Part 6 out of 12
CHAPTER XLI 96
CHAPTER XLII 105
CHAPTER XLIII 111
CHAPTER XLIV 117
CHAPTER XLV 123
CHAPTER XLVI 128
CHAPTER XLVII 134
CHAPTER XLVIII 140
CHAPTER XLIX 146
CHAPTER L 153
CHAPTER LI 160
CHAPTER LII 169
CHAPTER LIII 175
CHAPTER LIV 180
CHAPTER LV 186
CHAPTER LVI 195
CHAPTER LVII 203
CHAPTER LVIII 209
CHAPTER LIX 217
CHAPTER LX 221
CHAPTER LXI 225
CHAPTER LXII 232
CHAPTER LXIII 238
CHAPTER LXIV 244
CHAPTER LXV 255
_THE THREE CUTTERS_
CHAPTER I 267
CHAPTER II 279
CHAPTER III 287
CHAPTER IV 293
CHAPTER V 302
CHAPTER VI 313
CHAPTER VII 321
Captain Kearney--The dignity ball.
The next morning at daylight we exchanged numbers, and saluted the flag,
and by eight o'clock they all anchored. Mr Falcon went on board the
admiral's ship with despatches, and to report the death of Captain
Savage. In about half an hour he returned, and we were glad to perceive,
with a smile upon his face, from which we argued that he would receive
his acting order as commander, which was a question of some doubt, as
the admiral had the power to give the vacancy to whom he pleased,
although it would not have been fair if he had not given it to Mr
Falcon; not that Mr Falcon would not have received his commission, as
Captain Savage dying when the ship was under no admiral's command, he
_made himself_; but still the admiral might have sent him home, and not
have given him a ship. But this he did, the captain of the _Minerve_
being appointed to the _Sanglier_, the captain of the _Opossum_ to the
_Minerve_, and Captain Falcon taking command of the _Opossum_. He
received his commission that evening, and the next day the exchanges
were made. Captain Falcon would have taken me with him, and offered so
to do; but I could not leave O'Brien, so I preferred remaining in the
We were all anxious to know what sort of a person our new captain was,
whose name was Kearney; but we had no time to ask the midshipmen, except
when they came in charge of the boats which brought his luggage; they
replied generally, that he was a very good sort of fellow, and there was
no harm in him. But when I had the night watch with Swinburne, he came
up to me, and said, "Well, Mr Simple, so we have a new captain. I sailed
with him for two years in a brig."
"And pray, Swinburne, what sort of a person is he?"
"Why, I'll tell you, Mr Simple: he's a good-tempered, kind fellow
"Such a _bouncer_!!"
"How do you mean? He's not a very stout man."
"Bless you, Mr Simple, why you don't understand English. I mean that
he's the greatest liar that ever walked a deck. Now, Mr Simple, you know
I can spin a yarn occasionally."
"Yes, that you can, witness the hurricane the other night."
"Well, Mr Simple, I cannot _hold a candle_ to him. It a'n't that I might
not stretch now and then, just for fun, as far as he can, but, d----n
it, he's always on the stretch. In fact, Mr Simple, he never tells the
truth except _by mistake_. He's as poor as a rat, and has nothing but
his pay; yet to believe him, he is worth at least as much as Greenwich
Hospital. But you'll soon find him out, and he'll sarve to laugh at
behind his back, you know, Mr Simple, for that's _no go_ before his
Captain Kearney made his appearance on board the next day. The men were
mustered to receive him, and all the officers were on the quarter-deck.
"You've a fine set of marines here, Captain Falcon," observed he; "those
I left on board of the _Minerve_ were only fit to be _hung_; and you
have a good show of reefers too--those I left in the _Minerve_ were not
_worth hanging_. If you please, I'll read my commission, if you'll order
the men aft." His commission was read, all hands with their hats off
from respect to the authority from which it proceeded. "Now, my lads,"
said Captain Kearney, addressing the ship's company, "I've but few words
to say to you. I am appointed to command this ship, and you appear to
have a very good character from your late first lieutenant. All I
request of you is this: be smart, keep sober, and always _tell the
truth_--that's enough. Pipe down. Gentlemen," continued he, addressing
the officers, "I trust that we shall be good friends; and I see no
reason that it should be otherwise." He then turned away with a bow, and
called his coxswain--"Williams, you'll go on board, and tell my steward
that I have promised to dine with the governor to-day, and that he must
come to dress me; and, coxswain, recollect to put the sheepskin mat on
the stern gratings of my gig--not the one I used to have when I was on
shore in my _carriage_, but the blue one which was used for the
_chariot_--you know which I mean." I happened to look Swinburne in the
face, who cocked his eye at me, as much as to say--"There he goes." We
afterwards met the officers of the _Minerve_, who corroborated all that
Swinburne had said, although it was quite unnecessary, as we had the
captain's own words every minute to satisfy us of the fact.
Dinner parties were now very numerous, and the hospitality of the island
is but too well known. The invitations extended to the midshipmen, and
many was the good dinner and kind reception which I had during my stay.
There was, however, one thing I had heard so much of, that I was anxious
to witness it, which was a _dignity ball_. But I must enter a little
into explanation, or my readers will not understand me. The coloured
people of Barbadoes, for reasons best known to themselves, are
immoderately proud, and look upon all the negroes who are born on other
islands as _niggers_; they have also an extraordinary idea of their own
bravery, although I never heard that it has ever been put to the proof.
The free Barbadians are, most of them, very rich, and hold up their
heads as they walk with an air quite ridiculous. They ape the manners of
the Europeans, at the same time that they appear to consider them as
almost their inferiors. Now, a _dignity_ ball is a ball given by the
most consequential of their coloured people, and from the amusement and
various other reasons, is generally well attended by the officers both
on shore and afloat. The price of the tickets of admission was high--I
think they were half a joe, or eight dollars each.
The governor sent out cards for a grand ball and supper for the ensuing
week, and Miss Betsy Austin, a quadroon woman, ascertaining the fact,
sent out her cards for the same evening. This was not altogether in
_rivalry_, but for another reason, which was, that she was aware that
most of the officers and midshipmen of the ships would obtain permission
to go to the governor's ball, and, preferring hers, would slip away and
join the party, by which means she ensured a full attendance.
On the day of invitation our captain came on board, and told our new
first lieutenant (of whom I shall say more hereafter) that the governor
insisted that all _his_ officers should go--that he would take no
denial, and, therefore, he presumed, go they must; that the fact was,
that the governor was a _relation_ of his wife, and under some trifling
obligations to him in obtaining for him his present command. He
certainly had spoken to the _prime minister_, and he thought it not
impossible, considering the intimate terms which the minister and he had
been on from childhood, that his solicitation might have had some
effect; at all events, it was pleasant to find that there was some
little gratitude left in this world. After this, of course, every
officer went, with the exception of the master, who said that he'd as
soon have two round turns in his hawse as go to see people kick their
legs about like fools, and that he'd take care of the ship.
The governor's ball was very splendid, but the ladies were rather
sallow, from the effects of the climate. However, there were exceptions,
and on the whole it was a very gay affair; but we were all anxious to go
to the _dignity_ ball of Miss Betsy Austin. I slipped away with three
other midshipmen, and we soon arrived there. A crowd of negroes were
outside of the house; but the ball had not yet commenced, from the want
of gentlemen, the ball being very correct, nothing under mulatto in
colour being admitted. Perhaps I ought to say here, that the progeny of
a white and a negro is a mulatto, or half and half--of a white and
mulatto, a _quadroon_, or one-quarter black, and of this class the
company were chiefly composed. I believe a quadroon and white make the
_mustee_ or one-eighth black, and the mustee and white the mustafina, or
one-sixteenth black. After that, they are _whitewashed_, and considered
as Europeans. The pride of colour is very great in the West Indies, and
they have as many quarterings as a German prince in his coat of arms; a
quadroon looks down upon a mulatto, while a mulatto looks down upon a
_sambo_, that is, half mulatto half negro, while a sambo in his turn
looks down upon a _nigger_. The quadroons are certainly the handsomest
race of the whole, some of the women are really beautiful; their hair is
long and perfectly straight, their eyes large and black, their figures
perfection, and you can see the colour mantle in their cheeks quite as
plainly, and with as much effect, as in those of a European. We found
the door of Miss Austin's house open, and ornamented with orange
branches, and on our presenting ourselves were accosted by a mulatto
gentleman, who was, we presumed, "usher of the black rod." His head was
well powdered, he was dressed in white jean trousers, a waistcoat not
six inches long, and a half-worn post-captain's coat on, as a livery,
With a low bow, he "took de liberty to trouble de gentlemen for de card
for de ball," which being produced, we were ushered on by him to the
ball-room, at the door of which Miss Austin was waiting to receive her
company. She made us a low courtesy, observing, "She really happy to see
de _gentlemen_ of de ship, but hoped to see de _officers_ also at her
This remark touched our _dignity_, and one of my companions replied,
"That we midshipmen considered ourselves officers, and no _small_ ones
either, and that if she waited for the lieutenants she must wait until
they were tired of the governor's ball, we having given the preference
to hers." This remark set all to rights; sangaree was handed about, and
I looked around at the company. I must acknowledge, at the risk of
losing the good opinion of my fair countrywomen, that I never saw before
so many pretty figures and faces. The _officers_ not having yet arrived,
we received all the attention, and I was successively presented to Miss
Eurydice, Miss Minerva, Miss Sylvia, Miss Aspasia, Miss Euterpe, and
many others, evidently borrowed from the different men-of-war which had
been on the station. All these young ladies gave themselves all the airs
of Almack's. Their dresses I cannot pretend to describe--jewels of value
were not wanting, but their drapery was slight; they appeared neither to
wear nor to require stays, and on the whole, their figures were so
perfect that they could only be ill dressed by having on too much dress.
A few more midshipmen and some lieutenants (O'Brien among the number)
having made their appearance, Miss Austin directed that the ball should
commence. I requested the honour of Miss Eurydice's hand in a cotillon,
which was to open the ball. At this moment stepped forth the premier
violin, master of the ceremonies and ballet-master, Massa Johnson,
really a very smart man, who gave lessons in dancing to all the "'Badian
ladies." He was a dark quadroon, his hair slightly powdered, dressed in
a light blue coat thrown well back, to show his lily-white waistcoat,
only one button of which he could afford to button to make full room for
the pride of his heart, the frill of his shirt, which really was _un
Jabot superb_, four inches wide, and extending from his collar to the
waistband of his nankeen tights, which were finished off at his knees
with huge bunches of ribbon; his legs were encased in silk stockings,
which, however, was not very good taste on his part, as they showed the
manifest advantage which an European has over a coloured man in the
formation of the leg: instead of being straight, his shins curved like a
cheese-knife, and, moreover, his leg was planted into his foot like the
handle into a broom or scrubbing-brush, there being quite as much of the
foot on the heel side as on the toe side. Such was the appearance of Mr
Apollo Johnson, whom the ladies considered as the _ne plus ultra _of
fashion, and the _arbiter elegantiarum_. His _bow-tick_, or
fiddle-stick, was his wand, whose magic rap on the fiddle produced
immediate obedience to his mandates. "Ladies and gentle, take your
seats." All started up. "Miss Eurydice, you open de ball."
Miss Eurydice had but a sorry partner, but she undertook to instruct me.
O'Brien was our _vis-a-vis_ with Miss Euterpe. The other gentlemen were
officers from the ships, and we stood up twelve, checkered brown and
white, like a chess-board. All eyes were fixed upon Mr Apollo Johnson,
who first looked at the couples, then at his fiddle, and lastly, at the
other musicians, to see if all was right, and then with a wave of his
_bow-tick_ the music began. "Massa lieutenant," cried Apollo to O'Brien,
"cross over to opposite lady, right hand and left, den figure to Miss
Eurydice--dat right; now four hand round. You lilly midshipman, set your
partner, sir; den twist her round; dat do; now stop. First figure all
At this time I thought I might venture to talk a little with my partner,
and I ventured a remark; to my surprise she answered very sharply, "I
come here for dance, sar, and not for chatter; look, Massa Johnson, he
tap um bow-tick."
