Part 2 out of 12
As the reader may wish to know what sort of looking personage she was, I
will take this opportunity to describe her. Her figure was very good,
and at one period of her life I thought her face must have been very
handsome; at the time I was introduced to her, it showed the ravages of
time or hardship very distinctly; in short, she might be termed a faded
beauty, flaunting in her dress, and not very clean in her person.
"Charming woman, Mrs Trotter, is she not, Mr Simple?" said the master's
mate; to which, of course, I immediately acquiesced. "Now, Mr Simple,"
continued he, "there are a few arrangements which I had better mention
while Mrs Trotter is away, for she would be shocked at our talking about
such things. Of course, the style of living which we indulge in is
rather expensive. Mrs Trotter cannot dispense with her tea and her other
little comforts; at the same time I must put you to no extra expense--I
had rather be out of pocket myself. I propose that during the time you
mess with us you shall only pay one guinea per week; and as for entrance
money, why I think I must not charge you more than a couple of guineas.
Have you any money?"
"Yes," I replied, "I have three guineas and a half left."
"Well, then, give me the three guineas, and the half-guinea you can
reserve for pocket-money. You must write to your friends immediately for
a further supply."
I handed him the money, which he put in his pocket. "Your chest,"
continued he, "you shall bring down here, for Mrs Trotter will, I am
sure, if I request it, not only keep it in order for you, but see that
your clothes are properly mended. She is a charming woman, Mrs Trotter,
and very fond of young gentlemen. How old are you?"
I replied that I was fifteen.
"No more! well, I am glad of that, for Mrs Trotter is very particular
after a certain age. I should recommend you on no account to associate
with the other midshipmen. They are very angry with me, because I would
not permit Mrs Trotter to join their mess, and they are sad
"That they certainly are," replied I; but here we were interrupted by
Mrs Trotter coming down with a piece of stick in her hand upon which
were skewered about a dozen small pieces of beef and pork, which she
first laid on a plate, and then began to lay the cloth and prepare for
"Mr Simple is only fifteen, my dear," observed Mr Trotter.
"Dear me!" replied Mrs Trotter, "why, how tall he is! He is quite as
tall for his age as young Lord Foutretown, whom you used to take out
with you in the _chay_. Do you know Lord Foutretown, Mr Simple?"
"No, I do not, ma'am," replied I; but wishing to let them know that I
was well connected, I continued, "but I dare say that my grandfather,
Lord Privilege, does."
"God bless me! is Lord Privilege your grandfather? Well, I thought I saw
a likeness somewhere. Don't you recollect Lord Privilege, my dear
Trotter, that we met at Lady Scamp's--an elderly person? It's very
ungrateful of you not to recollect him, for he sent you a very fine
haunch of venison."
"Privilege--bless me, yes. Oh, yes! an old gentleman, is he not?" said
Mr Trotter, appealing to me.
"Yes, sir," replied I, quite delighted to find myself among those who
were acquainted with my family.
"Well, then, Mr Simple," said Mrs Trotter, "since we have the pleasure
of being acquainted with your family, I shall now take you under my own
charge, and I shall be so fond of you that Trotter shall become quite
jealous," added she, laughing. "We have but a poor dinner to-day, for
the bumboat woman disappointed me. I particularly requested her to bring
me off a leg of lamb, but she says that there was none in the market. It
is rather early for it, that's true; but Trotter is very nice in his
eating. Now, let us sit down to dinner."
I felt very sick, indeed, and could eat nothing. Our dinner consisted of
the pieces of beef and pork, the potatoes, and a baked pudding in a tin
dish. Mr Trotter went up to serve the spirits out to the ship's company,
and returned with a bottle of rum.
"Have you got Mr Simple's allowance, my love?" inquired Mrs Trotter.
"Yes; he is victualled to-day, as he came on board before twelve
o'clock. Do you drink spirits, Mr Simple?"
"No, I thank you," replied I; for I remembered the captain's injunction.
"Taking, as I do, such an interest in your welfare, I must earnestly
recommend you to abstain from them," said Mr Trotter. "It is a very bad
habit, and once acquired, not easy to be left off. I am obliged to drink
them, that I may not check the perspiration after working in the hold; I
have, nevertheless, a natural abhorrence of them; but my champagne and
claret days are gone by, and I must submit to circumstances."
"My poor Trotter!" said the lady.
"Well," continued he, "it's a poor heart that never rejoiceth." He then
poured out half a tumbler of rum, and filled the glass up with water.
"My love, will you taste it?"
"Now, Trotter, you know that I never touch it, except when the water is
so bad that I must have the taste taken away. How is the water to-day?"
"As usual, my dear, not drinkable." After much persuasion Mrs Trotter
agreed to sip a little out of his glass. I thought that she took it
pretty often, considering that she did not like it, but I felt so unwell
that I was obliged to go on the main-deck. There I was met by a
midshipman whom I had not seen before. He looked very earnestly in my
face, and then asked my name. "Simple," said he. "What, are you the son
of old Simple?"
"Yes, sir," replied I, astonished that so many should know my family.
"Well, I thought so by the likeness. And how is your father?"
"Very well, I thank you, sir."
"When you write to him, make my compliments, and tell him that I desired
to be particularly remembered to him;" and he walked forward, but as he
forgot to mention his own name, I could not do it.
I went to bed very tired; Mr Trotter had my hammock hung up in the
cock-pit, separated by a canvas-screen from the cot in which he slept
with his wife. I thought this very odd, but they told me it was the
general custom on board ship, although Mrs Trotter's delicacy was very
much shocked by it. I was very sick, but Mrs Trotter was very kind. When
I was in bed she kissed me, and wished me good night, and very soon
afterwards I fell fast asleep.
Puzzled with very common words--Mrs Trotter takes care of my wardrobe--A
matrimonial duet, ending _con strepito_.
I awoke the next morning at daylight with a noise over my head which
sounded like thunder; I found it proceeded from holystoning and washing
down the main-deck. I was very much refreshed nevertheless, and did not
feel the least sick or giddy. Mr Trotter, who had been up at four
o'clock, came down, and directed one of the marines to fetch me some
water. I washed myself on my chest, and then went on the main-deck,
which they were swabbing dry. Standing by the sentry at the cabin-door,
I met one of the midshipmen with whom I had been in company at the Blue
"So, Master Simple, old Trotter and his faggot of a wife have got hold
of you--have they?" said he. I replied, that I did not know the meaning
of faggot, but that I considered Mrs Trotter a very charming woman. At
which he burst into a loud laugh. "Well," said he, "I'll just give you a
caution. Take care, or they'll make a clean sweep. Has Mrs Trotter shown
you her ankle yet?"
"Yes," I replied, "and a very pretty one it is."
"Ah! she's at her old tricks. You had much better have joined our mess
at once. You're not the first greenhorn that they have plucked. Well,"
said he, as he walked away, "keep the key of your own chest--that's
But as Mr Trotter had warned me that the midshipmen would abuse them, I
paid very little attention to what he said. When he left me I went on
the quarter-deck. All the sailors were busy at work, and the first
lieutenant cried out to the gunner, "Now, Mr Dispart, if you are ready,
we'll breech these guns."
"Now, my lads," said the first lieutenant, "we must slue (the part that
breeches cover) more forward." As I never heard of a gun having
breeches, I was very anxious to see what was going on, and went up close
to the first lieutenant, who said to me, "Youngster, hand me that
_monkey's tail_." I saw nothing like a _monkeys tail_, but I was so
frightened that I snatched up the first thing that I saw, which was a
short bar of iron, and it so happened that it was the very article which
he wanted. When I gave it to him, the first lieutenant looked at me, and
said, "So you know what a monkey's tail is already, do you? Now don't
you ever sham stupid after that."
Thought I to myself, I'm very lucky, but if that's a monkey's tail it's
a very stiff one!
I resolved to learn the names of everything as fast as I could, that I
might be prepared; so I listened attentively to what was said; but I
soon became quite confused, and despaired of remembering anything.
"How is this to be finished off, sir?" inquired a sailor of the
"Why, I beg leave to hint to you, sir, in the most delicate manner in
the world," replied the boatswain, "that it must be with a
_double-wall_--and be d----d to you--don't you know that yet? Captain
of the foretop," said he, "up on your _horses_, and take your _stirrups_
up three inches."--"Ay, ay, sir." (I looked and looked, but I could see
"Mr Chucks," said the first lieutenant to the boatswain, "what blocks
have we below--not on charge?"
"Let me see, sir, I've one _sister_, t'other we split in half the other
day, and I think I have a couple of _monkeys_ down in the store-room.--I
say, you Smith, pass that brace through the _bull's eye,_ and take the
_sheepshank_ out before you come down."
And then he asked the first lieutenant whether something should not be
fitted with a _mouse_ or only a _Turk's head_--told him the _goose-neck_
must be spread out by the armourer as soon as the forge was up. In
short, what with _dead eyes_ and _shrouds, cats_ and _cat-blocks,
dolphins_ and _dolphin-strikers, whips_ and _puddings_, I was so puzzled
with what I heard, that I was about to leave the deck in absolute
"And, Mr Chucks, recollect this afternoon that you _bleed_ all the
Bleed the boys, thought I, what can that be for? at all events, the
surgeon appears to be the proper person to perform that operation.
This last incomprehensible remark drove me off the deck, and I retreated
to the cock-pit, where I found Mrs Trotter. "Oh, my dear!" said she, "I
am glad you are come, as I wish to put your clothes in order. Have you a
list of them--where is your key?" I replied that I had not a list, and I
handed her the key, although I did not forget the caution of the
midshipman; yet I considered that there could be no harm in her looking
over my clothes when I was present. She unlocked my chest, and pulled
everything out, and then commenced telling me what were likely to be
useful and what were not.
"Now these worsted stockings," she said, "will be very comfortable in
cold weather, and in the summer time these brown cotton socks will be
delightfully cool, and you have enough of each to last you till you
outgrow them; but as for these fine cotton stockings, they are of no
use--only catch the dirt when the decks are swept, and always look
untidy. I wonder how they could be so foolish as to send them; nobody
wears them on board ship nowadays. They are only fit for women--I wonder
if they would fit me."
She turned her chair away, and put on one of my stockings, laughing the
whole of the time. Then she turned round to me and showed me how nicely
they fitted her. "Bless you, Mr Simple, it's well that Trotter is in the
hold, he'd be so jealous--do you know what these stockings cost? They
are of no use to you, and they fit me. I will speak to Trotter, and take
them off your hands." I replied, that I could not think of selling them,
and as they were of no use to me and fitted her, I begged that she would
accept of the dozen pairs. At first she positively refused, but as I
pressed her, she at last consented, and I was very happy to give them to
her as she was very kind to me, and I thought, with her husband, that
she was a very charming woman.
We had beef-steaks and onions for dinner that day, but I could not bear
the smell of the onions. Mr Trotter came down very cross, because the
first lieutenant had found fault with him. He swore that he would cut
the service--that he had only remained to oblige the captain, who said
that he would sooner part with his right arm, and that he would demand
satisfaction of the first lieutenant as soon as he could obtain his
discharge. Mrs Trotter did all she could to pacify him, reminded him
that he had the protection of Lord this and Sir Thomas that, who would
see him righted; but in vain. The first lieutenant had told him, he
said, that he was not worth his salt, and blood only could wipe away the
insult. He drank glass of grog after glass of grog, and at each glass
became more violent, and Mrs Trotter drank also, I observed, a great
deal more than I thought she ought to have done; but she whispered to
me, that she drank it that Trotter might not, as he would certainly be
tipsy. I thought this very devoted on her part; but they sat so late
that I went to bed and left them--he still drinking and vowing vengeance
against the first lieutenant. I had not been asleep above two or three
hours when I was awakened by a great noise and quarrelling, and I
discovered that Mr Trotter was drunk and beating his wife. Very much
shocked that such a charming woman should be beaten and ill-used, I
scrambled out of my hammock to see if I could be of any assistance, but
it was dark, although they scuffled as much as before. I asked the
marine, who was sentry at the gun-room door above, to bring his lantern,
and was very much shocked at his replying that I had better go to bed
and let them fight it out.
