Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

being a passenger was no excuse. Accordingly, I went up, and sat there two hours and a half, looking across the broad ocean for the much-desired land. At length a speck seemed to rise on the horizon, and I asked my comrade if that were land; for I feared to call out, and inspire men in such desperate circumstances with groundless hopes : they were not, I knew, in a frame of mind to be trifled with. I therefore did not call out till I could plainly discover a white cliff, and a smoke at a distance from it, whereupon I boldly shouted : 'Land! land!'

At this joyful news, several sailors immediately ran up the shrouds, and even the captain himself, to make his observations. One among them knew the land, and said it was Port Dauphin, and that the king of that part of the island—all the people being negroes, in a savage state-was an enemy to all white men, and treated all the Europeans who fell into his hands in a barbarous manner. This king, he said, was called Samuel, and he advised us by all means to avoid landing on his territories. This information put us into the utmost confusion and despair, and proved indeed our ruin. The man who made the discouraging report spoke his real sentiments ; but he laboured under a mistake, as we afterwards discovered. King Samuel had, it appears, received an affront from the crew of a French vessel, and he ever afterwards attacked all French without mercy who put into his dominions; he had, however, no animosity against any other white nation, but the reverse ; so that, had we put in there, we had at least saved our lives and some of our cargo. Under the erroneous impression made by the sailor, we unfortunately steered westward along the coast, to see if a proper landing-place could be found.

Crawling onward in this wretched condition, we kept a look-out for some safe spot to run the vessel aground. Nothing of the kind was to be seen ; and the ship, staggering in the water, threatened every instant to be swamped. The men now went to the captain and asked him what he proposed to do, for the ship could swim no longer. He asked them if they approved of his running the vessel on shore at all risks, to which they all agreed, crying out : 'Anything to save our lives.' It would have been of great importance to get ashore in an orderly manner ; but this could not be done, in consequence of another blunder of the captain. We had lost our longboat and pinnace at Bengal, and the captain not taking the trouble to replace them, we had but one small boat left. In this juncture, an attempt was made to ease the vessel by cutting away the masts, and throwing everything overboard, hoping she would drive high on the beach. This failed, and now our only chance of getting through the breakers that dashed on the shore was by the smail boat, and a raft made with some planks and yards.

While engaged making the raft, some of the natives who were fishing saw our distress, and made a smoke to guide us to the shore;

but although this looked like kindness, we entertained a poor opinion of the intentions of the savages. The raft was finished that night, and it was arranged that the attempt to land should be made in the morning

After a dismal night, day dawned, and all prepared to leave the ill-fated vessel. The first thing done was to send Mr Pratt, our chief-mate, and four men in the boat, with a long rope for a warp, to fasten on the land. A great sea constantly runs here upon the rocks, and before they got to land, their boat was staved in pieces ; however, being pretty near it, by the help of some of the natives, who were negroes, they saved that part of the boat to which the rope was fastened. We had two Englishwomen on board : one of them would not venture on the raft, nor would the captain; but the other woman and about forty or fifty of us did : I stripped off all my clothes, but took two purses of money and a silver cup, and tied them fast round my middle. We hauled by the rope towards the shore, but were no sooner among the breakers than the first sea upset the raft, and washed us off : some swam to the raft again, but were soon washed off; and though the woman was drowning just by me, yet I could not save her. I sank under every wave, and with great difficulty got on shore, as did every one else on the raft, except the woman. There was such a surf running, and the sea broke so high, that we durst not venture out with the raft again, which the captain perceiving, ordered the cable to be cut, and let the ship drive nearer the land, where she soon beat to pieces. The captain got on shore with his father's heart in his hand, which, according to his request when dying, was put into a bottle, in order to be brought to England and buried at Dover.

At length they all got on shore on pieces of the ship, planks, &c., two men only excepted, who were drowned, and the woman before mentioned : the other woman escaped, though she was so full of water, as well as some others, that we were obliged to roll and rub them well, to make them disgorge the water. We laid them also before a great fire made for that purpose, and in a little time they · revived. We were in all above 160, including the Lascars.

The country now began to be alarmed, and we had already two or three hundred negroes flocking round us, picking up several pieces of silk and fine calicoes : the muslin they had little or no regard for. Our goods were driven ashore in whole bales; for what with saltpetre and other things, we reckoned there might be 300 tons left, after all that was thrown overboard at sundry times before.

One of the negroes brought an ox to us, and intimated by signs that we should kill him ; but we made signs to them again to shoot him for us, we having no ammunition. When one of them perceived this, he lent us his gun, ready charged, and with it one of our men shot the bullock dead on the spot.

It was extremely shocking to see the negroes cut the beast, skin * and flesh together, then toss them into the fire, or ashes, as it hap

pened, and eat them half roasted. I shuddered for fear they should devour us in like manner; for they seemed to me to be a kind of cannibals, of whom I had heard very dreadful stories : everything, in short, appeared horrible to nature, and excited in us the most dismal apprehensions.

Being very much at the mercy of the barbarians into whose hands we had fallen, they used no ceremony in taking possession of every article that had belonged to the ship. While some were busily engaged in opening our bales, and taking what they liked best, I observed that several of them regarded the iron they found much more than all those goods we usually look on as valuable, and took great pains to break all such pieces of timber as had iron in them. I broke open my chest, and took out only one suit of clothes, leaving the rest to those who had most mind for them.

ADVENTURES AFTER SHIPWRECK. Our shipwreck had been conducted with so little regard to future proceedings, or even the preservation of our lives against the attacks of the natives, that the whole company were now exposed to any fresh misery that might ensue. As I was a mere boy, and had no right to advise one way or another, I necessarily submitted to the decision of others. Our captain, whose rashness and folly had caused all our disasters, proved equally incompetent in this new posture of affairs. He could give no directions, and two days and nights were spent very miserably on the shore, without coming to any resolụtion, or knowing what to do.