The second figure commenced, and I made a sad bungle; so I did of the
third, and fourth, and fifth, for I never had danced a cotillon. When I
handed my partner to her place, who certainly was the prettiest girl in
the room, she looked rather contemptuously at me, and observed to a
neighbour, "I really pity de gentleman as come from England dat no know
how to dance nor nothing at all, until em hab instruction at Barbadoes."
A country dance was now called for, which was more acceptable to all
parties, as none of Mr Apollo Johnson's pupils were very perfect in
their cotillon, and none of the officers, except O'Brien, knew anything
about them. O'Brien's superior education on this point, added to his
lieutenant's epaulet and handsome person, made him much courted; but he
took up with Miss Eurydice after I had left her, and remained with her
the whole evening; thereby exciting the jealousy of Mr Apollo Johnson,
who, it appears, was amorous in that direction. Our party increased
every minute; all the officers of the garrison, and, finally, as soon as
they could get away, the governor's aid-de-camps, all dressed in _mufti_
(i.e., plain clothes). The dancing continued until three o'clock in the
morning, when it was quite a squeeze, from the constant arrival of fresh
recruits from all the houses of Barbadoes. I must say, that a few
bottles of eau de Cologne thrown about the room would have improved the
atmosphere. By this time the heat was terrible, and the _mopping_ of the
ladies' faces everlasting. I would recommend a DIGNITY ball to all stout
gentlemen who wish to be reduced a stone or two. Supper was now
announced, and having danced the last country dance with Miss Minerva, I
of course had the pleasure of handing her into the supper-room. It was
my fate to sit opposite to a fine turkey, and I asked my partner if I
should have the pleasure of helping her to a piece of the breast. She
looked at me very indignantly, and said, "Curse your impudence, sar, I
wonder where you larn manners. Sar, I take a lilly turkey _bosom_, if
you please. Talk of _breast_ to a lady, sar;--really quite _horrid_." I
made two or three more barbarous mistakes before the supper was
finished. At last the eating was over, and I must say a better supper I
never sat down to. "Silence, gentlemen and ladies," cried Mr Apollo
Johnson. "Wid the permission of our amiable hostess, I will propose a
toast. Gentlemen and ladies--You all know, and if be so you don't, I say
that there no place in the world like Barbadoes. All de world fight
against England, but England nebber fear; King George nebber fear, while
_Barbadoes 'tand 'tiff_. 'Badian fight for King George to last drop of
him blood. Nebber see the day 'Badian run away; you all know dem
Frenchmans at San Lucee, give up Morne Fortunee, when he hear de 'Badian
volunteer come against him. I hope no 'fence present company, but um
sorry to say English come here too jealous of 'Badians. Gentlemen and
lady--Barbadian born ab only one fault--he _really too brave_. I propose
health of 'Island of Barbadoes.'" Acclamations from all quarters
followed this truly modest speech, and the toast was drunk with rapture;
the ladies were delighted with Mr Apollo's eloquence, and the lead which
he took in the company.
O'Brien then rose and addressed the company as follows:--
"Ladies and gentlemen--Mr Poll has spoken better than the best parrot I
ever met with in this country, but as he has thought proper to drink the
'Island of Barbadoes,' I mean to be a little more particular. I wish,
with him, all good health to the island; but there is a charm without
which the island would be a desert--that is, the society of the lovely
girls which now surround us, and take our hearts by storm--" (here
O'Brien put his arm gently round Miss Eurydice's waist, and Mr Apollo
ground his teeth so as to be heard at the furthest end of the room)"--
therefore, gentlemen, with your permission, I will propose the health of
the ''Badian Ladies.'" This speech of O'Brien's was declared, by the
females at least, to be infinitely superior to Mr Apollo Johnson's. Miss
Eurydice was even more gracious, and the other ladies were more envious.
Many other toasts and much more wine was drunk, until the male part of
the company appeared to be rather riotous. Mr Apollo, however, had to
regain his superiority, and after some hems and hahs, begged permission
to give a sentiment. "Gentlemen and ladies, I beg then to say--
"Here's to de cock who make lub to de hen,
Crow till he hoarse and make lub again."
This _sentiment_ was received with rapture; and after silence was
obtained, Miss Betsy Austin rose and said--"Unaccustomed as she was to
public 'peaking, she must not sit 'till and not tank de gentleman for
his very fine toast, and in de name of de ladies she begged to propose
another sentimen', which was--
"Here to de hen what nebber refuses,
Let cock pay compliment whenebber he chooses."
If the first toast was received with applause, this was with enthusiasm;
but we received a damper after it was subsided, by the lady of the house
getting up and saying--"Now, gentlemen and ladies, me tink it right to
say dat it time to go home; I nebber allow people get drunk or kick up
bobbery in my house, so now I tink we better take parting-glass, and
very much obliged to you for your company."
As O'Brien said, this was a broad hint to be off, so we all now took our
parting-glass, in compliance with her request, and our own wishes, and
proceeded to escort our partners on their way home. While I was
assisting Miss Minerva to her red crape shawl, a storm was brewing in
another quarter, to wit, between Mr Apollo Johnson and O'Brien. O'Brien
was assiduously attending to Miss Eurydice, whispering what he called
soft blarney in her ear, when Mr Apollo, who was above spirit-boiling
heat with jealousy, came up, and told Miss Eurydice that he would have
the honour of escorting her home.
"You may save yourself the trouble, you dingy gut-scraper," replied
O'Brien; "the lady is under my protection, so take your ugly black face
out of the way, or I'll show you how I treat a ''Badian who is really
"So 'elp me Gad, Massa Lieutenant, 'pose you put finger on me, I show
you what 'Badian can do."
Apollo then attempted to insert himself between O'Brien and his lady,
upon which O'Brien shoved him back with great violence, and continued
his course towards the door. They were in the passage when I came up,
for hearing O'Brien's voice in anger, I left Miss Minerva to shift for
Miss Eurydice had now left O'Brien's arm, at his request, and he and Mr
Apollo were standing in the passage, O'Brien close to the door, which
was shut, and Apollo swaggering up to him. O'Brien, who knew the tender
part of a black, saluted Apollo with a kick on the shins which would
have broken my leg. Massa Johnson roared with pain, and recoiled two or
three paces, parting the crowd away behind him. The blacks never fight
with fists, but butt with their heads like rams, and with quite as much
force. When Mr Apollo had retreated, he gave his shin one more rub,
uttered a loud yell, and started at O'Brien, with his head aimed at
O'Brien's chest, like a battering-ram. O'Brien, who was aware of this
plan of fighting, stepped dexterously on one side, and allowed Mr Apollo
to pass by him, which he did with such force, that his head went clean
through the panel of the door behind O'Brien, and there he stuck as fast
as if in a pillory, squeaking like a pig for assistance, and foaming
with rage. After some difficulty he was released, and presented a very
melancholy figure. His face was much cut, and his superb _Jabot_ all in
tatters; he appeared, however, to have had quite enough of it, as he
retreated to the supper-room, followed by some of his admirers, without
asking or looking after O'Brien.
But if Mr Apollo had had enough of it, his friends were too indignant to
allow us to go off scot free. A large mob was collected in the street,
vowing vengeance on us for our treatment of their flash man, and a row
was to be expected. Miss Eurydice had escaped, so that O'Brien had his
hands free. "Cam out, you hangman tiefs, cam out; only wish had rock
stones, to mash your heads with," cried the mob of negroes. The officers
now sallied out in a body, and were saluted with every variety of
missile, such as rotten oranges, cabbage-stalks, mud, and cocoa-nut
shells. We fought our way manfully, but as we neared the beach the mob
increased to hundreds, and at last we could proceed no further, being
completely jammed up by the niggers, upon whose heads we could make no
more impression than upon blocks of marble. "We must draw our swords,"
observed an officer. "No, no," replied O'Brien, "that will not do; if
once we shed blood, they will never let us get on board with our lives.
The boat's crew by this time must be aware that there is a row." O'Brien
was right. He had hardly spoken, before a lane was observed to be made
through the crowd in the distance, which in two minutes was open to us.
Swinburne appeared in the middle of it, followed by the rest of the
boat's crew, armed with the boat's stretchers, which they did not aim at
the _heads_ of the blacks, but swept them like scythes against their
_shins_. This they continued to do, right and left of us, as we walked
through and went down to the boats, the seamen closing up the rear with
their stretchers, with which they ever and anon made a sweep at the
black fellows if they approached too near. It was now broad daylight,
and in a few minutes we were again safely on board the frigate. Thus
ended the first and last dignity ball that I attended.
I am claimed by Captain Kearney as a relation--Trial of skill between
first lieutenant and captain with the long bow--The shark, the pug-dog,
and the will--A quarter-deck picture.
As the admiral was not one who would permit the ships under his command
to lie idle in port, in a very few days after the dignity ball which I
have described, all the squadron sailed on their various destinations. I
was not sorry to leave the bay, for one soon becomes tired of profusion,
and cared nothing for either oranges, bananas, or shaddocks, nor even
for, the good dinners and claret at the tables of the army mess and
gentlemen of the island. The sea breeze soon became more precious to us
than anything else, and if we could have bathed without the fear of a
shark, we should have equally appreciated that most refreshing of all
luxuries under the torrid zone. It was therefore with pleasure that we
received the information that we were to sail the next day to cruise off
the French island of Martinique. Captain Kearney had been so much on
shore that we saw but little of him, and the ship was entirely under the
control of the first lieutenant, of whom I have hitherto not spoken. He
was a very short, pock-marked man, with red hair and whiskers, a good
sailor, and not a bad officer; that is, he was a practical sailor, and
could show any foremast man his duty in any department--and this seamen
very much appreciate, as it is not very common; but I never yet knew an
officer who prided himself upon his practical knowledge, who was at the
same time a good navigator, and too often, by assuming the Jack Tar,
they lower the respect due to them, and become coarse and vulgar in
their manners and language. This was the case with Mr Phillott, who
prided himself upon his slang, and who was at one time "hail fellow well
met" with the seamen, talking to them, and being answered as familiarly
as if they were equals, and at another, knocking the very same men down
with a handspike if he was displeased. He was not bad-tempered, but very
hasty; and his language to the officers was occasionally very incorrect;
to the midshipmen invariably so. However, on the whole, he was not
disliked, although he was certainly not respected as a first lieutenant
should have been. It is but fair to say, that he was the same to his
superiors as he was to his inferiors, and the bluntness with which he
used to contradict and assert his disbelief of Captain Kearney's
narratives often produced a coolness between them for some days.
The day after we sailed from Carlisle Bay I was asked to dine in the
cabin. The dinner was served upon plated dishes, which looked very
grand, but there was not much in them. "This plate," observed the
captain, "was presented to me by some merchants for my exertions in
saving their property from the Danes when I was cruising off
"Why, that lying steward of yours told me that you bought it at
Portsmouth," replied the first lieutenant: "I asked him in the galley
"How came you to assert such a confounded falsehood, sir?" said the
captain to the man who stood behind his chair.
"I only said that I thought so," replied the steward.
"Why, didn't you say that the bill had been sent in, through you, seven
or eight times, and that the captain had paid it with a flowing sheet?"
"Did you dare say that, sir?" interrogated the captain, very angrily.
"Mr Phillott mistook me, sir?" replied the steward. "He was so busy
damning the sweepers, that he did not hear me right. I said, the
midshipmen had paid their crockery bill with the fore-topsail."
"Ay! ay!" replied the captain, "that's much more likely."
