both of us were bent on showing, if
possible, that we could be depended upon even for such a difficult task
as this.

We went directly into the hold, and there found as lively a scene of
confusion and tumult as can well be imagined.

The Britishers whom we had taken from the other prizes were noisily
greeting the newcomers, and eagerly questioning them concerning the
news of the world from a British standpoint.

The brig was so full as to make it appear that the men were packed like
herrings in a box, and I wondered how it might be possible for them to
lie down at night without being stowed two or three deep over the floor
of the prison.

“How may it be possible to take so many out for exercise?” Simon asked,
in dismay, and I understood from the question that there was in his
mind somewhat of that which had been troubling me.

“They can go out in squads, I reckon, for it is not likely the captain
would allow all these on deck at the same time. However, that need give
us little concern, for it is our business to see that he who runs at
liberty somewhere in the hold be prevented from doing a mischief.”

“I cannot understand why matters are allowed to remain in this
condition,” Simon said, as if speaking to himself. “It would have been
more seemly, according to my way of thinking, had an immediate search
been made for the Britisher who has succeeded in getting out of the
brig. While he is at liberty much mischief may be done, however well we
perform our duty.”

“It appears that your father is not of the same mind, and we can set it
down as a fact that he knows best what should be done.”

“But think of the chances for trouble, while one of the Britishers is
free to move about the hold as he chooses!”

It was as if Simon’s fears gave me courage, for I replied, stoutly, as
one might who never knew what it was to be timorous:

“We have no right to question the captain’s wisdom, and should think
only of carrying out his wishes to the letter.”

Simon made no reply, for a lad cannot well grumble against his father’s
commands, and we loitered around as if from no other motive than that
of curiosity, while the prisoners were making a tumult with their
greetings and questionings.

Before the day was come to an end Simon suggested to me that we take it
upon ourselves to find the man who had escaped.

Since the last batch of prisoners had arrived the guard was strengthened,
and now, as I understood from Mr. Fernald, no less than three of the
crew would be on duty constantly, even during an engagement, therefore
might Simon and I make search for this solitary Britisher if it so
pleased us.

But I was not minded to act upon his suggestion, believing Captain
Ropes would have ordered an immediate search, unless it was his purpose
to so conduct the matter that the _America’s_ crew should understand
beyond a peradventure who had played the part of ghost.

If we two lads took the matter in our own hands, we might upset the
commander’s plans most seriously.

Therefore it was that we hung about the brig, regardless of the fact
that the men detailed as guard expressed no little surprise because of
our willingness to remain below while we might be on deck; and one day
after another passed, while the _America_ cruised to and fro in the
track of merchantmen, as if her commander had forgotten equally his son
and those whom the latter had been set to watch.

Each day the prisoners were taken on deck, twelve or fourteen at a
time, and the fellow who had succeeded in freeing himself from the brig
must have come to the conclusion that his was an unwise move, since he
had thus deprived himself of the privilege of fresh air.

We were seldom on the gun-deck, Simon and I, and therefore had
little idea of how our men were behaving, save as we overheard the
conversation between the sailors on duty in the hold.

Through this slight source of information we gathered that the majority
of the crew were quite willing to forget their previous belief in the
ghostly visitor; but the elder men, among them Master Josh, held to the
idea as strongly as if their happiness depended upon its being proven a

Our success had lessened the fears of the superstitious, and none of
the men had overmuch to say concerning the significance of our carrying
away a spar on the first Friday after leaving port.

That portion of our troubles had been cast aside once and for all, as a
lying omen.

Each morning I expected that Simon and I would be summoned aft by the
captain, and each day was I grievously disappointed in my expectations.

The prisoners, now so formidable in number, knowing that there was one
on the outside who, at the first favourable opportunity, would aid
them, grew insolent, jeering at the guard until it seemed positive our
men would so far forget themselves as to raise their hands against
apparently helpless captives.

Then came that morning when, judging from the confident bearing and
outspoken threats of the Britishers, I made certain they were prepared
to strike a blow of some kind, and I had called Simon Ropes aside with
the intention of suggesting to him that we go aft once more to tell his
father how much mischief was brewing, when we heard a great commotion
on deck.

