Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

“but it is impossible to say how many people were on board at the time.”

Messmate,” said Anderson, “ as all the noisy ones are gone, and we shall be able to hear you, suppose that you

let us know all about it? I have heard a good deal, but, I suspect, not the rights of it.”

“With all my heart,” replied Turner. “It was a sad affair; and was all owing to the pride of an officer, who was not much of a sailor, at all events."

I drew nearer, that I might not lose a word of what Turner said; and then he narrated, in the following words,

THE LOSS OF THE ROYAL GEORGE.

“Well, messmates, the Royal George was a hundredgun ship; and, what we don't often sce now, when I first belonged to her, her guns were all brass. We had brass twenty-four pounders on our quarter-deck, forecastle, poop, and main deck, brass thirty-twos on our middle deck, and brass forty-two pounders on our lower deck. In the spring of '82, when we were at Plymouth (about six months before she sunk), it was considered that the brass forty-twos on the lower deck were too heavy for her, and so they were put on shore, and we had iron thirty-twos instead. I don't think, myself, it made much difference in the weight of metal, and we were sorry to part with them.

We were a flag-ship, you know,-old Kempenfelt carrying his blue at the mizen,—and our poop lanterns were so large that the men used to get inside of them to clean them. She was rather a top-heavy sort of ship, in my opinion, her upper works were so high,—why, we measured sixty-six feet from the keelson up to the taffrail; but still, with proper attention, there was nothing to fear on that score.

“Well, it was on the 29th of August, '82,—that's iust fourteen years and about six weeks ago,—that wo were lying at Spithead, in company with Lord Howe's fleet of between twenty and thirty sail of the line: there was the Victory, Barfleur, Ocean, and Union, all three-deckers, I recollect, close to us. We were in good repair, not at all leaky, and were to have sailed in two days to join the fleet in the Mediterranean. We had been paid, in consequence of our being about to sail foreign; and we had been paid in golden guineas. I think that, could all the money be collected together, from the pockets of the scamen, the women, and the Jews, who went down in the ship, it would be a very pretty fortune even for a duke's daughter.”

Here Ben shoved the ale to Turner, who drank a little and proceeded; while Ben took a swig and passed it round.

“Well, you sce, messmates, the first lieutenant had been washing the decks on the morning before, and the carpenter had been ordered to let the water in, when it was found that the water-cock, which was about three feet below the water line, was out of order, and it was necessary that it should be repaired. The foreman came off from the dock-yard, and stated that it was necessary that the ship should be careened over to port, sufficiently to raise the mouth of the pipe-which went through the ship's timbers below-clean out of the water, that they might work at it; so, between seven and eight o'clock on that morning, the whole of the larboard guns were run out as far as they could be, and of course the larboard lower deck ports were open; the starboard guns were also run in amidships, and secured by the tackles: the shifting over of this great weight of metal brought the larboard lower deck port cills just level with the water; the men were then able to get at the mouth of the pipe to the water-cock on the starboard side, as it was clean out of water, and for about an hour they were working away hard at it.

“It was about nine o'clock, we had just finished our breakfasts, and the hands had been turned up, when the last lighter, with the rum on board, came alongside. She was a sloop of fifty tons, called the Lark, and belonged to three brothers, whose names I forget. She was secured to the larboard side of the ship; and the hands were piped 'clear lighter. Some of our men were in the lighter slinging the casks; others at the yard tackle and stayfalls hoisting in; some in the spirit room stowing away. I was in the waist, bearing the casks over, down the hatchway ;-none of us thinking that we should never mix our grog out of that liquor.”

“No, I suppose not,” observed Anderson ; “but we little know what the day may bring forth.”

“ That's true as gospel,” said Ben.

“It's a very old saying, that every little helps : I did not think of it at the time; but, you see, as we were clearing the lighter, almost all the men were on the larboard side, and that must have brought the ship down still more to port. Then, again, the water was not so sniooth as it was when we first careened her,

and it began to wash into the lower deck ports, and of course had no escape, so that there was very soon a good weight of water in the lower deck. There were mice in the ship; and they were disturbed by the water entering into their quarters, and the men were catchirg them, and laughing as they swam about, little thinking that it was to be a general swim so shortly afterwards. But the carpenter was the first that perceived that there was danger; for again, you sce, the casks of rum, hoisted in, and lying on the decks on the larboard side, before it could be lowered into the hold, made also a difference; and so the carpenter went on the deck to the lieutenant, who was officer of the watch, requesting that he would be pleased to order the ship to be righted somewhat, as she could not bear it; but the lieutenant gave a very short answer to the carpenter, who then went down below.”

“Who was the lieutenant on deck ?” inquired Anderson.

"I don't recollect his right name; he was, I think, the third lieutenant: he went by the name of 'Jib and Foresail Jack;' for, whenever he had the watch, he did nothing but up jib, and down jib, up foresail, down foresail, every five minutes, always worrying the mea for nothing. He was not considered as a good officer, but a very troublesome one: he had a knack of twisting and moving his fingers about as he walked the deck; and the men were wont to say that he must have been a forty piany teacher.'”

“And where were the captain and first lieutenant?” said Anderson.

“ The first lieutenant was, at the time, busy in the

wings, I believe; and as for the captain, I don't know where he was; but you know a captain seldom interferes in harbour.

“Where was the admiral ?" inquired Ben.

“The admiral was in his cabin. I saw the barber, who had been in to shave him, come out just before she went down."

“ What sort of man was the admiral ?” said Ander

son.

“He was a thin tall man, upwards of seventy years of age, and he stooped a good deal in his walk.”

“Whet your whistle, Jem,” said Ben, " for this is a long yarn."

“ Well,” continued Turner, as soon as he had put down the pot, “ the carpenter came up a second time on the quarter-deck to the lieutenant, and said to him,

"If you please, sir, to right the ship: it's my duty to tell you she will not bear it any longer.' He spoke in a very positive way, as was his duty; but the lieutenant answered, with an oath,

“If you think, sir, that you can manage the ship better than I can, you had better take the command.' I was in the waist at the time, with a good many more men, and we heard what the carpenter said, and what answer the lieutenant gave. Indeed, we were all aware of the danger, and felt very uncomfortable : there were plenty of good seamen on board, who knew what they were about, almost as well as the officers, and certainly better than the one who had the watch.

“ A few minutes afterwards (whether it was that he had remained that time doing nothing, merely because be would not be dictated to by the carpenter, I know

« AnteriorContinuar »