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Na cold frosty Christmas, a few years ago, I was a passenger on board the fine steamer Queen,' from London to The voyage is not a very long one; but we were several days at sea, and during that time I struck up pretty much of an acquaintance with the second engineer of the ship. I have always had a taste, rather imaginative than scientific, for watching the working of powerful machinery; the evenings were too cold to allow of my remaining long on deck; and I was often glad to exchange for a time the saloon stove for the bright glow of the boiler furnaces, and the company of the passengers for a chat in the engineroom with my friend the engineer. Ten o'clock in the evening, when it was his watch, generally found me seated by his side on the platform that ran around the tops of the cylinders, whence he could in a moment hear any word passed from the deck, had immediate access to the handles of the engines, could see the fire-doors and stoke-hole, with the glass gauges in front of the boilers; and even whilst chatting with me, could be constantly alive to the smallest escape of steam, or the least jarring or chirping sound which told to his practised eyes or ears that something about the machinery required lubrication or adjustment.


There was nothing very remarkable about my acquaintance, Angove: he was simply an honest, straightforward, intelligent, self-educated mechanic; one, in short, of a class very numerous among our steamboat engineers. was about forty years of age, and had spent nearly half that time at sea, in many services and in all parts of the world. He had been in action on board a Brazilian steam-sloop; had nearly died from the intense heat in the engineroom of a Peninsula and Oriental boat in the Red Sea; had been wrecked in a West India mail steamer, and afterwards discharged from the service for a smuggling transaction, with which he vowed that he himself had really nothing to do; was at the time the late war broke out serving on board a Russian war-steamer, which of course he left as soon as possible; had served on board a river-boat on the Mississipi, and another on the Hooghly; and had seen many a strange event in these and other services, from the plain matter-of-fact point of view natural to his temperament and education.

On Christmas eve we were slipping

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along fast under steam and canvas, with the wind and sea on the beam; and the ship, though not pitching much, was rolling a good deal. We had but few passengers on board, and of these four were solemnly playing a rubber, while the others were ill in their berths. There was evidently not much Christmas festivity to be expected in the saloon, so I came shivering off the deck, where I had been smoking a cigar in the moonlight, and seated myself in my accustomed place on the engine room platform, enjoying the warm glow from the furnaces. Angove had just lit a cigar which I gave him, when a slight escape of steam from one of the valve stuffing-boxes arrested his attention. The platform on which we had our seat was on a level with the tops of the cylinders, with a railing nearly breast high between it and the engines; and to get at the stuffing-box in question, it was necessary, in order to avoid being struck by the bars of the parallel motion, to wait until the engine took her down stroke, and then vault in over the rail to the top of the cylinder cover, before she came up again. Taking a spanner, to screw down the gland, Angove awaited the proper moment, and vaulted over the rail; but at that instant the ship took a heavier roll than ordinary, his foot slipped on the greasy, sloping surface of the false coyer, and he had the narrowest escape possible from being precipitated headlong among the working parts of the machinery. He saved himself just in time by catching hold of the cylinder cross-head; but this cross-head worked up to within half an inch of one of the deck beams; and before he could withdraw his hand the two were nearly close together; the smallest conceivable space of time longer, and his hand would have been crushed between them: such close work was it, indeed, that he actually felt the squeeze, and the skin was red with the pressure.

I know I was terribly frightened, and started up pale and horror-struck; but Angove finished his work coolly, vaulted out again over the rail, and seated himself at my side, a little pale, but perfectly calm and self-possessed, and smoked away his cigar as if nothing had happened.

My dear fellow,' I cried, what a narrow escape! I thought it was all over with you.'

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Yes, indeed,' he said, 'it was close work! But, thank God, it is all right.

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'No,' he replied; but I was very near one once-a worse one perhaps than even this would have been-and yet it was not exactly an accident either.'

'What was it, then?' I asked.

Well,' he said, it is a subject on which I don't much like to speak; and, indeed, I have never told the whole story to any one; but I think a sufficiently long time has now elapsed, and I may as well give it to you since you are pleased to say you like hearing my little adventures.

It was many years ago-when the Californian gold-diggings were attracting everybody's attention, that I went out as third engineer of a steamer from Panama to San Francisco. I liked the captain very much, and I had known him by sight before, though he didn't know me; for a short time previously he had several times come on board a ship to which I then belonged at New York, to see the captain, who was a friend of his. Once or twice he had brought off his wife and little daughter with himsuch a sweet lady-like young woman, and such a dear little girl!—I recollect taking them down once and showing them the engines-and the lady appeared so fond of her husband! I wondered how he could leave them to come on this station, in that lawless time of gold-seeking. Our chief engineer, too, was a good sort of man, and one who knew his work well; the second wasn't a bad fellow either, though too fond of his glass; but the rest of the officers and crew were not pleasant shipmates. The ship was not a comfortable one to me in any respect, and I soon determined that my first voyage in her should be my last, though we had first-rate wages to induce us to stick by the ship at San Francisco, and not run away to the gold-diggings.

