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Peter Simple and The Three Cutters, Vol. 1 by Captain Frederick Marryat

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"Yes, sir," replied I. I had no idea of a night-glass; and as I observed
that about this time his servant brought him up a glass of grog, I
thought it very lucky that I knew what he meant. "Take care that you
don't break it, Mr Simple." "Oh, then, I'm all right," thought I; "he
means the tumbler." So down I went, called up the gunroom steward, and
desired him to give me a glass of grog for Mr Doball. The steward
tumbled out in his shirt, mixed the grog, and gave it to me, and I
carried it up very carefully to the quarter-deck.

During my absence, the master had called the captain, and in pursuance
of his orders, O'Brien had called the first lieutenant, and when I came
up the ladder, they were both on deck. As I was ascending, I heard the
master say, "I have sent young Simple down for my night-glass, but he is
so long, that I suppose he has made some mistake. He's but half a fool."
"That I deny," replied Mr Falcon, the first lieutenant, just as I put my
foot on the quarter-deck; "he's no fool." "Perhaps not," replied the
master. "Oh, here he is. What made you so long, Mr Simple--where is my

"Here it is, sir," replied I, handing him the tumbler of grog; "I told
the steward to make it stiff." The captain and the first lieutenant
burst out into a laugh for Mr Doball was known to be very fond of grog;
the former walked aft to conceal his mirth; but the latter remained. Mr
Doball was in a great rage. "Did not I say that the boy was half a
fool?" cried he to the first lieutenant. "At all events, I'll not allow
that he has proved himself so in this instance," replied Mr Falcon, "for
he has hit the right nail on the head." Then the first lieutenant joined
the captain, and they both went off laughing. "Put it on the capstan,
sir," said Mr Doball to me, in an angry voice. "I'll punish you
by-and-by." I was very much astonished; I hardly knew whether I had done
right or wrong; at all events, thought I to myself, I did for the best;
so I put it on the capstan and walked to my own side of the deck. The
captain and first lieutenant then went below, and O'Brien came aft.
"What vessel is it?" said I.

"To the best of my belief, it's one of your bathing-machines going home
with despatches," replied he.

"A bathing machine," said I; "why I thought that they were hauled up on
the beach." "That's the Brighton sort; but these are made not to go up
at all."

"What then?"

"Why, to _go down_, to be sure; and remarkably well they answer their
purpose. I won't puzzle you any more, my Peter--I'm spaking
helligorically, which I believe means telling a hell of a lie. It's one
of your ten-gun brigs, to the best of my knowledge."

I then told O'Brien what had occurred, and how the master was angry with
me. O'Brien laughed very heartily, and told me never to mind, but to
keep in the lee-scuppers and watch him. "A glass of grog is a bait that
he'll play round till he gorges. When you see it to his lips, go up to
him boldly, and ask his pardon, if you have offended him, and then, if
he's a good Christian, as I believe him to be, he'll not refuse it."

I thought this was very good advice, and I waited under the bulwark on
the lee-side. I observed that the master made shorter and shorter turns
every time, till at last he stopped at the capstan and looked at the
grog. He waited about half a minute, and then he took up the tumbler,
and drank about half of it. It was very strong, and he stopped to take
breath. I thought this was the right time, and I went up to him. The
tumbler was again to his lips, and before he saw me, I said, "I hope,
sir, you'll forgive me; I never heard of a night telescope, and knowing
that you had walked so long, I thought you were tired, and wanted
something to drink to refresh you." "Well, Mr Simple," said he, after he
had finished the glass, with a deep sigh of pleasure, "as you meant
kindly, I shall let you off this time; but recollect, that whenever you
bring me a glass of grog again, it must not be in the presence of the
captain or first lieutenant." I promised him very faithfully, and went
away quite delighted with my having made my peace with him, and more so,
that the first lieutenant had said that I was no fool for what I had

At last our watch was over, and about two bells I was relieved by the
midshipmen of the next watch. It is very unfair not to relieve in time,
but if I said a word I was certain to be thrashed the next day upon some
pretence or other. On the other hand, the midshipman whom I relieved was
also much bigger than I was, and if I was not up before one bell, I was
cut down and thrashed by him: so that between the two I kept much more
than my share of the watch, except when the master sent me to bed before
it was over.

Chapter XIII

The first lieutenant prescribes for one of his patients, his
prescriptions consisting of _draughts_ only--O'Brien finishes the
history of his life, in which the proverb of "the more the merrier" is
sadly disproved--_Shipping_ a new pair of boots causes the _unshipping_
of their owner--Walking home after a ball, O'Brien meets with an

The next morning I was on deck at seven bells, to see the hammocks
stowed, when I was witness to Mr Falcon, the first lieutenant, having
recourse to one of his remedies to cure a mizen-top-boy of smoking, a
practice to which he had a great aversion. He never interfered with the
men smoking in the galley, or chewing tobacco; but he prevented the
boys, that is, lads under twenty or there-abouts, from indulging in the
habit too early. The first lieutenant smelt the tobacco as the boy
passed him on the quarter-deck. "Why, Neill, you have been smoking,"
said the first lieutenant. "I thought you were aware that I did not
permit such lads as you to use tobacco."

"If you please, sir," replied the mizen-top-man, touching his hat, "I'se
got worms, and they say that smoking be good for them."

"Good for them!" said the first lieutenant; "yes, very good for them,
but very bad for you. Why, my good fellow, they'll thrive upon tobacco
until they grow as large as conger eels. Heat is what the worms are fond
of; but cold--cold will kill them. Now I'll cure you. Quarter-master,
come here. Walk this boy up and down the weather-gangway, and every time
you get forward abreast of the main-tack block, put his mouth to
windward, squeeze him sharp by the nape of the neck until he opens his
mouth wide, and there keep him and let the cold air blow down his
throat, while you count ten; then walk him aft, and when you are forward
again, proceed as before.--Cold kills worms, my poor boy, not tobacco--I
wonder that you are not dead by this time."

The quarter-master, who liked the joke, as did all the seamen, seized
hold of the lad, and as soon as they arrived forward, gave him such a
squeeze of the neck as to force him to open his mouth, if it were only
to cry with pain. The wind was very fresh, and blew into his mouth so
strong, that it actually whistled while he was forced to keep it open;
and thus, he was obliged to walk up and down, cooling his inside, for
nearly two hours, when the first lieutenant sent for him, and told him,
that he thought all the worms must be dead by that time; but if they
were not, the lad was not to apply his own remedies, but come to him for
another dose. However, the boy was of the same opinion as the first
lieutenant, and never complained of worms again.

A few nights afterwards, when we had the middle watch, O'Brien proceeded
with his story.

"Where was it that I left off?"

"You left off at the time that you were taken out of confinement."

"So I did, sure enough; and it was with no good-will that I went to my
duty. However, as there was no help for it, I walked up and down the
deck as before, with my hands in my pockets, thinking of old Ireland,
and my great ancestor, Brien Borru. And so I went on behaving myself
like a real gentleman, and getting into no more scrapes, until the fleet
put into the Cove of Cork, and I found myself within a few miles of my
father's house. You may suppose that the anchor had hardly kissed the
mud, before I went to the first lieutenant, and asked leave to go on
shore. Now the first lieutenant was not in the sweetest of tempers,
seeing as how the captain had been hauling him over the coals for not
carrying on the duty according to his satisfaction. So he answered me
very gruffly, that I should not leave the ship. 'Oh, bother!' said I to
myself, 'this will never do.' So up I walked to the captain, and
touching my hat, reminded him that 'I had a father and mother, and a
pretty sprinkling of brothers and sisters, who were dying to see me, and
that I hoped that he would give me leave.' 'Ax the first lieutenant,'
said he, turning away. 'I have, sir,' replied I, 'and he says that the
devil a bit shall I put my foot on shore.' 'Then you have misbehaved
yourself,' said the captain. 'Not a bit of it, Captain Willis,' replied
I; 'it's the first lieutenant who has misbehaved.' 'How, sir?' answered
he, in an angry tone. 'Why, sir, didn't he misbehave just now in not
carrying on the duty according to your will and pleasure? and didn't you
serve him out just as he deserved--and isn't he sulky because you did--
and arn't that the reason why I am not to go on shore? You see, your
honour, it's all true as I said; and the first lieutenant has misbehaved
and not I. I hope you will allow me to go on shore, captain, God bless
you! and make some allowance for my parental feelings towards the
arthers of my existence.' 'Have you any fault to find with Mr O'Brien?'
said the captain to the first lieutenant, as he came aft. 'No more than
I have with midshipmen in general; but I believe it is not the custom
for officers to ask leave to go on shore before the sails are furled and
the yards squared.' 'Very true,' replied the captain; 'therefore, Mr
O'Brien, you must wait until the watch is called, and then, if you ask
the first lieutenant, I have no doubt but you will have leave granted to
you to go and see your friends.' 'Thank'e kindly, sir,' replied I; and I
hoped that the yards and sails would be finished off as soon as
possible, for my heart was in my mouth, and I felt that if I had been
kept much longer, it would have flown on shore before me.

"I thought myself very clever in this business, but I was never a
greater fool in my life; for there was no such hurry to have gone on
shore, and the first lieutenant never forgave me for appealing to the
captain--but of that by-and-by, and all in good time. At last I obtained
a grumbling assent to my going on shore, and off I went like a
sky-rocket. Being in a desperate hurry, I hired a jaunting-car to take
me to my father's house. 'Is it the O'Brien of Ballyhinch that you
mane?' inquired the spalpeen who drove the horse. 'Sure it is,' replied
I; 'and how is he, and all the noble family of the O'Briens?" 'All well
enough, bating the boy Tim, who caught a bit of confusion in his head
the other night at the fair, and now lies at home in bed quite
insensible to mate or drink; but the doctors give hopes of his recovery,
as all the O'Briens are known to have such thick heads.' 'What do you
mane by that, bad manners to you?' said I, 'but poor Tim--how did it
happen--was there a fight?' 'Not much of a fight--only a bit of a
skrummage--three crowners' inquests, no more.' 'But you are not going
the straight road, you thief,' said I, seeing that he had turned off to
the left. 'I've my reasons for that, your honour,' replied he; 'I always
turn away from the Castle out of principle--I lost a friend there, and
it makes me melancholy.' 'How came that for to happen?' 'All by
accident, your honour; they hung my poor brother Patrick there, because
he was a bad hand at arithmetic.' 'He should have gone to a better
school then,' said I. 'I've an idea that it was a bad school that he was
brought up in,' replied he, with a sigh. 'He was a cattle-dealer, your
honour, and one day, somehow or another, he'd a cow too much--all for
not knowing how to count, your honour,--bad luck to his school-master.'
'All that may be very true,' said I, 'and pace be to his soul; but I
don't see why you are to drag me, that's in such a hurry, two miles out
of my way, out of principle.' 'Is your honour in a hurry to get home?
Then I'll be thinking they'll not be in such a hurry to see you.' 'And
who told you that my name was O'Brien, you baste?--and do you dare to
say that my friends won't be glad to see me?' 'Plase your honour, it's
all an idea of mine--so say no more about it. Only this I know: Father
M'Grath, who gives me absolution, tould me the other day that I ought to
pay him, and not run in debt, and then run away like Terence O'Brien,
who went to say without paying for his shirts, and his shoes, and his
stockings, nor anything else, and who would live to be hanged as sure as
St Patrick swam over the Liffey with his head under his arm.' 'Bad luck
to that Father McGrath,' cried I; 'devil burn me, but I'll be revenged
upon him!'

