Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

possible to the young blood of to-day, and he and his calling are no more. Yet the type persists, the type of all true adventurers old and new: the men who steer for free waters, but first of all are masters of the ship..

CHAPTER IX
THE CAPTAINS

I STORIES of the Cape Cod captains would in themselves make a volume. One is tempted here and tempted there in choosing which should be typical of the “brave old times,” and fears to overlook the most significant. Among the more interesting of those who have not been already mentioned was Elijah Cobb, born in 1768 at Brewster — the home of deepwater sailors. From the memoir which he began to write in old age, we know that his first voyage, presumably as cabin boy, netted him the profit of a new suit of clothes and in money twenty dollars which he brought home intact to his mother, “the largest sum she had received since she became a widow.” By the time he was twenty-five he had made several voyages as captain, had married him a wife, and a year or two later was to run afoul of the French Revolution. As both French and English men-of-war were making no bones of holding up neutrals, he had cleared for Corunna: to no end, for he was taken by a French frigate and run into the harbor of Brest. “My vessel was there,” he writes, “but her cargo was taken out and was daily made into soup, bread, etc., for the halfstarved populace, and without papers” — his captors had sent his papers to the Government at Paris - “I could not substantiate my claim to the ship.” He appealed to Paris, and had the cold comfort of hearing that “the Government will do what is right in time.” In the meantime he was treated courteously, and he and some of his men lodged at a hotel at the Government's expense. After six weeks the word came that his case had been passed upon: "without my even learning or knowing I was on trial. The decision, however, was so favorable that it gave new feelings to my life.” A fair price was offered for the cargo of flour and rice which Brest had already devoured; payment in bills of exchange on Hamburg, fifty days after date. Cobb sent his ship away in ballast, and set out for Paris to get his papers and his bills of exchange.

“In about two days I was under weigh for Paris," writes Cobb, “with the national courier for government. We drove Jehu-like without stopping, except to change horses and mail, taking occasionally a mouthful of bread and washing it down with low-priced Burgundy wine. As to sleep I did not get one wink during the whole six hundred and eighty-four miles. We had from ten to twelve mounted horsemen for guard during the night, and to prove that the precaution was necessary, the second morning after leaving Brest, just before the guard left us, we witnessed a scene that filled us with horror: the remains of a courier lying in the road, the master, postillion, and five horses lying dead and mangled by it, and the mail mutilated and scattered in all directions. However, the next stage was only five miles and not considered dangerous, and we proceeded on. We reached

[graphic][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »