Part 4 out of 8
waist induced him to run down, when we all surrounded him, and plied
him so effectually with buckets of water, that he was glad to run down
the after-hatchway, and seek shelter in the gun-room; as he ran down,
we threw the buckets after him, and he fell, like the Roman virgin,
covered with the shields of the soldiers.
The purser had fortified himself in his cabin, and with his sword and
pistols, vowed vengeance against all intruders; but the middies were
not to be frightened with swords or pistols: so we had him out, and
gave him a sound ducking, because he had refused to let us have more
spirits than our allowance. He was paraded to the main-deck in great
form, his sword held over his head; his pistols, in a bucket of water,
carried before him; and having been duly shaved, physicked, and soused
into the cow-pen, he was allowed to return to his cabin, like a
The first lieutenant of marines was a great bore; he was always
annoying us with his German flute. Having no ear of his own, he had no
mercy on ours, so we handed him to the bath; and in addition to all
the other luxuries of the day, made him drink, half a pint of salt
water, which we poured into his mouth through his own flute, as a
funnel. I now recollect that it was the cries of the poor marine which
brought down the first lieutenant, who ordered us to desist, and we
served him as hath been related.
Thus far all was hilarity and mirth; but the scene was very suddenly
changed. One of the foretopmen, drawing water in the chains, fell
overboard; the alarm was instantly given, and the ship hove to. I
ran upon the poop, and, seeing that the man could not swim, jumped
overboard to save him. The height from which I descended made me go
very deep in the water, and when I arose I could perceive one of the
man's hands. I swam towards him; but, O, God! what was my horror, when
I found myself in the midst of his blood. I comprehended in a moment
that a shark had taken him, and expected that every instant my own
fate would be like his. I wonder I had not sunk with fear: I was
nearly paralyzed. The ship, which had been going six or seven miles
an hour, was at some distance, and I gave myself up for gone. I had
scarcely the power of reflection, and was overwhelmed by the sudden,
awful, and, as I thought, certain approach of death in its most
horrible shape. In a moment I recollected myself: and I believe the
actions of five years crowded into my mind in as many minutes. I
prayed most fervently, and vowed amendment, if it should please God
to spare me. My prayer was heard, and I believe it was a special
Providence that rescued me from the jaws of the fish. I was nearly
a mile from the ship before I was picked up; and when the boat came
alongside with me, three large sharks were under the stern. These had
devoured the poor sailor, and, fortunately for me, had followed the
ship for more prey, and thus left me to myself.
As I went up the side, I was received by the captain and officers in
the most flattering manner; the captain thanked me in the presence of
the ship's company for my praiseworthy exertions, and I was gazed on
by all as an object of interest and admiration; but if others thought
so of me, I thought not so of myself. I retired below to my berth with
a loathing and contempt, a self-abasement, which I cannot describe. I
felt myself unworthy of the mercy I had received. The disgraceful
and vicious course of life I had led, burst upon me with horrible
conviction. "_Caelo tonantem credidimus Jovem regnare_," says
Horace; and it was only by the excitement of such peculiarly horrid
situations, that the sense of a superintending power could be awakened
within me, a hardened and incorrigible sinner.
I changed my clothes, and was glad when night came, that I might be
left to myself; but oh, how infinitely more horrid did my situation
appear! I shuddered when I thought of what I had gone through, and I
made the most solemn promises of a new life. How transient were these
feelings! How long did these good resolutions last? Just as long as no
temptation came in the way; as long as there was no excitement to sin,
no means of gratifying appetite. My good intentions were traced in the
sand. I was very soon as thoughtless and as profane as ever, although
frequently checked by the remembrance of my providential escape; and
for years afterwards the thoughts of the shark taking me by the leg
was accompanied by the acknowledgment that the devil would have me in
like manner, if I did not amend.
If after this awakening circumstance, I could have had the good
fortune to have met with sober-minded and religious people, I have no
doubt but I might have had at this time much less to answer for; but
that not being the case, the force of habit and example renewed its
dominion over me, and I became nearly as bad as ever.
Our amusements in the gun-room were rough. One of them was to lie on
the mess table, under the tiller, and to hold by the tiller ropes
above, while we kicked at all who attempted to dislodge us, either by
force or stratagem. Whoever had possession, had nine points of the
law, and could easily oppose the whole. I one day held this envied
position, and kept all at bay, when, unluckily, one of the passed
midshipmen, who had got very drunk with the gunner, came in and made
a furious attack on me. I gave him a kick on the face, that sent him
with great violence on his back, among the plates and dishes, which
had been removed from the dinner-table and placed between the guns.
Enraged, as much at the laughter against him as at the blow he had
received, he snatched up a carving fork, and, before any one was aware
of his intention, stabbed me with it four times. I jumped up to punish
him, but the moment I got on my legs was so stiff, that I fell back
into the arms of my messmates.
The surgeon examined the wounds, which were serious; two of them
nearly touched an artery. I was put to bed sick, and was three weeks
confined to my berth. The midshipman who had committed this outrage,
was very penitent when sober, and implored my pardon and forgiveness.
Naturally good-natured, I freely forgave, because I was disarmed by
submission. I never trampled on a prostrate foe. The surgeon reported
me ill of a fever, which was true; for had the captain known the real
fact, the midshipman, whose commission was signed, and in the ship,
ready to be delivered to him on his arrival at Bermuda, would
certainly have lost his promotion. My kindness to him, I believe,
wounded him more than my resentment; he became exceedingly melancholy
and thoughtful, gave up drinking, and was ever after greatly attached
to me. I reckon this among the few good actions of my life, and own I
have great pleasure in reflecting upon it.
We arrived at Bermuda soon after, having left the convoy in the
latitude of ten degrees north. The supernumeraries were all discharged
into their respective ships; and before we separated, we had the
pleasure to see the first lieutenant take his passage in a ship bound
to England. Most sincerely did we congratulate ourselves on the
success of our intrigue.
Where the remote Bermudas ride,
In th' ocean's bosom.
There is a peculiar kind of beauty among these islands, which we might
really believe to be the abode of fairies. They consist of a cluster
of rocks, formed by the zoophyte, or coral worm. The number of the
islands is said to be equal to the days of the year. They are covered
with a short green sward, dark cedar trees, and low white houses,
which have a pretty and pleasing effect; the harbours are numerous,
but shallow; and though there are many channels into them, there is
but one for large ships into the principal anchorage.
Numerous caverns, whose roofs sparkle with the spars and stalactites
formed by the dripping water, are found in every part of the islands.
They contain springs of delicious coolness, to quench the thirst, or
to bathe in. The sailors have a notion that these islands float, and
that the crust which composes them is so thin as to be broken with
little exertion. One man being confined in the guardhouse for having
got drunk and misbehaved, stamped on the ground, and roared to the
guard, "Let me out, or, d--nour eyes, I'll knock a hole in your
bottom, scuttle your island, and send you all to h---- together."
Rocks and shoals abound in almost every direction, but chiefly on the
north and west sides. They are, however, well known to the native
pilots, and serve as a safeguard from nightly surprise or invasion.
Varieties of fish are found here, beautiful to the eye and delicious
to the taste: of these, the best is the red grouper. When on a calm,
clear day, you glide among these lovely islands, in your boat, you
seem to be sailing over a submarine flower-garden, in which clumps of
trees, shrubs, flowers, and gravel walks, are planted in wild, but
My chief employment was afloat, and according to my usual habit,
I found no amusement unless it was attended with danger; and this
propensity found ample gratification in the whale fishery, the season
for which was just approaching. The ferocity of the fish in these
southern latitudes appears to be increased, both from the heat of the
climate and the care of their young, for which reason it would seem
that the risk in taking them is greater than in the polar seas.
From what I am able to learn of the natural history of the whale, she
brings forth her young seldom more than one at a time in the northern
regions, after which, with the calf at her side, the mother seeks a
more genial climate, to bring it to maturity. They generally reach
Bermuda about the middle of March, where they remain but a few weeks,
after which they visit the West India Islands, then bear away to the
southward, and go round Cape Horn, returning to the polar seas by
the Aleutian Islands and Behring's Straits, which they reach in the
following summer; when the young whale, having acquired size and
strength in the southern latitudes, is enabled to contend with his
enemies in the north, and here also the dam meets the male again. From
my own experience and the inquiries I have been enabled to make, I am
tolerably certain that this is a correct statement of the migration of
these animals, the females annually making the tour of the two great
American continents, attended by their young.
The "maternal solicitude" of the whale makes her a dangerous
adversary, and many serious accidents occur in the season for catching
whales. On one occasion I had nearly paid with my life for the
gratification of my curiosity. I went in a whale-boat rowed by
coloured men, natives of the islands, who were very daring and expert
in this pursuit. We saw a whale, with her calf, playing round the
coral rocks; the attention which the dam showed to its young, the care
she took to warn it of danger, was truly affecting. She led it away
from the boats, swam round it, and sometimes she would embrace it with
her fins, and roll over with it in the waves. We contrived to get the
"'vantage ground" by going to seaward of her, and by that means drove
her into shoal water among the rocks. At last we came so near the
young one, that the harpooner poised his weapon, knowing that the calf
once struck, the mother was our own, for she would never desert it.
Aware of the danger and impending fate of its inexperienced offspring,
she swam rapidly round it, in decreasing circles, evincing the utmost
uneasiness and anxiety; but the parental admonitions were unheeded,
and it met its fate.
The boat approached the side of the younger fish, and the harpooner
buried his tremendous weapon deep in the ribs. The moment it felt the
wound, the poor animal darted from us, taking out a hundred fathom of
line; but a young fish is soon conquered when once well struck: such
was the case in this instance; it was no sooner checked with the line
than it turned on its back, and, displaying its white belly on the
surface of the water, floated a lifeless corpse. The unhappy parent,
with an instinct always more powerful than reason, never quitted the
We hauled in upon the line, and came close up to our quarry just
as another boat had fixed a harpoon in the mother. The tail of the
furious animal descended with irresistible force upon the very centre
of our boat, cutting it in two, and killing two of the men; the
survivors took to swimming for their lives in all directions. The
whale went in pursuit of the third boat, but was checked by the line
from the one that had struck her: she towed them at the rate of ten or
eleven miles an hour: and had she had deep water, would have taken the
boat down, or obliged them to cut away from her.
The two boats were so much employed that they could not come to our
assistance for some time, and we were left to our own resources much
longer than I thought agreeable. I was going to swim to the calf
whale; but one of the men advised me not to do so, saying that the
sharks would be as thick about him as the lawyers round Westminster
Hall; and that I should certainly be snapped up if I went near: for
my comfort he added, "These devils seldom touch a man if they can get
anything else." This might be very true; but I must confess I was very
glad to see one of the boats come to our assistance, while the mother
whale, encumbered with the heavy harpoon and line, and exhausted with
the fountain of black blood which she threw up, drew near to her calf,
and died by its side; evidently, in her last moments, more occupied
with the preservation of her young than of herself.
As soon as she turned on her back, I had reason to thank the "Mudian"
for his good advice; there were at least thirty or forty sharks
assembled round the carcasses; and as we towed them in, they followed.
When we had grounded them in the shallow water, close to the beach,
the blubber was cut off; after which, the flesh was given to the black
people, who assembled in crowds, and cut off with their knives large
portions of the meat. The sharks as liberally helped themselves with
their teeth; but it was very remarkable, that though the black men
often came between them and the whale, they never attacked a man. This
was a singular scene; the blacks with their white eyes and teeth,
hallooing, laughing, screaming, and mixing with numerous sharks--the
most ferocious monsters of the deep--yet preserving a sort of truce
during the presence of a third object: it reminded me, comparing great
things with small, of the partition of Poland.
