Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

arrow.

her haven. Resistance was useless ; but the spirit of chivalry which had so often checked the advance of the crescent was amongst the sailors, and all resolved to fight till the last against the blasphemer who now sought to spoil them. The ship was provided with guns, and also with a gunner named Foxe, a man of cool head and daring courage. He arranged the

guns in the most effective manner ; and as the Turks came on, the pieces were discharged with the utmost steadiness into the midst of the galleys. The artillery was aided by a weapon at which the sailors of Nelson may smile--the

These were sent in rapid showers upon the enemy by some archers on board. But the cannon from eight ships of the pirates began to tell with terrible effect on the one solitary vessel exposed to the storm. The Three HalfMoons received many balls under water ; and in the midst of a furious cannonade the Turks rushed forward to board her.

In spite of their great force they were beaten back with much slaughter by the Christian crew. The repulse exasperated without much weakening the foe, from whose galleys the shot flew into the Three Half-Moons at every point. No sign of surrender was given after a long continuance of the struggle ; and the pirates began to fear lest their expected prey might escape them by sinking. Accordingly, they made a dash with their whole force on the exhausted crew, and bore down all resistance by the crushing weight of numbers. Thus these brave men, with their intrepid gunner, became prisoners, though not without inflicting a heavy punishment on their assailants. The pirates, when they had plundered their captives, compelled them to work at the oars, and thus aid in their transportation to an enemy's country. The Turks sailed for Alexandria, which they soon reached, and immediately placed Foxe and his companions in a strong prison, having first secured them by chains. The captain and master of the captured ship were in a short time redeemed by their friends ; but the rest of the crew met with no such deliverance. The British ambassador or consul was not then at hand to protect his countrymen, and the brave crew of the Three Half-Moons were abandoned to the bitterness of slavery. Their spirits might have sunk beneath the strange troubles now pressing upon them ; but Foxe encouraged his companions with hopes of deliverance or escape. IIe possessed one of those minds in which an unconquerable resistance to evil enables the soul to maintain its post with heroic calmness, in the midst of thickening danger. These men not only nerve themselves to action, but infuse their own untiring energy into the hearts of others.

Such a man was Foxe, the gunner of the captured ship. As soon as all hope of ransom was at an end, he began to devise plans for his own deliverance and the rescue of his fellow-sufferers. These plans must have seemed wild, even to himself, when he thought of the strongly-guarded port and well-watched coast of Alexandria. He was aware that no sudden dash of courage could accomplish the desired result ; that nothing but a long series of concealed devices could lead him to the delights of liberty, and open a passage to his native land. His first aim was to appear contented and even happy in his condition, and thus remove from the Turks all suspicion of his designs. Foxe therefore began to employ his spare time by operating as a barber, which not only increased his comforts by the wages earned, but introduced him to the acquaintance and confidence of his enemies. The keeper of the prison soon allowed him to walk out, within certain limits, with a chain on his leg ; for which favour Foxe always paid a sum of money. Foxe soon induced this man to grant a similar privilege to six of his fellow-prisoners. Thus, by degrees, he grew in the confidence of the Turks, and what was of greater importance to him, the favour of the numerous prisoners, who, from time to time, were brought in from captured merchant-slips. Still no opening for escape presented itself. Year after year passed away, leaving Foxe in slavery, and harassed by constant apprehension lest the Turks should suspect his object. Well was it for this English sailor that his was no yielding heart; otherwise, hope delayed for fourteen years must have crushed all effort, and left him to a

slave's grave.

Such was the long period during which Foxe kept his eye steadily fixed on the bright though distant form of Freedom, nor once allowed his view to be diverted by the thousand distractions and perils of his position. He had by this time become the intimate friend of a Spaniard who kept a public house near the prison. This man was named Unticaro ; and having been taken by the Turkish pirates, had remained a prisoner thirty years. His captors allowed him to keep the victualling-house, as the best means of employing his time, a large sum being paid to them for this permission. As the aid of Unticaro was essential to Foxe, he by degrees revealed the projects of escape to the Spaniard, who, seized with a desire to revisit the country of his birth, entered with cagerness into the plan.

