Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Wrecked in sight of home
 The foundering of the "London"
 The wreck of the "Atlantic"
 The three noble brothers
 The life-boat at work
 The story of Volney Beckner
 A night of peril
 The value of a five-pound note
 After the wreck
 A criminal captain
 Back Cover

Group Title: To the sea in ships : stories of suffering and saving at sea
Title: To the sea in ships
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00055811/00001
 Material Information
Title: To the sea in ships stories of suffering and saving at sea
Physical Description: 128 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 18 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Blackie & Son ( Publisher )
Publisher: Blackie & Son
Place of Publication: London ;
Glasgow ;
Edinsburgh ;
Publication Date: [1881?]
Subject: Shipwrecks -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Rescues -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Lifeboats -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Sailors -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Seafaring life -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Prize books (Provenance) -- 1881   ( rbprov )
Bldn -- 1881
Genre: Prize books (Provenance)   ( rbprov )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: England -- London
Scotland -- Glasgow
Scotland -- Edinburgh
Ireland -- Dublin
General Note: Frontispiece printed in colors.
Funding: Preservation and Access for American and British Children's Literature, 1870-1889 (NEH PA-50860-00).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00055811
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002238593
notis - ALH9111
oclc - 28308754

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Cover 1
        Cover 2
    Title Page
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Wrecked in sight of home
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    The foundering of the "London"
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
    The wreck of the "Atlantic"
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
    The three noble brothers
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
    The life-boat at work
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
    The story of Volney Beckner
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
    A night of peril
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
    The value of a five-pound note
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
    After the wreck
        Page 118
        Page 119
    A criminal captain
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
    Back Cover
        Cover 1
        Cover 2
Full Text

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AFTER THE WRECK, .. .. .. .. .... 118


'NE of the most disastrous and melancholy
-hipwrecks that ever took place on the
English coast occurred on the night of the
25th and 26th October, 1859. On that eventful
night the magnificent steamer Royal Charter
was within twenty-four hours from her home des-
tination, when she was driven ashore and dashed
to pieces on the coast of Anglesea. She was con-
sidered one of the most complete and efficient
vessels afloat, was iron built, of 2756 tons bur-
then, and fitted with a screw driven by an engine
of 200 horse-power. She was under the command
of Captain Taylor, and sailed from Melbourne on
Friday, August 26, 1859; having on board 388
passengers, and a crew, all told, of 112, making


in all exactly 500 souls; a miscellaneous cargo 6f
merchandise valued at about 5000, and a large
quantity of Australian gold supposed to amount
to about 700,000.
On Monday, October 24th, the Royal Charter
arrived at Queenstown in Ireland, where she
landed about a dozen of her passengers in a boat,
and from whence the captain telegraphed to his
owners at Liverpool news of his safe arrival, and
that he hoped to be in port within twenty-four
As it was known to some of the passengers on
board that the steamer Great Eastern was at
that time at anchor off Holyhead, several of them
expressed a wish to obtain a sight of the huge
vessel; and it has been supposed that, with a
view of gratifying this wish, Captain Taylor
approached nearer to the Welsh coast than he
otherwise would have done.
About eleven o'clock on the 25th the Royal
Charter spoke the steam-tug United K.:.:. .....,
and took on board eleven riggers, who had been
assisting to work a ship to Cardiff, and to whom


the captain granted a passage to Liverpool. The
wind at this time was blowing fresh, and was
veering round to east-north-east. It continued
to increase in violence throughout the day, rose
to a fierce gale ere night had set in, and soon
after midnight blew a perfect hurricane. The
vessel made but very slow progress against the
wind; and even while off Holyhead on the
Tuesday afternoon, scarcely advanced a mile an
By six o'clock she was off Point Lynas, where,
as it was dark, rockets were thrown up and guns
fired, in the hope of attracting the attention of a
pilot, but none made his appearance; while it
began to be evident that, owing to the violence
of the wind and the proximity of a lee-shore, the
ship was in a critical position, and there were
grounds for serious alarm. Among the passen-
gers were two sea-captains named respectively
Withers and Adams, and these two seem to have
been, with the exception of the captain and
officers of the vessel, the only persons who fully
realized the dangerous position of the ship. The


three captains consulted together, but what con-
clusion they arrived at was never known. The
steam-power failing to keep the boat off the
shore, Captain Taylor, about ten o'clock, gave
orders to let go the anchors. This was done, and
for a time they held on, and it was hoped that
the ship would be able to ride out the storm.
Towards midnight, however, matters grew worse,
and alarm and apprehension began to spread
among the passengers, a large proportion of
whom were women and children. Captain Adams
had been overheard to say that he "should not be
at all surprised if the vessel went ashore, and
that they should all have to swim for it." Few
went to bed, and some who did, very soon again
left their berths to be prepared for the worst.
The passengers were kept below, in order that
they might not, by crowding the deck, impede
the operations of the crew in their efforts to save
the ship. From time to time Captain Taylor
went down to them, and encouraged them with
the assurance that all would be well; and in
these attempts to abate the general alarm he was


seconded by the other two captains on board,
and by Dr. Hutch, the government medical
About two in the morning the anchor chains
parted, and the captain then ordered the main-
mast to be cut away. In the confusion of the
moment an axe could not be found, but on
cutting the stays with knives the wind blew
over the mast, which fell with a fearful crash,
carrying down the mizen-top, along with it. The
foremast was next cut away; but all these
measures were of no avail, and in spite of all
that could be done the ship struck the sands at
about four o'clock, swinging broadside on to the
land. The captain gave orders to harden the ship
on to the sand by means of the screw, and then,
apparently to quiet the apprehensions of the
passengers, he went below, and ordered coffee to
be prepared. He again assured the ladies that
there was no cause for alarm, and expressed his
hope that with God's help he would be able to
put them all on shore at daybreak.
When the day began to dawn a Maltese sailor,


named Joseph Rogers or Rogerson, volunteered
to endeavour to make his way through the surf,
and to carry a line with him by which a hawser
could be made fast to the shore. His offer was
accepted, and tying a cord round his waist he
leaped overboard. The land was only about
thirty feet distant, but a tremendous sea beat
over the ship like a cataract, and rendered the
attempt almost desperate; but the brave fellow
succeeded, fought his way through the surf, and
by means of the line he carried the hawser was
got ashore and fastened to the rocks; and had
the ship kept afloat all, or nearly all, of those on
board would probably have reached the land.
But it was not to be. It would have taken a
whole day to have landed all on board by this
single hawser, and the Royal Charter had not an
hour to live. An attempt was made to send over
a lady in the boatswain's chair, which had been
rigged on to the hawser, and could be pulled to
and fro by men at each end; but she hung back
in terror, would neither go forward nor return,
and half-an-hour of the most precious time was


lost by her perversity. Altogether, only about
a dozen of the sailors escaped by means of the
hawser and chair.
About seven o'clock the ship, exposed to the
direct assaults of a tremendous sea, snapped
asunder amidships, and "tumbled to pieces like a
house of cards." In a single moment not less
than 400 of the wretched people were tossed and
mingled together with the falling wreckage and
machinery, and numbers of them were killed by
the falling masses, while the greater portion of
the fabric of the ship was reduced to fragments,
and disappeared beneath the seething waters.
Out of the whole number, about twenty were
thrown on to the shelving rocks; and these
escaped, not so much by their own efforts or
design, as by the merciful providence of God.
Many were washed on and off again several
times, and others who thought they were safe
were washed back again to a watery grave.
Soon after breaking amidships the vessel parted
again at the fore-hatch, throwing some fifty of
those who yet remained into the sea, where they


were all drowned. Not a single woman or child
escaped! Captain Taylor was the last man seen
on board the ship alive. He lashed a spar to his
body, and endeavoured to make for the shore,
but on starting a boat fell from the davits upon
him and a companion, and he was seen no
Several of those who were ultimately saved
owed their lives to the Anglesea peasantry, who,
linking their hands with each other, were en-
abled to enter the water, and thus save a few of
the unfortunates who were washed or thrown
nearest the shore. Those who were thus rescued
were taken to the cottages in the neighbourhood,
where they were hospitably cared for until out of
The place where the Roycd Charter struck is
called Moelfra Bay, and is situated a little to the
east of Point Lynas. It is a singular spot, and
would appear almost impossible of access to so
large a ship, as it is guarded at the entrance by
two lofty rocks only three hundred yards apart.
If, in drifting into this bay, the ship had struck


upon either of these rocks, probably not a single
person would have survived to tell the tale. As
it was, only thirty-nine were saved out of the
500 persons who were on board the ill-fated
steamer, thus showing the fearful number of 461
hopeful and expectant persons, who, within a few
hours of their destination, and after having been
cooped up on board ship for two months, were
thus wrecked in sight of land! There have been
few wrecks so sudden or so complete as that of
the Royal Charter; and rarely has any disaster
at sea been attended with more sorrow and
suffering to surviving relatives. The unfortu-
nate persons who perished had, many of them,
been for years absent from their native land, and
toiling for the means of independence amidst
the discomforts and privations of a rising colony.
They were homeward bound with the hard-
earned fruits of their toil, and with their
native shore in sight, when a few hours more
would have brought them to the embrace of
friends from whom they had so long been severed
-they were snatched to sudden destruction, and


all their delightful hopes and anticipations
quenched for ever in the devouring sea.
The tidings of the wreck of the Royal Charter
spread consternation throughout the country, so
numerous were the victims of the calamity, while
a large proportion of them were persons of a
superior station in life. Crowds of expecting
relatives hastened immediately to the scene of
the disaster, in the hope of finding their friends
among the few who were saved, or failing that,
of recognizing their remains among those who
were washed ashore. Numbers of the dead were
identified and claimed; and numbers more, either
mutilated by the violence of the waves beyond
the possibility of recognition, or for whom no
personal search was made, received the rite of
Christian burial in the little churchyard of
Llanallgo, the nearest consecrated burial-ground.
Charles Dickens visited the spot shortly after-
wards in company with the Rev. Mr. Hughes,
the clergyman of Llanallgo; and from a graphic
account in The Uncommercial Traveller of what
he saw we take the following:-


