The Missing Ship - The Log of the "Ouzel" Galley
by W. H. G. Kingston
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Norah sighed as she thought how soon her young brother, who had never before been parted from her, would be away, with the chance of not coming back for three or four years, for the Champion had only lately been commissioned, and might before long be sent to a foreign station. At length Captain Olding, the Champion being ready for sea, ordered Gerald on board to perform, duty as a midshipman. He intended, however, to return in the course of two or three weeks, expecting by that time that his second lieutenant would be sufficiently recovered to resume his duties. Norah accompanied her father and Owen down the river to wish Gerald good-bye, and to see the ship sail. She felt rather sad as the boat shoved off, when the anchor was apeak and the white canvas let fall, and the ship began to glide majestically away through the calm waters of the harbour—for, besides that she grieved to part with her young brother, the thought occurred to her that the Ouzel Galley would be the next ship she should see taking her departure from port. Owen, who was now able to be constantly with her, offered, not unsuccessfully, all the consolation in his power. Captain Tracy, being now well enough to go about, removed with her to their own cottage, situated a short distance from Waterford, and within a mile of Mrs Massey's abode. It was a pretty spot. The cottage, with its porch covered with clematis and eglantine, stood in a good garden in which the captain delighted to work during his leisure hours. From the windows could be seen the broad, shining river and the shipping in the distance on one side, and from the other the mountainous regions to the westward. Altogether, no young lady could have desired a more romantic bower.

The captain, by his successful voyages, had been able to save a sufficient sum to live in comfort, with a handmaiden, Biddy O'Halloran, to attend on him and his daughter, and a gessoon to look after the cows and pigs and to work in the garden. Still, notwithstanding her present happiness, it was but natural that poor Norah should reflect that in a short time Owen must sail away in command of the Ouzel Galley, and be subject to all the dangers of the sea, increased in war time by the chance of being captured by the enemy. He and her father were now absent all day long, attending to the fitting out of the ship, which was making rapid progress. Her owners had decided on sending her back to the West Indies, and Owen assured Norah that, as he should probably find a cargo waiting for him, he should not be long absent. She paid frequent visits to Ellen, who could heartily sympathise with her. Lieutenant Foley had entirely recovered from his wound, and would have to rejoin the Champion as soon as she arrived in the harbour, in which she was every day expected. Norah thought that the lieutenant deserved all the praises bestowed on him by Gerald, though of course he was not equal, in her estimation, to Owen. Still, she could not be surprised that her friend had given him her heart, especially as he had owned that he had given his to Ellen; and they were now regularly betrothed with the full approval of Mr Ferris, and were to marry as soon as Mr Foley had obtained the rank of commander.

The days and weeks went rapidly by. Mr Ferris intended, as soon as Lieutenant Foley had joined his ship, to return with his daughter to Dublin. This would be a great loss to Norah, as she was acquainted with but few other young ladies in the neighbourhood; indeed, from having been at school with Ellen, they were more like sisters than ordinary friends. Ellen had begged that she would visit her in Dublin, but she could not leave her father, and still less did she wish to quit Waterford till the Ouzel Galley had sailed; after that, she felt that she should have no spirit to enjoy the gay society of the metropolis, even should her father insist on her accepting Ellen's invitation.

The arrival of the Champion was announced at last by Gerald, who early one morning rushed into the house.

"We came in last night, and are to sail again this evening, so I obtained leave to run up to see you," cried Gerald. "I've got lots to tell you," he continued, after he had exchanged greetings with his father and sister, and was seated at the breakfast-table. "We haven't had any actual fight, but we've taken several prizes, one of them, as big as the Champion, cut out in gallant style. She was seen at anchor in Saint Martin's Roads, and the captain determined to have her. We stood away, and the Frenchman must have supposed we had gone; but at night, when it was very dark, we stood back again. Three boats were then lowered, and I had the good luck to be sent in one of them. We at once pulled away for the roads with muffled oars. There lay the ship right ahead of us; we could just see her masts against the sky. The Frenchmen must have been all asleep, or keeping a very bad look-out, for we were alongside and our fellows almost on her deck before we were discovered. The Frenchmen, thus taken by surprise, made but a very feeble resistance, and though a few of them were knocked over, we didn't lose a man. The cable was cut and the topsails sheeted home before the fort began to fire, and as the wind was off shore, we got out of range with very little damage. We earned our prize into Plymouth, and our captain, I believe, gained some credit for his exploit; though except that he designed it, he took no part, for old Tarwig commanded one boat, and the master, Billhook, another, and one of our mates and I went in the third. Had half of us been killed, I suppose more would have been thought of the affair. While at Plymouth we heard from the bumboat women, who have always the most correct intelligence, that we were to be sent to the West Indies, and we soon found that they were right; but the captain got leave to come in here first, to take Lieutenant Foley on board, and to obtain fresh provisions; so I shall be visiting the old scenes again, and, I hope, fall in with Owen. That will be good fun; perhaps we shall have to convoy him home, or maybe, should the Ouzel Galley fall into the hands of the enemy, retake the ship. Faith, shouldn't I be delighted."

"Oh, don't talk of such a dreadful thing!" exclaimed Norah. "I hope that you may have to convoy him home, and that we may see you both back here in five or six months."

Gerald could stay but a very short time, as he had been ordered to return on board with Lieutenant Foley. Norah and Captain Tracy accompanied him into Waterford. They found the lieutenant ready to start, and Norah remained with Ellen, who had just taken farewell of her intended husband. Owen, having joined the captain and Norah, went down to the quay to see Gerald off.

"We shall meet, I hope, soon, Owen," said the young midshipman. "I feel half ashamed of myself for deserting you; but if you knew the life we lead on board the Champion, you wouldn't be surprised at my preferring her to the dear old Galley."

"The time may come when you may think differently. But good-bye, my lad; I hope you will enjoy yourself and come back safe," answered Owen, as Gerald sprang on board.

The lieutenant gazed with eager eyes towards the windows of the large house overlooking the river, where he could see a white handkerchief waving to him. Two or three more years might pass before he could again press the hand lately clasped in his, and it was a hard matter for him just then to keep up his spirits. Soon after the boat returned on board, the anchor was hove up, and the Champion, under all sail, stood to the south-west.

In the evening Mr Ferris desired to see Owen. "My partners and I have given you charge of the Ouzel Galley, Captain Massey, and we trust that you will be as devoted to our interests as your predecessor has been," he said, giving Owen for the first time the title of captain. "Having undergone a thorough refit, we hope that she will require no fresh repairs for some time to come. We intend to insure her among our friends in Dublin, and they, knowing her good qualities and your careful character, would be ready to underwrite her at a moderate premium considering the war risk."

"You may rely on my taking the best care I possibly can of the ship," answered Owen, "and, as she has (I may say it without fear) a fair pair of heels, on my keeping clear of every enemy I may sight."

"That is what we wish, Mr Massey," said Mr Ferris. "We don't want men who will run their noses into danger; and true courage and seamanship will best be shown in your case by cleverly escaping from your foes. You will get the ship ready for sea as soon as possible, and take your cargo on board, and we will then send you further directions from Dublin."

Owen took leave of his employer and returned home. The next day Mr Ferris, accompanied by Ellen, proceeded to Dublin.

Norah's day of trial came at length. She ought not to have complained, as she had enjoyed Owen's society for some months. The Ouzel Galley having shipped her cargo, chiefly of salt provisions, and other produce of the fertile south of Ireland, hauled out into the stream. Her old captain, with Norah and Mrs Massey, went on board to bid farewell to Owen, and proceeded down the river till she had crossed the bar, when Captain Tracy took Owen by the hand.

"Heaven speed you, my boy!" he said. "May He who guarded me through the many dangers of the ocean take care of you, and bring you back in safety to those who will ever give you a loving welcome! And now, the shorter you cut the parting with those two the better."

Mrs Massey saw that the time had come; she threw her amis round the young captain's neck, and asked God again and again to protect him. Then she let Norah take her place, while Captain Tracy helped her down into the boat alongside, in which Owen soon afterwards placed Norah. They had said their last words of farewell; Norah's had been whispered, for her heart was too full to allow her to utter them aloud. Captain Tracy took his seat in the stern-sheets. "Cast off!" he cried to the bowman. The boat dropped astern; Owen was seen standing aft and looking over the taffrail; the pilot, who had still the command, ordered the courses to be let fall, and the Ouzel Galley glided onward. As long as the boat was in sight, there stood Owen gazing at Norah and his mother, as again and again they waved. More than once the old captain turned round to take another look at the ship whose keel he had seen laid, each timber and plank of which he had carefully watched as the shipwrights had fixed them in their destined positions—that ship on the deck of which he had stood when she glided into the water for the first time, and which he had since navigated with watchful care on every voyage she had made, amid rocks and shoals, and over many a league of ocean.

Mrs Massey had consented to spend a few days with Norah. Though her own heart was heavy, she knew that she could console that of the young girl, so unused to the trials of life; while the old captain himself, she saw, required cheering, and thus in benefiting others she forgot her own anxieties. The captain had out his chart: he had marked the way the wind blew, and knew to a nicety the rate at which the ship was sailing, and could thus calculate from hour to hour the exact spot on which she floated—always provided, as he observed, if the wind holds as it did when she quitted port.

