The Sandman: His Sea Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Trafalgar Story

O NCE upon a time there was a wide river that ran into the ocean, and beside it was a little city. And in that city was a wharf where great ships came from far countries. And a narrow road led down a very steep hill to that wharf and anybody that wanted to go to the wharf had to go down the steep hill on the narrow road, for there wasn't any other way. And because ships had come there for a great many years and all the sailors and all the captains and all the men who had business with the ships had to go on that narrow road, the flagstones that made the sidewalk were much worn. That was a great many years ago.

The brig Industry  was one of the ships that used to sail from that wharf and, afterwards, she sailed from a wharf in Boston. And Captain Solomon had been the captain of her for many years; but he had got tired of going to sea and had bought a farm that was not near the ocean. And Sol, Captain Solomon's son, had got tired of staying on the farm and had gone off to sea, and he had risen to be the captain of the brig Industry.

Once, in the long ago, the brig Industry  sailed from a wharf in Boston for Manila and Singapore and other far countries; but, first, she was going to Leghorn. She carried flour, apples, salt fish, tobacco, lumber, and some other things that Captain Jonathan and Captain Jacob thought that the people in Leghorn would buy. It was Captain Sol's first voyage as captain and he had been a sailor about four years.

The Industry  sailed along over the great ocean for many days, and she had good weather and nothing happened that was worth mentioning. Captain Sol had his eyes open, because there was a war between England and France and sometimes an English warship would meet an American ship and stop her and do things that neither the captain nor the crew of the American ship liked to have done. But there didn't seem to be anything that the American ship could do except run away; and sometimes they could get away and sometimes it wouldn't do any good to try.

And the Industry  kept getting nearer to the coast of Spain and to the Straits of Gibraltar. It was the twenty-second of October, 1805, and Captain Sol thought that he should sight Cape Trafalgar the next day.

So, the next morning, he began to look out for Cape Trafalgar before it was light. And, when it was light enough to see anything, he saw that they were very near to a lot of great ships. They were warships and they were battered and there were great shot holes in their sides and some of the yards and topmasts had been shot away and there were great rents in their sails and, altogether, they looked like a lot of wrecks. It didn't take a man as smart as Captain Sol very long to guess that there had been a great battle a few days before. And he was right. The battle of Trafalgar was fought between the English fleet of ships and the fleets of France and Spain; and the ships that Captain Sol saw were English ships. The sailors were mending the ships, as well as they could, so that they would be fit to sail.

And Captain Sol wanted to know what was going on, so he sailed nearer; and, when he was as near as he dared to go, he had the sailors fix the sails so that the ship wouldn't go ahead, and he waited there.

Pretty soon some sailors got into a boat from one of the English ships, and then an officer got in, and they rowed the boat over to the Industry, and the English officer came on board of the Industry. Captain Sol met him and he had some of the sailors stand in line on each side of the gangway. And Captain Sol and the English officer talked together, very politely, although the officer was plainly very much surprised to see so young a man as captain. Captain Sol was only twenty-one.

And the officer told Captain Sol about the battle, and he told him that Lord Nelson had been shot in that battle, and he had died on board the Victory  a few hours after the battle was over. And the officer saw the lumber that the Industry  had on her deck, and he asked Captain Sol what other cargo he carried. And Captain Sol told him about the flour and the apples and the salt fish and the tobacco, and the officer got into his boat again and was rowed back to the Victory.

Captain Sol stayed there, waiting to see what would happen; for he thought that, perhaps, he might sell some of his cargo to the English ships and not have to carry it to Leghorn. And, sure enough, the officer got into the boat again and came back. And he told Captain Sol that the commander of the fleet would be much obliged to him if he would sell some of his lumber and some flour and some apples; but he didn't ask for any of the salt fish nor for any of the tobacco. And Captain Sol agreed and the officer rowed away.

Then the Victory  made signals to the other ships, telling them to send boats for the lumber and the flour and the apples that they needed. And a boat came to the Industry  for each ship, until they were clustered about her as thick as bees about a hive. And the sailors were very busy, putting into the boats the lumber and the flour and the barrels of apples. Captain Sol had to have a tackle rigged over the hatchway of the Industry  to hoist out the barrels. And when each boat had got its load, it was rowed back to its ship.

It took them a long time to get all those things out of the Industry, but at last it was all done and the last boat had rowed away; and Captain Sol found that he had sold all of his lumber and about half of his flour and about half of his apples. The English sailors needed all that lumber to mend the ships. Then another boat came from the Victory, and it was rowed to the Industry, and the paymaster of the English fleet came aboard and two men came after him carrying bags of gold money.

Captain Sol and the paymaster and the men with the bags of money went down into the cabin; and the paymaster counted out the gold money for the lumber and the flour and the apples, and left it on the cabin table. And, besides, he thanked Captain Sol for selling them the things. Then he went away.


Then Captain Sol had the sailors fix the sails so that the ship would go ahead, and he had a sailor stand at the flag halliards and dip the flag for a salute to the English ships. And the Industry  sailed away from those English ships towards Gibraltar, and pretty soon the ships were out of sight.

And that's all.