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those sands :—the lives that have been lost on them, the vessels that have been wrecked, and the property that has been sucked into them, would be a dozen kings' ransoms; for you see, Tom, they are quicksands, and the vessel which goes on shore does not remain to be broken up, but in two tides she disappears, sinking down into the sands, which never give her or her cargo up again.
There must be a mighty deal of wealth buried there, that is certain. They say that once they were a flourishing, fertile island, belonging to an Earl Godwin, whose name they now bear; it may
be so the sea retreats from one place while it advances at another. Look at Romney Marshes, where so many thousands of sheep are now fed ; they run up many miles inland; and yet formerly those very marshes were an arm of the sea, which vessels rode in deep water, and sea-fights, I am told, took place. Howsomever, when the sea took the Godwin island to itself, it made the best trap for vessels that old Neptune now possesses, and he may consider it as the most productive spot in his dominions. Lord help us ! what a deal of gold and merchandise must there be buried below yon yellow patch !"
“Do you never save anything when vessels are run on shore there ?"
“When they only tail on, we occasionally get them off again; but when once fixed, there's an end of it. Yes, we save life occasionally, but at great risk of our
I saved little Bessy from a vessel ashore on these sands."
“ Indeed! pray tell me how it was.” “Why you sce, Tom, it was just at the breaking out
of the war. It was in this very month of October, '93 that I was out in a galley, with some others, looking for vessels. I had just then left off privateering, and got my warrant as pilot (for you know I did serve my 'prenticeship before I went a-privateering, as I told you the other night). Well, it was a blowing night, and we were running in for the Downs, intending to beach the galley and sleep on shore, for we had been out fivo days, and only put a pilot on board of one vessel. We were just to windward of the Sands, out there, where I am now pointing: the sea was very rough, but the night was clear, and the moon shone bright, when we saw a brig running down before the wind, under foresail and close-reefed topsails. Why, Bill, as sho steers she'll bo right between the Callipers,' said I to the man sitting by me. There's no mistake about that,' replied he: "let's haul the fore sheet to windward, and lay to, to hail him; he's coming right down upon us.' Well, we did so, and we hailed some time without any answer. At last a man looked over the gunnei, just as she was flying past us, and told us in Dutch to go
to the devil. • I think you'll go there if you don't look sharp,' replied Bill. «Come, my lads, we may as well follow her, and see if we cannot prevent mischief.' So we bore up after her, and hailed her several times, for we sailed very fast, and there was a scuffling on deck: I think that the captain was drunk. All this passed in less than five minutes; and then, as I knew would be the case, she struck on the sands, and with such force, that all her masts went over the side immediately. Now the sea rolls awfully over the shallow water of those sands, Tom. We had kept with her as far as we dared, and then hove to about two cables lengths to windward of her, when she strcek, for tho ebb was still running strong under our lee, which only made the sea more cross and heavy. Tho waves mado a clean breach over her, and we knew that she would go to pieces in less than half an hour ; but we did not like to leave so many to perish, without a trial to save them : so we kept away, so as to get abreast of them, and then lowered our sails and got out our oars. We pulled close to them, but it was impossible to board : we should have been stove to pieces, and swamped immediately. The moon still shone bright, and we satv them as plain as we could wish, and we made every attempt to save them, for they were all crowded together forward. Onco the sea drove the boat so close that we touched her sides, and then a woman pressed beforo the men, and reached over the gunnel, extending her arms which held the child, while several others attempted to get in, but the return of the wave carried us back so quick from the vessel, that, as they attempted to jump in, they all went to the water, and never appeared again: but I had caught hold of the child, and laid it down in the stern sheets. We made a second and third attempt, but in vain. At last the vessel broke up, as it were, all at once :
:- there was ono loud cry, and all was still, except the roaring and breaking waves which buried them. It wasn't a sceno to make us very lively, Tom: we hoisted the sail, and ran on to the beach in silence. I took the child in my arms-it had been snatched out of its warm bed, poor thing, and had nothing on but a calico nightgown. I took it up to the cottage, which was then Maddos's
(I bought it afterwards of the widow with the money I made a-privateering), and I gave it in charge to Mrs. Maddox. I did intend to have sent it to the workhouse, or something of that sort; but Mrs. Maddox took a fancy to it, and so did I, and so I thought I would take care of it, and I christened it by the name of Betsy Godwin."
“ You have no idea who she may be ?"
“Not half a one: her cotton gown and cap told nothing; the vessel was Dutch, that's all I know. She may be the child of the stadtholder, or the child of the ship’s cook. What's the matter ?"
“ But did you notice any marks upon her person by which she might be reclaimed ?"
“Not I. I only axed Mrs. Maddox whether a boy or a girl.”
“ How old was she, then ?"
“Well, how can I tell ? that's not in my way, but the knowing ones in these matters said that she must be about eighteen months old, so we have taken that for a departure as to her age. I love her now as if she were my own child; and so will you, Tom, like a sister, when you know her. She calls me her father, and
you may do the same, Tom, if you like, for I will be as good as a father to you, if you are as good a boy as you now scem to be. I like to be called father, somehow or another-it sounds pleasant to my ears ; but come in now, I think you have compassed the compass, so you must learn something else.”
“ There is another way, Tom,” said Bramble, as ho seated himself in his large chair, “in which a smart prentice may be useful to his master; and it is of quite as much importance as the compass — which is in heaving the lead. You see, Tom, the exact soundings being known will often enable a pilot to run over the tail of a bank and save a tide; that is, when he knows that he can trust the man in the chains. Sume seamen are very particular in giving exact soundings, but all are not: they care more for the song
than they do for anything else, and though the song is very beautiful, yet it won't get a ship off when she's on shore. Now, two-thirds of the seamen who are sent in the chains will not give the soundings within half a fathom, and, moreover, they do not give them quick enough for the pilot in many cases: if, therefore, you learn to heave the lead well, be correct in your soundings, and quick in giving them, you will become of great use to me. You understand, don't you ?"
“Yes," replied I.
“Well, go up into my room, and hanging on the nail behind the door you will see a lead line— bring it me down here."
I did so, and then Bramble explained to me how the fathoms were marked on the line, and how the soundings were given out.
“You see,” said he, “ wherever there is a mark with a piece of leather or bunting, whether it be white or red, it is called a mark; and if you had five fathoms of water, you would cry out by the mark five; but at the other depths there are no marks, but so many knots tied as there are fathoms, as here at nine; and then you
would say by the deep nine. Now run tho line through your hand, and see if you can repeat tho marks and decps as they pass.”