Part 4 out of 15
About two hundred and fifty years ago, some genius, as unknown as the
inventor of the lathe, laid the first wooden tramroad, to enable a horse
to draw forty-two cwt. instead of seventeen. The coalowners soon used it
largely. In 1738, iron rails were invented; but prejudice, stronger than
that metal, kept them down, and the wooden ones in vogue, for some thirty
years. Then iron prevailed.
Meantime, a much greater invention had been creeping up to join the metal
way; I mean the locomotive power of steam, whose history is not needed
here. Enough that in 1804 took place as promising a wedding as
civilisation ever saw; for then an engine built by Trevethick, a great
genius frittered for want of pluck, drew carriages, laden with ten tons,
five miles an hour on a Welsh railway. Next stout Stephenson came on the
scene, and insisted on benefiting mankind in spite of themselves, and of
shallow legislators, _a priori_ reasoners, and a heavy _Review_ whose
political motto was, "Stemus super antiquas vias;" which may be rendered,
"Better stand still on turnpikes than move on rails."
His torments and triumph are history.
Two of his repartees seem neat: 1. To Lord Noodle, or Lord Doodle, which
was it? objecting haughtily, "And suppose a cow should get in the way of
your engine, sir?" he replied, "Why, then it would be bad--for the coow."
The objector had overrated the obstructive power of his honoured parent.
2. To the _a priori_ reasoners, who sat in their studies and demonstrated
with complete unanimity that uncogged wheels would revolve on a smooth
rail, but leave the carriage _in statu quo,_ he replied by building an
engine with Lord Ravensworth's noble aid, hooking on eight carriages, and
rattling off up an incline. _"Solvitur ambulando,_" quoth Stephenson the
stout-hearted to Messrs. _A Priori._
Next a coach ran on the Stockton and Darlington rail. Next the Liverpool
and Manchester line was projected. Oh, then, what bitter opposition to
the national benefactors, and the good of man!
Awake from the tomb echoes of dead Cant.
"The revolving wheels might move the engine on a rail; but what would
that avail if they could not move them in the closet, and on a
mathematical paper? Railways would be bad for canals, bad for morals, bad
for highwaymen, bad for roadside inns: the smoke would kill the
partridges ('Aha! thou hast touched us nearly,' said the country
gentlemen), the travellers would go slowly to their destination, but
swift to destruction." And the _Heavy Review,_ whose motto was _"Stemus
super_ turnpikes," offered "to back old Father Thames against the
Woolwich railway for any sum. And Black Will, who drove the next heaviest
ephemeral in the island, told a schoolboy, who now writes these pages,
"there's nothing can ever be safe at twenty miles an hour, without 'tis a
bird in the air;" and confirmed it with an oath. Briefly, buzz! buzz!
Gray was crushed, Trevethick driven out of the country, stout Steevie
thwarted, badgered, taunted, and even insulted, and bespattered with
dirt--I might say with dung, since his opponents discharged their own
brains at him by speech and writing. At last, when, after the manner of
men, they had manured their benefactor well, they consented to reap him.
Railways prevailed, and increased, till lo and behold a Prime Minister
with a spade delving one in the valley of the Trent. The tide turned;
good working railways from city to city became an approved investment of
genuine capital, notwithstanding the frightful frauds and extortion to
which the projectors were exposed in a Parliament which, under a new
temptation, showed itself as corrupt and greedy as any nation or age can
When this sober state of things had endured some time, there came a year
that money was loose, and a speculative fever due in the whirligig of
time. Then railways bubbled. New ones were advertised, fifty a month, and
all went to a premium. High and low scrambled for the shares, even when
the projected line was to run from the town of Nought to the village of
Nothing across a goose common. The flame spread, fanned by prospectus and
advertisement, two mines of glowing fiction, compared with which the
legitimate article is a mere tissue of understatements; princes sat in
railway tenders, and clove the air like the birds whose effigies surmount
their armorials; our stiffest Peers relaxed into Boards; Bishops warned
their clergy against avarice, and buttered Hudson an inch thick for
shares; and turned their little aprons into great pockets; men, stainless
hitherto, put down their infants, nurses included, as independent
subscribers, and bagged the coupons, _capturi tartaros._ Nearly
everything that had a name, and, by some immense fortuity, could write
it, demanded its part in the new and fathomless source of wealth: a
charwoman's two sons were living in a garret on fifteen shillings apiece
per week; down went their excellencies' names for L. 37,000 worth of
bubbling iron; another shareholder applied imperiously from a house in
Grosvenor Square; he had breakfasted on the steps. Once more in Time's
whirligig gentlemen and their footmen jostled one another on the
Exchange, and a motley crew of peers and printers, vicars and admirals,
professors, cooks, costermongers, cotton-spinners, waiters, coachmen,
priests, potboys, hankers, braziers, dairymen, mail-guards, barristers,
spinsters, butchers, beggars, duchesses, rag-merchants-- in one word, of
Nobs and Snobs; fought and scrambled pell mell for the popular paper, and
all to get rich in a day.*
*For the humours of the time see the parliamentary return of Railway
Subscribers, published 1846: Francis's British Railway: Evan's Commercial
Crisis; and the pamphlets and journals of the day.
Richard Hardie had some money in existing railways, but he declined to
invest his hard cash upon hypotheticals. He was repeatedly solicited to
be a director, but always declined. Once he was offered a canny bribe of
a thousand pounds to let his name go on a provisional committee. He
refused with a characteristic remark: "I never buy any merchandise at a
fancy price, not even hard cash."
Antidote to the universal mania, Barkington had this one wet blanket; an
unpopular institution; but far more salutary than a damp sheet especially
in time of Bubble.
Nearly all his customers consulted Richard Hardie, and this was the
substance of his replies: "The Bubbles of History, including the great
one of my youth, were national, as well as individual, follies. It is not
so now: the railways, that ruin their allottees and directors, will be
pure additions to the national property, and some day remove one barrier
more from commerce. The Dutch tulip frenzy went on a petty fancy: the
Railway fury goes on a great fact. Our predecessors blew mere soap
bubbles; we blow an iron bubble: but here the distinction ends. In 1825
the country undertook immediate engagements, to fulfil which a century's
income would not have sufficed: today a thousand railway companies are
registered, requiring a capital of six hundred million and another
thousand projected, to cost another five hundred million. Where is the
money to come from? If the world was both cultivated and civilised
(instead of neither), and this nation could be sold, with every building,
ship, quadruped, jewel, and marketable female in it, it would not fetch
the money to make these railways; yet the country undertakes to create
them in three years _with its floating capital._ Arithmetic of Bedlam!
The thing cannot last a year without collapsing." Richard Hardie _talked_
like this from first to last. But, when he saw that shares invariably
mounted; that even those who, for want of interest, had to buy them at a
premium, sold them at a profit; when he saw paupers making large fortunes
in a few months, by buying into every venture and selling the next
week--he itched for his share of the booty, and determined to profit in
act by the credulity of mankind, as well as expose it in words. He made
use of his large connections to purchase shares, which he took care to
part with speedily. He cleared a good deal of money, and that made him
hungrier: he went deeper and deeper into what he called Flat-catching,
till one day he stood to win thirty thousand pounds at a _coup._
But it is dangerous to be a convert, real or false, to Bubble: the game
is to be rash at once, and turn prudent at the full tide. When Richard
Hardie was up to his chin in these time bargains, came an incident not
easy to foresee: the conductors of the _Times,_ either from patriotism or
long-sighted policy, punctured the bladder, though they were making
thousands weekly by the railway advertisements. The time was so well
chosen, and the pin applied, that it was a death-blow: shares declined
from that morning, and the inevitable panic was advanced a week or two.
The more credulous speculators held on in hopes of a revival; but Hardie,
who knew that the collapse had been merely hastened, saw the gravity of
the situation, and sold largely at a heavy loss. But he could not sell
all the bad paper he had accumulated for a temporary purpose: the panic
came too swiftly and too strong; soon there were no buyers at any price.
The biter was bit: the fox who had said, "This is a trap; I'll lightly
come and lightly go," was caught by the light fantastic toe.
In this emergency he showed high qualities: vast financial ability, great
fortitude, and that sense of commercial honour which Mrs. Dodd justly
called his semi-chivalrous sentiment. He mustered all his private
resources to meet his engagements and maintain his high position. Then
commenced a long and steady struggle, conducted with a Spartan dignity
and self-command, and a countenance as close as wax. Little did any in
Barkington guess the doubts and fears, the hopes and despondencies, which
agitated and tore the heart and brain that schemed, and throbbed, and
glowed, and sickened by turns beneath that steady modulated exterior. And
so for months and months he secretly battled with insolvency; sometimes
it threatened in the distance, sometimes at hand, but never caught him
unawares: he provided for each coming danger, he encountered each
immediate attack. But not unscathed in morals. Just as matters looked
brighter, came a concentration of liabilities he could not meet without
emptying his tills, and so incurring the most frightful danger of all. He
had provided for its coming too; but a decline, greater than he had
reckoned on, in the value of his good securities, made that provision
inadequate. Then it was he committed a _faux-pas._ He was one of his own
children's trustees, and the other two signed after him like machines. He
said to himself: "My honour is my children's; my position is worth
thousands _to them._ I have sacrificed a fortune to preserve it; it would
be madness to recoil now." He borrowed three thousand pounds of the trust
money, and, soon after, two thousand more: it kept him above water; but
the peril, and the escape on such terms, left him gasping inwardly.
At last, when even his granite nature was almost worn down with labour,
anxiety, and struggling all alone without a word of comfort--for the
price of one grain of sympathy would have been "Destruction"--he shuffled
off his iron burden and breathed again.
One day he spent in a sort of pleasing lethargy, like a strong swimmer
who, long and sore buffeted by the waves, has reached the shore at last.
The next day his cashier, a sharp-visaged, bald-headed old man called
Young Skinner, invited his attention rather significantly to the high
amount of certain balances compared with the cash at his (Skinner's)
"Indeed!" said Hardie quietly; "that must be regulated." He added
graciously, as if conferring a great favour, "I'll look into the books
He did more: he sat up all night over the books; and his heart died with
him. Bankruptcy seemed coming towards him, slow perhaps, but sure. And
meantime to live with the sword hanging over him by a hair!
Soon matters approached a crisis; several large drafts were drawn, which
would have cleaned the bank out, but that the yearly rents of a wealthy
nobleman had for some days past been flowing in. This nobleman had gone
to explore Syria and Assyria. He was a great traveller, who contrived to
live up to his income at home, but had never been able to spend a quarter
of it abroad, for want of enemies and masters--better known as friends
and servants--to help him. So Hardie was safe for some months, unless
there should be an extraordinary run on him, and that was not likely this
year; the panic had subsided, and, _nota bene,_ his credit had never
stood higher. The reason was, he had been double-faced; had always spoken
against railways: and his wise words were public, whereas his fatal acts
had been done in the dark.
But now came a change, a bitter revulsion, over this tossed mind: hope
and patience failed at last, and his virtue, being a thing of habit and
traditions rather than of the soul, wore out; nay more, this man, who had
sacrificed so nobly to commercial integrity, was filled with hate of his
idol and contempt of himself. "Idiot!" said he, "to throw away a fortune
fighting for honour--a greater bubble than that which has ruined
me--instead of breaking like a man, with a hidden purse, and starting
fair again, as sensible traders do."
