The Missing Ship - The Log of the "Ouzel" Galley
by W. H. G. Kingston
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Still the old captain himself was sadly troubled about the matter. Norah could with difficulty keep up her spirits, though she tried to do so for her father's sake and for that of Mrs Massey, to whom she endeavoured not to communicate her own alarm; but the poor mother had begun to feel as anxious as she was, and every time Norah went to see her, her first utterance was, "No news of Owen yet?" Then she would sigh, and the tears would trickle down her pale cheeks. The captain paid daily visits to Waterford, carefully examining the public papers to ascertain if anything had been heard of the Ouzel Galley; but week after week and month after month went by, yet nothing was heard of her. Captain Tracy again wrote to Ferris, Twigg, and Cash; in their answer they said that, having waited so long a time without hearing of her, they considered her lost, and were about to apply to the underwriters to pay over the amount of her insurance. Captain Tracy, who, though holding the firm in great respect, was nevertheless always free and outspoken, replied that he did not consider the vessel as lost, and that she might even now some day appear. He had expressed himself in a similar manner to one of the underwriters, who was then at Waterford; and when the firm applied for payment, that gentleman declined acceding to their demand till they could produce evidence of the loss of the vessel. Ferris, Twigg, and Cash became indignant, and talked of instituting law proceedings. On this, Mr Thompson, one of the underwriters, entreated them to desist, and proposed that the matter should be placed in the hands of arbitrators. Mr Twigg and Mr Cash agreed accordingly to postpone proceedings till they could hear from their principal partner, Mr Ferris, who was still in Jamaica; and finally consented, subject to his approval, to submit the matter to arbitration.

"Then let us forthwith proceed to select a dozen good men and true between us—you shall choose six and we'll choose six, and we'll bind ourselves to abide by the decision to which they may come," said Mr Thompson. As it was considered in Ireland, as well as across the Channel, that a good dinner enjoyed by sensible people produces good feeling and good fellowship, it was agreed by the contending parties that they should invite the twelve arbitrators and lay the matter of the supposed loss of the Ouzel Galley before them on that occasion. As Captain Tracy was rightly considered to be able to offer an enlightened opinion on the subject, he was requested to come up to Dublin to afford them all the information he possessed. Though he hated the land journey, and looked upon it as a more dangerous adventure than he would a voyage round the world, he could not refuse to comply with their request. He therefore arranged to leave Norah with Mrs Massey, to whom, though her own heart was well-nigh broken, she could afford comfort and sympathy during his absence. Packing up his valise, girding his sword to his side, and sticking a brace of pistols in his belt under his cloak, he set off by the stage, fully expecting to have to fight his way through half a score of highwaymen and footpads at the least. Still, thinking it possible that the Ouzel Galley might arrive, he sent a boat down the harbour the evening before his departure, which returned only just as he was about to start with the information that no Ouzel Galley was in sight.

Notwithstanding his expectation of being attacked by Rapparees or other robbers, he reached Dublin in safety, and was welcomed by Mr Twigg, who took him to his own house that they might discuss together the subject in hand.

"A sad affair this, the loss of our good ship. We expected to realise a fine percentage by her cargo, and now we not only lose that, but our friends refuse to pay the insurance," observed the merchant. "You surely, Captain Tracy, must be convinced that she went down in the hurricane, or has been captured and destroyed by the enemy."

"I am not at all convinced of either one or the other," answered Captain Tracy, bluntly. "She was, or, I may venture to say, she is, as stout-built a ship ever floated, and I hold to the opinion that she would not have foundered while any other craft could keep above water. I hear, indeed, that two or three vessels which were caught in that same hurricane, though severely damaged, got at last safely into port. Mr Ferris wrote word, as you are aware, sir, that, after a thorough examination of the coast, no signs were discovered of her having been driven on shore, as all the vessels wrecked were identified and she was not among them. If she had been captured by the enemy, her master, Owen Massey, would have found means to communicate with us and let us know that he and his people were prisoners. By a letter from my son, I hear that there are still some picarooning villains infesting those seas, but they generally attack smaller fry than the Ouzel Galley. She was, as you are aware, well armed and well manned, and I can answer for it that Owen Massey would not have been taken by surprise, and would have beaten off in a fair fight any such craft, as he would any privateer of equal or, I may venture to say, of considerably superior force. His orders were to avoid fighting if he could do so with due regard to his safety— and I never knew him disobey orders from the time he first came to sea with me."

"Then, from what you say, Captain Tracy, your opinion is opposed to the interests of the firm," observed Mr Twigg, in a tone which showed that he was somewhat annoyed.

"I express the opinion I hold, sir, and you never found Gerald Tracy say or do anything contrary to the interests of his employers," answered the captain firmly. "What you want to obtain, sir, is a rightful decision; and my belief and hope is that, if the insurance money were paid to you, you would have to refund it."

"You only say what is true, captain, and you will pardon me for my remark," exclaimed the merchant, who was really an upright and generous-hearted man. "Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to see the Ouzel Galley coming in under charge of her young master, with or without her cargo, however much thereby Ferris, Twigg, and Cash might be out of pocket. We'll now go and join our friends—and I beg you to believe that nothing you may say will alter the respect in which I hold you."

The matter on which the party had been assembled was soon discussed. Some were of opinion that the Ouzel Galley had been lost; others, that she had been captured; while several held with Captain Tracy that she was still afloat, perhaps dismasted or waterlogged, but that she would in time find her way home. One fact was certain, that she had not yet made her appearance, and that nothing had been heard of her since she was seen off Bellevue on the morning of the hurricane. The important point decided was that the two parties should on no account go to law, and that they should wait a further decision till efforts had been made to discover the fate of the missing ship, should she not in the mean time return to port. Mr Ferris was informed that she had not yet arrived, and was requested to take all the steps he could devise for discovering what had become of her. Among others, he was to apply to the admiral to ascertain if any British cruisers had seen or heard of such a vessel in distress, while notice was to be sent on board every merchantman begging the master to make inquiries concerning her, or to afford any information he might already have obtained.

Captain Tracy, having concluded all the business he had to transact in Dublin, went back to Waterford. What a blessed thing is hope! Poor Norah and the widow were still supported by the expectation of the Ouzel Galley's return, even although every one else in Waterford believed that she was long since at the bottom of the ocean. Day after day and week after week went by, and still the Ouzel Galley did not appear. Norah's cheek was becoming thinner and paler, and the widow's heart sadder and sadder. It seemed hard indeed to lose her only child; but she trusted in God. She knew that He orders all for the best, and not once did she allow her heart to entertain rebellious thoughts against His love and mercy. Anxiously did the captain and Norah look out for letters from Jamaica; they hoped that Gerald would send them information. At all events, it would be a satisfaction to hear from him; but since his last long letter, none arrived. News was received from other sources of a fearful insurrection in the island, but Norah got no letters from Ellen, and hearing that numerous white people had fallen victims, she began seriously to fear that her friend might be among them. The captain wrote to Dublin, but the house there had not heard from Mr Ferris. At length another report came which added much to their anxiety, and if found to be true must plunge them into deep grief. It was to the effect that his Majesty's ship Champion, having sailed from Jamaica on a cruise, had not since been heard of.

"She'll turn up," exclaimed the captain, when he brought home the intelligence, which it would be useless to attempt concealing from Norah. The news appeared in print in the public papers, and an opinion was expressed that she had not been captured by the enemy, it being thought more likely that she had been capsized in a squall and gone down, or run during a dark night on one of the numerous reefs in the seas she was navigating and been dashed to pieces before any of her people could escape.

"I won't believe it, any more than I'll believe that the Ouzel Galley is lost," exclaimed the captain. "Don't give way, Norah. These newspapers tell lies; they're published for no other object. I shouldn't be surprised if we hear that the Champion has never been missing, and that the admiral has sent her on some particular service; probably the next packet from Jamaica will give us an account of her return to Port Royal."

Still poor Norah could not restrain her tears. "I don't believe that she's lost, Norah. Don't, now!" repeated her father. The captain, indeed, did his best to comfort her, but it was a hard matter for him; especially as he himself, notwithstanding his bold assertions, knew how likely it was that the sloop of war had really been lost. His honest heart was racked with grief as he thought that the days of his gallant young son had been cut short. Fresh despatches arrived from Jamaica, detailing the capture of several of the enemy's ships, the return to port of various British cruisers, and the arrival of merchantmen; but not a word was said about the Champion. Further despatches arrived, which appeared in the public prints. A short paragraph alone mentioned that all hope of her safety had been given up, while another spoke somewhat pityingly of the vain notion entertained by a former commander of a well-known Jamaica trader, the Ouzel Galley, that that vessel was still in existence. "Indeed," it continued, "go certain it is that she must be lost, that the masters and pilots of the vessels trading in those seas have ceased to make inquiries about her."

"I hold to my opinion, notwithstanding," exclaimed the captain; "if others refuse to help in looking for the good ship, I'll go myself. There's an old proverb that the man who wants a thing goes for it himself, and I'll not believe that either Owen or Gerald are lost till I've had a thorough hunt for them. I've cash enough of my own to fit out a stout vessel, and to arm and man her too. I intended it for you, Norah, and Gerald, but there'll be sufficient left for what you may want, my poor child, even if it comes to the worst; and you must stay at home and take care of Widow Massey—you've need to comfort each other."

"No, father, if you go I will go; and go I hope you will," said Norah. "Would that you had ten times as much fortune to fit out as many vessels to search round the shores of the whole Atlantic. And, father, you'll take me with you? I must go; I should die with anxiety were I to remain behind. In the voyage I took with you I learnt all about a sea life. I know the various dangers I may have to go through, but I don't fear them; I am ready to endure whatever perils you may be exposed to, and I'll not flinch from them."

