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'We shall have hot work below,' said Hecate; we 'll run out by the eastern channel, and so avoid being exposed between two fires, thereby placing both batteries on one side.'
See they're telegraphing from Citadel Hill!' interrupted Barnett, springing up.
'So they are! by all that's holy!' answered Hecate. Three lanterns in a triangle; number forty-three; Stop that brig;' there it is, as plain as the English language! Well, Mr. Barnett, shall we make an effort to save the brig and cargo, and run the gantlet of three heavy batteries, or shall we go back and surrender ourselves quietly up?"
'No, no; go on; save the brig, at all hazards!'
To add, if possible, to their already perilous position, the moon was just rising in all her queenly beauty, threatening to expose, by her light, the gallant vessel to yet greater danger. Captain Hecate's eyes, when they were not engaged upon looking after the management of his vessel, were intently fixed upon the fort at Point Sandwich, which his vessel was rapidly nearing. In coming down the channel, the brig had been keeping on the eastern side, hugging the Dartmouth shore all the way down, that being the farthest course that could be taken from the neighborhood of the forts. As they gradually drew nearer to Point Sandwich, Captain Hecate in vain endeavored to discover any signs of hostility; nor could he discern a single human figure. The fort rose upon the water's edge, in profound silence; the only sign of animation was the ensign of Great Britain, fluttering from the flag-staff. The brig had now arrived nearly abreast, and our captain was consoling himself with the idea that the vessel, by keeping close to the shore, had escaped the observation of those in the fort, when a bright flash from one of the heavy pieces, succeeded by a crash, and a skipping ball, convinced him that his hopes were fallacious.
'Brig ahoy! What brig is that?' hailed an officer.
The man that lisps a single word, I'll shoot as dead as George the Third' said Hecate, drawing a pistol, and addressing the crew. 'Brig ahoy, there! heave to!' shouted the officer, somewhat more peremptorily.
Not a word was returned in answer, and the brig's course was not stayed in the least.
heave to, or we 'll sink you !'
Sink away!' shouted Hecate, snatching up the trumpet, and answering the hail in a tone of derision.
His reply was followed by the discharge of the whole tier of guns. The balls rattled about his hull, and through the sails, but fortunately did no material damage. The vessel was now in a most critical position, for as she lay exposed by the light of the moon, which was shining, as it seemed to Captain Hecate, with tenfold brilliancy, a fair aim was offered to her opponents. Still he hesitated not for an instant. Seizing the helm with his own hand, he guided the brig directly onward toward the outer entrance; and although the shots of both batteries, for the Half-moon had opened a cannonading, fell thick and fast around him, compelling him to receive a cross fire without being able to offer any defence, yet not for a moment did
his mind conceive the thought of surrendering. Close to him, upon the quarter deck, stood Mr. Barnett, with his clerk and the mate; while along the deck, the men, who had been lifted to enthusiasm by their captain's coolness amid danger, stood clustered in groups, ready to obey his next order at a second's notice, even though it should be to sail up and carry one of the batteries by assault.
We'll go out through the eastern channel, by Dartmouth side,' said Captain Hecate; and although we shall be obliged to receive the fire from Sanbro' light, yet by these means we shall avoid being placed in a cross fire again, between that and the Half-moon.'
Mr. Barnett nodded, and then relapsed into silence, as they were now rapidly nearing the Half-moon, and consequently its fire was becoming hotter. Exposed, however, as the brig had been, to this heavy firing, no material damage had been done. Some little cutting up of the rigging and canvass, and a few shots in her hull, were all the signs that she bore about her of the conflict. As Captain Hecate anticipated, when they came abreast of the Half-moon, he was again hailed, and ordered to heave to; but maintaining an unbroken silence, and keeping steadily on, had the effect to draw the fire from a whole tier of guns. Crash! came the shot again, through her rigging and spars, and in a trice the maintop-gallant mast was flying into slivers, while those in the fort, seeing the effect produced, sent up a hearty and prolonged shout.
Ay, yell away!' muttered Captain Hecate, who was not in the best of humors at seeing his top-gallant mast splintered, you'd laugh if the Atlantic ocean should sweep Halifax out to sea; and I wish I could find it out there! I'd return some of its warm acknowledgments, with interest and principal !'
They had now gained the current of the outer channel, and were shooting rapidly through; but they had yet to receive the shot from the battery on Sanbro' light; and although the exposure would be for only a few minutes, yet having run through all, and being crippled after having reached the sea, was a misfortune from which all fervently prayed they might escape. It would seem as if Fortune had espoused the side of this gallant vessel, and determined to carry her safely through; for after a few ineffectual shots from the Sanbro' battery, she was far out on the boundless ocean, free from farther molestation, and as staunch and tight as ever. The broken top-gallant mast was soon replaced by a temporary spar; and the brig, after standing for some distance out, in an easterly direction, hauled her course, and bounded onward on her outward voyage.
After getting fairly in blue water, and seeing that things were in ship-shape, Captain Hecate proposed to Mr. Barnett and his clerk to leave the deck in charge of the mate, and spend an hour over a bottle of wine in the cabin. It required but little persuasion to induce them to acquiesce; and accordingly they were soon seated around the small circular table, indulging in the unrestrained freedom of convivial mirth.
'Gentlemen,' said Captain Hecate, as he uncorked the third bottle, allow me to give you a sentiment: May England be more successful in most of her undertakings, than her loyal subjects have been in endeavoring to catch our gallant bark!''
Amid the applause of his companions, the toast was tossed off, while he continued:
'And also allow me to say, that when the lion of her coat of arms shall rouse itself in
Down came Captain Hecate's clenched fist upon the table, with an emphasis that made the glasses jingle and rattle again with the concussion.
