Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

condition ; nor will this surprise those who know the effect of sudden catastrophes upon even strong minds. Nothing had prepared the sufferers for the blow ; and the intimations of impending ruin, which generally precede destructive calamities, were here all wanting—the living being taken from life in an instant.

When the New Horn blew up, the stroke was expected ; the crew had been long watching the progress of the flames, and all saw their end approaching ; but here there was no preparation ; a flash and a report--these were the only manifestations that the end had come.

The morning found the living resolved still to struggle for life, and a raft was prepared from the scattered pieces of the ship, upon which it was hoped they might in a short time reach land. The few whose burns permitted them to join in the work completed a rude raft by the middle of the next day ; and raising something like a sail, endeavoured to direct their course towards Sumatra. Time was indeed precious, as no water was in their possession, and the whole supply of food consisted of a pumpkin, which could not last long amongst thirteen men. Evening approached without bringing any sight of land ; and still more to dispirit them, the sun set amid storm-clouds, flinging his last rays over a swelling sea, the force of wbich threatened to tear the rude raft asunder. The evil which had been feared soon happened. A large part of their vessel was washed away, the sail torn down, and the wounded began to yield to the slow but fatal action of hunger and storm. One soon died, whose departure seemed but the forerunner of the fate now reserved for all. A sad resolve was now taken ; the four men who were least injured determined to abandon the raft, and swim towards an anchorstock, which had been torn from it, and yet floated at some distance. Thus these twelve isolated men were compelled still further to increase their loneliness by a separation to which nothing but the desperate nature of their circumstances could have driven the remnant of the frigate's

crew.

Sailors are not daunted by trifles, nor easily subdued by danger ; but the moment in which the only four able men swam to the anchor-stock seemed like the beginning of death to the wounded and exhausted eight left on the raft. Each bade farewell to his companions with the impression that neither on sea nor land would the two parties ever meet again. Thomas Scott first swam off, and the three, whose names were Joseph Scott, Hutton, and M.Carthy, followed. They soon afterwards lost sight of the raft, and never again saw any of the eight. The four were soon caught by a current, which drifted them in sight of land ; and in a few hours they were thrown violently by the surf on a strange beach, and thus delivered from the fear of drowning, though ignorant of the danger which might menace them from the inhabitants of this unknown land. These shores were the haunts of Malay pirates, upon whose compassion no European would ever venture to rely, and from whom the four fugitives could expect to receive nothing but death. Yet all were eager for the sight of human beings, as they had now been without food for three nights and days, and their fate lay between famine and pirates. Whilst wandering along the shore, a discovery was made which at once decided their course. A Malay vessel was observed at anchor in a recess on the coast, not more than five hundred yards distant from the spot where the four men stood. They now agreed to send Thomas Scott forward, as he was the only person acquainted with the Malay language ; and each resolved not to make any resistance to the pirates, as opposition could not produce any good result. Scott accordingly advanced, leaving his companions concealed behind a point of land, and was soon perceived by the Malays, who, setting up a wild yell, rushed upon him with drawn swords. Scott now showed that cool presence of mind which so often serves a man better than arms. He stood quietly till the ferocious men approached, when he implored their protection for a starving and shipwrecked man. The appeal was at first disregarded, and one raised his heavy sword to cut off the sailor's head. A chief, however, was present, who prohibited the band from injuring Scott, until some knowledge could be gained respecting his country, and the circumstances which had brought him to that coast. Scott at once told them he was an Englishman, upon which they manifested a more friendly disposition towards him, as it seems they had supposed he was a Dutchman, in which case, they assured him, that nothing could have saved him from massacre ; rather unpleasant intelligence for one who had formerly been in the

service of the Dutch, as was the case with Scott. The cause of this murderous hatred towards the Hollanders must be sought in the long system of shameful misrule by which that people had afflicted the natives of Java, and other islands in those seas. Their grasping spirit of monopoly, treacherous cruelty towards Europeans, and tyrannical rule exercised upon the natives, have made their name detested to this hour in the Archipelago of the spice islands. The confusion attending their misgovernment in Java is, in modern times, a striking exemplification of the miseries produced by politicians whose only principle is the extraction of profit from those over whom they rule. The Dutch have paid the penalties attached to such violations of social laws, and having neglected the true interests, and disregarded the civilization of their Eastern subjects, now meet with hatred and contempt, where they might have secured confidence and respect. Thus it is in the nineteenth century, and so it was at the time when the Malay pirates assured Thomas Scott that “had he been a Dutchman, they would have killed him on the spot.'