I found that there was neither honour nor profit for me in this
diversion, so I no more went a whale fishing, but took my passage to
Halifax, in a schooner; one of those vessels built during the war,
in imitation of the Virginia pilot boats; but, like most of our
imitations, about as much resembling the original as a cow is like a
hare, and bearing exactly the same proportion in point of velocity.
And as if it had been determined that these vessels should in every
respect disgrace the British flag, the command of them was conferred
on officers whose conduct would not induce captains to allow them to
serve under them, and who were therefore very unwisely sent into small
vessels, where they became their own masters, and were many of them
constantly drunk; such was the state of my commander from the time I
sailed until we reached Halifax. The example of the lieutenant was
followed by his mate, and three midshipmen; the crew, which consisted
of twenty-five men, were kept sober by being confined to their
allowance, and I had a hopeful prospect.
Fortunately, drinking was not among my vices. I could get "fresh," as
we call it, when in good company and excited by wit and mirth; but I
never went to the length of being drunk; and, as I advanced in years,
pride and cunning made me still more guarded. I perceived the immense
advantage which sobriety gave me over a drunkard, and I failed not to
profit by it.
Keeping constantly on deck, almost night and day, I attended to the
course of the vessel and the sail she carried, never taking the
trouble to consult the lieutenant, who was generally senseless in his
cabin. We made Sambro' Lighthouse (which is at the entrance of Halifax
harbour) in the evening, and one of the midshipmen, who was more than
half drunk, declared himself well acquainted with the place, and his
offer to pilot the vessel in was accepted. As I had never been there
before, I could be of no use; but being extremely doubtful of the
skill of our pilot, I watched his proceedings with some anxiety.
In half an hour we found ourselves on shore on Cornwallis Island, as
I afterwards learned, and the sea made a fair breach over us. This
sobered the lieutenant and his officers; and as the tide fell, we
found ourselves high and dry. The vessel fell over on her side, and I
walked on shore, determined to trust myself no more with such a set of
beasts. Boats came down from the dockyard at daylight, and took me and
some others who had followed my example, together with our luggage, to
the flag-ship. After two days' hard labour, the vessel was got off,
and brought into the harbour. The admiral was informed of the whole
transaction, and one of the captains advised him to try the lieutenant
by a court-martial, or, at least, to turn him out of the vessel, and
send him home. Unfortunately, he would not follow this advice, but
sent him to sea again, with despatches. It was known that all hands
were drunk on quitting the port; and the vessel ran upon a reef of
rocks called the Sisters, where she sank, and every soul perished. Her
mast-heads were seen just above water the next morning.
The frigate I was to join, came into harbour soon after I reached
Halifax. This I was sorry for, as I found myself in very good
quarters. I had letters of introduction to the best families. The
place is proverbial for hospitality; and the society of the young
ladies, who are both virtuous and lovely, tended in some degree
to reform and polish the rough and libertine manners which I had
contracted in my career. I had many sweethearts; but they were more
like Emily than Eugenia. I was a great flirt among them, and would
willingly have spent more time in their company; but my fate or
fortune was to be accomplished, and I went on board the frigate, where
I presented my introductory letters to the nobleman who commanded her.
I expected to have seen an effeminate young man, much too refined to
learn his business; but I was mistaken. Lord Edward was a sailor
every inch of him: he knew a ship from stem to stern, understood the
characters of seamen, and gained their confidence. He was, besides,
a good mechanic--a carpenter, rope-maker, sail-maker, and cooper. He
could hand, reef, and steer, knot and splice; but he was no orator:
he read little, and spoke less. He was a man of no show. He was
good-tempered, honest, and unsophisticated, with a large proportion of
common sense. He was good-humoured and free with his officers; though,
if offended he was violent but soon calm again; nor could you ever
perceive any assumption of consequence from his title of nobility. He
was pleased with my expertness in practical seamanship; and before
we left the harbour, I became a great favourite. This I took care
to improve, as I liked him both for himself and his good qualities,
independently of the advantages of being on good terms with the
We were not allowed to remain long in this paradise of sailors, being
ordered suddenly to Quebec. I ran round to say adieu to all my dear
Arcadian friends. A tearful eye, a lock of hair, a hearty shake of a
fair hand, were all the spoils with which I was loaded when I quitted
the shore, and I cast many a longing, lingering look behind, as the
ship glided out of the harbour; white handkerchiefs were waved from
the beach, and many a silent prayer put up for our safe return from
snowy bosoms and from aching hearts. I dispensed my usual quantum of
vows of eternal love and fidelity before I left them, and my departure
was marked in the calendar of Halifax as a black day, by at least
seven or eight pairs of blue eyes.
We had not been long at sea before we spoke an Irish Guineaman from
Belfast, loaded with emigrants for the United States: I think about
seventeen families. These were contraband. Our captain had some twenty
thousand acres on the island of St John's, or Prince Edward's, as
it is now called, a grant to some of his ancestors, which had been
bequeathed to him, and from which he had never received one shilling
of rent, for the very best reason in the world, because there were no
tenants to cultivate the soil. It occurred to our noble captain, that
this was the very sort of cargo he wanted, and that these Irish people
would make good clearers of his land, and improve his estate. He made
the proposal to them, and as they saw no chance of getting to the
United States, and provided they could procure nourishment for
their families, it was a matter of indifference to them where they
colonised, the proposal was accepted, and the captain obtained
permission of the admiral to accompany them to the island, to see them
housed and settled. Indeed, nothing could have been more advantageous
for all parties; they increased the scanty population of our own
colony, instead of adding to the number of our enemies. We sailed
again from Halifax a few hours after we had obtained the sanction of
the admiral, and, passing through the beautiful passage between Nova
Scotia and the island of Cape Breton, known by the name of the Gut of
Canso, we soon reached Prince Edward's Island.
We anchored in a small harbour near the estate, on which we found a
man residing with his wife and family; this fellow called himself the
steward, and from all I could see of him during our three weeks' stay,
he appeared to me to be rascal enough for the stewardship of any
nobleman's estate in England. The captain landed, and took me as his
aide-de-camp. A bed was prepared for his lordship in the steward's
house, but he preferred sleeping on clean hay in the barn. This noble
lord was a man whose thoughts seldom gave much labour to his tongue;
he always preferred hearing others to talking himself; and whoever was
his companion, he must always be at the expense of the conversation.
Nor was it by the usual mode of simple narrative, that his mind was
completely impressed with the image intended to be presented to him;
he required three different versions, or paraphrases, of the same
story or observation, and to these he had three different expletives
or ejaculations. These were hum! eh! and ah! The first denoted
attention; the second, part comprehension; and the third, assent and
entire approval; to mark which more distinctly, the last syllable was
drawn out to an immoderate length, and accompanied by a sort of half
I shall give one instance of our colloquial pastime. His lordship,
after we had each taken up our quarters for the night, on the soft dry
hay, thus began:
"I say,"--a pause.
"What would they say in England, at our taking up such quarters?"
"I think, my lord, that as far as regards myself, they would say
nothing; but as far as regards your lordship, they would say it was
very indifferent accommodation for a nobleman."
This I knew was the signal for a new version. "I was observing, my
lord, that a person of your rank, taking up his quarters in a barn,
would excite suspicion among your friends in England."
"Eh?" says his lordship.
That did not do--either your lordship's head or mine is very thick,
thinks I. I'll try again, though dying to go to sleep. "I say, my
lord, if the people in England knew what a good sailor you are, they
would be surprised at nothing you did; but those who know nothing,
would think it odd that you should be contented with such quarters."
"Ah!" said his lordship, triumphantly.
What further observations he was pleased to make that night I know
not, for I fell fast asleep, and did not awake till the cocks and hens
began to fly down from their roosts, and make a confounded clamour for
their breakfasts, when his lordship jumped up, gave himself a good
shake, and then gave me another of a different sort: it announced
the purpose, however, of restoring me to that reason, of which the
cackling of the poultry had only produced the incipient signs.
"Come, rouse out, you d----- lazy chap," said my captain. "Do you mean
to sleep all day? we have got plenty to do."
"Ay, ay, my lord," said I. So up I jumped, and my toilet was completed
in the same time, and by the same operation, as that of a Newfoundland
dog, namely, a good shake.
A large party of the ship's company came on shore with the carpenter,
bringing with them every implement useful in cutting down trees and
building log-houses. Such was to be our occupation, in order to house
these poor emigrants. Our men began to clear a patch of land, by
cutting down a number of pine-trees, the almost exclusive natives of
the wood, and, having selected a spot for the foundation, we placed
four stems of trees in a parallelogram, having a deep notch in each
end, mutually to fit and embrace each other. When the walls, by this
repeated operation, were high enough, we laid on the rafters,
and covered the roof with boughs of the fir, and the bark of the
birch-tree, filling the interstices with moss and mud. By practice, I
became a very expert engineer, and with the assistance of thirty or
forty men, I could build a very good house in a day.
We next cleared, by burning and rooting up, as much land as would
serve to sustain the little colony for the ensuing season; and having
planted a crop of corn and potatoes, and given the settlers many
articles useful in their new abode, we left them agreeably to our
orders, and to my great joy returned to dear Halifax where I again was
blessed with the sight of my innocent harem. I remember well that I
received a severe rebuke from the captain for inattention to signals.
One was addressed to us from the flag-ship; I was signal midshipman;
but instead of directing my glass towards the old _Centurion_, it was
levelled at a certain young Calypso, whose fair form I discovered
wandering along the "_gazon fleuris_:" how long would I not have dwelt
in this happy Arcadia, had not another Mentor pushed me off the rocks,
and sent me once more to buffet the briny waves!
Contrary to the opinion of any rational being, the President of the
United States was planning a war against England, and every ship in
Halifax harbour was preparing to fight the Yankees. The squadron
sailed in September. I bade adieu to the nymphs of Nova Scotia with
more indifference than became me, or than the reception I had met with
from them seemed to deserve; but I was the same selfish and ungrateful
being as ever. I cared for no one but my own dear self, and as long
as I was gratified, it mattered little to me how many broken hearts I
At once the winds arise,
The thunders roll, the forky lightning flies;
In vain the master issues out commands,
In vain the trembling sailors ply their hands:
The tempest unforeseen prevents their care,
And from the first, they labour in despair.
Halifax is a charming, hospitable place: its name is associated with
so many pleasing recollections, that it never fails to extort another
glass from the bottle which, having been gagged, was going to pass the
night in the cellaret. But only say Halifax! and it is like "Open
sesame!"--out flies the cork, and down goes a bumper to the "health of
all good lasses!"
I related, in the last chapter, an adventure with an Irish Guineaman,
whose cargo my right honourable captain converted to the profitable
uses of himself and his country. Another of these vessels had been
fallen in with by one of our cruisers, and the commander of His
Majesty's sloop, the _Humming Bird_, made a selection of some thirty
or forty stout Hibernians to fill up his own complement, and hand over
the surplus to the admiral.
Short-sighted mortals we all are, and captains of men-of-war are not
exempted from this human imperfection! How much, also, drops between
the cup and the lip! There chanced to be on board of the same trader
two very pretty Irish girls of the better sort of _bourgeoisie_; they
were going to join their friends at Philadelphia: the name of the one
was Judy, and of the other Maria. No sooner were the poor Irishmen
informed of their change of destination, than they set up a howl loud
enough to make the scaly monsters of the deep seek their dark caverns.
