Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

was confined below, having dislocated his shoulder the day before ; but no entreaty could induce him to attempt his own safety, till, finding that many of the people had flown to that last desperate resource, inebriation, and all prospect of saving them was at an end, he suffered himself to be helped out of his bed, put into the boat, and carried on shore. To enumerate the privations and dangers to which they were now exposed, would be a detail of the most aggravated distress and unparalleled hardships. Their deliverance from immediate destruction, by getting on land, was wonderful, and to men on the point of perishing, was, for the time, the highest attainment of their wishes; but, on looking round, a scene of horror every where presented itself. On one side, lay the wreck beating to pieces, (and which contained all they had to subsist on,) while the sea came rolling in with the most appalling fury. The land did not wear a more favourable appearance ; desolate and barren, without sign of culture, or any means of affording a temporary supply to the cravings of hunger. The night was stormy, the rain poured down in torrents, and not the smallest shelter, except the remains of an Indian hut, presented itself; into which they huddled together without distinction, and waited for the light of day. Some of the people had preferred remaining on board to indulge in intoxication, and numbers perished from this cause. Indeed, it appears that the crew of the Wager was principally composed of lawless and desperate characters, who considered their captain's authority at an end with the loss of the ship ; nor was the captain himself exempt from blame, in his endeavours to govern with harsh severity, rather than conciliate by condescending kindness; and to this may, in a great degree, be imputed the miseries they afterward endured. It is lamentable to reflect on the numerous instances where valuable lives have been sacrificed, through the haughty demeanor, or rash impetuosity, of men who would best study their own interest by promoting the welfare of those whom circumstances have placed under their command. How noble was the conduct of Anson ! his humanity, fortitude, and temper, never forsook him, even on the most trying occasions; nor did he ever exert his power unmercifully, or with wanton cruelty. He was obeyed with alacrity, and reverenced through attachment. What a striking contrast 'to the man who first, by an unwarrantable stretch of his power, alienates his seamen; and then, with unpardonable rashness, destroys the life of a fellow creature, from a jealousy of his prerogative. This was the case with Captain Cheap. The survivors from the wreck considered (erroneously, we grant) that the change in their circumstances levelled the great distinction which had been maintained on board ; and the captain, by his distant pride and unfeeling conduct on several occasions, inflamed them to mutiny; the officers came in for their share of his insolence, and, being separated from their commander, began to mingle with the men, and consulted for their mutual safety. On one occasion, Mr. Cozens, a midshipman, quarrelled with the purser, and some words arising, the latter told him he was come to mutiny, and instantly fired a pistol at his head, which narrowly missed him.

“The captain hearing the report of the pistol, and, perhaps, the purser's words, that Cozens was come to mutiny, ran out of his hut, with a cocked pistol in his hand, and without asking any questions immediately shot him through the head. I was, at this time, (says Mr. Byron) in my hut, as the weather was extremely bad, but running out on the alarm of this firing, the first thing I saw was Mr. Cozens on the ground, weltering in his blood; he was sensible, and took me by the hand, as he did several others, shaking his head, as if he meant to take leave of us.”

Such a sight, and at such a time, naturally irritated the people, and though they disguised their sentiments for the present, it was very evident this action had much exasperated them, and the effect would shortly shew itself in some desperate enterprise. Whatever excuse can be made for Captain Cheap, for thus wantonly putting to death one of his officers, humanity shudders while concluding the account.

“The unhappy victim, who lay weltering in his blood on the ground before them, (the seamen,) seemed to absorb their whole attention ; the eyes of all were fixed upon him, and visible marks of the deepest concern appeared in the countenances of the spectators. The persuasion the captain was under at the time he shot Mr. Cozens, that his intentions were mutinous, together with a jealousy of the diminution of his authority, occasioned also his behaving with less compassion and tenderness towards him afterwards, than was consistent with the unhappy condition of the poor sufferer; for, when it was begged as a favour by his messmates, that Mr. Cozens might be removed to their tent, though a necessary thing in his dangerous situation, yet it was not permitted; but the poor wretch was suffered to languish on the ground some days, with no other covering than a bit of canvass thrown over some bushes, where he died.”

The long-boat had been saved from the wreck, and they prepared to enlarge her sufficiently to convey them all from these inhospitable shores, where death continually stared them in the face. Hunger, with all its attendant horrors, frequently compelled them to feed on rotten putrid substances; and some were suspected of eating parts of the bodies of their dead companions that were constantly washing up on the rocks. When

VOL. X. PART II.

the long-boat was finished, the captain proposed sailing to the northward, and capturing the first vessel they should fall in with, and proceed to join the commodore ; but the majority of the officers and men determined on returning to the southward, through the Straits of Magellan, to endeavour to reach the coast of Brazil. Had Captain Cheap even now consulted with bis officers, and not have been so tenacious of his superior authority, matters might, in all probability, have been amicably adjusted, and many lives saved; but with the same unbending stubbornness, he refused all interference, and the affair of Cozens was adopted as a plea to deprive him of his command. Finding, however, he was resolute in his determination of not accompanying them, they were about to employ force, when the persuasions of the leader urged them to leave him, with nineteen others, behind. Their number at first landing amounted to one hundred and forty-five, but famine and disease had reduced them to one hundred. Of these, eighty-one embarked in the long boat, cutter, and barge ; fifty-nine on board the first, twelve in the second, and ten in the last. The provision and ammunition they had been enabled to save from the wreck, offered but a very scanty pittance, and was all in the launch. The barge, with her crew, among whom was the author (Byron), returned to Captain Cheap; but, as their portion of victuals was left in the other boats, they were reduced to the most urgent necessity; nor would the party, who had at first remained behind, supply their wants with the smallest aid. Many attempts were made to quit the island, but they were obliged to return. The agonizing distresses they endured are too many to be enumerated here; some were put on shore at different places, and there left to perish, while others fell away through toil and famine. They had been several times visited by Indians; and, at last, a Cacique, from the neighbourhood of Chiloe, undertook to conduct them from this dreadful place; and, accordingly, they attempted once more.