Year after year had continued to pass away, presenting no means of escape. Many of his companions obtained freedom by death ; and all had resigned every hope of seeing their homes again. But in the winter of 1577----being the fourteenth year of Foxe's captivity—circumstances seemed to offer the means of deliverance. The Turkish galleys were all stowed in their winter positions ; and Foxe felt that, could he once put to sea in any vessel, thore was little chance of instant pursuit. There were in the prison at this time two hundred and sixty-eight Christian captivesnatives of sixteen countries. Of this number only three were English - John Foxe himself, William Wickney, of Portsmouth, and Robert Moore, of Harwich. Foxe knew that if a plan likely to succeed could be devised, all the prisoners would eagerly assist in the attempt, and risk even life rather than remain supinely subject to the insults and tyranny of the barbarous infidels. After a long consideration between himself and Unticaro, a scheme was agreed upon, and the particulars revealed to five of the most cool and courageous amongst the captives. Foxe soon opened the whole matter to all the prisoners on the last day of December, 1577. No excitement was needed to rouse the captives to exertion : the shameful wrongs they had endured fired each, and Foxe at once found himself entrusted with the lives of nearly three hundred Christian men. He had previously collected a number of files, which had been concealed in the house of the Spaniard. These were now gradually conveyed to the prison, and distributed amongst the captives, who were charged to have their fetters ready to be broken off by eight o'clock the next night.

Foxe having arranged his plans, sought to prevent all suspicion on the part of the guards and watchers, by assembling the fivo confederates, whom he had first chosen at

Unticaro's tavern, to a merry-making, where, by games and pretended carousing, they diverted all attention from their real proceedings. To keep his companions actually sober whilst feigning the excesses of drink required all the watchfulness of Foxe. Night at length drew on : the guards had gone their rounds : it was evident that no suspicion of the state of things existed. Within the prison hope mingled with dread, and produced that inexpressible feeling which unnerves the coward whilst it imparts energy of purpose to the brave. The wintry day closed gloomily, and each captive's heart beat as he marked the deepening shadows of evening gather over the harbour of Alexandria.

Some time was allowed to elapse after nightfall before the least move was made ; but at the appointed time Foxe and his companions were on the alert ; for well they knew that ere the morning light fell upon that coast they should be free on the sea, or doomed men. Blood must be shed in the attempt : that each man knew ; but regret was hushed by the recollection that those against whom they plotted were both robbers and murderers, from whom they were justified in making their escape by force and subtlety. But what were the means by which Foxe hoped to extricate nearly three hundred men from a guarded and strong prison? how overcome the sentinels ? above all, how escape from the coast ? For, unless this could be accomplished, all the rest would but render their condition more terrible. What, then, were his resources ? Two or three rusty swords, which had been secretly picked up at various times; a like number of iron bars, some spits, and a few files. These feeble instruments were, however, directed by a cool hand and resolute heart.

When eight o'clock came, Foxe called to his side his six confederates, and armed them with the rusty swords, spits, and bars just mentioned. Foxe now put his first device into operation. This was to get the harbour-master into his power. Unticaro was accordingly sent to this officer with a message purporting to come from one of the city governors, who, it was pretended, urgently required his presence at a specified place. The harbour-master, not suspecting the stratagem, set off, but took alarm on reaching the appointed place, where no one was ready to receive him. He was returning in haste, when Foxe, rushing from ambush, clave his skull

to pass

in two by a single blow. The Turk dropped dead on the spot, without giving the least alarm. Thus the die was cast : the seven marched to the gate of the harbour, which, as they suspected, had been left open for the return of the master. It was guarded by six sentinels, who challenged as Foxe's party approached. A sudden rush upon the startled watchers was the necessary reply, and every man was killed. Fearing an alarm, no time was lost in fastening the gate, and pointing a cannon so as to command the entrance. They next got into the jailor's house, and armed themselves with more effective weapons. Here, in spite of all the remonstrances of Foxe, two of his men seized upon some money, with which they burdened themselves. Whilst the seven were thus clearing the way to freedom, their fellows in prison were awaiting the issue in the utmost suspense. At intervals the distant sound of hurried steps had been heard ; but nothing had yet reached them to indicate with clearness the progress of Foxe and his party. The prison-keeper had once or twice inquired respecting the return of those who had been allowed

the day at the house of Unticaro: nothing further had transpired. The appointed time had passed, and all were eagerly listening for the coming events. No sound fell upon those wakeful ears save the tread of the sentinels outside the prison-wall. At length one of these was heard to challenge. For a moment all was still ; then a rush was heard, the clash of steel and furious execrations sounded on the ears of the prisoners, who were thus forced to listen

passively to the struggle on which the lives of all depended. The contest outside was short ; for in a few moments the voice of Foxe was heard, the doors forced open by iron bars, and the captives rushed out in orderly files, as had been enjoined. Six of the sentinels had been killed by the onset of Foxe and his men ; but the rest escaped to a turret, where they made a desperate defence, killing the two confederates who were encumbered with the jailor's money, and also Unticaro. The tumult of the contest aroused the garrison in the city, and not a moment was now to be lost by Foxe. The prisoners were all got out ; and whilst one body guarded the gate, another set a galley afloat. The prisoners, having worked in the harbour, knew the exact position of each storehouse, and in a very short time oars were procured and

G

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »