« PreviousContinue »
port as a French prisoner of war, and those of Lord Castlereagh, and the duke of Portland, was very likely to remain, with my wife and two poor infants, as a prize to his Prussian majesty ; into whose service the Irish government had some years before trans. ported so many
my miserable countrymen. These unfortunate men were, it is true, about that time, released from their strange bondage, but no one, I believe, can say what has since become of them. A king's Cutter had just arrived, and was to return without coming to anchor. We obtained leave to go on board, and set out immediately with Mr. Sparrow and some other gentlemen.
Embarkation-Danger-Journey to London-Lord
Spencer-Once more imprisoned-Mr. Sparrow. Governor Picton.
We hired a little boat, and embarked in her ; but the weather was stormy and the sea ran very high, with an in-blowing wind ; and it was so cold, though in the month of April, that the
of the sea froze upon us as it fell. We were close packed in this little boat. I could not move, for my legs were thrust among the baggage, and the children
were lying shivering upon me, sick and vomiting. When we came along side of the Cutter, the boatmen ran their mast foul of her yard; and but for the dexterity of the tars, that were in one moment upon the yard cutting away the rigging that held us, we should have been undoubtedly upset. The Cutter then came to anchor to favor us; but as our rigging was cut, and our sail split, we had great difficulty to get on board in the rapid tide ; and when we did, it was to run foul again. This latter accident was like' to be worse than the former ; for we hung by the top of our mast; so that had our boat taken a shear with the current, we must have been swept out of her, or sunk. But the activity of these good tars, once more saved us, and before we had time to say long prayers, they plucked us all on board. For myself, I might have escaped, being, as you remember, a first-rate swimmer : but I question if any man would desire to save his life, and see all that were dearest to his heart, perish in his view. Never, in my life, but in this moment, did I feel the full effect of terror. I once spent two days without meat or drink, or any port to steer for, in a wintry and a stormy sea, alone in an open skiff; but I would rather pass a hundred such, than endure the sudden pang that now shot across my heart. This, was, however, but a short grief: the officers were kind to us, and Mr. Sparrow gave up his bed and lay on the cabin floor. We did not weigh anchor until the next morning, and on the following one we made the English land. Whilst we were running along the coast, in very thick wea
ther, we were hailed by an armed brig, French built, and, in the sea phrase, suspicious. Our captain at first hove too; but as she came nearer, and looked more and more suspicious, this hearty Caledonian laddy damn'd his eyes if he would stop for her—ordered matches to be lighted-shoved out his little six pounders, and swore he had known a less vessel than his, beat a damn'd French******twice as big : so all was prepared for an engagement. The brig was ten times as powerful as we, and we had a fair prospect of being blown out of the water ; and my wife, my
children, and I, would have had a full share of the glory :-but it proved to be a French built privateer, now turned into an English cruiser.
Mr. Sparrow landed at Orford-West, and proceeded to London: he promised, as soon as he arrived at the foreign office, to mention that I was on the way with Mr. Thornton's passport, and that my intention was to present myself immediately on my arrival to Mr. Fox: and, with many hearty entreaties, engaged me to go and see him at his house, when I should arrive in London. We spent that day, and part of the next, at Harwich, and next morning travelled along as cheerfully as we could, auguring good from our being unmolested at Harwich, and enjoying the pleasures of the country and the season. one night on the road, and on the third night arrived at Sabloniere's Hotel in Lei'ster-square.
Towards the close of the evening, I walked with my son through a variety of streets, and every one brought to my mind some remembrance of the lively
We slept scenes of my younger days, different from my present strange situation—I did not want matter for reflection.
We had, upon our arrival, given our names at the hotel, and I had written to Mr. Fox that I was arrived, and waited his commands. Still nobody seemed to mind us. But, as this living on sufferance was not my object, I went the next morning to the foreign office, and was told that Mr. Fox was not then to be seen, but that I might return, and an hour was given me. I returned accordingly, certain that if the matter depended upon him, I should have no difficulty, but was told that Mr. Fox was gone to the queen's levy.
I then went to Mr. Sparrow's, and begged of him to shew me the office of Lord Spencer in Whitehall. He conducted me there; and, after waiting some time, I was admitted. His lordship was standing with his back to the fire, and at his right hand stood the under-secretary.
He was then in mourning for his sister, the duchess of Devonshire. I had sometimes seen that charming woman in the height of her beauty, and remembering her lovely countenance, expected to have seen something of a resemblance in her brother. But not in the least; I saw no beauty in him, but a very cross face. I had never been favored with so near a view of his lordship before, and if I never should again, I shall not grieve.
I had dressed myself in full black, and put buckles in my shoes, in order to do away the idea of a sans
culotte, and I made my bow the best I could in the English fashion, rather stiff, to shew that I was not a Frenchman. But I had not time to raise myself erect again, until the first shot went off: and he asked me, in a stern voice, if I knew what penalties I had incurred by coming over to England ? Now, sir, I found I had to do with the first lord of the admiralty in good sooth, and that I must stand by for an overhauling. And though I am a pretty steady hand, yet I could not hinder this shot to carry away my topping-lifts and lee bracesso I was all in the wind. I knew, that let the lamb bleat or not, the wolf will eat him all the same. So I began a fair discourse, still holding out my olive-branch.
I said, that if I was not afraid of any penalties, it was because I had committed no crimes. I rather flattered myself that the circumstances under which I came, entitled me to some partiality ; and that quitting a position, where, had I only declared myself an enemy, I might have met with favor, in order to throw myself into the hands of an administration in which I had put confidence, was to have taken too good a ground to have any cause of fear. That I had not come rashly--that I knew that the late administration had taken my case into consideration, and had not yet given any decision—that therefore, there was but one of two things, either to anticipate a fair and honorable decision, or to remain an enemy, or at best a prisoner of war, and be deprived of any benefit from a just decision when it should arrive: and lastly, that I had the passport of the Eng