"It is a little church of great antiquity. The
pulpit was gone, and other things usually belong-
ing to the church were gone, owing to its living
congregation having deserted it for the neighbour-
ing school-room, and yielded it up to the dead.
The very Commandments had been shouldered
out of their places in the bringing in of the dead;
the black wooden tables on which they were
painted were askew, and on the stone pavement
below them, and on the stone pavement all over
the church, were the marks and stains where the
dead had been cast down. The eye, with little
or no aid from the imagination, could yet see
how the bodies had been turned, and where the
head had been, and where the feet."
Here, at one time, lay forty-four dead mel:
and women, waiting to be conveyed to their
last resting-places. Here, with the weeping and
wailing of the relatives of the dead in every
room of his house, Mr. Hughes worked alone
for hours, solemnly surrounded by eyes that
could not see him, and by lips that could not
speak to him; patiently examining the tattered


clothing, cutting off buttons, locks of hair, marks
from linen-anything that might lead to subse-
quent identification; studying faces, looking for
a scar, a bent finger, a crooked toe; comparing
letters sent to him with the ruin about him.
"My brother had bright gray eyes and a
pleasant smile," wrote a sister. Alas! all eyes
had lost their brightness, and no smiles flickered
about the pale cold lipsl




AMID all the disasters which have occurred
at sea during the last quarter of a
Century, nothing equals the fate of the
London, an Australian packet ship which foun-
dered in the Bay of Biscay on the 11th of Janu-
ary, 1866, with the loss of 270 lives. The London
left the river Thames at the end of December,
but met with such heavy weather that she was
obliged to take refuge for a time at Spithead.
She subsequently embarked passengers at Ply-
mouth, and sailed again on the 6th of January.
Five days after this she foundered in the Bay of
Biscay. The gale which she met was so furious
that the ship, though new and large, could not
hold her way against it, and the captain deter-
(149) B


mined to return to Plymouth to refit. The ship
rolled and pitched so fearfully and shipped such
quantities of water on deck as to carry away the
engine-room hatch; the water rushed down into
the engine-room, put out the fires, and stopped
the engines. The gale increased every hour in
fury; the sea poured into the vessel, and everyone
on board who had strength went to the pumps;
but during the night the stern-ports were driven
in by the sea. After that it was all over. De-
struction, tardy but certain, was coming upon
them. They worked with tolerable perseverance
for ten hours longer, but by two o'clock on Thurs-
day the 11th the ship went down, leaving only
19 persons, 16 of the crew and 3 passengers, to
tell the tale.
Mr. Greenhill, chief engineer, who was placed
in command of the only boat which was able to
leave the ill-fated steamer, furnished a complete
narrative of all that had occurred since the vessel
left the Thames, from which we have condensed
the following account:-
On the morning of the 2nd January the


London proceeded through the Needles into the
open Channel, the wind being ahead, but light.
As the ship ran down Channel the wind rose and
the sea increased, and a couple of hours after
passing the Needles the wind blew a gale right
ahead with a heavy sea rolling, which continued
all the way to Plymouth, where the ship arrived
about noon on Thursday the 4th. A sad casualty
occurred here. A pilot cutter put off a small
boat, having on board the pilot and his assistant,
to bring the London inside the breakwater.
When the boat was about 100 yards from the
London a sea capsized her, and both the pilot
and his assistant were thrown into the water.
Captain Martin, commander of the London,
instantly ordered one of his boats to be lowered,
and with great difficulty the assistant was rescued,
but the pilot was drowned. The ship came to an
anchorage inside the breakwater, and during the
afternoon those of her first and second class
passengers who had arranged to join the ship at
Plymouth did so. At midnight on Friday she pro-
ceeded on her voyage, the weather being at this


time calm with a light wind ahead. She had
full steam on the whole of Saturday, and the
voyage proceeded very satisfactorily until Sunday
morning, when the wind increased and a head-
sea gradually rose. During this day the London
passed several ships, and nothing occurred to
create the smallest uneasiness in the minds of
any of the officers of the ship. During Sunday
night the wind increased to a gale and the sea
rose considerably. On the morning of Monday
the 8th the ship was well clear of the land, and
Captain Martin having ordered the engines to
be stopped, set his top-sails and so endeavoured
to keep the ship moving slowly ahead. At noon
on this day, the wind having somewhat lulled,
the engines were again set in motion, and kept
steaming slowly ahead through the night. At
eight o'clock on Tuesday morning, while the
captain was still endeavouring to keep the ship
in her course by means of the screw, the violence
of the gale carried away at one sweep the jib-
boom, the foretop-mast, the topgallant-mast, and
the royals. These large spars were not wholly


detached from the ship, but, hanging fast to the
stays, swung to and fro with such violence that
the crew were wholly unable to secure them.
About two hours later the mainroyal-mast was
blown completely out of its socket and added to
the general wreck. Captain Martin, who had
not been in bed since the previous Sunday night,
was not at all disheartened up to this moment;
but as the gale continued to increase during the
morning, with a sea already running mountains
high, the position of the ship was undoubtedly
felt to be one of great peril. Still, as the wind
had somewhat veered round, the engines were
kept steaming easy ahead, and it is believed that at
this moment no person on board felt any anxiety
for the ultimate safety of the ship.
About 3 p.m. on Tuesday, however, a tremen-
dous sea struck the ship and carried away the
port life-boat completely from the davits. All
that evening and through the succeeding night
the wind blew a very heavy gale and the sea ran
very high, but the screw was still kept steaming
easy ahead.


About 3 a.m. on Wednesday Captain Martin
sent for Mr. Greenhill and informed him of his
intention to put the ship about and run for
Plymouth, and he desired that full speed should
be got up, which was done directly. In half-an-
hour after the ship's course had been altered she
was again struck by a tremendous sea, which
carried away the starboard life-boat, and the
same sea stove in the starboard cutter, At noon
a very heavy cross sea was running, with the
wind now dead astern of the ship, which caused
her to roll heavily. But no danger was even now
anticipated, and all through the evening of Wed-
nesday, and long after midnight, the ship con-
tinued to steam slowly ahead, the captain and his
officers remaining steadily at their posts, and the
passengers appearing to have full reliance upon
the skill of Captain Martin to bring them safely to
port. At 10-30 p.m. on Wednesday the ship, still
rolling deeply in a heavy cross sea, and the wind
blowing a whole gale from the south-west, a
mountain of water fell heavily over the waist of
the ship, and spent its destructive force upon the


main hatchway over the engine-room, completely
demolishing the massive structure and flooding
this portion of the ship with tons of water.
Instant endeavours to repair the hatchway were
made with a promptitude and vigour commen-
surate with the imminent crisis. Every spare
sail that could be got at, and even blankets and
mattresses from all parts of the ship, were thrown
over the aperture, but each succeeding sea
shipped by the vessel tore away the frail resource
of the moment, and not more than ten minutes
after the hatchway had been destroyed the water
had risen above the furnaces and up to the waists
of the engineers and firemen employed in this
part of the ship. The lower decks were now
also flooded with the rush of waters the ship
was continually taking in. The chief engineer
remained at his post until the water had risen to
his waist, when he went on deck and reported
that his fires were out and his engines rendered
useless. Captain Martin, with calm conviction,
remarked that he was not surprised: on the
contrary, he had expected such a result. Finding


his noble ship at length little more than a log
upon the water, Captain MIartin ordered his
maintop-sail to be set, in the hope of keeping
her before the wind. This had scarcely been
accomplished when the force of the wind tore the
sail into ribands with the exception of one corner,
under which the ship lay to throughout the
remainder of the night. The donkey-engine was
supplied with steam by a boiler upon deck, and
all the deck-pumps were kept going throughout
the night; and the passengers of all classes, now
aroused to a sense of their imminent danger,
shared with the crew their arduous labours. Not-
withstanding every effort the water still gained
upon the pumps, and the gale continuing at its
height cross seas with tremendous force were con-
stantly breaking over the vessel. The motion of
the ship became low and heavy, and she refused
to rise to the action of the waves. At a quarter
after 4 o'clock on Thursday morning she was
struck by a stern sea, which carried away four of
her stern-ports, and admitted a flood of water
through the breach. From this time all efforts were


useless, and at daybreak Captain Martin, whose
cool intrepidity had never for a moment for-
saken him, entered the cuddy, where all classes
of the passengers had now taken refuge, and
responding to a universal appeal, calmly an-
nounced the cessation of all human hope. It is
a remarkable fact that this solemn admission was
as solemnly received-a resigned silence prevail-
ing through the assembly, broken only at brief
intervals by the well-timed and appropriate
exhortations of the Rev. Mr. Draper, whose
spiritual services had been incessant during the
previous twenty-four hours. At 10 o'clock, the
ship still rolling deeply, an attempt was made to
launch the starboard pinnace, but a sea struck her
just as she reached the water, and she sank, leaving
a crew of five mer struggling for their lives. As
the ship was lying-to three of them managed to
scramble up her sides, and the other two were
rescued by ropes being thrown to them.
After this the exhausted crew appeared indif-
ferent to their fate, and no further effort at launch-
ing the remaining boats was made until one


o'clock, when, the water having reached the main
chains and the ship evidently settling down, the
port pinnace was got over the ship's side. Even
at this moment the sea was so heavy that those
of the passengers who were within reach of the
boat appeared to prefer the frail shelter of the
sinking vessel to the obvious dangers of a small
boat in a raging sea. At this crisis Captain
Martin, always at hand, addressing Mr. Greenhill,
his chief engineer, under whose command this
particular boat was rated, said:
"There is not much chance for the boat; there
is none for the ship. Your duty is done; mine
is to remain here. Get in and take command of
the few it will hold."
Thus prompted, Mr. Greenhill with his fellow
engineers and some few others, numbering only
nineteen souls, among whom were only three
second-class passengers, quitted the ship, with
only a few biscuits in the shape of provisions,
and not a drop of water. The pinnace had
scarcely cleared the wake of the vessel, upon the
poop of which upwards of fifty of the passengers


