The storm which drove the Centurion to sea blew with too much turbulence to permit of either the Commodore or any of the people on shore hearing the guns which she fired as signals of distress, and the frequent glare of the lightning had prevented the explosions from being observed; so that when at daybreak it was perceived from the shore that the ship was missing, there was the utmost consternation amongst them. For much the greatest part of them immediately concluded that she was lost, and entreated the Commodore that the boat might be sent round the island to look for the wreck; and those who believed her safe had scarcely any expectation that she would ever be able to make the island again; for the wind continued to blow strong at east, and they knew how poorly she was manned and provided for struggling with so tempestuous a gale. And if the Centurion was lost, or should be incapable of returning, there appeared in either case no possibility of their ever getting off the island, for they were at least six hundred leagues from Macao, which was their nearest port; and they were masters of no other vessel than the small Spanish bark, of about fifteen tons, which they seized at their first arrival, and which would not even hold a fourth part of their number. And the chance of their being taken off the island by the casual arrival of any other ship was altogether desperate, as perhaps no European ship had ever anchored here before, and it were madness to expect that like incidents should send another here in a hundred ages to come; so that their desponding thoughts could only suggest to them the melancholy prospect of spending the remainder of their days on this island, and bidding adieu forever to their country, their friends, their families, and all their domestic endearments.
A MELANCHOLY PROSPECT.
Nor was this the worst they had to fear: for they had reason to expect that the Governor of Guam, when he should be informed of their situation, might send a force sufficient to overpower them and to remove them to that island; and then the most favourable treatment they could hope for would be to be detained prisoners for life; since, from the known policy and cruelty of the Spaniards in their distant settlements, it was rather to be expected that the Governor, if he once had them in his power, would make their want of commissions (all of them being on board the Centurion) a pretext for treating them as pirates, and for depriving them of their lives with infamy.