At length Mrs Massey returned home, and Norah settled down to her daily occupations. Norah was not free from some anxiety on her own account, for she could not forget the attempt which had been made to carry her off, or divest herself altogether of the fear that she might be subjected to a similar outrage. She therefore never ventured abroad without her father's escort, while he at home ever kept his firearms ready for her defence. Still, as week after week went by, her hope that O'Harrall had quitted the country, and that he would not again venture to molest her, increased. She heard occasionally from Ellen, though letters were long in coming, and more than once the mail had been stopped on the road and plundered—a too frequent occurrence to be thought much of in those days.

Norah, notwithstanding her fears, was unmolested. The captain had given out that if any one should venture to run off with his daughter he would not obtain a farthing of his property—a wise precaution, for it probably prevented any of the squireens in the neighbourhood from making the attempt—added to the fact, which was pretty generally known, that she was engaged to marry Owen Massey.

Month after month went by. Ellen at first wrote her word that she was going much into society—more, indeed, than she liked—while she had an abundance of occupation at home in attending to her father's household. Latterly, from her letters, she appeared to be living a more quiet life than at first. She mentioned her father, who seemed to be much out of spirits, though she could not divine the cause. She again invited Norah to come up to Dublin and help to cheer him up.

"You are a great favourite of his, you know," she wrote. "He delights in hearing you sing, and your merry laugh and conversation will do him good."

But Norah could not be induced to leave her father; besides which, she confessed to Ellen, she was looking forward in a short time to the return of the Ouzel Galley, and she would be sorry if Owen should not find her at home on his arrival. Ellen, in reply, told her that the Ouzel Galley, after calling at Waterford, would probably have to come on to Dublin, and she continued—"And my father, finding it necessary to go out to Jamaica, intends taking a passage in her; and I have determined to obtain leave to accompany him. I fear that he will object to my doing so, on account of the danger to which I may be exposed; but, you know, as I generally manage to have my own way, I hope to overcome his objections. The ship also will form one of a large fleet of merchantmen under convoy of two or three men-of-war, and as the Ouzel Galley sails well, even should the convoy be attacked by the enemy, we shall have every chance of getting off. You must not be jealous of me, my dear Norah; indeed, I heartily wish that your father could spare you to bear me company; and I dare say that the young captain would wish the same, did he know of the proposed plan. Pray tell him of it when he comes into Waterford, and I have an idea that he will join his persuasions with mine."

This letter made Norah's heart beat quickly. She was much surprised, too, at hearing of the intention of Mr Ferris to go out to the West Indies; but, much as she would have liked to accompany her friend, she felt that it would be impossible to leave her father.

"I was afraid that things were not going on straight," observed Captain Tracy, when she told him of the news she had received. "However, Mr Ferris is the man to set them to rights, and he'll do it; but I wish that Miss Ellen, instead of going out with him, would come and stay here. She expects to meet the lieutenant, but he'll be here, there, and everywhere, and she mayn't see him all the time she is there."

Norah, in reply, told Ellen what Captain Tracy had said; but Miss Ferris had made up her mind to go if she could, and was not to be deterred from her purpose. One evening Norah was seated at the open window with her work before her, while her father occupied his usual armchair, smoking his pipe, when a rapid step was heard approaching the house. Norah uttered a cry of delight, and, hurrying to the door, the next moment was in Owen Massey's arms.

"I am glad to see you back, my lad," cried the old captain, grasping his hand; "you've made a quick voyage, and a prosperous one, I hope?"

"As prosperous as I could desire," answered Owen. "We have had two or three narrow escapes from the enemy's cruisers, but the Ouzel Galley is in good trim, and never sailed better. I heard in Waterford that I am to proceed to Dublin," he continued; "so I paid my mother a visit, and she bade me hurry on here. I can remain but a short time, for I must be on board again early to-morrow."

"We'll make the most of you, then, my lad," said Captain Tracy, "and Norah looks as if she intended to do so."

She was the first to tell Owen of the intention of Mr Ferris to go out in the Ouzel Galley to Jamaica, and that Ellen had made up her mind to accompany him. "She has asked me to pay her a visit before she goes," she added, "and I should much like to do so could I leave my father, but that I cannot do."

"Nor shall you, my girl, for I will go with you," said the captain, who had overheard her remark. "We'll go in the Ouzel Galley—to my mind there's less danger at sea than from those land pirates, the highwaymen—and if you can pack up your traps in time, we'll go aboard to-morrow morning. What say you, Owen? Will you take us as passengers?"

Owen expressed his pleasure at the proposal, and Norah had no doubt that she could pack up in time. Owen put aside all fears of capture by the enemy; indeed, the Channel was so well guarded by British ships of war that there was little danger, he thought, on that score. He had too much confidence in his own seamanship to think of shipwreck. After all arrangements had been made, he went back to spend the rest of the evening with his mother, while Norah and the captain, with Biddy's help, prepared for their departure.



Norah and Captain Tracy were on board the Ouzel Galley before noon the next day, accompanied by Owen. They had gone round to bid Mrs Massey good-bye; it cost her much to part again so soon with her son, but she was proud of seeing him captain of so fine a ship, and had learnt to bear many trials with fortitude.

As the breeze blew up the harbour, the Ouzel Galley had to beat out, which, with a favourable tide, she succeeded in doing in a few tacks, after which she had a fair wind for Dublin. Dan, coming aft, hat in hand, welcomed Miss Norah, and wished she was going to sail with them the next voyage—Pompey, who presumed on long service with Captain Massey, imitating his example, and making an appropriate speech. Norah thanked them, and, it is just possible, secretly wished that she was to remain on board.

A bright look-out was kept for any sail which might heave in sight; for, though Owen believed that there was no risk of encountering an enemy, it was still possible that a French privateer might be on the watch to pick up any merchant vessel which might come within her grasp. The wind fell, and the Ouzel Galley made but little progress during the night. Whatever others might have done, Norah did not complain; she was in no hurry to have the trip over. Dawn had just broken, when, as a mist which had for some hours hung over the ocean began to clear away, a hand who had been sent aloft shouted out, "A sail to the southward!" Owen, who was on deck, at once went to the mast-head to take a look at the stranger. She was a large ship under all sail, but the mist prevented him from making out very clearly what she was.

"She is bringing up the breeze," observed Captain Massey, when he returned on deck; "but as we shall probably get it before long, we may keep ahead of her."

"We'll try our best to do that same," said the old captain; "it would be hard to be trapped just as we are going into port."

"I should never forgive myself for having allowed you and Norah to come on board," said Owen, feeling much more anxious than he would have done had he been alone.

"Don't trouble yourself about that, lad," answered the captain; "she is more likely to be a British ship than a Frenchman, and she hasn't got up to us yet, nor will she, I trust, before we are safe in the Liffey. I shall be glad, however, when we get the breeze."

They had not long to wait before cat's-paws were seen playing over the surface of the ocean. The sails were trimmed, and the ship began to glide through the water; faster and faster she moved, but the stranger astern still gained on her. Norah soon followed her father on deck, and the rising sun shining on the white canvas of the ship astern revealed her more clearly to view.

"Is that ship chasing us?" she asked, with a little trepidation in her voice.

"She is following in our wake, but she may be a friend for all that," answered Owen, anxious not to alarm Norah. "Should she prove to be a foe, we'll do our best to keep ahead of her. Fortunately, we have a port to run for, and have every chance of gaining it before she comes up with us. See, we have the Wicklow mountains already in sight, and it will not take us many hours to reach Dublin if the wind holds as it does now."

"I quite agree with you, Owen; we have very little cause to fear, go we'll go below and take our breakfasts with good appetite," said the captain, the steward having just announced that the meal was ready.

On returning on deck they could perceive no change in the relative position of the vessels; but as the day drew on the wind dropped, and the stranger appeared to gain on them. Still they made some way, and could distinguish the Round Tower and ruined house on Dalkey Island, off the Wicklow coast, when it fell perfectly calm, and though the Bay of Dublin was almost in sight, they were unable to reach it. The old captain took many a glance through his spy-glass at the ship astern.

"She looks more like an English man-of-war than a Frenchman," he said to Owen; "see what you make of her."

"I agree with you, sir," said Owen. "She is standing after us simply because she is bound to the same port, and if so, we need not trouble ourselves further about her; anyway, we shall be safe at anchor before long, and an enemy would scarcely venture into the bay to cut us out."

Still Owen, not being altogether free from anxiety, walked the deck the greater part of the night, waiting for a breeze. It came at length, towards the end of the middle watch, and as before, astern. He had lost sight of the stranger during the hours of darkness, but when dawn broke, as the Ouzel Galley was off Kingstown, he saw her coming up rapidly not a mile away. With the increasing daylight he made her out, however, to be undoubtedly a British man-of-war.

"No mistake as to that point," observed Captain Tracy, who joined him on deck; "I thought so from the first."

What was their astonishment, therefore, when the corvette fired a gun towards them. The Ouzel Galley still stood on, when the sound of another gun came booming over the calm sea.

"It is the signal to us to heave to. We must obey," said Owen; "though they perhaps think that we are too strong-handed, and wish to press some of our men."