They rent the hearts of the poor tender-hearted girls; and when the
thorough bass of the males was joined by the sopranos and trebles of
the women and children, it would have made Orpheus himself turn round
"Oh, Miss Judy! Oh, Miss Maria! would ye be so cruel as to see us poor
craturs dragged away to a man-of-war, and not for to go and spake a
word for us? A word to the captain wid your own pretty mouths, no
doubt he would let us off."
The young ladies, though doubting the powers of their own
fascinations, resolved to make the experiment; so, begging the
lieutenant of the sloop to give them a passage on board, to speak with
his captain, they added a small matter of finery to their dress, and
skipped into the boat like a couple of mountain kids, caring neither
for the exposure of legs nor the spray of the salt water, which,
though it took the curls out of their hair, added a bloom to the
cheeks which, perhaps, contributed in no small degree to the success
of their project.
There is something in the sight of a petticoat at sea that never fails
to put a man into a good humour, provided he be rightly constructed.
When they got on board the _Humming Bird_, they were received by the
captain, and handed down into the cabin, where some refreshments were
immediately prepared for them, and every kind attention shown which
their sex and beauty could demand. The captain was one of the best
natured fellows that ever lived, with a pair of little sparkling black
eyes that laughed in your face.
"And pray, young ladies," said he, "what may have procured me the
honour of this visit?"
"It was to beg a favour of your honour," said Judy.
"And his honour will grant it, too," said Maria; "for I like the look
Flattered by this little shot of Maria's, the captain said that
nothing ever gave him more pleasure than to oblige the ladies; and if
the favour they intended to ask was not utterly incompatible with his
duty, that he would grant it.
"Well then," said Maria, "will your honour give me back Pat Flannagan,
that you have pressed just now?"
The captain shook his head.
"He's no sailor, your honour; but a poor bog-trotter: and he will
never do you any good."
The captain again shook his head.
"Ask me anything else," said he, "and I will give it you."
"Well then," said Maria, "give us Felim O'Shaugnessy?"
The captain was equally inflexible.
"Come, come, your honour," said Judy, "we must not stand upon trifles
nowadays. I'll give you a kiss, if you'll give me Pat Flannagan."
"And I another," said Maria, "for Felim."
The captain had one seated on each side of him; his head turned like a
dog-vane in a gale of wind; he did not know which to begin with; the
most ineffable good humour danced in his eyes, and the ladies saw at
once that the day was their own. Such is the power of beauty, that
this lord of the ocean was fain to strike to it. Judy laid a kiss on
his right cheek; Maria matched it on his left; the captain was the
happiest of mortals.
"Well, then," said he, "you have your wish; take your two men, for I
am in a hurry to make sail."
"Is it sail ye are after making; and do ye mane to take all those
pretty craturs away wid ye? No, faith! another kiss, and another man."
I am not going to relate how many kisses these lovely girls bestowed
on this envied captain. If such are captain's perquisites, who would
not be a captain? Suffice it to say, they released the whole of their
countrymen, and returned on board in triumph. The story reached
Halifax, where the good-humoured admiral only said he was sorry he was
not a captain, and all the happy society made themselves very merry
with it. The captain, who is as brave as he is good, was promoted soon
after, entirely from his own intrinsic merit, but not for this action,
in which candour and friendship must acknowledge he was defeated. The
Lord-Chancellor used to say, he always laughed at the settlement of
pin-money, as ladies were either kicked out of it or kissed out of it;
but his lordship, in the whole course of his legal practice, never saw
a captain of a man-of-war kissed out of forty men by two pretty Irish
girls. After this, who would not shout, "_Erin go bragh_!"
Dashing with a fine breeze out of the harbour, I saw with joy the
field of fortune open to me, holding out a fair promise of glory and
riches. "Adieu!" said I, in my heart, "adieu, ye lovely Nova Scotians!
learn in future to distinguish between false glitter and real worth.
Me ye prized for a handsome person and a smooth tongue, while you
foolishly rejected men of ten times my worth, because they wanted the
We were ordered to Bermuda, and on our first quitting the port steered
away to the southward with a fair wind at north-west. This breeze soon
freshened into a gale at south-east, and blew with some violence, but
after a while it died away to a perfect calm, leaving a heavy swell,
in which the ship rolled incessantly. About eleven o'clock the sky
began to blacken; and, before noon, had assumed an appearance of the
most dismal and foreboding darkness; the sea-gulls screamed as they
flew distractedly by, warning us to prepare for the approaching
hurricane, whose symptoms could hardly be mistaken. The warning was
not lost upon us, most of our sails were taken in, and we had, as we
thought, so well secured everything, as to bid defiance to the storm.
About noon it came with a sudden and terrific violence that astonished
the oldest and most experienced seaman among us: the noise it made was
horrible, and its ravages inconceivable.
The wind was from the north-west--the water as it blew on board, and
all over us, was warm as milk; the murkiness and close smell of the
air was in a short time dispelled; but such was the violence of the
wind, that, on the moment of its striking the ship, she lay over on
her side with her lee guns under water. Every article that could move
was danced to leeward; the shot flew out of the lockers, and the
greatest confusion and dismay prevailed below, while above deck things
went still worse; the mizen-mast and the fore and main topmast went
over the side; but such was the noise of the wind, that we could not
hear them fall; nor did I, who was standing close to the mizen-mast at
the moment, know it was gone, until I turned round and saw the stump
of the mast snapped in two like a carrot. The noise of the wind "waxed
louder and louder;" it was like one continued peal of thunder; and the
enormous waves as they rose were instantly beheaded by its fury,
and sent in foaming spray along the bosom of the deep; the storm
stay-sails flew to atoms; the captain, officers, and men, stood
aghast, looking at each other, and waiting the awful event in utter
The ship lay over on her larboard side so heavily as to force in the
gun ports, and the nettings of the waist hammocks, and seemed as if
settling bodily down; while large masses of water, by the force of the
wind, were whirled up into the air; and others were pouring down the
hatchways, which we had not had time to batten down, and before we had
succeeded, the lower deck was half full, and the chests and hammocks
were all floating about in dreadful disorder. The sheep, cow, pigs,
and poultry, were all washed overboard out of the waist and drowned;
no voice could be heard, and no orders were given; all discipline was
suspended; every man was equal to his neighbour; captain and sweeper
clung alike to the same rope for security.
The carpenter was for cutting away the masts, but the captain would
not consent. A seaman crawled aft on the quarter-deck, and screaming
into the ear of the captain, informed him that one of the anchors had
broke adrift, and was hanging by the cable under the bows. To have let
it remain long in this situation, was certain destruction to the ship,
and I was ordered forward to see it cut away; but so much had the
gale and the sea increased in a few minutes, that a passage to the
forecastle was not to be found: on the weather side, the wind and sea
were so violent that no man could face them. I was blown against the
boats, and with difficulty got back to the quarter-deck; and going
over to leeward, I swam along the gangway under the lee of the boats,
and delivered the orders, which with infinite difficulty at last were
On the forecastle, I found the oldest and stoutest seamen holding on
by the weather rigging, and crying like children: I was surprised at
this, and felt proud to be above such weakness. While my superiors in
age and experience were sinking under apprehension, I was aware of our
danger; and saw very clearly, that if the frigate did not right
very shortly, it would be all over with us; for in spite of our
precautions, the water was increasing below. I swam back to the
quarter-deck, where the captain, who was as brave a man as ever trod a
plank, stood at the wheel with three of the best seamen; but such were
the rude shocks which the rudder received from the sea, that it was
with the utmost difficulty they could prevent themselves being thrown
over the ship's side. The lee quarter-deck guns were under water; but
it was proposed to throw them overboard; and as it was a matter of
life and death, we succeeded. Still she lay like a log, and would not
right, and settled down in a very alarming manner. The violence of
the hurricane was unabated, and the general feeling seemed be, "To
prayers!--to prayers!--all lost!"
The fore and main-masts still stood, supporting the weight of rigging
and wreck which hung to them, and which, like a powerful lever,
pressed the labouring ship down on her side. To disengage this
enormous top hamper, was to us an object more to be desired than
expected. Yet the case was desperate, and a desperate effort was to be
made, or in half an hour we should have been past praying for, except
by a Roman Catholic priest. The danger of sending a man aloft was so
imminent, that the captain would not order one on this service;
but calling the ship's company on the quarter-deck, pointed to
the impending wreck, and by signs and gestures, and hard bawling,
convinced them that unless the ship was immediately eased of her
burden, she must go down.
At this moment every wave seemed to make a deeper and more fatal
impression on her. She descended rapidly in the hollows of the sea,
and rose with dull and exhausted motion, as if she felt she could do
no more. She was worn out in the contest, and about to surrender,
like a noble and battered fortress, to the overwhelming power of her
enemies. The men seemed stupefied with the danger; and I have no
doubt, could they have got at the spirits, would have made themselves
drunk; and in that state, have met their inevitable fate. At every
lurch, the mainmast appeared as if making the most violent efforts
to disengage itself from the ship: the weather shrouds became
like straight bars of iron, while the lee shrouds hung over in a
semi-circle to leeward, or with the weather-roll, banged against
the mast, and threatened instant destruction, each moment, from the
convulsive jerks. We expected to see the mast fall, and with it the
side of the ship to be beat in. No man could be found daring enough,
at the captain's request, to venture aloft, and cut away the wreck of
the main-top mast, and the main-yard, which was hanging up and down,
with the weight of the top-mast and topsail yard resting upon it.
There was a dead and stupid pause, while the hurricane, if any thing,
increased in violence.
I confess that I felt gratified at this acknowledgment of a danger
which none dare face. I waited a few seconds, to see if a volunteer
would step forward, resolved, if he did, that I would be his enemy for
life, inasmuch as he would have robbed me of the gratification of my
darling passion--unbounded pride. Dangers, in common with others, I
had often faced, and been the first to encounter; but to dare that
which a gallant and hardy crew of a frigate had declined, was a climax
of superiority which I had never dreamed of attaining. Seizing a sharp
tomahawk, I made signs to the captain that I would attempt to cut away
the wreck, follow me who dared. I mounted the weather-rigging; five
or six hardy seamen followed me; sailors will rarely refuse to follow
where they find an officer to lead the way.
The jerks of the rigging had nearly thrown us overboard, or jammed us
with the wreck. We were forced to embrace the shrouds with arms and
legs; and anxiously, and with breathless apprehension for our lives,
did the captain, officers, and crew, gaze on us as we mounted, and
cheered us at every stroke of the tomahawk. The danger seemed passed
when we reached the catharpens, where we had foot room. We divided our
work, some took the lanyards of the topmast rigging, I, the slings
of the main-yard. The lusty blows we dealt, were answered by
corresponding crashes; and at length, down fell the tremendous wreck
over the larboard gunwale. The ship felt instant relief; she
righted, and we descended amidst the cheers, the applauses, the
congratulations, and, I may add, the tears of gratitude, of most of
our shipmates. The work now become lighter, the gale abated every
moment, the wreck was gradually cleared away, and we forgot our cares.
This was the proudest moment of my life, and no earthly possession
would I have taken in exchange for what I felt when I once more placed
my foot on the quarter-deck. The approving smile of the captain--the
hearty shake by the hand--the praises of the officers--the eager gaze
of the ship's company, who looked on me with astonishment and obeyed
me with alacrity, were something in my mind, when abstractedly
considered, but nothing compared to the inward feeling of gratified
ambition, a passion so intimately interwoven in my existence, that
to have eradicated it, the whole fabric of my frame must have been
demolished. I felt pride justified.
