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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter IV The Convoy Attacked

Mr Campbell was a person of many amiable qualities. He was a religious, good man, very fond of his wife, to whose opinions he yielded in preference to his own, and very partial to his children, to whom he was inclined to be over indulgent. He was not a person of much energy of character, but he was sensible and well-informed. His goodness of heart rendered him very liable to be imposed upon, for he never suspected any deceit, notwithstanding that he was continually deceived. His character was therefore that of a simple, good, honest man.

Mrs Campbell was well matched with him as a wife, as she had all that energy and decision of character which was sometimes wanting in her husband. Still there was nothing masculine in her manners or appearance; on the contrary, she was delicate in her form, and very soft in her manners. She had great firmness and self-possession, and had brought up all her children admirably. Obedience to their parents was the principle instilled into them after their duty to God—for she knew too well that a disobedient child can never prosper. If ever there was a woman fitted to meet the difficulty and danger which threatened then, it was Mrs Campbell, for she had courage and presence of mind, joined to activity and cleverness.

Henry, the eldest son, was now nearly twenty years of age. He possessed much of the character of his father, was without vice, but rather inclined to inaction than otherwise. Much was to be ascribed to his education and college life, and more to his natural disposition.

Alfred, the sailor, was, on the contrary, full of energy, and active in everything, patient and laborious, if required, and never taking anything in hand without finishing it, if possible.

He was rough, but not rude, both in his speech and his manners, very kind-hearted, at the same time very confident in himself and afraid of nothing.

Mary Percival was a very amiable, reflective girl, quiet without being sad, not often indulging in conversation, except when alone with her sister Emma. She was devotedly attached to her uncle and aunt, and was capable of more than she had any idea of herself, for she was of a modest disposition, and thought humbly of herself. Her disposition was sweet, and was portrayed in her countenance. She was now seventeen years old, and very much admired.

Her sister Emma, who was but fifteen, was of a very different disposition, naturally gay, and inclined to find amusement in everything; cheerful as a lark, and singing from morning to night. Her disposition, owing to Mrs Campbell’s care and attention, was equally amiable as her sister’s, and her high spirits seldom betrayed her into indiscretion. She was the life of the family when Alfred was away: he only was her equal in high spirits.

Percival, the third boy, was now twelve years old; he was a quiet, clever lad, very obedient and very attentive to what was told him, very fond of obtaining information, being naturally very inquisitive.

John, the fourth boy, was ten years old; a sturdy, John Bull sort of boy, not very fond of learning, but a well-disposed boy in most things. He preferred anything to his book; at the same time, he was obedient, and tried to keep up his attention as well as he could, which was all that could be expected from a boy of his age. He was very slow in everything, very quiet, and seldom spoke unless first spoken to. He was not silly, although many people would have thought him so, but he certainly was a very strange boy, and it was difficult to say what he would turn out.

I have now described the family as they appeared at the time that they embarked on board of the London Merchant; and have only to add, that on the third day after their embarkation, they made sail with a fair wind, and ran down the Irish Channel.

The London Merchant sailed for Cork, where the North American convoy were to assemble. At the time we speak of, the war had recommenced between this country and the French, who were suffering all the horrors of the Revolution. On their arrival at Cork, our party recovered a little from the sea-sickness to which all are subject on their first embarkation. They found themselves at anchor with more than a hundred merchant-vessels, among which were to be perceived the lofty masts and spars of a large fifty-gun ship, and two small frigates, which were appointed to convoy them to their destination.

The rest of the party, still suffering, soon went down below again, but Alfred remained on deck leaning against the bulwarks of the vessel, his eyes and his thoughts intently fixed upon the streaming pennants of the men-of-war, and a tear rolled down his cheek, as he was reminded that he no longer could follow up his favourite profession. The sacrifice that he had made to his family was indeed great. He had talked lightly of it before them, not wishing them to believe that it was so. He had not told his father that he had passed his examination for lieutenant before he had been paid off at Portsmouth; and that his captain, who was very partial to him, had promised that he should soon be advanced in the service. He had not told them that all his wishes, all his daily hopes, the most anxious desire of his existence, which was to become a post-captain, and in command of a fine frigate, were blighted by this sacrifice he had made for them and their comfort. He had concealed all this, and assumed a mirth, which he did not feel; but now that he was alone, and the pennant was once more presented to his view, his regrets could not be controlled. He sighed deeply, and turning away with his arms folded, said to himself, “I have done my duty. It is hard, after having served so long, and now just arrived at the time in which I have reason to expect my reward—to rise in the service—distinguish myself by my zeal, and obtain a reputation, which, if it pleased God, I would have done very hard, to have to leave it now, and to be hid in the woods, with an axe in my hand; but how could I leave my father, my mother, and my brothers and sisters, to encounter so much difficulty and privation by themselves, when I have a strong arm to help them. No, no!—I have done my duty to those who ever did their duty to me, and I trust that my own conscience will prove my reward, and check that repining which we are too apt to feel when it pleases Heaven to blight, what appear to be, our fairest prospects... I say, my good fellow,” said Alfred, after a while, to a man in a boat, “what is the name of that fifty-gun ship?”