"There's no help for it," observed the old captain; "better at the end of a voyage than the beginning of one, as far as the owners are concerned; but it is a cruel thing for the poor men to be carried away from their families just as they are expecting to get home."

The yards were braced up, and the ship hove to. In a short time the corvette, getting abreast of her, lowered a boat and quickly pulled alongside, with a lieutenant and midshipman in her. As they sprang on deck, the latter came running aft.

"Don't you know me, father?" he exclaimed, as he got up to Captain Tracy.

"What, Gerald, my boy! You've grown so tall and brown that, thinking you away in the West Indies, I didn't till this moment," answered Captain Tracy.

"But I thought it was he," cried Norah, as Gerald bestowed on her a brotherly embrace. He then shook hands with Owen, to whom Lieutenant Foley, who was the other officer, had at first addressed himself; but, seeing Norah, he advanced and paid his respects, inquiring for her friend Miss Ferris.

"She is well, and about to sail for Jamaica on board this vessel," answered Norah. "You will, if you land at Dublin, have an opportunity of seeing her."

"I hope, then, that the Ouzel Galley will form one of the next fleet which we have received orders to convoy to the West Indies," said Lieutenant Foley. "Having been sent home with despatches, we landed at Plymouth, and were on our way round here when we ran out of our course in chase of a strange sail. She, however, escaped us, and we are now bound into Dublin Bay. Are you going to remain on board?" he asked.

"I am afraid not," said Norah; "but I am sure that it will be satisfactory to Mr Ferris to learn that your ship will convoy them. Should I see them before you do, I will tell them so."

Thereon the lieutenant sent several messages to Ellen, which Norah promised to deliver, as duty might possibly delay him from going on shore. He then turned to Owen.

"I was sent to press some of the hands out of your ship," he said, "but if you are about again to sail, I feel authorised to take only those who have not agreed to return with you; and I must beg you to muster your crew."

Whatever might have been the intentions of the men, they one and all agreed to re-enter for the next voyage on board the Ouzel Galley, and Owen thus secured an experienced crew instead of the untried hands he might afterwards have picked up.

"It is fortunate that you fell in with us instead of any other man-of-war, or you would have lost your best hands," said Gerald; "and we, I suspect, shall have to send pressgangs on shore to pick up all the fellows we can find. You had better give a hint to your men not to trust themselves out of the ship, for all would be fish who come to our net, they may depend on that."

Gerald had to return with Lieutenant Foley to the Champion, while the Ouzel Galley, having taken a pilot on board, at once ran up the harbour, when Norah and her father proceeded to Mr Ferris's. The arrival of the Ouzel Galley was hailed with great satisfaction by Mr Ferris; still more so was the news Norah gave Ellen, that the Champion was one of the ships of war appointed to convoy the Ouzel Galley and the other merchant vessels to the West Indies. All diligence was used in discharging her cargo and taking a fresh one on board; and in shorter time than usual, thanks to the assistance rendered by her old captain, she was ready for sea. Owen had the happiness of spending the evenings with Norah, and Ellen was the better able to dispense with her society as Lieutenant Foley managed frequently to get on shore, bringing Gerald with him. Their time, however, was not always passed so agreeably, as they had on several occasions to take charge of the pressgangs sent on shore to pick up men, and more than once they were engaged in pretty severe encounters with the unwilling seamen whom it was their duty to capture.

Mr Foley and the young midshipman were spending the evening at Mr Ferris's, when they were summoned out.

"We must wish you good night," said the lieutenant to Ellen, returning; "we have some duty to attend to, and shall afterwards have to go on board our ship."

The ladies came into the hall, and were somewhat astonished at the garb which the two officers quickly assumed. Over their neat uniforms they put on large Flushing trousers, thick coats of the same material buttoned up to their throats, round which they tied large comforters, while on their heads they wore weather-beaten sou'-westers. A cutlass, buckled on by a leathern belt in which a brace of pistols were stuck, showed that they were about to proceed on an expedition in which rough play might be expected.

"Where are you going?" asked Ellen, in some trepidation.

"Only to obtain a few loyal seamen to serve his Majesty," answered the lieutenant. "The fellows don't know their true interests, and may perhaps offer some opposition; but don't be alarmed—we hope to be on shore to-morrow to give a good account of ourselves."

The lieutenant and midshipman set off under the guidance of the captain's coxswain, a Dublin man, who had come for them. Proceeding to a public-house on one of the lower quays, they found a dozen seamen dressed and armed as they were. The lieutenant having given them directions, they followed him and his guide to that part of Dublin known as the "Liberties," inhabited by the dregs of the population. The night was dark; no lamps illumined that part of the town. The lantern carried by Larry Flynn, the coxswain, enabled the party to thread their way through several narrow streets till they reached a house, at the door of which he stopped.

"This is it, yer honour," said Larry; "but we must be mighty quick, or they'll be after escaping along the tiles."

On this he gave a gentle knock at the door. "Hist! Mother O'Flanigan, open the door, or I'll be taken hold of by the watchmen," he whispered through the keyhole, as he heard a step within.

"Who is it?" asked the voice.

"Shure, it's Dennis Donovan, whom ye'll be after knowing, I'm thinking; but quick, quick, mother dear, or it'll be too late and I'll be caught."

As he spoke the bars were withdrawn, and the lock turned, and the old woman, forgetting her usual caution, slowly opened the door. On this Larry sprang in, and before she had time to shriek out thrust a woollen comforter into her mouth.

"Hold her fast, Bill!" he exclaimed to one of the men who had been directed to guard the door, while the lieutenant and Gerald, with the rest, rushed along a narrow passage, at the end of which another female, a stout, sturdy-looking Amazon, appeared with a light in one hand and a poker in the other.

"Who are ye, ye brutes?" she exclaimed, "coming to disturb a dacent household at this time of night? Shure, the childher are in bed, and ye'll be waking them up and sending them into fits, the darlints."

"It's joking ye are, Misthress Milligan, for divil a child have ye got in the house, barring a score of bhoys with big whiskers on their faces," answered Larry; "so just keep a dacent tongue in your mouth, and be quiet with that poker."

Mrs Milligan, finding that she was known, and as it would be useless to deny that she had guests in the house, shrieked out at the top of her voice, "Run, bhoys, run—the pressgang are on ye!" at the same time attempting, with her formidable weapon, to prevent the seamen from opening the door before which she stood. Larry, however, dashing forward, wrenched it from her hand, and giving her a shove which sent her reeling into the arms of those behind him, burst open the door with his cudgel; and, the harridan having been handed along to those in the rear, the rest of the men followed him into the room. It was an apartment of some size. At one end was a table covered with mugs, a jug or two, and several bottles of large proportions, and surrounded by benches; while at the other end were four beds, each with a couple of occupants, who had endeavoured to conceal their features by the coverlets. Larry pointed to them, and he and his companions springing forward and drawing off the coverlets, brought to view eight fully clad seamen, who, offering no resistance, quietly submitted to their fate; though sundry oaths and throats of vengeance showed that they believed themselves to be the victims of treachery.

"There are more of them stowed away above," exclaimed Larry; and, leaving the room, he sprang up a rickety stair.

"Who comes there?" cried a gruff voice from the top. The speaker had probably been aroused by the noises below. "You'll pay dear for it, whoever you are who attempt to interfere with me."

"Shure, Dick Rowan, your time has come at last to serve his Majesty, threaten and bluster as you like," cried Larry, as he and the rest continued their ascent.

"Take that!" cried the previous speaker, firing a pistol, the bullet whistling near Larry's ear, but striking in the wall behind him. Before he could draw another, Larry and the lieutenant threw themselves upon him, and in spite of his struggles dragged him downstairs. His shouts aroused several other men, who rushed out armed with bludgeons and pistols.

"Come up here at your peril," cried one of them, who appeared at the head of the stair, flourishing his bludgeon and holding a pistol in his left hand.

"It's not such orders from the like of you we've a mind to obey," said Larry, who having handed over the men just taken prisoners, was, with the lieutenant and Gerald, about to ascend the steps. Gerald was struck by the voice, and as Larry threw the light of his lantern before him, he recognised, as he believed, the features of Carnegan, the second mate of the Ouzel Galley—or rather O'Harrall, as he has been better known to the reader.

"Seize the ruffian," cried Gerald; "he is an escaped prisoner. I know him!" He sprang up the steps as he spoke, Mr Foley, Larry, and several of the men following.

"Take that for your knowledge, youngster," cried the man, firing his pistol; and finding that it had missed Gerald's head, though by a hair's breadth alone, he lifted his cudgel and would have effectually put an end to his young assailant, had not Larry interposed his cutlass, and, before the man could again raise his weapon, inflicted so severe a wound that he was compelled to drop it. The lieutenant and more seamen coming up threw themselves on him, and in spite of several other people who had come out, he also was secured. The rest retreated into the room, but were pursued before they could make their escape from the windows, which they were attempting to do. One fellow was hauled back just as he had got outside, and in a short time every male inmate of the house was captured.

