Графични страници
PDF файл

His health was not yet thoroughly reestablished; and while he was employed in getting his ship ready, he again became so ill as hardly to be able to keep out of bed. Yet in this state, still suffering from the fatal effect of a West Indian climate, as if, it might almost be supposed, he said to try his constitution, he was sent to the North Seas, and kept there the whole winter. The asperity with which he mentioned this so many years afterwards, evinces how deeply he resented a mode of conduct equally cruel to the individual and detrimental to the service. It was during the armed neutrality; and when they anchored off Elsineur, the Danish Admiral sent on board, desiring to be informed what ships had arrived, and to have their force written down. “The Albemarle,” said Nelson to the messenger, “ is one of his Britannic Majesty's ships: you are at liberty, sir, to count the guns as you go down the side: and you may assure the Danish Admiral, that, if necessary, they shall all be well served.” During this voyage he gained a considerable knowledge of the Danish coast, and its soundings; greatly to the advantage of his country in after times. The Albemarle was not a good ship, and was several times nearly overset, in consequence of the masts having been made much too long for her. On her return to England they were shortened, and some other improvements made at Nelson's suggestion. Still he always insisted that her first owners, the French, had taught her to run away, as she was never a good sailer, except when going directly before the wind.

On their return to the Downs, while he was ashore visiting the senior officer, there came on so

heavy a galé, that almost all the vessels drove, and a store ship came athwart-hawse of the Albemarle. Nelson feared she would drive on the Goodwin Sands : he ran to the beach ; but even the Deal boatmen thought it impossible to get on board, such was the violence of the storm. At length some of the most intrepid offered to make the attempt for fifteen guineas; and to the astonishment and fear of all the beholders, he embarked during the height of the tempest.

With great difficulty and imminent danger he succeeded in reaching her. She lost her bowsprit and foreinast, but escaped further injury. He was now ordered to Quebec; where, his surgeon told him, he would certainly be laid up by the climate. Many of his friends urged him to represent this to Admiral Keppel : but, having received his orders from Lord Sandwich, there appeared to him an indelicacy in applying to his successor to have them altered.

Accordingly he sailed for Canada. During her first cruize on that station, the Albemarle captured a fishing schooner, which contained, in her cargo, nearly all the property that her master possessed, and the poor fellow had a large family at home, anxiously expecting him. Nelson employed him as a pilot in Boston Bay, then restored him the schooner and cargo, and gave him a certificate to secure him against being captured by any other vessel, The man came off afterwards to the Albemarle, at the hazard of his life, with a present of sheep, poultry, and fresh provisions. A most valuable supply it proved; for the scurvy was raging on board : this was in the middle of August, and the

ship's company had not had a fresh meal since the beginning of April. The certificate was preserved at Boston in memory of an act of unusual generosity; and now that the fame of Nelson has given interest to every thing connected with his name, it is regarded as a relic. The Albemarle had a narrow escape upon this cruize. Four French sail of the line and a frigate, which had come out of Boston harbour, gave chase to her; and Nelson, perceiving that they beat him in sailing, boldly ran among the numerous shoals of St. George's Bank, confiding in his own skill in pilotage. Capt. Salter, in the St. Margaretta, had escaped the French fleet, by a similar manæuvre, not long before. The frigate alone continued warily to pursue him; but, as soon as he perceived that this enemy was unsupported, he shortened sail, and hove to : upon which the Frenchman thought it advisable to give over the pursuit, and sail in quest of his consorts.

At Quebec Nelson became acquainted with Alexander Davison ; by whose interference he was prevented from making what would have been called an imprudent marriage. The Albemarle was about to leave the station, her captain had taken leave of his friends, and was gone down the river to the place of anchorage; when, the next morning, as Davison was walking on the beach, to his surprise he saw Nelson coming back in his boat. Upon inquiring the cause of this reappearance, Nelson took his arm, to walk towards the town, and told him he found it utterly impossible to leave Quebec without again seeing the woman whose society had contributed so much to his happiness there, and offering her his hand.-—“If you do,” said his friend,

your utter ruin must inevitably follow."-" Then let it follow,” cried Nelson, “ for I am resolved to do it.”—“ And I,” replied Davison, “ am resolved you shall not.” Nelson, however, upon this occasion, was less resolute than his friend, and suffered himself to be led back to the boat.

The Albemarle was under orders to convoy a fleet of transports to New York.—“A very pretty job,” said her captain, " at this late season of the year” (October was far advanced), “ for our sails are at this moment frozen to the yards.” On his arrival at Sandy Hook, he waited on the commander-in-chief, Admiral Digby, who told him he was come on a fine station for making prize-money. Yes, sir,” Nelson made answer; “ but the West Indies is the station for honour.” Lord Hood, with a detachment of Rodney's victorious feet, was at that time at Sandy Hook : he had been intimate with Capt. Suckling; and Nelson, who was desirous of nothing but honour, requested him to ask for the Albemarle, that he might go to that station where it was most likely to be obtained. Admiral Digby reluctantly parted with him. His professional merit was already well known: and Lord Hood, on introducing him to Prince William Henry, as the Duke of Clarence was then called, told the prince, if he wished to ask any questions respecting naval tactics, Captain Nelson could give him as much information as any officer in the fleet. The Duke, who, to his own honour, became from that time the firm friend of Nelson, describes him as appearing the meerest boy of a captain he had ever seen, dressed in a full laced uniform, an old fashioned waistcoat

with long flaps, and his lank unpowdered hair tied in a stiff Hessian tail of extraordinary length; making, altogether, so remarkable a figure,“ that,” says the duke, “ I had never seen any thing like it before, nor could I imagine who he was, nor what he came about. But his address and conversation were irresistibly pleasing ; and when he spoke on professional subjects, it was with an enthusiasm that showed he was no common being.”

It was expected that the French would attempt some of the passages between the Bahamas : and Lord Hood, thinking of this, said to Nelson, “ I suppose, sir, from the length of time you were cruizing among the Bahama Keys, you must be a good pilot there.” He replied, with that constant readiness to render justice to every man, which was so conspicuous in all his conduct through life, that he was well acquainted with them himself, but that in that respect

his second lieutenant was far his superior. The French got into Puerto Cabello on the coast of Venezuela. Nelson was cruizing between that port and La Guayra, under French colours, for the purpose of obtaining information; when a king's launch, belonging to the Spaniards, passed near, and being hailed in French, came alongside without suspicion, and answered all questions that were asked concerning the number and force of the enemy's ships. The crew, however, were not a little surprised when they were taken on board, and found themselves prisoners. One of the party went by the name of the Count de Deux Ponts. He was, however, a prince of the German empire, and brother to the heir of the Electorate of Bavaria : his companions were French

« ПредишнаНапред »