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- No Defense, Volume 2. - 6/10 -
wear a captain's uniform--blue coat, with white cuffs, flat gold buttons; with lace at the neck, a white-sleeved waistcoat, knee-breeches, white silk stockings, and a three-cornered black hat edged with gold lace and ornamented with a cockade; with a black cravat, a straight dress sword, a powdered cue tied with a black-silk ribbon, and epaulets of heavy gold stuff completing the equipment. Dyck, to the end of his career at sea, wore only the common seaman's uniform.
Dyck would not have accepted the doubtful honour had he not had long purposes in view. With Ferens, Michael Clones, and two others whom Ferens could trust, a plan was arranged which Dyck explained to his fellow-seamen on the Ariadne.
"We've come to the parting of the ways, brothers," he said. "We've all become liable to death for mutiny. The pardon offered by the King has been refused, and fresh demands are made. There, I think, a real wrong has been done by our people. The Ariadne is well supplied with food and water. It is the only ship with sufficiency. And why? Because at the beginning we got provisions from the shore in time; also we got permission from Richard Parker to fill our holds from two stopped merchant-ships. Well, the rest of the fleet know what our food and drink fitment is. They know how safe we are, and to-day orders have come to yield our provisions to the rest of the fleet. That is, we, who have taken time by the forelock, must yield up our good gettings to bad receivers. I am not prepared to do it.
"On shore the Admiralty have stopped the supply of provisions to us and to all the fleet. Our men have been arrested at Gravesend, Tilbury, and Sheerness. The fleet could not sail now if it wished; but one ship can sail, and it is ours. The fleet hasn't the food to sail. On Richard Parker's ship, the Sandwich, there is food only for a week. The others are almost as bad. We are in danger of being attacked. Sir Erasmus Gower, of the Neptune, has a fleet of warships, gunboats, and amateur armed vessels getting ready to attack us. The North Sea fleet has come to help us, but that doesn't save us. I'll say this--we are loyal men in this fleet, otherwise our ships would have joined the enemy in the waters of France or Holland. They can't go now, in any case. The men have lost heart. Confidence in our cause has declined. The government sent Lords of the Admiralty here, and they offered pardon if we accepted the terms of the Spithead settlement. We declined the terms. That was a bad day for us, and put every one of our heads in a noose.
"For the moment we have a majority in men and ships; but we can't renew our food or drink, or ammunition. The end is sure against us. Our original agitation was just; our present obduracy is madness. This ship is suspected. It is believed by the rest of the fleet--by ships like the Invincible--that we're weak-kneed, selfish, and lacking in fidelity to the cause. That's not true; but we have either to fight or to run, and perhaps to do both.
"Make no mistake. The government are not cowards; the Admiralty are gentlemen of determination. If men like Admiral Howe support the Admiralty--Howe, one of the best friends the seaman ever had--what do you think the end will be? Have you heard what happened at Spithead? The seamen chivvied Admiral Alan Gardner and his colleagues aboard a ship. He caught hold of a seaman Delegate by the collar and shook him. They closed in on him. They handled him roughly. He sprang on the hammock- nettings, put the noose of the hanging-rope round his neck, and said to the men who advanced menacingly:
"'If you will return to your duty, you may hang me at the yard-arm!'
"That's the kind of stuff our admirals are made of. We have no quarrel with the majority of our officers. They're straight, they're honest, and they're true to their game. Our quarrel is with Parliament and the Admiralty; our struggle is with the people of the kingdom, who have not seen to it that our wrongs are put right, that we have food to eat, water to drink, and money to spend."
He waved a hand, as though to sweep away the criticisms he felt must be rising against him.
"Don't think because I've spent four years in prison under the sternest discipline the world offers, and have never been a seaman before, that I'm not fitted to espouse your cause. By heaven, I am--I am--I am-- I know the wrongs you've suffered. I've smelled the water you drink. I've tasted the rotten meat. I've seen the honest seaman who has been for years upon the main--I've seen the scars upon his back got from a brutal officer who gave him too big a job to do, and flogged him for not doing it. I know of men who, fevered with bad food, have fallen, from the mainmast-head, or have slipped overboard, glad to go, because of the wrongs they'd suffered.
"I'll tell you what our fate will be, and then I'll put a question to you. We must either give up our stock of provisions or run for it. Parker and the other Delegates proclaim their comradeship; yet they have hidden from us the king's proclamation and the friendly resolutions of the London merchants. I say our only hope is to escape from the Thames. I know that skill will be needed, but if we escape, what then? I say if we escape, because, as we sail out, orders will be given for the other mutiny ships to attack us. We shall be fired on; we shall risk our lives. You've done that before, however, and will do it again.
