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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 211, 8 December 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
CONVICTS ON THE SEA. - (Concluded). The Consul verified the man’s statement, which satisfied the skipper, so he had shipped him on the strength of this. 1 said nothing more to the old man", but determined to keep a weather eye on that man’s movements. We were to put to sea that night, if the wind were favorable. The eighty-seven men were placed between decks to remain there until morning, when they would be taken out for an airing. The guard consisted of twenty-four men, half the number standing watch while the others turned in below. It was 11 o’clock before the wind was in our favor, and nearly eight bells when we weighed anchor. I tell you J did not sleep much in my watch below; the shouts and curses of the convicts made a perfect Bedlam, and would have aroused the seven sleepers. In vain the guard threatened them, but thev only answered derisively, and dared the soldiers to shoot.
Mr. Bolter came to my berth when his watch was out, and said he expected to find me awake, for no one could sleep with those wretches howling. So I lighted my pipe and went on deck, preferring to remain above than on a level with the banished Englishmen. Before daybreak they were quietenough, and no particular one could be sifted out for creating the disturbance, so the whole eighty-seven went scot free. About 7 o’clock they were led up on deck for an airing, and to pass inspection. After remaining three hours, they were sent below again. In the afternoon, about 3 o’clock, a gale sprung up, which required all hands to reef topsails. Tire yards were soon manned, and I went aloft myself, as is generally the custom when all hands are called. While I was passing the weather earring and taking the last turn, I heard Shaling (one of the foremost hands, who was knotting a reef-point next to me), ask :
“ Where is Barker ? I don’t see him on the yard.” I looked over the line of men, and sure enough he was not there. I tell you I was’t long in getting on deck and telling my suspicions to the Captain. We at once rushed forward, followed by several of the guard, and just as we reached the forecastle, who should make his appearance but Barker. The old man yelled at him : “ What are you doing down there ? Speak up • what are you shirking below for when all hands were called for duty ?”
“ I was sick,” growled the scoundrel, “ and could not go aloft.” “ You are lying, you villain ! and you know it,” said the skipper. “ I’ll be bound you are up to some deviltry. Mr. Steeraway, .just keep your eye on him till I come back.”
“ Ay, ay, sir !” I responded. By, this time all hands had come down from aloft.
The Captain soon returned and stated that he could find nothing .out of the way, but I was convinced in my own mind that something was out of the way. So the old man gave me leave to go below and satisfy myself. I could find nothing, but at the same time was far from being satisfied. I asked why was Barker, of all others, down below ? We told the crew of our suspicions, and ordered them to keep a look-out on Barker’s; movements.
As the night came on the guard was relieved, and cautioned by the sergeant to be on the alert. It seemed kind of queer to me that the convicts remained so quiet, for, beyond a low conversation, their voices were scarcely-audible, but I thought afterwards that they probably intended to get a good night’s rest, and preferred to keep still. I 1 lay awake some time after turning in, but my eyes finally grew heavy, and I was in the land of dreams—away off in Boston. My mother came up to my room (I was still in my dreams) to tuck in the bedcloths. I felt the gentle touch of the blankets ; but why did she place her hand over my mouth? I opened ray eyes to see the reason. The glittering blade of a shtath-knife was before them. I knew the reason then pretty quick, I assure you, for Barker held it.
“Now, Steeraway,” says he, “you just keep quiet, and you won’t be hurt. Open your mouth, and you won’t know what hurt you.”
I knew that any on my part would be my death warrant. “Will you keep quiet if I take my hand from your mouth ?” I nodded my head in the affirmative, and his hand was removed. “ Now, Steeraway,” says he, “ I am going to tie you and put a little stopper in your mouth. I won’t hurt you, for I know how to do these things.” He evidently did, for I was very soon bound hand and foot, a gag placed in my mouth, and your humble servant rendered as useless as a dead man. The convict then left me and disappeared. I had not been alone more than ten minutes, when I heard a voice near the berth-head say, “All right.” In a moment more a light draught of air entered my stateroom, and it smelt strongly of pent-up-air—a sort of convict odor, so to speak. The bulkhead had been removed and the cabin was soon crowded with prisoners. Not a sound did they make, for their irons were off, and.the thought flashed quickly upon me— our ship is in their hands, may the Lord have mercy on our crew.