"Well, Mr Steward," replied Mr Phillott, "I'll be d----d if you ar'n't
as big a liar as your--" (master, he was going to plump out, but
fortunately the first lieutenant checked himself, and added)--"as your
father was before you."
The captain changed the conversation by asking me whether I would take a
slice of ham. "It's real Westphalia, Mr Simple; I have them sent me
direct by Count Troningsken, an intimate friend of mine, who kills his
own wild boars in the Hartz mountains."
"How the devil do you get them over, Captain Kearney?"
"There are ways and means of doing everything, Mr Phillott, and the
First Consul is not quite so bad as he is represented. The first batch
was sent over with a very handsome letter to me, written in his own
hand, which I will show you some of these days. I wrote to him in
return, and sent to him two Cheshire cheeses by a smuggler, and since
that they came regularly. Did you ever eat Westphalia ham, Mr Simple?"
"Yes," replied I; "once I partook of one at Lord Privilege's."
"Lord Privilege! why he's a distant relation of mine, a sort of fifth
cousin," replied Captain Kearney.
"Indeed, sir!" replied I.
"Then you must allow me to introduce you to a relation, Captain
Kearney," said the first lieutenant; "for Mr Simple is his grandson."
"Is it possible? I can only say, Mr Simple, that I shall be most happy
to show you every attention, and am very glad that I have you as one of
Now although this was all false, for Captain Kearney was not in the
remotest manner connected with my family, yet having once asserted it,
he could not retract, and the consequence was, that I was much the
gainer by his falsehood, as he treated me very kindly afterwards, always
calling me _cousin_.
The first lieutenant smiled and gave me a wink, when the captain had
finished his speech to me, as much as to say, "You're in luck," and then
the conversation changed. Captain Kearney certainly dealt in the
marvellous to admiration, and really told his stories with such
earnestness, that I actually believe that he thought he was telling the
truth. Never was there such an instance of confirmed habit. Telling a
story of a cutting-out expedition, he said, "The French captain would
have fallen by my hand, but just as I levelled my musket, a ball came,
and cut off the cock of the lock as clean as if it was done with a
knife--a very remarkable instance," observed he.
"Not equal to what occurred in a ship I was in," replied the first
lieutenant, "when the second lieutenant was grazed by a grape-shot,
which cut off one of his whiskers, and turning round his head to
ascertain what was the matter, another grape-shot came and took off the
other. Now that's what I call a _close shave_."
"Yes," replied Captain Kearney, "very close, indeed, if it were true;
but you'll excuse me, Mr Phillott, but you sometimes tell strange
stories. I do not mind it myself, but the example is not good to my
young relation here, Mr Simple."
"Captain Kearney," replied the first lieutenant, laughing very
immoderately, "do you know what the pot called the kettle?"
"No, sir, I do not," retorted the captain, with offended dignity. "Mr
Simple, will you take a glass of wine?"
I thought that this little _brouillerie_ would have checked the captain;
it did so, but only for a few minutes, when he again commenced. The
first lieutenant observed that it would be necessary to let water into
the ship every morning, and pump it out, to avoid the smell of the
bilge-water. "There are worse smells than bilge-water," replied the
captain. "What do you think of a whole ship's company being nearly
poisoned with otto of roses? Yet that occurred to me when in the
Mediterranean. I was off Smyrna, cruising for a French ship, that was to
sail to France, with a pasha on board, as an ambassador. I knew she
would be a good prize, and was looking sharp out, when one morning we
discovered her on the lee bow. We made all sail, but she walked away
from us, bearing away gradually till we were both before the wind, and
at night we lost sight of her. As I knew that she was bound to
Marseilles, I made all sail to fall in with her again. The wind was
light and variable; but five days afterwards, as I lay in my cot, just
before daylight, I smelt a very strong smell, blowing in at the weather
port, and coming down the skylight, which was open; and after sniffing
at it two or three times, I knew it to be otto of roses. I sent for the
officer of the watch, and asked him if there was anything in sight. He
replied 'that there was not;' and I ordered him to sweep the horizon
with his glass, and look well out to windward. As the wind freshened,
the smell became more powerful. I ordered him to get the royal yards
across, and all ready to make sail, for I knew that the Turk must be
near us. At daylight there he was, just three miles ahead in the wind's
eye. But although he beat us going free, he was no match for us, on a
wind, and before noon we had possession of him and all his harem.
By-the-by, I could tell you a good story about the ladies. She was a
very valuable prize, and among other things, she had a _puncheon_ of
otto of roses on board--."
"Whew!" cried the first lieutenant. "What! a whole puncheon?"
"Yes," replied the captain, "a Turkish puncheon--not quite so large,
perhaps, as ours on board; their weights and measures are different. I
took out most of the valuables into the brig I commanded--about 20,000
sequins--carpets--and among the rest, this cask of otto of roses, which
we had smelt three miles off. We had it safe on board, when the mate of
the hold, not slinging it properly, it fell into the spirit-room with a
run, and was stove to pieces. Never was such a scene; my first
lieutenant and several men on deck fainted; and the men in the hold were
brought up lifeless; it was some time before they were recovered. We let
the water into the brig, and pumped it out, but nothing would take away
the smell, which was so overpowering, that before I could get to Malta I
had forty men on the sick list. When I arrived there, I turned the mate
out of the service for his carelessness. It was not until after having
smoked the brig, and finding that of little use, after having sunk her
for three weeks, that the smell was at all bearable; but even then it
could never be eradicated, and the admiral sent the brig home, and she
was sold out of the service. They could do nothing with her at the
dockyards. She was broken up, and bought by the people at Brighton and
Tunbridge Wells, who used her timbers for turning fancy articles, which,
smelling as they did, so strongly of otto of roses, proved very
profitable. Were you ever at Brighton, Mr Simple?"
Just at this moment, the officer of the watch came down to say that
there was a very large shark under the counter, and wished to know if
the captain had any objection to the officers attempting to catch it.
"By no means," replied Captain Kearney; "I hate sharks as I do the
devil. I nearly lost L14,000 by one, when I was in the Mediterranean."
"May I inquire how, Captain Kearney?" said the first lieutenant, with a
demure face; "I'm very anxious to know."
"Why the story is simply this," replied the captain. "I had an old
relation at Malta, whom I found out by accident--an old maid of sixty,
who had lived all her life on the island. It was by mere accident that I
knew of her existence. I was walking upon Strada Reale, when I saw a
large baboon that was kept there, who had a little fat pug-dog by the
tail, which he was pulling away with him, while an old lady was
screaming out for help: for whenever she ran to assist her dog, the
baboon made at her as if he would have ravished her, and caught her by
the petticoats with one hand, while he held the pug-dog fast by the
other. I owed that brute a spite for having attacked me one night when I
passed him, and perceiving what was going on, I drew my sword and gave
Mr Jacko such a clip as sent him away howling, and bleeding like a pig,
leaving me in possession of the little pug, which I took up and handed
to his mistress. The old lady trembled very much, and begged me to see
her safe home. She had a very fine house, and after she was seated on
the sofa, thanked me very much for my gallant assistance, as she termed
it, and told me her name was Kearney: upon this I very soon proved my
relationship with her, at which she was much delighted, requesting me to
consider her house as my home. I was for two years afterwards on that
station, and played my cards very well; and the old lady gave me a hint
that I should be her heir, as she had no other relations that she knew
anything of. At last I was ordered home, and not wishing to leave her, I
begged her to accompany me, offering her my cabin. She was taken very
ill a fortnight before we sailed, and made a will, leaving me her sole
heir; but she recovered, and got as fat as ever. Mr Simple, the wine
stands with you. I doubt if Lord Privilege gave you better claret than
there is in that bottle; I imported it myself ten years ago, when I
commanded the _Coquette_."
"Very odd," observed the first lieutenant--"we bought some at Barbadoes
with the same mark on the bottles and cork."
"That may be," replied the captain; "old-established houses all keep up
the same marks; but I doubt if your wine can be compared to this."
As Mr Phillott wished to hear the end of the captain's story, he would
not contradict him this time, by stating what he knew to be the case,
that the captain had sent it on board at Barbadoes; and the captain
"Well, I gave up my cabin to the old lady, and hung up my cot in the
gun-room during the passage home.
"We were becalmed abreast of Ceuta for two days. The old lady was very
particular about her pug-dog, and I superintended the washing of the
little brute twice a week; but at last I was tired of it, and gave him
to my coxswain to bathe. My coxswain, who was a lazy fellow, without my
knowledge, used to put the little beast into the bight of a rope, and
tow him overboard for a minute or so. It was during this calm that he
had him overboard in this way, when a confounded shark rose from under
the counter, and took in the pug-dog at one mouthful. The coxswain
reported the loss as a thing of no consequence; but I knew better, and
put the fellow in irons. I then went down and broke the melancholy fact
to Miss Kearney, stating that I had put the man in irons, and would flog
him well. The old lady broke out into a most violent passion at the
intelligence, declared that it was my fault, that I was jealous of the
dog, and had done it on purpose. The more I protested, the more she
raved; and at last I was obliged to go on deck to avoid her abuse and
keep my temper. I had not been on deck five minutes before she came up--
that is, was shoved up--for she was so heavy that she could not get up
without assistance. You know how elephants in India push the cannon
through a morass with their heads from behind; well, my steward used to
shove her up the companion-ladder just in the same way, with his head
completely buried in her petticoats. As soon as she was up, he used to
pull his head out, looking as red and hot as a fresh-boiled lobster.
Well, up she came, with her will in her hand, and, looking at me very
fiercely, she said, 'Since the shark has taken my dear dog, he may have
my will also,' and, throwing it overboard, she plumped down on the
carronade slide. 'It's very well, madam,' said I, 'but you'll be cool
by-and-by, and then you'll make another will.' 'I swear by all the hopes
that I have of going to heaven that I never will!' she replied. 'Yes,
you will, madam,' replied I. 'Never, so help me God! Captain Kearney; my
money may now go to my next heir, and that, you know, will not be you.'
Now, as I knew very well that the old lady was very positive and as good
as her word, my object was to recover the will, which was floating about
fifty yards astern, without her knowledge. I thought a moment, and then
I called the boatswain's mate to _pipe all hands to bathe_. 'You'll
excuse me, Miss Kearney,' said I, 'but the men are going to bathe, and I
do not think you would like to see them all naked. If you would, you can
stay on deck.' She looked daggers at me, and, rising from the carronade
slide, hobbled to the ladder, saying, 'that the insult was another proof
of how little I deserved any kindness from her.' As soon as she was
below, the quarter-boats were lowered down, and I went in one of them
and picked up the will, which still floated. Brigs having no
stern-windows, of course she could not see my manoeuvre, but thought
that the will was lost for ever. We had very bad weather after that,
owing to which, with the loss of her favourite pug, and constant
quarrelling with me--for I did all I could to annoy her afterwards--she
fell ill, and was buried a fortnight after she was landed at Plymouth.
The old lady kept her word; she never made another will. I proved the
one I had recovered at Doctors' Commons, and touched the whole of her
As neither the first lieutenant nor I could prove whether the story was
true or not, of course we expressed our congratulations at his good
fortune, and soon afterwards left the cabin to report his marvellous
story to our messmates. When I went on deck, I found that the shark had
just been hooked, and was hauling on board. Mr Phillott had also come on
deck. The officers were all eager about the shark, and were looking over
the side, calling to each other, and giving directions to the men. Now,
although certainly there was a want of decorum on the quarter-deck,
still, the captain having given permission, it was to be excused; but Mr
Phillott thought otherwise, and commenced in his usual style, beginning
with the marine officer.
"Mr Westley, I'll trouble you not to be getting upon the hammocks.