were seen grouped, when a tremendous sea was
seen to break over the doomed circle, who, when
the ship rose slowly again, were discovered to
have been swept into the surging waves. An-
other moment and the vessel herself, settling
down stern foremost, threw up her bows into the
air and sank beneath the waves.
We must now supplement the foregoing nar-
rative of what may sadly be called "dry" details
with a few memorable and melancholy incidents
which occurred from the time that the unfortu-
nate ship London first encountered the fury of the
storm, until she sank from sight for ever. They
are from the testimony of the few survivors, and
therefore may be received with every confidence.
Considerable astonishment was expressed at
the time that no effort was made during the two
days that the ship was almost helpless under the
storm, to prepare rafts and use other means to
give additional chances for the safety of the
many persons on board. The testimony, however,
of those who were rescued went far to show
that Captain Martin-of whose skill, as mani-


tested during the storm, they spoke in terms of
the highest commendation-did not order the
construction of rafts because the wind blew with
such severity, and the waves leapt over the
steamer in such quick succession and tremendous
force, that no men could have worked on the
deck; and even if they had succeeded in building
a raft there could be no hope of any of the
unfortunate people being able to cling to it alive
for many minutes in such a sea. As soon as it
was determined to launch the life-boat plenty of
assistance was at hand to effect it, but the
passengers and crew, who had seen the starboard
life-boat washed away on the preceding day,
were horrified at observing their only remaining
life-boat slip through the stern davit, break into
two parts, and, of course, become utterly useless.
It was then resolved that the iron pinnace, ca-
pable of carrying fifty persons, should be launched,
and by the aid of the donkey-engine the pinnace
was raised and launched over the leeward rail.
When let go, however, she foundered, one man,
a Dutchman, being drowned, and three others,


who were rescued, being cast into the surf to
leeward. Two of the men who were overboard
were John King, the able seaman to whose
marvellous skill as steersman the survivors all
entirely and with gratitude attributed their
preservation, and Mr. Munro, a passenger who
hung in the davit until brought up by the
steward. King had one of his sides bruised and
his thigh dislocated by being beaten against the
steamer, and the steward received injuries in his
back. Nothing then remained on board the ship
but an ordinary six-oared captain's gig, and a
still smaller boat on the top of the cuddy or
cookhouse. After considerable hesitation it was
agreed that a boat should be launched for the
second time, and an opportunity was presented
for passengers to embark in her, but only three
passengers and sixteen of the crew availed them-
selves of it, and if they had delayed three min-
utes longer than they did they would have
perished in the ship. The precaution was taken
that only three or four of the crew who committed
themselves to the boat should be allowed to jump


into her while she was being lowered, and by
this means she reached the water without mishap,
and the rest were enabled to follow. The crowd
on board were afraid to leave the ship, having
naturally been frightened by the sinking of
the iron boat, and those who put off in the
second boat were shouted at not to make the
attempt, as their chance was hopeless.
Some heroic sacrifices were made. One of the
passengers in the boat, John Wilson, a native of
Montrose, went down into the cabin and en-
deavoured to persuade a friend to attempt to
save his life by going into the boat, but after
being entreated Wilson's friend said:
No, I promised my wife and children to stay
by them, and I will do so."
The water was then a considerable depth on
the lee side of the saloon, indeed over the tops of
the berths, and Wilson's friend-Mr. Hickman-
asked him to assist him to remove his four child-
ren to the windward side, out of the water. This
was done, and Mr. Hickman shook hands with
Mr. Wilson and said:


"Good-bye, Jack," and parted from his friend
for ever. When last seen Mr. Hickman was
standing in a row with his wife and children.
This occurred about an hour before the boat put
off, but probably they had perished by that time,
as the water had before then poured into the
steamer through the cabin windows, and when
the boat left the sea was flush with the top of
the poop-deck, and the corpses of drowned women
and children were floating over the deck. When
the men were all in the boat one of the seamen
"There may still be room; fetch a lady!"
Mr. Wilson then sprang over a portion of the
deck in search of a lady he knew, but not seeing
her, and knowing that every instant was precious,
he said to a young girl:
"Will you go?"
She did not refuse, therefore Mr. Wilson seized
her and took her to the bulwarks, but when she
looked over the rails and saw the distance which
she must spring she said in despair:
"Oh, I cannot do that!"


There was then no time for persuasion or
parley, and Mr. Wilson was obliged to drop the
girl and jump from the steamer to the boat,
which he fell into safely. The ship was being
washed over to the boat, towards which it lunged
heavily. Captain Martin, who was walking
calmly up and down the poop, had refused to
leave his ship, but just before the boat put off
he had the consideration and presence of mind
to give those in the boat their "course." He told
them that it lay E.N.E. to Brest, which was
correct. Before the boat could be got off it was
in great danger of being sucked down with the
ship, which was rapidly settling beneath the
water. The "swirl" of water round the stern that
preceded the foundering had already begun to be
excessive, and the boat was therefore hastily cut
away. At that moment those in the boat were
piteously called upon by a lady, evidently about
twenty-three years of age, who with a face which
was, it was stated, livid with horror, shrieked out
an offer of-
"A thousand guineas if you'll take me in!"


But in that solemn hour millions of money
would have been accounted valueless, and to
return must have resulted in destruction to all.
One of the seamen stated that when the boat
pushed off, and the captain had wished those in
her "God-speed," the men resolved that no danger
should be allowed to accrue to them from further
crowding, and that some of them drew their
knives with a determination of cutting off the
hands of those who might leap from the ship and
endeavour to cling to the boat's gunwales. It
was also stated, that long before this, when it
was first made known that the vessel must go
down, a passenger brought on deck a carpet-bag,
and that on his doing so the captain gave a short
melancholy laugh, and then smiled, as one of the
passengers expressed it-
"At the preposterous idea of the man's think-
ing at such a time of his property."
Quoting from the Times we continue the nar-
Down into the waves with 269 others sank
Gustavus Vaughan Brooke, the famed tragedian,
(149) 0


who was returning to Australia to verify his
previous successes in Victoria. He was a tall
man, of powerful build, and exerted himself to
the utmost in helping to keep the ship afloat.
The Dutch portion of the crew, 21 in number,
refused to work, and according to the boat's
crew of Englishmen who were saved, these men
(the Dutchmen) went to their berths and remained
there, so that the passengers had to work at the
pumps for many hours with the English seamen.
Those who were rescued acknowledged with
gratitude and respect the efforts put forth by
the ministers who were on board. The Rev. Dr.
Woolley encouraged the passengers to work at
the pumps, in which he was seconded by the
stewardess, who had a son on board, and cheered
the passengers by her collected demeanour and
constant attentions.
The Rev. Mr. Draper exerted all his efforts to
comfort the persons in the chief saloon. The
women sat round him reading Bibles with the
children, and occasionally a man or woman
stepped up to Mr. Draper and said;


"Pray with me, Mr. Draper;" a request that he
always complied with. Up to the time the ship
went down Mr. Draper ministered to those among
whom he moved constantly. He was heard to
say repeatedly:
"Oh, God, may those that are not converted
be converted now-hundreds of them!"
About an hour before the vessel sank, Mr.
Wilson met Captain Martin under the main deck
aft, and asked him if he could be of use in carry-
ing out the water to the second deck. Captain
Martin replied:
"I will see," and walked to the engine-room,
into which he looked down, when he turned
about, came back, and said: "You may do it, but
I think it is of no use."
He then walked on to the poop, and having
declared that he would "stay and sink with the
passengers," he walked about, and silently looked
down upon what was going on.
When the boat put off with the three passen-
gers, fourteen men and two boys, one being the
youngest midshipman on his first voyage, many


of the passengers, who, although expecting death,
little knew how very, very soon it was to come
upon them, waved their handkerchiefs, and
cheered when the boat got about a dozen yards
from the ship, being apparently anxious that
some should live to tell their hapless tale. By
the time the men had rowed the gig about 80
yards the wind came down upon them from all
quarters so boisterously that they could not hear
each other when shouting, and at this time they
looked eagerly back, and saw their noble new
vessel sinking rapidly by the stern. The stem
rose so high that the keel was observed for a
moment to be completely out of the water as far
as the foremast. The boatswain, Stedding of
Blackwall, who left a wife and five children; the
butcher from Blackwall, who also left a wife and
family; Ham, the cook, a married man and an old
servant of the owners; the baker; and William
Riley, the purser's mate, had made up their minds
to leave the steamer in the remaining small boat
over the cuddy, and had provisioned and launched
her; but just as they were ready to put off


the foundered ship slid quickly below the waves,
leaving for a moment an awful gulf, within whose
walls of dark, whirling water, they fell with
every human being, and every article around, and
were soon swallowed up. Two passengers were
seen with life-belts, but probably none were
alive when they came to the surface. The spec-
tacle was only to be seen, for in the din of the
tempest-no cry from the sinking multitude could
be heard, and soon not a vestige was visible. As
the ship sank it was seen that all on deck were
driven forward, not by water, but by a tremen-
dous and overpowering rush of air from below,
which as it escaped through the deck at the
hatches, impelled all on deck forward with vio-
lence, and their dreadful tri-iccl must have soon
ended. It was remarked that the third officer,
whose name was Angel, stood to the last at his
post at the donkey-engine, which was employed
in working the pumps, and that his hands were
on the engine even as the vessel disappeared.
The agony of suspense had been so long main-
tained that on the day the London foundered the


passengers were perfectly quiet and unexcited,
and a surprising degree of resignation was
exhibited throughout. An old lady was for a
time nearly frantic; yet when the boat left she
stood calmly on deck bareheaded, and waved
an adieu to Mr. Wilson. Another lady from
Pimlico was heard to say, as she wrung her
"Well, I have done all that I could, and can
do no more." She then became outwardly calm.
On Tuesday night, after the passengers had been
alarmed by the shipping of water, four of the
ladies read the Bible by turns in the second
cabin. It was on that night that after the sea
had poured down the hatch the captain said:
Boys, you may say your prayers."
At twelve o'clock on the following night Mr.
Draper held a general prayer-meeting in the
saloon. An extraordinary fact deserves to be
recorded. A poor old couple who had three
children with them had tried in vain three times
to go upon their voyage. First in a vessel
unknown, and which was wrecked; next in the