The guard, who had been ordered not to leave their posts of duty
under any circumstances, except by express orders, urged that we lads
ascertain what had caused the seeming disturbance.

I was the more willing to comply with such request because in the
performance we might get an opportunity of speaking privately to
Simon’s father, and with all speed the lad and I went on to the
spar-deck, finding there both watches in the highest state of
excitement, as well they might be, for off to leeward, not more than
four or five miles away, could be seen a full-rigged ship.

“Is she a Britisher?” I asked of the man nearest me, and he replied,

“Ay, lad, there’s no mistaking her build and rigging. She hails from
England, or I’m a Dutchman, and so heavily loaded with whatsoever may
be the cargo that we’ll find in her a prize worth taking.”

“Providing her captain isn’t in a condition to object,” I replied,
with a smile, whereat the man said, cheerily, as if he found in the
fact no little pleasure:

“She’s armed, lad, so I’ve heard the officers say, an’ shows six ports
on a side, therefore it stands to reason she carries no less than
twelve guns.”

“And probably can put up as severe a fight as did the _Nickerson_,”
Simon added, grimly.

“Well, I am allowin’ we need exercise of that kind, lad. What with
omens, an’ ghosts, an’ near to downright mutiny, this ’ere crew is
gettin’ so rusty that a little blood-lettin’ will work to their
advantage. I hold to it a privateersman gets into a bad condition if he
ain’t knocked around just about so much, an’ our prizes thus far have
come too easy. If we could suddenly find ourselves within range of a
British sloop-of-war it would do us a world of good.”

“I’m thinkin’ you’d change your song if anything like that should
happen,” Simon said, with a laugh, whereat the sailor, who was an
exceeding sensible man, gave us a long lecture upon the necessity of
running a privateersman into serious danger now and then for the sake
of holding him in proper discipline.

Well, it was destined that we should not receive any very painful
lesson on this day, despite the fact that the stranger was reasonably
well armed.

Before two hours had passed we threw a shot across the Britisher’s bow,
and sent another into her mizzen rigging which did no little damage.

Then her captain showed that he must have had more milk than blood
in his veins, for without discharging a single piece,--and we were now
come so near as to see that she did indeed carry twelve guns,--he hove
to quietly as any lamb.

Some of our people fancied there was a trick in all this; that when we
came to board her we would find ourselves in hot water; but Captain
Ropes was not the man to take any chances of this kind.

The _America_ hauled around under the stranger’s stern, where she could
rake her fore and aft with a broadside, and then the boats were lowered
away,--four of them, under command of Mr. Fernald.

It was the quietest capture one can imagine.

The Britisher did not make even a protest as our people swarmed over
the rail, and when Mr. Fernald returned, leaving on board twenty men to
hold possession, we knew that we had as a prize the British twelve-gun
ship _Hope_, from St. Thomas for Glasgow, with a cargo of sugar, rum,
and cotton.

What a cheer went up from our men when Captain Ropes, after a brief
conversation with the first officer, stepped forward to the break of
the quarter-deck and announced the fact in much the same words I have
just set down!


The men yelled themselves hoarse, for this ship would prove by all odds
the most valuable prize we had taken, and if the _America_ turned about
on the home run now, without adding further to her captures, we had
indeed made a most successful cruise of what at one time threatened to
end in disaster.

But good fortune was not to desert us with the capture of the _Hope_,
for Mr. Fernald had brought with him such news as caused the blood of
every member of the crew, including Simon and me, to tingle, and thus
did the captain impart it to his men:

“You lads who have been arguin’ an’ speechifyin’ ever since we left
port, tryin’ to prove that the _America_ was doomed because a rotten
spar chanced to carry away on a Friday, have thus far been disappointed
in all your doleful predictions. Not even the appearance of your
so-called ghost, and that sepulchral voice which you claimed to have
heard, could spoil our luck. We have already made a paying cruise of
it, such a one as will tassel well our neckerchiefs with dollars, and
yet there is more to come. Mr. Fernald brings the information, gathered
from the master of the prize, that yonder ship left St. Thomas three
days ago, one of a fleet of forty-five merchantmen under convoy of the
sloops-of-war _Ringdove_ and _Scorpion_. We are in the vicinity of that
rich fleet, my lads, and if we fail to pick up two or three good prizes
out of it, it will be only through our own neglect.”