"By that time we had arrived at the door of my father's house. I paid
the rapparee, and in I popped. There was my father and mother, and all
my brothers and sisters (bating Tim, who was in bed sure enough, and
died next day), and that baste Father McGrath to boot. When my mother
saw me she ran to me and hugged me as she wept on my neck, and then she
wiped her eyes and sat down again; but nobody else said 'How d'ye do?'
or opened their mouths to me. I said to myself, 'Sure there's some
trifling mistake here,' but I held my tongue. At last they all opened
their mouths with a vengeance. My father commenced--'Ar'n't you ashamed
on yourself, Terence O'Brien?' 'Ar'n't you ashamed on yourself, Terence
O'Brien?' cried Father M'Grath. 'Ar'n't you ashamed on yourself?' cried
out all my brothers and sisters in full chorus, whilst my poor mother
put her apron to her eyes and said nothing. 'The devil a bit for myself,
but very much ashamed for you all,' replied I, 'to treat me in this
manner. What's the meaning of all this?' 'Haven't they seized my two
cows to pay for your toggery, you spalpeen?' cried my father. 'Haven't
they taken the hay to pay for your shoes and stockings?' cried Father
M'Grath. 'Haven't they taken the pig to pay for that ugly hat of yours?'
cried my eldest sister. 'And haven't they taken my hens to pay for that
dirk of yours?' cried another. 'And all our best furniture to pay for
your white shirts and black cravats?' cried Murdock, my brother. 'And
haven't we been starved to death ever since?' cried they all. 'Och
hone!' said my mother. 'The devil they have!' said I, when they'd all
done. 'Sure I'm sorry enough, but it's no fault of mine. Father, didn't
you send me to say?' 'Yes, you rapparee; but didn't you promise--or
didn't I promise for you, which is all one and the same thing--that
you'd pay it all back with your prize-money--and where is it? answer
that, Terence O'Brien.' 'Where is it, father? I'll tell you; it's where
next Christmas is--coming, but not come yet.' 'Spake to him, Father
M'Grath,' said my father. 'Is not that a lie of yours, Terence O'Brien,
that you're after telling now?' said Father McGrath; 'give me the
money.' 'It's no lie, Father McGrath; if it pleased you to die
to-morrow, the devil of a shilling have I to jingle on your tombstone
for good luck, bating those three or four, which you may divide between
you, and I threw them on the floor.

"'Terence O'Brien,' said Father McGrath, 'its absolution that you'll be
wanting to-morrow, after all your sins and enormities; and the devil a
bit shall you have--take that now.'

"'Father M'Grath,' replied I very angrily, 'it's no absolution that I'll
want from you, any how--take that now.'

"'Then you have had your share of heaven; for I'll keep you out of it,
you wicked monster,' said Father M'Grath--'take that now.'

"'If it's no better than a midshipman's berth,' replied I, 'I'd just as
soon stay out; but I'll creep in in spite of you--take that now, Father

"'And who's to save your soul, and send you to heaven, if I don't, you
wicked wretch? but I'll see you d--d first--so take that now, Terence

"'Then I'll turn Protestant, and damn the Pope--take that now, Father

"At this last broadside of mine, my father and all my brothers and
sisters raised a cry of horror, and my mother burst into tears. Father
M'Grath seized hold of the pot of holy water, and dipping in the little
whisk, began to sprinkle the room, saying a Latin prayer, while they all
went on squalling at me. At last, my father seized the stool, which he
had been seated upon, and threw it at my head. I dodged, and it knocked
down Father M'Grath, who had just walked behind me in full song. I knew
that it was all over after that, so I sprang over his carcass, and
gained the door. 'Good morning to ye all, and better manners to you next
time we meet,' cried I, and off I set as fast as I could for the ship.

"I was melancholy enough as I walked back, and thought of what had
passed. 'I need not have been in such a confounded hurry,' said I to
myself, 'to ask leave, thereby affronting the first lieutenant;' and I
was very sorry for what I had said to the priest, for my conscience
thumped me very hard at having even pretended that I'd turn Protestant,
which I never intended to do, nor never will, but live and die a good
Catholic, as all my posterity have done before me, and, as I trust, all
my ancestors will for generations to come. Well, I arrived on board, and
the first lieutenant was very savage. I hoped he would get over it, but
he never did; and he continued to treat me so ill that I determined to
quit the ship, which I did as soon as we arrived in Cawsand Bay. The
captain allowed me to go, for I told him the whole truth of the matter,
and he saw that it was true; so he recommended me to the captain of a
jackass frigate, who was in want of midshipmen."

"What do you mean by a jackass frigate?" inquired I.

"I mean one of your twenty-eight gun-ships, so called, because there is
as much difference between them and a real frigate, like the one we are
sailing in, as there is between a donkey and a racehorse. Well, the ship
was no sooner brought down to the dock-yard to have her ballast taken
in, than our captain came down to her--a little, thin, spare man, but a
man of weight nevertheless, for he brought a great pair of scales with
him, and weighed everything that was put on board. I forget his real
name, but the sailors christened him Captain Avoirdupois. He had a large
book, and in it he inserted the weight of the ballast, and of the shot,
water, provisions, coals, standing and running rigging, cables, and
everything else. Then he weighed all the men, and all the midshipmen,
and all the midshipmen's chests, and all the officers, with everything
belonging to them: lastly, he weighed himself, which did not add much to
the sum total. I don't exactly know what this was for; but he was always
talking about centres of gravity, displacement of fluid, and Lord knows
what. I believe it was to find out the longitude, somehow or other, but
I didn't remain long enough in her to know the end of it, for one day I
brought on board a pair of new boots, which I forgot to report that they
might be put into the scales, which swang on the gangway; and whether
the captain thought that they would sink his ship, or for what I can not
tell, but he ordered me to quit her immediately--so, there I was adrift
again. I packed up my traps and went on shore, putting on my new boots
out of spite, and trod into all the mud and mire I could meet, and
walked up and down from Plymouth to Dock until I was tired, as a
punishment to them, until I wore the scoundrels out in a fortnight.

"One day I was in the dockyard, looking at a two-decker in the basin,
just brought forward for service, and I inquired who was to be the
captain. They told me that his name was O'Connor. Then's he's a
countryman of mine, thought I, and I'll try my luck. So I called at
Goud's Hotel, where he was lodging, and requested to speak with him. I
was admitted, and I told him, with my best bow, that I had come as a
volunteer for his ship, and that my name was O'Brien. As it happened, he
had some vacancies, and liking my brogue, he asked me in what ships I
had served. I told him, and also my reason for quitting my last--which
was, because I was turned out of it. I explained the story of the boots,
and he made inquiries, and found that it was all true; and then he gave
me a vacancy as master's mate. We were ordered to South America, and the
trade winds took us there in a jiffey. I liked my captain and officers
very much; and what was better, we took some good prizes. But somehow or
other, I never had the luck to remain long in one ship, and that by no
fault of mine; at least, not in this instance. All went on as smooth as
possible, until one day the captain took us on shore to a ball, at one
of the peaceable districts. We had a very merry night of it; but as luck
would have it, I had the morning watch to keep, and see the decks
cleaned, and as I never neglected my duty, I set off about three o'clock
in the morning, just at break of day, to go on board of the ship. I was
walking along the sands, thinking of the pretty girl that I'd been
dancing with, and had got about half way to the ship, when three
rapparees of Spanish soldiers came from behind a rock and attacked me
with their swords and bayonets. I had only my dirk, but I was not to be
run through for nothing, so I fought them as long as I could. I finished
one fellow, but at last they finished me; for a bayonet passed through
my body, and I forgot all about it. Well, it appears--for I can only say
to the best of my knowledge and belief--that after they had killed me,
they stripped me naked and buried me in the sand, carrying away with
them the body of their comrade. So there I was--dead and buried."

"But, O'Brien," said I

"Whist--hold your tongue--you've not heard the end of it. Well, I had
been buried about an hour--but not very deep it appears, for they were
in too great a hurry--when a fisherman and his daughter came along the
beach, on their way to the boat; and the daughter, God bless her! did me
the favour to tread upon my nose. It was clear that she had never trod
upon an Irishman's nose before, for it surprised her, and she looked
down to see what was there, and not seeing anything, she tried it again
with her foot, and then she scraped off the sand, and discovered my
pretty face. I was quite warm and still breathing, for the sand had
stopped the blood, and prevented my bleeding to death. The fisherman
pulled me out, and took me on his back to the house where the captain
and officers were still dancing. When he brought me in, there was a
great cry from the ladies, not because I was murdered, for they are used
to it in those countries, but because I was naked, which they considered
a much more serious affair. I was put to bed and a boat despatched on
board for our doctor; and in a few hours I was able to speak, and tell
them how it happened. But I was too ill to move when the ship sailed,
which she was obliged to do in a day or two afterwards, so the captain
made out my discharge, and left me there. The family were French, and I
remained with them for six months before I could obtain a passage home,
during which I learnt their language, and a very fair allowance of
Spanish to boot. When I arrived in England, I found that the prizes had
been sold, and that the money was ready for distribution. I produced my
certificate, and received L167 for my share. So it's come at last,
thought I.

"I never had such a handful of money in my life; but I hope I shall
again very soon. I spread it out on the table as soon as I got home, and
looked at it, and then I said to myself, 'Now, Terence O'Brien, will you
keep this money to yourself, or send it home?' Then I thought of Father
M'Grath, and the stool that was thrown at my head, and I was very near
sweeping it all back into my pocket. But then I thought of my mother,
and of the cows, and the pig, and the furniture, all gone; and of my
brothers and sisters wanting praties, and I made a vow that I'd send
every farthing of it to them, after which Father M'Grath would no longer
think of not giving me absolution. So I sent them every doit, only
reserving for myself the pay which I had received, amounting to about
L30: and I never felt more happy in my life than when it was safe in the
post-office, and fairly out of my hands. I wrote a bit of a letter to my
father at the time, which was to this purpose:--

Since our last pleasant meeting, at which you threw the stool at my
head, missing the pigeon and hitting the crow, I have been dead and
buried, but am now quite well, thank God, and want no absolution from
Father M'Grath, bad luck to him. And what's more to the point, I have
just received a batch of prize-money, the first I have handled since I
have served his Majesty, and every farthing of which I now send to
you, that you may get back your old cows, and the pig, and all the
rest of the articles seized to pay for my fitting out; so never again
ask me whether I am not ashamed of myself; more shame to you for
abusing a dutiful son like myself, who went to sea at your bidding,
and has never had a real good potato down his throat ever since. I'm a
true O'Brien, tell my mother, and don't mane to turn Protestant, but
uphold the religion of my country; although the devil may take Father
M'Grath and his holy water to boot. I sha'n't come and see you, as
perhaps you may have another stool ready for my head, and may take
better aim next time.

So no more at present from your affectionate son, 'TERENCE O'BRIEN.'"

"About three weeks afterwards I received a letter from my father,
telling me that I was a real O'Brien, and that if any one dared hint to
the contrary, he would break every bone in his body; that they had
received the money, and thanked me for a real gentleman as I was; that I
should have the best stool in the house next time I came, not for my
head, but for my tail; that Father M'Grath sent me his blessing, and had
given me absolution for all I had done, or should do for the next ten
years to come; that my mother had cried with joy at my dutiful
behaviour; and that all my brothers and sisters (bating Tim, who had
died the day after I left them) wished me good luck, and plenty more
prize-money to send home to them.

"This was all very pleasant; and I had nothing left on my mind but to
get another ship; so I went to the port-admiral, and told him how it was
that I left my last: and he said, 'that being dead and buried was quite
sufficient reason for any one leaving his ship, and that he would
procure me another, now that I had come to life again.' I was sent on
board of the guard-ship, where I remained about ten days, and then was
sent round to join this frigate--and so my story's ended; and there's
eight bells striking--so the watch is ended too; jump down, Peter, and
call Robinson, and tell him that I'll trouble him to forget to go to
sleep again as he did last time, and leave me here kicking my heels,
contrary to the rules and regulations of the service."

Chapter XIV

The first lieutenant has more patients--Mr Chucks the Boatswain, lets me
into the secret of his gentility.