Duncan Dunbar, which was also wrecked, and
lastly, the steward saw the poor wife washed
overboard from the London, to leeward, her
husband following her presently beneath the
waves. Among the passengers were two stout
old people, who had become favourites on board,
and who had been sent for by their only son.
The poor creatures, on learning that they must
be drowned, took a small quantity of brandy
and went below to die together in their cabin
Several revolvers were seen in the hands of
passengers, who did not conceal their intention
of shooting themselves when the last moment
came, preferring to meet their death, when in-
evitable, by a bullet rather than by drowning.
The steward, indeed, overheard an offer by the
owner of a pistol to a friend that he would shoot
him if he desired. The well-meant offer was at
that time declined; but whether these intentions
were carried into execution is not known, but no
reports of fire-arms were heard as the steamer
Leaving the sad circumstances connected with


those who perished, there is something to narrate
concerning the adventures of the small remnant
of the passengers and crew who were saved. A
compass had been given them by the captain,
and under the directions of King the men agreed
that, whatever might happen, they would sit
immovable except when pulling at the oars. Two
worked at each oar, and they ran before the sea.
Every nerve was exerted to make the boat with-
stand the fearful tossing and the strain as she
mounted the waves and became surrounded by
the surge. Before daylight, and as the moon
rose, the men were overjoyed at descrying a
vessel close alongside. They hailed the ship and
were heard, but as they could present no light
they could not be seen, although they could see
the ship tacking about for an hour trying to find
them. The search was fruitless, and the ship
was lost sight of. The boat had not been rowed
during the time the ship was sighted, but simply
kept away before the wind until daylight, when
no vessel was visible. The men adhered to their
course, and at 9 o'clock sighted two vessels, but


wore prevented making for them by the cross
seas. They rowed for one of them, however, for
five hours. When at last they came up to her,
they found her to be an Italian barque, the
Maritanople, Captain Cavasa. Just as they were
approaching the vessel they were struck by a
heavy squall and shipped a sea, so that all in the
boat gave themselves up for lost; but by only one
of the men moving in the boat to bale her out,
and no fresh sea striking her, they were enabled
to bale her clear, and bring up alongside the
barque. A line was thrown to them and they
were drawn up to the deck, where they found
themselves completely benumbed by the exposure
to which they had been subjected. Captain
Cavasa, who could speak little English, and to
whom the men were grateful to the extremist
extent, used more means for their recovery and
for their comfort than simple humanity would
indicate. He had the men stripped, rubbed, clad
in fresh warm garments, and killed for them a
turkey, besides providing tea and soup, and
setting apart for them warm beds. They were

afterwards landed at Falmouth, from whence
they proceeded to London.

There is one consolatory reflection, and one only,
suggested by the perusal of these sad records. If
we are tempted to feel that man, with all his
boasted triumph over the forces of Nature, is still
but the sport of the elements when they put
forth their full strength against him, we may
find comfort in dwelling on the courage which,
inspired by a sense of duty, raises even men of
ordinary mould to the moral level of heroes and
martyrs. There may not improbably be other
officers in our merchant navy who would have
played the same part as Captain Martin, of the
London, who would have remained to the last at
their posts, giving orders in a firm unfaltering
voice, cheering the passengers so long as there
was hope, and calmly informing them when all
hope had fled, refusing to quit the deck in the
only boat that could be lowered, and coolly
placing her under the command of her proper
officer. There may be others also who would


have done all this, without the faintest hope of
fame or reward, and with a full conviction that
their conduct would never be made known in
this world; but if there be, then there must
surely be prevalent in this Christian country,
and in these latter days, a standard of conscience
and a spirit of self-devotion equal at least to any
ideals that can be drawn from the choicest pre-
cedents of heathen antiquity.

f7?. *r^ ^'


HE screw steamer Atlantic-Captain Wil-
k- hams-left the Mersey on the 20th of
j March, 1873, for New York, with an
aggregate of passengers and crew of, as far as
could be ascertained, 1002 persons, of whom 442
were saved, while about 560 perished, including
all the women and children. The wreck of the
vessel took place about two o'clock in the morn-
ing of Tuesday the 1st of April, on the coast of
Nova Scotia, fifteen miles from Halifax, the ship
running on the promontory of Meagher's Head,
at the entrance to Prospect Harbour, whence she
rolled into deep water and sank in a few minutes.
The cause was, beyond question, an error in
reckoning the distance run, and the course and


position of the ship, with the mistake of one
lighthouse for another. The night of the accident
was dark and the sea rough. The ship struck
the Meagher rock several times, alarming the
officers and crew, who rushed on deck. The
officers endeavoured to clear away the boats
with axes, but only one had been launched when
the steamer fell over on her beam ends, sink-
ing, and carrying down the boat, and all who
were in it. A portion of the rigging remained
above water, in which all those who were able
took refuge. Mr. Brady, the third officer, with
two quarter-masters, unrove the halyards, and,
swimming with them to the rock, contrived to
get a line to the shore. Some escaped by this
means, but the rising tide made their situation
perilous, and daylight appearing, fishermen put
off in boats, and rescued them as fast as the rough
sea permitted, as well as others from the rigging.
The first account received of the occurrence
was that of Mr. Brady, who arrived in Halifax
on the Tuesday night. The second and fourth
officers (he said) came on watch at midnight.


Mr. Brady then turned in, and the captain went
below, leaving orders that he was to be called if
any change occurred in the position of the ship.
About 2 A.M. Mr. Brady stated he was thrown
from his berth by the ship striking with great
violence. The shock was repeated several times.
When he got on deck he found a crowd of
passengers already there, and the captain and
officers were getting out the boats. Mr. Brady
took an axe, cleared away the starboard life-boat,
put two women into it, and got in himself. A
number of men rushed forward to do the same;
but he kept off the crowd by force, and only
twelve men succeeded in getting into the boat.
Just then the vessel fell over on her beam ends,
and immediately sank, leaving only her bow and
masts above water. Mr. Brady's boat, the only
one that could be launched, was carried down
with her, and all the passengers in it were
drowned. Some hundreds were then on deck,
most of whom were instantly swept away. The
cries for help were heart-rending. So sudden,
however, was the catastrophe, that most of the


persons on board went down in their berths; and
many probably did not awake until they found
themselves drowning through the ship having
struck. Five distinct times Mr. Brady got into
the mizen rigging, thence clambered forward,
and with the assistance of the two quarter-
masters, as already mentioned, unrove halyards
and swam to the rock with a line. The sur-
viving passengers were crowded on to the bows,
and clinging to the rigging. Some of the more
adventurous made their way to the rock by
the line; but the situation there was one of
great peril, as the tide was rising. The fisher-
men, however, came to the rescue; and by
Tuesday at noon all the survivors had been got
ashore at Cape Prospect, except the chief officer,
Mr. Frith, who was in the rigging shouting for
assistance. Mr. Brady said that he tried to get
a boat to go to him, but the sea was so high that
nobody would venture.
Some of the passengers got into the life-boats,
and the davit-falls were cut away to allow the
boats to fall clear; but a sea broke on board and


washed away the greater part of the passengers
who were in the boats, and stove in the boats them-
selves. Numbers were drowned going from the
ship to the rock, and from the rock to the shore
by the life-lines, the cold being so intense they
could not retain their hold. The rock, too, was
slippery, being covered with sea-weed. It was
difficult to keep a position on it, and impossible
to help others.
Several persons died on the rock from exhaus-
tion; others becanie bereft of their reason, foamed
at the mouth, and chattered like children. The
captain reported that the first boats from shore
came to the relief of the survivors at six o'clock,
and took off those who were clinging to the ship
and ;.__il::. They afterwards took off those
who had reached the rock. Many passengers and
the purser died in the rigging.
An official investigation into the causes of the
disaster commenced at Halifax on the 6th of
April, chiefly on account of a strong feeling freely
expressed by the public that the catastrophe
which had resulted in such a deplorable loss of

life had been caused by the gross neglect and
incompetency of those in charge of the ill-fated
.vessel. At this inquiry Captain Williams, com-
mander of the Atlantic, after alluding to the
incidents of the voyage since leaving Liverpool,
made the following statement:
My first intimation of the catastrophe was
the striking of the ship on Mars Island, and
remaining there fast. The sea immediately
swept away all the port boats. The officers went
to their stations, and commenced clearing away
the weather boats; rockets were fired by the
second officer. Before the boats could be cleared,
only ten minutes having elapsed, the ship heeled
heavily to port, rendering the starboard boats
useless. Seeing that no help could be got from
the boats, I got the passengers into the rigging
and outside the rails, and encouraged them to go
forward where the ship was highest and less
exposed to the weather. Mr. Brady with assis-
tance had by this time established communication
with the outlying rock about forty yards distant.
By means of a line I got four other lines to the
(149) D


rock, along which about 200 persons passed.
Between the rock and the shore, a passage 100
yards wide, a rope was successfully passed, by
means of which about 50 men got to the land,
though many were drowned in the attempt. At
5 A.M. the first boat cleared the island, but she
was too small to be of any assistance; through the
exertions of Mr. Brady the islanders were roused,
and by six o'clock three large boats came to our
assistance. By their efforts all that remained on
the side of the ship and on the rock were landed
with safety, and cared for by a poor fisherman
named Clancy, and his daughter. During the
day the survivors, to the number of 429, were
drafted off to the various houses scattered about.
The chief officer having got up the mizen ri i- _,-.
the sea cut off his retreat. He stood for six
hours by a woman who had been placed in the
-'i._.-. The sea was too high to attempt his
rescue. At 3 P.M. a clergyman, the Rev. Mr.
Ancient, succeeded in getting him a line by which
he got off. Before the boats went out
I placed two ladies in the life-boat; but finding


the boat useless, carried them to the main rigging,
and went aft to encourage others to go forward
on the side of the ship. At this juncture the
boilers exploded, and the boat rolled over to
leeward, the ship at this time going on her beam
ends. Finding myself useless there, I went to
take the ladies forward, but found them gone,
nor did I see them afterwards. Many passengers
at this time could not be stimulated to any effort
to save themselves, but lay in the rigging, and
died from fright and exposure. I remained on
the side, encouraging, helping, and directing,
until about fifteen were landed, when, finding
that my hands and legs were becoming useless,
I left the ship. Two other boats being close to
hand embarked the remainder."
Mr. Frith, the chief officer, made the following
statement:-" My watch ended at twelve o'clock
on Monday night; the second and fourth officers
took charge, and I went to my berth. I was
aroused by the shock of the striking; the second
officer came down to my room and said the ship
was ashore, and that he was afraid she was gone.


