Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Rattlin the Reefer
Author: Howard, Edward
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rattlin the Reefer" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Rattlin the Reefer, by Edward Howard, and edited by Captain Marryat.

________________________________________________________________________

Captain Frederick Marryat was born July 10 1792, and died August 8 1848.
He retired from the British navy in 1828 in order to devote himself to
writing.  In the following 20 years he wrote 26 books, many of which are
among the very best of English literature, and some of which are still
in print.

Marryat had an extraordinary gift for the invention of episodes in his
stories.  He says somewhere that when he sat down for the day's work, he
never knew what he was going to write.  He certainly was a literary
genius.

"Rattlin The Reefer" was published in 1838, the twelfth book to flow
from Marryat's pen.  It had been written by Edward Howard, but needed a
good deal of polishing before it could be published, which Marryat did.
There is distinctly more flowery language than was normal with Marryat,
and there are many long and unusual words that are not found elsewhere
in Marryat's work.  There is also a great use of Latin phrases to
describe the action, most of which, fortunately, are little more than
dog-Latin (i.e. the meaning can easily be decried).

This e-text was transcribed in 1998 by Nick Hodson, and was reformatted
in 2003, and again in 2005.

________________________________________________________________________

RATTLIN THE REEFER, BY EDWARD HOWARD, AND EDITED BY CAPTAIN FREDERICK
MARRYAT.



CHAPTER ONE.

I BEGIN A LIFE WITHOUT A SIMILITUDE WITH A SIMILE--START OFF WITH FOUR
HORSES--AND, FINALLY, I MAKE MY FIRST APPEARANCE ON ANY STAGE, UNDER THE
PROTECTION OF THE "CROWN."

In the volume I am going to write, it is my intention to adhere rigidly
to the truth--this will be _bona fide_ an autobiography--and, as the
public like novelty, an autobiography without an iota of fiction in the
whole of it, will be the greatest novelty yet offered to its
fastidiousness.  As many of the events which will be my province to
record, are singular and even startling, I may be permitted to sport a
little moral philosophy, drawn from the kennel in Lower Thames Street,
which may teach my readers to hesitate ere they condemn as invention
mere matters of absolute, though uncommon fact.

Let us stand with that old gentleman under the porch of Saint Magnus's
Church, for the rain is thrashing the streets till they actually look
white, and the kennel before us is swelled into a formidable, and hardly
fordable brook.  That kennel is the stream of life--and a dirty and a
weary one it is, if we may judge by the old gentleman's looks.  All is
hurried into that common sewer, the grave!  What bubbles float down it!
Everything that is fairly in the middle of the stream seems to sail with
it, steadily and triumphantly--and many a filthy fragment enters the
sewer with a pomp and dignity not unlike the funeral obsequies of a
great lord.  But my business is with that little chip; by some means it
has been thrust out of the principal current, and, now that it is out,
see what pranks it is playing.  How erratic are its motions!--into what
strange holes and corners it is thrust!  The same phenomenon will happen
in life.  Once start a being out of the usual course of existence, and
many and strange will be his adventures ere he once more be allowed to
regain the common stream, and be permitted to float down, in silent
tranquillity, to the grave common to all.

About seven o'clock in the evening of the 20th of February, 17---, a
post-chaise with four horses drove with fiery haste up to the door of
the Crown Inn, at Reading.  The evening had closed in bitterly.  A
continuous storm of mingled sleet and rain had driven every being who
had a home, to the shelter it afforded.  As the vehicle stopped, with a
most consequential jerk, and the steps were flung down with that clatter
post-boys will make when they can get four horses before their leathern
boxes, the solitary inmate seemed to shrink further into its dark
corner, instead of coming forward eagerly to exchange the comforts of
the blazing hearth for the damp confinement of a hired chaise.  Thrice
had the obsequious landlord bowed his well-powdered head, and, at each
inclination, wiped off; with the palm of his hand, the rain-drops that
had settled on the central baldness of his occiput, ere the traveller
seemed to be aware that such a man existed as the landlord of the Crown,
or that that landlord was standing at the chaise-door.  At length a
female, closely veiled, and buried in shawls like a sultana, tremblingly
took the proffered arm, and tottered into the hotel.  Shortly after,
mine host returned, attended by porter, waiter, and stable-boy--and
giving, by the lady's orders, a handsome gratuity to each of the
post-boys, asked for the traveller's luggage.  There was none!  At this
announcement, the landlord, as he afterwards expressed himself was
"struck all of a heap," though what he meant by it was never clearly
comprehended, as any alteration in his curiously squat figure must have
been an improvement.  While he remained in perplexity and in the rain,
the latter of which might easily have been avoided, another message
arrived from the lady, ordering fresh horses to be procured, and those,
with the chaise, to be kept in readiness to start at a moment's warning.
More mystery and more perplexity!  In fact, if these combined causes
had been allowed to remain much longer in operation, the worthy
landlord, instead of carrying on his business profitably, would have
been carried off peremptorily, by a catarrh, his wife's nursing, and a
doctor; but, fortunately, it struck one of the post-boys that rain was
not necessary to a conversation, and sleet but a bad solvent of a
mystery; so the posse adjourned into the tap, in order that the subject
might be discussed more at the ease of the gentlemen who fancied
themselves concerned in it.

"And you have not seen her face?" said mine host of the Crown.

"Shouldn't know her from Adam's grandmother," said the post-boy who had
ridden the wheel-horses.  "Howsomedever, I yeerd her sob and moan like a
wheel as vants grease."

"You may say that," said the other post-boy, a little shrivelled old
man, a good deal past sixty; "we lads see strange soights.  I couldn't
a-bear to see her siffer in that 'ere manner--I did feel for her almost
as much as if she'd been an 'oss."

The landlord gave the two charioteers _force de complimens_ for the
tenderness of their feelings, the intensity of which he fully
comprehended, as he changed for each his guinea, the bounty of the lady.
When he found them in proper cue, that is to say, in the middle of
their second glass of brandy-and-water, he proceeded in his
cross-examination, and he learned from them that they had been engaged
to wait at a certain spot, on an extensive heath some twelve miles
distant; that they had hardly waited there an hour when a private
carriage, containing the lady in question and a gentleman, arrived; that
the lady, closely veiled, had been transferred from the one conveyance
to the other, and that the post-boys had been ordered to drive with the
utmost speed to the destination where they now found themselves.

This account seemed to satisfy the scruples of the landlord, which, of
course, were by no means pecuniary, but merely moral, when in bounced
the fiery-visaged landlady.  He was forced to stand the small-shot of
his wife.  Poor man! he had only powder to reply to it, and that, just
now, was woefully damp.

"You lazy, loitering, do-little, much-hindering, prateapace sot! here's
the lady taken alarmingly ill.  The physician has been sent for, and his
carriage will be at the door before you blow that ill-looking nose of
yours, that my blessed ten commandments are itching to score down--you
paltry --- ah!"

With a very little voice, and a very great submission, mine host
squeaked out, "Have you seen the lady's face?"

"Face! is it face you want? and ladies' faces too--haven't I got face
enough for you--you apology, you!"

What the good woman said was indubitably true.  She had face enough for
any two moderately-visaged wives, and enough over and above to have
supplied anyone who might have lost a portion of theirs.  However, I
will be more polite than the landlady, and acquaint the reader, that no
one yet of the establishment had seen the lady's face, nor was it
intended that anyone should.

As this squabble was growing into a quarrel the physician arrived; he
had not been long alone with the unknown, before he sent for a surgeon,
and the surgeon for a nurse.  There was so much bustle, alarm, and
secrecy, above-stairs, that the landlord began to consider which of the
two undertakers, his friends, he should favour with the anticipated job,
and rubbed his hands as he dwelt on the idea of a coroner's inquest, and
the attendant dinner.  The landlady was nearly raving mad at being
excluded from what she supposed was the bed of death.  Hot flannels and
warm water were now eagerly called for--and these demands were looked
upon as a sure sign that dissolution approached.

The stairs approaching the lady's chamber were lined with master,
mistress, man-servant and maid-servants, all eagerly listening to the
awful bustle within.  At length there is a dead silence of some minutes.
The listeners shuddered.

"It is all over with her!" ejaculates one tender-hearted manoeuvrer of
the warming-pan, with her apron in the corner her eye.  "Poor lady! it
is all over with her!"

It was exactly two in the morning of the 21st that a shrill cry was
heard.  Shortly after, the door was flung open by the nurse, and a new
edition of an embryo reefer appeared in her arms, and very manfully did
the play of his lungs make everyone present aware that _somebody_ had
made his appearance.  The supposed bed of death turned out to be a bed
of life, and another being was born to wail, to sin, and to die, as
myriads have wailed, and sinned, and died before him.



CHAPTER TWO.

I AM DECIDEDLY AN INCUMBRANCE--BEGIN LIFE WITH HALF A DOZEN FRUITLESS
JOURNEYS--FIND A HOME AND A FOSTER FATHER--AND TALK LEARNEDLY OF
TRIANGLES AND ARCHBISHOPS.

What is to be done with the child?  It is a fearful question, and has
been often asked under every degree of suffering.  Of all possible
articles, a child is the most difficult to dispose of; a wife may be
dispensed with without much heart-breaking--even a friend and rubbish
may be shot out of the way, and the bosom remain tranquil; but a
helpless, new-born infant!--O there is a pleading eloquence in its
feeble wail that goes to the heart and ear of the stranger--and must act
like living fire in the bowels of the mother.

The whole household were immediately sent in quest of a wet-nurse.  At
length one was found in the very pretty wife of a reprobate sawyer, of
the name of Brandon.  He had seen many vicissitudes of life--had been a
soldier, a gentleman's servant, had been to sea, and was a shrewd,
vicious, and hard man, with a most unquenchable passion for strong beer,
and a steady addiction to skittles.  His wife was a little gentle being,
of an extremely compact and prepossessing figure; her face was ruddy
with health, and, as said before, extremely pretty; for, had it not been
for an air of what fear must call vulgarity, for want of a more gentle
term, she would have merited the term of beautiful.  Brandon was a
top-sawyer, but, as three out of the six working days of the week he was
to be found with a pot of porter by his side, pipe in mouth, and the
skittle-ball in his hand, it is not surprising that there was much
misery in his home, which he often heightened by his brutality.  Yet was
he a very pleasant fellow when he had money to spend, and actually a
witty as well as a jovial dog when spending it.  His wife had not long
given birth to a fine girl, and the mother's bosom bled over the
destitution with which her husband's recklessness had now made her so
long familiar.

All this time your humble servant was squalling, and none were found
who, under all the strange circumstances would take upon them the charge
of an infant, about to be immediately forsaken by its mother.  At
length, one of the maid-servants at the inn remembered to have heard
Mrs Brandon say, that rather than live on among all her squalidness and
penury, she would endeavour to suckle another child besides her own;
and, as she was then in redundant health, and had two fine breasts of
milk,--for _a_ fine breast of milk would not have served my turn, or,
rather, Mary and I must have taken it by turns,--she was accordingly
sent for.  Yet, when she understood that I was to be placed that moment
under her care, that no references could be given, and no address left
in the case of accident, all her wishes to better herself and babe were
not sufficiently strong to make her run the risk.  A guinea-and-a-half a
week was offered, and the first quarter tendered in advance, but in
vain; at length, an additional ten-pound note gave her sufficient
courage, and flannel being in request, I was thus launched to struggle
with the world.  The frantic kiss of the distracted mother was impressed
on my lips, the agonised blessing was called down upon me from the God
that she then thought not of interceding with for herself, and the
solemn objurgation given to my foster-mother to have a religious and
motherly care of me, by the love she bore her own child; and then, lest
the distress of this scene should become fatal to her who bore me, I and
my nurse were hurried away before the day of my birth had fully dawned.

This day happened to be one in which the top-sawyer had been graciously
pleased to toss his arms up and down over the pit--not of destruction,
but of preservation.  He had started early, and, whilst he was setting
the teeth on edge of all within hearing, by setting an edge to his saw,
some very officious friend ran to him, to tell him that his wife was
increasing his family, without even his permission having been asked.
Instead, therefore, of making a dust in his own pit, he flung down his
file, took up his lanthorn, and hurried along to kick up a dust at home.
The brute! may he have to sharpen saws with bad files for half an
eternity!  He swore--how awfully the fellow swore!--that I should be
turned from his inhospitable roof immediately--and my gentle nurse,
adding her tears to my squalls, through that dismal, sleety morning,
which was then breaking mistily upon so much wretchedness, was compelled
to carry me back to my mother.

The most impassioned entreaties, and an additional five pounds, at
length prevailed on Mrs Brandon to nestle me again in her bosom, and
try to excite the sympathy of her husband.  She returned to him, but the
fellow had now taken to himself two counsellors, a drunken mate who
served under him in the pit, and his own avarice.  I am stating mere
facts: I may not be believed--I cannot help it--but three times was I
carried backwards and forwards, every transit producing to the sawyer
five extra pounds, when, at length, my little head found a
resting-place.  All these events I have had over and over again from my
nurse, and they are most faithfully recorded.

Before noon on that memorable morning the chaise-and-four were again at
the door, and the veiled and shawl-enveloped lady was lifted in, and the
vehicle dashed rapidly through the streets of Reading, in a northerly
direction.  I pretend not to relate facts of which I have never had an
assured knowledge; I cannot state to where that chaise and its desolate
occupant proceeded, nor can I give a moving description of feelings that
I did not witness.  When I afterwards knew that that lady was my mother,
I never dared question her upon these points, but, from the strength,
the intensity of every good and affectionate feeling that marked her
character, I can only conceive, that, if that journey was made in the
stupor of weakness and exhaustion, or even in the wanderings of
delirium, it must have been, to her, a dispensation of infinite mercy.

She deserted her new-born infant--she flung forth her child from the
warmth of her own bosom to the cold, hireling kindness of the stranger.
I think I hear some puritanical, world-observing, starched piece of
female rigidity exclaim, "And therein she did a great wickedness."  The
fact I admit, but the wickedness I deny utterly.

That there were misery and much suffering inflicted, I do not deny; but
of all guilt, even of all blame, I eagerly acquit one, whose principles
of action were as pure, and the whole tenor of whose life was as
upright, as even Virtue herself could have dictated.  Let the guilt and
the misery attendant upon this desertion of myself be attached to the
real sinners!

I have before said that Brandon was a _top_ sawyer.  We must now call
him Mr Brandon--he has purchased a pair of _top_ boots, a swell _top_
coat, and though now frequently _top_ heavy, thinks himself altogether a
topping gentleman.  He is now to be seen more frequently in the
skittle-ground, clasping a half-gallon, instead of a quart of beer.  He
decides authoritatively upon foul and fair play, and his voice is
potential on almost all matters in debate at the Two Jolly Sawyers, near
Lambeth Walk, just at the top of Cut-throat Lane.

All this is now altered.  We look in vain for the Two Jolly Sawyers.  We
may ask, where are they? and not Echo, but the Archbishop of Canterbury,
must answer where--for he has most sacerdotally put down all the jollity
there, by pulling down the house, and has built up a large wharf, where
once stood a very pretty tree-besprinkled walk, leading to the said
Jolly Sawyers.  Cut-throat Lane is no more; yet, though it bore a
villainous name, it was very pretty to walk through; and its many
turnstiles were as so many godsends to the little boys, as they enjoyed
on them, gratis, some blithe rides, that they would have had to pay for
at any fair in the kingdom.  We can very well understand why the
turnstiles were so offensive to the dignitary; in fact, all this
building, and leasing of houses, and improvement of property, and
destroying of poor people's pleasant walks, is nothing more than an
improved reading of the words, "_benefit of clergy_."



CHAPTER THREE.

MY FOSTER-FATHER FORSAKES THE RIGHT LINE OF CONDUCT CHALKED OUT FOR
HIM--I GROW ILL--FIND POT-LUCK AND BAPTISM--GO TO BATH, AND TAKE MY
FIRST LESSONS IN THE ARTS OF PERSUASION.

When I was placed with the Brandons, it was stipulated that they should
remove immediately from Reading; and, whilst I was in their family, they
should return there no more.  For this purpose the necessary expenses
were forwarded to them by an unknown hand.  To Lambeth they therefore
removed, because it abounded in saw-pits; but this advantage was more
than destroyed by its abundance of skittle-grounds.  Mr Joseph Brandon
had satisfied his conscience by coming into the neighbourhood of the
said saw-pits: it showed a direction towards the paths of industry; but
whilst he had, through his wife, for nursing me, 81 pounds, 18 shillings
per annum, he always preferred knocking down, or seeing knocked down,
the nine pins, to the being placed upon a narrow plank, toeing a chalked
line.  This was not a line of conduct that he actually chalked out for
himself; only it so happened that, when he was settled at Lambeth, on
the third day he went out to look after work, and going down Stangate
Street, he turned up Cut-throat Lane, and, after passing all the
turnstiles, he arrived at the Two Jolly Sawyers, himself making a third.
In his search for employment, he found it impossible, for the space of
a whole month, to get any further.

But he was not long permitted to be the ascendant spirit among the top
and bottom men.  Whether it be that Mrs Brandon overrated her powers of
affording sustenance, or that I had suffered through the inclemency of
the weather in my three journeys on my natal day, or whether that I was
naturally delicate, or perhaps all these causes contributing to it, I
fell into a very sickly state, and, before a third month had elapsed, I
was forced to another migration.

Though no one appeared, both myself and Mrs Brandon were continually
watched, and a very superior sort of surgeon in the neighbourhood of
Lambeth, from the second day of my arrival there, found some pretence or
another to get introduced to my nurse, and took a violent liking to the
little, puny, wailing piece of mortality, myself.  I was about this time
so exceedingly small, that though at the risk of being puerile, I cannot
help recording that Joseph Brandon immersed me, all excepting my head,
in a quart pot.  No one but a Joe Brandon, or a top sawyer, could have
had so filthy an idea.  I have never been told whether the pot contained
any drainings, but I must attribute to this ill-advised act a most
plebeian fondness that I have for strong beer, and which seems to be,
even in these days of French manners and French wines, unconquerable.

My health now became so precarious, that a letter arrived, signed simply
E.R., ordering that I should be immediately baptised, and five pounds
were enclosed for the expenses.  The letter stated that two decent
persons should be found by Mrs Brandon to be my sponsors, and that a
female would appear on such a day, at such an hour, at Lambeth Church,
to act as my godmother.  That I was to be christened Ralph Rattlin, and,
if I survived, I was to pass for their own child till further orders,
and Ralph Rattlin Brandon were to be my usual appellations.  Two decent
persons being required, Joe Brandon, not having done any work for a
couple of months, thought, by virtue of idleness, he might surely call
himself one, to say nothing of his top-boots.  The other godfather was a
decayed fishmonger, of the name of Ford, a pensioner in the Fishmonger's
Company, in whose alms-houses, at Newington, he afterwards died.  A sad
reprobate was old Ford--he was wicked from nature, drunken from habit,
and full of repentance from methodism.  Thus his time was very equally
divided between sin, drink, and contrition.  His sleep was all sin, for
he would keep the house awake all night blaspheming in his unhealthy
slumbers.  As I was taken to church in a hackney-coach, my very honoured
godfather, Ford, remarked, that "it would be a very pleasant thing to
get me into hell before him, as he was sure that I was born to sin, a
child of wrath, and an inheritor of the kingdom of the devil."  This
bitter remark roused the passions even of my gentle nurse, and she
actually scored down both sides of his face with her nails, in such a
manner as to leave deep scars in his ugliness, that nine years after he
carried to his grave.  All this happened in the coach on our way to
church.  Ford had already prepared himself for the performance of his
sponsorial duties, by getting half drunk upon his favourite beverage,
gin, and it was now necessary to make him wholly intoxicated to induce
him to go through the ceremony.  As yet, my nurse had never properly
seen my mother's face; at the interview, on my birth, the agitation of
both parties, and the darkened room, though there was no attempt at
concealment, prevented Mrs Brandon from noticing her sufficiently to
know her again; when, therefore, as our party alighted at the gate of
the churchyard, and a lady, deeply veiled, got out of a carriage at some
distance, Mrs Brandon knew not if she had ever seen her before.

I have been unfortunate in religious ceremonies.  Old Ford was a horrid
spectacle, his face streaming with blood, violently drunk, and led by
Brandon, who certainly was, on that occasion, both decent in appearance
and behaviour.  The strange lady hurried up to the font before us.  When
the clergyman saw the state in which Ford was, he refused to proceed in
the ceremony.  The sexton then answered for him, whilst the drunkard was
led out of the church.  The office went on, and the lady seemed
studiously to avoid looking upon her intended godson; I was christened
simply, Ralph Rattlin.  The lady wrote her name in the book the last,
and it was instantly removed by the clerk.  She thrust a guinea into his
hand, and then, for the first time, bent her veiled face over me.  I
must have been a miserable-looking object, for no sooner had she seen
me, than she gave a bitter shriek, and laying hold of the woodwork of
the pews, she slowly assisted herself out of the church.  Two or three
persons who happened to be present, as well as Mr and Mrs Brandon,
stepped forward to support her, but the clergyman, who seemed to have
had a previous conversation with her, signed them to desist.  It was
altogether a most melancholy affair.  Old Ford, when we left the church,
was helped into the coach again, Joe Brandon, being either justly
irritated at his conduct, or angry that he could not see my unknown
godmother's face, when we were all fairly on our way home, gave the old
sot such a tremendous beating, that Mrs Brandon nearly went into fits
with alarm, and Ford himself was confined to his bed for a week after.
When I reflect upon the manner in which I was christened, though I
cannot exactly call it a "maimed rite," I have a great mind to have it
done over again, only I am deterred by the expense.

All now was bustle in removing from Felix Street, Lambeth, to Bath,
where it was ordered that I should be dipped every morning in some
spring, that at that time had much celebrity.  Old Ford was left behind.
At Bath I remained three years, Joe Brandon doing no work, and
persuading himself now, that he actually was a gentleman.  In my third
year, my foster-sister, little robust, ruddy Mary, died, and the weakly,
stunted, and drooping sapling lived on.  This death endeared me more and
more to my nurse, and Joe himself was, by self-interest, taught an
affection for me.  He knew that if I went to the grave, he must go to
work; and he now used himself to perform the office of dry-nurse to me,
taking me to the spring, and allowing no one to dip me but himself.
When I grew older, he had many stories to tell me about my pantings, and
my implorings, and my offers of unnumbered kisses, and of all my
playthings, if he would not put me in that cold water--only this one,
one morning.  And about a certain Dr Buck, who had taken a wonderful
liking to me, after the manner of the Lambeth surgeon, and had
prescribed for me, and sent me physic, and port wine, all out of pure
philanthropy; and how much I hated this same Dr Buck, and his horrible
"Give him t'other dip, Brandon."  But all these are as things that had
long died from my own recollection.



CHAPTER FOUR.

MY PROXIMITY TO THE CLERGY IMPELS ME TO PREACH--I ADVOCATE THE VULGAR,
AND PROVE THAT NEITHER THE HUMBLE NOR THE LOW ARE NECESSARILY THE
DEBASED--CONSEQUENTLY THIS CHAPTER NEED NOT BE READ.

What with dipping, port wine, bark, and Dr Buck, at the age of four
years my limbs began to expand properly, and my countenance to assume
the hue of health.  I have recorded the death of my foster-sister Mary;
but, about this time, the top-sawyer, wishing to perpetuate the dynasty
of the Brandons, began to enact _pater familias_ in a most reckless
manner.  He was wrong; but this must be said in extenuation of his
impiously acting upon the divine command, "to increase and multiply,"
that at that time, Mr Malthus had not corrected the mistake of the
Omniscient, nor had Miss Harriet Martineau begun her pilgrimage after
the "preventive check."  There was no longer any pretence for my
remaining at Bath, or for my worthy foster-father abstaining from work;
so we again removed, with a small family, in our search after saw-pits
and happiness, to one of the best houses in Felix Street, somewhere near
Lambeth Marsh.  This place, after the experience of some time, proving
not to be sufficiently blissful, we removed to Paradise Row; some
furlongs nearer to the Father in God, his Grace the Archbishop of
Canterbury.  I have a laudable pride in showing that I had a
_respectable_--I beg pardon, the word is inapplicable--I mean a grand
neighbour.  "I am not the rose," said the flower in the Persian poem,
"but I have lived near the rose."  I did not bloom in the archbishop's
garden, but I flourished under the wall, though on the outside.  The
wall is now down, and rows of houses up in its place.

In our location in Paradise Row, the house being larger than we required
for our accommodation, we again received old Ford, the only paradise, I
am rather afraid, that will ever own him as an inmate.  An awful man was
old Ford, my godfather.  His mingled prayers and blasphemies, hymns and
horrid songs, defiance and remorse, groans and laughter, made everyone
hate and avoid him.  Hell-fire, as he continually asserted, was ever
roaring before his eyes; and, as there is a text in the New Testament
that says, there is no salvation for him who curses the Holy Ghost, he
would, in the frenzy of his despair, swear at that mysterious portion of
the Trinity by the hour, and then employ the next in beating his breast
in the agony of repentance.  Many may think all this sheer madness; but
he was not more mad than most of the hot-headed methodists, whose
preachers, at that time, held uncontrolled sway over the great mass of
people that toiled in the humbler walks of life.  Two nights in the week
we used to have prayer-meetings at our house; and, though I could not
have been five years old at the time, vividly do I remember that our
front room used, on those occasions, to be filled to overflow, with
kneeling fanatics, old Ford in the centre of the room, and a couple of
lank-haired hypocrites, one on each side of the reprobate, praying till
the perspiration streamed down their foreheads, to pray the devil out of
him.  The ohs! and the groanings of the audience were terrible; and the
whole scene, though very edifying to the elect, was disgraceful to any
sect who lived within the pale of civilisation.

I must now draw upon my own memory.  I must describe my own sensations.
If I reckon by the toil and turmoil of the mind, I am already an old
man.  I have lived for ages.  I am far, very far, on my voyage.  Let me
cast my eyes back on the vast sea that I have traversed; there is a mist
settled over it, almost as impenetrable as that which glooms before me.
Let me pause.  Methinks that I see it gradually break, and partial
sunbeams struggle through it.  Now the distant waves rise, and wanton
and play, pure and lucid.  'Tis the day-spring of innocency.  How near
to the sanctified heavens do those remote waves appear!  They meet, and
are as one with the far horizon.  Those sparkling waves were the hours
of my childhood--the blissful feelings of my infancy.  As the sea of
life rolls on, the waves swell and are turbid; and, as I recede from the
horizon of my early recollections, so heaven recedes from me.  The
thunder-cloud is high above my head, the treacherous waters roar beneath
me, before me is the darkness and the night of an unknown futurity.
Where can I now turn my eyes for solace, but over the vast space that I
have passed?  Whilst my bark glides heedlessly forward, I will not
anticipate dangers that I cannot see, or tremble at rocks that are
benevolently hidden from my view.  It is sufficient for me to know that
I must be wrecked at last; that my mortal frame must be like a shattered
bark upon the beach ere the purer elements that it contains can be
wafted through the immensity of immortality.  I will commune with my
boyish days--I will live in the past only.  Memory shall perform the
Medean process, shall renovate me to youth.  I will again return to
marbles and an untroubled breast--to hoop and high spirits--at least, in
imagination.

I shall henceforward trust to my own recollections.  Should this part of
my story seem more like a chronicle of sensations than a series of
events, the reader must bear in mind that these sensations are, in early
youth, real events, the parents of actions, and the directors of
destiny.  The circle in which, in boyhood, one may be compelled to move,
may be esteemed low; the accidents all round him may be homely, the
persons with whom he may be obliged to come in contact may be mean in
apparel, and sordid in nature; but his mind, if it remain to him pure as
he received it from his Maker, is an unsullied gem of inestimable price,
too seldom found, and too little appreciated when found, among the
great, or the fortuitously rich.  Nothing that is abstractedly mental,
is low.  The mind that well describes low scenery is not low, nor is the
description itself necessarily so.  Pride, and contempt for our
fellow-creatures, evince a low tone of moral feeling, and is the innate
vulgarity of the soul; it is this which but too often makes those who
rustle in silks and roll in carriages, lower than the lowest.

I have said this much, because the early, very early part of my life was
passed among what are reproachfully termed "low people."  If I describe
them faithfully, they must still appear low to those who arrogate to
themselves the epithet of "high."  For myself; I hold that there is
nothing low under the sun, except meanness.  Where there is utility
there ought to be honour.  The utility of the humble artisan has never
been denied, though too often despised, and too rarely honoured; but I
have found among the "vulgar" a horror of meanness, a self-devotion, an
unshrinking patience under privation, and the moral courage, that
constitute the hero of high life.  I can also tell the admirers of the
great, that the evil passions of the vulgar are as gigantic, their
wickedness upon as grand a scale, and their notions of vice as refined,
and as extensive, as those of any fashionable _roue_ that is courted
among the first circles, or even as those of the crowned despot.  Then,
as to the strength of vulgar intellect: True, that intellect is rarely
cultivated by the learning which consists of words.  The view it takes
of science is but a partial glance--that intellect is contracted, but it
is strong.  It is a dwarf; with the muscle and sinews of a giant; and
its grasp, whenever it can lay hold of anything within its circumscribed
reach, is tremendous.  The general who has conquered armies and
subjugated countries--the minister who has ruined them, and the jurist
who has justified both, never at the crisis of their labours have
displayed a tithe of the ingenuity and the resources of mind that many
an artisan is forced to exert to provide daily bread for himself and
family; or many a shopkeeper to keep his connection together, and
himself out of the workhouse.  Why should the exertions of intellect be
termed low, in the case of the mechanic, and vast, profound, and
glorious, in that of the minister?  It is the same precious gift of a
beneficent power to all his creatures.  As well may the sun be voted as
excessively vulgar, because it, like intellect, assists all equally to
perform their functions.  I repeat, that nothing that has mind is, of
necessity, low; and nothing is vulgar but meanness.



CHAPTER FIVE.

I RECEIVE MY FIRST LESSONS IN PUGNACITY--AND IMBIBE THE EVIL SPIRIT--
LEARN TO READ BY INTUITION, AND TO FIGHT BY PRACTICE--GO TO SCHOOL TO A
SOLDIER--AM A GOOD BOY AND GET WHIPPED.

At six years of age my health had become firmly established, but this
establishment caused dismay in that of Joe Brandon.  As I was no longer
the sickly infant that called for incessant attention and the most
careful nurture, it was intimated to my foster-parents that a
considerable reduction would be made in the quarterly allowance paid on
my account.  The indignation of Brandon was excessive.  He looked upon
himself as one grievously wronged.  No sinecurist, with his pension
recently reduced, could have been more vehement on the subject of the
sanctity of vested rights.  But his ire was not to be vented in idle
declamation only.  He was not a man to rest content with mere words: he
declaimed for a full hour upon his wife's folly in procuring him the
means of well-fed idleness so long, threatened to take the brat--meaning
no less a personage than myself--to the workhouse: and then wound up
affairs, indoors, by beating his wife, and himself, out of doors, by
getting royally drunk.

This was the first scene that made a deep impression on me.  Young as I
was, I comprehended that I was the cause of the ill-treatment of my
nurse, whom I fondly loved.  I interfered--I placed my little body
between her and her brutal oppressor.  I scratched, I kicked, I
screamed--I grew mad with passion.  At that hour, the spirit of evil and
of hate blew the dark coal in my heart into a flame; and the demon of
violent anger has ever since found it too easy to erect there his altar,
of which the fire, though, at the time, all-consuming, is never durable.
From that moment I commenced my intellectual existence.  I looked on
the sobbing mother, and knew what it was to love, and my love found its
expression in an agony of tears.  I looked on the tyrant, I felt what it
was to hate, and endeavoured to relieve the burning desire to punish
with frantic actions and wild outcries.  Old Ford, who had been present
and enjoyed the _fracas_, immediately took me into his especial favour;
he declared that I was after his own heart, for I had the devil in me--
said that I had the right spirit to bring me to the gallows, and he
hoped, old as he was, to live to see it: he then entreated of the Lord
that my precious soul might be saved as a burning brand out of the
fire--took me by the hand and led me to the next gin-shop--made me taste
the nauseating poison--told me I was a little man, and it was glorious
to fight--doubled up for me my puny fists, and asserted that cowards
only suffered a blow without returning it.  A lesson like this never can
be forgotten.  I ground my teeth whilst I was receiving it--I clenched
my hands, and looked wildly round for something to destroy.  I was in
training to become a little tiger.  From what I then experienced, I can
easily conceive the feelings that actuate, and can half forgive the
crowned monsters who have revelled in blood, and relished the inflicting
of torture; as pandering to their worst passions in infancy resolves
them into a terrible instrument of cruelty, the control of which rests
not with themselves.  But this lesson in tiger ferocity had its
emollient, though not its antidote, in the tenderness of the love which
I bore to my nurse, when, on my return, I flung myself into her arms.
Ever since that day I have been subject to terrific fits of passion; but
very happily for me they have long ceased to be but of very rare
occurrence.

The next morning, Master Joseph came home ill, and if not humbled, at
least almost helpless.  He had now three children of his own, and the
necessity of eschewing skittles, and presiding over the sawpit, became
urgent.  With all his vices and his roughness, he was surprisingly fond
of me.  He, too, applauded my spirit in attacking himself.  He now
rejoiced to take me to the sawpit, to allow me to play about the
timber-yards, and share with him his _alfresco_ midday meal and pot of
porter.  I always passed for his eldest son, my name being told to the
neighbours as Ralph Rattlin Brandon.  I knew no otherwise, and my
foster-parents kept the secret religiously.  At seven I began to fight
with dirty little urchins in the street, who felt much scandalised at
the goodness of my clothes.  It is hard work fighting up-hill at seven
years of age.  Old Ford would wipe the blood from my nose, and clap the
vinegar and brown paper on my bruises with words of sweet encouragement;
though he always ended by predicting that his hopeful godson would be
hung, and that he should live to see it.  I have certainly not been
drowned yet, though I have had my escapes, and old Ford has been dead
these thirty years.  As one part of the prophecy will certainly never be
fulfilled, I have some faint hopes of avoiding the exaltation hinted at
in the other.

About this time, I began to notice that a lady, at long intervals, came
to see me.  She seemed exceedingly happy in my caresses, though she
showed no weakness.  She passed for my godmother, and so she certainly
was.  She was minute in her examination in ascertaining that I was
perfectly clean; and always brought me a number of delicacies, which
were invariably devoured immediately after her departure, by me and
those little cormorants my loving foster-brothers and sister.  Moreover,
my nurse always received a present, which she very carefully and
dutifully concealed from her liege lord of the pits.  However, I cannot
call to my mind more than four of these "angelic visits" altogether.
"Angelic visits," indeed, they might be termed, if the transcendent
beauty of the visitor be regarded.  At that time, her form and her
countenance furnished me with the idea I had of the blessed inhabitants
of heaven before man was created, and I have never been able to replace
it since by anything more beautiful.  The reader shall soon know how, at
that very early age, I became so well acquainted with angelic lore.

When eight years old I was sent to school.  I could read before I went
there.  How I picked up this knowledge I never could discover: both my
foster-parents were grossly illiterate.  Perhaps old Ford taught me--but
this is one of the mysteries I could never solve; and it is strange that
I should have so totally forgotten all about an affair so important, as
not to remember a single lesson, and yet to hold so clear a recollection
of many minor events.  But so it is.  To school I went: my master was a
cadaverous, wooden-legged man, a disbanded soldier, and a
disciplinarian, as well as an a-b-c-darian.

I well remember old Isaacs, and his tall, handsome, crane-necked
daughter.  The hussy was as straight as an arrow, yet, for the sake of
coquetry, or singularity, she would sit in the Methodist chapel, with
her dimpled chin resting upon an iron hoop, and her finely formed
shoulders braced back with straps so tightly, as to thrust out in a
remarkable manner her swanlike chest, and her almost too exuberant bust.
This instrument for the distorted, with its bright crimson leather,
thus pressed into the service of the beautiful, had a most singular and
exciting effect upon the beholder.  I have often thought of this girl in
my maturer years, and confess that no dress that I ever beheld gave a
more piquant interest to the wearer, than those straps and irons.  The
jade never wore them at home: perhaps the fancy was her father's, he
being an old soldier, and his motto "Eyes right! dress!"  Whosever fancy
it was, his daughter rejoiced in it.  "Eyes right! dress!" is as good a
motto for the ladies as for the army--and well do they act up to it.

The most important facts that my mind has preserved concerning this
scholastic establishment are--that one evening, for a task, I learned
perfectly by heart the two first chapters of the Gospel according to
Saint John; that there was an unbaked gooseberry pie put prominently on
the shelf in the schoolroom, a fortnight before the vacation at
Midsummer, to be partaken of on the happy day of breaking-up, each boy
paying fourpence for his share of the mighty feast.  There were between
forty and fifty of us.  I had almost forgotten to mention that I was to
be duly punished whenever I deserved it, but the master was, on no
account, to hurt me, or make me cry.  I deserved it regularly three or
four times a day, and was as regularly horsed once.  Oh! those
floggings, how deceptive they were, and how much I regretted them when I
came to understand the thing fundamentally.  Old Isaacs could not have
performed the operation more delicately, if he were only brushing a fly
off the down of a lady's cheek.  _He_ never made me cry.



CHAPTER SIX.

THIS CHAPTER SHOWETH, IN A METHODICAL MANNER, HOW TO FIND A FAITH AND
LOSE A RELIGION; ALSO, TO PROCURE A CALL FOR PERSONS OF ALL MANNER OF
CALLINGS.

I had, as I have related, been encouraged in fits of passion, and had
been taught to be pugnacious; my mind was now to be opened to loftier
speculations; and religious dread, with all the phantoms of superstition
in its train, came like a band of bravoes, and first chaining down my
soul in the awe of stupefaction, ultimately loosened its bonds, and sent
it to wander in all its childish wildness in the direful realms of
horrible dreams, and of waking visions hardly less so.  I was fashioning
for a poet.

My nurse was always a little devotional.  She went to the nearest chapel
or church, and, satisfied that she heard the word of God, without
troubling herself with the niceties of any peculiar dogma, which she
could not have understood if she had, and finding herself on the
threshold of Divine grace, she knelt down in all humility, prayed, and
was comforted.  Old Ford was a furious Methodist: he owned that he never
could reform; and, as he daily drained the cup of sin to the very dregs,
he tried, as an antidote, long prayer and superabounding faith.  The
unction with which he struck his breast, and exclaimed, "Miserable
sinner that I am!" could only be exceeded by the veracity of the
assertion.  Mrs Brandon only joined in the prayer-meetings that he held
at our house, when Ford himself was perfectly sober--thus she did not
often attend--Brandon never.  Whilst he wore the top-boots, he was an
optimist, and perfectly epicurean in his philosophy--I use the term in
the modern sense.  When he had eighty pounds odd a year, with no family
of his own, no man was more jovial or happy.  He had the most perfect
reliance on Providence.  He boasted that he belonged to the Established
Church, because it was so respectable--and he loved the organ.  However,
he never went in the forenoon, because he was never shaved in time; in
the afternoon he never went, because he could not dispense with his nap
after dinner; and, in the evening, none but the serving classes were to
be seen there.  He ridiculed the humble piety of his wife, and the
fanatical fervour of his lodger.  He was a High Churchman, and
satisfied.  But when he was obliged, with an increasing family and a
decreased income, to work from morning till night, he grew morose and
very unsettled in his faith.

The French Revolution was then at its wildest excess: equality was
universally advocated in religious, as well as political establishments.
The excitement of the times reached even to the sawpit.  Brandon got
tipsy one Saturday night with a parcel of demagogues, and when he awoke
early next Sunday morning--it was a beautiful summer day--he made the
sudden discovery that he had still his faith to seek for.  Then began
his dominical pilgrimages: with his son Ralph in his hand, he roved from
one congregation to another over the vast metropolis, and through its
extensive environs: I do not think that we left a single place dedicated
to devotion unvisited.  I well remember that he was much struck with the
Roman Catholic worship.  We repeated our visits three or four times to
the Catholic chapel, a deference we paid to no other.  The result of
this may be easily imagined: when an excited mind searches for food, it
will be satisfied with the veriest trash, provided only that it
intoxicates.  We at length stumbled upon a small set of mad Methodists,
more dismal and more excluding than even Ford's sect: the congregation
were all of the very lowest class, with about twelve or thirteen
exceptions, and those were decidedly mad.  The pastor was an arch rogue,
that fattened upon the delusion of his communicants.  They held the
doctrine of visible election, which election was made by having a call--
that is, a direct visitation of the Holy Ghost, which was testified by
falling down in a fit--the testification being the more authentic, if it
happened in full congregation.  The elected could never again fall: the
sins that were afterwards committed in their persons were not theirs--it
was the evil spirit within them, that they could cast out when they
would, and be equally as pure as before.  All the rest of the world, who
had not had their call, were in a state of reprobation, and on the
highroad to damnation.

All this, of course, I did not understand till long afterwards, but I
too unhappily understood, or at least fancied I did, the dreadful images
of eternal torments, and the certainty that they would soon be mine.
First of all, either from inattention, or from want of comprehension,
these denunciations made but a faint impression upon me.  But the
frightful descriptions took, gradually, a more visible and sterner
shape, till they produced effects that proved all but fatal.

The doctrines of these Caterians just suited the intellect and the
strong passions of Brandon.  The sect was called Caterians, after the
Reverend Mr Cate, their minister.  My foster-father went home, after
the second Sunday, and put his house in order.  As far as regarded the
household, the regulations would have pleased Sir Andrew Agnew: the hot
joint was dismissed--the country walk discontinued--at meeting four
times a day.  Even Ford did not like it.  Brandon was labouring hard for
his call: he strove vehemently for the privilege of sinning with
impunity.  He was told by Mr Cate that he was in a desperate way.
Brandon did all he could, but the call would not come for the calling.
Mrs Brandon got it very soon, though she strenuously denied the honour.
My good nurse was in the family-way, and Mr Cate had frightened her
into fits, with a vivid delineation of the agonies of a new-born infant,
under the torture of eternal fire, because it had died unelected.
However, Brandon began a little to weary of waiting and long prayer, and
perhaps of the now too frequent visits of Mr Cate.  He commenced to
have his fits of alternate intemperate recklessness, and religious
despondency.  One Sunday morning--well do I recollect it--he called me
up early, before seven; and I supposed, as usual, that we were going to
early meeting: we walked towards the large room that was used as a
chapel.  We had nearly reached it, when the half-open door of an
adjacent ale-house let out its vile compound of disgusting odours upon
the balmy Sabbath air.  My conductor hesitated--he moved towards the
meeting-house, but his head was turned the other way--he stopped.

"Ralph," said he, "did you not see Mr Ford go into the public-house?"

"No, father," said I; "don't think he's up."

"At all bounds, we had better go and see; for I must not allow him to
shame a decent house by tippling, on a Sunday morning, in a dram-shop."

We entered.  He found there some of his mates.  Pint after pint of purl
was called for; at length, a gallon of strong ale was placed upon the
table, a quart of gin was dashed into it, and the whole warmed with a
red-hot poker.  I was instructed to lie.  I promised to tell mother that
we had gone into a strange chapel; but I made my conditions, that mother
should not be any more beaten.  It was almost church-time when the
landlord put us all out by the back way.  The drunken fellows sneaked
home--whilst Brandon, taking me by the hand, made violent, and nearly
successful, efforts to appear sober.

After a hasty breakfast, we went to meeting.  My foster-father looked
excessively wild.  Mr Cate was raving in the midst of an extempore
prayer, when a heavy fall was heard in the chapel.  The minister
descended from his desk, and came and prayed over the prostrate victim
of intoxication, and, perhaps, of epilepsy, and he pronounced that
brother Brandon had got his call, and was now indisputably one of the
elect.  He did not revive so soon as was expected--his groans were
looked upon as indications of the workings of the Spirit; and when, at
length, he was so far recovered as to be led home by two of the
congregation, the conversion of the sawyer was dwelt upon by the
preacher, from a text preached upon the chapter that relates to the
conversion of Saul, and the cases were cited as parallel.  Let the
opponents of the Established Church rail at it as they will, scenes of
such wickedness and impiety could never have happened within its
time-honoured walls.

When we returned to dinner, we found that Brandon had so far recovered
as to become very hungry, very proud, and very pharisaically pious.  Mr
Cate dined with us.  He was full of holy congratulations on the
miraculous event.  The sawyer received all this with a humble
self-consequence, as the infallible dicta of truth, and, apparently,
with the utter oblivion of any such things existing as purl and red-hot
pokers.  Was he a deep hypocrite, or only a self-deceiver?  Who can know
the heart of man?  However, "this call" had the effect of making the
"called one" a finished sinner, and of filling up the measure of
wretchedness to his wife.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

I TOO HAVE MY CALL--TO DEATH'S DOOR--A GREAT RISE IN LIFE--BRANDON
ALLOWS NEITHER SLUGS NOR SLUGGARDS IN HIS SAWPIT--IS RUINED, AND BEATS
THE REVEREND MR. CATE.

All this was preparatory to an event, to me of the utmost importance,
which is, perhaps, at this very moment, influencing imperceptibly my
mind, and directing my character.  Brandon's call, in our humble circle,
made a great deal of noise.  He had taken care that I should know what
drunkenness meant.  I thought he ought to have been drunk on the
afternoon of his election, yet he so well disguised his intoxication
that he appeared not to be so.  I listened attentively to the sermon of
the preacher that followed.  I no longer doubted.  I could not believe
that a grave man in a pulpit could speak anything but truth, when he
spoke so loudly, and spoke for two hours.  My mind was a chaos of
confusion: I began to be very miserable.  The next, or one or two
Sundays after, produced the crisis.  My dress was always much superior
to what could have been expected in the son of a mere operative.  I was,
at that time, a fair and mild-featured child, and altogether remarkable
among the set who frequented the meeting-house.  Mr Cate had been very
powerful indeed in his description of the infernal regions--of the
abiding agonies--the level lake that burneth--the tossing of the waves
that glow; and, when he had thrown two or three old women into
hysterics, and two or three young ones into fainting-fits, amidst the
torrent of his oratory, and the groaning, and the "Lord have mercy upon
me's," of his audience, he made a sudden pause.  There was a dead
silence for half a minute, then suddenly lifting his voice, he pointed
to me, and exclaimed, "Behold that beautiful child--observe the pure
blood mantling in his delicate countenance--but what is he after all but
a mouthful for the devil?  All those torments, all those tortures, that
I have told you of, will be his; there, look at him, he will burn and
writhe in pain, and consume for ever, and ever, and ever, and never be
destroyed, unless the original sin be washed out from him by the `call,'
unless he be made, hereafter, one of the `elect.'"

At this direct address to myself, I neither fainted, shuddered, nor
cried--I felt, at the time, a little stupefied: and it was some hours
after (the hideous man's words all the time ringing in my ears) before I
fully comprehend my hopeless state of perdition.  I looked at the fire
as I sat by it, and trembled.  I went to bed, but not to sleep.  No
child ever haunted by a ghost-story was more terrified than myself, as I
lay panting on my tear-steeped pillow.  At length, imagination began its
dreadful charms--the room enlarged itself in its gloom to vast space--I
began to hear cries from under my bed.  Some dark bodies first of all
flitted across the gloaming.  My bed began to rock.  I tried to sing a
hymn.  I thought that the words came out of my mouth in flames of bright
fire.  I then called to mind the offerings from the altars of Cain and
Abel.  I watched to see if my hymns turned into fire, and ascended up to
heaven.  I felt a cold horror when I discovered them scattered from my
mouth exactly in the same manner that I had seen the flames in the
engraving in our large Bible on the altar of Cain.  Then there came a
huge block of wood, and stationed itself in the air above me, about six
inches from my eyes.  I remember no more--I was in a raging fever.

I was ill for some weeks, and a helpless invalid for many more.  When
again I enjoyed perception of the things around me, I found myself in a
new house in Red Cross Street, near Saint Luke's.  My foster-parents had
opened a shop--it had the appearance of a most respectable fruiterer's.
Mr Brandon had become a small timber-merchant, had sawpits in the
premises behind the house, and men of his own actually sawing in them.
But the most surprising change of all was, that the reverend Mr Cate
was domesticated with us.  Brandon, as a master, worked harder than ever
he did as a man.  My nurse became anxious and careworn, and never seemed
happy--for my part, I was so debilitated, that I then took but little
notice of anything.  However, the beautiful lady never called.  I used
to spend my time thinking upon angels and cherubs, and in learning hymns
by heart.  I suppose that I, like my foster-father, had had my call, but
I am sure that after it, I was as much weaker in mind as I was in body.
When I became strong enough to be again able to run about, I was once
more sent to a day-school, and all that I remember about the matter was,
that every day about eleven o'clock, I was told to run home and get a
wigful of potatoes from Brandon's, the venerable pedagogue coolly taking
off his wig, and exchanging it for a red night-cap, until my return with
the provender.

Things now wore a dismal aspect at home.  At length, one day, the broker
sent his men into the shop, who threw all the greengrocery about like
peelings of onions.  They carted away Mr Brandon's deals and planks,
and timber, and, not content with all this, they also took away the best
of the household furniture.  My nurse called Mr Cate a devil in a white
sheet--her husband acted as he always would do when he was offended and
found himself strong enough: he gave the reverend gentleman, most
irreverently, a tremendous beating.  The sheep sadly gored the shepherd.
Afterwards, when he had nearly killed his pastor, he seceded from his
flock, and gave him, under his own hand, a solemn abjuration of the
Caterian tenets.  How Brandon came to launch out into this expensive and
ill-advised undertaking of green-groceries and sawpits, how he
afterwards became involved, and how much the preacher had been guilty in
deceiving him, I never clearly understood.  However, my nurse never, for
a long time after, spoke of the reverend gentleman without applying the
corner of her apron to her eyes, or her husband without a hearty
malediction.  We removed to our old neighbourhood, but, instead of
taking a respectable house, we were forced to burrow in mean lodgings.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

ANOTHER MIGRATION--FROM THE RURALITIES OF CUT-THROAT LANE TO THE GROVES
OF ACADEMUS--I AM FORCED INTO GOOD CLOTHES AND THE PATHS OF LEARNING IN
SPITE OF MY TEETH, THOUGH I USE THEM SPITEFULLY.

Misfortunes never come single.  I don't know why they should.  They are
but scarecrow, lean-visaged, miserable associates, and so they arrive in
a body to keep each other in countenance.  I had been but a few weeks in
our present miserable abode, and had fully recovered my health, though I
think that I was a little crazed with the prints, and the subjects of
them, over which I daily pored in the large Bible, when the greatest
misfortune of all came upon the poor Brandons--and that was, to add to
their other losses, the loss of my invaluable self.

The misery was unexpected--it was sudden--it was overwhelming.  Brandon
was toeing a chalked line on a heavy log of mahogany, unconscious of the
mischief that was working at home.  He afterwards told me, and I believe
him, that he would have opposed the proceeding by force, if force had
been requisite.  A plain private or hired carriage drove up to the door,
and, after ascertaining that the Brandons lived at the house, a
business-like looking, elderly gentleman stepped out, paid every demand
immediately, and ordered my best clothes on.  When I was thus equipped,
my nurse was told that she was perfectly welcome to the remainder of my
effects, and that I must get into the carriage.

The good woman was thunderstruck.  There was a scene.  She raved, and I
cried, and the four little Brandons, at least three of them, joined in
the chorus of lamentation, because the naughty man was going to take
brother Ralph away.  I had been too well taught by old Ford, not to
visit my indignation upon the shins and hands of the carrier away of
captives, in well-applied kicks, and almost rabid bites.  There was a
great disturbance.  The neighbours thought it very odd that the mother
should allow her eldest son to be, carried off by force, by a stranger,
before her eyes, in the middle of the day; but then it was suggested
that "nothing could be well termed odd that concerned little Ralph
Brandon, for hadn't he been bit last year by a mad dog, and, when so and
so had all died raving, he had never nothing at all happen to him."
When the stranger heard this story of the mad dog (which, by-the-by, was
fact, and I have the scars to this day), he shook me off, pale with
consternation, and was, no doubt, extremely happy to find that my little
teeth had not penetrated the skin.  I believe that he heartily repented
him of his office.  At length he lost all patience.  "Woman," said he,
"send these people out of the room."  When they had departed,
marvelling, he resumed: "I cannot lose my time in altercation; I am
commissioned to tell you, that if you keep the boy in one sense, you'll
have to keep him in all.  You may be sure that I would not trouble
myself about such a little ill-bred wretch for a moment, if I did not
act with authority, and by orders.  Give up the child directly (I was
now sobbing in her arms), take your last look at him, for you will never
see him again.  Come, hand the young gentleman into the carriage."

"I won't go," I screamed out.

"We shall soon see that, Master Rattlin," said he, dragging me along,
resisting.  I bawled out, "My name's not Master Rattlin--you're a liar--
and when father comes from the pit he'll wop you."

This threat seemed to have an effect the very reverse of what I had
intended.  Perhaps he thought that he had already enough to contend
with, without the addition of the brawny arm of the sawyer.  I was
forcibly lifted up, placed in the coach, and, as it drove rapidly away,
I heard, amidst the rattling of the wheels, the cries of her whom I
loved as a mother, exclaiming, "My Ralph--my dear Ralph!"

Behold me, then, "hot with the fray, and weeping from the fight,"
confined in a locomotive prison with my sullen captor.  I blubbered in
one corner of the coach, and he surveyed me with stern indifference from
the other.  I had now fairly commenced my journey through life, but this
beginning was anything but auspicious.  At length, the carriage stopped
at a place I have since ascertained to be near Hatton Garden, on Holborn
Hill.  We alighted, and walked into a house, between two motionless
pages, excessively well dressed.  At first, they startled me, but I soon
discovered they were immense waxen dolls.  It was a ready-made clothes
warehouse into which we had entered.  We went upstairs, and I was soon
equipped with three excellent suits.  My grief had now settled down into
a sullen resentment, agreeably relieved, at due intervals, by
breath-catching sobs.  The violence of the storm had passed, but its
gloom still remained.  Seeing the little gladness that the possession of
clothes, the finest I had yet had, communicated to me, my director could
not avoid giving himself the pleasurable relief of saying, "Sulky little
brute!"  A trunk being sent for, and my wardrobe placed in it, we then
drove to three or four other shops, not forgetting a hatter's, and in a
very short space of time I had a very tolerable fit-out.  During all
this time, not a word did my silent companion address to me.

At length, the coach no longer rattled over the stones.  It now
proceeded on more smoothly, and here and there the cheerful green
foliage relieved the long lines of houses.  After about a half-hour's
ride, we stopped at a large and very old-fashioned house, built in
strict conformity with the Elizabethan style of architecture, over the
portals of which, upon a deep blue board, in very, very bright gold
letters, flashed forth that word so awful to little boys, so big with
associations of long tasks and wide-spreading birch, the Greek-derived
polysyllable, ACADEMY!  Ignorant as I was, I understood it all in a
moment.  I was struck cold as the dew-damp grave-stone.  I almost grew
sick with terror.  I was kidnapped, entrapped, betrayed.  I had before
hated school, my horror now was intense of "Academy."  I looked
piteously into the face of my persecutor, but I found there no sympathy.
"I want to go home," I roared out, and then burst into a fresh torrent
of tears.

Home! what solace is there in its very sound!  Oh, how that blessed
asylum for the wounded spirit encloses within its sacred circle all that
is comforting, and sweet, and holy!  'Tis there that the soul coils
itself up and nestles like the dove in its own downiness, conscious that
everything around breathes of peace, security, and love.  Home!
henceforward, I was to have none, until, through many, many years of
toil and misery, I should create one for myself.  Henceforth, the word
must bring to me only the bitterness of regret--henceforth I was to
associate with hundreds who had that temple in which to consecrate their
household affections--but was, myself, doomed to be unowned, unloved,
and homeless.

"I want to go home," I blubbered forth with the pertinacity of anguish,
as I was constrained into the parlour of the truculent, rod-bearing,
ferula-wielding Mr Root.  I must have been a strange figure.  I was
taken from my nurse's in a hurry, and, though my clothes were quite new,
my face entitled me to rank among the much vituperated unwashed.  When a
little boy has very dirty hands, with which he rubs his dirty, tearful
face, it must be confessed that grief does not, in his person, appear
under a very lovely form.  The first impression that I made on him who
was to hold almost everything that could constitute my happiness in his
power, was the very reverse of, favourable.  My continued iteration of
"I want to go home," was anything but pleasing to the pedagogue.  The
sentence itself is not music to a man keeping a boarding-school.  With
the intuitive perception of childhood, through my tears, my heart
acknowledged an enemy.  What my conductor said to him, did not tend to
soften his feelings towards me.  I did not understand the details of his
communication, but I knew that I was as a captive, bound hand and foot,
and delivered over to a foreign bondage.  The interview between the
contracting parties was short, and when over, my conductor departed
without deigning to bestow the smallest notice upon the most important
personage of this history.  I was then rather twitched by the hand, than
led, by Mr Root, into the middle of his capacious school-room, and in
the midst of more than two hundred and fifty boys: my name was merely
mentioned to one of the junior ushers, and the master left me.  Well
might I then apply that blundering, Examiner-be-praised line of Keats to
myself, for like Ruth:--

  "I stood all tears among the alien corn."

A few boys came and stared at me, but I attracted the kindness of none.
There can be no doubt but that I was somewhat vulgar in my manners, and
my carriage was certainly quite unlike that of my companions.  Some of
them even jeered me, but I regarded them not.  A real grief is
armour-proof against ridicule.  In a short time, it being six o'clock,
the supper was served out, consisting of a round of bread, all the
moisture of which had been allowed to evaporate, and an oblong,
diaphanous, yellow substance, one inch and a half by three, that I
afterwards learned might be known among the initiated as single
Gloucester.  There was also a pewter mug for each, three-parts filled
with small beer.  It certainly gave me, it was so small, a very
desponding idea of the extent to which littleness might be carried; and
it would have been too vapid for the toleration of any palate, had it
not been so sour.  As I sat regardless before this repast, in abstracted
grief, I underwent the first of the thousand practical jokes that were
hereafter to familiarise me with manual jocularity.  My right-hand
neighbour, jerking me by the elbow, exclaimed, "Hollo, you sir, there's
Jenkins, on the other side of you, cribbing your bread."  I turned
towards the supposed culprit, and discovered that my informant had
fibbed, but the informed against told me to look round and see where my
cheese was.  I did; it was between the mandibles of my kind neighbour on
my right, and when I turned again to the left for an explanation, the
rogue there had stripped my round of bread of all the crust.  I cared
not then for this double robbery, but having put the liquid before me,
incautiously to my lips, sorrowful as I was, I cared for that.  Joe
Brandon never served me so.  I drank that evening as little as I ate.



CHAPTER NINE.

I PROVE TO BE, NOT ONE IN A THOUSAND, BUT ONE IN A QUARTER OF THAT
NUMBER, TO WHOM NO QUARTER WAS SHOWN--IN SPITE OF MY ENTREATIES I AM
EVIL ENTREATED, AND AM NOT ONLY PLACED ON THE LOWEST FORM, BUT MADE
EXCESSIVELY UNCOMFORTABLE ON MY SEAT OF HONOUR.

Heroes, statesmen, philosophers, must bend to circumstances, and so must
little boys at boarding-school.  I went to bed with the rest, and, like
the rest, had my bed-fellow.  Miserable and weary was that night to my
infant heart.  When I found I could do so unobserved, I buried my face
in the pillow, and wept with a perfect passion of wretchedness.

I had a hard, a cruel life at that school.  When I lived with my nurse,
the boys in the street used to beat me because I was too much of the
gentleman, and now the young gentlemen thrashed me for not coming up to
their standard of gentility.  I saw a tyrant in every urchin that was
stronger than myself, and a derider in him that was weaker.  The next
morning after my arrival, a fellow a little bigger than myself, came up,
and standing before me, gave me very deliberately as hard a slap in the
face as his strength would permit.  Half crying with the pain, and yet
not wishing to be thought quarrelsome, I asked, with good-natured
humility, whether that was done in jest or in earnest.  The little
insolent replied, in his school-boy wit, "Betwixt and between."  I
couldn't stand that; my passion and my fist rose together, and hitting
my oppressor midway between the eyes, "There's my betwixt and between,"
said I.  His nose began to bleed, and when I went down into the
school-room, the "new boy" had his hands well warmed with the ruler for
fighting.

Alas! the first year of my academic life was one of unqualified
wretchedness.  For the two or three initiatory months, uncouth in
speech, and vulgar in mien, with no gilded toy, rich plum-cake, or
mint-new shilling to conciliate, I was despised and ridiculed; and when
it was ascertained by my own confession that I was the son of a
day-labourer, I was shunned by the aristocratic progeny of butchers,
linen-drapers, and hatters.  It took, at least, a half-dozen floggings
to cure me of the belief that Joseph Brandon and his wife were my
parents.  It was the shortest road to conviction, and Mr Root prided
himself upon short _cuts_ in imparting knowledge.  I assure my readers
they were severe ones.