Hurricanes are rarely of long continuance; this was succeeded by a
gale, which, though strong, was fine weather compared to what we
had seen. We fell to work rigged our jury-mast, and in a few days
presented ourselves to the welcome gaze of the town of Halifax,
which, having felt the full force of the hurricane, expressed very
considerable alarm for our safety. My arms and legs did not recover
for some time from the effects of the bruises I had received in going
aloft, and for some days I remained on board. When I recovered I went
on shore, and was kindly and affectionately received by my numerous
I had not been long at Halifax, before a sudden change took place
in the behaviour of my captain towards me. The cause I could never
exactly discover, though I had given myself some room for conjecture.
I must confess, with sorrow, that notwithstanding his kindness to me
on every occasion, and notwithstanding my high respect for him, as an
officer and a gentleman, I had raised a laugh against him. But he
was too good-humoured a man to be offended at such a harmless act of
youthful levity; and five minutes were usually the limits of anger
with this amiable man, on such occasions as I am about to relate.
The fact was this; my truly noble captain sported a remarkable wide
pair of blue trowsers. Whether he thought it sailor-like, or whether
his tailor was afraid of putting his lordship to short allowance of
cloth, for fear of phlogistic consequences, I know not; but broad
as was the beam of his lordship, still broader and more ample in
proportion were the folds of this essential part of his drapery, quite
enough to have embraced twice the volume of human flesh contained
within them, large as it undoubtedly was.
That "a stitch in time saves nine," is a wise saw; unhappily, like
many others of the same thrifty kind, but little heeded in this our
day. So it was with Lord Edward. A rent had, by some mischance been
made in the central seam, and, on the morning of the hurricane, was
still unmended. When the gale came, it sought a quarrel with any thing
it could lay hold of, and the harmless trowsers of Lord Edward became
subject to its mighty and resistless devastation; the blustering
Boreas entered by the seam aforesaid, and filled the trowsers like the
cheeks of a trumpeter. Yorkshire wool could not stand the inflated
pressure--the dress split to ribbons, and soundly flagellated the very
part it was intended to conceal. What could he do, "in sweet confusion
lost and dubious _flutterings_"--the only defence left against the
rude blast, was his shirt (for the weather was so warm that second
garments were dispensed with), and this too being old, fled in tatters
before the gale. In short, clap a sailor's jacket on the Gladiator in
Hyde-park, and you have a fair view of Lord Edward in the hurricane.
The case was inconvenient enough; but as the ship was in distress, and
we all expected to go to the bottom in half an hour, it was not worth
while to quit the deck to replace the dress, which would have availed
him nothing in the depths of the sea, particularly as we were not
likely to meet with any ladies there; nor if there had been any, was
it a matter of any moment whether we went to Davy's Locker with or
without breeches; but when the danger was passed, the joke began to
appear, and I was amusing a large company with the _tale_ when his
lordship came in. The titter of the ladies increased to a giggle, and
then, by regular gradation, to a loud and uncontrollable laugh. He
very soon discovered that he was the subject, and I the cause, and for
a minute or two seemed sulky; but it soon went off, and I cannot think
this was the reason of his change of sentiments; for, although it is
high treason in a midshipman to look black at the captain's dog, much
less to laugh at the captain under any circumstances, still I knew
that my captain was too good a fellow to be offended with such a
trifle. I rather suspect I was wished out of the ship by the first
lieutenant and gun-room officers; and they were right, for where an
inferior officer is popular with the men, discipline must suffer from
it. I received a good-natured hint from Lord Edward, that another
captain, in a larger frigate, would be happy to receive me. I
understood him; we parted good friends, and I shall ever think of him
with respect and gratitude.
My new captain was a very different sort of man, refined in his
manner, a scholar and a gentleman. Kind and friendly with his
officers, his library was at their disposal; the fore-cabin, where his
books were usually kept, was open to all; it was the school-room
of the young midshipmen, and the study of the old ones. He was
an excellent draughtsman, and I profited not a little by his
instructions; he loved the society of the ladies, so did I; but he
being a married man was more select in his company, and more correct
in his conduct than I could pretend to be.
We were ordered to Quebec, sailed through the beautiful Gut of Canso,
and up the spacious and majestic St Lawrence, passing in sight of the
Island of Anticosta. Nothing material occurred during the passage,
save that a Scotch surgeon's-assistant, having adopted certain
aristocratic notions, required a democratical lecture on heads, which
was duly administered to him. He pretended that he was, by birth and
education (at Edinburgh), entitled to be at the head of our mess. This
I resisted, and soon taught the ambitious son of Esculapius that the
science of defence was as important as the art of healing; and that
if he was skilful in this latter, I would give him an opportunity of
employing it on his own person: whereupon I implanted on his cinciput,
occiput, os frontis, os nasi, and all other vulnerable parts of
his body, certain concussions calculated to stupify and benumb
the censorium, and to produce under each eye a quantity of black
extravasated blood; while, at the same time, a copious stream of
carmine fluid issued from either nostril. It was never my habit to
bully or take any unfair advantage; so, having perceived a cessation
of arms on his part, I put the usual interrogatives as to whether the
party contending was satisfied; and being answered in the affirmative,
I laid by my metacarpal bones until they might be farther wanted,
either for reproof or correction.
We anchored off Cape Diamond, which divides the St Lawrence from the
little river St Charles. The continuation of this cape, as it recedes,
forms the Heights of Abraham, on which the immortal Wolfe defeated
Montcalm, in the year 1759, when both the generals ended their
glorious career on the field of battle. The city stands on the
extremity of the cape, and has a very romantic appearance. The houses
and churches are generally covered with tin, to prevent conflagration,
to which this place was remarkably subject when the houses were
covered with thatch or shingle. When the rays of the sun lay on the
buildings, they had the appearance of being cased in silver.
One of our objects in going to Quebec was to procure men, of which the
squadron was very deficient. Our seamen and marines were secretly
and suddenly formed into press-gangs. The command of one of them was
conferred on me. The officers and marines went on shore in disguise,
having agreed on private signals and places of rendezvous; while the
seamen on whom we could depend, acted as decoy ducks, pretending to
belong to merchant vessels, of which their officer was the master,
and inducing them to engage, for ten gallons of rum and three hundred
dollars, to take the run home. Many were procured in this manner,
and were not undeceived until they found themselves alongside of the
frigate, when their oaths and execrations may be better conceived than
described or repeated.
It may be proper to explain here that the vessels employed in the
timber trade arrive in the month of June, as soon as the ice is
clear of the river, and, if they do not sail by or before the end of
October, are usually set fast in the ice, and forced to winter in the
St Lawrence, losing their voyage, and lying seven or eight months
idle. Aware of this, the sailors, as soon as they arrive, desert, and
are secreted and fed by the crimps, who make their market of them in
the fall of the year by selling them to the captains; procuring for
the men an exorbitant sum for the voyage home, and for themselves a
handsome _douceur_ for their trouble, both from the captain and the
We were desired not to take men out of the merchant vessels, but to
search for them in the houses of the crimps. This was to us a source
of great amusement and singular adventure; for the ingenuity in
concealing them was only equalled by the art and cunning exercised in
the discovery of their abodes. Cellars and lofts were stale and out of
use; we found more game in the interior of haystacks, church steeples,
closets under fireplaces where the fire was burning. Some we found
headed up in sugar-hogsheads, and some concealed within bundles of
hoop-staves. Sometimes we found seamen, dressed as gentlemen, drinking
wine and talking with the greatest familiarity with people much
above them in rank, who had used these means to conceal them. Our
information led us to detect these excusable impositions.
I went into the country, about fifteen miles from Quebec, where I had
heard of a crimp's preserve, and after a tedious search, discovered
some good seamen on the rafters of an outhouse intended only to
smoke and cure bacon; and as the fires were lighted, and the smoke
ascending, it was difficult to conceive a human being could exist
there: nor should we have discovered them if one of them had not
coughed; on which he received the execrations of the others, and the
whole party was instantly handed out. We immediately cut the strings
of their trowsers behind, to prevent their running away, (this ought
never to be omitted), and, placing them and ourselves in the farmer's
waggon, made him put his team to and drive us all to Quebec, the
new-raised men joining with our own in all the jokes which flew thick
about on the occasion of their discovery. It was astonishing to me how
easily these fine fellows reconciled themselves to the thoughts of a
man-of-war; perhaps the approaching row with the Yankees tended very
much to preserve good humour. I became an enthusiast in man-hunting,
although sober reflection has since convinced me of its cruelty,
injustice, and inexpediency, tending to drive seamen from the country
more than any measure the government could adopt; but I am not going
to write a treatise on impressment. I cared not one farthing about the
liberty of the subject, as long as I got my ship well manned for the
impending conflict; and as I gratified my love of adventure, I was as
thoughtless of the consequences as when I rode over a farmer's turnips
in England, or broke through his hedges in pursuit of a fox.
A tradesman at Quebec had affronted me, by refusing to discount a bill
which I had drawn on my father. I had no other means of paying him for
the goods I had purchased of him, and was much disconcerted at his
refusal, which he accompanied with an insult to myself and my cloth,
never to be forgotten. Turning the paper over and over, he said, "a
midshipman's bill is not worth a farthing, and I am too old a bird to
be caught with such chaff."
Conscious that the bill was good, I vowed revenge. My search-warrant
enabled me to go wherever I could get information of men being
concealed--this was easily obtained from a brother mid (the poor man
might as well have been in the hands of the holy brotherhood). My
companion stated his firm conviction that sailors were concealed in
the house; I applied to the captain, and received orders to proceed
by all means in execution of my duty. The tradesman was a man of
consequence in Quebec, being what is there called a large storekeeper,
though we in England should have called him a shopkeeper. About one
o'clock in the morning we hammered at his door with no gentle tap,
demanding admittance in the name of our sovereign lord the king. We
were refused, and forthwith broke open the door, and spread over his
house like a nest of cockroaches. Cellars, garrets, maids' room,
ladies' rooms, we entered, _sans ceremonie_; paid little regard to
the Medicean costume of the fair occupants; broke some of the most
indispensable articles of bedroom furniture; rattled the pots and pans
about in the kitchen; and, finding the two sons of the master of the
house, ordered them to dress and come with us, certain, we said, that
they were sailors.
When the old tradesman saw me he began to smell a rat, and threatened
me with severe punishment. I shewed him my search-warrant, and asked
him if it was a _good bill_. After having inspected every part of the
house, I departed, leaving the two young cubs half dead with fear.
The next day, a complaint was lodged at the government-house; but
investigation is a long word when a man-of-war is ordered on service.
Despatches from Albany reached Quebec, stating that the President of
the United States had declared war against England; in consequence of
which, our captain took leave of the governor, and dropped down the
river with all speed, so I never heard any more of my tradesman.
We arrived at Halifax full manned, and immediately received orders to
proceed to sea, "to sink, burn, and destroy." We ran for Boston bay,
when, on the morning we made the land, we discovered ten or twelve
sail of merchant vessels. The first we boarded was a brig; one of our
boats was lowered down; I got into her, and jumped on the deck of the
Yankee, while the frigate continued in chase of the others. The master
of the vessel sat on a hen-coop, and did not condescend to rise or
offer me the least salute as I passed him; he was a short, thick,
"You are an Englishman, I guess?"
"I guess I am," I said, imitating him with a nasal twang.
"I thought we shouldn't be long in our waters afore we met some of you
old-country sarpents. No harm in what I've said, I hope?" added the
"Oh, no," said I, "not the least; it will make no difference in the
long run. But where do you come from, and where are you bound?"