I put on a few articles of clothing, got my axe,
and went on deck to clear the boats; the ship
had careened over before I reached the deck. I
cleared the two starboard boats. Just then a
heavy sea swept them away. I was holding fast
to the mizen-mast rigging, and now climbed
higher for safety; the night was so dark and the
spray flew so quickly that we could not see well
what was going on around us. I saw men on
the rocks, but did not know how they got there;
all who were alive on board were in the rigging.
When daylight came I counted thirty-two persons
in the mizen-mast rigging with me, including one
woman. When these saw that there were lines
between the ship and the shore, many of them
attempted to go forward to the lines, and in
doing so they were washed overboard and were
drowned. Many reached the shore by the aid
of lines, and the fisherman's boats rescued many
more. At last all had been either washed off or
rescued, except myself, the woman, and a boy.
The sea had become so rough that the boats
could not venture near us. Soon the boy was


washed off; but he swam gallantly, and reached
one of the boats in safety. I got a firm hold of
the woman, and secured her in the rigging. I
could see the people on shore and in the boats,
and could hail them, but they were unable to
help us. At two o'clock in the afternoon, after
we had been in the rigging ten hours, the Rev.
Mr. Ancient, Church of England clergyman-
whose most noble conduct I can never forget while
I live-got a crew of four men to pull him off to
the wreck. He got into the main rigging and
procured a line, then advancing as far as he could,
he threw it towards me. I caught it, made it
fast round my body, and then jumped clear.
A sea swept me off the wreck, but Mr. Ancient
held fast to the line, pulled me back, and got me
safely into the boat. I was then so exhausted
and benumbed that I was hardly able to do
anything, and but for the clergyman's gallant
conduct I must soon have perished. The woman,
after bearing up with remarkable strength under
her great trials, had died two hours before Mr.
Ancient arrived; her half-nude body was still


fast in the rigging, her eyes protruding, her
mouth foaming, a terribly ghastly spectacle,
rendered more ghastly by the contrast with the
numerous jewels which sparkled on her hands.
The scene at the wreck was an awful one, such
as I had never before witnessed, and hope never
to witness again."
The Rev. Mr. Ancient's account of the part he
played in the fearful tragedy is vivid and
interesting. When he reached the wreck (he
said), which. took place about two miles from his
house, most of the saved had been landed. He
sought to find them shelter, till his attention was
attracted by the man and the woman in the
rigging and the boy on the wreck. He went to
Mr. Ryan, a magistrate, and said:
"The water is smooth enough; you can get
alongside in a boat."
They were then hauling the boats on the shore.
"But you cannot get at them when you get
out there," said Mr. Ryan.
"Give me a boat and some men; put me on
board, and I will get them," replied Mr. Ancient.


Accordingly, a boat was manned; but when
they neared the ship, they would not put him on
board. They loved their pastor, and thought it
certain death to put him on the vessel. Mr.
Ancient entreated them.
"John," he said to the most solicitous of the
crew, "if I am doomed, I won't hold you respon-
sible. Put me on board."
While they were backing and filling, the boy
fell off. They picked him up, wrapped a coat
round him, and landed him. Finally, the men
agreed to put Mr. Ancient on board. The ship's
side was then at an angle of 50 degrees, and the
fishermen, for a long time, did not get over their
pastor's skill in climbing it; and in running the
rail he found a piece of one of the braces in the
main rigging, made one end fast, and carried the
other along with him. When he reached the
outer davit, he shouted to the man in the rigging:
"You are an officer, are you not?"
"Yes," was the reply.
Then you know how to make a bowline?"
"Yes, sir," answered Mr. Frith.


Mr. Ancient then threw him an end of the
rope, first taking a turn round the davit.
"Now, put confidence in me, and move when
I tell you."
Mr. Frith followed his directions; and the
minister led him along by the rope, taking in
the slack as he went. Whenever he slipped, the
turn round the davit and the strong arm of his
rescuer held him. A great sea swept over and
washed the officer off.
Oh, Lord!" he cried, I have broken.my shins,
I have broken my shins."
"Never mind your shins, man! it is your life
we are after," cried the minister encouragingly.
Finally he got him to the main rigging and to
the vessel's side, led him into the boat by a rope,
and the man was saved.
The termination of the inquiry was that the
court condemned the negligent manner in which
the ship was handled from the time her course
was changed, and the conduct of the captain,
both in leaving the deck when nearing a danger-
ous coast at night, and in omitting to use the


lead. On the other hand, full justice was done
to the behaviour of the captain and officers after
the ship struck, and in consequence of the
gallantry displayed the punishment was the
comparatively lenient one of two years' suspension
for the captain, and three months' for the fourth
officer, who was one of those in charge when the
catastrophe occurred.




[IE three brothers Cont6, who resided in
Stie town of Cahors in Normandy from
t ie year 1826 until recently, so often sig-
nalized themselves by acts of the most daring
courage, that their name became long ago, in
that town, a proverbial expression for heroism
and intrepidity.
It was computed that, up to the year 1838,
they saved sepcarctely twenty-six persons from a
watery grave. Of that number only two were
dead when brought to the shore. But the three
brothers mostly acted together; and indeed there
was little likelihood of their having been able
to find others sufficiently daring or humane to


venture into the danger which they were ever
ready to face.
On the 28th of January, 1827, a barque manned
by six men, none of whom were able to swim,
was dashed against one of the piers of the bridges,
then thrown by the storm on a precipitous part
of the shore, where it lay suspended over the
The six men were in the most imminent peril;
and the more so, as help seemed utterly impos-
sible. This was at least what all the boatmen
who witnessed the occurrence declared; but two
of the brothers Contd, who were on the spot,
resolved to make an attempt to save the lives of
the Infortunate seamen.
In a few moments they were in their boat,
and rowing vigorously to the fatal place over
which the unfortunate men were still suspended,
and which, for its depth and the strength of the
current, offered hardly less danger to them than
to those they were endeavouring to rescue.
When they reached the spot two of the men
had already fallen, and were carried off by the


stream. The brothers seized upon them, brought
them safely to the shore, and instantly returned
to the others who were struggling with the tor-
rent. There seemed something miraculous in
their good fortune as well as in their courage,
for, to the astonishment of all, the two brothers
succeeded in saving the whole six sailors.
In the month of August, 1836, the eldest of
the three brothers, who was a dyer by trade, was
engaged at his work, and in a great heat, when
loud cries from without informed him that a
youth named Lartignes, the son of one of his
father's bitterest enemies, was drowning in the
river close by. Without a moment's hesitation
he rushed out to his aid. In his precipitation
he severely hurt his foot on the river side, but,
unmindful of the pain he felt, he hastened on,
leaped into the stream, seized the drowning
youth, and was bringing him to shore, when, his
strength suddenly failing him, he was himself
with his burden carried off by the force of the
current. But fortunately one of his brothers had
arrived on the scene by this time. He, seeing in


a moment the imminence of the danger which
both ran, immediately threw himself into the
river to their aid. But to whom did he go first?
Not to his brother, as every one who witnessed
the circumstance made sure he would, but to
young Lartignes, the son of his father's enemy!
After depositing him safely on shore he returned
to the aid of his brother: both were saved.
On another occasion the river Lot, having
overflowed its banks during the night, invaded
one of the most populous neighborhoods, causing
incalculable loss of life and property. The next
morning the victims of this terrible disaster
might everywhere be seen on the roofs of the
houses, where they had taken refuge from the
encroaching flood. The eldest of the brothers
Cont6 was then serving in the French army, but
his two brothers, the youngest of whom was
only thirteen years of age, were still at Cahors,
ready to risk their lives for the safety of their
fellow-creatures. Notwithstanding the furious
lashing of the waves they entered their boat,
and, one by one, rescued sixty persons from their


precarious position. They did not leave the spot
until, what with their own efforts and those-of
some intrepid friends, the whole of the unfortun-
ate creatures were in safety.
But such unwonted exertions could not fail to
produce their results, and for two months both
brothers were laid up with a burning fever,
which at one time threatened to carry them off.
Even then one of the two brothers, hearing that
a poor old woman seventy-two years of age had
fallen into the river, instantly rushed out to her
aid, and, without even bestowing a thought on
the great risk he thus incurred in the state in
which he was, he plunged into the river, and for-
tunately succeeded in saving her without injury
to himself.
In 1838 the three brothers received from the
Monthyon Prize Fund, which is distributed by
the French Academy, a prize of 3000 francs
(120), accompanied with many expressions of
esteem and admiration.
As the three brothers advanced in years their
physical strength decreased, so that they were


unable to continue the noble and gallant exer-
tions; but for long the inhabitants of Cahors felt
a legitimate pride in numbering them among
their townsmen. And well might they do so,
were it but to offer homage to such an example
of fraternal concord, which, if on ordinary occa-
sions it be worthy of praise, may well be termed
admirable when, as with the three brothers Contd,
it tended to unity of purpose in such a noble aim
as the relief of their fellow-creatures under, as a
rule, circumstances of the extremist danger, but
which were in the majority of cases crowned
with triumphant success!