Shortly afterwards Mrs Trotter, who had not taken off her clothes, came
from behind the screen. I perceived at once that the poor woman could
hardly stand; she reeled to my chest, where she sat down and cried. I
pulled on my clothes as fast as I could, and then went up to her to
console her, but she could not speak intelligibly. After attempting in
vain to comfort her, she made me no answer, but staggered to my hammock,
and, after several attempts, succeeded in getting into it. I cannot say
that I much liked that, but what could I do? So I finished dressing
myself, and went up on the quarter-deck.
The midshipman who had the watch was the one who had cautioned me
against the Trotters; he was very friendly to me. "Well, Simple," said
he, "what brings you on deck?" I told him how ill Mr Trotter had behaved
to his wife, and how she had turned into my hammock.
"The cursed drunken old catamaran," cried he; "I'll go and cut her down
by the head;" but I requested he would not, as she was a lady.
"A lady!" replied he; "yes, there's plenty of ladies of her
description;" and then he informed me that she had many years ago been
the mistress of a man of fortune who kept a carriage for her; but that
he grew tired of her, and had given Trotter L200 to marry her, and that
now they did nothing but get drunk together and fight with each other.
I was very much annoyed to hear all this; but as I perceived that Mrs
Trotter was not sober, I began to think that what the midshipman said
was true. "I hope," added he, "that she has not had time to wheedle you
out of any of your clothes."
I told him that I had given her a dozen pairs of stockings, and had paid
Mr Trotter three guineas for my mess. "This must be looked to," replied
he; "I shall speak to the first lieutenant to-morrow. In the mean time,
I shall get your hammock for you. Quarter-master, keep a good look-out."
He then went below, and I followed him, to see what he would do. He went
to my hammock and lowered it down at one end, so that Mrs Trotter lay
with her head on the deck in a very uncomfortable position. To my
astonishment, she swore at him in a dreadful manner, but refused to turn
out. He was abusing her, and shaking her in the hammock, when Mr
Trotter, who had been roused at the noise, rushed from behind the
screen. "You villain! what are you doing with my wife?" cried he,
pommelling at him as well as he could, for he was so tipsy that he could
I thought the midshipman able to take care of himself, and did not wish
to interfere; so I remained above, looking on--the sentry standing by me
with his lantern over the coombings of the hatchway to give light to the
midshipman, and to witness the fray. Mr Trotter was soon knocked down,
when all of a sudden Mrs Trotter jumped up from the hammock, and caught
the midshipman by the hair, and pulled at him. Then the sentry thought
right to interfere; he called out for the master-at-arms, and went down
himself to help the midshipman, who was faring badly between the two.
But Mrs Trotter snatched the lantern out of his hand and smashed it all
to pieces, and then we were all left in darkness, and I could not see
what took place, although the scuffling continued. Such was the posture
of affairs when the master-at-arms came up with his light. The
midshipman and sentry went up the ladder, and Mr and Mrs Trotter
continued beating each other. To this, none of them paid any attention,
saying, as the sentry had said before, "Let them fight it out."
After they had fought some time, they retired behind the screen, and I
followed the advice of the midshipman, and got into my hammock, which
the master-at-arms hung up again for me. I heard Mr and Mrs Trotter both
crying and kissing each other. "Cruel, cruel, Mr Trotter," said she,
"My life, my love, I was so jealous!" replied he.
"D--n and blast your jealousy," replied the lady; "I've two nice black
eyes for the galley to-morrow." After about an hour of kissing and
scolding, they both fell asleep again.
The next morning before breakfast, the midshipman reported to the first
lieutenant the conduct of Mr Trotter and his wife. I was sent for and
obliged to acknowledge that it was all true. He sent for Mr Trotter, who
replied that he was not well, and could not come on deck. Upon which the
first lieutenant ordered the sergeant of marines to bring him up
directly. Mr Trotter made his appearance, with one eye closed, and his
face very much scratched.
"Did not I desire you, sir," said the first lieutenant, "to introduce
this young gentleman into the midshipmen's berth? instead of which you
have introduced him to that disgraceful wife of yours, and have swindled
him out of his property. I order you immediately to return the three
guineas which you received as mess-money, and also that your wife give
back the stockings which she cajoled him out of."
But then I interposed, and told the first lieutenant that the stockings
had been a free gift on my part and that, although I had been very
foolish, yet that I considered that I could not in honour demand them
"Well, youngster," replied the first lieutenant, "perhaps your ideas are
correct, and if you wish it, I will not enforce that part of my order;
but," continued he to Mr Trotter, "I desire, sir, that your wife leave
the ship immediately; and I trust that when I have reported your conduct
to the captain, he will serve you in the same manner. In the meantime,
you will consider yourself under an arrest for drunkenness."
Scandalum magnatum clearly proved--I prove to the captain that I
consider him a gentleman, although I had told him the contrary, and I
prove to the midshipmen that I am a gentleman myself--They prove their
gratitude by practising upon me, because practice makes perfect.
The captain came on board about twelve o'clock, and ordered the
discharge of Mr Trotter to be made out, as soon as the first lieutenant
had reported what had occurred. He then sent for all the midshipmen on
"Gentlemen," said the captain to them, with a stern countenance, "I feel
very much indebted to some of you for the character which you have been
pleased to give of me to Mr Simple. I must now request that you will
answer a few questions which I am about to put in his presence. Did I
ever flog the whole starboard watch because the ship would only sail
nine knots on a bowline?"
"No, sir, no!" replied they all, very much frightened.
"Did I ever give a midshipman four dozen for not having his weekly
accounts pipe-clayed; or another five dozen for wearing a scarlet watch
"No, sir," replied they all together.
"Did any midshipman ever die on his chest from fatigue?"
They again replied in the negative.
"Then, gentlemen, you will oblige me by stating which of you thought
proper to assert these falsehoods in a public coffee-room; and further,
which of you obliged this youngster to risk his life in a duel?"
They were all silent.
"Will you answer me, gentlemen?"
"With respect to the duel, sir," replied the midshipman who had fought
me, "I _heard_ say, that the pistols were only charged with powder. It
was a joke."
"Well, sir, we'll allow that the duel was only a joke, (and I hope and
trust that your report is correct); is the reputation of your captain
only a joke, allow me to ask? I request to know who of you dared to
propagate such injurious slander?" (Here there was a dead pause.) "Well,
then, gentlemen, since you will not confess yourselves, I must refer to
my authority. Mr Simple, have the goodness to point out the person or
persons who gave you the information."
But I thought this would not be fair; and as they had all treated me
very kindly after the duel, I resolved not to tell; so I answered, "If
you please, sir, I consider that I told you all that in confidence."
"Confidence, sir!" replied the captain; "who ever heard of confidence
between a post-captain and a midshipman?"
"No, sir," replied I, "not between a post-captain and a midshipman, but
between two gentlemen."
The first lieutenant, who stood by the captain, put his hand before his
face to hide a laugh. "He may be a fool, sir," observed he to the
captain, aside; "but I can assure you he is a very straight, forward
The captain bit his lip, and then turning to the midshipmen, said, "You
may thank Mr Simple, gentlemen, that I do not press this matter further.
I do believe that you were not serious when you calumniated me; but
recollect, that what is said in joke is too often repeated in earnest. I
trust that Mr Simple's conduct will have its effect, and that you leave
off practising upon him, who has saved you from a very severe
When the midshipmen went down below, they all shook hands with me, and
said that I was a good fellow for not peaching; but, as for the advice
of the captain that they should not practise upon me, as he termed it,
they forgot that, for they commenced again immediately, and never left
off until they found that I was not to be deceived any longer.
I had not been ten minutes in the berth, before they began their remarks
upon me. One said that I looked like a hardy fellow, and asked me
whether I could not bear a great deal of sleep.
I replied that I could, I dare say, if it was necessary for the good of
the service; at which they laughed, and I supposed that I had said a
"Why here's Tomkins," said the midshipman; "he'll show you how to
perform that part of your duty. He inherits it from his father, who was
a marine officer. He can snore for fourteen hours on a stretch without
once turning round in his hammock, and finish his nap on the chest
during the whole of the day, except meal-times."
But Tomkins defended himself, by saying, that "some people were very
quick in doing things, and others were very slow; that he was one of the
slow ones, and that he did not in reality obtain more refreshment from
his long naps than other people did in short ones, because he slept much
slower than they did."
This ingenious argument was, however, overruled _nem. con._, as it was
proved that he ate pudding faster than any one in the mess.
The postman came on board with the letters, and put his head into the
midshipman's berth. I was very anxious to have one from home, but I was
disappointed. Some had letters and some had not. Those who had not,
declared that their parents were very undutiful, and that they would cut
them off with a shilling; and those who had letters, after they had read
them, offered them for sale to the others, usually at half-price. I
could not imagine why they sold, or why the others bought them; but they
did do so; and one that was full of good advice was sold three times,
from which circumstance I was inclined to form a better opinion of the
morals of my companions. The lowest-priced letters sold, were those
written by sisters. I was offered one for a penny, but I declined
buying, as I had plenty of sisters of my own. Directly I made that
observation, they immediately inquired all their names and ages, and
whether they were pretty or not. When I had informed them, they
quarrelled to whom they should belong. One would have Lucy, and another
took Mary; but there was a great dispute about Ellen, as I had said that
she was the prettiest of the whole. At last they agreed to put her up to
auction, and she was knocked down to a master's mate of the name of
O'Brien, who bid seventeen shillings and a bottle of rum. They requested
that I would write home to give their love to my sisters, and tell them
how they had been disposed of, which I thought very strange; but I ought
to have been flattered at the price bid for Ellen, as I repeatedly have
since been witness to a very pretty sister being sold for a glass of
I mentioned the reason why I was so anxious for a letter, viz., because
I wanted to buy my dirk and cocked hat; upon which they told me that
there was no occasion for my spending my money, as, by the regulations
of the service, the purser's steward served them out to all the officers
who applied for them. As I knew where the purser's steward's room was,
having seen it when down in the cock-pit with the Trotters, I went down
immediately. "Mr Purser's Steward," said I, "let me have a cocked hat
and a dirk immediately."
"Very good, sir," replied he, and he wrote an order upon a slip of
paper, which he handed to me. "There is the order for it, sir; but the
cocked hats are kept in the chest up in the main-top; and as for the
dirk, you must apply to the butcher, who has them under his charge."
I went up with the order, and thought I would first apply for the dirk;
so I inquired for the butcher, whom I found sitting in the sheep-pen
with the sheep, mending his trousers. In reply to my demand, he told me
that he had not the key of the store-room, which was under the charge of
one of the corporals of marines.
I inquired who, and he said, "Cheeks  the marine."
I went everywhere about the ship, inquiring for Cheeks the marine, but
could not find him. Some said that they believed he was in the fore-top,
standing sentry over the wind, that it might not change; others, that he
was in the galley, to prevent the midshipmen from soaking their biscuit
in the captain's dripping-pan. At last, I inquired of some of the women
who were standing between the guns on the main-deck, and one of them
answered that it was no use looking for him among them, as they all had
husbands, and Cheeks was a _widows man._
As I could not find the marine, I thought I might as well go for my
cocked hat, and get my dirk afterwards. I did not much like going up the
rigging, because I was afraid of turning giddy, and if I fell overboard
I could not swim; but one of the midshipmen offered to accompany me,
stating that I need not be afraid, if I fell overboard, of sinking to
the bottom, as if I was giddy, my head, at all events, _would swim_; so
I determined to venture. I climbed up very near to the main-top, but not
without missing the little ropes very often, and grazing the skin of my
shins. Then I came to large ropes stretched out from the mast, so that
you must climb them with your head backwards. The midshipman told me
these were called the cat-harpings, because they were so difficult to
climb, that a cat would expostulate if ordered to go out by them. I was
afraid to venture, and then he proposed that I should go through
lubber's hole, which he said had been made for people like me. I agreed
to attempt it, as it appeared more easy, and at last arrived, quite out
of breath, and very happy to find myself in the main-top.