Silently they went up the cabin stairs; then I heard a quick, rushing sound, shouts, yells, curses, then a few shots in quick succession, several splashes near my cabin daylights ; more shouts and yells. “ Down with them ! Now or never !” “No Van Dieman’s for us ! Down with them !”
In vain I heard several voices pleading for mercy. But those men knew no mercy. Finally the shouts and yells ceased, then the quick, hurried tramp cf feet overhead. Presently a step descends the stairs, the rope binding me was cut, the gag torn from my mouth and a gruff voice said : “ Come, Steeraway, you are wanted on deck. Lively now,” I came to the conclusion it was useless to deliberate,; and I obeyed the order at once.,'. It was not necessary for me to ask what the. matter was. I knew that well enough, at a glance. Barki scoundrel Barker-—was an escaj ed convict, and had shipped
on board the Marathon for the purpose of aiding his friends, and, from the appearance of things, he had succeeded beyond his utmost expectations. As I emerged from the cabin, 1 was greeted with : “ Here he is,” by several of the striped-jacket gentry. “ Now, Steeraway, we want you to mind and do just as we teil you—or what Joe Gosshawk, the Captain, tells you—and you won’t be hurt; but if you don’t, why, overboard you go. We know you can navigate ; now which is it; sharks’ dinner or obey orders ?”
Of course I didn’t want to ease the appetite of the jet-finned wolves that were swmming around the ship. So I told them I would do all they wished ; but I wanted to know what had become of the captain and crew.
“ You’d better swim after them and ask ’em what’s done with ’em ; all except that cussed first mate, Bolter, and we can’t get no track of him, blast him,” said Gosshawk, the recognised leader.
I uttered a silent prayer that Bolter might be safe, stowed away somewhere out of their clutches.
“ Well, Steerawny,” says Gosshawk, “ where are we?”
“About eighty miles from Van Die man’s Land.”
“ Now, then,” says he, “ you just fix this ship so she will be more nor that in twelve hours from now. Make her run north until I ask you again where we are.”
“ And mind you don’t play any points, or you’ll find the bottom of Davy Jones quick.”
Tasked him then who would work the vessel.
“ Why, you just give the orders and these men will work her; and mind you give them right,” “ Then brace around the yards,” replied I, “ so I can get her on the other tack.”
“ All right,’ said Gosshawk ; “ tell us the ropes.” I explained to them and pointed out the braces.
In ten minutes we were around and sailing almost due north. When day broke my heart almost sank within me. The deck presented a sickening sight. Pools of clotted
blood here and there, torn clothing, the remnant of some desperate struggle, and the striped convict jackets and red coats of the English soldiers were scattered over the deck.
I requested that the decks be cleared up and washed down, so that no vestige might meet my eyes of that terrible encounter that had taken place the night before. At noon Gosshawk asked me where we were. I had just taken the sun, and found we were in 32 deg. south lattilude, and 173 deg. longitude east, all of which I correctly informed the convict skipper. “ Ain’t the Fijis about here somewhere ? ” he asked.
“ Yes, they are in 2c deg. latitude, and 180 degi longitude.”
“ Well, take us there, Steeraway, and you are free to go in the long boat just as soon as we sight land. I’ll take care of the Marathon myself then.” As we still had about 720 miles to the nor’ard to make, and about 420 miles of longitude. I computed the sailing distance, and found there were
about 1,140 miles to cover, which, deducting the distance from our actual course, would leave about 930 miles before we reached the Fijis. I reported the same to Gosshawk, who grunted anything but satisfaction. “No nearer than that ? Well, keep her for the Fijis, anyhow.” So I kept her for the Fijis and on the fourth day “ Land, ho! ” was shouted by one of the convicts, who was stationed aloft. Gosshawk’s eyes brightened up, and he turned to me, saying, “ Well done, Steeraway.”