You'll get off directly, sir. If one of your fellows were to do so, I'd
stop his grog for a month, and I don't see why you are to set a bad
example; you've been too long in barracks, sir, by half. Who is that? Mr
Williams and Mr Moore--both on the hammocks, too. Up to the foretopmast
head, both of you, directly. Mr Thomas, up to the main; and I say, you
youngster, stealing off, perch yourself upon the spanker-boom, and let
me know when you've rode to London. By God! the service is going to
hell! I don't know what officers are made of now-a-days. I'll marry some
of you young gentlemen to the gunner's daughter before long.
Quarter-deck's no better than a bear-garden. No wonder, when lieutenants
set the example."
This latter remark could only be applied to O'Brien, who stood in the
quarter-boat giving directions, before the tirade of Mr Phillott stopped
the amusement of the party. O'Brien immediately stepped out of the boat,
and going up to Mr Phillott, touched his hat, and said, "Mr Phillott, we
had the captain's permission to catch the shark, and a shark is not to
be got on board by walking up and down on the quarter-deck. As regards
myself, as long as the captain is on board, I hold myself responsible to
him alone for my conduct; and if you think I have done wrong, forward
your complaint; but if you pretend to use such language to me, as you
have to others, I shall hold you responsible. I am here, sir, as an
officer and a gentleman, and will be treated as such; and allow me to
observe, that I consider the quarter-deck more disgraced by foul and
ungentlemanly language, than I do by an officer accidentally standing
upon the hammocks. However, as you have thought proper to interfere, you
may now get the shark on board yourself."
Mr Phillott turned very red, for he never had come in contact in this
way with O'Brien. All the other officers had submitted quietly to his
unpleasant manner of speaking to them. "Very well, Mr O'Brien; I shall
hold you answerable for this language," replied he, "and shall most
certainly report your conduct to the captain."
"I will save you the trouble; Captain Kearney is now coming up, and I
will report it myself."
This O'Brien did, upon the captain's putting his foot on the
"Well," observed the captain to Mr Phillott, "what is it you complain
"Mr O'Brien's language, sir. Am I to be addressed on the quarter-deck in
"I really must say, Mr Phillott," replied Captain Kearney, "that I do
not perceive anything in what Mr O'Brien said, but what is correct. I
command here; and if an officer so nearly equal in rank to yourself has
committed himself, you are not to take the law into your own hands. The
fact is, Mr Phillott, your language is not quite so correct as I could
wish it. I overheard every word that passed, and I consider that _you_
have treated _your superior_ officer with disrespect--that is, _me_. I
gave permission that the shark should be caught, and with that
permission, I consequently allowed those little deviations from the
discipline of the service which must inevitably take place. Yet you have
thought proper to interfere with my permission, which is tantamount to
an order, and have made use of harsh language, and punished the young
gentlemen for obeying my injunctions. You will oblige me, sir, by
calling them all down, and in restraining your petulance for the future.
I will always support your authority when you are correct; but I regret
that in this instance you have necessitated me to weaken it."
This was a most severe check to Mr Phillott, who immediately went below,
after hailing the mastheads and calling down the midshipmen. As soon as
he was gone we were all on the hammocks again; the shark was hauled
forward, hoisted on board, and every frying-pan in the ship was in
requisition. We were all much pleased with Captain Kearney's conduct on
this occasion; and, as O'Brien observed to me, "He really is a good
fellow and clever officer. What a thousand pities it is, that he is such
a confounded liar!" I must do Mr Phillott the justice to say that he
bore no malice on this occasion, but treated us as before, which is
saying a great deal in his favour, when it is considered what power a
first lieutenant has of annoying and punishing his inferiors.
Another set-to between the captain and first lieutenant--Cutting-out
expedition--Mr Chucks mistaken--He dies like a gentleman--Swinburne
begins his account of the battle off St Vincent.
We had not been more than a week under the Danish island of St Thomas
when we discovered a brig close in-shore. We made all sail in chase, and
soon came within a mile and a half of the shore, when she anchored under
a battery, which opened its fire upon us. Their elevation was too great,
and several shots passed over us and between our masts.
"I once met with a very remarkable circumstance," observed Captain
Kearney. "Three guns were fired at a frigate I was on board of from a
battery, all at the same time. The three shots cut away the three
topsail ties, and down came all our topsail yards upon the cap at the
same time. That the Frenchmen might not suppose that they had taken such
good aim, we turned up our hands to reef topsails; and by the time that
the men were off the yards the ties were spliced and the topsails run up
Mr Phillott could not stand this most enormous fib, and he replied,
"Very odd, indeed, Captain Kearney; but I have known a stranger
circumstance. We had put in the powder to the four guns on the main deck
when we were fighting the Danish gun-boats in a frigate I was in, and,
as the men withdrew the rammer, a shot from the enemy entered the
muzzle, and completed the loading of each gun. We fired their own shot
back upon them, and this occurred three times running."
"Upon my word," replied Captain Kearney, who had his glass upon the
battery, "I think you must have dreamt that circumstance, Mr Phillott."
"Not more than you did about the topsail ties, Captain Kearney."
Captain Kearney at that time had the long glass in his hand, holding it
up over his shoulder. A shot from the battery whizzed over his head, and
took the glass out of his hand, shivering it to pieces. "That's once,"
said Captain Kearney, very coolly; "but will you pretend that that could
ever happen three times running? They might take my head off, or my arm,
next time, but not another glass; whereas the topsail ties might be cut
by three different shot. But give me another glass, Mr Simple: I am
certain that this vessel is a privateer. What think you, Mr O'Brien?"
"I am every bit of your opinion, Captain Kearney," replied O'Brien; "and
I think it would be a very pretty bit of practice to the ship's company
to take her out from under that footy battery."
"Starboard the helm, Mr Phillott; keep away four points, and then we
will think of it to-night."
The frigate was now kept away, and ran out of the fire of the battery.
It was then about an hour before sunset, and in the West Indies the sun
does not set as it does in the northern latitudes. There is no twilight:
he descends in glory, surrounded with clouds of gold and rubies in their
gorgeous tints; and once below the horizon, all is dark. As soon as it
was dark, we hauled our wind off shore; and a consultation being held
between the captain, Mr Phillott, and O'Brien, the captain at last
decided that the attempt should be made. Indeed, although cutting-out is
a very serious affair, as you combat under every disadvantage, still the
mischief done to our trade by the fast-sailing privateers was so great
in the West Indies, that almost every sacrifice was warrantable for the
interests of the country. Still, Captain Kearney, although a brave and
prudent officer--one who calculated chances, and who would not risk his
men without he deemed that necessity imperiously demanded that such
should be done--was averse to this attack, from his knowledge of the bay
in which the brig was anchored; and although Mr Phillott and O'Brien
both were of opinion that it should be a night attack, Captain Kearney
decided otherwise. He considered, that although the risk might be
greater, yet the force employed would be more consolidated, and that
those who would hold back in the night dare not do so during the day.
Moreover, that the people on shore in the battery, as well as those in
the privateer, would be on the alert all night, and not expecting an
attack during the day, would be taken off their guard. It was therefore
directed that everything should be in preparation during the night, and
that the boats should shove off before daylight, and row in-shore,
concealing themselves behind some rocks under the cliffs which formed
the cape upon one side of the harbour; and, if not discovered, remain
there till noon, at which time it was probable that the privateer's men
would be on shore, and the vessel might be captured without difficulty.
It is always a scene of much interest on board a man-of-war when
preparations are made for an expedition of this description; and, as the
reader may not have been witness to them, it may perhaps be interesting
to describe them. The boats of men-of-war have generally two crews; the
common boats' crews, which are selected so as not to take away the most
useful men from the ship; and the service, or fighting boats' crews,
which are selected from the very best men on board. The coxswains of the
boats are the most trustworthy men in the ship, and, on this occasion,
have to see that their boats are properly equipped. The launch, yawl,
first and second cutters, were the boats appointed for the expedition.
They all carried guns mounted upon slides, which ran fore and aft
between the men. After the boats were hoisted out, the guns were lowered
down into them and shipped in the bows of the boats. The arm-chests were
next handed in, which contain the cartridges and ammunition. The shot
were put into the bottom of the boats; and so far they were all ready.
The oars of the boats were fitted to pull with grummets upon iron
thole-pins, that they might make little noise, and might swing fore and
aft without falling overboard when the boats pulled alongside the
privateer. A breaker or two (that is, small casks holding about seven
gallons each) of water was put into each boat, and also the men's
allowance of spirits, in case they should be detained by any unforeseen
circumstances. The men belonging to the boats were fully employed in
looking after their arms; some fitting their flints to their pistols,
others, and the major part of them, sharpening their cutlasses at the
grindstone, or with a file borrowed from the armourer,--all were busy
and all merry. The very idea of going into action is a source of joy to
an English sailor, and more jokes are made, more merriment excited, at
that time than at any other. Then, as it often happens that one or two
of the service boats' crews may be on the sick list, urgent
solicitations are made by others that they may supply their places. The
only parties who appear at all grave are those who are to remain in the
frigate, and not share in the expedition. There is no occasion to order
the boats to be manned, for the men are generally in long before they
are piped away. Indeed, one would think that it was a party of pleasure,
instead of danger and of death, upon which they were about to proceed.
Captain Kearney selected the officers who were to have the charge of the
boats. He would not trust any of the midshipmen on so dangerous a
service. He said that he had known so many occasions in which their
rashness and foolhardiness had spoilt an expedition; he therefore
appointed Mr Phillott, the first lieutenant, to the launch; O'Brien to
the yawl; the master to the first, and Mr Chucks, the boatswain, to the
second cutter. Mr Chucks was much pleased with the idea of having the
command of a boat, and asked me to come with him, to which I consented,
although I had intended, as usual, to have gone with O'Brien.
About an hour before daylight we ran the frigate to within a mile and a
half of the shore, and the boats shoved off; the frigate then wore
round, and stood out in the offing, that she might at daylight be at
such a distance as not to excite any suspicion that our boats were sent
away, while we in the boats pulled quietly in-shore. We were not a
quarter of an hour before we arrived at the cape forming one side of the
bay, and were well secreted among the cluster of rocks which were
underneath. Our oars were laid in; the boats' painters made fast; and
orders given for the strictest silence. The rocks were very high, and
the boats were not to be seen without any one should come to the edge of
the precipice; and even then they would, in all probability, have been
supposed to have been rocks. The water was as smooth as glass, and when
it was broad daylight, the men hung listlessly over the sides of the
boats, looking at the corals below, and watching the fish as they glided
"I can't say, Mr Simple," said Mr Chucks to me in an under tone, "that I
think well of this expedition; and I have an idea that some of us will
lose the number of our mess. After a calm comes a storm; and how quiet
is everything now! But I'll take off my great coat, for the sun is hot
already. Coxswain, give me my jacket."
Mr Chucks had put on his great coat, but not his jacket underneath,
which he had left on one of the guns on the main deck, all ready to
change as soon as the heavy dew had gone off. The coxswain handed him
the jacket, and Mr Chucks threw off his great coat to put it on; but
when it was opened it proved, that by mistake he had taken away the
jacket, surmounted by two small epaulettes, belonging to Captain
Kearney, which the captain's steward, who had taken it out to brush, had
also laid upon the same gun.
"By all the nobility of England!" cried Mr Chucks, "I have taken away
the captain's jacket by mistake. Here's a pretty mess! if I put on my
great coat I shall be dead with sweating; if I put on no jacket I shall
be roasted brown; but if I put on the captain's jacket I shall be
The men in the boats tittered; and Mr Phillott, who was in the launch
next to us, turned round to see what was the matter; O'Brien was sitting
in the stern-sheets of the launch with the first lieutenant, and I
leaned over and told them.
"By the powers! I don't see why the captain's jacket will be at all hurt
by Mr Chucks putting it on," replied O'Brien; "unless, indeed, a bullet
were to go through it, and then it won't be any fault of Mr Chucks."
