The brig, for such she now appeared, could not have been above half a mile distant, when she suddenly altered her course. In vain they both hailed at once, and waved their jackets as a signal, but no notice was taken; then, indeed, every hope was dispelled, and the bitterness of despair returned with redoubled force.
At this juncture, Meldrum resolved, at all hazards, to attempt to swim to the vessel. If he remained in the boat, certain death would be the fate of himself and his companion: on the other hand, he might perish in the sea, but if he reached the brig, both would be saved. Without a moment’s hesitation, he communicated his design to Maclean, and then, committing himself to the pretection of the Almighty, sprang overboard.
The idea of solitude is so repugnant to human nature, that even death would be preferable. It can be therefore easily imagined that it was with feelings almost amounting to agony that Maclean saw himself separated from his last friend. His first impulse was to follow his companion, but better judgment prevailed, and he determined to await the result. Never for a single instant did his eyes turn from the bold swimmer: they followed his every stroke. At one time, he thought he had sunk; at another, the ripple of a wave appeared to his distorted imagination like the fin of a shark. Anxiety for the fate of his companion kept his mind on the stretch until distance rendered the object no longer visible. ’Then, indeed, did he feel that he was alone.’
Meldrum was naturally a good swimmer, and every nerve was strained in this last struggle for life; buoyed up by hope, he had accomplished about two-thirds of his weary task when his strength began to fail, his dying eyes turned towards the brig, and with one last effort he raised his voice. He was heard: a boat was lowered from the brig, and he was taken on board. The perilous situation of his comrade was made known; and thus by his gallant exertions were preserved the lives of the two survivors, of the ill-fated Magpie.
This tale might almost be discredited, but the facts from which it was taken bear the signature of the officers composing the court-martial who sat upon the two remaining men. Mr. Maclean is at the present moment alive, and is now serving as a lieutenant in the coast-guard. Meldrum was promoted for his gallantry to the rank of gunner, and died two years ago.
His Majesty’s ship, Thetis, Captain Samuel Burgess, sailed from Rio Janeiro on the evening of the 4th of December, 1830, having a large amount of treasure on board. The weather was so thick, that as they worked out of the harbour, the islands at its entrance were not visible; but as the evening was tolerably fine, with the exception of the fog, Captain Burgess determined to persevere in his course. The following morning the fog dispersed, but it was soon succeeded