No honest man in the country that year repented of his vices so sincerely
as Richard Hardie loathed his virtue. And he did not confine his
penitence to sentiment: he began to spend his days at the bank poring
over the books, and to lay out his arithmetical genius in a subtle
process, that should enable him by degrees to withdraw a few thousands
from human eyes for his future use, despite the feeble safeguards of the
existing law. In other words, Richard Hardie, like thousands before him,
was fabricating and maturing a false balance-sheet.
One man in his time plays many animals. Hardie at this period turned
mole. He burrowed darkling into _oes alienum._ There is often one of
these sleek miners in a bank: it is a section of human zoology the
journals have lately enlarged on, and drawn the painstaking creature
grubbing and mining away to brief opulence--and briefer penal servitude
than one could wish. I rely on my reader having read these really able
sketches of my contemporaries, and spare him minute details, that possess
scarcely a new feature, except one: in that bank was not only a mole, but
a mole-catcher; and, contrary to custom, the mole was the master, the
mole-catcher the servant. The latter had no hostile views; far from it:
he was rather attached to his master. But his attention was roused by the
youngest clerk, a boy of sixteen, being so often sent for into the bank
parlour, to copy into the books some arithmetical result, without its
process. Attention soon became suspicion; and suspicion found many little
things to feed on, till it grew to certainty. But the outer world was
none the wiser: the mole-catcher was no chatterbox; he was a solitary
man--no wife nor mistress about him; and he revered the mole, and liked
him better than anything in the world--_except money._
Thus the great banker stood, a colossus of wealth and stability to the
eye, though ready to crumble at a touch; and indeed self-doomed, for
bankruptcy was now his game.
This was a miserable man, far more miserable than his son, whose
happiness he had thwarted: his face was furrowed and his hair thinned by
a secret struggle; and of all the things that gnawed him, like the fox,
beneath his Spartan robe, none was more bitter than to have borrowed five
thousand pounds of his children and sunk it.
His wife's father, a keen man of business, who saw there was little
affection on his side, had settled his daughter's money on her for life,
and in case of her death, on the children upon coming of age. The
marriage of Alfred or Jane would be sure to expose him; settlements would
be proposed; lawyers engaged to peer into the trust, &c. No; they _must_
remain single for the present, or else marry wealth.
So, when his son announced an attachment to a young lady living in a
suburban villa, it was a terrible blow, though he took it with outward
calm, as usual. But if, instead of prating about beauty, virtue, and
breeding, Alfred had told him hard cash in five figures could be settled
by the bride's family on the young couple, he would have welcomed the
wedding with great external indifference, but a secret gush of joy; for
then he could throw himself on Alfred's generosity, and be released from
that one corroding debt; perhaps allowed to go on drawing the interest of
Thus, in reality, all the interests with which this story deals converged
towards one point: the fourteen thousand pounds. Richard Hardie's
opposition was a mere misunderstanding; and if he had been told of the
Cash, and to what purpose Mrs. Dodd destined it, and then put on board
the _Agra_ in the Straits of Gaspar, he would have calmly taken off his
coat, and help to defend the bearer of It against all assailants as
stoutly, and, to all appearance, imperturbably, as he had fought that
other bitter battle at home. For there was something heroic in this
erring man, though his rectitude depended on circumstances.
THE way the pirate dropped the mask, showed his black teeth, and bore up
in chase, was terrible: so dilates and bounds the sudden tiger on his
unwary prey. There were stout hearts among the officers of the peaceable
_Agra_; but danger in a new form shakes the brave, and this was their
first pirate: their dismay broke out in ejaculations not loud but deep.
"Hush," said Dodd doggedly; "the lady!"
Mrs. Beresford had just come on deck to enjoy the balmy morning.
"Sharpe," said Dodd, in a tone that conveyed no suspicion to the
new-comer, "set the royals and flying jib.--Port!"
"Port it is," cried the man at the helm.
"Steer due south!" And, with these words in his mouth, Dodd dived to the
By this time elastic Sharpe had recovered the first shock, and the order
to crowd sail on the ship galled his pride and his manhood. He muttered
indignantly, "The white feather!" This eased his mind, and he obeyed
orders briskly as ever. While he and his hands were setting every rag the
ship could carry on that tack, the other officers having unluckily no
orders to execute, stood gloomy and helpless, with their eyes glued, by a
sort of sombre fascination, on that coming fate; and they literally
jumped and jarred when Mrs. Beresford, her heart opened by the lovely
day, broke in on their nerves with her light treble.
"What a sweet morning, gentlemen! After all, a voyage is a delightful
thing. Oh, what a splendid sea! and the very breeze is warm. Ah! and
there's a little ship sailing along: here, Freddy, Freddy darling, leave
off beating the sailor's legs, and come here and see this pretty ship.
What a pity it is so far off. Ah! ah! what is that dreadful noise?"
For her horrible small talk, that grated on those anxious souls like the
mockery of some infantine fiend, was cut short by ponderous blows and
tremendous smashing below. It was the captain staving in water-casks: the
water poured out at the scuppers.
"Clearing the lee guns," said a middy, off his guard.
Colonel Kenealy pricked up his ears, drew his cigar from his mouth, and
smelt powder "What, for action ?" said he briskly. "Where's the enemy?"
Fullalove made him a signal, and they went below.
Mrs. Beresford had not heard or not appreciated the remark: she prattled
on till she made the mates and midshipmen shudder.
Realise the situation, and the strange incongruity between the senses and
the mind in these poor fellows! The day had ripened its beauty; beneath a
purple heaven shone, sparkled, and laughed a blue sea, in whose waves the
tropical sun seemed to have fused his beams; and beneath that fair,
sinless, peaceful sky, wafted by a balmy breeze over those smiling,
transparent, golden waves, a bloodthirsty Pirate bore down on them with a
crew of human tigers; and a lady babble babble babble babble babble
babble babbled in their quivering ears.
But now the captain came bustling on deck, eyed the loftier sails, saw
they were drawing well, appointed four midshipmen a staff to convey his
orders: gave Bayliss charge of the carronades, Grey of the cutlasses, and
directed Mr. Tickell to break the bad news gently to Mrs. Beresford, and
to take her below to the orlop deck; ordered the purser to serve out beet
biscuit, and grog to all hands, saying, "Men can't work on an empty
stomach: and fighting is hard work;" then beckoned the officers to come
round him. "Gentlemen," said he, confidentially, "in crowding sail on
this ship I had no hope of escaping that fellow on this tack, but I was,
and am, most anxious to gain the open sea, where I can square my yards
and run for it, if I see a chance. At present I shall carry on till he
comes within range: and then, to keep the Company's canvas from being
shot to rags, I shall shorten sail; and to save ship and cargo and all
our lives, I shall fight while a plank of her swims. Better be killed in
hot blood than walk the plank in cold."
The officers cheered faintly; the captain's dogged resolution stirred up
The pirate had gained another quarter of a mile and more. The ship's crew
were hard at their beef and grog, and agreed among themselves it was a
comfortable ship. They guessed what was coming, and woe to the ship in
that hour if the captain had not won their respect. Strange to say, there
were two gentlemen in the _Agra_ to whom the pirate's approach was not
altogether unwelcome. Colonel Kenealy and Mr. Fullalove were rival
sportsmen and rival theorists. Kenealy stood out for a smooth bore and a
four-ounce ball; Fullalove for a rifle of his own construction. Many a
doughty argument they had, and many a bragging match; neither could
convert the other. At last Fullalove hinted that by going ashore at the
Cape, and getting each behind a tree at one hundred yards, and popping at
one another, one or other would be convinced
"Well, but," said Kenealy, "if he is dead, he will be no wiser. Besides,
to a fellow like me, who has had the luxury of popping at his enemies,
popping at a friend is poor insipid work."
"That is true," said the other regretfully. "But I reckon we shall never
settle it by argument."
Theorists are amazing; and it was plain, by the alacrity with which these
good creatures loaded the rival instruments, that to them the pirate came
not so much as a pirate as a solution. Indeed, Kenealy, in the act of
charging his piece, was heard to mutter, "Now, this is lucky." However,
these theorists were no sooner loaded than something occurred to make
them more serious. They were sent for in haste to Dodd's cabin; they
found him giving Sharpe a new order.
"Shorten sail to the taupsles and jib, get the colours ready on the
halyards, and then send the men aft."
Sharpe ran out full of zeal, and tumbled over Ramgolam, who was stooping
remarkably near the keyhole. Dodd hastily bolted the cabin-door, and
looked with trembling lip and piteous earnestness in Kenealy's face and
Fullalove's. They were mute with surprise at a gaze so eloquent and yet
He manned himself, and opened his mind to them with deep emotion, yet not
without a certain simple dignity.
"Colonel," said he, "you are an old friend; _you,_ sir, are a new one;
but I esteem you highly, and what my young gentlemen chaff you about, you
calling all men brothers, and making that poor negro love you instead of
fear you, that shows me you have a great heart. My dear friends, I have
been unlucky enough to bring my children's fortune on board this ship:
here it is under my shirt. Fourteen thousand pounds! This weighs me down.
Oh, if they should lose it after all! Do pray give me a hand apiece and
pledge your sacred words to take it home safe to my wife at Barkington,
if you, or either of you, should see this bright sun set to-day, and I
"Why, Dodd, old fellow," said Kenealy cheerfully, "this is not the way to
go into action."
"Colonel," replied Dodd, "to save this ship and cargo, I must be wherever
the bullets are, and I will too."
Fullalove, more sagacious than the worthy colonel, said earnestly--
"Captain Dodd, may I never see Broadway again, and never see Heaven at
the end of my time, if I fail you. There's my hand."
"And mine," said Kenealy warmly.
They all three joined hands, and Dodd seemed to cling to them. "God bless
you both! God bless you! Oh, what a weight your true hands have pulled
off my heart. Good-bye, for a few minutes. The time is short. I'll just
offer a prayer to the Almighty for wisdom, and then I'll come up and say
a word to the men and fight the ship, according to my lights."
Sail was no sooner shortened and the crew ranged, than the captain came
briskly on deck, saluted, jumped on a carronade, and stood erect. He was
not the man to show the crew his forebodings.
(Pipe.) "Silence fore and aft."
"My men, the schooner coming up on our weather quarter is a Portuguese
pirate. His character is known; he scuttles all the ships he boards,
dishonours the women, and murders the crew. We cracked on to get out of
the narrows, and now we have shortened sail to fight this blackguard, and
teach him to molest a British ship. I promise, in the Company's name,
twenty pounds prize-money to every man before the mast if we beat him off
or out-manoeuvre him; thirty if we sink him; and forty if we tow him
astern into a friendly port. Eight guns are clear below, three on the
weather side, five on the lee; for, if he knows his business, he will
come up on the lee quarter: if he doesn't that is no fault of yours nor
mine. The muskets are all loaded, the cutlasses ground like razors----"
"We have got women to defend----"
"A good ship under our feet, the God of justice overhead, British hearts
in our bosoms, and British colours flying--run 'em up!--over our heads."
(The ship's colours flew up to the fore, and the Union Jack to the mizen
peak.) "Now, lads, I mean to fight this ship while a plank of her
(stamping on the deck) swims beneath my foot, and--what do you say?"