Then the men fell to shouting once more, jumping and dancing around the
deck like a pack of savages, and one of them cried out, in a tone so
loud that it could be heard distinctly by all hands:

“Three cheers for the bloomin’ ghost what has brought us into such

The men laughed, and then cheered until the Britishers on board the
_Hope_ must have believed we had entirely lost our heads over their

When the excitement had died away somewhat, Captain Ropes, still facing
us near the break of the quarter, said:

“I allow, my lads, that we are a fairly good match for any British
sloop-of-war afloat, and while I’m not hankerin’ for a fight which
would bring in no dollars on the tail of it, we can afford to take the
chances of meeting one of the king’s vessels while we pick up a stray
merchantman. We’ll get rid of this prize as soon as may be, an’ then
turn our attention to what should, within the next eight an’ forty
hours, put us in fair shape to swing the _America’s_ nose toward home.
Bo’sun Valpey will choose twelve men as a prize-crew, an’ take charge
of the _Hope_, making for the nearest port north of New York. Stir
yourselves lively, my boys, for there’s no time to be lost!”

I question if at that moment a single member of the crew, not excepting
Master Joshua, remembered any of the alleged omens which had seemingly
threatened disaster to us all.

Every man Jack of them fluttered about with a will, and before another
hour was passed a prize-crew had been thrown aboard the captured ship.
We had thirty-one additional prisoners in the hold, making eighty-three
in all, and the _Hope_ was crowding on all sail with her nose pointing



When we parted company with the _Hope_ there was among the crew of the
_America_ but one thought, one idea, and that the capture of other
craft belonging to the _St. Thomas_ fleet.

The richly laden ship had but whetted the appetite of the men for more,
and some of the most sanguine believed we might remain in the midst of
the fleet, seizing a vessel here and there, until we no longer had men
enough on board to make up a prize-crew.

That we would succeed in capturing one or more other craft out of all
the number that had left port seemed absolutely certain, even though
the convoying sloops-of-war came across us while we were at our work,
for, as Captain Ropes had said, we could make it exceeding lively for
either the _Ringdove_ or the _Scorpion_.

The men were so busily occupied with figuring up the amount of
prize-money which had been, and was to be, earned, that they had no
time to spend on possible ghosts, omens of any kind, or such happenings
as had nearly converted honest Yankee sailors into mutineers.

It seemed to Simon and me that the danger from this source had
disappeared entirely; but we were so seriously disturbed as to be
wofully frightened over what might happen if the prisoners concluded to
make an effort toward capturing the ship.

We speculated long and in vain trying to decide why the captain should
have thus neglected to take some steps toward recapturing the Britisher
who was lurking in the _America’s_ hold awaiting an opportunity to free
his fellow.

Now we were positive this fellow had played the ghost by appearing in
the fore-hatchway, as well as by shouting his senseless warning; but
how he had contrived to bring himself into view, when the night was so
dark that the lookouts could not distinguish objects at a distance of
two yards, was more than we could conjecture.

Simon and I had remained constantly on watch from the moment we
discovered one of the prisoners to be missing, and since our having
warned the captain not less than three of the sailors were also on duty
in the hold.

At no time did both of us lads sleep during the same moment. We divided
ourselves into two watches, and indulged in naps lasting no more than
an hour.


Since we could thus rest as well in the daytime as at night, neither of
us felt any evil effects from remaining constantly on the alert.

Never once during all this time did we either hear or see the prisoner
who remained hidden somewhere in the hold, nor could we make certain,
now that there were so many captives, whether those in the brig got
more food than sufficed for their number.

It was only reasonable to believe, however, that the Britishers found
ample opportunity to feed their comrade from the allowance dealt out,
and also that he was ready to open an attack whenever the proper time
had come.

On this day after we parted company with the _Hope_, praying that the
prize-crew might succeed in taking her to an American port, where she
could be sold for our benefit, it seemed necessary we two lads should
exercise more vigilance than ever before, because the excitement among
our crew was so great that those detailed for duty as prisoners’ guard
gave heed to what was going on above, rather than to watching the
throng of enemies which was so rapidly increasing in size.

The brig was no longer large enough to admit of all lying down to sleep
at the same time, and it was certain some different arrangement must be
made when night came.