Before I proceed with my narrative, I wish to explain to the reader that
my history was not written in after-life, when I had obtained a greater
knowledge of the world. When I first went to sea, I promised my mother
that I would keep a journal of what passed, with my reflections upon it.
To this promise I rigidly adhered, and since I have been my own master,
these journals have remained in my possession. In writing, therefore,
the early part of my adventures, everything is stated as it was
impressed on my mind at the time. Upon many points I have since had
reason to form a different opinion from that which is recorded, and upon
many others I have since laughed heartily at my folly and simplicity;
but still, I have thought it advisable to let the ideas of the period
remain, rather than correct them by those of dear-bought experience. A
boy of fifteen, brought up in a secluded country town, cannot be
expected to reason and judge as a young man who has seen much of life,
and passed through a variety of adventures. The reader must therefore
remember, that I have referred to my journal for the opinions and
feelings which guided me between each distinct anniversary of my

We had now been cruising for six weeks, and I found that my profession
was much more agreeable than I had anticipated. My desire to please was
taken for the deed; and, although I occasionally made a blunder, yet the
captain and first lieutenant seemed to think that I was attentive to my
duty to the best of my ability, and only smiled at my mistakes. I also
discovered, that, however my natural capacity may have been estimated by
my family, that it was not so depreciated here; and every day I felt
more confidence in myself, and hoped, by attention and diligence, to
make up for a want of natural endowment. There certainly is something in
the life of a sailor which enlarges the mind. When I was at home six
months before, I allowed other people to think for me, and acted wholly
on the leading-strings of their suggestions; on board, to the best of my
ability, I thought for myself. I became happy with my messmates--those
who were harsh upon me left off, because I never resented their conduct,
and those who were kind to me were even kinder than before. The time
flew away quickly, I suppose, because I knew exactly what I had to do,
and each day was the forerunner of the ensuing. The first lieutenant was
one of the most amusing men I ever knew, yet he never relaxed from the
discipline of the service, or took the least liberty with either his
superiors or inferiors. His humour was principally shown in his various
modes of punishment; and, however severe the punishment was to the
party, the manner of inflicting it was invariably a source of amusement
to the remainder of the ship's company. I often thought, that although
no individual liked being punished, yet, that all the ship's company
were quite pleased when a punishment took place. He was very particular
about his decks; they were always as white as snow, and nothing
displeased him so much as their being soiled. It was for that reason
that he had such an objection to the use of tobacco. There were
spitting-pans placed in different parts of the decks for the use of the
men, that they might not dirty the planks with the tobacco-juice.
Sometimes a man in his hurry forgot to use these pans, but, as the mess
to which the stain might be opposite had their grog stopped if the party
were not found out, they took good care not only to keep a look-out, but
to inform against the offender. Now the punishment for the offence was
as follows--the man's hands were tied behind his back, and a large tin
spitting-box fixed to his chest by a strap over the shoulders. All the
other boxes on the lower deck were taken away, and he was obliged to
walk there, ready to attend the summons of any man who might wish to
empty his mouth of the tobacco-juice. The other men were so pleased at
the fancy, that they spat twice as much as before, for the pleasure of
making him run about. Mr Chucks, the boatswain, called it "the first
lieutenant's _perambulating_ spitting-pan." He observed to me one day,
"that really Mr Falcon was such an _epicure_ about his decks, that he
was afraid to pudding an anchor on the forecastle."

I was much amused one morning watch that I kept. We were stowing the
hammocks in the quarter-deck nettings, when one of the boys came up with
his hammock on his shoulder, and as he passed the first lieutenant, the
latter perceived that he had a quid of tobacco in his cheek. "What have
you got there, my good lad--a gum-boil?--your cheek is very much
swelled." "No, sir," replied the boy, "there's nothing at all the
matter." "O there must be; it is a bad tooth, then. Open your mouth, and
let me see." Very reluctantly the boy opened his mouth, and discovered a
large roll of tobacco-leaf. "I see, I see," said the first lieutenant,
"your mouth wants overhauling, and your teeth cleaning. I wish we had a
dentist on board; but as we have not, I will operate as well as I can.
Send the armourer up here with his tongs." When the armourer made his
appearance, the boy was made to open his mouth, while the chaw of
tobacco was extracted with his rough instrument. "There now," said the
first lieutenant, "I'm sure that you must feel better already; you never
could have had any appetite. Now, captain of the afterguard, bring a
piece of old canvas and some sand here, and clean his teeth nicely." The
captain of the afterguard came forward, and putting the boy's head
between his knees, scrubbed his teeth well with the sand and canvas for
two or three minutes. "There, that will do," said the first lieutenant.
"Now, my little fellow, your mouth is nice and clean, and you'll enjoy
your breakfast. It was impossible for you to have eaten anything with
your mouth in such a nasty state. When it's dirty again, come to me, and
I'll be your dentist."

One day I was on the forecastle with Mr Chucks, the boatswain, who was
very kind to me. He had been showing me how to make the various knots
and bends of rope which are used in our service. I am afraid that I was
very stupid, but he showed me over and over again, until I learnt how to
make them. Amongst others, he taught me a fisherman's bend, which he
pronounced to be the _king_ of all knots; "and, Mr Simple," continued
he, "there is a moral in that knot. You observe, that when the parts are
drawn the right way, and together, the more you pull the faster they
hold, and the more impossible to untie them; but see, by hauling them
apart, how a little difference, a pull the other way, immediately
disunites them, and then how easy they cast off in a moment. That points
out the necessity of pulling together in this world, Mr Simple, when we
wish to hold on, and that's a piece of philosophy worth all the
twenty-six thousand and odd years of my friend the carpenter, which
leads to nothing but a brown study, when he ought to be attending to his

"Very true, Mr Chucks, you are the better philosopher of the two."

"I am the better educated, Mr Simple, and I trust, more of a gentleman.
I consider a gentleman to be, to a certain degree, a philosopher, for
very often he is obliged, to support his character as such, to put up
with what another person may very properly fly in a passion about. I
think coolness is the great character-stick of a gentleman. In the
service, Mr Simple, one is obliged to appear angry without indulging the
sentiment. I can assure you, that I never lose my temper, even when I
use my rattan."

"Why, then, Mr Chucks, do you swear so much at the men? Surely that is
not gentlemanly?"

"Most certainly not, sir. But I must defend myself by observing the very
artificial state in which we live on board of a man-of-war. Necessity,
my dear Mr Simple, has no law. You must observe how gently I always
commence when I have to find fault. I do that to prove my gentility;
but, sir, my zeal for the service obliges me to alter my language, to
prove in the end that I am in earnest. Nothing would afford me more
pleasure than to be able to carry on the duty as a gentleman, but that's

"I really cannot see why."

"Perhaps, then, Mr Simple, you will explain to me why the captain and
first lieutenant swear."

"That I do not pretend to answer, but they only do so upon an

"Exactly so; but, sir, their 'mergency is my daily and hourly duty. In
the continual working of the ship I am answerable for all that goes
amiss. The life of a boatswain is a life of 'mergency, and therefore I

"I still cannot allow it to be requisite, and certainly it is sinful."

"Excuse me, my dear sir; it is absolutely requisite, and not at all
sinful. There is one language for the pulpit, and another for on board
ship, and, in either situation, a man must make use of those terms most
likely to produce the necessary effect upon his listeners. Whether it is
from long custom of the service, or from the indifference of a sailor to
all common things and language (I can't exactly explain myself, Mr
Simple, but I know what I mean), perhaps constant excitement may do, and
therefore he requires more 'stimilis,' as they call it, to make him
move. Certain it is, that common parlancy won't do with a common seaman.
It is not here as in the scriptures, 'Do this, and he doeth it' (by the
bye, that chap must have had his soldiers in tight order); but it is,
'Do this, d--n your eyes,' and then it is done directly. The order to
_do_ just carries the weight of a cannon-shot, but it wants the
perpelling power--the d--n is the gunpowder which sets it flying in the
execution of its duty. Do you comprehend me, Mr Simple?"

"I perfectly understand you, Mr Chucks, and I cannot help remarking, and
that without flattery, that you are very different from the rest of the
warrant officers. Where did you receive your education?"

"Mr Simple, I am here a boatswain with a clean shirt, and, I say it
myself, and no one dare gainsay it, also with a thorough knowledge of my
duty. But although I do not say that I ever was better off, I can say
this, that I've been in the best society, in the company of lords and
ladies. I once dined with your grandfather."

"That's more than ever I did, for he never asked me, nor took the least
notice of me," replied I.

"What I state is true. I did not know that he was your grandfather until
yesterday, when I was talking with Mr O'Brien; but I perfectly recollect
him, although I was very young at that time. Now, Mr Simple, if you will
promise me as a gentleman (and I know you are one), that you will not
repeat what I tell you, then I'll let you into the history of my life."

"Mr Chucks, as I am a gentleman I never will divulge it until you are
dead and buried, and not then if you do not wish it."

"When I am dead and buried, you may do as you please; it may then be of
service to other people, although my story is not a very long one."

Mr Chucks then sat down upon the fore-end of the booms by the funnel,
and I took my place by his side, when he commenced as follows:--

"My father was a boatswain before me--one of the old school, rough as a
bear, and drunken as a Gosport fiddler. My mother was--my mother, and I
shall say no more. My father was invalided for harbour duty after a life
of intoxication, and died shortly afterwards. In the meantime I had
been, by the kindness of the port-admiral's wife, educated at a
foundation school. I was thirteen when my father died, and my mother,
not knowing what to do with me, wished to bind me apprentice to a
merchant vessel; but this I refused, and, after six months' quarrelling
on the subject, I decided the point by volunteering in the _Narcissus_
frigate. I believe that my gentlemanly ideas were innate, Mr Simple; I
never, as a child, could bear the idea of the merchant service. After I
had been a week on board, I was appointed servant to the purser, where I
gave such satisfaction by my alertness and dexterity, that the first
lieutenant took me away from the purser to attend upon himself, so that
in two months I was a person of such consequence as to create a
disturbance in the gunroom, for the purser was very angry, and many of
the officers took his part. It was whispered that I was the son of the
first lieutenant, and that he was aware of it. How far that may be true
I know not, but there was a likeness between us; and my mother, who was
a very pretty woman, attended his ship many years before as a bumboat
girl. I can't pretend to say anything about it, but this I do say, Mr
Simple--and many will blame me for it, but I can't help my natural
feelings--that I had rather be the bye-blow of a gentleman, than the
'gitimate offspring of a boatswain and his wife. There's no chance of
good blood in your veins in the latter instance, whereas, in the former
you may have stolen a drop or two. It so happened, that after I had
served the first lieutenant for about a year, a young lord (I must not
mention his name, Mr Simple) was sent to sea by his friends, or by his
own choice, I don't know which, but I was told that his uncle, who was
'zeckative, and had an interest in his death, persuaded him to go. A
lord at that period, some twenty-five years ago, was a rarity in the
service, and they used to salute him when he came on board. The
consequence was, that the young lord must have a servant to himself,
although all the rest of the midshipmen had but one servant between
them. The captain inquired who was the best boy in the ship, and the
purser, to whom he appealed, recommended me. Accordingly, much to the
annoyance of the first lieutenant (for first lieutenants in those days
did not assume as they do now, not that I refer to Mr Falcon, who is a
gentleman), I was immediately surrendered to his lordship. I had a very
easy, comfortable life of it--I did little or nothing; if inquired for
when all hands were turned up, I was cleaning his lordship's boots, or
brushing his lordship's clothes, and there was nothing to be said when
his lordship's name was mentioned. We went to the Mediterranean (because
his lordship's mamma wished it), and we had been there about a year,
when his lordship ate so many grapes that he was seized with a
dysentery. He was ill for three weeks, and then he requested to be sent
to Malta in a transport going to Gibraltar, or rather to the Barbary
coast, for bullocks. He became worse every day, and made his will,
leaving me all his effects on board, which I certainly deserved for the
kindness with which I had nursed him. Off Malta we fell in with a
xebeque, bound to Civita Vecchia, and the captain of the transport,
anxious to proceed, advised our going on board of her, as the wind was
light and contrary, and these Mediterranean vessels sailed better on a
wind than the transport. My master, who was now sinking fast, consented,
and we changed our ships. The next day he died, and a gale of wind came
on, which prevented us from gaining the port for several days, and the
body of his lordship not only became so offensive, but affected the
superstition of the Catholic sailors so much, that it was hove
overboard. None of the people could speak English, nor could I speak
Maltese; they had no idea who we were, and I had plenty of time for
cogitation. I had often thought what a fine thing it was to be a lord,
and as often wished that I had been born one. The wind was still against
us, when a merchant vessel ran down to us, that had left Civita Vecchia
for Gibraltar. I desired the captain of the xebeque to make a signal of
distress, or rather I did myself, and the vessel, which proved to be
English, bore down to us.

"I manned the boat to go on board, and the idea came into my head, that,
although they might refuse to take me, they would not refuse a lord. I
put on the midshipman's uniform belonging to his lordship (but then
certainly belonging to me), and went alongside of the merchant vessel; I
told them that I had left my ship for the benefit of my health, and
wanted a passage to Gibraltar, on my way home. My title, and immediate
acceptance of the terms demanded for my passage, was sufficient. My
property was brought from the xebeque; and, of course, as they could not
speak English, they could not contradict, even if they suspected. Here,
Mr Simple, I must acknowledge a slight flaw in my early history, which I
impart to you in confidence; or otherwise I should not have been able to
prove that I was correct in asserting that I had dined with your
grandfather. But the temptation was too strong, and I could not resist.
Think yourself, Mr Simple, after having served as a ship's boy clouted
here, kicked there, damned by one, and sent to hell by another--to find
myself treated with such respect and deference, and my lorded this and
my lorded that, every minute of the day. During my passage to Gibraltar,
I had plenty of time for arranging my plans. I hardly need say that my
lord's _kit_ was valuable; and what was better, they exactly fitted me.
I also had his watches and trinkets, and many other things, besides a
bag of dollars. However, they were honestly mine; the only thing that I
took was his name, which he had no further occasion for, poor fellow!
But it's no use defending what was wrong--it was dishonest, and there's
an end of it.