The reply was a fierce "hurrah!" from a hundred throats, so loud, so
deep, so full of volume, it made the ship vibrate, and rang in the
creeping-on pirate's ears. Fierce, but cunning, he saw mischief in those
shortened sails, and that Union Jack, the terror of his tribe, rising to
a British cheer; he lowered his mainsail, and crawled up on the weather
quarter. Arrived within a cable's length, he double-reef'ed his foresail
to reduce his rate of sailing nearly to that of the ship; and the next
moment a tongue of flame, and then a gush of smoke, issued from his lee
bow, and the ball flew screaming like a seagull over the _Agra's_ mizen
top. He then put his helm up, and fired his other bow-chaser, and sent
the shot hissing and skipping on the water past the ship. This prologue
made the novices wince. Bayliss wanted to reply with a carronade; but
Dodd forbade him sternly, saying, "If we keep him aloof we are done for."
The pirate drew nearer, and fired both guns in succession, hulled the
_Agra_ amidships, and sent an eighteen-pound ball through her foresail.
Most of the faces were pale on the quarter-deck; it was very trying to be
shot at, and hit, and make no return. The next double discharge sent one
shot smash through the stern cabin window, and splintered the bulwark
with another, wounding a seaman slightly.
"LIE DOWN FORWARD!" shouted Dodd. "Bayliss, give him a shot."
The carronade was fired with a tremendous report but no visible effect.
The pirate crept nearer, steering in and out like a snake to avoid the
carronades, and firing those two heavy guns alternately into the devoted
ship. He hulled the _Agra_ now nearly every shot.
The two available carronades replied noisily, and jumped as usual; they
sent one thirty-two pound shot clean through the schooner's deck and
side; but that was literally all they did worth speaking of.
"Curse them!" cried Dodd; "load them with grape! they are not to be
trusted with ball. And all my eighteen-pounders dumb! The coward won't
come alongside and give them a chance."
At the next discharge the pirate chipped the mizen mast, and knocked a
sailor into dead pieces on the forecastle. Dodd put his helm down ere the
smoke cleared, and got three carronades to bear, heavily laden with
grape. Several pirates fell, dead or wounded, on the crowded deck, and
some holes appeared in the foresail; this one interchange was quite in
favour of the ship.
But the lesson made the enemy more cautious; he crept nearer, but steered
so adroitly, now right astern, now on the quarter, that the ship could
seldom bring more than one carronade to bear, while he raked her fore and
aft with grape and ball.
In this alarming situation, Dodd kept as many of the men below as
possible; but, for all he could do, four were killed and seven wounded.
Fullalove's worth came too true: it was the swordfish and the whale: it
was a fight of hammer and anvil; one hit, the other made a noise.
Cautious and cruel, the pirate hung on the poor hulking creature's
quarters and raked her at point-blank distance. He made her pass a bitter
time. And her captain! To see the splintering hull, the parting shrouds,
the shivered gear, and hear the shrieks and groans of his wounded; and he
unable to reply in kind! The sweat of agony poured down his face. Oh, if
he could but reach the open sea, and square his yards, and make a long
chase of it; perhaps fall in with aid. Wincing under each heavy blow, he
crept doggedly, patiently on towards that one visible hope.
At last, when the ship was choved with shot, and peppered with grape, the
channel opened; in five minutes more he could put her dead before the
No! The pirate, on whose side luck had been from the first, got half a
broadside to bear at long musket-shot, killed a midshipman by Dodd's
side, cut away two of the _Agra_'s mizen shrouds, wounded the gaff, and
cut the jib-stay. Down fell that powerful sail into the water, and
dragged across the ship's forefoot, stopping her way to the open sea she
panted for. The mates groaned; the crew cheered stoutly, as British tars
do in any great disaster: the pirates yelled with ferocious triumph, like
the devils they looked.
But most human events, even calamities, have two sides. The _Agra_ being
brought almost to a standstill, the pirate forged ahead against his will,
and the combat took a new and terrible form. The elephant gun popped and
the rifle cracked in the _Agra's_ mizen top, and the man at the pirate's
helm jumped into the air and fell dead: both Theorists claimed him. Then
the three carronades peppered him hotly; and he hurled an iron shower
back with fatal effect. Then at last the long eighteen-pounders on the
gun-deck got a word in. The old Niler was not the man to miss a vessel
alongside in a quiet sea: he sent two round shot clean through him; the
third splintered his bulwark and swept across his deck.
"His masts--fire at his masts!" roared Dodd to Monk, through his trumpet.
He then got the jib clear, and made what sail he could without taking all
the hands from the guns.
This kept the vessels nearly alongside a few minutes, and the fight was
hot as fire. The pirate now for the first time hoisted his flag. It was
black as ink. His crew yelled as it rose: the Britons, instead of
quailing, cheered with fierce derision; the pirate's wild crew of yellow
Malays, black chinless Papuans, and bronzed Portuguese, served their side
guns, twelve-pounders, well, and with ferocious cries. The white Britons,
drunk with battle now, naked to the waist, grimed with powder, and
spotted like leopards with blood, their and their mates', replied with
loud undaunted cheers and a deadly hail of grape from the quarter-deck;
while the master-gunner and his mates, loading with a rapidity the mixed
races opposed could not rival, hulled the schooner well between wind and
water, and then fired chain-shot at her masts, as ordered, and began to
play the mischief with her shrouds and rigging. Meantime, Fullalove and
Kenealy, aided by Vespasian, who loaded, were quietly butchering the
pirate crew two a minute, and hoped to settle the question they were
fighting for: smooth bore _v._ rifle; but unluckily neither fired once
without killing; so "there was nothing proven."
The pirate, bold as he was, got sick of fair fighting first. He hoisted
his mainsail and threw rapidly ahead, with a slight bearing to windward,
and dismounted a carronade and stove in the ship's quarter-boat, by way
of a parting kick.
The men hurled a contemptuous cheer after him; they thought they had
beaten him off. But Dodd knew better. He was but retiring a little way to
make a more deadly attack than ever: he would soon wear, and cross the
_Agra's_ defenceless bows, to rake her fore and aft at pistol-shot
distance; or grapple, and board the enfeebled ship, two hundred strong.
Dodd flew to the helm, and with his own hands put it hard a-weather, to
give the deck-guns one more chance, the last, of sinking or disabling the
Destroyer. As the ship obeyed, and a deck-gun bellowed below him, he saw
a vessel running out from Long Island, and coming swiftly up on his lee
It was a schooner. Was she coming to his aid?
Horror! A black flag floated from her foremast head.
While Dodd's eyes were staring almost out of his head at this deathblow
to hope, Monk fired again; and just then a pale face came close to
Dodd's, and a solemn voice whispered in his ear: "Our ammunition is
Dodd seized Sharpe's hand convulsively, and pointed to the pirate's
consort coming up to finish them; and said, with the calm of a brave
man's despair, "Cutlasses! and die hard!"
At that moment the master-gunner fired his last gun. It sent a chain-shot
on board the retiring pirate, took off a Portuguese head and spun it
clean into the sea ever so far to windward, and cut the schooner's
foremast so nearly through that it trembled and nodded, and presently
snapped with a loud crack, and came down like a broken tree, with the
yard and sail; the latter overlapping the deck and burying itself, black
flag and all, in the sea; and there, in one moment, lay the Destroyer
buffeting and wriggling--like a heron on the water with his long wings
broken--an utter cripple.
The victorious crew raised a stunning cheer.
"Silence!" roared Dodd, with his trumpet. "All hands make sail!"
He set his courses, bent a new jib, and stood out to windward close
hauled, in hopes to make a good offing, and then put his ship dead before
the wind, which was now rising to a stiff breeze. In doing this he
crossed the crippled pirate's bows, within eighty yards; and sore was the
temptation to rake him; but his ammunition being short, and his danger
being imminent from the other pirate, he had the self-command to resist
the great temptation.
He hailed the mizen top: "Can you two hinder them from firing that gun?"
"I rather think we can," said Fullalove; "eh, Colonel?" and he tapped his
The ship no sooner crossed the schooner's bows* than a Malay ran forward
with a linstock. Pop went the colonel's ready carbine, and the Malay fell
over dead, and the linstock flew out of his hand. A tall Portuguese, with
a movement of rage, snatched it up and darted to the gun: the Yankee
rifle cracked, but a moment too late. Bang! went the pirate's bow-chaser,
and crashed into the _Agra's_ side, and passed nearly through her.
*Being disabled, the schooner's head had come round to windward, though
she was drifting to leeward.
"Ye missed him! Ye missed him!" cried the rival theorist joyfully. He was
mistaken: the smoke cleared, and there was the pirate captain leaning
wounded against the mainmast with a Yankee bullet in his shoulder, and
his crew uttering yells of dismay and vengeance. They jumped, and raged,
and brandished their knives, and made horrid gesticulations of revenge;
and the white eyeballs of the Malays and Papuans glittered fiendishly;
and the wounded captain raised his sound arm and had a signal hoisted to
his consort, and she bore up in chase, and jamming her fore lateen flat
as a board, lay far nearer the wind than the _Agra_ could, and sailed
three feet to her two besides. On this superiority being made clear, the
situation of the merchant vessel, though not so utterly desperate as
before Monk fired his lucky shot, became pitiable enough. If she ran
before the wind, the fresh pirate would cut her off: if she lay to
windward, she might postpone the inevitable and fatal collision with a
foe as strong as that she had only escaped by a rare piece of luck; but
this would give the crippled pirate time to refit and unite to destroy
her. Add to this the failing ammunition and the thinned crew!
Dodd cast his eyes all round the horizon for help.
The sea was blank.
The bright sun was hidden now; drops of rain fell, and the wind was
beginning to sing, and the sea to rise a little.
"Gentlemen," said he, "let us kneel down and pray for wisdom, in this
He and his officers kneeled on the quarter-deck. When they rose, Dodd
stood rapt about a minute: his great thoughtful eye saw no more the
enemy, the sea, nor anything external; it was turned inward. His officers
looked at him in silence.
"Sharpe," said he at last, "there _must_ be a way out of them both with
such a breeze as this is now; if we could but see it."
"Ay, _if,_" groaned Sharpe.
Dodd mused again.
"About ship!" said he softly, like an absent man.
"Ay, ay, sir!"
"Steer due north!" said he, still like one whose mind was elsewhere.
While the ship was coming about, he gave minute orders to the mates and
the gunner, to ensure co-operation in the delicate and dangerous
manoeuvres that were sure to be at hand.
The wind was W.N.W: lie was standing north; one pirate lay on his lee
beam stopping a leak between wind and water, and hacking the deck clear
of his broken mast and yards. The other, fresh, and thirsting for the
easy prey, came up to weather on him and hang on his quarter, pirate
When they were distant about a cable's length, the fresh pirate, to meet
the ship's change of tactics, changed his own, luffed up, and gave the
ship a broadside, well aimed but not destructive, the guns being loaded
Dodd, instead of replying immediately, put his helm hard up and ran under
the pirate's stern, while he was jammed up in the wind, and with his five
eighteen pounders raked him fore and aft, then paying off, gave him three
carronades crammed with grape and canister. The rapid discharge of eight
guns made the ship tremble, and enveloped her in thick smoke; loud
shrieks and groans were heard from the schooner: the smoke cleared; the
pirate's mainsail hung on deck, his jib-boom was cut off like a carrot
and the sail struggling; his foresail looked lace, lanes of dead and
wounded lay still or writhing on his deck, and his lee scuppers ran blood
into the sea. Dodd squared his yards and bore away.