Once we should be forced to give certain of the number free run of the
hold, the danger to ourselves would be vastly increased, so Simon and I

Because of the fact that we were in the immediate vicinity of a large
fleet, some sail of which we hoped to capture, word had been passed
to the effect that the prisoners would not be allowed to come on deck
for exercise until further orders, and when this was made known to the
Britishers they became so bold as to indulge in open threats of what
they were able to do.

Some of the most reckless declared they could leave the brig at will,
and that the _America_ would be their prize in due course of time.

Simon and I discussed the advisability of going again to the captain,
and would have done so but for fear of being laughed at as cowards who
were afraid of unarmed and imprisoned men.

It was hardly probable Captain Ropes had forgotten the report we made,
and it seemed certain he would take some steps to shun the danger when,
in his opinion, the time was ripe for such a move.

As I have already said, the excitement among our crew was so great that
it seemed impossible for those detailed as guard to remain below; but
one or the other of the three men was constantly running on deck to
learn if a sail had hove in sight.

Thus it was we came to know that, about an hour before sunset, the
lookout had sighted a heavily laden brig, and the _America_ was put
about in full chase.

Perhaps because of this fact no attempt was made to provide better
accommodations for the prisoners.

They were forced to remain packed in the prison, many of them unable
to lie down, and their threats and insubordination increased to an
alarming degree.

“We shall have trouble before morning,” Simon said, in a tone of
studied carelessness to one of the sentinels, hoping thereby to put the
man more on his guard; but the latter replied, indifferently:

“Don’t get fancies into your head, lad. Them ’ere Britishers are where
they can’t work any mischief, no matter how ripe they may be for it.
When you’ve seen as many prisoners aboard ship as have come my way,
you won’t bother yourself about what is possible for them to do while
they’re unarmed an’ packed in snug as those fellows are.”

Fortunately, my comrade and I had not become so familiar with
privateering as to render us careless, else the good ship _America_
would never have sailed into a Yankee port with the stars and stripes
flying, and this much Captain Ropes has said time and time again.

Although we knew our muskets were in proper condition, Simon insisted
they be discharged and reloaded, in order that we might be certain they
were in working order, and he took both weapons on deck, where, after
having received permission from Mr. Fernald, he emptied them.

When he returned, and while we were charging the weapons, the lad told
me that the brig was yet in sight to the southward, and we stood every
chance of overhauling her unless the wind should fail.

Just at that time, however, we gave very little heed to the possibility
of another capture.

In the hold of the _America_ we were confronted by such a situation as
taxed our courage to the utmost.

While it was yet daylight we tried to sleep; but in vain, and after
supper had been served we sat against the bulkhead, where none could
come upon us from the rear, watching closely the snugly packed throng
of Britishers as cats watch a lot of rats.

With all our precautions, the decisive moment came when we were least
expecting it.

It was about ten o’clock at night. Two of the guard were on deck,
having been drawn there by news that the chase was being rapidly
overhauled, when I saw a man suddenly spring out of what had appeared
to be a solid stanchion, as it looked to me, and before I had time to
raise a cry the door of the brig was thrown open, the prisoners pouring
out like swarming bees.

The sailor, who should have been on the alert, was standing near the
foot of the ladder, waiting to learn from his two comrades who had gone
on deck as to the chances of our coming up with the chase, and not
until I cried out did he realise his danger.

By that time, the Britishers were upon him, and he went down like a man
of straw, apparently trampled under their feet, as the foremost made a
rush for the gun-deck, knowing full well that there would be found arms
in plenty.

As a rule, I am a coward; but at that moment, my hand never so much as
quivered, while I took careful aim at the leader, and he fell off the
ladder at the same instant the report of my musket rang out, knocking
down those who were immediately below him.

In a twinkling the entire mob had turned on us lads. They came as does
a foaming wave, seeking to engulf whosoever shall have lingered on the
sands, and involuntarily I closed my eyes while raising the musket like
a club, in order to shut out that blow which seemingly would deprive me
of life.

Fortunately, Simon’s musket was loaded, and he dropped the foremost in
his tracks while the infuriated men were a dozen paces distant, thereby
checking the advance ever so slightly, and in that brief interval I
gathered my senses once more.