Rapid as the pressgang had been in their movements, the alarm had been given outside, and a mob was already collecting in the street, evidently with the intention of rescuing the prisoners. There was no time, therefore, to be lost. Mr Foley ordered his men to drag them out and hurry them along, each of the pressgang holding a pistol to the head of his prisoner. Larry had taken charge of the man whom Gerald supposed to be O'Harrall. The ruffian at first waited along quietly enough, but by the way he turned his head he was evidently on the watch for an opportunity of escaping.

"If ye attempt to do it, a bullet will go through yer head, as shure as ye're a living man," cried Larry, in a tone of voice which made the prisoner feel certain that he would be as good as his word. His escape would have been the signal for the rest to attempt breaking loose. Mr Foley and Gerald, with two of the men who had no prisoners to guard, brought up the rear, and had enough to do to keep the rapidly increasing mob at bay. It was mostly composed, however, of women and boys, who shrieked and shouted, and hurled abuse on the heads of the pressgang. By degrees, however, they were joined by several men carrying shillelaghs, but the strict enforcement of the law against the possession of firearms prevented the lower orders in the city from having them. Growing bolder as their numbers increased, and seeing that the pressgang was about to escape from their own especial domain, they made a furious attack on the rearguard, who could only keep them at bay by a free use of their cutlasses, with which several of the assailants were wounded. At length the lesson the mob received made them hold back, though they vented their rage in still louder execrations, howling as an Irish mob alone can howl.

"Not very pleasant work this, Tracy," observed Mr Foley to the midshipman. "However, as we've got thus far, I hope that we may succeed in conveying our prisoners to the boats."

"One of them, at all events, is likely to make further efforts to escape," said Gerald. "He is the very man, if I mistake not, who got out of the King Tower at Waterford, and even if we carry him on board, he is likely to prove a troublesome customer."

"We'll soon bring the most troublesome down to their proper bearings," answered the lieutenant. "If he is a good seaman, he'll answer our purpose."

"We haven't got him safe on board yet, sir, and if these fellows gathering round us show any pluck, we shall have a hard matter to keep him and the rest of the captured men," said Gerald, looking down the street, the few lights in which dimly showed a mass of people rushing forward, the shillelaghs of the men waving wildly above their heads.

"Go on ahead, Tracy, and urge Larry to move faster," said Mr Foley. "Do you keep your eye on his prisoner and see that he doesn't escape."

Gerald obeyed the order, and the seamen did their best to drag forward their captives by threats of blowing out their brains if they did not keep their feet stirring. Gerald was not mistaken as to the object of the crowd, though they had apparently intended to attack the head of his party; seeing them passing, they now came rushing on at greater speed than before.

"Stand back," cried the lieutenant, "or we'll fire; it will be your own fault if any of you are killed."

No regard, however, was paid to his threats. Some of the more daring of the crowd leaped forward, springing now on one side, now on the other, under the idea of escaping the bullets which might be fired at them. The lieutenant and his two men on this had begun to flourish their cutlasses, which in such an affray would be of far more use than pistols, and serve, as before, to keep their assailants from coming to close quarters; still, as they retreated the mob advanced, and every moment threatened to make a rush, when by their superior numbers they must have succeeded in overwhelming the lieutenant and his men and rescuing their prisoners. At this juncture a loud hurrah was heard, and a fresh body of seamen came hurrying along the street. The mob no sooner saw them than the greater number scampered off to a safe distance, where they gave vent to their feelings by uttering the most fearful howls and hurling maledictions on the heads of the pressgang; but the prisoners must have seen that all hope of escape was gone, for they now quietly submitted to their fate, and when they reached the quay stepped, as ordered, into the boats.

The man whom Gerald supposed to be O'Harrall was put into his boat. "We have met before," said Gerald, after they had pulled some little way down the river; "I wonder you don't know me."

"It must have been a long time ago, then, sir, for I haven't the slightest recollection of ever having set eyes on you," answered the man.

"What, were you never on board the Ouzel Galley?" asked Gerald.

"Never heard of her till a couple of days ago, when I saw her alongside the quay," was the reply.

"What, don't you know the name of Carnegan?" said Gerald.

"I may know it—but it isn't my name," answered the man.

"Then perhaps it is O'Harrall," said Gerald.

The man started. "How did you come to know that name?" he asked; adding quickly, "But that isn't my name either. If you want to know it, Michael Dillon is my name; and since I am to have the ill luck to be compelled to serve his Majesty afloat, I intend to show that it's one no man need be ashamed of."

"It is very extraordinary," thought Gerald. "This man's answers are so straightforward that I suppose I must have been mistaken." He did not further question the prisoner. The boats at length reached the ship, and the captives were sent below under a guard. Mr Foley, at Gerald's suggestion, gave orders that Dillon especially should be strictly watched, as should any of them leap overboard, they were sure to have friends waiting in readiness to pick them up.

This was only one of several expeditions made by the pressgang on shore, though none were so successful. On each occasion they were hooted by the mob; and not without reason, when husbands were torn from their wives, fathers from their children—several of those taken being either 'long-shore men or not even sailors—but men were wanted, and Captain Olding had been directed to get as many as he could pick up, to supply the other ships expected shortly to form the convoy of the fleet of merchantmen. Two frigates arrived a few days after this, and orders were issued to the merchant vessels to rendezvous in the bay. Every effort was made to get them ready, as those not prepared would probably have to wait for many months before another convoy would sail.

Ellen, as might have been expected, had gained her object, and her father had consented to her accompanying him on board the Ouzel Galley. It is as difficult to describe as to analyse the feelings with which poor Norah parted with her. She was sorry to lose her friend; she felt a very natural jealousy of her—or, if it was not jealousy, she would thankfully have changed places. Still more gladly would she have gone with her—though not for a moment did an unworthy doubt of her friend, still less of Owen, enter into her mind. But notwithstanding this, even had the offer been made to her to go out with Ellen, she would not have deserted her father. When she and Captain Tracy stood on the deck of the Ouzel Galley, as the stout ship sailed out of harbour, she succeeded in maintaining her composure. Not, indeed, till the signal gun was fired for the fleet to get under way, and she and the captain had taken their seats in the boat to return to the shore, did she show any signs of the feelings which were agitating her.

"Cheer up, Norah," said the old captain; "we'll pray that they may have a prosperous voyage and speedy return, and it won't be many months before we see the Ouzel Galley coming back trim as ever into Waterford Harbour. Owen will soon make his fortune with the favour of Mr Ferris; he is a favourite captain, that is evident, and the house can put many a chance in his way of turning an honest penny. Perhaps after next voyage the ship will be requiring another repair, and as Owen will then have to remain for some time on shore, he may think fit to make you his wife, and I'll not object if he has your consent. I only wish Gerald were with him; the lad's thrown a good chance away, but he was so bent on joining the Royal Navy that I hadn't the heart to hinder him, though I might have been wiser to do so."

Thus the old captain ran on, his remarks contributing not a little to calm his daughter's feelings and to induce her to look forward hopefully to the future.

After spending a few days more in Dublin, the captain being employed in transacting some shipping business for the firm, he and Norah set off for Waterford, where, in spite of his apprehensions of being attacked by Rapparees, highwaymen, or abductors, they arrived in safety.

Meantime the Ouzel Galley, with about sixty other merchantmen collected from Liverpool, Glasgow, and various Irish ports, set sail down Channel, convoyed by the 32-gun frigates, Thisbe and Druid, and the Champion corvette; "Old Blowhard," as he was called, captain of the Thisbe, acting as commodore. The Champion had a busy time of it whipping up the laggards and calling in the stragglers, who would, in spite of orders to the contrary, steer their own course. The Ouzel Galley was among the well-behaved of the fleet, always keeping her proper position; and though she could have run well ahead of most of them, Owen never failed to shorten sail when necessary, for which he was complimented by Mr Ferris. Perhaps Ellen might have preferred more frequently seeing the Champion, which she soon learned to distinguish from the rest of the fleet. The Druid was employed much as the Champion; but Old Blowhard kept his proper position in the van, making signals with his bunting or guns as occasion required.

The greater portion of the passage was accomplished without an enemy's cruiser having been sighted; indeed, no small French squadron would have ventured to approach the formidable-looking fleet, as many of the merchantmen carried guns, and three or four of them would have been a match for any frigate, or, at all events, would not have yielded without a hard struggle.

Meantime Gerald, who was disposed under all circumstances to make himself happy, thought the Champion's employment very good fun, notwithstanding the grumblings of old Beater and Crowhurst, who were from morning till night abusing the slow-sailing "sugar-hogsheads," as they designated the merchant craft. He was only a little disappointed at having no opportunity of paying his friend a visit on board the Ouzel Galley—a feeling probably shared with him by the second lieutenant. The Champion had been compelled to dispose of most of the pressed men between the two frigates, retaining only a few to make up her own complement. Among them was the man captured in the Dublin lodging-house, who had entered under the name of Michael Dillon. When Gerald came to see him oftener, the supposed likeness to Carnegan wore off, though still there was a wonderful similarity in the voice and manner. Dillon soon showed himself to be a bold and active seaman, and thereby gained the good opinion of the officers, though his behaviour was generally surly, especially towards the English portion of the crew. He took pains however, to ingratiate himself with the Irishmen, by being always ready to do a good turn to any of them, very frequently even sharing his grog with them—the highest mark of regard one seaman can show to another. Gerald, who naturally observed the man, fancied that he looked at him with a suspicious eye, and was inclined to keep out of his way; but at the same time he treated him, as he did the other midshipmen, with the required amount of respect, though certainly not with a particle more.