We arrived out safely, without any adventure; but we had to wait a long

time there before we could sail on our

homeward voyage. Notwithstanding all precautions, a great many of our crew ran away, and it was impossible to replace them: indeed, the harbour was full of ships lying useless there for want of crews to take them away. But we had also another loss, and a great one, in our chief engineer. He had been ailing on the voyage out, and he died, poor fellow, whilst we were lying in the harbour. Our second was not exactly the person to take charge of the engines, being, as I have said, rather too fond of drink, and the captain, we heard, was trying all he could do to get some one in our chief's place. Macpherson, the second, was of course very indignant at this-but so it was.

I should think we must have been quite two months at San Francisco before we were ready to sail again-for you must understand that we were not a regular packet on the station, but had been specially chartered for the voyage out-and we thought that we were going after all without any new chief engineer. We, in the engineroom, were pleased at this, for Macpherson was a good sort of fellow enough, except for that fault which I have mentioned, and, a first-rate workman; but on the very last day before sailing, the captain, of whom we had seen but little for some time past, came on board with a person whom he introduced to the engine-room hands as their new chief.

'He was not the only new arrival on board. There were a few-very fewpassengers; and a lady, who I heard, to my astonishment, was the captain's wife, whom he had married since we had been at San Francisco. Now, as I have already told you, I had seen his wife and little daughter but a short time before, so you may think how much I was surprised at seeing this other woman brought on board as his wife now. I was very much surprised at our captain, whom I had taken for a different sort of man; but it was all no business of mine, so I held my tongue about it. This new woman that he had now was very handsome, certainly, though of a bold, masculine style of beauty, and with such an eye! I thought I shouldn't exactly like her for a wife myself; though she was really handsome, and it was no wonder that any man should be taken up with her.

Right or wrong, I form my opinions of people pretty quickly; and I didn't like our new chief. He was quiet and mild in his manners certainly

wonderfully so for that time, in that part of the world-but there was a wild, dissipated, wicked look, if you understand me, in his eye, which seemed to me to tell that he could be very different if he chose. I could not help remarking to Macpherson, that I thought we had a rum one to deal with now; and he replied that he should like to know his history, for he guessed it was a strange one. One thing was evident to me from the first time he came into the engine-room-he was not a practical working engineer. That he knew something about engines was plain; and he gave his orders with decision, and without any apparent doubt of himself; but there was a theoretical rather than a practical twang about them, as if his knowledge of marine engines had been gained rather by study than by experience. hands were too white and delicate for a man who had used the hammer, and chisel, and file much; and coming into the engine-room suddenly on the evening before we sailed, I found him doing some job at the vice which was fixed there-something for himself, I fancy, and not for the engines-and from the manner in which he handled his tools, it was plain that he was no workman. I set him down in my own mind for a civil engineer, who had come out to the diggings, had got a bad run of luck, and was glad to work his way home as best he could.

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At length we were ready for sea, having taken on board a small cargo, and also some gold on its way to the States. We had beautiful weather down the coast, and for some time nothing unusual occurred. Macpherson and I kept watch and watch alternately, our new chief of course taking none indeed he came very seldom into the engine-room at all; and, when he did, he interfered with nobody. He would just glance at the gauges, open a fire-door and look in, and feel the heat of the condensers; but he would make no remark, unless there was a little escape of steam, or anything of that sort which a child might notice. He seldom found fault with anybody; and very often, indeed almost every night, he used to send down grog to the stokers and trimmers on watch, so that they began to consider him a sort of sea-angel, and to wish that they could always have him for a chief. Our captain, too, appeared to think more of his wife than of the ship, and also seemed to me to be drinking pretty much; and Macpherson soon found that he might take his little drop when he liked,

having nobody to find fault with him, except myself, who was his subordinate. So, altogether, discipline became very lax, and except for the mates, who were blusterers of the genuine Yankee type, we were quite a happy family at sea. I could not help fancying, however, that it was all too good to last; and so it turned out.