"No," replied the first lieutenant; "and if one did, the captain might
keep the jacket, and swear that the bullet went round his body without
wounding him. He'll have a good yarn to spin. So put it on, Mr Chucks;
you'll make a good mark for the enemy."
"That I will stand the risk of with pleasure," observed the boatswain to
me, "for the sake of being considered a gentleman. So here's on with
There was a general laugh when Mr Chucks pulled on the captain's jacket,
and sank down in the stern-sheets of the cutter, with great complacency
of countenance. One of the men in the boat that we were in thought
proper, however, to continue his laugh a little longer than Mr Chucks
considered necessary, who, leaning forward, thus addressed him: "I say,
Mr Webber, I beg leave to observe to you, in the most delicate manner in
the world--just to hint to you--that it is not the custom to laugh at
your superior officer. I mean just to insinuate, that you are a d----d
impudent son of a sea cook; and if we both live and do well, I will
prove to you, that if I am to be laughed at in a boat with the captain's
jacket on, that I am not to be laughed at on board the frigate with the
boatswain's rattan in my fist; and so look out, my hearty, for squalls,
when you come on the forecastle; for I'll be d----d if I don't make you
see more stars than God Almighty ever made, and cut more capers than all
the dancing-masters in France. Mark my words, you burgoo-eating,
pea-soup-swilling, trowsers-scrubbing son of a bitch."
Mr Chucks, having at the end of this oration raised his voice above the
pitch required by the exigency of the service, was called to order by
the first lieutenant, and again sank back into the stern-sheets with all
the importance and authoritative show peculiarly appertaining to a pair
We waited behind the rocks until noonday, without being discovered by
the enemy; so well were we concealed. We had already sent an officer,
who, carefully hiding himself by lying down on the rocks, had several
times reconnoitred the enemy. Boats were passing and repassing
continually from the privateer to the shore; and it appeared that they
went on shore full of men, and returned with only one or two; so that we
were in great hopes that we should find but few men to defend the
vessel. Mr Phillott looked at his watch, held it up to O'Brien, to prove
that he had complied exactly with the orders he had received from the
captain, and then gave the word to get the boats under weigh. The
painters were cast off by the bowmen, the guns were loaded and primed,
the men seized their oars, and in two minutes we were clear of the
rocks, and drawn up in a line within a quarter of a mile from the
harbour's mouth, and not half a mile from the privateer brig. We rowed
as quickly as possible, but we did not cheer until the enemy fired the
first gun; which he did from a quarter unexpected, as we entered the
mouth of the harbour, with our union jack trailing in the water over our
stern, for it was a dead calm. It appeared, that at the low point under
the cliffs, at each side of the little bay, they had raised a water
battery of two guns each. One of these guns, laden with grape shot, was
now fired at the boats, but the elevation was too low, and although the
water was ploughed up to within five yards of the launch, no injury was
received. We were equally fortunate in the discharge of the other three
guns; two of which we passed so quickly, that they were not aimed
sufficiently forward, so that their shot fell astern; and the other,
although the shot fell among us, did no further injury than cutting in
half two of the oars of the first cutter.
In the meantime, we had observed that the boats had shoved off from the
privateer as soon as they had perceived us, and had returned to her
laden with men; the boats had been despatched a second time, but had not
yet returned. They were now about the same distance from the privateer
as were our boats, and it was quite undecided which of us would be first
on board. O'Brien perceiving this, painted out to Mr Phillott that we
should first attack the boats, and afterwards board on the side to which
they pulled; as, in all probability, there would be an opening left in
the boarding nettings, which were tied up to the yard-arms, and
presented a formidable obstacle to our success. Mr Phillott agreed with
O'Brien: he ordered the bowmen to lay in their oars and keep the guns
pointed ready to fire at the word given, and desiring the other men to
pull their best. Every nerve, every muscle was brought into play by our
anxious and intrepid seamen. When within about twenty yards of the
vessel, and also of the boats, the orders were given to fire--the
carronade of the launch poured out round and grape so well directed,
that one of the French boats sunk immediately; and the musket balls with
which our other smaller guns were loaded, did great execution among
their men. In one minute more, with three cheers from our sailors, we
were all alongside together, English and French boats pell-mell, and a
most determined close conflict took place. The French fought
desperately, and as they were overpowered, they were reinforced by those
from the privateer, who could not look on and behold their companions
requiring their assistance, without coming to their aid. Some jumped
down into our boats from the chains, into the midst of our men; others
darted cold shot at us, either to kill us or to sink our boats; and thus
did one of the most desperate hand-to-hand conflicts take place that
ever was witnessed. But it was soon decided in our favour, for we were
the stronger party and the better armed; and when all opposition was
over, we jumped into the privateer, and found not a man left on board,
only a large dog, who flew at O'Brien's throat as he entered the port.
"Don't kill him," said O'Brien, as the sailors hastened to his
assistance; "only take away his gripe."
The sailors disengaged the dog, and O'Brien led him up to a gun, saying,
"By Jasus, my boy, you are my prisoner."
But although we had possession of the privateer, our difficulties, as it
will prove, were by no means over. We were now exposed not only to the
fire of the two batteries at the harbour-mouth which we had to pass, but
also to that of the battery at the bottom of the bay, which had fired at
the frigate. In the meantime, we were very busy in cutting the cable,
lowering the topsails, and taking the wounded men on board the
privateer, from out of the boats. All this was, however, but the work of
a few minutes. Most of the Frenchmen were killed; our own wounded
amounted to only nine seamen and Mr Chucks, the boatswain, who was shot
through the body, apparently with little chance of surviving. As Mr
Phillott observed, the captain's epaulettes had made him a mark for the
enemy, and he had fallen in his borrowed plumes.
As soon as they were all on board, and laid on the deck--for there were,
as near as I can recollect, about fourteen wounded Frenchmen as well as
our own--tow-ropes were got out forwards, the boats were manned, and we
proceeded to tow the brig out of the harbour.
It was a dead calm, and we made but little way, but our boat's crew,
flushed with victory, cheered, and rallied, and pulled with all their
strength. The enemy perceiving that the privateer was taken, and the
French boats drifting empty up the harbour, now opened their fire upon
us, and with great effect. Before we had towed abreast of the two water
batteries, we had received three-shots between wind and water from the
other batteries, and the sea was pouring fast into the vessel. I had
been attending to poor Mr Chucks, who lay on the starboard side, near
the wheel, the blood flowing from his wound, and tracing its course down
the planks of the deck, to a distance of some feet from where he lay. He
appeared very faint, and I tied my handkerchief round his body, so as to
stop the effusion of blood, and brought him some water, with which I
bathed his face, and poured some into his mouth. He opened his eyes
wide, and looked at me.
"Ah, Mr Simple," said he, faintly, "is it you? It's all over with me;
but it could not be better--could it?"
"How do you mean?" inquired I.
"Why, have I not fallen dressed like an officer and a gentleman?" said
he, referring to the captain's jacket and epaulettes. "I'd sooner die
now with this dress on, than recover to put on the boatswain's uniform.
I feel quite happy."
He pressed my hand, and then closed his eyes again, from weakness. We
were now nearly abreast of the two batteries on the points, the guns of
which had been trained so as to bear upon our boats that were towing out
the brig. The first shot went through the bottom of the launch, and sank
her; fortunately, all the men were saved; but as she was the boat that
towed next to the brig, great delay occurred in getting the others clear
of her, and taking the brig again in tow. The shot now poured in thick,
and the grape became very annoying. Still our men gave way, cheering at
every shot fired, and we had nearly passed the batteries, with trifling
loss, when we perceived that the brig was so full of water that she
could not swim many minutes longer, and that it would be impossible to
tow her alongside of the frigate. Mr Phillott, under these
circumstances, decided that it would be useless to risk more lives, and
that the wounded should be taken out of the brig, and the boats should
pull away for the ship. He desired me to get the wounded men into the
cutter, which he sent alongside, and then to follow the other boats. I
made all the haste I could, not wishing to be left behind; and as soon
as all our wounded men were in the boats, I went to Mr Chucks, to remove
him. He appeared somewhat revived, but would not allow us to remove him.
"My dear Mr Simple," said he, "it is of no use; I never can recover it,
and I prefer dying here. I entreat you not to move me. If the enemy take
possession of the brig before she sinks, I shall be buried with military
honours; if they do not, I shall at least die in the dress of a
gentleman. Hasten away as fast as you can, before you lose more men.
Here I stay--that's decided."
I expostulated with him, but at that time two boats full of men
appeared, pulling out of the harbour to the brig. The enemy had
perceived that our boats had deserted her, and were coming to take
possession. I had therefore no time to urge Mr Chucks to change his
resolution, and not wishing to force a dying man, I shook his hand and
left him. It was with some difficulty I escaped, for the boats had come
up close to the brig; they chased me a little while, but the yawl and
the cutter turning back to my assistance, they gave up the pursuit. On
the whole, this was a very well arranged and well conducted expedition.
The only man lost was Mr Chucks, for the wounds of the others were none
of them mortal. Captain Kearney was quite satisfied with our conduct,
and so was the admiral, when it was reported to him. Captain Kearney did
indeed grumble a little about his jacket, and sent for me to inquire why
I had not taken it off Mr Chucks, and brought it on board. As I did not
choose to tell him the exact truth, I replied, "That I could not disturb
a dying man, and that the jacket was so saturated with blood, that he
never could have worn it again," which was the case.
"At all events, you might have brought away my epaulettes," replied he;
"but you youngsters think of nothing but gormandizing."
I had the first watch that night, when Swinburne, the quarter-master,
came up to me, and asked me all the particulars of the affair, for he
was not in the boats. "Well," said he, "that Mr Chucks appeared to be a
very good boatswain in his way, if he could only have kept his rattan a
little quiet. He was a smart fellow, and knew his duty. We had just such
another killed in our ship, in the action off Cape St Vincent."
"What! were you in that action?" replied I.
"Yes, I was, and belonged to the _Captain_, Lord Nelson's ship."
"Well, then, suppose you tell me all about it."
"Why, Mr Simple, d'ye see, I've no objection to spin you a yarn, now and
then," replied Swinburne, "but, as Mr Chucks used to say, allow me to
observe, in the most delicate manner in the world, that I perceive that
the man who has charge of your hammock, and slings you a clean one now
and then, has very often a good glass of grog for his _yarns_, and I do
not see but that mine are as well worth a glass of grog as his."
"So they are, Swinburne, and better too, and I promise you a good stiff
one to-morrow evening."
"That will do, sir: now then, I'll tell you all about it, and more about
it too than most can, for I know how the action was brought about."
I have the log, marked the board, and then sat down abaft on the signal
chest with Swinburne, who commenced his narrative as follows:--
"You must know, Mr Simple, that when the English fleet came down the
Mediterranean, after the 'vackyation of Corsica, they did not muster
more than seventeen sail of the line, while the Spanish fleet from
Ferrol and Carthagena had joined company at Cadiz, and 'mounted to near
thirty. Sir John Jervis had the command of our fleet at the time, but as
the Dons did not seem at all inclined to come out and have a brush with
us, almost two to one, Sir John left Sir Hyde Parker, with six sail of
the line, to watch the Spanish beggars, while he went in to Lisbon with
the remainder of the fleet, to water and refit. Now, you see, Mr Simple,
Portugal was at that time what they calls neutral, that is to say, she
didn't meddle at all in the affair, being friends with both parties, and
just as willing to supply fresh beef and water to the Spaniards as to
the English, if so be the Spaniards had come out to ax for it, which
they dar'n't. The Portuguese and the English have always been the best
of friends, because we can't get no port wine anywhere else, and they
can't get nobody else to buy it of them; so the Portuguese gave up their
arsenal at Lisbon, for the use of the English, and there we kept all our
stores, under the charge of that old dare-devil, Sir Isaac Coffin. Now
it so happened, that one of the clerks in old Sir Isaac's _office_, a
Portuguese chap, had been some time before that in the office of the
Spanish ambassador; he was a very smart sort of a chap, and sarved as
interpreter, and the old commissioner put great faith in him."
