« AnteriorContinuar »
The vessel was nearly new, well fitted, about 220 tons burden, and belonged to Messrs. Riley and Brown, Josiah Savage and Co. and Luther Savage of that city. Her crew consisted of George Williams, chief mate, Aaron R. Savage, second mate, William Porter, John Hogan, James Barrett, Archibald Robbins, Thomas Burns, and James Clark, seamen, Horace Savage, cabin-boy, and Richard Deslisle, (a black man,) cook. Having taken on board a cargo of tobacco and flour, they sailed from New Orleans on the 24th June, arrived at Gibraltar on the 9th August, and after taking in some brandies and wines, about two thousand hard dollars, and an old man named Antonio Michel, a native of New Orleans, they proceeded on the 23d for the Cape de Verd islands; passed Cape Spartel on the 24th-and, on the 28th, after much thick weather, found, by observation, that they were in lat. 27° 30'; that the current had set them 120 miles, and that they had passed the Canaries without seeing them. The dark and foggy weather increased, the sea ran high, night came on, and they suddenly found themselves among breakers, from which they in vain endeavoured to extricate themselves, and the ship struck with such violence as to start every man from the deck.' She soon bilged; but they succeeded in getting out of her hold five or six barrels of water and as many of wine, three barrels of bread, and three or four of salted provisions. All their clothing, chests, trunks, &c. were got up, and the books, charts, and sea instruments stowed in them, in the hope that they might prove useful to them in future.
Having now got a glimpse of the land at no great distance, Riley and Porter ventured into the small boat, to take a rope on shore; they were presently swamped, and covered with the billows, which, says the author, following each other in quick suc cession, scarcely gave us time to catch a breath, before we were again literally swallowed by them, till at length we were thrown, together with our boat, upon a sandy beach. They fastened the rope to pieces of wood which had floated from the wreck, and which they drove into the sand. By means of this rope part of the crew got on shore with the long boat and the provisions and water; but the boat was stove against the beach; and the remainder of the crew were landed one by one with the assistance of the hawser, but not without imminent peril of their lives.
Their first care was to secure their provisions and water, ' knowing it was a barren and thirsty land;' and with this view they formed a tent at fifty yards from the water's edge, by means of their oars and two steering-sails. Their next object was to repair the boats, in the hope that, when the weather moderated, they might put to sea, and by the help of the compass, find some friendly vessel, or
some European settlement down the coast, or reach the Cape de Verd islands. But while thus employed, something like a human being was observed at a little distance, intent on plunder. Mr. Riley approached him with signs of peace and friendship, but those he received in return were repulsive-however, as he appeared to be unarmed, Riley says he continued to approach him. The description of this being is so picturesque, that we cannot refrain from giving it in the author's words.
'He appeared to be about five feet seven inches high, and of a complexion between that of an American Indian and a negro. He had about him, to cover his nakedness, a piece of coarse woollen cloth that reached from below his breast nearly to his knees; his hair was long and bushy, resembling a pitch mop, sticking out every way six or eight inches from his head; his face resembled that of an ourang-outang more than a human being; his eyes were red and fiery; his mouth, which stretched nearly from ear to ear, was well lined with sound teeth; and a long curling beard, which depended from his upper lip and chin down upon his breast, gave him altogether a most horrid appearance, and I could not but imagine that those well-set teeth were sharpened for the purpose of devouring human flesh; particularly as I conceived I had before seen, in different parts of the world, the human face and form in its most hideous and terrific shape. He appeared to be very old, yet fierce and vigorous; he was soon joined by two old women of similar appearance, whom I took to be his wives. These looked a little less frightful, though their two eye-teeth stuck out like hog's tusks; and their tanned skins hung in loose plaits on their faces and breasts; but their hair was long and braided. A girl from eighteen to twenty, who was not ugly, and five or six children of different ages and sexes, from six to sixteen years, were also in company-these were entirely naked.'-p. 20.
