« PreviousContinue »
and the fire that is kindled beneath, who had perched himself astride on as it were between them, they should the cross beam, evincing great actibe about eight feet high above the vity on the occasion. raft on which they are rigged. What For some purpose that I could not are they after now?_Two fellows divine, the fire was now carried by sitting on men's shoulders, are fix- a group of savages from the foremost ing a cross piece, or transom, on the part of the raft, that is, from the end top of the uprights-now they are of it next us, to the opposite extrelashing it to them tightly with some mity beyond the gibbet, the immesort of rope-ah, they descend, and diate effect of which was to throw the fire seems to have gone out, for off the latter, and the figure suspendevery thing is dark again."
ed on it, as well as the persons of All in the neighbourhood of the the people who crowded round, in raft was now undistinguishable, but high relief against the illuminated small red fires began to burn stea, night damps lit up by the fire, that dily in the three advanced canoes. hung as a bright background beyond
“What next?” said Sprawl. it. In a few seconds, the other arm
“Oh, I suppose, having set their was drawn up to the opposite corner, piquets for the night, we are safe.” and—my blood curdles as I write it And I took the glass from my eye, we could now make out that a feland banged the joints of it one into low.creature was suspended from another, when De Walden spoke, the corners of the gibbet by the arms,
“ Please look again, sir-please hanging directly under the centre of look again.” I did so. The gibbet the beam, as if the sufferer had been sort of erection that I had been in- stretched on the cross. specting, was now lit up by a sudden The fire increased in intenseness glare of bright crimson flame. The the noise of the long drums, and dark figures, and the bows and sides the yells of the negroes, came down of the attendant canoes, and the stronger and stronger; and although beams of the gallows-looking ma. I could notice two assistants holdchine itself, were all tinged with a ing the legs of the suspended figure, blood-red light, and presently the yet its struggles seemed to be superEboe drums and flutes were borne human, and once or twice I said to down on the night-wind with start young De Walden, “ Heaven help ling distinctness, and - louder than me-did you hear nothing ?” before, drowning the mysterious “ Nothing particular, sir, beyond snoring of the toads, and chir-chir- the infernal howling and drum-beatchirring, and wheetle-wheetling, of the ing of these monsters.” numberless noisy insects that came A pause-then another terrible conoff from the bank on either side of us. vulsion of the suspended victim, as
“What is that-do you see that, it struggled to and fro with the dark Master De Walden ?" said I, as a dark figures that clung to its lower limbs struggling figure seemed to be trans- like demons. ferred by force from one of the ca. “There-heard you nothing now?” noes that shewed a light, into a “Yes, sir-oh, yes," gasped my smaller one. De Walden could not young ally—“such a yell!” tell what and the small skiff into “ Oh, may my ears never tingle to which, whatever it was, it had been such another!” groaned I; and as I transhipped, gradually slid away, spoke, the assistants let go their hold apparently in the direction of the on the suspended victim, whenraft, into the impervious darkness Heaven have mercy on us! borror on that brooded over the river, beyond horror-one of the lower limbs had the three advanced canoes, with the been extracted, or cut out from the watch-fires.
socket at the hip joint. The struga I was about resigning the glass gles of the mutilated carcass contionce more, when I noticed the raft nued. Quacco, hearing his name again suddenly illuminated, and a mentioned by the young midshipgreat bustle among the people on man, was now alongside of me. I board. Presently a naked human handed him the glass, which it was being was dragged under the gal. some time before he could manage. lows, and one arm immediately At length, having got the focus, he hoisted up, and fastened by cords took a long, long look-he held bis to one of the angles—a black figure, breath.
VOL. XXXV, NO, CCXXI,
“ What is it?" said I, “ what The fires in the advanced boats dreadful scene is this? For Heaven's were now all put out, and nothing sake, sergeant, tell me what is going evinced the neighbourhood of our on yonder?"
dangerous enemy; while the lovely He puffed out his breath like a moon once more looked forth on us, porpoise, and then answered me as her silver orb reflected on the ar. coolly as possible, as if it had been towy streams of the dark river, in a no strange sight to him.
long trembling wake of sparkling "Fetish, massa-grand Fetish dem ripples, and all was as quiet, as if she make-such Fetish as dem make be- had been smiling on a scene of peace fore dem go fight wid dem enemy." and gentleness.