Thus Norah argued with her father.

"But Mrs Massey—what will she do without you?" he asked.

"She would not detain me. Am not I going to assist in the search for her son, as well as in that for Gerald?" answered Norah. "Were I Owen Massey's younger brother, she would not hesitate to send me; she will not do so now. She has too long lived a life of solitude to object to being left for a few short months, especially when she can hope that Owen may be found."

Norah had gained her point. The old captain was really thankful to have her society, and so often had he braved the dangers of the sea that he no longer feared them for his daughter. Firm as the captain was in his opinion, few others agreed with him; and when it was known that he was looking out for a ship, most of his acquaintance pitied him, and whispered that the loss of his son had turned his head. Still, nothing any one could say changed his resolution; indeed, there was something grand in his very obstinacy, and worthy of admiration. The only person who stuck to him was Captain O'Brien.

"If I were a younger man, faith, I'd be after going out as mate," exclaimed the brave old captain. "Whether the lads are alive or dead, the point will be settled, and I am fain to believe that they are still alive. If I can't go myself, I'll prove my faith in the undertaking by subscribing five hundred pounds towards it. The sooner you get the ship fitted out and put to sea, the better it will be for my friend Norah—of that I'm very sure."

Though the two old captains were thus of one mind, no one else agreed with them. The house of Ferris, Twigg, and Cash would have nothing to do with the matter; they were not inclined to send good money after bad, and unless they could gain some information, however slight, that the Ouzel Galley was really in existence, they should consider it folly to send another vessel to look for her. They would not even help in searching for a fitting vessel. Captain Tracy, however, heard of one which had been brought into Cork harbour as a prize, and, accompanied by his friend O'Brien, he went over to have a look at her. She was just the vessel they wanted; she was ship-rigged, carried twenty guns, and was quite new, having been only a few weeks out of port when she was captured. She was of great beam, and would carry four or six more guns, if necessary. The purchase was soon completed; and the two captains, having engaged a few hands to navigate her, brought her round to Waterford, where she could be fitted out under their own eyes. One of the points to be settled was her name. Captain O'Brien, bowing to Norah, proposed that she should be called Love's Messenger; but to this Norah objected, and it was finally settled that she should be called the Research. The captain had devoted Gerald's prize-money, and the whole sum he had at his own disposal, and the amount contributed by Captain O'Brien; but still a sum was required for ammunition, stores, and the wages of the crew. Captain Tracy was in a dilemma; he might obtain a cargo for the vessel, but then he would have to wait for a convoy, as no insurance could otherwise be effected on her, and that would cause a delay. Rather than suffer this, he resolved to sell his patrimony, though very unwilling to do so. Captain O'Brien, who had formerly traded to Bristol, had gone over to that port to look out for efficient officers and any good men he could find to form part of the crew; the remainder could be obtained at Waterford.

Captain Tracy was setting off one morning, resolved to make the final arrangements with his lawyer for the disposal of his property, when just as he left his house he was accosted by a man, whose ragged dress, shoeless feet, and thin cheeks showed that he was suffering from the extreme of poverty. Captain Tracy's well-practised eye convinced him at once, before the man had spoken, that he was a sailor, and believing that he came to beg, he put his hand into his pocket to relieve his necessities, when the man, touching his battered hat, addressed him, "Plase, yer honour, are you Captain Tracy?"

"I am. What is it you want with me?" asked the captain.

"Shure, I'm glad to hear it, for I've been looking for yer honour for many a day," answered the man, "as I've made a vow, if you were still in the land of the living, to give you a message from a dying shipmate, and my mind couldn't rest aisy till I'd done it."

"What's the message, my friend? Is it a long or a short one?" asked the captain, eyeing the man steadily, to judge whether he was speaking with sincerity or uttering a falsehood. "What ship did you belong to, my friend?"

"The Fair Rosamond, yer honour, homeward-bound from Port Royal. We met with misfortunes from the time of sailing. We had Yellow Jack aboard us; then a course of foul wind, and when about a hundred leagues from the chops of the Channel, we were dismasted in a heavy gale; and at last, after driving about for many a day till we ran short of water and provisions, we were cast on the coast of Connemara, and only I and three others got to shore—the captain and the rest of the hands who were left alive, for Heaven hadn't spared many of them, were washed away and drowned. I was like to have died too, but some country people took care of me, and I pulled through; and then, remembering my vow, I set off without a shiner in my pocket to give the message to yer honour."

"Come in, my friend," said the captain, by this time convinced that the man was speaking the truth, and becoming anxious to hear what he had got to say. The stranger looked at his ragged garments and hesitated when the captain invited him into the parlour, where Norah was seated, and bade him take a chair; however, plucking up courage, he did as he was desired. Captain Tracy having briefly told Norah what he had just heard, turned to the seaman.

"You have not yet given me your name," he said.

"It's Larry Cregan, yer honour. You may trust to what I say, for I wouldn't desave yer honour, that I wouldn't," answered the man.

"Well, Larry, let me hear all about this message," said the captain, "for you haven't given me a hint yet what it is."

"Well, thin, yer honour, it's nothing but the truth I'll spake," began Larry. "We had well-nigh half our crew pressed out of the Fair Rosamond, and had to make up our number with such hands as the captain could get without being over particular. Among them was a countryman of mine—Tim Reardon, he called himself. He looked mighty sickly when he came aboard, and we hadn't been many days at sea before he grew worse. He wasn't fit for work; but we were short-handed, and he had to stick to his duty. And says I to myself, 'Tim Reardon isn't long for this life, and so I'll do my best to help him;' and when he was aloft or whatever he had to do, I always kept near him, and helped him many a time when he hadn't strength to pull and haul by himself. This won his heart and made him wish, as he said, to do me a good turn; but that wasn't ever likely to be in his power. He grew worse and worse, and at last could no longer crawl upon deck. I used to sit by him when it was my watch below, and spake such words to comfort him as I could think of. One day, howsomdever, he says to me, 'Larry, I've got something on my conscience, and something else in my pocket which I want you to take charge of.'

"'Anything to serve ye, Tim,' says I.

"'I've been an outrageous wicked fellow all my life, and have done all sorts of bad things,' says Tim. 'I've consorted with pirates, and have seen many a robbery and cruel murther committed—but I won't talk of that now. I can't do much good, I'm afraid, but what I can I wish to do, what I'd made up my mind some time ago, when I was well-nigh dying and should have slipped my cable if it hadn't been for the care I received from a countryman, who took pity on me and nursed me as if I'd been his brother. As I got better he told me to cheer up, as he felt sure I should live. "Now, Tim," says he, "if you ever get to Old Ireland, I want you to find out Captain Tracy, who lives near to Waterford, and tell him that I am alive, and, please Heaven, will one day get back to see him and his daughter. I can't tell him whereabouts to look for me, for the best of reasons, that I don't know where I am— nor have I any chance of making my escape; but you, Tim, may some day get free, and promise me, if you do, that you will take this message to Captain Tracy, and say that hope keeps me alive."'

"'But maybe Captain Tracy won't believe me?' says I. 'If he doesn't, his daughter will; and to make sure, take this bit of paper and show it them,' he replied. He wrote two letters on it; it was but a scrap, but it was the only piece he had. I put it in my 'baccy-box to keep it safe. Not two days after that I managed to make my escape, and, getting back to Jamaica, looked out for a homeward-bound vessel. As luck would have it, I shipped aboard the Fair Rosamond; and now, as death is hauling away at the tow-line, and I have no chance of fulfilling my promise, if you wish to do me a service and keep my soul quiet, you'll promise to take the message to Captain Tracy and the bit of paper in my 'baccy-box; I'll leave that to you, and everything else I've got on board.

"I promised Tim that I'd do as he wished, and that if I failed he might haunt me, if he'd a mind to do so, till my dying day. Tim has come more than once in my dhrames to remind me, and I've been aiger ever since to do his bidding."

"And where's the bit of paper?" asked Captain Tracy eagerly.

"Here it is, yer honour," answered the seaman, pulling a battered old tobacco-box out of his pocket, from which he produced a yellow scrap of paper, on which was written, apparently with the end of a burnt stick, the letters O.M. Norah had been too much excited even to speak. She gazed at the paper.

"Yes—these letters were, I am sure, written by Owen. I knew that he was alive; I was certain of it!" she exclaimed, her bosom palpitating as she spoke with the varied emotions which agitated her. "Oh, father, look at them! They must have been written by Owen; he had no time or means for writing more, and he was sure we should recognise them if they were ever brought to us."

The captain took the paper and examined it. "Yes, I truly believe that these letters were inscribed by Owen Massey. Had he attempted to write more, he knew that the whole would probably be obliterated before it could reach us, so he did the wise and thoughtful thing," he said. "I praise Heaven that he is alive. I was sure from the first that the Ouzel Galley did not go down in the hurricane, and this proves it; though what has become of her, or where Owen is imprisoned, is more than I can make out—for imprisoned I take it that he is, and strictly guarded too, or he'd have long since found his way home."

"The more reason, then, that we should go in search for him," exclaimed Norah. "Oh, father, let us sail as soon as possible."

"Captain O'Brien will soon be back from Bristol, and nothing need longer delay us, except the want of funds," said the captain, "and they must first be raised. But with the assurance that Owen is still alive—and I think the account we have heard affords that—I believe that my friends Ferris, Twigg, and Cash will no longer hesitate to advance the required amount. For, though we have no evidence that the Ouzel Galley has escaped destruction, my belief is that she is safe, as well as her master, although we are at present almost as much in the dark as ever as to where she is. Had Tim Reardon survived, we should, I have no doubt, been able to obtain much valuable information to guide us; but as he is dead, we must trust to what we can hereafter gain. We'll hear, however, what further our friend the seaman can tell us. Perhaps, after he has had some food, he may remember more of what Tim said to him."