“I had hitherto steered the boat, but one of our men, sinking under fatigue, expired soon after, which obliged me to take the oar in his room, and row against this heart-breaking stream. Whilst I was thus employed, one of our men, whose name was John Bosman, though hitherto the stoutest man among us, fell from his seat under the thwarts, complaining that his strength was quite exhausted for want of food, and that he should die very shortly. As he lay in this condition, he would every now and then break out in the most pathetic wishes for some little sustenance, that two or three mouthfuls might be the means of saving his life. The captain, at this time, had a large piece of boiled seal by him, and was the only one that was provided with any thing like a meal; but we were become so hardened agaiost the impressions of others' sufferings by our own, so familiarized to scenes of

this and every other kind of misery, that the poor man's dying entreaties were vain. I sat next to him when he dropped, and, having a few dried shell-fish (about five or six) in my pocket, from time to time put one in his mouth, which served only to prolong his pains, from which, however, soon after my little supply failed, he was released by death."

Mr. Byron, after censuring the captain's barbarity, in a feeling manner, adds

“ The captain had better opportunities of recruiting his stock than any of us, for his rank was considered by the Indian as a reason for supplying him when he would not find a bit for us. Upon the evening of the day in which these disasters happened, the captain, producing a large piece of boiled seal, suffered no one to partake with him but the surgeon, who was the only man in favour at this time. We did not expect, indeed, any relief from him in our present condition, for we had a few small muscles and herbs to eat; but the men could not help expressing the greatest indignation at his neglect of the deceased, saying, that he deserved to be deserted by the rest for his savage behaviour.”

: Having landed one day, and made an ineffectual search for food, six of the men, on their return, advanced before the officers, jumped into the boat, and pushed off from the shore, leaving the captain, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Campbell, and the author, to bewail this unwarrantable treachery. Every thing they possessed was in the barge, and they were at once deprived of every hope; but the Indian again returned, and took two of them off in his canoe, landing occasionally for rest and food. On one occasion,

“ About two hours after the close of the day, we put ashore, where we discovered six or seven wigwams. For my part, my strength was so exhausted with fatigue and hunger, that it would have been impossible for me to have held out another day at this toilsome work, As soon as we landed, the Indian conducted Captain Cheap with him into a wigwam; but I was left to shift for myself.”

Mr. Byron, in a starving condition, thrust himself into another wigwam, almost desperate. In it, he found two women, who were struck with astonishment, at seeing such a figure. Having stared at him for some time, they quitted the hut; but shortly returned. Mr. B. sat down by the fire to dry his rags, not without apprehensions of seeing two or three men enter, and thrust him out, at the least.

“ One of these women appeared young and handsome for an su

dian; the other old, and as frightful s it is possible to conceive any thing in human shape to be."

“ Soon after, the two women came in again, having, as I supposed, conferred with the Indian, our conductor, and appearing to be in great good humour, began to chatter and laugh immoderately. Per. ceiving the wet and cold condition I was in, they seemed to have compassion on me; and the old woman went out and brought some wood, with which she made a good fire."

Hunger, however, was the most poignant trouble, and these poor creatures dressed their only fish to satisfy him. They then strewed some boughs, and the weary sailor laid himself down to sleep; but awaking three or four hours afterwards,

“ I found myself covered with a bit of blanket, made of the down of birds, which the women usually wear about their waist. The young woman, who had carefully covered me, whilst sleeping, with her own blanket, was lying close by me; the old woman lay on the other side of her.”

The cravings of appetite, which had been sharpened by the previous meal, made him again implore for more victuals, when these poor Indians quitted the hut, and,

“ After an hour's absence, they came in trembling with cold, and their hair streaming with water, and brought me two fish, which having broiled, they gave me the largest share, and then we all laid down as before.”

Who will not call to mind Lediard's beautiful description of the invariable hospitality, and ready and kind assistance, which he ever found, in his various wanderings, women delighted to supply.

From this time, Mr. Byron was chiefly indebted to these women for support; for though their husbands returned soon after, yet they constantly endeavoured to devote, by stealth, some portion of their own provision, to administer to the wants of the stranger.

About the middle of March, they again embarked with the Indians, and, shortly after, Mr. Elliot, the surgeon, died, being literally starved to death ; and, indeed, from the state of misery to which the survivors were reduced, they all bid fair to follow : and, to add to their distress, they were so swarming with vermin, that it was impossible to rest.

“But we were clean in comparison to Captain Cheap, for I could compare his body to nothing but an ant-hill, with thousands of

« ПредишнаНапред »