"Come from Smyrna, and bound to Boston, where I hope to be to-morrow
morning, by the blessing of God, and a good conscience."
From this answer, I perceived that he was unacquainted with the war,
and I therefore determined to play with him a little before I gave him
the fatal news.
"And pray," said I, "what might your cargo consist of? you appear to
"Not so light neither, I guess," said the man; "we have sweet oil,
raisins, and what we calls notions."
"I have no notion," said I, "what they might be. Pray explain
"Why, you see, notions is what we call a little of all sorts like.
Some likes one thing, you know, and some another: some likes sweet
almonds, and some likes silk, and some likes opium, and some" (he
added, with a cunning grin) "likes dollars."
"And are these the notions with which you are loaded?" said I.
"I guess they are," replied Jonathan.
"And what might your outward cargo have been?" said I.
"Salt fish, flour, and tobacco," was his answer.
"And is this all you have in return?" I asked. "I thought the Smyrna
trade had been a very good one."
"Well, so it is," said the unwary Yankee. "Thirty thousand dollars
in the cabin, besides the oil and the rest of the goods, an't no bad
"I am very glad to hear of the dollars," said I.
"What odds does that make to you?" said the captain; "it won't be much
on 'em as'll come to your share."
"More than you may think," said I. "Have you heard the news as you
At the word "news," the poor man's face became the colour of one in
the jaundice. "What news?" said he, in a state of trepidation that
hardly admitted of utterance.
"Why, only that your president, Mr Madison, has thought fit to declare
war against England."
"You're only a joking?" said the captain.
"I give you my word of honour I am serious," said I; "and your vessel
is a prize to his Britannic majesty's ship, the ----."
The poor man fetched a sigh from the waistband of his trowsers. "I am
a ruined man," said he. "I only wish I'd known a little sooner of the
war you talk about: I've got two nice little guns there forward; you
shouldn't a had me so easily."
I smiled at his idea of resistance against a fast-sailing frigate of
fifty guns; but left him in the full enjoyment of his conceit, and
changing the subject, asked if he had any thing he could give us to
drink, for the weather was very warm.
"No, I ha'n't," he replied, peevishly; "and if I had--"
"Come, come, my good fellow," said I, "you forget you are a prize;
civility is a cheap article, and may bring you a quick return."
"That's true," said Jonathan, who was touched on the nicest
point--self; "that's true, you are only a doing your duty. Here, boy,
fetch up that ere demi John of Madeira, and for aught I know, the
young officer might like a drop o' long cork; bring us some tumblers,
and one o' they claret bottles out o' the starboard after locker."
The boy obeyed--and the articles quickly appeared. While this dialogue
was going on, the frigate was in chase, firing guns, and bringing-to
the different vessels as she passed them, dropping a boat on board of
one, and making sail after another. We stood after her with all the
sail we could conveniently carry.
"Pray," said the captain, "might I offer you a bit of something to
eat? I guess you ha'n't dined yet, as it isn't quite meridian."
I thanked him, and accepted his offer: he ran down instantly to the
cabin, as if to prepare for my reception; but I rather thought he
wished to place some articles out of my sight, and this proved to be
the case, for he stole a bag of dollars out of the cargo. In a short
time, I was invited down. A leg of cured pork, and a roasted fowl,
were very acceptable to a midshipman at any time, but particularly
so to me; and, when accompanied by a few glasses of the Madeira, the
barometer of my spirits rose in proportion to the depression of his.
"Come, captain," said I, filling a bumper of claret, "here's to a long
and bloody war."
"D----n the dog that won't say amen to that," said the master; "but
where do you mean to carry me to? I guess to Halifax. Sha'n't I have
my clothes, and my own private _venter_?"
"All your private property," said I, "will be held sacred; but your
vessel and cargo are ours."
"Well, well," said the man, "I know that; but if you behave well to
me, you sha'n't find I'm ungrateful. Let me have my things, and I'll
give you a bit o' news, as will be of sarvice to you."
He then told me, on my promising him his private venture, that we had
not a moment to lose, for that a vessel, just visible on the horizon,
was from Smyrna, richly laden; she was commanded by a townsman of his,
and bound to the same place. I turned from him with contempt, and at
the same moment made the signal to speak the frigate. On going on
board, I told the captain what I had heard from the master of the
prize, and the promise I had given. He approved of it; the proper
number of men were instantly sent back to the brig, the prisoners
taken out, and the frigate made sail in chase of the indicated vessel,
which she captured that night at nine o'clock.
I would not willingly believe that such perfidy is common among the
Americans. On parting with the master of my brig, a sharp dialogue
took place between us.
"I guess I'll fit out a privateer, and take some o' your merchanters."
"Take care you are not taken yourself," said I, "and pass your time
on board one of our prison ships; but, remember, whatever may happen,
it's all your own fault. You have picked a German quarrel with us, to
please Boney; and he will only spit in your face when you have done
your best for him. Your wise president has declared war against the
"D----n the mother country," muttered the Yankee; "step-mother, I guess,
you mean, tarnation seize her!!!"
We continued following the ship, and by night-time the frigate had
secured eight prizes; one of them being a brig in ballast, the
prisoners were put on board of her, my Yankee friend among the number,
and turned adrift, to find their way home. We took care to give to all
of them their private ventures and their clothes. I was in hopes of
being allowed to go to Halifax with my prize; but the captain, knowing
how I was likely to pass my time, kept me with him. We cruised two
months, taking many privateers, some large and some small; some we
burned, and some we scuttled.
One day we had one of these craft alongside, and having taken every
thing out of her that was worth moving, we very imprudently set her
on fire before she was clear of the ship's side; and as we were on
a wind, it was some minutes before we could get her clear. In the
meantime the fire began to blaze up in a very alarming manner under
the mizzen chains, where, by the attraction of the two floating
bodies, she seemed resolved to continue; but on our putting the helm
up, and giving the vessel a sheer the contrary way, as soon as we were
before the wind, she parted from us, to our great joy, and was soon in
a volume of flame. Our reason for setting her on fire alongside was to
save time, as we wanted to go in chase of another vessel, seen from
the mast-head, and lowering a boat down to destroy this vessel would
have detained us.
Before the end of the cruise, we chased a schooner, which ran on shore
and bilged; we boarded her, brought away her crew and part of her
cargo, which was very valuable. She was from Bordeaux, bound to
Philadelphia. I was sent to examine her, and endeavour to bring away
more of her cargo. The tide rising in her, we were compelled to rip up
her decks, and discovered that she was laden with bales of silk, broad
cloths, watches, clocks, laces, silk stockings, wine, brandy, bars of
steel, olive-oil, &c, &c. I sent word of this to the captain; and
the carpenter and plenty of assistants arriving, we rescued a great
quantity of the goods from the deep or the Yankee boats, who would
soon have been on board after we left her. We could perceive in the
hold some cases, but they were at least four feet under water. It was
confoundedly cold; but I thought there was something worth diving for,
so down I went, and contrived to keep myself long enough under water
to hook one end of a case, by which means we broke it out and got it
up. It was excellent claret, and we were not withheld from drinking it
by any scruples of conscience; for if I had not dived for it, it
would never have come to the mouth of an Englishman. We discussed a
three-dozen case among just so many of us, in a reasonable short
time; and as it was October, we felt no ill effects from a frequent
repetition of the dose.
I never felt colder, and diving requires much stimulant. From practice
at this work, I could pick up pins and needles in a clear, sandy
bottom; and, considering the density of the medium, could live like a
beaver under water; but I required ample fees for my trouble. When we
returned on board, we were very wet and cold, and the wine took no
effect on us; but as soon as we thawed, like the horn of the great
Munchausen, the secret escaped, for we were all tipsy. The captain
inquired the cause of this the next day, and I very candidly told him
the whole history. He was wise enough to laugh at it; some captains
would have flogged every one of the men, and disgraced the officers.
On our return into port, I requested permission to go to England in
order to pass my examination as lieutenant, having nearly completed
my servitude as a midshipman. I was asked to remain out, and take my
chance for promotion in the flag-ship; but more reasons than I chose
to give, induced me to prefer an examination at a sea-port in England,
and I obtained my discharge and came home. The reader will no doubt
give me credit for having written some dozen of letters to Eugenia:
youth, beauty, and transient possession had still preserved my
attachment to her unabated. Emily I had heard of, and still loved
with a purer flame. She was my sun; Eugenia my moon; and the fair
favourites of the western hemisphere, so many twinkling stars of the
first, second, and third magnitude. I loved them all more or less; but
all their charms vanished, when the beauteous Emily shone in my breast
with refulgent light.
I had received letters from my father, who wished me to come home,
that he might present me to some of the great men of the nation, and
secure my promotion to the highest ranks of the service. This advice
was good, and, as it suited my views, I followed it. I parted with
my captain on the best terms, took leave of all my messmates and the
officers in the same friendly manner, and last, not least, went round
to the ladies, kissing, hugging, crying, and swearing love and eternal
attachment. Nothing, I declared, should keep me from Halifax, as soon
as I had passed; nothing prevent my marrying one, as soon as I was a
lieutenant; a second was to have the connubial knot tied when I was a
commander; and a third, as soon as I was made a captain. Oh, how like
was I to Don Galaor! Oh, how unlike the constant Amadis de Gaul! But,
reader, you must take me as I was, not as I ought to have been.
After a passage of six weeks, I arrived at Plymouth, and had exactly
completed my six years' servitude.
Examine him closely, goodman Dry; spare him not. Ask him
impossible questions. Let us thwart him, let us thwart him.
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
Soon after my arrival at Plymouth, notice was given by a general
order, issued from the flag-ship, that a passing-day for the
examination of midshipmen, as touching their qualifications for the
rank of lieutenant, would be held on board the _Salvador del Mundo_,
in Hamoaze. I lost no time in acquainting my father with this, and
telling him that I felt quite prepared, and meant to offer myself.
Accordingly, on the day appointed, your humble servant, with some
fourteen or fifteen other youthful aspirants, assembled on board the
flag-ship. Each was dressed out in our No. I suits, in most exact and
unquizzable uniform, with a large bundle of log-books under our arms.
We were all huddled together in a small screened canvas cabin, like so
many sheep ready for slaughter.
About eleven o'clock, the captains who were to be our Minos and our
Rhadamanthus, made their appearance, and we all agreed that we did not
much like the "cut of their jibs." At twelve o'clock the first
name was called. The "desperate youth" tried to pluck up a little
courage--he cleared his throat, pulled up his shirt collar, touched
his neck-handkerchief, and seizing his cocked hat and journals,
boldly followed the messenger into the captain's cabin, where three
grave-looking gentlemen, in undress uniform, awaited him. They were
seated at a round table; a clerk was at the elbow of the president;
Moore's navigation, that wise redoubtable, lay before them; together
with a nautical almanack, a slate and pencil, ink and paper. The
trembling middy advanced to the table, and having most respectfully
deposited his journals and certificates of sobriety and good conduct,
was desired to sit down. The first questions were merely theoretical;
and although in the gun-room, or in any other company, he would have
acquitted himself with ease, he was so abashed and confounded, that he
lost his head entirely, trembled at the first question, stared at the
second, and having no answer to make to the third, was dismissed, with
directions "to go to sea six months longer."
