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MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKENS.
THE FATAL REPAST.
you'll go off in her, and never return WE
E had been nearly five weeks at on board this vessel-Here is a serious
sea, when the captain found, by business~Be assured we have not seen a nautical observation, that we were the end of it.” He then walked away within one hundred and thirty miles of without offering to give any orders the north side of Jamaica. Favoura- about lowering the boat; and the seable winds and smooth seas had hither- men, who witnessed the transaction, to been our constant attendants, and looked as if they would not have obeyevery thing on board conspired to ren- ed him had he even done so. der the confinement and monotony of a Though we saw no land, every thing long voyage less annoying than they proved that we were in the West India usually are. The cabin passengers seas. The sky had, within a few days, consisted of Major and Mrs. L a begun to assume a more dazzling asnew-married couple ; Miss P sis- pect, and long ranges of conical shaped ter to the latter; Mr. D-, a young clouds floated along the horizon. Land Irishman, and myself. Our captain birds, with beautiful plumage, often was a man of pleasing manners and hovered round the vessel, and we someliberal ideas, and formed an important times fancied we could discover a vegeacquisition to our party, by joining in table fragrance in the breezes that all its recreations, and affording every swelled our sails. facility to the indulgence of them. One delightful clear morning, when Much of our time was spent in conver we were in hourly expectation of maksation, and in walking on deck; and ing the land, some dolphin appeared when the dews of evening obliged us to astern. As the weather was very modescend to the cabin, the captain would derate, the captain proposed that we often entertain us with a relation of the should fish for them; and a great many various dangers which he and other hooks were immediately baited for that persons had encountered at sea, or de- purpose by the seamen. We caught tail, with great gravity, some of the pre- large quantities of dolphin, and of vailing superstitions of sailors.
another kind of fish, and put the whole Although he possessed more general into the hands of the steward, with orinformation than usually falls to the lot ders that part should be dressed for of sea-faring persons, his mind was dinner, and part distributed among the tinctured with some of their weaknesses crew. and prejudices.
The ladies of our When the dinner-hour arrived, we party had a great taste for natural his- all assembled in the cabin, in high spirtory, and wished to obtain specimens its, and sat down to table. It being St. of all the most interesting kinds of sea- George's day, the captain, who was an birds. They had several times request- Englishman, had ordered that every ed the captain to shoot one of Mother thing should be provided and set forth Carey's chickens, that they might take in the most sumptuous style, and the a drawing from it; however, he always steward had done full justice to his dideclined doing so, but never gave any rections. We made the wines, which satisfactory reason for his unwillingness were exquisite and abundant, circulate to oblige them in this respect. At last, rapidly, and every glass increased our Mr. D— killed two of the birds, af- gaiety and good humour, while the inter having several times missed whole fluence of our mirth rendered the ladies flocks of them. The captain seemed additionally amusing and animated. very much startled when he saw the The captain remarked, that as there animals drop on the waves—“ Will were two clarionet-players among the you have the goodness to let down the crew, we ought to have a dance upon boat to pick up the game ?" said Mr. the quarter-deck at sunset. This proD
“ Yes, sir," replied he, “if posal was received with much delight,
particularly by the females of our par- nation ?" He staggered to one side, ty; and the captain had just told the and would have fallen upon the floor, servant in waiting to bid the musicians had not I assisted him. “Mrs. Lprepare themselves, when the mate en- notwithstanding his apparent insensitered the cabin, and said, that the man bility, clung to his arm, crying out, in a at the helm had dropped down almost tone of despair, “ Is there no help senseless, and that another of the crew no pity-no one to save us ?" and then was so ill that he could scarcely speak. fainted away on her husband's bosom,
The captain, on receiving this infor- who, turning to me, said, with quivermation, grew very pale, and seemed at ing lips, “ You are a happy man; you a loss what to reply. At last, he start- have nothing to embitter your last moed from his chair, and hurried up the ments—Oh, Providence! was I pergangway. Our mirth ceased in a mo- mitted to escape so many dangers, ment, though none of us appeared to merely that I might suffer this miseknow why ; but the minds of all were ry? evidently occupied by what they had Mrs. L-soon regained her senses, just heard, and Major L- remark- and I endeavoured to calm her agitaed, with a faultering voice, that seamen tion by remarking, that we might poswere very liable to be taken suddenly sibly escape the fatal influence of the ill in hot climates.