Mr Root, the pedagogue of this immense school, which was situated in
the vicinity of Islington, was a very stout and very handsome man, of
about thirty.  He had formerly been a subordinate where he now
commanded, and his good looks had gained him the hand of the widow of
his predecessor.  He was very florid, with a cold dark eye; but his face
was the most physical that I ever beheld.  From the white, low forehead,
to the well-formed chin, there was nothing on which the gazer could rest
that spoke of intellectuality.  There was "speculation in his eye," but
it was the calculation of farthings.  There was a pure ruddiness in his
cheek, but it was the glow of matter, not that of mind.  His mouth was
well formed, yet pursed up with an expression of mingled vanity and
severity.  He was very robust, and his arm exceedingly powerful.  With
all these personal advantages, he had a shrill, girlish voice, that made
him, in the execution of his cruelties, actually hideous.  I believe,
and I make the assertion in all honesty, that he received a sensual
enjoyment by the act of inflicting punishment.  He attended to no
department of the school but the flagellative.  He walked in about
twelve o'clock, had all on the list placed on a form, his man-servant
was called in, the lads horsed, and he, in general, found ample
amusement till one.  He used to make it his boast that he never allowed
any of his ushers to punish.  The hypocrite! the epicure! he reserved
all that luxury for himself.  Add to this, that he was very ignorant out
of the Tutor's Assistant, and that he wrote a most abominably good hand
(that usual sign of a poor and trifle-occupied mind), and now you have a
very fair picture of Mr Root.  I have said that he was a most cruel
tyrant: yet Nero himself ought not to be blackened; and I must say this
for my master's humanity, that I had been at school two days before I
was flogged; and then it was for the enormity of not knowing my own
name.  "Rattlin," said the pedagogue.  No reply.  "Master Rattlin," in a
shriller tone.  Answer there was none.  "Master Ralph Rattlin."  Many
started, but "Ralph Brandon" thought it concerned not him.  But it did
indeed.  I believe that I had been told my new name, but I had forgotten
it in my grief, and now in grief and in pain I was again taught it.
When, for the first time, in reality, I tasted that acid and bitter
fruit of the tree of knowledge, old Isaac's (my soldier schoolmaster)
mock brushings were remembered with heartfelt regret.

At that time the road to learning was strewed neither with flowers nor
palm-leaves, but with the instigating birch.  The schoolmaster had not
yet gone abroad, but he flogged most diligently at home, and, verily, I
partook amply of that diligence.  I was flogged full, and I was flogged
fasting; when I deserved it, and when I did not; I was flogged for
speaking too loudly, and for not speaking loud enough, and for holding
my tongue.  Moreover, one morning I rode the horse without the saddle,
because my face was dirty, and the next, because I pestered the
maid-servant to wash it clean.  I was flogged because my shoes were
dirty, and again because I attempted to wipe them clean with my
pocket-handkerchief.  I was flogged for playing, and for staying in the
school-room and not going out to play.  The bigger boys used to beat me,
and I was then flogged for fighting.  It is hard to say for what I was
not flogged.  Things, the most contradictory, all tended to one end, and
that was my own.  At length, he flogged me into serious ill-health, and
then he stayed his hand, and I found relief on a bed of sickness.  Even
now I look back to those days of persecution with horror.  Those were
the times of large schools, rods steeped in brine (_actual fact_),
intestine insurrections, the bumping of obnoxious ushers, and the
"barring out" of tyrannical masters.  A school of this description was a
complete place of torment for the orphan, the unfriended, and the
deserted.  Lads then stayed at school till they were eighteen and even
twenty, and fagging flourished in all its atrocious oppression.



CHAPTER TEN.

I GROW EGOTISTICAL, AND BEING PLEASED WITH MYSELF, GIVE GOOD ADVICE--A
VISIT; AND A STRANGE JUMBLE OF TIRADES, TEARS, TUTORS, TENDERNESS, AND A
TEA-KETTLE.

Let me now describe the child of nine years and a half old, that was
forced to undergo this terrible ordeal.  We will suppose that, by the
aid of the dancing-master and the drill-sergeant, I have been cured of
my vulgar gait, and that my cockney accent has disappeared.  Children of
the age above-mentioned soon assimilate their tone and conversation with
those around them.  I was tall for my years, with a very light and
active frame, and a countenance, the complexion of which was of the most
unstained fairness.  My hair light, glossy, and naturally, but not
universally, curling.  To make it appear in ringlets all over my head,
would have been the effect of art; yet, without art it was wavy, and at
the temples, forehead, and the back of the head, always in full
circlets.  My face presented a perfect oval, and my features were
classically regular.  I had a good natural colour, the intensity of
which ebbed and flowed with every passing emotion.  I was one of those
dangerous subjects whom anger always makes pale.  My eyes were decidedly
blue, everything else that may be said to the contrary notwithstanding.
The whole expression of my countenance was very feminine, but not soft.
It was always the seat of some sentiment or passion, and in its womanly
refinement gave to me an appearance of constitutional delicacy and
effeminacy, that I certainly did not possess.  I was decidedly a very
beautiful child, and a child that seemed formed to kindle and return a
mother's love, yet the maternal caress never blessed me; but I was
abandoned to the tender mercies of a number of he-beings, by many of
whom my vivacity was checked, my spirit humbled, and my flesh cruelly
lacerated.

I dwell thus particularly on my school-day life, in order, in the first
place, to prepare the reader for the singular events that follow; and in
the second (and which forms by far the most important consideration, as
I trust I am believed, and if _truth_ deserves credence, believed I am),
to caution parents from trusting to the specious representations of any
schoolmaster, to induce them to examine carefully and patiently into
every detail of the establishment, or they may become a party to a
series of cruelties, that may break the spirit, and, perhaps, shorten
the life of their children.  Unfortunately, the most promising minds are
those that soonest yield to the effect of harsh discipline.  The
phlegmatic, the dull, and the commonplace vegetate easily through this
state of probation.  The blight that will destroy the rose, passes ever
harmlessly over the tough and earth-embracing weed.

I stayed at Mr Root's school for very nearly three years, and I shall
divide that memorable period into three distinct epochs--the desponding,
the devotional, and the mendacious.  After I had been flogged into
uncertain health, I was confined, for at least six weeks, to my room,
and, when I was convalescent, it was hinted by the surgeon, in not
unintelligible terms, to Mr Root, that if I did not experience the
gentlest treatment, I might lose my life; which would have been very
immaterial to Mr Root, had it not been a mathematical certainty that he
would lose a good scholar at the same time.  By-the-by, the meaning that
a schoolmaster attaches to the words "good scholar," is one for whom he
is paid well.  Thus I was emphatically a good scholar; no doubt his very
best.  I was taught everything--at least his bill said so.  He provided
everything for me, and I stayed with him during the holidays.  He,
therefore, ceased to confer upon me his cruel attentions; and abandoned
me to a neglect hardly less cruel.  The boys were strictly enjoined to
leave me alone, and they obeyed.  I found a solitude in the midst of
society.

A loneliness came over my young spirit.  I was aweary, and I drooped
like the tired bird, that alights on the ship, "far, far at sea."  As
that poor bird folds its wings, and sinks into peaceful oblivion, I
could have folded my arms and have lain down to die with pleasure.  My
heart exhausted itself with an intense longing for a companion to love.
It wasted away all its substance in flinging out fibres to catch hold of
that with which it might beat in unison.  As turn the tendrils of the
vine hither and thither to clasp something to adorn, and to repay
support by beauty, so I wore out my young energies in a fruitless search
for sympathy.  I had nothing to love me, though I would have loved many
if I had dared.  There were many sweet faces among my school-fellows, to
which I turned with a longing look, and a tearful eye.  How menial I
have been to procure a notice, a glance of kindness!  I had nothing to
give wherewith to bribe affection but services and labour, and those
were either refused, or perhaps accepted with scorn.  I was the only
pariah among two hundred and fifty.  There was a mystery and an obloquy
attached to me, and the master had, by his interdiction, completely put
me without the pale of society.  I now said my lessons to the ushers
with indifference--if I acquitted myself ill, I was unpunished--if well,
unnoticed.  My spirits began to give way fast, and I was beginning to
feel the pernicious patronage of the servants.  They would call me off
the play-ground, on which I moped, send me on some message, or employ me
in some light service.  All this was winked at by the master, and as for
the mistress, she never let me know that it occurred to her that I was
in existence.  It was evident that Mr Root had no objection to all
this, for, in consideration of the money paid to him for my education,
he was graciously pleased to permit me to fill the office of his
kitchen-boy.  But, before I became utterly degraded into the menial of
the menials, a fortunate occurrence happened that put an end to my
culinary servitude.  To the utter surprise of Mr and Mrs Root, who
expected nothing of the kind, a lady came to see me.  What passed
between the parties, before I was ushered into the parlour appropriated
to visitors, I know not; it was some time before I was brought in, as
preparatory ablutions were made, and my clothes changed.  When I
entered, I found that it was "the lady."  I remember that she was very
superbly dressed, and I thought, too, the most beautiful apparition that
I had ever beheld.  The scene that took place was a little singular, and
I shall relate it at full.

As I have rigidly adhered to truth, I have been compelled to state what
I have to say in a form almost entirely narrative; and have not imitated
those great historians, who put long speeches into the mouths of their
kings and generals, very much suited to the occasions undoubtedly, and
deficient only in one point--that is, accuracy.  I have told only of
facts and impressions, and not given speeches that it would have been
impossible for me to have remembered.  Yet, in this interview there was
something so striking to my young imagination, that my memory preserved
many sentences, and all the substance of what took place.  There was
wine and cake upon the table, and the lady looked a little flustered.
Mr Root was trying with a forty Chesterfieldean power to look amiable.
Mrs Root was very fidgety.  As I appeared at the door timorously, the
lady said to me, without rising, but extending her delicate white hand,
"Come here to me, Ralph; do you not know me?"

I could get no further than the middle of the room, where I stood still,
and burst out into a passion of tears.  Those sweet tones of tenderness,
the first I had heard for nine months, thrilled like fire through my
whole frame.  It was a feeling so intense, that, had it not been agony,
it would have been bliss.

"Good God!" said she, deeply agitated; "my poor boy, why do you cry?"

"Because--because you are so kind," said I, rushing forward to her
extended arms; and, falling on my knees at her feet, I buried my face in
her lap, and felt all happiness amidst my sobbings.  She bent over me,
and her tears trickled upon my neck.  This did not last long.  She
placed me upon my feet, and drawing me to her side, kissed my cheeks,
and my eyes, and my forehead.  Her countenance soon became serene; and
turning to my master, she said, quietly, "This, sir, is very singular."

"Yes, ma'am, Master Rattlin _is_ very singular.  All clever boys are.
He knows already his five declensions, and the four conjugations, active
and passive.  Come, Master Rattlin, decline for the lady the adjective
felix--come, begin, nominative hic et haec et hoc felix."

"I don't know anything about it," said I, doggedly.

"I told you he was a _singular_ child," resumed the pedagogue, with a
most awkward attempt at a smile.

"The singularity to which I allude," said the lady, "is his finding
kindness so singular."

"Kind! bless you, my dear madam," said they both together; "you can't
conceive how much we love the little dear."

"It was but yesterday," said Mrs Root, "that I was telling the lady of
Mr Alderman Jenkins--we have the five Jenkinses, ma'am--that Master
Rattlin was the sweetest, genteelist, and beautifullest boy in the whole
school."

"It was but yesterday," said Mr Root, "that I was saying to Doctor
Duncan (our respected rector, madam), that Master Rattlin had evinced
such an uncommon talent, that we might, by-and-by, expect the greatest
things from him.  Not yet ten months with me, madam.  Already in
Phaedrus--the rule of three--and his French master gives the best
account of him.  He certainly has not begun to speak it yet, though he
has made a vast progress in the French language.  But it is Monsieur le
Gros's system to make his pupils thoroughly master of the language
before they attempt to converse in it.  And his dancing, my dear madam--
Oh, it would do your heart good to see him dance.  Such grace, such
elasticity, and such happiness in his manner!"

A pause--and then they exclaimed together, with a long-drawn sentimental
sigh, "And we both love him so."

"I am glad to hear so good an account of him," said the lady.  "I hope,
Ralph, that you love Mr and Mrs Root, for they seem very kind to you."

"No, I don't."

Mr and Mrs Root lifted their hands imploringly to heaven.  "Not love
me!" they both exclaimed together, with a tone of heartfelt surprise and
wounded sensibility, that would have gone far to have made the fortune
of a sentimental actor.

"Come here, sir, directly," said Mr Root.  "Look me full in the face,
sir.  You are a singular boy, yet I _did_ think you loved me.  Don't be
frightened, Ralph, I would not give you _pain_ on any account; and you
know I never did.  Now tell me, my dear boy," gradually softening from
the terrible to the tender, "tell me, my dear boy, why you fancy you do
not love me.  You see, madam, that I encourage sincerity--and like, at
all times, the truth to be spoken out.  Why don't you love me, Ralph
dear?" pinching my ear with a spiteful violence, that was meant for
gracious playfulness in the eyes of the lady, and an intelligible hint
for myself.  I was silent.

"Come, Ralph, speak your mind freely.  No one will do you any harm for
it, I am sure.  Why don't you love Mr Root?" said the lady.

I was ashamed to speak of my floggings, and I looked upon his late
abandonment and negligence as kindness.  I knew not what to say, yet I
knew I hated him most cordially.  I stammered, and at last I brought out
this unfortunate sentence, "Because he has got such an ugly, nasty
voice."

Mr and Mrs Root burst out into a long and, for the time, apparently
uncontrollable laughter.  When it had somewhat subsided, the
schoolmaster exclaimed, "There, madam, didn't I tell you he was a
singular lad?  Come here, you little wag, I must give you a kiss for
your drollery."  And the monster hauled me to him, and when his face was
close to mine, I saw a wolfish glare in his eyes, that made me fear that
he was going to bite my nose off.  The lady did not at all participate
in the joviality; and, as it is difficult to keep up mirth entirely upon
one's own resources, we were beginning to be a gloomy party.  What I had
unconsciously said regarding my master's voice, was wormwood to him.  He
had long been the butt of all his acquaintance respecting it, and what
followed was the making that unbearable which was before too bitter.
Many questions were put by the visitor, and the answers appeared to grow
more and more unsatisfactory as they were elicited.  The lady was
beginning to look unhappy, when a sudden brightness came over her lovely
countenance, and, with the most polished and kindly tone, she asked to
see Mr Root's own children.  Mr Root looked silly, and Mrs Root
distressed.  The vapid and worn-out joke that their family was so large,
that it boasted of the number of two hundred and fifty, fell spiritless
to the ground; and disappointment, and even a slight shade of
despondence, came over the lady's features.

"Where were you, Ralph, when I came?" said she; "I waited for you long."

"I was being washed, and putting on my second best."

"But why washed at this time of day--and why put on your second best?"

"Because I had dirtied my hands, and my other clothes, carrying up the
tea-kettle to Mr Matthews's room."

Mr and Mrs Root again held up their hands in astonishment.

"And who is Mr Matthews?" continued the lady.

"Second Latin master, and ill abed in the garret."

"From whence did you take the tea-kettle?"

"From the kitchen."

"And who gave it you?"

"Molly, one of the maids."

At this disclosure Mr Root fell into the greatest of all possible
rages, and, as we like a figure of speech called a climax, we must say,
that Mrs Root fell into a much greater.  They would turn the hussey out
of the house that instant; they would do that, they would do this, and
they would do the other.  At length, the lady, with calm severity,
requested them to do nothing at all.

"There has been," said she, "some mistake here.  There is nothing very
wrong, or disgraceful in Ralph attending to the wants of his sick
master, though he does lie in the garret.  I would rather see in his
disposition a sympathy for suffering encouraged.  God knows, there is in
this world too much of the latter, and too little of the former.  Yet I
certainly think that there could have been a less degrading method
pointed out to him of showing attention.  But we will let this pass, as
I know it will never happen again.  You see, Mr and Mrs Root, that
this poor child is rather delicate in appearance; he is much grown
certainly; much more than I expected, or wished--but he seems both shy
and dejected.  I was in hopes that you had been yourselves blessed with
a family.  A mother can trust to a mother.  Though you are not parents,
you have known a parent's love.  I have no doubt that you are fond of
children--(`Very,' both in a breath)--from the profession you have
chosen.  I am the godmother of this boy.  Alas!  I am afraid no nearer
relation will ever appear to claim him.  He has no mother, Mrs Root,
without you will be to him as one; and I conjure you, sir, to let the
fatherless find in the preceptor, a father.  Let him only meet for a
year or two with kindness, and I will cheerfully trust to Providence for
the rest.  Though I detest the quackery of getting up a scene, I wish to
be as impressive as I can, as I am sorry to say, more than a year will
unavoidably pass before I can see this poor youth again.  Let me, at
that time, I conjure you, see him in health and cheerfulness.  Will you
permit me now to say farewell? as I wish to say a few words of adieu to
my godson, and should I cry over him for his mother's sake, you know
that a lady does not like to be seen with red eyes."

The delicacy of this sickly attempt at pleasantry was quite lost upon
the scholastic pair.  They understood her literally; and Mrs Root
began, "My eye-water--" However, leave was taken, and I was left with
the lady.  She took me on her lap, and a hearty hug we had together.
She then rang for Molly.  She spoke to the girl kindly, asked no
questions of her that might lead her to betray her employers, but,
giving her half a guinea not to lose sight of me in the multitude, and,
to prove her gratitude, never to suffer me again to enter the kitchen,
she promised to double the gratuity when she again saw me, if she
attended to her request.  The girl, evidently affected as much by her
manner as her gift, curtseyed and withdrew.  While she remained at the
school she complied with my godmother's request most punctually.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

CONTAINETH A LECTURE ON LOVE FROM A PERSONIFICATION OF LOVELINESS--AND
SHOWETH THAT SUPERSTITION HAS ITS SWEETS AS WELL AS ITS HORRORS--AND
ALSO HOW TO AVOID THE INFECTION OF THE EVIL EYE.

When we were alone, she examined me carefully, to ascertain if I were
perfectly clean.  It would have, perhaps, been for me a happy
circumstance, if Mr Root had flogged me this day, or even a fortnight
previously.  The marks that he left were not very ephemeral.  I don't
know whether a flogging a month old would not equally well have served
my purpose.  He certainly wrote a strong bold hand, in red ink, not
easily obliterated.  However, as he had not noticed me since my illness,
I had no marks to show.

When she had readjusted my dress, she lugged me to her side, and we
looked, for a long while, in each other's eyes in silence.

"Ralph," said she, at length, forgetting that the fault was mutual, "do
you know that it is very rude to look so hard into people's faces; why
do you do it, my boy?"

"Because you are so very, very, very pretty, and your voice is so soft:
and because I do love you so."

"But you must not love me too much, my sweet child: because I can't be
with you to return your love."

"O dear, I'm so sorry; because--because--if you don't love me, nobody
will.  Master don't love me, nor the ushers, nor the boys; and they keep
calling me the--"

"Hush, Ralph! hush, my poor boy," said she, colouring to her very
forehead.  "Never tell me what they call you.  Little boys who call
names are wicked boys, and are very false boys too.  Hear me, Ralph!
You are nearly ten years old.  You must be a man, and not love anyone
too much--not even me--for it makes people very unhappy to love too
much.  Do you understand me, Ralph?  You must be kind to all, and all
will be kind to you: but it is best not to love anything violently--
excepting, Ralph, Him who will love you when all hate you--who will care
for you, when all desert you--your God!"

"I don't know too much about that," was my answer.  "Mr Root tells us
once every week to trust in God, and that God will protect the innocent,
and all that: and then flogs me for nothing at all, though I trust all I
can; and I'm sure that I'm innocent."

My good godmother was a little shocked at this, and endeavoured to
convince me that such expressions were impious, by assuring me that
everything was suffered for the best; and that, if Mr Foot flogged me
unjustly and wickedly, I should be rewarded, and my master punished for
it hereafter; which assurance did not much mend my moral feelings, as I
silently resolved to put myself in the way of a few extra unjust
chastisements, in order that my master might receive the full benefit of
them in a future state.

Moral duties should be inculcated in the earliest youth; but the
mysteries of religion should be left to a riper age.  After many
endearments, and much good advice, that I thought most beautiful, from
the tenderness of tone in which it was given, I requested the lady, with
all my powers of entreaty, and amidst a shower of kisses, to take me
home to my mother.

"Alas! my dear boy," was the reply, "Mrs Brandon is not your mother."

"Well, I couldn't believe that before--never mind--I love her just as
well.  But who is my mother?  If you were not so pretty, and so fine, I
would ask you to be my mother; all the other boys have got a mother, and
a father too."

The lady caught me to her bosom, and kissing me amidst her tears, said,
"Ralph, I will be your mother, though you must only look upon me as your
godmamma."

"Oh, I'm so glad of that! and what shall I call you?"

"Mamma, my dear child."

"Well, mamma, won't you take me home?  I don't mean now, but at the
holidays, when all the others go to their mammas?  I'll be so good.
Won't you, mamma?"

"Come here, Ralph.  I was wrong.  You must not call me mamma, I can't
bear it.  I was never a mother to you, my poor boy.  I cannot have you
home.  By-and-by, perhaps.  Do not think about me too much, and do not
think that you are not loved.  Oh! you are loved, very much indeed; but
now you must make your schoolfellows love you.  I have told Mr Root to
allow you sixpence a week, and there are eight shillings for you, and a
box of playthings, in the hall, and a large cake in the box; lend the
playthings, and share the cake.  Now, my dear boy, I must leave you.  Do
not think that I am your mother, but your very good friend.  Now, may
God bless you and watch over you.  Keep up your spirits, and remember
that you are cared for, and loved--O, how fondly loved!"

With a fervent blessing, and an equally fervent embrace, she parted from
me; and, when I looked round and found that she had gone from the room,
I actually experienced the sensation as if the light of the sun had been
suddenly with drawn, and that I walked forth in twilight.

When I went up melancholy to my bed, and crept sorrowfully under the
clothes, I felt a protection round me in that haunted chamber, in the
very fact of having again seen her.  This house, that had now been
converted into a large school, had formerly been one of the suburban
palaces of Queen Elizabeth; it was very spacious and rambling; some of
the rooms had been modernised, and some remained as they had been for
centuries.  The room in which I slept was one of the smallest, and
contained only two beds, one of which was occupied by the housekeeper, a
very respectable old lady, and the other by myself.  Sometimes I had a
bedfellow, and sometimes not.  This room had probably been a vestibule,
or the ante-chamber to some larger apartment, and it now formed an
abutment to the edifice, all on one side of it being ancient, and the
other modern.  It was lighted by one narrow, high, Gothic window, the
panes of which were very small, lozenged, and many of them still
stained.  The roof was groined and concave, and still gay with tarnished
gold.  The mouldings and traceries sprang up from the four corners, and
all terminated in the centre, in which grinned a Medusa's head, with her
circling snakes, in high preservation, and of great and ghastly beauty.
There were other grotesque visages, sprinkled here and there over that
elaborate roof; but look at that Medusa from what point you might, the
painted wooden eyes were cast with a stolid sternness upon you.  When I
had a bedfellow, it was always some castaway like myself--some poor
wretch who could not go home and complain that he was put to sleep in
the "haunted chamber."  The boys told strange tales of that room, and
they all believed that the floor was stained with blood.  I often
examined it, both by day and by candle-light; it was very old, and of
oak, dark, and much discoloured.  But even my excited fancy could
discover nothing like blood-spots upon it.  After all, when I was alone
in that bed-chamber, for the housekeeper seldom entered before midnight,
and the flickering and feeble oil-lamp, that always burned upon her
table, threw its uncertain rays upwards, and made the central face
quiver as it were into life, I would shrink, horror-stricken, under the
clothes, and silently pray for the morning.  It was certainly a fearful
room for a visionary child like myself, with whom the existence of
ghosts made an article of faith, and who had been once before frightened
even unto the death, by supernatural terrors.

But of all this I never complained.  I have not merit enough to boast
that I am proud, for pride has always something ennobling about it: but
I was vain, and vanity enabled me to put on the appearance of courage.
When questioned by the few schoolfellows who would speak to me, I
acknowledged no ghosts, and would own to no fear.  All this, in the
sequel, was remembered to my honour.  Besides, I had found a singular
antidote against the look of the evil eye in the ceiling.  What I am
going to relate may be startling, and for a child ten years old, appear
incredible; but it is the bare unembellished truth.  This was my
antidote alluded to.  In the church where we went, there was a strongly
painted altar-piece.  The Virgin Mother bent, with ineffable sweetness,
over the sleeping Jesus.  The pew in which I sat was distant enough to
give the full force of illusion to the power of the artist, and the
glory round the Madonna much assisted my imagination.  I certainly
attended to that face, and to that beneficent attitude, more than to be
service.  When the terrors of my desolate situation used to begin to
creep over me in my lonely bed, I could, without much effort of
imagination, bring that sweet motherly face before me, and view it
visibly in the gloom of the room, and thus defy the dread glance of the
visage above me.  I used to whisper to myself these words--"Lady with
the glory, come an sit by me."  And I could then close my eyes, and
fancy, nay, almost feel assured of her presence, and sleep in peace.

But, in the night that I had seen my godmother, when I crept under my
clothes disconsolately, I no longer whispered for the lady with the
glory; it was for my sweet mamma.  And she, too, came and blessed my
gentle slumbers.  Surely, that beautiful creature must have been my
mother, for long did she come and play the seraph's part over her child,
and watched by his pillow, till he sank in the repose of innocence.

Lately, at the age of forty, I visited that church.  I looked earnestly
at the altar-piece.  I was astonished, hurt, disgusted.  It was a coarse
daub.  The freshness of the painting had been long changed by the dark
tarnish of years, and the blighting of damp atmosphere.  There were some
remains of beauty in the expression, and elegance in the attitude; but,
as a piece of art it was but a second-rate performance.  Age dispels
many illusions, and suffers for it.  Truly youth and enthusiasm are the
best painters.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

RALPH LECTURETH ON DIVINITY AND LITTLE BOYS' NETHER GARMENTS--DESPONDETH
EXCEEDINGLY--AND BEING THE WEAKEST GOETH TO THE WALL, AND THERE FINDETH
CONSOLATION--AN OLD FRIEND WITH AN OLD FACE AND EXCELLENT PROVENT.

The next morning I arose the possessor of eight shillings, a box of
playthings, a plum-cake, and a heavy heart.  It is most true, that which
Wordsworth hath said or sung, "The boy's the father of the man."  When I
mingled with my schoolmates, and the unexpected possession of my various
wealth had transpired, I found many of them very kind and _fatherly_
indeed, for they borrowed my money, ate my cake, broke my playthings,
and my heart they left just in the same state as it as before.

But I will no longer dwell upon the portraiture of that saddest of all
created things, the despised of many.  I was taught the hard lesson of
looking upon cruelty as my daily bread, tears as my daily drink, and
scorn as my natural portion.  Had not my heart hardened, it must have
broken.  But before I leave what I call the desponding epoch of my
schoolboy days, I must not omit to mention a species of impious
barbarity, that had well-nigh alienated my heart for ever from religion,
and which made me for the time detest the very name of church.
Christianity is most eminently a religion of kindness; and through the
paths of holy love only, should the young heart be conducted to the
throne of grace, for we have it from the highest authority that the
worship of little children is an acceptable offering and may well mingle
with the sweetest symphonies that ascend from the lips of seraphs to the
footstool of the Everlasting.  Our God is not a God of terrors, and when
he is so represented, or is made so by any flint-hearted pedagogue to
the infant pupil, that man has to answer for the almost unpardonable sin
of perilling a soul.  Let parents and guardians look to it.  Let them
mark well the unwilling files that are paraded by boarding-school
keepers into the adjacent church or chapel, bringing a mercenary puff up
to the very horns of the altar, and let them inquire how many are then
flogged, or beaten, or otherwise evil-entreated, because they have
flagged in an attention impossible in the days of childhood, and have
not remembered a text, perhaps indistinctly or inaudibly given--let
those parents or guardians, I say, inquire, and if but one poor youth
has so suffered, let them be fully assured that that master, whatever
may be his diligence, whatever may be his attainments, however high his
worldly character may stand, is not fit to be the modeller of the
youthful mind, and only wants the opportunity to betray that bigotry
which would gladly burn his dissenting neighbour at the stake, or lash a
faith, with exquisite tortures, into the children of those whom, in his
saintly pride, he may call heretical.

At church we occupied, at least, one-third of the whole of one side of
the gallery.  Two hundred and fifty boys and young men, with their
attending masters and ushers, could not but fill a large space, and, of
course, would form no unimportant feature in the audience.  Mr Root and
the little boys were always placed in the lower and front seats.  There
we sat, poor dear little puppets, with our eyes strained on the
prayerbooks, always in the wrong place, during the offertory, and, after
the sermon had begun, repeating the text over and over again, whilst the
preaching continued, lest we should forget it; whilst all this time the
bigger boys in the rear were studying novels, or playing at odd-and-even
for nuts, marbles, or halfpence.  I well know that the mathematical
master used, invariably, to solve his hard problems on fly-leaves in his
prayer-book during service, for I have repeatedly seen there his
laborious calculations in minutely small figures; and he never opened
his prayer-book but at church--as perhaps he thought, with the old woman
of Smollett, that it was a species of impiety to study such works
anywhere else.  Whilst all this was going on in the back rows, Mr Root,
in the full-blown glory of his Sunday paraphernalia, and well powdered,
attended exclusively to the holiness and devout comportment of his
little chapter of innocents.  Tablet in hand, every wandering look was
noted down; and alas the consequences to me were dreadfully painful.

The absolution absolved me not.  The "Te Deum laudamus" was to me more a
source of tears than of praise; and the "O be joyful in the Lord" has
often made me intensely sorrowful in the school-room.  In all honesty, I
don't think that, for a whole half-year, I once escaped my Sunday
flogging.  It came as regularly as the baked rice-puddings.  I began to
look upon the thing as a matter of course; and, if any person should
doubt the credibility of this, or any other account of these my
school-boy days, happily there are several now living who can vouch for
its veracity, and if I am dared to the proof by anyone by whose
conviction I should feel honoured, that proof will I most certainly
give.

I have stated all this, from what I believe to be a true reverence for
worship, to make the offices of religion a balm and a blessing, to prove
that there is a cherishing warmth in the glory of light that surrounds
the throne of Exhaustless Benevolence, and that the Deity cannot be
worthily called upon by young hearts stricken by degrading fears, and
fainting under a Moloch-inspired dread.  Notwithstanding my eccentric
life, I have ever been the ardent, the unpretending, though the unworthy
adorer of the Great Being, whose highest attribute is the "Good."  I
have had reason to be so.

The man who has acknowledged his Creator amidst his most stupendous
works, who has recognised his voice in the ocean storm, who has
confessed his providence amidst the slaughter of battle, and witnessed
the awful universality of that adoration that is wafted to Him from all
nations, under all forms, from the simple smiting of the breast of the
penitent solitary one, to the sublime pealings of the choral hymn,
buoyed upon the resounding notes of the thunder-tongued organ in the
high and dim cathedral,--the man who has witnessed and acutely felt all
this, and has no feelings of piety, or deference to religion, must be
endued with a heart hardened beyond the flintiness, as the Scriptures
beautifully express it, "of the nether millstone."

But my _forte_ is not the serious.  I am intent, and quiet, and
thoughtful, only under the influence of great enjoyment.  When I have
most cause to deem myself blessed, or to call myself triumphant, it is
then that I am stricken with a feeling of undesert, that I am grave with
humility, or sad with the thought of human instability.  But, on the eve
of battle, on the yardarm in the tempest, or amidst the dying in the
pest-house, say, O ye companions of my youth, whose jest was the most
constant, whose laugh the loudest?  Yet the one feeling was not real
despondence, nor the other real courage.  In the first place, it is no
more than the soul looking beyond this world for the real; in the
second, she is trifling in this world with the ideal.  However, as in
these pages I intend to attempt to be tolerably gay, it may be fairly
presumed that I am very considerably unhappy, and dull, perhaps, as the
perusal of these memoirs may make my readers.

As such great pains were _taken_, at least by me, in my religious
education, it is not to be wondered at that I should not feel at all
sedentary on the Sunday afternoons after church-time.  In fact, I
affected any position rather than the sitting one.  But all the Sundays
were not joyless to me.  One, in particular, though the former part of
it had been passed in sickening fear, and the middle in torturing pain,
its termination was marked with a heartfelt joyousness, the cause of
which I must record as a tribute of gratitude due to one of the "not
unwashed," but muddy-minded multitude.

I was stealing along mournfully under the play-ground wall with no hasty
or striding step, not particularly wishing any rough or close contact of
certain parts of my dress with my person, my passing schoolmates looking
upon me in the manner that Shakespeare so beautifully describes the
untouched deer regard the stricken hart.  My soul was very heavy, and
full of dark wonder.  The sun was setting, and, to all living, it is
either a time of solemn peace, or of instinctive melancholy when looked
upon by the solitary one.  Of a sudden I was roused from my gloom by the
well-known, yet long missed shout of "Ralph!  Ralph!" and, looking up, I
discovered the hard-featured, grinning physiognomy of Joe Brandon,
actually beaming with pleasure, on the top of the wall.  How glad he
was!  How glad I was!  He had found me!  Instead of seeking the Lord in
his various conventicles on the Sunday, he had employed that day,
invariably, after I had been taken from his house, in reconnoitring the
different boarding-schools in the vicinity, and at some distance from
the metropolis.  To this, no doubt, he was greatly instigated by the
affection of my nurse, but I give his own heart the credit of its being
a labour of love.  The wall being too high to permit us to shake hands,
at my earnest entreaty, he went round to the front; but, after having
made known his desire,--literally, "a pampered menial drove him from the
door."  Well, the wall, if not open to him, was still before and above
him, and he again mounted it.  Our words were few, as the boys began to
cluster around me.  He let drop to me fourpence-halfpenny, folded in a
piece of brown paper, and disappeared.  Oh, how I prize that pilgrim
visit!  Forget it, I never can!  That meeting was to me a one bright
light on my dark and dreary path.  It enabled me to go forward; there
was not much gloom between me and happier days--perhaps the light of joy
that that occurrence shed enabled me to pass over the trial.  It might
have been that, at that period, I could have borne no more, and should
have sunk under my accumulated persecutions.  I will not say that so it
was, for there is an elasticity in early youth that recovers itself
against much--yet I was at that time heavy indeed with exceeding
hopelessness.  All I can say to the sneerer is, I wish, that at the next
conclave of personages who may be assembled to discuss the destinies of
nations, there may be as much of the milk of human kindness and right
feelings among them as there was between me and the labouring sawyer,
Joe Brandon, the one being at the top, and the other at the bottom of
the wall.

The next Sunday, Brandon was again on the wall with a prodigious
plum-cake.  A regular cut-and-come-again affair: it fell to the ground
with a heaviness of sound that beat the falling of Corporal Trim's hat
all to ribbons.  To be sure, the corporal's fell as if there had been a
quantity of "clay kneaded in the crown of it," whilst mine was kneaded
with excellent dough.  The Sunday after, there was the same appearance,
varied with gingerbread, and then--for years, I neither saw, nor heard
of him.  Poor Joseph was threatened with the constable, and was put to
no more expense for cakes for his foster-son.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

PRAY REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER--RUMOURS OF WARS--PRECEDED BY
SCHOLASTIC ELOCUTION, AND SUCCEEDED BY A COLD DINNER, DARKNESS, AND
DETERMINATION.

I shall now draw the dolorous recital of what I have termed my epoch of
despondency to a close.  The fifth of November was approaching; I had
been at school nearly two years, and had learned little but the hard
lesson "to bear," and that I had well studied.  I had, as yet, made no
friends.  Boys are very tyrannical and very generous by fits.  They will
bully and oppress the outcast of a school, because it is the fashion to
bully and oppress him--but they will equally magnify their hero, and are
sensitively alive to admiration of feats of daring and wild exploit.
With them, bravery is the first virtue, generosity the second.  They
crouch under the strong for protection, and they court the lavish from
self-interest.  In all this they differ from men in nothing but that
they act more undisguisedly.  Well, the fifth of November was fast
approaching, on which I was to commence the enthusiastic epoch of my
schoolboy existence.  I was now twelve years of age.  Almost insensible
to bodily pain by frequent magisterial and social thrashings, tall,
strong of my age, reckless, and fearless.  The scene of my first exploit
was to be amidst the excitement of a "barring out," but of such a
"barring out" that the memory of it remains in the vicinity in which it
took place to this day.

I have before said that the school contained never less than two hundred
and fifty pupils--sometimes it amounted to nearly three hundred.  At the
time of which I am about to speak, it was very full, containing, among
others, many young men.  The times are no more when persons of nineteen
and twenty suffered themselves to be horsed, and took their one and two
dozen with edification and humility.  At this age we now cultivate
moustaches, talk of our Joe Mantons, send a friend to demand an
explanation, and all that sort of thing.  Oh! times are much improved!
However, at that period, the birch was no visionary terror.  Infliction
or expulsion was the alternative! and as the form of government was a
despotism--like all despotisms--it was subject, at intervals, to great
convulsions.  I am going to describe the greatest under the reign of
Root the First.

Mr Root was capricious.  Sometimes he wore his own handsome head well
powdered; at others, curled without powder; at others, straight, without
powder or curls.  He was churchwarden; and then, when his head was full
of his office, it was also full of flour, and full of ideas of his own
consequence and infallibility.  On a concert night, and in the
ball-room, it was curled, and then it was full of amatory conquests;
and, as he was captain in the Cavalry Volunteers, on field days his hair
was straight and lank--martial ardour gave him no time to attend to the
fripperies of the coxcomb.  These are but small particulars, but such
are very important in the character of a great man.  With his hair
curled, he was jocular, even playful; with it lank, he was a great
disciplinarian--had military subordination strong in respect--and the
birch gyrated freely; but when he was full blown in powder, he was
unbearable,--there was then combined all the severity of the soldier and
the dogmatism of the pedagogue, with the self-sufficiency and
domineering nature of the coxcomb and churchwarden.

On the memorable fifth of November, Mr Root appeared in the
school-room, with his hair elaborately powdered.

The little boys trembled.  Lads by fifteens and twenties wanted to go
out under various pretences.  The big boys looked very serious and very
resolved.  It was twelve o'clock, and some thirty or forty--myself
always included--were duly flogged, it being "his custom at the hour of
noon."  When the periodical operation was over, at which there was much
spargefication of powder from his whitened head, he commanded silence.
Even the flagellated boys contrived to hush up their sobs, the shuffling
of feet ceased, those who had colds refrained from blowing their noses;
and, after one boy was flogged for coughing, he thus delivered
himself:--

"Young gentlemen, it has been customary--customary it has been, I say--
for you to have permission to make a bonfire in the lower field, and
display your fireworks, on this anniversary of the fifth of November.
Little boys, take your dictionaries, and look out for the word
`anniversary.'"

A bustle for the books, while Mr Root plumes himself, and struts up and
down.  Two boys fight for the same dictionary; one of them gets a plunge
on the nose, which makes him cry out--he is immediately horsed, and
flogged for speaking; and, rod in hand, Mr Root continues:--

"Young gentlemen, you know my method--my method is well known to you, I
say,--to join amusement with instruction.  Now, young gentlemen, the
great conflagration--tenth, ninth, and eighth forms, look out the word
`conflagration'--the great conflagration, I say, made by this
pyrotechnic display--seventh, sixth, and fifth forms, turn up the word
`pyrotechnic.'  Mr Reynolds (the head classical master,) you will
particularly oblige me by not taking snuff in that violent way whilst I
am speaking, the sniffling is abominable."

"Turn up the word `sniffling,'" cries a voice from the lower end of the
school.  A great confusion--the culprit remains undiscovered, and some
forty, at two suspected desks, are fined three-halfpence apiece.  Mr
Root continues, with a good deal of indignation:--"I sha'n't allow the
bonfire no more--no, not at all; nor the fireworks neither--no, nothing
of no kind of the sort."  All this in his natural voice: then, swelling
in dignity and in diction, "but, for the accumulated pile of
combustibles, I say--for the combustible pile that you have accumulated,
that you may not be deprived of the merit of doing a good action, the
materials of which it is composed, that is to say, the logs of wood, and
the bavins of furze, with the pole and tar-barrel, shall be sold, and
the money put in the poor-box next Sunday, which I, as one of the
churchwardens shall hold at the church-porch; for a charity sermon will,
on that day, be preached by the Reverend Father in God, the Lord Bishop
of Bristol.  It is our duty, as Christians, to give eleemosynary aid to
the poor;--let all classes but the first and second look out the word
`eleemosynary.'  I say, to the poor eleemosynary aid should be given.
You will also give up all the fire-works that you may have in your
play-boxes, for the same laudable purpose.  The servant will go round
and collect them after dinner.  I say, by the servant after dinner they
shall all be collected.  Moreover, young gentlemen, I have to tell you,
that the churchwardens, and the authorities in the town, are determined
to put down Guy Faux, and he shall be put down accordingly.  So now,
young gentlemen, you'd better take your amusements before dinner, for
you will have no holiday in the afternoon, and I shall not suffer anyone
to go out after tea, for fear of mischief."  Having thus spoken, he
dismissed the school, and strode forth majestically.

Oh, reader! can you conceive the dismay, the indignation, and the rage
that the Court of Aldermen would display, if, when sitting down hungrily
to a civic feast, they were informed that all the eatables and
potatories were carried off by a party headed by Mr Scales?  Can you
conceive the fury that would burn in the countenances of a whole family
of lordly sinecurists, at being informed, upon official authority, that
henceforth their salaries would be equal to their services?  No, all
this you cannot conceive; nor turtle-desiring aldermen, nor cate-fed
sinecurists, could, under these their supposed tribulations, have
approached, in fury and hate, the meekest-spirited boys of Mr Root's
school, when they became fully aware of the extent of the tyrannous
robbery about to be perpetrated.  Had they not been led on by hope?  Had
they not trustingly eschewed Banbury-cakes--sidled by longingly the
pastrycook's--and piously withstood the temptation of hard-bake, in
order that they might save up their pocket-money for this one grand
occasion? and even after this, their hopes and their exertions to end in
smoke?  Would that it were even that; but it was decided that there
should be neither fire nor smoke.  Infatuated pedagogue!  Unhappy
decision!

The boys did not make use of the permission to go out to play.  They
gathered together unanimously, in earnest knots--rebellion stalked on
tip-toe from party to party: the little boys looked big, and the big
boys looked bigger, and the young men looked magnificent.  The
half-boarders whispered their fears to the ushers, the ushers spoke
under their breaths to the under-masters, the under-masters had cautious
conversation with the head Latin, French, and mathematical tutors, and
these poured their misgivings into the ears of the awful _Dominus_
himself; but he only shook his powdered head in derision and disdain.

On that cold, foggy fifth of November, we all sat down to a dinner as
cold as the day, and with looks as dark as the atmosphere.  Amidst the
clatter of knives and forks, the rumour already ran from table to table
that a horse and cart was just going to remove the enormous pile of
combustibles collected for the bonfire.  We had good spirits amongst us.
There was an air of calm defiance on a great many.  The reason was soon
explained, for, before we rose from our repast, huge volumes of red
flame rose from the field,--the pile had been fired in twenty places at
once, and, at this sight, a simultaneous and irrepressible shout shook
the walls of the school-room.  The maid-servants who were attending the
table, shrieking, each in her peculiar musical note, hurried out in
confusion and fear; and there was a rush towards the door by the
scholars, and some few got downstairs.  However, the masters soon closed
the door, and those who had escaped were brought back.  The shutters of
the windows that looked out upon the fire, were closed; and thus, in the
middle of the day, we were reduced to a state almost of twilight.

Every moment expecting actual collision with their pupils, the masters
and ushers, about sixteen in number, congregated at the lower end of the
room near the door, for the double purpose of supporting each other, and
of making a timely escape.  The half-suppressed hubbub among three
hundred boys, confined in partial darkness, grew stronger each moment;
it was like the rumbling beneath the earth, that precedes the
earthquake.  No one spoke as yet louder than the other--the master-voice
had not yet risen.  That dulled noise seemed like a far-off humming, and
had it not been so intense, and so very human, it might have been
compared to the wrath of a myriad of bees confined in the darkness of
their hives, with the queen lying dead amongst them.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

HARD WORDS THE PRECURSORS OF HARD BLOWS--A TURN-UP, TO BE APPREHENDED,
BUT NOT MERELY OF POLYSYLLABLES--RALPH COMMENCES RAVING--ROOT
RESISTING--THE LATTER GETS THE WHIP-HAND OF US.

Whilst this commotion was going on in the school-room, Mr Root was
active in the field, endeavouring, with the aid of the men-servants, to
pluck as much fuel from the burning pile as possible.  The attempt was
nearly vain.  He singed his clothes, and burnt his hands, lost his hat
in the excitement and turmoil, and sadly discomposed his powdered
ringlets.  Advices were brought to him (we must now use the phrase
military) of the demonstration made by the young gentlemen in the
schoolroom.  He hurried with the pitchfork in his hand, which he had
been using, and appeared at the entrance of his pandemonium, almost,
considering his demoniac look, in character.  He made a speech, enforced
by thumping the handle of the fork against the floor, which speech,
though but little attended to, was marked by one singularity.  He did
not tell the lads to turn up any of his hard words.  However, he hoped
that the young gentlemen had yet sense of propriety enough left, to
permit the servants to clear the tables of the plates, knives, forks,
and other dinner appurtenances.  This was acceded to by shouts of "Let
them in--let them in."  The girls and the two school men-servants came
in, one of the latter being the obnoxious hoister, and they were
permitted to perform their office in a dead silence.  It speaks well for
our sense of honour, and respect for the implied conditions of the
treaty, when it is remembered that this abhorred Tom, the living
instrument of our tortures, and on whose back we had most of us so often
writhed, was permitted to go into the darkest corners of the room
unmolested, and even uninsulted.  When the tables were cleared, then
rung out exultingly the shout of "Bar him out--bar him out!"

"I never yet," roared out Mr Root, "was barred out of my own premises,
and I never will be!"  He was determined to resist manfully, and, if he
fell, to fall like Caesar, in the capitol, decorously: so, as togae are
not worn in our unclassical days, he retired to prepare himself for the
contention, by getting his head newly powdered, telling his assistants
to keep the position they still held, at all hazards, near the door.

Before I narrate the ensuing struggle--a struggle that will be ever
remembered in the town in which it took place, and which will serve
anyone that was engaged in it, as long as he lives, to talk of with
honest enthusiasm, even if he has been happy enough to have been engaged
in real warfare; it is necessary to describe exactly the battle-field.
The school was a parallelogram, bowed at one end, and about the
dimensions of a moderately-sized chapel.  It was very lofty, and, at the
bowed end, which looked into the fields, there were three large windows
built very high, and arched after the ecclesiastical fashion.  One of
the sides had windows similar to those at the end.  The school-room was
entered from the house by a lobby, up into which lobby, terminated a
wide staircase, from the play-ground.  The school-room was therefore
entered from the lobby by only one large folding door.  But over this
end there was a capacious orchestra supported by six columns, which
orchestra contained a very superb organ.  The orchestra might also be
entered from the house, but from a floor and a lobby above that which
opened into the school-room.  Consequently, at the door-end of the
school-room, there was a space formed of about twelve or fourteen feet,
with a ceiling much lower than the rest of the building, and which space
was bounded by the six pillars that supported the gallery above.  This
low space was occupied by the masters and assistants--certainly a strong
position, as it commanded the only outlet.  The whole edifice was built
upon rows of stone columns, that permitted the boys a sheltered
play-ground beneath the school-room in inclement or rainy weather.  The
windows being high from the floor within doors, and very high indeed
from the ground without, they were but sorry and dangerous means of
communication, through which, either to make an escape, or bring in
succours or munitions should the siege be turned to a blockade.  It was,
altogether, a vast, and, when properly fitted up, a superb apartment,
and was used for the monthly concerts and the occasional balls.

Time elapsed.  It seemed that we were the party barred in, instead of
the master being the party barred out.  The mass of rebellion was as
considerable as any Radical could have wished; and, as yet, as
disorganised as any Tory commander-in-chief of the forces could have
desired.  However, Mr Root did not appear; and it having become
completely dark, the boys themselves lighted the various lamps.  About
six or seven o'clock there was a stir among the learned guard at the
door, when at length Mr Reynolds, the head classical master, having
wrapped the silver top of his great horn snuff-box, in a speech,
mingled, very appropriately, with Latin and Greek quotations, wished to
know what it was precisely that the young gentlemen desired, and he was
answered by fifty voices at once, "Leave to go into the fields, and let
off the fireworks."

After a pause, a message was brought that this could not be granted;
but, upon the rest of the school going quietly to bed, permission would
be given to all the young gentlemen above fifteen years of age to go
down to the town until eleven o'clock.  The proposal was refused with
outcries of indignation.  We now had many leaders, and the shouts "Force
the door!" became really dreadful.  Gradually the lesser boys gave back,
and the young men formed a dense front line, facing the sixteen masters,
whose position was fortified by the pillars supporting the orchestra,
and whose rear was strengthened by the servants of the household.  As
yet, the scholars stood with nothing offensive in their hands, and with
their arms folded in desperate quietude.  At last, there was a voice a
good way in the _rear_, which accounts for the bravery of the owner,
that shouted, "Why don't you rally, and force the door?"  Here Monsieur
Moineau, a French emigre, and our Gallic tutor, cried out lustily, "You
shall force that door, never--_jamais, jamais_--my pretty _garcons, mes
chers pupils_, be good, be quiet--go you couch yourselves--les _feux
d'artifice_! bah! they worth noding at all--you go to bed.  Ah, ah,
_demain_--all have _conge_--one two, half-holiday--but you force this
door--_par ma foi, e--jamais_--you go out, one, two, three, _four_--go
over dis _corps_, of Antoine Auguste Moineau."

We gave the brave fellow a hearty cheer for his loyalty; and, I have no
doubt, had he he been allowed to remain, he would have been trampled to
death on his post.  He had lost his rank, his fortune, everything but
his self-respect, in the quarrel of his king, who had just fallen on the
scaffold; he had a great respect for constituted authority, and was
sadly grieved at being obliged to honour heroism in spite of himself,
when arrayed against it.

Let us pause over these proceedings, and return to myself.  As the
rebellion increased, I seemed to be receiving the elements of a new
life.  My limbs trembled, but it was with a fierce joy.  I ran hither
and thither exultingly--I pushed aside boys three or four years older
than myself--I gnashed my teeth, I stamped, I clenched my hands,--I
wished to harangue, but I could not find utterance, for the very excess
of thoughts.  At that moment I would not be put down; I grinned defiance
in the face of my late scorners; I was drunk with the exciting draught
of contention.  The timid gave me their fireworks, the brave applauded
my resolution, and, as I went from one party to another, exhorting more
by gesture than by speech, I was at length rewarded by hearing the
approving shout of "Go it, Ralph Rattlin!"

I am not fearful of dwelling too much upon the affair.  It must be
interesting to those amiabilities called the "rising generation," the
more especially as a "barring out" is now become matter of history.
Alas! we shall never go back to the good old times in that respect,
notwithstanding we are again snugly grumbling under a Whig government.
Let us place at least one "barring out" upon record, in order to let the
Radicals see, and seeing, hope, when they find how nearly extremes
meet--what a slight step there is from absolute despotism to absolute
disorganisation.

Things were in this state, the boys encouraging each other, when, to our
astonishment, Mr Root, newly-powdered, and attended by two friends, his
neighbours, made his appearance in the orchestra, and incontinently
began a speech.  I was then too excited to attend to it; indeed, it was
scarcely heard for revilings and shoutings.  However, I could contain
myself no longer, and I, even I, though far from being in the first
rank, shouted forth, "Let us out, or we will set fire to the
school-room, and, if we are burnt, you will be hung for murder."  Yes, I
said those words--I, who now actually start at my own shadow--I, who
when I see a stalwart, whiskered and moustached fellow coming forward to
meet me, modestly pop over on the other side--I, who was in a fit of the
trembles the whole year of the comet!

"God bless me," said Mr Root, "it is that vagabond Rattlin!  I flogged
the little incorrigible but eight hours ago, and now he talks about
burning my house down.  There's gratitude for you!  But I'll put a stop
to this at once--young gentlemen, I'll put a stop to this at once!  I'm
coming down among you to seize the ringleaders, and that
good-for-nothing Rattlin.  Ah! the monitors, and the heads of all the
classes shall be flogged; the rest shall be forgiven, if they will go
quietly to bed, and give up all their fireworks."  Having so said, he
descended from above with his friends, and, in about a quarter of an
hour afterwards, armed with a tremendous whip, he appeared among his
satellites below.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

MUCH EXCELLENT, AND CONSEQUENTLY USELESS, DIPLOMACY DISPLAYED--A TRUCE,
AND MANY HEADS BROKEN--THE BATTLE RAGES; AND, AT LENGTH, THE PUERILES
ACHIEVE THE VICTORY.

The reader must not suppose that, while masters and scholars were ranged
against each other as antagonists, they were quiet as statues.  There
was much said on both sides, reasonings, entreaties, expostulations, and
even jocularity passed, between the adverse, but yet quiescent ranks.
In this wordy warfare the boys had the best of it, and I'm sure the
ushers had no stomach for the fray--if they fought, they must fight, in
some measure, with their hands tied; for their own judgment told them
that they could not be justified in inflicting upon their opponents any
desperate wounds.  In fact, considering all the circumstances, though
they asseverated that the boys were terribly in the wrong, they could
not say that Mr Root was conspicuously in the right.

When Mr Root got among his myrmidons, he resolutely cried, "Gentlemen
assistants, advance, and seize Master Atkinson, Master Brewster, Master
Davenant, and especially Master Rattlin;" the said Master Rattlin having
very officiously wriggled himself into the first rank.  Such is the
sanctity of established authority, that we actually gave back, with
serried files however, as our opponents advanced.  All had now been
lost, even our honour, had it not been for the gallant conduct of young
Henry Saint Albans, a natural son of the Duke of Y---, who was destined
for the army, and, at that time, studying fortification, and to some
purpose--for, immediately behind our front ranks, and while Mr Root was
haranguing and advancing, Saint Albans had arranged the desks quite
across the room, in two tiers, one above the other; the upper tier with
their legs in the air, no bad substitute for chevaux-de-frise.  In fact,
this manoeuvre was an anticipation of the barricades of Paris.  When the
boys came to the obstacle, they made no difficulty of creeping under or
jumping over it; but for the magisterial Mr Root, fully powdered; or
the classical master, full of Greek; or the mathematical master,
conscious of much Algebra, to creep under these desks, would have been
infra dig, and for them to have leapt over was impossible.  The younger
assistants might certainly have performed the feat, but they would have
been but scurvily treated for their trouble, on the wrong side of the
barricade.

When two antagonist bodies cannot fight, it is no bad pastime to parley.
Saint Albans was simultaneously and unanimously voted leader, though we
had many older than he, for he was but eighteen.  A glorious youth was
that Saint Albans!  Accomplished, generous, brave, handsome, as are all
his race, and of the most bland and sunny manners that ever won woman's
love, or softened man's asperity.  He died young--where?  Where should
he have died, since this world was deemed by Providence not deserving of
him, but amidst the enemies of his country, her banners waving
victoriously above, and her enemies flying before, his bleeding body?

Henry now stood forward as our leader and spokesman: eloquently did he
descant upon all our grievances, not forgetting mouldy bread, caggy
mutton, and hebdomadal meat pies.  He represented to Mr Root the little
honour that he would gain in the contest, and the certain loss--the
damage to his property and to his reputation--the loss of scholars, and
of profit; and he begged him to remember that every play-box in the
school-room was filled with fireworks, and that they were all
determined,--and sorry he was in this case to be obliged to uphold such
a determination,--they were one and all resolved, if permission were not
given, to let off the fireworks out of doors, they would in--the
consequences be on Mr Root's head.  His speech was concluded amidst
continued "Bravos!" and shouts of "Now, now!"

Old Reynolds, our classic, quietly stood by, and taking snuff by
handfuls, requested, nay, entreated Mr Root to pass it all off as a
joke, and let the boys, with due restrictions, have their will.  Mr
Root, with a queer attempt at looking pleasant, then said, "He began to
enter into the spirit of the thing--it was well got up--there could be
really nothing disrespectful meant, since Mr Henry Saint Albans was a
party to it (be it known that Henry was an especial favourite), and that
he was inclined to humour them, and look upon the school in the light of
a fortress about to capitulate.  He therefore would receive a flag of
truce, and listen to proposals."

The boys began to be delighted.  The following conditions were drawn up;
and a lad, with a white handkerchief tied to a sky-rocket stick, was
hoisted over the benches into the besieging quarters.  The paper, after
reciting (as is usual with all rebels in arms against their lawful
sovereign) their unshaken loyalty, firm obedience, and unqualified
devotion, went on thus--but we shall, to save time, put to each
proposition the answer returned:--

1.  The young gentlemen shall be permitted, as in times past, to
discharge their fireworks round what remains of the bonfire, between the
hours of nine and eleven o'clock.

_Ans_.  Granted, with this limitation, that all young gentlemen under
the age of nine shall surrender their fireworks to the elder boys, and
stand to see the display without the fence.

2.  That any damage or injury caused by the said display to Mr Root's
premises, fences, etcetera, shall be made good by a subscription of the
school.

_Ans_.  Granted.

3.  It being now nearly eight o'clock, the young gentlemen shall have
their usual suppers.

_Ans_.  Granted.

4.  That a general amnesty shall be proclaimed, and that no person or
persons shall suffer in any manner whatever for the part that he or they
may have taken in this thoughtless resistance.

_Ans_.  Granted, with the exception of Masters Atkinson, Brewster,
Davenant, and Rattlin.

Upon the last article issue was joined, the flag of truce still flying
during the debate.  The very pith of the thing was the act of amnesty
and oblivion.  Yet so eager were now the majority of the boys for their
amusement, that had it not been for the noble firmness of Saint Albans,
the leaders, with poor Pilgarlick, would have been certainly sacrificed
to their lust of pleasure.  But the affair was soon brought to a crisis.
All this acting the military pleased me most mightily, and, the better
to enjoy it, I crouched under one of the desks that formed the barricade
and, with my head and shoulders thrust into the enemy's quarters, sat
grinning forth my satisfaction.

The last clause was still canvassing, when, unheard-of treachery!  Mr
Root, seeing his victim so near, seized me by the ears, and attempted to
lug me away captive.  My schoolfellows attempted to draw me back.  Saint
Albans protested--even some of the masters said "Shame!" when Mr Root,
finding he could not succeed, gave me a most swinging slap of the face,
as a parting benediction, and relinquished his grasp.  No sooner did I
fairly find myself on the right side of the barricade, than, all my
terrors overcome by pain, I seized an inkstand and discharged it point
blank at the fleecy curls of the ferulafer with an unlucky fatality of
aim!  Mr Root's armorial bearings were now, at least, on his crest,
_blanche_ chequered _noir_.

"On, my lads, on!" exclaimed the gallant Saint Albans; the barricades
were scaled in an instant, and we were at fisticuffs with our foes.
Rulers flew obliquely, perpendicularly, and horizontally--inkstands made
ink-spouts in the air, with their dark gyrations--books, that the
authors had done their best to fasten on their shelves peacefully for
ever, for once became lively, and made an impression.  I must do Mr
Root the justice to say, that he bore him gallantly in the _melee_.  His
white and black head popped hither and thither, and the smack of his
whip resounded horribly among the shins of his foes.

Old Reynolds, not, even in battle, being able to resist the inveteracy
of habit, had the contents of his large snuff-mull forced into his eyes,
ere twenty strokes were struck.  He ran roaring and prophecying, like
blind Tiresias, among both parties, and, as a prophet, we respected him.
The French master being very obese, was soon borne down, and there he
lay sprawling and calling upon glory and _la belle France_, whilst both
sides passed over him by turns, giving him only an occasional kick when
they found him in their way.  It is said of Mr Simpson, the
mathematical master,--but I will not vouch for the truth of the account
for it seems too Homeric,--that being hard pressed, he seized and lifted
up the celestial globe, wherewith to beat down his opponents; but being
a very absent man, and the ruling passion being always dreadfully strong
upon him, he began, instead of striking down his adversaries, to solve a
problem upon it, but, before he had found the value of a single tangent,
the orb was beaten to pieces about his skull, and he then saw more stars
in his eyes than ever twinkled in the Milky Way.  In less than two
minutes, Mr Root to his crest added _gules_--his nose spouted blood,
his eyes were blackened, and those beautiful teeth, of which he was so
proud, were alarmingly loosened.

