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'This is too dreadful,' at length exclaimed the Captain': 'if you are men, desist! Field,' and he seized the raised arm of a man prepared to strike an already prostrate soldier, 'you have sailed with me nearly two years; hitherto I have esteemed you as a man and a sailor; is this your conduct, and on such a night? Look around you, men, on the wild sea and this shattered wreck, and ask yourselves how have you done your duty as men and seamen. Shame, shame!'
He had touched the right chord. The men, who had, one by one, dropped their weapons as he proceeded, overcome with shame, cowered forward to avoid the angry glance of that eye they had been wont to fear and love.
Following up the advantage he had gained, the Captain proceeded: 'Aye, these feelings indeed do you honour. There, there; the mischief that is done cannot now be helped; but let us make all the amends we can. The day will soon break, and the wind has in a great measure subsided; there are two boats yet, and, if the land is near, we shall quickly see it. Poor lambs,' he continued, with deep feeling, as he looked down on the females, who, beneath the united effects of cold, wet, and fear, lay senseless on the deck, 'what can be done for you ?'
He raised one in his arms; but the head, with its long tresses, bent lifelessly on her bosom, and her arms dropped down, relaxed, by her side.
'God! they are dead!' uttered he in a tone of horror. We chafed their pale hands and paler temples, and applied all the remedies our ignorance and poor ability suggested; but these weak efforts availed but little. Life was not indeed extinct; but the horrors of the night seemed to have arrested all sense and perception. Motionless, and with closed eyes, they reclined upon our bosoms, a faint sigh or a convulsive emotion of the lips alone betraying existence. There was one among them returning to a mother she had not seen from earliest infancy, but upon whose affectionate heart the image of that mother was stamped with the never-dying intensity of true affection; and the sweet soul wept, and uttered a low, plaintive, and dove-like cry, My mother! my mother!'
Convinced that any efforts we could make would be unavailing, until day broke to discover our real situation, sad and anxiously did our miserable party watch the first streaks of silver that heralded its approach.
And day at length beamed!
The decks and bulwarks abaft were already broken up; and the tremulous quivering that ran through every timber, too surely convinced us that the ship's back was broken. The fallen masts and their tangled rigging strewed the waist on the larboard side; and
a poor fellow lay beneath the ponderous foremast fairly crushed by its weight. He was dead; but, by the look of agony his distorted features yet wore, his sufferings had been terrible. Others too had sustained injury; and even those who had escaped bodily hurt, worn down by fatigue and anxiety, were little capable of exertion.
But there were those on board yet unsubdued, and who now stood forward to excite by their example their dispirited companions in danger. There were the captain, the chief mate, and a military gentleman, returning to his regiment in India. The captain was the first to break the silence that had for some time prevailed, by exclaiming, in a joyful tone, The land! the land!'
Instantly, every weary eye was strained in the direction to which he pointed, and an emphatic Thank God!' burst from our lips. Yes, it was the land: there it lay right a-head-a long low beach, and stately palms, and a slender pagoda, rose darkly but distinctly in the cold livid light.
The reef on which we had struck appeared to extend nearly two miles from each extreme, and in depth, towards the land, nearly half a mile. The united violence of wind and sea had driven the ship nearly to its centre, and to the sandy yielding nature of the ground alone had we been indebted for our safety. The shore lay considerably distant, at least two leagues, but this was of little moment; if that any boat could live in the tremendous surf, of which there seemed but little hopes.
Yet the attempt must be made. The cutter, a noble boat, and capable of holding at least thirty, was lowered from the larboard quarter. There was an instinctive rush towards her; but it was instantly checked by the impressive appeal of the captain. I trust,' he exclaimed, pointing to the ladies, and the injured men, that even now you will not forget their helpless situation.'
Nearly two hundred souls stood on that frail and fast-perishing wreck. Already were her decks partially under water, while each succeeding swell further weakened her. This and another smaller were their only apparent means of reaching the shore; yet not one of that number selfishly pressed forward to secure his own safety until he had discharged the divine duties of humanity. Scarcely waiting till the captain had finished, seamen and soldiers together exclaimed, 'We will! we will !'
As many only as she could with safety hold, in addition to the females and the wounded and mutilated, descended into the cutter ; and, as the surf receded from the wreck, the ropes that confined her were gradually slackened, and she drifted from along-side. The returning swell overtook her; and, rising on its summit, the boat appeared for an instant to stagger. This was a moment of breathless alarm; but the next she passed the breakers, and a shout of joy
answered by us on board announced her safety, and her arrival into smoother water.