He returned to us with a most woe-begone countenance. I never saw a
poor creature in greater mental torment. I felt for him the more, as
I knew not how soon his case might be my own. Another was called, and
soon returned with no better success; and the description he gave of
the bullying conduct of the youngest passing captain was such as to
damp the spirits, and enough to stultify minds so inexperienced as
ours, and where so much depended on our success. This hint was,
however, of great use to me. Theory, I found, was the rock on which
they had split; and in this part of my profession, I knew my powers,
and was resolved not to be bowled out by the young captain. But while
I thus resolved, a third candidate was returned to us _re infecta_;
and this was a young man on whose talents I could have relied: I began
to doubt myself. When the fourth came out with a smiling face, and
told us he had passed, I took a little breath; but even this comfort
was snatched from me in a moment, by his saying that one of the
passing captains was a friend of his father. Here then was solved an
enigma; for this fellow, during the short time I was in his company,
gave proof of being no better than a simpleton.
On my own name being called, I felt a flutter about the heart which I
did not feel in action, or in the hurricane, or when, in a case more
desperate than either, I jumped overboard at Spithead, to swim to my
dear Eugenia. "Powers of Impudence, as well as Algebra," said I, "lend
me your aid, or I am undone." In a moment the cabin door flew open,
the sentinel closed it after me, and I found myself in the presence
of this most awful triumvirate. I felt very like Daniel in the lions'
den. I was desired to take a chair, and a short discussion ensued
between the judges, which I neither heard nor wished to hear: but
while it lasted, I had time to survey my antagonists from head to
foot. I encouraged myself to think that I was equal to one of them;
and if I could only neutralise him, I thought I should very easily
floor the other two.
One of these officers had a face like a painted pumpkin; and his hand,
as it lay on the table, looked more like the fin of a turtle; the
nails were bitten so close off, that the very remains of them seemed
to have retreated into the flesh, for fear of farther depredation,
which the other hand was at the moment suffering. Thinks I to
myself, "If ever I saw 'lodgings to let, unfurnished,' it is in that
cocoa-nut, or pumpkin, or gourd of yours."
The next captain to him was a little, thin, dark, dried up, shrivelled
fellow, with keen eyes, and a sharp nose. The midshipmen called him
"Old Chili Vinegar," or, "Old Hot and Sour." He was what we term a
martinet. He would keep a man two months on his black list, giving him
a breech of a gun to polish and keep bright, never allowing him time
to mend his clothes, or keep himself clean, while he was cleaning that
which, for all the purposes of war, had better have been black. He
seldom flogged a man; but he tormented him into sullen discontent,
by what he called "keeping the devil out of his mind." This little
night-mare, who looked like a dried eel-skin, I soon found was the
leader of the band.
The third captain was a tall, well-looking, pompous man (he was the
junior officer of the three), with a commanding and most unbending
countenance: "He would not ope his mouth in way of smile, though
Nestor swore the jest was laughable."
I had just time to finish my survey, and form a rough estimate of
the qualities of my examiners, when I was put upon my trial by the
president, who thus addressed me,
"You are perfect in the theory of navigation, I presume, Sir, or you
would not come here?"
I replied, that I hoped I should be found so, if they would please to
"Ready enough with his answer," said the tall captain; "I daresay this
fellow is jaw-master-general in the cockpit.--Who did you serve your
time with, Sir?"
I stated the different captains I had served with, particularly Lord
"Oh, ay, that's enough; you _must_ be a smart fellow, if you have
served with Lord Edward."
I understood the envious and sarcastic manner in which this was
uttered, and prepared accordingly for an arduous campaign, quite sure
that this man, who was no seaman, would have been too happy in turning
back one of Lord Edward's midshipmen. Several problems were given to
me, which I readily solved, and returned to them. They examined my
logs and certificates with much seeming scrutiny, and then ventured a
question in the higher branches of mathematics. This I also solved;
but I found talent was not exactly what they wanted. The little skinny
captain seemed rather disappointed that he could not find fault with
me. A difficult problem in spherical trigonometry lay before them,
carefully drawn out, and the result distinctly marked at the bottom;
but this I was not, of course, permitted to see. I soon answered the
question; they compared my work with that which had been prepared for
them; and as they did not exactly agree, I was told that I was wrong.
I was not disconcerted, and very deliberately looking over my work, I
told them I could not discover any error, and was able to prove it by
inspection, by Canon, by Gunter, or by figure.
"You think yourself a very clever fellow, I dare say," said the little
"A second Euclid!" said the tall captain. "Pray, Sir, do you know the
meaning of '_Pons Asinorum_?'"
"Bridge of Asses, Sir," said I, staring him full in the face, with a
smile under the skin.
Now it was very clear to me that the little fat captain had never
heard of the Asses Bridge before, and therefore supposed I was
quizzing the tall captain, who, from having been what we used to term
a "harbour-duty man" all his life, had heard of the _Pons Asinorum_,
but did not know which of the problems of Euclid it was, nor how it
was applicable to navigation. The fat captain, therefore burst into a
horse laugh, saying, "I think he hits you hard; you had better let him
alone: he will puzzle you presently."
Nettled at this observation of his brother officer, the tall captain
was put upon his metal, and insisted that the question last proposed
was not satisfactorily answered, and swore by G---- that he never
would sign my certificate until I did it.
I persisted; the two works were compared: I was threatened to be
turned back; when, lo, to the dismay of the party, the error was
found in their own work. The fat captain, who was a well-meaning man,
laughed heartily; the other two looked very silly and very angry.
"Enough of this, Sir," said the martinet: "now stand up, and let us
see what you can do with a ship." A ship was supposed to be on the
stocks; she was launched; I was appointed to her, and, as first
lieutenant, ordered to prepare her for sea. I took her into dock, and
saw her coppered; took her along the sheer-hulk, masted her; laid her
to the ballast-wharf, took in and stowed her iron ballast and her
tanks; moved off to a hulk or receiving ship, rigged her completely,
bent her sails, took in guns, stores, and provisions; reported her
ready for sea, and made the signal for a pilot; took her out of
harbour, and was desired to conduct her into other harbours, pointing
out the shoals and dangers of Portsmouth, Plymouth, Falmouth, the
Downs, Yarmouth Roads, and even to Shetland.
But the little martinet and the tall captain had not forgiven me for
being right in the problem, and my examination continued. They put my
ship into every possible situation which the numerous casualties of
a sea life present in such endless variety. I set and took in every
sail, from a sky-sail to try-sail. I had my masts shot away, and I
rigged jury-masts: I made sail on them, and was getting fairly into
port, when the little martinet very cruelly threw my ship on her
beam-ends on a dead lee-shore, a dark night, and blowing a hurricane,
and told me to get her out of that scrape if I could. I replied that,
if there was anchorage, I should anchor, and take my chance; but if
there was no anchorage, neither he nor any one else could save the
ship, without a change of wind, or the special interference of
Providence. This did not satisfy old Chili Vinegar. I saw that I was
persecuted, and that the end would be fatal to my hopes: I therefore
became indifferent; was fatigued with the endless questions put to me;
and, very fortunately for me, made a mistake, at least in the opinion
of the tall captain. The question at that time was one which was much
controverted in the service; namely, whether, on being taken flat
aback, you should put your helm a turn or two alee, or keep it
amidship? I preferred the latter mode; but the tall captain insisted
on the former, and gave his reasons. Finding myself on debatable
ground, I gave way, and thanked him for his advice, which I said I
should certainly follow whenever the case occurred to me; not that I
felt convinced then, and have since found that he was wrong; still
my apparent tractability pleased his self-love, and he became my
advocate. "He grinned horribly a ghastly smile," and, turning to the
other captains, asked if they were satisfied.
This question, like the blow of the auctioneer's hammer, ends all
discussion; for captains, on these occasions, never gainsay each
other; I was told that my passing certificate would be signed. I made
my best bow and my exit, reflecting, as I returned to the "sheep pen,"
that I had nearly lost my promotion by wounding their vanity, and had
regained my ground by flattering it. Thus the world goes on; and from
my earliest days, my mind was strengthened and confirmed in every vice
by the pernicious example of my superiors.
I might have passed much more easily abroad. I remember, one fine day
at sea, in the West Indies, a boat was lowered down, and sent with a
young midshipman (whose time was not fairly served, and whose age and
appearance indicated anything but nautical knowledge) to a ship then
in company; in a quarter of an hour he returned, with his passing
certificate. We were all astonished, and inquired what questions were
put to him; he said, "None at all, except as to the health of my
father and mother; and whether I would have port or white wine and
water. On coming away," the brat added, "one of the captains desired I
would, when I wrote home, give his best respects to Lord and Lady G.
He had ordered a turkey to be picked and put in the boat for me, and
wished me success."
This boy was soon afterwards made a post-captain; but fortunately for
the service, died on his passage to England.
There was certainly some difference between this examination and mine;
but when it was over, I rejoiced at the severity of my ordeal. My
pride, my darling pride, was tickled at the triumph of my talents;
and as I wiped away the perspiration from my forehead, I related
my difficulties, my trials, and my success, with a degree of
self-complacency that in any other person I should have called
egregious vanity. One good effect resulted from my long examination,
which continued an hour and a half--this was, that the captains passed
all the other midshipmen with very few questions. They were tired of
their employment; and thus it was only the poor unlucky devils that
took off the fiery edge of their morning zeal, who suffered; and among
"the plucked," it was known there were much cleverer fellows than many
of those who had come off with flying colours.
There was one circumstance which amused me. When the captains came on
deck, the little Chili Vinegar called me to him, and enquired whether
I was any relation of Mr ----. I replied that he was my uncle.
"Bless my soul, Sir! why he is my most intimate friend. Why did you
not tell me you were his nephew?"
I answered with an affected humility, very nearly allied to
impertinence, that I could not see by his face that he knew my uncle;
nor, indeed, had I known it, should I have thought it delicate to have
mentioned it at such a time; as it might not only have implied a want
of confidence in my own abilities, but also a suspicion that he might,
by such a communication, have been induced to deviate from the rigid
path of his duty, and might therefore have received it as a personal
"All that is very fine, and very true," said the veteran; "but when
you have an older head upon your shoulders, and have seen a little
more of our service, you will learn to trust at least as much to
friends as to merit; and rely on it, that if you could make yourself
out cousin-german to the old tom-cat at the Admiralty, you would fare
all the better for it. However, it's all over now, and there's an end
of it; but make my compliments to your uncle, and tell him that you
passed your examination in a manner highly creditable to you."
So saying, he touched his hat to the serjeant's guard, and slipped
down the side into his gig. As he descended, I said to myself, "D----n
your monkey face, you coffee-coloured little rascal--no thanks to you
if I have passed. I suppose your father was breeches-mender to the
first lord's butler, or else you shared your mother's milk with a lord
in waiting, and that's the way you got the command of the ----."
Elated with the result of the day, I threw myself into the mail that
evening, and reached my father's house in a short time after. My
reception was kind and affectionate; but death had made sad havoc in
my family during my late absence. My elder brother and two sisters had
been successively called to join my poor mother in heaven, and all
that remained now to comfort my father was a younger sister and
myself. I must confess that my father received me with great emotion;
his own heavy afflictions from the loss of his children, and the
dangers I had undergone, as well as the authentic assurances he had
received of my good conduct were more than sufficient to bury all my
errors in oblivion; and he appeared, and I have no doubt really was,
fonder and prouder of me than ever.
As to what my own feelings were on this occasion, I shall not attempt
to disguise them. Sorry I certainly was for the death of my nearest
relatives; but when the intelligence reached me, I was in the midst of
the most active service. Death in all its forms had become familiar to
me; and so little impression did the event make on my mind, that I
did not interrupt the thread of my history to speak of it when it
occurred. I take shame to myself for not feeling more; but I am quite
sure, from this one instance in my life, that the feelings are blunted
in proportion to the increase of misery around us; that the parent
who, in a moment of peace and domestic tranquillity, would be agonized
at the loss of one child, would view the death of ten with comparative
indifference, when surrounded by war, pestilence, or famine.