"I'm mighty hungry, yer honour—it's the truth," said Larry, looking up; on which Norah hastened to get some cold meat and bread, not forgetting a noggin of whisky, at which Larry's eyes glistened. The captain allowed him to eat in silence, and he proved how hungry he must have been by the quickness with which he devoured the viands placed before him. Another examination elicited little further information, however, from the seaman; his messmate had never mentioned the circumstances under which he had met the person who had given him the paper with the initials O.M. on it. He remembered only that he had once spoken of a fine ship of which O.M. had been master, and which he had not long ago seen, although he either did not know her name or was bound not to divulge it. It was evident, indeed, that the unfortunate Tim Reardon was under some fearful oath which he was afraid to break, and that he had always spoken with the greatest caution, lest he might in any way commit himself.

"Many would call yours a cock-and-bull story," observed Captain Tracy, "but I believe you, Larry, and you may have the satisfaction of knowing that you have fulfilled your promise to your dying messmate. Though you ask for no reward, I'll do what I can to repay you for the information you have given me; and now you've had some rest and food, if you'll come in with me to Waterford, I'll give you a fresh rig out, and you can cast away the rags you've got on your back."

"Faith, yer honour, I'm in luck thin. I'm ready to walk a dozen miles or more," exclaimed Larry, jumping up; and, giving a bow with his battered hat and a scrape of the foot, he added, "The top of the morning to you, young lady, and a thousand thanks. It's put fresh life into my heart. Shure, I hope the gentleman you've been inquiring after will come back alive some bright day."

Followed by Larry, the captain hurried into Waterford, where, having got the seaman rigged out from top to toe in a new suit of clothing, he repaired to Ferris, Twigg, and Cash's office. He there wrote a letter to the firm in Dublin, giving an account of the information he had just received, and urging them to advance the sum required to enable the Research to proceed on her voyage. Soon after he had despatched the letter, Captain O'Brien arrived, bringing with him two mates and eight good men.

"And now, old friend," he said, "as I've neither wife nor daughter at home to pipe their eyes at the thoughts of my going, and old Molly, my housekeeper, however unhappy she may be at first, will soon be reconciled to my absence, I've made up my mind to offer myself as a passenger, to help look after Mistress Norah, in case anything should happen to you. Will you take me?"

"With all my heart," answered Captain Tracy. "I shall be glad of your society on my own account, and still more for Norah's sake; for, though I feel as strong and hearty as I did a dozen years ago, yet it may be Heaven's will to call me, and it would be a comfort to my heart to think that Norah was left with a friend to protect her till Owen Massey should appear to claim her as his own."

"That matter is settled then, and I'll just have my traps packed up and give directions to old Molly to take care of the house till my return," said Captain O'Brien. "Having done that, I'll be quickly aboard to take charge till you appear, as I've already sent the mates and the men I brought over on board to keep them out of harm's way. I've also given notice that a few prime hands are wanted, and I hope to pick up two or three old shipmates in whom I can place perfect confidence."

As the two old captains left the office they met Larry Cregan, looking a very different being to what he had done a few hours before.

"Plase, yer honour," he said, touching his hat, "I've been told that a few hands are wanted for the Research, and though I'm not worth much at present, after I've put some good beef and pork on my bones I shall turn out as good a hand as any of them."

"I'll take you at your word, Larry," said Captain Tracy, "and you may go aboard as soon as you like."

"Shure, it's the safest place for me, yer honour," said Larry, "and maybe I'd otherwise be taking in too much of the potheen, just for joy with thinking that I'd delivered my message and was free of my oath."

Captain Tracy accordingly gave Larry an order to be received on board as one of the crew, while he himself returned homeward, to make further arrangements and to wait for a reply to the letter he had despatched to Ferris, Twigg, and Cash. He and Norah paid Mrs Massey a farewell visit. Norah had already carefully told her the information which had been so curiously gained.

"I cannot help you to search for my son," said the widow, "but, though unable to leave my home, I can pray unceasingly that Heaven will protect you in your mission, and reward you for your love and devotion."

Captain Tracy had expressed his earnest desire to sail without delay, and greatly to his satisfaction, much sooner than he expected, he received a letter, sent by a special messenger, from his friends, agreeing to his request and placing the required funds at his disposal. They also consented to ship a certain amount of goods on board the Research, and no sooner was this known than several other merchants in Waterford agreed to add to her cargo. When it was known that Captain Tracy was going out in command of the Research, and that Captain O'Brien was to accompany him, as many good men as were required offered to ship on board her, and her crew was thus speedily completed. Great interest was excited when the object of the voyage became generally known, and multitudes collected on the quays, cheering right heartily as, her warps being cast off, sail was made and the Research glided away down the river. The two captains agreed that no ship they had ever commanded was better found, better armed, or better manned than she was. A fine northerly breeze earned her out of the harbour, and, all sail being made, she took her departure from the land, and steered a course for the West Indies.



Among the numberless lovely islands which dot the ocean, few surpass Jamaica in beauty and magnificence of scenery, or are adorned with a richer vegetation. Grand as are the views the island presents to the voyager who approaches it on the southern shore, they are fully equalled by those of its northern coast. At a short distance from the beach the island rises into hills of gentle ascent, generally separated from each other by wide valleys, amid which numerous streams find their way to the ocean. The hills, mostly rounded, are covered with groves of beautiful trees, many of them loaded with rich fruits and flowers scented with the most delicious odours. Here is seen the pimento, remarkable for its beauty and fragrance, the dark green of its foliage finely contrasting with the bright tints of the grass beneath; while in every direction are fruit trees of various hues, the orange, pineapple, or tamarind, many bearing at the same time blossoms, unripe fruit, and others fit for plucking. In the lower grounds are fertile and level savannahs, plains waving with cane-fields, displaying a luxuriance of vegetation, the verdure of spring blended with the mellow exuberance of autumn. In the distance, running down the centre of the island, rise the Blue Mountains, their tops dimly seen through the fleecy clouds, the greater portion of the range being covered with impenetrable forests, their sides often broken into inaccessible cliffs and abrupt precipices. These forests and cliffs have afforded for several centuries an asylum and fortress to fugitive blacks, who have there set pursuit at defiance, the game and wild fruits the woods supply enabling them to find subsistence without the necessity of descending into the lower regions to obtain food. Rocks and mountains, woodlands and plains, everywhere beautifully blending, form conspicuous features in the landscape of Jamaica. Dotted over the country are the pens, or farms, of the planters—their residences extensive, though not often more than one story in height, with gardens surrounding them, the works, boiling-houses, and other buildings generally concealed from view by thick woods; while beyond are the cane-fields and the dark, low huts of the negroes, standing together in the form of a village, far more picturesque at a distance than when closely approached. But the woods are the pride and beauty of the country; there the palm, the cocoa-nut, the mountain cabbage, and the plantain are often associated with the tamarind and orange, the oleander and African rose growing in rich luxuriance, the scarlet cordium of a glowing red, the jasmine and grenadilla vine forming verdant bowers, the lilac with tufted plumes, the portlandia with white and silky leaves, together with an infinite variety of flower and fruit bearing shrubs.

Such was the scenery surrounding Bellevue House, at which Ellen Ferris and her father had now spent some weeks with the worthy attorney, Mr Twigg, and his wife and family. Although there were rumours that the blacks in distant districts were disaffected, it was difficult to trace whence the reports originated, and it was generally believed that they were without foundation. The Jumby dance which Archie Sandys had witnessed some time before was considered a suspicious circumstance by Mr Ferris; but the overseer assured him that the blacks on the estate were all peaceably disposed, and that the assembly at the hut under the cotton-tree was merely for the performance of some rite of their barbarous religion, and should not cause the slightest uneasiness.

"I will keep an eye on what goes forward, and if I hear of any more meetings of the sort, I will take good care to learn their object," said the overseer. "You must let the blacks amuse themselves in their own way, provided it does not interfere with work."

To Ellen, the blacks appeared happy and contented. She had no opportunity, indeed, of looking very deeply into the state of the matter. If the lash was used, she did not hear the cries of the victims, nor see the marks on their backs. She heard that if they were sick they were taken care of in an hospital, or rather in some huts appropriated to that object, and that they were attended by the medical man who had charge of that and two or three neighbouring estates. He occasionally visited at the house, and appeared to be a good-natured, merry individual, who told amusing stories about the negroes and their wonderful ignorance. The negroes of whom she saw most were the domestic slaves, who seemed attached to their masters, and were always willing and obedient, and, being well fed, looked sleek and contented. The most interesting was Martha, the black nurse of Mrs Twigg's children. Her devoted affection for her charges was remarkable; she seemed to have no care or thought for anything besides them, and though she occasionally joined in the village festivities among her own people, she invariably came back full of anxiety lest any harm should have happened to them during her absence. She was treated by her mistress with great kindness and consideration, and perfect confidence was placed in her. The old grey-headed butler, Martin, was also on a more familiar footing with his master than any white servant of the same position in an English household would have been; while all the other domestic slaves, or boys as they were generally called, were merry fellows, always laughing and joking, though holding old Martin in great respect—their garments consisting of a checked shirt, white trousers, and white jacket, though their feet were shoeless, and they generally dispensed with hats. They looked neat and clean, and had no reason to complain of want of physical comfort. Probably, in other cases where the master was ill-tempered, they would have been liable to punishment, deserved or undeserved.