“ But what was the figure we saw To what peculiarity in my moral hoisted up on the gibbet-looking composition it was to be attributed apparatus just now?” said I. I do not know; but the change from
Can't tell,” rejoined Quacco, the infernal scene we had just wit“ can't really tell, massa ; at first I nessed, to the heavenly quietude of taught it was man-but dat cry-s0 a lovely night, had an instantaneous, wery bitter and sharp like one knife almost an electrical effect on me; -10, I tink it must have been wo- and, wounded and ill at heart as I man."
was, I could not help looking up, " Almighty powers ! Do you out and away from my grovelling mean to say that the figure hung up condition, until in fancy I forgot my between us and the fire, is really miserable whereabouts, and only and truly a human being ?"
saw the deep blue beaven, and its “I do,” said Sergeant Quacco, with countless stars, and the chaste moon. the same sang froid; “I do, massa. “ Hillo, Benjie Brail," shouted What you tink it was?”
friend Davie_"where away, my lad? I could not tell-I thought at one Come back to mother earth"-1" al. moment it was a fellow-creature, ma mater tellus,” said a voice near and at another that it must be im me-Corporal Lennox for a thousand, possible, notwithstanding all the his thought I)-" for, my dear boy, the deous tales I had heard of the doings bright sky overhead will soon be on this coast; but the truth, the hor. shrouded by that brooding mist there rible truth could no longer be con. -never doubt me." cealed.
He augured rightly; for, in a little, " It is only one man or woman a thick mist did in very deed begin prisoner dat dem are cutting in to mantle over the water, and con. pieces, and trowing into de river.” tinued to increase until the glorious Here I saw with my glass that the moon and bright stars were again other leg of the victim had been se obscured, and you could scarcely vered from the trunk. “But I sall see the length of the felucca. tell you, Mr Captain, dat dem intend Quacco's hint, however, was by to attack you dis very night.”
no means thrown away on us, and I heard him, but was riveted to we immediately saw all clear to give my telescope. All struggles had our savage neighbours a warm recepceased in the dark and maimed car- tion, should they venture down on cass, and presently one of the arms us, under cover of the fog. was cut away at the shoulder, when We had been some time at quare the bloody limb fell against the post ters, the boats astern having been on one side, and the mangled trunk hauled up alongside, lest, in the imperbanged against the upright on the vious mist, some of the canoes might other, and swung round and round venture near enough to cut the it, making the whole engine reel, painters. But every thing continued while, as the drums and shouts grew so quiet and still, that we were belouder and louder, the other arm ginning to consider our warlike prewas also cut off at the elbow, and parations might not altogether hare down came the mutilated trunk of been called for. the sacrifice into the middle of the “ I say, Sprawl," said 1–“ Poo, fire, which for a moment blazed up, these poor creatures will not venture and shot forth showers of sparks down on us, surely, especially after and bright smoke, then rapidly de. the lesson they had yesterday?” clined, and in half a minute it was “Don't trust to that, Brail, my entirely extinguished.
good boy," said Davie.
“ No, massa, don't you trust to The moment the musket was dis. dat, as Massa Prawl say,” quoth charged, the canoe backed into the Quacco.-" I know someting -ah, fog again, but we could plainly you shall see.” Here the poor fel- hear the splash and whiz of a numlow crept close up to me. “Captain ber of paddles rapidly plied, as if
if you love sleep in one skin hab in great alarm. But even these no hole in him-if, Massa Brail, you sounds soon ceased, and, once more, walue de life of dem sailor intrust all was still ; and, after some time, to you—ill-bred fellow as dem may Sprawl, Pumpbolt, and myself, went belet no one-10-not so mosh below to have a snack of supper, as de leetle dirty cook-boy-shut him preparatory to making a start of it, eyelid until to-morrow sun melt de if it were possible, whenever the fog, and”—
swell on the bar was quieter. Something dropped at my foot, “Tol lol de rol," sung ould Davie with a splintering sort of sound, as Doublepipe. “ Oh Benjie Brail, Ben. if you had cast a long dry reed on jie Brail, are we never to get out of the deck. “What is that?" said I. this Styx-out of this infernal river ?
“ Will you be convince now?" said What say you, Pumpbolt, my man ?” Quacco, slowly and solemnly, “ Will “ I'll tell you more about it,” said Massa Prawl,”-turning to old Davie, Pumpbolt, “when we have got some and handing him a slender wand, grub. But what Sir Oliver has done, about ten feet long," will good or how he has managed without me, Massa Prawl be convin"
for these two days past, is a puzzler." Spin - another arrow-like affair " Ah, bad for you, master,” said I. quivered in the mast close beside us. “ He will find he can do without you It had passed sheer between the first should not have given him the oplieutenant and me.