"Now observe, Mr Simple, how one thing leads to another. I declare to
you, that my first idea of making use of his lordship's name, was to
procure a passage to Gibraltar. I then was undecided how to act; but, as
I had charge of his papers and letters to his mother and guardian, I
think--indeed I am almost sure--that I should have laid aside my dignity
and midshipman's dress, and applied for a passage home to the
commissioner of the yard. But it was fated to be otherwise; for the
master of the transport went on shore to report and obtain pratique, and
he told them everywhere that young Lord A---- was a passenger with him,
going to England for the benefit of his health. In less than
half-an-hour, off came the commissioner's boat, and another boat from
the governor, requesting the honour of my company, and that I would take
a bed at their houses during my stay. What could I do? I began to be
frightened; but I was more afraid to confess that I was an impostor, for
I am sure the master of the transport alone would have kicked me
overboard, if I had let him know that he had been so confounded polite
to a ship's boy. So I blushed half from modesty and half from guilt, and
accepted the invitation of the governor; sending a polite verbal refusal
to the commissioner, upon the plea of there being no paper or pens on
board. I had so often accompanied my late master, that I knew very well
how to conduct myself, and had borrowed a good deal of his air and
appearance--indeed, I had a natural taste for gentility. I could write
and read; not perhaps so well as I ought to have done, considering the
education I had received, but still quite well enough for a lord, and
indeed much better than my late master. I knew his signature well
enough, although the very idea of being forced to use it made me
tremble. However, the die was cast. I ought to observe, that in one
point we were not unlike--both had curly light hair and blue eyes; in
other points there was no resemblance. I was by far the better-looking
chap of the two; and as we had been up the Mediterranean for two years,
I had no fear of any doubt as to my identity until I arrived in England.
Well, Mr Simple, I dressed myself very carefully, put on my chains and
rings, and a little perfume on my handkerchief, and accompanied the
aide-de-camp to the governor's, where I was asked after my mother, Lady
----, and my uncle, my guardian, and a hundred other questions. At
first I was much confused, which was attributed to bashfulness; and so
it was, but not of the right sort. But before the day was over, I had
become so accustomed to be called 'my lord,' and to my situation, that I
was quite at my ease, and began to watch the motions and behaviour of
the company, that I might regulate my comportment by that of good
society. I remained at Gibraltar for a fortnight, and then was offered a
passage in a transport ordered to Portsmouth. Being an officer, of
course it was free to a certain extent. On my passage to England, I
again made up my mind that I would put off my dress and title as soon as
I could escape from observation; but I was prevented as before. The
port-admiral sent off to request the pleasure of my company to dinner. I
dared not refuse; and there I was, my lord, as before, courted and
feasted by everybody. Tradesmen called to request the honour of my
lordship's custom; my table at the hotel was covered with cards of all
descriptions; and, to confess the truth, I liked my situation so much,
and had been so accustomed to it, that I now began to dislike the idea
that one day or other I must resign it, which I determined to do as soon
as I quitted the place. My bill at the hotel was very extravagant, and
more than I could pay: but the master said it was not of the least
consequence; that of course his lordship had not provided himself with
cash, just coming from foreign parts, and offered to supply me with
money if I required it. This, I will say, I was honest enough to refuse.
I left my cards, P.P.C., as they do, Mr Simple, in all well-regulated
society, and set off in the mail for London, where I fully resolved to
drop my title, and to proceed to Scotland to his lordship's mother, with
the mournful intelligence of his death--for you see, Mr Simple, no one
knew that his lordship was dead. The captain of the transport had put
him into the xebeque alive, and the vessel bound to Gibraltar had
received him, as they imagined. The captain of the frigate had very soon
afterwards advices from Gibraltar, stating his lordship's recovery and
return to England. Well, I had not been in the coach more than five
minutes, when who should get in but a gentleman whom I had met at the
port-admiral's; besides which the coachman and others knew me very well.
When I arrived in London (I still wore my midshipman's uniform), I went
to an hotel recommended to me, as I afterwards found out, the most
fashionable in town, my title still following me. I now determined to
put off my uniform, and dress in plain clothes--my farce was over. I
went to bed that night, and the next morning made my appearance in a
suit of mufti, making inquiry of the waiter which was the best
conveyance to Scotland.

"'Post chay and four, my lord. At what time shall I order it?'

"'O,' replied I, 'I am not sure that I shall go tomorrow.'

"Just at this moment in came the master of the hotel, with the _Morning
Post_ in his hand, making me a low bow, and pointing to the insertion of
my arrival at his hotel among the fashionables. This annoyed me; and now
that I found how difficult it was to get rid of my title, I became
particularly anxious to be William Chucks, as before. Before
twelve o'clock, three or four gentlemen were ushered into my
sitting-room, who observing my arrival in that damn'd _Morning Post_,
came to pay their respects; and before the day was over I was invited
and re-invited by a dozen people. I found that I could not retreat, and
I went away with the stream, as I did before at Gibraltar and
Portsmouth. For three weeks I was everywhere; and if I found it
agreeable at Portsmouth, how much more so in London! But I was not
happy, Mr Simple, because I was a cheat, every moment expecting to be
found out. But it really was a nice thing to be a lord.

"At last the play was over. I had been enticed by some young men into a
gambling-house, where they intended to fleece me; but, for the first
night, they allowed me to win, I think, about L300. I was quite
delighted with my success, and had agreed to meet them the next evening;
but when I was at breakfast, with my legs crossed, reading the _Morning
Post_, who should come to see me but my guardian uncle. He knew his
nephew's features too well to be deceived; and my not recognising him
proved at once that I was an impostor. You must allow me to hasten over
the scene which took place--the wrath of the uncle, the confusion in the
hotel, the abuse of the waiters, the police officer, and being dragged
into a hackney coach to Bow-street. There I was examined and confessed
all. The uncle was so glad to find that his nephew was really dead, that
he felt no resentment towards me; and as, after all, I had only assumed
a name, but had cheated nobody, except the landlord at Portsmouth, I was
sent on board the tender off the Tower, to be drafted into a man-of-war.
As for my L300, my clothes, &c., I never heard any more of them; they
were seized, I presume, by the landlord of the hotel for my bill, and
very handsomely he must have paid himself. I had two rings on my
fingers, and a watch in my pocket, when I was sent on board the tender,
and I stowed them away very carefully. I had also a few pounds in my
purse. I was sent round to Plymouth, where I was drafted into a frigate.
After I had been there some time, I turned the watch and rings into
money, and bought myself a good kit of clothes; for I could not bear to
be dirty. I was put into the mizen-top, and no one knew that I had been
a lord."

"You found some difference, I should think, in your situation?"

"Yes, I did, Mr Simple; but I was much happier. I could not forget the
ladies, and the dinners, and the opera, and all the delights of London,
beside the respect paid to my title, and I often sighed for them; but
the police officer and Bow-street also came to my recollection, and I
shuddered at the remembrance. It had, however, one good effect; I
determined to be an officer if I could, and learnt my duty, and worked
my way up to quarter-master, and thence to boatswain--and I know my
duty, Mr Simple. But I've been punished for my folly ever since. I
formed ideas above my station in life, and cannot help longing to be a
gentleman. It's a bad thing for a man to have ideas above his station."

"You certainly must find some difference between the company in London
and that of the warrant officers."

"It's many years back now, sir; but I can't get over the feeling. I
can't 'sociate with them at all. A man may have the feelings of a
gentleman, although in a humble capacity; but how can I be intimate with
such people as Mr Dispart or Mr Muddle, the carpenter? All very well in
their way, Mr Simple, but what can you expect from officers who boil
their 'tators in a cabbage-net hanging in the ship's coppers, when they
know that there is one-third of a stove allowed them to cook their
victuals on?"

Chapter XV

I go on service and am made prisoner by an old lady, who, not able to
obtain my hand, takes part of my finger as a token--O'Brien rescues me--
A lee shore and narrow escape.

Two or three days after this conversation with Mr Chucks, the captain
ran the frigate in shore, and when within five miles we discovered two
vessels under the land. We made all sail in chase, and cut them off from
escaping round a sandy point which they attempted to weather. Finding
that they could not effect their purpose, they ran on shore under a
small battery of two guns, which commenced firing upon us. The first
shot which whizzed between the masts had to me a most terrific sound,
but the officers and men laughed at it, so of course I pretended to do
the same, but in reality I could see nothing to laugh at. The captain
ordered the starboard watch to be piped to quarters, and the boats to be
cleared, ready for hoisting out; we then anchored within a mile of the
battery, and returned the fire. In the meantime, the remainder of the
ship's company hoisted out and lowered down four boats, which were
manned and armed to storm the battery. I was very anxious to go on
service, and O'Brien, who had command of the first cutter, allowed me to
go with him, on condition that I stowed myself away under the
foresheets, that the captain might not see me before the boats had
shoved off. This I did, and was not discovered. We pulled in abreast
towards the battery, and in less than ten minutes the boats were run on
the beach, and we jumped out. The Frenchmen fired a gun at us as we
pulled close to the shore, and then ran away, so that we took possession
without any fighting, which, to confess the truth, I was not sorry for,
as I did not think that I was old or strong enough to cope hand to hand
with a grown-up man. There were a few fishermen's huts close to the
battery, and while two of the boats went on board of the vessels, to see
if they could be got off, and others were spiking the guns and
destroying the carriages, I went with O'Brien to examine them: they were
deserted by the people, as might have been supposed, but there was a
great quantity of fish in them, apparently caught that morning. O'Brien
pointed to a very large skate--"Murder in Irish!" cried he, "it's the
very ghost of my grandmother! we'll have her if it's only for the family
likeness. Peter, put your finger into the gills, and drag her down to
the boat." I could not force my finger into the gills, and as the animal
appeared quite dead, I hooked my finger into its mouth; but I made a sad
mistake, for the animal was alive, and immediately closed its jaws,
nipping my finger to the bone, and holding it so tight that I could not
withdraw it, and the pain was too great to allow me to pull it away by
main force, and tear my finger, which it held so fast. There I was,
caught in a trap, and made a prisoner by a flat-fish. Fortunately, I
hallooed loud enough to make O'Brien, who was close down to the boats,
with a large codfish under each arm, turn round and come to my
assistance. At first he could not help me, from laughing so much; but at
last he forced open the jaw of the fish with his cutlass, and I got my
finger out, but very badly torn indeed. I then took off my garter, tied
it round the tail of the skate, and dragged it to the boat, which was
all ready to shove off. The other boats had found it impossible to get
the vessels off without unloading--so, in pursuance of the captain's
orders, they were set on fire, and before we lost sight of them, had
burnt down to the water's edge. My finger was very bad for three weeks,
and the officers laughed at me very much, saying that I narrowly escaped
being made a prisoner of by an "old maid."

We continued our cruise along the coast, until we had run down into the
Bay of Arcason, where we captured two or three vessels, and obliged many
more to run on shore. And here we had an instance showing, how very
important it is that a captain of a man-of-war should be a good sailor,
and have his ship in such discipline as to be strictly obeyed by his
ship's company. I heard the officers unanimously assert, after the
danger was over, that nothing but the presence of mind which was shown
by Captain Savage could have saved the ship and her crew. We had chased
a convoy of vessels to the bottom of the bay: the wind was very fresh
when we hauled off, after running them on shore, and the surf on the
beach even at that time was so great, that they were certain to go to
pieces before they could be got afloat again. We were obliged to
double-reef the topsails as soon as we hauled to the wind, and the
weather looked very threatening. In an hour afterwards, the whole sky
was covered with one black cloud, which sank so low as nearly to touch
our mast-heads, and a tremendous sea, which appeared to have risen up
almost by magic, rolled in upon us, setting the vessel on a dead lee
shore. As the night closed in, it blew a dreadful gale, and the ship was
nearly buried with the press of canvas which she was obliged to carry;
for had we sea-room, we should have been lying-to under storm staysails;
but we were forced to carry on at all risks, that we might claw off
shore. The sea broke over as we lay in the trough, deluging us with
water from the forecastle, aft to the binnacles; and very often as the
ship descended with a plunge, it was with such force that I really
thought she would divide in half with the violence of the shock. Double
breechings were rove on the guns, and they were further secured with
tackles, and strong cleats nailed behind the trunnions, for we heeled
over so much when we lurched, that the guns were wholly supported by the
breechings and tackles, and had one of them broken loose, it must have
burst right through the lee side of the ship, and she must have
foundered. The captain, first lieutenant, and most of the officers,
remained on deck during the whole of the night; and really, what with
the howling of the wind, the violence of the rain, the washing of the
water about the decks, the working of the chain-pumps, and the creaking
and groaning of the timbers, I thought that we must inevitably have been
lost; and I said my prayers at least a dozen times during the night, for
I felt it impossible to go to bed. I had often wished, out of curiosity,
that I might be in a gale of wind, but I little thought it was to have
been a scene of this description, or anything half so dreadful. What
made it more appalling was, that we were on a lee shore, and the
consultations of the captain and officers, and the eagerness with which
they looked out for daylight, told us that we had other dangers to
encounter besides the storm. At last the morning broke, and the look-out
man upon the gangway called out, "Land on the lee beam." I perceived the
master dash his fist against the hammock-rails, as if with vexation, and
walk away without saying a word, and looking very grave.