This grotesque group were armed with an English hammer, an axe, and long knives suspended from their necks; and they commenced an indiscriminate plunder; broke open trunks, chests, and boxes; and carried off all their clothing and bedding without any molestation, as it was deemed prudent to forbear hostilities with these wretches, weak as they were, since all escape either by sea or land was utterly impossible; their provisions, however, they were determined to defend to the last extremity.
They now set about repairing the long-boat, but found her in a most miserable condition; however, with a little oakum and some pieces of planks, they contrived to patch her up so as to float. The robbers retired towards the evening, but not before they had coutrived to steal one of the sails of the tent; on departing they made signs that they would see them again in the morning. With the fire that one of the Arab children had kindled, the shipwrecked mariners roasted a drowned fowl which the surf had thrown up, and T 2 with
with the addition of some salt pork and a little bread and butter, made a hearty meal, 'little thinking,' says Mr. Riley, 'that this was to be the last of our provisions we should be permitted to enjoy.'
In such a situation, the reflections that night brought with them may readily be imagined; a few hours had reduced a sound and comfortable ship to a wreck; from that wreck they had been thrown on a barren and inhospitable coast; a tempestuous ocean before them; behind, a set of savage beings, bearing nothing human but the form, and even that of the most terrific appearance:— on the one side, almost certain destruction to attempt, with so frail and shattered a boat, the tremendous surges that broke on the shore with such violence as to make the whole coast tremble;-on the other, slavery, and all the miseries of a cruel and protracted death.
This,' says Riley, was the first time I had ever suffered shipwreck. I had left a wife and five young children behind me, on whom I doated, and who depended on me entirely for their subsistence. My children would have no father, and perhaps no mother's care to direct them in the path of virtue, to instruct their ripening years, or to watch over them, and administer the balm of comfort in time of sickness—no generous friend to relieve their distresses, and save them from indigence, degradation, and ruin. These reflexions harrowed up my soul, nor could I cease to shudder at these imaginary evils, added to my real ones, until I was forced mentally to exclaim-" Thy ways, Great Father of the Universe, are wise and just, and what am I!—an atom of dust, that dares to murmur at thy dispensations!"'—p. 25.
At daylight the old Arab, according to promise, made his appearance with his two wives, and two young men; he brandished a spear as if to hurl it at the party, motioned them to the wreck, and pointed to a drove of camels that were descending the heights; towards which the women ran off, at the same time whooping and yelling horribly, throwing up sand in the air, and beckoning to those who had charge of the camels to approach.' The crew, alarmed, made for the boat, and Riley defended himself against the old man's spear, with a spar of wood; the boat, however, immediately filled and was bilged; the camels approached fast; the long-boat was launched into the water, and in her the whole crew got safe to the wreck. The camels were immediately loaded with the provisions and the tent, after which the old villain stove in the heads of the water casks, and casks of wine, emptying their contents on the beach; he then collected all the trunks, chests, instruments, books and charts, and set fire to them in one pile. No alternative was now left, but to try the sea in their leaky boat, for, whether they remained to be washed off the wreck in the course of the night, or to fall into the hands of the barbarians, to stay was inevitable death; they had no
water; the bread was completely soaked; and a few bottles of wine and as many pieces of salt pork were all they could procure; they had but two oars left and those were on shore; with a plank split into two pieces, however, they attempted to shove off; but a surf struck the boat, and nearly filling her with water, drifted her again alongside the wreck.'