"We have to work out our own problem and fight our own fight. Well, what I want to know is this--are we to give in to the government, or do we stand to be hammered by Sir Erasmus Gower? Remember what that means. It means that if we fight the government ships, we must either die in battle, or die with the ropes round our necks. There is another way. I'm not inclined to surrender, or to stand by men who have botched our business for us. I'm for making for the sea, and, when I get there, I'm for striking for the West Indies, where there's a British fleet fighting Britain's enemies, and for joining in and fighting with them. I'm for getting out of this river and away from England. It's a bold plan, but it's a good one. I want to know if you're with me. Remember, there's danger getting out, and there's danger when and if we get out. The other ships may pursue us. The Portsmouth fleet may nab us. We may be caught, and, if we are, we must take the dose prepared for us; but I'm for making a strong rush, going without fear, and asking no favour. I won't surrender here; it's too cowardly. I want to know, will you come to the open sea with me?"
There were many shouts of assent from the crowd, though here and there came a growl of dissent.
"Not all of you are willing to come with me," Dyck continued vigorously. "Tell me, what is it you expect to get by staying here? You're famished when you're not poisoned; you're badly clothed and badly fed; you're kept together by flogging; you're treated worse than a convict in jail or a victim in a plague hospital. You're not paid as well as your grandfathers were, and you're punished worse. Here, on the Ariadne, we're not skulkers. We don't fear our duty; we are loyal men. Many of you, on past voyages, fighting the enemy, lived on burgoo and molasses only, with rum and foul water to drink. On the other ships there have been terrible cruelty and offence. Surgeons have neglected and ill- treated sick men and embezzled provisions and drinks intended for the invalids. Many a man has died because of the neglect of the ship's surgeons; many have been kicked about the head and beaten, and haven't dared to go on the sick list for fear of their officers. The Victualling Board gets money to supply us with food and drink according to measure. They get the money for a full pound and a full gallon, and we get fourteen ounces of food and seven pints of liquor, or less. Well, what do you say, friends, to being our own Victualling Board out in the open sea, if we can get there?
"We may have to fight when we get out; but I'm for taking the Ariadne into the great world battle when we can find it. This I want to ask-- isn't it worth while making a great fight in our own way, and showing that British seamen can at once be mutineers and patriots? We have a pilot who knows the river. We can go to the West Indian Islands, to the British fleet there. It's doom and death to stay here; and it may be doom and death to go. If we try to break free, and are fired on, the Admiralty may approve of us, because we've broken away from the rest. See now, isn't that the thing to do? I'm for getting out. Who's coming with me?"
Suddenly a burly sailor pushed forward. He had the head of a viking. His eyes were strong with enterprise. He had a hand like a ham, with long, hairy fingers.
"Captain," said he, "you've put the thing so there can be only one answer to it. As for me, I'm sick of the way this mutiny has been bungled from first to last. There's been one good thing about it only--we've got order without cruelty, we've rebelled without ravagement; but we've missed the way, and we didn't deal with the Admiralty commissioners as we ought. So I'm for joining up with the captain here"--he waved a hand towards Dyck--"and making for open sea. As sure as God's above, they'll try to hammer us; but it's the only way."
He held a handkerchief-a dirty, red silk thing. "See," he continued, "the wind is right to take us out. The other ships won't know what we're going to do until we start. I'm for getting off. I'm a pressed man. I haven't seen my girl for five years, and they won't let me free in port to go and see her. Nothing can be worse than what we have to suffer now, so let's make a break for it. That's what I say. Come, now, lads, three cheers for Captain Calhoun!"
A half-hour later, on the captain's deck, Dyck gave the order to pass eastward. It was sunset when they started, and they had not gone a thousand yards before some of the mutineering ships opened fire on the Ariadne. The breeze was good, however, and she sailed bravely through the leaden storm. Once twice--thrice she was hit, but she sped on. Two men were killed and several were wounded. Sails were torn, and the high bulkheads were broken; but, without firing a shot in reply, the Ariadne swung clear at last of the hostile ships and reached safe water.
On the edge of the open sea Dyck took stock of the position. The Ariadne had been hit several times, and the injury done her was marked. Before morning the dead seamen were sunk in watery graves, and the wounded were started back to health again. By daylight the Ariadne was well away from the land.
The first thing Dyck had done, after escaping from the river, was to study the wants of the Ariadne and make an estimate for the future with Greenock, the master. He calculated they had food and water enough to last for three months, even with liberal provisioning. Going among the crew, he realized there was no depression among them; that they seemed to care little where they were going. It was, however, quite clear they wished to fight--to fight the foes of England.
He knew his task was a hard one, and that all efforts at discipline would have dangers. He knew, also, that he could have no authority, save personality and success. He set himself, therefore, to win the confidence of Greenock and the crew, and he began discipline at once. He knew that a reaction must come; that the crew, loose upon their own trail, would come to regret the absence of official command. He realized that many of them would wish to return to the fleet at the Nore, but while the weather was good he did not fear serious trouble. The danger would come in rough weather or on a becalmed sea.
They had passed Beachy Head in the mist. They had seen no battle-ship,
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