For myself I did not do much--I could not--I could not for very rapture.
I danced and shouted in all the madness of exhilaration.  I tasted
then, for the first time, the fierce and delirious poison of contention.
Had the battle-cry been "A Rattlin!" instead of "A Saint Albans!"  I
could not have been more elated.  The joy of battle to the young heart
is like water to the sands of the desert--which cannot be satiated.

In much less than three minutes the position under the gallery was
carried.  Root and the masters made good their retreat through the door,
and barricaded it strongly on the outside--so that if we could boast of
having barred him out, he could boast equally of having barred us in.
We made three prisoners, Mr Reynolds, Mr Moineau, and a lanky,
sneaking, turnip-complexioned under-usher, who used to write execrable
verses to the sickly housemaid, and borrow half-crowns of the simple
wench, wherewith to buy pomatum to plaster his thin, lank hair.  He was
a known sneak, and a suspected tell-tale.  The booby fell a-crying in a
dark corner, and we took him with his handkerchief to his eyes.  Out of
the respect that we bore our French and Latin masters, we gave them
their liberty, the door being set ajar for that purpose; but we reserved
the usher, that, like the American Indians, we might make sport with
him.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

AN AFFECTING APPEAL THAT EFFECTS NOTHING--THE REBELS COMMENCE THEIR
REJOICINGS--THEY ARE SUDDENLY DAMPED--THE FIREMEN DEFEAT THE FIRE-BOYS
BY MEANS OF WATER--THE VICTORS ARE VANQUISHED, WHO SHORTLY FIND
THEMSELVES COVERED WITH DISGRACE AND THE BED-CLOTHES.

When we informed the captive usher that he was destined for the high
honour of being our Guy Faux, and that he should be the centre of our
fireworks, promising him to burn him as little as we could help, and as
could reasonably be expected, his terror was extreme, and he begged,
like one in the agonies of death, that we would rather bump him.  We
granted his request, for we determined to be magnanimous, and he really
bore it like a stoic.

Scarcely had we finished with the usher, than Mrs Root, "like Niobe,
all in tears," appeared; with outstretched arms, in the gallery.  Her
outstretched arms, her pathetic appeals, her sugared promises, had no
avail: the simple lady wanted us to go to bed, and Mr Root, to use her
own expression, should let us all off to-morrow.  We were determined to
stay up, and let all our fireworks off to-night.  But we granted to her
intercession, that all the little boys should be given up to her.

It now became a very difficult thing to ascertain who was a little boy.
Many a diminutive urchin of eight, with a stout soul, declared that he
was a big fellow, and several lanky lads, with sops of bread for hearts,
called themselves little boys.  There was, as I said before, no
communication from the schoolroom with the orchestra; we were,
therefore, obliged to pile the desks as a platform, and hand up the
chicken-hearted to take protection under the wing of the old hen.

Our captive usher respectfully begged to observe that though he could
not say that he was exactly a little boy, yet if it pleased us, he would
much rather go to bed, as he had lately taken physic.  The plea was
granted, but not the platform.  That was withdrawn, and he was forced to
climb up one of the pillars; and, as we were charitably inclined, we
lent him all the impetus we could by sundry, appliances of switches and
rulers, in order to excite a rapid circulation in those parts that would
most expedite his up ward propulsion, upon the same principles that
cause us to fire one extremity of a gun, in order to propel the ball
from the other.  He having been gathered with the rest round Mrs Root,
she actually made us a curtsey in the midst of her tears, and smiled as
she curtseyed, bidding us all a good-night, to be good boys, to do no
mischief, and, above all, to take care of the fire.  Then, having
obtained from us a promise that we would neither injure the organ, nor
attempt to get into the orchestra, she again curtseyed, and left us
masters of the field.

Now the debate was frequent and full.  We had rebelled, and won the
field of rebellion in order to be enabled to discharge our fireworks.
The thought of descending, by means of the windows, was soon abandoned.
We should have been taken in the detail, even if we escaped breaking our
bones.  We were compelled to use the school-room for the sparkling
display, and, all under the directions of Saint Albans, we began to
prepare accordingly.  Would that I had been the hero of that night!
Though I did not perform the deeds, I felt all the glow of one; and,
unexpected honour!  I was actually addressed by Henry Saint Albans
himself as "honest Ralph Rattlin, the brave boy who slept in the haunted
room."  There was a distinction for you!  Of course, I cannot tell how
an old gentleman, rising sixty-five, feels when his sovereign places the
blue riband over his stooping shoulders, but if he enjoys half the
rapture I then did, he must be a very, very happy old man.

_Revenons a nos moutons_--which phrase I use on account of its
originality, and its applicability to fireworks.  Nails were driven into
the walls, and Catherine-wheels fixed on them; Roman candles placed upon
the tables instead of mutton-dips, and the upper parts of the school
windows let down for the free egress of our flights of sky-rockets.  The
first volley of the last-mentioned beautiful firework went through the
windows, amidst our huzzas, at an angle of about sixty-five degrees, and
did their duty nobly; when--when--of course, the reader will think that
the room was on fire.  Alas! it was quite the reverse.  A noble
Catherine-wheel had just begun to fizz, in all the glories of its
many-coloured fires, when, horror, dismay, confusion! half a dozen
firemen, with their hateful badges upon their arms, made their
appearance in the orchestra, and the long leathern tube being adjusted,
the brazen spout began playing upon us and the Catherine-wheel, amidst
the laughter of the men, in which even we participated, whilst we heard
the clank, clank, clank, of the infernal machine working in the
play-ground.  Mr Root was not simple enough to permit his house to be
burned down with impunity; and, since he found he could do no better, he
resolved to throw cold water upon our proceedings.

The school-room door was now thrown open, to permit us to go out if we
pleased, but we chose to remain where we were, for the simple reason,
that we did not know whom we might meet on the stairs.  We had agreed,
under the directions of Saint Albans, to let off our fireworks with some
order; but now, instead of playthings for amusement, they were turned
into engines of offence.  Showers of squibs, crackers, and every species
of combustible were hurled at our opponents above us.  It was the
struggle of fire with water: but that cold and powerful stream played
continuously; wherever it met us it took away our breath, and forced us
to the ground, yet we bore up gallantly, and the rockets that we
directed into the orchestra very often drove our enemies back, and would
have severely injured the organ, had they not covered it with blankets.

We advanced our desks near the gallery, to use them as scaling-ladders
to storm; but it would not do, they were not sufficiently high, and the
stream dashed the strongest of us back.  However, we plied our fiery
missiles as long as they lasted; but the water never failed--its
antagonist element did too soon.  Whilst it lasted, considering there
was no slaughter, it was a very glorious onslaught.

In one short half-hour we were reduced.  Drowned, burnt, blackened--
looking very foolish, and fearing very considerably, we now approached
the door: it was still open--no attempt to capture anyone--no opposition
was offered to us; but the worst of it was, we were obliged to sneak
through files of deriding neighbours and servants, and we each crept to
bed, like a dog that had stolen a pudding, anything but satisfied with
our exploits, or the termination of them.

Saint Albans would not forgive himself.  He heaped immeasurable shame
upon his own head, because he had not secured the orchestra.  He
declared he had no military genius.  He would bind himself an apprentice
to a country carpenter, and make pigsties--he would turn usher, and the
boys should bump him for an ass--he would run away.  He did the latter.

Leaving the firemen to see all safe, Mr Root to deplore his defaced
school-room and his destroyed property, Mrs Root to prepare for an
immensity of cases of cold, and burnt faces and hands,--I shall here
conclude the history of the famous barring out of the fifth of November,
of the year of grace, 18---.  If it had not all the pleasures of a real
siege and battle except actual slaughter, I don't know what pleasure is;
and the reader by-and-by will find out that I had afterwards
opportunities enough of judging upon this sort of kingly pastimes, in
which the cutting of throats was not omitted.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

IS FULL OF MORAL AND RELIGIOUS DISQUISITIONS, THEREFORE IT BEHOVETH THE
GENERAL READER TO LOOK AT AND PASS IT BY WITH THAT INATTENTION THAT
READERS GENERALLY HAVE FOR MORALITY AND RELIGION.

When the boys came downstairs, there was as comfortless a scene
displayed before them as the most retributive justice could have wished
to visit on the rebellious.  The morning raw and cold, the floor
saturated with water, and covered with cases of exploded fireworks; the
school-room in horrible confusion, scarcely a pane of glass
unshattered--the walls blackened, the books torn--and then the masters
and ushers stole in, looking both suspicious and discomfited.  Well, we
went to prayers, and very lugubriously did we sing the hymn:--

  "Awake, my soul, and with the sun,
  Thy daily course of duty run."

Now, that morning, no one could tell whether the sun had waked or not,
at least he kept his bed-curtains of fog closely drawn; and, about
twenty-five of the scholars gave a new reading to "thy daily course of
duty run," as, immediately after they had paid their doleful orisons,
they took the course of running their duty by running away.  There were
no classes that day.  Mr Root did not make his appearance--and we had a
constrained holiday.

On the 7th, to use a nautical expression, we had repaired damages, and
we began to fall into the usual routine of scholastic business: but it
was full a week before our master made his appearance in the
school-room, and he did so then with a green shade over his eyes, to
conceal the green shades under them.  He came in at the usual hour of
noon--the black list was handed up to him--and I expected, in the usual
order of things, an assiduous flogging.  But in this world we are the
martyrs of disappointment.  The awful man folded up the paper very
melancholily, and thrust it into his waistcoat pocket, and thus saved me
the expense of some very excellent magnanimity, which I had determined
to display, had he proceeded to flagellation.  It was my intention very
intrepidly to have told him, that if he punished me I also would run
away.  On the veracity of a schoolboy, I was disappointed at not
receiving my three or four dozen.

I had now fairly commenced my enthusiastic epoch.  I was somebody.  I
still slept in the haunted room.  I had struck the first blow in the
barring out--Saint Albans had openly commended me for my bravery--I
could no longer despise myself, and the natural consequence was that
others dared not.  I formed friendships, evanescent certainly, but very
sweet and very sincere.  Several of the young gentlemen promised to
prevail upon their parents to invite me to their homes during the
approaching holidays; but either their memories were weak, or their
fathers obdurate.

Well, the winter holidays came at last, and I was left sole inhabitant
of that vast and lonely school-room, with one fire for my solace, and
one tenpenny dip for my enlightenment.  How awful and supernatural
seemed every passing sound that beat upon my anxious ears!  Everything
round me seemed magnified--the massive shadows were as the wombs teeming
with unearthly phantoms--the whistle of the wintry blasts against the
windows, voiced the half-unseen beings that my fears acknowledged in the
deep darknesses of the vast chamber.  And then that lonely orchestra,--
often did I think that I heard low music from the organ, as if touched
by ghostly fingers--how gladly I would have sunk down from my solitude
to the vulgarity of the servant's hall--but that was now carefully
interdicted.  The consequences of all this seclusion to a highly
imaginative and totally unregulated mind, must have been much worse than
putting me to sleep in the haunted room, for in that I had my
counter-spell--and long use had almost endeared me to it and its
grotesque carvings--but this dismally large school-room, generally so
instinct with life, so superabounding in animation, was painfully
fearful, even from the contrast.  Twenty times in the evening, when the
cold blast came creeping along the floor and wound round my ankles, did
I imagine it was the chill hand of some corpse, thrust up from beneath,
that was seizing me in order to drag me downwards--and a hundred times,
as the long flame from the candle flared up tremulously, and shook the
deep shadows that encompassed me around, did I fancy that there were
very hideous faces indeed mouthing at me amidst the gloom--and my own
gigantic shadow--it was a vast horror of itself personified!  It was a
cruel thing, even in Mr Root, to leave me alone so many hours in that
stupendous gloom; but his wife--fie upon her!

Considering how my imagination had been before worked upon, even from my
earliest childhood, and the great nervous excitability of my
temperament, it is a wonder that my mind did not reel, if not succumb--
but I now began to combat the approaches of one sort of insanity with
the actual presence of another--I _wrote verses_.  That was "tempering
the wind to the shorn lamb," as Sterne would have expressed it, after
the prettiest fashion imaginable.

Had I not the reader so completely at my mercy--did I not think him or
her not only the gentlest but also the most deserving of all the progeny
of Japhet--did I not think that it would be the very acme of ingratitude
to impose upon him or her, I would certainly transcribe a centaine, or
so, of these juvenile poems.  It is true, they are very bad--but, then,
that is a proof that they are undeniably genuine.  I really have, in
some things, a greatness of soul.  I will refrain--but in order that
these effusions may not be lost to the world, I offer them to the
annuals for 1839; not so much for the sake of pecuniary compensation,
but in order to improve the reading of some of that very unreadable
class of books.

Well, during these dismal holidays, I wrote verses and began to take, or
to make, my madness methodical.  The boys came back, and having left me
a very Bobadil, they found me a juvenile Bavius.

I now began to approach my thirteenth year, and, what with my rhyming
and my fistical prowess,--my character for bravery and the peculiarity
of my situation, as it regarded its mystery--I became that absurd thing
that the French call "_une tete montee_."  Root had ceased to flog me.
I could discover that he even began to fear me--and just in proportion
as he seemed to avoid all occasion to punish me, I became towards him
mild, observant, and respectful.  The consequence was, that, as I was no
longer frightened out of my wits at church, from very weariness, and for
the sake of variety, I began to attend to the sermons.  What a lesson
ought not this to be to instructors!  One Sunday I returned from church
in a state of almost spiritual intoxication.  The rector was a pale,
attenuated man, with a hollow, yet flashing eye--a man who seemed to
have done with everything in this world, excepting to urge on his
brethren to that better one, to which himself was fast hastening; and,
on this memorable day, that I fancied myself a convert, he had been
descanting on the life of the young Samuel.  Of course he, very
appropriately, often turned to the juvenile part of his congregation;
and as I was seated in the front row, I felt as if I were alone in the
church--as if every word were individually addressed to myself; his
imploring yet impassioned glances seemed to irradiate my breast with a
sweet glory.  I felt at once, that since the goodness of the Creator was
inexhaustible, the fault must rest with man if there were no more
Samuels, so I determined to be one--to devote myself entirely to divine
abstraction, to heavenly glory, and to incessant worship--and,
stupendous as the assertion may seem, for six weeks I did so.  This
resolution became a passion--a madness.  I was as one walking in a sweet
trance--I revelled in secret bliss, as if I had found a glorious and
inexhaustible treasure.  I spoke to none of my new state of mind--
absorbed as I was, I yet dreaded ridicule--but I wrote hymns, I composed
sermons.  If I found my attention moving from heavenly matters, I grew
angry with myself, and I renovated my flagging attention with inward
ejaculation.  I had all the madness of the anchorite upon me in the
midst of youthful society, yet without his asceticism, and certainly
without his vanity.

My studies, of course, were nearly totally neglected, under this
complete alienation of spirit, and Mr Root, lenient as he had lately
become towards me, began to flog again; and--shall I be believed when I
say it?--I have been examining my memory most severely, and I am sure it
has delivered up its record faithfully; but yet I hardly dare give it to
the world--but, despite of ridicule, I find myself compelled to say,
that these floggings I scarcely felt.  I looked upon them as something
received for the sake of an inscrutable and unfathomable love, and I
courted them--they were pleasurable.  I now can well understand the
enthusiasm and the raptures of that ridiculous class of exploded
visionaries, called flagellants.  I certainly was in a state of complete
oblivion to everything but a dreamy fanaticism, and yet that term is too
harsh, and it would be impiety to call it holiness, seeing that it was
in a state of inutility,--and yet, many well-meaning persons will think,
no doubt, that my infant and almost sinless hand had hold of a blessed
link of that chain of ineffable love, which terminates in the breast of
that awful Being, who sits at the right-hand of the throne of the
Eternal.  I give, myself, no opinion.  I only state facts.  But I cannot
help hazarding a conjecture of what I might have been, had I then
possessed a friend in any one of my instructors, who could have pointed
out to me what were the precincts of true piety, what those of incipient
insanity.  At that time I had the courage to achieve anything.  Let the
cold-hearted and the old say what they will, youth is the time for moral
bravery.  The withered and the aged mistake their failing forces for
calmness and resignation, and an apathy, the drear anticipator of death,
for presence of mind.

However, this state of exalted feeling had a very ludicrous termination.
I ceased fighting, I was humble, seeking whom I might serve, reproving
no one, but striving hard to love all, giving, assisting, and actually
panting for an opportunity of receiving a slap on one side of the face,
that I might offer the other for the same infliction.  The reader may be
sure that I had the Bible almost constantly before me, when not employed
in what I conceived some more active office of what I thought
sanctification.  But though the spirit may be strong, at times, the body
will be weak.  I believe I dozed for a few minutes over the sacred book,
when a wag stole it away, and substituted for it the "renowned and
veracious History of the Seven Champions of Christendom."  There was the
frontispiece, the gallant Saint George, in gold and green armour,
thrusting his spear into the throat of the dragon, in green and gold
scales.  What a temptation!  I ogled the book coyly at first.  I asked
for my Bible.  "Read that, Ralph," said the purloiner; oh! recreant that
I was, I read it.

I was cured in three hours of being a saint, of despising flogging, and
of aping Samuel.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

RALPH RECEIVES AN INFUSION OF PATRIOTISM--IS HIMSELF DRILLED AND DRILLS
A TOUCH HOLE--HE TURNS OUT A MONSTROUS BIG LIAR--SOMEBODY COMES TO SEE
HIM WHOM NOBODY CAN SEE, AND THE MYSTERY ENDS IN ANOTHER MIGRATION.

It is the nature of men and boys to run into extremes.  I have carried
the reader with me through my desponding and enthusiastic epochs.  I now
come to the most miserable of all, my mendacious one.  An avowed poet is
entitled, _de jure_, to a good latitude of fiction; but I abused this
privilege most woefully.  I became a confirmed and intrepid liar--and
this, too, was the natural course of my education, or the want of it.  I
began to read all manner of romances.  There was a military and
chivalrous spirit strong in the school--the mania for volunteering was
general, and our numerous school were almost all trained to arms.  The
government itself supplied us with a half-dozen drill sergeants to
complete us in our manual and platoon exercises.  We had a very pretty
uniform, and our equipments as infantry were complete in all things,
save and excepting that all the muskets of the junior boys had no
touch-holes.  Mine was delivered to me in this innocent state.  Oh! that
was a great mortification on field-days, when we were allowed to
incorporate with the --- and --- Volunteers, whilst all the big lads
actually fired off real powder, in line with real men, to be obliged to
snap a wooden flint against a sparkless hammer.  A mortification I could
not, would not, endure.

There was a regular contention between Mr Root, my musket, and myself;
and at last, by giving my sergeant a shilling, I conquered.  Every day
that our muskets were examined on parade, mine would be found with a
touch-hole drilled in it; as certainly as it was found, so certainly was
I hoisted.  In that fever of patriotism, I, of all the school, though
denied powder and shot, was the only one that bled for my country.
However, I at length had the supreme felicity of blowing powder in the
face of vacancy, in high defiance of Buonaparte and his assembled
legions on the coast of Boulogne.  Thus I had military ardour added to
my other ardencies.  Moreover, I had learned to swim in the New River,
and, altogether, began to fancy myself a hero.

I began now to appreciate and to avail myself of the mystery of my
birth.  I did not read romances and novels for nothing.  So I began my
mendacious career.  Oh! the improbable and the impossible lies that I
told, and that were retold, and all believed.  I was a prince incognito;
my father had coined money--and I gave my deluded listeners glimpses at
pocket-pieces as proof; if I was doubted I fought.  The elder boys shook
their heads, and could make nothing of it.  The ushers made what
inquiries they dared, and found nothing which they could contradict
positively, but much upon which to found conjecture.

Still, notwithstanding my success, my life began to grow burthensome.
The lies became too manifold, too palpable, and, to me, too onerous.
They had been extremely inconsistent--ridicule began to raise her
hissing head.  Shame became my constant companion--yet I lied on.  I
think I may safely say, that I would, at the time that I was giving
myself out as a future king, have scorned the least violation of the
truth, to have saved myself from the most bitter punishment, or to
injure, in the least, my worst enemy; my lies were only those of a most
inordinate vanity, begun in order to make a grand impression of myself,
and persevered in through obstinacy and pride.  But I was crushed
beneath the stupendous magnificence of my own creations.  I had been so
circumstantial--described palaces, reviews, battles, my own charges, and
now--oh! how sick all these fabrications made me!  It was time I left
the school, or that life left me, for it had become intolerable.  And
yet this state of misery, the misery of the convicted, yet obstinately
persevering liar, lasted nearly a year.  Let me hurry over it; but, at
the same time, let me hold it up as a picture to youth, upon the same
principle as the Spartans showed drunken slaves to their children.
Could the young but conceive a tithe of the misery I endured, they would
never after swerve from the truth.

I have not time to expatiate on several droll mishaps that occurred to
Mr Root; how he was once bumped in all the glowing panoply of equine
war; how, when one night, with his head well powdered, he crept upon
all-fours, as was his wont, into one of the boys' bedrooms, to listen to
their nightly conversations; and how such visit being expected, as his
head lay on the side of the bedstead, it was there immovably fixed, by
the application of a half-pound of warm cobbler's wax, and release could
only be obtained by the Jason-like operation of shearing the fleecy
locks.  We must rapidly pass on.  I was eager to get away from this
school, and my desire was accomplished in the following very singular
manner:--

One fine sunshiny Sunday morning, as we were all arranged in goodly
fashion, two by two, round the play-ground, preparatory to issuing
through the house to go to church, the unusual cry was heard of "Master
Rattlin wanted," which was always understood to be the joyful signal
that some parent or friend had arrived as a visitor.  I was immediately
hurried into the house, a whispering took place between Mr and Mrs
Root, and the consequence was, that I was bustled up into the bedroom,
and my second-best clothes, which I then had on, were changed for the
best, and, with a supererogatory dab with a wet towel over my face, I
was brought down, and, my little heart playing like a pair of castanets
against my ribs, I was delivered into the tender keeping of the
pedagogue.

Having taken me by the hand, whilst he was practising all the amenities
with his countenance, he opened the parlour-door, where the
supposititious visitor was expected to be found, and lo! the room was
empty.  Mrs Root and the servants were summoned, and they all
positively declared, and were willing to swear to the fact, that a
gentleman had gone into the room, who had never gone out.  It was a
front parlour, on the ground-floor, and from the window he could not
have emerged, as the area intervened between that and the foot pavement;
and to see a gentleman scrambling through by that orifice into the
principal street of, and from one of the principal houses of the town,
whilst all the people were going to church, was a little too
preposterous even for Mr Root's matter-of-fact imagination.  However,
they all peeped up the chimney one after the other, as if an elderly,
military-looking gentleman, encumbered with a surtout, for thus he was
described, would have been so generous as to save my schoolmaster a
shilling, by bustling up his chimney, and bringing down the soot.  The
person was not to be found; Root began to grow alarmed--a constable was
sent for, and the house was searched from the attics to the cellar.  The
dwelling was not, however, robbed, nor any of its inmates murdered,
notwithstanding the absconder could not be found.

Now, Mr Root was a wise man in his own generation, yet was he,
notwithstanding, a great fool.  He was one of that class who can
sometimes overreach a neighbour, yet, in doing so, inevitably loses his
own balance, and tumbles into the mire.  A sagacious ninny, who had an
"_I told you so_," for every possible event after it had happened.

Instead of taking the common-sense view of the affair of the missed
gentleman, and supposing that the footman had been bribed to let him
quietly out at the street-door, who, perhaps, had found his feelings too
little under his control to go through the interview with me that he
sought, Root set about making a miracle of the matter.  It was
astounding--nay, superhuman!  It boded some misfortune to him; and so it
really did, by the manner in which he treated it.  I verily believe,
that had the servants or Mrs Root, who had seen the gentleman, averred
to a cloven foot as peeping out from his military surtout, he would have
given the assertion not only unlimited credence, but unlimited
circulation also.  However, as it was, he made himself most egregiously
busy; there was his brother church-wardens and the curates summoned to
assist him in a court of inquiry; evidence was taken in form, and a sort
of _proces verbal_ drawn out and duly attested.  Mr Root was a
miracle-monger, and gloried in being able to make himself the hero of
his own miracles.

Well, after he had solaced himself by going about to all his neighbours
with this surprising paper in hand, for about the space of a fortnight,
he thought to put the climax to his policy and his vainglory, by taking
it and himself up to the banker's in town, where he always got the full
amount of his bills for my board and education paid without either
examination or hesitation.  The worthy money-changer looked grimly
polite at the long and wonderful account of the schoolmaster, received a
copy of the account of the mysterious visitor with most emphatic
silence, and then bowed the communicant out of his private room with all
imaginable etiquette.

Mr Root came home on excellent terms with himself; he imposed silence
upon his good lady, his attentive masters and ushers, and then wiping
the perspiration from his brow, proceeded to tell his admiring audience
of his great, his very great exertions, and how manfully through the
whole awful business he had done his duty.  Alas! he soon found to his
cost that he had done something more.  In cockney language, he had done
himself out of a good pupil.  A fortnight after, I was again "wanted."
There was a glass coach at the door.  A very reserved sort of gentleman
alighted, paid all demands up to the end of the ensuing half-year,
answered no questions, but merely producing a document, handed me and
all my worldly wealth into his vehicle, and off we drove.

To the best of my recollection, all the conversation that I heard from
this taciturn person, was that sentence, so much the more remarkable for
verity than originality, "Ask no questions, and I shall tell you no
stories."  Having nothing else to do in this my enforced _tete-a-tete_,
I began to conjecture what next was to become of me.  At first, I built
no castles in the air; I had got quite sick of doing that aloud with my
late school-fellows, and passing them all off as facts.  Still, it must
be confessed that my feelings were altogether pleasurable.  It was a
soul-cheering relief to have escaped from out of that vast labyrinth of
lies that I had planted around me, and no longer to dread the
rod-bearing Root; even novelty, under whatever form it may present
itself, is always grateful to the young.

In the midst of these agitations I again found myself in town; and I
began to hope that I should once more see my foster-parents.  I began to
rally up my "little Latin and less Greek," in order to surprise the
worthy sawyer and his wife; and I had fully determined to work out for
him what the amount of his daily wages came to in a week, first by
simple arithmetic, secondly by fractions, thirdly by decimals, and
fourthly by duodecimals; and then to prove the whole correct by an
algebraical equation.  But all these triumphs of learning were not
destined for me.  I found, at length, that the glass coach drove up the
inn-yard of some large coachmaster; but few words were said, and I was
consigned to the coachman of one of the country stages, with as little
remorse and as little ceremony as if I had been an ugly blear-eyed pug,
forwarded in a basket, labelled "this side uppermost," to an old maiden
aunt, or a superannuated grandmother.

This was certainly unhandsome treatment to one who had been lately
seriously telling his companions that he was a disguised prince of the
blood, forced, for state reasons, to keep a strict incognito.  It is
true, that I travelled with four horses, and was attended by a guard;
nay, that a flourish of music preceded my arrival at various points of
my journey; but all these little less than royal honours I shared with a
plebeian butcher, a wheezing and attenuated plumber and glazier, and
other of his lieges, all very useful, but hardly deemed ornamental
members of the body politic.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

A CHAPTER OF DISAPPOINTMENTS, WHICH RALPH HOPES THE READER WILL NOT
SHARE--SOME COMPARISONS WHICH HE HOPES WILL NOT BE FOUND ODIOUS, AND
SOME REFLECTIONS WHICH HE THINKS CANNOT BE RESENTED.

My friends will perceive, that at the time of which I am speaking, the
stage-coach contained, if not actually a bad character, I a person on
the very verge of being one--that I was that graceless, yet tolerated
being, a scamp, was very certain--yet my gentle demeanour, my smooth,
bright countenance, and never-ceasing placid smile, would have given a
very different impression of my qualities.  I have been thus liberal in
my confessions, in order that parents may see that their duties do not
terminate where those of the schoolmaster begin; that the schoolmaster
himself must be taken to task, and the watcher watched.  I had been
placed in one of the first boarding-schools near town; a most liberal
stipend had been paid with me; I had every description of master; yet,
after all this outlay of money, which is not dross--and waste of time,
which is beyond price precious, what was I at leaving this academy?  Let
the good folks withinside of the Stickenham stage testify; by one trick
or another I had contrived to make them all tolerably uncomfortable
before the journey was half over.

But where am I going?  Caesar and his fortunes are embarked in a
stage-coach.  An hour and a half had elapsed when I perceived that the
horses were dragging the vehicle slowly up a steep hill.  The
full-leaved trees are arching for us, overhead, a verdant canopy; the
air becomes more bracing and elastic: and even I feel its invigorating
influence, and cease to drop slily the gravelly dirt I had collected
from my shoes, down the neck and back of a very pretty girl, who sat
blushing furiously on my left.  Now the summit is gained and, in another
moment, the coach thunders down the other side of the hill.  But what a
beautiful view is spread before my fascinated eyes! and then rose up in
my young heart the long sleeping emotions of love, and kindred
affection.  Into whose arms was I to be received? whose were to be the
beautiful lips that were now longing to kiss me with parental, perhaps
fraternal rapture?  Had I a sister?  Could I doubt it at that ecstatic
moment?  How I would love her!  The fatted calf was not only killed, but
cooked, to welcome the long lost.  Nor Latin, nor French, nor Greek, nor
Mathematics, should embitter the passing moments.  This young summer,
that breathed such aromatic joy around me, had put on its best smile to
welcome me to my paternal abode.  "No doubt," said I to myself--"no
doubt, but that some one of the strange stories that I told of myself at
Root's, is going to be realised."

In the midst of these rapturous anticipations, each later one becoming
more wild and more glorious than the previous one that begot it, it
wanting still an hour of sundown, all at once the coach stopped before a
house, upon a gentle elevation--stopped with a jerk, too, as if it were
going to usher in some glorious event.  I looked out, and behold! in
hated gold letters, upon the hated blue board, the bitterly hated word
"Academy" met my agonised sight.

I burst into tears.  I needed no voice to tell me that I was the person
to alight.  I knew my doom.  Farewell to all my glorious visions!  I
could have hurled back into the face of the laughing sun, my hate, and
called him deceiver and traitor; for had he not, with other causes
conspired to smile me, five minutes ago, into a fool's paradise?

"Master Rattlin, won't you please to alight?" said one of those
under-toned, gerund-singing voices, that my instinct told me to be an
usher's.

"No, thank'ee, sir," said I, amidst my sobbings, "I want to go home."

"But you are to get down here, however," said my evil-omened inviter.
"Your boxes are all off the coach, and the coachman wants to go
forward."

"So do I."

"It's excessively droll this--hi, hi, hi as sure as my name's
Saltseller, it is excessively droll.  So you want to get forward, Master
Rattlin? why come to school then, that's the way--droll, isn't it?  Why,
you've been riding backwards all the way, too--time to change--droll
that--hi, hi!"

"It's no change," said I, getting out, sulkily, "from one school to
another--and do you call this a school?"  I continued, looking round
contemptuously, for I found about twenty little boys playing upon a
green knoll before the house, and over which we were compelled to walk
to reach it, as the road did not come near the habitation.  "Do you call
this a school?  Well, if you catch me being flogged here, I'm a sop,
that's all--a school!  And I suppose you're the usher--I don't think
those little boys bumped you last half-year."

"I don't think they did," said Mr Saltseller, which was actually the
wretch's name, and with whom I fell desperately in hate at first sight.
"Bump me!" he exclaimed soliloquising--and with that air of
astonishment, as if he had heard the most monstrous impossibility spoken
of imaginable.  "Bump me? droll, isn't it--excessively?  Where have you
been brought up, Master Rattlin?"

"Where they bar out tyrannical masters, and bump sneaking ushers," said
I.  "That's where I was brought up."

"Then that's what I call very bad bringing up."

"Not so bad as being brought down here, anyhow."

His next "excessively droll, isn't it?" brought us to the door of the
academy; but, in passing over the play-ground, I could see, at once,
that I was with quite another class of beings than those who composed my
late school-fellows.  They were evidently more delicately nurtured; they
had not the air of schoolboy daring to which I had been so much
accustomed, and they called each other "Master."  Everything, too,
seemed to be upon a miniature scale.  The house was much smaller, yet
there was an air of comfort and of health around, that at first I did
not appreciate, though I could not help remarking it.

No sooner was I conducted into the passage, than I heard a voice which I
thought I remembered, exclaim, "Show Master Rattlin in here, and shut
the door."

I entered; and the next moment I was in the arms of the mysterious and
very beautiful lady that had called to see me the few times that I have
recorded; and who, I conceived, was intimately connected with my
existence.  I think that I have before said that she never avowed
herself, either to my nurse or to myself, as more than my godmother.
She evinced a brief, but violent emotion; and then controlled her
features to a very staid and matronly expression.  For myself I wept
most bitterly; from many mingled emotions; but, to the shame of human
nature, and of my own, wounded pride was the most intolerable pang that
I felt.  In all my day-dreams, I had made this lady the presiding
genius.  I gave her, in my inmost heart, all the reverence and the
filial affection of a son; but it was the implied understanding between
my love and my vanity, that in joining herself to me as a mother, she
was to bestow upon me a duchess at least; though I should not have
thought myself over-well used had it been a princess.  And here were all
these glorious anticipations merged, sunk, destroyed, in the person of a
boarding-school mistress of about twenty boys, myself the biggest.  It
was no use that I said to myself, over and over again, she is not less
lovely--her voice less musical, her manner less endearing, or her
apparel less rich.  The startling truth was ever in my ear--she "keeps a
school," and consequently, she cannot be my mother.

She could not know what was passing in my mind; but it was evident that
my grief was of that intensity that nearly approached to misery.  She
took me by the hand, showed me my nice little bed, the large garden, the
river that ran at the bottom of it, and placed before me fruit and
cakes; I would not be consoled; what business had she to be a
schoolmistress?  I had a thousand times rather have had Mrs Brandon for
a mother again--she had never deceived me.  But I was soon aware that
this lady, whom I now, for the first time, heard named, as Mrs
Cherfeuil, was as little disposed to grant me the honour of calling her
mother, as I was to bestow it.  I was introduced to her husband as the
son of a female friend of hers of early life; that she had stood
godmother to me, that my parentage was respectable; and, as she before
had sufficient references to satisfy him from the agent, who had called
a week before my arrival, the good man thought there was nothing
singular in the affair.

But let us describe this good man, my new pedagogue.  In all things he
was the antithesis of Mr Root.  The latter was large, florid, and
decidedly handsome--Mr Cherfeuil was little, sallow, and more than
decidedly ugly.  Mr Root was worldly wise, and very ignorant; Mr
Cherfeuil, a fool in the world, and very learned.  The mind of Mr Root
was so empty, that he found no trouble in arranging his one idea and a
half; Mr Cherfeuil's was so full that there was no room for any
arrangement at all.  Mr Root would have thought himself a fool if he
condescended to write poetry; but he supposed he could, for he never
tried.  Mr Cherfeuil would have thought any man a fool that did not
perceive at once that he, Cherfeuil, was born a great poet.  Shall I
carry, after the manner of Plutarch, the comparison any further?  No;
let us bring it to an abrupt conclusion, by saying, in a few words, that
Mr Root was English, Mr Cherfeuil French; that the one had a large
school, and the other a little one and that both were immeasurably great
men in their own estimation--though not universally so in that of
others.

Mr Cherfeuil was ambitious to be thought five feet high, his attitude,
therefore, was always erect; and, to give himself an air of consequence,
he bridled and strutted like a full-breasted pigeon, with his head
thrown back, and was continually in the act of wriggling his long chin
into his ample neckerchief.  He could not ask you how do you do, or say
in answer to that question, "I thank you, sare, very well," without
stamping prettily with his foot, as if cracking a snail, and tossing his
chin into the air as if he were going to balance a ladder upon it.
Then, though his features were compressed into a small, monkeyfied
compass, they were themselves, individually, upon a magnificent scale.
It was as if there had been crowded half a dozen gigantic specimens of
human ugliness into my lady's china closet, all of which were elbowing
each other for room.  The eyes would have been called large, had it not
been for the vast proportions of the nose, and the nose would have been
thought preposterous, had it not been for the horrible dimensions of the
mouth.  Yet the expression of all these anomalies, though very
grotesque, was not unpleasing.  You smiled with satisfaction when you
saw how great the improvement was that baboonery had made toward
manhood.  You might call him, in a word, a queer, little, ugly-looking
box of yellow mortality, that contained some amiable qualities, and a
great many valuable attainments.  Of good sense, or of common sense, he
was never known to show, during the whole period of his life, but one
instance; and that was a most important one--a complete deference, in
all things, to his stately and beautiful wife.  Her dominion was
undivided, complete, and unremitting.  How she came to marry him was one
of those human riddles that will never be satisfactorily resolved.  He
had been a French _emigre_, had had a most superior education, played on
several instruments without taste, understood everything connected with
the classics but their beauty, and was deeply versed in mathematics,
without comprehending their utility.

At this school my progress was rapid.  All the care and attention that
the most maternal of hearts could bestow upon me were mine; yet there
was no approach to anything like familiarity on the part of Mrs
Cherfeuil.  There lay a large wild common before the house; there was a
noble collection of deep water in the vicinity, in which I perfected my
natatory studies (affected phraseology is the fashion), and my body
strengthened, my mind improved, and I began to taste of real happiness.

It would be amusing work to write a biography of some of the most
remarkable ushers.  They seem to be the bats of the social scale.
Gentlemen will not own them, and the classes beneath reject them.  They
are generally self-sufficient; the dependency of their situation makes
them mean, and the exercise of delegated power tyrannical.  If they have
either spirit or talent, they lift themselves above their situation; but
when they cannot do this, they are, in my estimation, the most abject of
all classes--gipsies and beggars not excepted.  Mr Cherfeuil was, in
himself, a mine of learning; but he delivered it out from the dark
cavities of his mind, encumbered with so much ore, and in such misshaped
masses, that it required another person to arrange for use what he was
so lavish in producing.  A good usher or assistant was therefore
necessary; but I do not recollect more than one, out of the thirty or
forty that came and went during the three years I was at the school.

This class of people are, alas! fatally susceptible of the tender
impulses.  They always find the rosy cheeks of the housemaid or the _en
bon point_ of the cook irresistible.  And they have themselves such
delicate soft hands, so white and so ashy.  On Sundays, too, their linen
is generally clean! so, altogether, the maid-servants find them killing.

Mr Saltseller, who found everything droll, and who used to paint his
cheeks, lost his situation just at the precise moment that the housemaid
lost her character.  Two losses together were not of very great moment;
then we had another, and another, and another; and more characters were
lost--till at last there did come a man:--

  "Take him for all in all,
  I ne'er shall look upon his like again."

He was very tall, stout, of a pompous carriage, _un homme magnifique_.
He wore a green coat, false hair, a black patch over his left eye, and
was fifty, or rather, fifty-five.  His face was large, round, and the
least in the world bloated.  This Adonis of matured ushers, after
school-hours, would hang a guitar from his broad neck, by means of a
pale pink riband, and walk up and down on the green before the house,
thrum, thrum, thrumming, the admiration of all the little boys, and the
coveted of all the old tabbies in the village.  Oh, he was the
_beau-ideal_ of a _vieux garcon_.  We recommend all school-assistants to
learn the guitar and grow fat--if they can; and then, perhaps, they may
prosper, like Mr Sigismund Pontifex.  He contrived to elope with a
maiden lady, of good property, just ten years older than himself: the
sweet, innocent, indiscreet ones went off by stealth one morning before
daylight, in a chaise-and-four, and returned a week after, Mr and Mrs
Pontifex.

The gentleman hung up his guitar, and for ever; and every fine day he
was found, pipe in mouth and tankard in hand, presiding at the
bowling-green of the Black Lion, the acknowledged and revered umpire--
cherished by mine host, and referred to by the players.  I write this
life for instruction.  Gentlemen ushers, look to it--be ambitious--learn
the guitar, and make your mouths water with ideas of prospective
tankards of ale, and odoriferous pipes.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

RALPH GROWETH EGREGIOUSLY MODEST, AND BOASTETH IMMODERATELY, UNTIL HE IS
BEATEN BY ONE WITH ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE; WITH SOMETHING TOUCHING THE
FEATS OF THE MAN WITHOUT FEET.

I find myself in a dilemma.  My modesty (?) is at variance with my love
of verity.  Oh, the inconvenience of that little pronoun, I!  Would that
I had in the first instance imitated the wily conduct of the bald-pated
invader of Britain.  How complacently might I not then have vaunted in
the beginning, have caracoled through the middle, and glorified myself
at the conclusion of this my autobiography!  What a monstrous piece of
braggadocio would not Caesar's Commentaries have been, had he used the
first instead of the third person singular!  How intolerable would have
been the presumption of his Thrasonical, "I thrashed the Helvetians--I
subjugated the Germans--I utterly routed the Gauls--I defeated the
painted Britons!"  And, on the contrary--for I like to place heroes side
by side--how decorously and ingeniously might I not have written, "Ralph
Rattlin blackened Master Simpkin's left eye--Ralph Rattlin led on the
attack upon Farmer Russel's orchard, and Ralph Rattlin fought three
rounds, with no considerable disadvantage, with the long-legged pieman."
Alas!  I cannot even shelter myself under the mistiness of the
peremptory _we_.  I have made a great mistake.  But I have this
consolation, in common with other great men, that, for our mistake, the
public will assuredly suffer more than ourselves.  Many a choice
adventure, of which I was the hero, must be suppressed.  _I_ should
blush myself black in the face to say what _he_ would relate with a very
quiet smile of self-satisfaction.  However, as regrets are quite
unavailing, unless, like the undertaker's, they are paid for, I shall
exclaim, with the French soldier, who found his long military queue in
the hands of a pursuing English sailor, "Chivalry of the world,
_toujours en avant_!"

I now began to commit the sin of much verse, and, consequently, acquired
in the neighbouring village much notice.  No chastising blow, or even
word of reproof fell upon me.  My mind was fed upon praise, and my heart
nourished with caresses.  In the school I had no equal, and my vanity
whispered that such was the case without.  However, this vanity I did
not show, for I was humble from excessive pride.

There are two animals that are almost certain to be spoiled--a very
handsome young man, and the "cock of the school."  Being certainly in
the latter predicament, I was only saved from becoming an utter and
egregious ass by the advent of one, the cleverest, most impudent,
rascally, agreeable scoundrel that ever swindled man or deceived woman,
in the shape of a wooden-legged usher.  He succeeded my worthy friend of
the guitar, Mr Sigismund Pontifex.  His name was Riprapton, and he only
wanted the slight requisite of common honesty to have made himself the
first man of any society in which fate might happen to cast him--and
fate had been pleased to cast him into a great many.  He was a short,
compactly-made, symmetrically-formed man, with a countenance deeply
indented with the small-pox, and in every hole there was visibly
ensconced a little imp of audaciousness.  His eyes were such intrepid
and quenchless lights of impudence, that they could look even Irish
_sang froid_ out of countenance.  And then that inimitable wooden leg!
It was a perfect grace.  As he managed it, it was irresistible.  He did
not progress with a miserable, vulgar, dot-and-go-one kind of gait; he
neither hopped, nor halted, nor limped; and though he was wood from the
middle of his right thigh downwards, his walk might almost have been
called the poetry of motion.  He never stumped, but he stole along with
a glissade that was the envy and admiration, not exactly of surrounding
nations, but of the dancing-master.  It was a beautiful study to see him
walk, and I made myself master of it.  The left leg was inimitably
formed; the calf was perhaps a little too round and Hibernian--a fault
gracious in the eyes of the fair sex; his ankle and foot were
exquisitely small and delicately turned; of course he always wore shorts
with immaculate white cotton or silk stockings.

I shall not distinguish the two legs by the terms, the living and the
dead one--it would be as great an injustice to the carved as to the
calfed one--for the former had a graceful life, _sui generis_, of its
own.  I shall call them the pulsating and the gyrating leg, and now
proceed to describe how they bare along, in a manner so fascinating, the
living tabernacle of Mr Riprapton.  The pulsator, with pointed toe and
gently turned calf, would make a progress in a direct line, but as the
sole touched the ground, the heel would slightly rise and then fall, and
whilst you were admiring the undulating grace of the pulsator,
unobserved and silently you would find the gyrator had stolen a march
upon you, and actually taken the _pas_ of its five-toed brother.  One
leg marched and the other swam, in the prettiest semicircle imaginable.
When he stopped, the flourish of the gyrator was ineffable.  The
drumstick in the hand of the big black drummer of the first regiment of
foot-guards was nothing to it.  Whenever Riprapton bowed--and he was
always bowing--this flourish preluded and concluded the salutary bend.
It was making a leg indeed.

Many a time, both by ladies and gentlemen, he has been offered a cork
leg--but he knew better; had he accepted the treacherous gift he would
have appeared but as a lame man with two legs, now he was a perfect
Adonis with one.  I do believe, in my conscience, that Cupid often made
use of this wooden appendage when he wished to befriend him, instead of
one of his own arrows, for he was really a marvellous favourite with the
ladies.

Well, no sooner had my friend with the peg made himself a fixture in the
school, than he took me down, not a peg or two, but a good half-dozen.
He ridiculed my poetry--he undervalued my drawing--he hit me through my
most approved guards at my fencing--he beat me hollow at hopping, though
it must be confessed that I had the advantage with two legs; but he was
again my master at "all-fours."  He out-talked me immeasurably, he
out-bragged me most heroically, and out-lied me most inconceivably.
Knowing nothing either of Latin or Greek, they were beneath a
gentleman's notice, fit only for parsons and pedants; and he was too
patriotic to cast a thought away upon French.  As he was engaged for the
arithmetical and mathematical departments, it would have been perhaps as
well if he had known a little of algebra and Euclid; but, as from the
first day he honoured me with a strict though patronising friendship, he
made me soon understand that we were to share this department of
knowledge in common.  It was quite enough if one of the two knew
anything about the matter; besides, he thought that it improved me so
much to look over the problems and algebraical calculations of my
schoolfellows.

With this man I was continually measuring my strength; and as I
conceived that I found, myself woefully wanting, he proved an excellent
moral sedative to my else too rampant vanity.  Few, indeed, were the
persons who could feel themselves at ease under the withering sarcasms
of his intolerable insolence.  Much more to their astonishment than to
their instruction, he would very coolly, and the more especially when
ladies were present, correct the divinity of the parson, the pharmacy of
the doctor, and the law of the attorney; and with that placid air of
infallibility that carried conviction to all but his opponents.

Once, at a very large evening party, I heard him arguing strenuously,
and very triumphantly, against a veteran captain of a merchant-ship, who
had circumnavigated the world with Cook, that the degrees of longitude
were equal in length all over the world, be they more or less--for he
never descended to details--and that the further south you sailed the
hotter it grew, though the worthy old seaman pointed to what remained of
his nose, the end of which had been nipped off by cold, and consequent
mortification, in the anti-arctic regions.  As Riprapton flourished his
wooden index, in the midst of his brilliant peroration, he told the
honest seaman that he had not a _leg_ to stand upon; and all the ladies,
and some of the gentlemen, too, cried out with one accord, "O fie,
Captain Headman, now don't be so obstinate--surely you are quite
mistaken."  And the arch-master of impudence looked round with modest
suavity, and, in an audible whisper, assured the gentleman that sat next
to him, that Captain Headman's argument of the demolished proboscis went
for nothing, for that there were other causes equally efficacious as
cold and frost, for destroying gentlemen's noses.

In the sequel, this very learned tutor had to instruct me in navigation.
Nothing was too high or too low for him.  Had any persons wished to
have taken lessons in judicial astrology, Mr Riprapton would not have
refused the pupil.  Plausible ignorance will always beat awkward
knowledge, when the ignorant, which is generally the case, make up the
mass of the audience.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

TREATETH OF THE AMATIVENESS OF WOODEN MEMBERS, AND THE FOLLY OF VIRGIN
FRIGHTS--RALPH PUTTETH HIS THREAT OF VERSIFYING INTO ACTUAL EXECUTION,
FOR WHICH HE MAY BE THOUGHT WORTHY OF BEING EXECUTED.

Notwithstanding the superciliousness of my friendly assistant, I still
wrote verse, which was handed about the village as something wonderful.
As Riprapton doubted, or rather denied my rhyming prowess, at length I
was determined to try it upon himself, and he shortly gave me an
excellent opportunity for so doing.  Writers who pride themselves on
going deeply into the mysteries of causes and effects will tell you
that, in cold weather, people are apt to congregate about the fire.  Our
usher, and a circle of admiring pupils, were one day establishing the
truth of this profound theory.  The timbered man was standing in the
apex of the semicircle, his back to the fireplace, and his coat-tails
tucked up under his arms.  He was enjoying himself, and we were enjoying
him.  He was the hero of the tale he was telling us--indeed, he never
had any other hero than himself--and this tale was wonderful.  In the
energy of delivery, now the leg of wood would start up with an
egotistical flourish, and describe, with the leg of flesh, a
right-angled triangle, and then down would go the peg, and up the leg,
with the toe well pointed, whilst he greeted the buckle on his foot with
an admiring glance.

Whilst this was proceeding in the school-room, in the back-kitchen, or
rather breakfast-parlour, immediately below, in a very brown study,
there sate a very fair lady, pondering deeply over the virtues of
brimstone and treacle, and the most efficacious antidote to chilblains.
She was the second in command over the domestic economy of the school.
Unmarried, of course.  And ever and anon, as she plied the industrious
needle over the heel of the too fragmental stocking, the low melody
would burst unconsciously forth of, "Is there nobody coming to marry me?
Nobody coming to woo-oo-oo?"  Lady, not in vain was the burden of that
votive song.  There _was_ somebody coming.

Let us walk upstairs--Mr Rip is in the midst of his narrative--speaking
thus:--"And, young gentlemen, as I hate presumption, and can never
tolerate a coxcomb, perceiving that his lordship was going to be
insolent, up went thus my foot to chastise him, and down--" A crash! a
cry of alarm, and behold the chastiser of insolence, or at least, that
part of him that was built of wood, through the floor!

Monsieur Cherfeuil opening the door at this moment, and hearing a great
noise, and not perceiving him who ought to have repressed it, for the
boys standing round _what remained of him_ with us, it was concealed
from the worthy pedagogue, who exclaimed, "Vat a noise be here!  Vere
ist Mr Reepraaptong?"

"Just _stepped_ down _below_, to Miss Brocade, in the
breakfast-parlour," I replied.

"Ah, bah! _c'est un veritable chevalier aux dames_" said Monsieur
Cherfeuil, and slamming to the door, he hurried downstairs to reclaim
his too gallant representative.  We allowed Mr Riprapton to inhabit for
some time two floors at once, for he was, in his position, perfectly
helpless; that admired living leg of his stretched out at its length
upon the floor.  We soon, however, recovered him; but so much I cannot
say of his composure; for he never lost it.  I do not believe that he
was ever discountenanced in his life.

"Nobody coming to woo-oo-oo," sang Miss Brocade, below--down into her
lap come mortar, rubbish, and clouds of dust!  And, when the mist clears
away, there pointed down from above an inexplicable index.  Her senses
were bewildered; and being quite at a loss to comprehend the miracle,
she had nothing else to do but faint away.  When Monsieur Cherfeuil
entered, the simple and good-natured Gaul found his beloved manageress
apparently lifeless at his feet, covered with the _debris_ of his
ceiling, and the wooden leg of his usher slightly tremulous above him.
The fright, of course, was succeeded by a laugh, and the fracture by
repairs; and the whole by the following school-boy attempt at a copy of
verses, upon the never-to-be forgotten occasion:

  Ambitious usher! there are few
  Beyond you that can go,
  In double character, to woo
  The lovely nymph below.
  At once both god and man you ape
  To expedite your flame;
  And yet you find in either shape
  The failure just the same.

  Jove fell in fair Danae's lap
  In showers of glittering gold;
  By Jove! his Joveship was no sap;
  How could _you_ be so bold,
  To hope to have a like success,
  Most sapient ciphering master,
  And think a lady's lap to bless
  With show'rs of _lath_ and _plaster_?

  That you should fail, when you essay'd
  To act the god of thunder,
  In striving to enchant the maid,
  Was really no great wonder;
  But when as _man_ you wooing go,
  Pray let me ask you whether
  You had no better leg to show
  Than one of wood and leather?

These verses are exactly as I wrote them, and I trust the reader will
not think that I could now be guilty of such a line, as "To _expedite_
your flame," or of the pedantic school-boyism of calling a housekeeper
"nymph."  In fact, it is by the merest accident that I am now enabled to
give them in their genuine shape.  An old school-fellow, whom I have not
seen since the days of syntax, and whose name I had utterly forgotten,
enclosed them to me very lately.

However, such as they are, they were thought in a secluded village as
something extraordinary.  The usher himself affected to enjoy them
extremely.  They added greatly to my reputation, and what was of more
consequence to me, my invitations to dinner and to tea.  Truly, my
half-holidays were no longer my own.  I had become an object of
curiosity, and I hope and believe, in many instances, of affection.  I
was quite cured of my mendacious propensities, by the pain, the horror,
and the disgust that they had inflicted upon me at my last school.  I
invented no more mysteries and improbabilities for myself but my
good-natured friends did it amply for me.

Mrs Cherfeuil asserted she knew scarcely anything about me--indeed,
before I came to her school, she had hardly seen me four times during
the whole space of my existence.  She only knew that I was the child of
a lady that accident had thrown in her way, a lady whom she knew but
shortly, but for whom she acquired a friendship as strong as it proved
short; that, from mere sympathy she had been induced to stand godmother
to me; that she had never felt authorised, nor did she inquire into the
particulars of my birth.  Of course, there was a mystery attached to it,
but to which she had no clue; however, she knew, that at least on one
side, I came of good, nay, very distinguished parentage.  But this, her
departed friend assured her, and that most solemnly, that whoever should
stigmatise me as illegitimate, would do me a grievous wrong.

Here was a subject to be canvassed in a gossiping village!  Conjecture
was at its busy work.  I was quite satisfied with the place that the
imaginations of my hospitable patrons had given me in the social scale.
Nor in the country only did I experience this friendly feeling; most of
my vacations were spent in town, at the houses of the parents of some of
my schoolfellows.  I was now made acquainted with the scenic glories of
the stage.  I fought my way through crowds of fools, to see a child
perform the heroic _Coriolanus_, the philosophical _Hamlet_, and the
venerable and magnificent _Lear_.  Master Betty was at the height of his
reputation; and the dignified and classical Kemble had, for a time, to
veil his majestic countenance from the play-going eye.  Deeply
infatuated, indeed, were the Mollycoddles with their Betty.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

RALPH DESCRIBETH A RARE CHARACTER, A NOBLE AND A GOOD MAN--HE GOETH TO
FISH WITHOUT A ROD, AND SUFFERETH MORE THAN FIFTY RODS COULD INFLICT,
AND IS NOT RECONCILED TO THE HONOUR OF THE SUN RIDING HIM A PICK-A-BACK.

It is now my duty, as well as my greatest pleasure, to put on record the
true kindness, the considerate generosity, and the well-directed
munificence of a family, a parallel to which can only be found in our
soil--a superior nowhere.  By the heads of this family I was honoured
with particular notice.  Perhaps they never gave a thought about my
poetical talent, or the wonderful progress that my master said that I
had made in my classics, and my wooden-legged tutor in my mathematics.
Their kind patronage sprang from higher motives,--from benevolence; they
had heard that I had been forsaken--their own hearts told them that the
sunshine of kindness must be doubly grateful to the neglected, and,
indeed, to me they were very kind.

Perhaps it may be thought that I had a quick eye to the failings and the
ridiculous points of those with whom chance threw me in contact.  I am
sure that I was equally susceptible to the elevation of character that
was offered to me in the person of Mr ---, the respected father of the
family of which I have just made mention.  As the noble class to which
he belonged, and of which he was the first ornament, are fast
degenerating, I will endeavour to make a feeble portrait of a man, that,
at present, finds but too few imitators, and that could never have found
a superior.  He was one of those few merchant princes, who are really,
in all things, princely.  Whilst his comprehensive mind directed the
commerce of half a navy, and sustained in competence and happiness
hundreds at home, and thousands abroad, the circle immediately around
him felt all the fostering influence of his well-directed liberality, as
if all the energies of his powerful genius had been concentrated in the
object of making those, only about him, prosperous.  He was born for the
good of the many, as much as for the elevation of the individual.
Society had need of him, and it confessed it.  When its interests were
invaded by a short-sighted policy, it called upon his name to advocate
its violated rights, and splendidly did he obey the call.  He understood
England's power and greatness, for he had assisted in increasing it; he
knew in what consisted her strength, and in that strength he was strong,
and in his own.

As a senator, he was heard in the assembled councils of his nation, and
those who presided over her mighty resources and influenced her
destinies, that involved those of the world, listened to his warning
counsel, were convinced that his words were the dictates of wisdom, and
obeyed.  This is neither fiction nor fulsome panegyric.  The facts that
I narrate have become part of our history; and I would narrate them more
explicitly, did I not fear to wound the susceptibilities of his still
existing and distinguished family.  How well he knew his own station,
and preserved, with the blandest manners, the true dignity of it!
Though renowned in parliament for his eloquence, at the palace for his
patriotic loyalty, and in the city for his immense wealth, in the
blessed circle, that he truly made social, there was a pleasing
simplicity and joyousness of manner, that told at once the fascinated
guest, that though he might earn honours and distinction abroad, it was
at home that he looked for happiness--and, uncommon as such things are
in this repining world--there, I verily believe, he found it.  His was a
happy lot: he possessed a lady in his wife, who at once shared his
virtues and adorned them.  The glory he won was reflected sweetly upon
her, and she wore with dignity, and enhanced those honours, that his
probity, his talents, and his eloquence had acquired.  At the time of
which I am speaking, he was blessed with daughters, that even in their
childhood had made themselves conspicuous by their accomplishments,
amiability of disposition, and gracefulness of manners, and plagued with
sons who were full of wildness, waggishness, and worth.

It is too seldom the case that the person accords with the high
qualification of the mind.  Mr --- was a singular and felicitous
exception to this mortifying rule.  His deportment was truly dignified,
his frame well-knit and robust, and his features were almost classically
regular.  His complexion was florid, and the expression of his
countenance serene, yet highly intelligent.  No doubt but that his
features were capable of a vast range of expression; but, as I never saw
them otherwise than beaming with benevolence, or sparkling with wit, I
must refer to Master James, or Master Frank, for the description of the
austerity of his frown, or the awfulness of his rebuke.

This gentleman's two elder sons, at the time to which I allude, had
already made their first step in the world.  James was making a tour of
the West Indies, the Continent being closed against him; and Frank had
already begun his harvest of laurels in the navy under a distinguished
officer.  The younger sons, my juniors, were my school-fellows.  Master
Frank was two or three years my senior, and before he went to sea, not
going to the same school as myself, we got together only during the
vacations; when, notwithstanding my prowess, he would fag me desperately
at cricket, outswim me on the lake and out-cap me at making Latin
verses.  However, I consoled myself by saying, "As I grow older all this
superiority will cease."  But when he returned, after his first cruise,
glittering in his graceful uniform, my hopes and my ambition sank below
zero.  He was already a man, and an officer--I a schoolboy, and nothing
else.

Of course, he had me home to spend the day with him--and a day we had of
it.  It was in the middle of summer, and grapes were ripe only in such
well-regulated hothouses as were Mr ---'s.  We did not enact the
well-known fable as it is written--the grapes were not _too_ sour--nor
did we repeat the fox's ill-natured and sarcastic observation, "That
they were only fit for blackguards."  We found them very good for
gentlemen--though, I fear, Mr ---'s dessert some time after owed more
to Pomona than to Bacchus for its embellishments.  And the fine
mulberry-tree on the lawn--we were told that it must be shaken, and we
shook it: if it still exist, I'll answer for it, it has never been so
shaken since.

The next day we went fishing.  Though our bodies were not yet fully
grown, we were persons of enlarged ideas; and to suppose that we, two
mercurial spirits, could sit like a couple of noodles, each with a long
stick in our hands, waiting for the fish to pay us a visit, was the
height of absurdity.  No, we were rather too polite for that; and as it
was we, and not the gentlemen of the finny tribe that sought
acquaintance, we felt it our duty as gentlemen to visit them.  We
carried our politeness still further, and showed our good breeding in
endeavouring to accommodate ourselves to the tastes and habits of those
we were about to visit.  "Do at Rome as the Romans do," is the essence
of all politeness.  As our friends were accustomed to be _in
naturalibus--vulgice_, stark naked, we adopted their Adamite fashion,
and, undressing, in we plunged.  Our success was greater with the finny,
than was that of any exquisite with the fair tribe.  We captivated and
captured pailfuls.  We drove our entertainers into the narrow creeks in
shoals, and then with a net extended between us, we had the happiness of
introducing them into the upper air.  The sport was so good, that we
were induced to continue it for some hours; but whilst we were preparing
for a multitudinous fry, the sun was actually all the while enjoying a
most extensive broil.  Our backs, and mine especially, became one
continuous blister.  Whilst in the water, and in the pursuit, I did not
regard it--indeed, we were able to carry home the trophies of our
success--and then--I hastened to bed.  My back was fairly peeled and
repeeled.  I performed involuntarily Mr Saint John's curative process
to a miracle.  No wonder that I've been ever since free from all, even
the slightest symptoms of pulmonary indisposition.  However, my
excruciating torments gained me two things--experience, and a new skin.