The captain of the main-top was there with two other sailors. The
midshipman introduced me very politely:--"Mr Jenkins--Mr Simple,
midshipman,--Mr Simple, Mr Jenkins, captain of the main-top. Mr Jenkins,
Mr Simple has come up with an order for a cocked hat." The captain of
the top replied that he was very sorry that he had not one in store, but
the last had been served out to the captain's monkey. This was very
provoking. The captain of the top then asked me if I was ready with my
I replied, "Not very, for I had lost it two or three times when coming
up." He laughed and replied, that I should lose it altogether before I
went down; and that I must _hand_ it out. "_Hand_ out my _footing_!"
said I, puzzled, and appealing to the midshipman; "what does he mean?"
"He means that you must fork out a seven-shilling bit." I was just as
wise as ever, and stared very much; when Mr Jenkins desired the other
men to get half a dozen _foxes_ and make a _spread eagle_ of me, unless
he had his parkisite. I never should have found out what it all meant,
had not the midshipman, who laughed till he cried, at last informed me
that it was the custom to give the men something to drink the first time
that I came aloft, and that if I did not, they would tie me up to the
Having no money in my pocket, I promised to pay them as soon as I went
below; but Mr Jenkins would not trust me. I then became very angry, and
inquired of him "if he doubted my honour." He replied, "Not in the
least, but that he must have the seven shillings before I went below."
"Why, sir," said I, "do you know whom you are speaking to? I am an
officer and a gentleman. Do you know who my grandfather is?"
"O yes," replied he, "very well."
"Then, who is he, sir?" replied I very angrily.
"Who is he! why he's the _Lord knows who_."
"No," replied I, "that's not his name; he is Lord Privilege." (I was
very much surprised that he knew that my grandfather was a lord.) "And
do you suppose," continued I, "that I would forfeit the honour of my
family for a paltry seven shillings?"
This observation of mine, and a promise on the part of the midshipman,
who said he would be bail for me, satisfied Mr Jenkins, and he allowed
me to go down the rigging. I went to my chest, and paid the seven
shillings to one of the top-men who followed me, and then went up on the
main-deck, to learn as much as I could of my profession. I asked a great
many questions of the midshipmen relative to the guns, and they crowded
round me to answer them. One told me they were called the frigate's
_teeth_, because they stopped the Frenchman's _jaw._ Another midshipman
said that he had been so often in action, that he was called the
_Fire-eater_. I asked him how it was that he escaped being killed. He
replied that he always made it a rule, upon the first cannon-ball coming
through the ship's side, to put his head into the hole which it had
made; as, by a calculation made by Professor Innman, the odds were
32,647, and some decimals to boot, that another ball would not come in
at the same hole. That's what I never should have thought of.
 This celebrated personage is the prototype of Mr Nobody on board of
[B] Widows' men are imaginary sailors, borne on the books, and receiving
pay and prize-money, which is appropriated to Greenwich Hospital.
My messmates show me the folly of running in debt--Duty carried on
politely--I become acquainted with some gentlemen of the home
department--The episode of Sholto M'Foy.
Now that I have been on board about a month, I find that my life is not
disagreeable. I don't smell the pitch and tar, and I can get into my
hammock without tumbling out on the other side. My messmates are
good-tempered, although they laugh at me very much; but I must say that
they are not very nice in their ideas of honour They appear to consider
that to take you in is a capital joke; and that because they laugh at
the time that they are cheating you, it then becomes no cheating at all.
Now I cannot think otherwise than that cheating is cheating, and that a
person is not a bit more honest, because he laughs at you in the
bargain. A few days after I came on board, I purchased some tarts of the
bumboat woman, as she is called; I wished to pay for them, but she had
no change, and very civilly told me she would trust me. She produced a
narrow book, and said that she would open an account with me, and I
could pay her when I thought proper. To this arrangement I had no
objection, and I sent up for different things until I thought that my
account must have amounted to eleven or twelve shillings. As I promised
my father that I never would run in debt, I considered that it was then
time that it should be settled. When I asked for it, what was my
surprise to find that it amounted to L2 14s. 6d. I declared that it was
impossible, and requested that she would allow me to look at the items,
when I found that I was booked for at least three or four dozen tarts
every day, ordered by the young gentlemen, "to be put down to Mr
Simple's account." I was very much shocked, not only at the sum of money
which I had to pay, but also at the want of honesty on the part of my
messmates; but when I complained of it in the berth, they all laughed at
At last one of them said, "Peter, tell the truth; did not your father
caution you not to run in debt?"
"Yes, he did," replied I.
"I know that very well," replied he; "all fathers do the same when their
sons leave them; it's a matter of course. Now observe, Peter; it is out
of regard to you, that your messmates have been eating tarts at your
expense You disobeyed your father's injunctions before you had been a
month from home; and it is to give you a lesson that may be useful in
after-life, that they have considered it their duty to order the tarts.
I trust that it will not be thrown away upon you. Go to the woman, pay
your bill, and never run up another."
"That I certainly shall not," replied I; but as I could not prove who
ordered the tarts, and did not think it fair that the woman should lose
her money, I went up and paid the bill with a determination never to
open an account with anybody again.
But this left my pockets quite empty, so I wrote to my father, stating
the whole transaction, and the consequent state of my finances. My
father, in his answer, observed that whatever might have been their
motives, my messmates had done me a friendly act; and that as I had lost
my money by my own carelessness, I must not expect that he would allow
me any more pocket-money. But my mother, who added a postscript to his
letter, slipped in a five-pound note, and I do believe that it was with
my father's sanction, although he pretended to be very angry at my
forgetting his injunctions. This timely relief made me quite comfortable
again. What a pleasure it is to receive a letter from one's friends when
far away, especially when there is same money in it!
A few days before this, Mr Falcon, the first lieutenant, ordered me to
put on my side-arms to go away on duty. I replied that I had neither
dirk nor cocked hat, although I had applied for them. He laughed at my
story, and sent me on shore with the master, who bought them, and the
first lieutenant sent up the bill to my father, who paid it, and wrote
to thank him for his trouble. That morning, the first lieutenant said to
me, "Now, Mr Simple, we'll take the shine off that cocked hat and dirk
of yours. You will go in the boat with Mr O'Brien, and take care that
none of the men slip away from it, and get drunk at the tap."
This was the first time that I had ever been sent away on duty, and I
was very proud of being an officer in charge. I put on my full uniform,
and was ready at the gangway a quarter of an hour before the men were
piped away. We were ordered to the dockyard to draw sea stores. When we
arrived there, I was quite astonished at the piles of timber, the ranges
of storehouses, and the immense anchors which lay on the wharf. There
was such a bustle, every body appeared to be so busy, that I wanted to
look every way at once. Close to where the boat landed, they were
hauling a large frigate out of what they called the basin; and I was so
interested with the sight, that I am sorry to say I quite forgot all
about the boat's crew, and my orders to look after them. What surprised
me most was, that although the men employed appeared to be sailors,
their language was very different from what I had been lately accustomed
to on board of the frigate. Instead of damning and swearing, everybody
was so polite. "Oblige me with a pull of the starboard bow hawser, Mr
Jones."--"Ease off the larboard hawser, Mr Jenkins, if you please."--
"Side her over, gentlemen, side her over."--"My compliments to Mr
Tompkins, and request that he will cast off the quarter-check."--"Side
her over, gentlemen, side her over, if you please."--"In the boat there,
pull to Mr Simmons, and beg he'll do me the favour to check her as she
swings. What's the matter, Mr Johnson?"--"Vy, there's one of them ere
midshipmites has thrown a red hot tater out of the stern-port, and hit
our officer in the eye."--"Report him to the commissioner, Mr Wiggins;
and oblige me by under-running the guess-warp. Tell Mr Simkins, with my
compliments, to coil away upon the jetty. Side her over, side her over,
gentlemen, if you please."
I asked of a bystander who these people were, and he told me that they
were dockyard mateys. I certainly thought that it appeared to be quite
as easy to say "If you please," as "D----n your eyes," and that it
sounded much more agreeable.
During the time that I was looking at the frigate being hauled out, two
of the men belonging to the boat slipped away, and on my return they
were not to be seen. I was very much frightened, for I knew that I had
neglected my duty, and that on the first occasion on which I had been
intrusted with a responsible service. What to do I did not know I ran up
and down every part of the dockyard until I was quite out of breath,
asking everybody I met whether they had seen my two men. Many of them
said that they had seen plenty of men, but did not exactly know mine;
some laughed, and called me a greenhorn. At last I met a midshipman, who
told me that he had seen two men answering to my description on the roof
of the coach starting for London, and that I must be quick if I wished
to catch them; but he would not stop to answer any more questions. I
continued walking about the yard until I met twenty or thirty men with
grey jackets and breeches, to whom I applied for information: they told
me that they had seen two sailors skulking behind the piles of timber.
They crowded round me, and appeared very anxious to assist me, when they
were summoned away to carry down a cable. I observed that they all had
numbers on their jackets, and either one or two bright iron rings on
their legs. I could not help inquiring, although I was in such a hurry,
why the rings were worn. One of them replied that they were orders of
merit, given to them for their good behaviour.
I was proceeding on very disconsolately, when, as I turned a corner, to
my great delight, I met my two men, who touched their hats and said that
they had been looking for me. I did not believe that they told the
truth, but I was so glad to recover them that I did not scold, but went
with them down to the boat, which had been waiting some time for us.
O'Brien, the master's mate, called me a young sculping, a word I
never heard before. When we arrived on board, the first lieutenant asked
O'Brien why he had remained so long. He answered that two of the men had
left the boat, but that I had found them. The first lieutenant appeared
to be pleased with me, observing, as he had said before, that I was no
fool, and I went down below, overjoyed at my good fortune, and very much
obliged to O'Brien for not telling the whole truth. After I had taken
off my dirk and cocked hat, I felt for my pocket-handkerchief, and found
that it was not in my pocket, having in all probability been taken out
by the men in grey jackets, whom, in conversation with my messmates, I
discovered to be convicts condemned to hard labour for stealing and
A day or two afterwards, we had a new messmate of the name of M'Foy. I
was on the quarter-deck when he came on board and presented a letter to
the captain, inquiring first if his name was "Captain Sauvage." He was a
florid young man, nearly six feet high, with sandy hair, yet very
good-looking. As his career in the service was very short, I will tell
at once, what I did not find out till some time afterwards. The captain
had agreed to receive him to oblige a brother officer, who had retired
from the service, and lived in the Highlands of Scotland. The first
notice which the captain had of the arrival of Mr M'Foy, was from a
letter written to him by the young man's uncle. This amused him so much,
that he gave it to the first lieutenant to read: it ran as follows:--
"Glasgow, April 25, 1---
"Sir,--Our much esteemed and mutual friend, Captain M'Alpine, having
communicated by letter, dated the 14th inst., your kind intentions
relative to my nephew Sholto M'Foy, (for which you will be pleased to
accept my best thanks), I write to acquaint you that he is now on his
way to join your ship, the _Diomede_, and will arrive, God
willing, twenty-six hours after the receipt of this letter.
"As I have been given to understand by those who have some
acquaintance with the service of the king, that his equipment as an
officer will be somewhat expensive, I have considered it but fair to
ease your mind as to any responsibility on that score, and have
therefore enclosed the half of a Bank of England note for ten pounds
sterling, No. 3742, the other half of which will be duly forwarded in
a frank promised to me the day after to-morrow. I beg you will make
the necessary purchases, and apply the balance, should there be any,
to his mess account, or any other expenses which you may consider
warrantable or justifiable.
"It is at the same time proper to inform you, that Sholto had ten
shillings in his pocket at the time of his leaving Glasgow; the
satisfactory expenditure of which I have no doubt you will inquire
into, as it is a large sum to be placed at the discretion of a youth
only fourteen years and five months old. I mention his age, as Sholto
is so tall that you might be deceived by his appearance, and be
induced to trust to his prudence in affairs of this serious nature.
