Imágenes de páginas

lives. At last she did come to. Poor thing! I felt for her. Towards night the wind lulled, and we had every appearance of fine weather coming on; but we had nothing to eat, and only a barrico of water in the boat, and we were quite exhausted with fatigue.

6. We knew that we must pull to the northward, and try and fetch the Bahama Isles, or, perhaps, some of the small quays to the southward of them, where we might procure turtle, and, perhaps, water; and when the sea had gone down, which it did very fast, we put the head of our boat in that direction, pulling all night. At daybreak, the other boat was not to be seen ; it was a dead calm, but there was still a long heavy swellwe shared out some water and rested till the evening, and then we took to our oars again.

"We rowed hard till the morning, but when the sun rose it scorched us up; it was impossible for us to keep to our oars without drinking, and, there being no one to take the command, our water was


and we had not gained fifty miles to the northward. On the third morning we laid down exhausted at the bottom of the boat we were dying not only with thirst but with hunger; we had agreed that when night came on we would take to the oars again; but some would, and some would not; so that, at last, those who had taken to their oars would pull no longer.

“The steward's wife at times sang psalms, and at times wept; she had a very sweet voice; but her lips were soon glued together for want of water, and sho could sing no longer.

“ When the sun rose on the fourth day, there was no vessel to be seen : some were raving for water, and others sat crouched under the boat's thwarts in silent despair. But, towards evening, the sky clouded over, and there fell a heavy rain, which refreshed us. We took the gown from off the steward's wife, and spread it, and caught the water; and we all drank until our thirst was quenched, even our wet clothes were a comfort to us; — still we were gnawed with hunger. . That night we slept; but the next morning every man's eyes flashed, and we all looked as if we would eat each other; and there were whisperings and noddings going on in the bow of the boat; and a negro who was with us took out his knife, and sharpened it on the boat's gunnel. No one asked him why. We spoke not, but we all had our own thoughts. It was dreadful to look at our hollow cheeks, our eyes sunken deep, but glaring like red-hot coals, - our long beards and haggard faces, - every one ready to raise his hand against the other. The poor woman never complained or said a word after she left off singing, — her thoughts appeared elsewhere. She sat for hours motionless, with her eyes fixed on the still blue water, as if she wouid pierce its depth. 66. At last the negro came aft; and we were


upon our guard as he passed us, for we had seen him sharpen his knife. He went to the stern-sheets, where the poor woman sat, and we all knew what he intended to dofor he only acted our own thoughts. She was still hanging over the gunnel, with her eyes fixed downwards, and she heeded not his approach : he caught her by the hair, and dragged her head towards him. She then held out her arms towards me, faintly calling me by name; but I - shame on me! — remained sitting


on the after-thwart. The negro thrust his knife into her neck, below the ear; and, as soon as he had divided the artery, he glued his thick lips to the gash, and sucked her blood.

66 • When the deed was done, others rose up and would have shared; but the negro kept his white eyes directed towards them one arm thrust out, with his knife pointed at them, as he slaked his thirst, while, with his other round her waist, he supported her dying frame. The attitude was that of fondness, while the deed was -- murder. Ho appeared as if he were caressing her, while her life's blood poured into his throat. At last we all drew our knives; and the negro knew that he must resign his prey, or his life. He dropped the woman, and she fell, with her face forward, at my feet. She was quite dead. And then our hunger was relieved.

"Three days passed away, and again we were mad fór want of water, — when we saw a vessel. We shouted, and shook hands, and threw out the oars, and pulled as if we had never suffered. It was still calm, and, as wo approached the vessel, we threw what remained of the poor woman into the sea; and the sharks finished what we had left. We agreed to say nothing about her; for we were ashamed of ourselves.

Now, I did not murder, but I did not prevent it; and I have ever since been haunted by this poor woman. I see her and the negro constantly before me; and then I think of what passed, and I turn sick. I feel that I ought to have saved her, - she is always holding out her arms to me, and I hear her faintly call “ Charles,” then I read my Bible — and she disappears, and I feel as if I were forgiven. — Tell me, what do you think, messmate ?'

Why,' replied I, sarcumstances will make us do what we otherwise would never think possible. I never was in such a predicament; and, therefore, can't tell what people may be brought to do- but tell me, messmate, what was the name of the poor woman ?' “ The husband's name was Ben Rivers.'

Rivers, did you say?' replied I, struck all of a heap.

** • Yes,' replied he; that was her name; she was of this town; but never mind the name, – tell mo what you think, messmate ?'

“ "Well,' says I (for I was quite bewildered), “I'll tell you what, old fellow- as far as I'm consarned, you have my forgiveness, and now I must wish you good-bye - and I pray to God that we may never meet again.'

Stop a little,' said he ; don't leave me this way - Ah! I see how it is - -you think I'm a murderer.'

“No I don't,' replicd I; 'not exactly — still there'll be no harm in your reading your

Bible. “ And so I got up, and walked out of the room - for you see, Jack, although he mayn't have been so much to blame, still I didn't like to be in company with a man who had eaten up my own mother !"

Here Ben paused, and sighed deeply. I was so much shocked with the narrative, that I could not say a word. At last Ben continued :

“I couldn't stay in the room I couldn't stay in the workhouse. I couldn't even stay in the town. Before the day closed, I was out of it - and I have

never been there since. Now, Jack, I must go in remember what I have said to you; and larn to read

Four Bible."

I promised that I would, and that very evening I had my first lesson from Peter Anderson — and I continued to receive them until I could read well. He then taught me to write and cipher; but before I could do the latter many events occurred, which must be made known to the reader.




Such a change has taken place since I can first recollect Greenwich, that it will be somewhat difficult for me to make the reader aware of my localities. Narrow strects have been pulled down, handsomo buildings erected new hotels in lieu of small inns — gay shops have now usurped those which were furnished only with articles necessary for the outfit of the scamen. Formerly, long stages, with a basket to hold six behind, and dillies which plied at the Elephant and Castle, were the usual land conveyances — now they have made place for railroads and omnibuses. Formerly, the wherry conveyed the mariner and his wife with his sea-chest down to the landing-place now steamboats pour out their hundreds at trip. Even the view from Greenwich is much changed, hero

« AnteriorContinuar »