The ship rushed down the wind, leaving the schooner staggered and all
abroad. But for long; the pirate wore and fired his bow chasers at the
now flying _Agra_, split one of the carronades in two, and killed a
Lascar, and made a hole in the foresail. This done, he hoisted his
mainsail again in a trice, sent his wounded below, flung his dead
overboard, to the horror of their foes, and came after the flying ship,
yawing and firing his bow chasers. The ship was silent. She had no shot
to throw away. Not only did she take these blows like a coward, but all
signs of life disappeared on her, except two men at the wheel and the
captain on the main gangway.
Dodd had ordered the crew out of the rigging, armed them with cutlasses,
and laid them flat on the forecastle. He also compelled Kenealy and
Fullalove to come down out of harm's way, no wiser on the smooth bore
question than they went up.
The great patient ship ran environed by her foes; one destroyer right in
her course, another in her wake, following her with yells of vengeance,
and pounding away at her--but no reply.
Suddenly the yells of the pirates on both sides ceased, and there was a
moment of dead silence on the sea.
Yet nothing fresh had happened.
Yes, this had happened: the pirates to windward and the pirates to
leeward of the _Agra_ had found out, at one and the same moment, that the
merchant captain they had lashed, and bullied, and tortured was a patient
but tremendous man. It was not only to rake the fresh schooner he had put
his ship before the wind, but also by a double, daring, masterstroke to
hurl his monster ship bodily on the other. Without a foresail she could
never get out of her way. The pirate crew had stopped the leak, and cut
away and unshipped the broken foremast, and were stepping a new one, when
they saw the huge ship bearing down in full sail. Nothing easier than to
slip out of her way could they get the foresail to draw; but the time was
short, the deadly intention manifest, the coming destruction swift.
After that solemn silence came a storm of cries and curses, as their
seamen went to work to fit the yard and raise the sail while their
fighting men seized their matchlocks and trained the guns. They were well
commanded by an heroic able villain. Astern the consort thundered; but
the _Agra's_ response was a dead silence more awful than broadsides.
For then was seen with what majesty the enduring Anglo-Saxon fights.
One of that indomitable race on the gangway, one at the foremast, two at
the wheel, conned and steered the great ship down on a hundred matchlocks
and a grinning broadside, just as they would have conned and steered her
into a British harbour.
"Starboard!" said Dodd, in a deep calm voice, with a motion of his hand.
"Starboard it is."
The pirate wriggled ahead a little. The man forward made a silent signal
"Port!" said Dodd quietly.
"Port it is."
But at this critical moment the pirate astern sent a mischievous shot and
knocked one of the men to atoms at the helm.
Dodd waved his hand without a word, and another man rose from the deck,
and took his place in silence, and laid his unshaking hand on the wheel
stained with that man's warm blood whose place he took.
The high ship was now scarce sixty yards distant; _she seemed to know:_
she reared her lofty figure-head with great awful shoots into the air.
But now the panting pirates got their new foresail hoisted with a joyful
shout: it drew, the schooner gathered way, and their furious consort
close on the _Agra's_ heels just then scourged her deck with grape.
"Port!" said Dodd calmly.
"Port it is."
The giant prow darted at the escaping pirate. That acre of coming canvas
took the wind out of the swift schooner's foresail; it flapped: oh, then
she was doomed! That awful moment parted the races on board her: the
Papuans and Sooloos, their black faces livid and blue with horror, leaped
yelling into the sea, or crouched and whimpered; the yellow Malays and
brown Portuguese, though blanched to one colour now, turned on death like
dying panthers, fired two cannon slap into the ship's bows, and snapped
their muskets and matchlocks at their solitary executioner on the ship's
gangway, and out flew their knives like crushed wasp's stings. CRASH! the
Indiaman's cutwater in thick smoke beat in the schooner's broadside: down
went her masts to leeward like fishing-rods whipping the water; there was
a horrible shrieking yell; wild forms heaped off on the _Agra_, and were
hacked to pieces almost ere they reached the deck--a surge, a chasm in
the, sea, filled with an instant rush of engulphing waves, a long, awful,
grating, grinding noise, never to be forgotten in this world, all along
under the ship's keel--and the fearful majestic monster passed on over
the blank she had made, with a pale crew standing silent and awestruck on
her deck; a cluster of wild heads and staring eyeballs bobbing like corks
in her foaming wake, sole relic of the blotted-out Destroyer: and a
wounded man staggering on the gangway, with hands uplifted and staring
Shot in two places, the head and the breast!
With a loud cry of pity and dismay, Sharpe, Fullalove, Kenealy, and
others rushed to catch him; but ere they got near, the captain of the
triumphant ship fell down on his hands and knees, his head sunk over the
gangway, and his blood ran fast and pattered in the midst of them on the
deck he had defended so bravely.
THEY got to the wounded captain and raised him: he revived a little; and,
the moment he caught sight of Mr. Sharpe, he clutched him, and cried,
"Oh, captain," said Sharpe, "let the ship go; it is you we are anxious
At this Dodd lifted up his hands and beat the air impatiently, and cried
again in the thin, querulous voice of' a wounded man, but eagerly,
On this, Sharpe gave the command.
"Make sail. All hands set stunsels 'low and aloft!"
While the unwounded hands swarmed into the rigging, the surgeon came aft
in all haste; but Dodd declined him till all his men should have been
looked to: meantime he had himself carried to the poop and laid on a
mattress, his bleeding head bound tight with a wet cambric handkerchief,
and his pale face turned towards the hostile schooner astern. She had to
hove to, and was picking up the survivors of her blotted-out consort. The
group on the _Agra's_ quarter-deck watched her to see what she would do
next; flushed with immediate success, the younger officers crowed their
fears she would not be game to attack them again. Dodd's fears ran the
other way: he said, in the weak voice to which he was now reduced, "They
are taking a wet blanket aboard; that crew of blackguards we swamped
won't want any more of us: it all depends on the pirate captain: if he is
not drowned, then blow wind, rise sea, or there's trouble ahead for us."
As soon as the schooner had picked up the last swimmer, she hoisted
foresail, mainsail, and jib with admirable rapidity, and bore down in
The _Agra_ had, meantime, got a start of more than a mile, and was now
running before a stiff breeze with studding sails alow and aloft.
In an hour the vessels ran nearly twelve miles, and the pirate had gained
half a mile.
At the end of the next hour they were out of sight of land, wind and sea
rising, and the pirate only a quarter of a mile astern.
The schooner was now rising and falling on the waves; the ship only
nodding, and firm as a rock.
"Blow wind, rise sea!" faltered Dodd.
Another half-hour passed without perceptibly altering the position of the
vessels. Then suddenly the wounded captain laid aside his glass, after a
long examination, and rose unaided to his feet in great excitement, and
found his manly voice for a moment: he shook his fist at the now pitching
schooner and roared, "Good-bye! ye Portuguese
It was a burst of exultation rare for him; he paid for it by sinking
faint and helpless into his friend's arms; and the surgeon, returning
soon after, insisted on his being taken to his cabin and kept quite
As they were carrying him below, the pirate captain made the same
discovery, that the ship was gaining on him: he hauled to the wind
directly and abandoned the chase.
When the now receding pirate was nearly hull down, the sun began to set.
Mr. Tickell looked at him and said, "Hallo! old fellow, what are _you_
about? Why, it isn't two o'clock."
The remark was quite honest: he really feared, for a moment, that orb was
mistaken and would get himself--and others--into trouble. However, the
middy proved to be wrong, and the sun right to a minute: Time flies fast
Mrs. Beresford came on deck with brat and poodle: Fred, a destructive
child, clapped his hands with glee at the holes in the canvas: Snap
toddled about smelling the blood of the slain, and wagging his tail by
halves, perplexed. "Well, gentlemen," said Mrs. Beresford, "I hope you
have made noise enough over one's head: and what a time you did take to
beat that little bit of a thing. Freddy, be quiet; you worry me; where is
your bearer? Will anybody oblige me by finding Ramgolam?"
"I will," said Mr. Tickell hastily, and ran off for the purpose; but he
returned after some time with a long face. No Ramgolam to be found.
Fullalove referred her--with humour-twinkling eye--to Vespasian. "I have
a friend here who says he can tell you something about him."
"Can you, my good man?" inquired the lady, turning haughtily towards the
"Iss, Missy," said Vespasian, showing his white teeth in a broad grin,
"dis child knows where to find dat ar niggar, widout him been and
"Then go and fetch him directly."
Vespasian went off with an obedient start.
This annoyed Fullalove; interfered with his system: "Madam," said he
gravely, "would you oblige me by bestowing on my friend a portion of that
courtesy with which you favour me, and which becomes you so gracefully?"
"Certainly not," replied Mrs. Beresford. "Mr. Fullalove, I am out of
patience with you: the idea of a sensible intelligent gentleman like you
calling that creature your friend! And you an American, where they do
nothing but whip them from morning till night. Who ever heard of making
friends with a black?--Now what is the meaning of this? I detest
practical jokes." For the stalwart negro had returned, bringing a tall
bread-bag in his arms: he now set it up before her, remarking, "Dis yar
bag white outside, but him 'nation black inside." To confirm his words,
he drew off the bag, and revealed Ramgolam, his black skin powdered with
meal. The good-natured negro then blew the flour off his face, and dusted
him a bit: the spectators laughed heartily, but Ramgolam never moved a
muscle: not a morsel discomposed at what would have made an European
miserably ashamed, even in a pantomime--the Caucasian darkie retained all
his dignity while the African one dusted him; but, being dusted, he put
on his obsequiousness, stepped forward, joined his palms together to Mrs.
Beresford--like medieval knights and modern children at their
devotions--and addressed her thus:--
"Daughter of light, he who basks in your beams said to himself, 'The
pirates are upon us, those children of blood, whom Sheitan their master
blast for ever! They will ravish the Queen of Sunshine and the ayahs, and
throw the sahibs and sailors into the sea; but, bread being the staff of
existence, these foxes of the water will not harm it, but keep it for
their lawless appetites; therefore Ramgolam, son of Chittroo, son of
Soonarayan, will put the finger of silence on the lip of discretion, and
be bread in the day of adversity: the sons of Sheitan will peradventure
return to dry land and close the eye of watchfulness; then will I emerge
like the sun from a cloud, and depart in peace."
"Oh, very well," said Mrs. Beresford; "then you are an abominable
egotist, that is all, and a coward: and thank Heaven Freddy and I were
defended by English and Americans, and--hem!--their friends, and not by
Hindoos." She added charmingly, "This shows me my first words on coming
here ought to have been to offer my warmest thanks to the brave men who
have defended me and my child;" and swept them so queenly a curtesy, that
the men's hats and caps flew off in an instant "Mr. Black," said she,
turning with a voice of honey to Vespasian, but aiming obliquely at
Fullalove's heart, _"would_ you oblige me by kicking that dog a _little:_
he is always smelling what does not belong to him--why, it is blood; oh!"
and she turned pale in a moment.
Sharpe thought some excuse necessary. "You see, ma'am, we haven't had
time to clean the decks since."
"It is the blood of men--of the poor fellows who have defended us so
nobly," faltered the lady, trembling visibly.
"Well, ma'am," said Sharpe, still half apologetically, "you know a ship
can't fight all day long without an accident or two." He added, with
nautical simplicity and love of cleanliness, "However, the deck will be
cleaned and holy-stoned to-morrow, long before you turn out."
