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That was the last news they could expect for many months. The Clorinda was not touching anywhere else. It gave Mrs. Thornton a cold feeling in the stomach to measure just how long. But she argued, logically enough, that the time must come to an end, all time does: there is nothing so inexorable as a ship, plodding away, plodding away, all over the place, till at last it quite certainly reaches that small speck on the map which all the time it had intended to reach. Philosophically speaking, a ship in its port of departure is just as much in its port of arrivaclass="underline" two point-events differing in time and place, but not in degree of reality. Ergo , that first letter from England was as good as written, only not quite…legible yet. And the same applied to seeing them. (But here one must stop, for the same argument applied to old age and death, it wouldn’t do.)

Yet, a bare fortnight after the arrival of this first budget, still another letter arrived, from Havana. The Clorinda had put in there unexpectedly, it appeared: the letter was from Captain Marpole.

“What a dear man he is,” said Alice. “He must have known how anxious we would be for every scrap of news.”

Captain Marpole’s letter was not so terse and vivid as the children’s had been: still, for the news it contained, I give it in fulclass="underline"


HONORED SIR AND MADAM, — I hasten to write to you to relieve you of any uncertainty!

After leaving the Caymans we stood for theLeeward Passage, and sighted the Isle of Pines and False Cape on the morning of the 19th and Cape S. Antonio in the evening, but were prevented from rounding the same by a true Norther, the first of the season, on the 22nd, however, the wind coming round sufficiently we rounded the cape in a lively fashion and stood N1/2E. well away from the Coloradoes which are a dangerous reef lying off this part of the Cuban coast. At six o’clock on the morning of the 23rd there being light airs only I sighted three sail in the North-East, evidently merchantmen bound on the same course as ourselves, at the same time a schooner of similar character was observed standing out towards us from the direction of Black Key, and I pointed her out to my mate just before going below, having the wind of us he was within hailing distance by ten in the morning, judge then of our astonishment when he rudely opened ten or twelve disguised gun-ports and unmasked a whole broadside of artillery trained upon us, ordering us at the same time in the most peremptory manner to heave-to or he would sink us instanter. There was nothing to do but to comply although considering the friendly relations at present existing between the English and all other governments my mate was quite at a loss to account for his action, and imagined it due to a mistake which would be speedily explained, we were immediately boarded by about fifty or seventy ruffians of the worst Spanish type, armed with knives and cutlasses, who took possession of the ship and confined me in my cabin and my mate and crew forward while they ransacked the vessel committing every possible excess broach-ing rum-casks and breaking the necks off winebottles and soon a great number of them were lying about the deck in an intoxicated condition, their leader then informed me he was aware I had a considerable sum in specie on board and used every possible threat which villainy could devise to make me disclose its hiding-place, it was useless for me to asure him that beyond the fifty or so pounds they had already discovered I carried none, he grew even more insistent in his demands, declaring that his information was certain, tearing down the paneling in my cabin in his search. He carried off my instruments, my clothes, and all my personal possessions, even taking from me the poor Locket in which I was used to carry the portrait of my Wife, and no appeal to his sensibility, tho’ I shed tears, would make him return this to him worthless object, he also tore down and carried away the cabin bell-pulls, which could be of no possible use to him and was an act of the most open piracy , at length, seeing I was obdurate, he threatened to blow up the ship and all in it if I would not yield, he prepared the train and would have proceeded to carry out this devilish threat if I had not in this last extremity, consented.

I come now to the latter part of my tale. The children had taken refuge in the deck-house and had been up to now free from harm, except for a cuff or two and the Degrading Sights they must have witnessed, but no sooner was the specie some five thousand pounds in all mostly my private property and most of our cargo (chiefly rum sugar coffee and arrowroot) removed to the schooner than her captain, in sheer infamous wantonness, had them all brought out from their refuge your own little ones and the two Fernandez children who were also on board and murdered them, every one. That anything so wicked should look like a man I should not have believed, had I been told, tho’ I have lived long and seen all kinds of men, I think he is mad: indeed I am sure of it; and I take Oath that he shall be brought to at least that tithe of justice which is in Human hands, for two days we drifted about in a helpless condition, for our rigging had all been cut, and at last fell in with an American man-of-war, who gave us some assistance, and would have proceeded in pursuit of the miscreants himself had he not most explicit orders to elsewhere. I then put in to the port of Havana, where I informed the correspondent of Lloyds, the government, and the representative of the Times newspaper, and take the opportunity of writing you this melancholy letter before proceeding to England.

There is one point on which you will still feel some anxiety, considering the sex of some of the poor innocents, and on which I am glad to be able to set your minds at rest, the children were taken onto the other vessel in the evening and I am glad to say there done to death immediately , and their little bodies cast into the sea, as I saw with great relief with my own eyes. There was no time for what you might fear to have occurred, and this consolation I am glad to be able to give you. — I have the honor to be,

Your obedient servant,


Master, barque Clorinda .



The passage from Montego Bay to the Caymans, where the children had written their letters, is only a matter of a few hours: indeed, in clear weather one can look right across from Jamaica to the peak of Tarquinio in Cuba.

There is no harbor; and the anchorage, owing to the reefs and ledges, is difficult. The Clorinda brought up off the Grand Cayman, the look-out man in the chains feeling his way to a white, sandy patch of bottom which affords the only safe resting-place there, and causing the anchor to be let go to windward of it. Luckily, the weather was fine.

The island, a longish one at the western end of the group, is low, and covered with palms. Presently a succession of boats brought out a quantity of turtles, as Emily described. The natives also brought parrots to sell to the sailors: but failed to dispose of many.

At last, however, the uncomfortable Caymans were left behind, and they set their course towards the Isle of Pines, a large island in a gulf of the Cuban coast. One of the sailors, called Curtis, had once been wrecked there, and was full of stories about it. It is a very unpleasant place; sparsely inhabited, and covered with labyrinthine woods. The only food available is a kind of tree. There is also a species of bean which looks tempting: but it is deadly poison. The crocodiles, Curtis said, were so fierce they chased him and his companions into trees: the only way to escape from them was to throw them your cap to worry: or if you were bold, to disable them with a blow of a stick on the loins. There were also a great many snakes, including a kind of boa.