poison, as some constitutions were not After a little time, we sent the ser- so easily affected by it as others. “Is vant to inquire what was going forward there then a little hope ?” she exclaimupon deck. He returned immediately, ed. “Oh! God grant it may be so ! and informed us that the two sailors How dreadful to die in the midst of the were worse, and that a third had just ocean, far from friends and home, and been attacked in the same way. He then to be thrown into the deep !" had scarcely said these words, when “ There is one thing,” said the captain, Mrs. L-gave a shriek, and cried faintly, “ I was going to tell you, that out that her sister had fainted away. —but this sensation—I mean a remeThis added to our confusion and alarni; dy.”—“ Speak on,” cried the Major, and the Major and Mr. D. trembled só in breathless suspense. “ It may have much, that they were hardly able to a chance of saving you,” continued the convey the young lady to her state- former; "you must immediately”room.
He gave a deep sigh, and dropped his All conversation was now at an end, head upon his shoulder, apparently unand no one uttered a word till Mrs. able to utter a word more. Oh, this L-returned from her sister's apart- is the worst of all!” cried Mrs. Lment. While we were inquiring how in agony; "he was on the point of the latter was, the captain entered the telling us how to counteract the effects cabin in a state of great agitation. -- of the poison-Was it heavenly mercy “ This is a dreadful busines," said he. that deprived him of the power of “ The fact is—it is my duty to tell you speech : Can it be called mercy :”-I fear we are all poisoned by the fish “ Hush, hush! you rave,” returned we have ate-One of the crew died a her husband. “We have only to be few minutes since, and five others are resigned now-Let us at least die todangerously ill.”
gether.” « Poisoned ! my God! Do you say
The crew had dined about an hour so? Must we all die :” exclaimed Mrs. and a half before us, and consequently L-, dropping on her knees. “What felt the effects of the poison much is to be done :” cried the Major dis- earlier than we did. Every one, howtractedly; "are there no means of ever, now began to exhibit alarming counteracting it?"--" None that I know symptoms. Mr. D- became deliof," returned the Captain. “ All reme- rious ; the Major lay upon the cabin dies are vain. The poison is always floor in a state of torpidity; and the fatal, except—but I begin to feel its ef- captain had drowned all sense and refects--support me-can this be imagi- collection by drinking a large quantity D
ATHENEUM VOL. 10.
of brandy. Mrs. L- watched her the masts shewed, by their insessant husband and her sister alternately, in a creaking, that they carried more sail state of quiet despair.
than they could well sustain. I was comparatively but little affect I stood alone near the stern of the ed, and therefore employed myself in ship. Nothing could be heard above assisting others until they seemed to be or below deck, but the dashing of the past all relief, and then sat down, anti- surges, and the moanings of the wind. cipating the horrid consequences which All the people on board were to me would result from the death of the whole the same as dead; and I was tossed ship's company.
about, in the vast expanse of waters, While thus occupied, I heard the without a companion or fellow-sufferer. steersman call out, “ Taken all aback I knew not what might be my fate, or here.” A voice, which I knew to be where I should be carried. The vesthe mate's, immediately answered, sel, as it careered along the raging “Well, and what's that to us ? Put her deep, uncontrolled by human hands, before the wind, and let her go where seemed under the guidance of a relentshe pleases.” I soon perceived, by the less demon, to whose caprices its illrushing of the water, that there was a fated crew had been mysteriously asgreat increase in the velocity of the signed by some superior power. ship's progress, and went upon deck to I was filled with dread lest we should ascertain the cause.