"But how did you learn all this, Swinburne?"
"Why, I'll tell you, Mr Simple. I steered the yawl as coxswain, and when
admirals and captains talk in the stern-sheets, they very often forget
that the coxswain is close behind them. I only learnt half of it that
way; the rest I put together when I compared logs with the admiral's
steward, who, of course, heard a great deal now and then. The first I
heard of it was when old Sir John called out to Sir Isaac, after the
second bottle, 'I say, Sir Isaac, who killed the Spanish messenger?'
'Not I, by God!' replied Sir Isaac; 'I only left him for dead;' and then
they both laughed, and so did Nelson, who was sitting with them. Well,
Mr Simple, it was reported to Sir Isaac that his clerk was often seen
taking memorandums of the different orders given to the fleet,
particularly those as to there being no wasteful expenditure of his
Majesty's stores. Upon which, Sir Isaac goes to the admiral, and
requests that the man might be discharged. Now, old Sir John was a sly
old fox, and he answered, 'Not so, commissioner; perhaps we may catch
them in their own trap.' So the admiral sits down, and calls for pen and
ink, and he flourishes out a long letter to the commissioner, stating
that all the stores of the fleet were expended, representing as how it
would be impossible to go to sea without a supply, and wishing to know
when the commissioner expected more transports from England. He also
said that if the Spanish fleet were now to come out from Cadiz, it would
be impossible for him to protect Sir H. Parker with his six sail of the
line, who was watching the Spanish fleet, as he could not quit the port
in his present condition. To this letter the commissioner answered that,
from the last accounts, he thought that in the course of six weeks or
two months they might receive supplies from England, but that sooner
than that was impossible. These letters were put in the way of the
d----d Portuguese spy-clerk, who copied them, and was seen that evening
to go into the house of the Spanish ambassador. Sir John then sent a
message to Ferro--that's a small town on the Portuguese coast to the
southward--with a despatch to Sir Hyde Parker, desiring him to run away
to Cape St Vincent, and decoy the Spanish fleet there, in case they
should come out after him. Well, Mr Simple, so far d'ye see the train
was well laid. The next thing to do was to watch the Spanish
ambassador's house, and see if he sent away any despatches. Two days
after the letters had been taken to him by this rascal of a clerk, the
Spanish ambassador sent away two messengers--one for Cadiz and the other
for Madrid, which is the town where the King of Spain lives. The one to
Cadiz was permitted to go, but the one to Madrid was stopped by the
directions of the admiral, and this job was confided to the
commissioner, Sir Isaac, who settled it somehow or another; and this was
the reason why the admiral called out to him, 'I say, Sir Isaac, who
killed the messenger?' They brought back his despatches, by which they
found out that advice had been sent to the Spanish admiral--I forget his
name, something like _Magazine_--informing him of the supposed crippled
state of our squadron. Sir John, taking it for granted that the
Spaniards would not lose an opportunity of taking six sail of the line--
more English ships than they have ever taken in their lives--waited a
few days to give them time, and then sailed from Lisbon for Cape St
Vincent, where he joined Sir Hyde Parker, and fell in with the Spaniards
sure enough, and a pretty drubbing we gave them. Now, it's not everybody
that could tell you all that, Mr Simple."
"Well, but now for the action, Swinburne."
"Lord bless you, Mr Simple! it's now past seven bells, and I can't fight
the battle of St Vincent in half an hour; besides which, it's well worth
another glass of grog to hear all about that battle."
"Well, you shall have one, Swinburne; only don't forget to tell it to
Swinburne and I then separated, and in less than an hour afterwards I
was dreaming of despatches--Sir John Jervis--Sir Isaac Coffin--and
O'Brien's good advice--Captain Kearney again deals in the marvellous.
I do not remember any circumstance in my life which, at that time, lay
so heavily on my mind as the loss of poor Mr Chucks, the boatswain, who,
of course, I took it for granted I should never see again. I believe
that the chief cause was that at the time I entered the service, and
every one considered me to be the fool of the family, Mr Chucks and
O'Brien were the only two who thought of and treated me differently; and
it was their conduct which induced me to apply myself and encouraged me
to exertion. I believe that many a boy, who, if properly patronized,
would turn out well, is, by the injudicious system of browbeating and
ridicule, forced into the wrong path, and, in his despair, throws away
all self-confidence, and allows himself to be carried away by the stream
to perdition. O'Brien was not very partial to reading himself. He played
the German flute remarkably well, and had a very good voice. His chief
amusement was practising, or rather playing, which is a very different
thing; but although he did not study himself, he always made me come
into his cabin for an hour or two every day, and, after I had read,
repeat to him the contents of the book. By this method he not only
instructed me, but gained a great deal of information himself; for he
made so many remarks upon what I had read, that it was impressed upon
both our memories.
"Well, Peter," he would say, as he came into the cabin, "what have you
to tell me this morning? Sure it's you that's the schoolmaster, and not
me--for I learn from you every day."
"I have not read much, O'Brien, to-day, for I have been thinking of poor
"Very right for you so to do, Peter. Never forget your friends in a
hurry. You'll not find too many of them as you trot along the highway of
"I wonder whether he is dead?"
"Why, that's a question I cannot answer. A bullet through the chest
don't lengthen a man's days, that's certain; but this I know, that he'll
not die if he can help it, now that he's got the captain's jacket on."
"Yes; he always aspired to be a gentleman, which was absurd enough in a
"Not at all absurd, Peter, but very absurd of you to talk without
thinking. When did any one of his shipmates ever know Mr Chucks to do an
unhandsome or mean action? Never; and why? Because he aspired to be a
gentleman, and that feeling kept him above it. Vanity's a confounded
donkey, very apt to put his head between his legs, and chuck us over;
but pride's a fine horse, who will carry us over the ground, and enable
us to distance our fellow-travellers. Mr Chucks has pride, and that's
always commendable, even in a boatswain. How often have you read of
people rising from nothing, and becoming great men? This was from
talent, sure enough; but it was talent with pride to force it onward,
not talent with vanity to check it."
"You are very right, O'Brien; I spoke foolishly."
"Never mind, Peter, nobody heard you but me; so it's of no consequence.
Don't you dine in the cabin to-day?"
"So do I. The captain is in a most marvellous humour this morning. He
told me one or two yarns that quite staggered my politeness and my
respect for him on the quarter-deck. What a pity it is that a man should
have gained such a bad habit!"
"He's quite incurable, I'm afraid," replied I; "but, certainly, his fibs
do no harm; they are what they call white lies. I do not think he would
really tell a lie--that is, a lie which would be considered to disgrace
"Peter, _all_ lies disgrace a gentleman, white or black, although I
grant there is a difference. To say the least of it, it is a dangerous
habit; for white lies are but the gentlemen ushers to black ones. I know
but of one point on which a lie is excusable, and that is, when you wish
to deceive the enemy. Then your duty to your country warrants your lying
till you're black in the face; and, for the very reason that it goes
against your grain, it becomes, as it were, a sort of virtue."
"What was the difference between the marine officer and Mr Phillott that
occurred this morning?"
"Nothing at all in itself. The marine officer is a bit of a gaby, and
takes offence where none is meant. Mr Phillott has a foul tongue; but he
has a good heart."
"What a pity it is!"
"It is a pity, for he's a smart officer; but the fact is, Peter, that
junior officers are too apt to copy their superiors, and that makes it
very important that a young gentleman should sail with a captain who is
a gentleman. Now, Phillott served the best of his time with Captain
Ballover, who is notorious in the service for foul and abusive language.
What is the consequence? That Phillott and many others who have served
under him have learnt his bad habit."
"I should think, O'Brien, that the very circumstance of having had your
feelings so often wounded by such language when you were a junior
officer, would make you doubly careful not to make use of it to others,
when you had advanced in the service."
"Peter, that's just the _first_ feeling, which wears away after a time;
but at last, your own sense of indignation becomes blunted, and becoming
indifferent to it, you forget also that you wound the feelings of
others, and carry the habit with you, to the great injury and disgrace
of the service. But it's time to dress for dinner, so you'd better make
yourself scarce, Peter, while I tidivate myself off a little, according
to the rules and regulations of His Majesty's service, when you are
asked to dine with the skipper."
We met at the captain's table, where we found, as usual, a great display
of plate, but very little else, except the ship's allowance. We
certainly had now been cruising some time, and there was some excuse for
it; but still, few captains would have been so unprovided. "I'm afraid,
gentlemen, you will not have a very grand dinner," observed the captain,
as the steward removed the plated covers of the dishes; "but when on
service we must rough it out how we can. Mr O'Brien, pea-soup? I
recollect faring harder than this through one cruise in a flush vessel.
We were thirteen weeks up to our knees in water, and living the whole
time upon raw pork--not being able to light a fire during the cruise."
"Pray, Captain Kearney, may I ask where this happened?"
"To be sure. It was off Bermudas: we cruised for seven weeks before we
could find the Islands, and began verily to think that the Bermudas were
themselves on a cruise."
"I presume, sir, you were not so sorry to have a fire to cook your
provisions when you came to an anchor?" said O'Brien.
"I beg your pardon," replied Captain Kearney; "we had become so
accustomed to raw provisions and wet feet, that we could not eat our
meals cooked, or help dipping our legs over the side, for a long while
afterwards. I saw one of the boat-keepers astern catch a large
barracouta and eat it alive--indeed, if I had not given the strictest
orders, and flogged half-a-dozen of them, I doubt whether they would not
have eaten their victuals raw to this day. The force of habit is
"It is, indeed," observed Mr Phillott, drily, and winking to us,
referring to the captain's incredible stories.
"It is, indeed," repeated O'Brien; "we see the ditch in our neighbour's
eye, and cannot observe the log of wood in our own;" and O'Brien winked
at me, referring to Phillott's habit of bad language.
"I once knew a married man," observed the captain, "who had been always
accustomed to go to sleep with his hand upon his wife's head, and would
not allow her to wear a nightcap in consequence. Well, she caught cold
and died, and he never could sleep at night until he took a
clothes-brush to bed with him, and laid his hand upon that, which
answered the purpose--such was the force of habit."
"I once saw a dead body galvanized," observed Mr Phillott: "it was the
body of a man who had taken a great deal of snuff during his lifetime,
and as soon as the battery was applied to his spine, the body very
gently raised its arm, and put its fingers to its nose, as if it was
taking a pinch."
"You saw that yourself, Mr Phillott?" observed the captain, looking at
the first lieutenant earnestly in the face.
"Yes, sir," replied Mr Phillott, coolly.
"Have you told that story often?"
"Very often, sir."
"Because I know that some people, by constantly telling a story, at last
believe it to be true; not that I refer to you, Mr Phillott; but still,
I should recommend you not to tell that story where you are not well
known, or people may doubt your credibility."
"I make it a rule to believe everything myself," observed Mr Phillott,
"out of politeness, and I expect the same courtesy from others."
"Then, upon my soul! when you tell that story, you trespass very much
upon our good manners. Talking of courtesy, you must meet a friend of
mine, who has been a courtier all his life; he cannot help bowing, I
have seen him bow to his horse and thank him after he had dismounted--
beg pardon of a puppy for treading on his tail; and one day, when he
fell over a scraper, he took his hat off, and made it a thousand
apologies for his inattention."
"Force of habit again," said O'Brien.
"Exactly so. Mr Simple, will you take a slice of this pork? and perhaps
you'll do me the honour to take a glass of wine? Lord Privilege would
not much admire our dinner to-day, would he, Mr Simple?"
"As a variety he might, sir, but not for a continuance."