Should he at any time require further assistance beyond his pay, which
I am told is extremely handsome to all king's officers, I beg you to
consider that any draught of yours, at ten days' sight, to the amount
of five pounds sterling English, will be duly honoured by the firm of
Monteith, M'Killop, and Company, of Glasgow. Sir, with many thanks for
your kindness and consideration,
"I remain, your most obedient,
The letter brought on board by M'Foy was to prove his identity. While
the captain read it, M'Foy stared about him like a wild stag. The
captain welcomed him to the ship, asked him one or two questions,
introduced him to the first lieutenant, and then went on shore. The
first lieutenant had asked me to dine in the gun-room; I supposed that
he was pleased with me because I had found the men; and when the captain
pulled on shore, he also invited Mr M'Foy, when the following
conversation took place.
"Well, Mr M'Foy, you have had a long journey; I presume it is the first
that you have ever made."
"Indeed it is, sir," replied M'Foy; "and sorely I've been pestered. Had
I minded all they whispered in my lug as I came along, I had need been
made of money--sax-pence here, sax-pence there, sax-pence every where.
Sich extortion I ne'er dreamt of."
"How did you come from Glasgow?"
"By the wheelboat, or steamboat, as they ca'd it, to Lunnon: where they
charged me sax-pence for taking my baggage on shore--a wee boxy nae
bigger than yon cocked-up hat. I would fain carry it mysel', but they
wadna let me."
"Well, where did you go to when you arrived in London?"
"I went to a place ca'd Chichester Rents, to the house of Storm and
Mainwaring, Warehousemen, and they must have another sax-pence for
showing me the way. There I waited half-an-hour in the counting-house,
till they took me to a place ca'd Bull and Mouth, and put me into a
coach, paying my whole fare: nevertheless they must din me for money the
whole of the way down. There was first the guard, and then the coachman,
and another guard, and another coachman; but I wudna listen to them, and
so they growled and abused me."
"And when did you arrive?"
"I came here last night; and I only had a bed and a breakfast at the twa
Blue Pillars' house, for which they extortioned me three shillings and
sax-pence, as I sit here. And then there was the chambermaid hussy and
waiter loon axed me to remember them, and wanted more siller; but I told
them as I told the guard and coachman, that I had none for them."
"How much of your ten shillings have you left?" inquired the first
"Hoot, sir lieutenant, how came you for to ken that? Eh! it's my uncle
Monteith at Glasgow. Why, as I sit here, I've but three shillings and a
penny of it lift. But there's a smell here that's no canny; so I'll just
go up again into the fresh air."
When Mr M'Foy quitted the gun-room they all laughed very much. After he
had been a short time on deck he went down into the midshipmen's berth;
but he made himself very unpleasant, quarrelling and wrangling with
everybody. It did not, however, last very long; for he would not obey
any orders that were given to him. On the third day, he quitted the ship
without asking the permission of the first lieutenant; when he returned
on board the following day, the first lieutenant put him under an
arrest, and in charge of the sentry at the cabin door. During the
afternoon I was under the half-deck, and perceived that he was
sharpening a long clasp-knife upon the after-truck of the gun. I went up
to him, and asked him why he was doing so, and he replied, as his eyes
flashed fire, that it was to revenge the insult offered to the bluid of
M'Foy. His look told me that he was in earnest. "But what do you mean?"
inquired I. "I mean," said he, drawing the edge and feeling the point of
his weapon, "to put it into the weam of that man with the gold podge on
his shoulder, who has dared to place me here."
I was very much alarmed, and thought it my duty to state his murderous
intentions, or worse might happen; so I walked up on deck and told the
first lieutenant what M'Foy was intending to do, and how his life was in
danger. Mr Falcon laughed, and shortly afterwards went down on the
main-deck. M'Foy's eyes glistened, and he walked forward to where the
first lieutenant was standing; but the sentry, who had been cautioned by
me, kept him back with his bayonet. The first lieutenant turned round,
and perceiving what was going on, desired the sentry to see if Mr M'Foy
had a knife in his hand; and he had it sure enough, open, and held
behind his back. He was disarmed, and the first lieutenant, perceiving
that the lad meant mischief, reported his conduct to the captain, on his
arrival on board. The captain sent for M'Foy, who was very obstinate,
and when taxed with his intention would not deny it, or even say that he
would not again attempt it; so he was sent on shore immediately, and
returned to his friends in the Highlands. We never saw any more of him;
but I heard that he obtained a commission in the army, and three months
after he had joined his regiment, was killed in a duel, resenting some
fancied affront offered to the bluid of M'Foy.
[Footnote 1: Peter's memory is short, p. 9.--ED.]
We post up to Portsdown Fair--Consequence of disturbing a lady at supper
--Natural affection of the pelican, proved at my expense--Spontaneous
combustion at Ranelagh Gardens--Pastry _versus_ Piety--Many are bid to
the feast; but not the halt, the lame, or the blind.
A few days after M'Foy quitted the ship, we all had leave from the first
lieutenant to go to Portsdown fair, but he would only allow the oldsters
to sleep on shore. We anticipated so much pleasure from our excursion,
that some of us were up early enough to go away in the boat sent for
fresh beef. This was very foolish. There were no carriages to take us to
the fair, nor indeed any fair so early in the morning; the shops were
all shut, and the Blue Posts, where we always rendezvoused, was hardly
opened. We waited there in the coffee-room, until we were driven out by
the maid sweeping away the dirt, and were forced to walk about until she
had finished, and lighted the fire, when we ordered our breakfast; but
how much better would it have been to have taken our breakfast
comfortably on board, and then to have come on shore, especially as we
had no money to spare. Next to being too late, being too soon is the
worst plan in the world. However, we had our breakfast, and paid the
bill; then we sallied forth, and went up George-street, where we found
all sorts of vehicles ready to take us to the fair. We got into one
which they called a dilly. I asked the man who drove it why it was so
called, and he replied, because he only charged a shilling. O'Brien, who
had joined us after breakfasting on board, said that this answer
reminded him of one given to him by a man who attended the hackney-coach
stands in London. "Pray," said he, "why are you called Waterman?"
"Waterman," replied the man, "vy, sir, 'cause we opens the hackney-coach
doors." At last, with plenty of whipping, and plenty of swearing, and a
great deal of laughing, the old horse, whose back curved upwards like a
bow, from the difficulty of dragging so many, arrived at the bottom of
Portsdown hill, where we got out, and walked up to the fair. It really
was a most beautiful sight. The bright blue sky, and the coloured flags
flapping about in all directions, the grass so green, and the white
tents and booths, the sun shining so bright, and the shining gilt
gingerbread, the variety of toys and the variety of noise, the quantity
of people and the quantity of sweetmeats; little boys so happy, and
shop-people so polite, the music at the booths, and the bustle and
eagerness of the people outside, made my heart quite jump. There was
Richardson, with a clown and harlequin, and such beautiful women,
dressed in clothes all over gold spangles, dancing reels and waltzes,
and looking so happy! There was Flint and Gyngell, with fellows tumbling
over head and heels, playing such tricks--eating fire, and drawing yards
of tape out of their mouths. Then there was the Royal Circus, all the
horses standing in a line, with men and women standing on their backs,
waving flags, while the trumpeters blew their trumpets. And the largest
giant in the world, and Mr Paap, the smallest dwarf in the world, and a
female dwarf, who was smaller still, and Miss Biffin, who did everything
without legs or arms. There was also the learned pig, and the
Herefordshire ox, and a hundred other sights which I cannot now
remember. We walked about for an hour or two seeing the outside of every
thing: we determined to go and see the inside. First we went into
Richardson's, where we saw a bloody tragedy, with a ghost and thunder,
and afterwards a pantomime, full of tricks, and tumbling over one
another. Then we saw one or two other things, I forget what; but this I
know, that, generally speaking, the outside was better, than the inside.
After this, feeling very hungry, we agreed to go into a booth and have
something to eat. The tables were ranged all round, and in the centre
there was a boarded platform for dancing. The ladies were there all
ready dressed for partners; and the music was so lively, that I felt
very much inclined to dance, but we had agreed to go and see the wild
beasts fed at Mr Polito's menagerie, and as it was now almost eight
o'clock, we paid our bill and set off. It was a very curious sight, and
better worth seeing than any thing in the fair; I never had an idea that
there were so many strange animals in existence. They were all secured
in iron cages, and a large chandelier with twenty lights, hung in the
centre of the booth, and lighted them up, while the keeper went round
and stirred them up with his long pole; at the same time he gave us
their histories, which were very interesting. I recollect a few of them.
There was the tapir, a great pig with a long nose, a variety of the
hiptostamass, which the keeper said was an amphibilious animal, as
couldn't live on land, and _dies_ in the water--however, it seemed to
live very well in a cage. Then there was the kangaroo with its young
ones peeping out of it--a most astonishing animal. The keeper said that
it brought forth two young ones at a birth, and then took them into its
stomach again, until they arrived at years of discretion. Then there was
the pelican of the wilderness, (I shall not forget him), with a large
bag under his throat, which the man put on his head as a night-cap: this
bird feeds its young with its own blood--when fish are scarce. And there
was the laughing hyaena, who cries in the wood like a human being in
distress, and devours those who come to his assistance--a sad instance
of the depravity of human nature, as the keeper observed. There was a
beautiful creature, the royal Bengal tiger, only three years old, what
growed ten inches every year, and never arrived at its full growth. The
one we saw, measured, as the keeper told us, sixteen feet from the snout
to the tail, and seventeen from the tail to the snout: but there must
have been some mistake there. There was a young elephant and three
lions, and several other animals which I forget now, so I shall go on to
describe the tragical scene which occurred. The keeper had poked up all
the animals, and had commenced feeding them. The great lion was growling
and snarling over the shin-bone of an ox, cracking it like a nut, when,
by some mismanagement, one end of the pole upon which the chandelier was
suspended fell down, striking the door of the cage in which the lioness
was at supper, and bursting it open. It was all done in a second; the
chandelier fell, the cage opened, and the lioness sprang out. I remember
to this moment seeing the body of the lioness in the air, and then all
was dark as pitch. What a change! not a moment before all of us staring
with delight and curiosity, and then to be left in darkness, horror, and
dismay! There was such screaming and shrieking, such crying, and
fighting, and pushing, and fainting, nobody knew where to go, or how to
find their way out. The people crowded first on one side, and then on
the other, as their fears instigated them. I was very soon jammed up
with my back against the bars of one of the cages, and feeling some
beast lay hold of me behind, made a desperate effort, and succeeded in
climbing up to the cage above, not however without losing the seat of my
trowsers, which the laughing hyaena would not let go. I hardly knew where
I was when I climbed up; but I knew the birds were mostly stationed
above. However, that I might not have the front of my trowsers torn as
well as the behind, as soon as I gained my footing I turned round, with
my back to the bars of the cage, but I had not been there a minute
before I was attacked by something which digged into me like a pickaxe,
and as the hyaena had torn my clothes, I had no defence against it. To
turn round would have been worse still; so, after having received above
a dozen stabs, I contrived by degrees to shift my position until I was
opposite to another cage, but not until the pelican, for it was that
brute, had drawn as much blood from me as would have fed his young for a
week. I was surmising what danger I should next encounter, when to my
joy I discovered that I had gained the open door from which the lioness
had escaped. I crawled in, and pulled the door to after me, thinking
myself very fortunate: and there I sat very quietly in a corner during
the remainder of the noise and confusion. I had been there but a few
minutes, when the beef-eaters, as they were called, who played the music
outside, came in with torches and loaded muskets. The sight which
presented itself was truly shocking, twenty or thirty men, women, and
children, lay on the ground, and I thought at first the lioness had
killed them all, but they were only in fits, or had been trampled down
by the crowd. No one was seriously hurt. As for the lioness, she was not
to be found: and as soon as it was ascertained that she had escaped,
there was as much terror and scampering away outside as there had been
in the menagerie. It appeared afterwards, that the animal had been as
much frightened as we had been, and had secreted herself under one of
the waggons. It was some time before she could be found. At last
O'Brien, who was a very brave fellow, went a-head of the beef-eaters,
and saw her eyes glaring. They borrowed a net or two from the carts
which had brought calves to the fair, and threw them over her. When she
was fairly entangled, they dragged her by the tail into the menagerie.
