Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

him farewell

, with a cheering word for all as long as he could speak; but, as the long day of burning sun, without food or water, passed by, his strength failed, and he had lost the power of speech, when at sunset, on another alarm of the sharks, a startled movement of the men caused the boat to be again upset, and his sufferings were ended in the waves.

The brief grave records of courts-martial speak only of the facts that concern the service, and they do not tell us of the one anchor of hope that could alone have braced that dying sailor's soul to that unmurmuring patience through the anguish, thirst, and heat of that tropical day; but no one can doubt that a man, who thought so much of others, so little of himself, whose soul was on his duty, and who bore the extremity of agony so long and uncomplainingly, must have been upheld by that which alone can give true strength. Indeed, we know that Edward Smith was one of the best loved and most promising of the sons of a Hampshire family, brought up by a widowed mother, and that he was especially valued by the Admiral on the station, Sir Lawrence Halstead.

The only officer now left was a young mate named Maclean, who, with the spirit of his lieutenant, again persuaded the men to right the boat, which was now able to hold them all, for only four were left, himself, the gunner's mate, Meldrum, the boy Wilson, and one more. Twenty hours of struggling in the water, with, latterly, the sun broiling their heads, and not a morsel of food nor a drop of drink, had however, nearly worn them out; the oars were lost, and though the approach of night rendered the air cooler, yet the darkness was unwelcome, as it took away all chance of being seen and picked up by some passing vessel. At about three o'clock at night, poor young Wilson and the other man lost their senses from the sufferings they had overgone, and both jumped overboard and perished.

Maclean and Meldrum collected themselves after the shock, and steadily continued to bale out the water, till the boat was so nearly dry, that they could lie down in her; and so spent were they, that deep sleep came to them both; nor did they wake till the sun was glaring upon them far above the horizon. What a wakening ! - alone in a frail boat, their companions gone, water all round, and swarming with the cruel sharks, — the sun burning overhead, and themselves now thirty-six hours without food, and parched with the deadly thirst, which they had the resolution not to attempt to slake with saltwater, well knowing that the momentary relief would be followed by worse suffering, perhaps by frenzy. They durst not even speak to one another, but sat, one in the bow, one in the stern, in silent patience, waiting for death.

Hours passed away in this manner ; but towards eight in the morning a white speck was seen in the distance, and both opened their parched lips to shout “A sail ! -a sail !” They shook hands with tears of joy and hope, and strained their eyes as the vessel came nearer, and the dark hull could be seen above the horizon. Nearer, nearer, — scarcely half a mile from them was the vessel, when alas ! she altered her course : she was sailing away. They shouted their loudest, and waved their jackets ; but in vain,

they were unseen, and were being left to perish !

The gunner's mate now rose up. He was the elder and the stronger man, and he quietly announced his intention of swimming to the vessel. It was a long, fearfully long distance for a man fasting for so many hours; and more terrible still than drowning was the other danger that was hidden under the golden ripples of those blue waters. But to remain was certain death to both, and this attempt gave the one last hope. The brave man gave his last wishes in charge to his officer, made the one entreaty, that if Mr. Maclean saw a shark in pursuit, he would not let him know, shook hands, and, with a brief prayer for the protection of the Almighty, sprang overboard.

Maclean was strongly tempted to swim with this last companion, but conquered the impulse as only leading to a needless peril, cheered, and waved his jacket. Once he thought he saw the fin of a shark, and made a splashing, in hopes of scaring it from the pursuit, then watched the swimmer with earnest hope. Meldrum swam, straining every nerve, splashing as he went to keep away the sharks, and shouting, but no one appeared on deck; and when he had accomplished about two-thirds of the way, his strength failed him, and he was about to resign himself to float motionless, an easy prey to the sharks, when a head was seen in the vessel. He raised his arms, jumped himself up in the water, and was seen! The brig was hove-to, a boat was put out, and he was taken into it, still able to speak and point the way to his companion.

The brig was American; and, at first, the history of the last day and night was thought so incredible, that the destitute pair were taken for escaped pirates; but they were, at last, set on shore at Havanna, and thence conveyed to Port Royal by the first man-of-war that touched there.

At the court-martial held by Sir Lawrence Halstead these facts came out. Meldrum could not be prevailed on to tell his own story; but when his young officer had related it, both burst into tears, and embraced before the court. Not an officer present but was deeply affected; and Meldrum was, of course, at once promoted, according to the dying request of Lieutenant Smith.

He died in the year 1848, but the name of the Magpie schooner will ever remain connected with the memory of undaunted resolution and unwearied patience.

THE FEVER AT OSMOTHERLY.

1825.

[ocr errors]

1

not far from North Allerton. It had been much neglected, the houses were ill-built, and there had been little attention to the means of cleanliness, so that the place was exceedingly unhealthy, and the people were in the state of dulness and ignorance, that was sure to be the result of possessing a clergyman, who unhappily cared neither for their souls nor bodies, and did not even reside among them, but only came over from time to time to read the service in the church.

No wonder that a deadly low fever broke out in this unfortunate place, in the autumn of 1825, and went creeping on from house to house, laying one person low after another, so that the healthy could hardly be found to nurse the sick. Among the families upon whom it fell very heavily was that of an old widow, who had seen better days, but had become nearly destitute, and had for many years past been chiefly supported by an allowance from her brother, who had settled as a merchant in America. This brother had died in the previous year, and his only child, Mary Lovell Pickard, at that time twenty-five years of age, had, after her long nursing of him, been persuaded to cross the Atlantic, and make acquaintance with her English relations.

66

a

She had spent many happy months with aunts and cousins in prosperous circumstances, but she was not going to neglect the poor old aunt in the North, and taking advantage of the escort of some friends who were going to Scotland, she travelled with them as far as to Penrith, and then went by coach to North Allerton, and by post-chaise to Osmotherly, where she intended to pay a three weeks' visit at Brush Farm, and be picked up again at Penrith on their return.

Her first letter from this place, written on the ad of September, 1825, describes her hostess as small, thin old lady, with a pale complexion, and the very brightest black eyes, which sparkle when she speaks with a degree of animation almost amusing in such an old lady. She lives in a comfortable little two-story cottage, of four rooms, which far exceeds anything I ever saw for neatness, though it seems to have had a clay floor. “I find,” added kind-hearted Mary," that I could not have come at a better time to do good, or a worse for gaining spirits.” She found the poor old lady nearly worn out with the care of two little grandsons, one of whom was dreadfully ill with whooping-cough, but could not be nursed at home, as his younger brother, a baby of a fortnight old, was equally ill with the same complaint, and his father was in great danger with the fever, and had just lost a brother in smallpox. And worse than all

, a son of the old lady had been just brought home in a melancholy state, that was almost madness.

Many would have thought only of flying from the fever, Mary Pickard only thought how she could help the sufferers. First she took charge of the sick child, who was soon very fond of her, and took a fancy to call her “Uncle Mady,” and she likewise went about among the other poor, teaching them the care of their sick, and giving them every kind of

« ZurückWeiter »