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A Sailor’s Fortune – Essay IV
by [?]

– the generous spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his childish thought:
Whose high endeavours are an inward light
That makes the path before him always bright;
Who, doom’d to go in company with pain,
And fear and bloodshed, miserable train!
Turns his necessity to glorious gain;
By objects, which might force the soul to abate
Her feeling, rendered more compassionate.
WORDSWORTH.

At the close of the American war, Captain Ball was entrusted with the protection and convoying of an immense mercantile fleet to America, and by his great prudence and unexampled attention to the interests of all and each, endeared his name to the American merchants, and laid the foundation of that high respect and predilection which both the Americans and their government ever afterwards entertained for him. My recollection does not enable me to attempt any accuracy in the date or circumstances, or to add the particulars of his services in the West Indies and on the coast of America, I now therefore merely allude to the fact with a prospective reference to opinions and circumstances, which I shall have to mention hereafter. Shortly after the general peace was established, Captain Ball, who was now a married man, passed some time with his lady in France, and, if I mistake not, at Nantes. At the same time, and in the same town, among the other English visitors, Lord (then Captain) Nelson happened to be one. In consequence of some punctilio, as to whose business it was to pay the compliment of the first call, they never met, and this trifling affair occasioned a coldness between the two naval commanders, or in truth a mutual prejudice against each other. Some years after, both their ships being together close off Minorca and near Port Mahon, a violent storm nearly disabled Lord Nelson’s vessel, and in addition to the fury of the wind, it was night time and the thickest darkness. Captain Ball, however, brought his vessel at length to Nelson’s assistance, took his ship in tow, and used his best endeavours to bring her and his own vessel into Port Mahon. The difficulties and the dangers increased. Nelson considered the case of his own ship as desperate, and that unless she was immediately left to her own fate, both vessels would inevitably be lost. He, therefore, with the generosity natural to him, repeatedly requested Captain Ball to let him loose; and on Captain Ball’s refusal, he became impetuous, and enforced his demand with passionate threats. Captain Ball then himself took the speaking-trumpet, which the fury of the wind and waves rendered necessary, and with great solemnity and without the least disturbance of temper, called out in reply, “I feel confident that I can bring you in safe; I therefore must not, and, by the help of Almighty God, I will not leave you!” What he promised he performed; and after they were safely anchored, Nelson came on board of Ball’s ship, and embracing him with all the ardour of acknowledgment, exclaimed, “A friend in need is a friend indeed!” At this time and on this occasion commenced that firm and perfect friendship between these two great men, which was interrupted only by the death of the former. The pleasing task of dwelling on this mutual attachment I defer to that part of the present sketch which will relate to Sir Alexander Ball’s opinions of men and things. It will be sufficient for the present to say, that the two men whom Lord Nelson especially honoured, were Sir Thomas Troubridge and Sir Alexander Ball; and once, when they were both present, on some allusion made to the loss of his arm, he replied, “Who shall dare tell me that I want an arm, when I have three right arms–this (putting forward his own) and Ball and Troubridge?”