Part 6 out of 8
objects of our anxious search. I was some yards in advance of my
companions, and the dog a little distance before me, near the shelving
part of a rock, terminating in a precipice. The shelf I had to cross
was about six or seven feet wide, and ten or twelve long, with a very
little inclined plane towards the precipice, so that I thought it
perfectly safe. A small rill of water trickled down from the rock
above it, and, losing itself among the moss and grass, fell over the
precipice below, which indeed was of a frightful depth.
This causeway was to all appearance safe, compared with many which
we had passed, and I was just going to step upon it, when my dog ran
before me, jumped on the fatal pass--his feet slipped from under
him--he fell, and disappeared over the precipice! I started back--I
heard a heavy squelch and a howl; another fainter succeeded, and all
was still. I advanced with the utmost caution to the edge of the
precipice, where I discovered that the rill of water had nourished
a short moss, close and smooth as velvet, and so slippery as not
to admit of the lightest footstep; this accounted for the sudden
disappearance, and, as I concluded, the inevitable death of my dog.
My first thoughts were those of gratitude for my miraculous escape; my
second unwillingly glanced at the fate of my poor men, too probably
lying lifeless at the foot of this mountain. I stated my fears to the
two seamen who were with me, and who had just come up. The whole bore
too much the appearance of truth to admit of a doubt. We descended the
ruins by a circuitous and winding way; and, after an hour's difficult
and dangerous walk, we reached the spot, where all our fears were too
fully confirmed. There lay the two dead bodies of our companions,
and that of my dog, all mangled in a shocking manner; both, it would
appear, had attempted to cross the shelf in the same careless way
which I was about to do, when Providence interposed the dog in my
This singular dispensation was not lost upon me; indeed, latterly, I
had been in such perils, and seen such hair-breadth escapes, that I
became quite an altered and reflecting character. I returned to my
men at the cove, thoughtful and melancholy; I told them of what had
happened; and, having a Prayer-book with me in my trunk, I proposed to
them that I should read the evening prayers, and a thanksgiving for
In this, the American captain, whose name was Green, most heartily
concurred. Indeed, ever since this poor man had been received into the
boat, he had been a very different character to what I had at first
supposed him; he constantly refused his allowance of spirits, giving
it among the sailors; he was silent and meditative; I often found him
in prayer, and on these occasions I never interrupted him. At other
times, he studied how he might make himself most useful. He would
patch and mend the people's clothes and shoes, or show them how to
do it for themselves. Whenever any hard work was to be done, he was
always the first to begin, and the last to leave off; and to such a
degree did he carry his attention and kindness, that we all began to
love him, and to treat him with great respect. He took charge of a
watch when we were at sea, and never closed his eyes during his hour
Nor was this the effect of fear, or the dread of ill-usage among so
many Englishmen, whom his errors had led into so much misfortune. He
very soon had an opportunity of proving that his altered conduct was
the effect of sorrow and repentance. The next morning I sent a party
round by the sea-shore, with directions to walk up the valley and
bury the bodies of our unfortunate companions. The two men who had
accompanied me were of the number sent on this service; when they
returned, I pointed out to them how disastrous our residence had been
on this fatal island, and how much better it had been for us if we had
continued our course to Rio Janeiro, which, being only two hundred and
fifty or two hundred and sixty leagues distant, we should by that time
nearly have reached: that we were now expending the most valuable part
of our provisions, namely--our spirits and tobacco; while our boat,
our only hope and resource, was not even in safety, since a gale
of wind might destroy her. I therefore proposed to make immediate
preparations for our departure, to which all unanimously agreed.
We divided the various occupations; some went to fetch a sea stock
of young birds, which were killed and dressed to save our salt
provisions; others filled all our water-casks. Captain Green
superintended the rigging, sails, and oars of the boat, and saw that
every thing was complete in that department. The spirits remaining
were getting low, and Captain Green, the midshipman, and myself,
agreed to drink none, but reserve it for pressing emergencies. In
three days after beginning our preparations, and the seventh after our
landing, we embarked, and after being nearly swamped by the surf, once
more hoisted our sail on the wide waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
We were not destined, however, to encounter many dangers this time, or
to reach the coast of South America: for we had not been many hours
at sea, when a vessel hove in sight; she proved to be an American
privateer brig, of fourteen guns and one hundred and thirty men, bound
on a cruise off the Cape of Good Hope. As soon as she perceived us,
she bore down, and in half-an-hour we were safe on board; when having
bundled all our little stock of goods on her decks, the boat was cut
adrift. My men were not well treated until they consented to enter for
the privateer, which, after much persuasion and threats, they all did,
except Thompson, contrary to my strongest remonstrances, and urging
every argument in my power to dissuade them from such a fatal step.
I remonstrated with the captain of the privateer, on what I deemed a
violation of hospitality. "You found me," I said, "on the wide ocean,
in a frail boat, which some huge wave might have overwhelmed in a
moment, or some fish, in sport, might have tossed in the air. You
received me and my people with all the kindness and friendship which
we could desire; but you mar it, by seducing the men from their
allegiance to their lawful sovereign, inducing them to become rebels,
and subjecting them to a capital punishment whenever they may (as they
most probably will) fall into the hands of their own government."
The captain, who was an unpolished, but sensible, clearheaded Yankee,
replied that he was sorry I should take any thing ill of him; that no
affront was meant to me; that he had nothing whatever to do with my
men, until they came voluntarily to him, and entered for his vessel;
that he could not but admit, however, that they might have been
persuaded to take this step by some of his own people. "And, now,
Leftenant," said he, "let me ask you a question. Suppose you commanded
a British vessel, and ten or twelve of my men, if I was unlucky enough
to be taken by you, should volunteer for your ship, and say they were
natives of Newcastle, would you refuse them? Besides, before we
went to war with you, you made no ceremony of taking men out of our
merchant-ships, and even out of our ships of war, whenever you had an
opportunity. Now, pray, where is the difference between your conduct
I replied, that it would not be very easy, nor, if it were, would it
answer any good purpose, for us to discuss a question that had puzzled
the wisest heads, both in his country and mine for the last twenty
years; that my present business was a case of its own, and must be
considered abstractedly; that the fortune of war had thrown me in his
power, and that he made a bad use of the temporary advantage of his
situation, by allowing my men, who, after all, were poor, ignorant
creatures, to be seduced from their duty, to desert their flag, and
commit high treason, by which their lives were forfeited, and their
families rendered miserable; that whatever might have been the conduct
of his government or mine, whatever line pursued by this or that
captain, no precedent could make wrong right; and I left it to himself
(seeing I had no other resource) to say, whether he was doing as he
would be done by?"
"As for that matter," said the captain, "we privateer's-men don't
trouble our heads much about it; we always take care of Number One;
and if your men choose to say they are natives of Boston, and will
enter for my ship, I must take them. Why," continued he, "there is
your best man, Thompson; I'd lay a demijohn of old Jamaica rum that
he is a true-blooded Yankee, and if he was to speak his mind, would
sooner fight under the stripes than the Union."
"D----n the dog that says yon of Jock Thompson," replied the Caledonian,
who stood by. "I never deserted my colours yet, and I don't think I
ever shall. There is only one piece of advice I would wish to give to
you and your officers, captain. I am a civil spoken man, and never
injured any soul breathing, except in the way of fair fighting; but if
either you, or any of your crew, offer to bribe me, or in any way to
make me turn my back on my king and country, I'll lay him on his back
as flat as a flounder, if I am able, and if I am not able, I'll try
"That's well spoken," said the captain, "and I honour you for it. You
may rely on it that I shall never tempt you, and if any of mine do it,
they must take their chance."
Captain Green heard all this conversation; he took no part in it, but
walked the deck in his usual pensive manner. When the captain of the
privateer went below to work his reckoning, this unhappy man entered
into conversation with me--he began by remarking--
"What a noble specimen of a British sailor you have with you."
"Yes," I replied, "he is one of the right sort--he comes from the land
where the education of the poor contributes to the security of the
rich; where a man is never thought the worse of for reading his Bible,
and where the generality of the lower orders are brought up in the
honest simplicity of primitive Christians."
"I guess," said Green, "that you have not many such in your navy."
"More than you would suppose," I replied; "and what will astonish you
is, that though they are impressed, they seldom, if ever, desert; and
yet they are retained on much lower wages than those they were taken
from, or could obtain; but they have a high sense of moral and
religious feeling, which keeps them to their duty.
"They must needs be discontented for all that," said Green.
"Not necessarily so," said I: "they derive many advantages from being
in the navy, which they could not have in other employments. They have
pensions for long services or wounds, are always taken care of in
their old age, and their widows and children have much favour shown
them, by the government, as well as by other public bodies and wealthy
individuals. But we must finish this discussion another time,"
continued I, "for I perceive the dinner is going into the cabin."
I received from the captain of the privateer every mark of respect and
kindness that his means would allow. Much of this I owed to Green, and
the black man Mungo, both of whom had represented my conduct in saving
the life of him who had endangered mine and that of all my party.
Green's gratitude knew no bounds--he watched me night and day, as a
mother would watch a darling child; he anticipated any want or wish I
could have, and was never happy until it was gratified. The seamen on
board the vessel were all equally kind and attentive to me, so highly
did they appreciate the act of saving the life of their countryman,
and exposing my own in quelling a mutiny.
We cruised to the southward of the Cape, and made one or two captures;
but they were of little consequence. One of them, being a trader from
Mozambique, was destroyed; the other, a slaver from Madagascar, the
captain knew not what to do with. He therefore took out eight or ten
of the stoutest male negroes, to assist in working his vessel, and
then let the prize go.
But who is this? What thing of sea
Comes this way sailing,
Like a stately ship
With all her bravery on, and tackle trim?
The privateer was called the _True-blooded Yankee_. She was first
bound to the island of Tristan d'Acunha, where she expected to meet
her consort, belonging to the same owners, and who had preceded her
when their directions were to cruise between the Cape and Madagascar,
for certain homeward bound extra Indiamen, one or two of which she
hoped would reward all the trouble and expense of the outfit.
We reached the island without any material incident. I had observed,
with concern, that the second mate, whose name was Peleg Oswald, was
a sour, ferocious, quarrelsome man; and that although I was kindly
treated by the captain, whose name was Peters, and by the chief mate,
whose name was Methusalem Solomon, I never could conciliate the good
will of Peleg Oswald.
Green, the captain, who came with me, was, from the time I saved
his life, an altered man. He had been, as I was informed, a drunken
profligate; but from the moment when I received him into my boat,
his manners and habits seemed as completely changed as if he were a
different being. He never drank more than was sufficient to quench his
thirst--he never swore--he never used any offensive language. He read
the Scriptures constantly, was regular in his morning and evening
devotion, and on every occasion of quarrel or ill-will in the brig,
which was perpetually occurring, Green was the umpire and the
peace-maker. He saved the captain and chief mate a world of trouble;
by this system, violent language became uncommon on board, punishment
was very rare, and very mild. The men were happy, and did their duty
with alacrity; and but for Peleg Oswald, all would have been harmony.