S- 5'-.-? -.


SNE Sunday night in the month of February,
a few years ago, the anxious boatmen
\.-ho keep watch and ward for the lives
of others on the beach of Margate and its neigh-
bourhood shrugged their shoulders, as they cast
keen glances to windward, and expressed a free
opinion that it was going to be a "dirty" night.
Heavy masses of cloud skirted the horizon as
the sun set; and as the night drew on violent
gusts of wind swept along, accompanied by
squalls of snow.
Before the light broke on Monday morning
the Margate lugger Eclipse, which has so fre-
quently distinguished itself by its noble deeds,
put out to sea to cruise round the shoals and


sands in the neighbourhood of Margate in search
of any victims of disaster during the night. The
look-out men soon discovered a vessel ashore on
the Margate Sands, and the lugger immediately
made directly for her. She proved to be the
Spanish brig Samiaritano of 170 tons, bound
from Antwerp to Santander, and laden with a
mixed cargo of considerable value. Her crew
consisted of the captain, Modesto Crispo, and ten
men, and the vessel had been driven on the sands
early in the morning. The crew, giving their
ship up as lost, had endeavoured to get away
from her, but in vain; their oars broke in the
attempt and their boats were stove in.
As the lugger was running for the brig she
spoke a fishing-smack belonging to Whitstable,
and got the aid of two men and a boat. They
boarded the brig as the tide went down, and
hoped to be able to get her off the Sands at the
next high-water. For this purpose six Margate
boatmen and the two men from Whitstable were
left on board of her.
But with the rising tide the gale came on again
(149) E


in all its fury, and the boatmen had speedily to
give up all hope of being able to save the brig.
They hoisted their boat on board to prevent her
being swamped by the waves which were break-
ing heavily, and all hands began to feel that it
was becoming a question, not of saving the vessel,
but of saving their own lives. The sea rushed
furiously over the wreck, lifting her bodily, and
then letting her fall with crushing violence upon
the sands. Her timbers did not long withstand
this trial of their strength; a hole was quickly
knocked in her side, she filled with water, and
settled down upon the sand.
The waves began now to break over the brig
with fearful violence; the lugger's boat was
knocked to pieces and washed overboard; the
hatches were forced up, and portions of the cargo
which floated up were quickly swept away. The
brig began to roll fearfully with a force which
threatened to throw her heavily on her broadside;
and the men, fearing this, cut the weather-rigging
of the main-mast, and the mast soon broke off
short with a great crash and went over the side.


All hands now took refuge in the fore-rigging;
nineteen souls who had then no other hope
between them and eternity but the few shrouds
of a shaking mast. The wind beat against the
poor fellows with the violence of a hurricane;
the air was full of spray and sleet, which froze
as it fell upon them.
The Margate and Whitstable men, in addition
to the crew of the Samaritano, were thus com-
pletely entrapped. The lugger had returned to
Margate-indeed it could not have lived in the
terrific gale which was then raging,-and their
only hope was in the life-boat venturing out to
their rescue. To this hope they clung hour after
hour, but no help came, and one and all soon
began to despair of life.
In the meanwhile news of the dangerous con-
dition of the brig had reached Margate, where,
in spite of the fury of the gale, many of the
inhabitants struggled to the cliff, spy-glasses in
hand, to obtain, if possible, a glimpse of the un-
fortunate vessel.
As soon as the peril the crew of the brig and


their own friends were in became known, the
smaller of the two Margate life-boats was
manned and made to the rescue. As she sailed
out into the storm the seas broke over her and
filled her; this her gallant crew heeded very little
at first, for they had every confidence in her
powers to ride safely through any storm, as
her air-tight compartments would prevent her
from sinking. But to the alarm of the crew they
found that the boat was rapidly losing its buoy-
ancy and fast becoming unmanageable; indeed,
she was filling with water, which speedily rose
to the waists of the men. The air-tight boxes
had evidently filled; and they remembered, too
late, that the valves with which each box is pro-
vided to let out any water that may leak in had
been left unscrewed in the excitement of starting.
Their boat, thus disabled, virtually ceased to be
a life-boat, and her crew had to struggle for their
own safety. Although then within a quarter of
a mile of the brig, there was no help for it but
to run her ashore on the nearest part of the
land, and so water-logged was her condition


that it actually took the crew four hours to
beach the boat in Westgate Bay. There the men
were received by the coast-guard, and everything
done for them that was possible under the
As soon as it was known at Margate that the
first boat had been disabled, the large life-boat,
the Friend of all Nations, was immediately got
ready and launched. Away she started, her
brave crew doing all they could to battle with
the gale and force their way out to the wreck;
but all their efforts were in vain. The tremen-
dous wind was right against them, the tiller gave
way, and after a hard struggle her crew had also
to give up the attempt, and the boat was driven
ashore about a mile from the town. With both
their life-boats wrecked the Margate men nearly
gave up all hopes of saving the crew of the Sama-
ritano, and the men that had been left on board;
but this they resolved should not be the case
until every possible effort had been made. It
was, however, with but small hope for the ship-
wrecked, and with much apprehension for the


boats themselves, that the crowds of people
watched two luggers-the Nelson and the Lively
-undaunted by the fate of the life-boats, stagger
out amid the sweeping seas to the rescue.
The ielson was disabled at once as soon as she
had cleared the pier, and had to return; but the
Lively was more fortunate. She beat her way
out to sea, but found so heavy a surf breaking
over the Sands that it was evidently impossible
to cross them or to get near the wreck.
The Margate people became full of despair, and
many a bitter tear was shed for sympathy and
for personal loss as they watched the wreck, and
thought of the poor fellows perishing slowly
before their eyes, apparently without any possi-
bility of being saved.
It now became the turn of the Ramsgate men
to assist in the rescue. About nine o'clock news
reached that town that a brig was ashore on the
Woolpack Sands off Margate. It was, of course,
at once concluded that the two Margate boats
would be able to perform all that was necessary,
and nothing was done in the matter. But shortly


after twelve, an officer of the coast-guard arrived
from Margate with the dire intelligence of what
had happened there, and that the services of the
Ramsgate life-boat were immediately required.
Even before the messenger had told all his
story the harbour-master gave the order:
"Man the life-boat!"
No sooner had the words passed his lips than
the boatmen, who had crowded round the door
in anticipation of the order, rushed off to the
boat. First come, first in; not a moment's hesi-
tation. No thought of further clothing; they
will go as they are, rather than not go at all.
The news rapidly spread; each boatman as he
heard it hastily snatched up his bag of waterproof
over-alls and rushed down to the boat; and for
some time man after man was to be seen racing
down the pier, hoping to find a place still vacant.
If the race had been to save their lives, rather
than to risk them, it could hardly have been more
hotly contested.
Some of those who won the race, and thereby
succeeded in getting into the boat, were but ill


prepared for the perilous voyage they were about
to undertake; but their wants were immediately
supplied by their disappointed comrades who
were necessarily left behind. The famous cork
jackets were thrown into the boat, and as soon
as each man had encased himself in one the boat
was ready to start.
The powerful steam-tug, well named the Aid,
that belongs to the harbour, and has her steam up
night and day, ready for any emergency that may
arise, speedily got her steam to full power, and
with her brave and skilful master, Daniel Reading,
in command, took the boat in tow, and together
they made their way out of the harbour.
It was nearly low water at the time, but the
force of the gale was such as to send a good deal
of spray dashing over the pier; the snow fell in
blinding squalls, and drifted and eddied in every
nook and corner.
The excitement of those who witnessed the
departure of the tug and the life-boat was enor-
mous, and those who did not know the heroism
and determination that such scenes call forth in


the breasts of the boatmen could not help won-
dering much at the eagerness which had been
displayed to get a place in the boat-and this
although the hardy fellows knew that the two
Margate life-boats had been wrecked in the
attempt to get the short distance which separated
the wreck from Margate, while they would have
to battle their way through the gale for ten or
twelve miles before they could even get a sight
of the vessel.
The steamer plunged heavily along, with the
life-boat in tow, having fifty fathoms of a five-
inch hawser between them-that is 300 feet
length of a rope about as thick as a man's wrist.
There was anxiety and fear, but the one thought
of either was, as to whether they could possibly
be in time to save the lives of the poor fellows
on the wreck, to which they had been clinging
for so many hours.
It will be needless to detail the many mishaps
which befell both tug and life-boat on their peril-
ous but glorious voyage; suffice it to say that, on
making their way through the Cud Channel


a fearful sea came head on towards them. It
met and broke over the steamer, buried her in
foam, and swept along. The life-boat rose to it,
for a moment hung with her bows high in air,
and then, as she felt the strain of the tow-rope,
plunged bodily into the wave, and was almost
altogether under water; the men were nearly
washed out of her, but at that moment the tow-
rope broke!
"Oars out! oars out!" was the cry, and the
men, as soon as they could get breath, had them
out; but, owing to the strength of the gale, the
oars were perfectly useless in the hands of the
men, and the boat was as a helpless wreck in the
midst of shoals. But the tug, which throughout
was handled most admirably, both as regards
skill and bravery, had been put round the
moment the hawser was found to have given
way, and was cleverly brought up within a few
yards to windward of the boat, when a hauling
line was thrown from her on board the boat, to
which was attached a new hawser; and again
the life-boat was taken in tow by the Aid.