"But what about the agricultural labourers?" asked Ellen Sandys, who was ever, when he could be so with propriety, by her side—she looking upon him as a well-mannered, intelligent schoolboy; so that Lieutenant Foley would have experienced no jealous feelings had he seen them together.

"Well, they, I suppose, are in their way as happy and contented as they need be," answered Archie. "The field slaves, as we call them, who live out in the huts there, are divided into gangs. The first is composed of the stronger men and women, who work together, the women being able to do almost as much as the men. Their business is to clear the land, dig and plant the cane-fields, and in crop-time cut the canes and attend to the mill-house, where the canes are crushed and the sugar and molasses manufactured. The second gang is composed chiefly of the bigger boys and girls and more weakly women, who are unable to do the harder work, and the older men who have lost their strength. They have to weed the canes and attend to other lighter duties. The third gang consists of the young children, who are employed chiefly in weeding the gardens, collecting fodder or food for the pigs, and similar easy tasks. The men drivers are employed in looking after the first two gangs, and are allowed to carry whips to hold over them in terror, even if not often used. The gang of children is confided to the charge of an old woman, who carries a long switch; and with her it is no mere emblem of authority, for she employs it pretty frequently on the backs of the urchins. You have seen Mammy Quasheba, and I dare say she appears to you to be a very amiable old dame, for she takes care only to tickle her little charges when you or Mrs Twigg are in sight."

"But do the drivers often make use of those dreadful whips?" asked Ellen.

"On our estate they certainly do not; but on others, seldom or never visited by the proprietors, the only notion they have of maintaining order is the lash," answered Archie. "The unfortunate black is unmercifully flogged for the slightest offence, or for apparent idleness. You ask how many hours they work. Generally before daybreak they are aroused by the head driver, who comes into the village blowing a horn, and if they fail to turn out immediately, they become intimately acquainted with his whip. They work for three hours, and are then allowed half an hour for breakfast, during which they manage to stow way an enormous quantity of vegetable food. They then labour on till noon, when they have two whole hours, either to take their dinner, to sleep, or to work in their own provision grounds and attend to their pigs and poultry. From two till dark they resume their labours, when they generally knock off and return home, except in crop-time, when it is important to get the canes cut and carried as rapidly as possible, and the boiling-house requires a number of hands. However, they become fat and sleek during that period, as they may suck as much of the cane as they like, and do not look upon the task as especially laborious. As a number of artisans are required on the estate, such as carpenters, blacksmiths, masons, and coopers, the more intelligent lads are selected and sent as apprentices to learn those trades; though they get pretty hardly treated at times, they afterwards possess considerable advantages over the untrained blacks, and often contrive to save enough money to buy their freedom. Altogether, I don't think the negroes of Jamaica can be said to be much worse off than the peasantry in many parts of the old country; they may in some respects be even better off than the Irish peasantry."

"But yet the poorest Irishman would not readily change places with them," remarked Ellen, "and I am afraid, from what I hear, that they are totally neglected as to their religious and moral condition."

"As to that, their mental powers are too low to receive religious instruction, and their habits too confirmed to be improved; and so, provided they can be maintained in health and perform the required amount of labour, few proprietors or overseers trouble themselves much about anything else," answered Archie. "Some, however, have tried to improve them, and have supported ministers and missionaries among them; but I don't know with what success."

"Oh, I wish that something could be done for the blacks on this estate!" said Ellen. "It is dreadful to think that they should be allowed by their so-called Christian masters to remain on in their heathen darkness."

"It is very kind in you to interest yourself in the poor blacks, and I am afraid not many white people trouble their heads about them," said Archie. "But I came, Miss Ferris, to propose an excursion to an interesting place in this neighbourhood which you should see before you go away—and I fear that your stay is not likely to be prolonged;" and Archie looked unutterable things, and heaved a sigh which Ellen did not observe.

"What are its peculiarities, and where is it?" she asked. "I should certainly like to visit any place worth seeing."

"It is a wonderful cave, about twelve or fifteen miles to the eastward of this," answered Archie. "I have never been there myself, as I have not had a whole holiday to enable me to make the trip, nor companions with whom I could enjoy it; but if you could persuade Mr Ferris and Mr and Mrs Twigg to go, I am sure they will be repaid for the fatigue of the journey. By starting early in the morning we can return by nightfall, as there is a carriage road all the way, or what is called one in Jamaica; but perhaps you are a horsewoman, and if so, the whole distance might be performed before the sun has attained an overpowering heat."

Ellen was delighted; her only regret was that, the Champion not having appeared, Lieutenant Foley could not be of the party. Mr Ferris, when she told him of the proposal, expressed his readiness to go; and Mr and Mrs Twigg, though they had lived so long in the island, never having seen the cavern, were also willing to join the expedition.

"We must let the Pembertons know," said Mrs Twigg. "The other day Fanny Pemberton told me that she was especially wishing to visit the cave. She and her brother are sure to come."

"Pray ask them," exclaimed Ellen. "She is a dear, nice girl; and if she is fond of riding, she will be ready to accompany me."

"The sooner, then, we start the better," said Mr Ferris, "or business of some sort may prevent us, and we must not prolong our stay here."

"Then I propose we start to-morrow morning," said Mr Twigg. "There's nothing like fixing an early day, as an ardent lover would say, and we couldn't well choose an earlier. We'll order the buggies and horses to be at the door on the first sound of the slave-driver's born, so that we may enjoy the full freshness of the morning."

Mrs Twigg forthwith despatched a messenger with a note to Walton Hall, Mr Pemberton's estate, which was situated about four miles inland from Bellevue, asking Miss Pemberton and her brother to come over at once, that they might be ready to start at daybreak.

The proposed expedition formed the subject of conversation for the rest of the evening, Archie Sandys being especially pleased that his suggestion had been so readily adopted. He and two other young book-keepers were to form members of the party. The family had collected for an early supper, when horses' hoofs were heard approaching the house; and it being announced that several gentlemen were coming, Mr Twigg, followed by half a dozen blacks, hurried out to meet them. He speedily returned, accompanied by two strangers in military uniforms, whom he introduced as Major Malcolm and Lieutenant Belt. The officers bowed to the ladies and shook hands with the gentlemen, and at once felt themselves at home.

"Supper will be ready in about ten minutes; in the mean time, will you go to your rooms and make yourselves comfortable after your ride," said Mr Twigg.

"What, did you expect us?" exclaimed the major.

"We always expect guests," answered Mr Twigg, laughing—"at all events, we are always ready for them. Let me show you the way, gentlemen; your valises are already there."

On their return, Major Malcolm, a fine, soldierly looking man who had apparently seen much service, explained that he and Lieutenant Belt were on their way to Montego Bay, having to inspect several small fortresses along the coast. "We pushed on, however," he continued, "rather faster than was prudent, and knocked up our horses so that they require a day's rest before proceeding further; and we must therefore impose ourselves on you as guests, unless you turn us out."

"My dear sir, you and your men and horses are perfectly welcome to remain as long as you please," answered Mr Twigg; "and so you would be if you'd brought your whole regiment, though we might, in that case, have found some difficulty in housing you."

Of course Major Malcolm and the lieutenant heard of the proposed expedition. Mr Ferris suggested that it could be put off, but the major begged that that should on no account be done, and that if steeds could be found for him and Lieutenant Belt, they might accompany the party.

"With great pleasure, my dear sir; we can mount you without difficulty," said Mr Twigg; and turning round, he gave the order to old Martin, who was standing behind his chair. Supper was still proceeding when Miss Pemberton and her brother Jack arrived and were heartily welcomed. She was a Creole, but with far more life and animation than the generality of her fair countrywomen; still, her cheek, pure as alabaster, was colourless; but her figure was good, and her features remarkably handsome. Altogether, she fully merited the encomiums Ellen had passed on her. She had been sent to school in England, and was thoroughly well educated and accomplished. Her brother Jack had had the same advantage, though he spoke, unless when excited, with the usual Creole drawl. From the few remarks he made—for he was not much addicted to talking—he was, however, not destitute of spirit; and, among his other good qualities, he evidently looked upon his lovely sister with the most devoted admiration. The two young people promised to be a pleasant addition to the party.

The family retired earlier than usual, that they might be ready to start at the hour fixed on. The gallant major and the young subaltern were escorted to their room by Mr Twigg.

"I little expected to find two such houris in this out-of-the-way spot," observed the major, as he was throwing off his uniform.

"Nor did I," exclaimed the lieutenant. "It is difficult to decide which of the two is the most charming, but I am most inclined to lose my heart to the young lady with the roses in her cheeks. She hasn't been long in this burning clime, I suspect, or they would have faded ere this."

"We shall not be rivals, then," observed the major, standing up in his shirt and trousers, and striking out with his doubled fists, as was his wont before turning in. "I prefer the last arrival, with the classical features and cheeks as pure as the lily—a fit model for Juno. If I were to be long in her society, I should fall desperately in love with her; but I am not likely to commit such a folly, and take care that you don't, Belt. We shall know more about them to-morrow, and perchance we shall discover that their charms are not so overpowering as we fancy. I have often found it to be the case on a second interview."

"I expect to be more enthralled than ever," remarked the lieutenant. "However, I have seldom found it difficult to break my fetters; so, major, you needn't trouble yourself on my account."

"We shall see by to-morrow evening," said the major. After a few more remarks in a similar strain, the two officers, both old campaigners, threw themselves on their beds, and were soon fast asleep.

They were aroused by a black servant, who, bringing in some large ewers of cold water, lighted their lamps and announced that the horses would soon be at the door. On descending to the hall they found the two young ladies in their riding-habits, whip in hand, ready to mount. Mrs Twigg and her husband and the other gentlemen soon made their appearance, and the servants brought round trays with cups of hot chocolate and bottles of liqueur.