All this while I had remained very quietly in the den, but when I
perceived that its lawful owner had come back to retake possession, I
thought it was time to come out; so I called to my messmates, who, with
O'Brien were assisting the beef-eaters. They had not discovered me, and
laughed very much when they saw where I was. One of the midshipmen shot
the bolt of the door, so that I could not jump out, and then stirred me
up with a long pole. At last I contrived to unbolt it again, and got
out, when they laughed still more, at the seat of my trowsers being torn
off. It was not exactly a laughing matter to me, although I had to
congratulate myself upon a very lucky escape; and so did my messmates
think, when I narrated my adventures. The pelican was the worst part of
the business. O'Brien lent me a dark silk handkerchief, which I tied
round my waist, and let drop behind, so that my misfortunes might not
attract any notice, and then we quitted the menagerie; but I was so
stiff that I could scarcely walk.
We then went to what they called the Ranelagh Gardens, to see the
fireworks, which were to be let off at ten o'clock. It was exactly ten
when we paid for our admission, and we waited very patiently for a
quarter of an hour, but there were no signs of the fireworks being
displayed. The fact was, that the man to whom the gardens belonged
waited until more company should arrive, although the place was already
very full of people. Now the first lieutenant had ordered the boat to
wait for us until twelve o'clock, and then return on board; and, as we
were seven miles from Portsmouth, we had not much time to spare. We
waited another quarter of an hour, and then it was agreed that as the
fireworks were stated in the handbill to commence precisely at ten
o'clock, we were fully justified in letting them off ourselves. O'Brien
went out, and returned with a dozen penny rattans, which he notched in
the end. The fireworks were on the posts and stages, all ready, and it
was agreed that we should light them all at once, and then mix with the
crowd. The oldsters lighted cigars, and fixing them in the notched end
of the canes, continued to puff them until they were all well lighted.
They handed one to each of us, and at a signal we all applied them to
the match papers, and as soon as the fire communicated we threw down our
canes and ran in among the crowd. In about half a minute, off they all
went, in a most beautiful confusion; there were silver stars and golden
stars, blue lights and Catherine-wheels, mines and bombs, Grecian-fires
and Roman-candles, Chinese-trees, rockets and illuminated mottoes, all
firing away, cracking, popping, and fizzing, at the same time. It was
unanimously agreed that it was a great improvement upon the intended
show. The man to whom the gardens belonged ran out of a booth, where he
had been drinking beer at his ease, while his company were waiting,
swearing vengeance against the perpetrators; indeed, the next day he
offered fifty pounds reward for the discovery of the offenders. But I
think that he was treated very properly. He was, in his situation, a
servant of the public, and he had behaved as if he was their master. We
all escaped very cleverly, and taking another dilly, arrived at
Portsmouth, and were down to the boat in good time. The next day I was
so stiff and in such pain, that I was obliged to go to the doctor, who
put me on the list, where I remained a week before I could return to my
duty. So much for Portsdown fair.
It was on a Saturday that I returned to my duty, and Sunday being a fine
day, we all went on shore to church with Mr Falcon, the first
lieutenant. We liked going to church very much, not, I am sorry to say,
from religious feelings, but for the following reason:--The first
lieutenant sat in a pew below, and we were placed in the gallery above,
where he could not see us, nor indeed could we see him. We all remained
very quiet, and I may say very devout, during the time of the service;
but the clergyman who delivered the sermon was so tedious, and had such
a bad voice, that we generally slipped out as soon as he went up into
the pulpit, and adjourned to a pastry-cook's opposite, to eat cakes and
tarts and drink cherry-brandy, which we infinitely preferred to hearing
a sermon. Somehow or other, the first lieutenant had scent of our
proceedings: we believed that the marine officer informed against us,
and this Sunday he served us a pretty trick. We had been at the
pastry-cook's as usual, and as soon as we perceived the people coming
out of church, we put all our tarts and sweetmeats into our hats, which
we then slipped on our heads, and took our station at the church-door,
as if we had just come down from the gallery, and had been waiting for
him. Instead, however, of appearing at the church-door, he walked up the
street, and desired us to follow him to the boat. The fact was, he had
been in the back-room at the pastry-cook's watching our motions through
the green blinds. We had no suspicion, but thought that he had come out
of church a little sooner than usual. When we arrived on board and
followed him up the side, he said to us as we came on deck,--"Walk aft,
young gentlemen." We did; and he desired us to "toe a line," which means
to stand in a row. "Now, Mr Dixon," said he, "what was the text to-day?"
As he very often asked us that question, we always left one in the
church until the text was given out, who brought it to us in the
pastry-cook's shop, when we all marked it in our Bibles, to be ready if
he asked us. Dixon immediately pulled out his Bible where he had marked
down the leaf, and read it. "O! that was it," said Mr Falcon; "you must
have remarkably good ears, Mr Dixon, to have heard the clergyman from
the pastry-cook's shop. Now, gentlemen, hats off, if you please." We all
slided off our hats, which, as he expected, were full of pastry.
"Really, gentlemen," said he, feeling the different papers of pastry and
sweetmeats, "I am quite delighted to perceive that you have not been to
church for nothing. Few come away with so many good things pressed upon
their seat of memory. Master-at-arms, send all the ship's boys aft."
The boys all came tumbling up the ladders, and the first lieutenant
desired each of them to take a seat upon the carronade slides. When they
were all stationed, he ordered us to go round with our hats, and request
of each his acceptance of a tart, which we were obliged to do, handing
first to one and then to another, until the hats were all empty. What
annoyed me more than all, was the grinning of the boys at their being
served by us like foot-men, as well as the ridicule and laughter of the
whole ship's company, who had assembled at the gangways.
When all the pastry was devoured, the first lieutenant said,
"There, gentlemen, now that you have had your lesson for the day, you
may go below." We could not help laughing ourselves, when we went down
into the berth; Mr Falcon always punished us good-humouredly, and, in
some way or other, his punishments were severally connected with the
description of the offence. He always had a remedy for every thing that
he disapproved of, and the ship's company used to call him "Remedy
Jack." I ought to observe that some of my messmates were very severe
upon the ship's boys after that circumstance, always giving them a kick
or a cuff on the head whenever they could, telling them at the same
time, "There's another tart for you, you whelp." I believe, if the boys
had known what was in reserve for them, they would much rather have left
the pastry alone.
A pressgang; beaten off by one woman--Dangers at Spithead and Point--A
treat for both parties, of _pulled chicken_, at my expense--Also gin
for twenty--I am made a prisoner: escape and rejoin my ship.
I must now relate what occurred to me a few days before the ship sailed,
which will prove that it is not necessary to encounter the winds and
waves, or the cannon of the enemy, to be in danger, when you have
entered his Majesty's service: on the contrary, I have been in action
since, and I declare, without hesitation, that I did not feel so much
alarm on that occasion, as I did on the one of which I am about to give
the history. We were reported ready for sea, and the Admiralty was
anxious that we should proceed. The only obstacle to our sailing was,
that we had not yet completed our complement of men. The captain applied
to the port-admiral, and obtained permission to send parties on shore to
impress seamen. The second and third lieutenants, and the oldest
midshipman, were despatched on shore every night, with some of the most
trustworthy men, and generally brought on board in the morning about
half a dozen men, whom they had picked up in the different alehouses, or
grog-shops, as the sailors call them. Some of them were retained, but
most of them sent on shore as unserviceable; for it is the custom, when
a man either enters or is impressed, to send him down to the surgeon in
the cockpit, where he is stripped and examined all over, to see if he be
sound and fit for his majesty's service; and if not, he is sent on shore
again. Impressing appeared to be rather serious work, as far as I could
judge from the accounts which I heard, and from the way in which our
sailors, who were employed on the service, were occasionally beaten and
wounded; the seamen who were impressed appearing to fight as hard not to
be forced into the service, as they did for the honour of the country,
after they were fairly embarked in it. I had a great wish to be one of
the party before the ship sailed, and asked O'Brien, who was very kind
to me in general, and allowed nobody to thrash me but himself, if he
would take me with him, which he did on the night after I had made the
request. I put on my dirk, that they might know I was an officer, as
well as for my protection. About dusk we rowed on shore, and landed on
the Gosport side: the men were all armed with cutlasses, and wore pea
jackets, which are very short great-coats made of what they call
Flushing. We did not stop to look at any of the grog-shops in the town,
as it was too early, but walked out about three miles in the suburbs,
and went to a house, the door of which was locked, but we forced it open
in a minute, and hastened to enter the passage, where we found the
landlady standing to defend the entrance. The passage was long and
narrow, and she was a very tall corpulent woman, so that her body nearly
filled it up, and in her hands she held a long spit pointed at us, with
which she kept us at bay. The officers, who were the foremost, did not
like to attack a woman, and she made such drives at them with her spit,
that had they not retreated, some of them would soon have been ready for
roasting. The sailors laughed and stood outside, leaving the officers to
settle the business how they could. At last, the landlady called out to
her husband, "Be they all out, Jem?" "Yes," replied the husband, "they
be all safe gone." "Well, then," replied she, "I'll soon have all these
gone too;" and with these words she made such a rush forward upon us
with her spit, that had we not fallen back and tumbled one over another,
she certainly would have run it through the second lieutenant, who
commanded the party. The passage was cleared in an instant, and as soon
as we were all in the street she bolted us out: so there we were, three
officers and fifteen armed men, fairly beat off by a fat old woman; the
sailors who had been drinking in the house having made their escape to
some other place. But I do not well see how it could be otherwise;
either we must have killed or wounded the woman, or she would have run
us through, she was so resolute. Had her husband been in the passage, he
would have been settled in a very short time; but what can you do with a
woman who fights like a devil, and yet claims all the rights and
immunities of the softer sex? We all walked away, looking very foolish;
and O'Brien observed that the next time he called at that house he would
weather the old cat, for he would take her ladyship in the rear.
We then called at other houses, where we picked up one or two men, but
most of them escaped, by getting out at the windows or the back doors,
as we entered the front. Now there was a grog-shop which was a very
favourite rendezvous of the seamen belonging to the merchant vessels,
and to which they were accustomed to retreat when they heard that the
pressgangs were out. Our officers were aware of this, and were therefore
indifferent as to the escape of the men, as they knew that they would
all go to that place, and confide in their numbers for beating us off.
As it was then one o'clock, they thought it time to go there; we
proceeded without any noise, but they had people on the look-out, and as
soon as we turned the corner of the lane the alarm was given. I was
afraid that they would all run away, and we should lose them; but, on
the contrary, they mustered very strong on that night, and had resolved
to "give fight." The men remained in the house, but an advanced guard of
about thirty of their wives saluted us with a shower of stones and mud.
Some of our sailors were hurt, but they did not appear to mind what the
women did. They rushed on, and then they were attacked by the women with
their fists and nails. Notwithstanding this, the sailors only laughed,
pushing the women on one side, and saying, "Be quiet, Poll;"--"Don't be
foolish, Molly;"--"Out of the way, Sukey; we a'n't come to take away
your fancy man;" with expressions of that sort, although the blood
trickled down many of their faces, from the way in which they had been
clawed. Thus we attempted to force our way through them, but I had a
very narrow escape even in this instance. A woman seized me by the arm,
and pulled me towards her; had it not been for one of the
quarter-masters I should have been separated from my party; but, just as
they dragged me away, she caught hold of me by the leg, and stopped
them. "Clap on here, Peg," cried the woman to another, "and let's have
this little midshipmite; I wants a baby to dry nurse." Two more women
came to her assistance, catching hold of my other arm, and they would
have dragged me out of the grasp of the quarter-master, had he not
called out for more help on his side, upon which two of the seamen laid
hold of my other leg, and there was such a tussle (all at my expense),
such pulling and hauling; sometimes the women gained an inch or two of
me, then the sailors got it back again. At one moment I thought it was
all over with me, and in the next I was with my own men. "Pull devil;
pull baker!" cried the women, and then they laughed, although I did not,
I can assure you, for I really think that I was pulled out an inch
taller, and my knees and shoulders pained me very much indeed. At last
the women laughed so much that they could not hold on, so I was dragged
into the middle of our own sailors, where I took care to remain; and,
after a little more squeezing and fighting, was carried by the crowd
into the house. The seamen of the merchant ships had armed themselves
with bludgeons and other weapons, and had taken a position on the
tables. They were more than two to one against us, and there was a
dreadful fight, as their resistance was very desperate. Our sailors were
obliged to use their cutlasses, and for a few minutes I was quite
bewildered with the shouting and swearing, pushing and scuffling,
collaring and fighting, together with the dust raised up, which not only
blinded, but nearly choked me. By the time that my breath was nearly
squeezed out of my body, our sailors got the best of it, which the
landlady and women of the house perceiving, they put out all the lights,
so that I could not tell where I was; but our sailors had every one
seized his man, and contrived to haul him out of the street door, where
they were collected together, and secured.