It seemed certain I would be killed, and with this belief came such
courage as I had never believed could be mine.

Swinging the musket above my head, I rushed straight toward the
pale-faced man I had seen apparently coming out of the solid stanchion,
and not until I had taken two or three paces toward him did he show his

He--and it could be none other than the man who had played the part of
ghost--had possessed himself of a boarding-pike, and I understood from
the gleam in his eyes that he counted on running me through.

I brought down the musket with a force that would have floored him
like an ox; but he was prepared for such an attack, and my weapon was
splintered on the deck timbers, leaving me with arms so numb that,
even though my life depended upon the movement, I could not raise such
fragments as my hands still clutched.

In another instant the boarding-pike would have found its way through
my body, and then, as if the blow had been delivered over my shoulder,
I saw the butt of a musket fall full upon the fellow’s head, crushing
him to the deck.


Some of the men who were loitering on the gun-deck have declared I
yelled like a maniac for help; but of that I have no knowledge.

When the battle was over,--and it proved to be such a battle as
I hope never to take part in again,--I was not conscious of having
uttered the slightest cry from the moment when the prisoners swarmed
out of the brig.

I only know that I struck again and again with the barrel of the
musket, which was all of the weapon remaining in my hands, and before
me it seemed as if hundreds upon hundreds of infuriated Britishers were
pressing forward, intent only on delivering a fatal blow.

What has been set down above is not quite true, for I remember that
Simon Ropes stood by my side, fighting manfully, and doing twice the
execution that was within my power, for his weapon was uninjured, and
the butt of it fell on more than one man’s head, crushing it to a pulp,
or seeming to do so.

It is said that we were in the hold keeping back the desperate
Britishers no more than three minutes, but it seemed to me as if a full
hour passed before I saw dimly a file of sailors, armed with muskets
and cutlasses, descending the ladder, shooting with careful aim as they

Then it was as if a veil fell suddenly over my eyes; sparks of seeming
fire danced beneath my eyelids, and I knew no more.

When consciousness returned I was in the cockpit being attended to by
the surgeon, and Simon Ropes, bandaged and wrapped in white cloth until
only a comrade would recognise him, lay still as death.

“Is he dead?” I managed to ask, although the simple act of moving my
tongue caused pain.

“Not a bit of it, lad. Both he and you will live many a long day yet,
unless it so chances that you foolishly stand in the path of a British
ball when it comes aboard,” the stern-visaged yet kindly doctor said,
in a cheery tone. “You two lads are rather the worse for wear, I’ll
admit; but you’ve proven yourselves men on this night, and, what’s
more, have saved the _America_. But for you I doubt not that all hands
of us would now be dead, or in the brig with our late prisoners as
guards over us.”

“Did we indeed do as much, sir?” I asked, despite the pain, for the
words sounded very sweet in my ears.

“It is a fact, and Captain Ropes himself said as much not ten minutes
ago. What is more, the ghost has been discovered.”

“Ay, sir, Simon and I have known without seeing him, these ten days
past; but how was he discovered?”

“Joshua Seabury came upon his hiding-place quite by accident, after the
scrimmage was over, and the Britishers packed in the brig once more.
There, also, was found that with which he clothed himself when the men
saw the form so plainly although the night was dark.”

“What was it, sir?” I cried, eagerly, trying to rise on my elbow, but
falling back with a groan immediately afterward.

“Neither more nor less than a piece of white bunting, beneath which he
admits having carried a lantern found on the gun-deck while all hands
were above. The light shining through the thin fabric disclosed his
form, and yet was sufficiently thick to hide the shape of the flame.”

“Do all the crew know this, sir?”

“You may be sure they do. Captain Ropes took good care it should be no
secret, and there’s not a man aboard who is not ashamed to admit he
ever believed in a ghost.”

When this brief conversation had come to an end I was assailed by a
sensation of faintness which overpowered me, and could only close my
eyes in utter helplessness.

Simon Ropes and I were yet in the cockpit when the _America_ captured
her fifth prize, the British brig _Dart_, laden with rum and cotton,
and carrying eight guns.

While we lay below unable to move, the enemy had been overhauled,
submitting without attempting to strike a blow, and we were the richer
by just so much prize-money in prospect.