portunity, man." "Ah, ah, ah !” exclaimed Quacco " No more I should-no more I in a mighty great quandary—"dere should," responded the master. is anoder-anoder spear-mind, gen. So we set to our meal, and were tlemen-mind, gentlemen, mind, or making ourselves as comfortable as a whole fleet of war.canoe will be circumstances admitted, when Binaboard of you before you can look nacle trundled down the ladder in round.”
red-hot haste. “Men!" shouted I, “keep a bright “ The canoes are abroad again, sir, look-out; there are native canoes we hear them close to, but the fog cruising all about us, and close to, in is thicker than ever.” the thick mist there. Peer about, “ The devil !” said I; and we all will ye? Small-arm men, stand to hurried on deck. your tackling-clear away both guns. Imminent peril is a beautiful antiHush-what is that?”
soporific, and we found all hands at “ Nothing," said Sprawl-" I hear quarters of their own accord-the nothing but the rushing of the river, devil a drum need to have been and the groaning and rubbing of the beaten. boats alongside againstthe gunwale.” “Where do you hear them
“ But I do,” said Pumpbolt. where is the noise you speak of?"
« And so do I," said Mr Marline. said I. “ There is the splash of paddles as “Here, sir," said one man—"Here, plain as can be there"
sir," said another-and “ Here," ex“ Where?” said De Walden. claimed a third.
“There," said Binnacle—“there;" It was clear our enemies were clus. and, at the very instant, I saw the tering round us in force, although dark prow of one canoe emerge from the fog was absolutely impervious at the fog, the after-part being hid un- a distance of ten paces. der the thick, but moon-illumined “ I say, master," said Spraw1, "the haze. Presently another appeared bar should soon be passable for & close to her, but less distinctly; both light craft like this ?” assuming a wavering and impalpable " Certainly,” said Pumpbolt, “ I appearance, like two large fish seen, make no doubt but it will be; and if one near, and the other farther off, in this cursed mist would only clear muddy water.
away, I would undertake to take the "Mr Marline, fire at that fellow Midge, were she twenty tons bigger, nearest us."
glap across it now, and pledge my credit she should clear it as sound as which the moonbeams impregnated, a bell, for we have a noble moon, and but did not pierce, being diffused by I took the bearings of the wester- it over the whole scene below in a most channel with the eastern point mild radiance, like that cast by the this morning. No fear, if it would ground glass globe of a sinumbra but clear. Why, you see the moon- lamp, disclosing suddenly the dark shine has impregnated the gauze-like stream above, and on each side of us, mist now to a degree that makes it covered with canoes, within pistol. bright and luminous of itself-Oh shot, while the large schooner that that it would rise!”
we had fired into, instead of making The four little reefers were at demonstrations to escape over the this moment clustered forward, we bar, shortened sail, and bore up rewere riding with our head up the solutely across our bows, firing two river, and I saw one or two old bands guns and a volley of small-arms into alongside of them, all looking out, us in passing. and stretching their necks and strain. “We are beset, Brail-that chap ing their eyes in a vain attempt to is the commander-in-chief-His obpierce the fog.
ject is not to escape, but to capture “ What is that?"-It was a greasy us, my lad-take my word for it,” cheep, and then a rattle, as if a loose cried Sprawl. “Forward, master, and purchase or fall had suddenly been look out for the channel-Brail, take shaken so as to make the blocks clat- the helm-I will mind the sails.” ter, and then hauled taught, as if “True enough, by Jupiter," I sung people were having a pull at the out. “ Knock off from the guns, men boom sheet of a schooner, or other -Shavings, stand by to cut the cable fore-and-aft rigged vessel.
-hoist away the sail there—cant her " What is that, indeed!” said with her head to the eastwardSprawl. “ Why, look there-look steady, men, and no rushing nowthere, Brail -see you nothing there?” All ready there forward ?”
“ No, I see notbing-eh--faith, but “ All ready, sir.” I do-why, what is that?-Stand by, " Cut away, then." small-arm men-go to quarters the The clear axe glanced bright and rest of ye-quick-Poo, it is simply blue in the moonlight, and fell twice a thicker wreath of mist, after all.” in heavy gashing thumps, and the
Pumpbolt was standing by, but the third time in a sharp trenchant chip. object that we thought we had seen The next moment the rushing of the descending the river was no longer rapid stream past our sides ceased, visible, and I began to think it was as the little vessel slowly floated fancy. Suddenly the mist thinned, away, attaining gradually the velo-“ There is the spectre-like object city of the river in which she swam. once more,” I shouted. “ By all that Presently round she came. is portentous, it is a large schooner, “ Hoist away, foresail and main. one of these slaving villains, who sail-hoist-haul aft the sheets." thinks he can steal past us under The breeze freshened at the mocover of the mist_There-there be ment. We were still about a mile is on our quarter-there are his gaff from the bar, on which the swell was topsails over the thickest of the fog breaking in thunder ; but we had run -now his jib is stealing out of it clear of the skirts of the mist, and the clear away both guns there-we shall placid moon was again shining crysgive him a rally as he passes, if he tal bright overhead. The yells from won't speak.”