Now again I was in great difficulty; I had been knocked down and trod
upon, and when I did contrive to get up again, I did not know the
direction in which the door lay. I felt about by the wall, and at last
came to a door, for the room was at that time nearly empty, the women
having followed the men out of the house. I opened it, and found that it
was not the right one, but led into a little side parlour, where there
was a fire, but no lights. I had just discovered my mistake, and was
about to retreat, when I was shoved in from behind, and the key turned
upon me: there I was all alone, and, I must acknowledge, very much
frightened, as I thought that the vengeance of the women would be
wreaked upon me. I considered that my death was certain, and that, like
the man Orpheus I had read of in my books, I should be torn to pieces by
these Bacchanals. However, I reflected that I was an officer in his
Majesty's service, and that it was my duty, if necessary, to sacrifice
my life for my king and country. I thought of my poor mother; but as it
made me unhappy, I tried to forget her, and call to my memory all I had
read of the fortitude and courage of various brave men, when death
stared them in the face. I peeped through the key-hole, and perceived
that the candles were re-lighted, and that there were only women in the
room, who were talking all at once, and not thinking about me. But in a
minute or two, a woman came in from the street, with her long black hair
hanging about her shoulders, and her cap in her hand. "Well," cried she,
"they've nabbed my husband; but I'll be dished if I hav'n't boxed up the
midshipmite in that parlour, and he shall take his place." I thought I
should have died when I looked at the woman, and perceived her coming up
to the door, followed by some others, to unlock it. As the door opened,
I drew my dirk, resolving to die like an officer, and as they advanced I
retreated to a corner, brandishing my dirk, without saying a word.
"Vell," cried the woman who had made me a prisoner, "I do declare I
likes to see a puddle in a storm--only look at the little
biscuit-nibbler showing fight! Come, my lovey, you belongs to me."
"Never!" exclaimed I with indignation. "Keep off, I shall do you
mischief" (and I raised my dirk in advance); "I am an officer and a
"Sall," cried the odious woman, "fetch a mop and a pail of dirty water,
and I'll trundle that dirk out of his fist."
"No, no," replied another rather good-looking young woman, "leave him to
me--don't hurt him--he really is a very nice little man. What's your
name, my dear?"
"Peter Simple is my name," replied I; "and I am a king's officer, so be
careful what you are about."
"Don't be afraid, Peter, nobody shall hurt you; but you must not draw
your dirk before ladies, that's not like an officer and a gentleman--so
put up your dirk, that's a good boy."
"I will not," replied I, "unless you promise me that I shall go away
"I do promise you that you shall, upon my word, Peter--upon my honour--
will that content you?"
"Yes," replied I, "if every one else will promise the same."
"Upon our honours," they all cried together; upon which I was satisfied,
and putting my dirk into its sheath, was about to quit the room.
"Stop, Peter," said the young woman who had taken my part; "I must have
a kiss before you go." "And so must I; and so must we all," cried the
I was very much shocked, and attempted to draw my dirk again, but they
had closed in with me, and prevented me. "Recollect your honour," cried
I to the young woman, as I struggled.
"My honour!--Lord bless you, Peter, the less we say about that the
"But you promised that I should go away quietly," said I, appealing to
"Well, and so you shall; but recollect, Peter, that you are an officer
and a gentleman--you surely would not be so shabby as to go away without
treating us. What money have you got in your pocket?" and, without
giving me time to answer, she felt in my pocket, and pulled out my
purse, which she opened. "Why, Peter, you are as rich as a Jew," said
she, as they counted thirty shillings on the table. "Now, what shall we
"Anything you please," said I, "provided that you will let me go."
"Well, then, it shall be a gallon of gin. Sall, call Mrs Flanagan. Mrs
Flanagan, we want a gallon of gin, and clean glasses."
Mrs Flanagan received the major part of my money, and in a minute
returned with the gin and wine-glasses.
"Now, Peter, my cove, let's all draw round the table, and make ourselves
"O no," replied I, "take my money, drink the gin, but pray let me go;"
but they wouldn't listen to me. Then I was obliged to sit down with
them, the gin was poured out, and they made me drink a glass, which
nearly choked me. It had, however, one good effect, it gave me courage,
and in a minute or two, I felt as if I could fight them all. The door of
the room was on the same side as the fire-place, and I perceived that
the poker was between the bars, and red hot. I complained that I was
cold, although I was in a burning fever; and they allowed me to get up
to warm my hands. As soon as I reached the fire-place, I snatched out
the red-hot poker, and, brandishing it over my head, made for the door.
They all jumped up to detain me, but I made a poke at the foremost,
which made her run back with a shriek, (I do believe that I burnt her
nose.) I seized my opportunity, and escaped into the street, whirling
the poker round my head, while all the women followed, hooting and
shouting after me. I never stopped running and whirling my poker until I
was reeking with perspiration, and the poker was quite cold. Then I
looked back, and found that I was alone. It was very dark; every house
was shut up, and not a light to be seen anywhere. I stopped at the
corner, not knowing where I was, or what I was to do. I felt very
miserable indeed, and was reflecting on my wisest plan, when who should
turn the corner, but one of the quarter-masters who had been left on
shore by accident. I knew him by his pea-jacket and straw hat to be one
of our men, and I was delighted to see him. I told him what had
happened, and he replied that he was going to a house where the people
knew him and would let him in. When we arrived there, the people of the
house were very civil; the landlady made us some purl, which the
quarter-master ordered, and which I thought very good indeed. After we
had finished the jug, we both fell asleep in our chairs. I did not
awaken until I was roused by the quarter-master, at past seven o'clock,
when we took a wherry, and went off to the ship.
O'Brien takes me under his protection--The ship's company are paid, so
are the bumboat-women, the Jews, and the emancipationist after a
fashion--We go to sea--_Doctor_ O'Brien's cure for sea-sickness--One
pill of the doctor's more than a dose.
When we arrived, I reported myself to the first lieutenant, and told him
the whole story of the manner in which I had been treated, showing him
the poker, which I brought on board with me. He heard me very patiently,
and then said, "Well, Mr Simple, you may be the greatest fool of your
family for all I know to the contrary, but never pretend to be a fool
with me. That poker proves the contrary: and if your wit can serve you
upon your own emergency, I expect that it will be employed for the
benefit of the service." He then sent for O'Brien, and gave him a
lecture for allowing me to go with the pressgang, pointing out, what was
very true, that I could have been of no service, and might have met with
a serious accident. I went down on the main deck, and O'Brien came to
me. "Peter," said he, "I have been jawed for letting you go, so it is
but fair that you should be thrashed for having asked me." I wished to
argue the point, but he cut all argument short, by kicking me down the
hatchway; and thus ended my zealous attempt to procure seamen for his
At last the frigate was full manned; and, as we had received drafts of
men from other ships, we were ordered to be paid previously to our going
to sea. The people on shore always find out when a ship is to be paid,
and very early in the morning we were surrounded with wherries, laden
with Jews and other people, some requesting admittance to sell their
goods, others to get paid for what they had allowed the sailors to take
up upon credit. But the first lieutenant would not allow any of them to
come on board until after the ship was paid; although they were so
urgent that he was forced to place sentries in the chains with cold
shot, to stave the boats if they came alongside. I was standing at the
gangway, looking at the crowd of boats, when a black-looking fellow in
one of the wherries said to me, "I say, sir, let me slip in at the port,
and I have a very nice present to make you;" and he displayed a gold
seal, which he held up to me. I immediately ordered the sentry to keep
him further off, for I was very much affronted at his supposing me
capable of being bribed to disobey my orders. About eleven o'clock the
dockyard boat, with all the pay-clerks, and the cashier, with his chest
of money, came on board, and was shown into the fore-cabin, where the
captain attended the pay-table. The men were called in, one by one, and,
as the amount of the wages due had been previously calculated, they were
paid; very fast. The money was always received in their hats, after it
had been counted out in the presence of the officers and captain.
Outside the cabin door there stood a tall man in black, with hair
straight combed, who had obtained an order from the Port Admiral to be
permitted to come on board. He attacked every sailor as he came out;
with his money in his hat, for a subscription to emancipate the slaves
in the West Indies; but the sailors would not give him anything,
swearing that the niggers were better off than they were; for they did
not work harder by day, and had no watch and watch to keep during the
night. "Sarvitude is sarvitude all over the world, my old psalmsinger,"
replied one. "They sarve their masters, as in duty bound; we sarve the
king, 'cause he can't do without us--and he never axes our leave, but
"Yes," replied the straight-haired gentleman; "but slavery is a very
"Can't say that I see any difference; do you, Bill?"
"Not I: and I suppose as if they didn't like it they'd run away."
"Run away! poor creatures," said the black gentleman. "Why, if they did,
they would be flogged."
"Flogged--heh; well, and if we run away we are to be hanged. The
nigger's better off nor we: ar'n't he, Tom?" Then the purser's steward
came out: he was what they call a bit of a lawyer,--that is, had
received more education than the seamen in general.
"I trust, sir," said the man in black, "that you will contribute
"Not I, my hearty: I owe every farthing of my money, and more too, I'm
"Still, sir, a small trifle."
"Why, what an infernal rascal you must be, to ask a man to give away
what is not his own property! Did I not tell you that I owed it all?
There's an old proverb--be just before you're generous. Now, it's my
opinion that, you are a methodistical, good-for-nothing blackguard; and
if any one is such a fool as to give you money, you will keep it for
When the man found that he could obtain nothing at the door, he went
down on the lower deck, in which he did not act very wisely; for now
that the men were paid, the boats were permitted to come alongside, and
so much spirits were smuggled in, that most of the seamen were more or
less intoxicated. As soon as he went below, he commenced distributing
prints of a black man kneeling in chains, and saying, "Am not I your
brother?" Some of the men laughed, and swore that they would paste their
brother up in the mess, to say prayers for the ship's company; but
others were very angry, and abused him. At last, one man, who was tipsy,
came up to him. "Do you pretend for to insinivate that this crying black
thief is my brother?"
"To be sure I do," replied the methodist.
"Then take that for your infernal lie," said the sailor, hitting him in
the face right and left, and knocking the man down into the cable tier,
from whence he climbed up, and made his escape out of the frigate as
soon as he was able.