The remaining men were now brought from their hidingplace by the Malays, and seated with Scott in the midst of the pirates, until a long string of inquiries respecting themselves and their ship had been duly answered. The chief being at length convinced that the party were English, promised to protect them, and convey all to Malacca.

The pirate was probably rendered more favourable towards them by discovering that his prisoners had actually made war upon the Dutch, whom he and all his race singled out from the whole European family as objects of special

vengeance. Not that these people were favourable to any Europeans--all of whom they hated—but this general dislike was heightened into intense detestation towards the lords of Java.

The four seamen had now passed the critical point, and might deem themselves safe from deliberate murder at least, though not by any means secure from the sudden ebullition of rage so frequent amongst a half savage and ferocious race like the Malays.

Food was soon given to the prisoners, who indulged upon an ample meal of rice and fish ; after which the pirates set off to search for such fragments of the frigate as might be afloat : little was however found, save a few chests which had

ranean.

belonged to the seamen.

Some of the dead bodies were at times washed on shore ; but these were few when compared with the numbers which had sunk. Many never rose from the mass of the wreck, beneath which they are doubtless resting to this day, fixed in their first grave by the accumulations of sea-drift and sand, around the sunken hull. The Malays into whose hands Scott and his party had fallen were part of a numerous pirate fleet, amounting to eighteen vessels, which kept the Chinese seas in a state of perpetual alarm by their robberies and horrible cruelties. Such an organized system of piracy, existing so recently, may startle those who are unacquainted with the history of the Eastern sea robbers, and are accustomed to refer all such atrocities to the period when Europe allowed the flag of Algiers to insult the Mediter

But along the coasts of Malabar and in the Indian seas, pirate states, possessing regularly organized fleets, existed in the latter part of the eighteenth century ; and some of those desperate villains still haunt the Chinese seas. The pirate Angria had a state on the coast of Malabar, consisting of a tract nearly two hundred miles long, defended by strong fortifications, and provided with a complete chain of watchtowers and batteries. A powerful fleet was at the command of this pirate chief, not only sufficiently strong to destroy or capture the strongest merchantmen, but even ships of war, as the Dutch experienced in 1734, when three frigates, one mounting fifty guns, were destroyed by the pirates. In 1755, the destruction of this nest of monsters occupied a British fleet under the command of Admiral Watson, who, after a tremendous cannonade from his ships, anchored within a hundred yards of the forts, succeeded in blowing up the works, and for ever crushing those homes of murderers.

Such an instance may illustrate the daring lengths to which these confederations of thieves sometimes proceeded. Nor is the evil yet extinct, as the exploits lately performed by the crew of the Dido against the pirates of Borneo fully prove.

Scott was not therefore surprised when, in the year 1798, he found himself in a fleet of Malay robbers, who found ready markets for their prizes in the ports of those seas.

To one of these places, Penobang, in the island of Lingan, the pirates carried their captives, and there a separation took place in the small band of sailors-Thomas Scott being left as a slave with the rajah at Penobang, whilst Joseph Scott was sent in a prize-ship to another part, to which M.Carthy and Hutton finally came. Scott was thus alone amongst the most treacherous and cruel race on the face of the earth, and whose natural ferocity might at any moment be excited by their Mussulman hatred to all bearing the Christian name. In a few days he was brought to Lingan, and there sold at one of those cockfights, for

which the Malay races manifest an enthusiasm greater than that of the Spaniard for his bullfights. Scott now received the joyful intimation that he had been purchased by the Sultan of Lingan, who being friendly to the English, had been requested by Major Taylor to effect the liberation of all belonging to the Resistance who might fall into the hands of chiefs under his influence.

The other sailors had been purchased with a like object by this generous sultan, and were journeying to Penang, so that the only four who represented the crew of the unfortunate frigate were in the road to liberty. Scott was at last claimed by the messengers of Major Taylor, and departed for Malacca, where he reached the head quarters of the English troops on the 5th day of December, 1798, having passed in a short space of time through adventures which few long lives ever experience.

This young sailor departed from Malacca as soon as possible for Portsmouth, at which place he arrived safely, and was immediately summoned before the admiralty to give evidence respectiug the loss of the frigate. His account of her destruction was by some deemed incredible ; but the various confirmations which the narrative received soon convinced the incredulous of its truth, and placed before the naval world the terrible and singular fate of the Resistance.

Scott continued to serve his country ; and though no more such acciderts befel him, took his share of the hard casualties of war, by which he was at length fitted for an asylum in Greenwich Hospital, where, after the close of the war, he was found as a pensioner. Sometimes he would join the “ yarns of his messmates, and give again and again his account of the adventures detailed in these pages, which his auditors--all men who knew danger in a thousand forms admitted to have few parallels in naval history.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »