Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 perınitted 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 thein; 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 barrowed 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 bis

appear: ance with his two wives, and two young men; he brandished a spear ás if to burl it at the party, motioned then 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 Jaunched 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 wasbed 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;

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 the 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 malignaut 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, and forcing Riley to accompany him, they all went behind the sand bills to divide the spoil. In this situation Riley felt bimself uneasy, and in order to regain the beach, he made signs that there was still more money remaining in the ship: this bint succeeded; and, in the idea of getting it, they allowed him again to hail bis 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 bis reaching the shore, that he had brought no money with him, struck bim 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 bim, up to his chin in water, with his uplifted spear; but another surf rolling at that instant over him, saved bis 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 tigs 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 bis 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

believe

believe in the particular interposition of Divine Providence should make use of it as an argument against the correctiress of the other parts of his narrative; and admits, that previous to this signal mercy, he would himself have entertained a suspicion of the veracity of a writer who should have related such an improbable occurrence; but, he adds, sentiments and feelings of a very different kind from

any that mere worldly interest can excite, forbid me to suppress or deny what so clearly appeared to me and my companions at the time, as the immediate and merciful act of the Almighty listening to our prayers, and granting our petition, at the awful moment when dismay, despair and death were pressing close upon us with all their accumulated horrors. If the fact be true, we see no reason why the opinion should be suppressed.

In this miserable boat, the eleven unfortunate beings resolved to stand out into the wide ocean, in the hope, faint as it was, of meeting with some friendly vessel to save them. The want of provisions and water, and the wretched condition of the boat, which racked like an old basket, letting in water at every seam and split,' and which required constant bailing, bad, in the course of a few days, so exhausted the crew that they gave up, and became resigned or rather callous to their fate; their spirits were however a little revived by putting the boat about, and standing in again towards the land which they discovered on the sixth day. On approaching a small spot that bore the appearance of a sandy beach, they made for it, . and were carried on the top of a tremendous wave, so as to be high and dry,' the surf foaming as it retired with a dreadful roaring over the craggy heads of the rocks lying in the very track they had passed. Their boat was now completely stove; their provisions all consumed; huge masses of rock were suspended over their heads, extending both ways as far as the eye could reach; their limbs were benumbed and quite stiff for want of exercise; their flesh was wasted for want of sustenance; and their tongues were so stiff in their parched mouths, that it was with great difficulty they could speak to each other. They clambered the rocks in vain to get access to the summit, and when it grew dark, they laid themselves down to rest and, notwithstanding their dreadful and hopeless situation, slept soundly till daylight.

The place where they now were, as it afterwards appeared, was Cape Barbas, not far from Cape Blanco, and that near which their ship bad been wrecked, Cape Bojador, some distance to the northward. On one side of the narrow beach, was the roaring ocean; on the other, cliffs rising to the height of five or six hundred seet; in some places overhanging the narrow slip of sand, in others rising perpendicularly from it. Proceeding easterly, close to the water's edge, every now and then they had to clamber over ledges of rock

T4

jutling

jutting into the sea, or huge fragments that had been undermined and tunbled down : their shoes were pearly worn out; their feet lacerated and bleeding; their bodies heated, nearly to desiccation, by the scorching rays of the sun; they were without water, without provisions, and almost without a breath of air; 'my tongue,' says Riley, cleaving to the roof of my nouh, until I was enabled io loosen it by a few drops of my more than a dozen times distilled urine.'

They advanced but four miles during the wliole day, without any prospect of being able to ascend the cliffs ; and halted at a piece of sand favourable for sleeping upon; all hands,' says Riley,

except myself, had a little fresh water left; my comrades knew I had not one drop, and two of them offered to let me taste of theirs, with which I just moistened my tongue; and after sending up our prayers to Heaven for mercy and relief in cur forlorn and desolate condition, we laid ourselves down to sleep.'

On awaking, on the morning of the 9th September, they found that the chill air had benumbed their limbs; but the appearance of a wide sandy beach ahead, where by digging they might probably obtain water, instilled fresh hopes, and they made towards it; but a promontory of rocks jutting into the sea again impeded their progress; however with the utmost difficulty and danger, and at the expense of brúised limbs and bodies, they succeeded in passing this formidable barrier ; but they found, on digging, that the water, which rose through the sand, was as salt as that of the ocean. The cliffs however were here less abrupt; and Riley, after a long search, discovered a path which brought him to the summit, where he hoped to find soine vegetable substance that might help to allay their burning thirst, and some tree to shelter them from the scorching blaze of the sun; but his surprize and disappointment may be better imagined than expressed, when a wide expanse of uniform barrenness opened full before him, extending in every direction as far the

eye

could reach. There was not a tree, nor a shrub, nor a blade of grass, to give the least show of animation to the vegetable kingdom:-he sickened at the sight,—his spirits fainted within him,—he fell senseless to the earth, and for some time knew not where he was: 'despair (he says) now seized on me, and I resolved to cast myself into the sea as soon as I could reach it, and put an end to my life and miseries together. At this moment the reflexion that so many fellow creatures looked up to him for an example of fortitude and resignation, and the recollection of bis wife and children bursting upon his mind, roused him to fresh exertions ; he walked down to the sea shore, and having bathed himself for half an hour, felt much refreshed, and rejoined his party. With heavy hearts and tottering limbs they left the beach, Riley baving

as

« PreviousContinue »