"You see, Tracy, I told you that Dillon and the rest of the pressed men would soon be brought into order by the discipline of a man-of-war," observed Mr Foley one day to Gerald, who was in his watch. "Blustering fellows, such as he appeared, become in a few weeks perfectly lamb-like."

"I wouldn't trust him overmuch, sir, nevertheless," answered Gerald. "From a remark the carpenter made to me the other day, he has formed no favourable opinion of him. He has several times found him talking in a low voice to the men, as if he had some especial object in view, and Mr O'Rourke thinks that, if he had an opportunity of doing mischief, he would do it."

"I am not fond of hearing unfavourable reports of the men, and I recommend you not to indulge in the habit of making them, unless officially required so to do," said the lieutenant, rather annoyed at Gerald's remarks.

"I had no intention of bringing them to you, sir," answered Gerald; "but when you spoke of Dillon, I felt myself called on to say what I had heard, especially as I have had suspicions of the man from the first. I indeed believed him to be a person we had on board the Ouzel Galley, and who, it was afterwards discovered, had been guilty of an act of piracy and murder."

"But if he is not the man you took him for, you should overcome your prejudice," remarked the lieutenant.

"I try to do so, sir," said Gerald, "and I should have thought no more about him if I hadn't heard remarks which aroused my former suspicions."

"I believe you are right, after all, Tracy," said Mr Foley; "we'll keep an eye on the man, and not place him in a position where he can do any harm."

This conversation took place when the convoy was about four or five days' sail from the West Indies.

"The commodore is signalling, sir," cried young Lord Mountstephen, who was acting as signal midshipman, "'A sail to the southward!—the Champion to chase and ascertain her character.'"

"Make the answering signal," said Mr Foley. "Tracy, go and report to the captain."

The wind was at this time about south-east. The Thisbe was in her usual station to windward of the fleet and abeam of the leading vessel, and the fleet with flowing sheets was steering to the westward. The Champion, hauling her wind, stood out from among them.

"The commodore suspects the stranger to be an enemy," observed the commander to Mr Foley. A look-out with sharp eyes was sent aloft, to report as soon as the sail indicated by the frigate should appear in sight. She was before long seen, and was evidently a large ship standing to the north-west, a course which would bring her up to the convoy.

"We must have a nearer look at her," said the commander; "she is more probably a friend than an enemy."

"Two other sail," cried the look-out from aloft, "following in the wake of the first."

Still the corvette, according to orders, stood on. As she approached the stranger, the commander changed his opinion.

"They are Frenchmen," he observed to his first lieutenant; "we'll keep away and run back to the commodore. If, as I suspect, all three are frigates, or perhaps larger craft, we shall have to bring them to action and allow the convoy to escape."

The announcement caused considerable excitement on board. "We shall probably be in action before the day is out," cried Gerald, as he went into the midshipmen's berth, "and have pretty hot work, too, if the Frenchmen show any pluck."

"The best news I've heard for many a day," said old Crowhurst. "Notwithstanding all I've done for my country, it's the only chance I have of getting promoted."

"I don't see how that's to be," said Gerald; "mates are not often mentioned in despatches."

"But if a happy shot were to knock either of our superiors on the head, I should obtain the rank I merit," replied the mate. "For that matter, I've seen service enough and done deeds sufficient to deserve being made a commander or post-captain."

"Long life to you, Captain Crowhurst!" exclaimed Gerald. "If I was a Lord of the Admiralty I'd promote you to-day and superannuate you to-morrow. I don't suppose the service would be greatly the loser."

"That youngster requires a cobbing," said Beater, who perceived what the other did not, that Gerald was laughing at him; and he pulled out his cob, prepared to inflict condign punishment.

"Now don't, till the action's over," said Gerald, getting ready to make his exit from the berth; "then, if the enemy's shot hasn't taken either of our heads off, you'll be welcome to do what you like—if you can catch me—and I don't intend that you should do that same just now;" and Gerald sprang through the doorway out of reach of the irate old mate. The other members of the berth talked over the probabilities of the expected fight. One and all were ready enough for it, especially two or three who had never yet seen a shot fired in anger; they having but little conception of what the result of a hard-fought action would be, even should they prove victorious.

As soon as the Champion got within signalling distance of the commodore, Captain Olding reported three sail of the enemy in sight.

On this the Thisbe hoisted a signal to the Druid to join her, while the merchant vessels were directed to keep together and to stand on as they were steering. The three men-of-war now hauled up a little, the sooner to meet the enemy, the Champion being to windward of the frigates.

"Old Blowhard expects that the enemy will take us for the advanced frigates of a large fleet, and will probably think it wiser to keep out of our way than to come nearer," observed Captain Olding to his first lieutenant, "Though we should beat them, we should gain but little by an action."

"I agree with you, sir. I never fancied fighting for barren glory, I confess," said Mr Tarwig; "and as our first duty is to defend our convoy, I conclude that the commodore will be satisfied if we can beat off the enemy."

"We may hope to do that, even though the Champion will be somewhat overmatched; but I can trust to the ship's company to do their duty," said the captain, in a firm tone. "Clear the ship for action, Mr Tarwig."

"Ay, ay, sir," answered the first lieutenant, giving the necessary orders. Lieutenant Foley and the other officers set about carrying them out with alacrity. He was glad to be actively employed, for many anxious thoughts oppressed his mind. He could not conceal from himself the fearful odds to which they were exposed, and what might possibly be the issue of the approaching conflict. One of the enemy was certainly greatly superior in force to the Champion, and the other two French ships might be much larger than the Thisbe and Druid. Even should their own ships be disabled, though not captured, many of the merchant fleet might fall a prey to the Frenchmen, and the Ouzel Galley might possibly be among the number. What then would be the fate of Ellen and her father? It was of the greatest importance to Mr Ferris to reach Jamaica without delay, and instead of that he might very likely be carried to France, or detained as a prisoner in one of the French West India islands; while Ellen must be exposed to much annoyance and suffering. He himself had no coward fears for his own life; but he knew full well, should he fall, the grief and anguish it would cause her.

All such thoughts were, however, put to flight as the two squadrons approached each other, the Thisbe leading and the Champion, according to orders received from the commodore, bringing up the rear. Old Blowhard's object was to disable one of the French frigates before he attacked the other two, so that she might become a more equal antagonist for the Champion. As the squadrons approached, it was seen that each of the French frigates carried more guns than the Thisbe and Druid, and nearly twice as many as the Champion. Old Blowhard, however, nothing daunted, stood on, firm to his purpose of attacking the enemy and leaving the convoy time to escape. The leading French frigate was a considerable way ahead of her consorts; on seeing the determined bearing of the English, she shortened sail, while they spread all the canvas they could to come up with her—the Thisbe carrying all she could set, in order to attack her before they could accomplish their object. Just as the Thisbe brought the enemy on her lee bow, the commodore threw out a signal to the Druid to keep away and to rake the French frigate, while he poured his whole broadside into her. He also ordered the Champion to imitate his example, and then to come about and fire her larboard broadside. The French captain might, of course, defeat these various manoeuvres by either keeping away or hauling his wind.

Every person on board was watching anxiously to see what he would do. No moments in a seaman's life are so intensely exciting as those when, before a shot is fired, his ship is standing into action. The wind was moderate, the sky of a cerulean hue, and the sea tolerably calm, the rays of the sun glittering on the snowy crests of the waves. The looked-for moment at length arrived. The Thisbe's foremost gun broke the deep silence which had hitherto reigned over the ocean. It was rapidly followed by her broadside guns, to which the Frenchman replied with spirit. The Druid, suddenly putting up her helm, fired the whole of her larboard broadside into the Frenchman's bows, then again luffing up in time to fire her starboard guns, trained well aft, before the Champion got into a position by which she might suffer from their shot. The corvette now stood in to action, running so close to her large antagonist that their respective yardarms almost touched, most of the shot from the French frigate's upper deck going harmlessly over her, though she suffered considerably from those of the main-deck. Her rigging, however, escaping much damage, she was able to haul her wind and come about. Notwithstanding the severe punishment she was receiving, the French frigate gave no signs of surrendering.

"We can tackle her now, I think, by ourselves," observed Captain Olding to his first lieutenant. The commodore, however, had no intention of allowing his small consort to do that. His first broadside had cut away many of the braces of the French ship, and severely wounded her mainyard. He now, consequently, having come about, was able to range up on her starboard quarter directly after the Champion had passed on. Again pouring in his broadside, he shot away the French frigate's mizen-mast, which came crashing down on deck. Shouts rose from the decks of the English ships as what had occurred was seen. Both the English frigates had now to engage the two Frenchmen—one following the other, they were quickly exchanging broadsides. The Thisbe then addressed herself especially to the second French frigate, while the Druid took the third in hand, the commodore ordering the Champion to continue her attack on the first till he could come to her assistance.