"Up, there, Mr Wilson," said the captain, to the second lieutenant, "and
see how far the land trends forward, and whether you can distinguish the
point." The second lieutenant went up the main-rigging, and pointed with
his hand to about two points before the beam.

"Do you see two hillocks inland?"

"Yes, sir," replied the second lieutenant.

"Then it is so," observed the captain to the master, "and if we weather
it, we shall have more sea-room. Keep her full, and let her go through
the water; do you hear, quarter-master?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Thus, and no nearer, my man. Ease her with a spoke or two when she
sends; but be careful, or she'll take the wheel out of your hands."

It really was a very awful sight. When the ship was in the trough of the
sea, you could distinguish nothing but a waste of tumultuous water; but
when she was borne up on the summit of the enormous waves, you then
looked down, as it were, upon a low, sandy coast, close to you, and
covered with foam and breakers. "She behaves nobly," observed the
captain, stepping aft to the binnacle, and looking at the compass; "if
the wind does not baffle us, we shall weather." The captain had scarcely
time to make the observation, when the sails shivered and flapped like
thunder. "Up with the helm; what are you about, quarter-master?"

"The wind has headed us, sir," replied the quarter-master, coolly.

The captain and master remained at the binnacle watching the compass,
and when the sails were again full, she had broken off two points, and
the point of land was only a little on the lee bow.

"We must wear her round, Mr Falcon. Hands, wear ship--ready, oh, ready."

"She has come up again," cried the master, who was at the binnacle.

"Hold fast there a minute. How's her head now?"

"N.N.E., as she was before she broke off, sir."

"Pipe belay," said the captain. "Falcon," continued he, "if she breaks
off again we may have no room to wear; indeed there is so little room
now, that I must run the risk. Which cable was ranged last night--the
best bower?"

"Yes, sir."

"Jump down, then, and see it double-bitted and stoppered at thirty
fathoms. See it well done--our lives may depend upon it."

The ship continued to hold her course good; and we were within half a
mile of the point, and fully expected to weather it, when again the wet
and heavy sails flapped in the wind, and the ship broke off two points
as before. The officers and seamen were aghast, for the ship's head was
right on to the breakers. "Luff now, all you can, quarter-master," cried
the captain. "Send the men aft directly. My lads, there is no time for
words--I am going to _club-haul_ the ship, for there is no room to wear.
The only chance you have of safety is to be cool, watch my eye, and
execute my orders with precision. Away to your stations for tacking
ship. Hands by the best bower anchor. Mr Wilson, attend below with the
carpenter and his mates, ready to cut away the cable at the moment that
I give the order. Silence, there, fore and aft. Quarter-master, keep her
full again for stays. Mind you ease the helm down when I tell you."
About a minute passed before the captain gave any further orders. The
ship had closed--to within a quarter of a mile of the beach, and the
waves curled and topped around us, bearing us down upon the shore, which
presented one continued surface of foam, extending to within half a
cable's length of our position. The captain waved his hand in silence to
the quarter-master at the wheel, and the helm was put down. The ship
turned slowly to the wind, pitching and chopping as the sails were
spilling. When she had lost her way, the captain gave the order, "Let go
the anchor. We will haul all at once, Mr Falcon," said the captain. Not
a word was spoken, the men went to the fore brace, which had not been
manned; most of them knew, although I did not, that if the ship's head
did not go round the other way, we should be on shore, and among the
breakers in half a minute. I thought at the time that the captain had
said that he would haul all the yards at once, there appeared to be
doubt or dissent on the countenance of Mr Falcon; and I was afterwards
told that he had not agreed with the captain, but he was too good an
officer, and knew that there was no time for discussion, to make any
remark; and the event proved that the captain was right. At last the
ship was head to wind, and the captain gave the signal. The yards flew
round with such a creaking noise, that I thought the masts had gone over
the side, and the next moment the wind had caught the sails, and the
ship, which for a moment or two had been on an even keel, careened over
to her gunnel with its force. The captain, who stood upon the
weather-hammock rails, holding by the main-rigging, ordered the helm
amidships, looked full at the sails, and then at the cable, which grew
broad upon the weather bow, and held the ship from nearing the shore. At
last he cried, "Cut away the cable!" A few strokes of the axes were
heard, and then the cable flew out of the hawsehole in a blaze of fire,
from the violence of the friction, and disappeared under a huge wave,
which struck us on the chess-tree, and deluged us with water fore and
aft. But we were now on the other tack, and the ship regained her way
and we had evidently increased our distance from the land. "My lads,"
said the captain to the ship's company, "you have behaved well, and I
thank you; but I must tell you honestly that we have more difficulties
to get through. We have to weather a point of the bay on this tack. Mr
Falcon, splice the main-brace, and call the watch. How's her head,

"S.W. by S. Southerly, sir."

"Very well; let her go through the water;" and the captain, beckoning to
the master to follow him, went down into the cabin. As our immediate
danger was over, I went down into the berth to see if I could get
anything for breakfast, where I found O'Brien and two or three more.

"By the powers, it was as nate a thing as ever I saw done," observed
O'Brien: "the slightest mistake as to time or management, and at this
moment the flatfish would have been dubbing at our ugly carcases. Peter,
you're not fond of flatfish, are you, my boy? We may thank Heaven and
the captain, I can tell you that, my lads; but now, where's the chart,
Robinson? Hand me down the parallel rules and compasses, Peter; they are
in the corner of the shelf. Here we are now, a devilish sight too near
this infernal point. Who knows how her head is?"

"I do, O'Brien: I heard the quarter-master tell the captain S.W. by S.

"Let me see," continued O'Brien, "variation 2 1/4 lee way--rather too
large an allowance of that, I'm afraid; but, however, we'll give her 2
1/2 points; the _Diomede_ would blush to make any more, under any
circumstances. Here--the compass--now we'll see;" and O'Brien advanced
the parallel rule from the compass to the spot where the ship was placed
on the chart. "Bother! you see it's as much as she'll do to weather the
other point now, on this tack, and that's what the captain meant, when
he told us we had more difficulty. I could have taken my Bible oath that
we were clear of everything, if the wind held."

"See what the distance is, O'Brien," said Robinson. It was measured, and
proved to be thirteen miles. "Only thirteen miles; and if we do weather,
we shall do very well, for the bay is deep beyond. It's a rocky point,
you see, just by way of variety. Well, my lads, I've a piece of comfort
for you, anyhow. It's not long that you'll be kept in suspense, for by
one o'clock this day, you'll either be congratulating each other upon
your good luck, or you'll be past praying for. Come, put up the chart,
for I hate to look at melancholy prospects; and, steward, see what you
can find in the way of comfort." Some bread and cheese, with the remains
of yesterday's boiled pork, were put on the table, with a bottle of rum,
procured at the time they "spliced the mainbrace;" but we were all too
anxious to eat much, and one by one returned on deck to see how the
weather was, and if the wind at all favoured us. On deck the superior
officers were in conversation with the captain, who had expressed the
same fear that O'Brien had in our berth. The men, who knew what they had
to expect--for this sort of intelligence is soon communicated through a
ship--were assembled in knots, looking very grave, but at the same time
not wanting in confidence. They knew that they could trust to the
captain, as far as skill or courage could avail them, and sailors are
too sanguine to despair, even at the last moment. As for myself, I felt
such admiration for the captain, after what I had witnessed that
morning, that, whenever the idea came over me, that in all probability I
should be lost in a few hours, I could not help acknowledging how much
more serious it was that such a man should be lost to his country. I do
not intend to say that it consoled me; but it certainly made me still
more regret the chances with which we were threatened.

Before twelve o'clock, the rocky point which we so much dreaded was in
sight, broad on the lee-bow; and if the low sandy coast appeared
terrible, how much more did this, even at a distance: the black masses
of rock, covered with foam, which each minute dashed up in the air,
higher than our lower mast-heads. The captain eyed it for some minutes
in silence, as if in calculation.

"Mr Falcon," said he at last, "we must put the mainsail on her."

"She never can bear it, sir."

"She _must_ bear it," was the reply. "Send the men aft to the mainsheet.
See that careful men attend the buntlines."

The mainsail was set, and the effect of it upon the ship was tremendous.
She careened over so that her lee channels were under the water, and
when pressed by a sea, the lee-side of the quarter-deck and gangway were
afloat. She now reminded me of a goaded and fiery horse, mad with the
stimulus applied; not rising as before, but forcing herself through
whole seas, and dividing the waves, which poured in one continual
torrent from the forecastle down upon the decks below. Four men were
secured to the wheel--the sailors were obliged to cling, to prevent
being washed away--the ropes were thrown in confusion to leeward, the
shot rolled out of the lockers, and every eye was fixed aloft, watching
the masts, which were expected every moment to go over the side. A heavy
sea struck us on the broadside, and it was some moments before the ship
appeared to recover herself; she reeled, trembled, and stopped her way,
as if it had stupefied her. The first lieutenant looked at the captain,
as if to say, "This will not do." "It is our only chance," answered the
captain to the appeal. That the ship went faster through the water, and
held a better wind, was certain; but just before we arrived at the point
the gale increased in force. "If anything starts, we are lost, sir,"
observed the first lieutenant again.

"I am perfectly aware of it," replied the captain, in a calm tone; "but,
as I said before, and you must now be aware, it is our only chance. The
consequence of any carelessness or neglect in the fitting and securing
of the rigging, will be felt now; and this danger, if we escape it,
ought to remind us how much we have to answer for if we neglect our
duty. The lives of a whole ship's company may be sacrificed by the
neglect or incompetence of an officer when in harbour. I will pay you
the compliment, Falcon, to say, that I feel convinced that the masts of
the ship are as secure as knowledge and attention can make them."

The first lieutenant thanked the captain for his good opinion, and hoped
it would not be the last compliment which he paid him.

"I hope not too; but a few minutes will decide the point."

The ship was now within two cables' lengths of the rocky point; some few
of the men I observed to clasp their hands, but most of them were
silently taking off their jackets, and kicking off their shoes, that
they might not lose a chance of escape provided the ship struck.

"'Twill be touch and go indeed, Falcon," observed the captain (for I had
clung to the belaying-pins, close to them, for the last half-hour that
the mainsail had been set). "Come aft, you and I must take the helm. We
shall want _nerve_ there, and only there, now."

The captain and first lieutenant went aft, and took the forespokes of
the wheel, and O'Brien, at a sign made by the captain, laid hold of the
spokes behind him. An old quarter-master kept his station at the fourth.
The roaring of the seas on the rocks, with the howling of the wind, were
dreadful; but the sight was more dreadful than the noise. For a few
moments I shut my eyes, but anxiety forced me to open them again. As
near as I could judge, we were not twenty yards from the rocks, at the
time that the ship passed abreast of them. We were in the midst of the
foam, which boiled around us; and as the ship was driven nearer to them,
and careened with the wave, I thought that our main-yard-arm would have
touched the rock; and at this moment a gust of wind came on, which laid
the ship on her beam-ends, and checked her progress through the water,
while the accumulated noise was deafening. A few moments more the ship
dragged on, another wave dashed over her and spent itself upon the
rocks, while the spray was dashed back from them, and returned upon the
decks. The main rock was within ten yards of her counter, when another
gust of wind laid us on our beam-ends, the foresail and mainsail split,
and were blown clean out of the bolt-ropes--the ship righted, trembling
fore and aft. I looked astern: the rocks were to windward on our
quarter, and we were safe. I thought at the time, that the ship,
relieved of her courses, and again lifting over the waves, was not a bad
similitude of the relief felt by us all at that moment; and, like her,
we trembled as we panted with the sudden reaction, and felt the removal
of the intense anxiety which oppressed our breasts.

