The crew continued to fire guns and hoist signals of distress. At daybreak a pilot boat put off from Dover, and nearing the Melville Castle, advised the captain to put back to Deal or Hythe, and wait for calmer weather, or, said the boatman, “all hands will assuredly be lost.” But the captain would not act on his recommendation; he thought the pilot boat exaggerated the danger, hoped the wind would abate as the day opened, and that he should avoid the demands of the Dover pilot or the Down fees by not casting anchor there. Another help the captain rejected, and bitterly did he lament it when it was too late.
No sooner had the pilot boat departed, than the commodore at Deal despatched two boats to endeavor to board the ship. The captain obstinately refused to take any notice of them, and ordered the crew to let the vessel drive before the wind. This they did, till the ship ran so close in shore, that the captain himself saw the imminent danger, and twice attempted to put her about, but in vain. On the first of the projecting jetties of Dymchurch-wall the vessel struck. I would not if I could grieve your young heart with a detail of all the horrors that ensued; the devoted ship continued to beat on the piles, the sea breaking over her with such violence, that the pumps could no longer be worked.
The foremast soon went over the ship’s side, carrying twelve seamen with it, who were swallowed up by the billows. The rudder was unshipped, the tiller tore up the gundeck, and the water rushed in at the port-holes. At this fearful moment most of the passengers and crew joined in solemn prayer to the Almighty. Morning came, but it was only to witness the demolition of the wreck.
Many were the efforts made by the sufferers, some in the jolly boat, some on a raft, others by lashing themselves to pieces of timber, hogsheads, and even hencoops, to reach the shore; but out of four hundred and seventy-two persons who a few days before had left the coast of Holland, not more than eighteen escaped the raging billows. The miserable remnant received generous attention from the inhabitants of the place, who did all in their power to aid their recovery.
[Illustration: Burning of the Kent east Indiaman.]
This picture represents the burning of the Kent East Indiaman, in the Bay of Biscay. She had on board in all six hundred and forty-one persons at the time of the accident. The fire broke out in the hold during a storm. An officer on duty, finding that a spirit cask had broken loose, was taking measures to secure it, when a lurch of the ship caused him to drop his lantern, and in his eagerness to save it, he let go the cask, which suddenly stove in, and the spirits communicated with the flame, the whole place was instantly in a blaze. Hopes of subduing the fire at first were strong, but soon heavy volumes of smoke and a pitchy smell told that it had reached the cable-room.