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Voyage----Discovery-----French Privateer----- English
Frigate----- Dangers----Difficulties-----Distresses----Landing in Spain.
IT was now the beginning of May, 1799, when I put to sea in the Die-Hoffning, having still in my possession the passports of those ministers who professed to shed blood for the delivery of Europe, and the restoration of religion and law. No case need be stronger than mine to shew how much their actions agreed with their professions, and how much had their views succeeded, there would have remained of religion, liberty, and law. Before I crossed the bar, I entered into conversation with the pilot, who seemed not to understand some questions I put to him, touching the destination of the ship. This creating some suspicion, I was proceeding to press him for an explanation, when the captain interposed, and told me in a tone of confidence, to say nothing more ;
and that when we were once at sea, and the pilot gone, he would tell me something that would be agreeable to me. But the motion of the vessel on crossing the bar, produced an effect which curiosity could not counteract. I went to my bed over power. ed with sickness, and remained in a state of stupor for three days, insensible to all occurrences ; at the end of which time Mr. Rivet informed me, that he had discovered from the avowal of the captain, and a view of the ship's papers, that we were bound and regularly cleared out for Bordeaux.
Now, although a voyage to France had for me nothing terrible, in comparison with 4 hat I had suffered; yet inasmuch as it made a difficulty the more between me and my family, and that the consequence
could not be calculated, I was much shocked at the discovery. Mr. Rivet did all he could to encourage and divert me from the unpleasant view my situation afforded, and in this, as in every other stage of my persecution, I endeavored to strengthen myself with fortitude and patience, and to make the best of my position.
But whatever might be my disposition to bear cheerfully the ills and wrongs I had to sustain, every thing, even the elements, seemed to conspire, to second the malice of my enemies, and to make my situation intolerable. For six tedious weeks was I tossed about in this little vessel, in the performance of a voyage which might well have been performed in as many days. We sometimes approached the coast, and sometimes stood across the ocean; as they termed it, looking for a wind. The course of the vessel, when traced upon a map, was a matter of real curiosity : and I had the satisfaction of finding, at the end of three weeks of sickness and pain, that we were further off by much from our destined port than when we started. We often requested the captain to put us somewhere on shore on the Portuguese or Spanish coast; and he as often positively refused. He seemed indeed to suffer as much as we, and on some occasions to have nearly lost his senses with vexation. He was in his own nature good; but he had been terror-struck and agitated in Lisbon, where he had been one day taken off the Change before the minister, and threatened with a gaol if he murmured against taking certain prisoners who should be sent on board of him. No explanation was given to him who those prisoners were : and thus this poor honest seaman found himself suddenly involved in some conspiracy of state ; and charged with papers and certificates of which he understood not a word: and with prisoners for his passengers of whom he must have formed strange notions. His imagination had been pre-disposed to gloomy presages by various contrarieties. He had had a very tedious passage from Malaga to Lisbon. At Lisbon he was detained after he was clear to sail, and all his port-charges paid for prisoners of state. During this time his cable, which was ashore, was cut and stolen away with the anchor. Added to all, the tediousness of his passage that was to deprive him of the summer fishery in the North, and consequently of his greatest benefice-I may say of his bread--you may suppose how abundantly this poor industrious man, whose dogger was the world to him, must have been
tormented. The mystery and incomprehensibility of what he was himself engaged in, grew every day into more dark suspicion; and his temper became at length very peevish. He did not speak French-and English very imperfectly. And as after the two or three first weeks I had found all expostulation with him in vain, I left him to Mr. Rivet. ·
This gentleman, who possessed a good deal of information, had learned English, but rather from books than practice. And though he understood it upon principle, he spoke it with difficulty : so that nothing could be more extraordinary to an English ear than the conferences he and the captain used to hold in the cabin by way of explanation, which I overheard as I sat upon the deck. Sometimes the captain used to express great concern for us, and to sympathise in our fate. At other times he insinuated that we were the cause of his misfortunes, and even of the foul wind. And he added, that once before he had had a similar passage, and that the wind never became favorable until a man died; a doctrine that became a little irksome, particularly when the provisions grew scarce, and the sailors seemed to have adopted it. He often looked me pityfully in the face, and exclaimed that I might guillotine him if I chose ; but that he was not like some other captains who had taken away prisoners from Portugal, of whom nothing had been heard since. He often repeated this, I do not say with what view, but he seemed to take some credit to himself for the safety of our lives, as if we owed it to his forbearance or humanity.
I as often assured him that I had neither the
power nor the disposition to guillotine him. That on the contrary, I would do him any service in my power, provided he would put an end to all our misery, by setting us on shore. I allowed that the compulsion used to him in Portugal, and the fear he was in of a despotic authority, was excuse enough to me for his taking us abroad: but that his continuing to carry us such a length of time against our will backwards and forwards over the seas, whilst my heakh was such as he saw it, was little short of an act of piracy, which nothing could excuse. That he himself knew how nearly the provisions were exhausted, and that even the water would soon be finished. But he never would hear of this proposal with patience, and persisted that we should all go together to Bordeaux, where every thing would end happily ; so that sometimes I fattered myself, that he had some secret of that nature, and that he intended us some agreeable surprise : for it was hard to believe that so many ostensible persons should join in a diplomatic project which had no other end in view, or could have no other issue or result, than the mean and stupid perseéution of an individual, such as me.
Meantime the provisions were drawing to a close. We had no longer any thing to live upon but hard rye biscuits and bad water, with brandy and raw sugar, very little salt fish and salt meat ; and that little but for a few days more.
This diet, together with the vexation I experienced, was nearly fatal to