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    Chapter 10

    A Spoiled Child — Passage Home from the West Indies — False Alarm — Arrival Home — Voyage in the Ship New Jersey — Breakers off Bermuda — Dangerous Position in a Violent Storm — Turk’s Island — Cargo of Rock Salt — Return to Alexandria, D. C. — Voyage to Liverpool — Storm in the Gulf Stream — Singular Phenomenon on the Banks of Newfoundland — Arrival at Liverpool — A Great Change — An Old Shipmate.

    WHILE we were refitting in St. Thomas, Capt. H. was going to visit an acquaintance of his on Sunday, and I proposed to spend a few hours on shore to see the place. Said he, “George wants to go on shore; I wish you would take him with you, but don’t let him go out of your sight.” While I was conversing with an acquaintance, George was missing. When I returned to the boat in company with the mate of the vessel where Capt. H. was visiting, we saw George lying in the boat, drunk! When we came to the vessel where his father was, he was exceedingly aggravated, and endeavored in several ways to arouse him from his stupor, and induce him to pull at the oar; for his father arranged that we three alone would manage the boat, and leave the sailors on board. George was unable to do anything but reply very disrespectfully to his father, who also had to ply his oar to the ship.LELJB 129.2

    After George had somewhat recovered from his drunken spell, he made his appearance on the quarter-deck, when his father began to reprove, and threaten to chastise him, for disgracing himself and his father among strangers, as he had done. A few more words passed, and George clinched his father and crowded him some distance toward the stern of the ship before he could check him and get him down with his knee upon him. He then turned to me, saying, “Mr. Bates, what shall I do with this boy?” I replied, “Whip him, sir!” Said he, “I will!” and slapped him a few times with the flat of his hand on his back saying “There! take that now!” etc.LELJB 130.1

    George was so vexed and provoked because his father whipped him, that he ran down into the cabin to destroy himself. In a few moments the cook came rushing up from thence, saying, “Captain Hitch! George says he is going to jump out of the cabin window and drown himself!” “Let him jump!” said I. He had become sober enough by this time to know better, for he was a great coward.LELJB 130.2

    George Hitch was about thirteen years of age at this time, and when free from the influence of strong drink was a generous, good-hearted boy, and with right management would have proved a blessing instead of a reproach and curse, as he did, to his parents and friends. His father, in unburdening his heart to me about him, said, “When he was a child, his mother and I were afraid that he would not be roguish enough to make a smart man, so we indulged him in his childish roguery, and soon he learned to run away from school and associate himself with wicked boys, and the like, which troubled his mother so that she could not have him at home. This is why I have taken him with me.LELJB 131.1

    His father was aware that he would drink liquor whenever he could get it, and yet he would have the liquor in the decanter placed in the locker where George could get it whenever he pleased in our absence. Sometimes his father would ask the cook what had become of the liquor in the decanter. He knew that neither the second mate nor myself had taken it, for neither of us used strong drink; hence he must have known that George took it.LELJB 131.2

    Our merchant in Gottenberg had placed in the hands of Capt. H. a case of very choice cordial as a present to Mrs. H. After our small stores and liquors were used up during our long passage, I saw George with his arms around his father’s neck one evening in the cabin. Capt. H. said to me, “What do you think this boy wants?” “I don’t know, sir,” I replied. “He wants me to open the cordial case of his mother’s and give him some of it.” The indulgent father yielded, and very soon the mother’s cordial case was emptied. This thirst for liquor, unchecked by his parents, ripened with his manhood, and drove him from all decent society, and finally to a drunkard’s grave in the midst of his days. His mother mourned and wept, and died sorrowing for her ruined boy. His father lived to be tormented, and threatened with death if he did not give him money to gratify the insatiable thirst that was hastening him to an untimely end, and went down to the grave sorrowing that he had been the father of such a rebellious, unnatural child. Another warning to surviving parents who fail to follow the Bible, in obedience to God’s infallible rule. Proverbs 22:6.LELJB 131.3

    On our passage from St. Thomas to New Bedford, Mass., we met a very tempestuous storm in the Gulf Stream, off Cape Hatteras. During the midnight watch George came rushing into the cabin, crying, “Father! father! the ship is sinking!” The second mate, who had charge of the watch, followed, declaring the ship was going down. As all hands were rushing for the upper deck, I asked Mr. Nye how he knew the ship was sinking. “Because,” said he, “she has settled two or three feet.” We raised the after hatchway to see how much water was in the hold, and found no more than usual. The almost continual cracking thunder and vivid lightning in the roaring storm alarmed and deceived them; for the whole watch on deck also believed the ship was sinking.LELJB 132.1