When I had fresh skinned myself--and it took me more than a week to do
it--I found that my fellow-labourer had flown.  I heard that he had
suffered almost as severely as myself, but, as he looked upon himself as
no vulgar hero, he was too manly to complain, and next Sunday he
actually went to church, whilst I lay in bed smarting with pain--yet I
strongly suspect that a new sword, that he had that day to hang by his
side, made him regardless to the misery of his back.

That Sunday fortnight I dined with Mr ---, and, of course, he did me
the honour to converse upon our fishing exploit, and its painful
consequences.

"So, Master Rattlin," said the worthy gentleman, "you think that you and
Frank proved yourselves excellent sportsmen?"

"Yes, sir," said I; "I will answer for the sports, if you will only be
pleased to answer for the men."

"Well said, my little man!" said Mrs --- to me, smiling kindly.

"You see, sir, with all submission, I've gained the verdict of the lady;
and that's a great deal."

"But I think you lost your hide.  Was your back very sore?" said my
host, encouragingly.

"O dear--very sore indeed, sir!  Mrs Cherfeuil said that it looked
quite like a newly-cut steak."

"O it did, did it? but Frank's was not much better," said the senator,
turning to his lady.

"Indeed it was not," said she, compassionately.

"Very well," said Mr ---, very quietly, "I'll tell you this, Master
Rattlin, sportsmen as you think yourselves, you and Frank, after all,
whatever you both were when you went into the lake, you turned out two
_Johnny Raws_."

"Why, Master Rattlin," said the lady, "Mr --- uses you worse than the
sun--that did but scorch--but he roasts you."

"No wonder, madam, as he considers me _raw_," replied I.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

REMINISCENCES--A FRIEND FOUND AND A LINE LOST--RALPH MAKES A NEW
ACQUAINTANCE AND A HEARTY SUPPER, BOTH OF WHICH DO HIM MUCH GOOD.

Openly admired abroad, and secretly cherished by a love, the more
intense because concealed, at home, the course of my days was as happy
as the improvement in the various branches of my education was rapid.
Nor was I wholly unnoticed by men who have since stood forward, honoured
characters, in the van of those who have so nobly upheld the fame of
England.  The bard who began his career in the brightest fields of Hope,
and whose after-fame has so well responded to his auspicious
commencement, read many portions of my boyish attempts, and pronounced
them full of promise, and the author possessed of _nous_.  It was the
term he himself used, and that is the only reason why I have recorded
it.  Indeed, this deservedly great man was, in some sense, my
schoolfellow, for he came in the evening to learn French of Monsieur
Cherfeuil.  He was then engaged to translate an epic, written by one of
the Buonapartes, into English verse.  I believe that engagement never
was carried into effect, notwithstanding the erudite pains Mr --- took
to qualify himself to perform it successfully.  No man could have
laboured more to make himself master of the niceties of the Gallic
idiom, and the right use of its very doubtful subjunctive.

At the time to which I allude, the inspired author wore a wig--not that
his then age required one.  Perhaps, the fervid state of his brain, like
a hidden volcano, burnt up the herbage above--perhaps, his hair was
falling off from the friction of his laurels--perhaps growing
prematurely grey from the workings of his spirit; but without venturing
upon any more conjectures, we may safely come to the conclusion, that
the hair that God gave him did not please him so well as that which he
bought of the perruquiers.  Since we cannot be satisfied with the
causes, we must be satisfied with the fact--he wore a wig; and, in the
distraction of mental perplexity, when Monsieur Cherfeuil was essaying
to get the poet out of the absent into the conditional mood, the man of
verse, staring abstractedly upon the man of tense, would thrust his hand
under his peruke, and rub, rub, rub his polished scalp, which all the
while effused a divine ichor--(poets never perspire)--and, when he was
gently reminded that his wig was a little awry towards the left side, he
would pluck it, resentfully, equally as much awry on the right; and
then, to punish the offending and displacing hand, he would commence
gnawing off the nails of his fingers, rich with the moisture from above.
We have recorded this little personal trait, because it may be valuable
to the gentleman's future biographers; and also because it is a
convincing proof to the illiterate and the leveller, that head-work is
not such easy, sofa-enjoyed labour, as is commonly supposed; and,
finally, that the great writer's habit, _vivos ungues rodere_, proves
him to be, tooth and nail, _homo ad unguem factus_.

I feel, also, that there are many other persons to whom I ought to pay a
passing tribute of gratitude for much kindness shown to me; but as my
first duty is to my readers, I must not run the risk of wearying them
even by the performance of a virtue.  But there was one, to omit the
mention of whom would be, on my part, the height of ingratitude, and, as
concerns the public, something very like approaching to a fraud; for by
the implied contract between it and me, I am, in this my autobiography,
bound to supply them with the very best materials, served up to them in
my very best manner.  The gentleman whom I am going to introduce to the
notice of my readers was the purest personation of benevolence that
perhaps ever existed.  His countenance was a glowing index of peace with
himself, good-will to man, and confidence in the love of God.  There was
within him that divine sympathy for all around him, that brings man, in
what man can alone emulate the angels, so near to his Creator.  But with
all this goodness of soul there was nothing approaching to weakness, or
even misjudging softness; he had seen, had known, and had struggled with
the world.  He left the sordid strife triumphantly, and bore away with
him, if not a large fortune, a competence; and what also was of
infinitely more value; that "peace of mind which passeth all
understanding."

Mr R--- was, in his person, stout, tall, florid in his countenance,
and, for a man past fifty, the handsomest that I have ever beheld.  I do
not mean to say that his features possessed a classical regularity, but
that soul of benevolence transpired through, and was bound up with them,
that had a marble bust fitly representing them been handed down to
posterity from some master-hand of antiquity, we should have reverenced
it with awe as something beyond human nature, and gazed on it at the
same time with love, as being so dearly and sweetly human.  These are
not the words of enthusiasm, but a mere narrative of fact.  He wore his
own white and thin hair, that was indeed so thin, that the top of his
head was quite bald.  A snuff-coloured coat, cut in the olden fashion,
knee-breeches, white lamb's-wool stockings, and shoes of rather high
quarters, gave a little of the primitive to his highly respectable
appearance.

I first saw him as he was pretending to angle in the river that runs
through the village.  Immediately I had gazed upon his benignant
countenance, I went and sat down by him.  I could not help it.  At once
I understood the urbanity and the gentlemanliness that must have existed
in the patriarchal times.  There was no need of forms between us.  He
made room for me as a son, and I looked up to him as to a father.  He
smiled upon me so encouragingly, and so confidently, that I found myself
resting my arm upon his knee, with all the loving familiarity of
long-tried affection.  From that first moment of meeting until his heart
lay cold in the grave--and cold the grave alone could make it--a
singular, unswerving, and, on my part, an absorbing love was between us.
We remained for a space in this caressing position, in silence; my eyes
now drinking in the rich hues of the evening, now the mental expression
of the "good old man."  "Oh! it is very beautiful," said I, thinking as
much of his mild face as of the gorgeousness of the sky above me.

"And do you _feel it_?" said he.  "Yes, I see you do; by your glistening
eyes and heightened colour."

"I feel very happy," I replied; "and have just now two very, very
strange wishes, and I don't know which I wish for most."

"What are they, my little friend?"

"O! you will laugh at me so if I tell you."

"No, I will not, indeed.  I never laugh at anybody."

"Ah, I was almost sure of that.  Well, I was wishing when I looked up
into the sky, that I could fly through and through those beautiful
clouds like an eagle; and when I looked at you, I wished that I were
just such a good-natured old gentleman."

"Come, come, there is more flattery than good sense in your wishes.
Your first is unreasonable, and your second will come upon you but too
soon."

"I did not mean to flatter you," I replied, looking proudly; "for, I
would neither be an eagle nor an old man, longer than those beautiful
clouds last, and the warm sunset makes your face look so-so--"

"Never mind--you shall save your fine speeches for the young ladies."

"But I've got some for the gentlemen, too: and there's one running in my
head just now."

"I should like to hear it."

"Should you?  Well, this fine evening put me in mind of it; it is Mrs
Barbauld's Ode."  And then putting myself into due attitude, I mouthed
it through, much to my own, and still more to Mr R's satisfaction.
That was a curious, a simple, and yet a cheering scene.  My listener was
swaying to and fro, with the cadences of the poetry; I with passionate
fervour ranting before him; and, in the meantime, his rod and line,
unnoticed by either, were navigating peacefully, yet rapidly, down the
river.  When I had concluded, his tackle was just turning an eddy far
down below us, and the next moment was out of sight.

Without troubling ourselves much about the loss, shortly after we were
seen hand in hand, walking down the village in earnest conversation.  I
went home with him--I shared with him and his amiable daughters a light
and early supper of fruit and pastry; and such was the simultaneous
affection that sprang up between us--so confiding was it in its nature,
and so little worldly, that I had gained the threshold, and was about
taking my leave, ere it occurred to him to ask, or myself to say, who I
was, and where I resided.

From that evening, excepting when employed in my studies, we were almost
inseparable.  I told him my strange story; and he seemed to love me for
it a hundred-fold more.  He laid all the nobility, and even the princes
of the blood, under contribution, to procure me a father.  He came to
the conclusion firmly, and at once, that Mrs Cherfeuil was my mother.
Oh! this mystery made him superlatively happy.  And when he came to the
knowledge of my poetical talents, he was really in an ecstasy of
delight.  He rhymed himself.  He gave me subjects--he gave me advice--he
gave me emendations and interpolations.  He re-youthed himself.  In many
a sequestered nook in the beautiful vicinity of the village, we have
sat, each with his pencil and paper in his hand--now ranting, now
conversing--and in his converse the instruction I received was
invaluable.  He has confirmed me in the doctrine of the innate goodness
of human nature.  Since the period to which I am alluding, I have seen
much of villainy.  I have been the victim, as well as the witness of
treachery.  I have been oftentimes forced to associate with vice in
every shape; and yet when in misery, when oppressed, when writhing under
tyranny, I have been sometimes tempted to curse my race, the thought of
the kind, the good old man, has come over me like a visitation from
heaven, and my malediction has been changed into a prayer, if not into a
blessing.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

A DISASTER BY WATER IS THE FIRST CAUSE OF ALL RALPH'S FUTURE DISASTERS
UPON IT--HE GETS WITH HIS TUTOR OUT OF HIS DEPTH, IN LATITUDE AND
LONGITUDE; AND FINDS HIMSELF RIVALLED BY THE MAN WITH THE PEG.

Of course, Mr R sought and soon gained the friendship of Mrs Cherfeuil
and then he commenced operations systematically.  Now he would endeavour
to take her by surprise--now to overcome by entreaty--and then to entrap
by the most complex cross questions.  He would be, by turns, tender,
gallant, pathetic, insinuating; but all was of no avail--her secret,
whatever it was, was firmly secured in her own bosom.  With well-acted
simplicity she gave my worthy friend the same barren account about me
that was at the service of all interrogators.

What poems did not Mr R and myself write together--how he prophesied my
future greatness, and how fervently he set about to convince anyone of
the mistake, who could not see in me the future glory of the age!  The
good man!  His amiable _self-deception_ was to him the source of the
purest happiness; and never was happiness more deserved.  Even at that
early age, I often could not help smiling at his simplicity, that all
the while he was doing his best to make me one of the vainest and most
egregious coxcombs, by his unfeigned wonder at some puny effort of my
puny muse, and by his injudicious praises; he would lecture me
parentally, by the hour, upon the excellence of humility, and the
absolute necessity of modesty, as a principal ingredient to make a great
character.

However, I had my correction at home, in my wooden-legged preceptor; if
I returned from R's, in my own imagination, like poor Gil Blas, the
eighth wonder of the world, he would soon, in his own refined
phraseology, convince me that I was "no great shakes."  Being now nearly
sixteen, I began to make conjectures upon my future destiny; and a
sorrowful accident at once determined in what line I should make my
ineffectual attempts upon fame.

I have mentioned a noble piece of water that lay adjacent to the school.
It was during the holidays, when the rest of the young gentlemen were
at their respective homes, that I, accompanied by some young
acquaintances who resided in the village, repaired to the water to swim.
It was a fine summer afternoon, and both Mr and Mrs Cherfeuil were in
town.  There was a little boy named Fountain, also staying with me at
school during the vacation, and he too stole after us unperceived, and
when I and my companions had swam to middle of the lake, the imprudent
little fellow also stripped and went into the water.  There were some
idle stragglers looking on, and when I was far, very far from the sport,
the fearful shout came along the level surface, of "Help, help, he is
drowning!" and with dreadful distinctness, as if the voice had been
shrieked into my very ears, I heard the poor lad's bubbling and
smothered cry of "Ralph Rattlin!"  Poor fellow, he thought there was
safety wherever I was, for I had often borne him over the lake out of
his depth, as I taught him to swim, at which art he was still too
imperfect.  I immediately turned to the place, and strove, and buffeted,
and panted; but the distance was great, and, though a rapid and most
expert swimmer, when I arrived at the spot that the lookers-on
indicated, not a circle, not a ruffle appeared, to show where a human
soul was struggling beneath, to free itself from its mortal clay.  Four
or five times I dived, and stayed below the water with desperate
pertinacity, and ploughed up the muddy bottom, but they had pointed out
to me the wrong spot.

Finding my efforts useless, naked as I was, with the fleetness of a
greyhound, I started into the village and gave the alarm, and
immediately that I saw the people running to the lake, I was there
before them, and again diving.  Mrs ---, the lady of the M.P. whom I
have before mentioned, who was always the foremost in every work of
humanity, was soon on the banks, accompanied by many of the most
respectable inhabitants in the vicinity.  Mrs ---, who never lost her
presence of mind, immediately suggested that a boat that lay on the
neighbouring river, and which belonged to the landlord of the principal
inn, should be conveyed, on men's shoulders, across the space of land
that divided one water from the other.  The landlord refused,--yes,
actually refused; but Mrs ---, who, from her station, and her many
virtues, possessed a merited and commanding influence in the place,
ordered the boat to be taken by force, and she was promptly and
cheerfully obeyed.  Whilst this was going forward, I was astonishing
everybody by the length of time I stayed underneath the water; and a
last effort almost proved fatal to me, for, when I arose, the blood
gushed from my mouth and nose, and, when I got on shore, I felt so weak,
that I was obliged to be assisted in dressing my self.  The boat now
began to sweep the bottom with ropes, but this proved as ineffectual to
recover the body as were my own exertions.

It was the next day before it was found, and then it was brought up by a
Newfoundland dog, very far from the spot in which we had searched for
it.  Had the frightened spectators, who stood on the shore, shown me
correctly where the lad had disappeared, I have no doubt but that I
should have brought the body in time for resuscitation.  To persons who
have not seen what can be done by those who make water, in a manner,
their own element, my boyish exertions seemed almost miraculous.  My
good old friend was present, betraying a curious mixture of fear and
admiration; big as I then was, he almost carried me in his arms home,
that is, to the school-house, and there we found all in confusion: Mrs
Cherfeuil had just arrived, and hearing that one of the boys was
drowned, had given one painful shriek and fainted.  When we came into
the room she was still in a state of insensibility, and, as we stood
around, she slowly opened her eyes; but the moment that they became
conscious of my presence, she leaped up with frantic joy, and strained
me in her arms, and then, laying her head upon my shoulder, burst into a
passion of tears.  Mr R cast upon me a most triumphant smile: and, as
he led me away from the agitated lady, she took a silent farewell of me,
with a look of intense fondness, and a depth of ineffable felicity,
which I hope will be present to me in my dying hour, for assuredly it
will make light the parting pang.

This affair changed the whole current of Mr R's ideas, and altered his
plans for me.  I was no longer to be the future poet-laureate; I was no
more enticed to sing great deeds, but to do them.  The sword was to
displace the pen, the hero the poet.  Verse was too effeminate, and
rhyme was severely interdicted, and to be forgiven only when it was
produced by accident.

He was some time before he brought Mrs Cherfeuil over to his opinions.
It was in vain that she protested the direction of my fate was in other
hands, he would not listen to it for a moment; he was obstinate, and I
suppose, by what occurred, he was in the right.  He declared that the
navy was the only profession that deserved my spirit and my abilities.
This declaration, perhaps, was not unacceptable at head-quarters,
wherever they might have been.  For myself, I was nothing loath, and the
gallant bearing and the graceful uniform of my gallant young friend,
Frank ---, who had already seen some hard fighting, added fresh
stimulants to my desires.  My friend Riprapton had now the enviable task
to impart to me the science of navigation; and, with his peculiar
notions of longitude and latitude, there can be no question as to the
merits of the tuition that I received from that very erudite person.

Shortly after I had commenced navigation under his auspices--or, more
properly speaking, that he was forced to attend to it a little under
mine--the harmony of our friendship was broken by a quarrel, yes, a
heart-embroiling quarrel--and, strange to say, about a lady.  I concede
to this paragon of ushers that he was a general favourite with the sex.
I was never envious of him.  All the world knows that I ever did
sufficient honour to his attractions,--I acknowledged always the graces
that appertained to his wooden progression--but still, he was not
omnipotent.  Wilkes, that epitome of all manner of ugliness, often
boasted that he was only an hour behind the handsomest man that ever
existed, so far as regarded his position with the fair.  Rip was but
twenty-five minutes and a fraction.  In ten minutes he would talk the
generality of women into a good opinion of themselves--an easy matter,
some may think, for the ladies have one ready made; but it is a
different thing from having it and daring to own it.  In ten minutes he
would make his listener, by some act or word, avow her opinion of her
own excellence; in ten more he would bring her to the same opinion as
regarded himself; and the remaining five he used to occupy with his
declaration of love, for he was very rapid in his execution,--and the
thing was done, for if he had not made a conquest he chronicled one--and
that was the same thing.  He looked more for the glory than the fruition
of his passions.  In one respect, he followed Chesterfield's advice with
wonderful accuracy; he hazarded a declaration of love to every woman
between sixteen and sixty, a little under and over also; for, with his
lordship, he came to the very pertinent conclusion, that, if the act
were not taken as a sincerity, it would be as a compliment.  This
ready-made adorer for every new-comer was as jealous as he was universal
in his attachments.

Let the imaginative think, and, running over with their mind's eye all
the beautiful sculptures of antiquity, endeavour to picture to
themselves a personation of that commanding goddess that the ancients
venerated under the title of Juno.  The figure must be tall, in
proportion faultless, in majesty unrivalled, in grace enchanting; all
the outlines of the form must be full, yet not swelling, and as far
removed from the modern notions of _en bon point_ as possible; let us
add to these the bust of Venus ere she weaned her first-born, the winged
boy-god; and then we may have an adequate idea of the figure of Mrs
Causand.  Her face was of that style of beauty that those women who
think themselves delicate are pleased to slander under the name of
bold,--a style of beauty, however, that all men admire, and most men
like.  Thirty-five years had only written in a stronger hand those
attractions which must have undergone every phase of loveliness, and
which now, without appearing matronly, seemed stamped with the signs of
a long-enduring maturity.  The admiration she excited was general: as
she passed, men paused to look upon her, and women whispered to each
other behind her back.  Never, till this paragon had made her
appearance, had I heard of ladies wearing supposititious portions of the
human frame--now I found that envy, or the figure-maker, had improved
almost every member of Mrs Causand's body.  It was voted by all the
female scandal of the village, that such perfection could not be
natural; but, since if all were true that was said upon the subject, the
object of their criticism must have been as artificial as Mr
Riprapton's left leg, and she must have been nothing more than an
animated lay-figure, I began to disbelieve these assertions, the more
especially as the lady herself was as easy under them as she was in
every gesture and motion.  Whenever she made her appearance, so did my
old friend Mr R; he entertained a platonic attachment for her, and that
the more strongly, as each visit enabled him to entertain every one who
would listen to him, with a long story about the king of Prussia.  And
every lady expects attention and politeness as a matter of course,
equally as a matter of course did she expect the assiduities and some
manifestation, even stronger than gallantry, and treated it merely as a
matter of course.  Really, without an hyperbole, she was a woman to whom
an appearance of devotion might be excusable, and looked upon more as a
tribute to the abstract spirit of beauty and its divine Creator, than as
a sensual testimony to the individual.

Her first appearance even silenced the hitherto dauntless loquacity of
Rip--for half a minute.  But he made fearful amends for this involuntary
display of modesty afterwards.  _Secundum artem_, he opened all the
batteries of his fascination upon her.  He rolled his eyes at her with a
violence approaching to agony; he bowed; he displayed in every possible
and captivating attitude his one living leg--but his surpassing strength
was in the adulation of his serpent tongue--and she bore it all so
stoically; she would smile upon him when he made a good hit, as upon an
actor on the boards--she would, at times, even condescend to improve
some of his compliments upon herself; and when her easy manners had
perchance overset him at the very _debut_ of one of his finest speeches,
she would begin it again for him; taking up the dropped sentence, and
then settle herself into a complacent attitude for listening.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

EVIDENCES OF GOOD TASTE IN FAVOUR OF MASTER RALPH--JEALOUSY USHERS IN
REVENGE, REVENGE RETALIATION, WHICH HE IS COMPELLED TO CHRONICLE ON THE
USHER'S FACE, AND WHAT PUNISHMENT THEREUPON ENSUED.

When Mrs Causand came to Stickenham, she made universal jubilee.  The
orderly routine of scholastic life had no longer place.  She almost
ruined Riprapton in clean linen, perfumes, and Windsor soap.  Cards and
music enlivened every evening; and the games she played were those of
the fashion of the day, and she always played high, and always won.  Her
ascendancy over Mrs Cherfeuil was complete.  The latter was treated
with much apparent affection, but still with the airs of a patroness.  I
do not know that the handsome schoolmistress lent her money, for I do
not think that she stood in need of it; but I feel assured that her
whole property was at her disposal.  She stood in awe of her.  _She knew
her secret_.

With his usual acuteness, my good old friend discovered this
immediately; and he began to woo her also, more for her secret than for
her heart.  But she was a perfect mystery--I never knew till her death
who she was.  Her residence was at no time mentioned, and I believe that
no one knew it but the lady of the house and myself, when Mrs Causand
herself gave it me at the eve of my departing for my ship.  She came
without notice, stayed as long as she chose, and departed with an equal
disregard to ceremony.

She loved me to a folly.  She would hold me at her knees by the hour,
and scan every feature of my countenance, as Ophelia said of Hamlet, "as
she would draw it."  And then she smiled and looked grave, and sighed
and laughed; and I, like a little fool, set all these symptoms of
perturbation down to my own unfledged attractions, whilst during their
perusal she would often exclaim, "So like him!--so like him!"  I do not
know whether I ought to mention it, for it is a censorious world; but,
as I cannot enter into, or be supposed to understand, the feelings of a
fine woman of thirty-five caressing a lad of fifteen, I have a right to
suppose all such demonstrations of fondness highly virtuous and purely
maternal; though, perhaps, to the fair bestower a little pleasant!  I
found them exquisitely so.  I bore all her little blandishments with a
modest pleasure; for, observing the high respect in which she was
generally held, I looked upon these testimonials of affection as a great
honour, sought them with eagerness, and remembered them with gratitude.

Manner is perhaps more seducing than mere beauty; but where they are
allied, the captivation is irresistible.  That subduing alliance was to
be found, in perfection, in the person of Mrs Causand.  As she always
dressed up to the very climax of the fashion, possessed a great variety
of rich bijouterie, and never came down to us in the stage, but always
posted it, I concluded that she was in very easy circumstances.

I cannot speak as to the extent of her mental powers, as her surface was
so polished and dazzling, that the eye neither could nor wished to look
more deeply into her.  I believe that she had no other accomplishment
but that gorgeous cloak for all deficiency--an inimitable manner.  Her
remarks were always shrewd, and replete with good sense; her language
was choice; her style of conversation varying, sometimes of that joyous
nature that has all the effect, without the pedantry of wit, upon the
hearer, and, at times, she could be really quite energetic.  This is,
after all, but an imperfect description of one who took upon herself the
task of forming my address, revising my gait after the dancing-master,
and making me to look the gentleman.

This person quite destroyed Riprapton's equanimity.  During her three or
four first visits he was all hope and animation.  She permitted him, as
she did everybody else, as far as words were concerned, to make love as
fast as he pleased.  But beyond this, even his intrepid assurance could
not carry him.  So his hope and animation gradually gave place to
incertitude and chagrin; and then, by a very natural transition, he fell
into envy and jealousy.  Though but fifteen, I was certainly taller than
the man who thought he honoured me by considering me as his rival.
Though affairs remained in this unsatisfactory state so far as he was
concerned, for certain very valid reasons he had not yet chosen to vent
upon me any access of his spleen.  But this procrastination of actual
hostilities was terminated in the following manner:--

Mrs Causand and I were standing, one fine evening, lovingly, side by
side, in the summer-house that overhung the river at the bottom of the
garden.  Mr Riprapton, washed, brushed, and perfumed--for the
scholastic duties of the day were over--was standing directly in front
of us, enacting most laboriously the agreeable, smiling with a sardonic
grin, and looking actually yellow with spite, in the midst of his
complimentary grimaces.  As Mrs Causand and I stood contemplating the
tranquil and beautiful scene, trying to see as little of the person
before us as possible, one of her beautiful arms hung negligently over
my shoulder, and now she would draw me with a fond pressure to her side,
and now her exquisite hand would dally with the ringlets on my forehead,
and then its velvety softness would crumple up and indent my blushing
cheek, that burned certainly more with pleasure than with bashfulness.
I cannot say that the usher bore all this very stoically, but he
betrayed his annoyance by his countenance only.  His speech was as bland
as ever.  His trials were not yet over: at some very silly remark of
mine the joyous widow pressed some half-dozen rapid kisses on the cheek
that was glowing so near her own.  Either this act emboldened Riprapton,
or he egregiously mistook her character, and judged that a mere
voluptuary stood before him, for he immediately went on the vacant side
and endeavoured to possess himself of her hand.

Face, neck, and arms flushed up, in one indignant crimson of the most
unsophisticated anger I ever beheld.  She threw herself back with a
perceptible shudder, as if she had come unexpectedly in contact with
something cold, or dead, or unnatural.

"Mr Riprapton," she exclaimed, after a space of real emotion, "I have
never yet boxed the ears of a gentleman; but had you been one, I should
most assuredly have so far forgotten my feminine dignity, as to have
expressed my deep resentment by a blow.  I cannot touch anything so
mean.  While you confined your persecutions to words, I bore with it.
Sir, I only speak from my own sensations; but judging by these, any
female who could abide your touch without repugnance, must have long
lost all womanly feelings: and now that we are upon this subject, let me
give you a little friendly advice.  When you are permitted to sit at the
same table with ladies, and wish by the means of your feet to establish
a secret intercourse with anyone, take care, in future, that you do not
use the wooden leg.  Females may be more tender in their toes than in
their hearts.  You may go, sir; and remember, if you wish to preserve
your station in this house--know it.  When you behave as a gentleman,
that title may be conceded to you: but the moment your conduct is
inconsistent with that character, those around you will not forget that
you are no more than a hired servant, and but one degree above a menial.
Here, Ralph," she continued, giving me the violated hand, "cleanse it
from that fellow's profanation."  I brought it to my mouth very
gallantly, and covered it with kisses.

For the first time, I saw my usher-friend not only confounded, but dumb
with consternation, and his whitened face became purple even into the
depths of his deep pock-marks, with an emotion that no courtesy could
characterise as amiable.  He moved off with none of his usual grace; but
retired like a very common place wooden-legged man, in a truly miserable
dot-and-go-one style.  What Mrs Causand and I said to each other on the
subject, when she went and seated herself in the summer-house to recover
from her excitement, would, I am sure, have formed the groundwork and
arguments of twelve good moral essays; but unfortunately I have
forgotten everything about it, except that we stayed there till not only
the dews had fallen upon the flowers, but the shades of evening upon the
dews.

As my stay at school was to be so short, I was treated more as a
familiar friend by all, than as a pupil.  I stayed up with the family,
and took tea and supper with them.  Rip made no appearance the evening
after his lecture, but retired to his chamber much indisposed.  While
Mrs Causand was on her visit, I always breakfasted with her
_tete-a-tete_ in the little parlour, whose French windows opened upon
the garden; and it was on those occasions that I found her most amusing.
She knew everyone and everything connected with fashionable life.
Private and piquant, and I am sure authentic, anecdotes of every noble
family, she possessed in an exhaustless profusion.  Nor was this
knowledge confined to the nobility: she knew more of the sayings and
doings of some of the princes of the blood than any other person living,
out of their domestic circle, and she knew many things with which that
circle were never acquainted.  I am sure she could have made splendid
fortunes for twelve fashionable novel-writers.

I had breakfasted with Mrs Causand in the morning after Rip's
discomfiture, and then went to prosecute my studies in the schoolroom.
This was the first time that my tutor and I had met since his rebuff.
Monsieur Cherfeuil had not yet taken his place at his desk.  As I passed
the assistant who assisted me so little, I gave him my usual smile of
greeting; but his countenance, instead of the good-humoured return, was
black as evil passions could make it.  However, I paid but little
attention to this unfriendly demonstration, and, taking my seat, began,
as I was long privileged to do, to converse with my neighbour.

"Silence!" vociferated the man in authority.  I conversed on.  "Silence!
I say."

Not supposing that I was included in this authoritative demand, or not
caring if I were, I felt no inclination to suspend the exercise of my
conversational powers.  After the third order for silence, this sudden
disciple of Harpocrates left his seat, cane in hand, and coming behind
me, I dreaming of no such temerity on his part, he applied across my
shoulders one of the most hearty _con amore_ swingers that ever left a
wale behind it, exclaiming at the same time, "Silence, Master Rattlin."

Here was a stinging degradation to me, almost an officer on the
quarter-deck of one of his Majesty's frigates!  However, without taking
time to weigh exactly my own dignity, I seized a large slate, and,
turning sharply round, sent it hissing into his very teeth.  I wish I
had knocked one or two of them out.  I wished it then fervently, and of
that wish, wicked though it be, I have never repented.  He was for some
time occupied with holding his hand to his mouth, and in a rapid and
agonising examination of the extent of the damage.  When he could spare
an instant for me, he was as little satisfied with the expression of my
features as with the alteration in his; so he hopped down to Monsieur
Cherfeuil, while the blood was streaming between his fingers, to lay his
complaint in form against me.  I had two sure advocates below, so he
took nothing by his motion, but a lotion to wash his mouth with; and,
after staying below for a couple of hours, he came up with a swelled
face, but his teeth all perfect.

That morning Monsieur Cherfeuil, in very excellent bad English, made a
most impressive speech; the pith of it was, that, had I not taken the
law into my own hands, he would most certainly have discharged Mr
Riprapton, for having exceeded his authority in striking me, but as my
conduct had been very unjustifiable, I was sentenced to transcribe the
whole of the first book of the Aeneid.  Before dinner my schoolfellows
had begged off one-half of the task.--Mrs Cherfeuil, at dinner, begged
off one-half of that half: when things had gone thus far, Mrs Causand
interfered, and argued for a commutation of punishment; the more
especially, as she thought an example ought to be made for so heinous an
offence.  As she spake with a very serious air, the good-natured
Frenchman acquiesced in her wishes, and pledged himself to allow her to
inflict the penalty, which she promulgated to the following effect:
"That I should be forced to swallow an extra bumper of port for not
having knocked out, at least, one of the wretch's teeth;" and she then
related enough of his conduct to bring Monsieur Cherfeuil into her way
of thinking upon the subject.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

A RECONCILIATION--A WALK PLANNED, AND A MAN PLANTED--THE LATTER FOUND TO
GROW IMPATIENT--RALPH AT LENGTH RIGGED OUT AS A REEFER.

For two days Mr Rip and myself were not upon speaking terms.  On the
third day, a Master Barnard brings me up a slate-full of plusses,
minusses, _x, y, z's_, and other letters of the alphabet, in a most
amiable algebraical confusion.

"Take it to Mr Riprapton," said I.  The lad took it, and the
mathematical master looked over it with a perplexed gravity, truly
edifying.  "Take it to Master Rattlin--I have no time," was the result
of his cogitations.

It was brought to me again.  "Take it to the usher," said I.

"It is of no use; he don't know anything about it."

"Take it then to Monsieur Cherfeuil, and tell him so."

This advice was overheard by the party most concerned, and he called the
boy to him, who shortly returned to me with a note, full of friendship,
apology, and sorrow; ending with an earnest request that I would again
put him right with Mrs Causand, as well as the sum on the slate.  I
replied, for I was still a little angry, that he was very ungrateful,
but that, as we were so soon to part, perhaps for ever, I accepted the
reconciliation.  So far was well.  I told Mrs Causand what had passed,
and then interceded with her for her forgiveness; for her anger debarred
him from many comforts, as it obliged him to take his solitary tea and
supper in the schoolroom.  She consented, as she did to almost
everything that I requested of her; and that afternoon I brought up to
her the penitent hand-presser.  Her natural good temper, and blandness
of manner, soon put him again at his ease, and his love-speeches flowed
as fluently as ever.

We proposed a walk; and, accompanied by some half-dozen of the elder
boys, we began to stroll upon the common.  By some _gaucherie_ the
conversation took a disagreeable turn on our late misunderstanding, and
I could not help repeating what I had said in my note, that Mr Rip had
proved himself ungrateful, considering the many difficulties from which
I had extricated him.  At this last assertion before the lady, he took
fire, and flatly denied it.  I was too proud to enumerate the many
instances of scholastic assistance that he had received at my hands, so
I became sullen and silent, my opponent in an equal degree brisk and
loquacious.  My fair companion rather enjoyed the encounter, and began
to tally me.

"Come, come," said I, "I'll lay him a crown that he will beg me to
extricate him from some difficulty before the week's over."

The wager was accepted with alacrity, and Mrs Causand begged to lay an
equal stake against me, which I took.  I then purposely turned the
conversation; and after some time, when we were fairly in the hollow
made by the surrounding hills, I exclaimed, "Rip, if you'll give me
five-and-twenty yards, I'll run you three hops and a step, a hundred
yards, for another crown."

"Done, done!" exclaimed the usher, joyously, chuckling with the idea of
exhibiting so triumphantly his prowess before the blooming widow.  The
ground was duly stepped, and the goal fixed, whilst my antagonist, all
animation and spirits, was pouring his liquid nonsense into the lady's
ear.  I took care that, in about the middle of the distance, our
race-ground should pass over where some rushes were growing.  Now
Riprapton had a most uncommon speed in this manner of progressing.  He
would, with his leg of flesh, take three tremendous hops, and then step
down with his leg of wood one, and then three live hops again, and one
dead step, the step being a kind of respite from the fatigue of the
hops.

All the preliminaries being arranged, off we started, I taking, of
course, my twenty-five yards in advance.  The exhibition and the gait
were so singular, that Mrs Causand could scarcely stand for
laughter, whilst the boys shouted, "Go it, Ralph!"--"Well done,
peg!"--"Dot-and-go-one will beat him."

In the midst of these exhilarating cries, what I had calculated upon
happened.  Rip, before we had gone half the distance, was close behind
me; but lo! after three of his gigantic hops, that seemed to be
performed with at least one seven-leagued boot turned into a slipper, he
came down heavily upon his step with his wood among the rushes.  The
stiff clay there being full of moisture and unsound, he plunged up to
his hip nearly, in the adhesive soil, and there he remained, as much a
fixture, and equally astonished, as Lot's wife.  First of all, taking
care to go the distance, and thus win the wager, we, all frantic with
laughter, gathered round the man thus firmly attached to his mother
earth.  Whilst the tears ran down Mrs Causand's cheeks, and proved that
her radiant colour was quite natural, she endeavoured to assume an air
of the deepest commiseration, which was interrupted, every moment, by
involuntary bursts of laughter.  For himself, no wretch in the pillory
ever wore a more lugubrious aspect, and his sallow visage turned first
to one, and then to another, with a look so ridiculously imploring that
it was irresistible.

"I am sorry, very sorry," said the lady, "to see you look so pale--I may
say, so livid--but poor man, it is but natural, seeing already that you
have _one foot in the grave_."

The mender of pens groaned in the spirit.

"I say," said the school-boy wag of the party, applying an old Joe
Miller to the occasion, "why is Mr Riprapton like pens, ink, and
paper?"

"Because he is stationary," vociferated five eager voices, at once, in
reply.

The caster-up of sums cast a look at the delinquent, the tottle of the
whole of which was, "you sha'n't be long on the debit side of our
account."

"But what is to be done?" was now the question.

"I am afraid," said I, "we must dig him up like a dead tree, or an old
post."

"It is, I believe, the only way," said the tutor, despondingly; "I was
relieved once that way before in the bog of Ballynawashy."

"O, then you are from Ireland after all," said the lady.

"Only on a visit, madam!" said the baited fixture, with much asperity.

"But really," said she, "if I may judge from the present occasion, you
must have made a _long stay_."

"I hope he won't take cold in his feet," said a very silly,
blubber-lipped boy.

His instructor looked hot with passion.

"But really, now I think of it," chimed in the now enraptured widow, "a
very serious alarm has seized me.  Suppose that the piece of wood, so
nicely planted in this damp clay, were to take root and throw out
fibres.  Gracious me! only suppose that you should begin to vegetate.  I
do declare that you look quite _green_ about the eyes already!"

"Mercy me!" whispered the wag, "if he should grow up, he'll certainly
turn to a _plane_ tree; for really, he is a very plain man."

The wielder of the ruler gave a tremendous wriggle with the whole body,
which proved as ineffectual as it was violent.

"But don't you think, Ralph," said his tormentor, "as the evening is
drawing in, that something should be done for the poor gentleman; he
will most certainly take cold if he remain here all night; couldn't you
and your school-fellows contrive to build a sort of hut over him?  I am
sure I should be very happy to help to carry the boughs--if the man
won't go to the house, the house must go to the man."

"What a fine cock-shy he would make!" said Master Blubberlips.

"O, I should so like to see it," said the lady.  "It will be the first
time he has been made _shy_ in his life."

He was certainly like an Indian bound to the stake, and made to suffer
mental torture--but he did not bear it with an Indian's equanimity.  As
a few stragglers had been drawn to the funny scene, and more might be
expected, I, and I only, of all the spectators, began to feel some pity
for him; the more especially, as I heard a stout, grinning chaw-bacon
say to the baker's boy of the village, who asked him what was the
matter, "Whoy, Jim, it ben't nothink less than Frenchman's usherman, ha'
drawn all Thickenham common on his'n left leg for a stocking loike."

"Come," thought I, "it's quite time, after that, for the honour of the
academy, to beat a retreat, or we shall be beaten hollow by this
heavy-shod clodpole.  Mr Riprapton," said I, "I don't bear you any
malice--but I recollect my wager.  If I extricate you out of the
difficulty, will you own that I have won it?"

"Gladly," said he, very sorrowfully.

"Come here, my lads, out knives and cut away the turf."  We soon removed
the earth as far down as to where the hole of the wooden leg joined to
the shank.  "Now, my lads," said I, "we must unscrew him."  Round and
round we twirled him, his outstretched living leg forming as pretty a
fairy-ring on the green sod, with its circumgyrations, as can be
imagined.  At last, after having had a very tolerable foretaste of the
pillory, we fairly unscrewed him, and he was once more disengaged from
his partial burial-place.  I certainly cannot say that he received our
congratulations with the grace of a Chesterfield, but he begged us to
continue our exertions to recover for him his shank, or otherwise he
would have to follow Petruchio's orders to the tailor--to "hop me over
every kennel home."  For the sake of the quotation, we agreed to assist;
and, as many of us catching hold of it as could find a grip, we tugged,
and tugged, and tugged.  Still the stiff clay did not seem at all
inclined to relinquish the prize it had so fairly won.  At length, by
one tremendous and simultaneous effort, we plucked it forth; but, in
doing so, those who retained the trophy in their hands were flung flat
on their backs, whilst the newly-gained leg pointed upwards to the
zenith.  Having first wiped a little of the deep yellow adhesion away
from it, we joined the various parts of the man together; and, he taking
singular care to avoid those spots where rushes grew, we all reached our
home, with one exception, in the highest glee--as to the two wagers, he
behaved like a gentleman, and _acknowledged_ the debt--which was a great
deal more than I ever expected.

After having worked some fifty problems out of Hamilton Moore, of
blessed memory, and having drawn an infinity of triangles with all
possible degrees of incidence, with very neat little ships, now upon the
base, now upon the hypothenuse, and now upon the perpendicular, my
erudite usher pronounced me to be a perfect master of the noble science
of navigation in all its branches, for the which he glorified himself
exceedingly.  As I had made many friends, there was no difficulty in
procuring for me a ship, and I was to have joined the _Sappho_, a
first-class brig of war, as soon as she arrived, and she was expected
almost immediately.  However, as at that particular time we were
relieving the Danes from the onerous care of their navy, the sloop was
sent, directly she arrived, to assist in the amiable action.

Having many who interested themselves about me, some apparent and others
hidden, a ship was soon found for me, but by what chain of
recommendation I could never unravel.  As far as the ship was concerned,
I certainly had nothing to complain of.  She was a fine frigate, and
every way worthy to career over the ocean, that was, at that time,
almost completely an English dominion.  The usual quantity of hopes and
wishes were expressed, and my final leave was taken of all my village
friends.  Mr R enjoined me to correspond with him on every opportunity,
gave me his blessing, and some urgent advice to eschew poetry, and
prophesied that he should live to see me posted.  There was nothing
outwardly very remarkable in the manner of Mrs Cherfeuil on the eve of
my departure.  I went to bed a school-boy, and was to rise next morning
an officer--that is to say, I was to mount my uniform for the first
time.  I believe that I was already on the ship's books; for at the time
of which I am writing, the clerk of the cheque was not so very frequent
in his visits, and not so particular when he visited, as he is at
present.  Notwithstanding the important change that was about to take
place in everything connected with myself, I did sleep that night,
though I often awoke,--there was a female hovering round my bed almost
the whole of the night.



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

RALPH COMMENCES HIS PUBLIC CAREER BY ACCEPTING AN IOU, HE HARDLY KNOWS
WHY--HE FINDS HIS FUTURE CAPTAIN BASED ON A BOTTLE--HE IS NOT TAKEN BY
THE HAND.

So ignorant were those few, on whom devolved my fitting out, of what my
station required, that I had made for me three suits of uniform, all of
which had the lion upon the buttons instead of the anchor, and from
which the weekly account was absent.  My transmission from school to
town was by the stage; at town I was told to call on a lawyer in the
King's Bench Walk, in the Temple, who furnished me with twenty pounds,
and a letter for my future captain, telling me I might draw upon him for
a yearly sum, which was more than double the amount I ought to have been
entrusted with; then coldly wishing me success, he recommended me to go
down that evening by the mail, and join my ship immediately, and wished
me a good morning.

I certainly was a little astonished at my sudden isolation in the midst
of a vast city.  I felt that, from that moment, I must commence man.  I
knew several persons in London, parents of my schoolfellows, but I was
too proud to parade my pride before them, for I felt, at the same time,
ashamed of wearing ostentatiously, whilst I gloried in, my uniform.

I dined at the inn where I alighted on coming to town, called for what I
wanted in a humble semi-tone, said "If you please, sir," to the waiter;
paid my bill without giving him a gratuity, for fear of giving him
offence; took my place in the mail, and got down without accident to
Chatham, and slept at the house where the coach stopped.  On account of
my hybrid uniform, and my asserting myself of the navy, the people of
the establishment knew not what to make of me.  I wished to deliver my
credentials immediately; but my considerate landlord advised me to take
time to think about it--and dinner.  I followed his advice.

It is uncertain how long I should have remained in this uncertainty, had
not a brother midshipman, in the coffee-room, accosted me, and kindly
helped me out with my pint of port, which I thought I showed my
manliness in calling for.  He did not roast me very unmercifully, but
what he spared in gibes he made up in drinking.  I abstained with a
great deal of firmness from following his example: he warmly praised my
abstinence, I suppose with much sincerity, as it certainly appeared to
be a virtue which he was incapable of practising.  About seven o'clock
my ready-made friend began to be more minute in his inquiries.  I showed
him my introductory letter, and he told me directly at what hotel the
captain was established, and enforced upon me the necessity of
immediately waiting upon him; telling me I might think myself extremely
lucky in having had to entertain only one officer, when so many thirsty
and penniless ones were cruising about to sponge on the Johnny Raws.
For himself, he said he was a man of honour, quite a gentleman, and
insisted upon paying his share of the two bottles of port consumed, of
which I certainly had not drunk more than four glasses.  Secretly
praising my man of honour for his disinterestedness, for I had asked him
to take a glass of wine, which he had read as a couple of bottles, I
ordered my bill, among the items of which stood conspicuously forth,
"Two bottles of old crusted port, fourteen shillings."

"Damned imposition!" said my hitherto anonymous friend.  "Of all vices,
I abominate imposition the most.  I shall pay for all this wine myself.
Here, wai-_terre_, pen and ink.  Banking hours are over now; I have
nothing but a fifty pound bill about me.  However, you shall have my
IOU.  You see that I have made it out for one pound--you'll just hand me
the difference, six shillings.  Your name, I think you said, was
Rattlin--Ralph Rattlin.  A good name, a very good purser's name indeed.
There, Mr Rattlin, you have only to present that piece of paper when
you get on board to the head swab washer, and he'll give you either cash
for it, or slops."

I gave the gentleman who so much abhorred imposition six shillings in
return for his paper, which contained these words:

"I owe you twenty shillings.  Josiah Cheeks, Major-General of the Horse
Marines, of his Majesty's ship, the _Merry Dun_, of Dover.--To Mr Ralph
Rattlin."

I carefully placed this precious document in my pocketbook, among my
one-pound notes, at that time the principal currency of the country; yet
could not help thinking that my friend cast an awfully hungry eye at the
pieces of paper.  He had already commenced a very elaborate speech
prefatory to the request of a loan, when I cut him short, by telling him
that I had promised my god-mamma not to lend anyone a single penny until
I had been on board my ship six months, which was really the case.  He
commended my sense of duty; and said it was of no manner of consequence,
as next morning he should be in possession of more than he should have
occasion for, and then a five or a ten-pound note would be at my
service.  After vainly endeavouring to seduce me to the theatre, he made
a virtue of my obstinacy, and taking me by the arm, showed me to the
door of the hotel, where Captain Reud, of H.M.S. _Eos_ was located.

I was announced, and immediately ushered into a room where I saw a
sallow-visaged, compact, well-made little man, apparently not older than
two or three-and-twenty, sitting in the middle of the room, upon a black
quart bottle, the neck of which was on the floor, and the bottom forming
the uneasy and unstable seat.  Without paying much attention to me,
every now and then he would give himself an impetus, and flinging out
his arms, spin round like a turnstile.  It certainly was very amusing,
and, no doubt so thought his companion, a fine, manly, handsome-looking
fellow, of thirty-five or thirty-eight, by his long-continued and
vociferous applause.  The little spinner was habited in a plain but
handsome uniform, with one gold epaulet on his right shoulder, whilst
the delighted approver had a coat splendid with broad white kerseymere
facings.

I could observe that both parties were deeply immersed in the
many-coloured delirium of much drink.  I looked first at one, then at
the other, undecided as to which of the two was my captain.  However, I
could not augur ill of one who laughed so heartily, nor of the other,
who seemed so happy in making himself a teetotum.  Taking advantage of a
pause in this singular exhibition, I delivered my credentials to the
former and more imposing-looking of the two, who immediately handed them
over to Captain Reud.  I was graciously received, a few questions of
courtesy asked, and a glass of wine poured out for me.

My presence was soon totally disregarded, and my captain and his
first-lieutenant began conversing on all manner of subjects, in a jargon
to me entirely incomprehensible.  The decanter flew across and across
the table with wonderful rapidity, and the flow of assertion increased
with the captain, and that of assentation with his lieutenant.  At
length, the little man with the epaulet commenced a very prurient tale.
Mr Farmer cast a look full of meaning upon myself, when Captain Reud
addressed me thus, in a sharp, shrill tone, that I thought impossible to
a person who told such pleasant stories, and who could spin so prettily
upon a quart bottle.  "Do you hear, younker, you'll ship your traps in a
wherry the first thing to-morrow morning, and get on board early enough
to be victualled that day.  Tell the commanding officer to order the
ship's tailor to clap the curse of God upon you--(I started with horror
at the impiety)--to unship those poodles from your jacket, and rig you
out with the foul anchor."

"Yes, sir," said I; "but I hope the tailor won't be so wicked, because I
am sure I wish the gentleman no harm."

"Piously brought up," said the captain.

"We'll teach him to look aloft, any how," said the lieutenant, striving
to be original.

"A well-built young dog," said the former, looking at me, approvingly.

"Who is he, may I ask?" said the latter, in a most sonorous aside.

"Mum," said Captain Reud, putting his finger to his nose, and
endeavouring to look very mysterious, and full of important meaning;
"but when I get him in blue water--if he were the king's son--heh!
Farmer?"

"To be sure.  Then he is the son of somebody, sir?"

"More likely the son of nobody--according to the law of the land,--
whoever launched him: but I'll never breathe a word, or give so much as
a hint that he is illegitimate.  I scorn, like a British sailor, to do
that by a sidewind, Farmer, that I ought not to do openly; but there are
two sides to a blanket.  A popish priest must not marry in England.
Norman Will was not a whit the worse because his mother never stood
outside the canonical rail.  Pass your wine, Farmer; I despise a man, a
scoundrel, who deals in innuendos;--O it's despicable, damned
despicable.  I don't like, however, to be trusted by halves--shall keep
a sharp look-out on the joker--with me, a secret is always perfectly
safe."

"O, then there is a secret, I see," said Mr Farmer.  "You had better go
now, Mr Rattlin, and attend to the captain's orders to-morrow."  The
word mister sounded sharply, yet not unpleasingly, to my ear: it was the
first time I had been so designated or so dignified.  Here was another
evidence that I had, or ought to, cast from me the slough of boyhood,
and enact, boldly, the man.  I therefore summoned up courage to say that
I did not perfectly understand the purport of the captain's order, and
solicited an explanation.

"Yes," said he; "the service has come to a pretty pass, when the
youngest officer of my ship asks me to explain my orders, instead of
obeying them."

"I had better give him a note to the commanding officer, for I may not
happen to be on board when he arrives."

A note was written, and given me.

"Good-night, Mr Rattlin," said the captain.

"Good-night, sir," said I, advancing very amiably to shake hands with my
little commander.  My action took him more aback than a heavy squall
would have done the beautiful frigate he commanded.  The prestige of
rank, and the pride of discipline struggled with his sense of the common
courtesies of life.  He half held out his hand; he withdrew it--it was
again proffered and again withdrawn!  He really looked confused.  At
length, as if he had rallied up all his energies to act courageously, he
thrust them resolutely into his pockets; and then said, "There, younker,
that will do.  Go and turn in."

"Turned out," I muttered, as I left the room.  From this brief incident,
young as I was, I augured badly of Captain Reud.  I at once felt that I
had broken some rule of etiquette, but I knew that he had sinned against
the dictates of mere humanity.  There was a littleness in his conduct,
and an indecision in his manner, quite at variance with my untutored
notions of the gallant bearing of a British sailor.

As I lay in bed at my inn, my mind re-enacted all the scenes of the
previous day.  I was certainly dissatisfied with every occurrence.  I
was dissatisfied with the security of my friend Josiah Cheeks, the
Major-General of the Horse-Marines, of his Majesty's ship the _Merry
Dun_ of Dover.  I was dissatisfied with my reception by Captain Reud, of
his Majesty's ship _Eos_, notwithstanding his skill at spinning upon a
bottle; nor was I altogether satisfied with the blustering,
half-protecting, half-overbearing conduct towards me, of his
first-lieutenant, Mr Farmer.  But all these dissatisfactions united
were as nothing to the disgust I felt at the broad innuendoes so
liberally flung out concerning the mystery of my birth.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

RALPH'S HEART STILL AT HOME--HIS COFFEE-ROOM FRIEND ALL ABROAD--GETS HIS
IOU CASHED, AND SEES THE GIVER EXALTED TO EVERYBODY'S SATISFACTION BUT
HIS OWN.

Before I plunge into all the strange adventures, and unlooked-for
vicissitudes, of my naval life, I must be indulged with a few prefatory
remarks.  The royal navy, as a service, is not vilified, nor the gallant
members who compose it insulted, by pointing out the idiosyncrasies, the
absurdities, and even the vices and crimes of some of its members.
Human nature is human nature still, whether it fawn in the court or
philander in the grove.  The man carries with him on the seas the same
predilections, the same passions, and the same dispositions, both for
good and for evil, as he possessed on shore.  The ocean breeze does not
convert the coward into the hero, the passionate man into the
philosopher, or the mean one into a pattern of liberality.  It is true,
that a coward in the service seldom dares show his cowardice; that in
the inferior grades passion is controlled by discipline, and in all,
meanness is shamed by intimate, and social communion, into the semblance
of much better feelings.  Still, with all this, the blue coat, like
charity, covereth a multitude of sins, and the blue water is, as yet,
inefficacious to wash them all out.

We have said here briefly what the service will not do.  It will not
change the nature of men, but it will mollify it into much that is
exalted, that is noble, and that is good.  It almost universally raises
individual character; but it can never debase it.  The world are too apt
to generalise--and this generalisation has done much disservice to the
British navy.  It forms a notion, creates a beau-ideal--a very absurd
one truly--and then tries every character by it.  Even the officers of
this beautiful service have tacitly given in to the delusion; and, by
attempting to frown down all _eposes_ of the errors of individuals,
vainly endeavour to exalt that which requires no such factitious
exaltation.

If I am compelled to say this captain was a fool and a tyrant, fools
indeed must those officers be who draw the inference that I mean the
impression to be general, that all captains are either fools or tyrants.
Let the cavillers understand, that the tyranny and the folly are innate
in the man, but that the service abhors and represses the one, and
despises and often reforms the other.  The service never made a good man
bad, or a bad man worse: on the contrary, it has always improved the
one, and reformed the other.  It is, however, no libel to say, that,
more than a quarter of a century ago (of course, now, it is all
perfection), it contained some bad men among its multitude of good.
Such as it then was I will faithfully record.

Oh!  I left myself in bed.  My reflections affording me so little
consolation, when they were located in the vicinity of Chatham.  I
ordered my obedient mind to travel back to Stickenham, whilst I felt
more than half-inclined to make my body take the same course the next
morning.  Not that my courage had failed me; but I actually felt a
disgust at all that I had heard and seen.  How different are the sharp,
abrading corners that meet us at every turn in our passage through real
life from the sunny dreams of our imagination!  Already my dirk had
ceased to give me satisfaction in looking upon it, and my uniform, that
two days before I thought so bewitching, I had, a few hours since, been
informed was to be soiled by a foul anchor.  How gladly that night my
mind revelled among the woods and fields and waters of the romantic
village that I had just left!  Then its friendly inhabitants came
thronging upon the beautiful scene; and pre-eminent among them stood my
good schoolmistress, and my loving godmother.  Of all the imaginary
group, she alone did not smile.  It was then, and not till then, that I
felt the bitterness of the word "farewell."  My conscience smote me that
I had behaved unkindly towards her.  I now remembered a thousand little
contrivances, all of which, in my exalted spirits, I had pertinaciously
eluded, that she had put in practice in order to be for a few minutes
alone with me.  I now bitterly reproached myself for my perversity.
What secrets might I not have heard!  And then my heart told me in a
voice I could not doubt, that it was she who had hovered round my bed
the whole night previous to my departure.  My schoolfellows had all
slept soundly, yet I, though wakeful, had the folly to appear to sleep
also.  Whilst I was considering how people could be so unkind, sleep
came kindly to me, and I awoke next morning in good spirits, and laughed
at my dejection of the preceding evening.

At breakfast in the coffee-room, I was a little surprised and a good
deal flattered by the appearance of Lieutenant Farmer.  He accosted me
kindly, told me not again to attempt to offer first to shake hands with
my captain, for it was against the rules of the service; and then he sat
down beside me, and commenced very patiently _a me tirer les vers du
nez_.  He was a fine, gallant fellow, passionately desirous of
promotion, which was not surprising, for he had served long, and with
considerable distinction, and was still a lieutenant, whilst he was more
than fourteen years above his captain, both in length of service and in
age.  Was I related to my Lord A---?  Did I know anything of Mr Rose?
Had I any connections that knew Mr Percival, etcetera?  I frankly told
him that I knew no one of any note, and that it had been directly
enjoined upon me, by the one or two friends that I possessed, never to
converse about my private affairs with anyone.

Mr Farmer felt himself rebuked, but not offended; he was a generous,
noble fellow, though a little passionate, and too taut a disciplinarian.
He told me that he had no doubt we should be good friends, that I had
better go to the dock-yard, and inquire for the landing-place, and for
the _Eos'_ cutter, which was waiting there for stores.  That I was to
make myself known to the officer of the boat, who would give me two or
three hands to convey my luggage down to it, and that I had better ship
myself as soon as I could.  He told me, also, that he would probably be
on board before me, but, at all events, if he were not, that I was to
give to the commanding officer the letter, with which he had furnished
me on the night before.

He left me with a more favourable impression on my mind than I had
before entertained.  I paid my bill, and found my way to Chatham
dock-yard.

I had just gained the landing-place, to which I had been directed by a
gentleman, who wore some order of merit upon his ankles, and who kindly
offered me a box of dominoes for sale, when I saw a twelve-oared barge
pull in among the other boats that were waiting there.  The stern-sheets
were full of officers, distinguishable among whom was one with a red
round face, sharp twinkling eyes, and an honest corpulency of body truly
comfortable.  He wore his laced cocked-hat, with the rosetted corners,
resting each on one of the heavily-epauletted shoulders.  His face
looked so fierce and rubescent under his vast hat, that he put me in
mind of a large coal, the lower half of which was in a state of
combustion.  He landed with the other officers, and I then perceived
that he was gouty and lame, and walked with a stick, that had affixed to
it a transverse ivory head, something like a diminutive ram's horn.
Amidst this group of officers, I observed my coffee-room friend, the
major-general of the horse-marines, who seemed excessively shy, and at
that moment absorbed in geological studies, for he could not take his
eyes from off the earth.  However, pushing hastily by the port-admiral,
for such was the ancient podagre, "Ah! major-general," said I to the
abashed master's mate, "I am very glad to meet with you.  Have you been
to the bank this morning to cash your fifty-pound bill?"

"Don't know ye," said my friend, giving me more than the cut direct,
for, if he could have used his eyes as a sword, I should have had the
cut decisive.

"Not know me! well--but you are only joking, General Cheeks!"

The surrounding officers began to be very much amused, and the
port-admiral became extremely eager in his attention.

"Tell ye, don't know ye, younker," said my gentleman, folding his arms,
and attempting to look magnificent and strange.

"Well, that is cool.  So, sir, you mean to deny that you drank two
bottles of my port wine yesterday evening, and that you did not give me
your IOU for the twenty shillings you borrowed of me?  I'll trouble you,
if you please, for the money," for I was getting angry, "as I am quite a
stranger to the head swabwasher, and should not like to trouble the
gentleman either for cash or slops, without a formal introduction."

At this juncture, the fiery face of the port-admiral became more fiery,
his fierce small eye more flashing, and his ivory-handled stick was
lifted up tremblingly, not with fear, but rage.  "Pray sir," said he to
me, "who is he?" pointing to my friend; "and who are you?"

"This gentleman, sir, I take to be either a swindler or Josiah Cheeks,
Major-General of the Horse Marines, of his Majesty's ship, the _Merry
Dun_, of Dover," handing to the admiral the acknowledgment; "and I am,
sir, Ralph Rattlin, just come down to join his Majesty's ship, the
_Eos_."

"I'll answer for the truth of the latter part of this young gentleman's
assertion," said Captain Reud, now coming forward with Lieutenant
Farmer.

"Is this your writing, sir?" said the admiral to the discomfited
master's mate, in a voice worse than thunder; for it was almost as loud,
and infinitely more disagreeable.  "I see by your damned skulking look,
that you have been making a scoundrel of yourself, and a fool of this
poor innocent boy."

"I hope, sir, you do not think me a fool for believing an English
officer incapable of a lie?"

"Well said, boy, well said--I see--this scamp has turned out to be both
the scoundrel and the fool."

"I only meant it for a joke, sir," said the _soi-disant_ Mr Cheeks,
taking off his hat, and holding it humbly in his hand.

"Take up your note directly, or I shall expel you the service for
forgery."

The delinquent fumbled for some time in his pocket, and at length could
produce only threepence farthing, a tobacco-stopper, and an unpaid
tavern-bill.  He was forced to confess he had not the money about him.

