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seven miles to windward, towing a prize. It was almost too much to expect of mortal man to make the attack that night, short of three of his best ships, and facing the awful perils of penetrating between a hostile Acet and a shoaling shore, almost uncharted, as darkness fell. But Nelson saw it in a different light. “The admiral,” said Berry, who was so long his flag-captain, “ viewed the obstacles with the eye of a seaman determined to attack." To wait for the next morning was to give the French admiral time to correct some of his errors. He was almost certain to be unprepared for an attack that night. It mattered not that there was no time for Nelson to hold a council of war with his captains ; they had discussed the whole situation so often before, that, when called upon to give battle, in unknown waters in the dusk, without previous consultation with their admiral, they were all competent for the task. One shines with a special glory, Captain Foley; for it was Foley who said to himself, as he led the line, with Hood in the Zealous almost abreast of him, that the French would not be so ready for action on the side protected by the shore ; and this fired him to lead inside the French line. Nelson had perforce left the course of the fleet to the van-ships, as his chart was such a rough one. The awful carnage on the French ships at the Battle of the Nile testifies to the perspicacity of admiral and captain. Brueys, when the signal of the approach of the English was made in the afternoon, was not properly cleared for action. A great deal of furniture and partitions, and other woodwork deadly for splinters, was encumbering his decks. As Foley contemplated, he did not throw them overboard, but stowed them on the side of the ships protected by the shore, making the handling of the guns on that side more difficult, and exceedingly dangerous.
The English took a wide course round Nelson's Island and stood in, between the sandbanks and the mudbanks, close to the head of the French line. The wind was blowing down the line, which enabled him to execute with precision the manæuvre he desired. It was at half-past five that Nelson hoisted his signal for line of battle. But in spite of that, and
of the French fire, they sailed in with the greatest deliberation-all except Troubridge in the Culloden, who, cutting his prize adrift, was in such a hurry to take part in the battle that he grounded on the edge of a shoal, and lay there pounding heavily till the next morning. The little Leander, of fifty guns, and the brig Mutine, strove heroically to tug him off ; but Troubridge saw that it was vain, and ordered the Leander to take her place in the battle. One thing he could do-by dint of signal and lantern he kept the Alexander and the Swiftsure from sharing his fate, and saved them for Nelson.
Meanwhile Nelson executed his ideal maneuvre of throwing the whole of his fleet on a portion of the fleet of an enemy less skilled in seamanship. His was the sixth ship, and instead of following the first five inside the French line, he altered his course, and led the remaining ships outside the line, laying his own ship, the Vanguard, within a pistol-shot of the Spartiate, the third ship in the French line. The first two were already shattered. The Zealous had dismasted the Guerrier within ten minutes ; the Goliath and the Audacious had riddled the Conquérant with their broadsides. As the other English ships came up, each was to lay itself alongside the first French ship it came to; but two of them, the Bellerophon and the Majestic, were carried down the line, the Bellerophon fetching up against the gigantic L'Orient, which had a hundred and twenty guns against her seventy-four, and a still greater inequality in the size of the guns. Their failure to take their places in the concentrated British attack on the French van caused very great loss in killed and wounded, not only on the Bellerophon, exposed to the terrific fire of L'Orient, but on Nelson's own ship, the Vanguard, which, while she was fighting the Spartiate, had her bows raked by the Aquilon, which was for awhile unengaged. The actual firing began at half-past six; the Guerrier's masts were all shot away before sundown, a quarter of an hour later. None of the ships engaged shifted their positions until after eight. Just as the Bellerophon, unable to resist the fire of L'Orient at close quarters any longer, had cut her cable and hauled off, the Alexander and the Swiftsure and the
little Leander, three of the English ships which had been delayed, sailed up. The Leander, only a fifty-gun ship, threw herself across the bows of two great three-deckers, the Franklin and the mighty L'Orient, with consummate skill, so as to make the most of her feeble battery by raking them. The captains of the Alexander and the Swiftsure threw themselves grimly upon L'Orient, already badly mauled by the Bellerophon before the latter had been compelled to relinquish the unequal fight. The Swiftsure anchored outside the line, where her captain could divide his fire between the Franklin and L'Orient. The Alexander sailed right under the stern of L'Orient and anchored close to her inner quarter. In less than an hour L'Orient was on fire. Under the terrible cannonade of the two ships all attempts to put the fire out were unavailing. At a quarter to ten L'Orient blew up, to the infinite danger of the boats of the British ships, who were trying to save her crew. Nelson, meanwhile, had been so badly wounded that his captains were compelled to fight out the remainder of the action on their own initiative. It was due to this fact that the three rear French ships were left unengaged, and sailed away on the following morning when day broke and showed the condition of the rest of their fleet. They could not be pursued, because only one British ship had sufficient rigging left to follow them.