On the third evening, about nine o'clock, we heard a man call out 'Hollo!' at a great distance, like an Englishman, who, being immediately answered, came nearer, and asked who we were. Having given him the required information, he sat down with us by our fire, and told us the object of his visit. He was one of the crew of an English vessel, commanded by Captain Drummond, a Scotchman, which had been two months before wrecked on the island; and the captain and crew, including a Captain Steward, were now detained by the king of this part of the country, and would gladly make their escape. He, our visitant, whose name was Sam, had been deputed by the king to bring information as to who we were, and what we wanted. Sam further gave us an idea of the condition of things in Madagascar. The whole island, he said, which was as large as Great Britain, was altogether inhabited by negroes, forming a great many petty kingdoms, which were almost continually at war with each other. All were much on a level as to barbarism, but they were generally acquainted with the use of firearms and gunpowder, which, with other articles, they got from English, Dutch, and other traders, in exchange principally for slaves. The capturing of slaves, in order to carry on this trade, was a main cause of the numerous wars between the different kings and chiefs. The only king who possessed the inclination to help distressed English sailors was King Samuel, a man who had once been in Europe, and acquired some civilised habits; and although he had a great enmity to the French, he would have succoured us had we put into Port Dauphin.

Sam having made an end of his story, to which everybody listened with the utmost attention, we pa and went with heavy hearts to our respective quarters, which were under the bushes. It was very late, and we endeavoured to repose ourselves as well as we could. The pieces of muslin served us to spread on the ground for beds; but as for my own part, I could not close my eyes to rest. I now began to reflect on my former obstinacy and perverseness. The thought of my tender mother's begging me on her knees not to go to sea, gave me the most distracting torture. I could now see my error, and repent, but who could I blame but myself? Here were many poor men who had no other way to live, but I was reduced to no such necessity: I ran headlong into misery, and severely felt the effects of it. Tears I shed in plenty, but could not with any justice complain of fate or Providence, for my punishment was but the natural result of my own ill conduct.

We were all up by daylight, and most of my fellow-sufferers got as little rest as I; for the man's relation had made us give over all hopes of relief, and nothing but sorrow, distress, and despair appeared in all its dismal forms in each man's face, according to his different constitution. We had saved neither arms nor ammunition, the want of which completed our ruin; for nearly 170 of us would have made our way through that part of the country we wanted to travel, had we but wherewithal to defend ourselves.

About one o'clock in the afternoon, the king came down with about 200 negroes. They brought no firearms with them, lest we should seize them by force, but they were armed with lances. As soon as we saw them approaching us, we all stood together in a body, with our captain at the head of us. When they drew near, he called Sam and asked him who was our captain. As soon as he was informed, he came up to him, and took him by the hand, and said in a familiar manner: ‘Salamonger, captain ;' which is a term of salutation much like our saying : Your servant, sir. The captain returned the compliment, Sam having informed him before in what manner he should behave himself to the king. His majesty brought with him four large bullocks, six calabashes of toake (a kind of drink), ten baskets of potatoes, and two pots of honey, all which he presented to our captain ; and gave us, moreover, two or three earthen pots to dress our victuals in. We immediately roasted the potatoes. The king staid two hours with us before he withdrew to the cottage where he proposed to lodge that night, and asked several questions about our ship, and the manner of her being lost. He told the captain he was heartily sorry for his misfortune, though in my opinion that was nothing but a compliment; for, as I found afterwards, he was more brutish and dishonest than most of the other kings on the island; and his whole nation were clothed for many years out of the effects they saved from our wreck.

The next morning, he paid us another visit, and then he told us that he expected we should prepare to go along with him to his town, and there we should remain till some ships should come to trade, when we might return to our own country. The captain suspecting this to be a mere artifice, told Sam to say that he would think of the proposal. Upon this, the king departed, and gave us no further trouble at that time.

As soon as he was gone, the captain called us all together, and in a very pathetic speech, addressed us as follows: 'I am now on an equality with the meanest man here present; my fortune is as low, and my life is as little to be regarded: I do not pretend, therefore, to command, but to consult with you what is most expedient to be done in the present unhappy situation of our affairs. However,' said he, 'I am happy in this, that though my own life and liberty are lost as well as yours, yet this misfortune is not anywise chargeable on me, for I would rather have kept on my course to the Cape of Good Hope in a leaky ship, than put in here; but you strenuously opposed it; for death in my opinion is to be preferred to our present and prospective condition. In death, our sorrows would have ended; but now, who can tell the troubles and torments we shall yet undergo?' At this the tears stood in his eyes. 'Consider, gentlemen,' said he, we have neither arms nor ammunition wherewith to defend ourselves, and I have endeavoured to prevail on the king to give us a passage through his country to a sea-port, but in vain. Think of it, therefore, and consult your own safety as well as you can : be but of one mind, and I am ready to comply with anything you would have me do. As for my own life, I set no value upon it; it would not now be worth preserving, but for the hopes I have of being serviceable to my friends. Remember, I must return an answer to-morrow morning, and I will advise nothing, nor do anything without your concurrence

We went together and consulted as the captain advised, and came soon to an agreement, for the matter in debate lay within a small compass. The king had refused to give us leave to go to a sea-port, and we had no arms to fight and force our way, if we could have found it. We therefore determined to go quietly up the country with the king to his place of residence, where we were in hopes of seeing and conversing with Captain Drummond, Captain Steward, and the other people, who, being gallant and courageous men, and by this time somewhat acquainted with the natives, might probably be capable of giving us some proper and seasonable advice.

Next morning, the king paid the captain a visit; they saluted each

« ForrigeFortsæt »