"You must fortify yourselves, gentlemen," said Mr Twigg. "Let me recommend this curacoa; it is a good preventive against any ill effects from the morning air."

While the major was engaged in sipping his chocolate, the young ladies had gone out, and the two officers, greatly to their vexation, found that Archie Sandys had performed the office they had expected to have undertaken, and had assisted Ellen and Fanny to mount. The horses provided for the officers were next brought forward.

"Here is your horse, major," said Mr Twigg, pointing to a fine-looking animal; "and, Lieutenant Belt, I hope you will not find yours inferior."

The two officers mounted, and had every reason to be satisfied with their steeds. Archie Sandys assumed the leadership of the party, and as they moved forward he managed to place himself by the side of Ellen. The carriages started almost immediately afterwards. Major Malcolm very quickly found an opportunity of riding up to Miss Pemberton, a position he seemed in no way disposed to abdicate. The young lieutenant in vain attempted to gain an equally favourable place by the side of Ellen, for Archie kept his post pertinaciously, determined not to be out-manoeuvred, and the road was not of a width to allow of three abreast. The rest of the gentlemen followed, talking and joking merrily.

The road led between hedges of prickly-pear, eight or ten feet in height, and often of considerable width, the broad leaves so closely overlapping each other that they formed a dense mass through which the light failed to penetrate, bright scarlet flowers and purple fruit ornamenting the massive wall. Here and there cocoa-nut trees sprang up from the inner side like oaks or elms in an English hedgerow, most of them loaded with fruit; while occasionally a cabbage palm or the palmetto royal towered above them, surpassing its neighbours in graceful beauty, its straight trunk rising without a branch to the height of a hundred feet or more, crowned by a waving plume, in the centre of which appeared a tender green shoot. Through the openings to the right appeared plantations of sugar-cane, and occasionally fields of Indian corn—the magnificent yellow cobs, with long, wavy beards, hanging from their vigorous stalks.

"Did you taste the cabbage palm the other day at dinner?" asked Archie.

"Yes, I thought it very nice," answered the young lady, rather surprised at the question.

"Do you know where it came from?" asked Archie.

"From a cabbage garden, I suppose," answered Ellen, laughing.

"No, from the top of one of those lofty trees," answered Archie. "That is to say, it was at the top, but to obtain it the tree had to be cut down."

"What a cruel sacrifice! I should not have eaten it with any satisfaction had I known that," exclaimed Ellen.

"We soon get indifferent to such matters in this country," said Archie. "See how many of them there are in all directions."

"I am afraid that you will become indifferent in other matters," observed Ellen—"to those slave-whips, for instance, though you say they are only used in cases of necessity. When the drivers are judges as to whether that necessity is lawful, the poor slaves are likely to feel the lash very frequently, I suspect."

"It is found from experience that they cannot otherwise be kept in order," answered Archie. "I confess that at first I shuddered as I saw the whip used."

"Do the blacks never rebel against such treatment?" asked Ellen.

"They have at times," replied Archie. "In the year '37 there was an outbreak, and there have been others at different periods; but they were put down in so rigorous a fashion that the negroes are not likely again, I fancy, to make the attempt."

"I trust not," said Ellen, "for it would be a fearful thing were these tens of thousands of blacks, discovering their strength, to rise on their masters and attempt to revenge the wrongs they have suffered."

The conversation between Ellen and her devoted attendant was, it must be confessed, of a very unsentimental character; indeed, she would very quickly have put a stop to anything that had been otherwise, although the romantic scenery through which they were passing might, under other circumstances, have exercised its influence over her. Not a breath of wind as yet disturbed the calm, pure atmosphere; the ocean appeared like a sheet of glass; the blue sky overhead was undimmed by a cloud; the mountain-tops seen to the right rose above the mass of green, their outline distinctly marked, though at a considerable distance. The only sounds which reached them were the lowing of cattle and the signal horns of the drivers summoning the negroes to their work. In a short time the light increased, the sun rose above the ocean, and a gentle breeze waved the topmost boughs of the trees, breaking the sea below on the left into tiny wavelets. Now the road led round a hill, with a steep precipice on the left reaching down to the water, and high cliffs to the right covered with shrubs and creepers of every hue. As it was seen ahead, it appeared as if there was barely room for more than one horse to pass, and that no carriage could possibly get along without risk of falling over the precipice; but as they proceeded it widened out, and Archie, notwithstanding Ellen's cautions, insisted on still keeping his place, riding between her and the edge of the precipice.

"Pray keep behind me, or ride on in front, Mr Sandys," she exclaimed. "You would horrify me exceedingly were you to fall over the edge; and to save you from running the risk, I am compelled, you see, to ride so close to the cliff that I run the chance of having my hat torn off by the boughs above, or getting my shoulder struck by a projecting rock."

Still Archie begged to ride on as he was doing. "Were your horse to shy, Miss Ferris," he remarked, "I might be the means of saving you, and I would run every risk for the sake of doing that."

Ellen laughed. "I am very ungrateful," she said, "but I cannot allow you to be placed in any danger on my account: you make me feel uncomfortable, if not nervous, and I am almost inclined to be angry with you for your disobedience."

Archie at length rode on, though very unwillingly, and the hill being passed the road now struck more inland, sometimes leading over slight elevations, and at others along the levels for some distance, when the steeds, trained to a Spanish amble suitable for a tropical climate, got quickly over the ground. The groves of tall trees threw a shade across the road which prevented the heat from being overpowering. Before the sun had attained its full strength a rocky hill rose before them with a wood at its base; here they found a tent already pitched, and a fire at a little distance from it. A number of black servants, who, it appeared, had been sent on before, were busily engaged in cooking breakfast.

"De tent for de missee," said a black, Quambo by name, who acted as under-butler to old Martin, coming forward. "Dey rest dere till de carriages come if dey like."

The gentlemen threw themselves from their horses, eager to assist Ellen and Miss Pemberton to dismount, the lieutenant rushing forward and offering his hand to the former, who accepted it with a smile which sent a pang of jealousy through poor Archie's breast, the gallant major helping Fanny from her horse. While the young ladies took advantage of the tent to rest—for the ride had been much longer than they had been accustomed to take, and they felt somewhat tired—the gentlemen, lighting their cigars, strolled through the thick wood towards the entrance of the cavern. On their way they passed a large lagoon of stagnant water, surrounded by trees, every branch and leaf reflected on its mirror-like surface with a peculiar clearness. They could discover only two holes, which looked like the upper parts of arched doorways. Between them, in the face of the rock, was a niche in which a statue might have been placed, while just below it was a basin or hollow in the rock, which appeared to have been formed by art for the purpose of holding water.

"I shouldn't be surprised if the Spaniards had made a sort of chapel here when they had possession of the country," observed Lieutenant Belt. "See, that niche looks as if a figure of the Virgin Mary, for instance, had been placed there. This basin was evidently made to hold what they call holy water. They had probably made an attempt to convert the Indians by introducing their worship, but finding them obdurate and unable to comprehend its mysteries, put them to death as a punishment. From an account I read the other day, the island, when first discovered by Columbus, was thickly populated; but in the course of a few years, after the Spaniards took possession, the greater number of the natives had been murdered or expended in some other way."

The rest of the party agreed with him. As they were all getting hungry, they returned to the camp, where, in a space which had been cleared by the servants, a tablecloth had been spread, and was already covered with viands, cushions and mats being placed around on which the ladies could recline. The carriage party soon arrived, and Mr Twigg, in his cheery voice, summoned his guests to breakfast, which consisted of numberless West Indian delicacies. In spite of the good appetites their ride had given them, most of the party were too eager to explore the cavern to pay them that attention they undoubtedly deserved. After the gentlemen had smoked their cigars, and the ladies had put on costumes more suitable for the object in view than their riding-habits, headed by Mr Twigg the party set forth, Major Malcolm escorting Miss Pemberton, and Ellen being attended by Archie and Lieutenant Belt, who was determined no longer to be cut out. Mr Ferris had taken charge of Mrs Twigg, who confessed that had not the girls required her as a chaperone, she would rather have remained at home.

"Martha, indeed, particularly wanted me not to come," she remarked. "She seemed unusually put out about something or other. Whether she fancied that the children were not as well as usual, or for some other cause, I could not guess; but they appeared to me to be so perfectly happy that I did not think it necessary to listen to her. She urged, however, that we should come back before dark, and Mr Twigg agreed that it would be important to get by the cliffs before sunset; after that, the ride is so easy, and we know it so well that there can be no danger."

This was said as they were proceeding through the wood. Mr Ferris agreed that it would certainly be advisable not to delay their departure after they had explored the cavern and taken luncheon, and that it would be better to endure the heat of the afternoon than to run the risk of travelling in the dark. An experienced guide and a supply of torches, consisting of bundles of candlewood split into small strips, had been provided. The party stood before the face of the rock.

"What, are we to go in there?" asked Miss Pemberton, in a tone of dismay.

"I am afraid that we shall discover no other mode of ingress," said Mr Twigg, as the guide, with the torches under his arm, crept through the larger of the two openings. "Come, Archie, do you and the rest of you go next," he said, turning to the two book-keepers, "and hail when the torches are lighted. You will assist to sweep the passage."

Archie, not very well pleased, obeyed his superior, and in a short time the voices of the young gentlemen from within were heard shouting, "All right!" The gallant lieutenant next went down on his hands and knees, his long legs disappearing through the entrance. The major stood bowing to Mrs Twigg, who seemed to consider that it was her duty to go next, that she might be ready to receive her charges; they, laughing, quickly followed her, the major and the other gentlemen bringing up the rear. They found themselves in a circular vestibule about twenty feet in diameter and fourteen in height, with an irregular concave ceiling covered, as were the sides, with innumerable glittering stalactites, reflecting on their polished surfaces the light of the torches held by the guide and the young book-keepers, who stood round in a circle, flourishing them over their heads. Several columns of stalactite forming arches overhead gave the cavern, the appearance of a Gothic chapel, while between the pillars various openings led into avenues which diverged in different directions, apparently running far away into the interior of the mountain.