strike upon rocks, or run ashore, and I found the mate stretched upon the often imagined that the clouds which top of the companion, and addressed bordered the horizon were the black him, but he made no reply. The man cliffs of some desolate coast. At last, at the helm was tying a robe round the I distinctly saw a light at some distance tiller, and told me he had become so I anticipated instant destruction-I blind and dizzy, that he could neither grew irresolute whether to remain upon steer, nor see the compass, and would deck, and face death, or to wait for it therefore fix the rudder in such a man- below. I soon discovered a ship a litner, as would keep the ship’s head as tle way ahead—I instinctively ran to near the wind as possible. On going the helm, and loosed the rope that tied forward to the bows, I found the crew the tiller, which at once bounded back, lying motionless, in every direction. and knocked me over. A horrible They were either insensible of the dan- crashing, and loud cries, now broke gerous situation in which our vessel upon my ear, and I saw that we had was, or totally indifferent to it; and got entangled with another vessel.all my representations on this head But the velocity with which we swept failed to draw forth an intelligible re along, rendered our extrication instanmark from any of them. Our ship taneous; and, on looking back, I saw carried a deal of canvass, the lower a ship, without a bowsprit, pitching studding sails being up, for we had en- irregularly among the waves, and heard joyed a gentle breeze directly astern, the rattling of cordage, and a tumult of before the wind headed us in the way voices. But, after a little time, nothalready mentioned.
ing was distinguishable by the eye or About an hour after sunset, almost by the ear. My situation appeared every person on board seemed to have doubly horrible, when I reflected that become worse. I alone retained my I had just been within call of human senses unimpaired. The wind now creatures, who might have saved and blew very fresh, and we went through assisted all on board, had not an evil the water at the rate of ten miles an destiny hurried us along, and made us , hour. The night looked dreary and the means of injuring those who alone turbulent. The sky was covered with were capable of affording us relief. large fleeces of broken clouds, and the About midnight, our fore-top-mast stars flashed angrily through them, as gave way, and fell upon deck with a they were wildly hurried along by the tremendous noise. The ship immediblast. The sea began to run high, and ately swung round, and began to la
bour in a terrible manner, while seve- hastily, and almost dreaded to look ral waves broke over her successively. round, lest I should find my worst an
I had just resolved to descend the ticipations concerning my companions gang-way for shelter, when a white too fatally realized. figure rushed past me with a wild I immediately discovered the captain shriek, and sprung overboard. I saw lying on one side of the cabin quite it struggling among the billows, and dead. Opposite him was Major Ltossing about its arms distractedly, but stretched along the floor, and grasping had no means of affording it any assist- firmly the handle of the door of his ance. I watched it for some time, and wife's apartment. He had, I suppose, observed its convulsive motions grad- in a moment of agony, wished to take ually grow more feeble; but its form farewell of the partner of his heart, but soon became undistinguishable amidst had been unable to get beyond the the foam of the bursting waves. The spot where he now lay. He looked darkness prevented me from discover- like a dying man, and Mrs. Ling who had thus committed himself to who sat beside him, scemed to be exthe deep, in a moment of madness, and hausted with grief and terror.
She I felt a strong repugnance at attempt- tried to speak several times, and at last ing to ascertain it, and rather wished succeeded in informing me that her that it might have been some spectre, sister was better. I could not discover or the offspring of my perturbed imag- Mr. D— any where, and therefore ination, than a human being.
concluded that he was the person who As the sea continued to break over had leaped overboard the preceding the vessel, I went down to the cabin, night. after having closely shut the gang-way On going upon deck, I found that doors and companion. Total darkness every thing wore a new aspect. The prevailed below. I addressed the cap- sky was dazzling and cloudless, and tain and all my fellow-passengers by not the faintest breath of wind could be name, but received no reply from any felt. The sea had a beautiful bright of them, though I sometimes fancied I green colour, and was calm as a small heard moans and quick breathing, lake, except when an occasional swell when the tumult of waters without hap- rolled from that quarter in which the pened to subside a little. But I thought wind had been the preceding night; that it was perhaps imagination, and and the water was so clear, that I saw that they were probably all dead. I to the bottom, and even distinguished began to catch for breath, and felt as if little fishes sporting around the keel of I had been immured in a large coffin our vessel. along with a number of corpses, and
Four of the seamen were dead, but was doomed to linger out life beside the mate and the remaining three had them. The sea beat against the vessel so far recovered, as be able to walk with a noise like that of artillery, and the across the deck. The ship was almost crashing of the bulwarks, driven in by in a disabled state. Part of the wreck its violence, gave startling proof of the of the fore-top-mast lay upon her bows, danger that threatened us. Having and the rigging and sails of the mainseveral times been dashed against the mast had suffered much injury. The cabin walls by the violent pitching of mate told me, that the soundings, and the ship, I groped for my bed, and lay almost every thing else, proved we down in it, and, notwithstanding the were on the Bahama banks, though he horrors that surrounded me, gradually had not yet ascertained on what part of dropped asleep.