Mrs. Beresford was too much overcome to explain how much deeper her
emotion was than a dislike to stained floors. She turned faint, and on
getting the better of that, went down to her cabin crying. Thence issued
a royal order that the wounded were to have wine and every luxury they
could fancy, without limit or stint--at her expense.
The next day a deep gloom reigned in the ship; the crew were ranged in
their Sunday clothes and bare-headed; a grating was rigged; Sharpe read
the burial service; and the dead, each man sewed up in his hammock with a
32-lb. shot, glided off the grating into the sea with a sullen plunge;
while their shipmates cried so that the tears dripped on the deck.
With these regrets for the slain, too violent to last, was mingled a
gloomy fear that Death had a heavier blow in store. The surgeon's report
of Captain Dodd was most alarming; he had become delirious about
midnight, and so continued.
Sharpe commanded the ship; and the rough sailors stepped like cats over
that part of the deck beneath which their unconscious captain lay. If two
men met on the quarter-deck, a look of anxious, but not hopeful, inquiry
was sure to pass between them.
Among the constant inquirers was Ramgolam. The grave Hindoo often waylaid
the surgeon at the captain's door, to get the first intelligence This
marked sympathy with a hero in extremity was hardly expected from a sage
who at the first note of war's trumpet had vanished in a meal-bag.
However, it went down to his credit. One person, however, took a dark
view of this innocent circumstance But then that hostile critic was
Vespasian, a rival in matters of tint. He exploded in one of those droll
rages darkies seem liable to: "Massa cunnel," said he, "what for dat yar
niggar always prowling about the capn's door? What for he ask so many
stupid questions? Dat ole fox arter no good: him heart so black as um
skin: dam ole niggar!"
Fullalove suggested slily that a person with a dark skin might have a
grateful heart: and the colonel, who dealt little in innuendo, said,
"Come, don't you be so hard on jet, you ebony!"
"Bery well, gemmen," replied Vespasian ceremoniously, and with seeming
acquiescence. Then, with sudden ire, "Because Goramighty made you white,
you tink you bery wise without any more trouble. Dat ar niggar am an
"Pray what does that mean?" inquired Kenealy innocently.
"What him mean? what him mean? Yah! yah!"
"Yes. What does it mean?"
"What him mean? Yah! What didn't you hear Missy Besford miscall him an
"Yes," said Fullalove, winking to Kenealy; "but we don't know what it
means. Do you, sir?"
"Iss, sar. Dat ar expression he signify a darned old cuss dat says to dis
child, 'My lord Vespasium, take benevolence on your insidious slave, and
invest me in a bread-bag,' instead of fighting for de ladies like a
freenindependum citizen. Now you two go fast asleep; dis child lie shut
one eye and open de oder bery wide open on dat ar niggar." And with this
mysterious threat he stalked away.
His contempt for a black skin, his ebullitions of unexpected ire, his
turgid pomposity, and love of long terms, may make the reader smile; but
they could hardly amuse his friends just then; everything that touched
upon Dodd was too serious now. The surgeon sat up with him nearly all
night: in the daytime those two friends sat for hours in his cabin,
watching sadly, and silently moistening his burning brow and his parched
At length, one afternoon, there came a crisis, which took an unfavourable
turn. Then the surgeon, speaking confidentially to these two staunch
friends, inquired if they had asked themselves what should be done with
the body? "Why I ask," said he, "is because we are in a very hot
latitude; and if you wish to convey it to Barkington, the measures ought
to be taken in time: in fact, within an hour or two after death."
The poor friends were shocked and sickened by this horrible piece of
foresight. But Colonel Kenealy said, with tears, in his eyes, that his
old friend should never be buried like a kitten.
"Then you had better ask Sharpe to give me an order for a barrel of
spirits," said the surgeon.
"Yes, yes, for two if you like. Oh, don't die, Dodd, my poor old fellow.
How shall I ever face his wife--I remember her, the loveliest girl you
ever saw--with such a tale as this? She will think it a cruel thing I
should come out of it without a scratch, and a ten times better man to be
dead: and so it is; it is cruel, it is unjust, it is monstrous; him to be
lying there, and we muffs to be sitting croaking over him and watching
for his last breath like three cursed old ravens." And the stout colonel
When the surgeon left them, they fell naturally upon another topic, the
pledge they had given Dodd about the L. 14,000. They ascertained it was
upon him, next his skin; but it seemed as unnecessary as it was repugnant
to remove it from his living person. They agreed, however, that instantly
on his decease they would take possession of it, note the particulars,
seal it up, and carry it to Mrs. Dodd, with such comfort as they could
hope to give her by relating the gallant act in which his precious life
At 9 P.M. the surgeon took his place by Dodd's bedside; and the pair,
whom one thing after another had drawn so close together, retired to
Many a merry chat they had had there, and many a gaseonade, being rival
hunters; but now they were together for physical companionship in sorrow
rather than for conversation. They smoked their cigars in moody silence,
and at midnight shook hands with a sigh and parted. That sigh meant to
say that in the morning all would be over.
They turned in; but, ere either of them was asleep, suddenly the
captain's cabin seemed to fill with roars and shrieks of wild beasts,
that made the whole ship ring in the silent night The savage cries were
answered on deck by shouts of dismay and many pattering feet making for
the companion ladder; but the nearest persons to the cabin, and the first
to reach it, were Kenealy and Fullalove, who burst in, the former with a
drawn sword, the latter with a revolver, both in their nightgowns; and
there saw a sight that took their breath away.
The surgeon was not there; and two black men, one with a knife, and one
with his bare claws, were fighting and struggling and trampling all over
the cabin at once, and the dying man sitting up in his cot, pale, and
glaring at them.
THE two supple dusky forms went whirling so fast, there was no grasping
them to part them. But presently the negro seized the Hindoo by the
throat; the Hindoo just pricked him in the arm with his knife, and the
next moment his own head was driven against the side of the cabin with a
stunning crack, and there he was, pinned, and wriggling, and bluish with
fright, whereas the other swart face close against his was dark-grey with
rage, and its two fireballs of eyes rolled fearfully, as none but African
eyes can roll.
Fullalove pacified him by voice and touch; he withdrew his iron grasp
with sullen and lingering reluctance, and glared like a disappointed
mastiff: The cabin was now full, and Sharpe was for putting both the
blacks in irons. No splitter of hairs was he. But Fullalove suggested
there might be a moral distinction between things that looked equally
dark to the eye.
"Well, then, speak quick, both of you," said Sharpe, "or I'll lay ye both
by the heels. Ye black scoundrels, what business have you in the
captain's cabin, kicking up the devil's delight?"
Thus threatened, Vespasian panted out his tale; he had discovered this
nigger, as he persisted in calling the Hindoo, eternally prowling about
the good captain's door, and asking stupid questions: he had watched him,
and, on the surgeon coming out with the good news that the captain was
better, in had crawled "this yar abominable egotisk." And he raised a
ponderous fist to point the polysyllables: with this aid the sarcasm
would doubtless have been crushing; but Fullalove hung on the sable
orator's arm, and told him drily to try and speak without gesticulating.
"The darned old cuss," said Vespasian, with a pathetic sigh at not being
let hit him. He resumed and told how he had followed the Hindoo
stealthily, and found him with a knife uplifted over the captain--a
tremor ran through all present--robbing him. At this a loud murmur filled
the room; a very ugly one, the sort of snarl with which dogs fly at dogs'
throats with their teeth, and men fly at men's throats with a cord.
"Be quiet," said Sharpe imperiously. "I'll have no lynching in a vessel I
command. Now then, you, sir, how do you know he was robbing the captain?"
"How do I know! Yah! yah! Cap'n, if you please you tell dis unskeptical
gemman whether you don't miss a lilly book out of your bosom!"
During this extraordinary scene, Dodd had been looking from one speaker
to another in great surprise and some confusion; but at the negro's
direct appeal, his hand went to his breast and clutched it with a feeble
but heartrending cry.
"Oh, him not gone far. Yah! yah!" and Vespasian stooped, and took up an
oilskin packet off the floor, and laid it on the bed. "Dis child seen him
in dat ar niggar's hand, and heard him go whack on de floor."
Dodd hurried the packet into his bosom, then turned all gratitude to his
sable friend: "Now God bless you! God bless you! Give me your honest
hand! You don't know what you have done for me and mine."
And, sick as he was, he wrung Vespasian's hand with convulsive strength,
and would not part with it. Vespasian patted him soothingly all over, and
whimpered out: "Nebber you mind, cap'n! You bery good man: this child
bery fond of you a long time ago. You bery good man, outrageous good man!
dam good man! I propose your health: invalesee directly!"
While Dodd was speaking, the others were silent out of respect; but now
Sharpe broke in, and, with the national desire to hear both sides, called
on Ramgolam for his version. The Hindoo was now standing with his arms
crossed on his breast, looking all the martyr, meek and dignified. He
inquired of Sharpe, in very broken English, whether he spoke Hindostanee.
"Not I: nor don't act it neither," said Sharpe.
At this confession Ramgolam looked down on him with pity and mild
Mr. Tickell was put forward as interpreter.
_Ramgolam (in Hindostanee)._ He whom Destiny, too strong for mortals, now
oppresses with iron hand and feeds with the bread of affliction----
_Mr. Tickell (translating)._ He who by bad luck has got into trouble----
_Ramgolam._ Has long observed the virtues that embellish the commander of
this ship resembling a mountain, and desired to imitate them----
_Tickell._ Saw what a good man the captain is, and wanted to be like
_Vespasian._ The darned old cuss.
_Ramgolam._ Seeing him often convey his hand to his bosom, I ascribed his
unparalleled excellence to the possession of some sovereign talisman.
(Tickell managed to translate this sentence all but the word talisman,
which he rendered--with all a translator's caution--"article.") Finding
him about to depart to the regions of the blessed, where such auxiliaries
are not needed, and being eager to emulate his perfections here below, I
came softly to the place where he lay----
_Tickell._ When I saw him going to slip his cable, I wanted to be as good
a fellow as he is, so I crept alongside----
_Ramgolam._ And gently, and without force, made myself proprietor of the
amulet and inheritor of a good man's qualities----
_Tickell._ And quietly boned the article, and the captain's virtues. I
don't know what the beggar means.
_Ramgolam._ Then a traitor with a dark skin, but darker soul----
_Tickell._ Then another black-hearted nigger----
_Ramgolam._ Came furiously and misappropriated the charm thus piously
_Tickell._ Ran in and stole it from me.
_Ramgolam._ And bereft me of the excellences I was inheriting: and--
Here Sharpe interrupted the dialogue by putting the misappropriator of
other men's virtues in irons, and the surgeon insisted on the cabin being
cleared. But Dodd would not part with the three friends yet; he begged
them to watch him, and see nobody else came to take his children's
"I'll sink or swim with it; but oh! I doubt we shall have no luck while
it is aboard me. I never had a pirate alongside before, in all these
years. What is this?--here's something in it now--something
hard--something heavy: and--why, it's a bullet!"
On this announcement, an eager inspection took place: and, sure enough, a
bullet had passed through Dodd's coat and waistcoat, &c., and through the
oilskin and the leather pocketbook, and just dented the "Hard Cash;" no
There was a shower of comments and congratulations.
The effect of this discovery on the sick man's spirits was remarkable. "I
was a villain to belie it," said he. "It is my wife's and my children's,
and it has saved my life for them."