We made the island about the 15th of December, when the weather was
such as the season of the year might induce us to expect, it being
then summer. We hove off to the north or windward side of the island,
about two miles from the shore; we dared not go nearer on that side,
for fear of what are called the "Rollers"--a phenomenon, it would
appear, of terrific magnitude, on that sequestered little spot. On
this extraordinary operation of nature, many conjectures have been
offered, but no good or satisfactory reason has ever been assigned to
satisfy my mind; for the simple reason, that the same causes would
produce the same effect on St Helena, Ascension, or any other island
or promontory exposed to a wide expanse of water. I shall attempt
to describe the scene that a succession of Rollers would present,
supposing, what has indeed happened, that a vessel is caught on the
coast when coming in.
The water will be perfectly smooth--not a breath of wind--when,
suddenly, from the north, comes rolling a huge wave, with a glassy
surface, never breaking till it meets the resistance of the land, when
it dashes down with a noise and a resistless violence that no art or
effort of man could elude. It is succeeded by others. No anchorage
would hold if there were anchorage to be had; but this is not the
case; the water is from ninety to one hundred fathoms deep, and
consequently an anchor and cable could scarcely afford a momentary
check to any ship when thus assailed; or, if it did, the sea would, by
being resisted, divide, break on board, and swamp her. Such was the
fate of the unfortunate ----, a British sloop of war; which, after
landing the captain and six men, was caught in the rollers, driven on
shore, and every creature on board perished, only the captain and his
boat's crew escaping. This unfortunate little vessel was lost, not
from want of skill or seamanship in the captain or crew, for a finer
set of men never swam salt water; but from their ignorance of this
peculiarity of the island, unknown in any other that I ever heard
of, at least to such an alarming extent. Driven close in to the land
before she could find soundings, at last she let go three anchors; but
nothing could withstand the force of the "Rollers," which drove her in
upon the beach, when she broke in two as soon as she landed, and all
hands perished in sight of the affected captain and his boat's crew,
who buried the bodies of their unfortunate shipmates as soon as the
sea had delivered them up.
There is another remarkable peculiarity in this island: its shores, to
a very considerable extent out to sea, are surrounded with the plant,
called _fucus maximus_, mentioned by Captain Cook; it grows to the
depth of sixty fathoms, or one hundred and eighty feet, and reaches in
one long stem to the surface, when it continues to run along to the
enormous length of three or four hundred feet, with short alternate
branches at every foot of its length. Thus, in the stormy ocean, grows
a plant, higher and of greater length than any vegetable production of
the surface of the earth, not excepting the banyan tree, which, as its
branches touch the ground, takes fresh root, and may be said to form a
separate tree. These marine plants resist the most powerful attacks
of the mightiest elements combined; the winds and the waves in vain
combine their force against them; uniting their foliage on the bosom
of the waters, they laugh at the hurricane and defy its power. The
leaves are alternate, and when the wind ruffles the water, they flap
over, one after the other, with a mournful sound, doubly mournful
to us from the sad association of ideas, and the loneliness of the
island. The branches or tendrils of these plants are so strong and
buoyant, when several of them happen to unite, that a boat cannot pass
through them; I tried with my feet what pressure they would bear, and
I was convinced that, with a pair of snow shoes, a man might walk over
Captain Peters kindly invited me to go on shore with him. We landed
with much difficulty, and proceeded to the cottage of a man who had
been left there from choice; he resided with his family: and, in
imitation of another great personage on an island to the northward of
him, styled himself "Emperor." A detachment of British soldiers had
been sent from the Cape of Good Hope to take possession of this spot:
but after a time they were withdrawn.
His present Imperial Majesty had, at the time of my visit, a black
consort, and many snuff-coloured princes and princesses. He was in
other respects a perfect Robinson Crusoe; he had a few head of cattle,
and some pigs; these latter have greatly multiplied on the island.
Domestic fowls were numerous, and he had a large piece of ground
planted with potatoes, the only place south of the Equator which
produces them in their native perfection; the land is rich and
susceptible of great improvement; and the soil is intersected with
numerous running springs over its surface. But it was impossible to
look on this lonely spot without recalling to mind the beautiful lines
"O Solitude, where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face?"
Yet in this wild place, alarms and even rebellion had found their way,
the Emperor had but one subject, and this Caliban had ventured, in
direct violation of an imperial mandate, to kill a fowl for his
"Rebellion," said the enraged emperor, "is the son of witchcraft, and
I am determined to make an example of the offender."
I became the mediator between these two belligerents. I represented to
his imperial majesty, that, as far as the matter of example went, the
severity would lose its effect; for his children were as yet too young
to be corrupted; and, moreover, as his majesty was so well versed in
scripture, he must know that it was his duty to forgive. "Besides," I
said, "her majesty the queen has a strong arm, and can always
assist in repelling or chastising any future act of aggression or
disobedience." I suspect that the moral code of his majesty was not
unlike my own it yielded to the necessities of the time. He must have
found it particularly inconvenient not to be on speaking terms with
his prime minister and arch chancellor, whom he had banished to
the opposite side of the island on pain of death. The sentence was
originally for six months; but on my intercession the delinquent was
pardoned and restored to favour. I felt much self-complacency when I
reflected on this successful instance of my mediatorial power, which
had perhaps smothered a civil war in its birth.
The emperor informed me that an American whaler was lying at the east
side of the island, filling with the oil of the walrus, or sea-horse;
that she had been there at an anchor six weeks, and was nearly full. I
asked to be shown the spot where the ---- was wrecked; he took me to
her sad remains. She lay broken in pieces on the rocks; and, not far
from her, was a mound of earth, on which was placed a painted piece of
board by way of a tombstone. The fate of the vessel, together with the
number of sufferers, were marked in rude but concise characters. I
do not exactly remember the words, but in substance it stated, that
underneath lay the remains of one hundred as fine fellows as ever
walked on a plank, and that they had died, like British seamen, doing
their duty to the last. This was a melancholy sight, especially to a
sailor, who knew not how soon the same fate awaited him.
We rafted off several casks of water during that day, and on the
following we completed our water, and then ran to the east end of
the island to anchor near, and wait for our consort the whaler, the
captain of which had come in his boat to visit us: I conversed with
him, and was struck with one remark which he made.
"You Englishmen go to work in a queerish kind of way," said he; "you
send a parcel of soldiers to live on an island where none but sailors
can be of use. You listen to all that those red coats tell you; they
never thrive when placed out of musket-shot from a gin-shop: and
because _they_ don't like it, you evacuate the island. A soldier likes
his own comfort, although very apt to destroy that of other folks; and
it a'n't very likely he would go and make a good report of an island
that had neither women nor rum, and where he was no better than a
prisoner. Now, if brother Jonathan had taken this island, I guess he
would a' made it pay for its keep; he would have had two or three
crews of whalers, with their wives and families, and all their little
comforts about them, with a party of good farmers to till the land,
and an officer to command the whole. The island can provide itself, as
you may perceive, and all would have gone on well. It is just as easy
to 'fish' the island from the shore as it is in vessel, and indeed
much easier. Only land your boilers and casks, and a couple of dozen
of good whale-boats, and this island would produce a revenue that
would repay with profit all the money laid out upon it, for the
sea-horses have no other place to go to, either to shed their coats in
the autumn, or bring forth their young in the spring. The fishing and
other duties would be a source of amusement to the sailors, who, if
they chose, might return home occasionally in the vessels that came to
take away the full casks of oil and land the empty ones."
The captain of the whaler returned to his ship, but, I suppose, forgot
to give our captain very particular directions about the anchorage. We
ran down to the east end of the island, and were just going to bring
up, when, supposing himself too near the whaler, Peters chose to run
a little further. I should have observed, that as we rounded the
north-east point, the breeze freshed, and the squalls came heavy out
of the gullies and deep ravines. We therefore shortened sail, and,
passing very near the whaler, they hailed us; but it blew so fresh
that we did not hear what they said; and, having increased our
distance from the whaler to what was judged proper, let go the anchor.
Ninety fathoms of cable ran out in a crack, before she turned head
to-wind; and, to our mortification, we found we had passed the bank
upon which the whaler had brought up, and must have dropped our anchor
into a well, for we had nineteen fathoms water under the bows, and
only seven fathoms under the stern. The moon showed her face, just at
this moment, and we had the further satisfaction of perceiving, that
we were within fifty yards of a reef of rocks which lay astern of us,
with their dirty, black heads above water.
We were very much surprised to find, notwithstanding the depth of
water, that, during the lulls, we rode with a slack cable; but about
two o'clock in the morning the cable parted, being cut by the foul
ground. All sail was made immediately, but the rocks astern were so
close to us, that you might have thrown a biscuit on them, and we
thought the cruise of the _True-blooded Yankee_ was at an end; but it
proved otherwise, for the same cause which produced the slack cable
preserved the vessel. The _fucus maximus_ we found had interposed
between us and destruction; we had let go our anchor in this
sub-marine forest, and had perched, as it were, on the tops of the
trees; and, so thick were the leaves and branches, that they held us
from driving, and prevented our going on shore when the cable had
parted. We dragged slowly through the plants, and were very glad to
see ourselves once more clear of this miserable spot.
"Better dwell in the midst of alarms,
Than reign in this horrible place."
But I sincerely wish all manner of success to this little empire,
though I hope my evil stars will never take me to it again. We shaped
our course for the Cape of Good Hope, for Captain Peters would not run
further risk in waiting for the consort privateer.
Poor Thompson, notwithstanding all my exertions in his favour, was
exposed to much ill-treatment on board the vessel, on account of his
firm and unshaken loyalty. He seldom complained to me, but sometimes
vindicated himself by a gentle hint from one of his ample fists on the
nose or eye of the offender, and here the matter usually ended, for
his character was so simple and inoffensive, that all the best men in
the vessel loved him. One night, a man fell overboard--the weather was
fine, and the brig had but little way; they were lowering down the
jolly-boat from the stern, when one of the hooks by which she hung by
the stern, broke, and four men were precipitated with violence into
the water. Two of them could not swim, and all screamed loudly for
help as soon as they came up from their dive. Thompson, seeing this,
darted from the stern like a Newfoundland dog, swam to the weakest,
supported him to the rudder chains, and, leaving him, went to another,
bringing him to the stern of the vessel, and making a rope fast under
his arms. In this way he succeeded in saving the whole of these poor
fellows. Two of the five would certainly have sank but for his timely
assistance, for they were some time before another boat could be got
ready; and the other three owned that they much doubted whether they
could have reached the vessel without help.