After another hour's hard struggle they reached
the North Foreland. There the sea was running
tremendously-the gale was still increasing; the
snow, sleet, and spray rushed by with hurricane
Although it was only early in the afternoon,
the air was so darkened by the storm that it
seemed a dull twilight. The captain of the boat,
who was steering, looked in vain for the steamer.
He knew that she was all right, for the rope kept
taut; but many times, although she was only a
hundred yards ahead, he could see nothing of her.
As soon as they rounded the North Foreland
they chanced to sight Margate; all looked anx-
iously for the wreck, but nothing of her could
they see. They saw a lugger riding just clear of
the pier, with foremast gone, and anchor down
to prevent her being driven ashore by the gale.
They next sighted the Margate life-boat driven
ashore and abandoned in Westgate Bay. A little
beyond this they caught sight of the second life-
boat, also washed ashore. They then begun to
realize to the full the gallant efforts that had been


made to save the shipwrecked, and the calamity
which had befallen the rescuers. But where was
the wreck? Had she gone to pieces, was every
life lost, and were all their efforts to be in vain?
Never mind 'suppose,'" said some of the boat-
men, "we must go and see; pull together, boys,"
and away they went. There was just a chance
that the ship they were in search of was on the
Woolpack Sands; and accordingly they pulled in
that direction. Immediately after doing so there
was a break in the drift of the snow to the wind-
ward, and the boat's crew suddenly caught sight
of the wreck; the master of the Aid, however,
being the first to discover the ensign flying down-
wards, a sure sign of distress at sea.
The questions which now arose were, How could
the life-boat or the tug approach the wreck, and
how could they rescue the men who were clinging
to her? However, the life-boat crew looked
upon the tottering wreck, and they felt no hesi-
tation. They saw that any moment might be
the last of those brave fellows and poor un-
fortunate mariners who were afraid to leave


her, and they felt it their duty to do what they
could to aid them. The depth of the water
being insufficient to allow the tug to approach
the wreck, she slipped the hawser and stood as
close by the wreck and life-boat as she was able.
It seemed a forlorn hope, a very rushing upon
destruction, to attempt to force the life-boat
under canvas through such a surf and sea; but
when the life-boat's crew thought for a moment
of the lives of those who were in danger on
board the Samatritano, they could not bear to
think of the delay that would be occasioned by
their going round the Sands.
They accordingly cast off the tow-rope of the
steamer, put sail up, and, as one of the crew
afterwards said, "went" for the brig.
The boat was now put before the wind, and
every man in her was on the look-out for the
wreck. For a time it remained so thick that there
was no possibility of finding her, when again a
second time a sudden break in the storm revealed
her; she was about half a mile to leeward.
The crew of the life-boat shifted their fore-


sail with great difficulty, and again made in for
the Sands towards the brig. The appearance of
the wreck as they approached her made even the
stoutest of them shudder. She had settled down
by the stern in the Sands, the uplifted bow
being the only part of the hull that was to be
seen; the sea was making a clean breach over her.
The main-mast was gone, her foresail and
foretop-sail were blown adrift, and great columns
of foam were flying about and drifting up over
her foremast and bow. They saw a Margate
lugger lying at anchor just clear of the Sands,
and made close to her. As they shot by they
could just make out, amid the roar of the storm,
a loud hail-
"Eight of our men on board!"
And on they flew, and in a few minutes were
in a sea that would instantly have swamped the
lugger, noble and powerful boat though she was.
As the life-boat approached the wreck, it was
with terrible anxiety that the crew strained their
eyesight, trying to discover if there were still any
men left in the tangled mass of rigging, over


which the sea was breaking so furiously. By
degrees they made them out.
"I see a man's head, look! one is waving his
arm."-" I make out two! three! why, the ; .in.
is full of them!" and with a cheer of triumph, at
being yet in time, the life-boat crew settled down
to their work.
The wreck of the main-mast, and the tremen-
dous wash of sea over the vessel, prevented their
going to the lee of the wreck. This increased
their danger tenfold, as the result proved.
When about forty yards off the wreck they
lowered their sails, and cast the anchor over the
side. The moment for which the boat had so
gallantly battled for four hours, and the wrecked
ship had waited almost in despair for eight hours,
had at last arrived.
No cheering! no shouting in the boat now, no
whisper beyond the necessary orders; the risk
and suspense are too terrible! Yard by yard the
cable is carefully payed out, and the great rolling'
seas are allowed to carry the boat, little by little,
nearer to the vessel. The waves break over the


boat for a moment and bury it, and then as the
sea rushes on, and breaks upon the wreck, the spray
flying up hides the men lashed to the i.'i -;.
from the view of the boatmen. They hoist up a
corner of the sail to let the boat sheer in; all are
ready; a huge wave lifts them. "Pay out the
cable! sharp, men! sharp!" the coxswain shouts;
"belay all!" The cable is let go a few yards by
the run, and the boat is alongside the wreck. With
a cry three men jump into the boat and are saved!
"All hands to the cable! Haul in, hand over
hand, for your lives!" cries the coxswain; for
he sees a tremendous wave rushing swiftly in
upon them. They haul in the cable, draw the
boat a little from the wreck, the wave passes and
breaks over the vessel; if the life-boat had been
alongside she would have been dashed against
the wreck, and perhaps dashed to pieces. Again
the men watch the waves, and as they see a few
smaller ones approaching, let the cable run again,
and get alongside; this time they are able to re-
main a little longer by the vessel; and one
after another, thirteen of the shipwrecked men


unlash themselves from the rigging and jump into
the boat, when again they draw away from the
vessel in all haste to avoid threatened destruction.
"Are they all saved ?"
"No! three of the vessel's crew, Spaniards, are
still left in the rigging; they seem almost dead,
and scarcely able to unlash themselves and crawl
down the shrouds and await the return of the
Again the boat is alongside, and this time the
peril is greater than ever. They must place the
boat close to the vessel, for the men are too weak
to make any spring to reach her; they must
remain alongside for a longer time, for two life-
boat men must get on to the wreck and lift the
men on board; but as before, they go coolly,
quietly, and determinedly to work, and at length
the men are seized by their arms and clothing
and dragged into the boat.
The last one left is the cabin-boy; he seems
entangled in the rigging. The poor little fellow
had a canvas bag of trinkets and things he was
taking as presents to the loved ones at home, and
(149) F


all through the howling storm, the rush and beat
of the waves, as he held on exhausted and half-
dead to the shrouds, he still thought of those
loved friends, and clung to the canvas bag.
The boatmen shout, the boy lingers still, his
half-dead hands cannot free the bag from the
entangled rigging. A moment and all are lost;
a boatman makes a spring, seizes the lad with a
strong grasp, and tears him down from the
rigging into the boat-too late, too late; they
cannot get away from the vessel; a tremendous
wave rushes on: hold hard all, hold anchor! hold
cable! give but a yard, and all are lost! The
boat lifts, is washed into the fore-rigging, the sea
passes, and she settles down again upon an even
keel! Thank God! If one stray rope of all the
torn and tangled rigging of the vessel, or even
one of her spars, had caught the boat-if the
boat's keel or cork fenders had caught in the
shattered gunwale-she would have turned over,
and every man in her been shaken into the sea
to speedy and certain death. Thank God, it is
not so, and once more they are safe.


The boat is very crowded; she has her own
crew of thirteen on board, six of the Margate
men and two Whitstable fishermen, who were
left on the vessel, the captain, mate, eight seamen,
and the boy; thirty-two precious souls in all.
The life-boat men at once, without delaying a
second, haul in the cable as fast as possible, and
draw up to the anchor to get clear of the wreck,
for they must get some distance away before
they dare let go their cable. An anxious time it
is as they draw up to the anchor; at last they are
pretty clear, and hoist the sail to draw still farther
away before they let go. There is no thought of
getting the anchor up in such a gale and sea.
"She draws away," cries the captain of the
boat, "pay out the cable; stand by to cut it;
pass the hatchet forward; cut the cable, quick,
my men, quick!"
There is a moment's delay, a delay by which
indeed all their lives are saved; a few strong
blows with the hatchet, and the cable would have
been parted. A boatman takes out his knife and
begins gashing away at the hawser. Already

one strand out of the three which form the
strong rope is severed, when a fearful gust of
wind sweeps by, the boat heels over almost on
her side-a crash is heard, and the mast and sail
are blown clean out of the boat.
Never was a moment of greater peril. Away
in the rush of the wave the boat is carried
straight for the wreck; the cable is payed out
and is slack; they haul it in as fast as they can,
but on they are carried swiftly, apparently to
certain destruction. Let them hit the wreck full
-and the next wave must throw the boat bodily
upon it-and they will all be swept at once
into the sea; let them but touch the wreck, and
the risk is fearful. On they are carried, the stem
of the boat just grazes the bow of the vessel.
They must be capsized by the bowsprit and en-
tangled in the wreckage; some of the crew are
ready for a spring into the bowsprit to prolong
their lives for a few minutes, the others are all
steadily, eagerly, quietly, hauling in upon the
cable might and main, as the only chance of
safety to the boat and crew; one moment more,

and all are gone, one more haul upon the cable,
a fathom or so comes in by the run, and at that
moment it mercifully taughtens and holds; all
may yet be safe.
They again haul in the cable, and draw the
boat away as rapidly as they can from the wreck,
but they do it with a terrible dread, for they
remember the cut strand of the rope. Will the
remaining two strands hold? The strain is
fearful, each time that the boat lifts to a wave,
the cable tightens and jerks, so that they think it
breaking; but it still holds, and a thrill of joy
passes through the heart of all as they hear that
the cut part of the rope is safely in the boat.
For the poor Spaniards, as they cling to each
other, the terrors of death seem scarcely passed
away; they know nothing of the properties of
the life-boat, and cannot believe that it can live
long in such a sea. As the waves beat over
the boat and fill it they imagine that she will
founder, and each time that the great rolling seas
launch themselves at her they cling to each other,
expecting that she will capsize; besides, the poor


fellows' nerves are not in a very good state: for
eight hours they have been in very great danger,
for a large portion of that time in momentary
expectation of death; during four hours they
were lashed to the '1;.: ; i,. of the wreck, with the
life nearly beaten and frozen out of them by the
constant rush of sea and of spray, and by the
bitter wind.
At last the mast is fitted and raised. No un-
necessary word is spoken all this time, for the
life-and-death struggle is not yet over; nor,
indeed, can it be till they are well away from
the wreck. Now, as they hoist the sail, the
boat gradually draws away; the cable is again
payed out little by little; as soon as they are
well clear of the vessel they cut it, and away
they sail. The terrible suspense is over when
each moment was a moment of fearful risk. It
had lasted from the time when they let go the
anchor to the time when they got clear of the
vessel-about one hour. The men could now
breathe freely, their faces brighten, and from one
and all their arises spontaneously a pealing cheer