The ship was now in a state of confusion and uproar; there were Jews
trying to sell clothes, or to obtain money for clothes which they had
sold; bumboat-men and bumboat-women showing their long bills, and
demanding or coaxing for payment; other people from the shore, with
hundreds of small debts; and the sailors' wives, sticking close to them,
and disputing every bill presented, as an extortion or a robbery. There
was such bawling and threatening, laughing and crying--for the women
were all to quit the ship before sunset--at one moment a Jew was upset,
and all his hamper of clothes tossed into the hold; at another, a sailor
was seen hunting everywhere for a Jew who had cheated him,--all
squabbling or skylarking, and many of them very drunk. It appeared to me
that the sailors had rather a difficult point to settle. They had three
claimants upon them, the Jew for clothes, the bumboat-men for their mess
in harbour, and their wives for their support during their absence; and
the money which they received was, generally speaking, not more than
sufficient to meet one of the demands. As it may be supposed, the women
had the best of it; the others were paid a trifle, and promised the
remainder when they came back from their cruise; and although, as the
case stood then, it might appear that two of the parties were ill-used,
yet in the long run they were more than indemnified, for their charges
were so extravagant, that if one-third of their bills were paid, there
would still remain a profit. About five o'clock the orders were given
for the ship to be cleared. All disputed points were settled by the
sergeant of marines with a party, who divided their antagonists from the
Jews; and every description of persons not belonging to the ship,
whether male or female, was dismissed over the side. The hammocks were
piped down, those who were intoxicated were put to bed, and the ship was
once more quiet. Nobody was punished for having been tipsy, as pay-day
is considered, on board a man-of-war, as the winding-up of all incorrect
behaviour, and from that day the sailors turn over a new leaf; for,
although some latitude is permitted, and the seamen are seldom flogged
in harbour, yet the moment that the anchor is at the bows, strict
discipline is exacted, and intoxication must no longer hope to be
The next day everything was prepared for sea, and no leave was permitted
to the officers. Stock of every kind was brought on board, and the large
boats hoisted and secured. On the morning after, at daylight, a signal
from the flag-ship in harbour was made for us to unmoor; our orders had
come down to cruise in the Bay of Biscay. The captain came on board, the
anchor weighed, and we ran through the Needles with a fine N.E. breeze.
I admired the scenery of the Isle of Wight, looked with admiration at
Alum Bay, was astonished at the Needle rocks, and then felt so very ill
that I went down below. What occurred for the next six days I cannot
tell. I thought that I should die every moment, and lay in my hammock or
on the chests for the whole of that time, incapable of eating, drinking,
or walking about. O'Brien came to me on the seventh morning, and said,
that if I did not exert myself I never should get well; that he was very
fond of me and had taken me under his protection, and, to prove his
regard, he would do for me what he would not take the trouble to do for
any other youngster in the ship, which was, to give me a good basting,
which was a sovereign remedy for sea-sickness. He suited the action to
the word, and drubbed me on the ribs without mercy, until I thought the
breath was out of my body, and then he took out a rope's end and
thrashed me until I obeyed his orders to go on deck immediately. Before
he came to me, I could never have believed it possible that I could have
obeyed him; but somehow or other I did contrive to crawl up the ladder
to the main-deck, where I sat down on the shot-racks and cried bitterly.
What would I have given to have been at home again! It was not my fault
that I was the greatest fool in the family, yet how was I punished for
it! If this was kindness from O'Brien, what had I to expect from those
who were not partial to me? But, by degrees, I recovered myself, and
certainly felt a great deal better, and that night I slept very soundly.
The next morning O'Brien came to me again. "It's a nasty slow fever,
that sea-sickness, my Peter, and we must drive it out of you;" and then
he commenced a repetition of yesterday's remedy until I was almost a
jelly. Whether the fear of being thrashed drove away my sea-sickness, or
whatever might be the real cause of it, I do not know, but this is
certain, that I felt no more of it after the second beating, and the
next morning when I awoke I was very hungry. I hastened to dress myself
before O'Brien came to me, and did not see him until we met at
"Pater," said he, "let me feel your pulse."
"Oh no!" replied I, "indeed I'm quite well."
"Quite well! Can you eat biscuit and salt butter?"
"Yes, I can."
"And a piece of fat pork?"
"Yes, that I can."
"It's thanks to me then, Pater," replied he; "so you'll have no more of
my medicine until you fall sick again."
"I hope not," replied I, "for it was not very pleasant."
"Pleasant! you simple Simple, when did you ever hear of physic being
pleasant, unless a man prescribe for himself? I suppose you'd be after
lollipops for the yellow fever. Live and larn, boy, and thank Heaven
that you've found somebody who loves you well enough to baste you when
it's good for your health."
I replied, "that I certainly hoped that much as I felt obliged to him, I
should not require any more proofs of his regard."
"Any more such _striking_ proofs, you mean, Pater; but let me tell you
that they were sincere proofs, for since you've been ill I've been
eating your pork and drinking your grog, which latter can't be too
plentiful in the Bay of Biscay. And now that I've cured you, you'll be
tucking all that into your own little breadbasket, so that I'm no
gainer, and I think that you may be convinced that you never had or will
have two more disinterested thumpings in all your born days. However,
you're very welcome, so say no more about it."
I held my tongue and ate a very hearty breakfast. From that day I
returned to my duty, and was put into the same watch with O'Brien, who
spoke to the first lieutenant, and told him that he had taken me under
New theory of Mr Muddle remarkable for having no end to it--Novel
practice of Mr Chucks--O'Brien commences his history--There were giants
in those days--I bring up the master's _night-glass_.
As I have already mentioned sufficient of the captain and the first
lieutenant to enable the reader to gain an insight into their
characters, I shall now mention two very odd personages who were my
shipmates, the carpenter and the boatswain. The carpenter, whose name
was Muddle, used to go by the appellation of Philosopher Chips, not that
he followed any particular school, but had formed a theory of his own,
from which he was not to be dissuaded. This was, that the universe had
its cycle of events turned round, so that in a certain period of time
everything was to happen over again. I never could make him explain upon
what data his calculations were founded; he said, that if he explained
it, I was too young to comprehend it; but the fact was this, "that in
27,672 years everything that was going on now would be going on again,
with the same people as were existing at this present time." He very
seldom ventured to make the remark to Captain Savage, but to the first
lieutenant he did very often. "I've been as close to it as possible,
sir, I do assure you, although you find fault; but 27,672 years ago you
were first lieutenant of this ship, and I was carpenter, although we
recollect nothing about it; and 27,672 years hence we shall both be
standing by this boat, talking about the repairs, as we are now."
"I do not doubt it, Mr Muddle," replied the first lieutenant; "I dare
say that it is all very true, but the repairs must be finished this
night, and 27,672 years hence you will have the order just as positive
as you have it now, so let it be done."
This theory made him very indifferent as to danger, or indeed as to
anything. It was of no consequence, the affair took its station in the
course of time. It had happened at the above period, and would happen
again. Fate was fate. But the boatswain was a more amusing personage. He
was considered to be the _taughtest_ (that is, the most active and
severe) boatswain in the service. He went by the name of "Gentleman
Chucks"--the latter was his surname. He appeared to have received half
an education; sometimes his language was for a few sentences remarkably
well chosen, but, all of a sudden, he would break down at a hard word;
but I shall be able to let the reader into more of his history as I go
on with my adventures. He had a very handsome person, inclined to be
stout, keen eyes, and hair curling in ringlets. He held his head up, and
strutted as he walked. He declared "that an officer should look like an
officer, and _comport_ himself accordingly." In his person he was very
clean, wore rings on his great fingers, and a large frill to his bosom,
which stuck out like the back fin of a perch, and the collar of his
shirt was always pulled up to a level with his cheek-bones. He never
appeared on deck without his "persuader," which was three rattans
twisted into one, like a cable; sometimes he called it his Order of the
Bath, or his Tri_o_ junct_o_ in Uno; and this persuader was seldom idle.
He attempted to be very polite, even when addressing the common seamen,
and, certainly, he always commenced his observations to them in a very
gracious manner, but, as he continued, he became less choice in his
phraseology. O'Brien said that his speeches were like the Sin of the
poet, very fair at the upper part of them, but shocking at the lower
extremities. As a specimen of them, he would say to the man on the
forecastle, "Allow me to observe, my dear man, in the most delicate way
in the world, that you are spilling that tar upon the deck--a deck, sir,
if I may venture to make the observation, I had the duty of seeing
holystoned this morning. You understand me, sir, you have defiled his
majesty's forecastle. I must do my duty, sir, if you neglect yours; so
take that--and that--and that--(thrashing the man with his rattan)--you
d--d hay-making son of a sea-cook. Do it again, d--n your eyes, and I'll
cut your liver out."
I remember one of the ship's boys going forward with a kid of dirty
water to empty in the head, without putting his hand up to his hat as he
passed the boatswain. "Stop, my little friend," said the boatswain,
pulling out his frill, and raising up both sides of his shirt-collar.
"Are you aware, sir, of my rank and station in society?"
"Yes, sir," replied the boy, trembling, and eyeing the rattan.
"Oh, you are!" replied Mr Chucks. "Had you not been aware of it, I
should have considered a gentle correction necessary, that you might
have avoided such an error in future; but, as you _were_ aware of it,
why then, d--n you, you have no excuse, so take that--and that--you
yelping, half-starved abortion. I really beg your pardon, Mr Simple,"
said he to me, as the boy went howling forward, for I was walking with
him at the time; "but really the service makes brutes of us all. It is
hard to sacrifice our health, our night's rest, and our comforts; but
still more so, that in my responsible situation, I am obliged too often
to sacrifice my gentility."
The master was the officer who had charge of the watch to which I was
stationed; he was a very rough sailor, who had been brought up in the
merchant service, not much of a gentleman in his appearance, very
good-tempered, and very fond of grog. He always quarrelled with the
boatswain, and declared that the service was going to the devil, now
that warrant officers put on white shirts, and wore frills to them. But
the boatswain did not care for him; he knew his duty, he did his duty,
and if the captain was satisfied, he said, that the whole ship's company
might grumble. As for the master, he said, the man was very well, but
having been brought up in a collier, he could not be expected to be very
refined; in fact, he observed, pulling up his shirt-collar--"it was
impossible to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." The master was very
kind to me, and used to send me down to my hammock before my watch was
half over. Until that time, I walked the deck with O'Brien, who was a
very pleasant companion, and taught me everything that he could,
connected with my profession. One night, when he had the middle watch, I
told him I should like very much if he would give me the history of his
life. "That I will, my honey," replied he, "all that I can remember of
it, though I have no doubt but that I've forgotten the best part of it.
It's now within five minutes of two bells, so we'll heave the log and
mark the board, and then I'll spin you a yarn, which will keep us both
from going to sleep." O'Brien reported the rate of sailing to the
master, marked it down on the log-board, and then returned.
"So now, my boy, I'll come to an anchor on the topsail halyard rack, and
you may squeeze your thread-paper little carcass under my lee, and then
I'll tell you all about it. First and foremost, you must know that I am
descended from the great O'Brien Borru, who was king in his time, as the
great Fingal was before him. Of course you've heard of Fingal?"
"I can't say that I ever did," replied I.
"Never heard of Fingal!--murder! Where must you have been all your life?