This conduct of Thompson was much applauded by all on board, and some
asked him why he ventured his life for people who had used him so ill:
he answered, that his mither and his Bible taught him to do all the
good he could: and as God had given him a strong arm, he hoped he
should always use it for the benefit of his brother in need.
It might have been supposed that an act like this would have prevented
the recurrence of any further insult; but the more the Americans
perceived Thompson's value, the more eager were they to have him as
their own. The second mate, whom I have already described as a rough
and brutal fellow, one day proposed to him to belong to their vessel,
certain, he added, that he would make his fortune by the capture of
two, if not three, extra Indiamen, which they had information of on
Thompson looked the man fully in the face, and said, "Did ye no hear
what I telled the captain the ither day?"
"Yes," said the man, "I knew that, but that's what we call in our
country 'all my eye.'"
"But they do not call it so in my country," said the Caledonian, at
the same time planting his fist so full and plump in the left eye of
the mate, that he fell like the "_humi bos_," covering a very large
part of the deck with his huge carcase.
The man got up, found his face bleeding plentifully, and his eye
closed; but instead of resenting the insult himself, went off and
complained to the captain. Many of the Americans, either from hatred
or jealousy, went along with him, and clamorously demanded that the
Englishman should be punished for striking an officer. When the story,
however, came to be fairly explained, the captain said he was bound
to confess that the second mate was the aggressor, inasmuch as he had
acknowledged that he knew the penalty of the transgression before he
committed the act; that he (the captain) had told Thompson, when
he made the declaration, that he thought him perfectly right, and,
consequently, he was bound to protect him by every law of hospitality
as well as gratitude, after his services in saving the lives of their
This did not satisfy the crew; they were clamorous for punishment, and
a mutiny was actually headed by the second mate. There was, however,
a large party on board who were in no humour to see an Englishman
treated with such indignity. Of what country they were may readily be
conjectured. The dispute ran high; and I began to think that serious
consequences might ensue, for it had continued from the serving of
grog at twelve o'clock till near two; when casting my eyes over the
larboard quarter, I perceived a sail, and told the captain of it;
he instantly hailed the look-out-man at the mast head; but the
look-out-man had been so much interested with what was going on upon
deck, that he had come down into the main top to listen.
"Don't you see that sail on the larboard quarter?" said the captain.
"Yes, Sir," said the man.
"And why did you not report her?"
The man could make no reply to this question, for a very obvious
"Come down here," said the captain; "let him be released, Solomon; we
will show you a little Yankee discipline."
But before we proceed to the investigation of the crime, or the
infliction of punishment, we must turn our eyes to the great object
which rose clearer and clearer every five minutes above the horizon.
The privateer was at this time under top sails, and top-gallant-sails,
jib, and foresail, running to the north-east, with a fine breeze and
"Leftenant," said the captain, "what do you think of her?"
"I think," said I, "that she is an extra Indiaman, and if you mean
to speak her, you had better put your head towards her under an easy
sail; by which means you will be so near by sunset, that if she runs
from you, you will be able, with your superior sailing, to keep sight
of her all night."
"I guess you are not far wrong in that," said the captain.
"I guess he is directly in the face of the truth," said the chief
mate, who had just returned from the main top, where he had spent the
last quarter of an hour in the most intense and absorbed attention to
the cut of the stranger's sails. "If e'er I saw wood and canvas put
together before in the shape of a ship, that there is one of John
Bull's bellowing calves of the ocean, and not less than a forty-four
"What say you to that, leftenant?" said the captain.
"Oh, as to that," said the mate, "it isn't very likely that he's going
to tell us the truth."
"Because you would not have done it yourself in the same situation,"
"Just so," said the mate.
And in fact, I must own that I had no particular wish to cruise for
some months in this vessel, and go back for water at Tristan d'Acunha
I therefore did not use my very best optical skill when I gave my
opinion; but as I saw the stranger was nearing us very fast, although
we were steering the same way, I made my mind up that I should very
soon be out of this vessel, and on my way to England, where all my
happiness and prospects were centred.
The chief mate took one more look--the captain followed his example;
they then looked at each other, and pronounced their cruise at an end.
"We are done, sir," said the mate; "and all owing to that d----d
English renegado that you would enter on the books as one of the
ship's company. But let's have him aft, and give him his discharge
"First of all," said the captain, "suppose we try what is to be
done with our heels. They used to be good, and I never saw the
brass-bottomed sarpent that could come anear us yet. Send the royal
yards up--clear away the studding-sails--keep her with the wind just
two points abaft the beam, that's her favourite position; and I think
we may give the slip to that old-country devil in the course of the
I said nothing, but looked very attentively to all that was doing. The
vessel was well manned, certainly, and all sail was set upon her in a
very expeditious manner.
"Heave the log," said the captain.
They did so; and she was going, by their measurement, nine and six.
"What do you think your ship is doing?" said the captain to me.
"I think," said I, "she is going about eleven knots; and, as she is
six miles astern of you, that she will be within gunshot in less than
"Part of that time shall be spent in paying our debts for this
favour," said the captain. "Mr Solomon, let them seize that
_no-nation_ rascal up to the main rigging, and hand up two of your
most hungry cats. Where is Dick Twist, he that was boatswain's mate of
the _Statira_; and that red-haired fellow, you know, that swam away
from the Maidstone in the _Rappahanock?_"
"You mean carroty Sam, I guess--pass the word for Sam Gall."
The two operators soon appeared, each armed with the instruments of
his office; and I must say that, in malignity of construction, they
were equal to any thing used on similar occasions even by Captain
G----. The culprit was now brought forward, and to my surprise it was
the very man whom Thompson, when in the boat, had thrown overboard for
mutiny. I cannot say that I felt sorry for the cause or the effect
that was likely to be produced by the disputes of the day.
"Seize him up," said the captain; "you were sent to the mast-head in
your regular turn of duty; and you have neglected that duty, by which
means we are likely to be taken: so, before my authority ceases, I
will show you a Yankee trick."
"I am an Englishman," said the man, "and appeal to my officer for
The captain looked at me.
"If I am the officer you appeal to," said I, "I do not acknowledge
you; you threw off your allegiance when you thought it suited your
purpose, and you now wish to resume it to screen yourself from a
punishment which you richly deserve. I shall certainly not interfere
in your favour."
"I was born," roared the cockney, "in Earl Street, Seven Dials--my
mother keeps a tripe-shop--I am a true born Briton, and you have no
right to flog me."
"You was a Yankee sailor from New London yesterday, and you are a
tripe-seller, from Old London to-day. I think I am right in calling
you a no-nation rascal, but we will talk about the right another
time," said the captain; "meanwhile, Dick Twist, do you begin."
Twist obeyed his orders with skill and accuracy; and having given the
prisoner three dozen, that would not have disgraced the leger-de-main
of my friend the Farnese Hercules in the brig, Sam Gall was desired
to take his turn. Sam acquitted himself _a merveille_ with the like
number; and the prisoner, after a due proportion of bellowing, was
cast loose. I could not help reflecting how very justly this captain
had got his vessel into jeopardy by first allowing a man to be seduced
from his allegiance, and then placing confidence in him.
"Let us now take a look at the chase," said the captain; "zounds, she
draws up with us. I can see her bowsprit-cap when she lifts; and half
an hour ago I only saw her foreyard. Cut away the jolly-boat from the
The chief mate took a small axe, and, with a steady blow at the end of
each davit, divided the falls, and the boat fell into the sea.
"Throw these here two aftermost guns overboard," said the captain; "I
guess we are too deep abaft, and they would not be of much use to us
in the way of defence, for this is a wapper that's after us."
The guns in a few minutes were sent to their last rest; and for the
next half-hour the enemy gained less upon them. It was now about
half-past three P.M.; the courage of the Yankees revived; and the
second mate reminded the captain that his black eye had not been
reckoned for at the main rigging.
"Nor shall it be," said the captain, "while I command the
_True-blooded Yankee_; what is, is right; no man shall be punished for
fair defence after warning. Thompson, come and stand aft."
The man was in the act of obeying this order, when he was seized on
by some six or eight of the most turbulent, who began to tear off his
"Avast there, shipmates!" said Twist and Gall, both in a breath. "We
don't mind touching up such a chap as this here tripeman; but not the
scratch of a pin does Thompson get in this vessel. He is one of us; he
is a seamen every inch of him, and you must flog us, and some fifty
more, if once you begin; for d----n my eyes if we don't heave the log
with the second mate, and then lay-to till the frigate comes along
The mutineers stood aghast for a few seconds; but the second mate,
jumping on a gun, called out,
"Who's of our side? Are we going to be bullied by these d----d
"You are," said I, "if doing an act of justice is bullying. You are in
great danger, and I warn you of it. I perceive the force of those whom
you pretend to call Americans; and though I am the last man in the
world to sanction an act of treachery by heaving the ship to, yet I
caution you to beware how you provoke the bull-dog, who has only broke
his master's chain 'for a lark,' and is ready to return to him. I
am your guest, and therefore your faithful friend; use your utmost
endeavours to escape from your enemy. I know what she is, for I know
her well; and, if I am not much mistaken, you have scarcely more time,
with all your exertions, than to pack up your things; for be assured,
you will not pass twelve hours more under your own flag."
This address had a tranquillising effect. The captain, Captain Green,
and Solomon, walked aft; and, to their great dismay, saw distinctly
the water line of the pursuing frigate.
"What can be done?" said the captain; "she has gained on us in this
manner, while the people were all aft settling that infernal dispute.
Throw two more of the after guns overboard."
This order was obeyed with the same celerity as the former, but not
with the same success. The captain now began to perceive, what was
pretty obvious to me before, namely, that by dropping the boat from
the extreme end of the vessel, where it hung like the pea on the
steelyard, he did good; the lightening her also of the two aftermost
guns, hanging over the dead wood of the vessel, were in like manner
serviceable. But here he should have stopped; the effect of throwing
the next two guns overboard was pernicious. The vessel fell by the
head; her stern was out of the water; she steered wild, yawed, and
decreased in her rate of sailing in a surprising manner.
"Cut away the bower anchors," said the captain.
The stoppers were cut, and the anchors dropped; the brig immediately
recovered herself from her oppression, as it were, and resumed
her former velocity; but the enemy had by this time made fearful
approaches. The only hope of the captain and his crew was in the
darkness; and as this darkness came on, my spirits decreased, for I
greatly feared that we should have escaped. The sun had sunk some time
below the horizon; the cloud of sail coming up astern of us began to
be indistinct, and at last disappeared altogether in a black squall:
we saw no more of her for nearly two hours.
I walked the deck with Green and the captain. The latter seemed in
great perturbation; he had hoped to make his fortune, and retire from
the toils and cares of a sea-life in some snug corner of the Western
settlements, where he might cultivate a little farm, and lead the life
of an honest man; "for _this_ life," said he, "I am free to confess,
is, after all, little better than highway robbery."