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We had got well down the coast, and I knew we were not far off the land, when one night-a fine night it was, but very dark-it was my watch below from midnight. to four in the morning. When say, "my watch below," you know, sir, I do not mean my watch below, in the engine-room, but my turn to be off duty. Macpherson and I occupied as a sleeping cabin one of the deck-houses abaft the paddle wheel, in which were two bunks, one over the other, one his and the other mine. At eight bells-twelve o'clock you know-I called him, and he turned out as usual, and went to take charge of the engine-room; whilst I turned into my bunk and tried to go to sleep. Now to sleep close behind a paddlebox, with the wheel but a foot or two from your head, is, for those unaccustomed to it, and sometimes even for those who are used to it, rather a difficult operation, especially when the ship is rolling. There is a creak and a buzz, as your side rises with the roll; and a roar, and a bang, and a shock, and a splutter as your wheel is in its turn half buried in the sea; with a continual tremble and shake, never ceasing for a moment, which altogether render sleeping in such a position an art only to be acquired by long practice; and as I have said, not always to be depended upon even then. I can sleep as well as most people; and am not at all a particular man in such matters; but on the night in question, although there was not much sea on, I soon found that any attempt to get a sleep in my bunk was hopeless. I could not afford to throw away my four hours in thinking about it: so turning out again, without much delay, I went below to the engineroom, and crept into a snug little spot between the starboard cylinder and the forward bulkhead of the engine-room, which I had several times before, on our outward voyage, used for a similar purpose. I must describe the engineroom to you. It was very much like this one the engines were side-levers like these; and the stoke-hole, with its fire-doors, was adjoining the engineroom, without any separation between. The cylinders were forward, about foun feet from the bulkhead, and the boilers

and stoke-hole were aft. There was a platform, just like this, at the level of the tops of the cylinders, on each side of the engine-room, and across the forward part of it, close to the bulkhead; with ladders at the after-ends of the two side platforms leading down to the stoke-hole; and another at the middle of the part that went across, by which you descended to a narrow passage between the engines, where the startinghandles, &c., were placed: at the same part of the platform was the ladder which communicated with the deck. You will see from this that there was at the forward end of the engine-room, having the cylinders and ends of the engines on one side of it, the bulkhead on the other, and the cross platform for a roof, a space about four feet wide, and in length the whole width of the ship. The port side of this space was filled with tallow casks, oil cans, &c., for which there was not room in the store closet; but on the starboard side there was a nice snug little spot, kept tolerably cool, though so near the cylinders, by the draught of air from the deck, and, through some holes in the bulkhead, from the fore-hold. This snuggery was approached by a narrow passage on the starboard side of the shipfor the ladders and the deck-pump prevented your getting in from between the engines, and the donkey engine was in the way on the port side; and you had to make a rush to get in, where you did, without a ducking from the starboard waste-water pipe through the ship's side, which was very leaky, so that there was generally a torrent of water falling down from it. But once in, with a bag of cotton wipings for a bed, and my jacket rolled up for a pillow, I could generally calculate on a comfortable snooze, without disturbance from the wheels or anything else. I am obliged to be so particular in my description, or you would never understand what I have to relate. In this favourite spot of mine, then, you will understand that I lay down, and in a very few minutes was fast asleep.

I had not slept very long, when I awoke with a start, and with an uneasy consciousness that there was something unusual in the working of the engines. I leant on my elbow and listened. They were going much more slowly than usual, and there was a peculiar jerking style about their motion which seemed as if they were working expansively with high steam; and the well-known rushing sound in the steampipes, like the wind through a doorway, when the door is ajar, showed me

in a moment that they were closely "throttled," that is, that the valves in the pipes leading to the cylinders were partially closed, so as to check the flow of steam from the boilers to the engines. I saw, too, that there was a very bright glow from the furnaces, and that the fires were more than usually intense. I fancied, also, from the absence of the usual currents of air, except through the windsail and from the forehold, and the appearance of the lights and shadows, that the hatches over the crank gratings, and the companion leading to the deck were closed-a thing that was very unusual except in bad weather.

'I was about to creep out of my lair, to see what was the meaning of all this, when I heard persons in conversation in the passage between the engines, and almost close to where I was. By a slight movement I was able also to see them. One was our chief engineer, who had never before been known to be in the engine-room at this hour of the night: he had his hands on the injec tion handles, and was regulating the supply of water to the diminished quantity of steam passing through the engines. The other, with his back turned towards me, was a person whom I did not know at all. He appeared a slight, gracefully-formed young man, of middle height, dressed in sailor's clothes of a fine texture, and with the voice of a youth, rather than of a man. I should have gone out at once to see what was doing, but the first words I distinguished arrested my attention in a moment. It was the youth who saidHow long before we shall leave the



"Not long now," replied the chief; "but we have nothing more to do, except to start when it is time."