them we lay, and consequently could When I awaked, I perceived, by the not say whether we had much chance sun-beams that shone through the sky- of falling in with any
vessel. light, that the morning was far advan The day passed gloomily. We reced.' The ship rolled violently at in- garded every cloud that rose upon the tervals, but the noise of winds and horizon as the fore-runner of a breeze, waves had altogether seased. I got up which we above all things fearcd to en
counter. Much of our time was em- apparent augmentation of their number, ployed in preparing for the painful but and a horrible distortion of their limbs necessary duty of interring the dead. and countenances. A hundred corpses The carpenter soon got ready a suffi- seemed to start up and struggle wildly cient number of boards, to each of together, and then gradually to vanish which we bound one of the corpses, among the eddying waters, as they suband also weights enough to make it sided into a state of calmness. sink to the bottom.
We were now exempted from the About ten at night, we began to ravages and actual presence of death, commit the bodies to the deep. A but his form haunted us without interdead calm had prevailed the whole day, mission. We hardly dared to look over and not a cloud obscured the sky. The the ship's side, lest our eyes should ensea reflected the stars so distinctly, that counter the ghastly features of some it seemed as if we were consigning our one who had formerly been a compandeparted companions to a heaven as ion, and at whose funeral rites we had resplendent as that above us. There recently assisted. The seamen began was an awful solemnity, alike in the to murmur among themselves, saying scene and in our situation. I read the that we should never be able to leave the funeral service, and then we dropped spot where we then were, and that our the corpses overboard, one after anoth- vessel would rot away as fast as the er. The sea sparkled around each, as dead bodies that lay beneath it. its sullen plunge announced that the In the evening a strong breeze sprung waters were closing over it, and they up, and filled us with hopes that some all slowly and successively descended vessel would soon come in sight, and to the bottom, enveloped in a ghastly afford us relief. At sunset, when the glimmering brightness, which enabled mate was giving directions about the us to trace their progress through the watch, one of the seamen cried out, motionless deep. When these last of- “ Thanked be God, there they are.” fices of respect were performed, we re. And the other ran up to him, saying, tired in silence to different parts of the “Where, where ?" He pointed to a ship.
flock of Mother Carey's chickens that About midnight, the mate ordered had just appeared astern, and began to the men to put down our anchor, which, count how many there were of them. till then, they had not been able to ac- I inquired what was the matter, and the complish. They likewise managed to mate replied, “Why only that we've furl most of the sails, and we went to seen the worst, that's all, master. I've bed, under the consoling idea, that a notion we'll fall in with a sail before though a breeze did spring up, our twenty-four hours are past.”—“Have moorings would enable us to weather you any particular reason for thinking it without any risk.
so ?” said I. “ To be sure I have, I was roused early next morning by returned he; “ aren't them there birds a confused noise upon
deck. When I the spirits of those brave fellows we got there, I found the men gazing in- threw overboard last night? I knew tently over the side of the ship, and in- we never should be able to quit this quired if our anchor held fast : _“Ay, place till they made their appearance ay,” returned one of them, “ rather above water. However, I'm not quite faster than we want it.” On approach- sure how it may go with us yet,” coning the bulwarks, and looking down, I tinued he, looking anxiously astern; perceived, to my horror and astonish- “they stay rather long about our ship.” ment, all the corpses lying at the bot _“I have always understood,” said I, tom of the sea, as if they had just been " that these birds indicate bad weather, dropt into it. We could even distin- or some unfortunate event, and this apguish their features glimmering confu- pears to me to be true.”—“Ay, ay," sedly through the superincumbent mass replied he, “they say experience teachof ocean. A large block happened to es fools, and I have found it so; there fall overboard, and the agitation which was a time when I did not believe that it occasioned in the sea produced an these creatures were any thing