THE WRECK OF THE "GROSVENOR."
WRECK OF THE "GROSVENOR:"
AN ACCOUNT OF
THE MUTINY OF THE CREW AND THE
LOSS OF THE SHIP
WHEN TRYING TO MAKE THE BERMUDAS.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE & RIVINGTON,
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET.
(All rights reserved.)
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS,
STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.
Our next job was to man the port-braces and bring the ship to a westerly course. But before we went to this work the boatswain and I stood for some minutes looking at the appearance of the sky.
The range of cloud which had been but a low-lying and apparently a fugitive bank in the north-west at midnight, was now so far advanced as to project nearly over our heads, and what rendered its aspect more sinister was the steely colour of the sky, which it ruled with a line, here and there rugged, but for the most part singularly even, right from the confines of the north-eastern to the limits of the south-western horizon. All the central portion of this vast surface of cloud was of a livid hue, which, by a deception of the eye, made it appear convex, and at frequent intervals a sharp shower of arrowy lightning whizzed from that portion of it furthest away from us, but as yet we could hear no thunder.
"When the rain before the wind, then your topsail halliards mind," chaunted the boatswain. "There's rather more nor a quarter o' an inch o' rain there, and there's something worse nor rain astern of it."
The gloomiest feature of this approaching tempest, if such it were, was the slowness, at once mysterious and impressive, of its approach.
I was not, however, to be deceived by this into supposing that, because it had taken nearly all night to climb the horizon, there was no wind behind it. I had had experience of a storm of this kind, and remembered the observations of one of the officers of the ship, when speaking of it. "Those kind of storms," he said, "are not driven by wind, but create it. They keep a hurricane locked up in their insides, and wander across the sea, on the look-out for ships; when they come across something worth wrecking they let fly. Don't be deceived by their slow pace, and imagine them only thunderstorms. They'll burst like an earthquake in a dead calm over your head, and whenever you see one coming snug your ship right away down to the last reef in her, and keep your stern at it."
"I am debating, bo'sun," said I, "whether to bring the ship round or keep her before it. What do you think?"
"There's a gale of wind there. I can smell it," he replied; "but we're snug enough to lie close, aren't we?" looking up at the masts.
"That's to be proved," said I. "We'll bring her close if you like; but I'm pretty sure we shall have to run for it later on."
"It'll bowl us well away into mid-Atlantic, won't it, Mr. Royle?"
"Yes; I wish we were more to the norrard of Bermudas. However, we'll tackle the yards, and have a try for the tight little islands."
"They're pretty nigh all rocks, aren't they? I never sighted 'em."
"Nor I. But they've got a dockyard at Bermuda, I believe, where the Yankees refit sometimes, and that's about all I know of those islands."
I asked Miss Robertson to put the helm down and keep it there until the compass pointed west; but the ship had so little way upon her, owing to the small amount of canvas she carried now and the faintness of the wind, that it took her as long to come round as if we had been warping her head to the westwards by a buoy.
Having braced up the yards and steadied the helm, we could do no more; and resolving to profit as much as possible from the interval of rest before us, I directed Cornish to take the wheel, and ordered the steward to go forward and light the galley fire and boil some coffee for breakfast.
"Bo'sun," said I, "you might as well drop below and have a look at those plugs of yours. Take a hammer with you and this light," handing him the binnacle lamp, "and drive the plugs in hard, for if the ship should labour heavily, she might strain them out."
He started on his errand, and I then told Miss Robertson that there was nothing now to detain her on deck, and thanked her for the great services she had rendered us.
How well I remember her as she stood near the wheel, wearing my straw hat, her dress hitched up to allow freedom to her movements; her small hands with the delicate blue veins glowing through the white clear skin, her yellow hair looped up, though with many a tress straying like an amber-coloured feather; her marble face, her lips pale with fatigue, her beautiful blue eyes fired ever with the same brave spirit, though dim with the weariness of long and painful watching and the oppressive and numbing sense of ever-present danger.
On no consideration would I allow her to remain any longer on deck, and though she begged to stay, I took her hand firmly, and led her into the cuddy to her cabin door.
"You will faithfully promise me to lie down and sleep?" I said.
"I will lie down, and will sleep if I can," she answered, with a wan smile.
"We have succeeded in saving you so far," I continued, earnestly, "and it would be cruel, very cruel, and hard upon me, to see your health break down for the want of rest and sleep, when both are at your command, now that life is bright again, and when any hour may see us safe on the deck of another vessel."
"You shall not suffer through me," she replied. "I will obey you, indeed I will do anything you want."
I kissed her hand respectfully, and said that a single hour of sound sleep would do her a deal of good; by that time I would take care that breakfast should be ready for her and her father, and I then held open the cabin door for her to enter, and returned on deck.
A most extraordinary and wonderful sight saluted me when I reached the poop.
The sun had risen behind the vast embankment of cloud, and its glorious rays, the orb itself being invisible, projected in a thousand lines of silver beyond the margin of the bank to the right and overhead, jutting out in visible threads, each as defined as a sunbeam in a dark room.
But the effect of this wonderful light was to render the canopy of cloud more horribly livid; and weird and startling was the contrast of the mild and far-reaching sunshine, streaming in lines of silver brightness into the steely sky, with the blue lightning ripping up the belly of the cloud and suffering the eye to dwell for an instant on the titanic strata of gloom that stood ponderously behind.
Nor was the ocean at this moment a less sombre and majestical object than the heavens; for upon half of it rested a shadow deep as night, making the water sallow and thick, and most desolate to behold under the terrible curtain that lay close down to it upon the horizon; whilst all on the right the green sea sparkled in the sunbeams, heaving slowly under the calm that had fallen.
Looking far away on the weather beam, and where the shadow on the sea was deepest, I fancied that I discerned a black object, which might well be a ship with her sails darkened by her distance from the sun.