"Your fifty-pound bill," said I.  "The bank must be open."

The major-general looked at me.

It was a good thing for the giver of the IOU that the mirth the whole
transaction created did not permit the old admiral to be so severe with
his "whys," as he would have been.  He, however, told the culprit's
captain, whom he had just brought on shore in the barge, to give me the
twenty shillings, and to charge it against him, and then to give him an
airing at the mast-head till sunset; telling him, at the same time, he
might feel himself very happy at not being disrated and turned before
the mast.

I was departing, very well satisfied with this summary method of
administering justice, when I found that I was not altogether to escape,
for the old gentleman commenced opening a broadside upon me, for not
wearing the Admiralty uniform.  Lieutenant Farmer, however, came very
kindly to my rescue, and offered the admiral a sufficient explanation.

I was then directed to the _Eos'_ boat, the coxswain and a couple of men
went with me for my luggage, and in less than half an hour I was being
rowed down the Medway towards the ship.  As we passed by what I looked
upon as an immense and terrifically lofty seventy-four, I looked up, and
descried Major-General Cheeks slowly climbing up the newly-tarred main
topmast rigging, "like a snail unwillingly," to the topmast cross-trees.
It was a bitterly cold day, at the end of November, and there is no
doubt but that his reflections were as bitter as the weather.  Practical
jokes have sometimes very bad practical consequences.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

RALPH IS SHIPPED, HULKED, AND OVERCOME--A DARK HALL AND AN EBONY
SERVITOR--A TAILOR'S POLITENESS, AND A MASTER'S MATE, WHO SIGHS TO BE
MATED YET DOES NOT SEE THAT HE IS OUTMATCHED.

I found the _Eos_ all rigged and strong in the breeze, with the not very
agreeable aroma of dockyard paint.  The ship's company was not, however,
on board of her.  They were hulked on board of the _Pegasus_.  A very
brief introduction to the officers of the watch, and I was shown down
with my sea-chest, my shore-going trunk, and quadrant, cocked-hat,
etcetera, to the midshipmen's berth in the hulk.  One of the after-guard
performed for me the office of gentleman-usher.  It was a gloomy, foggy,
chilly day, and the damp of the atmosphere was mingled with the reeking,
dank, animal effluvia that came up, thick and almost tangible, from the
filthy receptacle of crowded hundreds.

As I descended into darkness, and nearly felt overpowered by the
compound of villainous smells, I was something more than sick at heart.
My pioneer at length lifted up the corner of a piece of dirty canvas,
that screened off a space of about six feet square from the rest of the
ship's company.  This I was given to understand was the _young
gentlemen's_ quarters, their dining-room and their drawing-room
combined.  Even I, who had not yet attained my full growth, could not
stand erect in this saloon of elegance.  I am stating nothing but
literal facts.  On an oaken table, still more greasy than the greasy
decks over which I had slipped in my passage to this den, stood a
flickering, spluttering, intensely yellow candle of very slender
dimensions, inserted in a black quart bottle.  Beside it was placed a
battered bread-basket, containing some broken biscuit; and a piece of
villainously-scented cheese, distinguished by the name of purser's, lay
near it, in company with an old, blood-stained, worn-out tooth-brush,
and a shallow pewter wash-hand basin, filled with horridly dirty water.
For seats round this table there were no other substitutes than various
chests of various dimensions.

Of such sordid penury as I then witnessed I had read, but never supposed
I should be compelled to witness, much less to share.  Notwithstanding
the closeness of this hole, it was excessively cold.  There was not a
soul there to welcome me, the petty officers being all away on dockyard
duty.  It might have been ten o'clock when I was first ushered into this
region of darkness, of chill and evil odours.  I remained with my
surtout coat on, sitting on my chest with my hands clasped before me,
stiff with cold, and melancholy almost to tears.  How much then I panted
for the breeze that blew over the heathy common where I had lately
wantoned, leaped, and laughed!

As I there sat, I fell into a deep and dream-like reverie.  I could not
after a pause convince myself that all I saw around me was real.  The
light that the single unsnuffed candle gave, became more dim and smoky.
I began to think that my spirit had most surely stepped into the
vestibule of the abode of shadows; and I wished to convince myself that
my body was far, far away sleeping in a pure atmosphere, and under a
friendly roof.  Minute after minute cropped its weight heavily, like so
many pellets of lead, upon my disordered brain.  I became confused--
perhaps I was nearly upon the point of syncope from the sudden change to
bad air.  I felt that all I saw about me, if not real, would prove that
I was mad; and I feared that I should become so if the scene turned out
to be no illusion.  At last I jumped up, as I felt my stupor and my
sickness increasing, exclaiming--"This is hell--and there's the devil!"
as I observed a hideous shining black face peering at me over the top of
the screen, grinning in such a manner, with a row of white teeth, that
reminded me of so many miniature tombstones stretching right across a
dark churchyard.

"No debbel, sar--my name, sar, Lillydew--vat you please vant, sar?--
steward to young gentlemen, sar.  Will young massa have a lily-white bit
soft tommy, sar,--broil him a sodger, sar--bumboat alongside, get a
fresh herring for relish, sar."

"Get me a little fresh air--take me upstairs."

"O Gemminnie! hi! hi! hi!--young gentleman, Massa Johnny Newcome.  This
way, sar."

Conducted by this angel of darkness, I regained the deck and daylight,
and the nausea soon left my chest and the pain my head.  I then made
this reflection, that whatever glory a naval officer may attain, if he
went through the ordeal I was about essaying, he richly deserved it.
The captain and some of the other officers now came on board.  I was
introduced to most of them, and the skipper made himself very merry with
an account of my recent adventure with the master's mate, who was still
at the mast-head, as a convincing proof of the accuracy of the story,
and was plainly distinguishable some half-mile higher up the Medway.

I soon entered into conversation with one of the young gentlemen who was
destined to be, for so long, my messmate.  I told him that the air below
would kill me.  He acknowledged that it was bad enough to kill a dog,
but that a reefer could stand it.  He also advised me not to have my
uniforms altered by the ship's tailors, as it would be done in a
bungling manner; but to get leave to go on shore, and that he would
introduce me to a very honest tradesman, who would do me justice.  I
expressed my hopes to him, in a dry manner, that he did not belong to
the regiment of horse marines.  He understood me, and said, upon his
honour, no: that it was all fair and above board; and as a
recommendation, which he thought would be irresistible, he added that
this tailor had a very pretty daughter, with the very pretty name of
Jemima.

As the latter information was very satisfactory evidence as to the skill
and honesty of the tradesman, I could not be guilty of such a _non
sequitur_ as not to promise to employ him.  I then told him to make
haste and come on shore with me.  I now was made painfully sensible
that, before I could enjoy my wishes, a little ceremony was needful; in
fact, that my powers of locomotion were no longer under my own control,
excepting for about one hundred and twenty feet in one direction, and
about thirty-five in another.  As I was passing over the starboard side
of the quarter-deck, to ask leave to go on shore, the captain accosted
me, and did me the honour to request my company to dinner at his table.
Finding him in so bland a humour, I preferred my request to live on
shore till the ship sailed.  He smiled at the enormity of my demand, and
asked what induced it.  I frankly told him the filth and bad smell of my
accommodations; and also my wish not to be seen on board until my
uniforms were complete.

"He's an original," said the captain to the first-lieutenant, "but there
is some sense in his request.  I suppose _you_ have no objection, Mr
Farmer?  Young gentleman," he continued, turning to me, "you must always
ask the first-lieutenant, in future, for leave.  Mind, don't be later
than four o'clock."

My messmate, with all manner of humility, now made his request, which
being granted, we went down together to my chest, and making a bundle of
all the clothes that required alteration, we placed that and ourselves
in a shore-boat, and made our way to the tailor's.  I was there
introduced to the lovely Jemima.  She looked like a very pretty doll,
modelled with crumbs of white bread; she was so soft, so fair, and so
unmeaning.  After the order was given, my maker of the outward man
hazarded a few inquiries, in a manner so kind and so obliging, that
quite made me lose sight of their impertinence.  When he found that I
had leave to remain on shore, and that my pocket-book was far from being
ill-furnished, he expatiated very feelingly upon the exactions of living
at inns, offered me a bed for nothing, provided only that I would pay
for my breakfast, and appoint him my tailor in ordinary; and declared
that he would leave no point unturned to make me comfortable and happy.
As this conversation took place in the little parlour at the back of the
shop, Jemima--Miss Jemima--was present, and, as I seemed to hesitate,
the innocent-looking dear slily came up beside me, and, taking my hand,
pressed it amorously, stealing at me a look with eyes swimming with a
strange expression.  This by-play decided the business.  The agreement
was made, the terms being left entirely to Mr Tapes.  Covering my
inappropriate dress with my blue surtout, I was about leaving with my
messmate, when the young lady said to her father, "Perhaps Mr Rattlin
would like to see his room before he goes out?"

"Not particularly."

"Oh, but you must.  You may come in, and I and the servant may be out.
This way--you must not come up, Mr Pridhomme, _your_ boots are so
abominably dirty.  There, isn't it a nice room?--you pretty, pretty
boy," said she, jumping up, and giving me a long kiss, that almost took
my breath away.  "Don't tell old leather-chops, will you, and I _shall_
love you so."

"Who is old leather-chops--your father?"

"Dear me, no; never mind him.  I mean your messmate, Mr Pridhomme."

"I'm stepping into life," thought I, as I went downstairs, "and with no
measured strides either."

"What do you think of Jemima?" said Mr Pridhomme, as we walked
arm-in-arm towards the ramparts.

"Pretty."

"Pretty!--why she's an angel!  If there was ever an angel on earth, it
is Jemima Tapes.  But what is mere beauty?  Nothing compared to
sincerity and innocence--she is all innocence and sincerity."

"I am glad that you believe so."

"Believe so--why, look at her!  She is all innocence.  She won't let her
father kiss her."

"Why?"

"She says it is so indelicate."

"How does she know what is, or what is not, indelicate?"

"Damn it, younker, you'd provoke a saint.  She assures me when she is
forced to shake hands with a grown-up man, that it actually gives her a
cold shudder all over.  I don't think that she ever kissed anybody but
her mother, and that was years ago."

"Perhaps she does not know how."

"I'm sure she don't.  If I had a fortune, I'd marry her tomorrow, only
I'm afraid she's too modest."

"Your fear is very commendable.  Are the ladies at Chatham so remarkable
for modesty?"

"No; and that's what makes Jemima so singular."

I like to make people happy, if they are not so; and if they are, even
though that happiness may be the creation of a delusion, I like to leave
them so.  I, therefore, encouraged Mr Pridhomme to pour all his
raptures into, what he thought, an approving ear, and Jemima was the
theme, until he left me at the door of the hotel at which I was to dine
with Captain Reud.  Whatever the reader may think of Jemima, I was, at
this period, perfectly innocent myself, though not wholly ignorant.  I
should have deemed Miss Jemima's osculatory art as the mere effect of
high spirits and hoyden playfulness, had it not been for the hypocrisy
that she was displaying towards my messmate.  I had translated Gil Blas
at school, and I therefore set her down for an intrepid coquette, if not
_une franche aventuriere_.  However, though I pitied my messmate, that
was no reason why I should not enjoy my dinner.

That day I liked my little saffron-coloured captain much better.  He
played the host very agreeably.  He made as many inquiries as he dared,
without too much displaying his own ignorance, as to the extent of my
acquirements; and, when he found them so far beyond his expectations, he
seemed to be struck with a sudden respect for me.  The tone of his
conversation was more decorous than that of the preceding evening; he
gave me a great deal of nautical advice, recommended me to the
protection particularly of the first and second lieutenants, who were
also his guests, approved of my plan of sleeping at the tailor's, and
dismissed me very early, no doubt with a feeling of pleasure at having
removed a restraint; for, as I left the room, I just caught the
words--"Make a damned sea-lawyer, by-and-by."



CHAPTER THIRTY.

JEALOUSY COOLED BY A WATERING--RALPH EXHORTETH, AND RIGHT WISELY--THE
BOATSWAIN SEES MANY THINGS IN A NEW LIGHT--AND, THOUGH HE CAUSETH CRABS
TO BE CAUGHT, HE BRINGETH THEM TO A WRONG MARKET.

Pridhomme had been lying in wait for me, and picked me up as I left the
hotel.  We went to the theatre, a wretched affair certainly, the
absurdities of which I should have much enjoyed, had I not been bored to
death by the eternal Jemima.  That lady was like Jemima and that was
not.  Was the person in the blue silk dress as tall as Jemima; or the
other in the white muslin quite as stout?  Jemima was all he could talk
about, till at length, I was so horribly Jemimaed that I almost audibly
wished Jemima jammed down his throat; but as everything must have an
end, even when a midshipman talks about Jemima, we, at length, got to
the tailor's door, which was opened by the lovely Jemima in _propria
persona_.  Not a step beyond the step of the door was the lover
admitted, whilst the poor wretch was fain to feast on the ecstasies of
remembering that he was permitted to grasp the tip of her forefinger
whilst he sighed forth his fond good-night.

In a few days, the _Eos_, being perfectly equipped, dropped down to
Sheerness, and I, for the first time, slept under the roof provided for
me by his Britannic Majesty.  That is to say, I was coffined and
shrouded in a longitudinal canvas bag, hung up to the orlop deck by two
cleats, one at each end, in a very graceful curve, very useful in
forming that elegant bend in the back so much coveted by the exhibitors
in Regent Street.

I had taken a rather sentimental leave of Jemima, who had somehow or
another persuaded me to exchange love-tokens with her.  That which I
gave her was a tolerably handsome writing-desk, which I could not help
buying for her, as she had taken a great fancy to it; indeed, she told
me it had annoyed her for some months, because it stood so provokingly
tempting in the shop-window just over the way; and besides, "She should
be so--so happy to write me such pretty letters from it."  The last
argument was convincing, and the desk was bought; in return for which
she presented me with a very old silver pencil-case--its age, indeed,
she gave me to understand, ought to be its greatest value in my eyes--
she had had it so long: it was given to her by her defunct mother.  So I
promised to keep it as long as I lived.  Really, there was no chance of
my ever wearing it out by use, for it was certainly quite useless; but
love dignifies things so much!  After having split it up by shoving a
piece of black-lead pencil into it, I put it into my waistcoat pocket,
saying to the heiress of the Chatham tailor--

  "_Rich_ gifts prove poor when givers prove unkind."

"Ah, Ralph!" said the giver of rich gifts, "I shall never prove unkind."
So we parted; and as I walked down the street, she waved her hand,
which would have been really white, had she not scored her forefinger in
a most villainous manner by her awkward method of using her needle, when
her father was short of hands.

When I afterwards heard of Chatham as being the universal _depot_ of
"ladies who love wisely and not too well," rogues and Jews, I could not
help thinking of my writing-desk, and adding to the list, Jewesses also.

About a week after, we were still lying at Sheerness, and I had totally
forgotten the innocent-looking Jemima.  Mr Pridhomme was smoking in a
lover-like and melancholy fashion, against orders, a short pipe in the
midshipmen's berth.  As the ashes accumulated, he became at a loss for a
tobacco-stopper, and I very good-naturedly handed him over the broken,
broad-topped, vulgar-looking pencil-case, the gift of the adorable
Jemima.  His apathy, at the sight of this relic of love, dispersed like
the smoke of his pipe.

"Where did you get this, younker?" he cried, swelling with passion, in
the true turkey-cock style.

"It was given to me as a keepsake by Miss Jemima," said I, very quietly.

"It's a lie--you stole it."

"You old scoundrel!"

"You young villain!"

"Take that!" roared my opponent; and the bread-basket, with its
fragmental cargo of biscuits, came full in my face, very considerately
putting bread into my mouth for his supposed injury.

"Take that!" said I, seizing the rum-bottle.

"No, he sha'n't," said Pigtop, the master's mate, laying hold of the
much-prized treasure, "let him take anything but that."

So I flung the water-jug at his head.

We were just proceeding to handicuffs, when the master-at-arms, hearing
the riot, opened the door.  We then cooled upon it, and a truce ensued.
Explanations followed the truce, and an apology, on his part, the
explanation; for which apology I very gladly gave him the pencil-case,
that I had promised to keep as long as I lived, and a heartache at the
same time.

The poor fellow had given the faithful Jemima this mutable love-gift
three days before it came into my possession, on which occasion they had
broken a crooked sixpence together.  I moralised upon this, and came to
the conclusion, that, whatever a tailor might be, a sailor is no match
for a tailor's daughter, born and bred up at Chatham.

Now, I have nothing wherewith to amuse the reader about the mischievous
tricks that were played upon me in my entrance into my naval life.  The
clews of my hammock were not reefed.  I was not lowered down by the head
into a bucket of cold water, nor sent anywhere with a foolish message by
a greater fool than myself.  The exemptions from these usual
persecutions I attribute to my robust and well-grown frame; my
disposition so easily evinced to do battle on the first occasion that
offered itself; and, lastly, my well-stocked purse, and the evident
consideration shown to me by the captain and the first-lieutenant.

As I write as much for the instruction of my readers as for their
amusement, I wish to impress upon them, if they are themselves, or if
they know any that are, going to enter into the navy, the necessity, in
the first instance, of showing or recommending a proper spirit.  Never
let the _debutant_ regard how young or how feeble he may be--he must
make head against the first insult--he must avenge the first hoax.  No
doubt he will be worsted, and get a good beating; but that one will save
him from many hundreds hereafter, and, perhaps, the necessity of
fighting a mortal duel.  Your certain defeat will be forgotten in the
admiration of the spirit that provoked the contest.  And remember, that
the person who hoaxes you is always in the wrong, and it depends only
upon yourself to heap that ridicule upon him that was intended for your
own head; to say nothing of the odium that must attach to him for the
cruelty, the cowardice, and the meanness of fighting with a lad weaker
than himself.  This I will enforce by a plain fact that happened to
myself.  A tall, consequential, thirty-years-old master's mate,
threatened to beat me, after the manner that oldsters are accustomed to
beat youngsters.  I told him, that if he struck me, I would strike again
as long as I had strength to stand, or power to lift my hand.  He
laughed, and struck me.  I retaliated; it is true that I got a sound
thrashing; but it was my first and last, and my tyrant got both his eyes
well blackened, his cheek swollen--and was altogether so much defaced,
that he was forced to hide himself in the sick-list for a fortnight.
The story could not be told well for him, but it told for me gloriously;
indeed, he felt so much annoyed by the whole affair, that he went and
asked leave to go and mess with the gunner, fairly stating to the
captain that he could not run the risk of keeping order--for he was our
caterer--if he had to fight a battle every time he had to enforce it.

But I cannot too much caution youngsters against having recourse, in
their self-defence, to deadly weapons.  I am sorry to say, it was too
common when I was in the navy.  It is un-English and assassin-like.  It
rarely keeps off the tyrant; the knife, the dirk, or whatever else may
be the instrument, is almost invariably forced from the young bravo's
hand, and the thrashing that he afterwards gets is pitiless, and the
would-be stabber finds no voice lifted in his favour.  He also gains the
stigma of cowardice, and the bad reputation of being malignant and
revengeful.  Indeed, so utterly futile is the drawing of murderous
instruments in little affrays of this sort, that, though I have known
them displayed hundreds of times, yet I never knew a single wound to
have been inflicted--though many a heavy beating has followed the
atrocious display.  By all means, let my young friends avoid it.

On the day before we sailed from Sheerness, the captain had an order
conveyed to the first-lieutenant to send me away on duty immediately,
for two or three hours.  I was bundled into the pinnace with old canvas,
old ropes, and old blocks, condemned stores to the dock-yard, and, as I
approached the landing-place appropriated for the use of admirals _in
posse_, I saw embark from the stairs, exclusively set apart for admirals
and post-captains _in esse_, my captain and the port-admiral in the
admiral's barge, and seated between these two awful personages, there
sat a civilian, smiling in all the rotundity and fat of a very pleasant
countenance, and very plain clothes, and forming a striking contrast to
the grim complacency, and the ironbound civility, of the two men in
uniform.

The boat's crew were so much struck with this apparent anomaly--for to
them, anything in the civilian's garb to come near an officer, and that
officer a naval one, was hardly less than portentous, and argued the
said civilian to be something belonging to the _genus homo_
extraordinary--and the fat specimen in the boat with the port-admiral,
they thought, was one of the lords of the Admiralty, or even Mr Croker
himself--the notion of whose dimly-understood attributes was, with them,
of a truly magnificent nature.  Whoever this person was, he was
carefully assisted up the side of our ship, and remained on board for
about an hour, whilst we were burning with curiosity and eagerness to be
on board to satisfy it, and forced to do our best to allay this
tantalising passion, by hauling along tallied bights of rope, and
rousing old hawsers out, and new hawsers into the boat--a more pleasant
employment may be easily imagined for a raw, cold, misty day in winter.

I regarded all these operations very sapiently, knowing as yet nothing
of the uses, or even of the names, of the different stores that I was
delivering and receiving.  The boatswain was with me, of course: but
notwithstanding that I had positive orders not to let the men stray away
from the duty they were performing--as this official told me, after we
had done almost everything that we had come on shore to perform, that he
must borrow two of the men to go up with him to the storekeeper's
private house, to look out for some strong fine white line with which to
bowse up the best bower anchor to the spanker-boom-end, when the ship
should happen to be too much down by the stern, I could not refuse to
disobey my orders upon a contingency so urgent.  And there he left me,
for about two hours, shivering in the boat; and, at length, he and the
men came down, with very little white line in exchange for his not very
white tie; and truly, they had been bowsing-up something; for Mr
Lushby, the respectable boatswain, told me, with very great
condescension, that he was a real officer, whilst I was nothing but a
living walking-stick, for the captain to swear at when he was in a bad
humour; and that he had no doubt but that I should get mast-headed when
I got on board, for allowing those two men, who were catching crabs, to
get so drunk.

Similar tricks to this, every young gentleman entering the service must
expect--tricks that partake as much of the nature of malice as of fun.
Now, in the few days that I had been in the service, I very well
understood that the care of the men, as respected their behaviour and
sobriety, devolved on me, the delivering of old, and the drawing of new
stores, on the boatswain; yet, for the conduct of those men that he took
from under my eye, I felt that, in justice, he was answerable.  I
therefore made no reply to the vauntings and railings of Mr Lushby, but
had determined how to act.  The boat came alongside.  There was nobody
on board but the officer of the watch, and Mr Lushby tumbled up the
side and down the waist in double-quick time, sending the chief
boatswain's mate and the yeoman of the stores to act as his deputy.  He
certainly did his duty in that respect, as two sober deputies are worth
more than is a drunken principal.

However, I walked into the gun-room to report myself and boat to the
first-lieutenant.  The officers were at their wine.  I was flattered and
surprised at the frank politeness of my reception, and the welcome looks
that I received from all.  I was invited to sit, and a glass placed for
me.  When I found myself tolerably comfortable, and had answered some
questions put to me by Mr Farmer, our first-lieutenant, the drift of
which I did not then comprehend, and putting a little wilful simplicity
in my manner, I asked, with a great deal of apparent innocence, if all
the sailors caught crabs when they were drunk.

"Catch crabs, Mr Rattlin!" said Mr Farmer, smiling.  "Not always; but
they are sure to catch something worse--the cat."

"With white line--how strange!" said I, purposely misunderstanding the
gallant officer.  "Now I know why Mr Lushby took up the two men, and
why all three came down in a state to catch crabs.  I thought that white
line had something to do with it."

"Yes, Mr Rattlin, white line has."  Mr Farmer then motioned me to stay
where I was, took up his hat, and went on deck.  I need not tell my
naval readers that the boatswain was sent for, and the two men placed
aft.  It was certainly a very cruel proceeding towards the purveyor of
white line, who had just turned his cabin into a snuggery, and had taken
another round turn, with a belay over all, in the shape of two more
glasses of half-and-half.  When he found himself on the quarter-deck,
though the shades of evening were stealing over the waters--(I like a
poetical phrase now and then),--he saw more than in broad daylight: that
is to say, he saw many first-lieutenants, who seemed, with many wrathful
countenances, with many loud words, to order many men to see him down
many ladders, safely to his cabin.

The next morning, this "real officer" found himself in a very
uncomfortable plight; for, with an aching head, he was but too happy to
escape with a most stinging reprimand: and he had the consolation then
to learn, that, had he not endeavoured to play upon the _simplicity_ of
Mr Rattlin, he would most surely have escaped the fright and the
exposure.

The simplicity!



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

ANOTHER MYSTERY--ALL OVERJOYED BECAUSE THE "EOS" IS UNDER WEIGH; SHE
WORKS WELL--THROUGH THE WATER--HER OFFICERS THROUGH THEIR WINE--RALPH
REFRAINETH, AND SELF-GLORIFIETH--A LONG-SHORE MAN MAKES A SHORT STAY ON
BOARD--BECAUSE HE WON'T GO ON THE WRONG TACK.

But I must now explain why I had become so suddenly a favourite in the
ward-room.  The very stout gentleman, who came off with the admiral and
captain, undertook the aquatic excursion on my account.  He made every
inquiry as to my equipment, my messmates, and my chance of comfort.  Yet
I, the person most concerned, was sent out of the way, lest by accident
I should meet with him.  I never knew who he was, nor do I think the
captain did.  My shipmates had their conjectures, and I had mine.  They
took him to be what is usually called, not a person, but a personage.  I
believe that he was nothing more than a personage's fat steward, or some
other menial obesity; for it was very plain that he was ashamed to look
me in the face! and I understand he gave himself many second-hand airs.

And now we are off in earnest.  The Nore-light is passed; the pilot is
on the hammock nettings.  The breeze takes the sails; the noble frigate
bends to it, as a gallant cavalier gently stoops to receive the kiss of
beauty: the blocks rattle as the ropes fly through them; the sails court
the wind to their embrace, now on one side, now on the other.  I stand
on the quarterdeck, in silent admiration at the astonishing effects of
this wonderful seeming confusion.  I am pushed here, and ordered there:
I now jump to avoid the eddy of the uncurling ropes as they fly upwards,
but my activity is vain,--a brace now drags across my shins, and now the
bight of a lee-spanker brail salutes me, not lovingly, across the face.
The captain and officers are viewing the gallant vessel with intense
anxiety, and scrutinising every evolution that she is making.  How does
she answer her helm?  Beautifully.  What leeway does she make?  Scarce
perceptible.  The log is hove repeatedly,--seven, seven-and-a-half,
close-hauled.  Stand by, the captain is going to work her himself.  She
advances head to the wind bravely, like a British soldier to the
breach--she is about! she has stayed within her own length--she has not
lost her way!  "Noble! excellent!" is the scarcely-suppressed cry; and
then arose, in the minds of that gallant band of officers, visions of an
enemy worthy to cope with; of the successful manoeuvre, the repeated
broadsides, the struggle, and the victory: their lives, their honour,
and the fame of their country, they now willingly repose upon her; she
is at once their home, their field of battle, and their arena of glory.
See how well she behaves against that head sea!  There is not a man in
that noble fabric who has not adopted her, who has not a love for her;
they refer all their feelings to her, they rest all their hopes upon
her.  The Venetian Doge may wed the sea in his gilded gondola, ermined
nobles may stand near, and jewelled beauty around him--religion, too,
may lend her overpowering solemnities; but all this display could never
equal the enthusiasm of that morning, when above three hundred true
hearts wedded themselves to that beauty of the sea, the _Eos_, as she
worked round the North Foreland into the Downs.

The frigate behaved so admirably in all her evolutions, that, when we
dropped anchor in the roadstead, the captain, to certify his admiration
and pleasure, invited all the ward-room officers to dine with him, as
well as three or four midshipmen, myself among the rest.

It was an animated scene, that dinner-party.  The war was then raging.
Several French frigates, of our own size and class, and many much
larger, were wandering on the seas.  The republican spirit was blazing
forth in their crews, and ardently we longed to get among them.  As yet,
no one knew our destination.  We had every stimulant to honourable
excitement, and mystery threw over the whole that absorbing charm that
impels us to love and to woo the unknown.

But this meeting, at first so rational, and then so convivial, at length
permitted its conviviality to destroy its rationality.  Men who spoke
and thought like heroes one hour, the next spoke what they did not
think, and made me think what I did not speak.  No one got drunk except
the purser, who is always a privileged person; yet they were not the
same men as when they began their carouse, nor I the same boy when they
had finished it.  On that evening I made a resolution never to touch
ardent spirits, and whilst I was in the navy, that resolution I adhered
to.  It is a fact; I am known to too many, to make, on this subject, a
solemn assertion falsely.  I did not lay the same restriction on wine;
yet, even that I always avoided, when I could do so without the
appearance of affectation.  My reason, such as it was, never in the
slightest degree tottered on her throne, either with a weakness or a
strength not her own.  The wine-cup never gladdened or sorrowed me.
Even when the tepid, fetid, and animalised water was served out to us in
quantities so minute, that our throats could count it by drops, I never
sought to qualify its nauseous taste, or increase its quantity, by the
addition of spirits, when spirits were more plentiful than the
much-courted water.  This trait proves, if it proves nothing else, that
I had a good deal of that inflexibility of character, which we call in
others obstinacy, when we don't like it, firmness, when we do--in
ourselves, always, decision.

I give the incident that I am about to relate, to show in what way,
five-and-twenty years ago, a man-of-war was made the alternative of a
jail; and to prove, generally speaking, of what little use this kind of
recruiting was to the service; and, as it made a great impression on me
at the time, though a little episodical, I shall not hesitate to place
it before my readers.

After remaining at anchor in the Downs during the night, we sailed next
morning down the channel without stopping at Spithead, our ultimate
destination being still a profound secret.  As we proceeded, when we
were off a part of the coast, the name of which I do not remember, about
noonday it fell calm, and the tide being against us, we neared the shore
a little, and came to an anchor.  We had not remained long in our berth
before we descried a shore-boat pulling off to us, which shortly came
alongside, with a very singular cargo of animals, belonging to the genus
_homo_.  In the stern-sheets sat a magistrate's clerk, swelling with
importance.  On the after-thwart, and facing the Jack in office, were
placed two constables, built upon the regular Devonshire, chaw-bacon
model, holding, upright between their legs, each an immense staff;
headed by the gilded initials of our sovereign lord the king.

Seated between these imposing pillars of the state, sat, in tribulation
dire, a tall, awkward young man, in an elaborately-worked white
smock-frock, stained with blood in front and upon the shoulders.  He was
the personification of rural distress.  He blubbered _a pleine voix_,
and lifted up and lowered his handcuffed wrists with a see-saw motion
really quite pathetical.  Though the wind had fallen, yet the tide was
running strongly, and there was a good deal of sea, quite enough to make
the motion in the boat very unpleasant.  As they held on alongside by
the rope, the parties in the stern-sheets began bobbing at each other,
the staves lost and resumed, and then lost again, their perpendicular--
so much, indeed, as to threaten the head of the clerk, whose countenance
"began to pale its effectual fire."  The captain and many of the
officers looking over the gangway, the following dialogue ensued,
commenced by the officer of the watch.  "Shore-boat, ho-hoy!"

"In the name of the king," replied the clerk, between many minacious
hiccoughs, and producing a piece of paper, "I have brought you a
_volunteer_, to serve in his Majesty's fleet;" pointing to the blubberer
in the smock-frock.

"Well," said the captain, "knock off his irons, and hand him up."

"Dare not, sir--as much as my life is worth.  The most ferocious poacher
in the country.  Has nearly beaten in the skull of the squire's head
gamekeeper."

"Just the sort of man we want," said the captain.  "But you see he can't
get up the side with his hands fast; and I presume you cannot be in much
danger from the volunteer, whilst you have two such staves, held by two
such constables."

"Yes," said the now seriously-affected clerk; "I do not think that I
incur much danger from the malefactor, since I am under the protection
of the guns of the frigate."  So, somewhat reassured by this reflection,
the brigand of the preserves was unmanacled, and the whole party, clerk,
constables, and prisoner, came up the side and made their appearance on
the break of the quarter-deck.

But this was not effected without much difficulty, and some loss,--a
loss that one of the parties must have bewailed to his dying day, if it
did not actually hasten that awful period.  One of the constables, in
ascending the side, let fall his staff, his much-loved staff, dear to
him by many a fond recollection of riot repressed, and evildoer
apprehended, and away it went, floating with the tide, far, far astern.
His unmitigated horror at this event was comic in the extreme, and the
keeper of the king's peace could not have evinced more unsophisticated
sorrow than did the late keeper of his conscience at the loss of the
Seals, the more especially as the magistrate's clerk refused to permit
the boat to go in pursuit of it, not wishing the only connecting link
between him and the shore to be so far removed from his control.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

THE VOLUNTEER AND HIS FATE, SHOWING HOW A GREAT ROGUE, NOTWITHSTANDING
THAT HE MAY APPEAR TO BE BORN TO BE HUNG, WILL SOMETIMES HAPPEN TO
DROWN.

The group on the quarter-deck was singular and ludicrous.  Reuben
Gubbins, for such was the name of the offender, was the only son of a
small farmer, who, it appeared, had even gone the length of felony, by
firing upon and wounding the game-keeper of the lord of the manor.  He
was quite six feet high, very awkwardly built, and wore under his frock
a long-tailed blue-coat, dingy buckskin nether garments, and top-boots,
with the tops tanned brown by service.  His countenance betrayed a
mixture of simplicity, ignorance, and strong animal instinct.  He was
the least suited being that could be possibly conceived of whom to make
a sailor.  His limbs had been long stiffened by rustic employments, and
he had a dread of the sea, and of a man-of-war, horrifying to his
imagination.  In this dread it was very evident that his companions
largely participated, not excepting the pragmatical clerk.  The
constable with the staff, and the constable without, ranged themselves
on either side of the still sobbing Arcadian.  Indeed, the staffless
man, seemed to be but little less overcome than the prisoner.  He felt
as if all strength, value, and virtue had gone out of him; and ever and
anon he glared upon the baton of his brother-officer with looks
felonious and intent on rapine.

The business was soon concluded.  Reuben, rather than see himself tried
for his life, determined to make trial of the sea, and thus became,
perhaps, the most unwilling volunteer upon record.

Poor fellow! his sufferings must have been great!  The wild animal of
the forest, when pining, for the first time, in a cage, or the weary
land-bird, blown off, far away upon the restless sea, could not have
been more out of their elements than tall and ungainly Reuben Gubbins on
the deck of his Majesty's ship _Eos_.  I do not know how it was, for I
am sure that I ought to have despised him for his unmanly and incessant
weeping,--I knew that he had offended the laws of his country,--yet,
when the great lout went forward disconsolately, and sat himself down,
amidst the derision of the seamen, upon a gun-carriage on the
forecastle, I could not help going and dispersing the scoffers, and felt
annoyingly inclined to take his toil-embrowned hand, sit down beside,
and cry with him.  However, I did not so far commit myself.  But a few
hours afterwards I was totally overcome.

Strict orders were given not to allow Gubbins to communicate with anyone
from the shore.  A little before dusk, there was a boat ordered by the
sentinels to keep off, that contained, besides the sculler, a
respectable-looking old man, and a tall, stout, and rather handsome
young woman.  Directly they caught the eye of Reuben, he exclaimed,
"Woundikins! if there bean't feyther and our sister Moll."  And running
aft, and putting his hat between his knees, he thus addressed the
officer of the watch, "Please, Mr Officer, zur, there's feyther and our
Moll."

"Well!"

"Zur, mayn't I go and have my cry out with 'em, for certain I ha'
behaved mortal bad?"

"Against orders."

"But, sure-ly, you'll let him come up to comfort loike his undutiful
son."

"No, no; impossible."

"Whoy, lookee there, zur,--that's feyther with the white hair, and
that's sister crying like mad.  Ye can no' ha' the hard heart."

"Silence! and go forward."

I looked over the side, and there I saw the old man standing up
reverently, with his hat in one hand, and a bag, apparently full of
money in the other.  Undoubtedly, the simple yeoman had supposed that
money could either corrupt the captain, or buy off the servitude of his
guilty son.  It was a fine old countenance, down the sides of which that
silver hair hung so patriarchally and gracefully; and there that poor
old man stood, bowing in his wretchedness and his bereavement, with his
money extended, to every officer that he could catch a glimpse of as his
hat or head appeared above the hammock-nettings or the bulwarks.  The
grief of his sister was commonplace and violent; but there was a depth
and a dignity in that of the old man that went to my very heart.  I
could not help going up to the lieutenant, and entreating him to grant
the interview.

"It won't do, Mr Rattlin.  Don't you know that the fellow was put on
board with `CP' before his name?  I anticipate what you are going to
say; but humanity is a more abstract thing than you are aware of, and
orders must be obeyed."

"But, zur," said Gubbins, who had again approached, "I can see that
feyther has forgi'en me, and he's the mon I ha' most wronged, arter all.
Besides, sistur wull break her heart if she doan't say `Good-bye,
Reuben'--if feyther has made it up, sure other folk mought be koind.
Oh, ay--but I've been a sad fellow!"  And then he began to blubber with
fresh violence.

The officer was a little moved--he went to the gangway, hailed the boat,
and when she came near enough, he told the old farmer, kindly, that his
orders to prevent personal communication were strict; that any parcel or
letter should be handed up, but that he would do well not to let his
reprobate son have any money.  During this short conference, Reuben had
placed himself within sight of his relatives, and the sacred words of
"My father," "My son," were, in spite of all orders, exchanged between
them.  By this time the tide had turned, the wind had risen, and
precisely from the right quarter; so the hands were turned up, "up
anchor."  The orders for the boat to keep off were now reiterated in a
manner more imperative; but it still hung about the ship, and after we
were making way, as long as the feeble attempts of the boatman could
keep his little craft near us, the poor old man and his daughter, with a
constancy of love that deserved a better object, hung upon our wake, he
standing up with his white hair blown about by the wind, to catch a last
glimpse of a son whom he was destined to see no more, and who would,
without doubt, as the Scripture beautifully and tenderly expresses it,
"bring down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave."

Long, long after the stolid and sullen son had ceased, apparently, to
interest himself about the two that were struggling after us, in their
really frail boat, I watched from the taffrail the vain and loving
pursuit; indeed, until the darkness and the rapidly-increasing distance
shrouded it from my view, I did not leave my post of observation, and
the last I could discern of the mourners still showed me the old man
standing up, in the fixed attitude of grief, and the daughter with her
face bent down upon her knees.  To the last, the boat's head was still
towards the ship--a touching emblem of unswerving fatherly love.

I could not away with the old man's look, it was so wretched, so
helpless, yet so fond--and was typed to my fancy so strongly by his
little boat pursuing, with a hopeless constancy over waves too rough for
it, the huge and disregarding ship; so, with my breast full, even to
suffocation with mingled emotions, I went down to my berth, and, laying
my head upon the table, and covering my face with my hands, I pretended
to sleep.  The cruel torture of that half-hour!  I almost thought the
poacher, with all his misery, still blessed in having a father's
love--'twas then that I felt intensely the agony of the desertion of my
own parent--the love that had been denied to me to give to my own
father, I lavished upon the white-headed old man.  In imagination I
returned with him to his desolate home; I supported his tottering steps
over the threshold, no longer musical with an only son.  I could fancy
myself placing him tenderly and with reverence in his accustomed chair,
and speaking the words of comfort to him in a low voice, and looking
round for his family Bible--and the sister, doubtless she had many
sources of consolation; youth was with her--life all before her--she had
companions, friends, perhaps a lover; but,--for the poor old man!  At
that moment, I would have given up all my anticipations of the splendid
career that I fancied I was to run, in order to have gone and have been
unto the bereaved sire as a son, and to have found in him a father.

But nobody could make a sailor of Reuben Gubbins, and Reuben had no idea
of making a sailor of himself.  It was in vain that the boatswain's mate
docked the long tails of his blue coat (such things were done in the
navy at that time), razeed his top-boots into seamen's shoes, and that
he had his smock-frock reduced into a seaman's shirt.  The soil hung
upon him, he slouched over the deck, as if he were walking over the
furrows of ploughed land, and looking up into the rigging, as if he saw
a cock-pheasant at roost upon the rattlins.  Moreover, he could talk of
nothing else excepting "feyther," and "our Moll," and he really ate his
bread (_subintellige_ biscuit) moistened with his tears (if tears can
moisten such flinty preparations), for he was always whimpering.  For
the sake of the fit of romance that I felt for his father, I took some
kind notice of this yokel afloat.  I believe, as much as it lay in his
nature, he was grateful for it, for to everyone else on board he was the
constant butt.

Mr Farmer, our first-lieutenant, was a smart and somewhat exacting
officer.  He used to rig the smoke-sail some twelve feet high, across
the mizzen-mast, and make the young gentlemen just caught, and the boys
of the ship, lay out upon it, in order that they might practice furling
after a safe method.  At first, nothing could persuade Reuben to go a
single step up the rigging--not even the rope's-end of the boatswain's
mate.  Now this delicacy was quite at variance with Mr Farmer's ideas;
so, in order to overcome it by the gentlest means in the world, Reuben
had the option given him of being flogged, or of laying out on the
smoke-sail yard, just to begin with, and to get into the way of it.  It
was a laughable thing to see this huge clown hanging with us boys on the
thin yard, and hugging it as closely as if he loved it.  He had a
perfect horror of getting to the end of it.  At a distance, when our
smoke-sail yard was _manned_; we looked like a parcel of larks spitted,
with one great goose in the midst of us.  "Doey, get beyond me, zur;
doey, Mr Rattlin," he would say.  "Ah! zur, I'd climb with any bragger
in this ship for a rook's nest, where I ha' got a safe bough to stand
upon; but to dance upon this here see-sawing line, and to call it a
horse, too, ben't Christian loike."

But his troubles were soon to cease.  He was made a waister, and, at
furling sails stationed on the main yard.  I will anticipate a little
that we may have done with him.  The winter had set in severely, with
strong gales, with much frost and snow.  We were not clear yet of the
chops of the Channel, and the weather became so bad, that it was found
necessary to lie-to under try-sails and close-reefed main-top sail.
About two bells in the first dog-watch the first-lieutenant decided upon
furling the main-sail.  Up on the main-yard Reuben was forced to go; he
went to leeward, and the seamen, full of mischief; kept urging him
further and further away from the bunt.  I was with one of the oldsters
in the maintop; the maintop-sail had just been close-reefed.  I had a
full view of the lads on the main-yard, and the terror displayed in
Reuben's face was at once ludicrous and horrible.  It was bitterly cold,
the rigging was stiffened by frost, and the cutting north-east wind came
down upon the men on the lee-yard-arm out of the belly of the topsail
with tremendous force, added to which, the ship, notwithstanding the
pressure of the last-mentioned sail, surged violently, for there was a
heavy though a short sea.  The farmer's son seemed to be gradually
petrifying with fear: he held on upon a fold of the sail instinctively,
without at all assisting to bundle it up.  He had rallied all his
energies into his cramped and clutching fingers.  As I looked down upon
him, I saw that he was doomed.  I would have cried out for assistance,
but I knew that my cry would have been useless, even if I had been able,
through the roar of the winds and the waters, to have made it heard.

But this trying situation could not last long.  The part of the sail on
which Reuben had hung, with what might be truly termed his death-clutch,
was wanted to be rolled in with the furl, and, by the tenacity of his
grasp, he impeded the operation.

"Rouse up, my lads, bodily, to windward," roared the master's mate,
stationed at the bunt of the sail.

"Let go, you lubber," said the sailor next to windward of Reuben, on the
yard.

Reuben was now so lost, that he did not reply to the man even by a look.
"Now, my lads, now: one, two, three, and a ---."  Obedient to the call
of the officer, with a simultaneous jerk at the sail, the holdfast of
the stupid peasant was plucked from his cracking fingers; he fell back
with a loud shriek from the yard, struck midway on the main rigging, and
thence bounding far to leeward in the sea, disappeared, and for ever,
amid the white froth of the curling wave, that lapped him up greedily.
He never rose again.  Perhaps, in her leeway, the frigate drifted over
him--and thus the violated laws of his country were avenged.  I must
confess, that I felt a good deal shocked at the little sensation this
(to me) tragical event occasioned.  But we get used to these things, in
this best of all possible worlds; and if the poacher died unwept,
unknelled, unprayed for, all that can be said of the matter is--that
many a better man has met with a worse fate.



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

SYMPTOMS OF SICKNESS, NOT OF THE SEA, BUT OF THE LAND BEYOND IT--OUR
M.D. WISHES TO WRITE DIO, AND PREPARES ACCORDINGLY--RALPH IS ABOUT TO
REAP HIS FIRST MARINE LAURELS ON THE ROCKS OF COVE.

I do not get on with this life at all.  I have not yet reached the Cove
of Cork.  Clap on more sail.  It is bitterly cold, however, and here we
are now safely moored in one of the petals of the "first flower of the
sea."

In making this short passage, Captain Reud was very affable and
communicative.  He could talk of nothing but the beautiful coast of
Leghorn; the superb bay of Naples; pleasant trips to Rome; visits to
Tripoli; and other interesting parts on the African coast; and, on the
voluptuous city of Palermo, with its amiable ladies and incessant
festivities--he was quite as eloquent as could reasonably be expected
from a smart post-captain of four-and-twenty.

We were all in a fool's paradise.  For myself; I was enraptured.  I was
continually making extracts from Horace, Virgil, and other school-books,
that I still carried with me, which referred, in the least, to those
places that we were at all likely to see.  But visions of this land of
promise, of this sea, flowing with gentle waves and rich prizes, were
soon dispersed before a sad reality, that, without the aid of the biting
weather, now made most of the officers and men look blue, so soon as our
anchors had nipped the ground of the Green Island.  We found ourselves
in the middle of a convoy of more than two hundred vessels of all
descriptions, that the experienced immediately knew to be West Indiamen.

The sarcastic glee with which Captain Reud rubbed his skinny, yellow
hands, when he ordered additional sentries, and a boat to row guard
round the ship from sunset to sunrise, weather permitting, to prevent
desertion, gave me a strong impression of the malignity of his
disposition.  Certainly, the officers, from the first lieutenant
downwards, looked, when under the influence of the first surprise, about
as sage as we may conceive did those seven wise men of Gotham, who put
to sea in a bowl.  Some of them had even exchanged into the ship, for
certain unlawful considerations, because she was so fine a frigate, and
the captain possessed so much interest, being a very near and dear
relation of the then treasurer of the navy.  With this interest they
thought, of course, that he would have the selection of his own station.
And so he had.  They either did not know, or had forgotten, that
Captain Reud was a West Indian creole, and that he had large patrimonial
estates in Antigua.

"Not loud but deep," were the curses in the gun-room, but both "loud and
deep" were those in the midshipman's berth, for the denizens thereof
were never proverbial for the niceties of their expressions, when the
apalling certainty broke on the comminators, of three years' roasting in
the West Indies, with accompaniments of misgivings about Yellow Jack,
and the palisades, merely because the captain wished to go and see why
the niggers did not make quite so much sugar and rum as they used to do.
But, after all, we had a sage ship's company, officers included, for
there was scarcely a man in the ship, who, after our destination was
ascertained, did not say, "Well, I thought as much;" and they derived
much consolation from the consciousness of their foresight.

The knowledge of our station had a most decided effect upon two of our
officers, the master and surgeon; the former of whom, a weather-beaten,
old north-countryman, who had been all his life knocking about the north
sea, and our channels at home, immediately gave himself up for lost.  He
made his will, and took a decidedly serious turn.

But there was another person, who viewed the West India station not
religiously like our master, or joyously like our captain, or
grumblingly like the marine officer, or despitefully like all the
lieutenants, or detestedly like my messmates, or indifferently like
myself.  He took the matter into consideration discreetly, and so, in
order to enjoy a long life, he incontinently fell sick unto death.  Of
course he knew, more than any man on board, how ill he was, for he was
the doctor himself.  He was not merely a naval surgeon, but a regular
M.D., and with an English diploma.  He could appreciate, as much as any
man, the value of life; and hard indeed did he struggle to preserve the
means of prolonging it.  He was a short, round, and very corpulent
person, with a monstrously large and pleasantly-looking face, with a
very high colour--a colour not the flush of intemperance, but the glow
of genuine health.  This vast physiognomy was dug all over with holes;
not merely pock-marks, but pock-pits.  Indeed, his countenance put you
in mind of a vast tract of gravelly soil on a sunny day, dug over with
holes; it was so red, so cavernous, and withal, so bright.  I need not
mention that he was a _bon vivant_, a most joyous, yet a most discreet
one.  Even on board of ship he contrived to make his breakfasts dinners,
his dinners feasts, and his suppers, though light delicacies.  He was no
mean proficient in the culinary art, and as refined a gourmand as the
dear departed Dr Kitchener--a man, to whose honour I have a great mind
to devote an episode, and would do so, were not my poor shipmate, Dr
Thompson, just now waiting for me to relieve him from his illness.

No sooner did our clever medical attendant understand his destination,
than he sent away his plate untouched at dinner--refused his wine--
talked movingly of broken constitutions, a predisposition to anasarea,
and the deceitful and dangerous appearances of florid health.  At
supper, he pronounced himself a lost man, held out his brawny fist to
whomsoever would choose to feel his pulse, and sent for the first
assistant-surgeon to make him up a tremendous quantity of prescriptions,
to be exhibited the ensuing night--to whatever fish might be so
unfortunate as to be swimming alongside.  After this display, and whilst
he was languidly sipping a tumbler of barley-water, the Honourable Mr
B, our junior luff, was loud in his complaints of being, what he called,
fairly entrapped; when Dr Thompson, in a feeble and tremulous voice,
read him a long lecture on patriotism, obedience to the dictates of
duty, and self-devotion, finishing thus:--"By Heaven, show me the man
that flinches from his duty, and I'll show you whatever may be his
outward bearing, a craven at heart!  I am very ill--I feel that I am
fast sinking into a premature grave--but what of that.  I should be but
too happy if I could make my dying struggles subservient to my country.
My body, Mr Farmer--Mr Wade, this poor temple of mine contains an
insidious enemy--a strange, a dreadful, and a wasting disease.  It is
necessary for the sake of medical science, for my country's good, for
the health of the world at large, that my death, which will speedily
happen, should take place in England, in order that after dissolution I
may be dissected by the first operators, viewed by the most intelligent
of the faculty, and thus another light be placed on the present dark
paths of curative knowledge.  My symptoms are momentarily growing worse.
Gentlemen, messmates, friends, I must leave you for the night, and too
soon, I fear, for ever; but never shrink your duty.  If they be the last
words that I shall utter to you--humble though I be--I may venture to
hold myself up to you as a pattern of self-devotion.  God bless you
all--good night--and never shirk your duty."

Of course, the company to whom this was addressed, were infinitely
amused at this display, and the third-lieutenant observed mournfully,
"Now there's no chance for me.  The fat rogue is going to invalid
himself.  I suppose that I need not trouble my liver to be diseased just
now, for the hypocrite won't allow another man in the ship to be sick
but himself."

The gentlemen guessed rightly.  All the next day Dr Thompson kept his
cot, and was duly reported to the captain as dangerously ill.  Now, our
first-lieutenant was a noble, frank, yet sensible and shrewd fellow, and
the captain was as mischief-loving, wicked little devil, as ever grinned
over a spiteful frolic.  They held a consultation upon the case, and
soon came to a more decided opinion on it, than the gentlemen of the
faculty generally do on such occasions.  Now, whilst the doctor is
plotting to prove himself desperately and almost hopelessly sick, and
the captain and Mr Farmer, to make him suddenly well, in spite of
himself I shall take the opportunity of displaying my own heroic deeds,
when placed in the first independent command ever conferred upon me.
Jason, with his Argonauts, went to bear away the Golden Fleece;
Columbus, and his heroes, to give a world to the sovereign of Spain; and
I, with two little boys, pushed out of the Cove perilously to procure
some sand in the dingy.  Nothing elevates a biography like appropriate
comparison.  But I doubt whether either Jason or Columbus felt a more
enthusiastic glow pervade their frames when each saw himself fairly
under sail for unknown seas than I did when I seized the tiller of the
dinghy, which was, by the bye, a stick not at all bigger than that which
I had, not many months before, used in trundling my hoop.



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

A LITTLE BOAT WITH A LARGE CARGO--WORSE THAN THE DRIFT OF A DULL
ARGUMENT, RALPH FINDS DRIFTING ACROSS THE ATLANTIC--HE MEETS WITH LAND
AT LENGTH, AND A REAL IRISH WELCOME--POTATOES AND POTEEN, AND MUCH MORE
FUR THAN FURNITURE.

But this little boat, as it so often bore Caesar and his fortunes, and
our surgeon and his fat, deserves and shall have a more than passing
notice.  It was perhaps one of the smallest crafts that ever braved the
seas.  Such a floating miniature you may have conceived Gulliver to be
placed in, when he was sighed across the tub of water by his Brobdignag
princess.  Woefully and timorously, many's the time and oft did the
obese doctor eye it from the gangway; when asking for a boat, the
first-lieutenant, smiling benignantly, would reply, "Doctor, take the
dinghy."  It was all that the dinghy could do, to take the doctor.  Then
the care with which he gently deposited himself precisely in the centre
of the very small stern-sheets, would have afforded a fine moral lesson
to those who pretend to watch over the safety of states.  As the little
craft, laden with this immense pharmacopoeian depositary, hobbled over
the seas, it seemed almost to progress upright, and "walked the waters
like a thing of life;" for it had a shrewd likeness to a young monkey
learning to go upright, with its two long arms steadying its uncertain
gait, the oars making all this resemblance.  Indeed, it was so
diminutive, that it often kept up the two boys that belonged to it from
the fresh as well as the salt water, they clapping it over their heads,
by way of an umbrella, whenever the clouds poured down a libation too
liberal.  To those curious in philology I convey the information, that
in the word _dinghy_, the g was pronounced hard.  This explanation is
also necessary to do justice to the pigmy floater, as it was always
painted in the gayest colours possible.  It was quite a pet of the
first-lieutenant's.  Indeed, he loved it so much, that he took care
never to oppress it with his own weight.

The Cove of Cork is a fine harbour, entered by the means of a somewhat
narrow straight.  I have forgotten the names of all the headlands and
points, and I am so sick of Irish affairs that I do not choose to go
into the next room and get the map to refer to, for on it there is
scarcely a spot that could meet my eye, that would not give rise to
disagreeable associations.  So I prefer writing from memory, magic
memory, that gives me now the picture of five-and-twenty years ago, all
green, and fresh, and beautiful.

On entering the Cove, there were on the left hand of the strait
fortifications and military barracks.  Beyond these, to the seaward, and
just on the elbow of the land that formed the entrance to the strait,
our first-lieutenant discovered from the taffrail of the frigate, a
white patch of sand.  The rest of the shore was rocky, iron-bound, and
unapproachable from the sea.  Mr Farmer took me aft, pointed out to me
the just visible spot, told me to fetch off as much sand as the dinghy
could bear, and return with all expedition.  Proud of the commission,
about four p.m., the tide running out furiously, I ordered the
_dinghies_ to be piped away, and walking down the side with due dignity,
with a bucket and a couple of spades, we pushed off, and soon reached
the spot.  The boat was loaded, but in the meantime the tide had left,
and, light and small as she was, three little boys could not launch her
till almost all the sand had been returned to its native soil.  All this
occupied much time.  It was nearly dusk when we got her afloat, and the
wind had got up strongly from off the land.  It came on to rain, and we
had not got far from the shore before the tide swept us clean out into
the Atlantic.  We were shortly in a situation sufficiently perilous for
the heroic.  There we were, three lads, whose united years would not
have made up those of a middle-aged man, in a very little boat, in a
very high sea, with a strong gale that would have been very favourable
for us, if we had wished to steer for New York.  As we could not make
head at all against the combined strength of an adverse wind, tide, and
sea, we left off pulling, and threw all the sand out of the boat.  We
knew the tide would turn, we hoped that the sea might go down, and
trusted that the wind would change.  Before it was quite dark we had
lost sight of the land, and I began to feel a little uncomfortable, as
my boat's crew from stem to stern (no great distance) assured me that we
should certainly be swamped.  In this miserable position of our affairs,
and when we should have found ourselves very cold, if we had not been so
hungry, and very hungry if we had not been so cold, an Hibernian
mercantile vessel passed us, laden with timber and fruit, viz. potatoes
and birch-brooms, and they very kindly and opportunely threw us a
tow-rope.  This drogher, that was a large, half-decked, cutter-rigged
vessel, made great way through the water, and, as we were dragged after
her, we were nearly drowned by the sea splashing over us, and, had it
not been for our sand-bucket, it is probable that we should have filled.
In the state of the sea, to get on board the drogher from the dinghy,
was an operation too dangerous to be attempted.

But before this assistance came, what were my feelings?  No situation
could be more disconsolate, and, apparently, more hopeless.  Does not
the reader suppose that there was a continual fishing through my bosom
of agonised feelings?  Can he not understand that visions of my
lately-forsaken green play-ground came over the black and massive waves,
and seemed to settle on them as in mockery?  But were I to dilate upon
these horrors, would he not weary of them?  Had I been the son of a king
thus situated, or even the acknowledged offspring of a duke, there might
have been sympathy.  But the newly-emancipated schoolboy, drowned with
two lads just drafted from the Marine Society, in a small boat off the
Irish coast, may be thought a melancholy occurrence, but involving
nothing of particular interest.  I see my error: if I wish to create an
effect, I must first prove that I am the son of a duke or a king.  I
have begun at the wrong end.

However, let the reader sneer as he will at my predicament, there was
something sublime in the scene around me.  The smallness of the craft
magnified the greatness of the waves.  I literally enjoyed the
interesting situation which naval writers, who are not nautical, of
"seas running mountains high," so rejoice to describe.  One wave on
either hand bounded my horizon.  They were absolutely mountain waves to
me; and when our little walnut-shell got on the top of one, it is no
great stretch of metaphor to say, that we appeared ascending to the
clouds.  We could not look down upon one wave, until we were fairly on
the back of another.  Now, in a vessel of tolerable size, let the sea
rage at its worst, from the ship's decks you always look down upon it,
excepting now and then, when some short-lived giant will poke up its
overgrown head.  But I must remember that I am in tow of the potato
craft.

Though she lay well up for the harbour's mouth, she could not fetch it,
so she tacked and tacked again, until nearly ten o'clock, at which time
we in the dinghy were half frozen, and almost wholly drowned.  The moon
was now up, though partially obscured by flying rack, and in making a
land board, the honest Pat, in the command of the sloop, shortened the
tow-rope, and hailed us, telling us when we were well abreast of a
little sandy bight, to cast off, pull in, and haul up our boat above
high-water mark.  We took his advice, and, without much difficulty,
found ourselves once more on terra firma.

I cannot help, in this place, making the reflection of the singular
events that the erratic life of a sailor produces.  Here were evidently
three lives saved, among which was that of the future paragon of
reefers, and neither the saved nor the saviours knew even the names, or
saw distinctly the faces of each other.  How many good and brave actions
we sailors do, and the careless world knows nothing about them.  The
sailor's life is a series of common-place heroisms.

Well, here we are, landed on the coast of Ireland, but in what part we
knew not, and with every prospect of passing the night under the
grandest, but, in winter, the most uncomfortable roof in the world.  The
two lads begged for leave to go up and look for a house; but, as I had
made up my mind that if a loss took place, we should be all lost
together, I would not run the risk of _losing_ my boat's crew, and
_finding_ myself--alone.  I refused my consent, telling them that it was
my duty to stay by my boat, and theirs to stay by me.  Now this was
tolerably firm, considering the ducking that I had enjoyed, and the
hunger, cold, and weariness that I was then enjoying--enjoying? yes,
enjoying.  Surely I have as much right to enjoy them if I like as the
ladies and gentlemen of this metropolis have to enjoy bad health.

But this epicene state of enjoyment was not long to last.  A
fresh-coloured native, with a prodigious breadth of face, only to be
surpassed by his prodigious breadth of shoulders, approached, and
addressed us in a brogue so strong, that it would, like the boatswain's
grog, have floated a marlin-spike, and in a stuttering so thick, that a
horn spoon would have stood upright in it.  The consequence was, that
though fellow-subjects, we could not understand each other.  So he went
and brought down with him a brawny brother, who spoke "Inglis illigantly
anyhow."  Well, the proverbial hospitality of the Irish suffered no
injury in the persons of my Irish friends.  A pressing invitation to
their dwelling and to their hospitality was urged upon us in terms, and
with looks, that I felt were the genuine offspring of kindness and
generosity of soul.  But I still demurred to leave my boat.  When they
understood the full force of my objection, my frieze-coated friend, who
spoke the "illigant Inglis," explained.

"O, by Jasus, and ain't she welcome intirely?  Come along ye little
undersized spalpeen with your officer, won't you?"