Although not a gun had been fired, two of the prisoners lost their

It seems, as we heard later from Master Joshua, that our third officer,
Mr. Sparhawk, together with Thomas Fuller, a boatswain’s mate, had been
among those sent to board the prize. On returning to the _America_ in
order to make a report, they brought with them five prisoners; their
boat was stove under the _America’s_ counter, and two of the Britishers
were drowned.

Anthony Caulfield, an able seaman who understood navigation, was put
in charge of the prize, together with eight of our men. And twenty
prisoners were added to the number in the hold.

The _Dart_ was headed for Salem without delay, and our ship cruised
back and forth, hoping to sight yet other vessels of the fleet.

Simon and I were not seriously wounded. The prisoners had had no
weapons, therefore our only injuries came from blows with bare fists,
save the one on my head which was caused by the barrel of my own
musket, that had been wrested from my grasp.

Within eight and forty hours we were able to go on deck, and then, to
our great surprise, we learned that the _America_ was steering a course
which would speedily bring her into Salem Harbour.

It had been necessary to part with so many of the crew in order to man
the prizes, that we were short-handed, and there was nothing left for
us save to make the home port as soon as possible, that we might take
on board those who had probably arrived there in advance of us.

Captain Ropes ordered us lads into his cabin immediately we made our
appearance on the spar-deck in company with the surgeon, and, once
there, he spoke such words of praise as cause my ears to tingle even at
this late day.

He appeared to believe that we had indeed saved the ship from being
captured by the prisoners, and declared that when the prize-money was
distributed our shares should be the same as those of the gunners.

There were many other promises given by him voluntarily; but I do not
propose to set them down here, for they were all made good when we
sailed aboard the _America_ on her second cruise, and that yarn shall
be spun at some future time if I decide to put in writing, for the
pleasure of Simon Ropes and myself, all which befell us then.

It is enough now if I say it was the captain’s orders that we two
lads live aft during the homeward voyage, and right well did we enjoy
ourselves when our wounds were so far healed that they ceased to give
us pain.

We often indulged in a chat with Master Joshua; but neither of us ever
broached the subject of omens, and I observed with no slight amusement
that he claimed to have known from the moment we weighed anchor in
Salem Harbour that our cruise would be most prosperous.

And it was prosperous; we had taken five rich prizes in a few over one
hundred days, which was more than the majority of privateersmen could

Every man Jack of us would have dollars in plenty once the captured
vessels were sold, and, what was far better, could say with good truth
that we had done even more than our share in inflicting injury upon the

We talked all these things over while the _America_ was driven swiftly
by favouring winds toward the Massachusetts coast, never dreaming but
that we had come to an end of taking prizes until after going ashore at

Therefore it was we were almost astonished when, the voyage being more
than half completed, the lookouts announced that a sail was in sight,
and the information was given in a tone which told plainly the belief
of the men that another Britisher was within our grasp.

It was on the sixteenth day of December, when we were near the Western
Islands, that this sail came in view from the southeast.

We in the cabin were making a long story of breakfast as a means of
passing the time, when the lookout hailed, and he who has ever served
on a privateer knows full well the excitement which was immediately
after apparent on our decks.

I might fill page after page with an account of what was said or done
from eight o’clock on that morning until nearly noon, when we had the
Britisher close under our guns, for we could sail nearly two miles to
her one; but so much has already been set down here concerning a chase
that I shall say, without further preamble, it was quickly at an end
once we came within range.

It was the brig _Euphemia_, of Glasgow, bound for Gibraltar from La
Guayra, with four hundred thousand pounds of coffee on board, which we
had overhauled, and, although the Britisher carried ten guns and was
manned by thirty-five men, she submitted to capture as peacefully as if
she had been a child.

We had only to fire a shot across her bows after she was beneath our
guns, and the deed was done.

That valuable cargo and staunch vessel was ours without further parley,
and would serve to swell the amount of prize-money until our men’s
heads swam with thinking of the good hard dollars which would be theirs
once we made Salem again.

This last capture rejoiced me more than had any of the others; not
particularly on account of the rich cargo, but because she had fallen
into our hands so easily, and when we believed we had done, for the
time being, with capturing Britishers.