"See, there sits the presiding genius of the cavern," said Mr Twigg, taking a torch and advancing a few steps towards an object which had a wonderful resemblance to a statue carved by the sculptor's hand. It was that of a venerable hermit, sitting in profound meditation, wrapped in a flowing robe, his arms folded and his beard descending to his waist. His head was bald, his forehead wrinkled with age, while his features were well defined, the eyes, nose, and mouth being perfect. The graceful, easy folds of the drapery and the wavy flow of his beard were especially remarkable. Mr Twigg did not say that he had gone in shortly before with the guide and artistically touched up the features by the liberal use of charcoal.

"Shouldn't wonder if the old fellow was a god of the original inhabitants of the island," said Lieutenant Belt. "Never saw anything so natural in my life."

Expressions of delighted surprise escaped from the young ladies, and even Mrs Twigg was very glad that she had come.

"But we have only seen the commencement of this magic cavern; it has more wonders to reveal to us," remarked her husband, desiring the black guide to lead on. He accordingly proceeded through one of the widest passages in front of them, holding his torch high above his head to show its height, which appeared to be from twelve to fifteen feet. Each of the young men also carried a torch, which illumined the otherwise total darkness of the cavern, bringing out the numberless objects hanging from the roof or appearing on either side—canopies studded with bright gems, festoons of sparkling icicles, rostrums and thrones, busts of warriors and poets. Here were skulls grinning from the wall; columns of every order of architecture; fonts and basins, some holding water; and a thousand other representations of works of art. Here and there other passages struck off to the right or left, adorned in the same curious fashion. Most of the arches and columns appeared to consist of a greyish marble, and were wild and curious in the extreme. Some of the pillars were perfect, sustaining apparently the massive superstructure; others were only half formed; and many were but just commenced by the dripping of water from above. Several of the apartments were cellular; others spacious and airy, having eyelet holes through the roof, which allowed the escape of noxious vapours, and assisted greatly to ventilate the cavern. The ground beneath their feet was of a soft nature, deep and yielding, and had a peculiar smell. As they advanced, thousands of bats flew out from among the crevices of the rock, disturbed by the light of the torches and the voices of the visitors, which echoed through the passages and vaulted roof. They had not gone far when the guide stopped short, and an exclamation of alarm escaped him.

"What is dem? Did you see dem, massa?" he asked of Archie, who was by his side. The rest of the party, who were close at his heels, saw numerous dark forms flitting by at the further end of a passage directly in front of them, while unearthly sounding voices reached their ears.

"Those must be shadows cast by the light of our torches," observed the major; "the sounds are merely echoes."

"No, no, massa, dey duppies," cried the guide; "de echo nebber take so long to come back to us."

Still the major was not convinced, although Mr Twigg suspected that they had disturbed an assembly of negroes, who, not expecting that the cavern was about to be visited by strangers, had met there for some purpose or other. It was some time before the guide recovered his courage.

"Come along," said Archie; "if they were duppies they will be afraid of interfering with white people, and if black fellows, they are still less likely to trouble us."

The other young men, who were always ready to follow Archie, insisted on the guide going on; but he let them proceed in advance, directing them which way to take. They had gone some distance further, passing the entrances of several more passages, when the guide cried out, "Stop, atop, massa; we got furder dan I tink." Scarcely were the words out of his mouth than Archie and his torch disappeared, and before they could stop themselves, two of his companions fell over. The ladies shrieked, supposing that the young men had fallen down some frightful hollow; but the shouts of laughter which followed soon reassured them, as did the assertions of the guide, that there was no harm done. It was found that they had merely gone done a descent of four or five feet, and had quickly again picked themselves up. The guide followed them, and the ladies, assisted by the gentlemen, easily leaped down to a lower level of the cavern. They continued their walk without further interruption, till daylight streamed down upon them from above, and they found themselves in an open area, with steep rocks covered with trees surrounding them on all sides. This area, as nearly as they could conjecture, lay about a quarter of a mile from the entrance of the grotto. From it numerous other passages branched off, into one of which the guide led them. They shortly came to a magnificent circular chamber with a vaulted ceiling eighteen feet or more in height. The most curious feature was the straight taproot of a tree which descended from above, about the size of a cable, uniform in shape from the top to the bottom. It had apparently made its way through a cleft in the rock, and penetrated downwards till it reached the floor of the apartment. On one side was an opening into a narrow passage, which the guide endeavoured to dissuade the gentlemen from entering. Archie, however, who had become excited, and considered himself the leader of the party, insisted on going forward.

"Don't go, massa, don't go; you'll fall down deep well and nebber come up again," shrieked the guide. Archie and his companions, notwithstanding this warning, pushed forward, holding their torches well before them. The passage became more and more contracted, till they reached an upright ledge of rock rising like a parapet wall almost breast high. They climbed up it, but on the other side it sloped rapidly down, and Archie, bold as he had become, thought it prudent to draw back; but instead of doing so he found himself slipping forward, and would have been unable to stop had not one of the other book-keepers caught hold of his coat and assisted him to scramble up again. Just then the guide came up. "Massa, you not know what you escape," he exclaimed. "See." And he threw a stone, which, after descending for some seconds of time, was heard to plunge into water, the noise echoing backwards and forwards amid the rocks which formed the side of the chasm. Archie shuddered as he thought of his merciful escape. Other stones of larger size being thrown in produced a loud, hoarse sound which reached to a considerable distance.

"What a fearful uproar you would have made, Archie, if you'd taken a leap into the chasm!" said one of his companions.

"Don't talk of it, man; it is a lesson to me for the future to look before I leap," was the answer.

"No, massa, as I say, you nebber come up again, unless you pop up in de sea," observed the guide. "Dat hole full ob salt water and full ob big fish; but I nebber gone down, and nebber intend to go—he, he, he!"

Further exploration in that direction having been cut short, the party turned back, slowly to retrace their steps, occasionally entering for a short distance some of the numerous avenues which they discovered as they proceeded; but they were all apparently much like those they had already visited. The ceilings were incrusted with stalactites, between which in several places the fibrous roots of trees and plants forced their way downwards through the interstices; in many places honeycombed rocks formed the roof-work of the grotto; and in others, where openings appeared towards the sky, the ground was strewed with various seeds and roots, that of the bread-nut especially being in great abundance. Reptiles, too, of curious shape were seen scuttling away, disturbed by the intruders—toad, snake, and lizard forms, all curiously covered with incrustations. The parts of the cavern open to the air were delightfully cool, and Lieutenant Belt proposed that they should send for their provisions and lunch in one of the larger apartments. His motion, however, was overruled, the ladies especially objecting to sit down with the bats flying overhead, and the creatures they had seen crawling about round them. Still, they all lingered to examine more particularly the numberless curious formations, unwilling to bid farewell to the grotto, which few of them were likely again to visit. Perhaps, too, they hesitated to commence the undignified exit which they would have to make. The torches being nearly exhausted, Mr Twigg, looking at his watch, announced that it was time for luncheon.

"After which we must not delay in commencing our homeward journey," observed Mr Ferris, who had remembered Mrs Twigg's warnings.

With much laughter, Major Malcolm on this occasion leading the way, the whole party crept in succession through the opening of the cavern, and stood at length in the free air, their sensations reminding them of the feeling experienced on entering a hot-house. Major Malcolm had scarcely for a moment left Fanny Pemberton's side; he now escorted her back to the camp. His first inquiry of the servants was whether they had seen any strange negroes in the wood. The blacks all declared that they had not; but his own man, who had made an excursion by himself to the side of the lagoon, stated that while he was looking towards the rock he saw some dozen or twenty black fellows steal out of a small opening and run off in an opposite direction, evidently, as he supposed, endeavouring to keep themselves concealed.

"Were they armed?" asked the major.

"Yes, sir; each man had a weapon of some sort—a spear or bow—in his hands, and two or three had firelocks," was the answer.

"That looks suspicious," thought the major; and he mentioned what his man had told him to Mr Ferris, who became very grave.

"Fortunately the fellows don't consider us enemies, or they might have shot us down with impunity," he observed. "There is something going forward among the blacks, I fear; and at all events the sooner we are on our return home the better."

An ample luncheon of fish, flesh, and fowl, vegetables, and fruit of every description had been prepared. It was hurried over somewhat rapidly; the servants were directed to pack up and proceed on their way homeward; and as soon as the tent was struck, the steeds, which had been tethered in the shade with their heads in nose-bags, were bridled and saddled.

"To horse! to horse! ladies and gentlemen," shouted Mr Twigg. "We must brave the heat and dust, instead of riding home by moonlight as we proposed; we shall enjoy the cool evening all the more on our arrival."

The younger members of the party, who had heard nothing of the cause which had created anxiety in the minds of Major Malcolm and Mr Ferris, were somewhat surprised at the summons, but quickly prepared to start.

"Let me assist you to mount, Miss Pemberton," said Major Malcolm. Leading forward her horse, and placing his hand a little above the ground, he dexterously lifted her into her saddle. Lieutenant Belt, imitating his example, brought forward Ellen's steed, and was delighted to find that she accepted his services, poor Archie being compelled to fall into the rear. The party on horseback led the way, the carriages rattling after them. Major Malcolm, who once having gone a road never forgot it, rode on with Miss Pemberton, Ellen and her cavalier following close behind them. They had just passed the cliff, when, the road being broad and level, Fanny proposed a canter. They had ridden on about a mile further, when they saw, beneath the shade of the tall trees directly ahead, a horseman galloping at full speed towards them. As he approached he was seen to be a white-headed negro, his hat, which just then blew off, exposing his hoary locks.