My feelings, never very acute in this respect, were completely blunted
by my course of life. Those fond recollections which, in a calm scene,
would have wrung from me some tears to their memory, were now drowned
or absorbed in the waste, the profligacy, and the dissipation of war;
and shall I add, that I easily reconciled myself to a loss which was
likely so much to increase my worldly gain. For my eldest brother,
I own that, even from childhood, I had felt a jealousy and dislike,
fostered, as I think, in some measure unwisely, and in part
unavoidably, by the conduct of my parents. In all matters of choice
or distinction, Tom was to have the preference, because he was the
oldest: this I thought hard enough; but when Tom had new clothes at
Midsummer and Christmas, and his old ones were converted to my use,
I honestly own I wished the devil had Tom. As a point of economy,
perhaps, this could not be avoided; but it engendered a hatred towards
my brother which often made me, in my own little malignant mind, find
excuses for the conduct of Cain.
Tom was, to be sure, what is called a good boy; _he_ never soiled his
clothes, as I did. I was always considered as a rantipole, for whom
any thing was good enough. But when I saw my brother tricked out in
new clothes, and his old duds covering me, like a scarecrow, I
appeal to any honourable mind whether it was in human nature to feel
otherwise than I did, without possessing an angelic disposition, to
which I never pretended; and I fairly own that I did shed not one
fiftieth part so many tears over Tom's grave, as I did over his dirty
pantaloons, when forced to put them on.
As for my sisters, I knew little about them, and cared less: we met
during the holidays, and separated, without regret, after a month's
quarrelling. When I went to sea, I ceased to think about them,
concluding there was no love lost; but when I found that death had
for ever robbed me of two of them, I felt the irretrievable loss. I
reproached myself with my coldness and neglect; and the affection I
had denied to them, I heaped threefold on my remaining sister: even
before I had ever seen her on my return, the tide of fraternal love
flowed towards her with an uncontrollable violence. All that I
ought to have felt towards the others, was concentrated in her, and
displayed itself with a force which surprised even myself.
Perhaps the reader may be astonished that my first inquiry in London,
when I had seen my father and my family, should not have been after
poor Eugenia, whom I had left, and who also had quitted me, under such
very peculiar and interesting circumstances. I cannot, however, claim
much credit for having performed this duty. I did go, without loss of
time, to her agent; and all that my most urgent entreaty could obtain
from him was that she was well; that I still had credit at his house
for any sum I chose to draw for in moderation; but that her place of
abode must, till farther orders from her, remain a secret.
As my father did not want interest, and my claims were backed by
good certificates, I received my commission as a lieutenant in his
Majesty's navy about a fortnight after my arrival in London; but not
being appointed to any ship, I resolved to enjoy the "_otium cum
dig_.," and endeavour to make myself some amends for the hard campaign
I had so lately completed in North America. I felt the transport of
being a something: at least, I could live independent of my father,
let the worst come to the worst; and I shall ever think this step gave
me more real pleasure than either of the two subsequent ones which
I have lived to attain. No sooner, therefore, had I taken up my
commission, than my thoughts turned on my Emily; and two days after
the attainment of my rank, I mentioned to my father my intention of
paying a visit to ---- Hall.
He was at the time in high good humour; we were sitting over our
bottle of claret, after an excellent _tete-a-tete_ dinner, during
which I contributed very much to his amusement by the recital of some
of my late adventures. He shuddered at my danger in the hurricane, and
his good-humoured sides had well nigh cracked with laughter when I
recounted my pranks at Quebec and Prince Edward's Island. When I spoke
of Miss Somerville, my father said he had no doubt she would be happy
to see me--that she was now grown a very beautiful girl, and was the
toast of the county.
I received this information with an apparent cool indifference which I
was far from feeling inwardly, for my heart beat at the intelligence.
"Perhaps," said I, picking my teeth, and looking at my mouth in a
little ivory _etui_--"perhaps she may be grown a fine girl: she
bade fair to be so when I saw her; but fine girls are very plenty
now-a-days, since the Vaccine has turned out the small-pox. Besides,
the girls have now another chance of a good shape; they are allowed
to take the air, instead of sitting all day, with their feet in the
stocks and their dear sweet noses bent over a French grammar, under
the rod of a French governess."
Why I took so much pains to conceal from the best of parents the real
state of my heart, I know not, except that, from habit, deceit was to
me more readily at hand than candour; certainly my attachment to this
fair and virtuous creature could not cause me to blush, except at my
own unworthiness of so much excellence. My father looked disappointed;
I know not why; but I afterwards learned that the subject of our union
had, since my brother's death, been discussed and agreed to between
him and Mr Somerville; and that our marriage was only to be deferred
until I should have attained the rank of captain, provided always that
the parties were agreed.
"I thought," said my father, "that you were rather smitten in that
"Me smitten, Sir?" said I, with a look of astonishment. "I have, it
is true, a very high respect for Miss Somerville; but as for being in
love with her, I trust no little attentions on my part have been so
construed. I have paid her no more attention than I may have done to
any pretty girl I meet with." (This was, indeed, true, too true.)
"Well, well," said my father, "it is a mistake on my part."
And here the conversation on that subject was dropped.
It appeared that after the little arrangement between Mr Somerville
and my father, and when I had gone to join my ship in America, they
had had some communication together, in which Mr Somerville disclosed,
that having questioned his daughter, she had ingenuously confessed
that I was not indifferent to her. She acknowledged, with crimson
blushes, that I had requested and obtained a lock of her hair. This
Mr Somerville told my father in confidence. He was not, therefore,
at liberty to mention it to me; but it sufficiently accounts for his
astonishment at my seeming indifference; for the two worthy parents
had naturally concluded that it was a match.
Confounded and bewildered by my asseveration, my father knew not
whose veracity to impeach; but, charitably concluding there was some
mistake, or that I was, as heretofore, a fickle, thoughtless being,
considered himself bound in honour to communicate the substance of our
conversation to Mr Somerville; and the latter no sooner received it,
than he placed the letter in Emily's hands--a very comfortable kind
of _avant-courier_ for a lover, after an absence from his mistress of
full three years.
I arrived at the hall, bursting with impatience to see the lovely
girl, whose hold on my heart and affection was infinitely stronger
than I had ever supposed. Darting from the chaise, I flew into the
sitting-room, where she usually passed her morning. I was now in my
twenty-second year; my figure was decidedly of a handsome cast; my
face, what I knew most women admired. My personal advantages were
heightened by the utmost attention to dress; the society of the fair
Acadians had very much polished my manners, and I had no more of the
professional roughness of the sea than what, like the crust on the
port-wine, gave an agreeable flavour; my countenance was as open and
as ingenuous as my heart was deceitful and desperately wicked.
Emily rose with much agitation, and in an instant was clasped in my
arms: not that the movement was voluntary on her part; it was wholly
on mine. She rather recoiled; but for an instant seemed to have
forgotten the fatal communication which her father had made to her not
two hours before. She allowed me--perhaps she could not prevent it--to
press her to my heart. She soon, however, regained her presence of
mind, and, gently disengaging herself, gave vent to her feelings in a
violent flood of tears.
Not at the time recollecting the conversation with my father, much
less suspecting that Emily had been made acquainted with it, I cannot
but confess that this reception surprised me. My caresses were
repulsed, as coming from one totally disqualified to take such
freedom. She even addressed me as Mr Mildmay, instead of "Frank."
"What may all this mean, my dearest Emily," said I, "after so long an
absence? What can I have done to make so great an alteration in your
sentiments? Is this the reward of affection and constancy? Have I so
long worn this dear emblem of your affection next my heart, in battle
and in tempest, to be spurned from you like a cur on my return?"
I felt that I had a clear right to boast of constancy; nor were the
flirtations of Halifax and Quebec at all incompatible with such a
declaration. The fair sex will start at this proposition; but it is
nevertheless true. Emily was to me what the Dutchman's best anchor
was to him--he kept it at home, for fear of losing it. He used other
anchors in different ports, that answered the purpose tolerably well;
but this best bower he always intended to ride by in the Nieu deep,
when he had escaped all the dangers and quicksands of foreign shores:
such was Emily to me. I thought of her when in the very jaws of the
shark; I thought of her when I mounted the rigging in the hurricane; I
thought of her when bored and tormented to madness by the old passing
captains; all, all I might gain in renown was for her. Why, then,
traitor like, did I deny her? For no other reason that I can devise
than that endless love of plot and deceit which had "grown with my
Madame de Stael has pronounced love to be an episode in a man's life;
and so far it is true. There are as many episodes in life as there
are in novels and romances; but in neither case do they destroy the
general plot of the history, although they may, for the time, distract
or divert our attention. Here, then, is the distinction between
passion and love. I felt a passion for Eugenia, love for Emily. And
why? Because although it was through my own persuasions and entreaties
that her scruples had been overcome; although it was through her
affection for me which would not allow her to refuse me any demand,
even to the sacrifice of herself, that Eugenia had fallen, still, in
the eyes of society, she had fallen; and I did not offer up a pure and
holy love to that which was not accounted pure. In this I gave way,
ungratefully, to the heartless casuistry of the world. But Emily,
enshrined in modesty, with every talent, equal, if not superior
charms, defended by rank and connection, was a flower perpetually
blooming on the stem of virtue, that it would have amounted to
sacrilege to attempt to have plucked; and the attempt itself would
have savoured of insanity, from the utter hopelessness of success.
Every sentiment connected with her was pure, from mere selfishness.
Not for worlds would I have injured her; because in destroying her
peace of mind, my own would have fled for ever. When I contemplated
our final union, I blushed for my own unworthiness; and looked forward
to the day when, by repentance and amendment, I might be deemed worthy
to lead her to the altar.
I had not time to pursue these reflections any farther. Emily heard
my appeal, and rising from her seat in the most dignified manner,
addressed me in the commanding language of conscious virtue and
"Sir," said she, "I trust I am too honest to deceive you, or any one;
nor have I done that of which I need be ashamed. Whatever reasons I
may have to repent of my misplaced confidence, I will make no secret
of that which now compels me to change my opinion of you; you will
find them amply detailed in this paper," at the same time putting into
my hand a letter from my father to Mr Somerville.
In a moment the mystery was unravelled, and conviction flashed in
my face like the priming of a musket. Guilty, and convicted on the
clearest evidence, I had nothing left for it, but to throw myself on
her mercy; but while I stood undecided, and unknowing what to do, Mr
Somerville entered, and welcomed me with kind, but cool hospitality.
Seeing Emily in tears, and my father's letter in her hand, he knew
that an _eclaircissement_ had taken place, or was in progress. In this
situation, candour, and an honest confession that I felt a _mauvaise
honte_ in disclosing my passion to my father would undoubtedly have
been my safest course; but my right trusty friend, the devil, stepped
in to my assistance, and suggested deceit, or a continuation of that
chain by which he had long since bound me, and not one link of which
he took care should ever be broken; and fortunately for me, this plan
answered, at the time, better than candour.
"I must acknowledge, sir," said I, "that appearances are against me. I
can only trust to your patient hearing, while I state the real facts.