The Arabs now appeared to pity their deplorable situation, and made signs of peace and friendship, inviting Riley, whom they knew to be the Captain, to return to the shore; they carried their arms behind the sand hills to allay their fears, and brought down a skin full of water, which they held up; all of them then retired, except the old man, who waded with it into the surf up to his armpits. At length Riley ventured by the hawser, took the water, and returned with it on board. He again went on shore; the women and children approached, seemed very friendly, laced their fingers within his, and made use of all th means that occurred to them likely to inspire confidence. Instantly however he found himself seized by two young men, who grasped his arms like lions,' and the women and children presented their daggers, knives and spears to his head and breast.' Their faces assumed the most horrid and malignant expression; they gnashed their teeth at him, and struck their daggers within an inch of every part of his head and body.' The old man laid hold of his hair, and, seizing a scimitar, held it to his throat, giving him to understand there was money on board, and that it must instantly be brought on shore.
When the ship was wrecked, Mr. Riley had divided the dollars among the crew. On being informed of their demands, he hailed the men and told them what the savages required; accordingly a bucket was sent on shore with about one thousand dollars. The old man instantly laid hold of it, aud forcing Riley to accompany him, they all went behind the sand hills to divide the spoil. In this situation Riley felt himself uneasy, and in order to regain the beach, he made signs that there was still more money remaining in the ship: this hint succeeded; and, in the idea of getting it, they allowed him again to hail his people, when, instead of money, he desired them to send the old man Antonio Michel on shore, as the only possible means left for him to effect his own escape. The Arabs, finding on his reaching the shore, that he had brought no money with him, struck him with their fists, pricked him with their sharp knives, and stripped him of all his clothes; and at this moment, while they were busy with this poor old man, Riley seized the opportunity of springing from his keepers, and plunged into the sea. On rising through the surf, he perceived the old Arab within ten feet of him, up to his chin in water, with his uplifted spear; but another surf rolling at that instant over him, saved his life, and he reached the
lee of the wreck in safety; but the remorseless brutes wreaked their vengeance on poor Antonio, by plunging a spear into his body which laid him lifeless at their feet.
The wreck was by this time going rapidly to pieces; the longboat writhed like an old basket; they had neither provisions nor water; neither oars nor a rudder to the boat; neither compass nor quadrant to direct her course:-yet, hopeless as their situation was, and expecting to be swallowed up by the first surf, they resolved to try their fate on the ocean, rather than to encounter certain death from the relentless savages on shore. By great exertion they succeeded in finding a water cask in the hold, out of which they filled a keg of about four gallons. One of the seamen, Porter, stole on shore by the hawser, and brought on board the two oars, with a small bag of money which they had buried on their first landing, containing about four hundred dollars; they also contrived to get together a few pieces of salt pork, a live pig weighing about twenty pounds, about four pounds of figs that had been soaking in the salt water since the time they were wrecked, a spar for the boat's mast, a jib and a main sail.
Every thing being ready, and every man having made up his mind that it was better to be swallowed up all together, than massacred one by one by the ferocious savages, they prepared for launching the boat through the breakers, trembling with dreadful apprehensions, and each imagining that the moment of passing the vessel's stern was to be the last of his life.
"I then said, "Let us pull off our hats, my shipmates, and companions in distress." This was done in an instant; when lifting my eyes and my soul towards Heaven, I exclaimed, "Great Creator and Preserver of the Universe, who now seest our distresses; we pray thee to spare our lives, and permit us to pass through this overwhelming surf to the open sea; but if we are doomed to perish, Thy will be done! We commit our souls to the mercy of thee our God who gave them and Oh, Universal Father, protect and preserve our widows and children." 'The wind, as if by divine cominand, at this very moment ceased to blow. We hauled the boat out; the dreadful surges that were nearly bursting upon us, suddenly subsided, making a path for our boat about twenty yards wide, through which we rowed her out as smoothly as if she had been on a river in a calm, whilst on each side of us, and not more than ten yards distant, the surf continued to break twenty feet high, and with unabated fury. We had to row nearly a mile in this manner: all were fully convinced we were saved by the immediate interposition of Divine Providence in this particular instance, and all joined in returning thanks to the Supreme Being for this mercy.'-p. 41.
Mr. Riley, in his notice to the reader,' says, he was advised by a friend to suppress this fact, lest those who are not disposed to