He kissed it and placed it in his bosom, and soon after sunk into a
peaceful slumber. The excitement had not the ill effect the surgeon
feared: it somewhat exhausted him, and he slept long; but on awakening,
was pronounced out of danger. To tell the truth, the tide had turned in
his favour overnight, and it was to convey the good news on deck the
surgeon had left him.
While Dodd was recovering, the _Agra_ was beating westward with light but
contrary winds, and a good month elapsed without any incident affecting
the Hard Cash, whose singular adventures I have to record. In this
dearth, please put up with a little characteristic trifle, which did
happen one moonlight night. Mr. Fullalove lay coiled below decks in deep
abstraction meditating a patent; and being in shadow and silent, he saw
Vespasian in the moonlight creeping on all fours like a guilty thing into
the bedroom of Colonel Kenealy, then fast asleep. A horrible suspicion
thrilled through Fullalove: a suspicion he waited grimly to verify.
The transatlantic Mixture, Fullalove, was not merely an inventor, a
philanthrope, a warrior, a preacher, a hunter, a swimmer, a fiddler, a
sharp fellow, a good fellow, a Puritan, and a Bohemian; he was also a
Theorist: and his Theory, which dub we
THE AFRICAN THEORY,
had two branches. 1. That the races of men started equal; but accident
upon accident had walked some tribes up a ladder of civilisation, and
kicked others down it, and left others, standing at the foot.
2. That the good work of centuries could be done, at a pinch, in a few
generations, by artificial condensation of the favourable circumstances.
For instance, secure this worker in Ebony 150 years' life, and he would
sign a penal bond to produce Negroes of the fourth descent equal in mind
to the best contemporary white. "You can breed Brains," said he, "under
any skin, as inevitably as Fat. It takes time and the right crosses; but
so does Fat--or rather it did; for Fat is an institution now." And here
our Republican must have a slap at thrones. "Compare," said he, "the
opportunities of these distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies with their
acts. Their seats have been high, but their minds low, I swan. They have
been breeders for ages, and known the two rudiments of the science; have
crossed and crossed for grenadiers, racehorses, poultry, and
prize-bullocks; and bred in and in for fools; but which of them has ever
aspired to breed a Newton, a Pascal, a Shakespeare, a Solon, a Raphael?
Yet all these were results to be obtained by the right crosses, as surely
as a swift horse or a circular sow. Now fancy breeding shorthorns when
you might breed long heads." So Vespasian was to engender Young Africa;
he was to be first elevated morally and intellectually as high as he
would go, and then set to breed; his partner, of course, to be elected by
Fullalove, and educated as high as she would consent to without an
illicit connection with the Experimentalist. He would be down on their
Pickaninnies before the parents could transfer the remnant of their own
weaknesses to them, polysyllables included, and would polish these ebony
chips; and at the next cross reckoned to rear a genius, by which time, as
near as he could calculate, he the Theorist would be in his dotage: and
all the better; make a curious contrast in favour of Young Africa.
Vespasian could not hit a barn door sitting--with a rifle! it was purely
with a view to his moral improvement mind you, that Fullalove invited him
into the mizentop to fight the pirate. The Patient came gingerly and
shivered there with fear. But five minutes elapsing, and he not killed,
that weakness gave way to a jocund recklessness; and he kept them all gay
with his quaint remarks, of which I must record but one. When they
crossed the stern of the pirate, the distance was so small that the faces
of that motley crew were plainly visible. Now, Vespasian was a merciless
critic of coloured skins. "Wal," said he, turning up his nose sky-high,
"dis child never seen such a mixallaneous biling 'o darkies as this yar;
why darned ef there ain't every colour in the rainbow, from the ace of
spades, down to the fine dissolving views." This amazing description,
coupled with his look of affront and disgust, made the white men roar;
for men fighting for their lives have a greater tendency to laugh than
one would think possible. Fullalove was proud of the critic, and for a
while lost sight of the pirate in his theory; which also may seem
strange. But your true theorist is a man apart: he can withdraw into
himself under difficulties. What said one of the breed two thousand years
"Media inter praelia semper
Sideribus coelique plagis Superisque vacavi."
Oh, the great African heart!" said Fullalove after the battle. "By my
side he fears no danger. Of all men, negroes are the most capable of
friendship; their affection is a mine: and we have only worked it with
the lash; and that is a ridiculous mining tool, I rather think."
When Vespasian came out so strong _versus_ Ramgolam, Fullalove was even
more triumphant: for after all it is not so much the heart as the
intelligence of the negro we albiculi affect to doubt.
"Oh, the great African intellect!" said Fullalove publicly, taking the
bull by the horns.
"I know," said Mrs. Beresford maliciously; "it is down in the maps as the
great African Desert."
To balance his many excellences Vespasian had an infirmity. This was an
ungovernable itch for brushing whites. If he was talking with one of that
always admired, and now beloved, race, and saw a speck of dirt on him, he
would brush him unobtrusively, but effectually, in full dialogue: he
would steal behind a knot of whites and brush whoever needed it, however
little. Fullalove remonstrated, but in vain; on this one point Instinct
would not yield to Reason. He could not keep his hands off a dusty white.
He would have died of the Miller of Dee. But the worst was he did not
stop at clothes; he loathed ill-blacked shoes. Woe to all foot-leather
that did not shine; his own skin furnished a perilous standard of
comparison. He was eternally blacking boots _en amateur._ Fullalove got
in a rage at this, and insisted on his letting his fellow-creatures'
leather alone. Vespasian pleaded hard, especially for leave to black
Colonel Kenealy. "The cunnell," said he pathetically, "is such a
tarnation fine gentleman spoilt for want of a lilly bit of blacking."
Fullalove replied that the colonel had got a servant whose mission it was
to black his shoes. This simply amused Vespasian. "A servant?" said he.
"Yah! yah! What is the use of white servants? They are not biddable.
Massa Fullalove, sar, Goramighty he reared all white men to kick up a
dust, white servants inspecially, and the darkies to brush 'em; and
likewise additionally to make their boots she a lilly bit." He concluded
with a dark hint that the colonel's white servant's own shoes, though
better blacked than his master's, were anything but mirrors, and that
this child had his eye on them.
The black desperado emerged on tiptoe from Kenealy's cabin, just as
Macbeth does from the murdered Duncan's chamber: only with a pair of
boots in his hand instead of a pair of daggers; got into the moonlight,
and finding himself uninterrupted, assumed the whistle of innocence, and
polished them to the nine, chuckling audibly.
Fullalove watched him with an eye like a rattlesnake, but kept quiet. He
saw interference would only demoralise him worse: for it is more ignoble
to black boots clandestinely, than bravely; men ditto.
He relieved his heart with idioms. "Darn the critter, he's fixed my flint
eternally. Now I cave. I swan to man. I may just hang up my fiddle; for
this darkie's too hard a row to hoe."
It was but a momentary dejection. The Mixture was _(inter alia)_ a
Theorist and an Anglo-Saxon; two indomitables. He concluded to temporise
with the Brush, and breed it out.
"I'm bound to cross the obsequious cuss with the catawamptiousest gal in
Guinea, and one that never saw a blacking bottle, not even in a dream."
Being now about a hundred miles south of the Mauritius, in fine weather
with a light breeze, Dodd's marine barometer began to fall steadily; and
by the afternoon the declension had become so remarkable, that he felt
uneasy, and, somewhat to the surprise of the crew,--for there was now
scarce a breath of air,--furled his slight sails, treble reefed his
topsails, had his top-gallant and royal yards and gaff topsail bent on
deck, got his flying jib-boom in, &c., and made the ship snug.
Kenealy asked him what was the matter?
"Barometer going down; moon at the full; and Jonah aboard," was the
reply, uttered doggedly.
Kenealy assured him it was a beautiful evening, precursor of a fine day.
"See how red the sunset is.
'Evening red and morning grey
Are the sure signs of a fine day.'"
Dodd looked, and shook his head. The sun was red, but the wrong red: an
angry red: and, as he dipped into the wave, discharged a lurid coppery
hue that rushed in a moment like an embodied menace over the entire
heavens. The wind ceased altogether: and in the middle of an unnatural
and suspicious calm the glass went down, down, down.
The moon rose, and instantly all eyes were bent on her with suspicion;
for in this latitude the hurricanes generally come at the full moon. She
was tolerably clear, however; but a light scud sailing across her disc
showed there was wind in the upper regions.
Dodd trusted to science; barred the lee-ports, and had the dead lights
put into the stem cabin and secured: then turned in for an hour's sleep.
Science proved a prophet. Just at seven bells, in one moment like a
thunderbolt from the sky, a heavy squall struck the ship. Under a less
careful captain her lee-ports would have been open, and she might have
gone to the bottom like a bullet
"Let go the main sheet!" roared Sharpe hastily to a hand he had placed
there on purpose. He let go, and there was the sail flapping like
thunder, and the sheet lashing everything in the most dangerous way. Dodd
was on deck in a moment "Helm hard up! Hands shorten sail!"
(Pipe.) "All hands furl sail, ahoy!"
Up tumbled the crew, went cheerily to work, and by three bells in the
middle watch had hauled up what was left of the shivered mainsail, and
hove the ship to under close-reefed main topsail and storm stay-sails;
and so the voyage was suspended.
A heavy sea got up under a scourging wind, that rose and rose, till the
_Agra_, under the pressure of that single sail treble reefed, heeled over
so as to dip her lee channels. This went on till the waves rolled so
high, and the squalls were so bitter, that sheets of water were actually
torn off their crests and launched incessantly on deck, not only
drenching Dodd and his officers, which they did not mind, but threatening
to flood the ship.
Dodd battened down the hatches and stopped that game.
Then came a danger no skill could avert: the ship lurched so violently
now, as not merely to clip, but bury, her lower deck port-pendents: and
so a good deal of water found ingress through the windage. Then Dodd set
a gang to the pumps: for, he said, "We can hardly hope to weather this
out without shipping a sea: and I won't have water coming in upon water."
And now the wind, raging and roaring like discharges of artillery, and
not like wind as known in our seas, seemed to have put out all the lights
of heaven. The sky was inky black, and quite close to their heads: and
the wind still increasing, the vessel came down to her extreme bearings,
and it was plain she would soon be on her beam ends. Sharpe and Dodd met,
and holding on by the life-lines, applied their speaking trumpets tight
to each other's ears; and even then they had to bawl.
"She can't carry a rag much longer."
"No, sir; not half an hour."
"Can we furl that main taupsle?"
Sharpe shook his head. "The first moment we start a sheet, the sail will
whip the mast out of her."
"You are right Well, then, I'll cut it away."
"Ay, twelve: no more. Send them to my cabin."
Sharpe's difficulty was to keep the men back, so eager were the fine
fellows to risk their lives. However, he brought twelve to the cabin,
headed by Mr. Grey, who had a right, as captain of the watch, to go with
them; on which right he insisted, in spite of Dodd's earnest request that
he would forego it. When Dodd saw his resolution, he dropped the friend
and resumed the captain; and spoke to them through a trumpet; the first
time he had ever used one in a cabin, or seen one used.
"Mr. Grey and men, going aloft to save the mainmast by cutting the sail
"Ay, ay, sir!"
"Service of danger, great danger!"
"But great dangers can be made smaller by working the right way. Attend!
Lay out all on the yard, and take your time from one man at the lee
yard-arm: don't know who that will be; but one of the smartest men in the
ship. Order to _him_ is: hold his knife hand well up; rest to see! and
then in knives altogether: mind and cut from you, and below the reef
band; and then I hope to see all come down alive."