There they are again! We have n't shaken 'em off yet!' exclaimed he, springing up the companion-way, and upon deck, just as the second hail, accompanied by the report of a heavy gun, fired to leeward, was borne to them over the waters, from a large vessel lying a short distance off. One glance was sufficient to assure him that it was a man-o'-war-frigate, of the largest class; and by the lanterns that illuminated her whole row of broadside-guns, he perceived that they were manned and ready, and that resistance would be altogether useless. Seizing the speaking-trumpet, therefore, he answered:
'Brig Growler, of Halifax!'
There was a pause of a few minutes, and then the same voice again hailed them :
'Where from ? — and where bound? — and what 's your cargo ?' 'From Halifax into New-York, with a cargo of sugars and coffee for the peace-market.'
'Well, heave to, and we 'll send a boat aboard.'
As there was no alternative, Captain Hecate was forced to give the order for backing the top-sails, and laying the brig to, until the boat should board them. He knew that if his papers were shown, instant capture must inevitably ensue; as with documents purporting him to be from Malaga to Halifax, he was, with all the sail his brig could carry, running directly away from Halifax, and had also replied to their hail that he was bound to New-York. How should he produce the necessary clearance, in case it was demanded? How account for the absence of it? He knew not, and he therefore racked his ingenuity, in the hopes that he might be able to discover some means by which he might extricate himself, and escape without forfeiture, which most surely would be the consequence of detection. The moon, which a passing cloud had obscured for a few moments, now burst forth, throwing a flood of light upon the scene, and lighting up every portion of both vessels.
The Sentinel! as sure as
He staid not to complete the sentence, but jumped down into the cabin, and communicated what he had just learned to his owner.
I know her well, and her officers,' said he, with hope beaming in his countenance; and if you will only keep close here, leaving me to deal with them, I'll come off with flying colors. It is the same frigate that convoyed a fleet from Spithead round the Cape to Manilla and the Indies, to which a brig that I commanded was attached: she tried a race with this very craft, and failed, the last time but one that I came out of Halifax.'
If that's the case, and the Growler can outsail her, why run any risk? Why not walk away from her?'
'It would be 'walking away,' with a vengeance! Her guns would blow us to Jericho, before we could get a cable's length from her. No; you keep close; do n't show yourself, and I will manage them.'
He stepped upon deck again, as the boat from the frigate came alongside, and an officer boarded them. Hastily advancing to meet him, Captain Hecate shook the hand of the officer heartily, exclaiming:
Lieutenant Talbot, I am rejoiced to see you.'
For a moment the officer looked at him, somewhat surprised, and then, as if recollection had come to his aid, returned the welcome of the hand, and answered:
How are you, Sir? Captain Hecate, of the Aurora, I believe, are you not?
That is my name, Sir, but not now of the Aurora. She laid her bones on Madagascar reef, and I am now in command of this brig; a fine vessel, of two hundred and forty tons; sails like the wind, and indeed, as you know, beat your famed frigate in a race: she carries sail admirably, off wind or on; and as
Hallo! avast there!' interrupted Lieutenant Talbot, laughing: 'why your tongue is going as fast as a ship scudding. Tell me, where are you from, and where going? I must institute some little inquiry, to satisfy our old captain. Where are your papers?'
Oh, safe enough!' answered Hecate, his heart sinking rapidly: 'Come, it is of no use to show them: I can rattle them all off to you, and you'll trust me, I know. Brig Growler, Hecate, master, bound from Halifax to New-York, with coffee and sugar.'
'I say, Hecate,' said Talbot, looking at him with a queer' expression, at the same time pointing to two or three baskets of wine that were stowed in the long-boat; does that look much like coffee and sugar?'
Oh! I forgot that,' replied Hecate, interrupting him; that's a private adventure of my own. Have the goodness to accept a basket for your own use, in remembrance of the good old times, when we sailed round the Cape of Good Hope in company; and also please to take another aboard, with my respects to Captain Lovett. He has not forgotten me yet, I hope?'
Oh no; he frequently speaks of you.'
'So much the better- so much the better,' interrupted Hecate; 'and Lieutenant Talbot, you'll find the wine to your liking, I'll pledge my word.'
The lieutenant was prodigal of thanks, and the very pink of politeness, when the present had been tendered, accepted, and stowed in the boat.
'I must leave you,' he said, turning to the side. Hecate's heart bounded; and if you should ever come aboard the Sentinel, you shall find a hearty welcome. I will not put you to the unnecessary trouble of showing your papers; and Captain Lovett will bear me out, when I tell him who you are. As soon as I get aboard, I'll send a streamer up the mainmast, and when it reaches the truck, you can go on. The moon is bright, and you can easily see it. Hope you'll have a pleasant voyage. Good by!'
Motionless, Captain Hecate watched the boat until it was taken in
by the frigate; and the few minutes that ensued, previous to giving the signal, were to him moments of agony. Not until the streamer was half way up to the mast-head, did he find relief; and scarcely had it touched the truck, before the brig was again put about, and dashing on her course.
THE foregoing sketch is no fiction. The main incidents are drawn from actual occurrences; and the author has it in his power to give real names; which he would do, but for the reason that several of the parties are yet living. Suffice it for the present to say, that one of the then owners of the brig is at this time engaged in a great commercial enterprise, which promises both to Europe and America the most beneficial results;* and the resolute and fearless commander, who through these few pages has figured as Captain Hecate, is now residing upon one of the most pleasant farms in the vicinity of Newburyport, (Mass.)
R. L. W.
Boston, June, 1840.
THRICE happy he, who loves the cloistered gloom
He dwells amid a proud society;
For the fair mountains, with their scented winds,
To muse upon their grandeur, when the hills
HON. SAMUEL CUNARD, of the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company.