Whether the moral essay of the captain was the effect of his present
danger, I will not pretend to say. I only know, that if the reader
will turn back to some parts of my history, he will find me very often
in a similar mood, on similar occasions.
The two captains and the chief mate now retired, after leaving me
meditating by myself over the larboard gunwale, just before the main
rigging. The consultation seemed to be of great moment; and, as I
afterwards learned, was to decide what course they should steer,
seeing that they evidently lost sight of their pursuer. I felt all my
hopes of release vanish as I looked at them, and had made up my mind
to go to New York.
At this moment, a man came behind me, as if to get a pull at the
top-gallant sheets; and while he hung down upon it with a kind of
"yeo-ho," he whispered in my ear--"You may have the command of the
brig if you like. We are fifty-Englishmen--we will heave her to and
hoist a light, if you will only say the word, and promise us our free
I pretended at first not to hear, but, turning round, I saw Mr Twist.
"Hold, villain!" said I; "do you think to redeem one act of treachery
by another? and do you dare to insult the honour of a naval officer
with a proposal so infamous? Go to your station instantly, and think
yourself fortunate that I do not denounce you to the captain, who has
a perfect right to throw you overboard--a fate which your chain of
crimes fully deserves."
The man skulked away, and I went off to the captain, to whom I related
the circumstance, desiring him to be on his guard against treachery.
"Your conduct, Sir," said the captain, "is what I should have
expected from a British naval officer; and since you have behaved so
honourably, I will freely tell you that my intention is to shorten
sail to the topsails and foresail, and haul dead on a wind into that
dark squall to the southward."
"As you please," said I; "you cannot expect that I should advise, nor
would you believe me if I said I wished you success; but rely on it
I will resist, by every means in my power, any unfair means to
dispossess you of your command."
"I thank you, Sir," said the captain, mournfully; and, without losing
any more time in useless words, "Shorten sail there," continued
he, with a low but firm voice; "take in the lower and topmost
studding-sail--hands aloft--in top-gallant studding-sails, and roll up
the top-gallant sails."
All this appeared to be done with surprising speed, even to me who
had been accustomed to very well conducted ships of war. One mistake,
however, was made; the lower studding-sail, instead of being hauled
in on deck, was let to fall overboard, and towed some time under the
larboard bow before it was reported to the officers.
"Haul in the larboard braces--brace sharp up--port the helm, and bring
her to the wind, quarter-master."
"Port, it is, Sir," said the man at the helm, and the vessel was close
hauled upon the starboard tack; but she did not seem to move very
fast, although, she had a square mainsail, boom mainsail, and jib.
"I think we have done them at last," said the captain; "what do you
think, leftenant?" giving me a hearty but very friendly slap on the
back. "Come, what say you; shall we take a cool bottle of London
particular after the fatigues of the day?"
"Wait a little," said I, "wait a little."
"What are you looking at there to windward?" said the captain, who
perceived that my eye was fixed on a particular point.
Before I had time to answer, Thompson came up to me and said, "there
is the ship, Sir," pointing to the very spot on which I was gazing.
The captain heard this; and, as fear is ever quick-sighted, he
instantly caught the object.
"Running is of no use now," said he; "we have tried her off the wind,
our best going; she beats us at that; and on a wind, I don't think so
much of her; but still, with this smooth water and fine breeze, she
ought to move better. Solomon, there is something wrong, give a look
Solomon went forward on the starboard side, but saw nothing. As he
looked over the gangway and bow, coming round on the lee side of
the forecastle, he saw some canvas hanging on one of the
night-heads--"What have we here?" said he. No one answered. He looked
over the fore chains, and found the whole lower studding-sail towing
in the water.
"No wonder she don't move," said the mate; "here is enough to stop the
Constitution herself. Who took in this here lower studding-sail?--But,
never mind, we'll settle that to-morrow. Come over here, you
Some of the Americans came over to him, but not with very great
alacrity. The sail could not be pulled in, as the vessel had too much
way; and while they were ineffectually employed about it, the flash of
a gun was seen to windward; and as the report reached our ears, the
shot whistled over our heads, and darted like lightning through the
"Hurra for old England," said Thompson; "the fellow that fired that
shot shall drink my allowance of grog to-morrow."
"Hold your tongue, you d----d English rascal," said the second mate,
"or I'll stop your grog for ever."
"I don't think you will," said the North Briton, "and if you take a
friend's advice, you won't try." Thompson was standing on the little
round-house or poop; the indignant mate jumped up, and collared him.
Thompson disengaged him in the twinkling of an eye, and with one blow
of his right hand in the pit of the man's stomach, sent him reeling
over to leeward. He fell--caught at the boom-sheet--missed it, and
tumbled into the sea, from whence he rose no more.
All was now confusion. "A man overboard!"--another shot from the
frigate--another and another in quick succession. The fate of the
man was forgotten in the general panic. One shot cut the aftermost
main-shroud; another went through the boat on the booms. The frigate
was evidently very near us. The men all rushed down to seize their
bags and chests; the captain took me by the hand, and said "Sir, I
surrender myself to you, and give you leave now to act as you think
"Thompson," said I, "let go the main-sheet, and the main-brace."
Running forward myself, I let go the main-tack, and bowlines; the
main-yard came square of itself. Thompson got a lantern, which he held
up on the starboard quarter.
The frigate passed close under the stern, shewing a beautiful pale
side, with a fine tier of guns; and, hailing us, desired to know what
vessel it was.
I replied, that it was the _True-blooded Yankee_ of Boston--that she
had hove-to and surrendered.
"It is not," says Blake, "the business of a seaman to mind state
affairs, but to hinder foreigners from fooling us."--DR JOHNSON'S
_Life of Blake_.
The frigate came to the wind close under our lee, and a boat from her
was alongside in a very few minutes. The officer who came to take
possession, leaped up the side, and was on the deck in a moment. I
received him, told him in few words what the vessel was, introducing
the captain and Green, both of whom I recommended to his particular
notice and attention for the kindness they had shown to me, I then
requested he would walk down into the cabin, leaving a midshipman whom
he brought with him in charge of the deck, and who, in the meanwhile,
he directed to haul the mainsail up, and make the vessel snug. The
prisoners were desired to pack up their things, and be ready to quit
in one hour.
When lights were brought in the cabin, the lieutenant and myself
instantly recognised each other.
"Bless my soul, Frank," said he, "what brought you here?"
"That," said I, "is rather a longer story than could be conveniently
told before to-morrow; but may I ask what ship has taken the Yankee? I
conclude it is the _R_----; and what rank does friend Talbot hold in
"The frigate," said he, "_is_ the _R_----, as you conjectured. We are
on the Cape station. I am first of her, and sent out here on promotion
for the affair of Basque Roads."
"Hard, indeed," said I, "that you should have waited so long for what
you so nobly earned; but come, we have much to do. Let us look to
the prisoners, and if you will return on board, taking with you the
captain, mate, and a few of the hands, whom I will select, as the most
troublesome, and the most careless, I will do all I can to have the
prize ready for making sail by daylight, when, if Captain T---- will
give me leave, I will wait on him."
This was agreed to. The people whom I pointed out, were put into the
boat, four of whose crew came aboard the brig to assist me. We
soon arranged every thing, so as to be ready for whatever might be
required. A boat returned with a fresh supply of hands, taking back
about twenty more prisoners; and the midshipman, who brought them,
delivered also a civil message from the captain, to say, he was glad
to have the prize in such good hands, and would expect me to breakfast
with him at eight o'clock; in the meantime, he desired, that as soon
as I was ready to make sail, I should signify the same by showing two
lights at the same height in the main rigging, and that we should then
keep on a wind to the northward under a plain sail.
This was completed by four A.M., when we made the signal, and kept on
the weather quarter of the frigate. I took a couple of hours' sleep,
was called at six, dressed myself, and prepared to go on board at half
past seven. I heard her drum and fife beat to quarters, the sweetest
music next to the heavenly voice of Emily, I had ever heard. The tears
rolled down my cheeks with gratitude to God, for once more placing me
under the protection of my beloved flag. The frigate hove-to; soon
after, the gig was lowered down, and came to fetch me; a clean white
cloak was spread in the stern sheets: the men were dressed in white
frocks and trousers, as clean as hands could make them, with neat
straw hats, and canvas shoes. I was seated in the boat without delay,
and my heart beat with rapture when the boatswain's mate at the
gangway piped the side for me.
I was received by the captain and officers with all the kindness and
affection which we lavish on each other on such occasions. The captain
asked me a thousand questions, and the lieutenants and midshipmen all
crowded round me to hear my answers. The ship's company were also
curious to know our history, and I requested the captain would send
the gig back for Thompson, who would assist me in gratifying the
general curiosity. This was done, and the brave, honest fellow came on
board. The first question he asked was, "Who fired the first shot at
"It was Mr Spears, the first lieutenant of marines," said one of the
"Then Mr Spears must have my allowance of grog for the day," said
Thompson; "for I said it last night, and I never go from my word."
"That I am ready to swear to," said Captain Peters, of the privateer:
"I have known men of good resolutions, and you are one of them; and
I have known men of bad resolutions, and he was one of them whom you
sent last night to his long account; and it was fortunate for you
that you did; for as sure as you now stand here, that man would have
compassed your death, either by dagger, by water, or by poison. I
never knew or heard of the man who had struck or injured Peleg Oswald
with impunity. He was a Kentucky man, of the Ohio, where he had
'squatted,' as we say; but he shot two men with his rifle, because
they had declined exchanging some land with him. He had gouged the eye
out of a third, for some trifling difference of opinion. These acts
obliged him to quit the country; for, not only were the officers of
justice in pursuit of him, but the man who had lost one eye kept a
sharp look out with the other, and Peleg would certainly have had a
rifle ball in his ear if he had not fled eastward, and taken again to
the sea, to which he was originally brought up. I did not know all his
history till long after he and I became shipmates. He would have been
tried for his life; but having made some prize money, he contrived to
buy off his prosecutors. I should have unshipped him next cruise, if
it had pleased God I had got safe back."
While Peters was giving this little history of his departed mate, the
captain's breakfast was announced, and the two American captains
were invited to partake of it. As we went down the ladder under
the half-deck, Peters and Green could not help casting an eye of
admiration at the clean and clear deck, the style of the guns, and
perfect union of the useful and ornamental, so inimitably blended as
they are sometimes found in our ships of war. There was nothing in
the captain's repast beyond cleanliness, plenty, hearty welcome, and
The conversation turned on the nature, quality, and number of men in
the privateer. "They are all seamen," said Peters, "except the ten
"Some of them, I suspect, are English," said I.
"It is not for me to peach," said the wary American. "It is difficult
always to know whether a man who has been much in both countries is
a native of Boston in Lincolnshire, or Boston in Massachusetts; and
perhaps they don't always know themselves. We never ask questions when
a seaman ships for us."