The other boat, on examination, was found so much injured, that to trust ourselves in her would have been utter madness. We had no alternative, therefore, but to await the return of the cutter, or assistance from land.
Not long were we kept in suspense. Presently, numerous catamarans surrounded the ship, (merely planks lashed together,) allured perhaps by the hope of plunder; and at length, two Massulu boats, in one of which, the second mate returned from the shore, came alongside.
The crew of the cutter had found an hospitable reception at the house of Mr. T., the Honourable Company's commercial resident, who, on the first intimation of our disaster, had ordered out every boat this remote spot afforded, to our assistance.
All anxiety as to personal safety now completely set at rest, cheerfully did the crew toil all the day through, though not a breath of air tempered the heat of that tropical sun, to snatch from the general wreck a portion of the ship's cargo; and the last lingering rays of his light aloue warned them to abandon their labours and the wreck.
As we neared the shore, the mate, in whose boat I chanced to be, turned his gaze seaward. The sun has set,' he muttered half aloud, half to himself, with a fair promise for the morrow. If the old ship holds together, we shall find work enough in her yet, for some days to come.'
The boats presently entered a sort of channel, the banks of which were, on either side, covered with low jungle, or studded with the lofty and luxuriant foliage of Asiatic forest-trees.
'Why, where the devil are you going, Jones, where do you land?' inquired the mate abruptly. Just beyond that bight of land, Sir,' replied the man, pointing to a woody eminence, which jutted into the river or channel : a snug place it is too, and the black fellows are very civil;' and the man's voice gradually sunk into a whisper, as though the speaker wondered at his own volubility before his formidable officer.
The boat rounded the point, and the little village of Hantredee became visible. True it consisted but of some score of mud huts, and a nondescript pagoda in the rudest style of Hindoo architecture; but the pleasant grove behind, and the smooth esplanade in front sloping gradually to the water's edge, together with the tents hastily erected for our accommodation, and the bustle and hum of the seamen and Natives, gave to the scene, at least in my eyes, something infinitely pleasing.
Not a soul now remained on the wreck. Strange as it may appear, our evening's repast on the lawn-like banks of the river, in that remote and almost desolate spot, and under circumstances so painful, was to me one of peculiar enjoyment. Our singular and ill-assorted viands, too, were in admirable keeping. They consisted of hams, hastily boiled, an immense cheese, bread from a cask with the head driven in, and wine, beer, and spirits, ad libitum. The evening was delightful. A faint and balmy air rustled among the trees, and with the distant and solemn boom of the surf, alone broke on the perfect stillness of nature: the features of the land were becoming indistinct and shadowy in the gathering gloom; while seaward, a broad mass of dense clouds, edged with radiant crimson, and surmounted by clouds of feathery light, yet lingered in the distant west, and the smooth oily-looking sea caught, from their mingled 'gloom and glory,' a solemn and tempered light.
It will easily be supposed that, after the fatigues of the day, we were not long in seeking refreshment in sleep, and that our slumbers were of the soundest description.
A little before sunrise, however, the rain, penetrating through the thin canvas of the tent, awoke us. One of those sudden changes of the weather, so frequent in the Indian Seas, previous to the setting in of the S.W. monsoon, had taken place.
The wind blew with terrific violence, accompanied with thunder and torrentlike rain, which at intervals, in squalls perhaps of half an hour's duration, continued the whole of the day.
To attempt to board the wreck in such weather, would have been certain destruction; and the dense mist that floated on the surface of the water, rendering objects undiscernible at twenty yards distant, greatly heightened the peril of the attempt. Occasional gleams of brightness in the atmosphere, indeed, discovered to us a black and shapeless mass, now visible above, the next instant ingulphed amidst the furious breakers; but by night-fall the beach was completely strewn with fragments of the wreck.
There is little else to relate. Gradually the ship broke up; and by the period the crew quitted the place, (sixteen days from the morning of our disaster,) hardly a vestige of her remained visible on the reef.
It is scarcely necessary to dwell at length as to how we occupied ourselves during this interval. Mr. T., by every assistance in his power, rendered our situation as little irksome as possible; and to his kindness were we indebted for our speedy departure for Calcutta, he having despatched a messenger over land to Mausulipatam, to hire a Native brig for our accommodation, in which we happily reached Bengal, without experiencing any further casualties.
Oriental Herald, Vol. 18.