The king, who claimed the right to overhaul our vessels in order
to impress Yankees under the subterfuge that they had once been
Englishmen, would soon learn how much of blood and treasure it was
necessary to spend in the effort to make good the claim, if indeed he
ever could.

Well, we made a prize of the _Euphemia_; displaced Captain John Gray,
who commanded her when she left La Guayra, by our boatswain’s mate,
Archibald S. Dennis, and threw on board eleven men to take the places
of the twenty-one sailors and two officers we made prisoners.

The remainder of the crew promised to obey faithfully the new master,
and were allowed to remain aboard the craft they had counted on taking
into a British port.

Four hundred thousand pounds of coffee is not to be picked up on the
ocean every day, and it can well be fancied that our crew, what was
left of them, made exceeding merry over the capture; but any one of
them might have been reduced to a state of shame had the cook but
whispered in his ear the single word “ghost.”

After we were on our course once more, in company with the prize, which
we did not count on losing sight of, all hands came to understand why
Captain Ropes, who had the name of being most greedy when Britishers
were to be captured, was so willing to steer for the home port before
we had been at sea four months.

The truth leaked out when we were put on an allowance of three and
one-half pints of water per day for each man, including the officers,
and before we sighted Baker’s Island once more every man Jack of us
knew what it was to be thirsty.

The prisoners, despite all they would have done, were given the same
amount of water as Captain Ropes himself had, and this fact was some
consolation to me as I thought of what such a throng must suffer in the
narrow confines of the brig.

Neither Simon Ropes nor I felt hardly toward them because of the
injuries they had inflicted upon us.

In fact, it seemed only natural they should attempt to capture the
ship, when what seemed a favourable opportunity presented itself,
and I have no doubt but that we two lads, barring the possibility of
our being too cowardly, would have made a similar effort under like

We longed for water as a miser longs for gold, prisoners and Americans
alike, before we reached port, and never again will I say that money
can buy all which is needed in this world.

We sailed proudly up past Baker’s Island, one hundred and twenty-two
days after having passed it outward bound, and in that time we had
captured six prizes that were afterward valued at one hundred and
fifty-eight thousand dollars.

Show me a privateer afloat during the war just ended, which made more
valuable captures, or was more successful in getting her prizes into

The _James and Charlotte_ was carried by Mr. Tibbetts safely into
Salem Harbour. The _Benjamin_ put into Nantucket, after having been
chased for fifty-two hours by a British sloop-of-war, and, later, was
sold at auction in Boston. Mr. Proctor ran the _Ralph Nickerson_ into
Marblehead, where her cargo of lumber found a ready sale, and Mr.
Valpey successfully piloted the _Hope_ into Boston Bay. The _Dart_
arrived at Salem without mishap, and her merchandise is remembered to
this day by the people of the eastern coast, while the _Euphemia_ was
chased, but succeeded in gaining the harbour of Portland, Maine, three
days after we arrived at the home port.

We had not lost a single prize, which was another matter to give us
more than our share of pride, and from the hour our anchor was dropped
on the seventh day of January, in the year 1813, the fame of the
_America_ spread from Maine to South Carolina.

Captain Ropes took good care that the people of Salem should know what
Simon and I had done when the prisoners attempted to capture the ship,
and as we went ashore it was with difficulty we could make our way to
the head of the dock, because of the throngs which were bent on showing
their appreciation of our services.

I should have had sufficient courage to explain that on my part it was
all an accident; that if there had been any idea in my mind of the
danger which threatened, I might not have remained in the hold of the
ship to check the rush; but even though I had screamed at the full
strength of my lungs none would have heard, so great was the uproar,
or, hearing, would have taken heed after Simon’s father had given his
account of the affair.

As a matter of fact, I hardly realised that I was receiving praise
which had not been earned; the thought of being clasped in my mother’s
arms once more, knowing she was convinced I had done my full duty, was
so great that all else passed unheeded, and until her dear arms folded
me closely to her breast I did not fully understand what part I was
playing in this reception given by the good people of Salem.

I came to appreciate it fully, however, at a later day, and to be
exceeding proud of its being said on every street corner concerning
Simon Ropes and myself, that we had shown ourselves to be the equal of
any who sailed from Salem on board the armed ship _America_.

                               THE END.

 Transcriber’s Notes:

 --Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 --Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 --Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 --Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

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