Well, then, to give you some notion of Fingal, I will first tell you how
Fingal bothered the great Scotch giant, and then I'll go on with my own
story. Fingal, you must know, was a giant himself, and no fool of one,
and any one that affronted him was as sure of a bating, as I am to keep
the middle watch to-night. But there was a giant in Scotland as tall as
the mainmast, more or less, as we say when we a'n't quite sure, as it
saves telling more lies than there's occasion for. Well, this Scotch
giant heard of Fingal, and how he had beaten everybody, and he said,
'Who is this Fingal? By Jasus,' says he in Scotch, 'I'll just walk over
and see what he's made of.' So he walked across the Irish Channel, and
landed within half-a-mile of Belfast, but whether he was out of his
depth or not I can't tell, although I suspect that he was not
dry-footed. When Fingal heard that this great chap was coming over, he
was in a devil of a fright, for they told him that the Scotchman was
taller by a few feet or so. Giants, you know, measure by feet, and don't
bother themselves about the inches, as we little devils are obliged to
do. So Fingal kept a sharp look-out for the Scotchman, and one fine
morning, there he was, sure enough, coming up the hill to Fingal's
house. If Fingal was afraid before, he had more reason to be afraid when
he saw the fellow, for he looked for all the world like the Monument
upon a voyage of discovery. So Fingal ran into his house, and called to
his wife Shaya, 'My vourneen,' says he, 'be quick now; there's that big
bully of a Scotchman coming up the hill. Kiver me up with the blankets,
and if he asks who is in bed, tell him it's the child.' So Fingal laid
down on the bed, and his wife had just time to cover him up, when in
comes the Scotchman, and though he stooped low, he broke his head
against the portal. 'Where's that baste Fingal?' says he, rubbing his
forehead; 'show him to me, that I may give him a bating.' 'Whisht,
whisht!' cries Shaya, 'you'll wake the babby, and then him that you talk
of bating will be the death of you, if he comes in.' 'Is that the
babby?' cried the Scotchman with surprise, looking at the great carcass
muffled up in the blankets. 'Sure it is,' replied Shaya, 'and Fingal's
babby too; so don't you wake him, or Fingal will twist your neck in a
minute.' 'By the cross of St Andrew,' replied the giant, 'then it's time
for me to be off; for if that's his babby, I'll be but a mouthful to the
fellow himself. Good morning to ye.' So the Scotch giant ran out of the
house, and never stopped to eat or drink until he got back to his own
hills, foreby he was nearly drowned in having mistaken his passage
across the Channel in his great hurry. Then Fingal got up and laughed,
as well he might, at his own 'cuteness; and so ends my story about
Fingal. And now I'll begin about myself. As I said before, I am
descended from the great O'Brien, who was a king in his time, but that
time's past. I suppose, as the world turns round, my children's
children's posterity may be kings again, although there seems but little
chance of it just now; but there's ups and downs on a grand scale, as
well as in a man's own history, and the wheel of fortune keeps turning
for the comfort of those who are at the lowest spoke, as I may be just
now. To cut the story a little shorter, I skip down to my
great-grandfather, who lived like a real gentleman, as he was, upon his
ten thousand a year. At last he died, and eight thousand of the ten was
buried with him. My grandfather followed his father all in good course
of time, and only left my father about one hundred acres of bog, to keep
up the dignity of the family. I am the youngest of ten, and devil a
copper have I but my pay, or am I likely to have. You may talk about
_descent_, but a more _descending_ family than mine was never in
existence, for here am I with twenty-five pounds a-year, and a half-pay
of 'nothing a day, and find myself,' when my great ancestor did just
what he pleased with all Ireland, and everybody in it. But this is all
nothing, except to prove satisfactorily that I am not worth a
skillagalee, and that is the reason which induces me to condescend to
serve his Majesty. Father M'Grath, the priest, who lived with my father,
taught me the elements, as they call them. I thought I had enough of the
elements then, but I've seen a deal more of them since. 'Terence,' says
my father to me one day, 'what do you mane to do?' 'To get my dinner,
sure,' replied I, for I was not a little hungry. 'And so you shall
to-day, my vourneen,' replied my father, 'but in future you must do
something to get your own dinner: there's not praties enow for the whole
of ye. Will you go to the _say_?' 'I'll just step down and look at it,'
says I, for we lived but sixteen Irish miles from the coast; so when I
had finished my meal, which did not take long, for want of ammunition, I
trotted down to the Cove to see what a ship might be like, and I
happened upon a large one sure enough, for there lay a three-decker with
an admiral's flag at the fore. 'May be you'll be so civil as to tell me
what ship that is,' said I to a sailor on the pier. 'It's the Queen
Charlotte,' replied he, 'of one hundred and twenty guns.' Now when I
looked at her size, and compared her with all the little smacks and hoys
lying about her, I very naturally asked how old she was; he replied,
that she was no more than three years old. 'But three years old!'
thought I to myself, 'it's a fine vessel you'll be when you'll come of
age, if you grow at that rate: you'll be as tall as the top of
Bencrow,'(that's a mountain we have in our parts). You see, Peter, I was
a fool at that time, just as you are now; but by-and-by, when you've had
as many thrashings as I have had, you may chance to be as clever. I went
back to my father, and told him all I had seen, and he replied, that if
I liked it I might be a midshipman on board of her, with nine hundred
men under my command. He forgot to say how many I should have over me,
but I found that out afterwards. I agreed, and my father ordered his
pony and went to the lord-lieutenant, for he had interest enough for
that. The lord-lieutenant spoke to the admiral, who was staying at the
palace, and I was ordered on board as midshipman. My father fitted me
out pretty handsomely, telling all the tradesmen that their bills should
be paid with my first prize-money, and thus, by promises and blarney, he
got credit for all I wanted. At last all was ready: Father M'Grath gave
me his blessing, and told me that if I died like an O'Brien, he would
say a power of masses for the good of my soul. 'May you never have the
trouble, sir,' said I. 'Och, trouble! a pleasure, my dear boy,' replied
he, for he was a very polite man; so off I went with my big chest, not
quite so full as it ought to have been, for my mother cribbed one half
of my stock for my brothers and sisters. 'I hope to be back again soon,
father,' said I as I took my leave. 'I hope not, my dear boy,' replied
he: 'a'n't you provided for, and what more would you have?' So, after a
deal of bother, I was fairly on board, and I parted company with my
chest, for I stayed on deck, and that went down below. I stared about
with all my eyes for some time, when who should be coming off but the
captain, and the officers were ordered on deck to receive him. I wanted
to have a quiet survey of him, so I took up my station on one of the
guns, that I might examine him at my leisure. The boatswain whistled,
the marines presented arms, and the officers all took off their hats as
the captain came on the deck, and then the guard was dismissed, and they
all walked about the deck as before; but I found it very pleasant to be
astride on the gun, so I remained where I was. 'What do you mane by
that, you big young scoundrel?' says he, when he saw me. 'It's nothing
at all I mane,' replied I; 'but what do you mane by calling an O'Brien a
scoundrel?' 'Who is he?' said the captain to the first lieutenant. 'Mr
O'Brien, who joined the ship about an hour since.' 'Don't you know
better than to sit upon a gun?' said the captain. 'To be sure I do,'
replied I, 'when there's anything better to sit upon.' 'He knows no
better, sir,' observed the first lieutenant. 'Then he must be taught,'
replied the captain. 'Mr O'Brien, since you have perched yourself on
that gun to please yourself, you will now continue there for two hours
to please me. Do you understand, sir?--you'll ride on that gun for two
hours.' 'I understand, sir,' replied I; 'but I am afraid that he won't
move without spurs, although there's plenty of _metal_ in him.' The
captain turned away and laughed as he went into his cabin, and all the
officers laughed, and I laughed too, for I perceived no great hardship
in sitting down an hour or two, any more than I do now. Well, I soon
found that, like a young bear, all my troubles were to come. The first
month was nothing but fighting and squabbling with my messmates; they
called me a _raw_ Irishman, and _raw_ I was, sure enough, from the
constant thrashings and coltings I received from those who were bigger
and stronger than myself; but nothing lasts for ever--as they discovered
that whenever they found blows I could find back, they got tired of it,
and left me and my brogue alone. We sailed for the Toolong fleet."
"What fleet?" inquired I.
"Why, the Toolong fleet, so called, I thought, because they remained too
long in harbour, bad luck to them; and then we were off Cape See-see
(devil a bit could we see of them except their mast-heads) for I don't
know how many months. But I forgot to say that I got into another scrape
just before we left harbour. It was my watch when they piped to dinner,
and I took the liberty to run below, as my messmates had a knack of
forgetting absent friends. Well, the captain came on board, and there
were no side boys, no side ropes, and no officers to receive him. He
came on deck foaming with rage, for his dignity was hurt, and he
inquired who was the midshipman of the watch. 'Mr O'Brien,' said they
all. 'Devil a bit,' replied I, 'it was my forenoon watch.' 'Who relieved
you, sir?' said the first lieutenant. 'Devil a soul, sir,' replied I;
'for they were all too busy with their pork and beef.' 'Then why did you
leave the deck without relief?' 'Because, sir, my stomach would have had
but little relief if I had remained.' The captain, who stood by, said,
'Do you see those cross-trees, sir?' 'Is it those little bits of wood
that you mane, on the top there, captain?' 'Yes, sir; now just go up
there, and stay until I call you down. You must be brought to your
senses, young man, or you'll have but little prospect in the service.'
'I've an idea that I'll have plenty of prospect when I get up there,'
replied I, 'but it's all to please you.' So up I went, as I have many a
time since, and as you often will, Peter, just to enjoy the fresh air
and your own pleasant thoughts, all at one and the same time.
"At last I became much more used to the manners and customs of
_say_-going people, and by the time that I had been fourteen months off
Cape See-see, I was considered a very genteel young midshipman, and my
messmates (that is, all that I could thrash, which didn't leave out
many) had a very great respect for me.
"The first time that I put my foot on shore was at Minorca, and then I
put my foot into it (as we say), for I was nearly killed for a heretic,
and only saved by proving myself a true Catholic, which proves that
religion is a great comfort in distress, as Father M'Grath used to say.
Several of us went on shore, and having dined upon a roast turkey,
stuffed with plum-pudding (for everything else was cooked in oil, and we
could not eat it), and having drunk as much wine as would float a
jolly-boat, we ordered donkeys, to take a little equestrian exercise.
Some went off tail on end, some with their hind-quarters uppermost, and
then the riders went off instead of the donkeys; some wouldn't go off at
all; as for mine he would go--and where the devil do you think he went?
Why, into the church where all the people were at mass; the poor brute
was dying with thirst, and smelt water. As soon as he was in,
notwithstanding all my tugging and hauling, he ran his nose into the
holy-water font, and drank it all up. Although I thought, that seeing
how few Christians have any religion, you could not expect much from a
donkey, yet I was very much shocked at the sacrilege, and fearful of the
consequences. Nor was it without reason, for the people in the church
were quite horrified, as well they might be, for the brute drank as much
holy-water as would have purified the whole town of Port Mahon, suburbs
and all to boot. They rose up from their knees and seized me, calling
upon all the saints in the calendar. Although I knew what they meant,
not a word of their lingo could I speak, to plead for my life, and I was
almost torn to pieces before the priest came up. Perceiving the danger I
was in, I wiped my finger across the wet nose of the donkey, crossed
myself, and then went down on my knees to the priests, crying out _Culpa
mea_, as all good Catholics do--though 'twas no fault of mine, as I said
before, for I tried all I could, and tugged at the brute till my
strength was gone. The priests perceived by the manner in which I
crossed myself that I was a good Catholic, and guessed that it was all a
mistake of the donkey's. They ordered the crowd to be quiet, and sent
for an interpreter, when I explained the whole story. They gave me
absolution for what the donkey had done, and after that, as it was very
rare to meet an English officer who was a good Christian, I was in great
favour during my stay at Minorca, and was living in plenty, paying for
nothing, and as happy as a cricket. So the jackass proved a very good
friend, and, to reward him, I hired him every day, and galloped him all
over the island. But, at last, it occurred to me that I had broken my
leave, for I was so happy on shore that I quite forgot that I had only
permission for twenty-four hours, and I should not have remembered it so
soon, had it not been for a party of marines, headed by a sergeant, who
took me by the collar, and dragged me off my donkey. I was taken on
board, and put under an arrest for my misconduct. Now, Peter, I don't
know anything more agreeable than being put under an arrest. Nothing to
do all day but eat and drink, and please yourself, only forbid to appear
on the quarter-deck, the only place that a midshipman wishes to avoid.
Whether it was to punish me more severely, or whether he forgot all
about me, I can't tell, but it was nearly two months before I was sent
for to the cabin; and the captain, with a most terrible frown, said,
that he trusted that my punishment would be a warning to me, and that
now I might return to my duty. 'Plase your honour,' said I, 'I don't
think that I've been punished enough yet.' 'I am glad to find that you
are so penitent, but you are forgiven, so take care that you do not
oblige me to put you again in confinement.' So, as there was no
persuading him, I was obliged to return to my duty again; but I made a
resolution that I would get into another scrape again as soon as I
"Sail on the starboard bow!" cried the look-out man.
"Very well," replied the master; "Mr O'Brien--where's Mr O'Brien?"
"Is it me you mane, sir?" said O'Brien, walking up to the master, for he
had sat down so long in the topsail-halyard rack, that he was wedged in
and could not get out immediately.
"Yes, sir; go forward, and see what that vessel is."
"Aye, aye, sir," said O'Brien. "And Mr Simple," continued the master,
"go down and bring me up my night-glass."