All three of the English ships had by this time lost a number of men, though they had inflicted still greater damage on the French frigates. Captain Olding fought the corvette bravely, manoeuvring to keep ahead of his antagonist. The great object had already been gained, the escape of the merchant fleet, the topgallantsails of the rearmost vessels of which had long since disappeared beneath the horizon. Though the Champion's rigging remained uninjured, with the exception of a brace or two cut through, she had received some severe damages in her hull. Three men had been killed, and six, including her gunner, wounded.

"We are succeeding better than might have been expected, Tarwig," observed Captain Olding. "If we can't make this fellow strike, we can keep him from running away or joining his consorts. See, there goes the Druid's mainmast, and there comes her foremast. Blowhard must take care not to have both the enemy on him at once, or he may fare no better."

For a few minutes it was difficult to see what the four ships were about, so close were they together, and enveloped in smoke; for the fall of the English frigate's masts had encouraged the Frenchmen (whose fire had somewhat slackened) to fresh exertions, and their fire was renewed with greater vigour than before. Lieutenant Foley turned his eye towards them, for it was very evident that the corvette, unless she could knock away another of her antagonist's masts, was not likely to gain the victory. He anxiously looked for the commodore's promised assistance. Presently, one of the combatants was seen issuing from the smoke, followed closely by the other, and standing towards the corvette. Unless she could make good her escape, her capture or destruction was scarcely problematical. The Thisbe was following, firing her guns as they could be brought to bear; but she could not arrive in time to save the corvette. Captain Olding had no intention of deserting his consorts; he hauled up, therefore, to the southward in order to tack and stand down towards the Druid. He now saw that the hulls of the French frigates were sorely battered. One of them threw out signals, when their leading frigate, coming round on the starboard tack, made all sail to the northward, as did both the others, apparently having had enough of fighting. The commodore now signalled to the Champion to stand after the convoy, and he himself was soon afterwards seen following, having sent a party of his hand on board the Druid to assist her in repairing damages.



The Champion, under all sail, ran on to overtake the convoy and announce the satisfactory intelligence that the enemy, severely shattered, had been beaten off. A look-out was kept from the mast-head, but as yet no sail were in sight, and as the sun was sinking low, there was no hope of coming up with them before dark. Still, it was possible that the corvette might do so before the next morning. By that time they would be approaching the Bahama or Windward Channel, a short way to the southward of Saint Salvador, as the Spaniards called it, or Cat Island, as it was named by the English buccaneers—the first land belonging to America discovered by Columbus on his voyage in search of the Indies.

"They are not likely to attempt running through the passage without waiting for our convoy," observed the first lieutenant to Norman Foley. "Besides the French, the Bahamas still swarm with picarooning rascals, who are ever on the look-out for merchant craft, and would not scruple to lay aboard any they fancy they can overcome."

"Even the most daring would scarcely venture, I hope, to attack a fleet among which are so many armed vessels, well able either to defend themselves or to retaliate on an intruder," answered Lieutenant Foley, whose thoughts immediately flew to the Ouzel Galley.

"They would run the chance of getting off scot free in the confusion their sudden appearance would make," said Mr Tarwig. "There is no exploit, however hazardous, they would not undertake with the chance of obtaining a good booty. I took part in the capture of several notorious pirates a few years ago. One fellow blew up his ship rather than surrender, and all died hardened villains, as they had lived."

"The greater need for us to overtake our friends without delay," answered the second lieutenant, who shortly afterwards went forward to take a look through his night-glass, in the hope of distinguishing some of the lights which the merchant vessels had been directed to hang over the sterns. In vain, however, he swept the horizon with his telescope; had the lights been there, he must have seen them. The commander was almost as anxious as the second lieutenant to overtake the fleet of merchantmen, though he was influenced simply by the desire to do his duty. The watch below had turned in, but most of the officers kept the deck; even old Crowhurst was continually on the forecastle in the hope of seeing the looked-for lights.

"I fancied that they would have shortened sail and waited for our coming," said Gerald. "What can have induced them to run on?"

"The fear that the Frenchmen would thrash us and overtake them," answered old Beater; "they judge of us by themselves."

"There are as brave fellows in the merchant service as in the Royal Navy," said Gerald, who was piqued at the old mate's remark. "When I was on board the Ouzel Galley, we held out as long as any ship of war of similar force would have done. Depend on it, had the merchant vessels been allowed, they would have come to our assistance if we had wanted them."

"A pretty pass we should have come to, to require their aid," exclaimed Crowhurst, in a scornful tone.

"We may require it some day, and you'd be the first to shout for help," answered Gerald. "I took a fancy to the navy, but I'm not going to stand by and hear the merchant service abused."

"Cock-a-doodle-doo! What dunghill have you got to the top of, youngster?" cried the old mate.

"One from which I can crow as loud as you do," said Gerald—at which a chuckle was heard from several of the men standing within earshot. Crowhurst's anger was rising; he was considering what punishment he should inflict on the audacious youngster, when the cry was heard of "A light ahead!" and presently afterwards several others were seen. There could be little doubt, from their position, that they were shown by merchant vessels, though the darkness prevented the vessels themselves from being distinguished. A sharp look-out was kept that the corvette might not run foul of any stragglers who were neglecting to show their lights. Presently the sound of a shot was heard, followed by several others coming up faintly against the wind.

"Those sounds come from the north-west," observed the master.

"One of the merchantmen on shore, I fear," said the commander.

"Those guns we hear are nearer to us than any land. The leading vessels are not up to Atwood Quay yet," answered the master. "Depend on it, some of the convoy are attacked and are defending themselves."

"Let us hope that they may do so successfully till we can get up to assist them, and turn the tables on the Frenchmen," answered the commander.

"Little doubt about our doing that," said the master. "Judging by the reports, the enemy's ship is not a heavy one—a brig or sloop at the most—or she may be one of those picarooning craft often found cruising in these seas."

The last remark was heard by Norman Foley, who had just then joined the speakers. An indefinite apprehension seized him that the Ouzel Galley might be the vessel engaged, but from what Ellen had told him he felt sure that Captain Massey, if attacked, would not yield as long as he could keep his ship afloat. The breeze, which had fallen light at sundown, now freshened up, and the corvette made good way through the water. At length the rearmost merchantman was overtaken. Commander Olding hailed, and her master, in reply, gave her name.

"What do those guns mean?" asked Captain Olding.

"Can't say, sir," was the answer.

"Whereabouts in the fleet is the Ouzel Galley?" inquired Norman Foley.

"She was among the leading vessels at sundown, and to the northward of most of them," answered the master. Before any other questions could be put or replies received, the Champion glided by the slow-sailing merchant ship. Several other vessels were passed, generally too far off for any exchange of words. Now even the flashes of the guns could be seen, and the exact position of the combatants observed. They were but a short distance from each other, one to the northward, hanging on the quarter of the other. The drum beat to quarters, and the watch below came tumbling up on deck, hurrying to the guns. It was impossible in the darkness to distinguish the nationality of the two vessels, which appeared to be about the same size. Captain Olding, addressing the crew, ordered them on no account to fire, lest they might injure a friend instead of a foe. As the Champion stood on, he kept a sharp watch through his telescope on the combatants, neither of which seemed aware of his approach. Presently the sternmost was seen to put down her helm and lay the other aboard on the lee side.

"The sternmost fellow is an enemy, we may depend on that," observed the captain; "we can't use our guns without the risk of injuring our friends."

As the Champion drew near, loud shouts and cries could be heard, and the flashes of muskets and pistols seen. It was evident that a fierce combat was taking place; the boarders were called away ready for action.

"Shorten sail!" shouted the captain, "see the grappling-irons ready! up with the helm!"

The next instant the two ships came in contact. Norman Foley and Gerald were the first to spring on board; the dreadful idea had taken hold of both of them that the vessel attacked was the Ouzel Galley. Of this, the moment they reached her deck, they were convinced when they caught sight of Owen Massey's figure, cutlass in hand, backed by Dan and Pompey, combating with an overwhelming number of enemies, who appeared already to have gained possession of the greater part of the ship. Among those who formed the boarding-party was Dillon, who showed as much alacrity as any one. He was soon in the midst of the fight, attacking the boarders of the other ship with desperate fury. The leader of the latter was dressed in a fantastic manner, to give ferocity to his appearance. He was soon crossing blades with Dillon.

"These fellows are pirates!" shouted Captain Olding. "Cut them down; give them no quarter—a reward for the man who gets hold of their leader!"

Dillon and his antagonist had made several cuts at each other, which had been parried with equal skill by both, when the pirate, hearing what Captain Olding shouted out, sprang back apparently to regain his own ship. Dillon, instead of attempting to stop him, warded off a blow aimed at him by another man, and thus enabled the pirate, with a considerable number of his followers, to leap on board his own vessel. The lashings which held her to the Ouzel Galley were at the same moment cut, and before the British seamen could follow she dropped from alongside. Her helm was then put up, and her head-sails filling, she ran off before the wind.

Gerald grasped Owen's hand. "Faith, you've had a narrow escape!" he exclaimed.

"Indeed, we have," answered Owen; "and, I fear, have lost a large number of our crew. Had you not come up, we should every one of us been killed."

"Where are Miss Ferris and her father?" asked Norman Foley, turning round to Owen, whom he now recognised.

"They are safe, I trust, below, and will be glad to see you and hear that they have no longer cause for apprehension," answered Owen. "I have too many duties on deck to go."