"He is old Martin, Mr Twigg's butler," exclaimed Fanny. "What could have made him come out to meet us in so great a hurry?"

"Where Massa Twigg?" exclaimed the old man. "I tank Heaven I meet you so soon."

"He is close behind," answered Major Malcolm. "I trust that you are not the bearer of bad news?"

"Yes, sar, I bring berry bad news: we all hab our troats cut and be murdered and burnt before dis night," answered old Martin, who had fastened a huge silver spur to one of his heels, and had caught up a slave-driver's whip. Without waiting for further questions he galloped forward, leaving Major Malcolm and Miss Pemberton as ignorant as at first of what had occurred.



Mr Ferris was acting as charioteer to Mrs Twigg, and took the lead of the carriages.

"What's the matter?" she cried out, as she caught sight of old Martin galloping up, dreadful surmises, however, entering her mind.

"Oh, Missee Twigg, don't stop, and I tell you as you go along," answered the old butler, who having seen his master following behind, turned his horse round.

"Are the children all safe?" was the next question the anxious mother put.

"Yes, dey all berry well; but Martha tell me if I lub dere lives and yours to jump on horseback and come and tell you to make haste home. She say, and I know she speak de truth, dat de black fellows who run away to de mountains, and many oders, tousands and tousands from all de estates, hab got hold of firelocks and 'munition, and intend to murder all de whites in de island, from one end to de oder, and before night dey come and burn down Bellevue and cut de troats of us all. She say our only hope am to get aboard ship or make de house so strong dat we able to drive dem away when day come."

"How did Martha know this?" asked Mrs Twigg anxiously.

"Dat more nor I can tell," answered Martin. "All I know am dat she speak de truth."

"Then tell your master, and we will drive on as fast as we can," said Mrs Twigg. "Say Mr Ferris and I are considering what it will be best to do."

Martin, allowing Mr Twigg to come up with him, gave him the same account. Mr Twigg received the information with more composure than his wife had done. "Desert the house I will not," he answered. "We will fortify it, and defend ourselves like men. It is providential these two officers arrived with their troopers, as they will be of the greatest assistance; and if all the boys prove true, we shall have no difficulty in holding out against any attack, should one be made on us. Go back, Martin; send at once to find Mr Thompson. Say that I have reason fully to believe the information Martha has given; beg him to collect all the white men and trustworthy overseers, with their arms and ammunition. And also we must not forget our neighbours. Despatch a messenger—Jericho, Sambo, or any other fellow—to Mr Pemberton, and advise him either to join us with all his family, or to fortify his house as we intend doing ours. But stay, Martin. It may be safer, to prevent mistakes, if I go myself; a gallop, though the sun is hot, won't kill me. I'll take your horse, and you shall drive the buggy."

The exchange was soon made, and Mr Twigg galloped forward, telling his wife as he passed what he proposed doing, and quickly dashing by Ellen and Fanny.

"Don't be alarmed, ladies," he cried out; "but the truth is we expect an attack from some blacks, who have broken out into rebellion, and we are going on to see what can be done to give them a warm reception."

"Surely, in that case, Major Malcolm, we ought not to detain you, as you will wish to assist in preparing for the defence of the house—for I conclude that is what Mr Twigg means," said Fanny in a calm tone.

"But we cannot leave you unprotected, Miss Pemberton," answered Major Malcolm. "Should the negroes really have risen, you might encounter some on the road, who would, seeing you alone, try to make you prisoners for the sake of holding you as hostages. I positively cannot leave you."

"Then we will gallop on together," said Miss Pemberton. "Miss Ferris's horse and mine are firm-footed, and I am sure that she will be ready to do as I propose."

She turned round to Ellen, who was perfectly willing to go on, and pressing their horses with their whips in a way which astonished the animals, they galloped forward. The road was dry and dusty, and in some places, where unsheltered by the trees, the sun beat down with intense heat; but in their anxiety they cared not for the inconvenience. On looking back they saw Mr Ferris and the other carriages coming along at almost as fast a rate as they were going. Gradually they were distancing them. Ellen was unwilling to leave her father behind.

"I am afraid that they are pursued by the blacks," she exclaimed. "Oh, should they be overtaken!"

"In that case Mr Ferris would far rather that you should escape," urged the lieutenant. "Let me entreat you not to stop; supposing the rebels are pursuing us, we could do nothing."

Still Ellen checked her horse till Mr Ferris again came in sight, when she heard him shouting, "Go on! go on!" and at the same time making signals with his whip as he lashed his horse. Poor Mrs Twigg was holding on to the carriage, expecting every moment to be thrown out; but Mr Ferris, an experienced driver, kept a tight hand on the rein. Old Martin came dashing after him, standing up lashing his horse, and shrieking out at the top of his voice, "On! on! old nagger; no tumble down on oo knees!" while still farther off Jack Pemberton, Archie, and the other horsemen were seen acting as a rearguard, they, even if so inclined, not considering it respectful to pass the carriages. Ellen, on hearing her father's shouts, again applied her whip to her horse's flanks and galloped forward, much to the lieutenant's satisfaction. The major and Fanny could only dimly be seen amid the cloud of dust in the road, here darkened by overhanging trees.

"We cannot be very far, I trust, from Bellevue," said Ellen; "my horse appears to be flagging."

"The animal is but little accustomed to move at this rate with any one on its back. Be ready to check it should it stumble," answered the lieutenant; "but with your light weight there is very little chance of that. We have, I believe, but two miles to go, and we shall soon cover that ground. Don't spare the whip, Miss Ferris; you must think of your own safety more than the feelings of your steed."

Following Lieutenant Belt's advice, Ellen made her horse spring forward, and they at length again overtook Major Malcolm and Fanny. Just then a party of blacks were seen ahead, coming along the road towards them. Fanny was about to check her horse, fearing that they had evil intentions.

"If they are rebels we must dash by them—it is our best chance of escape," cried the major, drawing his sword. "I will defend you with my life, Miss Pemberton. Only keep up your courage and ride straight forward; they'll not dare to come within arm's length of us." Lieutenant Belt imitated the major's example, and said something of the same tenour to Ellen.

"But my father—they will attack him and Mrs Twigg!" she exclaimed.

"He has pistols in the carriage, and a shot or two will soon send the black fellows to the right-about," answered the major. They galloped forward, and their anxiety was quickly relieved on discovering that the blacks were headed by one of the book-keepers, who had been met by Mr Twigg and despatched along the road to render any assistance which might be required.

"All's safe at the house, sir, and it's my belief that the blacks on the estate will prove loyal, whatever may be the case elsewhere," observed the book-keeper.

"Go forward and obey your orders, sir," said the major; "we will ride on more leisurely to the house."

Fanny drew a deep breath. "I feel inexpressibly relieved," she said, "though I was sure, Major Malcolm, that you would have protected me; but I am more anxious about my father and mother and the rest of the family at Walton. It is more exposed even than Bellevue, and, though perhaps our own slaves may prove faithful, there are other estates on either side where the blacks are said to be harshly treated; and they may take the opportunity of revenging themselves on all the white people within their reach. I would rather go home at once to share their fate."

"I am very sure, Miss Pemberton, that should your family be in danger, they would not desire that you should be exposed to it," answered the major. "You yourself require rest—and, indeed, your steed would not carry you much further. I trust that the report which has alarmed us may prove to be without much foundation, and I will get Mr Twigg to send over at once to Walton and ascertain the state of affairs—or, if I find that Bellevue is safe, I will ride over myself to offer my services."

"Oh, thank you, thank you!" exclaimed Fanny; "I shall indeed be grateful."

Riding somewhat more leisurely than at first, though still keeping up a smart canter, they soon reached Bellevue, where they found that Mr Twigg had sent out to collect the book-keepers and drivers, white and brown, to assemble at the house for its protection. Major Malcolm's first inquiry was as to his means of defence.

"I have firearms, which I have kept ready in case of any outbreak such as that of '37, and all the white men on the estate have their fowling-pieces and pistols," he answered. "We fortunately procured a couple of casks of powder not long ago."

"Very good; but have you a supply of bullets?" asked the major.

"No—dear me, I am afraid not," said Mr Twigg.

"But you have moulds, surely, for casting them?" continued Major Malcolm.

"Yes; some are stored with the arms, I believe," was the answer.

"And what about lead?" asked the major. The worthy planter looked perplexed. "You must surely have some leaden pipes or cisterns, or lead in some form or other. Pray search in every direction, and I will set my two fellows to work at once to cast bullets, while we go round and consider the best means for fortifying the house. It is as well to be prepared, although I believe that, after all, it will prove a false alarm."

The ladies were more tired and overcome with the heat than they had expected while the excitement of riding lasted, and had to retire to their rooms. Mr Ferris soon arrived with Mrs Twigg, when she and her husband immediately sent for the black nurse, Martha, that they might ascertain from her whence she had obtained the alarming intelligence she had sent them. She would only reply, "I tell you, massa, what is de truth. I lub de children better than life; but I know when de black fellows find out dat I tell you, dey kill me. De Obeah man do it. Even though he not find me, I die—I know it; but if I save you and de children, I not care."

Nothing else could be elicited from Martha, but she persisted in declaring that they would find ere long that she had given no false alarm. Both Mr and Mrs Twigg, indeed, were convinced that she spoke the truth; and Mr Twigg went on with the preparations for the defence of the house. In a short time Mr Thompson, who had been at the further end of the estate, and several book-keepers came in.