“I don’t know which ship has fifty guns, or which has a hundred;” replied the Irishman, “but if you mean the biggest, she is called the Portsmouth.”

“The Portsmouth! the very ship Captain Lumley was appointed to,” cried Alfred. “I must go on board.”

Alfred ran down to the cabin, and requested the captain of the transport, whose name was Wilson, to allow him the small boat to go on board the man-of-war. His request was granted, and Alfred was soon up the side of thePortsmouth. There were some of his old messmates on the quarter-deck, who welcomed him heartily, for he was a great favourite. Shortly afterwards, he sent down a message by the steward, requesting that Captain Lumley would see him, and was immediately afterwards ordered to go into the cabin.

“Well, Mr Campbell,” said Captain Lumley, “so you have joined us at last; better late than never. You’re but just in time. I thought you would soon get over that foolish whim of yours, which you mentioned in your letter to me, of leaving the service, just after you had passed, and had such good chance of promotion. What could have put it in your head?”

“Nothing, sir,” replied Alfred, “but my duty to my parents. It is a most painful step for me to take, but I leave you to judge whether I can do otherwise.”

Alfred then detailed to Captain Lumley all that had occurred, the resolution which his father and mother had taken, and their being then on board the timber-ship, and about to proceed to their new destination.

Captain Lumley heard Alfred’s story without interruption, and then, after a pause, said, “I think you are right, my boy, and it does you honour. Where you are going to, I have no doubt that your courage and your protection will be most important. Yet it is a pity you should be lost to the service.”

“I feel most sincerely, sir, I assure you, but—”

“But you sacrifice yourself; I know that. I admire the resolution of your father and mother. Few could have the courage to have taken such a step—few women, especially. I shall call upon them, and pay my respects. In half an hour I shall be ready, and you shall accompany me, and introduce me. In the meantime you can go and see your old messmates.”

Alfred left the cabin, much flattered by the kindness of Captain Lumley, and went down to his former messmates, with whom he remained until the boatswain piped away the crew of the captain’s barge. He then went on deck, and as soon as the captain came up, he went into the boat. The captain followed, and they were soon on board of the London Merchant. Alfred introduced Captain Lumley to his father and mother; and in the course of half an hour, being mutually pleased with each other, an intimacy was formed, when Captain Lumley observed—“I presume, that much as you may require your son’s assistance on your arrival at Canada, you can dispense with his presence on board of this vessel. My reason for making this observation is, that no chance should ever be thrown away. One of my lieutenants wishes to leave the ship on family concerns. He has applied to me, and I have considered it my duty to refuse him, now that we are on the point of sailing, and I am unable to procure another. But for your son’s sake, I will now permit him to go, and will, if you will allow him to come on board of thePortsmouth, give Alfred an acting lieutenant’s order. Should anything occur on the passage out, and it is not at all impossible, it will insure his promotion; even if nothing occurs, I will have his acting order confirmed. At Quebec, he shall, of course, leave the ship, and go with you. I don’t pretend to detain him from his duty; but you will observe, that if he does obtain his rank, he will also obtain his half-pay, which, if he remains in Canada with you, will be a great assistance; and if things should turn out so well, that you can, after a year or two, do without him, and allow him to return to the service, he will then have already gained the most important step, and will, I have no doubt, soon rise to the command of a ship. I will give you till to-morrow to decide. Alfred can come on board in the morning, and let me know.”

“I think I may say, Captain Lumley,” replied Mrs Campbell, “that my husband could have but one reason in hesitating a moment, and that is, to ascertain whether I would like to part with my son during our passage out. I should, indeed, be a very weak woman, if I did not make such a trifling sacrifice for his benefit, and at the same time, feel most grateful to you for your kind intentions towards him. I rather think that Mr Campbell will not find it necessary to have till to-morrow morning to consider the proposal; but I leave him to answer for himself.”