And, before I could well understand what they were about, the two
"jontlemen" had taken up his Majesty's vessel under my command, had
turned it bottom up with several shakes, to clear it of the water and
sand, and with as little difficulty as a farmer's boy would have turned
upside down a thrush's cage, in order to cleanse it.  After this
operation had been performed, they righted it, and one laying hold of
the bow, and the other the stern, they swung it between them, as two
washerwomen might a basket of dirty clothes.  I must confess that I was
a great deal mortified at seeing my command treated thus slightingly,
which mortification was not a little increased by an overture that they
kindly made to me, saying, that if I were at all tired, they would, with
all the pleasure in the world, carry me in it.  I preferred walking.

Officer, boat's crew, guides, boats and oars, proceeded in this manner
for more than half a mile up into the country.  At length, by the
moonlight, I discovered a row of earthy mounds, that I positively, at
first, thought was a parcel of heaps such as I had seen in England,
under which potatoes are buried for the winter.

I was undeceived, by being welcomed to the town of some place, dreadful
in "as," and "ghas," and with a name so difficult to utter, that I could
not pronounce it when I attempted, and which, if I had ever been so
fortunate to retain, I should, for my own comfort, have made haste to
forget.

I hope that the "finest pisintry in the world" are better located now
than they were a quarter of a century ago, for they are, or were, a fine
peasantry, as far as physical organisation can make them, and deserve at
least to be housed like human beings; but what I saw, when on that night
I entered the mud edifice of my conductors, made me start with
astonishment.  In the first place, the walls were mud all through, and
as rough on the inside as the out.  There was actually no furniture in
it of any description; and the only implement I saw, was a large
globular iron pot, that stood upon spikes, like a carpenter's
pitch-kettle, which pot, at the moment of my entrance, was full of hot,
recently boiled, unskinned, fine mealy praties.  Round this there might
have been sitting some twelve or fourteen persons of both sexes, and
various ages, none above five-and-twenty.  But it must be remembered,
that the pot was upon the earth, and the earth was the floor, and the
circle was squatted round it.  At the fire-place, each on a three-legged
stool, sat an elderly man and woman.  These stools the fastidious may
call furniture if they please; but were any of my readers placed upon
one of them, so rough and dirty were they, that he or she must have been
very naughty, did not the stool of repentance prove a more pleasant
resting-place.

Among the squatted circle there were a bandy-legged drummer, and a
blotched-faced fifer, from the adjacent barracks, both in their
regimentals.  They rose, and capped to my uniform.  We were welcomed
with shouts of congratulations.  My boat was brought in, and placed
bottom-up along one side of the hovel, and immediately the keel was
occupied by a legion of poultry, and half a score of pigs, little and
big, were at the same time to be seen dubbing their snouts under the
gunnel, on voyages of alimentary discovery.  I was immediately pulled
down between two really handsome lasses in the circle; and, with
something like savage hospitality, had my cheeks stuffed with the
burning potatoes.

Never was there a more hilarious meeting.  I and my Tom Thumb of a boat,
and my minikin crew, I could well understand, though my hosts spoke in
their mother tongue, were the subjects of their incessant and
uncontrollable bursts of laughter.  But with all this, they were by no
means rude, and showed me that sort of respect that servants do to the
petted child of their master: that is to say, they were inclined to be
very patronising, and very careful of me, in spite of myself; and to
humour me greatly.  My two boys, whom I have so often dignified with the
imposing title of my boat's crew, though treated with less or no respect
at all, were welcomed in a manner equally kind.



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

RALPH FIGURETH AT A BALL, EXCELLETH, AND AFTERWARDS SLEEPETH--HE
RETURNETH ON BOARD, AND HATH BOTH HIS TOILS AND HIS SAND UNDERVALUED,
AND THUS DISCOVERETH THE GRATITUDE OF FIRST-LIEUTENANTS.

Not yet having sufficiently Hibernised my taste to luxuriate on
Raleigh's root, plain, with salt, I begged them to procure me something
more placable to an English appetite.  I gave money to my hosts, and
they procured me eggs and bacon.  I might also have had a fowl, but I
did not wish to devour guests to whom on my boat's keel I had given such
recent hospitality.  They returned me my full change, and, though there
was more than enough of what they cooked for me to satisfy myself and
boys, they would not partake of the remains, until I assured them, that
if they did not I would throw them away.  At this intimation they
disappeared in a twinkling.

Then came the whiskey--the real dew.  I never touched it.  I have before
stated, that for three years I abstained from all spirituous liquors.
My lads had made no such resolution.  The big iron pot was now, like an
honest old sailor that had done his duty, kicked aside the corner; the
drummer and fifer seating themselves on the keel of the inverted dinghy,
and struck up a lilt, and:--

  "Off they went so gaily O!"

More lads and lasses came in, and jigs and reels succeeded each other
with such rapidity, that, notwithstanding the copious supplies of
whiskey, the drummer's arms failed him, and the fifer had almost blown
himself into an atrophy.  Did I dance?  To be sure I did, and right
merrily too.  I had such pleasant, fair-haired, rosy, Hebe-like
instructresses, ready to tear each other's eyes out to get me for a
partner.  Then, they talked Irish so musically, and put the king's
English to death so charmingly that, notwithstanding the heat and smoke
of the cabin was upon them, and the whiskey did more than heighten the
colour on their lips, they were really enchanting, though stockingless
creatures.  It has been truly said, that in the social circle, the
extremes, as to manners, almost meet.  These ladies, I suppose, had gone
so far beyond vulgarity, that they were now converging to the superior
tone and frank _degagement_ of the upper classes.  Positively it never
struck me that I was in vulgar company.  I then, of course, could have
been but an indifferent judge.  But I have thought of it often since,
and must say, that in the degrading sense of the word, my company of
that night was not vulgar.  It was pastoral, and perhaps barbarous, but
everything was natural, and everything free from pretension.  I did not
often again, though I have danced with spirits as unwearied, dance with
a heart so light.  During this festive evening I saw no indications of
that pugnacity so inseparable with Irish hilarity, though there were
assembled a dozen of as pretty "broths of boys," as ever practised skull
salutation at Donybrook fair.

At length, about one in the morning, the whiskey had overpowered my
boat's crew, and the whisking myself.  They made up a lair for me with
abundant greatcoats in the corner of the room, and my eyes gradually
closed in sleep, catching, till they were finally sealed up, every now
and then, twinklings of bare legs and well-turned ankles, mingled with
the clatter of heavy brogues, and the drone of a bagpipe that had now
superseded the squeak of the fife, and the rattle of the drum.

I certainly did dream, I suppose about an hour after I had fallen
asleep, of the clattering of sticks, the squalling of women, and the
cursing of men; and I felt an indistinct sensation, as if people were
practising leaping over my body, and finally, as if some soft-rounded
figure had caught me in her arms.  I was so terribly oppressed with
fatigue that I could not awake; and, as the last part of my dream gave
me so sweet an idea of happiness and security, if I may use the
expression, I shall say, as every novelist has a right to do once in his
three volumes--"I was lapped in Elysium."

Everything was oblivion until I was awakened by one of my lads at eight
in the morning, and I arose refreshed, though a little stiff.  The
hardened clay, which composed the floor, was neatly swept up, the pigs
and the poultry were driven out, and a good fire was blazing under the
chimney.  Of all the party of the night before, there remained only the
two fine young men who brought me and my boat up, the elderly couple,
and two blooming girls, with the youngest of whom I had danced almost
the whole of the previous evening.  I observed on one of the young men a
tremendous black eye, that certainly was not there the day before, and
the other had his temples carefully bandaged, and both my boat-boys
complained of being kicked and trampled on during the night, yet I am
not so ungrateful, upon such slender evidence, as to assert that the
dance had ended in a scrimmage, or so presumptuous as to say in what
manner I thought that I had been protected during the row, if there had
been one.

My hosts had nothing to offer me for breakfast but a thin, and by no
means tempting pot of hot meal and water.  I certainly did taste a
little, that I might not seem to disrespect the pretty Norah, who had
prepared it for me, and strove to make it palatable by a lump of butter,
a delicacy that was offered to no one else.  As I was impatient to be
off, I kissed the girls heartily, yes, heartily; shook hands with the
sons, and prepared for my departure, after having, with considerable
difficulty, forced a half-guinea upon my hosts.  I begged to know the
names of those to whose hospitality I was so much indebted, and, as well
as memory will serve me at this distance of time, I think they were
specimens of what excellent O'Tooles potatoes are capable of producing.
We then resumed our procession down to the beach, I walking first,
bearing the boat-hook pikeways, followed by the boat itself borne
between the two athletic Tooles, and the procession was closed by the
boat's crew, each with his oar upon his shoulder.  We were soon launched
and instructed as to the course we were to take.  The wind and sea had
gone down, and the tide was favourable.  We had to pull about five miles
to get round the bluff, when we arrived at the sandy little nook from
which we had made our involuntary excursion to sea the night before.
The spirit of obedience to orders was strong upon me, and in spite of
the remonstrance of the boys, I went in and loaded the dinghy nearly
down to the gunnel with the sand, for which we had been so much
perilled.  After all my dangers, I got safely on board before noon, much
to the surprise of all on board, who had given us up as lost, and there
already had been a coolness between the captain and the first-lieutenant
on my account.  This coolness promised a warm reception for myself; and
I got it.

So occupied had Mr Farmer been all the day before with taking in Irish
beef and pork, for the West Indian storehouses, and extra water to
supply any of the convoy that might fall short of that necessary
article, that he had totally forgotten the sand expedition, and it was
eight in the evening, just at the time that I was, in the words of the
song, "Far, far at sea," that he was reminded of it.  Mr Silva, the
second-lieutenant, begged as a favour, that a boat might be lent him,
just to put him alongside the _Roebuck_, one of the two eighteen-gun
brigs that was to accompany us as whippers-in to the convoy.  As the
captain was not expected on board till late, Mr Farmer had not much
hesitation in granting the request, with the usual "Take the dinghy, Mr
Silva."  But just then the Atlantic had been beforehand with him.  The
dinghy had not returned.  She had been last seen at the sandy nook to
which she had been sent.  The barge and cutter were immediately manned
and sent to look for me.  They easily got to the place where I was seen
loading, and found the sand disturbed, and nothing else.  They returned
with some difficulty against the head-wind, and, of course, made a most
disheartening report.  When the captain returned he was dreadfully
angry.

Well, as I crept up the side sneakingly, not very well knowing whether I
were to enact the hero or the culprit, I concocted a speech that was
doomed to share the fate of "the lost inventions."  I saw the captain
and Mr Farmer pacing the deck, but both decidedly with their duty faces
on.  Touching my hat very submissively, I said sheepishly, "I've come on
board, sir, and--"

"You young blackguard!  I've a great mind--"

"To do what, Mr Farmer?" said Captain Reud, interposing.

Now I can assure the reader, twenty-five years ago, when we had nearly
cleared the seas of every enemy, and the British pennant was really a
whip, which had flogged every opponent of the ocean, the "young
gentlemen" were sometimes flogged too, and more often called young
blackguards than by any other title of honour.  All this is altered for
the better now.  We don't abuse each other, or flog among ourselves so
much--and, the next war, I make no doubt, what we have spared to
ourselves we shall bestow upon our enemies.  I mention this, that the
reader may not suppose that I am coarse in depicting the occasional
looseness of the naval manners of the times.

"To punish him for staying out all night without leave."

"That's a great fault, certainly," said the captain, slily.  "Pray, Mr
Rattlin, what _induced_ you to commit it?"

"Please, sir, I wasn't induced at all.  I was regularly blown out, and
now I am as regularly blown--."

"Come, sir, I'll be your friend, and not permit you to finish your
sentence.  If it's a fair question, Mr Rattlin, may I presume to ask
where you slept last night?"

"With the two Misses O'Tooles," said I; for really the young ladies were
uppermost in my thoughts.

"You young reprobate!  What, with both?" said the captain, grinning.

"Yes sir," for I now began to feel myself safe; "and Mr and Mrs
O'Toole, and Mr Cornelius O'Toole, who has red hair, and Mr Phelim
O'Toole, who has a black eye,--and the poultry, and the pigs, and the
boat's crew."

"And where was the boat all this time?"

"Sleeping with us, too, sir."

I then shortly detailed what had happened to me, which amused the
captain much.  "And so," he continued, "after all, you have brought off
the sand.  I really commend your perseverance."

A bucket of sand was handed up, and Mr Farmer contemptuously filtered
it through his fingers; then turning to me wrathfully, exclaimed, "How
dare you bring off for sand, such shelly, pebbly, gritty stuff as this,
sir?"

"If you please, sir, I had no hand in putting it where I found it, and I
only obeyed orders in bringing it off."  For I really felt it to be very
unjust to be blamed for the act of nature, and especially as three lives
had been endangered to procure a few buckets of worthless earth.

The captain thought so too; for he said to Mr Farmer, very coldly, "I
think you should have ascertained the quality of the sand before you
sent for it; and I don't think that you should have sent for it at all
towards nightfall, and at the beginning of ebb tide.  Youngster, you
shall dine with me to-day, and give me a history of the O'Tooles."



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

AN INVALIDING SUIT--THE CARDS WELL PLAYED, AND BY A TRUMP--THE ODD
TRICK, HOWEVER, IN MUCH DANGER--THE DOCTOR FINESSES WITH A GOOD HEART,
BUT DIAMONDS ARE CUTTING ARTICLES.

Two days had elapsed after my incursions upon the "wild Irishers,"
during which our surgeon had kept himself closely to his cabin, when he
wrote a letter on service to the captain, requesting a survey upon his
self-libelled rotundity of body.  The captain, according to the laws of
the service, "in that case made and provided," forwarded the letter to
the port-admiral, who appointed the following day for the awful
inspection.  As I said before, the skipper and his first-lieutenant had
laid down a scheme of a counter-plot, and they now began to put it into
execution.  Immediately that Dr Thompson had received his answer, he
began to dose himself immoderately with tartarised antimony and other
drugs, to give his round and hitherto ruddy countenance the pallor of
disease.  He commenced getting up his invaliding suit.

It had been a great puzzle to his brother officers, to understand what
two weasan-faced mechanical-looking men, from the shore, had been doing
in his cabin the greater part of the night.  They did not believe, as
the doctor intimated, that they were functionaries of the law, taking
instructions for his last will and testament; though the astute surgeon
had sent a note to Mr Farmer, the first-lieutenant, with what he
thought infinite cunning, to know, in case of anything fatal happening
immediately to the writer, whether his friend would prefer to have
bequeathed to him the testator's double-barrelled fowling piece, or his
superb Manton's duelling-pistols.  Mr Farmer replied, "that he would
very willingly take his chance of both."

At twelve o'clock everything was ready.  The survey was to take place in
the captain's cabin.  Dr Thompson sends for his two assistants, and
then, for the first time for three days, he emerges, leaning heavily
upon both his supporters.

Can this be the jovial and rubicund doctor?  Whose deadly white face is
that, that peers out from under the shadow of an immense green shade?
The lips are livid--the corners of the mouth drawn down--and yet there
is a triumphant sneer in their very depression.  The officers gather
round him, he lifts up his head slowly, and then looks round and shakes
it despondingly.  His eyes are dreadfully bloodshot.  His mess-mates,
the young ones especially, begin to think that his illness is real.
There is the real sympathy of condolence in the greetings of all but the
hard-a-weather master, the witty purser, and the obdurate first.  The
invalid was apparelled in an ancient roast-beef uniform coat,
bottle-green from age; the waistcoat had flaps indicative of fifty
years' antiquity, and the breeches were indescribable.  He wore large
blue-worsted stockings folded up outside above the knee, but carefully
wrinkled and disordered over the calf of the leg, in order to conceal
its healthy mass of muscle.  Big as was the doctor, his clothes were
all, as Shakespeare has it, "a world too big," though we cannot finish
the quotation by adding, "for his shrunk shank."  Instead of two
lawyers' clerks, the sly rogue had had two industrious snips closeted
with him, for the purpose of enlarging this particular suit of clothes
to the utmost.

"In the name of ten thousand decencies, doctor," exclaimed Mr Farmer,
"who made you that figure?"

"Disease," was the palsied and sepulchral reply.

"But the clothes--the clothes--these incomprehensible clothes?"

"Are good enough to die in."

"But I doubt," said the purser, "whether either they or their wearer be
good enough to die."

There was a laugh, but it was not infectious as respected the occasion
of it.  He shook his head mournfully, and said, "The flippancy of rude
health--the inconsiderate laugh of strong youth!"

With much difficulty he permitted himself to be partly carried up the
ladder, and seated in all the dignity of suffering, in a chair in the
fore-cabin, the two assistants standing, one on each side of him, in
mute observation.

It is twelve o'clock--half-past twelve--one--two.  The captain is coming
on board--tell the officers--the side is manned--the boatswain pipes--
and the little great man arrives, and, attended by Mr Farmer, enters
the cabin.  Prepared as he was for a deception, even he starts back with
surprise at the figure before him.

With one hand upon a shoulder of each of his assistants, the doctor,
with an asthmatical effort, rises.

"Well, doctor, how are you?"

The doctor shook his head.

"Matters have gone a great length, I see."

Another shake, eloquent with suffering and despondency.

"I understand from my friend here" (Mr Farmer and he _were_ friends
sometimes for half an hour together), "that with Christian providence
you have been making your will.  Now, my dear doctor, it is true, that
we have hardly been three months associated; but that time, short as it
is, has given me the highest opinion of your convivial qualities, your
professional skill, and the great _depth_ of your understanding.  Deep--
very deep!  You must not class me among the mean herd of legacy-hunters;
but I would willingly have some token by which to remember so excellent
a man, and an officer so able, and so _unshrinking_ in the performance
of his duties."

"There is my tobacco-box," said the doctor with feeble malice; "for
though chewing the weed cannot cure, it can conceal a bad breath."

The captain winced.  It was a thrust with a double-edged sword.  He was
what we now call, an exquisite, in person, and one to whom the idea of
chewing tobacco was abhorrent, whilst he was actually and distressingly
troubled with the infirmity hinted at.  For a moment, the suavity of his
manner was destroyed, and he forgot the respect due to the dying.

"Damn the tobacco box--and damn that--never mind--no, no, doctor, you
had better order the box to be buried with you, for nobody _could_ use
it after you; but if I might presume so far--might use the very great
liberty to make a selection, I would request, entreat, nay, implore you
to leave me the whole _suit of clothes_ in which you are now standing;
and if you would be so considerate, so kind, so generous, by God I'll
have them stuffed and preserved as a curiosity."

"Captain Reud, you are too good.  Mr Staples," turning helplessly to
his assistant, "get me immediately an effervescing draught.  Excuse my
sitting--I am very faint--you are so kind--you quite _overcome_ me."

"No, not yet," said the captain in a dry tone, but full of meaning.  "I
may perhaps by-and-by, when you know more of me; but now--O no!
However, I'll do my best to make you grateful.  And I'm sorry to
acquaint you, that the admiral has put off the survey till twelve
o'clock to-morrow, when I trust that you will be as well _prepared_ as
you are now.  Don't be dejected, doctor, you have the consolation of
knowing, that if you die in the meantime, all the annoyance of the
examination will be saved you.  In the interim, don't forget the old
clothes--the invaliding suit.  My clerk shall step down with you into
the cabin, and tack a memorandum on, by way of codicil, to your will:
don't omit those high-quartered, square-toed shoes, with the brass
buckles."

"If you would promise to wear them out yourself."

"No, no; but I promise to put them on when I am going to invalid; or to
lend them to Mr Farmer, or any other friend, on a similar occasion."

"I hope," said Mr Farmer, "that I shall never stand in the doctor's
shoes."

"I hope you never will--nor in Captain Reud's either."

The gallant commander turned from yellow to black at this innuendo,
which was, for many reasons, particularly disagreeable.  Seeing that he
was bagging to leeward, like a west-country barge laden with a haystack,
in this sailing-match of wits, he broke up the conference by observing,
"You had better, doctor, in consideration of your weakness, retire to
your cabin.  I certainly cannot, seeing my near prospect of your
invaluable legacy, in any honesty wish you better."

With all due precautions, hesitations, and restings, Dr Thompson
reached his cabin, and I doubt not as he descended, enervated as he was,
but that he placed, like O'Connell, a vow in heaven, that if ever
Captain Reud fell under his surgical claws, the active operations of Dr
Sangrado should be in their celerity even as the progress of the sloth,
compared with the despatch and energy with which he would proceed on the
coveted opportunity.

When he was alone he was overheard to murmur, "Stand in my shoes--the
ignorant puppies!  I shall see one of them, if not both in their shrouds
yet.  Stand in my shoes! it is true the buckles are but brass; but they
are shoes whose latchets they are not worthy to unloose."

There was then another day for the poor doctor, of fasting, tartarised
antimony, and irritating eye-salve.  And the captain, no doubt in secret
understanding with the admiral, played off the same trick.  The survey
was deferred from day to day, for six days, and until the very one
before the ship weighed anchor.  It must have been a period of intense
vexation and bodily suffering to the manoeuvring doctor.

Each day as he made his appearance at noon in the captain's cabin, he
had to wait in miserable state his hour and a half; or two hours, and
then to meet the gibing salutation of the captain, of; "Not dead yet,
doctor?" with his jokes upon the invaliding suit.  The misery of the
deception, and the sufferings that he was forced to self-impose to keep
it up, as he afterwards confessed, had nearly conquered him on the third
day: that he was a man of the most enduring courage to brave a whole
week of such martyrdom, must be conceded to him.  Had the farce
continued a day or two longer, he would have had the disagreeable option
forced upon him, either of being seriously ill, or of returning
_instanter_ to excellent health.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

VALID REASONS FOR INVALIDING--THE PATIENT CURED IN SPITE OF HIMSELF--AND
A LECTURE ON DISEASE IN GENERAL, WITH A PARTICULAR CASE OF INSTRUMENTS
AS EXPOSITORS.

At length the important day arrived on which the survey did assemble.
The large table in the cabin was duly littered over with paper and
medical books, and supplied with pens and ink.  Three post-captains in
gallant array, with swords by their sides, our own captain being one,
and three surgeons with lancets in their pockets, congregated with grave
politeness, and taking their chairs according to precedency of rank,
formed the Hygeian court.  A fitting preparation was necessary, so the
captains began to debate upon the various pretensions of the beautiful
Phrynes of Cork--the three medical men, whether the plague was
contagious or infectious, or both--or neither.  At the precise moment
when Captain Reud was maintaining the superiority of the attractions of
a blonde Daphne against the assertions of a champion of a dark Phyllis,
and the eldest surgeon had been, by the heat of the argument, carried so
far as to maintain, in asserting the non-infectious and non-contagious
nature of the plague, that you could not give it a man by inoculating
him with its virus, the patient, on whose case they had met to decide,
appeared.

In addition to the green shade, our doctor had enwrapped his throat with
an immense scarlet comforter; so that the reflection of the green above,
and the contrast with the colour below, made the pallor of his face
still more lividly pale.  He was well got up.  Captain Reud nodded to
the surgeons to go on, and he proceeded with his own argument.

Thus there were two debates at this time proceeding with much heat, and
with just so much acrimony as to make them highly interesting.  With the
noble posts it was one to two, that is, our captain, the Daphneite, had
drawn upon him the other two captains, both of whom were Phyllisites.
When a man has to argue against two, and is not quite certain of being
in the right either, he has nothing for it but to be very loud.  Now
men, divine as they are, have some things in common with the canine
species.  Go into a village and you will observe that when one cur
begins to yelp, every dog's ear catches the sound, bristles up, and
every throat is opened in clamorous emulation.  Captain Reud talked fast
as well as loud, so he was nearly upon a par with his opponents, who
only talked loud.

At the other end of the table the odds were two to one, which is not
always the same as one to two; that is, the two older surgeons were
opposed to the youngest.  These three were just as loud within one
note--the note under being the tribute they unconciously paid to naval
discipline--as the three captains.  Both parties were descanting upon
plagues.

"I say, sir," said the little surgeon, who was the eldest, "it is _not_
infectious.  But here comes Dr Thompson."

Now the erudite doctor, from the first, had no great chance.  Captain
Reud had determined he should not be invalided.  The two other captains
cared nothing at all about the matter, but, of course, would not be so
impolitic as to differ from their superior officer--an officer, too, of
large interest, and the Amphytrion of the day; for when they had
performed those duties for which they were so well fitted, their medical
ones, they were to dine on the scene of their arduous labours.  The
eldest surgeon had rather a bias against the doctor, as he could not
legally put M.D. against his own name.  The next in seniority was
entirely adverse to the invaliding, as, without he could invalide too,
he would have to go to the West Indies in the place of our surgeon.  The
youngest was indifferent just then to anything but to confute the other
two, and prove the plague infectious.

"But here comes Dr Thompson--I'll appeal to him," said non-infection;
but the appeal was unfortunate, both for the appealer and the doctor.
The latter was an infectionist; so there was no longer any odds, but two
against two, and away they went.  Our friend in the wide coat forgot he
was sick, and his adversaries that they had to verify it; they sought to
verify nothing but their dogmas.  They waxed loud, then cuttingly
polite, then slaughteringly sarcastic and, at last, exceeding wroth.

"I tell you, sir, that I have written a volume on the subject."

"Had you no friend near you," said Dr Thompson, "at that most
unfortunate time?"

"I tell you, sir, I will never argue with anyone on the subject, unless
he have read my Latin treatise `De Natura Pestium et Pestilentiarum.'"

"Then you'll never argue but with yourself," said the stout young
surgeon.

Then arose the voices of the men militant over those of the men
curative.

"The finest eye," vociferated our skipper, "Captain Templar, that ever
beamed from mortal.  Its lovely blue, contrasted with her white skin, is
just like--"

"A washerwoman's stone-blue bag among her soapsuds--stony enough."

Here the medical voices preponderated, and expressions such as these
became distinct--"Do you accuse me of ignorance, sir-r-r?"

"No, sir-r-r.  I merely assert that you know nothing at all of the
matter."

In the midst of this uproar I was walking the quarter-deck with the
purser.

"What a terrible noise they are making in the cabin," I observed.  "What
can they be doing?"

"Invaliding the surgeon," said the marine officer, who had just joined
us, looking wise.

"Doubted," said the purser.

"What a dreadful operation it must be," said a young Irish
young-gentlemen (all young gentlemen in the navy are not _young_), "but,
for the honour of the service, he might take it any how, for the life of
him."

"The very thing he is trying to do," was the purser's reply.

But let us return to the cabin, and collect what we can here, and record
the sentences as they obtain the mastery, at either end of the table.

"Look at her step," said a captain, speaking of his lady.

"Tottering, feeble, zig-zag," said a surgeon, speaking of one stricken
with the plague.

"Her fine open, ivory brow--"

"Is marked all over with disgusting pustules."

"Her breath is--"

"Oh, her delicious breath!"

"Noisome, poisonous, corruption."

"In fact, her whole lovely body is a region of--"

"Pestilent discolorations, and foul sores."

"And," roared out Captain Templar, "if you would but pass a single hour
in her company--"

"You would assuredly repent of your temerity," said the obstinate
contagionist.

This confusion lasted about a quarter of an hour, a time sufficient, in
all conscience, to invalide a West Indian regiment.

"Well, gentlemen," said Captain Reud, rising a little chafed, "have you
come to a conclusion upon this very plain case?  I see the doctor looks
better already--his face is no longer pale."

"I tell you what," said the senior surgeon, rising abruptly with the
others, "since you will neither listen to me, to reason, nor to my book,
though I will not answer for the sanity of your mind, I will for that of
your body.  My duty, sir, my duty, will not permit me to invalide you."

"Never saw a healthier man in my life," said the second surgeon.

"Never mind, doctor," said the third, "we have fairly beaten them in the
argument."

The gallant captains burst out into obstreperous laughter, and so the
survey was broken up, and the principal surgeons declared that our poor
doctor was in sound health, because they found him unsound in his
opinions.

The three surgeons took their departure, the eldest saying with a grim
smile to Thompson, "It may correct some errors, and prepare you for next
invaliding day.  Shall I send you my book, `De Natura Pestium et
Pestilentiarum?'"

The jolly doctor, with a smile equally grim, thanked him, and formally
declined the gift, assuring him "that at the present time, the ship was
well stocked with emetics."

Now, the good doctor was a wag, and the captain, for fun, a very monkey.
The aspirant for invaliding sat himself down again at one end of the
table, as the captains did at the other.  Wine, anchovies, sandwiches,
oysters, and other light and stimulating viands were produced to make a
relishing lunch.  Captain Reud threw a triumphant and right merry glance
across the table on the silent and discomfited doctor.  The servant had
placed before him a cover and glasses unbidden.

"Bring the doctor's plate," said the captain.  The doctor was passive--
the plate was brought, filled with luxuries, and placed directly under
his nose.  The temptation was terrible.  He had been fasting and
macerating himself for eight or nine days.  He glared upon it with a
gloomy longing.  He then looked up wistfully, and a droll smile mantled
across his vast face, and eddied in the holes of his deep pock-marks.

"A glass of wine, doctor?"  The decanter was pushed before him, and his
glass filled by the servant.  The doctor shook his head and said, "I
dare not, but will put it to my lips in courtesy."

He did so, and when the glass reached the table it was empty.  He then
began gradually to unwind his huge woollen comforter, and when he
thought himself unobserved, he stole the encumbrance into his ample
coat-pocket.  He next proceeded to toss about, with a careless
abstraction, the large masses of cold fowl and ham in his plate, and, by
some unimaginable process, without the use of his knife he contrived to
separate them into edible pieces.  They disappeared rapidly, and the
plate was almost as soon empty as the wine-glass.

The green shade, by some unaccountable accident, now fell from his eyes,
and, instead of again fixing it on, it found its way to the pocket, to
keep company with the comforter.  Near him stood a dish of delicious
oysters, the which he silently coaxed towards his empty plate, and sent
the contents furtively down his much wronged throat.

The other gentlemen watched these operations with mute delight; and,
after a space, Captain Templar challenged him to a bumper, which was
taken and swallowed without much squeamishness.  The doctor found that
he had still a difficult task to play; he knew that his artifice was
discovered, and that the best way to repair the error was to boldly
throw off the transparent disguise.  The presence of the two stranger
captains was still a restraint upon him.  At length he cast his eyes
upon Captain Reud, and putting into his countenance the drollest look of
deprecation mingled with fun, said plaintively, "Are we friends, Captain
Reud?"

"The best in the world, doctor," was the quick reply, and he rose and
extended his open hand.  Doctor Thompson rose also and advanced to the
head of the table, and they shook hands most heartily.  The two other
captains begged to do the same, and to congratulate him on his rapid
convalescence.

"To prove to you, doctor, the estimation in which I hold you, you shall
dine with us, and we'll have a night of it," said the skipper.

"Oh!  Captain Reud, Captain Reud, consider--really I cannot get well so
fast as that would indicate."

"You must, you must.  Gentlemen, no man makes better punch.  Consider
the punch, doctor."

"Truly, that alters the case.  As these dolts of surgeons could not
fully understand the diagnostics of my disease, I suppose I must do my
duty for the _leetle_ while longer that I have to live.  I _will_ do my
duty, and attend you punctually at five o'clock, in order to see that
there be no deleterious ingredients mingled in the punch."  Saying which
he bowed and left the cabin, without leaning on the shoulder of either
of his assistants.

But he had yet the worst ordeal to undergo--to brave the attack of his
messmates--and he did it nobly.  They were all assembled in the
ward-room; for those that saw him descend, if not there before, went
immediately and joined him.  He waddled to the head of the table, and
when seated, exclaimed in a stentorian voice, "Steward, a glass of
half-and-half.  Gentlemen, I presume you do not understand a medical
case.  Steward, bring my case of pistols and the cold meat.  I say, you
do not understand a medical case."

"But we do yours," interrupted two or three voices at once.

"No, you don't; you may understand that case better," shoving his
long-barrelled Manton duellers on to the middle of the table.  "Now,
gentlemen--I do not mean to bully--I am only, God help me, a weak civil
arm of the service,"--and whining a little--"still very far from well.
Now I'll state my case to you, for your satisfaction, and to prevent any
little mistakes.  I was lately afflicted with a sort of nondescript
atrophy, a stagnation of the fluids, a congestion of the small
blood-vessels, and a spasmodic contraction of the finitesimal nerves,
that threatened very serious consequences.  At the survey, two of the
surgeons, ignorant quacks that they are, broached a most ridiculous
opinion--a heterodox doctrine--a damnable heresy.  On hearing it, my
indignation was so much roused, that a reaction took place in my system,
as instantaneous as the effects of a galvanic battery.  My vital
energies rallied, the stagnation of my fluids ceased, the small
blood-vessels that had mutinied returned to their duty; and I am happy
to say, that, though now far from enjoying good health, I am rapidly
approaching it.  That is my case.  Now for yours.  As, gentlemen, we are
to be cooped up in this wooden enclosure for months, perhaps years, it
is a duty that we owe to ourselves to promote the happiness of each
other by good temper, politeness, mutual forbearance, and kindness.  In
none of these shall you find me wanting, and to prove it, I will say
this much--singular cases will call forth singular remarks; you must be
aware that if such be dwelt on too long, they will become offensive to
me, and disturb that union which I am so anxious to promote.  So let us
have done with the subject at once--make all your remarks now--joke,
quiz, jeer, and flaunt, just for one half hour,"--taking out his watch,
and laying it gently on the table--"by that time I shall have finished
my lunch, which, by-the-by, I began in the cabin; there will be
sufficient time for you to say all your smart things on the occasion;
but if after that I hear any more on the subject, by heavens, that man
who shall dare to twit me with it, shall go with me to the nearest shore
if in harbour--or shoot me, or I him, across the table at sea.  Now,
gentlemen, begin if you please."

"The devil a word will I ever utter on the matter," said Farmer, "and
there's my hand upon it."

"Nor I."

"Nor I."

And every messmate shook him heartily by the hand, and by them the
subject was dropped, and for ever.  That evening Dr Thompson made the
captain's punch, having carefully locked up in his largest tea-chest his
invaliding suit.

Whatever impression this anecdote may make on the reader, if it be one
injurious to the doctor, we beg to tell him, that he proved a very
blessing to the ship,--the kind friend, as well as the skilful and
tender physician, the promoter of every social enjoyment, the soother of
conflicting passions, the interceder for the offending, and the
peace-maker for all.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

PAVING-STONES SOMETIMES PROVE STUMBLING-BLOCKS--A DISQUISITION ON THE
FIGURATIVE, ENDS BY RALPH FIGURING AT THE MAST-HEAD, THUS EXTENDING HIS
VIEWS UPON THE SUBJECT.

The next morning at daylight we weighed, and, by the aid of much firing
of guns, and the display of unmeasured bunting, we got the whole of the
convoy out of the cove by noon, with two men-of-war brigs bringing up
the rear.  Shortly after losing sight of land, bad weather came on, in
which poor Gubbins was drowned, as I have before narrated.

By the time that we had reached Madeira, the ship's company had settled
into good order, and formed that concentrated principle which enabled
them to act as one man.  It was a young and a fine crew, made up of
drafts of twenties and thirties from different vessels, thanks to the
nepotism of the treasurer of the navy.

We also began to understand each other's characters, and to study the
captain's.  Mischief was his besetting sin.  Naturally malignant he was
not, but inconsiderate to a degree that would make you think that his
heart was really bad.  One of his greatest pleasures was that of placing
people in awkward and ludicrous situations.  He very soon discovered the
fattest men among the masters of the merchant vessels; and, when we had
run far enough to the southward to make sitting in an open boat very
unpleasant, he would in light winds, make a signal for one of his jolly
friends to come on board, the more especially if he happened to be far
astern.  Then began Captain Reud's enjoyment.  After two hours' hard
pulling, the master would be seen coming up astern, wiping his brows,
and, when within hail, Reud would shout to him to give away--and, just
as he reached the stern ladder, the main-topsail of the frigate would be
shivered, and the boat again be left half a mile astern.  Another
attempt, and another failure, the captain meanwhile gloating over the
poor man's misery with the suppressed chuckle of delight, in which you
would fancy a monkey to indulge after he had perpetrated some
irreparable mischief.

However, he would generally tease his victim no longer than dinner-time.
The ship would then be effectively hove-to, the half-melted skipper
would get on board, and the captain receive him with studied politeness.
Much would I admire the gravity with which he would deplore the
impossibility of stopping his Majesty's ship _Eos_ by anything short of
an anchor and good holding ground.  No, she would not be hove-to--go
a-head or go astern she must--but stand still she could not.  During
this harangue, the mystified mariner would look at his commodore, much
wondering which of the two was the fool.

"But, Mister Stubbs," the tormentor would continue, "it is now nearly
six bells--you have not dined, I presume; how long have you been making
this little distance, Mister Stubbs?" with a slow accent on the word
Mister.  "Six hours!--bless me--I would certainly rope's--end those
lubbers in your boat.  You _must_ be hungry--so must they, poor fellows!
Here, Mr Rattlin, call them up, put a boat-keeper in the boat, and let
her drop astern--tell my steward to give them a good tuck--out and a
glass of grog.  Mister Stubbs, you'll dine with me;" and the affair
would end by the gratified hoaxed one being sent on board his own vessel
about the end of twilight, seeing more stars in the heavens than
astronomers have yet discovered.

But these skippers were, though very plump, but very humble game for our
yellow-skinned tormentor.  He nearly drove the third lieutenant mad, and
that by a series of such delicate persecutions, annoyances so artfully
veiled, and administered in a manner so gentlemanly, that complaint on
the part of the persecuted, instead of exciting commiseration, covered
him with ridicule.  This officer was a Portuguese nobleman of the name
of Silva--the Don we could never bring our English mouths to use--who
had entered our service at a very early age, and consequently spoke our
language as naturally as ourselves.  He was surnamed the "Paviour," and,
when off duty, generally so addressed.  It must not be supposed that he
acquired this soubriquet on account of the gentlemen in corduroys laying
by their hammers when he walked the street, bidding God bless him, for
he was a very light and elegant figure, and singularly handsome.  At
this time I was the youngster of his watch, and a great favourite with
him.  The misfortune of his life was, that he had written a book--only
one single sin--but it never left him,--it haunted him through half the
ships in the service, and finally drove him out of it.  He had written
this book, and caused it to be printed--and he _published_ it also, for
nobody else could.  His bookseller had tried, and failed lamentably.
Now, Don Silva was always publishing, and never selling.  His cabin was
piled up with several ill-conditioned cases of great weight, which cases
laboured under the abominable suspicion of containing the unsold copies.

As much as ever I could learn of the matter, no one ever got farther
than the middle of the second page of this volume, excepting the
printer's devils, the corrector of the press, and the author.  The book
was lent to me, but, great reader as I am, I broke down in attempting to
pass the impassible passage.  The book might have been a good book, for
aught I, or the world, knew to the contrary: but there was a fatality
attending this particular part that was really enough to make one
superstitious--nobody could break the charm, and get over it.  I wish
that the thought had occurred to me at that time of beginning it at the
end, and reading it backwards; surely, in that manner, the book might
have been got through.  It was of a winning exterior, and tolerable
thickness.  Never did an unsound nut look more tempting to be cracked,
than this volume to be opened and read.  It had for its title the
imposing sentence of, "A Naval and Military _Tour up and down_ the Rio
de la Plate, by Don Alphonso Ribidiero da Silva."

I have before stated that my shipmates were all strangers to each other.
We had hardly got things to rights after leaving Cork, when Mr Silva
began, "as was his custom in the afternoon," to _publish_ his book.  He
begged leave to read it to his messmates after dinner, and leave was
granted.  With bland frankness, he insisted upon the opinions of the
company as he proceeded.  He began--but the wily purser at once started
an objection to the first sentence--yea, even to the title.  He begged
to be enlightened as to what sort of _tour_ that was that merely went
_up_ and _down_.  However, the doctor came at this crisis to the
assistance of the Don, and suggested that the river might have _turns_
in it.  The reader sees how critical we are in a man-of-war.

However, in the middle of the second page appeared the fatal passage,
"After having _paved_ our way up the _river_;" upon which, issue was
immediately joined, and hot argument ensued.  The objector, of course,
was the purser; and, on this point, the doctor went over to the enemy.
All the lieutenants followed, the master stood neuter, and the marine
officer fell asleep--thus poor Silva stood alone in his glory, to fight
the unequal battle; and in doing so, after the manner of authors, lost
his temper.

Five, six, seven times was the book begun, but, like the hackney
coaches, the audience could not get off the stones.  The book and the
discussion were always closed together in anger, just as the author was
_paving his way_.  As he adopted the phrase with a parental fondness,
the father was called the "_paviour_."

All this duly reached the ears of the captain.  He immediately wrote to
Don Silva, requesting his company to dinner, particularly soliciting him
to bring his excellent work.  Of course, the little man took care to
have the doctor and purser.  The claret is on the table, the Amphytrion
settles himself into a right critical attitude, but with a most
suspicious leer in the corner of his eye.  Our friend begins to read his
book exultingly, but, at the memorable passage, as was previously
concerted, the hue and cry is raised.

During the janging of argument Reud seems undecided, and observes that
he can only judge the matter from well understanding the previous style
and the context, and so, every now and then, requests him, with a most
persuasive politeness, to begin again from the beginning.  Of course, he
gets no farther than the paving.  After the baited author had re-read
his page-and-a-half about six or seven times, the captain smiles upon
him lovingly, and says in his most insinuating tones, "Just read it over
again once more, and we shall never trouble you after--we shall know it
by heart."

As it was well understood that the author was never to get beyond that
passage until he had acknowledged it absurd and egregiously foolish,
anybody who knows anything about the _genus irritabile_ will be certain,
that if he lived till "the crack of doom," Don Silva would never have
passed the Rubicon.  It was thus that the poor fellow was tormented: and
every time that he was asked to dine in the cabin, he was requested to
bring his Tour, in order that the _whole_ of it might be read.

The best and most imposing manner of writing is, to lay down some wise
dogma, and afterwards prove it by example.  I shall follow this august
method.  It is unwise for a midshipman to argue with the lieutenant of
the watch, whilst there are three lofty mastheads unoccupied.  QED.

One morning, after a literary skirmish in the captain's cabin the
overnight, Mr Silva smiled me over to him on his side of the
quarter-deck, just as day was breaking.  The weather was beautiful, and
we had got well into the trade winds.

"Mr Rattlin," said he, "you have not yet read my book.  You are very
young, but you have had a liberal education."

I bowed with flattered humility.

"I will lend it to you--you shall read it; and as a youthful, yet a
clever scholar--give me your opinion of it--be candid.  I suppose you
have heard the trivial, foolish, spiteful objection started against a
passage I have employed in the second page?" and he takes a copy out of
his pocket and begins to read it to me until he comes to "After having
_paved_ our way up the _river_," he then enters into a long
justificatory argument, the gravamen of which was to prove, that in
figurative phrases a great latitude of expression was not only
admissible but often elegant.

I begged leave, in assenting to his doctrine, to differ from his
application of it, as we ought not to risk, by using a figurative
expression, the exciting of any absurd images or catachrestical ideas.
The author began to warm, and terminated my gentle representation by
ordering me over to leeward, with this pompous speech, "I tell you what,
sir, your friends have spent their money and your tutors their time upon
you to little purpose; for know, sir, that when progress is to be made
anywhere, in any shape, or in any manner, a more appropriate phrase than
paving your way cannot be used--send the top-men aloft to loose the
top-gallant sails."

Checked, though not humbled, I repeat the necessary orders, and no
sooner do I see the men on the rattlings, than I squeak out at the top
of my voice, "_Pave your way_ up the rigging--_pave your way_, you
lubbers."  The men stop for a moment, grin at me with astonishment, and
then scamper up like so many party-coloured devils.

"Mr Rattlin, pave your way up to the mast-head, and stay there till I
call you down," said the angry lieutenant; and thus, through my love for
the figurative, for the first time I tasted the delights of a
mast-heading.



CHAPTER THIRTY NINE.

RALPH REGENERATETH HIMSELF AND BECOMETH GOOD, FOR HALF-AN-HOUR--SINGETH
ONE VERSE OF A HYMN, ESCHEWETH TELLING ONE LIE, AND GETTETH HIS REWARD
IN BEING ASKED TO BREAKFAST.

What a nice, varied, sentimental, joyous, lachrymose, objurgatory,
laudatory, reflective volume might be made, entitled, "Meditations at
the Mast-head!"

When I found myself comfortably established in my aery domicile, I first
looked down on the vessel below with a feeling nearly akin to pity, then
around me with a positive feeling of rapture, and at length above me
with a heart-warming glow of adoration.  Perched up at a height so
great, the decks of the frigate looked extremely long and narrow; and
the foreshortened view one has of those upon it makes them look but
little bigger or more important than so many puppets.  Beneath me I saw
the discontented author of my elevation, and of "A Tour up and down the
Rio de la Plate," skipping actively here and there to avoid the
splashing necessary in washing the decks.  I could not help comparing
the annoyance of this involuntary dance with the after-guard, this
_croissez_ with clattering buckets, and _dos a dos_ing with wet swabs,
with my comfortable and commanding recumbency upon the cross-trees.  I
looked down upon Lieutenant Silva, and pitied him.  I looked around me,
and my heart was exceeding glad.  The upper rim of the sun was dallying
with a crimson cloud, whilst the greater part of his disc was still
below the well-defined deep-blue horizon.  All above him to the zenith
was chequered with small vapours, layer over layer, like the scales of a
breastplate of burnished gold.  The little waves were mantling,
dimpling, and seemed playfully striving to emulate the intenser glories
of the heavens above.  They now flashed into living light, now assumed
the blushing hue of a rosebud, and here and there wreathed up into a
diminutive foam, mocking the smile of youth when she shows her white
teeth between her beauty-breathing lips.  As I swung aloft, with a
motion gentle as that of the cradled infant, and looked out upon the
splendours beneath and around me, my bosom swelled with the most
rapturous emotions.  Everywhere, as far as my eye could reach, the
transparent and beryl-dyed waters were speckled with white sails,
actually "blushing rosy red" with the morning beams.  Far, far astern,
hull down, were the huge dull sailers, spreading all their
studding-sails to the wind, reminding me of frightened swans with
expanded wings.  Conspicuous among these were the two men-of-war brigs,
obliquely sailing now here and then there, and ever and anon firing a
gun, whose mimic thunder came with melodious resonance over the waters,
whilst the many-coloured signals were continually flying and shifting.
They were the hawks among the covey of the larger white-plumed birds.

At this moment our gallant frigate, like a youthful and a regal giant,
more majestic from the lightness of her dress, walked in conscious
superiority in the midst of all.  She had, as I before mentioned, just
set her top-gallant sails, in order to take her proud station in the
van.  We now passed vessel after vessel, each with a different quantity
of canvas set, according to her powers of sailing.  It was altogether a
glorious sight, and to my feelings, excelled in quiet and cheerful
sublimity any review, however splendid might be the troops, or imposing
their numbers.  Then the breeze came so freshly and kissingly on my
cheek, whispering such pleasant things to my excited fancy, and
invigorating so joyously the fibres of my heart--I looked around me, and
was glad.

When the soul is big with all good and pure feelings, gratitude will be
there; and, at her smiling invitation, piety will come cheerfully and
clasp her hand.  Surely not that sectarian piety, which metes out wrath
instead of mercy to an erring world; not that piety, dealing "damnation
round the land," daily making the pale, within which the only few to be
saved are folded, more and more circumscribed; nor even that bigotted,
sensuous piety, which floats on the frankincense that eddies round the
marble altar, and which, if unassisted by the vista of the dark aisle,
the dimly-seen procession, the choral hymn, the banner, and the relic,
faints, and sees no God: no, none of these will be the piety of a heart
exulting in the beneficence of the All-Good.  Then and there, why should
I have wished to have crept and grovelled under piled and sordid stone?
Since first the aspiring architect spanned the arch at Thebes, which is
_not_ everlasting, and lifted the column at Rome, which is _not_
immortal, was there ever dome like that which glowed over my head
imagined by the brain of man?  "Fretted with golden fires," and studded
with such glorious clouds, that it were almost sinful not to believe
that each veiled an angel; the vast concave, based all around upon the
sapphire horizon, sprang upwards, terminating above me in that deep,
deep, immeasurable blue, the best type of eternity;--was not this a
fitting temple for worship?  What frankincense was ever equal to that
which nature then spread over the wave and through the air?  All this I
saw--all this I felt.  I looked upwards, and I was at once enraptured
and humbled.  Perhaps then, for the first time since I had left my
schoolboy's haunts, I bethought me that there was a God.  Too, too often
I had heard his awful presence wantonly invoked, his sacred name taken
in vain.  Lately, I had not shuddered at this habitual profanation.  The
work of demoralisation had commenced.  I knew it then, and with this
knowledge, the first pang of guilty shame entered my bosom.  I stood up
with reverence upon the cross-trees.  I took off my hat, and though I
did not even whisper the prayers we had used at school, mentally I went
through the whole of them.  When I said to myself, "I have done those
things that I ought not to have done, and have _left undone_ those
things that I _ought_ to have done," I was startled at the measure of
sin that I had confessed.  I think that I was contrite.  I resolved to
amend.  I gradually flung off the hardness that my late life of
recklessness had been encrusting upon my heart.  I softened towards all
who had ever shown me kindness; and, in my mind, I faithfully retraced
the last time that I had ever walked to church with her whom I had been
fond to deem my mother.  These silent devotions, and these
home-harmonised thoughts, first chastened, and then made me very, very
happy.  At last, I felt the spirit of blissful serenity so strong upon
me, that, forgetting for a moment to what ridicule I might subject
myself; I began to sing aloud that morning hymn that I had never
omitted, for so many years, until I had joined the service--

  "Awake, my soul, and with the sun."

And I confess that I sang the whole of the first verse.

I am sure that no one will sneer at all this.  The good will not--the
wicked dare not.  The worst of us, even if his sin have put on the
armour of infidelity, must remember the time when he believed in a God
of love, and loved to believe it.  For the sake of that period of
happiness, he will not, cannot condemn the expression of feelings, and
the manifestation of a bliss that he has himself voluntarily, and, if he
would ask his own heart, and record the answer, miserably, cast away.

However, it will be long before I again trouble the reader with anything
so _outre_ as that which I have just written.  Many were the days of
error, and the nights of sin, that passed before I again even looked
into my own heart.  The feelings with which I made my mast-head orisons
are gone and for ever.  How often, and with what bitterness of spirit,
have I said, "Would that I had then died!"  If there is mercy in
heaven--I say it with reverence--I feel assured that then to have passed
away, would have been but the closing of the eyes on earth to awaken
immediately in the lap of a blissful immortality.  Since then the
world's foot has been upon my breast, and I have writhed under the
opprobrious weight; and, with sinful pride and self-trust, have, though
grovelling in the dust, returned scorn for scorn, and injury for
injury--even wrong for wrong.

I have been a sad dog, and that's the truth; but--

I have been forced to hunt, and to house, and to howl with dogs much
worse than myself; and that's equally true.

"Maintopmast-head there," squeaked out the very disagreeable treble of
Captain Reud, who had then come on deck, as I was trolling, "Shake off
dull sloth, and early rise."

"Mr Rattlin, what do you say?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Ay, ay, sir! what were you saying?  How many sails are there in sight?"

"I can't make out, sir."

"Why not?  Have you counted them?"

Now, as I before stated, I had taken off my hat, and was standing up in
a fit of natural devotion; and the captain, no doubt, thought that I was
bareheaded, and shading my eyes, the better to reckon the convoy.  To
lie would have been so easy, and I was tempted to reply to the question,
that I had.  But my better feelings predominated; so, at the risk of a
reprimand, I answered, "Not yet, sir."

At this moment Mr Silva, the lieutenant of the watch, placed the
mast-head look-outs, and sent the signal-man up to assist me in counting
the convoy; and, at the same time, the latter bore me a quiet message,
that when the number was ascertained I might come down.

I came on deck, and gave the report.

"I am very glad, Mr Rattlin," said the captain, approvingly, "to see
you so attentive to your duty.  No doubt you went up of your own accord
to count the convoy?"

"Indeed, sir," said I, with a great deal of humility, "I did not."

"What--how?  I thought when I came on deck I heard you singing out."

"I was mast-headed, sir."

"Mast-headed!  How--for what?"

At this question, revenge, with her insidious breath, came whispering
her venom into my ear; but a voice, to the warnings of which I have too
seldom attended, seemed to reverberate in the recesses of my heart, and
say, "Be generous."  If I had told the truth maliciously, I should have
assuredly have drawn ridicule, and perhaps anger, on the head of the
lieutenant, and approbation to myself.  I therefore briefly replied,
"For impertinence to Mr Silva, sir."

And I was amply repaid by the eloquent look that, with eyes actually
moistened, my late persecutor cast upon me.  I read the look aright, and
knew, from that moment, that he was deserving of better things than a
continued persecution for having unfortunately misapplied an expression.
I immediately made a vow that I would read the "Tour up and down the
Rio de la Plate," with exemplary assiduity.

"I am glad," said the captain, "that you candidly acknowledge your
offence, instead of disrespectfully endeavouring to justify it.  I hope,
Mr Silva, that it is not of that extent to preclude me from asking him
to breakfast with us this morning?"

"By no means," said Silva, his features sparkling with delight; "he is a
good lad: I have reason to say, a very good lad."

I understood him; and though no explanations ever took place between us,
we were, till he was driven from the ship, the most perfect friends.

"Well," said the captain, as he turned go down the quarter-deck ladder,
"you will, at the usual time, both of you, _pave your way into the
cabin_.  I am sure, Mr Silva, you won't object to that, though I have
not yet made up my mind as to the propriety of the expression, so we'll
have the purser, and talk it over in a friendly, good-humoured way."
And saying this, he disappeared, with a look of merry malignancy that no
features but his own could so adequately express.

The scene at the breakfast-table was of the usual description.
Authority, masking ill-nature under the guise of quizzing, on the one
hand, and literary obstinacy fast resolving itself into deep personal
hostility on the other.



CHAPTER FORTY.

HOW TO MAKE A DAY'S WORK EASY--RALPH AVOIDETH TROUBLE BY ANTICIPATING
LAND, BUT IS ANTICIPATED BY THE ENEMY--A CHAPTER ALTOGETHER OF CHASING,
WHICH IT IS HOPED WILL PLEASANTLY CHASE AWAY THE READER'S ENNUI.

We had now the usual indications of approaching the land.  In fact, I
had made it, by my reckoning, a fortnight before.  The non-nautical
reader must understand, that the young gentlemen are required to send
into the captain daily, a day's work, that is, an abstract of the course
of the ship for the last twenty-four hours, the distance run, and her
whereabouts exactly.

Now, with that failing that never left me through life, of feeling no
interest where there was no difficulty to overcome, after I had fully
conquered all the various methods of making this calculation, to make it
all became a great bore.  So I clapped on more steam, and giving the
ship more way, and allowing every day for forty or fifty miles, of
westerly currents, I, by my account, ran the _Eos_ high and dry upon the
Island of Barbadoes, three good weeks before we made the land.  Thus, I
had the satisfaction of looking on with placid indolence, whilst my
messmates were furiously handling their Gunter's scales, and straining
their eyes over the small printed figures in the distance and departure
columns of John Hamilton Moore, of blessed (cursed?) memory, in a cabin
over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, that was melting at the same time the
youthful navigator, and the one miserable purser's dip that tormented
rather than enlightened him with its flickering yellow flame.

As we neared the island, greater precautions were taken to preserve the
convoy.  We sailed in more compact order, and scarcely progressed at all
during the night.  The whippers-in were on the alert, for it was well
known that this part of the Atlantic was infested with numerous small
French men-of-war, and some privateer schooners.

That morning at length arrived, when it was debated strongly whether the
faint discoloration that broke the line of the western horizon as seen
from the mast-head, were land or not.  As daylight became more decided,
so did the state of our convoy.  The wolves were hovering round the
sheep.  Well down to the southward there was a large square-rigged,
three-masted vessel, fraternising with one of our finest West Indiamen.
The stranger looked tall, grim, and dark, with his courses up, but his
top-gallant sails and royals set.  The white sails of the merchant
vessel, and she was under a press of sail, were flying in all
directions; she was hove-to, with her studding-sails set, and many of
her tacks and sheets were flapping to the wind.  Both vessels were hull
down from the deck, and we well understood what was going forward.
Right astern, and directly in the wind's eye of us, was a flat, broad
schooner running before the wind, with nothing set but her fore
stay-sail.  As she lifted to the sea, at the edge of the horizon, her
strength of beam was so great, and her bulwarks so little above the
water, that she seemed to make way broadside on, rather than to sail in
the usual position.  There was no vessel particularly near her.  Those
of the mercantile navy that most enjoyed her propinquity did not seem,
by the press of sail that they were carrying, to think the situation
very enviable.  However, the Falcon, one of our men-of-war brigs, was
between this schooner and all the convoy, with the signal flying, "May I
chase?"

But this was not all; a whitish haze cleared up; to the northward there
was a spanking felucca, with her long lanteen sails brailed up, and
sweeping about in the very centre of a knot of dull sailing merchant
vessels, four of which, by their altered courses, had evidently been
taken possession of.  Reversing the good old adage, first come first
served, we turned our attention to the last appearance.  We made the
signal to the other man-of-war brig, the _Curlew_, to chase and capture
the felucca, she not being more than two miles distant from her.

No sooner did the convoy generally begin to find out how matters stood,
than like a parcel of fussy and frightened old women, they began to pop,
pop, pop, firing away their one and two-pounders in all directions, and
those farthest from the scene of action serving their guns the quickest,
and firing the oftenest.  It seemed to them of but little consequence,
so long as the guns were fired, where the shot fell.  Now this was a
great nuisance, as it prevented, by the smoke it raised, our signals
from being distinguished, even if these belligerents in a a small way,
had not been so occupied by these demonstrations of their valour from
attending to them.  Indeed, the volumes of smoke the popping created,
became very considerable.  I do not now know if there be any convoy
signal in the merchant code equivalent to "cease firing."  If there were
at that time, I am sure it was displayed, but displayed or not, the
hubbub was on the increase.  We were at last compelled to fire shot over
these pugnacious tubs to quiet them, and there was thus acted the
singular spectacle of three vessels capturing the convoy, whilst the
artillery of its principal protector appeared to be incessantly playing
upon it.

Having our attention so much divided, there was a great deal of activity
and bustle, though no confusion on our decks.  We were hoisting out the
boats to make the recaptures, and dividing the marines into parties to
go in each.  In the midst of all this hurry, when Mr Farmer, our
gallant first-lieutenant, was much heated, a droll circumstance
occurred, the consequence of the indiscriminate firing of the convoy.  A
boat pulled alongside, and a little swab-man, with his face all fire,
and in an awfully sinful passion, jumped on the quarter-deck, with
something rolled up in a silk handkerchief.  He was so irritated that
whilst he followed the first-lieutenant about for two or three minutes,
he could not articulate.

"Out of my way, man.  Mr Burn, see that all the small arms are ready,
and handed down into the boat in good order.  Out of my way, man--what
the devil do you want?  Muster the pinnace's crew on the starboard
gangway--move all these lubberly marines, Mr Silva, if that stupid fool
don't cease firing, send a shot right into him.  Man, man, what do you
want--why don't you speak?"

"There, sir," at last stammered out the little angry master of a brig,
unfolding his handkerchief, and exhibiting a two-pound shot in a most
filthy condition, "What--what do you think of that, sir.  Slap on board
of me, from the _Lady Jane_, sir--through, clean through my bulwarks
into the cook's slush-tub.  There's murder and piracy for you on the
high seas--my slush-tub, sir--my bulwarks, sir."

"Damn you and your slush-tub too--out of my way!  Sail trimmers aloft,
and get ready the topmast and top-gallant studding-sails."

"Am I to have no redress, sir?  Is a British subject to have his
slush-tub cannonaded on the high seas, and no redress, sir?  Sir, sir, I
tell you, sir, if you don't do me justice, I'll go on board and open my
fire upon that scoundrelly _Lady Jane_."

Now this was something like a gasconade, as our irritated friend
happened to have but three quakers (wooden guns) on each side, that
certainly were not equal to the merits of that apocryphal good dog, that
could bark, though not bite--however, they looked as if they could.

"You had better," said Captain Reud, "go on board the _Lady Jane_, and
if you are man enough, give the master a hiding."

"If I'm man enough!" said he, jumping with his shot into his boat, with
ireful alacrity.  Shortly after, taking my glass, I looked at the _Lady
Jane_, and sure enough there was a pugilistic encounter proceeding on
her quarter-deck, with all that peculiar _gout_ that characterises
Englishmen when engaged in that amusement.

In answer to the signal of the _Falcon_, which was astern of the convoy,
and between it and the gigantic schooner, "Shall I chase?" we replied,
"No."  By this time we had thrashed our convoy into something like
silence and good order.  We then signalled to them to close round the
_Falcon_, and heave-to.  To the _Falcon_, "to protect convoy."