Mr. Grey and his twelve men left the cabin: and hey! for the main top.
The men let the officer lead them as far as Jacob's ladder, and then
hurrah for the lee yard-arm! That was where all wanted to be, and but one
could be. Grey was as anxious as the rest; but officers of his rank
seldom go aloft, and soon fall out of their catlike habits. He had done
about six ratlines, when, instead of going hand over head, he spread his
arms to seize a shroud on each side of him: by this he weakened his
leverage, and the wind just then came fiercer, caught him, and flattened
him against the rigging as tight as if Nature had caught up a mountain
for a hammer and nailed him with a cedar; he was spread-eagled. The men
accepted him at once as a new patent ratline with a fine resisting power:
they went up him, and bounded three ordinary ratlines at a go off all his
promontories, especially his shoulders and his head, receiving his
compliments in the shape of hearty curses. They gained the top and lay
out on the yard with their hair flying like streamers: and who got the
place of honour but Thompson, the jolly fore-topman who couldn't stand
smoked pea-soup. So strong and so weak are men.
Thompson raised his knife high; there was a pause: then in went all their
knives, and away went the sail into the night of the storm, and soon
seemed a sheet of writing-paper, and more likely to hit the sky than the
sea. The men came down, picked their officer off the rigging, had a dram
in the captain's cabin, and saw him enter their names in the log-book for
good service, and in the purser's for extra grog on Sundays from there to
The ship was relieved; and all looked well till the chronometer, their
only guide now, announced sunset: when the wind, incredible as it may
appear, increased, and one frightful squall dipped the muzzles of the lee
carronades in the water.
Then was heard the first cry of distress: an appalling sound; the wail of
brave men. And they had borne it all so bravely, so cheerfully, till now.
But now they knew something must go, or else the ship; the suspense was
awful, but very short. Crack! crash! the fore and main topmast both gone
short off by the caps; and the ship recovered slowly, hesitatingly,
Relieving her from one danger, this subjected her to another and a
terrible one. The heavy spars that had fallen, unable to break loose from
the rigging, pounded the ship so savagely as to threaten to stave in her
side. Add to this that, with labouring so long and severely, some of the
ship's seams began now to open and shut and discharge the oakum, which is
terrible to the bravest seamen. Yet neither this stout captain nor his
crew shirked any danger men had ever grappled with since men were. Dodd
ordered them to cut away the wreck to leeward; it was done: then to
windward; this, the more ticklish operation, was also done smartly: the
wreck passed under the ship's quarter, and she drifted clear of it They
At eight bells in the first watch it began to thunder and lighten
furiously; but the thunder, though close, was quite inaudible in the
tremendous uproar of the wind and sea. It blew a hurricane: there were no
more squalls now; but one continuous tornado, which in its passage
through that great gaunt skeleton, the ship's rigging and bare poles,
howled and yelled and roared so terrifically, as would have silenced a
salvo of artillery fired alongside. The overwhelming sea ran in dark
watery mountains crested with devilish fire. The inky blackness added
supernatural horror; the wrath of the Almighty seemed upon them; and His
hand to drop the black sky down on them for their funeral pall. Surely
Noah from his ark saw nothing more terrible.
What is that? Close on the lee bow: chose: the flash of a gun, another;
another; another. A ship in distress firing minute-guns in their ears;
yet no sound: human thunder silenced, as God's thunder was silenced, by
the uproar of His greater creatures in their mad rage. The _Agra_ fired
two minute-guns to let the other poor ship know she had a companion in
her helplessness and her distress, and probably a companion in her fate.
Even this companionship added its mite of danger: for both ships were
mere playthings of the elements; they might be tossed together; and then,
what would be their fate? Two eggs clashed together in a great boiling
caldron, and all the life spilt out.
Yet did each flash shoot a ray of humanity and sympathy into the thick
black supernatural horror.
And now came calamity upon calamity. A tremendous sea broke the tiller at
the rudder-head, and not only was the ship in danger of falling off and
shipping the sea, but the rudder hammered her awfully, and bade fair to
stave in her counter, which is another word for Destruction. Thus death
came at them with two hands open at once.
These vessels always carry a spare tiller: they tried to ship it; but the
difficulty was prodigious. No light but the miserable deck-lantern--one
glowworm in Egypt supernaturally darkened--the _Agra_ never on an even
keel, and heeling over like a seesaw more than a ship; and then every
time they did place the tiller, and get the strain on with their luff
tackles, the awful sea gave it a blow and knocked it away like a hair.
At last they hit it off, or thought they had, for the ponderous thumps of
the rudder ceased entirely. However, the ship did not obey this new
tiller like the old one: her head fell off in an unlucky moment when
seven waves were rolling in one, and, on coming to the windward again,
she shipped a sea. It came in over her bow transversely; broke as high as
the mainstay, and hid and buried the whole ship before the mast; carried
away the waist bulwarks on both sides, filled the launch, and drowned the
live stock which were in it; swept four water-butts and three men away
into the sea, like corks and straws; and sent tons of water down the
forescuttle and main hatchway, which was partly opened, not to stifle the
crew, and flooded the gun-deck ankle-deep.
Dodd, who was in his cabin, sent the whole crew to the pumps, except the
men at the wheel, and prepared for the worst.
In men so brave as he was, when Hope dies Fear dies. His chief care now
was to separate the fate of those he loved from his own. He took a
bottle, inserted the fatal money in it with a few words of love to his
wife, and of direction to any stranger that should fall in with it;
secured the cork with melted sealing-wax, tied oilskin over it and melted
wax on that; applied a preparation to the glass to close the pores; and
to protect it against other accidents, and attract attention, fastened a
black painted bladder to it by a stout tarred twine, and painted _"Agra_,
lost at sea," in white on the bladder. He had logged each main incident
of the storm with that curt business-like accuracy which reads so cold
and small a record of these great and terrible tragedies. He now made a
final entry a little more in character with the situation:
"About eight bells in the morning watch shipped a heavy sea forward. The
rudder being now damaged, and the ship hardly manageable, brought the log
and case on check, expecting to founder shortly. Sun and moon hidden this
two days, and no observation possible; but by calculation of wind and
current, we should be about fifty miles to the southward of the
Mauritius. God's will be done."
He got on deck with the bottle in his pocket and the bladder peeping out:
put the log and its case down on deck, and by means of the life-lines
crawled along on his knees, and with great difficulty, to the wheel.
Finding the men could hardly hold on, and dreading another sea, Dodd,
with his own hands, lashed them to the helm.
While thus employed, he felt the ship give a slight roll, a very slight
roll to windward. His experienced eye lightened with hope, he cast his
eager glance to leeward. There it is a sailor looks for the first spark
of hope. Ay, thereaway was a little gleam of light. He patted the
helmsman on the shoulder and pointed to it; for now neither could one man
speak for the wind, nor another hear. The sailor nodded joyfully.
Presently the continuous tornado broke into squalls.
Hope grew brighter.
But, unfortunately, in one furious squall the ship broke round off, so as
to present her quarter to the sea at an unlucky moment: for it came seven
deep again, a roaring mountain, and hurled itself over her stern and
quarter. The mighty mass struck her stem frame with the weight of a
hundred thousand tons of water, and drove her forward as a boy launches
his toy-boat on a pond; and though she made so little resistance, stove
in the dead lights and the port frames, burst through the cabin
bulkheads, and washed out all the furniture, and Colonel Kenealy in his
nightgown with a table in his arms borne on water three feet deep, and
carried him under the poop awning away to the lee quarter-deck scuppers,
and flooded the lower deck. Above, it swept the quarter-deck clean of
everything except the shrieking helmsmen; washed Dodd away like a cork,
and would have carried him overboard if he had not brought up against the
mainmast and grasped it like grim death, half drowned, half stunned,
sorely bruised, and gasping like a porpoise ashore.
He held on by the mast in water and foam, panting. He rolled his
despairing eyes around; the bulwarks fore and aft were all in ruins, with
wide chasms, as between the battlements of some decayed castle; and
through the gaps he saw the sea yawning wide for him. He dare not move:
no man was safe a moment unless lashed to mast or helm. He held on,
expecting death. But presently it struck him he could see much farther
than before. He looked up: it was clearing overhead, and the uproar
abating visibly. And now the wind did not decline as after a gale:
extraordinary to the last, it blew itself out.
Sharpe came on deck, and crawled on all fours to his captain, and helped
him to a life-line. He held on by it, and gave his orders. The wind was
blown out, but the sea was as dangerous as ever. The ship began to roll
to windward. If that was not stopped, her fate was sealed. Dodd had the
main trysail set and then the fore trysail, before he would yield to go
below, though drenched, and sore, and hungry, and worn out. Those sails
steadied the ship; the sea began to go down by degrees; the celestial
part of nature was more generous: away flew every cloud, out came the
heavenly sky bluer and lovelier than ever they had seen it; the sun
flamed in its centre. Nature, after three days' eclipse, was so lovely,
it seemed a new heavens and a new earth. If there was an infidel on board
who did not believe in God, now his soul felt Him, in spite of the poor
little head. As for Dodd, who was naturally pious, he raised his eyes
towards that lovely sky in heartfelt, though silent, gratitude to its
Maker for saving the ship and cargo and her people's lives, not
forgetting the private treasure he was carrying home to his dear wife and
With this thought, he naturally looked down, but missed the bladder that
had lately protruded from his pocket He clapped his hand to his pocket
all in a flutter. The bottle was gone. In a fever of alarm and anxiety,
but with good hopes of finding it, he searched the deck; he looked in
every cranny, behind every coil of rope the sea had not carried away.
The sea, acting on the buoyant bladder attached, had clearly torn the
bottle out of his pocket, when it washed him against the mast. His
treasure then must have been driven much farther; and how far? Who could
It flashed on the poor man with fearful distinctness that it must either
have been picked up by somebody in the ship ere now, or else carried out
Strict inquiry was made amongst the men.
No one had seen it
The fruit of his toil and prudence, the treasure Love, not Avarice, had
twined with his heartstrings, was gone. In its defence he had defeated
two pirates, each his superior in force; and now conquered the elements
at their maddest. And in the very moment of that great victory--It was
IN the narrative of home events I skipped a little business, not quite
colourless, but irrelevant to the love passages then on hand. It has,
however, a connection with the curious events now converging to a point:
so, with the reader's permission, I will place it in logical sequence,
disregarding the order of time. The day Dr. Sampson splashed among the
ducks, and one of them hid till dinner, the rest were seated at luncheon,
when two patients were announced as waiting--Mr. and Mrs. Maxley. Sampson
refused to see them, on this ground: "I will not feed and heal." But Mrs.
Dodd interceded, and he yielded. "Well, then, show them in here. They are
better cracters than pashints." On this, a stout fresh-coloured woman,
the picture of health, was ushered in and curtseyed all round. "Well,
what is the matter now?" inquired Sampson rather roughly. "Be seated,
Mrs. Maxley," said Mrs. Dodd, benignly.
"I thank ye kindly, ma'am;" and she sat down. "Doctor, it is that pain."
"Well, don't say 'that pain.' Describe it. Now listen all of ye; ye're
goen to get a clinical lecture."