"What has happened, Mr Twigg?" he exclaimed. "Sambo brought me a cock-and-bull story about a number of blacks being in arms, and coming down to burn and sack the house and murder us all. I don't believe it, sir. Our people, at all events, are kept in too good order to do anything of the sort; and I should have heard of any ill-feeling existing among the slaves in any of the neighbouring estates. I beg your pardon, sir—but it seems to me ridiculous to suppose that they would again attempt to rebel; they cannot have forgotten how they were treated the last time they ventured to rise in arms. Of course, gentlemen from England and military officers could not be expected to know anything about the matter, and they are therefore ready to believe the absurd reports."

"But I also, Mr Thompson, am inclined to believe that there is more in it than you suppose," answered the planter, "old Martin is evidently alarmed—and he is as sensible as he is faithful."

Still the overseer was incredulous. "I'll obey your orders, however, sir," he said, "and do anything you or the military officers think necessary to put the house in a state of defence."

"Very well, Mr Thompson; collect all the trustworthy people, and direct them to bring their arms and ammunition, and as large a stock of provisions as they have ready," replied Mr Twigg, "and we will follow out any plan Major Malcolm may suggest. He will, of course, take the command, and for our own sakes we shall be wise to obey his orders."

The overseer laughed. "Well, sir, we shall take a great deal of trouble for nothing," he said; "and should the military gentlemen order us to level the out-buildings, and to cut down the trees surrounding the house, we shall do more damage than can be easily repaired."

Several of the young men agreed with Mr Thompson, but Archie Sandys and Jack Pemberton sided with the other gentlemen. Martha remained as firm as at first in her belief that if they did not make haste and get ready to defend themselves, they would all be destroyed. The major's first care had been to see that the arms and ammunition were in a serviceable state. The former evidently required cleaning; with the powder he was satisfied. Though no leaden pipes were procurable, as bamboo canes serve every purpose for which the former are used in other countries, a leaden cistern and some pigs of lead which had been sent with the muskets were found, and the three troopers who had accompanied the major and his companion were set to work to cast bullets and clean up the arms; while the major, after twice making the circuit of the house, advised that it should be surrounded in the first place with a chevaux-de-frise of timber and stout bamboos sharpened at the ends, and that, if time would allow, inside that a palisade should be erected with loopholes for musketry and of a height sufficient to protect the garrison.

"At all events," he observed, "no harm can be done by collecting the materials for the purpose, and we can then proceed according to the information we receive."

This plan seemed so sensible that even Mr Thompson did not object to it, and all the available hands were divided into two parties—some sent to the nearest cane-brake to cut the canes, and others to fell trees. Night was approaching, and after the first few loads had been brought in, Mr Thompson suggested that they should wait till the following morning. Martha, who was eagerly watching all the proceedings, went to her master and, with tears in her eyes, entreated that there might be no delay.

"I know what will happen dis berry night," she said; "if any one shut his eyes, perhaps no wake in de morning."

As the moon was nearly half full, there would be light. For some hours Mr Twigg accordingly directed that the people should continue their work. Most of the slaves seemed to labour willingly; but the drivers who were superintending them observed that they went lazily about their work, and did as little as they possibly could. Mr Thompson, on being told of this, remarked that it was no wonder, as they had been toiling all day, and it was not his custom to work the slaves after sundown, as was done on some ill-managed estates. As soon as the logs of wood and the canes were brought in, Major Malcolm and the lieutenant, with their men, having provided themselves with axes, threw off their coats and commenced cutting the logs and canes into proper lengths and showing how they were to be fixed in the ground. Between the canes which formed the chevaux-de-frise were planted large masses of prickly-pear, through which no ill-clad black, nor indeed any human being, could force his way. It was considered that this would stop the enemy even more effectually than the palisades. It was no easy task, however, to cut the sword-like leaves and place the plants in their required positions. The young Englishmen not otherwise employed offered their assistance, as did old Martin and the other black servants, in forming both the works, the latter managing to handle the prickly-pears far more dexterously without hurting themselves than their masters.

"We shall do no material harm to your lawn, Mrs Twigg," observed Major Malcolm, "and for your sake I trust that it may not become the scene of a conflict. By-the-by, Mr Twigg, if there is a serious chance of it we must barricade the doors and windows, and it will be prudent to have the materials ready for the purpose. If you have no spare planking, I have no doubt that one of the out-buildings will supply what we require."

Mr Twigg of course agreed to this, and, lantern in hand, led the way to a building at a little distance from the house.

"I advise you to have this pulled down at once; but if you are unwilling to do that, you can give directions to one of the young men, who will superintend the work should it become necessary," said the major.

Mr Twigg, having sent for Archie Sandys, told him what might be required, and he, of course, undertook to carry out his orders. Some time went by. The ladies having rested and partly recovered from their fatigue, assembled in the supper-room, in which a handsome repast was spread. Here they were joined by the gentlemen, who, having worked hard, had good appetites. No one would have supposed as they were seated round the table that they were apprehensive of the danger threatening them.

"It seems very ridiculous to be taking all this trouble and expending our strength on account of a vague report of which really nobody seems to know the origin," observed Lieutenant Belt to Ellen. "The major of course thinks there is something in it; but, for my part, I believe we shall find that we have all been frightened out of our wits for nothing."

"I wish that I could agree with you," answered Ellen. "There have been terrible outbreaks before in this island, and rumours have been for some time going about that the slaves are in a discontented state."

"I had expected, from the way our friends galloped after us this afternoon, that a body of savage rebels were at their heels," said the lieutenant, "and I confess that when we reached the house I fancied that we should have had to stand to our arms, and defend ourselves as best we could. I was very glad to see our hostess and Mr Ferris and the rest of the party arrive safely, and was somewhat surprised when no enemy followed them. We shall find, I suspect, that the foe did not come because no foe is in existence."

Ellen, however, could not agree with the young lieutenant.

Miss Pemberton's anxieties had been somewhat quieted. Mr Twigg assured her that he had sent a messenger to warn her father, who would of course make preparations to defend his house; she might soon therefore expect an answer saying that they were all safe. The party at length became more cheerful, and Mr Ferris expressed his belief that they might all go to sleep without fear of becoming dead men before the morning.

"Belt and I ought to be on our road at an early hour," remarked Major Malcolm; "but I wish before we go to see your fortifications in a forward state, and I shall then feel it my duty to ride round to Walton to render Mr Pemberton any assistance he may require."

Fanny was on the point of asking him to escort her, but a very natural feeling made her hesitate, and she resolved to remain with her friends. The conversation had become more lively than at first, and jokes and laughter were even being indulged in, when the sound of horses' hoofs was heard coming along the road from the east at a rapid rate. Mr Twigg hurried to the door, followed by Mr Ferris.

"Who is it?" asked the former.

"Hayward," answered a voice. "Thank Heaven I find you safe! I've had a narrow escape of my life, and I was afraid that you might be placed in equal danger; indeed, had it not been for my faithful fellow Tom Yam here, I should to a certainty have been killed."

"Come up, then, and tell us all about it," exclaimed Mr Twigg, who the next instant was shaking hands with the stranger, while Martin took charge of Tom Yam. Mr Twigg introduced the new arrival. Mr Hayward, sitting down, tossed off a glass or two of Madeira, for he required some stimulant before he could speak.

"I bring you dreadful news," he said. "I would thankfully not have to alarm you, ladies, but it may be better to know the worst at once. I had come over to Stillwater, having providentially left my family at Kingston, when, as I was resting after my journey, Tom Yam, who had been sent with a message to Fort Maria to ask Captain Torrens, commanding there, to come over and dine with me, rushed into my room panting for breath with the fearful news that the entire garrison and a number of white people from different places assembled there at dinner had suddenly been surprised by a whole host of blacks. The villains had been lying in ambush near at hand, and rushing upon them without warning, had put nearly every human being of the party to death. Among the few survivors was a black servant of one of the officers, who had given him the information. He himself had got near enough to see the blacks in possession of the fort, some engaged in burning down the buildings, and others carrying off the arms and ammunition. The boy told him that the white men were at the supper-table, and that all had there been butchered without being able to reach their arms or strike a blow for their defence. He hurried back, and as he came along he heard the negroes close at his heels, shouting and shrieking over their victory, and threatening to attack Stillwater House. Scarcely had he uttered the words than the cries of the barbarians reached my ears. Not a moment was to be lost; I hastily threw on my clothes and followed Tom, who entreated me to run for the stable, where we could get our horses and gallop off as the best prospect of saving our lives, for if we attempted to hide ourselves the rebels were nearly sure to find us— many, indeed, of my own slaves having, as Tom assured me, joined them. So close were they by this time that I was afraid they would see us as we made our way to the stable. We reached it just as they broke into the grounds on the opposite side. Some time was lost in saddling the horses; as I led mine out, I saw several black faces peering out of the windows above us. I threw myself on the animal's back, Tom having mounted his horse inside the stable; a shower of bullets, happily ill aimed, came whizzing about our ears—two, indeed, passed through my jacket. Away I galloped, followed by Tom; though several more shots were fired at us, we escaped them all. Fortunately, there were no other horses in the stable or we should probably have been followed. As I looked over my shoulder I saw smoke ascending from the roof of the house, and ere I had got much further flames burst out from every part. At first I proposed pushing for Kingston, but Tom expressed his belief that we should find bands of rebels on the road, and I determined therefore to come on in this direction, and to warn any friends on the way. How our horses have done so much seems surprising, for you may be sure we took but a short time to rest. We passed on the way, I should say, several parties of blacks, but as they had no firearms, we dashed by them uninjured, although some made an attempt to stop us."

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