The captain resigned the helm, and walked aft to look at the point,
which was now broad on the weather quarter. In a minute or two, he
desired Mr Falcon to get new sails up and bend them, and then went below
to his cabin. I am sure it was to thank God for our deliverance: I did
most fervently, not only then, but when I went to my hammock at night.
We were now comparatively safe--in a few hours completely so; for
strange to say, immediately after we had weathered the rocks, the gale
abated, and before morning we had a reef out of the topsails. It was my
afternoon watch, and perceiving Mr Chucks on the forecastle, I went
forward to him, and asked him what he thought of it.

"Thought of it, sir!" replied he; "why, I always think bad of it when
the elements won't allow my whistle to be heard; and I consider it
hardly fair play. I never care if we are left to our own exertions; but
how is it possible for a ship's company to do their best, when they
cannot hear the boatswain's pipe? However, God be thanked, nevertheless,
and make better Christians of us all! As for that carpenter, he is mad.
Just before we weathered the point, he told me that it was just the same
27,600 and odd years ago. I do believe that on his death-bed (and he was
not far from a very hard one yesterday), he will tell us how he died so
many thousand years ago, of the same complaint. And that gunner of ours
is a fool. Would you believe it, Mr Simple, he went crying about the
decks, 'O my poor guns, what will become of them if they break loose?'
He appeared to consider it of no consequence if the ship and ship's
company were all lost, provided that his guns were safely landed on the

"'Mr Dispart,' said I, at last, 'allow me to observe, in the most
delicate way in the world, that you're a d----d old fool.' You see, Mr
Simple, it's the duty of an officer to generalise, and be attentive to
parts, only in consideration of the safety of the whole. I look after my
anchors and cables, as I do after the rigging; not that I care for any
of them in particular, but because the safety of a ship depends upon her
being well found. I might just as well cry because we sacrificed an
anchor and cable yesterday morning, to save the ship from going on

"Very true, Mr Chucks," replied I.

"Private feelings," continued he, "must always be sacrificed for the
public service. As you know, the lower deck was full of water, and all
our cabins and chests were afloat; but I did not think then about my
shirts, and look at them now, all blowing out in the forerigging,
without a particle of starch left in the collars or the frills. I shall
not be able to appear as an officer ought to do for the whole of the

As he said this, the cooper, going forward, passed by him, and jostled
him in passing. "Beg pardon, sir," said the man, "but the ship lurched."

"The ship lurched, did it?" replied the boatswain, who, I am afraid, was
not in the best of humours about his wardrobe. "And pray, Mr Cooper, why
has heaven granted you two legs, with joints at the knees, except to
enable you to counteract the horizontal deviation? Do you suppose they
were meant for nothing but to work round a cask with? Hark, sir, did you
take me for a post to scrub your pig's hide against? Allow me just to
observe, Mr Cooper--just to insinuate, that when you pass an officer, it
is your duty to keep at a respectable distance, and not to soil his
clothes with your rusty iron jacket. Do you comprehend me, sir; or will
this make you recollect in future?" The rattan was raised, and descended
in a shower of blows, until the cooper made his escape into the head.
"There, take that, you contaminating, stave-dubbing, gimlet-carrying,
quintessence of a bung-hole! I beg your pardon, Mr Simple, for
interrupting the conversation, but when duty calls, we must obey."

"Very true, Mr Chucks. It's now striking seven bells, and I must call
the master--so good-by."

Chapter XVI

News from home--A _fatigue_ party employed at Gibraltar--More
particulars in the life of Mr Chucks--A brush with the enemy--A
court-martial and a lasting impression.

A few days afterwards, a cutter joined us from Plymouth, with orders for
the frigate to proceed forthwith to Gibraltar, where we should learn our
destination. We were all very glad of this: for we had had quite enough
of cruising in the Bay of Biscay; and, as we understood that we were to
be stationed in the Mediterranean, we hoped to exchange gales of wind
and severe weather, for fine breezes and a bright sky. The cutter
brought out our letters and newspapers. I never felt more happy than I
did when I found one put into my hands. It is necessary to be far from
home and friends, to feel the real delight of receiving a letter. I went
down into the most solitary place in the steerage, that I might enjoy it
without interruption. I cried with pleasure before I opened it, but I
cried a great deal more with grief, after I had read the contents--for
my eldest brother Tom was dead of a typhus fever. Poor Tom! when I
called to mind what tricks he used to play me--how he used to borrow my
money and never pay me--and how he used to thrash me and make me obey
him, because he was my eldest brother--I shed a torrent of tears at his
loss; and then I reflected how miserable my poor mother must be, and I
cried still more.

"What's the matter, spooney?" said O'Brien, coming up to me. "Who has
been licking you now?"

"O, nobody," replied I; "but my eldest brother Tom is dead, and I have
no other."

"Well, Peter, I dare say that your brother was a very good brother; but
I'll tell you a secret. When you've lived long enough to have a beard to
scrape at, you'll know better than to make a fuss about an elder
brother. But you're a good, innocent boy just now, so I won't thrash you
for it. Come, dry your eyes, Peter, and never mind it. We'll drink his
health and long life to him, after supper, and then never think any more
about it."

I was very melancholy for a few days; but it was so delightful running
down the Portuguese and Spanish coasts, the weather was so warm, and the
sea so smooth, that I am afraid I forgot my brother's death sooner than
I ought to have done; but my spirits were cheered up, and the novelty of
the scene prevented me from thinking. Every one, too, was so gay and
happy, that I could not well be otherwise. In a fortnight, we anchored
in Gibraltar Bay, and the ship was stripped to refit. There was so much
duty to be done, that I did not like to go on shore. Indeed, Mr Falcon
had refused some of my messmates, and I thought it better not to ask,
although I was very anxious to see a place which was considered so
extraordinary. One afternoon, I was looking over the gangway as the
people were at supper, and Mr Falcon came up to me and said, "Well, Mr
Simple, what are you thinking of?" I replied, touching my hat, that I
was wondering how they had cut out the solid rock into galleries, and
that they must be very curious.

"That is to say, that you are very curious to see them. Well, then,
since you have been very attentive to your duty, and have not asked to
go on shore, I will give you leave to go to-morrow morning and stay till

I was very much pleased at this, as the officers had a general
invitation to dine with the mess, and all who could obtain leave being
requested to come, I was enabled to join the party. The first lieutenant
had excused himself on the plea of there being so much to attend to on
board; but most of the gun-room officers and some of the midshipmen
obtained leave. We walked about the town and fortifications until
dinner-time, and then we proceeded to the barracks. The dinner was very
good, and we were all very merry; but after the dessert had been brought
in, I slipped away with a young ensign, who took me all over the
galleries, and explained everything to me, which was a much better way
of employing my time than doing as the others did, which the reader will
acknowledge. I was at the sally-port before gun-fire--the boat was
there, but no officers made their appearance. The gun fired, the
drawbridge was hauled up, and I was afraid that I should be blamed; but
the boat was not ordered to shove off, as it was waiting for
commissioned officers. About an hour afterwards, when it was quite dark,
the sentry pointed his arms and challenged a person advancing with, "Who
comes there?"--"Naval officer, drunk on a wheelbarrow," was the reply,
in a loud singing voice. Upon which, the sentry recovered his arms,
singing in return, "Pass naval officer, drunk on a wheelbarrow--and
all's well!" and then appeared a soldier in his fatigue dress, wheeling
down the third lieutenant in a wheelbarrow, so tipsy that he could not
stand or speak. Then the sentry challenged again, and the answer was,
"Another naval officer, drunk on a wheelbarrow;" upon which the sentry
replied as before, "Pass, another naval officer, drunk on a wheelbarrow
--and all's well." This was my friend O'Brien, almost as bad as the
third lieutenant; and so they continued for ten minutes, challenging and
passing, until they wheeled down the remainder of the party, with the
exception of the second lieutenant, who walked arm and arm with the
officer who brought down the order for lowering the drawbridge. I was
much shocked, for I considered it very disgraceful; but I afterwards was
told, which certainly admitted of some excuse, that the mess were
notorious for never permitting any of their guests to leave the table
sober. They were all safely put into the boat, and I am glad to say, the
first lieutenant was in bed and did not see them; but I could not help
acknowledging the truth of an observation made by one of the men as the
officers were handed into the boat, "I say, Bill, if _them_ were _we_,
what a precious twisting we should get to-morrow at six bells!"

The ship remained in Gibraltar Bay about three weeks, during which time
we had refitted the rigging fore and aft, restowed and cleaned the hold,
and painted outside. She never looked more beautiful than she did when,
in obedience to our orders, we made sail to join the admiral. We passed
Europa Point with a fair wind, and at sunset we were sixty miles from
the Rock, yet it was distinctly to be seen, like a blue cloud, but the
outline perfectly correct. I mention this, as perhaps my reader would
not have believed that it was possible to see land at such a distance.
We steered for Cape de Gatte, and we were next day close in shore. I was
very much delighted with the Spanish coast, mountain upon mountain, hill
upon hill, covered with vines nearly to their summits. We might have
gone on shore at some places, for at that time we were friendly with
the Spaniards, but the captain was in too great a hurry to join the
admiral. We had very light winds, and a day or two afterwards we were
off Valencia, nearly becalmed. I was on the gangway, looking through a
telescope at the houses and gardens round the city, when Mr Chucks, the
boatswain, came up to me. "Mr Simple, oblige me with that glass a
moment; I wish to see if a building remains there, which I have some
reason to remember."

"What, were you ever on shore there?"

"Yes I was, Mr Simple, and nearly _stranded_, but I got off again
without much damage."

"How do you mean--were you wrecked, then?"

"Not my ship, Mr Simple, but my peace of mind was for some time; but
it's many years ago, when I was first made boatswain of a corvette
(during this conversation he was looking through the telescope); yes,
there it is," said he; "I have it in the field. Look, Mr Simple, do you
see a small church, with a spire of glazed tiles, shining like a

"Yes, I do."

"Well, then, just above it, a little to the right, there is a long white
house, with four small windows--below the grove of orange-trees."

"I see it," replied I; "but what about that house, Mr Chucks?"

"Why, thereby hangs a tale," replied he, giving a sigh, which raised and
then lowered the frill of his shirt at least six inches.

"Why, what is the mystery, Mr Chucks?"

"I'll tell you, Mr Simple. With one who lived in that house, I was for
the first, and for the last time, in love."

"Indeed! I should like very much to hear the story."

"So you shall, Mr Simple, but I must beg that you will not mention it,
as young gentlemen are apt to quiz; and I think that being quizzed hurts
my authority with the men. It is now about sixteen years back--we were
then on good terms with the Spaniards, as we are now. I was then little
more than thirty years old, and had just received my warrant as
boatswain. I was considered a well-looking young man at that time,
although lately I have, to a certain degree, got the better of that."

"Well, I consider you a remarkably good-looking man now, Mr Chucks."

"Thank you, Mr Simple, but nothing improves by age, that I know of,
except rum. I used to dress very smart, and 'cut the boatswain' when I
was on shore: and perhaps I had not lost so much of the polish I had
picked up in good society. One evening, I was walking in the Plaza, when
I saw a female ahead, who appeared to be the prettiest moulded little
vessel that I ever cast my eyes on. I followed in her wake, and examined
her: such a clean run I never beheld--so neat, too, in all her rigging--
everything so nicely stowed under hatches. And then, she sailed along in
such a style, at one moment lifting so lightly, just like a frigate,
with her topsails on the caps, that can't help going along. At another
time, as she turned a corner sharp up in the wind--wake as straight as
an arrow--no leeway--I made all sail to sheer alongside of her, and,
when under quarter, examined her close. Never saw such a fine swell in
the counter, and all so trim--no ropes towing overboard. Well, Mr
Simple, I said to myself, 'D--n it, if her figurehead and bows be
finished off by the same builder, she's perfect.' So I shot ahead, and
yawed a little--caught a peep at her through her veil, and saw two black
eyes--as bright as beads, and as large as damsons. I saw quite enough,
and not wishing to frighten her, I dropped astern. Shortly afterwards
she altered her course, steering for that white house. Just as she was
abreast of it, and I playing about her weather quarter, the priests came
by in procession, taking the _host_ to somebody who was dying. My little
frigate lowered her top-gallant sails out of respect, as other nations
used to do, and ought now, and be d----d to them, whenever they pass
the flag of old England--"

"How do you mean?" inquired I.