"If _you_ please, ma'am," said the patient, "it takes me here under my
left breest, and runs right to my elbow, it do; and bitter bad 'tis while
it do last; chokes me mostly; and I feel as I must die: and if I was to
move hand or fut, I think I _should_ die, that I do."
"Poor woman!" said Mrs. Dodd.
"Oh, she isn't dead yet," cried Sampson cheerfully. "She'll sell addled
eggs over all our tombstones; that is to say, if she minds what I bid
her. When was your last spasm?"
"No longer agone that yestereen, ma'am; and so I said to my master, 'The
doctor he is due to-morrow, Sally up at Albion tells me; and----'"
"Whist! whist! who cares what you said to Jack, and Jill said to you?
What was the cause?"
"The cause! What, of my pain? He says, 'What was the cause?'"
"Ay, the cause. Just obsairve, jintlemen," said Sampson, addressing
imaginary students, "how startled they all are if a docker deviates from
profissional habits into sceince, and takes the right eend of the stick
for once b' asking for the cause."
"The cause was the will of God, I do suppose," said Mrs. Maxley.
"Stuff!" shouted Sampson angrily. "Then why come to mortal me to cure
Alfred put in his oar. "He does not mean the 'final cause;' he means the
"My poor dear creature, I bain't no Latiner," objected the patient.
Sampson fixed his eyes sternly on the slippery dame. "What I want to know
is, had you been running up-stairs? or eating fast? or drinking fast? or
grizzling over twopence? or quarrelling with your husband! Come now,
which was it?"
"Me quarrel with my man! We haven't never been disagreeable, not once,
since we went to church a pair and came back a couple. I don't say but
what we mayn't have had a word or two at odd times, as married folk
"And the last time you had a word or two--y' infairnal quibbler--was it
just before your last spasm, eh?"
"Well, it might; I am not gainsaying that: but you said quarrel, says
you. 'Quarrel' it were your word; and I defy all Barkton, gentle and
simple, to say as how me and my master----"
"Whisht! whisht! Now, jintlemen, ye see what the great coming
sceince--the sceince of Healing--has to contind with. The dox are all
fools, but one: and the pashints are lyres, ivery man Jack. N' listen me;
y' have got a disease that you can't eradicate; but you may muzzle it for
years, and die of something quite different when your time's up."
"Like enough, sir. If _you_ please, ma'am, Dr. Stephenson do blame my
indigestion for it."
"Dr. Stephenson's an ass."
"Dear heart, how cantankerous you be. To be sure Dr. Osmond he says no:
it's muscular, says he."
"Dr. Osmond's an ijjit. List me; You mustn't grizzle about money; you
mustn't gobble, nor drink your beer too fast."
"You are wrong, doctor; I never drink no beer: it costs----"
"Your catlap, then. And above all, no grizzling! Go to church whenever
you can without losing a farthing. It's medicinal; soothes the brain, and
takes it off worldly cares. And have no words with your husband, or he'll
outlive you; it's his only chance of getting the last word. Care killed a
cat, a nanimal with eight lives more than a chatterbox. If you worry or
excite your brain, little Maxley, you will cook your own goose--by a
"Dear heart, these be unked sayings. Won't ye give me nothing to make me
"No, I never tinker; I go to the root: you may buy a vile of chlorofm and
take a puff if you feel premonory symps: but a quiet brain is your only
real chance. Now slope, and send the male screw."
"That I will, sir. Your sarvant, doctor; your sarvant, ma'am; sarvant,
all the company.
Mrs. Dodd hoped the poor woman had nothing very serious the matter.
"Oh, it is a mortal disease," replied Sampson, as cool as a cucumber.
"She has got angina pictoris or brist-pang, a disorder that admirably
eximplifies the pretinsions of midicine t' seeince." And with this he
dashed into monologue.
Maxley's tall gaunt form came slouching in, and traversed the floor,
pounding it with heavy nailed boots. He seated himself gravely at Mrs.
Dodd's invitation, took a handkerchief out of his hat, wiped his face,
and surveyed the company, grand and calm. In James Maxley all was
ponderous: his head was huge, his mouth, when it fairly opened, revealed
a chasm, and thence issued a voice naturally stentorian by its volume and
native vigour; but, when the owner of this incarnate bassoon had a mind
to say something sagacious, he sank at once from his habitual roar to a
sound scarce above a whisper; a contrast mighty comical to hear, though
on paper _nil._
"Well, what is it Maxley! Rheumatism again?"
"No, that it ain't," bellowed Maxley defiantly.
"What then? Come, look sharp."
"Well, then, doctor, I'll tell you. I'm sore troubled--with--a--mouse."
This malady, announced in the tone of a proclamation, and coming after so
much solemn preparation, amused the party considerably, although
parturient mountains had ere then produced muscipular abortions.
"A mouse!" inquired Sampson disdainfully. "Where? Up your sleeve? Don't
come to me: go t' a sawbones and have your arm cut off. I've seen 'em
mutilate a pashint for as little."
Maxley said it was not up his sleeve, worse luck.
On this Alfred hazarded a conjecture. "Might it not have gone down his
throat? Took his potato-trap for the pantry-door. Ha! ha!"
"Ay, I hear ye, young man, a-laughing at your own sport," said Maxley,
winking his eye; "but 'tain't the biggest mouth as catches the most. You
sits yander fit to bust; but (with a roar like a lion) ye never offers
_me_ none on't, neither sup nor bit."
At this sudden turn of Mr. Maxley's wit, light and playful as a tap of
the old English quarter-staff, they were a little staggered; all but
Edward, who laughed and supplied him zealously with sandwiches.
"You're a gentleman, you are," said Maxley, looking full at Sampson and
Alfred to point the contradistinction.
Having thus disposed of his satirists, he contemplated the sandwiches
with an inquiring and philosophic eye. "Well," said he, after long and
thoughtful inspection, "you gentlefoiks won't die of hard work; your
sarvants must cut the very meat to fit your mouths." And not to fall
behind the gentry in a great and useful department of intelligence, he
made precisely one mouthful of each sandwich.
Mrs. Dodd was secretly amazed, and, taking care not to be noticed by
Maxley, said confidentially, _"Monsieur avait bien raison; le souris a
passe: par la._"
The plate cleared, and washed down with a tumbler of port, Maxley
resumed, and informed the doctor that the mouse was at this moment in his
garden eating his bulbs. "And I be come here to put an end to her, if
I've any luck at all."
Sampson told him he needn't trouble. "Nature has put an end to her as
long as her body."
Mr. Maxley was puzzled for a moment, then opened his mouth from ear to
ear in a guffaw that made the glasses ring. His humour was perverse. He
was wit-proof and fun-proof; but at a feeble jest would sometimes roar
like a lion inflated with laughing-gas. Laughed he ever so loud and long,
he always ended abruptly and without gradation--his laugh was a clean
spadeful dug out of Merriment. He resumed his gravity and his theme all
in an instant. "White arsenic she won't look at for I've tried her; but
they tell me there's another sweetmeat come up, which they call it striek
"Hets! let the poor beasty alone. Life's as sweet tit as tus."
"If _you_ was a gardener, you'd feel for the bulbs, not for the varmin,"
remonstrated Maxley rather arrogantly.
"But bein' a man of sceince, I feel for th' higher organisation. Mice are
a part of Nature, as much as market-gardeners."
"So be stoats, and adders, and doctors."
Sampson appealed: "Jintlemen, here's a pretty pashint: reflects on our
lairned profission, and it never cost him a guinea, for the dog never
"Don't let my chaff choke ye, doctor. That warn't meant for _you_
altogether. So if you _have_ got a little bit of that 'ere about you----"
"I'm not a ratcatcher, my man: I don't go with dith in my pocket, like
the surgeons that carry a lancet. And if I had Murder in both pockets,
you shouldn't get any. Here's a greedy dog! got a thousand pounds in the
bank, and grudges his healer a guinea, and his mouse a stand-up bite."
"Now, who have been a telling you lies?" inquired Maxley severely. "My
missus, for a farthing. I'm not a thousand-pound man; I'm a
nine-hundred-pound man; and it's all safe at Hardie's." Here he went from
his roar to his whisper, "I don't hold with Lunnon banks; they be like my
missus's eggs: all one outside, and the rotten ones only known by
breaking. Well (loud) I _be_ pretty close, I don't deny it; but
(confidentially) my missus beats me. I look twice at a penny; but she
looks twice at both sides of a halfpenny before she will let him go: and
it's her being so close have raised all this here bobbery; and so I told
her; says I, 'Missus, if you would but leave an end of a dip, or a paring
of cheese, about your cupboard, she would hide at home; but you hungers
her so, you drives her afield right on atop o' my roots.' 'Oh,' says my
missus, 'if _I_ was to be as wasteful as _you_ be, where should _we_ be
come Christmas day? Every tub on its own bottom,' says she; 'man and wife
did ought to keep theirselves to theirselves, she to the house, and I to
the garden.' 'So be it, says I, 'and by the same toaken, don't let me
catch them "Ns" in my garden again, or I'll spoil their clucking and
scratching,' says I, 'for I'll twist their dalled necks: ye've got a
yard,' says I, 'and a roost, and likewise a turnpike, you and your
poultry: so bide at home the lot, and don't come a scratching o' me,' and
with that we had a ripput; and she took one of her pangs; and then I
behoved to knock under; and that is allus the way if ye quarrel with
woman-folk; they are sworn to get the better of ye by hook or by crook.
Now dooe give me a bit of that ere, to quiet this here, as eats me up by
the roots and sets my missus and me by the ears."
"Justum ac tenacem propositi virum," whispered Alfred to Edward.
Sampson told him angrily to go to a certain great personage.
"Not afore my betters," whispered Mr. Maxley, smit with a sudden respect
for etiquette "Won't ye, now?"
"I'll see ye hanged first, ye miserly old assassin."
"Then I have nothing to thank _you_ for," roared Maxley, and made his
adieux, ignoring with marked contempt the false physician who declined to
doctor the foe of his domestic peace and crocuses.
"Quite a passage of arms," said Edward.
"Yes," said Mrs. Dodd, "and of bludgeons and things, rather than the
polished rapier. What expressions to fall from two highly educated
gentlemen! Slope--Potato-trap--Sawbones--Catlap--_je n'en finirais pas._"
She then let them know that she meditated a "dictionary of jargon;" in
hopes that its bulk might strike terror into honest citizens, and excite
an anti-jargon league to save the English language, now on the verge of
Sampson was pleased with this threat. "Now, that is odd," said he. "Why,
I am compilin' a vocabulary myself. I call 't th' ass-ass-ins'
dickshinary; showing how, by the use of mealy-mouthed and d'exotic
phrases, knaves can lead fools by th' ear a vilent dith. F'r instance; if
one was to say to John Bull, 'Now I'll cut a great gash in your arm and
let your blood run till ye drop down senseless,' he'd take fright and
say, 'Call another time!' So the profissional ass-ass-in words it thus:
'I'll bleed you from a large orifice till the occurrence of syncope.' All
right sis John: he's bled from a lar j'orifice and dies three days after
of th' assassin's knife hid in a sheath o' goose grease. But I'll bloe
the gaff with my dictionary."
"Meantime _there_ is another contribution to mine," said Mrs. Dodd.
And they agreed in the gaiety of their hearts to compare their rival
THE subsiding sea was now a liquid Paradise: its great pellucid braes and
hillocks shone with the sparkle and the hues of all the jewels in an
emperor's crown. Imagine--after three days of inky sea, and pitchy sky,