Instantly the British fleet hauled up, steering to the eastward under topgallantsails, with a fine breeze from north by west to north-north-west.
Let us pause here, while we endeavour to explain how it happened that, in a sea so comparatively small as the Mediterranean, two hostile fleets, one of which was so strenuously seeking the other, that other, too, from its immense numbers, spread over so wide a surface, did not come in mutual contact. On the 24th of May, when the reinforcement for Rear-admiral Nelson quitted Earl St.-Vincent off Cadiz, the French fleet was running down the eastern coast of Corsica ; and on the 8th of June, when Rear-admiral Nelson made sail from off Toulon, with a fleet which had only been formed the night before, Vice-admiral Brueys was standing across from Sicily to Malta. It has already been stated, that the French fleet (part of it the day before) quitted the last-named island on the morning of the 19th. Singularly enough, on the night of the 22d, the two fleets crossed each other's track unperceived. That this should have happened, in a case in which one of the fleets numbered, as that of the French then did, nearly 400 sail, must appear strange ; but the surprise will diminish, when it is known-that the spot of intersection was about midway between Cape Mesurata and the mouth of the Adriatic, the widest part of the Mediterranean ; that the British fleet sailed in close order, and had no frigates to spread as look-outs ; and that a constant haze pervaded the atmosphere. Subsequently to the 22d the French steered east, to make the Goza di Candia ; while the British stood southeast, or straight along the African coast. Hence the latter reached its port of destination just two days before the former ; and the British fleet, as it quitted the shore on its departure, was actually seen from the Pharos tower on the morning of the same day, the 30th, towards the evening of which the French fleet made its appearance off the coast of Egypt.
We have already mentioned that the French fleet anchored in the bay of Aboukir. That fleet consisted of the:
* As captain of the fleet, but M. Ganteaume was not appointed a rear-admiral until the 7th of November following.
† According to the official list, but called Blanquet-Duchayla in most of the French accounts.
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