"You have an abundance of our seamen, both in your marine and merchant
service," said our captain.
"Yes," said Green; "and we are never likely to want them, while you
impress for us."
"_We_ impress for you?" said Captain T----, "how do you prove that?"
"Your impressment," said the American, "fills our ships. Your seamen
will not stand it; and for every two men you take by force, rely on
it, we get one of them as a volunteer."
Peters dissented violently from this proposition, and appeared angry
with Green for making the assertion.
"I see no reason to doubt it," said Green; "I know how our fighting
ships, as well as our traders, are manned. I will take my oath that
more than two-thirds have run from the British navy, because they were
impressed. You yourself have said so in my hearing, Peters--look at
Peters could stand conviction no longer; he burst into the most
violent rage with Green; said that what ought never to have been owned
to a British officer, he had let out; that it was true that America
looked upon our system of impressment as the sheet-anchor of her navy;
but he was sorry the important secret should ever have escaped from an
"For my part," resumed Green, "I feel so deeply indebted to this
gallant young Englishman for his kindness to me, that I am for ever
the friend of himself and his country, and have sworn never to carry
arms against Great Britain, unless to repel an invasion of my own
Breakfast ended, we all went on deck; the ship and her prize were
lying to; the hands were turned up; all the boats hoisted out; the
prisoners and their luggage taken out of the prize, and, as the
crew of the privateer came on board, they were all drawn up on the
quarter-deck, and many of them known and proved to be Englishmen.
When taxed and reproached for their infamous conduct, they said it
was owing to them that the privateer had been taken, for that they had
left the lower studding-sail purposely hanging over the night-head,
and towing in the water, by which the way of the vessel had been
Captain Peters, who heard this confession, was astonished; and the
captain of the frigate observed to him, that such conduct was exactly
that which might be expected from any traitor to his country. Then,
turning to the prisoners, he said, "the infamy of your first crime
could scarcely have been increased; but your treachery to the new
government, under which you had placed yourselves, renders you
unworthy of the name of men; nor have you even the miserable merit you
claim of having contributed to the capture, since we never lost sight
of the chase from the first moment we saw her, and from the instant
she hauled her wind, we knew she was ours."
The men hung down their heads, and when dismissed to go below, none of
the crew of the frigate would receive them into their messes; but the
real Americans were kindly treated.
We shaped our course for Simon's Bay, where we arrived in one week
after the capture.
The admiral on the station refused to try the prisoners by a
court-martial; he said it was rather a state question, and should send
them all to England, where the lords of the admiralty might dispose of
them as they thought proper.
The _True-blooded Yankee_ was libelled in the vice admiralty court
at Cape Town, condemned as a lawful prize, and purchased into the
service; and, being a very fine vessel of her class, the admiral was
pleased to say, that as I had been so singularly unfortunate, he would
give me the command of her as a lieutenant, and send me to England
with some despatches, which had been waiting an opportunity.
This was an arrangement far more advantageous to me than I could have
expected; but what rendered it still more agreeable was, that my
friend Talbot, who was the first to shake me by the hand on board the
prize, begged a passage home with me, he having, by the last packet,
received his commander's commission. The admiral, at my request, also
gave Captains Peters and Green permission to go home with me. Mungo,
the black man, and Thompson, the quarter-master, with the midshipman
who had been with me in the boat, were also of the party. My crew was
none of the very best, as might be supposed; but I was not in a state
to make difficulties; and, with half-a-dozen of the new Negroes, taken
out of the trader, I made up such a ship's company as I thought would
enable me to run to Spithead.
We laid in a good stock provisions at the Cape. The Americans begged
to be allowed to pay their part; but this I positively refused,
declaring myself too happy in having them as my guests. I purchased
all Captain Peters's wine and stock, giving him the full value for it.
Mungo was appointed steward, for I had taken a great fancy to him;
and my friend Talbot having brought all his things on board, and the
admiral having given my final orders, I sailed from Simon's Bay for
There is usually but little of incident in a run home of this sort.
I was not directed to stop at St Helena, and had no inclination to
loiter on my way. I carried sail night and day to the very utmost.
Talbot and myself became inseparable friends, and our cabin mess was
one of perfect harmony. We avoided all national reflections, and
abstained as much as possible from politics. I made a confidant of
Talbot in my love affair with Emily. Of poor Eugenia, I had long
before told him a great deal.
One day at dinner we happened to talk of swimming. "I think," said
Talbot, "that my friend Frank is as good a hand at that as any of us.
Do you remember when you swam away from the frigate at Spithead, to
pay a visit to your friend, Mrs Melpomene, at Point?"
"I do," said I, "and also how generously you showered the musket-balls
about my ears for the same."
"Your escape from either drowning or shooting on that occasion, among
many others," said the commander, "makes me augur something more
serious of your future destiny."
"That may be," said I; "but I dispute the legality of your act, in
trying to kill me before you knew who I was, or what I was about. I
might have been mad, for what you knew; or I might have belonged to
some other ship; but, in any event, had you killed me, and had my body
been found, a coroner's inquest would have gone very hard with you,
and a jury still worse."
"I should have laughed at them," said Talbot.
"You might have found it no laughing matter," said I.
"How?" replied Talbot, "what are sentinels placed for, and loaded with
"To defend the ship," said I; "to give warning of approaching danger;
to prevent men going out of the ship without leave; but never to take
away the life of a man unless in defence of their own, or when the
safety of the king's ship demands it."
"I deny your conclusion," said Talbot; "the articles of war denounce
death to all deserters."
"True," said I, "they do, and also to many other crimes; but those
crimes must first of all be proved before a court-martial. Now you
cannot prove that I was deserting, and if you could, you had not the
power to inflict death on me unless I was going towards the enemy.
I own I was disobeying your orders, but even that would not have
subjected me to more than a slight punishment, while your arbitrary
act would have deprived the king, as I flatter myself, of a loyal,
and not a useless subject; and if my body had not been found, no good
could have accrued to the service from the severity of example. On the
contrary, many would have supposed I had escaped, and been encouraged
to make the same attempt."
"I am very sorry now," said Talbot, "that I did not lower down a boat
to send after you; however, it has been a comfort to me since to
reflect that the marines missed you."
This ended the subject: we walked the deck a little, talked of
sweethearts, shaped the course for the night to make Fayal, which we
were not far from, and then returned to our beds.
Falling into a sound sleep, it was natural that the conversation of
the evening should have dwelt on my mind, and a strange mixture of
disjointed thoughts, a compound of reason and insanity, haunted me
till the morning. Trinidad and Emily, the Nine-Pin Rock, and the
mysterious Eugenia, with her supposed son; the sinking wreck, and the
broken schooner, all appeared separately or together.
"When nature rests,
Oft, in her absence, mimic fancy wakes."
I thought I saw Emily standing on the pinnacle of the Nine-Pin Rock,
just as Lord Nelson is represented on the monument in Dublin, or
Bonaparte in that of the Place Vendome; but with a grace as far
superior to either, as the Nine-Pin Rock is in majesty and natural
grandeur to those works of human art.
Emily, I thought, was clad in complete mourning, but looking radiant
in health and loveliness, although with a melancholy countenance. The
dear image of my mistress seemed to say, "I shall never come down from
this pinnacle without your assistance." "Then," thinks I, "you will
never come down at all." Then I thought Eugenia was queen of Trinidad,
and that it was she who had placed Emily out of my reach on the rock;
and I was entreating her to let Emily come down, when Thompson tapped
at my cabin door, and told me that it was daylight, and that they
could see the island of Fayal in the north-east, distant about seven
I dressed myself, and went on deck, saw the land, and a strange sail
steering to the westward. The confounded dream still running in my
head--like Adam, I "liked it not," and yet I thought myself a fool
for not dismissing such idle stuff; still it would not go away. The
Americans came on deck soon after; and seeing the ship steering to the
westward, asked if I meant to speak her. I replied in the affirmative.
We had then as much sail as we could carry; and as she had no wish to
avoid us, but kept on her course, we were soon alongside of her. She
proved to be a cartel, bound to New York with American prisoners.
In case of meeting with any vessel bound to the United States, the
admiral had given me permission to send my prisoners home without
carrying them to England. I had not mentioned this either to Peters or
Green, for fear of producing disappointment; but when I found I could
dispose of them so comfortably, I acquainted them with my intention.
Their joy and gratitude were beyond all description; they thanked me a
thousand times, as they did my friend Talbot for our kindness to them.
"Leftenant," said Peters, "I am not much accustomed to the company of
you Englishmen; and if I have always thought you a set of tyrants and
bullies, it arn't my fault. I believed what I was told; but now I
have seen for myself, and I find the devil is never so black as he is
painted." I bowed to the Yankee compliment. "Howsoever," he continued,
"I should like to have a sprinkling of shot between us on fair terms.
Do you bring this here brig to our waters; I hope to get another just
like her, and as I know you are a d----d good fellow, and would as
soon have a dust as sit down to dinner, I should like to try to get
the command of the _True-blooded Yankee_ again."
"If you man your next brig, as you manned the last, with all your best
hands Englishmen," said I, "I fear I should find it no easy matter to
"That's as it may be," said the captain; "no man fights better than he
with a halter round his neck: and remember what neighbour Green has
said, for he has 'let the cat out of the bag:' we should have no
Englishmen in our service, if they had not been pressed into yours."
I could make no return to this salute, because, like the gunner at
Landguard Fort, I had no powder, and, in fact, I felt the rebuke.
Green stood by, but never opened his lips until the captain had
finished; then holding out his hand to me, with his eyes full of
tears, and his voice almost choked, "Farewell, my excellent friend,"
said he; "I shall never forget you; you found me a villain, and, by
the blessing of God, you have made me an honest man. Never, never,
shall I forget the day when, at the risk of your own life, you came
to save one so unworthy of your protection; but God bless you! and if
ever the fortune of war should send you a prisoner to my country, here
is my address--what is mine is yours, and so you shall find."
The man who had mutinied in the boat, and afterwards entered on board
the privateer, who was sent home with me to take his trial, held out
his hand to Captain Green, as he passed him, to wish him good-by, but
he turned away, saying, "A traitor to his country is a traitor to his
God. I forgive you for the injury you intended to do me, and the more
so, as I feel I brought it on myself; but I cannot degrade myself by
offering you the hand of fellowship."
So saying, he followed Captain Peters into the boat. I accompanied
them to the cartel, where, having satisfied myself that they had every
comfort, I left them. Green was so overcome that he could not speak,
and poor Mungo could only say, "Good-by, massa leptenant, me tinkee
you berry good man."
