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ous Being, whose power, under ordinary cir cumstances, we may entirely disregard, and whose incessant goodness we are too prone to requite with ingratitude.
The activity of the officers and seamen of the Kent appeared to keep ample pace with that of the gale. Our larger sails were speedily taken in, or closely reefed; and about 10 o'clock on the morning of the 1st of March, after having struck our top-gallant yards, we were lying to, under a triple reefed main top-sail only, with our dead lights in, and with the whole watch of soldiers attached to the life-lines, that were run along the deck for this purpose.
The rolling of the ship, which was vastly increased by a dead weight of some hundred tons of shot and shells that formed a part of its lading, became so great about half-past eleven or twelve o'clock, that our main chains were thrown by every lurch considerably under water; and the best cleated articles of furniture in the cabins and the cuddy* were dashed about with so much noise and violence, as to excite the liveliest apprehensions of individual danger.
It was a little before this period that one of
The Cuddy in an East Indiaman is the large cabin or dining apartment, which is on a level with the quarter deck.
the officers of the ship, with the well-meant intention of ascertaining that all was fast below, descended with two of the sailors into the hold, where they carried with them, for safety, a light in the patent lantern; and seeing that the lamp burned dimly, the officer took the precaution to hand it up to the orlop deck to be trimmed. Having afterwards discovered one of the spirit casks to be adrift, he sent the sailors for some billets of wood to secure it; but the ship in their absence having made a heavy lurch, the officer unfortunately dropped the light; and letting go his hold of the cask in his eagerness to recover the lantern, it suddenly stove, and the spirits communicating with the lamp, the whole place was instantly in a blaze.
I know not what steps were then taken. I myself had been engaged during the greater part of the morning in double lashing and otherwise securing the furniture in my cabin, and in occasionally going to the Cuddy, where the marine barometers were suspended, to mark their varying indications during the gale, in my journal; and it was on one of those occasions, after having read to Mrs. at her request, the 12th chapter of St. Luke, which so beautifully declares and illustrates the minute and tender Providence of God, and so so
lemnly urges on all, the necessity of continual watchfulness and readiness for the "coming of the Son of Man," that I received from Captain Spence, the Captain of the day, the alarming information that the ship was on fire in the after-hold; on hastening to the hatchway, whence smoke was slowly ascending, I found Captain Cobb and other officers already giving orders, which seemed to be promptly obeyed by the seamen and troops, who were using every exertion, by means of the pumps, buckets of water, wet sails, hammocks, &c. to extinguish the flames.
With a view to excite amongst the ladies as little alarm as possible, in conveying this intelligence to Colonel Fearon, the commanding officer of the troops, I knocked gently at his cabin door, and expressed a wish to speak with him, but whether my countenance betrayed the state of my feelings, or the increasing noise and confusion upon deck created apprehensions amongst them that the storm was assuming a more serious aspect, I found it difficult to pa cify some of the ladies by repeated assurances that no danger whatever was to be apprehended from the gale. As long as the devouring element appeared to be confined to the spot where the fire originated, and which we were
assured was surrounded on all sides by the water casks, we ventured to cherish hopes that it might be subdued; but no sooner was the light blue vapour that at first arose succeeded by volumes of thick dingy smoke, which speedily ascending through all the four hatchways, rolled over every part of the ship, than all farther concealment became impossible, and almost all hope of preserving the vessel was abandoned. "The flames have reached the cable tier" was exclaimed by some individuals, and the strong pitchy smell that pervaded the deck confirmed the truth of the exclamation.
In these awful circumstances, Captain Cobb, with an ability and decision of character that seemed to increase with the imminence of the danger, resorted to the only alternative now left him, of ordering the lower decks to be scuttled, the combings of the hatches to be cut, and the lower ports to be opened, for the free admission of the waves.
These instructions were speedily executed by the united efforts of the troops and seamen; but not before some of the sick soldiers, one woman, and several children, unable to gain the upper deck, had perished. On descending to the gun deck with Colonel Fearon, Captain Bray, and one or two other officers of the 31st regiment,
to assist in opening the ports, I met, staggering towards the hatchway, in an exhausted and nearly senseless state, one of the mates, who informed us that he had just tumbled over the dead bodies of some individuals who must have died from suffocation, to which it was evident that he himself had almost fallen a victim. dense and oppressive was the smoke, that it was with the utmost difficulty we could remain long enough below to fulfil Captain Cobb's wishes; which were no sooner accomplished, than the sea rushed in with extraordinary force, carrying away, in its resistless progress to the hold, the largest chests, bulk-heads, &c.
Such a sight, under any other conceivable circumstances, was well calculated to have filled us with horror; but in our natural solicitude to avoid the more immediate peril of explosion, we endeavoured to cheer each other, as we stood up to our knees in water, with a faint hope that by these violent means we might be speedily restored to safety. The immense quantity of water that was thus introduced into the hold, had indeed the effect, for a time, of checking the fury of the flames; but the danger of sinking having increased as the risk of explosion was diminished, the ship became water-logged, and presented other indications of settling, previous to her going down.