We had now been some time at quarters, and everything was ready for
chasing and fighting.  But the fun had already begun to the northward.
Our second man-of-war brig, the _Curlew_, had closed considerably upon
the felucca, which was evidently endeavouring to make the chase a
windward one.  The brig closed more upon her than she ought.  It
certainly enabled her to fire broadside after broadside upon her, but,
as far as we could perceive, with little or no effect.  In a short time
the privateer contrived to get into the wind's eye of the man-of-war,
and away they went.  After the four ships had been taken possession of
and which were each making a different course, we sent three of the
boats--the barge, yawl, and pinnace--under the command of Mr Silva, in
order to recapture them, of which there was every prospect, as the
breeze was light, and would not probably freshen before ten o'clock;
for, however the captured vessels might steer, their courses must be
weather ones, as, if they had attempted to run to leeward, they must
have crossed the body of the convoy.  Having now made our arrangements,
we turned all our attention to leeward, upon the large dark,
three-masted vessel, that still remained hove-to, seeming to honour us
with but little notice.  She had taken possession of the finest and
largest ship of the convoy.  Long as I have been narrating all these
facts, I assure the reader they did not occupy ten minutes in action,
including the monomachia on board of the _Lady Jane_.  Just as we had
got the ship's head towards the stranger, with every stitch of canvas
crowded upon her, and the eight-oared cutter, manned, armed, and
marined, towing astern, they had got the captured West Indiaman before
the wind, with everything set.  The stranger was not long following this
example; but steered about a S.W. and by W course, whilst his prize ran
down nearly due south.

I have always found in the beginning, that the size of the chase is
magnified, either by the expectations or the fears of the pursuers.  At
first, we had no doubt but that the flying vessel was a French frigate,
as large, or nearly as large, as ourselves.  We knew from good authority
that a couple of large frigate-built ships had, evading our blockading
cruisers, escaped from Brest, and were playing fine pranks among the
West India Islands.  Everybody immediately concluded the vessel in view
to be one of them.  If this conjecture should turn out true, there would
be no easy task before us, seeing how much we had crippled ourselves, by
sending away, in the boats, so many officers and men.

It now became a matter of earnest deliberation, to which of the two
ships we should first turn our attention, as the probabilities were
great against our capturing both.  The _Prince William_, the captured
West Indiaman, I have before said, was the largest and finest ship of
the convoy.  Indeed, she was nearly as large as ourselves, mounted
sixteen guns, and we had made her a repeating ship, and employed her
continually in whipping-in the bad sailers.

The chase after her promised to be as as long as would have been the
chase after the Frenchman.

Mr Farmer, who was all for fighting, and getting his next step of
promotion, was for nearing the West Indiaman a little more, sending the
cutter to take possession, and then do our best to capture the frigate.
Now, the cutter pulled eight oars, there were two good-looking jollies,
with their muskets between their knees, stuck up in the bows, six in the
stern-sheets, Mr Pridhomme, the enamoured master's mate, and the Irish
young gentleman, who had seen as much service and as many years as
myself; with the coxswain, who was steering.  Mr Farmer, of course,
measured everybody's courage by his own; but I think it was taxing
British intrepidity a little too much, to expect that nineteen persons,
in broad daylight, should chase in an open boat, and which must
necessarily pull up a long stern-pull of perhaps two or three hours,
exposed to the fire of those on board, and then afterwards, supposing
that nobody had been either killed or wounded by the ball practice that
would have been certainly lavished on the attacking party, to get
alongside, and climb up the lofty side of a vessel, as high out of the
water as a fifty-gun ship.  We say nothing of the guns that might have
been loaded by the captors with grape, and the number of men that would
infallibly be placed to defend and to navigate so noble a vessel.

Captain Reud weighed all this, and decided upon making with the frigate,
the recapture first, and then trusting to Providence for the other: for
which decision, which I thought most sound, he got black looks from the
first-lieutenant and some of the officers, and certain hints were
whispered of _dark_ birds sometimes showing white feathers.

The sequel proved that the captain acted with the greatest judgment.  To
our utter astonishment, we came up hand over hand with a vessel which we
before had shrewd suspicions, could, going free sail very nearly as well
as ourselves.  Of course, we were now fast leaving the convoy; we found
that the felucca had worked herself dead to windward, and was, by this
time, nearly out of gun-shot of the _Curlew_, and, that the _faineant_
strange schooner had now made sail, and was on such a course as
approximated her fast to the other privateer.

The large vessel, perceiving our attention solely directed to the
capture, shortened sail and made demonstrations of rescue.  At this, Mr
Farmer grinned savage approbation, and, not yet having had a good view
of her hull, we all thought, from her conduct, that she was conscious of
force.  We were, therefore, doubly on the alert in seeing everything in
the very best order for fighting.  The bulk-heads of the captain's cabin
were knocked down, and the sheep, pigs, and poultry, gingerly ushered
into the hold, preparatory to the demolition of their several pens,
styes, and coops, on the main deck.  All this I found very amusing, but
I must confess to a little anxiety, and, younker as I was, I knew, if we
came to action, that the eighty or ninety men, away in the boats, would
be very severely felt.  I was also sorry for the absence of Mr Silva,
as I had a great, yet puerile curiosity, to see how a man that had
written a book, would fight.

The run of an hour and a-half brought us nearly alongside the _Prince
William_, when we expected, at the least, a ten hour's chase.  It was
well we came up so soon; the Frenchman had clapped forty as ill-looking
savage vagabonds on board of her, as ever made a poor fellow walk the
plank.  They had fully prepared themselves for sinking the cutter, as
soon as she could come alongside, and their means for doing so were most
ample.

As our prisoners came up the sides, we soon discovered by the shabby,
faded, and rent uniforms of the two officers among them, that they
belonged to the French imperial service.  They bore their reverse of
fortune, notwithstanding they belonged to a philosophical nation, with a
very despicable philosophy.  They stamped with rage, and ground their
_sacres_ unceasingly between their teeth.  They could not comprehend how
so fine a looking vessel should sail so much like a haystack.  The
mystery was, however, soon solved.  The third mate, with about half a
dozen men, had been left on board of her; and the provident and gallant
young fellow had, whilst the Frenchmen were so pre-occupied in preparing
to resist the threatened attack of the boat, contrived to pass,
unobserved, overboard from the bows, a spare-sail loaded with shot, that
effectually had checked the ship's way.  Had the Frenchmen turned their
attention to that part of the vessel, without they had examined
narrowly, they would have perceived nothing more than a rope towing
overboard.  He certainly ought to have shared with us prize-money for
the recapture; but after all, he sustained no great loss by not having
his name down on the prize-list, as nobody but the captain ever got
anything for what we did that day.  He, lucky dog, got his share in
advance, many said much more, for appointing the Messrs. Isaiahsons and
Co as our agents.  They got the money, and then, as the possession of
much cash (of other people's) is very impoverishing, they became
bankrupts, paid nothing-farthing in the pound, were very much
commiserated, and the last that we heard of them was, that they were
living like princes in America, upon the miserable wreck of their (own?)
property.

We made, of course, most anxious and most minute inquiries of Messieurs
les Francois, as to the class of vessel to which they belonged, and
which we were in turn preparing to pursue.  As might be expected, we got
from them nothing but contradictory reports; but they all agreed in
giving us the most conscientious and disinterested advice, not to think
of irritating her, as we should most certainly be blown out of the
water.  We read this backwards.  If she were strong enough to take us,
it was their interest that we should engage her, and thus their
liberation would be effected.

As it was, notwithstanding these many occurrences, only eight a.m. when
we made the re-capture, and as the convoy were all still in sight, we
only put six men in the _Prince William_ which, in addition to the
English still on board, were sufficient to take her to the _Curlew_,
near which vessel the merchantmen had all nestled, and orders were
transmitted to her commanding officer to see that men enough were put on
board the re-capture to insure her safety.



CHAPTER FORTY ONE.

RALPH MAKETH ACQUAINTANCE WITH BLOODY INSTRUMENTS, AND BOWETH TO THE
IRON MESSENGERS OF DEATH; AND IS TAUGHT TO STAND FIRE, BY BEING NEARLY
KNOCKED DOWN.

We now pressed the ship with every stitch of canvas that we could set.
We had already learned the name of our friend in the distance; it was
the _Jean Bart_.  Indeed, at this time, almost every fourth French
vessel in those seas, if its occupation was the cutting of throats, was
a "Jean Bart."  However, _Jean Bart_, long before we had done with the
_Prince William_ had spread a cloud of canvas--a dark one, it is true--
and had considerably increased his distance from us.  It was a chase
dead before the wind.  By nine o'clock the breeze had freshened.  I
don't know how it could be otherwise, considering the abundance of
wishing and votive whistling.  At ten we got a good sight of Johnny
Crapaud's hull from the maintop, and found out that she was no frigate.
I was not at all nervous before, but I must confess, at this certainty
my courage rose considerably.  I narrowly inspected the condition of the
four after-quarter guns, my charge, and was very impressive on the
powder-boys as to the necessity of activity, coolness, and presence of
mind.

Dr Thompson now came on deck, very much lamenting the disordered rites
of his breakfast.  The jocular fellow invited me down into the cock-pit,
to see his preparations, in order, as he said, to keep up my spirits, by
showing me what excellent arrangements he had made for trepanning my
skull, or lopping my leg, should any accident happen to me.  I attended
him.  What with the fearnought [_an amazingly thick cloth of a woollen
texture_] screens, and other precautions against fire, it was certainly
the hottest place in which I had yet ever been.  The dim, yellow, yet
sufficient light from the lanterns, gave a lurid horror to the various
ghastly and blood-greedy instruments that were ostentatiously displayed
upon the platform.  Crooked knives, that the eye alone assured you were
sharp, seemed to be twisting with a living anxiety to embrace and
separate your flesh; and saws appeared to grin at me, which to look
upon, knowing their horrid office, actually turned my teeth on edge.
There were the three assistant-surgeons, stripped to their shirts, with
their sleeves tucked up ready, looking anxious, keen, and something
terrified.  As to the burly doctor, with his huge, round, red face, and
his coarse jokes, he abstracted something from the romantic terrors of
the place; but added considerably to the disgust it excited, as he
strongly reminded me of a carcass butcher in full practice.

No doubt, his amiable purpose in bringing me to his den was to frighten
me, and enjoy my fright.  Be that as it may, I took the matter as coolly
as the heat of the place would permit me.  The first lesson in bravery
is to assume the appearance of it; the second, to sustain the
appearance; and third will find you with all that courage "that doth
become a man."

By noon we had a staggering breeze.  We could now perceive that we were
chasing a large corvette, though from the end-on view we had of her, we
could not count her ports.  The _Eos_ seemed to fly through the water.

At one o'clock the spars began to complain--preventer braces were rove,
but no one thought of shortening sail.

At two o'clock we had risen the _Jean Bart_, so as to clear her
broadside from the water's edge as seen from our decks.  The appetites
of the doctor and purser had risen in proportion.  They made a joint and
disconsolate visit to the galley.  All the fires were put out.  The hens
were cackling and the pigs grunting in dark security among the water
casks.  Miserable men! there was no prospect of a dinner.  They were
obliged to do detestable penance upon cold fowl and ham, liquified with
nothing better than claret, burgundy, and the small solace derivable
from the best brandy, mixed with filtrated water in most praiseworthy
moderation.

At three o'clock we had the _Jean Bart_ perfectly in sight, and we
could, from the foreyard, observe well the motions of those on deck.
The master was broiling his very red nose over his sextant in the
forestay sail netting, when it was reported that the Frenchman was
getting aft his two long brass bow chasers; and in half an hour after,
we had the report from the said brass bellowers themselves, followed by
the whistling of the shot, one wide of the ship, but the other smack
through our foresail, and which must have passed very near the nose of
our respectable master.

Most of the officers, myself with the rest, were standing on the
forecastle.  Though not the first shot that I had seen fired in anger,
it certainly was the first that had ever hissed by me.  This first
salute is always a memorable epoch in the life of a soldier or sailor.
By the rent the shot made in the foresail, it could not have passed more
than two yards directly over my head.  I was taken by surprise.
Everybody knows that the rushing that the shot makes is excessively
loud.  As the illustrious stranger came on board with so much pomp and
ceremony, I, from the impulse of pure courtesy, could not do otherwise
than bow to it; for which act of politeness the first-lieutenant gave me
a very considerably tingling box of the ear.

My angry looks, my clenched fists, and my threatening attitude, told him
plainly that it was no want of spirit that made me duck to the shot.
Just as I was passionately exclaiming, "Sir--I--I--I--" Captain Reud put
his hand gently on my shoulder, and said, "Mr Rattlin, what are you
about?  Mr Farmer, that blow was not deserved.  I, sir," said he,
drawing himself up proudly, "ducked to the first shot.  Many a fine
fellow that has bobbed to the first has stood out gallantly to the last.
What could you expect, Mr Farmer, from such a mere boy?  And to strike
him!  Fie upon it!  That blow, if the lad had weak nerves, though his
spirit were as brave as Nelson's, and as noble as your namesake's, that
foul blow might have cowed him for ever."

"They are getting ready to fire again," was now reported from the
foreyard.

"Here, Rattlin," continued the captain, "take my glass, seat yourself
upon the hammock-cloths, and tell me if you can make out what they are
about."

Two flashes, smoke, and then the rushing of the shot, followed by the
loud and ringing report of the brass guns, and of the reverberation of
metal, was heard immediately beneath me.  One of the shot had struck the
fluke of the anchor in the fore-chains.

"There, Mr Farmer," said the captain exultingly, "did you mark that?  I
knew it--I knew it, sir.  He neither moved nor flinched--even the long
tube that he held to his eye never quivered for an instant.  Oh!  Mr
Farmer, if you have the generous heart I give you credit for, never,
never again strike a younker for bobbing at the first, or even the fifth
shot."

"I was wrong, sir," was the humble reply; "I am sorry that I should have
given you occasion to make this _public_ reprimand."

"No, Farmer," said the little Creole very kindly; "I did not mean to
reprimand, only to remonstrate.  The severest reprimand was given you by
Mr Rattlin himself."

I could at that moment have hugged the little yellow-skinned captain,
wicked as I knew him to be, and stood unmoved the fire of the grape of a
twenty-gun battery.

But was I not really frightened at the whistling of the shot?

Yes; a little.



CHAPTER FORTY TWO.

IT'S WELL TO HAVE A LONG SPOON WHEN ONE SIPS SOUP WITH THE DEVIL--THE
CAPTAIN'S SHOT SELDOM MISSES.

It is always a greater proof of courage to stand fire coolly than to
fire.  Captain Reud, I must suppose, wished to try the degree of
intrepidity of his officers, by permitting the chase to give us several
weighty objections against any more advance of familiarity on our parts.
A quarter of a century ago there were some very strange notions
prevalent in the navy, among which none was more common, than that the
firing of the bow guns _materially_ checked the speed of the vessel.
The captain and the first-lieutenant both held this opinion.  Thus we
continued to gain upon the corvette, and she, being emboldened by the
impunity with which she cannonaded us, fired the more rapidly and with
the greater precision, as our rent sails and ravelled running rigging
began to testify.

I was rather impatient at this apparent apathy on our parts.  Mr Burn,
the gunner, seemed to more than participate in my feelings.  Our two
bow-guns were very imposing-looking magnates.  They would deliver a
message at three miles' distance, though it were no less than a missive
of eighteen pounds avoirdupois; and we were now barely within half that
distance.  Mr Burn was particularly excellent at two things--a long
shot, and the long bow.  In all the ships that I have sailed, I never
yet met with his equal at a cool, embellished, intrepid lie, or at the
accuracy of his ball practice.  Baron Munchausen would have found no
mean rival in him at the former; and, were duels fought with eighteen
pounders, Lord Camelford would have been remarkably polite in the
company of our master of projectiles.

I was upon the point of writing that Mr Burn was _burning_ with ardour.
I see it written--it is something worse than a pun--therefore, _per
omnes modos et casus_--heretical and damnable--consequently I beg the
reader to consign it to the oblivion with which we cover our bad
actions, and read thus:--The gunner was burning with impatience to show
the captain what a valuable officer he commanded.  The two guns had long
been ready, and, with the lanyard of the lock in his right hand, and the
rim of his glazed hat in his left, he was continually saying, "shall I
give her a shot now, Captain Reud?"

The answer was as provokingly tautologous as a member of parliament's
speech, who is in aid of the whipper-in, speaking against time.  "Wait a
little, Mr Burn."

"Well, Mr Rattlin," said the fat doctor, blowing himself up to me, "so
you have been knighted--on the field of battle, too--knight banneret of
the order of the light bobs."

I was standing with the captain's glass to my eye, looking over the
hammocks.  In order to get near me he had been obliged to cling hold of
the hammock rails with both hands, so that his huge, round, red face,
just peeped above the tarpaulin hammock cloths, his chin resting upon
them, no bad type of an angry sun showing his face above the rim of a
black cloud, through a London November fog.

"Take care doctor," I sang out, for I had seen the flashings of the
enemy's guns.

"Light bobs," said the jeering doctor; when away flew the upper part of
his hat, and down he dropped on the deck, on that part which nature
seems to have purposely padded in order to make the fall of man easy.

"No light bob, however," said I.

The doctor arose, rubbing with an assiduity that strongly reminded me of
my old schoolmaster, Mr Root.

"To your station, doctor," said the captain, harshly.

"Spoilt a good hat in trying to make a bad joke;" and he shuffled
himself below.

"Your gig, Captain Reud, cut all to shivers," said a petty officer.

This was the unkindest cut of all.  As we were approaching Barbados, the
captain had caused his very handsome gig to be hoisted in from over the
stern, placed on the thwarts of the launch, and it had been in that
position only the day before, very elaborately painted.  The irritated
commander seized hold of the lanyard of one of the eighteen pounders,
exclaiming, at the same time, "Mr Burn, when you have got your sight,
fire!"

The two pieces of artillery simultaneously roared out their thunders,
the smoke was driven aft immediately, and down toppled the three
topmasts of the corvette.  The falling of those masts was a beautiful
sight.  They did not rush down impetuously, but stooped themselves
gradually and gracefully, with all their clouds of canvas.  A swan in
mid air, with her drooping wings broken by a shot, slowly descending,
might give you some idea of the view.  But after the descent of the
multitudinous sails, the beauty was wholly destroyed.  Where before
there careered gallantly and triumphantly before the gale a noble ship,
now nothing but a wreck appeared painfully to trail along laboriously
its tattered and degraded ruins.

"What do you think of that shot, Mr Farmer?" said the little captain,
all exultation.  "Pray, Mr Rattlin, where did Mr Burn's shot fall?"

"_One_ of the shot struck the water about half a mile to port, sir,"
said I, for I was still at my post watching the proceedings.

"O Mr Burn!  Mr Burn! what could you be about?  It is really shameful
to throw away his Majesty's shot in that manner.  Oh, Mr Burn!" said
the captain, more in pity than in anger.

Mr Burn looked ridiculously foolish.

"O Mr Burn!" said I, "is this all you can show to justify your
bragging?"

"If ever I fire a shot with the captain again," said the mortified
gunner, "may I be rammed, crammed, and jammed in a mortar, and blown to
atoms."

In the space of a quarter of an hour we were alongside of the _Jean
Bart_.  She mounted twenty-two guns, was crowded with a dirty crew, and,
after taking out most of them, and sending plenty of hands on board, in
two hours more we had got up her spare top-masts.

Before dark, everything appeared to be as if nothing had occurred, with
the exception of the captain's gig and the doctor's hat; and hauling our
wind, in company with our prize, we made sail towards that quarter in
which we had left our convoy.

At daylight next morning, we found ourselves again with our convoy.  Mr
Silva had recaptured the four vessels taken by the felucca.  The
_Falcon_ hove in sight about mid-day.  She had chased the felucca well,
to windward, when the immense large schooner had intruded herself as a
third in the party, and she and the felucca, as well as I could
understand, had united, and gave the man-of-war brig a pretty
considerable tarnation licking, as brother Jonathan hath it.

She certainly made a very shattered appearance, and had lost several
men.  However, in the official letter of the commander to Captain Reud,
all this was satisfactorily explained.  He had beaten both, and they had
struck; but owing to night coming on before he could take possession of
them, they had most infamously escaped in the darkness.  However, it did
not much signify, as they were now, having struck, lawful prizes to any
English vessel that could lay hold of them.  I thought at the time that
there was no doubt of _that_.

The next day we made the land.  The low island of Barbados had the
appearance of a highly-cultivated garden, and the green look, so
refreshing in a hot country, and so dear to me, as it reminded me of
England.



CHAPTER FORTY THREE.

A NAVAL DINNER, WITH ITS CONSEQUENCES--A NAVAL ARGUMENT, WITH ITS
CONSEQUENCES, ALSO--THE WAY DOWN THE RIVER PAVED AT LAST, AND THE
PROCESS AND THE PERSON OF THE UNFORTUNATE PAVIOUR FINALLY ARRESTED.

We made but a short stay at "Little England," as the Barbadians fondly
call their verdant plat, and then ran down through all the Virgin
Islands, leaving parts of our convoy at their various destinations.  Our
recaptured vessels, with a midshipman in each, also went to the ports to
which they were bound.  When we were abreast of the island of Saint
Domingo, our large convoy was reduced to about forty, all of which were
consigned to the different ports of Jamaica.  Our prize corvette was
still in company, as we intended to take her to Port Royal.

We were all in excellent humour: luxuriating in the anticipation of our
prize-money, and somewhat glorious in making our appearance in a manner
so creditable to ourselves, and profitable to the admiral on the
station.  All this occupied our minds so much, that we had hardly
opportunity to think of persecution.  But some characters can always
find time for mischief, especially when mischief is but another name for
pleasure.  The activity which Mr Silva had displayed in making the
recaptures, had gained him much respect with his messmates, and seemed
to _pave the way_ for a mutual good understanding.

However he was invited to dinner with his two constant quizzers, the fat
doctor and the acute purser, just as we had made the east of Jamaica.
I, it having been my forenoon watch, was consequently invited with the
officer of it.  We had lately been too much occupied to think of
annoying each other; but those who unfortunately think that they have a
prescriptive right to be disagreeable, and have a single talent that way
(the most common of talents), seldom violate the advice of the
Scripture, that warns us not to hide that one talent in a napkin.

We found our sarcastic little skipper in the blandest and most urbane
humour.  He received me with a courtesy that almost made me feel
affection for him.  We found Mr Farmer, the first-lieutenant, with him,
and had it not been for a sly twinkling of the eye of the captain, and
very significant looks that now and then stole from Mr Farmer, as he
caught the expression of his commander's countenance I should have
thought that that day there was no "minching malicho," or anything like
mischief meant.  There were but five of us sat down to table, yet the
dinner was superb.  We had, or rather the captain supplied himself now,
with all the luxuries of a tropical climate, and those of the temperate
were, though he could boast of little temperance, far from exhausted.
We had turtle dressed in different ways, though our flat friend made his
first appearance in the guise of an appetising soup.  We had stewed
guanna, a large sort of delicious lizard, that most amply repairs the
offence done to the eye by his unsightly appearance in conciliating in a
wonderful manner all those minute yet important nerves that Providence
has so bountifully and so numerously spread over the palate, the tongue,
and the uvula.  The very contemplation of this beneficent arrangement is
enough to make a swearing boatswain pious.

We lacked neither fish, beef, nor mutton; though it is true, that the
carcasses of the sheep, after having been dressed by the butcher and
hung up under the half-deck, gave us the consolation of knowing, that
whilst there was a single one on board, we should never be in want of a
poop-lantern, so delicately thin and transparent were the teguments that
united the ribs.  Indeed, when properly stretched, the body would have
supplied the place of a drum, and but little paring away of the flesh
would have fitted the legs and shoulders for drum-sticks.  Of fowls we
had every variety, and the curries were excellent.  Reud kept two
experienced cooks; one was an Indian, well versed in all the mysteries
of spices and provocatives; the other a Frenchman, who might have taken
a high degree in Baron Rothschild's kitchen, which Hebrew kitchen is, we
understand, the best appointed in all the Christian world.  The rivals
sometimes knocked a pot or so over, with its luscious contents, in their
contests for precedency, for cooks and kings have their failings in
common; but, I must confess, that their Creole master always
administered even-handed justice, by very scrupulously flogging them
both.

Well, we will suppose the dinner done, and the West Indian dessert on
the table, and that during the repast the suavity of our host had been
exemplary.  He found some means of putting each of us on good terms with
himself.  At how little expense we can make each other happy!

The refreshing champagne had circulated two or three times, and the
pine-apples had been scientifically cut by the sovereign hand of the
skipper, who now, in his native regions, seemed to have taken to himself
an increased portion of life.  All this time, nothing personal or in the
least offensive had been uttered.  The claret that had been cooling all
day, by the means of evaporation, in one of the quarter galleries, was
produced, and the captain ordered a couple of bottles to be placed to
each person with the exception of myself.  Having thrown his legs upon
another chair than that on which he was sitting, he commenced, "Now,
gentlemen, let us enjoy ourselves.  We have the means before us, and we
should be very silly not to employ them.  In a hot country, I don't like
the trouble of passing the bottle."

"It is a great trouble to me when it is a full one," said Dr Thompson.

"Besides, the bustle and the exertion destroys the continuity of
high-toned, and intellectual conversation," said Captain Reud, with
amiable gravity.

"It is coming now," thought I.  Lieutenant Silva looked at first
embarrassed, and then a little stern: it was evident, that that which
the captain was pleased to designate as highly-toned intellectual
conversation was, despite his literary attainments and the _pas_ of
superiority, the publishing a book had given him, no longer to the
author's taste.

"I have been thinking," said Captain Reud, placing the forefinger of his
left hand, with an air of great profundity, on the left side of his
nose, "I have been thinking of the very curious fatality that has
attached itself to Mr Silva's excellent work."

"Under correction, Captain Reud," said Silva, "if you would permit this
unfortunate work to sink into the oblivion that perhaps it too much
merits, you would confer upon me, its undeserving author, an essential
favour."

"By no means.  I see no reason why I may not be proud of the book, and
proud of the author (Mr Silva starts), providing the book be a good
book; indeed, it is a great thing for me to say, that I have the honour
to command an officer who has printed a book; the mere act evinces great
_nerve_."  (Mr Silva winces.)

"And," said the wicked purser, "Captain Reud, you must be every way the
gainer by this.  The worse the book, the greater the courage.  If Mr
Silva's wit--"

"You may test my wit by my book, Mr ---, if you choose to read it," and
the author looked scornfully, "and my courage, when we reach Port
Royal;" and the officer looked magnificently.

"No more of this," said the captain.  "I was going to observe, that
perhaps I am the only officer on the station or even in the fleet, that
has under my command a live author, with the real book that he has
published.  Now, Mr Silva, we are all comfortable here--no offence is
meant to you--only compliment and honour; will you permit us to have it
read to us at the present meeting? we will be all attention.  We will
not deprive you of your wine--give the book to the younker."

"If you will be so kind, Captain Reud, to promise for yourself and the
other gentlemen, to raise no discussion upon any particular phrase that
may arise."

The captain did promise.  We shall presently see how that promise was
kept.  The book was sent for, and placed in my hands.  Now I fully
opined that at least we should get past the second page.  I was
curiously mistaken.

"Here, steward," said the skipper, "place half a bottle of claret near
Mr Rattlin.  When your throat is dry, younker, you can whet your
whistle; and when you come to any particular fine paragraph, you may
wash it down with a glass of wine."

"If that's the case, sir, I think, with submission, I ought to have my
two bottles before me also; but, if I follow your directions implicitly,
Captain Reud, I may get drunk in the first chapter."

Mr Silva thanked even a midshipman, with a look of real gratitude, for
this diversion in his favour.  I had begun to like the man, and there
might have been a secret sympathy between us, as one day it was to be my
fate also to write myself, author.

Having adjusted ourselves into the most comfortable attitudes that we
could assume, I began, as Lord Ogleby hath it, "with good emphasis, and
good discretion," to read the "Tour up and down the Rio de la Plate."
Before I began, the captain had sent for the master, and the honourable
Mr B---; so I had a very respectable audience.

I had no sooner finished the passage, "After we had paved our way down
the river," than with one accord, and evidently by preconcert, every one
stretching forth his right hand, as do the witches in Macbeth, roared
out, "Stop!"  It was too ludicrous.  My eyes ran with tears, as I laid
down the book, with outrageous laughter.  Mr Silva started to his feet,
and was leaving the cabin, when he was _ordered_ back by Captain Reud.
An appearance of amicability was assumed, and to the old argument they
went, baiting the poor author like a bear tied to a stake.  Debating is
a thirsty affair; the two bottles to each, and two more, quickly
disappeared; the wine began to operate, and with the combatants
discretion was no longer the better part of valour.

Whilst words fell fast and furious, I observed something about eight
feet long and one high, on the deck of the cabin, covered with the
ensign.  It looked much like a decorated seat.  Mr Silva would not
admit the phrase to be improper, and consequently his associates would
not permit the reading to proceed.  During most of the time the captain
was convulsed with laughter, and whenever he saw the commotion at all
lulling, he immediately, by some ill-timed remark, renewed it to its
accustomed fury.  At length, as the seamen say, they all had got a cloth
in the wind--the captain two or three,--and it was approaching the time
for beating to quarters.  The finale, therefore, as previously arranged,
was acted.  Captain Reud rose, and steadying himself on his legs, by
placing one hand on the back of his chair, and the other on the shoulder
of the gentleman that sat next to him, spoke thus: "Gentlemen--I'm no
scholar--that is--you comprehend fully--on deck, there!--don't keep that
damned trampling--and put me out--where was I?"

"Please, sir," said I, "you were saying you were no scholar."

"I wasn't--couldn't have said so.  I had the best of educations--but all
my masters were dull--damned dull--so they couldn't teach a quick lad,
like me, too quick for them--couldn't overtake me with their damned
learning.  I'm a straightforward man.  I've common sense--com--common
sense.  Let us take a common sense view of this excruciation--ex--ex--I
mean exquisite argument.  Gentlemen, come here;" and the captain,
between two supporters and the rest of the company, with Mr Silva,
approached the mysterious looking, elongated affair, that lay, covered
with the union-jack, like the corpse of some lanky giant, who had run
himself up into a consumption by a growth too rapid.  The doctor and
purser, who were doubtlessly in the secret, wore each a look of the most
perplexing gravity--the captain one of triumphant mischief; the rest of
us, one of the most unfeigned wonder.

"If," spluttered out Captain Reud, see-sawing over the yet concealed
thing.  "If, Mr Paviour, you can pave your way down a river--"

"My name, sir, is Don Alphonso Ribidiero da Silva," said the annoyed
lieutenant, with a dignified bow.

"Well, then, Don Alphonso Ribs-are-dear-o damned Silva, if you can pave
your way down a river, let us see how you can pave it in a small way
down this _hog-trough_ full of water," plucking away, with the
assistance of his confederates, the ensign that covered it.

"With fools' heads," roared out the exasperated, and, I fear, not very
sober, Portuguese.

Though I was close by, I could not fully comprehend the whole manoeuvre.
The captain was head and shoulders immersed in the filthy trough,
which, uncleaned, was taken from the manger, that part of the main-deck
directly under the forecastle, and filled with salt water.  The doctor
and purser had taken a greater lurch, and fallen over it, sousing their
white waistcoats and well-arranged shirt frills in the dirty mixture.
The rest of us contrived to keep our legs.  The ship was running before
the wind, and rolling considerably, and the motion, aided by the wine
and the act of plucking aside the flag, _might_ have precipitated the
captain into his unenviable situation; he thought otherwise.  No sooner
was he placed upon his feet, and his mouth sufficiently clear from the
salt water decoction of hog-wash, than he collared the poor victim of
persecution, and spluttered out, "Mutiny--mu--mu--mutiny--sentry.
Gentlemen, I call you all to witness, that Mr Silva has laid violent
hands upon me."

The "paviour of ways" was immediately put under arrest, and a marine,
with a drawn bayonet, placed at his cabin door, and the captain had to
repair damages, vowing the most implacable vengeance for having been
shoved into his own hog-trough.  _Did ever anybody know any good come of
hoaxing_?



CHAPTER FORTY FOUR.

THE PALISADE BANQUET, AND MAJOR FLUSHFIRE'S ANTHEM TO YELLOW JACK--WHO'S
AFRAID?--THE SANDS OF LIFE'S HOUR-GLASS WILL RUN OUT RAPIDLY, UNLESS
WELL SOAKED WITH WINE.

We will despatch the object of persecution in a few words.  Lieutenant
Silva was given the option of a court-martial or of exchanging into a
sloop of war.  He chose the latter.  The captain and his messmates saw
him over the side, two days after we had anchored in Port Royal.  The
spiteful commander purposely contrived, when his effects were whipped
into the boat, that one of the heavy, suspicious-looking cases should be
swung against the gun and smashed.  The result was exactly what we all
expected.  The water was strewn with copies, in boards, of the "Tour up
and down the Rio de la Plate."  They must certainly have been light
reading, as they floated about triumphantly.  "I wonder whether they
will pave their way up to Kingston," said the captain, with a sneer.

As the author would not suffer them to be picked up, they sank, one by
one, and disappeared, like the remembrance of their creator in the minds
of his companions.  We heard, a few weeks after, that he had died of the
yellow fever: and thus he, with his books, was consigned to oblivion, or
is only rescued from it, if happily this work do not share his fate, by
this short memento of him.

Yellow fever!--malignant consumer of the brave!--how shall I adequately
apostrophise thee?  I have looked in thy jaundiced face, whilst thy maw
seemed insatiate.  But once didst thou lay thy scorched hand upon my
frame; but the sweet voice of woman startled thee from thy prey, and the
flame of love was stronger than even thy desolating fire.  But now is
not the time to tell of this, but rather of the eagerness with which
most of my companions sought to avoid thee.

Captain Reud had got, apparently, into his natural, as well as native,
climate.  The hotter it was, like a cricket, he chirped the louder, and
enjoyed it the more.  Young and restless, he was the personification of
mischievous humour and sly annoyance.  The tales he told of the fever
were ominous, appalling, fatal.  None could live who had not been
seasoned, and none could outlive the seasoning.  For myself; I might
have been frightened, had I not been so constantly occupied in
discussing pine-apples.  But the climax was yet to be given to the fears
of the fearful.

All the officers that could be spared from the ship were invited to dine
with the mess of the 60th Regiment, then doing duty at Kingston and Port
Royal.  That day, Captain Reud having been invited to dine with the
admiral at the Penn, we were consequently deprived of his facetiousness.
All the lieutenants and the ward-room officers, with most of the
midshipmen, were of the party.  The master took charge of the frigate.
Suppose us all seated at the long table, chequered red and blue, with
Major Flushfire, the officer in command of the garrison, at the top of
the table, all scarlet and gold, and our own dear Dr Thompson, all
scarlet and blue, at the bottom.  These two gentlemen were wonderfully
alike.  The major's scarlet was not confined to his regimentals: it
covered his face.  There was not a cool spot in that flame-coloured
region; the yellow of his eyes was blood-shot, and his nose was richly
Bardolphian.  The expression of his features was thirst; but it was a
jovial thirst withal--a thirst that burned to be supplied, encouraged,
pampered.  The very idea of water was repugnant to it.  Hydrophobia was
written upon the major's brow.

We have described our rubicund doctor before.  He always looked warm,
but since his entrance into the tropics, he had been more than hot, he
had been always steaming.  There was an almost perceptible mist about
him.  His visage possessed not the adust scorch of the major's; his was
a moist heat; his cheeks were constantly par-boiling in their own
perspiration.  He was a meet _croupier_ for our host.

Ranged on each side of this noble pair were the long lines of very pale
and anxious faces (I really must except my own, for my face never looked
anxious till I thought of marrying, or pale till I took to scribbling),
the possessors of which were experiencing a little the torment of
Tantalus.  The palisades, those graves of sand, turned into a rich
compost by the ever-recurring burial, were directly under the windows,
and the land-breeze came over them, chill and dank, in palpable
currents, through the jalousies, into the heated room; and, had one
thrust his head into the moonlight and looked beneath, he would have
seen hundreds of the shell-clad vampires, upon their long and contorted
legs, moving hideously round, and scrambling horribly over newly-made
mounds, each of which contained the still fresh corpse of a warrior, or
of the land, or of the ocean.  In a small way, your land-crab is a most
indefatigable resurrectionist.  But there is retribution for their
villany.  They get eaten in their turn.  Delicate feeding they are,
doubtlessly; and there can be no matter of question, but that, at that
memorable dinner a double banquet was going on, upon a most excellent
principle of reciprocity.  The epicure crab was feeding upon the dish,
man, below--whilst epicure man was feeding upon the dished-up crab
above.  True, the guests knew it not; I mean those who did not wear
testaceous armour: the gentlemen in the coats of mail knew very well
what they were about.  It was, at the time of which I am speaking, a
standing joke to make Johnny Newcome eat land-crab disguised in some
savoury dish.  Thank God, that was more than a quarter of a century ago.
We trust that the social qualities and the culinary refinements of the
West Indians do not now march _a l'ecrevisse_ and progress _a reculons_.

There we all sat, prudence coqueting with appetite, and the finest
yellow curries contending with the direst thoughts of yellow fever.
Ever and anon some amiable youth would dash off a bumper of claret with
an air of desperate bravery, and then turn pale at the idea of his own
temerity.  The most cautious were Scotch assistant-surgeons, and pale
young ensigns who played the flute.  The midshipmen feasted and feared.
The major and the doctor kept on the "even tenor of their way," that is,
they ate and drank _a l'envi_.

We will now suppose the King's health drank, with the hearty and loyal,
God bless him! from every lip--the navy drank, and thanks returned by
the doctor, with his mouth full of vegetable marrow--the army drank, and
thanks returned by the major, after clearing his throat with a bumper of
brandy--and after "Rule Britannia" had ceased echoing along the now
silent esplanade, and that had been thundered forth with such energy by
the black band, an awful pause ensues.  Our first-lieutenant of marines
rises, and, like conscience, "with a still small voice," thus delivers
himself of the anxiety with which his breast was labouring.

"Major Flushfire, may I claim the privilege of the similar colour of our
cloth to entreat the favour of your attention?  Ah! heh!--but this land
breeze-laden, perhaps, with the germs of the yellow-fever--mephitic--and
all that--you understand me, Dr Thompson?"

"As much as you do yourself."

"Thank you--men of superior education--sympathy--and all that--you
understand me fully, major.  Now this night-breeze coming through that
half-open jalousie--miasmata--and all that.  Dr Armstrong, Dr
Thompson--medical pill--`pillars of the state'--you will pardon the
classical allusion--"

"I won't," growled out the doctor.

"Ah--so like you--so modest--but don't you think the draught is a little
dangerous?"

"Do you mean the doctor's, or this?" said the inattentive and thirsty
major, fetching a deep breath, as he put down the huge glass tumbler of
sangaree.

"Oh dear, no!--I mean the night draught _through_ the window."

"The best way to dispose of it," said the purser, nodding at the melting
Galen.

"No," replied Major Flushfire, courteously, "there's no danger in it at
all--I like it."

"Bless me, major," said the marine, "why it comes all in _gusts_."

"Like it all the better," rejoined the major, with his head again half
buried in the sangaree glass.

"_Degustibus non est disputandum_," observed Thompson.

"Very true," said the marine officer, looking sapiently.  "That remark
of yours about the _winds_ is opposite.  We ought to _dispute_ their
entrance, as you said in Latin.  But is it quite fair, my dear doctor,
for you and me to converse in Latin?  We may be taking an undue
advantage of the rest of the company."

"Greek!  Greek!" said the purser.

"Ay, certainly--it was Greek to Mr Smallcoates," muttered Thompson.

"To be sure it was," said the innocent marine.  "Major Flushfire,"
continued he, once more upon his legs, "may I again entreat the honour
of your attention.  Dr Thompson has just proved by a quotation from a
Greek author, Virgil or Paracelsus, I am not certain which, that the
entrance of the night air into a hot room is highly injurious, and in--
in--and all that.  You understand me perfectly--would it be asking too
much to have all the windows closed?"

"Ovens and furnaces!" cried out the chairman, starting up.  "Look at me
and worthy Dr Thompson.  Are we persons to enjoy a repetition of the
Black Hole of Calcutta?  The sangaree, Quasha--suffocation!  The thought
chokes me!" and he recommenced his devotions to the sangaree.

"It melts me," responded the doctor, swabbing his face with the napkin.

"Are you afraid of taking cold?" said the purser to Mr Smallcoates.

"Taking cold--let the gentleman take his wine," said the major.

"I must confess I am not so much afraid of cold as of fever.  I believe,
major, you have been three years in this very singularly hot and cold
climate.  Now, my dear sir, may I tax your experience to tell us which
is the better method of living?  Some say temperance, carried out even
to abstemiousness, is the safer; others, that the fever is best repelled
by devil's punch, burnt brandy, and high living.  Indeed, I may say that
I speak at the request of my messmates.  Do, major, give us your
opinion."

"I think," said the man of thirst, "the medical gentlemen should be
applied to in preference to an old soldier like myself.  They have great
practice in disposing of fever cases."

"But if we must die, either of diet or the doctor, I am for knowing,"
said the purser, "not what doctor, but what sort of diet, is most
dilatory in its despatch."

"Well, I will not answer the question, but state the facts.  My
messmates can vouch for the truth of them.  Five years ago, and not
three, I came out with a battalion of this regiment.  We mustered
twenty-five officers in all.  We asked ourselves the very same question
you have just asked of me.  We split into two parties, nearly even in
number.  Twelve of us took to water, temperance, and all manner of
preservatives; the other thirteen of us led a harum-scarum life, ate
whenever we were hungry, and when we were not hungry; drank whenever we
were thirsty, and when we were not thirsty; and to create a thirst, we
qualified our claret with brandy; and generally forgot the water, or
substituted Madeira for it, in making our punch.  This portion of our
body, like Jack Falstaff, was given to sleeping on bulkheads on
moonlight nights, shooting in the mid-day sun, riding races, and
sometimes, hem! assisting--a--a--at drinking-matches."

Here the worthy soldier made a pause, appeared more thirsty than ever,
scolded Quasha for not brandying his sangaree, and swigging it with the
air of Alexander, when he proceeded to drain the cup that was fatal, he
looked round with conscious superiority.  The pale ensign looked more
pale--the sentimental lieutenants more sentimental--many thrust their
wine and their punch from before them, and there was a sudden
competition for the water-jug.  The marine carried a stronger expression
than anxiety upon his features--it was consternation--and thus
hesitatingly delivered himself:

"And--so--so--sir, the _bons vivants_--deluded--poor deluded gentlemen!
all perished--but--pardon me--delicate dilemma--but _yourself_, my good
major."

"Exactly, Mr Smallcoates; and within the eighteen months."

There was a perceptible shudder through the company, military as well as
naval.  The pure element became in more demand than ever, and those who
did not actually push away their claret, watered it.  The imperturbable
major brandied his sangaree more potently.

"But," said Mr Smallcoates, brightening up, "the temperate gentlemen
all escaped the contagion--_undoubtedly_!"

"I beg your pardon--they _all died within the year_.  I alone remain of
all the officers to tell the tale.  The year eight was dreadful.  Poor
fellows!"  The good major's voice faltered, and he bent over his
sangaree much longer than was necessary to enjoy the draught.

Blank horror passed her fearful glance from guest to guest.  Even the
rubicund doctor's mouth was twitched awry.  I did not quite like it
myself.

"But I'm alive," said the major, rallying up from his bitter
recollections, "and the brandy is just as invigorating, and the wine
just as refreshing as ever."

"The major _is_ alive," said the marine officer, very sapiently.  "Is
that brandy before you, Mr Farmer?  I'll trouble you for it--I really
feel this claret very cold upon my stomach.  Yes," he repeated, after
taking down a tumbler-full of half spirits, half wine, "the major _is_
alive--and--so am I."

"The major is alive," went round the table; "let us drink his health in
bumpers."

The major returned thanks, and volunteered a song.  I begged it, and the
reader may sing it as he pleases, though I shall please myself by
recording how the major was pleased to have it sung.

"Gentlemen," said he, "you will do me the favour to fill a bumper of
lemonade, and when I cry chorus, chorus me standing, with the glasses in
your hands; and at the end of each chorus you will be pleased to
remember that the glass is to be drained.  No heel-taps after, and no
daylight before.  Now for it, my lads!" and with a voice that must have
startled the land crabs from their avocations, he roared out--

  "Yellow Jack!  Yellow Jack! hie thee hack! hie thee back!
  To thy damp, drear abode in the jungle;
  I'll be sober and staid,
  And drink _lemonade_,
  Try and catch me--you'll make a sad bungle,
  Yellow Jack!

  "But he came, the queer thief, and he seized my right-hand,
  And I writh'd and I struggled, yet could not withstand
  His hot, griping grasp, though I drank lemonade--
  He grinn'd and he clutch'd me, though sober and staid."

  _Chorus_ (with increasing loudness).

  "Yellow Jack!  Yellow Jack! hie thee back! hie thee back!
  To thy damp, drear abode in the jungle;
  We'll be sober and staid,
  And we'll drink lemonade,
  Try and catch us--you'll make a sad bungle,
  Yellow Jack!"  (tremendously).

"Bumpers of sangaree!" roared the major, and sang:

  "Yellow Jack!  Yellow Jack! hie thee back! hie thee back!
  To thy pestilent swamp quickly hie thee;
  For I'll drink _sangaree_,
  Whilst my heart's full of glee,
  In thy death-doing might I'll defy thee,
  Yellow Jack!

  "But the fiend persever'd and got hold of my side,
  How I burn'd, and I froze, and all vainly I tried
  To get rid of his grasp--though I drank sangaree,
  No longer my bosom exulted with glee."

  _Chorus_ (still more loudly).

  "Yellow Jack!  Yellow Jack! hie thee back! hie thee back
  To thy pestilent swamp quickly hie thee;
  For we'll drink sangaree,
  Whilst our hearts throb with glee,
  In thy death-doing might we defy thee,
  Yellow Jack!"

After the sangaree, strong, and highly spiced, had been quaffed, the
excitement grew wilder, and the leader of our revels exclaimed, at the
top of his voice, "Wine, gentlemen, wine--brimmers!" and thus
continued--

  "Yellow Jack!  Yellow Jack! hie thee back! hie thee back!
  Begone to thy father, old Sootie,
  Pure _wine_ now I'll drink,
  So Jack, I should think,
  Of me thou wilt never make booty,
  Yellow Jack!

  "But a third time he came, and seized hold of my head;
  'Twas in vain that the doctor both blister'd and bled;
  My hand, and my side, and my heart too, I think,
  Would soon have been lost, though pure wine I might drink."

  _Chorus_.

  "Yellow Jack!  Yellow Jack! hie thee hack! hie thee back!
  Begone to thy father, old Sootie.
  Pure wine now we'll drink,
  So Jack, we should think,
  Of us thou wilt never make booty,
  Yellow Jack!

"Brandy!" shouted the major.  "Brandy--he's a craven who shirks the
call."  There was no one there craven but myself.  My youth excused my
apostacy from the night's orgies.  The major resumed, his red face
intensely hot and arid:

  "Yellow Jack!  Yellow Jack! hie thee back! hie thee back
  To the helldam, Corruption, thy mother;
  For with _brandy_ I'll save
  My heart, and thus brave
  Thee, and fell Death, thine own brother
  Yellow Jack!

  "To brandy I took, then Jack took his leave,
  Brandy-punch and neat brandy drink morn, noon, and eve,
  At night drink, then sleep, and be sure, my brave boys,
  Naught will quell Yellow Jack but neat brandy and noise."

  _The Chorus_ (most uproariously).

  "Yellow Jack!  Yellow Jack! hie thee back! hie thee back!
  To the helldam, Corruption, thy mother;
  For with brandy we'll save
  Our hearts, and thus brave
  Thee, and fell Death, thine own brother,
  Yellow Jack!"

At last "Yellow Jack" was thundered out loud enough to awake his victims
from the palisades.  The company were just then fit for anything, but
certainly most fit for mischief.  Our first-lieutenant intimated to me
that our jolly-boat was waiting to take the junior officers on board--
considerate man--so I took the hint, marvelling much upon the scene that
I had just witnessed.

Whether or not there was any mystic virtue in the exorcisory cantation
of the previous night I cannot determine; but it is certain that, next
morning, though headaches abounded among our officers, indications of
the yellow fever there were none.



CHAPTER FORTY FIVE.

INSUBORDINATION FOLLOWED BY ELEVATION--A MIDSHIPMAN TRICED UP IN
MID-AIR, AFFORDING A PRACTICAL LESSON ON OSCILLATION--ALL TRUCK AND NO
BARTER.

But as it is not my intention to write a diary of my life, which was
like all other midshipmen's lives in the West Indies, I shall pass over
some months, during which we remained tolerably healthy, took many
prizes, cut out some privateers, and spent money so rapidly gained, in a
manner still more rapid.

Of my own messmates I remember but little.  They were generally
shockingly ignorant young men, who had left school too early, to whom
books were an aversion, and all knowledge, save that merely nautical, a
derision.  I had to go more often to fisty-cuffs with these youths, in
defending my three deckers--words of Latin or Greek derivation--than on
any other occasion.  I remember well that the word "idiosyncrasy" got me
two black eyes, and my opponent as "pretty a luxation" of the shoulder
by being tumbled down the main hatchway at the close of the combat, as
any man of moderate expectations might desire.  I was really obliged to
mind my parts of speech.  I know that instead of using the obnoxious
word "idiosyncrasy," I should have said that Mr So-and-so had "a list
to port in his ideas."  I confess my error--my sin against elegance was
great; but it must be said in extenuation that then I was young and
foolish.

However, I really liked my mode of life.  Notwithstanding my occasional
squabbles with my messmates upon my inadvertently launching a
first-rate, I can safely say I was beloved by everybody--nor is the term
too strong.  The captain liked me because I was always well dressed, of
an engaging appearance, and a very handsome appendage to his gig, and
aide-de-camp in his visits on shore; perhaps from some better motives--
though certainly, amidst all his kindness to me, he once treated me most
tyrannously.

The doctor and the purser liked me, because I could converse with them
rationally upon matters not altogether nautical.  The master almost
adored me, because, having a good natural talent for drawing, I made him
plans of the hold, and the stowage of his tiers of water-casks, and
sketches of headlands in his private log-book, to all which he was
condescending enough to put his own name.  The other superior officers
thought me a very good sort of fellow, and my messmates liked me,
because I was always happy and cheerful--and lent them money.

The crew, to a man, would have done anything for me, because--(it was
very foolish, certainly)--I used, for some months to cry heartily when
any of them were tied up.  And afterwards, when I got rid of this
weakness, I always begged as many of them off from the infliction of the
lash of Mr Farmer, the first-lieutenant, as I could.  With him I could
take the liberty if I found him in a good humour, though I dared not
with the captain; for, though the latter had some attachment for me, it
was a dreadfully wayward and capricious feeling.

The longer I sailed with him the more occasion I had to dread, if not
hate him.  The poor man had no resources; it is not, therefore,
surprising that he began to have recourse to habitual ebriety.  Then,
under the influence of his wife, he would be gay, mischievous,
tyrannical, and even cruel, according to the mood of the moment.  Yet,
at the worst, though his feet faltered, when in his cups, his tongue
never did.  He even grew eloquent under the vinous influence.  It
sharpened his cunning, and wonderfully increased his aptitude for
mischief.  It was a grievous calamity to all on board the ship that we
could not give his mind healthful occupation.  I said that he was fond
of me; but I began to dread his affection, and to feel myself as being
compelled to submit to the playful caresses of a tiger.  As yet, not
only had we not had the slightest difference, but he had often humoured
me to the detriment of the service, and in defiance of the just
discipline Mr Farmer wished to maintain.  If I presumed upon this, who
shall blame such conduct in a mere boy?  And then, Captain Reud was
necessary to me.  I found that I could not avail myself of my too ample
allowance until he had endorsed my bills of exchange.

However, the concealed fang of the paw that had so often played with,
and patted me into vanity, was to wound me at length.  It came upon me
terribly, and entered deeply into my bosom.

I was learning to play chess of the purser--the game had already become
a passion with me.  It was also my turn to dine in the ward-room, and,
consequently, I was invited.  The anticipated game at chess enhanced the
value of the invitation.  That same forenoon the captain and I had been
very sociable.  He gracious, and I facetious as I could.  I had been
giving him a history of my various ushers, and he had been pleased to be
wonderfully amused.  I was down in the midshipmen's berth: a full hour
after I had received the ward-room invitation, the captain's steward
shoved his unlucky head within the door, and croaked out, "Captain
Reud's compliments to Mr Rattlin, and desires his company to dinner
today."

I answered carelessly, rather flippantly, perhaps, "Tell the captain I'm
going to dine in the ward-room."  I meant no disrespect, for I felt
none.  Perhaps the fellow who took back my answer worded it maliciously.
I had totally forgotten, as soon as I had uttered my excusal, whether I
had or had not used the word "compliments," or "respects"--perhaps
thoughtlessly, neither one nor the other.

I dined in the ward-room, enjoyed my chess, and, good, easy youth, with
all my blushing honours thick upon me, of having given mate with only
trifling odds in my favour, the drum beat to evening quarters.  I was
stationed to the four aftermost carronades on the quarter-deck.  I had
run up in a hurry; and at that period, straps to keep down the trousers
not having been invented, my white jeans were riddled a good deal up the
leg.  I passed the captain, touched my hat, and began to muster my men.
Unconscious of any offence, I stole a look at my commander, but met with
no good-humoured glance in return.  He had screwed up his little yellow
physiognomy into the shape of an ill-conditioned and battered face on a
brass knocker.  He had his usual afternoon wine-flush upon him; but a
feeling of vindictiveness had placed his feelings of incipient
intoxication under complete mastery.

"So you dined in the ward-room, Mr Rattlin?"

"Yes, sir," my hat reverently touched, not liking the looks of my
interrogator.

"And you did not even condescend to return the compliments I sent you,
with my misplaced invitation to dinner."

"Don't recollect, sir."

"Mr Rattlin, in consideration of your ignorance, I can forgive a
personal affront--damme--but, by the living God, I cannot overlook
disrespect to the service.  You young misbegotten scoundrel! what do
mean by coming to quarters undressed?  Look at your trousers, sir!"

"The captain is in a passion, certainly," thought I, as I quietly
stooped to pull the offending garment down to my shoes.

"Mr Farmer, Mr Farmer, do you see the young blackguard?" said the
commander.  "Confound me, he is making a dressing-room of my
quarter-deck--and at quarters, too--which is the same as parade.
Hither, sirrah;--ho-ho, my young gentleman.  Young gentleman, truly--a
conceited little bastard!"

The word burnt deeply into my young heart, and caused a shock upon my
brain, as if an explosion of gunpowder had taken place within my skull;
but it passed instantaneously, and left behind it an unnatural calm.

"Pray, sir," said I, walking up to him, deliberately and resolutely,
"how do _you_ know that I am a bastard?"

"Do you hear the impudent scoundrel?  Pray, sir, who is your father?"

"Oh! that I knew," said I, bursting into tears.  "I bless God that it is
not you."

"To the mast-head! to the mast-head!  Where's the boatswain? start him
up! start him up!"

The boatswain could not make his way aft till I was some rattlings up
the main rigging, and thus, his intentional and kind dilatoriness saved
me from the indignity of a blow.  Twice I gazed upon the clear blue and
transparent water, and temptation was strong upon me, for it seemed to
woo me to rest; but when I looked inboard, and contemplated the
diminutive, shrivelled, jaundiced figure beneath me, I said to myself,
"Not for such a thing as that."

Before I had got to the main-top, I thought, "This morning he loved
me!--poor human nature!"--and when I got to the topmast cross-trees, I
had actually forgiven him.  It has been my failing through life, as
Shakespeare expresses it, "to have always lacked gall."  God knows how
much I have forgiven, merely because I have found it impossible to hate.

But it was to be tried still more.  I had settled myself comfortably on
the cross-trees, making excuses for the captain, and condemning my own
want of caution, and anticipating a reconciliatory breakfast with my
persecutor, when his shrill voice came discordantly upon my ears.

"Mast-head, there!"

"Sir."

"Up higher, sir--up higher."

I hesitated--the order was repeated with horrid threats and
imprecations.  There were no rattlings to the topgallant rigging.  It
had been tremendously hot all day, and the tar had sweated from the
shrouds; and I was very loath to spoil my beautiful white jean trousers
by swarming up them.  However, as I perceived that he had worked himself
into a perfect fury, up I went, and to the topgallant-mast-head,
embracing the royal pole with one arm, and standing on the bights of the
rigging.  My nether apparel, in performing this feat, appeared as if it
had been employed in wiping up a bucket of spilled tar.

But I was not long to remain unmolested in my stand on the high and
giddy mast.  My astonishment and dismay were unbounded at hearing
Captain Reud still vociferate, "Up higher, sir."

The royal pole stood naked, with nothing attached to it but the royal
and the signal-halyards, the latter running through the truck.  My lady
readers must understand that the truck is that round thing at the top of
all the masts that looks so like a button.  I could not have got up the
well-greased pole if I had attempted it.  A practised seaman could,
certainly, and, indeed, one of those worthies who climb for legs of
mutton at a fair, might have succeeded to mount a few inches.

"What!" said I, half aloud, "does the tyrant mean?  He knows that this
thing I cannot do: and he also knows that if I attempt it, it is
probable I shall lose my hold of this slippery stick, and be rolled off
into the sea.  If he wishes to murder me, he shall do so more directly.
Forgive him--never.  I'll brave him first, and revenge myself after."

Again that deadly calm came over me, which makes soft dispositions so
desperate, and to which light-haired persons are so peculiarly subject.
In these temperaments, when the paleness becomes fixed and unnatural,
beware of them in their moods.  They concentrate the vindictiveness of a
life in a few moments; and, though the paroxysm is usually short, it is
too often fatal to themselves and their victims.  I coolly commenced
descending the rigging, whilst the blackest thoughts crowded in distinct
and blood-stained array upon my brain.  I bethought me from whence I
could the most readily pluck a weapon, but the idea was but
instantaneous, and I dismissed it with a mighty effort.  At length I
reached the deck, whilst the infuriated captain stood mute with surprise
at my outrageously insubordinate conduct.  The men were still at their
quarters, and partook of their commander's astonishment; but, I am
convinced, of no other feeling.

When I found myself on deck I walked up to Captain Reud, and between my
clenched teeth I said to him, slowly and deliberately, "Tyrant, I scorn
you.  I come premeditatedly to commit an act of mutiny: I give myself up
as a prisoner: I desire to be tried by a court-martial.  I will undergo
anything to escape from you; and I don't think that, with all your
malice, you will be able to hang me.  I consider myself under an
arrest."  Then turning upon my heel, I prepared to go down the
quarter-deck hatchway.

Captain Reud heard me to the end in silence; he even permitted me to go
down half the ladder unmolested, when, rousing himself from his utter
astonishment, he jumped forward, and spurning me with his foot violently
on my back, dashed me on the main deck.  I was considerably bruised,
and, before I got to the midshipmen's berth, two marines seized me and
dragged me again to the quarter-deck.  Once more I stood before my angry
persecutor, looking hate and defiance.

"To the mast-head, sir, immediately."

"I will not.  I consider myself a prisoner."

"You refuse to go?"

"I do."

"Quarter-master, the signal halyards.  Sling Mr Rattlin."  Mr Rattlin
was slung.  "Now run the mutinous rascal up to the truck."

In a moment I was attached to a thin white line, waving to and fro in
mid air, and soon triced up to the very top of the royal pole, and
jammed hard to the truck.  Is this believed?  Perhaps not; yet no
statement was ever more true.  At the time when this atrocity was
perpetrating not an officer interfered.  My sufferings were intense.
The sun was still hot, my hat had fallen off in my involuntary ascent,
and, as the ship was running before the wind under her topsails, the
motion at that high point of elevation was tremendous.  I felt horribly
sea-sick.  The ligature across my chest became every moment more
oppressive to my lungs, and more excruciating in torture; my breathing
at each respiration more difficult, and, before I had suffered ten
times, I had fainted.  So soon as the captain had seen me run up he went
below, leaving strict orders that I should not be lowered down.

Directly the captain was in his cabin, the first-lieutenant, the doctor,
purser, and the officers of the watch, held a hurried consultation on my
situation.  But the good-natured doctor did not stop for the result, but
immediately went below, and told Reud if I remained where I was I should
die.  Those who knew the navy at that time will anticipate the answer--
no others can--"Let him die and be damned!"  The good doctor came on
deck, desponding.  Mr Farmer then hailed me once, and again and again.
Of course he received no answer: I heard him, but, at that moment, my
senses were fast leaving me.  The sea, with its vast horizon, appearing
so illimitable from the great height where I was swaying, rocked, to my
failing sight, awfully to and fro: the heavens partook of the dizzying
motion.  I only, of all the creation, seemed standing still: I was sick
unto death; and as far as sensation was concerned, then and there I
died.