I returned to my own vessel, and made sail for England: once more we
greeted the white cliffs of Albion, so dear to every true English
bosom. No one but he who has been an exile from its beloved shores can
fully appreciate the thrill of joy on such an occasion. We ran through
the Needles, and I anchored at Spithead, after an absence of fourteen
months. I waited on the admiral, showed him my orders, and reported
the prisoners, whom he desired me to discharge into the flag ship;
"and now," said he, "after your extraordinary escape, I will give you
leave to run up to town and see your family, to whom you are no doubt
an object of great interest."
Here a short digression is necessary.
Such was my brother too,
So went he suited to his watery tomb:
If spirits can assume both form and suit,
You come to fright us.
Soon after the frigate which had taken me off from New Providence had
parted company with the American prize that I was sent on board of,
the crew of the former, it appeared, had been boasting among the
American prisoners of the prize-money they should receive.
"Not you," said the Yankees; "you will never see your prize any more,
nor any one that went in her."
These words were repeated to the captain of the frigate, when he
questioned the mate and the crew, and the whole nefarious transaction
came out. They said the ship was sinking when they left her, and that
was the reason they had hurried into the boat. The mate said it was
impossible to get at the leaks, which were in the fore peak, and under
the cabin deck in the run; that he wondered Captain Green had not
made it known, but he supposed he must have been drunk: "the ship,"
continued the mate, "must have gone down in twelve hours after we left
This was reported to the Admiralty by my captain, and my poor father
was formally acquainted with the fatal story. Five months had elapsed
since I was last heard of, and all hopes of my safety had vanished:
this was the reason that when I knocked at the door, I found the
servant in mourning: he was one who had been hired since my departure,
and did not know me. Of course he expressed no surprise at seeing me.
"Good Heavens!" said I, "who is dead?" "My master's only son, Sir,"
said the man, "Mr Frank, drowned at sea."
"Oh! is that all?" said I, "I am glad it's no worse." The man
concluded that I was an unfeeling brute, and stared stupidly at me as
I brushed by him and ran up stairs to the drawing-room. I ought to
have been more guarded; but, as usual, I followed the impulse of my
feelings. I opened the door, when I saw my sister sitting at a table
in deep mourning, with another young lady whose back was turned
towards me. My sister screamed as soon as she saw me. The other lady
turned round, and I beheld my Emily, my dear, dear Emily: she too was
in deep mourning. My sister, after screaming, fell on the floor in a
swoon. Emily instantly followed her example, and there they both lay,
like two petrified queens in Westminster Abbey. It was a beautiful
sight, "pretty, though a plague."
I was confoundedly frightened myself, and thought I had done a
very foolish thing; but as I had no time to lose, I rang the bell
furiously, and seeing some jars with fresh flowers in them, I caught
them up and poured plentiful libations over the faces and necks of
the young ladies; but Emily came in for much the largest share, which
proves that I had neither lost my presence of mind nor my love for
My sister's maid, Higgins, was the first to answer the drawing-room
bell, which, from its violent ringing, announced some serious event.
She came bouncing into the room like a _recouchee_ shot. She was an
old acquaintance of mine; I had often kissed her when a boy, and she
had just as often boxed my ears. I used to give her a ribbon to tie up
her jaw with, telling her at the same time that she had too much of
it. This Abigail, like a true lady's maid, seeing me, whom she thought
a ghost, standing bolt upright, and the two ladies stretched out, as
she supposed, dead, gave a loud and most interesting scream, ran out
of the room for her life, nearly knocking down the footman, whom she
met coming in.
This fellow, who was a country lout, the son of one of my father's
tenants, only popped his head into the door, and saw the ladies lying
on the carpet; he had probably formed no very good opinion of me from
the manner in which I had received the news of my own demise, and
seemed very much inclined to act the part of a mandarin, that is, nod
his head and stand still.
"Desire some of the women to come here immediately," said I; "some
one that can be of use; tell them to bring salts, eau de cologue, any
thing. Fly, blockhead, goose, what do you stand staring at?"
The fellow looked at me, and then at the supposed corpses, which
he must have thought I had murdered; and, either thunderstruck, or
doubting whether he had any right to obey me, kept his head inside the
door and his body outside, as if he had been in the pillory. I saw
that he required some explanation, and cried out, "I am Mr Frank; will
you obey me, or shall I throw this jar at your head?" brandishing one
of the china vases.
Had I been inclined to have thrown it, I should have missed him, for
the fellow was off like a wounded porpoise. Down he ran to my father
in the library; "Oh, Sir--good news--bad news--good news--"
"What news, fool?" said my father, rising hastily from his chair.
"Oh, Sir, I don't know, Sir; but I believe, Sir, Mr Frank is alive
again, and both the ladies _is_ dead."
My poor father, whose health and constitution had not recovered the
shock of my supposed death, tremblingly leaned over his table, on
which he rested his two hands, and desired the man to repeat what he
had said. This the fellow did, half crying, and my father, easily
comprehending the state of things, came upstairs. I would have flown
into his arms, but mine were occupied in supporting my sweet Emily,
while my poor sister lay senseless on the other side of me; for
Clara's lover was not at hand, and she still lay in abeyance.
By this time "the hands were turned up," every body was on the alert,
and every living creature in the house, not excepting the dog, had
assembled in the drawing-room. The maids that had known me cried
and sobbed most piteously, and the new comer kept them company from
sympathy. The coachman, and footman, and groom, all blubbered and
stared; and one brought water, and one a basin, and the looby of a
footman something else, which I must not name; but in his hurry he
had snatched up the first utensil that he thought might be of use; I
approved of his zeal, but nodded to him to retire. Unluckily for him,
the housemaid perceived the mistake which his absence of thought had
led him into; and, snatching the mysterious vessel with her left hand,
she hid it under her apron, while with her right she gave the poor
fellow such a slap on the cheek, as to bring to my mind the tail of
the whale descending on the boat at Bermuda. "You great fool," said
she, "nobody wants that."
"There is matrimony in that slap," said I; and the event proved I was
right--they were _asked_ in church the Sunday following.
The industrious application of salts, cold water, and burnt rags,
together with chafing of temples, opening of collars, and loosening
the stay-laces of the young ladies, produced the happiest effects.
Every hand, and every tongue was in motion; and with all these
remedies, the eyes of the enchanting Emily opened, and beamed upon me,
spreading joy and gladness over the face of creation, like the sun
rising out of the bosom of the Atlantic, to cheer the inhabitants of
the Antilles after a frightful hurricane. In half an hour, all was
right; "the guns were secured--we beat the retreat;" the servants
retired. I became the centre of the picture. Emily held my right, my
father my left; dear Clara hung round my neck. Questions were put and
answered as fast as sobs and tears would admit of their being heard.
The interlude was filled up with the sweetest kisses from the rosiest
of lips; and I was in this half hour rewarded for all I had suffered
since I had sailed from England in the diabolical brig for Barbadoes.
It was, I own, exceedingly wrong to have taken the house, as it were,
by storm, when I knew they were in mourning for me; but I forgot that
other people did not require the same stimulus as myself. I begged
pardon; was kissed again and again, and forgiven. Oh, it was worth
while to offend to be forgiven by such lips, and eyes, and dimples.
But I am afraid this thought is borrowed from some prose or poetry; if
so, the reader must forgive me, and so must the author, who may have
it again, now I have done with it, for I shall never use it any more.
My narrative was given with as much modesty and brevity as time and
circumstances would admit. The coachman was despatched on one of the
best carriage-horses express to Mr Somerville, and the mail coach was
loaded with letters to all the friends and connections of the family.
This ended, each retired to dress for dinner. What a change had one
hour wrought in this house of mourning, now suddenly turned into a
house of joy! Alas! how often is the picture reversed in human life!
The ladies soon reappeared in spotless white; emblems of their pure
minds. My father had put off his sables, and the servants came in
their usual liveries, which were very splendid.
Dinner being announced, my father handed off Emily; I followed with
my sister. Emily, looking over her shoulder, said, "Don't be jealous,
My father laughed, and I vowed revenge for this little satirical hit.
"You know the forfeit," said I, "and you shall pay it."
"I am happy to say that I am both able and willing," said she, and we
sat down to dinner, but not before my father had given thanks in a
manner more than usually solemn and emphatic. This essential act of
devotion, so often neglected, brought tears into the eyes of
all. Emily sank into her chair, covered her face with her
pocket-handkerchief, and relieved herself with tears. Clara did the
same. My father shook me by the hand, and said, "Frank, this is a very
different kind of repast to what we had yesterday. How little did we
know of the happiness that was in store for us!"
The young ladies dried their eyes, but had lost their appetites; in
vain did Emily endeavour to manage the tail of a small smelt. I filled
a glass of wine to each. "Come," said I, "in sea phrase, spirits are
always more easily stowed away than dry provisions; let us drink each
other's health, and then we shall get on better."
They took my advice, and it answered the purpose. Our repast was
cheerful, but tempered and corrected by a feeling of past sorrow, and
a deep sense of great mercies from Heaven.
"If Heaven were every day like this,
Then 'twere indeed a Heaven of bliss."
Reader, I know you have long thought me a vain man--a profligate,
unprincipled Don Juan, ready to pray when in danger, and to sin when
out of it: but as I have always told you the truth, even when my
honour and character were at stake, I expect you will believe me now,
when I say a word in my own favour. That I felt gratitude to God for
my deliverance and safe return, I do most solemnly aver; my heart was
ready to burst with the escape of this feeling, which I suppressed
from a false sense of shame, though I never was given much to the
melting mood; moreover, I was too proud to show what I thought a
weakness, before the great he-fellows of footmen. Had we been in
private, I could have fallen down on my knees before that God whom I
had so often offended; who had rescued me twice from the jaws of the
shark; who had lifted me from the depth of the sea when darkness
covered me; who had saved me from the poison and the wreck, and guided
me clear of the rock at Trinidad; and who had sent the dog to save me
from a horrible death.
These were only a small part of the mercies I had received; but they
were the most recent, and consequently had left the deepest impression
on my memory. I would have given one of Emily's approving smiles, much
as I valued them, to have been relieved from my oppressed feelings
by a hearty flood of tears, and by a solemn act of devotion and
thanksgiving; but I felt all this, and that feeling, I hope, was
accounted to me for righteousness. For the first time in my life, the
love of God was mixed up with a pure and earthly love for Emily, and
affection for my family.
The ladies sat with us some time after the cloth was removed, unable
to drag themselves away, while I related my "hair-breadth escapes."
When I spoke of the incident of trying to save the poor man who fell
overboard from the brig--of my holding him by the collar, and being
dragged down with him until the sea became dark over my head--Emily
could bear it no longer; she jumped up, and falling on her knees, hid
her lovely face in my sister's lap, passionately exclaiming, "Oh,
do not, do not, my dear Frank, tell me any more--I cannot bear
it--indeed, I cannot bear it."