"I mean that she spread her white handkerchief, which fluttered in her
hand as she went along, and knelt down upon it on one knee. I did the
same, because I was obliged to heave-to to keep my station, and I
thought, that if she saw me, it would please her. When she got up, I was
on my legs also; but in my hurry I had not chosen a very clean place,
and I found out, when I got up again, that my white jean trousers were
in a shocking mess. The young lady turned round, and seeing my
misfortune, laughed, and then went into the white house, while I stood
there like a fool, first looking at the door of the house, and then at
my trousers. However, I thought that I might make it the means of being
acquainted with her, so I went to the door and knocked. An old gentleman
in a large cloak, who was her father, came out; I pointed to my
trousers, and requested him in Spanish to allow me a little water to
clean them. The daughter then came from within, and told her father how
the accident had happened. The old gentleman was surprised that an
English officer was so good a Christian, and appeared to be pleased. He
asked me very politely to come in, and sent an old woman for some water.
I observed that he was smoking a bit of paper, and having very
fortunately about a couple of dozen of real Havannahs in my pocket (for
I never smoke anything else, Mr Simple, it being my opinion that no
gentleman can), I took them out, and begged his acceptance of them. His
eyes glistened at the sight of them, but he refused to take more than
one; however, I insisted upon his taking the whole bundle, telling him
that I had plenty more on board, reserving one for myself, that I might
smoke it with him. He then requested me to sit down, and the old woman
brought some sour wine, which I declared was very good, although it made
me quite ill afterwards. He inquired of me whether I was a good
Christian. I replied that I was. I knew that he meant a Catholic, for
they call us heretics, Mr Simple. The daughter then came in without her
veil, and she was perfection; but I did not look at her, or pay her any
attention after the first salutation, I was so afraid of making the old
gentleman suspicious. He then asked what I was--what sort of officer--
was I captain? I replied that I was not. Was I 'tenente? which means
lieutenant; I answered that I was not, again, but with an air of
contempt, as if I was something better. What was I, then? I did not know
the Spanish for boatswain, and, to tell the truth, I was ashamed of my
condition. I knew that there was an officer in Spain called corregidor,
which means a corrector in English, or one who punishes. Now I thought
that quite near enough for my purpose, and I replied that I was the
corregidor. Now, Mr Simple, a corregidor in Spain is a person of rank
and consequence, so they imagined that I must be the same, and they
appeared to be pleased. The young lady then inquired if I was of good
family--whether I was a gentleman or not. I replied that I hoped so. I
remained with them for half-an-hour more, when my segar was finished; I
then rose, and thanking the old gentleman for his civility, begged that
I might be allowed to bring him a few more segars, and took my leave.
The daughter opened the street door, and I could not refrain from taking
her hand and kissing it--"

"Where's Mr Chucks? call the boatswain there forward," hallooed out the

"Here I am, sir," replied Mr Chucks, hastening aft, and leaving me and
his story.

"The captain of the maintop reports the breast backstay much chafed in
the serving. Go up and examine it," said the first lieutenant.

"Yes, sir," replied the boatswain, who immediately went up the rigging.

"And, Mr Simple, attend to the men scraping the spots off the

"Yes, sir," replied I; and thus our conversation was broken up.

The weather changed that night, and we had a succession of rain and
baffling winds for six or seven days, during which I had no opportunity
of hearing the remainder of the boatswain's history. We joined the fleet
off Toulon, closed the admiral's ship, and the captain went on board to
pay his respects. When he returned, we found out, through the first
lieutenant, that we were to remain with the fleet until the arrival of
another frigate, expected in about a fortnight, and then the admiral had
promised that we should have a cruise. The second day after we had
joined, we were ordered to form part of the in-shore squadron,
consisting of two line-of-battle ships and four frigates. The French
fleet used to come out and manoeuvre within range of their batteries,
or, if they proceeded further from the shore, they took good care that
they had a leading wind to return again into port. We had been in-shore
about a week, every day running close in, and counting the French fleet
in the harbour, to see that they were all safe, and reporting it to the
admiral by signal, when one fine morning, the whole of the French
vessels were perceived to hoist their topsails, and in less than an hour
they were under weigh, and came out of the harbour. We were always
prepared for action, night and day, and, indeed, often exchanged a shot
or two with the batteries when we reconnoitred; the in-shore squadron
could not, of course, cope with the whole French fleet, and our own was
about twelve miles in the offing, but the captain of the line-of-battle
ship who commanded us, hove-to, as if in defiance, hoping to entice them
further out. This was not very easy to do, as the French knew that a
shift of wind might put it out of their power to refuse an action, which
was what they would avoid, and what we were so anxious to bring about. I
say we, speaking of the English, not of myself, for to tell the truth, I
was not so very anxious. I was not exactly afraid, but I had an
unpleasant sensation at the noise of a cannon-ball, which I had not as
yet got over. However, four of the French frigates made sail towards us,
and hove-to, when within four miles, three or four line-of-battle ships
following them as if to support them. Our captain made signal for
permission to close the enemy, which was granted, with our pennants, and
those of another frigate. We immediately made all sail, beat to
quarters, put out the fires, and opened the magazines. The French
line-of-battle ships perceiving that only two of our frigates were sent
against their four, hove-to at about the same distance from their
frigates, as our line-of-battle ships and other frigates were from us.
In the meantime our main fleet continued to work in shore under a press
of sail, and the French main fleet also gradually approached the
detached ships. The whole scene reminded me of the tournaments I had
read of; it was a challenge in the lists, only that the enemy were two
to one; a fair acknowledgment on their parts of our superiority. In
about an hour we closed so near, that the French frigates made sail and
commenced firing. We reserved our fire until within a quarter of a mile,
when we poured our broadside into the headmost frigate, exchanging with
her on opposite tacks. The _Sea-horse_, who followed, also gave her a
broadside. In this way we exchanged broadsides with the whole four, and
we had the best of it, for they could not load so fast as we could. We
were both ready again for the frigates as they passed us, but they were
not ready with their broadside for the _Sea-horse_, who followed us very
closely, so that they had two broadsides each, and we had only four in
the _Diomede_, the _Sea-horse_ not having one. Our rigging was cut up a
great deal, and we had six or seven men wounded, but none killed. The
French frigates suffered more, and their admiral perceiving that they
were cut up a good deal, made a signal of recall. In the meantime we had
both tacked, and were ranging up on the weather quarter of the sternmost
frigate: the line-of-battle ships perceiving this, ran down with the
wind, two points free, to support their frigates, and our in-shore
squadron made all sail to support us, nearly laying up for where we
were. But the wind was what is called at sea a soldier's wind, that is,
blowing so that the ships could lie either way, so as to run out or into
the harbour, and the French frigates, in obedience to their orders, made
sail for their fleet in-shore, the line-of-battle ships coming out to
support them. But our captain would not give it up, although we all
continued to near the French line-of-battle ships every minute--we ran
in with the frigates, exchanging broadsides with them as fast as we
could. One of them lost her foretopmast, and dropped astern, and we
hoped to cut her off, but the others shortened sail to support her. This
continued for about twenty minutes, when the French line-of-battle ships
were not more than a mile from us, and our own commodore had made the
signal of our recall, for he thought that we should be overpowered and
taken. But the _Sea-horse_, who saw the recall up, did not repeat it,
and our captain was determined not to see it, and ordered the signal-man
not to look that way. The action continued, two of the French frigates
were cut to pieces, and complete wrecks, when the French line-of-battle
ships commenced firing. It was then high time to be off. We each of us
poured in another broadside, and then wore round for our own squadron,
which was about four miles off, and rather to leeward, standing in to
our assistance. As we wore round, our main-topmast, which had been badly
wounded, fell over the side, and the French perceiving this, made all
sail, with the hope of capturing us; but the _Sea-horse_ remained with
us, and we threw up in the wind, and raked them until they were within
two cables' lengths of us. Then we stood on for our own ships; at last
one of the line-of-battle ships, which sailed as well as the frigates,
came abreast of us, and poured in a broadside, which brought everything
about our ears, and I thought we must be taken; but on the contrary,
although we lost several men, the captain said to the first lieutenant,
"Now, if they only wait a little longer, they are nabbed, as sure as
fate." Just at this moment, our own line-of-battle ships opened their
fire, and then the tables were turned. The French tacked, and stood in
as fast as they could, followed by the in-shore squadron, with the
exception of our ship, which was too much crippled to chase them. One of
their frigates had taken in tow the other, who had lost her top-mast,
and our squadron came up with her very fast. The English fleet were also
within three miles, standing in, and the French fleet standing out, to
the assistance of the other ships which had been engaged. I thought, and
so did everybody, that there would be a general action, but we were
disappointed; the frigate which towed the other, finding that she could
not escape, cast her off, and left her to her fate, which was to haul
down her colours to the commodore of the in-shore squadron. The chase
was continued until the whole of the French vessels were close under
their batteries, and then our fleet returned to its station with the
prize, which proved to be the _Narcisse_, of thirty-six guns, Captain Le
Pelleteon. Our captain obtained a great deal of credit for his gallant
behaviour. We had three men killed, and Robinson, the midshipman, and
ten men wounded, some of them severely. I think this action cured me of
my fear of a cannon-ball, for during the few days we remained with the
fleet, we often were fired at when we reconnoitred, but I did not care
anything for them. About the time she was expected, the frigate joined,
and we had permission to part company. But before I proceed with the
history of our cruise, I shall mention the circumstances attending a
court-martial, which took place during the time that we were with the
fleet, our captain having been recalled from the in-shore squadron to
sit as one of the members. I was the midshipman appointed to the
captain's gig, and remained on board of the admiral's ship during the
whole of the time that the court was sitting. Two seamen, one an
Englishman, and the other a Frenchman, were tried for desertion from one
of our frigates. They had left their ship about three months, when the
frigate captured a French privateer, and found them on board as part of
her crew. For the Englishman, of course, there was no defence; he
merited the punishment of death, to which he was immediately sentenced.
There may be some excuse for desertion, when we consider that the seamen
are taken into the service by force, but there could be none for
fighting against his country. But the case of the Frenchman was
different. He was born and bred in France, had been one of the crew of
the French gunboats at Cadiz, where he had been made a prisoner by the
Spaniards, and expecting his throat to be cut every day, had contrived
to escape on board of the frigate lying in the harbour, and entered into
our service, I really believe to save his life. He was nearly two years
in the frigate before he could find an opportunity of deserting from
her, and returning to France, when he joined the French privateer.
During the time that he was in the frigate, he bore an excellent
character. The greatest point against him was, that on his arrival at
Gibraltar he had been offered, and had received the bounty. When the
Englishman was asked what he had to say in his defence, he replied that
he had been pressed out of an American ship, that he was an American
born, and that he had never taken the bounty. But this was not true. The
defence of the Frenchman was considered so very good for a person in his
station of life, that I obtained a copy of it, which ran as follows:--

"Mr President, and Officers of the Honourable Court;--It is with the
greatest humility that I venture to address you. I shall be very brief,
nor shall I attempt to disprove the charges which have been made against
me, but confine myself to a few facts, the consideration of which will,
I trust, operate upon your feelings in mitigation of the punishment to
which I may be sentenced for my fault--a fault which proceeded, not from
any evil motive, but from an ardent love for my country. I am by birth a
Frenchman; my life has been spent in the service of France until a few
months after the revolution in Spain, when I, together with those who
composed the French squadron at Cadiz, was made a prisoner. The
hardships and cruel usage which I endured became insupportable. I
effected my escape, and after wandering about the town for two or three
days, in hourly expectation of being assassinated, the fate of too many
of my unfortunate countrymen; desperate from famine, and perceiving no
other chance of escaping from the town, I was reduced to the necessity
of offering myself as a volunteer on board of an English frigate. I
dared not, as I ought to have done, acknowledge myself to have been a
prisoner, from the dread of being delivered up to the Spaniards. During
the period that I served on board of your frigate, I confidently rely
upon the captain and the officers for my character.

"The love of our country, although dormant for a time, will ultimately
be roused, and peculiar circumstances occurred which rendered the
feeling irresistible. I returned to my duty, and for having so done, am
I to be debarred from again returning to that country so dear to me--
from again beholding my aged parents, who bless me in my absence--from
again embracing my brothers and sisters--to end my days upon a scaffold;
not for the crime which I did commit in entering into your service, but
for an act of duty and repentance--that of returning to my own? Allow me
to observe, that the charge against me is not for entering your service,
but for having deserted from it. For the former, not even my misery can
be brought forward but in extenuation; for the latter I have a proud
consciousness, which will, I trust, be my support in my extremity.

