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A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood

I therefore kept a sharp eye on the barometer


Purchase," said the skipper, as the two men met and halted, "I deeply regret to inform you that Captain Harrison is dead--killed this morning, with one other, while gallantly leading us to the attack of a strongly defended slave barracoon. We have both bodies in the boats, yonder, and it was my intention to have buried them at sea to-night; but that, I perceive, is no longer possible. And now, sir, perhaps you will be good enough to explain to me how the _Psyche_ comes to be where I see her."

"Ah, sir!" answered Mr Purchase, removing his hat and mopping his forehead in great perturbation of spirit, "I wish I could tell you. All I know--all that _any_ of us knows, so far as I have been able to ascertain--is that we were cut adrift--both cables, sir, cut through as clean as a whistle--and allowed to drive ashore!"

"Cut adrift?" reiterated the captain incredulously. "_Cut adrift_? Really, my dear Purchase, you must excuse me if I say that I utterly fail to understand you. How the mischief could you possibly be cut adrift from where you were anchored; and by whom? You surely do not intend to insinuate that any one of the ship's company--?"

"No--no; certainly not," interrupted Purchase. "Nothing of the kind. Let me tell you the whole yarn, Perry; then you will be as wise as myself, and can give me your opinion of the affair, which I admit is most extraordinary.

justify;">"Nothing in the least remarkable occurred for some hours after the boats left the ship yesterday morning. I stood aft and watched you through the starboard stern port until you had all safely crossed the bar and disappeared behind the sand spit; and then I set the hands to work upon various small jobs; after which I went round the ship and satisfied myself that everything was perfectly safe and snug on deck and below. Then, feeling tolerably certain that you would not return until to-day at the earliest, and that consequently it would be necessary for me to be up and about during the greater part of the coming night, I went below and turned in all standing, to get as much sleep as possible, leaving the boatswain's mate in charge of the deck, together with midshipmen Keene and Parkinson.

"The day passed quite uneventfully; everything went perfectly smoothly; the ship rode easily to her anchors; and there had been nothing to report. But about two bells in the first dog-watch I noticed that the sky was beginning to look a bit windy away down in the western quarter-- nothing to speak of, you understand, or to cause any uneasiness; but it made me take a look at the barometer, and I saw that it had dropped a trifle since eight bells; and at the same time the wind was distinctly freshening and the swell gathering weight. All this, of course, meant more wind within the next few hours; I therefore kept a sharp eye on the barometer; and when at four bells I found it still dropping I decided to let go the two stream anchors, as a precautionary measure, while we had light enough to see what we were doing; and this I did, at the same time paying out an extra fifty fathoms on each cable, after which I felt that we were perfectly safe in the face of anything short of a hurricane."

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