We all gathered round her, and supported her to the drawing-room,
where we diverted ourselves with lighter and gayer anecdotes. Emily
tried a tune on the pianoforte, and attempted a song; but it would not
do: she could not sing a gay one, and a melancholy one overpowered
her. At twelve o'clock, we all retired to our apartments, and before I
slept I spent some minutes in devotion, with vows of amendment which I
fully intended to keep.
The next morning, Mr Somerville joined us at breakfast. This was
another trial of feeling for poor Emily, who threw herself into her
father's arms, and sobbed aloud. Mr Somerville shook me most cordially
by the hand with both of his, and eagerly demanded the history of my
extraordinary adventures, of which I gave him a small abridgment. I
had taken the opportunity of an hour's _tete a tete_ with Emily, which
Clara had considerately given us before breakfast, to speak of our
anticipated union; and finding there were no other obstacles than
those which are usually raised by "maiden pride and bashful coyness,"
so natural, so becoming, and so lovely in the sex, I determined to
speak to the grey-beards on the subject.
To this Emily at last consented, on my reminding her of my late narrow
escapes. As soon, therefore, as the ladies had retired from the dinner
table, I asked my father to fill a bumper to their health; and, having
swallowed mine in all the fervency of the most unbounded love, I
popped the question to them both. Mr Somerville and my father looked
at each other, when the former said--
"You seem to be in a great hurry, Frank."
"Not greater, Sir," said I, "than the object deserves."
He bowed, and my father began--
"I cannot say," observed the good old gentleman, "that I much approve
of matrimony before you are a commander. At least, till then, you are
not your own master."
"Oh, if I am to wait for that, Sir," said I, "I may wait long enough;
no man is ever his own master in our service, or in England. The
captain is commanded by the admiral, the admiral by the Admiralty, the
Admiralty by the Privy Council, the Privy Council by the Parliament,
the Parliament by the people, and the people by printers and their
"I admire your logical chain of causes and effects," said my
father; "but we must, after all, go to the _lace manufactory_ at
Charing-cross, to see if we cannot have your shoulders fitted with a
pair of epaulettes. When we can see you command your own sloop of war,
I shall be most happy, as I am sure my good friend Somerville will be
also, to see you command his daughter, the finest and the best girl in
the county of ----"
No arguments could induce the two old gentlemen to bate one inch from
these _sine qua non_. It was agreed that application should be made to
the Admiralty forthwith for my promotion; and when that desirable step
was obtained, that then Emily should have the disposal of me for the
All this was a very pretty story for them on the score of prudence,
but it did not suit the views of an ardent lover of one-and-twenty;
for though I knew my father's influence was very great at the
Admiralty, I also knew that an excellent regulation had recently been
promulgated, which prevented any lieutenant being promoted to the rank
of commander until he had served two years at sea from the date of his
first commission; nor could any commander, in like manner, be promoted
before he had served one year in that capacity. All this was no doubt
very good for the service, but I had not yet attained sufficient _amor
patriae_ to prefer the public to myself; and I fairly wished the
regulation, and the makers of it, in the cavern at New Providence,
just about the time of high water.
I put it to the ladies whether this was not a case of real distress,
after all my hardships and my constancy, to be put off with such an
excuse? The answer from the Admiralty was so far favourable, that I
was assured I should be promoted as soon as my time was served, of
which I then wanted two months. I was appointed to a ship fitting at
Woolwich, and before she could be ready for sea, my time would be
completed, and I was to have my commission as a commander. This was
not the way to ensure her speedy equipment, as far as I was concerned;
but there was no help for it; and as the ship was at Woolwich, and the
residence of my fair one at no great distance, I endeavoured to pass
my time, during the interval, between the duties of love and war;
between obedience to my captain, and obedience to my mistress; and by
great good fortune, I contrived to please both, for my captain gave
himself no trouble about the ship or her equipment.
Before I proceeded to join, I made one more effort to break through
the inflexibility of my father. I said I had undergone the labours of
Hercules; and that if I went again on foreign service, I might meet
with some young lady who would send me out of the world with a cup of
poison, or by some fatal spell break the magical chain which now bound
me to Emily. This poetical imagery had no more effect on them, than my
prose composition. I then appealed to Emily herself. "Surely," said I,
"your heart is not as hard as those of our inflexible parents? surely
you will be my advocate on this occasion? Bend but one look of
disapprobation on my father with those heavenly blue eyes of yours,
and, on my life, he will strike his flag."
But the gipsy replied, with a smile (instigated, no doubt, from
head-quarters), that she did not like the idea of her name appearing
in the _Morning Post_ as the bride of a lieutenant. "What's a
lieutenant, now-a-days?" said she; "nobody. I remember when I was on a
visit at Fareham, I used to go to Portsmouth to see the dock-yard
and the ships, and there was your great friend the tall admiral, Sir
Hurricane Humbug, I think you call him, driving the poor lieutenants
about like so many sheep before a dog; there was one always at his
heels, like a running footman; and there was another that appeared to
me to be chained, like a mastiff, to the door of the admiral's office,
except when the admiral and family walked out, and then he brought
up the rear with the governess. No, Frank, I shall not surrender at
discretion, with all my charms, to any thing less than a captain, with
a pair of gold epaulettes."
"Very well," replied I, looking into the pier glass, with tolerable
self-complacency; "if you choose to pin your happiness on the promises
of a first lord of the Admiralty, and a pair of epaulettes, I can say
no more. There is no accounting for female taste; some ladies prefer
gold lace and wrinkles, to youth and beauty--I am sorry for them,
"Frank," said Emily, "you must acknowledge that you are vain enough to
be an admiral at least."
"The admirals are much obliged to you for the compliment," said I. "I
trust I should not disgrace the flag, come when it will; but to tell
you the truth, my dear Emily, I cannot, say I look forward to that
elevation, with any degree of satisfaction. Three stars on each
shoulder, and three rows of gold lace round the cuff, are no
compensation, in my eyes, for grey hairs, thin legs, a broken back, a
church-yard cough, and to be laughed at or pitied by all the pretty
girls in the country into the bargain."
"I am sorry for you, my hero," said the young lady; "but you must
"Well then, if I must, I must," said I; "but give me a kiss in the
I asked for one, and took a hundred, and should have taken a hundred
more, but the confounded butler came in, and brought me a letter on
service, which was neither more nor less than an order to join my ship
forthwith; _sic transit_, &c.
Pocketing my disappointment with as much _sang froid_ as I could
muster, I continued to beguile the time and to solace myself for my
past sufferings, by as much enjoyment as could be compressed into the
small space of leisure time allotted to me. Fortunately, the first
lieutenant of the frigate was what we used to call "a hard officer;"
he never went on shore, because he had few friends and less money. He
drew for his pay on the day it became due, and it lasted till the next
day of payment; and as I found he doated on a Spanish cigar, and
a _correct_ glass of cognac grog--for he never drank to excess--I
presented him with a box of the former, and a dozen of the latter, to
enable him to bear my nightly absence with Christian composure.
As soon as the day's work was ended, the good-natured lieutenant used
to say, "Come, Mr Mildmay, I know what it is to be in love; I was once
in love myself, though it is a good many years ago, and I am sure I
shall get into the good graces of your Polly (for so he called Emily)
if I send you to her arms. There is the jolly for you: send the boat
off as soon as you have landed, and be with us at nine to-morrow
morning, to meet the midshipman and the working party in the
All this was perfectly agreeable to me. I generally got to Mr
Somerville's temporary residence on Blackheath by the time the
dressing-bell rang, and never failed to meet a pleasant party at
dinner. My father and dear Clara were guests in the house as well as
myself. By Mr Somerville's kind permission, I introduced Talbot, who,
being a perfect gentleman in his manners, a man of sound sense, good
education, and high aristocratic connections, I was proud to call
my friend. I presented him particularly to my sister, and took an
opportunity of whispering in Emily's ear, where I knew it would not
long remain, that he possessed the indispensable qualification of two
epaulettes. "Therefore," said I, "pray do not trust yourself too near
him, for fear you should be taken by surprise, like the _True-blooded
Talbot knowing that Emily was bespoken, paid her no more than the
common attentions which courtesy demands; but to Clara his demeanour
was very different: and her natural attractions were much enhanced in
his eyes, by the friendship which we had entertained for each other
ever since the memorable affair of swimming away from the ship at
Spithead; from that time he used jocularly to call me "Leander."
But before I proceed any further with this part of my history, I must
beg leave to detain the reader one minute only, while I attempt to
make a sketch of my dear little sister Clara. She was rather fair,
with a fine, small, oval, well-proportioned face, sparkling black and
speaking eyes, good teeth, pretty red lips, very dark hair, and plenty
of it, hanging over her face and neck in curls of every size; her arms
and bust were such as Phidias and Praxiteles might have copied; her
waist was slender; her hands and feet small and beautiful. I used
often to think it was a great pity that such a love as she was should
not be matched with some equally good specimen of our sex; and I had
long fixed on my friend Talbot as the person best adapted to command
this pretty little, tight, fast-sailing, well-rigged smack.
Unluckily, Clara, with all her charms, had one fault, and that, in
my eyes, was a very serious one. Clara did not love a sailor. The
soldiers she doated on. But Clara's predilections were not easily
overcome, and that which had once taken root grew up and flourished.
She fancied sailors were not well bred; that they thought too much of
themselves or their ships; and, in short, that they were as rough and
unpolished as they were conceited.
With such obstinate and long-rooted prejudices against all of our
profession, it proved no small share of merit in Talbot to overcome
them. But as Clara's love for the army was more general than
particular, Talbot had a vacant theatre to fight in. He began by
handing her to dinner, and with modest assurance seated himself by
her side. But so well was he aware of her failing, that he never once
alluded to our unfortunate element; on the contrary, he led her away
with every variety of topic which he found best suited to her taste:
so that she was at last compelled to acknowledge that he might be one
exception to her rule, and I took the liberty of hoping that I might
One day at dinner Talbot called me "Leander," which instantly
attracted the notice of the ladies, and an explanation was demanded;
but for a time it was evaded, and the subject changed. Emily, however,
joining together certain imperfect reports which had reached her ears,
through the kindness of "some friends of the family," began to suspect
a rival, and the next morning examined me so closely on the subject,
that fearing a disclosure from other quarters, I was compelled to make
I told her the whole history of my acquaintance with Eugenia, of my
last interview, and of her mysterious departure. I did not even
omit the circumstance of her offering me money; but I concealed the
probability of her being a mother. I assured her that it was full
four years and a half since we had met; and that as she knew of my
engagement, it was unlikely we should ever meet again. "At any rate,"
I said, "I shall never seek her; and if accident should throw me in
her way, I trust I shall behave like a man of honour."
I did not think it necessary to inform her of the musket-shots fired
at me by order of Talbot, as that might have injured him in the
estimation of both Emily and Clara. When I had concluded my narrative,
Emily sighed and looked very grave. I asked her if she had forgiven
"Conditionally," said she, "as you said to the mutineers."