“I can assure you. Captain Lumley, that Mrs Campbell has only expressed my own feelings, and, as far as we are concerned, your offer is most gratefully accepted.”

“Then,” replied Captain Lumley, “Alfred has only to make his appearance on board of the Portsmouth to-morrow morning, and he will find his acting order ready for him. We sail, I believe, the day after, if the weather is at all favourable; so, if I have not another opportunity to pay my respects to you, you must allow me to say farewell now. I shall keep my eye upon your vessel during the passage; at all events, Alfred will, I’m very sure.”

Captain Lumley shook hands with Mr and Mrs Campbell, bowed to the rest of the cabin party, and quitted the ship. As he went over the side, he observed to Alfred, “I perceive you have some attractions in your party. It is quite melancholy to think that those pretty cousins of yours should be buried in the woods of Canada. To-morrow, at nine o’clock, then, I shall expect you.—Adieu!”

Although the idea of Alfred leaving them during the passage out was not pleasant, Mr and Mrs Campbell were most happy at the chance which had offered itself for their son’s advantage, and seemed in good spirits when he took leave of them on the following morning.

“Captain Wilson, you sail so well, that I hope you will keep close to us all the passage out,” observed Alfred, as he was taking leave.

“Except you happen to come to action with an enemy, and then I shall haul off to a respectful distance, Mr Alfred,” replied Captain Wilson, laughing.

“That, of course. Cannon-balls were never invented for ladies, although they have no objection to balls—have they, Emma? Well, good-bye! once more. You can often see me with the spy-glass, if you feel inclined. Recollect that.”

Alfred shoved off in the boat, and was soon on board of the Portsmouth. The following day they sailed with a fair wind and moderate weather, the convoy now increased to 120 vessels.

We must leave Mr and Mrs Campbell and family on board the London Merchant, and follow Alfred in thePortsmouth, during the passage to Quebec.

For several days the weather was moderate, although the wind was not always fair, and the convoy was kept together, and in good order. The London Merchant was never far from the Portsmouth, and Alfred employed a large portion of his time, when he was not keeping his watch, in keeping his spy-glass upon the vessel, and watching the motions of his cousins and the rest of the family. On board of the London Merchant they were similarly occupied, and very often a handkerchief was waved by way of salute and recognition.

At last they arrived off the banks of Newfoundland, and were shrouded in a heavy fog, the men-of-war constantly firing guns, to inform the merchant-ships in what direction they were to steer, and the merchant-vessels of the convoy ringing their bells to warn each other, that they might not be run foul of.

The fog lasted two days, and was still continuing when the party on board the London Merchant, just as they were sitting down to dinner in the cabin, heard a noise and bustle on deck. Captain Wilson ran hastily up, and found that his vessel had been boarded by a French boats crew, who had beaten down the men and taken possession. As there was no help, all he could do was to go down to the cabin, and inform his passengers that they were prisoners. The shock of this intelligence was very great, as may be supposed, but still there was no useless lamentation or weeping. One thing is certain, that this news quite spoilt their appetite for their dinner, which, however, was soon despatched by the French officer and his men, after the boat had left, and the vessel’s head had been put in an opposite direction.

Captain Wilson, who had returned on deck, came down in about a quarter of an hour, and informed the party, who were silently brooding over this sudden change in their prospects, that the wind was very light, and that he thought the fog was clearing off a little, and that if it did so before it was dark, he was in great hopes that they should be recaptured. This intelligence appeared to revive the hopes of Mr and Mrs Campbell, and they were still more encouraged when they heard the sounds of guns at no very great distance. In a few minutes afterwards the cannonading became very furious, and the Frenchmen who were on board began to show strong signs of uneasiness.

The fact was, that a French squadron, of one sixty-gun ship and two corvettes, had been on the look-out for the convoy, and had come in among them during the fog. They had captured and taken possession of several vessels before they were discovered, but the sixty-gun ship at last ran very near to the Portsmouth, and Alfred, who had the watch, and was on a sharp look-out, soon perceived through the looming fog, that she was not one of the convoy. He ran down to acquaint the captain, and the men were immediately ordered to their quarters, without beating the drum, or making any noise that might let the enemy know they were so near. The yards were then braced in, to check the way of the Portsmouth, so that the strange vessel might come up with her. Silence was kept fore and aft, not a whisper was to be heard; and as the Frenchmen neared them, they perceived a boat putting off from her to board another vessel close to them, and also heard the orders given to the men in the French language. This was sufficient for Captain Lumley: he put the helm down, and poured a raking broadside into the enemy, who was by no means prepared for such a sudden salute, although her guns were cast loose, ready for action, in case of accident. The answer to the broadside was a cry of “Vive la République!” and in a few seconds both ships were hotly engaged—the Portsmouth having the advantage of lying upon the bow of her antagonist.