The lieutenant sprang below, just at the moment that Captain Olding ordered the crew of the corvette to return on board and the grappling-irons to be cast loose.

"We must chase the pirate and punish him for his audacity," he exclaimed.

It was some time, however, before the order could be obeyed and the corvette got clear of the merchantman. Gerald had remained on board. "I ought to tell Mr Foley, or he will be left with you," he said; and he followed his lieutenant below. Before he returned on deck the ships were clear, and the corvette was making sail to go in chase of the pirate.

Owen had persuaded Mr Ferris and Ellen to go into the hold, to which they had been hurried when the first shot had been fired by the pirate. Owen had for some time before been suspicious of the strange sail, which he saw standing up on his starboard quarter, and, thinking that she was very probably an enemy's privateer, was not taken altogether unprepared. He had ordered his powder and shot to be brought on deck, and the guns to be loaded and run out ready for action; when, therefore, a shot from the stranger came flying close to his stern, he fired in return, and at the same time making all sail, endeavoured to keep ahead of her. She now fired shot after shot from her foremost guns, and he had no longer any doubt that she was an enemy which had borne down on the fleet, hoping to pick up one or two of the merchant vessels and be off with them before morning.

"The fellow has made a mistake in attacking us," observed Owen to his first mate. "His greediness tempted him to attack a big ship—he might have succeeded had he run alongside some of the brigs astern."

Pompey, who had accompanied Mr Ferris and his daughter below, returned to report that he had seen them safe in the hold. "De gentlemen want to come back and fight, but de young lady no let him—she cry so, and hold his hand, and say he get kill; so at last he sit down and stay quiet," remarked Pompey.

"I am very glad to hear it," observed Owen; "he could be of no use in working the guns, and it would be a sad thing to have him injured."

These remarks were made in the intervals of firing. The enemy, however, did not leave them long at rest; their shot soon began to tell with fearful effect; several of the crew fell killed or wounded, and the sails and rigging were much cut about. Still Owen's men were staunch, and stood manfully to their guns, running them in and out so rapidly, and pointing them so well, that they inflicted as much damage as they received; and by the way he manoeuvred his ship he kept the stranger at a distance, and prevented her from running up alongside, which it was evidently her intention to do. She, however, it appeared, by possessing a numerous crew, had an immense advantage in being able to repair her damages far more rapidly than could the people of the Ouzel Galley those their ship received. At length, however, the rigging of his ship was so much cut up that Owen could no longer manoeuvre her as he had done, and the pirate, taking advantage of his condition, ran alongside him.

"The enemy are about to board us!" cried Owen; "be ready to repel him— they'll give no quarter!"

The crew, leaving their guns, seized the boarding pikes which had been placed round the mainmast for their use, and, drawing their cutlasses, stood prepared to defend their ship against the fearful odds opposed to them. So occupied had been the combatants that neither of them had perceived the approach of another ship. Uttering wild shouts and shrieks, a number of dark forms were seen scrambling on board the Ouzel Galley. The moment they appeared they were attacked vigorously by her crew, led on by Owen and his mates, and many were hurled into the sea or driven back on board their own ship. His success encouraged him to attempt cutting his ship free from the enemy, but while he and his men were thus engaged, a loud voice from the deck of his opponent was heard shouting, "At them again, lads! We mustn't be beaten in this way. I'll lead you; follow me!" and the next moment, another party of boarders appearing, the crew of the Ouzel Galley were compelled again to stand on the defensive. And now, in overwhelming numbers, the enemy came leaping down on the deck, and Owen, with anguish, saw that his chance of opposing them successfully was small indeed. Still, like a brave man, he determined to fight till the last, urging his mates and crow not to yield as long as one remained alive. At this juncture a loud crashing sound was heard, and a large ship was seen gliding up on his larboard side. The hearty British cheer which greeted his ears assured him that succour had arrived, and the next instant the crew of the Champion came pouring on board. The subsequent events have already been narrated.

Norman Foley, on going below, soon made his way into the after hold, where he found Miss Ferris and her father. The crashing of the ships together, the shouts and shrieks of the combatants, had greatly alarmed them both. Mr Ferris had been desirous of going on deck to ascertain the state of affairs, and, indeed, had it not been for his daughter, he would have taken a part in the fight. He had done his utmost to calm her terror, but believed that she had too much cause for it, and had found it a difficult task. On hearing Norman Foley approach, she was seized with a not unnatural dread that some of the enemy had made their way below; but on recognising him, forgetting in her joy the reserve she generally exhibited, she sprang forward and threw herself into his arms.

"We are safe—we are safe, father!" she exclaimed; "and you, Norman, have been the means of preserving us. Oh, how we have been longing for you! We thought you were far away, and that that fearful ship would capture us."

Norman, of course, expressed his happiness at having arrived in time to save the Ouzel Galley from the enemy, and in a few words explained what had happened.

"You may now with safety come into the cabin," he said, "for the pirate—such I suspect she is—will not again venture to fire. I must there, however, leave you, to return to the Champion, as we shall certainly pursue the fellow and punish him for his audacity."

"We shall be glad to get out of this dark place," said Mr Ferris. "Do you help my daughter, and I will follow."

Just as Norman and Ellen were about to enter the cabin, Gerald appeared to summon him on board the Champion. After a hasty farewell, he sprang on deck, just in time to see his ship separated from the Ouzel Galley and making sail in chase of the pirate. Not, however, unhappy at the occurrence, he returned to the cabin.

"I am very glad we shall have your assistance in getting the ship to rights," said Mr Ferris, "for I fear she is sadly short-handed."

"Tracy and I will give all the aid we can. I wish we had a few of the Champion's hands with us," answered the lieutenant.

"Tell me what to do and I will assist you," said Mr Ferris.

"Oh, then I too will come on deck—though I am afraid I cannot help you much," exclaimed Ellen.

Her father would not have prevented her, but Norman begged that he would be content to remain below.

"I regret to say that the deck of the ship presents a scene too dreadful for Miss Ferris to contemplate; and the rigging has been so much cut about that there is still danger from falling blocks or ropes—you might at any moment meet with a serious accident."

Ellen was at length persuaded to retire to her cabin, Norman promising not to leave the ship without coming to bid her farewell. The deck of the Ouzel Galley did indeed present a fearful scene. Several of the pirates lay dead between the guns, while five of her own crew had been killed, and many more badly wounded; every plank was slippery with gore, the rigging hung in festoons, the sails were rent and full of holes. Here and there the bulwarks appeared shattered by the shot, which had also damaged the boats and caboose, the masts and spars.

As now and then other vessels of the fleet came passing by, inquiries were made as to what had occurred. "Attacked by a pirate—beaten off—Champion gone in chase," was the only answer Owen had time to give.

"No thanks to those who, by clapping on more sail, might have come to our aid, but did not," he could not help remarking to Mr Ferris.

The first thing to be done was to attend to the wounded, who were carried to their berths, where Mr Ferris offered to assist in binding up their hurts and watching them; the next was to heave the dead overboard. This sad office was quickly performed, as there was no time for even the pretence of a service; the dead would not be the worse for going without it, and the attention of the living was too much occupied to listen to a word spoken. Before committing the bodies of the pirates to the deep, however, they were examined by the light of a lantern, to be sure that no spark of life existed in them, and to ascertain to what country they belonged. Two were men of colour, and the others white men, rough, savage-looking fellows; but it was difficult to decide as to their nationality.

"It matters little what they were," said the second mate, who was attending to that duty; "they were pirates, and have escaped the rope they deserved—of that there's no doubt. Heave them overboard."

Not a moment was to be lost in repairing damages. All hands now set to work to fish the masts and spars, and repair and splice the standing and running rigging. Scarcely had they commenced than day broke, and as the light increased the Champion could be seen in chase of their late opponent, who was running under all sail to the north-west.

"That fellow is well acquainted with these seas, or he wouldn't be steering as he now is. Reefs and rocks abound in that direction, but he knows his way among them, and intends, if he can, to lead his pursuer into a scrape," observed Owen.

"Our master is too wide awake to be so caught," answered Gerald, "and the chances are that the pirate escapes. She must be a fast craft; for see, she continues well ahead of our ship, if she isn't gaining on her."

A look-out was now kept for the two islands which are found on either side of the Windward Passage—that known as Long Island being to the west, Crooked Island to the east, both thickly surrounded with rocks and reefs, so that it is necessary to avoid hugging the shores of either one or the other. Crooked Island was first sighted, on the larboard hand. It being some time, however, before the Ouzel Galley could again make sail, the greater part of the fleet passed by her, though no one offered to send assistance. The Champion could still be seen, hull down, but the chase was lost sight of. Norman Foley and Gerald were frequently watching their ship through the glass.

"The fellow has escaped, after all," cried the former, as he handed the telescope to Gerald; "our ship has kept away, and is steering for the passage."

"Can the commander suppose that we were killed, that he doesn't come back to inquire for us?" observe Gerald.

"I conclude that such must be the case," said the lieutenant.

"Then, sir, I suspect old Crowhurst will be bitterly disappointed when he finds that he isn't to step into your shoes," said Gerald; "he'll complain that he has lost another chance of getting promoted."