    In about three weeks from St. Thomas we saw Block Island. In the morning we were about twenty-five miles from New Bedford, when the wind came out ahead from the north in a strong gale, threatening to drive us off our soundings. We clinched our cables round the mast and cleared our anchors, determined to make a desperate effort, and try the strength of our cables in deep water rather than be blown off the coast. Then with what sail the ship could bear we began to ply her head to windward for a harbor in the Vineyard Sound. The sea and spray rushed upon us and froze on the sails and rigging, so that before we tacked, which was often, we had to break off the ice from our sails, tacks, and sheets, with handspikes. In this way we gained about ten miles to windward during the day, and anchored in Tarpaulin Cove, about fifteen miles from New Bedford. Our signal was seen from the observatory in New Bedford just as we were passing into the cove. When our anchor reached the bottom, the poor, half-frozen crew were so overjoyed that they gave three cheers for a safe harbor. After two days the gale abated, and we made sail and anchored in the harbor of New Bedford, Feb. 20, 1819, nearly six months from Gottenberg. So far as I have any knowledge of ship-sailing, this was one of the most providential and singular passages from Europe to America, in its nature and duration, that is on record.LELJB 132.2

    This voyage, including also our passage to the West Indies, could in ordinary weather be performed by our ship, when in good sailing trim, in less than sixty days. Our friends were almost as glad to see us as we were to get safely home. The contrast between the almost continual clanking of pumps to keep our ship afloat, and the howling winter storms with which we had to contend, and good cheering firesides, surrounded by wives, children, and friends, was great indeed, and cheered us exceedingly. We thought we were thankful to God for thus preserving our lives. This was the third time I had returned home during ten years.LELJB 133.1

    “The Old Frances,” as she was called, apparently ready to slide into a watery grave, was soon thoroughly repaired and fitted for the whaling business, which she successfully pursued in the Pacific and Indian Oceans for many years. Capt. L. C. Tripp and myself are now the only survivors.LELJB 134.1

    After a pleasant season of a few months at home with my family, I sailed again for Alexandria, D. C., and shipped as chief mate on board the ship New Jersey, of Alexandria, D. C., D. Howland, commander. We proceeded up James River near Richmond, Va., to load for Europe, but went from there to Norfolk, Va., where we finally loaded and sailed for Bermuda.LELJB 134.2

    On our arrival at Bermuda, our ship drew so much water that it became necessary for us to anchor in open sea, and wait for a smooth time and fair wind to sail into the harbor. The captain and pilot went on shore expecting to return, but were prevented on account of a violent gale and storm which came on soon after they reached the shore, which placed us in a trying and perilous situation for nearly two days. We were unacquainted with the dangerous reefs of rocks with which the north and east sides of the island were bounded, but with the aid of our spy-glass, from the ship’s mast-head, I could see, still many miles off in the offing, the furious sea breaking mast-head high over the reefs of rocks east and north; and on the west of us the island of Bermuda receiving the whole rake of the beating sea against its rock-bound coast as far as the eye could extend to the south. From my place of observation I saw there was a bare possibility for our lives, if during the gale our ship should be driven from her anchors, or part her cable, to pass out by the south, provided we could show sail enough to weather the breakers on the south end of the island. Our storm-sails were now reefed, and every needful preparation made, if the cables parted, to chop them off at the windlass, and crowd on every storm-sail the ship could bear, to clear, if possible, the breakers under our lee. As the gale increased we had veered out almost all our cable, reserving enough to freshen the chafe at the bow, which was very frequent. But contrary to all our fearful forebodings, and the fears of those on shore who were filled with anxiety for our safety, especially our captain and pilot, our brow-beaten ship was seen at the dawn of the second morning still contending with her unyielding foe, holding to her well-bedded anchors by her long, straitened cables, which had been fully tested during the violent storm which had now begun to abate. As the sea went down, the captain and pilot returned, and the ship was got under way and safely anchored in the harbor, and we discharged our cargo.LELJB 134.3

    We sailed from Bermuda to Turk’s Island for a cargo of salt. In the vicinity of this island is a group of low, sandy islands, where the inhabitants make large quantities of salt from the sea water. Passing by near these islands, strangers can see something near the amount of stock they have on hand, as it is heaped up in stacks for sale and exportation. A little way off, these salt stacks and the dwelling-houses very much resemble the small houses on the prairies in the West, with their numerous wheat stacks dotted about them after harvest. Turk’s Island salt is what is also called “rock-salt.” Here we moored our ship about a quarter of a mile from the shore, our anchor in forty fathoms, or two hundred and forty feet, of water, ready to ship our cables and put to sea at any moment of danger from change of wind or weather; and when the weather settled again, return and finish loading. In a few days we received from the natives, by their slaves, twelve thousand bushels of salt, which they handed us out of their boats by the half-bushel in their salt sacks. The sea around this island abounds with small shells of all colors, many of which are obtained by expert swimmers diving for them in deep water. We returned to Alexandria, D. C., in the winter of 1820, where our voyage ended.LELJB 135.1

    Before the cargo of the New Jersey was discharged, I was offered the command of the ship Talbot, of Salem, Mass., then loading in Alexandria for Liverpool. In a few weeks we were again out of the Chesapeake Bay, departing from Cape Henry across the Atlantic Ocean.LELJB 136.1