Allow me first to say, that my father's observations are hardly
warranted by the conversation which took place; and if you will
please, in the first place, to consider that that very conversation
originated in my expressing a wish and intention of coming down to see
you, and to produce to your daughter the memento so carefully guarded
during my long absence, you must perceive that there is an incongruity
in my conduct, difficult to explain; but still, through all these
mazes and windings, I trust that truth and constancy will be found
at the bottom. You may probably laugh at the idea, but I really
felt jealous of my father's praises so lavishly bestowed on Miss
Somerville; and not supposing he was aware of my attachment, I began
to fear he had pretensions of his own. He is a widower, healthy, and
not old; and it appeared to me that he only wanted my admiration to
justify his choice of a step-mother for myself and sister. Thus,
between love for Miss Somerville, and respect for my father, I
scarcely knew how to act. That I should for one moment have felt
jealous of my father, I now acknowledge with shame: yet labouring
under the erroneous supposition of his attachment to an object which
had been the only one of my adoration, I could not make up my mind to
a disclosure, which I feared would have renewed our differences, and
produced the most insuperable bars to our future reconciliation.
This thought burned in my brain, and urged the speed of the jaded
post-horses. If you will examine the drivers, they will tell you, that
the whole way from town, they have been stimulated by the rapping of a
Spanish dollar on the glass of the chaise. I dreaded my father getting
the start of me; and busy fancy painted him, to my heated imagination,
kneeling at the feet of my beloved Emily. Condemn me not, therefore,
too harshly; only allow me the same lenient judgment which you
exercised when I first had the pleasure of making your acquaintance."
This last sentence delicately recalled the scene at the inn, and the
circumstances of my first introduction. The defence was not bad; it
wanted but one simple ingredient to have made it excellent--I mean
truth; but the court being strongly biassed in favour of the prisoner,
I was acquitted, and at the same time, "admonished to be more careful
in future." The reconciliation produced a few more tears from my
beloved Emily, who soon after slipped out of the room to recover her
When Mr Somerville and myself were left together, he explained to
me the harmless plot which had been laid for the union between his
daughter and myself. How true it is, that the falling out of lovers is
the renewal of love! The fair, white hand extended to me, was kissed
with the more rapture, as I had feared the losing of it for ever. None
enjoy the pleasures of a secure port, but he who has been tempest
tossed, and in danger of shipwreck.
The dinner and the evening were among the happiest I can remember.
We sat but a short time over our wine, as I preferred following
my mistress to the little drawing-room, where tea and coffee were
prepared, and where the musical instruments were kept. Emily sang and
played to me, and I sang and accompanied her; and I thought all the
clocks and watches in the house were at least three hours too fast,
when, as it struck twelve, the signal was made to retire.
I had no sooner laid my head on my pillow than I began to call myself
to a severe account for my duplicity; for, somehow or other, I don't
know how it is, conscience is a very difficult sort of gentleman to
deal with. A tailor's bill you may avoid by crossing the channel;
but the duns of conscience follow you to the antipodes, and will be
satisfied. I ran over the events of the day; I reflected that I
had been on the brink of losing my Emily by an act of needless and
unjustifiable deceit and double-dealing. Sooner or later I was
convinced that this part of my character would be made manifest,
and that shame and punishment would overwhelm me in utter ruin. The
success which had hitherto attended me was no set-off against the risk
I ran of losing for ever this lovely girl, and the respect and esteem
of her father. For her sake, therefore, I made a vow for ever to
abandon this infernal system. I mention this more particularly as it
was the first healthy symptom of amendment I had discovered, and one
to which I long and tenaciously adhered, as far, at least, as my
habits and pursuits in life would allow me. I forgot, at that time,
that to be ingenuous it was necessary to be virtuous. There is no
cause for concealment when we do not act wrong.
A letter from Mr Somerville to my father explained my conduct; and
my father, in reply, said I certainly must have been mad. To this I
assented, quoting Shakspeare--"the lunatic, the lover, and the poet,
&c.!" So long as I was out of the scrape, I cared little about the
impeachment of my rationality.
The days at the Hall flew, just like all the days of happy lovers,
confoundedly fast. The more I saw of Emily, the firmer and faster did
she rivet my chains. I was her slave: but what was best, I became a
convert to virtue, because she was virtuous; and to possess her, I
knew I must become as like her as my corrupt mind and unruly habits
would permit. I viewed my past life with shame and contrition. When I
attended this amiable, lovely creature to church on a Sunday, and saw
her in the posture of devotion before her Maker, I thought her an
angel, and I thought it heaven to be near her. All my thoughts and
sentiments seemed changed and refined by her example and her company.
The sparks of religion, so long buried in the ashes of worldly
corruption and infidelity, began to revive. I recalled my beloved
mother and the Bible to my recollection; and could I have been
permitted to have remained longer with my "governess," I have no doubt
that I should have regained both purity of mind and manner. I should
have bidden adieu to vice and folly, because they could not have dwelt
under the same roof with Emily; and I should have loved the Bible and
religion, because they were beloved by her: but my untoward destiny
led me a different way.
And oft his smooth and bridled tongue
Would give the lie to his flushing cheek:
He was a coward to the strong:
He was a tyrant to the weak.
My father, as soon as he had obtained my promotion, asked for my being
employed; and having had a promise from the Admiralty, that promise,
unlike thousands of its predecessors and successors, was too rapidly
fulfilled. I received a letter from my father, and a bouncing one from
the Admiralty, by the same post, announcing officially my appointment
to the D---- brig, of eighteen guns, at Portsmouth, whither I was
directed to repair immediately, and take up my commission. In this
transaction I soon after found there was an underplot, which I was too
green to perceive at the time; but the wise heads of the two papas had
agreed that a separation between the lovers was absolutely necessary,
and that the longer it was delayed, the worse it would be for both of
us: in short, that until I had attained my rank, nothing should be
thought of in the way of matrimony.
As the reader is, no doubt, by this time pretty well versed in all
the dialogue of parting lovers, I shall not intrude upon his or her
patience with a repetition of that which has been much too often
repeated, and is equally familiar to the prince and the ploughman. I
should as soon think of describing the Devil's Punch Bowl, on the road
to Portsmouth, where I arrived two days after my appointment.
I put up at Billett's, at the George, as a matter of course, because
it was the resort of all the naval aristocracy, and directly opposite
to the admiral's office. The first person for whom I made my kind
inquiries was my captain elect; but he herded not with his brother
epaulettes. He did not live at the George, nor did he mess at the
Crown; he was not at the Fountain, nor the Parade Coffee-house; and
the Blue Posts ignored him; but he was to be heard of at the Star and
Garter, on the tip of Portsmouth Point. He did not even live there,
but generally resided on board. This does not savour well; I never
like your captains who live on board their ships in harbour; no ship
can be comfortable, for no one can do as he pleases, which is the life
and soul of a man-of-war, when in port.
To the Star and Garter I went, and asked for Captain G. I hoped I
should not find him here; for this house had been, time out of mind,
the rendezvous of warrant-officers, mates, and midshipmen. Here,
however, he was; I sent up my card, and was admitted to his presence.
He was seated in a small parlour, with a glass of brandy and water, or
at least the remains of it, before him; his feet were on the fender,
and several official documents which he had received that morning
were lying on the table. He rose as I entered, and shewed me a short,
square-built frame, with a strong projection of the sphere, or what
the Spaniards call _bariga_. This rotundity of corporation was,
however, supported by as fine a pair of Atlas legs as ever were worn
by a Bath chairman. His face was rather inclined to be handsome; the
features regular, a pleasant smile upon his lips, and a deep dimple in
his chin. But his most remarkable feature was his eye; it was small,
but piercing, and seemed to possess that long-sought _desideratum_ of
the perpetual motion, since it was utterly impossible to fix it for
one moment on any object: and there was in it a lurking expression,
which, though something of a physiognomist, I could not readily
"Mr Mildmay," said my skipper, "I am extremely happy to see you, and
still more so that you have been appointed to my ship; will you be
As I obeyed, he turned round, and, rubbing his hands, as if he had
just laid down his soap, he continued, "I always make it a rule,
previous to an officer joining my ship, to learn something of his
character from my brother captains; it is a precaution which I take,
as I consider that one scabby sheep, &c. is strictly applicable to our
service. I wish to have good officers and perfect gentlemen about me.
There are, no doubt, many officers who can do their duty well, and
with whom I should have no fault to find; but then there is a way of
doing it--a _modus in rebus_, which a gentleman only can attain to;
coarse manners, execrations, and abusive language render the men
discontented, degrade the service, and are therefore very properly
forbidden in the second article of war. Under such officers, the
men always work unwillingly. I have taken the liberty to make some
inquiries about you; and can only say, that all I have heard is to
your advantage. I have no doubt we shall suit each other; and be
assured it shall be my study to make you as comfortable as possible."
To this very sensible and polite address, I made a suitable reply. He
then stated that he expected to sail in a few days; that the officer
whom I was to supersede had not exactly suited his ideas, although he
believed him to be a very worthy young man; and that, in consequence,
he had applied and succeeded in obtaining for him another appointment;
that it was necessary he should join his ship immediately; but, of
course, he must first be superseded by me. "Therefore," said he,
"you had better meet me on board the brig to-morrow morning at nine
o'clock, when your commission shall be read; and after that I beg you
will consider yourself your own master for a few days, as I presume
you have some little arrangements to prepare for your cruise. I am
aware," pursued he, smiling most benignantly, "that there are many
little comforts which officers wish to attend to; such as fitting
their cabins and looking to their mess, and a thousand other nameless
things, which tend to pass the time and break up the monotony of a
sea-life. Forty years have I trod the king's planks, man and boy, and
not with any great success, as you may perceive, by the rank I now
hold, and the life I am leading; for here I sit over a glass of humble
grog, instead of joining my brother captains in their claret at the
Crown; but I have two sisters to support, and I feel more satisfaction
in doing my duty as a brother, than indulging my appetite; although
I own I have no dislike to a glass of claret, when it does not come
before me in a questionable shape: I mean when I have not got to pay
for it, which I cannot afford. Now do not let me take up any more of
your time. You have plenty of acquaintances that you wish to see, I
have no doubt; and as for my yarns, they will do to pass away a watch,
when we have nothing more attractive to divert us." So saying, he
held out his hand, and shook mine most cordially. "To-morrow, at nine
o'clock," he repeated; and I left him, much pleased with my interview.
I went back to my inn, thinking what a very fortunate fellow I was
to have such an honest, straight-forward, bold, British hero of a
captain, on my first appointment. I ordered my dinner at the George,
and then strolled out to make my purchases, and give my orders for a
few articles for sea service. I fell in with several old messmates;
they congratulated me on my promotion, and declared I should give them
a dinner to wet my commission, to which I readily consented. The day
was named, and Mr Billett was ordered to provide accordingly.
Having dined _solus_, I amused myself in writing a long letter to my
dear Emily; and with the assistance of a bottle of wine, succeeded in
composing a tolerably warm and rapturous sort of a document, which
I sealed, kissed, and sent to the post-office; after which, I built
castles till bed time; but not one castle did I build, in which Emily
was not the sole mistress. I went to bed, and slept soundly; and the
next morning, by seven o'clock, I was arrayed in a spick-span new
uniform, with an immensely large epaulette stuck on my right shoulder.
Having breakfasted, I sallied out, and, in my own conceit, was as
handsome a chap as ever buckled a sword belt. I skimmed with a light
and vigorous foot down High-street.
"Boat, your honour?" said a dozen voices at once, as I reached New
Sallyport; but I was resolved that Point-street should have a look
at me, as well as High-street; so I kept a profound and mysterious
silence, and let the watermen follow me to Point, just like so many