Ten out of the thirteen French ships having been taken or destroyed, the first order Nelson issued when he recovered from the stunning effects of his wound was: “Vanguard, off the Mouth of the Nile, August 22, 1798.–Almighty God having blessed His Majesty's arms with victory, the Admiral intends returning public thanksgiving for the same at two o'clock this day: and he recommends every ship doing the same as soon as convenient."
Such was the battle of the Nile, fought in this roadstead of Abûkir, which fills the curve of the coast between Alexandria and the Rosetta mouth of the Nile. There is no monument of any kind to this most supreme of all naval victories, one of the most decisive battles of the world.
But Abûkir is very somnolent, even for immemorial Egypt,
the land of short memories. Truly the Pharaohs were wise when they catalogued every detail upon every monument in their imperishable hieroglyphics. But for that Egypt would have forgotten that there ever were any Pharaohs. Of Abercromby's battle—the land-battle of Abûkir, fought nearly three years after Nelson's, and even more immediate in its results, since it secured the evacuation of Egypt by Napoleon's army, which had obtained possession of the country in spite of Nelson's victory—the landmarks are almost lost.
Canopus, the pleasure-city of Alexandria, has fared even worse. It is vaguely identified with Abûkir, but some savants place it to the north and some to the south, though a large Roman temple dedicated to Serapis, discovered not so very long ago on the estate of Prince Omar Toussoun, may help them to come to a decision, because we know from Plutarch that there was a much-frequented shrine and oracle of Serapis at Canopus. It is incredible how little we know of Canopus and its site, when we consider that the city gave its name to a branch of the Nile, and that the eponymous god connected with it gave his name to the human-headed Canopic jars, in which the ancient Egyptians preserved the intestines of their important dead. We know vaguely that Canopus was a watering-place notorious for its number of religious festivals and the general dissoluteness of its morals, and we know that the red dye of the henna, used so widely in the East for colouring the hands and feet, was manufactured here. We know that the Emperor Hadrian established a miniature Canopus in his pleasure-city on the way out to Tivoli, known as the Villa of Hadrian; but no one has ever yet made out the exact nature of this Canopus. Some ancient writers imagined that Canopus was called after the pilot of Menelaus, who died and was buried here, after the return of the Greeks from Troy; some imagined that it was called after the god Canopus. Modern writers will be more inclined to believe that both the god and the pilot were invented to account for the name of the town, which is generally the truth about eponymous heroes in the classics. We shall know more about it, a great deal, when the wealthy
city of Alexandria wakes up to the importance of excavating some of the square miles of ancient sites which lie unexcavated in its vicinity. At present Alexandria cares so little about anything except commerce, that photographs are almost unprocurable in the city, and the postcard business is in its infancy.
To most people who visit Abûkir the blue bay, with its memories of Nelson, will be but a faint background. Their vision will be one of Arab women squatting in the sun, as still as Lot's wife; of little Arab girls in the long dress which pervades half Italy, playing about like the kids of goats; of a grove of date-palms by the shore, and a gay little mosque at the corner of the yellow native village—too poor to support a civilised shop, or to keep its hotel alive, though it is surrounded by the summer villas of pashas.