If I had only had my own way, I would have put them on a coral reef, but life is precious, you know, even to a sailor. As the Marathon neared the land, which proved to be one of the group to the south’ard, Gosshawk gave some orders in a low tone to several of the.men. I knew what they were immediately, for the convicts began to cast off the lashings from the long boat. “So Gosshawk intends to keep his promise,” I thought to myself, and I was to be cast adrift in the long boat.
When within fifteen miles of the land the breeze died away, and the old Marathon lay almost motionless. Gosshawk swore and stamped the deck, but to no purpose. Kind Providence paid no attention to him. About dusk the wind made its appearance, and 1 got ready to stand in. “ Steeraway,” said Gosshawk, I guess you will have to make a voyage in the dark; but it can’t be helped.” The boat was lowered, two kegs of water, a bag of hard tack, and three or four j unks of salt horse were tossed in, and I was told to follow suit. As I was cast adrift the villains shouted after me, “ Good bye, Steeraway, you have done us a good turn, and we won’t forget it.” After pulling a short time in the direction of land I heard a faint cooey, and heading for the direction from which the sound proceeded, what was my surprise and joy to find the first mate, Bolter, swimming towards the boat. After mutual congratulations on our escape, I said, “ But how did you escape detection by the villians ?” “ Why. you see, Joe, I got an inkling of what was coming, but before I could get out of the cabin the rascals were down upon us. So i slipped into the secret locker under the transom, and they looked into every place but that. Luckily, the locker contained some canned meals and fruits, so there was no danger of my starving. I overheard that fellow’s conversation —the one they called Gosshawk —and I knew, Steeraway, that you were safe. I also heard him tell his cut-throat comrades what he intended doing with you, when I heard your boat lowered. 1 peeped from my hiding place, saw the cabin was clear, as they were all on deck to see you off. Soon as I heard the boat was adrift I crawled through the stern window hung by the framefor a minute or two, then dropped into the sea, swam after your boat, and here I am.” Bolter suddenly started up and cried out, “ Look, Joe, if they have not set the ship on fire !” And so they had. Before they landed they had no doubt left two or three of their number to lash the wheel and apply the torch. The flames threw a lurid light over the ocean, and soon the whole outline in fire of the doomed Marathon could be seen. Heavy tongues of flame ran up the tarred rigging, and rolls of fire like a cloud,,
would now and then burst forth as the sails one after another were consumed. It was a magnificent sight, but a sorrowful one for us. We watched her until scarcely a spark could be seen, when suddenly, like a flash, the faint light disappeared, and all that once remained of the Marathon went to the bottom.
On the following morning we sighted an American whaler, which fortunately came near enough to see our signal of distress, and we were relieved from our uncomfortable position. Bolter and myself told the whaling skipper our story, when he at once made sail for Sydney, where the facts were laid before the English Consul, who took steps to capture the short haired villians. This was successfully 7 accomplished. - ( Concluded.[)
Holloway’s Pills.—lmportant for the Delicate. —-It is difficult to determine which is die more trying to the human constitution—the damp, cold days of the autumn and winter,or the keen, dry, easterly winds of springs Throughout the seasons good health may be maintained by occasional doses of Holloway s Pills, which purify the blood and act as wholesome stimulants to the skin, stomach, liver, bowels, and kidneys. This celebrated medicine needs but a fair trial to convince the ailing and de-ponding that it will restore and cheer them without danger, pain, or inconvenience, as by a timely recourse to them the first erring amotion maybe reclaimed, suffering may be soared and life saved.—Auvr.
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 211, 8 December 1880
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