the capoes increased. A volley of The strange sail continued to slide spears, were lanced at us, several of noiselessly down the river.
which fell on board, but none of “ What vessel is that?"-No an. them did any injury; and several swer—“ Speak, or I will fire into muskets were also fired from the you.”-All silent_“ Take good aim, tiny men-of-war, which were equally men-fire!”
innocuous. The strange sail was Both cannon were discharged, and, right in our path. as if by magic, the watery veil that « What shall we do?" sung out old had hid every thing from our view Pumpbolt from forward. rose from off the rushing of the mid- Trusting to the great strength of night river, and hung above our mast- the Midge, I shoutedhead in a luminous fleecy cloud, “ Plump us right aboard of him,
if you can't do better; but creep had been borne away in some phanunder his stern if you can.”
tom ship, that floated on white foam He would not give us the oppor- instead of water; while in the very tunity, for as he saw us booming channel we were running through, along, apparently aiming at him right the heave of the sea from without amidships, as if we had thought we was met by the rush of the stream could have sawn him in two, the downwards, and flashed up in nunyouth bore up and stood right for berless jets of sparkling water, which the bar.
danced about in the moonlight, and “ So, so," quoth Davie Double curled, and hissed, and vanished, as pipe-"we are away on a party of if they had been white-shrouded, pleasure together, I perceive, se- unreal midnight spectres. We ran ñor?"
on, the strange sail on our lee beam. We carried on, but the Don, from “Now is your chance," shouted old superior sailing, kept well on our Pumpbolt; “jam him down against bow; and we were now, as we could the long reef there-up with your judge from the increasing roar of helm, Mr Brail.” the breakers, rapidly approaching
“Ease off the sheets," chimed in the river's mouth.
the first-lieutenant. “ Handsomely, At this time we had a distinct men-handsomely.” view, not only of our formidable an- In an instant our broadsides were tagonist, a large topsail schooner, rasping. and apparently full of men, but of “Starboard-shove him down, Mr the bar we were about to pass, in Brail !” again shrieked the master; such uncomfortable fellowship. “ hard-a-weather-ram him on the
The canal of deep water that our reef there or board bim — time steady and most excellent master enough to luff when he strikes.” aimed at, was about fifty yards I was fully alive to all this. The wide. In it there was depth enough whole scene was all this time brightto allow the swell from without to ly lit up by the glorious moon, and roll in, clear and unbroken, bad it we could perfectly see what we were not been met by the downward cur. about. We sheered close aboard of rent of the river, aided, as in the the schooner. present case, by the land-breeze, “Fire, small-arm men-boarders, which made it break in short foam- be ready.” crested waves.
He eschewed the combat, howWe carried on. All firing for the ever, and kept off the wind also. A moment was out of our craniums on bright rainbow was at this moment either side.
formed by the moonbeams, in the “Steady,” sung out the old mas- salt spray-the blessed emblem of ter.
peace and forgivenesshere! Yes; « Steady," I returned.
the bow of the Immutable, of Him On the right hand and on the left, who bath said, “My ways are not the swell was breaking in thunder, like your ways !” spanned the eleflashing up in snow flakes, and send mental turmoil, the scene of the yet ing up a misty drizzle into the cold more fearful conflict of man's evil moonlight sky; but the channel passions, in a resplendent arch, right a-head was still comparatively through which the stars sparkled, quiet.
their bright rays partaking of the The schooner made an attempt to hues through which they shone. luff across our bows.
Oh, it was like the hope of mercy “ Aim at him again,” sung out brooding o'er the gloom and trouold Bloody Politeful. “Aim at him bled heavings of a sinner's deathbed! again, Brail; to heave-to here is im. “A good omen—a glorious omen !" possible.”
shouted young De Walden in the “ Boarders, stand by," I cried; but excitement of ihe moment. he once more, as we approached him, “Jam her on the reef !” again yellkept away.
ed the master. We were now actually on the bar. I did so. Crash — the schooner The noise was astounding-deafen. struck. Her foremast bent forward ing. The sea foamed and raged, and like a willow wand, the cordage and flew up in mist, and boiled in over blocks rattling, and then went over our decks on either hand, as if we the bows like a shot. The next sea