"Very truly said. Variety is charming. The negroes here get so tired of
salt fish and occra broth, that they eat dirt by way of a relish. Mr
O'Brien, how remarkably well you played that sonata of Pleydel's this
"I am happy that I did not annoy you, Captain Kearney, at all events,"
"On the contrary, I am very partial to good music. My mother was a great
performer. I recollect once, she was performing a piece on the piano in
which she had to imitate a _thunderstorm_. So admirably did she hit it
off, that when we went to tea all the cream was _turned sour_, as well
as three casks of _beer_ in the cellar."
At this assertion Mr Phillott could contain himself no longer; he burst
out into a loud laugh, and having a glass of wine to his lips, spattered
it all over the table, and over me, who unfortunately was opposite to
"I really beg pardon, Captain Kearney, but the idea of such an expensive
talent was too amusing. Will you permit me to ask you a question? As
there could not have been thunder without lightning, were any people
killed at the same time by the electric fluid of the piano?"
"No sir," replied Captain Kearney, very angrily; "but her performance
_electrified_ us, which was something like it. Perhaps, Mr Phillott, as
you lost your last glass of wine, you will allow me to take another with
"With great pleasure," replied the first lieutenant, who perceived that
he had gone far enough.
"Well, gentlemen," said the captain, "we shall soon be in the land of
plenty. I shall cruise a fortnight more, and then join the admiral at
Jamaica. We must make out our despatch relative to the cutting out of
the _Sylvia_ (that was the name of the privateer brig), and I am happy
to say that I shall feel it my duty to make honourable mention of all
the party present. Steward, coffee."
The first lieutenant, O'Brien, and I, bowed to this flattering avowal on
the part of the captain; as for me, I felt delighted. The idea of my
name being mentioned in the "Gazette," and the pleasure that it would
give to my father and mother, mantled the blood in my cheeks till I was
as red as a turkey-cock.
"_Cousin_ Simple," said the captain, good-naturedly, "you have no
occasion to blush; your conduct deserves it; and you are indebted to Mr
Phillott for having made me acquainted with your gallantry."
Coffee was soon over, and I was glad to leave the cabin, and be alone,
that I might compose my perturbed mind. I felt too happy. I did not,
however, say a word to my messmates, as it might have created feelings
of envy or ill-will. O'Brien gave me a caution not to do so, when I met
him afterwards, so that I was very glad that I had been so circumspect.
Swinburne continues his narrative of the battle off Cape St Vincent.
The second night after this, we had the middle watch, and I claimed
Swinburne's promise that he would spin his yarn, relative to the battle
of St Vincent. "Well, Mr Simple, so I will; but I require a little
priming, or I shall never go off."
"Will you have your glass of grog before or after?"
"Before, by all means, if you please, sir. Run down and get it, and I'll
heave the log for you in the meantime, when we shall have a good hour
without interruption, for the sea-breeze will be steady, and we are
under easy sail." I brought up a stiff glass of grog, which Swinburne
tossed off, and as he finished it, sighed deeply as if in sorrow that
there was no more. Having stowed away the tumbler in one of the capstern
holes for the present, we sat down upon a coil of ropes under the
weather bulwarks, and Swinburne, replacing his quid of tobacco,
commenced as follows--
"Well, Mr Simple, as I told you before, old Jervis started with all his
fleet for Cape St Vincent. We lost one of our fleet--and a three-decker
too--the _St George_; she took the ground, and was obliged to go back to
Lisbon; but we soon afterwards were joined by five sail of the line,
sent out from England, so that we mustered fifteen sail in all. We had
like to lose another of our mess, for d'ye see, the old _Culloden_ and
_Colossus_ fell foul of each other, and the _Culloden_ had the worst on
it; but Troubridge, who commanded her, was not a man to shy his work,
and ax to go in to refit, when there was a chance of meeting the enemy--
so he patched her up somehow or another, and reported himself ready for
action the very next day. Ready for action he always was, that's sure
enough, but whether his ship was in a fit state to go into action is
quite another thing. But as the sailors used to say in joking, he was a
_true bridge_, and you might trust to him; which meant as much as to
say, that he knew how to take his ship into action, and how to fight her
when he was fairly in it. I think it was the next day that Cockburn
joined us in the _Minerve_, and he brought Nelson along with him with
the intelligence that the Dons had chased him, and that the whole
Spanish fleet was out in pursuit of us. Well, Mr Simple, you may guess
we were not a little happy in the _Captain_, when Nelson joined us, as
we knew that if he fell in with the Spaniards our ship would cut a
figure--and so she did sure enough. That was on the morning of the 13th,
and old Jervis made the signal to prepare for action, and keep close
order, which means, to have your flying jib-boom in at the starn windows
of the ship ahead of you; and we did keep close order, for a man might
have walked right round from one ship to the other, either lee or
weather line of the fleet. I sha'n't forget that night, Mr Simple, as
long as I live and breathe. Every now and then we heard the signal guns
of the Spanish fleet booming at a distance to windward of us, and you
may guess how our hearts leaped at the sound, and how we watched with
all our ears for the next gun that was fired, trying to make out their
bearings and distance, as we assembled in little knots upon the booms
and weather-gangway. It was my middle watch, and I was signalman at the
time, so of course I had no time to take a caulk if I was inclined. When
my watch was over I could not go down to my hammock, so I kept the
morning watch too, as did most of the men on board: as for Nelson, he
walked the deck the whole night, quite in a fever. At daylight it was
thick and hazy weather, and we could not make them out; but, about five
bells, the old _Culloden_, who, if she had broke her nose, had not lost
the use of her eyes, made the signal for a part of the Spanish fleet in
sight. Old Jervis repeated the signal to prepare for action, but he
might have saved the wear and tear of the bunting, for we were all
ready, bulk-heads down, screens up, guns shotted, tackles rove, yards
slung, powder filled, shot on deck, and fire out--and what's more, Mr
Simple, I'll be d----d if we weren't all willing too. About six bells
in the forenoon, the fog and haze all cleared away at once, just like
the raising of the foresail that they lower down at the Portsmouth
theatre, and discovered the whole of the Spanish fleet. I counted them
all. 'How many, Swinburne?' cries Nelson. 'Twenty-six sail, sir,'
answered I. Nelson walked the quarter-deck backwards and forwards,
rubbing his hands, and laughing to himself, and then he called for his
glass, and went to the gangway with Captain Miller. 'Swinburne, keep a
good look upon the admiral,' says he. 'Ay, ay, sir,' says I. Now you
see, Mr Simple, twenty-six sail against fifteen were great odds upon
paper; but we didn't think so, because we know'd the difference between
the two fleets. There was our fifteen sail of the line, all in apple-pie
order, packed up as close as dominoes, and every man on board of them
longing to come to the scratch; while there was their twenty-six, all
_somehow nohow_, two lines here and _no lines_ there, with a great gap
of water in the middle of them. For this gap between their ships we all
steered, with all the sail we could carry because, d'ye see, Mr Simple,
by getting them on both sides of us, we had the advantage of fighting
both broadsides, which is just as easy as fighting one, and makes
shorter work of it. Just as it struck seven bells, Troubridge opened the
ball _setting_ to half a dozen of the Spaniards, and making them _reel_
'Tom Collins' whether or no. Bang--bang--bang, bang! Oh, Mr Simple, it's
a beautiful sight to see the first guns fired that are to bring on a
general action. He's the luckiest dog, that Troubridge,' said Nelson,
stamping with impatience. Our ships were soon hard at it, hammer and
tongs (my eyes, how they did pelt it in!), and old Sir John, in the
_Victory_, smashed the cabin windows of the Spanish admiral, with such a
hell of a raking broadside, that the fellow bore up as if the devil
kicked him. Lord a mercy, you might have drove a Portsmouth waggon into
his starn--the broadside of the _Victory_ had made room enough. However,
they were soon all smothered up in smoke, and we could not make out how
things were going on--but we made a pretty good guess. Well, Mr Simple,
as they say at the play, that was act the first, scene the first; and
now we had to make our appearance, and I'll leave you to judge, after
I've told my tale, whether the old _Captain_ wasn't principal performer,
and _top sawyer_ over them all. But stop a moment, I'll just look at the
binnacle, for that young topman's nodding at the wheel.--I say, Mr
Smith, are you shutting your eyes to keep them warm, and letting the
ship run half a point out of her course? Take care I don't send for
another helmsman, that's all, and give the reason why. You'll make a wry
face upon six-water grog to-morrow, at seven bells. D----n your eyes,
keep them open--can't you?"
Swinburne, after this genteel admonition to the man at the wheel,
reseated himself and continued his narrative.
"All this while, Mr Simple, we in the _Captain_ had not fired a gun; but
were ranging up as fast as we could to where the enemy lay in a heap.
There were plenty to pick and choose from; and Nelson looked out sharp
for a big one, as little boys do when they have to choose an apple; and,
by the piper that played before Moses! it was a big one that he ordered
the master to put him alongside of. She was a four-decker, called the
_Santissima Trinidad_. We had to pass some whoppers, which would have
satisfied any reasonable man; for there was the _San Josef_, and
_Salvador del Mondo_ and _San Nicolas_: but nothing would suit Nelson
but this four-decked ship; so we crossed the hawse of about six of them,
and as soon as we were abreast of her, and at the word 'Fire!' every gun
went off at once, slap into her, and the old _Captain_ reeled at the
discharge, as if she was drunk. I wish you'd only seen how we pitched it
into this _Holy Trinity_; she was _holy_ enough before we had done with
her, riddled like a sieve, several of her ports knocked into one, and
every scupper of her running blood and water. Not but what she stood to
it as bold as brass, and gave us nearly gun for gun, and made a very
pretty general average in our ship's company. Many of the old captains
went to kingdom-come in that business, and many more were obliged to
bear up for Greenwich Hospital.
"'Fire away, my lads--steady aim!' cries Nelson. 'Jump down there, Mr
Thomas; pass the word to reduce the cartridges, the shot go clean
through her. Double shot the guns there, fore and aft.'
"So we were at it for about half an hour, when our guns became so hot
from quick firing, that they bounced up to the beams overhead, tearing
away their ringbolts, and snapping their breechings like rope-yarns. By
this time we were almost as much unrigged as if we had been two days
paying off in Portsmouth harbour. The four-decker forged ahead, and
Troubridge, in the jolly old _Culloden_, came between us and two other
Spanish ships, who were playing into us. She was as fresh as a daisy,
and gave them a dose which quite astonished them. They shook their ears,
and fell astern, when the _Blenheim_ laid hold of them, and mauled them
so that they went astern again. But it was out of the frying-pan into,
the fire: for the _Orion, Prince George_, and one or two others, were
coming up, and knocked the very guts out of them. I'll be d----d if
they forget the 14th of April, and sarve them right, too. Wasn't a
four-decker enough for any two-decker, without any more coming on us?
and couldn't the beggars have matched themselves like gentlemen? Well,
Mr Simple, this gave us a minute or two to fetch, our breath, let the
guns cool, and repair damages, and swab the blood from the decks; but we
lost our four-decker, for we could not get near her again."
"What odd names the Spaniards give to their ships, Swinburne?"
