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A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood

If we carried them to Sierra Leone


soon as she was securely moored and a gangway plank rigged, I went aboard and had a good look at our latest acquisition. There could be no doubt as to the fact that she was a slaver; for her slave-decks were already fitted, and she carried all the requisites, including meal and water, for the transport of a very large cargo of slaves. She was, in fact, the largest slaver I ever saw, and had accommodation to--I had almost said _comfortably_--carry at least eight hundred slaves. She was Spanish; named the _Dona Josefa_; hailed from Havana; was oak-built, coppered, and copper-fastened; was a brand-new ship, worth half a dozen _Psyches_; and her cabin accommodation aft was the most spacious and elegantly fitted that I had ever seen. She was armed with eighteen twenty-four pounders, and carried a crew of ninety-eight, all told. She was, in short, a most formidable ship; and, but for the fact of our having taken her by surprise as we did, she might have bade defiance to the slave squadron for years, and paid for herself twenty times over.

Naturally, the skipper was in high feather at so brilliant a series of successes as we had met with, for he had not been altogether without his anxious moments as to what might be the result of the inevitable court- martial that awaited us all for the loss of the _Psyche_; but he flattered himself that the authorities could not possibly be hard upon officers who brought in four such rich prizes as ours.

style="text-align: justify;">And now there began to be general talk about leaving the river and reporting ourselves at Sierra Leone; for not only had we ships in plenty to accommodate all hands, but those among us who were most experienced felt that, after having made such a clean sweep as we had, it was exceedingly unlikely that there would be any more chances to capture either slaves or ships in the Fernan Vaz for some time to come. Still, it would not be possible for us to go quite at once; for even now there remained several matters to be attended to, the most important being the disposal of the blacks whom we had captured from the slave-traders. Although these had come a long distance down from the interior, there was no doubt that they would be able to find their way back to their homes; whereas, if we carried them to Sierra Leone, the chances were that they would never see either home or relatives again. Therefore although, strictly speaking, it was our duty to take them to Sierra Leone with us, the skipper decided to strain a point, if necessary, and give the poor wretches the opportunity to decide for themselves which alternative should be adopted. Accordingly, the question was put to them, through Cupid, with the result that they decided, unanimously, to return by the way that they came rather than trust themselves to the tender mercies of the sea, which none of them had seen, and few had heard of, before. But they begged a few days longer in which to rest and recuperate before they were despatched on their long journey; and this the skipper cheerfully accorded them, although he was now all anxiety to get away.

After the negroes had been given a full week in which to recover their health and strength, they were mustered early on a certain morning, given a good breakfast, allowed to load themselves up with as much meal as they chose to take, furnished with a few boarding-pikes and cutlasses from the prizes wherewith to defend themselves on the way, and transported across the harbour and fairly started upon their journey. Then, having already completed our own preparations for departure, our prisoners were apportioned out among the four prizes, put down in the holds on top of the ballast and made perfectly secure, and the officers and men then proceeded to take up their quarters on board the vessels to which they had severally been appointed by the skipper.

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