They are no longer face to face with death, and
thankfully and joyfully they sail away from the
sands, the breakers, and the wreck.
The gale was still at its height, but the peril
they were in then seemed nothing to what they
had gone through, and had happily left behind.
In the great reaction of feeling the freezing cold
and sleet, the driving wind, and foam, and sea,
were all forgotten; and they felt as light-hearted
as if they were out on a pleasant summer's cruise.
They could at last look round to see who they
had in the boat, speak hearty words of congratu-
lation to the Margate and Whitstable men, some
of whom they knew, and strive by a good deal
of broken English, and slaps on the back, and
shakes of the hand, to cheer up the Spanish
sailors, and to let them know how glad they are
to have saved them. They then proceeded in
search of the steamer, which, after casting the life-
boat adrift, made for shelter to the back of the
Hook Sand, and there waited, her crew anxiously
on the look-out for the return of the life-boat.
As they were making for the steamer the


lugger Eclipse came in chase to hear whether
they had succeeded in saving all hands, and
especially whether all the men of her crew were
saved. They welcomed the glad tidings with
three cheers for the life-boat crew, and made in
for the land. Soon after, the Whitstable smack
made towards them upon a similar errand, and
her crew were equally rejoiced to hear that their
shipmates with all hands were safe.
It was not until they had run three or four
miles that they sighted the steamer; and when
they got alongside her it was a difficult matter
to get the saved crew on board. The sea was
raging and the gale blowing as much as ever,
and the steamer rolled and pitched heavily; the
poor shipwrecked fellows were too exhausted to
spring for the steamer as the opportunities oc-
curred, and had to be almost lifted on board, one
poor fellow being hauled on board by a rope.
Again the boat was taken in tow, almost all
her crew remaining in her, and they commenced
their return home. The night was very dark and
clear; the sea and gale had lost none of their


force; and until the steamer and boat had got well
round the North Foreland the struggle to get
back was just as great as it had been to get there.
Once round the Foreland the wind was well
on the quarter, and they made easier way; light
after light opened to them; Kingsgate and
Broadstairs were passed, and at last the Ramsgate
pier-head light shone out with its bright welcome,
and the men began to feel that their work was
nearly over.
A telegram had been sent from Margate in the
afternoon, stating that the Ramsgate life-boat
had been seen to save the crew, but nothing
more had been heard. The boatmen had calcu-
lated the time when they thought the steamer
and life-boat might arrive; and the fearful
violence of the storm suggested some sad occasion
for the delay. As hour after hour passed, the
anxiety increased; real alarm was beginning to
be felt by all, and a keen watch was kept for the
first appearance of the steamer and boat round
the edge of the cliff.
As the tide went down, and the sea broke less


heavily over the pier, the men could venture
farther along it, until, by the time of the boat's
return, they were able to assemble at the end of
the pier, and there a large and anxious crowd
gathered. The anxiety of all was increased by
the suggestions and speculations of disasters
which always present themselves at a time of
suspense and apprehension; and so, when the
steamer was announced with the life-boat in tow,
the reaction was great, and the watchers shouted
for very joy.
And as the "Storm Warriors" entered the
harbour they waved the strong right arms that
had worked so well, and shouted:
"All saved! All saved!" and the flags of tri-
umph were seen flying out in the gale. Cheer
after cheer broke from the crowd as they wel-
comed home from the dread battle-field those who
had fought and conquered, and now bore with
them as trophies of their victory, nineteen men,
fellow sailors, whose lives had been saved from
a terrible and almost certain death.



N OLNEY BECKNER was an Irish sailor boy;
and seldom has a story of heroism in
humble life been told which can compare
with his.
This youthful hero was born in the town of
Londonderry in Ireland in 1748. His father was
a fisherman of that place, so poor that he did
not possess the means of giving his boy a common
school education; but what young Beckner lost
by this was more than compensated for by the
instructions which he received from his father at
home. These instructions chiefly referred to a
seafaring life, in which generosity of disposition,
courage in encountering difficulties, and a readi-


ness of resource on all occasions are the well-
known characteristics. While yet a mere child
his father taught him to move and guide himself
in the middle of the waves, even when they were
raging in their wildest agitation. He used to
cast him from the stern of his boat into the sea,
and encourage him to sustain himself by swim-
ming, and only when he appeared to be sinking
did he plunge in to his aid. In this way did
young Volney Beckner, almost from his very
cradle, learn to brave the dangers of the sea, in
which, in time, he moved with the greatest ease
and confidence. At four years of age he was
able to swim a distance of three or four miles
after his father's boat, which he would not enter
until completely exhausted; he would then catch
a rope which would be thrown to him, and,
clinging to it, would be dragged on board and
carefully attended to.
When the boy was about nine years of age he
was placed as an apprentice on board a merchant
ship, in which his father appears to have some-
times sailed, and in this condition he rendered


himself exceedingly useful. In tempestuous
weather, when the wind blew with violence,
tore the sails, and made the timbers creak, and
while the rain fell in torrents, he was not the
last in aiding to manoeuvre the sails. The
squirrel does not clamber with more agility over
the loftiest trees than did Volney along the stays
and sail-yards. When he was at the top of the
highest mast, even in the fiercest storm, he ap-
peared as little excited as a passenger asleep in a
hammock. The little fellow was also regardless
of ordinary toils and privations. To be fed with
biscuit broken with a hatchet, sparingly moist-
ened with muddy water full of maggots, to be
half covered with a garment of coarse cloth, to
take a few hours stretched on a hard board, and
to be suddenly awakened when his sleep was at the
soundest, such was the life of Volney, and yet he
possessed a sound constitution. He never caught
cold, he never knew fear, or any of the diseases
springing from pampered appetites or idleness.
Such was the cleverness, the good temper, and
the trustworthiness of Volney Beckner, that at


his twelfth year he was judged worthy of pro-
motion, and of receiving double his former pay.
The captain of the ship in which he served cited
him as a model to the other boys. He did not
even fear to say once in the presence of his whole
"If this little man continues to conduct him-
self with so much valour and prudence, I have
no doubt of his obtaining a place much above
what I occupy."
Little Volney was very sensible to the praises
that he so well deserved. Although deprived of
the advantages of a liberal education, the general
instructions he had received, and his own exper-
ience, had opened his mind, and he aspired by
his conduct to win the esteem and affection of
those about him. He was always ready and
willing to assist his fellow sailors, and by his ex-
traordinary activity saved them in many dan-
gerous emergencies. An occasion at length
arrived in which the young sailor had an
opportunity of performing one of the most gal-
lant actions on record.


The vessel to which Volney belonged was
bound to Port-au-Prince, the chief port in the
island of Hayti, formerly called lahiti; and
during this voyage his father was on board.
Among the passengers was a little girl, daughter
of a rich American merchant. She had contrived
to escape one day from the care of her nurse, who
was ill and taking some repose in the cabin, and
ran upon deck. There, while she gazed upon the
wide world of waters around her, a sudden
heaving of the ship caused her to become giddy,
and she fell over the side of the vessel into the
sea. The father of Volney, perceiving the acci-
dent, darted after her, and in five or six strokes
he caught her by the frock. While he swam
with one hand to regain the vessel, and with the
other held the child close to his breast, Beckner
perceived at a distance a shark advancing di-
rectly towards him. He called for assistance, the
danger being pressing. Every one ran on deck,
but no one dared to go farther; they contented
themselves with firing off several muskets with
little effect; and the animal, lashing the sea with


his tail, and opening his frightful jaws, was just
about to seize his prey. In this terrible ex-
tremity what strong men would not venture to
attempt filial piety excited a child to execute.
Little Volney, seizing a broad and pointed
sabre, threw himself into the sea. Diving
with the velocity of a fish, he slipped under
the shark, and thrust his sword into its body
up to the hilt. Thus suddenly assailed and
deeply wounded, the shark quitted the track of
his prey, and turned against the youth who had
attacked it, who again assailed it with repeated
lounges of his sabre. It was a heart-rending
spectacle. On one side, the American gentleman
trembling for his little girl, who seemed destined
to destruction; on the other, a generous mariner
exposing his life for a child not his own; and
here the whole crew full of breathless anxiety as
to the result of an encounter in which their
young shipmate exposed himself to almost inevi-
table death to direct it from his father!
The combat was too unequal, and no refuge
remained but in a speedy retreat. A number of


ropes were quickly thrown out to both father and
son, and they each succeeded in seizing one.
Already they were several feet above the surface
of the water. Already cries of joy were heard:
"Here they are, here they are,-they are all
safe!" Alas, no! they were not saved. At least
one victim was to be sacrificed for the others.
Enraged at seeing his prey about to escape him,
the shark plunged to make a vigorous spring;
then issuing from the sea with terrific impet-
uosity, and darting forward like lightning, with
the sharp teeth of his horrible mouth he tore
asunder the body of the intrepid and unfortunate
boy while he was suspended in the air. A part
of poor little Volney's palpitating and lifeless
body was drawn on deck, while his father and
the fainting child in his arms were saved.
Thus perished, at the age of twelve years and
some months, this hopeful young sailor, who so
well deserved a better fate. When we reflect
upon the generous action which he performed in
saving the life of his father, and of a girl who
was a stranger to him, at the expense of his own,
(149) G

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