As is often the case, the heavy cannonading brought on a dead calm, and the two ships remained in their respective positions, except that the Portsmouth’s was the more favourable, having drawn ahead of the French vessel, so that her broadside was poured into her opponent, without her being able to return the fire from more than four or five of her guns.

The fog became more opaque than ever; the two ships had neared each other considerably or it would have been impossible to distinguish. All that they could see from the deck of the Portsmouth was the jibboom and cap of the bowsprit of the Frenchman; the rest of her bowsprit, and her whole hull, were lost in the impenetrable gloom; but that was sufficient for the men to direct their guns, and the fire from the Portsmouth was most rapid, although the extent of its execution was unknown. After half an hour of incessant broadsides, the two vessels had approached each other so close, that the jibboom of the Frenchman was pointed between the fore and main rigging of the Portsmouth. Captain Lumley immediately gave orders to lash the Frenchman’s bowsprit to his main-mast, and this was accomplished by the first lieutenant, Alfred, and the seamen, without any serious loss, for the fog was still so thick that the Frenchmen on their forecastle could not perceive what was doing at their bowsprit’s cap.

“She is ours now,” said Captain Lumley to the first lieutenant.

“Yes, sir,—fast enough. I think, if the fog were to clear away, they would haul down their colours.”

“Not till the last, depend upon it,” replied Captain Lumley. “Fire away there, on the main-deck, give them no time to take breath. Mr Campbell, tell the second lieutenant to let the foremost lower deck guns be pointed more aft. I say, not till the last,” repeated Captain Lumley to the first lieutenant; “these Republicans will take a great deal of beating, even upon the water.”

“It’s clearing up, air, to the northward a little,” said the master.

“I see—yes, it is,” replied Captain Lumley.

“Well, the sooner the better; we shall see what has become of all the shot we have been throwing away.”

A white silvery line appeared on the horizon, to the northward; gradually it increased, and as it rose up, became broader, till at last the curtain was lifted up, and a few feet were to be seen above the clear blue water. As it continued to approach, the light became more vivid, the space below increased, and the water was ruffled with the coming wind, till at last the fog rolled off as if it had been gradually furled, and sweeping away in a heavy bank to leeward, exposed the state and position of the whole convoy, and the contending vessels. The English seamen on board of the Portsmouth cheered the return of daylight, as it might truly be termed. Captain Lumley found that they had been contending in the very centre of the convoy, which was still lying around them, with the exception of fifteen vessels, which were a few miles apart, with their heads in an opposite direction. These were evidently those which had been captured. The two frigates, which had been stationed in the rear of the convoy, were still two or three miles distant, but making all sail to come up and assist the Portsmouth. Many of the convoy, which had been in the direction of the fire, appeared to have suffered in their masts and sails; but whether any injury had been received in their hulls it was not possible to say. The French line-of-battle ship had suffered dreadfully from the fire of the Portsmouth. Her main-mast and mizen-mast were over the side, her forward ports were many of them almost beat into one, and everything on board appeared to be in the greatest confusion.

“She can’t stand this long,” observed Captain Lumley. “Fire away, my lads.”

“The Circe and Vixen are coming down to us, sir,” observed the first lieutenant; “we do not want them, and they will only be an excuse for the Frenchmen to surrender to a superior force. If they recaptured the vessels taken, they would be of some service.”

“Very true. Mr Campbell, make their signal to pursue captured vessels.”

Alfred ran aft to obey the orders. The flags had just flown out at the mast-head, when he received a bullet through his arm; for the French, unable to use the major portion of their guns, had, when the fog cleared up, poured in incessant volleys of musketry upon the decks of the Portsmouth. Alfred desired the quarter-master to untie his neck-handkerchief for him, and bind up his arm. Having so done, he continued to do his duty. A bold attempt was now made by the French to clear their vessel by cutting the fastening of the bowsprit, but the marines of the Portsmouth were prepared for them, and after about twenty gallant fellows had dropped down on the booms and gangways of the Portsmouth, the attempt was given up, and four minutes afterwards the French colours were hauled down. She was boarded from her bowsprit by the first lieutenant and a party of seamen. The lashings were cast off, and the vessels cleared of each other, and then the English seamen gave three cheers in honour of the victory.

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