    Soon after leaving the land, a violent gale and storm overtook us in the Gulf Stream, attended with awful thunder and vivid streaks of lightning. The heavy, dark clouds, seeming but just above our mast-heads, kept us enshrouded in almost impenetrable darkness, as the night closed around us. Our minds were only relieved by the repeated sheets of streaming fire that lit up our pathway, and showed us for an instant that there was no other ship directly ahead of us, and also the shape of the rushing seas before which we were scudding with what sail the ship could bear, crossing with all speed this dreaded, dismal, dark stream of warm water that stretches itself from the Gulf of Mexico to Nantucket shoals on our Atlantic coast. Whether the storm abated in the stream we crossed, we could not say, but we found very different weather on the eastern side of it. I have heard mariners tell of very pleasant weather in the Gulf Stream, but I have no knowledge of any such experience.LELJB 136.2

    After this we shaped our course so as to pass across the southern edge of what is called the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. According to our reckoning and signs of soundings, we were approaching this noted spot in the afternoon. The night set in with a drizzling rain, which soon began to freeze, so that by midnight our sails and rigging were so glazed and stiffened with ice that we were much troubled to trim them and steer the ship away from the bank again into the fathomless deep, where we were told that water never freezes. This was true in this instance, for the ice melted after a few hours’ run to the south. We did not stop to sound, but supposed we were in about sixty fathoms of water on the bank, when we bore up at midnight. Here, about one-third of the three thousand miles across the ocean, and hundreds of miles from any land, and about three hundred and sixty feet above the bottom of the sea, we experienced severe frosts, from which we were entirely relieved after a run south of about twenty miles. If we had been within twenty miles of land the occurrence would not have been so singular. We at first supposed that we were in the neighborhood of islands of ice, but concluded that could not be, as we were about a month too early for their appearance. This occurrence was in April.LELJB 137.1

    In a few weeks from the above incident we arrived in Liverpool, the commercial city where ten years before I was unjustly and inhumanly seized by a government gang of ruffians, who took me and my shipmate from our quiet boarding-house in the night, and lodged us in a press room, or filthy jail, until the morning. When brought before a naval officer for trial of my citizenship, it was declared by the officer of the ruffian gang that I was an Irishman, belonging to Belfast, in Ireland. Stripped of my right of citizenship, from thenceforth I was transferred to the naval service of King George III. without limitation of time. Then myself and Isaac Bailey of Nantucket, my fellow-boarder, were seized by each arm by four stout men, and marched through the middle of their streets, like condemned felons, to the water side; from thence in a boat to what they called the Old Princess, of the Royal navy.LELJB 138.1

    During these ten years a great change had taken place with the potentates and subjects of civilized Europe. The dreadful convulsions of nations had in a great measure subsided: first, by the peace between the United States and Great Britain, granting to the former “free trade and sailor’s rights,” secured in a few months after the great decisive battle of Waterloo, in 1815; secondly, by what had been unheard of before-a conclave of the rulers of the great powers of Europe, united to keep the peace of the world. (Predicted in olden times by the great sovereign Ruler of the universe. Revelation 7:1.)LELJB 138.2

    The two great belligerent powers that had for about fifteen years convulsed the civilized world by their oppressive acts and mortal combats by land and sea, had closed their deadly strife. The first in power, usurping the right to seize and impress into his service as many sailors as his war ships required, without distinction of color, if they spoke the English language, had been defeated, and compelled to relinquish this so-called right. The second, with all his ambition to conquer and rule the world, had been banished to what was once an uninhabited and barren rock, far away in the South Atlantic Ocean, and was now desolate and dying.LELJB 139.1

    The people were now mourning the death of the first, namely, my old master, King George III. His crown was taken off, his course just finished, and he laid away in state to sleep with his fathers until the great decisive day. Then there was a female infant prattling in its mother’s arms, destined to rule his vast kingdom with less despotic sway. During these ten years my circumstances also had materially changed. Press-gangs and war prisons were things of the past, so that I enjoyed the freedom of the city of Liverpool in common with my countrymen.LELJB 139.2

    As we were about loading with return cargo of Liverpool salt for Alexandria, a man dressed in blue jacket and trowsers, with a ratan whip in his hand, approached me with, “Please, your honor, do you wish to hire a ‘lumper’ to shovel in your salt?” “No,” I replied, “I do not want you.” “Why, your honor, I am acquainted with the business, and take such jobs.” I again refused to employ him, and said, “I know you.” He asked where I had known him. Said I, “Did you belong to His Majesty’s ship, Rodney, of 74 guns, stationed in the Mediterranean in the years 1810-12?” He replied in the affirmative. “I knew you there,” said I, “do you remember me?” “No, your honor. Were you one of the lieutenants? or what office did you fill? or were you one of the officers of the American merchant ship we detained?” “Neither of these,” I replied. But from the many questions I asked him, he was satisfied that I knew him. We had eaten at the same table for about eighteen months.LELJB 139.3

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