"Gentlemen, I earnestly entreat you to consider my situation, and I am
sure that your generous hearts will pity me. Let that love of your
country, which now animates your breasts, and induces you to risk your
lives and your all, now plead for me. Already has British humanity saved
thousands of my countrymen from the rage of the Spaniards; let that same
humanity be extended now, and induce my judges to add one more to the
list of those who, although our nations are at war, if they are endowed
with feeling, can have but one sentiment towards their generous enemy--a
sentiment overpowering all other, that of a deep-felt gratitude."[1]

Whatever may have been the effect of the address upon the court
individually, it appeared at the time to have none upon them as a body.
Both the men were condemned to death, and the day after the morrow was
fixed for their execution. I watched the two prisoners as they went down
the side, to be conducted on board of their own ship. The Englishman
threw himself down in the stern sheets of the boat, every minor
consideration apparently swallowed up in the thought of his approaching
end; but the Frenchman, before he sat down, observing that the seat was
a little dirty, took out his silk handkerchief, and spread it on the
seat, that he might not soil his nankeen trowsers.

I was ordered to attend the punishment on the day appointed. The sun
shone so brightly, and the sky was so clear, the wind so gentle and
mild, that it appeared hardly possible that it was to be a day of such
awe and misery to the two poor men, or of such melancholy to the fleet
in general. I pulled up my boat with the others belonging to the ships
of the fleet, in obedience to the orders of the officer superintending,
close to the fore-chains of the ship. In about half-an-hour afterwards,
the prisoners made their appearance on the scaffold, the caps were
pulled over their eyes, and the gun fired underneath them. When the
smoke rolled away, the Englishman was swinging at the yard-arm, but the
Frenchman was not; he had made a spring when the gun fired, hoping to
break his neck at once, and put an end to his misery; but he fell on the
edge of the scaffold, where he lay. We thought that his rope had given
way, and it appeared that he did the same, for he made an enquiry, but
they returned him no answer. He was kept on the scaffold during the
whole hour that the Englishman remained suspended; his cap had been
removed, and he looked occasionally at his fellow-sufferer. When the
body was lowered down, he considered that his time was come, and
attempted to leap overboard. He was restrained and led aft, where his
reprieve was read to him and his arms were unbound. But the effect of
the shock was too much for his mind; he fell down in a swoon, and when
he recovered, his senses had left him, and I heard that he never
recovered them, but was sent home to be confined as a maniac. I thought,
and the result proved, that it was carried too far. It is not the
custom, when a man is reprieved, to tell him so, until after he is on
the scaffold, with the intention that his awful situation at the time
may make a lasting impression upon him during the remainder of his life;
but, as a foreigner, he was not aware of our customs, and the hour of
intense feeling which he underwent was too much for his reason. I must
say, that this circumstance was always a source of deep regret in the
whole fleet, and that his being a Frenchman, instead of an Englishman,
increased the feeling of commiseration.

[Footnote 1: This is fact.--AUTHOR.]

Chapter XVII

Mr Chucks's opinion on proper names--He finishes his Spanish tale--March
of intellect among the Warrant Officers.

We were all delighted when our signal was hoisted to "part company," as
we anticipated plenty of prize-money under such an enterprising captain.
We steered for the French coast, near to its junction with Spain, the
captain having orders to intercept any convoys sent to supply the French
army with stores and provisions.

The day after we parted company with the fleet, Mr Chucks finished his

"Where was I, Mr Simple, when I left off?" said he, as we took a seat
upon the long eighteen.

"You had just left the house after having told them that you were a
corregidor, and had kissed the lady's hand."

"Very true. Well, Mr Simple, I did not call there for two or three days
afterwards; I did not like to go too soon, especially as I saw the young
lady every day in the Plaza. She would not speak to me, but, to make use
of their expression, 'she gave me her eyes,' and sometimes a sweet
smile. I recollect I was so busy looking at her one day, that I tripped
over my sword, and nearly fell on my nose, at which she burst out a

"Your sword, Mr Chucks? I thought boatswains never wore swords."

"Mr Simple, a boatswain is an officer, and is entitled to a sword as
well as the captain, although we have been laughed out of it by a set of
midshipman monkeys. I always wore my sword at that time; but now-a-days,
a boatswain is counted as nobody, unless there is hard work to do, and
then it's Mr Chucks this, and Mr Chucks that. But I'll explain to you
how it is, Mr Simple, that we boatswains have lost so much of
consequence and dignity. The first lieutenants are made to do the
boatswain's duty now-a-days, and if they could only wind the call, they
might scratch the boatswain's name off half the ships' books in his
Majesty's service. But to go on with my yarn. On the fourth day, I
called with my handkerchief full of segars for the father, but he was at
siesta, as they called it. The old serving-woman would not let me in at
first; but I shoved a dollar between her skinny old fingers, and that
altered her note. She put her old head out, and looked round to see if
there was anybody in the street to watch us, and then she let me in and
shut the door. I walked into the room, and found myself alone with

"Seraphina!--what a fine name!"

"No name can be too fine for a pretty girl, or a good frigate, Mr
Simple; for my part, I'm very fond of these hard names. Your Bess, and
Poll, and Sue, do very well for the Point, or Castle Rag; but in my
opinion, they degrade a lady. Don't you observe, Mr Simple, that all our
gun-brigs, a sort of vessel that will certainly d----n the inventor to
all eternity, have nothing but low common names, such as Pincher,
Thrasher, Boxer, Badger, and all that sort, which are quite good enough
for them; whereas all our dashing saucy frigates have names as long as
the main-top bowling, and hard enough to break your jaw--such as
Melpomeny, Terpsichory, Arethusy, Bacchanty--fine flourishers, as long
as their pennants which dip alongside in a calm."

"Very true," replied I; "but do you think, then, it is the same with
family names?"

"Most certainly, Mr Simple. When I was in good society, I rarely fell in
with such names as Potts or Bell, or Smith or Hodges; it was always Mr
Fortescue, or Mr Fitzgerald, or Mr Fitzherbert--seldom bowed, sir, to
anything under _three_ syllables."

"Then I presume, Mr Chucks, you are not fond of your own name?"

"There you touch me, Mr Simple; but it is quite good enough for a
boatswain," replied Mr Chucks, with a sigh. "I certainly did very wrong
to impose upon people as I did, but I've been severely punished for it--
it has made me discontented and unhappy ever since. Dearly have I paid
for my spree; for there is nothing so miserable as to have ideas above
your station in life, Mr Simple. But I must make sail again. I was three
hours with Seraphina before her father came home, and during that time I
never was quietly at an anchor for above a minute. I was on my knees,
vowing and swearing, kissing her feet and kissing her hand, till at last
I got to her lips, working my way up as regularly as one who gets in at
the hawsehole and crawls aft to the cabin windows. She was very kind,
and she smiled, and sighed, and pushed me off, and squeezed my hand, and
was angry--frowning till I was in despair, and then making me happy
again with her melting dark eyes beaming kindly, till at last she said
that she would try to love me, and asked me whether I would marry her
and live in Spain. I replied that I would; and, indeed, I felt as if I
could, only at the time the thought occurred to me where the rhino was
to come from, for I could not live, as her father did, upon a paper
segar and a piece of melon per day. At all events, as far as words went,
it was a settled thing. When her father came home, the old servant told
him that I had just at that moment arrived, and that, his daughter was
in her own room; so she was, for she ran away as soon as she heard her
father knock. I made my bow to the old gentleman, and gave him the
segars. He was serious at first, but the sight of them put him into good
humour, and in a few minutes Donna Seraphina (they call a lady a Donna
in Spain) came in, saluting me ceremoniously, as if we had not been
kissing for the hour together. I did not remain long, as it was getting
late, so I took a glass of the old gentleman's sour wine, and walked
off, with a request from him to call again, the young lady paying me
little or no attention during the time that I remained, or at my

"Well, Mr Chucks," observed I, "it appears to me that she was a very
deceitful young person."

"So she was, Mr Simple; but a man in love can't see, and I'll tell you
why. If he wins the lady, he is as much in love with himself as with
her, because he is so proud of his conquest. That was my case. If I had
had my eyes, I might have seen that she who could cheat her old father
for a mere stranger, would certainly deceive him in his turn. But if
love makes a man blind, vanity, Mr Simple, makes him blinder. In short,
I was an ass."

"Never mind, Mr Chucks, there was a good excuse for it."

"Well, Mr Simple, I met her again and again, until I was madly in love,
and the father appeared to be aware of what was going on, and to have no
objection. However, he sent for a priest to talk with me, and I again
said that I was a good Catholic. I told him that I was in love with the
young lady, and would marry her. The father made no objection on my
promising to remain in Spain, for he would not part with his only
daughter. And there again I was guilty of deceit, first, in making a
promise I did not intend to keep, and then in pretending that I was a
Catholic. Honesty is the best policy, Mr Simple, in the long run, you
may depend upon it."

"So my father has always told me, and I have believed him," replied I.

"Well, sir, I am ashamed to say that I did worse; for the priest, after
the thing was settled, asked me whether I had confessed lately. I knew
what he meant, and answered that I had not. He motioned me down on my
knees; but, as I could not speak Spanish enough for that, I
mumbled-jumbled something or another, half Spanish and half English, and
ended with putting four dollars in his hand for _carita_, which means
charity. He was satisfied at the end of my confession, whatever he might
have been at the beginning, and gave me absolution, although he could
not have understood what my crimes were; but four dollars, Mr Simple,
will pay for a deal of crime in that country. And now, sir, comes the
winding up of this business. Seraphina told me that she was going to the
opera with some of her relations, and asked me if I would be there; that
the captain of the frigate, and all the other officers were going, and
that she wished me to go with her. You see, Mr Simple, although
Seraphina's father was so poor, that a mouse would have starved in his
house, still he was of good family, and connected with those who were
much better off. He was a Don himself, and had fourteen or fifteen long
names, which I forget now. I refused to go with her, as I knew that the
service would not permit a boatswain to sit in an opera-box, when the
captain and first lieutenant were there. I told her that I had promised
to go on board and look after the men while the captain went on shore;
thus, as you'll see, Mr Simple, making myself a man of consequence, only
to be more mortified in the end. After she had gone to the opera, I was
very uncomfortable: I was afraid that the captain would see her, and
take a fancy to her. I walked up and down, outside, until I was so full
of love and jealousy that I determined to go into the pit and see what
she was about. I soon discovered her in a box, with some other ladies,
and with them were my captain and first lieutenant. The captain, who
spoke the language well, was leaning over her, talking and laughing, and
she was smiling at what he said. I resolved to leave immediately, lest
she should see me and discover that I had told her a falsehood; but they
appeared so intimate that I became so jealous I could not quit the
theatre. At last she perceived me, and beckoned her hand; I looked very
angry, and left the theatre cursing like a madman. It appeared that she
pointed me out to the captain, and asked him who I was; he told her my
real situation on board, and spoke of me with contempt. She asked
whether I was not a man of family; at this the captain and first
lieutenant both burst out laughing, and said that I was a common sailor
who had been promoted to a higher rank for good behaviour--not exactly
an officer, and anything but a gentleman. In short, Mr Simple, I was
_blown upon_, and, although the captain said more than was correct, as
I learnt afterwards through the officers, still I deserved it.
Determined to know the worst, I remained outside till the opera was
over, when I saw her come out, the captain and first lieutenant walking
with the party--so that I could not speak with her. I walked to a posada
(that's an inn), and drank seven bottles of rosolio to keep myself
quiet; then I went on board, and the second lieutenant, who was
commanding officer, put me under arrest for being intoxicated. It was a
week before I was released; and you can't imagine what I suffered, Mr
Simple. At last, I obtained leave to go on shore, and I went to the
house to decide my fate. The old woman opened the door, and then calling
me a thief, slammed it in my face; as I retreated, Donna Seraphina came
to the window, and, waving her hand with a contemptuous look, said, 'Go,
and God be with you, Mr Gentleman.' I returned on board in such a rage,
that if I could have persuaded the gunner to have given me a ball
cartridge, I should have shot myself through the head. What made the
matter worse, I was laughed at by everybody in the ship, for the captain
and first lieutenant had made the story public."

"Well, Mr Chucks," replied I, "I cannot help being sorry for you,
although you certainly deserved to be punished for your dishonesty. Was
that the end of the affair?"

"As far as I was concerned it was, Mr Simple; but not as respected
others. The captain took my place, but without the knowledge of the
father. After all, they neither had great reason to rejoice at the

"How so, Mr Chucks--what do you mean?"

"Why, Mr Simple, the captain did not make an honest woman of her, as I

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