"Why yes, they do; it would almost appear wicked to belabour the _Holy
Trinity_ as we did. But why they should call a four-decked ship the
_Holy Trinity_, seeing as how there's only three of them, Father, Son,
and Holy Ghost, I can't tell. Bill Saunders said that the fourth deck
was for the Pope, who was as great a personage as the others; but I
can't understand how that can be. Well, Mr Simple, as I was head
signalman, I was perched on the poop, and didn't serve at a gun. I had
to report all I could see, which was not much, the smoke was so thick;
but now and then I could get a peep, as it were through the holes in the
blanket. Of course I was obliged to keep my eye as much as possible upon
the admiral, not to make out his signals, for Commodore Nelson wouldn't
thank me for that; I knew he hated a signal when in action, so I never
took no notice of the bunting, but just watched to see what he was
about. So while we are repairing damages, I'll just tell you what I saw
of the rest of the fleet. As soon as old Jervis had done for the Spanish
admiral, he hauled his wind on the larboard tack, and followed by four
or five other ships, weathered the Spanish line, and joined Collingwood
in the _Excellent_. Then they all dashed through the line; the
_Excellent_ was the leading ship, and she first took the shine out of
the _Salvador del Mondo_, and then left her to be picked up by the other
ships, while she attacked a two-decker, who hauled down her colours--I
forget her name just now. As soon as the _Victory_ ran alongside of the
_Salvador del Mondo_, down went her colours, and _excellent_ reasons had
she for striking her flag. And now, Mr Simple. The old _Captain_ comes
into play again. Having parted company with the four-decker, we had
recommenced action with the _San Nicolas_, a Spanish eighty, and while
we were hard at it, old Collingwood comes up in the _Excellent_. The
_San Nicolas_, knowing that the _Excellent's_ broadside would send her
to old Nick, put her helm up to avoid being raked: in so doing, she fell
foul of the _San Josef_, a Spanish three-decker, and we being all cut to
pieces and unmanageable--all of us indeed reeling about like drunken
men--Nelson ordered his helm a-starboard, and in a jiffy there we were,
all three hugging each other, running in one another's guns, smashing
our chain-plates, and poking our yard-arms through each other's canvas.
"'All hands to board!' roared Nelson, leaping on the hammocks and waving
"'Hurrah! hurrah!' echoed through the decks, and up flew the men, like
as many angry bees out of a bee-hive. In a moment pikes, tomahawks,
cutlasses, and pistols were seized (for it was quite unexpected, Mr
Simple), and our men poured into the eighty-gun ship, and in two minutes
the decks were cleared and all the Dons pitched below. I joined the
boarders and was on the main deck when Captain Miller came down, and
cried out 'On deck again immediately.' Up we went, and what do you think
it was for, Mr Simple? Why to board a second time; for Nelson having
taken the two-decker, swore that he'd have the three-decker as well. So
away we went again, clambering up her lofty sides how we could, and
dropping down on her decks like hailstones. We all made for the
quarter-deck, beat down every Spanish beggar that showed fight, and in
five minutes more we had hauled down the colours of two of the finest
ships in the Spanish navy. If that wasn't taking the shine out of the
Dons, I should like to know what is. And didn't the old captains cheer
and shake hands, as Commodore Nelson stood on the deck of the _San
Josef_, and received the swords of the Spanish officers! There was
enough of them to go right round the capstern, and plenty to spare. Now,
Mr Simple, what do you think of that for a spree?"
"Why, Swinburne, I can only say that I wish I had been there."
"So did every man in the fleet, Mr Simple, I can tell you."
"But what became of the _Santissima Trinidad_?
"Upon my word, she behaved one _deck_ better than all the others. She
held out against four of our ships for a long while, and then hauled
down her colours, and no disgrace to her, considering what a precious
hammering she had taken first. But the lee division of the Spanish
weather fleet, if I may so call it, consisting of eleven sail of the
line, came up to her assistance, and surrounded her, so that they got
her off. Our ships were too much cut up to commence a new action, and
the admiral made the signal to secure the prizes. The Spanish fleet then
did what they should have done before--got into line; and we lost no
time in doing the same. But we both had had fighting enough."
"But do you think, Swinburne, that the Spaniards fought well?"
"They'd have fought better, if they'd only have known how. There's no
want of courage in the Dons, Mr Simple, but they did not support each
other. Only observe how Troubridge supported us. By God, Mr Simple, he
was the _real fellow_, and Nelson knew it well. He was Nelson's
right-hand man; but you know, there wasn't room for _two_ Nelsons. Their
ships engaged held out well, it must be acknowledged, but why weren't
they all in their proper berths? Had they kept close order of sailing,
and had all fought as well as those who were captured, it would not have
been a very easy matter for fifteen ships to gain a victory over
twenty-six. That's long odds, even when backed with British seamen."
"Well, how did you separate?"
"Why, the next morning the Spaniards had the weathergage, so they had
the option whether to fight or not. At one time they had half a mind,
for they bore down to us; upon which we hauled our wind to show them we
were all ready to meet them, and then they thought better of it, and
rounded-to again. So as they wouldn't fight, and we didn't wish it, we
parted company in the night; and two days afterwards we anchored, with
our four prizes, in Lagos Bay. So now you have the whole of it, Mr
Simple, and I've talked till I'm quite hoarse. You haven't by chance
another drop of the stuff left to clear my throat? It would be quite a
"I think I have, Swinburne; and as you deserve it, I will go and fetch
A letter from Father M'Grath, who diplomatizes--When priest meets
priest, then comes the tug of war--Father O'Toole not to be made a tool
We continued our cruise for a fortnight, and then made sail for Jamaica,
where we found the admiral at anchor at Port Royal, but our signal was
made to keep under weigh, and Captain Kearney, having paid his respects
to the admiral, received orders to carry despatches to Halifax. Water
and provisions were sent on board by the boats of the admiral's ships,
and, to our great disappointment, as the evening closed in, we were
again standing out to sea, instead of, as we had anticipated, enjoying
ourselves on shore; but the fact was, that orders had arrived from
England to send a frigate immediately up to the admiral at Halifax, to
be at his disposal.
I had, however, the satisfaction to know that Captain Kearney had been
true to his word in making mention of my name in the despatch, for the
clerk showed me a copy of it. Nothing occurred worth mentioning during
our passage, except that Captain Kearney was very unwell nearly the
whole of the time, and seldom quitted his cabin. It was in October that
we anchored in Halifax harbour, and the Admiralty, expecting our arrival
there, had forwarded our letters. There were none for me, but there was
one for O'Brien, from Father M'Grath, the contents of which were as
"MY DEAR SON,--And a good son you are, and that's the truth on it, or
devil a bit should you be a son of mine. You've made your family quite
contented and peaceable, and they never fight for the _praties_ now--
good reason why they shouldn't, seeing that there's a plenty for all of
them, and the pig craturs into the bargain. Your father and your mother,
and your brother, and your three sisters, send their duty to you, and
their blessings too--and you may add my blessing, Terence, which is
worth them all; for won't I get you out of purgatory in the twinkling of
a bed-post? Make yourself quite aisy on that score, and lave it all to
me; only just say a _pater_ now and then, that when St Peter lets you
in, he mayn't throw it in your teeth, that you've saved your soul by
contract, which is the only way by which emperors and kings ever get to
heaven. Your letter from Plymouth came safe to hand: Barney, the
post-boy, having dropped it under foot, close to our door, the big pig
took it into his mouth and ran away with it; but I caught sight of him,
and _speaking_ to him, he let it go, knowing (the 'cute cratur!) that I
could read it better than him. As soon as I had digested the contents,
which it was lucky the pig did not instead of me, I just took my meal
and my big stick, and then set off for Ballycleuch.
"Now you know, Terence, if you haven't forgot--and if you have, I'll
just remind you--that there's a flaunty sort of young woman at the
poteen shop there, who calls herself Mrs O'Rourke, wife to a Corporal
O'Rourke, who was kilt or died one day, I don't know which, but that's
not of much consequence. The devil a bit do I think the priest ever gave
the marriage-blessing to that same; although she swears that she was
married on the rock of Gibraltar--it may be a strong rock fore I know,
but it's not the rock of salvation like the seven sacraments, of which
marriage is one. _Benedicite_! Mrs O'Rourke is a little too apt to fleer
and jeer at the priests; and if it were not that she softens down her
pertinent remarks with a glass or two of the real poteen, which proves
some respect for the church, I'd excommunicate her body and soul, and
every body and every soul that put their lips to the cratur at her door.
But she must leave that off, as I tell her, when she gets old and ugly,
for then all the whisky in the world sha'n't save her. But she's a fine
woman now, and it goes agin my conscience to help the devil to a fine
woman. Now this Mrs O'Rourke knows everybody and everything that's going
on in the country about; and she has a tongue which has never had a
holiday since it was let loose.
"'Good morning to ye, Mrs O'Rourke,' says I.
"'An' the top of the morning to you, Father M'Grath,' says she, with a
smile; 'what brings you here? Is it a journey that you're taking to buy
the true wood of the cross? or is it a purty girl that you wish to
confess, Father M'Grath? or is it only that you're come for a drop of
poteen, and a little bit of chat with Mrs O'Rourke?'
"'Sure it's I who'd be glad to find the same true wood of the cross, Mrs
O'Rourke, but it's not grown, I suspect, at your town of Ballycleuch;
and it's no objection I'd have to confess a purty girl like yourself,
Mrs O'Rourke, who'll only tell me half her sins, and give me no trouble;
but it's the truth, that I'm here for nothing else but to have a bit of
chat with yourself, dainty dear, and taste your poteen, just by way of
keeping my mouth nate and clane.'
"So Mrs O'Rourke poured out the real stuff, which I drank to her health;
and then says I, putting down the bit of a glass, 'So you've a stranger
come, I find, in your parts, Mrs O'Rourke.'
"'I've heard the same,' replied she. So you observe, Terence, I came to
the fact all at once by a guess.
"'I am tould,' says I, 'that he's a Scotchman, and spakes what nobody
"'Devil a bit,' says she, 'he's an Englishman, and speaks plain enough.'
"'But what can a man mane, to come here and sit down all alone?' says I.
"'All alone, Father M'Grath!' replied she; 'is a man all alone when he's
got his wife and childer, and more coming, with the blessing of God?'
"'But those boys are not his own childer, I believe,' says I.
"'There again you're all in a mistake, Father M'Grath,' rejoins she.
'The childer are all his own, and all girls to boot. It appears that
it's just as well that you come down, now and then, for information, to
our town of Ballycleuch.'
"'Very true, Mrs O'Rourke,' says I; 'and who is it that knows everything
so well as yourself?' You observe, Terence, that I just said everything
contrary and _arce versa_, as they call it, to the contents of your
letter; for always recollect, my son, that if you would worm a secret
out of a woman, you'll do more by contradiction than you ever will by
coaxing--so I went on: 'Anyhow, I think it's a burning shame, Mrs
O'Rourke, for a gentleman to bring over with him here from England a
parcel of lazy English servants, when there's so many nice boys and
girls here to attind upon them.'
"'Now there you're all wrong again, Father M'Grath,' says she. 'Devil a
soul has he brought from the other country, but has hired them all here.
Arn't there Ella Flanagan for one maid, and Terence Driscol for a
footman? and it's well that he looks in his new uniform, when he comes
down for the newspapers; and arn't Moggy Cala there to cook the dinner,
and pretty Mary Sullivan for a nurse for the babby as soon as it comes
into the world?'
"'Is it Mary Sullivan you mane?' says I; 'she that was married about
three months back, and is so quick in child-getting, that she's all but
ready to fall to pieces in this same time?'
"'It's exactly she,' says Mrs O'Rourke; 'and do you know the reason?'
"'Devil a bit,' says I; 'how should I?'
"'Then it's just that she may send her own child away, and give her milk
to the English babby that's coming; because the lady is too much of a
lady to have a child hanging to her breast.'
"'But suppose Mary Sullivan's child ar'n't born till afterwards, how
then?" says I. 'Speak, Mrs O'Rourke, for you're a sensible woman.'
"'How then?' says she. 'Och! that's all arranged; for Mary says that
she'll be in bed a week before the lady, so that's all right, you'll
perceive, Father M'Grath.'
"'But don't you perceive, sensible woman as you are, that a young woman,
who is so much out of her reckoning as to have a child three months
after her marriage, may make a little mistake in her lying-in
arithmetic, Mrs O'Rourke.'
"'Never fear, Father M'Grath, Mary Sullivan will keep her word; and
sooner than disappoint the lady, and lose her place, she'll just tumble