"I hope that he may obtain his promotion some other way," answered Mr Foley, laughing. "It is so commonly the wish of old mates, that lieutenants should not find fault with them, as they don't wish us any ill."

"I should think, sir, that that was the worst they could wish a man," said Gerald.

"Not at all, provided they don't take any steps to carry out their wishes," answered the lieutenant. "However, your messmate will not long be allowed to indulge in his dream."

The Ouzel Galley was now one of the last of the fleet, most of the other vessels having passed her. The corvette was seen making signals to them to keep together; and now that they were so near their destination, they were all eager to hurry on, in spite of the risk of capture from any of the enemy's men-of-war or privateers which might be lying in wait for them off the coasts of Cuba and Saint Domingo. Mr Foley had fully expected that by this time the Thisbe and Druid would have come up with them, but neither of the frigates had yet appeared. He took many an anxious glance astern; but the day drew on, and yet they were not in sight.

"I wish we could see them," he observed to Owen; "for, though the Champion will give a good account of any ship of her own size, if more than one of the enemy's cruisers were to get in among the fleet, some of them would be pretty sure to be carried off, as all, I fear, would not fight as well as you have done, Captain Massey."

"We must run the chance, sir; it won't do to be waiting for the frigates, and we may hope to get into Port Royal without another brush," answered Owen.

By crowding on all the sail she could carry, the Ouzel Galley soon got again into the body of the fleet, which was now steering south in pretty compact order. When the next morning broke, the east end of Cuba was in sight, while the Champion was a short distance ahead, leading the fleet. A bright look-out was kept, but no strangers were seen. Some hours' run brought the north-west end of Hispaniola in view. Ellen came on deck to enjoy her first sight of West Indian scenery. Lieutenant Foley was, as may be supposed, very happy in her society, and was in no hurry to make known his existence to his friends on board the Champion. He had as yet had no opportunity of signalling the corvette; he therefore entertained the hope that he might be able to remain on board till their arrival at Port Royal.

The fleet was about half-way across the broad bay of Gonaves, formed by two headlands which stretch out on the western side of Hispaniola, when two sail were seen standing out from the north-eastern corner. They were large ships, but whether friends or foes it was difficult to determine. Soon after they were discovered they spread more canvas. This circumstance was suspicious; signals were made by the Champion and some of the nearer ships, and she hauling her wind stood back towards the strangers. They, however, pressed on as before. Mr Foley and Gerald were now wishing that they were on board.

"If those are either French or Spaniards, the Champion will have a brush with them, sir; big as they are, she'll beat them off too," exclaimed Gerald. "I wish we could go and help her. What do you say, Captain Massey?"

"That, with our diminished crew, we could be of no real assistance; besides which, it is our duty to get into harbour as quickly as possible," answered Owen. "I am sure Lieutenant Foley will agree with me."

"There is no doubt about it," said the lieutenant, who would have been very unwilling, on Ellen's account, to run the ship into danger, even had he not seen the folly of so doing. The Champion having placed herself between the strangers and the fleet, again kept away. She apparently was satisfied that they were enemies, and too large to attack with any hope of success.

"Captain Olding is doing his duty, as he always does," observed Norman Foley to Owen; "in spite of the great disparity of force, he will do his best to defend the convoy. See, he is signalling; what does he say, captain?"

Owen examined the signal-book. "'Fleet to make all sail and steer for Jamaica'—that is what we are doing, though, and few of the vessels can carry more canvas than at present," he answered.

Some, however, were seen setting royals and studding-sails. Every ship in the fleet pressed forward over the calm blue waters with all the sail she could carry. The sight was a beautiful one, as the canvas shone in the rays of the bright sun darting from a cloudless sky and Ellen likened them to swans of snowy plumage gliding over some inland lake. She felt less anxiety than did either Mr Foley or Owen, who saw more clearly the danger to which the Champion was exposed. Already the guns of the enemy were heard as they opened on their small antagonist, while she returned them with her stern-chasers.

"By the way the enemy are firing, their aim is to wing the Champion, and she'll then, they hope, become an easy prey," said the lieutenant to Owen. "They may be mistaken. Captain Olding is not the man to strike while he has a stick standing."

Some time more passed by. The French gunnery may not have been very good. Still the Champion sailed on, not a mast nor a spar knocked away, though her canvas was riddled with shot. Should she be disabled, it was pretty evident that several of the merchantmen must be captured, and that the Ouzel Galley, crippled as she was, would be among the number. The proceedings of the Champion and the enemy were therefore watched with intense anxiety.

"There goes her main-topmast," cried Owen, almost with a groan.

"I ought to be on board," said Lieutenant Foley. "I must ask for one of your boats, Captain Massey."

"You should be welcome, but not one of them can swim, nor could I spare you any of my hands; so I am afraid, sir, you must be content to remain on board the Ouzel Galley," answered Owen. "Your presence could not change the fate of the day, and you would be made a prisoner by the French, instead of having a chance of escaping."

The fire of the enemy now became hotter than ever, when Gerald, who had gone aloft, shouted, "Two ships in sight to the northward!"

"What are they like?" asked Owen.

"One looks to me as if one were under jury-masts; the other's all ataunto," answered Gerald.

"I trust so," ejaculated Owen; "if so, they must be the Thisbe and Druid."

Lieutenant Foley immediately joined the midshipman at the mast-head, carrying his spy-glass. "I have no doubt that they are friends," he shouted, after inspecting them narrowly; "the enemy have made them out, and are signalling each other."

The eyes of many on board the merchant fleet were turned in the direction of the two ships, which in a short time could be descried from the deck. Shouts arose from many a throat when the Frenchmen were seen, having hauled to the wind, standing back up the bay; while the gallant little Champion continued her course after the convoy she had so bravely defended. The frigates, instead of following her, stood into the bay in pursuit of the Frenchmen. At nightfall, however, they were again descried running out, having apparently either missed the vessels they were in chase of, or found that the latter had got into harbour for shelter. The convoy now stood on till the end of Jamaica was rounded.

The following day, as soon as the sea breeze set in, the merchantmen approached Port Royal harbour, the Ouzel Galley being among the leading vessels. Ellen stood on the deck admiring the magnificent and, to her, so novel scenery, with Norman by her side to point out its varied features. Stretching away east and west appeared lofty blue mountains rising above a stratum of clouds which rolled along their precipitous sides; in some directions the rugged hills were seen furrowed by ravines, while in others steep cliffs descended abruptly to the sea; in many places appeared the richest vegetation, covering the sides of the slopes, and here and there patches of bright emerald green, with the white residences of the managers just visible amid them. At length, right ahead could be seen the town of Port Royal, at the end of a narrow spit of land known as the Palisades, composed of sand and overgrown with mangroves, which sweeps round from the east and runs for several miles directly west, the town being at the western end. The new town has risen above the ruins of its wealthy, iniquitous predecessor, suddenly overwhelmed by an earthquake, and in a few seconds sunk many fathoms deep beneath the ocean. The spit forms a natural breakwater to the magnificent harbour of Port Royal, or Kingston, capable of containing in its spacious basin the fleets of all the world. The batteries of Port Royal completely command its entrance, aided by the guns of Fort Augusta and the Rock Fort on the opposite side. The Ouzel Galley, as she ran in, passed close under the ramparts of Fort Charles, thickly studded with heavy ordnance which would have effectually prevented the entrance of a hostile fleet. This passed, she stood on up the extensive lagoon, towards the further end of which, on the northern shore, could be seen the city of Kingston, a wide plain extending for a considerable distance inland, backed by a series of irregular mountains rising one beyond another, hills piled upon hills of various elevations, with picturesque valleys, dark chasms, and numerous trees. Far off, on the top of the declivity on which the city stands, were visible the barracks of Hope Park Camp, and nearer, on a still more conspicuous spot, the well-known Admiral's Pen, the residence of the naval commander-in-chief on the station.

The Ouzel Galley and most of the merchantmen ran up the lagoon till they came to an anchor off Kingston. As the Champion had not yet entered the harbour, Lieutenant Foley undertook to escort Mr and Miss Ferris on shore, intending as soon as he had done so to engage a shore boat and return on board his own ship. Gerald begged to be allowed to remain on board, and his lieutenant promised to call for him on his way down the harbour. No sooner, however, had the party left the ship than, seeing a passage boat on her way down to Port Royal, Gerald hailed her and desired to be put on board the Champion, which, he calculated, would by that time have come into port. Very soon, greatly to his delight, he saw her come to an anchor, just before the boat reached Port Royal; and as he climbed up on one side, the captain in his gig shoved off on the other. As he stepped through the gangway he discovered by the countenances of those who observed him that his appearance created considerable astonishment; but, without answering any of the questions put to him, he went aft to the first lieutenant, and reported himself as come on board.

"Why, Tracy, it was supposed you were killed!" exclaimed Mr Tarwig. "Has Mr Foley escaped as well as you?"

"Yes, sir, I am happy to say so," answered Gerald; and he briefly recounted what had happened.

"The captain will be glad to hear this," observed Mr Tarwig, who having no time for talking, resumed the duty he was carrying on; and Gerald hurried away to try the effect the news he had brought would produce on his older messmates. He looked out for old Beater, who was not to be seen, and he observed Crowhurst on the forecastle.

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