"Are you sure the third engineer is all right?"

"Yes. He sleeps in one of the wheelhouses, and I have turned the key upon him. Dick is at the wheel; the rest of the watch on deck, and these smutty fellows are disposed of. We have lowered the boat all safe, and all is ready for a start."

"Then, why not go now?"

"No, we might still be discovered in time to spoil all. Let us wait till the last moment, and we shall be cure that we have got rid of the infernal ship and all that could ever give us trouble. But, by G-d," he said, with a glance towards the gauges, "there isn't much time to spare, either. The steam mounts quicker than I thought; it is at twenty-five already, and the water is all out of the gauges. Just step on

deck, and tell Dick we shall be off at once."

"The youth turned and ascended quickly to the deck; and the chief went to the stoke-hole, opened the furnacedoors, looked at the fires, and threw in some coals and tallow.

I should make a bad hand at describing my feelings, and all that sort of thing; but I think you may imagine that the unaccountable appearance of a stranger in the ship-the intelligence that the watch both on deck and in the engine-room were disposed of-the knowledge that the steam was at twenty-five pounds to the inch, our usual working pressure being fifteen, and rapidly rising, with the safety-valves, of course, fastened down or very heavily loaded-the engines throttled of half their steam, the feed in the boilers very low, and the furnaces fed with oil and tallow, it was altogether enough to make one feel queer. The boilers were new and strong; but, for that very reason, when they did give way, the destruction would be the greater; and I expected soon a terrific explosion, which might probably send the ship to the bottom. I understood at once-indeed there was no room for doubt after what I had seen and heard-that the villains had by some means got hold of the gold on board; that they had either drugged or overpowered the watch, and that it was their intention to blow up the ship, and escape in the confusion; or to get away a little before hand, and trust to the explosion, which must inevitably follow to remove all proof of their crime and all dread of capture. I saw what it was; but I confess to you, sir, at the risk of being thought a coward, that I stood at first unable to think or act to any useful purpose. Had I been prompt and dedecided, now was my time to have acted while the stranger was on deck; but I own that I stood rooted to the spot, with shaky knees, with quivering lips, and with the cold, clammy perspiration standing on my forehead. I have often been in peril, but I never felt so unmanned, before or since, as I did then; and I verily believe that, had I been left alone, I should have allowed the ship, and the gold, and my own life, and the lives of all on board to take their chance, rather than venture out to face those desperadoes.

But I had not the choice. The chief, after looking at the fire, and examining the gauges, crossed the stoke-hole to the other passage under the starboard platform, with the view probably of getting at some of the grease and

tallow that was stowed away close by where I had made my couch. I saw that I must now be discovered; but with the prospect of a struggle with one man singly, my courage revived, my limbs became steady, and the coward feeling left my heart. He groped his way slowly up the passage, and then made the rush which I have described, as necessary to avoid the water from the waste-pipe. This rush brought him close to me before he stopped, and we stood face to face. My eyes were accustomed to the dim light of the place, while his were yet dazzled by the bright glare of the fires; so that I could distinguish his features, while he was yet uncertain whether there was any one there but himself. I ought to have seized the opportunity, and attacked him at once, but I foolishly let the moment pass, and instead of acting promptly, I sung out, "Who is there?" In a moment his eyes lit up with a look of fierce intelligence; and with a suppressed exclamation, he sprang upon me. The suddenness of the attack made me start back; and, my foot being tripped up by the bag of cotton I used for a bed, we fell heavily to the deck together, I being undermost. His left hand was on my throat; and clutching my hair with his right, he, with a quick lift and jerk, moved my head to one side towards the engine. I did not resist the movement much, for I had not thought exactly where I was lying; but, oh, think what was my horror at the next instant to see directly over me, the end of the side lever descending, and not more than three feet above my head! By a violent effort I got out of the way just in time; but even then the cutter at the end of the lever grazed my forehead in its descent. The horror of my position seemed to give


for the moment preternatural strength, and I succeeded in rolling my antagonist over until I became uppermost; and then I struck him with my clenched fist two or three heavy blows on the face with such effect, that his hold of me relaxed, and I thought that I had stunned him. In a moment I gained my feet and fled; but I had been mistaken in fancying I had quieted my antagonist; he was nearly as quick as I was, and pursued me closely. I rushed through the passage by the side of the ship, across the stoke-hole, through the passage between the engines, and thence to the platform and up the ladder leading to the deck. The chief was close behind me, so that I dared not lose time by turning my head; and I remember how I heard his feet

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