In all states of Europe, there are a set of men who assume from
their infancy a pre-eminence independent of their moral character.
The attention paid to them from the moment of their birth, gives
them the idea that they are formed for command, and they soon
learn to consider themselves a distinct species: and, being secure
of a certain rank and station, take no pains to makes themselves
worthy of it.--RAYNAL.
It is now time to make my reader acquainted with my new ship and
new captain. The first was a frigate of the largest class, built on
purpose to cope with the large double-banked frigates of the Yankees.
She carried thirty long twenty-four pounders on her main deck, and the
same number of forty-two pound carronades on her quarter-gangways and
I had been a week on board, doing duty during the day and flirting on
shore, at Mr Somerville's, at Blackheath, during the evening. I had
seen no captain yet, and the first lieutenant had gone on shore one
morning to stretch his legs. I was commanding officer; the people were
all at their dinner; it was a drizzling soft rain, and I was walking
the quarter-deck by myself, when a shore-boat came alongside with a
person in plain clothes. I paid him no attention, supposing him to be
a wine merchant, or a slop-seller, come to ask permission to serve the
ship. The stranger looked at the dirty man-ropes, which the side-boys
held off to him, and inquired if there was not a clean pair? The lad
replied in the negative; and the stranger perceiving there was no
remedy, took hold of the dirty ropes and ascended the side.
Reaching the quarter-deck, he come up to me, and showing a pair of
sulphur-coloured gloves, bedaubed with tar and dirt, angrily observed,
"By G----, Sir, I have spoiled a new pair of gloves."
"I always take my gloves off when I come up the side," said I.
"But I choose to keep mine on," said the stranger. "And why could not
I have had a pair of clean ropes?"
"Because," said I, "my orders are only to give them when the side is
"And why was not the side piped for me, Sir?"
"Because, Sir, we never pipe the side until we know who it is for."
"As sure as I shall sit in the House of Peers, I will report you to
your captain for this," said he.
"We only pipe the side for officers in uniform," said I; "and I am yet
to learn by what right you demand that honour."
"I am, Sir," said he (showing his card), "...., &c. Do you know me
"Yes, Sir," said I, "as a gentleman; but until I see you in a
captain's uniform, I cannot give you the honours you demand:" as I
said this, I touched my hat respectfully.
"Then, Sir," said he, "as sure as I shall sit in the House of Peers, I
shall let you know more of this:" and having asked whether the captain
was on board, and received an answer in the negative, he turned round
and went down the side into his boat, without giving me an opportunity
of supplying him with a pair of clean ropes. He pulled away for the
shore, and I never heard any thing more of the dirty ropes and soiled
This officer, I afterwards learned, was in the habit of interlarding
his discourse with this darling object of his ambition; but as he is
now a member of the Upper House, it is to be supposed he has exchanged
the affidavit for some other. While he commanded a ship, he used to
say, "As sure as I shall sit in the House of Peers, I will flog
you, my man;" and when this denunciation had passed his lips, the
punishment was never remitted. With us, the reverse of this became our
bye-word; lieutenants, midshipmen, sailors and marines, asserted their
claim to veracity by saying, "As sure as I shall _not_ sit in the
House of Peers."
This was the noble lord, who when in the command of one of his
Majesty's ships in China, employed a native of that country to take
his portrait. The resemblance not having been flattering, the artist
was sharply rebuked by his patron. The poor man replied, "Ai awe,
master, how can handsome face make if handsome face no have got?" This
story has, like many other good stories, been pirated, and applied to
other cases; but I claim it as the legitimate property of the navy,
and can vouch for its origin as I have related.
My messmates dropped in one after another until our number was
completed; and at length a note, in an envelope addressed to the first
lieutenant "on service," and marked on the lower left hand corner with
the name of the noble writer, announced that our captain would make
his appearance on the following day. We were of course prepared to
receive him in our full uniforms with our cocked hats and swords, with
the marine guard under arms. He came alongside at half-past twelve
o'clock, when the men were at dinner, an unusual hour to select, as
it is not the custom ever to disturb them at their meals if it can
be avoided. He appeared in a sort of undress frock coat, fall down
collar, anchor buttons, no epaulettes, and a lancer's cap, with a
broad gold band.
This was not correct, but as he was a lord, he claimed privilege, and
on this rock of privilege we found afterwards that he always perched
himself on every occasion. We were all presented to him; and to each
he condescended to give a nod. His questions were all confined to the
first lieutenant, and all related to his own comforts. "Where is my
steward to lie? where is my valet to sleep? where is my cow-pen? and
where are my sheep to be?" We discovered when he had been one hour in
our company, that his noble self was the god of his idolatry. As
for the details of the ship and her crew, masts, rigging, stowage,
provisions, the water she would carry, and how much she drew, they
were subjects on which he never fatigued his mind.
One hour having expired since he had come on board, he ordered his
boat, and returned to the shore, and we saw no more of him until we
arrived at Spithead, when his lordship came on board, accompanied by
a person whom we soon discovered was a half pay purser in the navy:
a man who, by dint of the grossest flattery and numerous little
attentions, had so completely ingratiated himself with his patron,
that he had become as necessary an appendage to the travelling
equipage, as the portmanteau or the valet-de-chambre. This despicable
toady was his lordship's double; he was a living type of the Gnatho of
Terence; and I never saw him without remembering the passage that ends
"_si negat id quoque nego_." Black was white, and white was black
with toady, if his lordship pleased; he messed in the cabin, did much
mischief in the ship, and only escaped kicking, because he was too
contemptible to be kicked.
My fair readers are no doubt anxious to know how I parted with Emily,
and truly I am not unwilling to oblige them, though it is, indeed,
a tender subject. As soon as we received our orders to proceed to
Spithead, Mr Somerville, who had kept his house at Blackheath while
the ship was fitting, in hopes that my promotion might have taken
place before she was ready, now prepared to quit the place. To the
renewed application of my father, the answer was that I must go abroad
for my promotion. This at once decided him to break up his summer
quarters, very wisely foreseeing that unless he did so, my services
would be lost to my ship; and if he and Emily did not leave me behind
at Woolwich, I should probably be left behind by my captain: he
therefore announced his intended departure within twenty-four hours.
Emily was very sorry, and so was I. I kindly reproached her with her
cruelty; but she replied with a degree of firmness and good sense,
which I could not but admire, that she had but one counsellor, and
that was her father, and that until she was married, she never
intended to have any other; that by his advice she had delayed the
union: and as we were neither of us very old people, "I trust in God,"
said she, "we may meet again." I admired her heroism, gave her one
kiss, handed her into her carriage, and we shook hands. I need not say
I saw a tear or two in her eyes. Mr Somerville saw the shower coming
on, pulled up the glass, gave me a friendly nod, and the carriage
drove off. The last I saw of Emily, at that time, was her right hand,
which carried her handkerchief to her eyes.
After the dear inmates were gone, I turned from the door of the house
in disgust, and ran direct to my boat, like a dog with a tin-kettle.
When I got on board, I hated the sight of every body, and the smell
of every thing; pitch, paint, bilge-water, tar and rum, entering into
horrible combination, had conspired against me: and I was as sick and
as miserable as the most love-sick seaman can conceive. I have before
observed that we had arrived at Spithead, and as I have nothing new to
say of that place, I shall proceed to sea.
We sailed for the North American station, the pleasantest I could go
to when away from Emily. Our passage was tedious, and we were put on
short allowance of water. Those only who have known it will understand
it. All felt it but the captain; who, claiming privilege, took a dozen
gallons every day to bathe his feet in, and that water, when done
with, was greedily sought for by the men. There was some murmuring
about it, which came to the captain's ears, who only observed, with an
apathy peculiar to Almack's,
"Well, you know, if a man has no privilege, what's the use of being a
"Very true, my lord," said the toad-eater, with a low bow.
I will now give a short description of his lordship. He was a smart,
dapper, well made man, with a handsome, but not an intellectual
countenance; cleanly and particular in his person; and, assisted by
the puffs of Toady, had a very good opinion of himself; proud of his
aristocratic birth, and still more vain of his personal appearance.
His knowledge on most points was superficial--high life, and anecdotes
connected with it, were the usual topics of his discourse; at his
own table he generally engrossed all the conversation: and while his
guests drank his wine, "they laughed with counterfeited glee," &c. His
reading was comprised in two volumes octavo, being the Memoirs of the
Count de Grammont, which amusing and aristocratical work was never out
of his hand. He had been many years at sea; but strange to say, knew
nothing, literally nothing, of his profession. Seamanship, navigation,
and every thing connected with the service, he was perfectly ignorant
of. I had heard him spoken of as a good officer, before he joined
us; and I must, in justice to him, say that he was naturally good
tempered, and I believe as brave a man as ever drew a sword.
He seldom made any professional remark, being aware of his deficiency,
and never ventured beyond his depth intentionally. When he came on the
quarter-deck, he usually looked at the weather main-brace, and if it
was not as _taut_ as a bar, would order it to be made so. Here he
could not easily commit himself: but it became a bye-word with us
when we laughed at him below. He had a curious way of forgetting, or
pretending to forget, the names of men and things, I presume, because
they were so much beneath him; and in their stead, substituted the
elegant phrases of "What's-his-name," "What-do-ye-call-'em," and
One day he came on deck, and actually gave me the following very
intelligible order. "Mr, What's-his-name, have the goodness
"Ay, ay, my lord," said I. "Afterguard! haul taut the weather
main-brace." This was exactly what he meant.
He was very particular and captious when not properly addressed. When
an order is given by a commanding officer, it is not unusual to say,
"Very good, Sir;" implying that you perfectly understand, and are
going cheerfully to obey it. I had adopted this answer, and gave it to
his lordship when I received an order from him, saying "Very good, my
"Mr Mildmay," said his lordship, "I don't suppose you mean anything
like disrespect, but I will thank you not to make that answer again:
it is for _me_ to say 'very good,' and not you. You seem to approve
of my order, and I don't like it; I beg you will not do it again, you
"Very good, my lord," said I, so inveterate is habit. "I beg your
lordship's pardon, I mean very well."
"I don't much like that young man," said his lordship to his toady,
who followed him up and down the quarter-deck, like "the bob-tail
cur," looking his master in the face. I did not hear the answer, but
of course it was an echo.
The first time we reefed topsails at sea, the captain was on deck; he
said nothing, but merely looked on. The second time, we found he had
caught all the words of the first lieutenant, and repeated them in a
loud and pompous voice, without knowing whether they were applicable
to the case or not. The third time he fancied he was able to go alone,
and down he fell--he made a sad mistake indeed. "Hoist away
the fore-topsail," said the first lieutenant. "Hoist away the
fore-topsail," said the captain. The men were stamping aft, and the
topsail yards travelling up to the mast-head very fast, when they were