Upon receiving no reply, Mr Farmer sent one of the top-men up to look
at me.  No sooner had he reached the topgallant rigging than he reported
me dead.  A cry of horror escaped from all the deck.  The captain rushed
up: he needed no report.  He was frantic with grief.  He wept like a
child, and assisted with his own hands to lower me down; they were his
arms that received, himself that bore me to his cabin.  Like a wilful
boy who had slain his pet lamb, or a passionate girl her dove, he
mourned over me.  It was a long time before my respiratory organs could
be brought into play.  My recovery was slow, and it was some time before
I could arrange my ideas.  A cot was slung for me in the cabin, and
bewildered and exhausted, I fell into a deep sleep.

I awoke a little after midnight perfectly composed, and suffering only
from the weal that the cord had made across my chest.  Before a table,
and his countenance lighted by a single lantern, sat the captain.  His
features expressed a depth of grief and a remorse that were genuine.  He
sat motionless, with his eyes fixed upon my cot: my face he could not
see, owing to the depth of the shadow in which I lay.  I moved: he
advanced to my cot with the gentleness of a woman, and softly uttered:--

"Ralph, my dear boy, do you sleep?"

The tones of his voice fell soothingly upon my ear like the music of a
mother's prayer.

"No, Captain Reud; but I am very thirsty."

In an instant he was at my side with some weak wine and water.  I took
it from the hand of him whom, a few hours before, in my animosity I
could have slain.

"Ralph," said he, as he received back the tumbler, "Ralph, are we
friends?"

"Oh!  Captain Reud, how could you treat a poor lad thus, who respected,
who loved you so much?"

"I was mad--do you forgive me, Ralph?" and he took my not unwilling
hand.

"To be sure; but do me one little favour in return."

"Anything, anything, Ralph--I'll never mast-head you again."

"Oh, I was not thinking of that; I ought not to have put you in a
passion.  Punish me--mast-head me--do anything, Captain Reud, but call
me not bastard."

He made no reply: he pressed my hand fervently; he put it to his lips
and kissed it--on my soul he did: then, after a pause, gently murmured
"Good-night;" and, as he passed into the after-cabin to his bed, I
distinctly heard him exclaim, "God forgive me, how I have wronged that
boy!"

The next day we were better friends than ever; and for the three years
that we remained together, not a reproachful word or an angry look ever
passed between us.

I must be permitted to make three observations upon this, to me,
memorable transaction.  The first is, that at that time I had not the
power of retention of those natural feelings of anger, which all should
carry with them as a preservation against, or a punishment for, injury
and insult.  I know that most of my male, and many of my female readers,
will think my conduct throughout pusillanimous or abject.  My mother's
milk, as it were, still flowed in my veins, and with that no ill blood
could amalgamate.  All I can say is, that now I am either so much better
or so much worse, that I should have adopted towards Captain Reud a much
more decided course of proceedings.

My second remark is, that this captain had really a good heart, but was
one of the most striking instances that I ever knew of the demoralising
effect of a misdirected education, and the danger of granting great
powers to early years and great ignorance.  With good innate feelings,
no man ever possessed moral perceptions more clouded.

And lastly, that this statement is not to be construed into a libel on
the naval service, or looked upon in the least as an exaggerated
account.  As to libel, the gentlemanly deportment, the parental care of
their crews, and the strict justice of thousands of captains, cannot in
the least be deteriorated by a single act of tyranny, by a solitary
member of their gallant body; and, as to exaggeration, let it be
remembered that, in the very same year, and on the very same station
that my tricing-up to the truck occurred, another post-captain tarred
and feathered one of his young gentlemen, and kept him in that state, a
plumed biped, for more than six weeks in his hen-coop.  This last fact
obtained much notoriety, from the aggrieved party leaving the service,
and recovering heavy damages from his torturer in the court of civil
law.  My treatment never was known beyond our frigate.



CHAPTER FORTY SIX.

RALPH ENTERETH INTO THE REGIONS OF ROMANCE AND PRIVATEERING, CARRIED
THITHER BY A PILOT, malgre lui--AN INOPPORTUNE VISIT.

Shortly after the illegal suspension of the Habeas Corpus that I
recorded in the last chapter, the portion of the navy stationed in the
West Indies became actively employed in the conquest of those islands
still in the possession of the French.  Some fell almost without a
struggle, others at much expense of life, both of the military and naval
forces.  As everyone, who could find a publisher, has written a book on
all these events, from the capture of the little spot Deseada, to the
subduing the magnificent island of Guadaloupe, and the glorious old
stone-built city of Domingo, I may well be excused detailing the
operations.

Among other bellicose incidents that varied the dull monotony of my
life, was the beating off a frigate equal in force to our own; though I
believe that we were a little obliged to her for taking leave of us in a
manner so abrupt, though we could not certainly complain of the want, on
her part, of any attention for the short and busy hour that she stayed
with us, for she assisted us to shift all our topmasts, and as, before
she met us, we had nothing but old sails to display, she considerably
decorated us with a profusion of ribands gaily fluttering about our
lower masts and the topmasts that were still standing gracefully hanging
over our sides.

We were too polite and well-bred not to make some return for all these
_petits soins_.  As, between the tropics, the weather is generally very
warm, we evinced a most laudable anxiety that she should be properly
ventilated, so we assiduously began drilling holes through and through
her hull; and, I assure the reader, that we did it in a surpassingly
workmanlike manner.  But, in the midst of this spirited exchange of
courtesies, our Gallic friend remembered that he had, or might have,
another _engagement_, so he took his leave; and, as he had given us so
many reasons to prevent our insisting to attend upon him, we parted _en
pleine mer_, leaving us excessively annoyed that we were prevented from
accompanying him any further.

In Captain Reud's despatches he stated, and stated truly, that we beat
him off.  Why he went, I could not understand; for, excepting in the
shattered state of her hull, and more particularly in a sad confusion of
her quarter gallery, with her two aftermost main-deck-ports, he sailed
off with her colours flying, and every sail drawing, even to her royals.
But the French used to have their own method of managing these little
matters.

But let us rapidly pass over these follies and hasten to something more
exquisitely foolish.  And yet I cannot, I have to clear away many dull
weeds, and tread down many noxious nettles, before I can reach the one
fresh and thornless rose, that bloomed for a short space upon my heart,
and the fragrance of which so intoxicated my senses, that, for a time, I
was under a blessed delusion of believing myself happy.

I had now been two years and a half in the West Indies, and I was fast
approaching my nineteenth year.  At this period we had retaken several
English West Indiamen.

In one of these retaken merchant vessels, there was found, as the French
prize-master, and now of course our prisoner, a mercurial little fellow
of the name of Messurier.  He was very proud of the glory of his nation,
and still prouder of his own.  As France possessed many historians, and
Monsieur Adolphe Sigismund Messurier but one, and that one himself, of
course, he had the duty of, at least, three hundred savants thrown upon
his own shoulders: he performed it nobly, and with an infinite relish.
Now, when a person who is given to much talking is also given to much
drinking, it generally happens, injurious as is the vice of the
grog-bottle, that the vice of the voluble tongue is still worse.  When
in his cups, he told of the scores that he had slain, counting them off
by threes and fives upon his fingers, his thumbs indicating captains,
his forefingers first-lieutenants, and so on with the various grades in
our service, until the _aspirants_, or middies, were merely honoured by
his little finger as their representative, we only laughed; and asked
him, if he had been so destructive to the officers, how many men had
fallen by the puissance of his arm.  It seemed that these latter were
too numerous and too ignoble to be counted; for that question was always
answered with a _bah_! and a rapidly passing over the extended palm of
his left hand with his open right one.

But when, one evening, he mentioned that he could pilot a frigate into
the inland waters from whence swarmed the crowd of schooner privateers
that infested the islands, and by their swift sailing to windward,
eluded our fastest ships, we laughed still, and I did something more; I
reported this boast to Captain Reud.

"Then," exclaimed my valorous little creole, "by all the virtues of a
long eighteen, he shall take in His Majesty's frigate, _Eos_."

Whenever he protested by a long eighteen, in the efficacy of whose
powers he had the most implicit reliance, we might look upon the matter
as performed.

The next morning, whilst Monsieur Messurier was solacing his aching head
with his hands, oblivious of the events of the preceding evening, he was
feelingly reminded of his consummate skill in pilotage.  He then became
most unnaturally modest, and denied all pretensions to the honour.  Now
Captain Reud had no idea that even an enemy should wrap up his talent in
a napkin, so he merely said to him, "You must take my ship in."  When
the captain had made up his mind, the deed generally trod upon the heels
of the resolve.  Poor man! he was always in want of something to do, and
thus he was too happy to do anything that offered excitement, Monsieur
Messurier was in despair; he prayed and swore alternately, talked about
sacrificing his life for the good of his country; and told us in a
manner that convinced us that he wished us to believe the absurdity,
that honour was the breath of his nostrils.  However, the captain was
fully intent upon giving him the glorious opportunity of exclaiming with
effect, _Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori_.

Not knowing the strength of the stronghold that it was our intention to
surprise, Captain Reud cruised about for a few days, until he had
collected another frigate, a sloop of war, and two eighteen-gun brigs,
the commanders of all being, of course, his juniors.  Having made all
necessary arrangements, one beautiful morning we found ourselves close
off the iron-bound and rocky shores of the east end of Saint Domingo.
We ran along shore for a couple of hours, when we perceived an opening
in the lofty piles of granite, that frowned over the blue ocean.  This
was the entrance into the harbour where lay our destined prizes.

Captain Reud taking the responsibility into his own hands, had
determined to lead in.  The charts were minutely examined, but they gave
us no hope.  The soundings laid down were so shallow and the path so
intricate, that, by them, we wondered much how even a privateer schooner
could make the passage in safety.  To a frigate drawing three-and-twenty
feet of water, the attempt seemed only a precursor to destruction.

We hove-to; the captains of the other vessels were signalled on board,
and with them and our first-lieutenant and master, a sort of council of
war was held; and, as everyone present gave his voice against the
attempts our skipper's mind was made up directly.  He resolved to go in,
trusting to the chapter of accidents, to a gracious Providence, and
Monsieur Messurier upon the fore-yard, with a seaman with a pistol at
each ear, to scatter his brains the moment the ship struck.  The weather
was brilliant, the wind moderate and fair, when we bore up to the mouth
of the passage.  It was something at once ludicrous and painful to
witness the agony of our pilot in spite of himself.  Between oaths,
protestations and tremors, the perspiration of terror flowing down his
face, mingled with his tears, he conned the ship with a precision that
proved, at least in that matter, that he was no vain boaster.

But we had scarcely advanced a few hundred yards within the gorge, than
I had eyes only for the sublimity of the scenery that opened itself in
succession as we passed.  The water was as smooth as the cheek, as
bright as the smile, and as blue as the eye of our first love.  Indeed,
it was "_deeply_, beautifully blue," as Lord Byron saith--to that
_deeply_ we owed everything.  The channel was so narrow, that, in many
places there was not sufficient room to tack the ship even if she could
have turned within her own length, and, in two remarkable points, we had
not sufficient width to have carried our studding-sails.  At one
singularly romantic spot of this pass, the rocks far above our
mast-heads leant over towards each other, and the ancient forest trees
that crowned the heights, mingled their feathery branches, and permitted
us to get a sight of the vaulted blue above us only at intervals,
between the interstices of the dark-green foliage.

The seamen regarded their situation with wonder, not unmixed with awe.
But the view was not the unvaried one of two gigantic walls festooned
with flowers and crowned with trees.  At intervals, we found the channel
open into wide lagoons, with shelving and verdant shores, studded with
white stone buildings, and well cultivated plantations, and then the
passage would narrow again suddenly, and the masses of rock rose so high
on each side of us, as almost to exclude the light of the day.  The way
was tortuous, but not abruptly so; and, as we wound through it, ever and
anon we came to some picturesque inlet, some cool grotto, so beautiful
that its very beauty must have peopled it with nymphs, for none could
look upon them, without feeling, for a time, like poets.  At the
entrance, the heaving water rose and fell with a heavy moaning against
the eternal bases of the rocks, though the surface in mid-channel was
perfectly smooth; but, as we advanced, the dull indulation gradually
subsided, and its measured splash no longer echoed among the cliffs.
The silence, as we proceeded, grew strange to us.  An awe crept over us,
like that which is felt upon the first entrance into a vast cathedral:
and the gentle wind came to us noiselessly, and dying away at intervals,
left the ship silently stealing on, impelled for a space, by no visible
means.

The hush throughout the ship was tomb-like, and the few words of command
that from time to time broke upon the ear, sounded hollow and unearthly
from the reverberations of the overhanging precipices.

But quickly the scene would change; the jutting promontories and
overtopping walls would recede, and a fairy spot, encircled by
forest-land, would open upon us, studded with green islands, glorious in
all the beauties of an eternal spring, and crowded and crowned with
flowers of every hue, and of a brilliancy the most intense.  We
proceeded in this delightful manner for more than twelve miles, yet no
one had appeared, in the least to notice our approach.  Had the most
trivial attempt at defence been made, we could not have proceeded a
quarter of the distance; for I verily believe that we passed by points
so overhanging, that a couple of pounds of gunpowder, properly applied,
and fired at the right moment, would have tumbled fragments of solid
rock upon us, that would have crushed us to the bottom in an instant, to
mention nothing of the several protruding corners of this singular pass,
on which two or three guns could have raked an approaching vessel for
half an hour with impunity, as I have before stated that it would be
impossible in those straitened passages to have turned a broadside to
bear on any impediment.  On we came, and at last a noble bay, or rather
salt-water lake, opened upon us, with two wide rivers delivering their
waters into the bottom of it.  On our right lay the town of Aniana, with
a fort upon a green mount overlooking the houses, and rising much higher
than our floating pennant.

Our unexpected _entree_, like all other mistimed visits, caused the
visited a terrible degree of confusion.  Twelve or thirteen beautiful
schooners had their sweeps out, and all their sails set immediately.  We
having anchored opposite the town about noon, the breeze fell away into
almost a perfect calm, and off they went, making the best of their way
up the rivers.  There were several other craft lying off the town, into
which the inhabitants were crowding, with all their effects of any
value, no doubt intending to go a little way up into the country also,
to avoid the inconvenience of inopportune calls.  The signal was made
for our little squadron to get out their boats, chase, and capture.



CHAPTER FORTY SEVEN.

TREATS OF KIND INTENTIONS FRUSTRATED--A VISITING PARTY PREVENTED BY ONE
BALL TOO MANY HAVING BEEN GIVEN--AND READY-MADE DOMESTIC HAPPINESS FOR
STRANGERS.

We first of all brought out the heavily laden craft that were still near
the town, and anchored them under our guns.  To the privateers that
showed their heels, the larger boats gave chase; and coming up with them
one after another, they were finally all captured.  Had they but acted
in combination, I think they might have resisted the boats with success;
but their commanders seemed to have lost all presence of mind, in the
confusion and astonishment into which our sudden appearance had thrown
them.

Now, all this was very pleasant to us, _Messieurs les concernes_.  We
calculated upon having the whole wealth of the French town, and the
little French fleet converted into lawful prize-money.  The
deeply-laden, poop-encumbered brigs and schooners, so ungracefully down
by the stern, we imagined to be full of treasure.  Visions of gold
glittered before our mind's eye.  We were about to recover the plunder
of ages; for it must be confessed that this Aniana was no better than a
haven for pirates.  One of us was cruelly undeceived in one respect.  As
yet, we had met with no manner of resistance whatever: it was ten
o'clock in the evening, the full moon giving us a very excellent
imitation of daylight, when all the commanders who had dined with our
yellow skipper came on deck, in the highest possible glee, delightedly
rubbing their hands, and calculating each his share of the prize-money.
All this hilarity was increased, every now and then, by some boats
coming on board, and reporting to us, as commodore, another privateer,
or some fugitive merchantman, taken, and then immediately shoving off in
chase of others.

"Well, gentlemen," said the skipper, "I'll tell you what we'll do.
We'll send the marines on shore to-morrow, and take possession of the
town.  However, we will be very civil to the ladies;--we will, by Venus!
As commanding officer, I'll permit of no rudeness."

"None whatever: who could think or frightening them?  I suppose, Captain
Reud, there can be no harm in going ashore now, and paying them a visit
just to alleviate their fears," was the reply of one of the commanders.

"Not to-night, not to-night.  Depend upon it, all the best of the
beauty, and the best of the wealth, is safely stowed in this numerous
fleet, quietly anchored about us: we have them all safe.  There might be
some villains lurking about the town with their cane knives in their
belts; let us have all clear, and daylight before us.  Not that I think
there is any pluck among them--they have not spirit enough to throw a
stone at a dog."

Hardly had these taunting words escaped his lips, than "bang, crash,"
and a four-and-twenty pound shot came reeking through the
waist-hammocks,--for they had not yet been piped down,--and covered us
over with horse-hair, and an abominable composition called flock.  The
ball took a slanting direction through the main and orlop decks, and
came out just below the water-line, making instantly a leak that we
could not affect to despise.

"Droll," said Reud, shaking the dust from his person.

"Very," said his well-dined echoes around him.

If this be jesting, thought I, the cream of the joke is to come yet.

"Beat to quarters, Mr Rattlin."

The lieutenants and more than half of the crew were away in the boats.
The men were soon at their guns, and, as they had been only slightly
secured, they were ready to return the fire almost immediately.  Upon
looking up at the source of our annoyance, we found that it was a
hopeless case.  The height was so great, and so immediately above us,
that, without heeling the frigate over, not a gun could be brought to
bear.  Another shot from the battery served to quicken our
deliberations.  There was no time to be lost.

Captain Reud sent the various commanders on board their respective
vessels, with orders, as fast as any of their boats came in, to send
them to us immediately, with their marines.  For ourselves, all our
boats were away except the gig.  Into that I jumped, followed by the
captain and six marines.  Every man, except a quarter-master and a
couple of look-outs, was piped down below, with strict orders that they
were to stay there and not expose themselves, and the ship was left in
charge of the gunner; whilst the carpenter and his crew were actively
employed in the wings, in plugging the shot-holes; for every ball that
was fired came in somewhere upon the decks, and made its way through the
ship's sides, low under the water.

However, annoying as this was, there were but two guns playing upon us,
which, though served with admirable precision, fired but slowly.  We had
not lain on our oars a quarter of an hour, between the ship and the
shore, a space of not more than forty yards, when we were joined by
seven boats of various dimensions, crammed as full of jollies as they
could possibly hold.  We were on shore in a moment, and, without much
care as to forming, we all scrambled up the hill as fast as we could.
It was very steep indeed, but we were not fired upon by any small-arms
whatever; and the guns could not be sufficiently depressed from the
embrasures to be made to bear upon us.  They certainly must have
perceived us, for the moon was shining with singular splendour; but they
seemed to take no notice of our advance, but fired twice upon the
frigate as we were climbing or rather scrambling up.

This assault was an affair got up with so little premeditation, that
Captain Reud had no other arms than his regulation sword; and his
aide-de-camp, my redoubtable self; no other weapon of offence than a
little crooked dirk, so considerably curved, that it would not answer
the purpose of a dagger to stab with, and so blunt, that I am sure,
though it might separate, it could not _cut_ through a plum-pudding.
Though I was approaching _pari passu_ with my commander to a parapet,
where there there was _no_ "imminent deadly breach," I was so much
ashamed of my side-arms, that I would not expose them to the night air.

Up we tumbled close under the low, turf-constructed battlement, and, as
we were in the act of scrambling over it, we received a straggling and
ill-directed fire of musketry.

One hurrah from our party, and we were into the fort in a moment, and
that on the two flanks as well as the front.  For all the service that I
could render, I might as well have charged, as a midshipman usually
walks the decks, with my hands in my pockets.  However, there we were
face to face with our opponents, on the planked floor of the fort, just
as they were making up their minds to run away.  But they did not go
quite as soon as they ought.  In jumping over the turfy mound, it must
be supposed, as was really the case, that it took us an instant or two
to recover our equilibrium and ascertain the surety of our footing; but
that instant was a very annoying one, for the Frenchman directly opposed
to Captain Reud, deliberately put his musket against the said captain's
face, and though I, unarmed as I was, actually did strike up this musket
as much as I was able, it had only the effect of making the bayonet at
the end of it score a deep wound from the bridge of his nose to the top
of his forehead, when the trigger was pulled, and the whole crown of
Captain Reud's skull completely blown away.  The shot turned him round
like a weathercock; I naturally half-turned also, giving the enemy the
advantage of studying my profile, whilst I endeavoured to support my
captain in my arms; and then the same man, being bent on mischief,
thrust his bayonet right through the back of my neck, grazing the
vertebra, and entering on the right and coming out on the left side.
Having, in this manner, made a sheath for his weapon, the blackguard
left it there, and thus, having trussed me as with a skewer, showed me
his back and fled.  The butt-end of the musket falling to the ground,
gave me a terrible wrench of the head, but relieved me at the same time
of my incumbrance.

That was the first time I ever _bled_ for my country.  Indeed, I bled
much more than my poor captain.  However, the gentlemen of the fort
rushed out, as we rushed in, and rolled head over heels down the other
side of the hill.  Three or four were killed on the platform; among
whom, at the time, I devoutly wished was the inflictor of my wound; some
were shot as they ran down the inland side of the hill, and the fort was
ours with the loss of one man killed, and, I think, six wounded.  My
hurt was very trifling: a piece of adhesive plaster on the two orifices
was all the surgical assistance that I either had or required.  But the
case with poor Reud was very different.  I detest giving a revolting
description of wounds; I shall only say, that this was a most dreadful
one.  He lay for a month almost in a state of insensibility; and, though
he lived for more than half a year with his head plated with silver, I
know that he was never afterwards perfectly sane.

Walking about for a couple of days with a stiff neck, which was all the
inconvenience I experienced, I assumed no little upon my firmness in
storming, and on my honourable scars.  The next morning all the prizes
were secured, the town formally taken possession of, and whilst Captain
Reud lay in the torpor of what was all but death, it was deliberated
what we should do with our conquest.  It was a matter of some difficulty
to decide upon.  At this period, the two factions of the blacks,
Petion's and Christophe's held the western parts of the fine island of
Saint Domingo.  The Spaniards had large possessions in the centre of the
island, and the French still held a sway over the city of Saint Domingo,
and had a precarious footing in the eastern division, where we now were.

The place was too insignificant to garrison for a permanent conquest for
the English.  Many of our officers, and all the men, wished very
naturally to plunder it; but the captain of the other frigate, now the
commander, would not listen to the proposal for a moment.  However, we
totally destroyed their small dock-yard, burned three fine schooners on
the stocks, demolished the fort that had been so pernicious to Captain
Reud, and which commanded the town; and then, the officers, and small
parties of the ship's company were permitted to go on shore, and to live
at free quarters upon the inhabitants.  Strict orders were given to
respect life and limb, and the honour of the ladies; and these orders
were generally well enforced.  It was certainly a pleasant thing to go
on shore and walk into any house that pleased you, call for what you
wanted, be very protecting, and after having eaten and drunk to satiety,
to depart without having to cast up the items of a bill.

These brigands were treated much too leniently, for I verily believe,
that, for a vast number of years, all the male population were born,
bred, lived, and had died pirates.  They were of all nations of the
earth; and, I must say, that this blending of the various races had
produced a very handsome set of men, and very beautiful women.  There
were many English females among them, who had been captured in our
merchant vessels, and had been forced into marriages with their lawless
captors.  They were, for the most part, like the Sabine women,
reconciled to their lot and loath to leave their lords, their mansions,
and their children.  The governor of the place, a French colonel, was
captured as he endeavoured to make his escape in one of the schooner
privateers.  We had him on board of our ship for some time, and he
confessed that the place flourished only by means of what he was pleased
to designate as free trading.

The prizes, deeply laden, left the port one after the other, and then
the men-of-war brigs, afterwards, the sloop of war, and at length our
consort, the frigate.  We now lay alone in these quiet waters, and there
we remained for nearly three months.  All this time our captain could
hardly be said to be living.  No one was allowed to come aft beyond the
mizzen-mast.  We always spoke with hushed voices, and walked about
stealthily upon tip-toe.  The bells ceased to be struck, and every
precaution was taken to preserve the most profound silence.  But our
amusements on shore were more than commensurate for our restraints on
board.  Most of the officers and men took unto themselves wives, _pro
hac vice_--chalked, or rather painted their names upon the doors of
their mansions, and made themselves completely at home.



CHAPTER FORTY EIGHT.

LIAISONS DANGEREUSES--RALPH DIVETH INTO THE DILEMMA OF LOVE, AND
ADMIRETH THE FATHERLY CONDUCT OF THE PARENT OF HIS DULCINEA--YET RAGETH
AND WEEPETH THAT SHE IS A SLAVE WHO HATH ENSLAVED HIM.

At this time I had begun to look fierce, if anyone did not concede to me
the rights and privileges of a man; and especially since I had received
my bayonet wound: my vanity upon this score became insupportable.
"Younker" was now a term of bitternesss to me; on the word "lad" I
looked with sovereign contempt; "boy" I had long done with.  Heartily I
prayed for a beard, but it came not; so, in order to supply the
deficiency, I used to practise looking stern before my dressing-glass.
But all my efforts at an outward semblance of manliness were vain; my
face was much too fair and feminine, though my stature, and the firmness
of my frame, were just what I wished.  I was not on board the vessel
after the first week that she lay in the port of Aniana, nor did I
rejoin her until she as in the very act of sailing out of it.

How am I to approach this subject, so romantic, so delicious, and so
delicate!  How can I record events, that, in proving to me that I had a
heart, first destroyed its strength by the sweet delirium of ecstasy,
and thus, having enfeebled, almost broke it!  Before, the poetic ardour
had often been upon me; but the fire was lighted up at the shrine of
vanity, and I sang for applause.  It was to be rekindled by love; but to
burn with a concealed fury, to be whispered only to my own soul--a
feeling too great for utterance, too intense for song, was to devour me.
I experienced ecstasies that were not happiness; I learned the bitter
truth, that rapture is not bliss.

About a week after we had obtained a quiet settlement in the town, and
very many of us a quiet settlement in the hearts, as well as in the
houses, of the beautiful Creoles and half castes; I also went on shore,
with Modesty walking steadily on my right-hand, whilst Madam Temptation
was wickedly ogling me on the left.  I looked in on the establishments
of several of my brother officers, and certainly admired the rapidity
with which they had surrounded themselves with all manner of domestic
comforts, including wives, and, in some instances, large families of
children.  There was much more than ready-made love in these
arrangements; anyone may buy that for ready-money; but a ready-made
progeny, a ready-made household, and a ready-made wife, without one
stiver of ready money, was the astonishment; but English sailors can do
anything.

Well, at Number 14, Rue Coquine, I accepted the purser's invitation to
dinner at four, _en famille_.  It seemed quite natural.

"My dove," said he, "you'll get us a bit of fish.  Mr Rattlin loves
fish."

"Certainly, my love," said Mrs Purser _pro tempore_, looking a battery
of amiabilities.

"Allow me to introduce you to my sister-in-law, Ma'amselle D'Avalonge,"
said the purser, presenting a very well dressed young lady to me, with
all the ease of a family man.

The introduction took place immediately, and the lady and I found each
other charming; indeed, we said so.  After a few more compliments, and a
very pretty song, accompanied by the guitar, from mademoiselle, I took
my leave, promising to be punctual to my appointment.  I was not
punctual--I never saw their dear faces again.

I left the town, and strolled up into the interior, keeping, however,
our small fleet in sight, and walking seaward.  I found the environs
well cultivated, and the houses in the various plantations solidly
built, and of stone.  From every habitation that I passed I had pressing
invitations to enter and refresh myself.  These I declined.  At length I
arrived at a beautiful wood, evidently under the care of man; for the
different trees were so arranged, as to produce a romantic effect.  The
shade that the lofty mahogany-trees afforded was very grateful, for it
was now a little after noon; and in this grove I paced slowly up and
down, nursing my pride with all manner of conceits.

At length, in the distance, and much below where I stood, I heard voices
in violent altercation; among which the "'vast heavings," "blow me
tights," "a stopper over all," with other such nautical expletives, were
predominant.  I broke from my cover, and found myself immediately on a
slope, before a very respectable habitation, nearly surrounded by
boiling-houses, and other out-buildings necessary to a sugar and coffee
plantation.  The group before me consisted of a small, energetic, old,
and white-haired Frenchman, neatly dressed in a complete suit of nankeen
with his broad-brimmed straw hat submissively in his hand, speaking all
manner of fair and unintelligible French words to two Jacks, not of my
ship, between which two, now pulled this way, now plucked that, was a
timid and beautiful girl, of about fifteen years of age.  There were
several negroes, grinning and passive spectators of this scene.  I
understood it in a moment.  So did my gentlemen in the tarpaulin hats.
They were off to me in a less time than a top-gallant breeze takes to
travel aft from the flying jib-boom, supposing the ship to be at single
anchor.

I took out my pocket-book, wrote down their names (most likely purser's
ones), and ordered them on board their vessel directly.  They obeyed, or
rather appeared to do so, and departed, casting many "a lingering,
longing look behind," leaving me the triumphant master of the field--the
paladin, who had rescued the fair, for which I received much clapping of
hands from the dark visages, and an intense look of gratitude from the
fair, pale creature, whom I had released from the very equivocal
rudeness of her admirers.  The thanks from Monsieur Manuel, the father,
were neither silent nor few, and when he found that I could converse in
French, he exhausted the vocabulary of that copious language of all its
expressions of gratitude.  I hardly could perceive that I had rendered
any service at all; I had struck no blows and had run no risk; I had
merely spoken, and obedience followed.  However, as I could not stem the
torrent of his gratitude, I determined to divert its course, by yielding
to his urgent entreaties to accompany him to his house, and recruit
myself after my perilous and heroic deed.

We were soon seated in the coolest room of his mansion, and every West
Indian luxury was quickly produced to tempt my palate.  In fifteen
minutes he had acquainted me with his parentage, his possessions, and
his history.  He assured me, with gesticulations, and a few oaths, that
he was not at all connected with the brigands that inhabited the town
below--that he despised them, knew them all to be pirates, or abettors
of pirates, revolutionists, and republicans--that he was at heart, yea,
in heart and soul, a royalist, and devotedly attached to the _vieux
regime_; that the estate he now cultivated he had inherited from his
father, who had been one of the few spared in the revolt of the blacks;
that he had been educated at Paris, but, for the last five-and-thirty
years, had hardly been off his own grounds--that he had no wife, and,
indeed, never married, had no family at all, excepting Josephine, who
sat beside him, who was his very dear and only child.

He did not add, "a slave, and the daughter of a slave."

I now looked upon her steadfastly for the first time, and with the most
intense emotion: but it was pity.  I had been sufficiently long in the
West Indies to know exactly the relation in which she stood to her
father.  However, he went on to relate how she had been born to him by a
beautiful mulatto, for whom he had given a great sum; yet at this she
startled not, moved not, blushed not.  But hers was not the calmness of
obduracy, but of innocence.

Strongly did I commiserate her, and gently strove to draw her into
discourse.  I found her ignorant, oh! how profoundly ignorant!  She had
no ideas beyond the estate in which she lived, and those that she had
gathered from the gang of negroes that worked it.  Her father had taught
her nothing but to play a few tunes by ear upon the guitar, and sing
some old French songs.  Yet she had been accustomed to all the
observances of a lady--had slaves to wait upon her, and was always
elaborately, sometimes richly, dressed.  Isolated as she had been, I
soon discovered that she was a compound of enthusiasm, talent, and
melancholy.  She was little more than fifteen years old, yet that age,
in those tropical climates, answers fully to a European one-and-twenty.
In form, she was a perfect woman, light, rounded, and extremely active;
all her motions were as graceful, and as undulating as the
gently-swelling billow.  If she moved quickly, she bounded; if slowly,
she appeared to glide on effortless through space.  She had taken her
lessons of grace in the woods, and her gymnasium had been among the
sportive billows of the ocean.  It is but of little use me describing
her face; for everyone supposes that, in these affairs, the author draws
at once, as largely as he can, upon his own imagination, and as he
dares, upon the credulity of his readers.  Though a slave, she had but
little of the black blood in her--in her complexion none.  She was not
fair, but her skin was very transparent, very pure, and of a dazzling
and creamy sort of whiteness.  I have seen something like it on the
delicate Chinese paintings of the secluded ladies of that very secluded
empire, and should imagine it just such a permanent tint as the Roman
empress strove to procure by bathing every day in milk.  Colour she had
none, and thrilling must have been the emotions that could call it into
her placid and pensive cheeks.  Her features were not _chiselled_, and
had any sculptor striven to imitate them on the purest marble, he would
have discovered that chiselling would not do.  They were at once formed
and informed by the Deity.  It is of no use talking about her luxurious
and night-emulating hair, her lips, and those eyes, that seemed to
contain, in their small compass, a whole sea of melancholy, in which
love was struggling to support a half-drowned joy.

As I turned to converse with her, she looked up to me confidingly.  She
appeared, as it were, incessantly to draw me to her with her large black
eyes; they seemed to say to me, "Come nearer to me, that I may
understand thee.  Art thou not something distinct from the beings that I
see around me--something that can teach me what I am, and will also give
me something to venerate, to idolise, and to love!"  As I continued to
speak to her, her attention grew into a quiet rapture, yet still a
sublime melancholy seemed to hold her feelings in a solemn thraldom.

My name, my rank, and my situation were soon disclosed to the father and
daughter; and the former seeing how entranced we were with each other's
company, like a prudent parent, left us to ourselves.  My French was
much purer and more grammatical than hers, hers much more fluent than
mine.  Yet, notwithstanding this deficiency on both sides, we understood
each other perfectly, and we had not been above two hours together
alone, before I told her that I loved her for her very ignorance, and
she had confessed to me that she loved me, because--because--the reader
will never guess why--because I was so like the good spirit that walked
gently through the forests and gathered up the fever-mists before they
reached the dwellings of man.

I very naturally asked her if she had seen this being.  She said no, but
knew him as well as if she had; for old Jumbila, a negress, had so often
talked to her about him, that her idea of him was as familiar to her as
the presence of her father.

"You have much to unlearn, my sweet one," thought I, "and I shall be but
too happy to be your preceptor."

At sunset, Monsieur Manuel returned, led us into another apartment,
where a not inelegant dinner was served up to us.  Knowing the habits of
my countrymen, we sat over some very fine claret, after Josephine had
retired.  I took this opportunity to reproach him, in the mildest terms
that I could use, with the dreadful ignorance in which he had suffered a
creature so lovely, and so superior to remain.

His reply was a grimace, a hoisting of his shoulders above his head, an
opening of his hands and fingers to their utmost extent, and a most
pathetic "_Que voulez-vous_?"

"I will tell you, friend Manuel," I answered, for his wine had warmed me
much, his daughter more; "I would have had her taught, at least, to read
and write, that she had an immortal soul, a soul as precious to its
Maker as to herself.  I would have had her taught to despise such
superstitious nonsense as Obeoism, mist spirits, and all the pernicious
jargon of spells and fetishes.  I would, my dear Manuel, have made her a
fit companion for myself; for with such beauty and such a soul, I am
convinced that she would realise female perfection as nearly as poor
humanity is permitted to do."

"_Que voulez-vous_?" again met my ears; it was attended by some attempt
at justification of his very culpable remissness.  He assured me, that,
according to the laws, social as well as judicial, a person of her
class, were she possessed of all the attributes of an angel, could never
be received into white society, nor wed with any but a person of colour.
The light of education, he asserted, would only the more show her her
own degradation: he said he felt for her, deeply felt for her, and that
he shuddered at the idea of his own death, for in that event he felt
assured that she would be sold with the rest of the negroes on the
estate, and be treated in all respects as a slave--and she had been so
delicately nurtured.  She had, indeed: her long white fingers and
velvety hand bore sufficient testimony to this.

"But can you not manumit her?" said I.

"Impossible.  When the island was more settled and better governed than
now, the legal obstructions thrown in the way of the act were almost
insuperable: at present it is impossible.  I have no doubt that our
blood-thirsty enemies, the Spaniards, who are our nearest neighbours,
immediately you English leave the town, as you have dismantled our
forts, and carried away almost all the male population captive, will
come and take possession of this place--not that I care a _sou_ for the
brigands whom you have just routed out.  I shall have to submit to the
Spanish authority, and their slave laws are still more imperative than
ours, though they invariably treat their slaves better than any other
nation.  No, there is no hope for poor Josephine."

"Could you not send her to France?"

"_Sacre Dieu_! they guillotined all my relations, all my friends--all,
all--and, my friend, I never made gold by taking a share in those long
low schooners that you have kindly taken under your care.  I have some
boxes of doubloons stowed away, it is true.  But, after all, I am
attached to this place; I could not sell the estate for want of a
purchaser; and I am surrounded by such an infernal set of rascals, that
I never could embark myself with my hard cash without being murdered.
No, we must do at Rome as the Romans do."

"A sweet specimen of a Roman you are," thought I, and I fell into a
short reverie; but it was broken up most agreeably, by seeing Josephine
trip before the open jalousies with a basket of flowers in her hand.
She paused for a moment before us, and looked kindly at her father and
smilingly at me.  It was the first joyous, really joyous smile that I
had seen in her expressive countenance.  It went right to my heart, and
brought with it a train of the most rapturous feelings.

"God bless her heart; I do love her dearly!" said the old man.  "I'll
give you a convincing proof of it, my young friend, Rattlin.  Ah! bah--
but you other English have spoiled all--you have taken him with you."

"Who?"

"Why, Captain Durand.  That large low black schooner was his.  Yes, he
would have treated her well (said Monsieur le Pere, musing), and he
offered to sign an agreement, never to put her to field-work, or to have
her flogged."

"Put whom to field-work?--flog whom?" said I, all amazement.

"Josephine, to be sure; had you not taken him prisoner, I was going,
next month, to sell her to him for two hundred doubloons."

"Now, may God confound you for an unholy, unnatural villain!" said I,
springing up, and overturning the table and wine into the fatherly lap
of Monsieur Manuel.  "If you did not stand there, my host, I would, with
my hand on your throat, force you on your knees to swear that--that--
that you'll never sell poor, poor Josephine for a slave.  Flog her!"
said I, shuddering, and the tears starting into my eyes--"I should as
soon have thought of flogging an empress's eldest daughter."

"Be pacified, my son," said the old slave-dealer, deliberately clearing
himself of the _debris_ of the dessert--"be pacified, my son."

The words "my son" went with a strange and cheering sound into my very
heart's core.  The associations that they brought with it were
blissful--I listened to him with calmness.

"Be pacified, my son," he continued, "and I will prove to you that I am
doing everything for the best.  The old colonel, our late governor,
would have given three times the money for her.  I could not do better
than make her over to a kind-hearted man, who would use her well, and
who, I think, is fond of her.  Not to part with her for a heavy sum
would be fixing a stigma upon her;" and wretched as all this reasoning
appeared to be, I was convinced that the man had really meant to have
acted kindly by selling his own daughter.  What a pernicious damnable,
atrocious social system that must have been where such a state of things
existed!



CHAPTER FORTY NINE.

RALPH DESERTETH HIS DUTY--ALL FOR LOVE, OR "THE WORLD WELL LOST," WITH
HIS WITS INTO THE BARGAIN--VERY NICE DISQUISITIONS ON HONOUR.

The _soyez tranquille_ of Monsieur Manuel had but a transient effect.
It brought no consolation with it.  What I had heard, seemed to clog the
usual healthy beating of my heart; my respiration laboured, and I fell
into a bitter reverie.  The profoundest pity, the most impassioned
admiration, and the most ardent desire to afford protection--are not
these the ingredients that make the all-potent draught of love?  Let
universal humanity reply--I loved.  But the feeling, generally so
blissful, came upon my young heart, and steeped it in the bitterness of
apprehension.  My bosom was swollen with big resolves, with the deepest
affection for one, and hate for all the rest of my species; and the
thought came over me vividly, of flight with the young and pensive
beauty into the inaccessible seclusion of the woods, and of the
unalloyed happiness and the imaginary glories of a savage life.  In this
sudden depression of spirits, my mind looked not unloathingly on mutual
suicide.  It was a black and a desponding hour, and fell upon me with
the suddenness of a total eclipse on a noontide summer's day.

I sat with my clasped hands between my knees, and my head hanging upon
my breast, almost unconscious of the black servitors around me, who were
re-ordering the room that I had so recently disarranged.  I noted all
this as something that did not belong to the world in which I had
existence.  Everything around me seemed the shadows of somebody's dream,
in which I had no part, and could take no interest.  I had but two
all-absorbing ideas; and these were--injustice and Josephine.  So
distraught was I with the vastness of the one and with the loveliness of
the other, that, when the young and splendid reality stole into the
apartment softly, and moved before my eyes in all the fascination of her
gracefulness, yet was I scarcely conscious of the actual presence of her
whose ideal existence was torturing my brain.

To the cold, the unimpassioned, or the unpoetical, this may seem
impossible.  I will not go into metaphysical reasonings on the subject.
I only know that it was true.  Whilst I was conceiving her flying from
oppression with me, her protector, into some grim solitude, she came and
placed herself, almost unnoticed, by my side, took my unresisting hands
between her own, and, seeing how little I appeared to notice the
endearment, she gradually sank on her knees before me, and, placing her
forehead upon my hands, remained for a space in silence.  Feeling her
hot tears trickling through my fingers called me back from my dark
reverie: and, as I became aware of the present, a sigh so deep and so
long burst forth, that it seemed to rend my bosom.

Those dark, lustrous, melancholy eyes, swimming in tears, were then
lifted up to mine.  Ages of eloquence were contained in that one look.
In it, I read the whole story of her life, the depth of her love, the
fealty of her faith, and the deep, the unspeakable prayer for sympathy,
for love, and for protection.  The mute appeal was unanswerable.  It
seemed to be conveyed to me by the voice of destiny, to my mind, louder
and more awful than thunder.  At that moment, I pledged myself eternally
to her; and, gradually drawing up her yielding, light, and elastic form
from my knees to my bosom, I sobbed out, "Whilst I breathe, dearest,
thou shalt never writhe under the lash;" and then, giving way to an
uncontrollable passion of weeping, I mingled my tears with hers--and we
were happy.  Yes, our young love was baptised with tears--an ominous and
a fitting rite.  We cried in each other's arms like children, as we
were; at first, with anguish; then, with hope and affection; and, at
length, in all the luxury of a new-born bliss.

When this passion had a little subsided, and smiles, and murmuring
ejaculations of happiness, had driven away the symbols of what is not
always anguish, old Manuel approached, and appeared much pleased at the
tokens of affection that we mutually lavished upon each other.  And
then, with my arm encircling Josephine's slender waist, and her fair
face upon my shoulder, he began his artful discourse.  Gradually, he led
me to speak of myself, my friends, my views; and, ultimately, my strange
and mysterious story was fully unfolded.  Even in this prolonged
relation, I was amply rewarded by the impassioned looks, at once so
tender and so thrilling, of the beauteous listener by my side, and by
the ready tear at every passage that told of suffering; the fond
creature still creeping more closely to me at every instance of danger;
and bright the beam of triumph would flash from her eye, responsive to
every incident of my success.

When all was told, and half wondering, and faintly smiling, I finished
by the rather silly expression of--"And here I am," I was immediately
imprisoned in the arms of Josephine, as she pathetically exclaimed, "and
for ever!"

"Josephine speaks well," said Manuel, rising and placing patriarchally a
hand on the head of each of us.  "My children, would it were for ever!
It appears, by the narrative, that Monsieur has done us the great honour
to relate that he is a castaway--an unowned--and, if my young friend
makes use of all the wisdom he doubtless possesses in so high a degree,
he will join us in blessing Providence, that has given the gallant young
homeless one a home; for I need not tell him that all he sees around is
his--the land and the house, and, to the hitherto unloved, a young and
tender heart that will cherish him, to the fatherless a father."

And thus the old _emigre_ concluded his speech, with a tear glistening
in his eye--and an unexceptionable bow.  Had he flung himself into my
arms, the effect would have been complete.  I hate to record scenes of
this sort; but, as I have imposed the task upon myself; I will go
through it; and, though the temptation is great, seeing what I was then,
the disciple as well as the offspring of romance, and what I now am,
worldly in the world's most sordid worldliness, to do my penance in
self-mockery--for the sake of the young hearts still unseared, I will
refrain.

I was exceedingly affected and agitated at this appeal, the purport of
which I could not misunderstand.  My emotions, at first, prevented me
from speaking.  I arose from the sofa, Josephine still hanging upon my
shoulder, and taking her father's hand, led them both to the window.
The sun was near the horizon; and mountain, sea, and green valley, and
dark forest, were steeped in a roseate glory.  About three miles
distant, and beneath us, my gallant frigate sat in the bosom of the
gently rippling waters, like a sultana upon her embroidered divan, her
ensign and her pennant streaming out fair and free to the evening
breeze.  I pointed to her, and with a voice scarcely articulate--for, at
that period, the sob would rise too readily to my throat, and the tear
start too freely to my eye--I exclaimed:

"Behold my home--my country claims the duty of a son!"

"Monsieur knows best," said Manuel, almost coldly.  "His countrymen have
conquered us: you are a gallant race, undoubtedly; but one of them has
not shown much mercy to my daughter."

The passionate girl was at my feet--yes, kneeling at my feet, and her
supplicating hands were clasped in that attitude of humility that is due
only to God.  Who taught her the infinite pathos of that beautiful
posture?  Taught her!  She had no teacher, save Nature and Love.

"Josephine," said I, lifting her gently up, and kissing her fair brow,
"you are breaking my heart.  I cannot stand this--I must rush out of the
house.  I have never said I loved you;"--(mean subterfuge!)

"But you do, you do--it is my fate,--it is yours--for three years I have
been expecting you--disbelieve me not--ask the Obeah woman.  It is
true," and then, hurrying out the words like the downpouring of the
mountain torrent, she continued, "Do you love me?--do you love me?--do
you love me?"

"I do, Josephine--I do distractedly!  But stern honour stands in the
way."

"And what is this honour?" she exclaimed, with genuine simplicity; for
it was evident that, if she had ever heard the word before, she had not
the remotest idea of its meaning: "_Et quelle est cette honneur-la_?"
and there was contempt in her tone.

I had no words to reply.

"Will this honour do that for you which my father--which I--will do?
What has this honour done for him?--tell me, father.  Has it put that
gay blue jacket on him, or that small sword by his side?  Show him, my
dear father, the rich dresses that we have, and the beautiful arms.
Will honour watch you in your hours of sickness, take you out in the
noonday heats, and show you the cool shady places, and the refreshing
rippling springs?  What is this honour, that seems to bid you to break
my heart, and make me die of very grief?"

"Monsieur Manuel," said I, extremely confused, "have the kindness to
explain to dear Josephine what honour is."

"A rule of conduct," he replied, with severity, "that was never
recorded, never understood, and which men construe just as suits their
convenience.  One honest impulse of the heart is worth all the honour I
ever heard of."

This was a delicate helping of a friend in a dilemma.  I turned for
relief from the sarcastic father to the beautiful countenance of the
daughter, and I there beheld an expression of intense sorrow that
agonised me.  Her sudden, and, to me, totally unexpected animation, had
disappeared.  Melancholy seemed to have drooped her darkest wings over
her.  I thought that she must soon die under their noxious shadow.  For
one instant my eyes caught hers: I could not stand the appeal.

"I will stay," said I, gently, "until the ship sails."

I had then, for the first time, to witness the enthusiasm of the
melancholy temperament--the eloquence of unschooled nature.  The bending
figure that seemed to collapse in weakness upon my supporting arm,
suddenly flung herself from me; her rounded and delicate figure swelled
at once into sudden dignity; her muscles assumed the rigidity, yet all
the softness of a highly-polished Grecian statue; and stood before me,
as if by enchantment, half woman, half marble, beautiful inexpressibly.
I was sorely tried.  There was no action, no waving of the arms, as she
spoke.  Her voice came forth musically, as if from sacred oracle, that
oracle having life only in words.  Monsieur Manuel had very wisely
departed.

"Not an hour--not a minute--not an instant, or--_for ever_!  Young sir,
you have already stayed too long, if you stay not always.  Leave me to
dream of you, and to die.  The thorn is in my heart; it may kill me
gradually.  Go.  Why, sir, have you looked upon me as man never before
looked?  Why, why have you mingled your false tears with mine, that were
so true--and, oh, so loving!  But what am I, who thus speak so proudly
to a being whom, if I did not know he was treacherous, I should think an
angel?  (_Un des bons esprits_.)  I, a poor, weak, ignorant girl of
colour--born of a slave, to a slavery--whose only ambition was to have
been loved, loved for a short, short while--for know, that I am to die
early--I should not have troubled you long.  But you are too good for
me--I was a presumptuous fool.  Go, and at once, and take with you all
that I have to give--the blessing of a young-born bonds-woman."

All this time she had stood firmly and nearly motionless, with her hands
folded beneath her heaving bosom, at some distance from me.  I
approached her with extended arms, and had some such foolish rhapsody on
my tongue as "Beautiful daughter of the sun," for I had already
contemplated her under a new character, when, retreating and waving me
from her, she continued:

"Already too much of this--let me die by cruelty rather than by
caresses, which are the worst of cruelty.  I feel a new spirit living
within me.  I am a child no more.  Yesterday I should have crouched
before you, as one degraded, as I ought to do.  You have pressed me to
your bosom--you have spoken to me as your equal--even your tears have
bathed my brow.  You have ennobled me.  Oh! it is a happiness and a
great glory.  I, formerly so humble, command you to go--go, dear, dear,
Ralph.  You will not kill me quite by going _now_, therefore, be
generous, and go."

I was already sufficiently in love, and began to feel ashamed of myself;
for not having as yet caught a little of her enthusiasm.

"Josephine," said I, in a quiet, serious tone, "give me your hand."  I
took it--it was deadly cold.  At that moment all her best blood was
rallying round her young heart.  I led her to the open window, and
showed her the noble frigate so hateful to her sight, and said, "Dear
Josephine, in that ship there are more than three hundred gallant
fellows, all of whom are my countrymen, and some of them my familiar
friends.  I have often shared with them danger, under the very jaws of
death.  I have broken my bread with some of them, constantly, for nearly
three years.  These are all claims on me: you see that I am speaking to
you calmly.  I had no idea what a little impassioned orator you were--do
not look so dejected and so humble.  I love you for it the more.  I only
made the remark to convince you that what I now say is not the mere
prompting of a transient impulse.  But, Josephine, in my own far-away
land, I have also a few friends; nor am I wholly a castaway; there is a
mystery about my origin, which I wish to dissipate, yet that I cherish.
If I conduct myself as I have hitherto done, in time I shall have the
sole control and government of a vessel, as proud as the one before you,
and of all the noble spirits it will contain.  The mystery of which I
have spoken I am most sanguine will be cleared up; and I may,
peradventure, one day take my place among the nobles of my land, as it
now is among the nobles of the sea.  Weep not thus, my love, or you will
infect me with emotions too painful to be borne.  Let us be calm for a
little space.  The reign of passion will commence soon enough.  Mark me,
Josephine.  For you--God forgive me if I commit sin!--for you, I cast
off my associates, sever all my ties of friendship, let the mystery of
my origin remain unravelled, renounce the land of my birth--for you, I
encounter the peril of being hung for desertion.  Josephine, you will
incur a great debt--a heavy responsibility.  My heart, my happiness, is
in your hands.  Josephine, I stay."

"For ever?"

"For ever!"  A wild shriek of joy burst from her delighted lips, as she
leaped to my bosom; and, for the first time, our lips sealed the
mysterious compact of love.  After a moment, I gently released myself
from the sweet bondage of her embrace, and said, "Dear Josephine, this
cannot be to me a moment of unalloyed joy.  You see the sun is half
below the horizon; give me one moment of natural grief; for, so surely
as I stay here, so surely, like that orb, are all my hopes of glory
setting, and for ever."  And the tears came into my eyes as I exclaimed,
"Farewell, my country--farewell, honour--_Eos_, my gallant frigate, fare
thee well!"

As if instinct with life, the beautiful vessel answered my apostrophe.
The majestic thunder of her main-deck gun boomed awfully, and methought
sorrowfully, over the waters, and then bounded among the echoes of the
distant hills around and above me, slowly dying away in the distant
mountains.  It was the gun which, as commodore, was fired at sunset.

"It is all over," I exclaimed.  "I have made my election--leave me for a
little while alone."



CHAPTER FIFTY.

RALPH FALLETH INTO THE USUAL DELUSION OF SUPPOSING HIMSELF HAPPY--
WISHETH IT MAY LAST ALL HIS LIFE, MAKING IT A REALITY--AS YET NO
SYMPTOMS OF IT DISPELLING; BUT THE BRIGHTEST SUNSET MAY HAVE THE DARKEST
NIGHT.

She bounded from me in a transport of joy, shouting, "He stays, he
stays!" and I heard the words repeated among the groups of negresses,
who loved her; it seemed to be the burthen of a general song, the glad
realisation of some prophecy; for, ere the night was an hour old, the
old witch, who had had the tuition of Josephine, had already made a
mongrel sort of hymn of the affair, whilst a circle of black chins were
wagging to a chords of:--

  "Goramity good, buchra body stays!"

I saw no more of Josephine that night.  The old gentleman, her father,
joined me after I had been alone nearly two hours--two hours, I assure
the reader, of misery.

I contemplated a courtship of some decent duration, and a legal marriage
at the altar.  I tried to view my position on all sides, and thus to
find out that which was the most favourable for my mind's eye to rest
upon.--It was but a disconsolate survey.  Sometimes a dark suspicion,
that I repelled from me as if it were a demon whispering murder in my
ear, would hint to me the possibility that I was entrapped.  However,
the lights that came in with Monsieur Manuel dissipated them and
darkness together.  He behaved extremely well--gave me an exact account
of all his possessions, and of his ready money, the latter of which was
greatly beyond my expectations, and the former very considerable.

He immediately gave me an undertaking, that he would, if I remained with
him, adopt me as his son, allow me during life a competency fit to
support me and his daughter genteelly, and to make me his sole heir at
his death.  This undertaking bound him also to see the proper documents
duly and legally drawn up by a notary, so as to render the conditions of
our agreement binding on both parties.  We then spoke, as father and
son, of our future views.  We were determined to leave the island,
immediately we could get anything like its value for the plantation and
the large gang of negroes upon it.  But where go to then?  England--my
desertion.  France?--yes, it was there that we were to spend our lives.
And thus we speculated on future events, that the future never owned.

I have said before, that, during the whole time that I was in the navy,
I never was intoxicated--and never once swallowed spirituous liquors.
Both assertions are strictly true.  This memorable evening, over our
light supper, I drank, perhaps, two glasses of claret more than was my
wont at Captain Reud's table.  I was excessively wearied both in mind
and body.  I became so unaccountably, and lethargically drowsy, that, in
spite of every effort of mine to the contrary, I fell fast asleep in the
midst of a most animated harangue of the good Manuel, upon the various
perfections of his lovely daughter--a strange subject for a lover to
sleep upon; but so it was.  Had Josephine's nurse and the Obeah woman
anything to do with it? perhaps.  They are skilful druggers.  If my
life, and the lives of all those dearer to me than life itself; had
depended upon my getting up and walking across the room, I could not
have done it.  How I got to bed I know not; but I awoke in the morning
in luxuriant health, with a blushing bride upon my bosom.

And then ensued days of dreamy ecstasy; my happiness seemed too great,
too full, too overflowing, to be real.  Everything around me started
into poetry.  I seemed to be under the direction of fairy spirits: all
my wants were cared for as if by invisible hands.  It appeared to me
that I had but to wish, and gratification followed before the wish was
half formed.  I was passive, and carried away in a trance of happiness.
I was beset with illusion; and so intense were my feelings of rapture,
mingled with doubt, and my blissful distraction so great, that it was
late in the day before I noticed the dress I had on.  The light and
broad-brimmed planter's hat, the snowy white jean jacket and trousers,
and the infinitely fine linen shirt, with its elaborately laced front,
had all been donned without my noticing the change from my usual
apparel.  It was a dress, from its purity and its elegance, worthy of a
bridegroom.  I learnt afterwards that Josephine's old negress-nurse had,
with many and powerful incantations--at least, as powerful as
incantations always are--buried under six feet of earth every article of
clothing in which I had first entered the mansion.

Well, there we were, a very pretty version of Paul and Virginia--not
perhaps quite so innocent, but infinitely more happy, roving hand in
hand through orange bowers and aromatic shades.  Love is sweet, and a
first love very, very delightful; but, when we are not only loved, but
almost worshipped, that, that is the incense that warms the heart and
intoxicates the brain.  Wherever I turned, I found greeting and smiles,
and respectful observance hovered along my path.  The household adored
their young mistress and me through her.

Old Manuel seemed serenely happy.  He encouraged us to be alone with
each other.  I could write volumes upon the little incidents, and
interesting ones too, of this singular honeymoon.  I observed no more
bursts of passion in Josephine; her soul had folded its wings upon my
bosom, and there dreamed itself away in a tender and loving melancholy.
How I now smile, and perhaps could weep, when I call to mind all her
little artifices of love to prevent my ever casting my eyes upon the
hated ship!  As I have related before, our little squadron at anchor in
this secluded bay departed one by one, leaving only the _Eos_, with her
sorely-wounded captain; yet, though I saw them not, I knew, by
Josephine's triumphant looks, when a vessel had sailed.  All the
_jalousies_ in front of the house were nailed up, so that, if by chance
I wandered into one of the rooms in that quarter, I saw nothing.

I had been domesticated in this paradise--a fool's perhaps, but still a
paradise--a month: and I was sitting alone in the shade, reading, behind
the house, when Josephine flew along the avenue of lemon-trees, and
flung herself into my arms, and, sobbing hysterically, exclaimed, "My
dear, dear Ralph, now you are almost wholly mine! there is only one
left."

"And that one, my Josephine?"

"Speak not of it, think not of it, sweet; it is not yours.  But, swear,
swear to me again, you will never more look upon it; do, dearest, and I
will learn a whole column extra of words in two syllables."

And I repeated the often-iterated oath; and she sat down tranquilly at
my feet, like a good little girl, and began murmuring the task she was
committing to memory.

And how did the schooling get on?  Oh! beautifully; we had such sweet
and so many school-rooms, and interruptions still more sweet and
numerous.  Sometimes our hall of study was beneath the cool rock, down
the sides of which, green with age, the sparkling rill so delightfully
trickled; sometimes in the impervious quiet, and flower-enamelled bower,
amidst all the spicy fragrance of tropical shrubs; and sometimes, in the
solemn old wood, beneath the boughs of trees that had stood for
uncounted ages.  And the interruptions!  Repeatedly the book and the
slate would be cast away, and we would start up, as if actuated by a
single spirit, and chase some singularly beautiful humming-bird;
sometimes, the genius of frolic would seize us, and we would chase each
other round and round the old mahogany-trees, with no other object than
to rid ourselves of our exuberance of happiness; but the most frequent
interruptions were when she would close her book, and, bathing me in the
lustre of her melancholy eyes, bid me tell her some tale that would make
her weep; or, with a pious awe, request me to unfold some of the
mysteries of the universe around her, and commune with her of the
attributes of their great and beneficent Creator.

Was not this a state of the supremest happiness?  Joy seemed to come
down to me from heaven in floods of light; the earth to offer up her
incense to me, as I trod upon her beautiful and flower-encumbered bosom;
the richly-plumaged birds to hover about me, as if sent to do me homage;
even the boughs of the majestic trees, as I passed them, seemed to wave
me a welcome.  Joy was in me and around me; there was no pause in my
blissful feelings.  I required no relaxation to enjoy them more
perfectly, for pleasure seemed to succeed pleasure in infinite variety.
It was too glorious to last.  The end was approaching, and that end was
very bitter.



CHAPTER FIFTY ONE.

A SHORT CHAPTER AND A MISERABLE ONE--THE LESS THAT IS SAID OF IT THE
BETTER.

I had been living in the plantation nearly three months.  My little
wife, for such I held her to be, had made much progress in her
education--more in my affection she could not.  I had already put her
into joining hand; and I began to be as proud of her dawning intellect
as I was of her person and of her love.  I had renounced my country,
and, in good faith, I had intended to have held by her for ever; and,
when I should find myself in a country where marriage with one born in
slavery was looked upon as no opprobrium, I had determined that the
indissoluble ceremony should be legally performed.  To do all this I was
in earnest; but, events, or destiny, or by whatever high-sounding term
we may call those occurrences which force us on in a path we wish not to
tread, ruled it fearfully otherwise.

I religiously abstained from looking towards the ship, or even the sea;
yet, I plainly saw, by the alternations of hope, and joy, and fear, on
Josephine's sweet countenance, that something of the most vital
importance was about to take place.  They could not conceal from me that
parties of men had been searching for me, because, for a few days, I had
been in actual hiding with Josephine, three or four miles up the woody
mountain.  I must hurry over all this: for the recollection of it, even
at this great lapse of time, is agonising.  The night before the _Eos_
sailed she would not sleep--her incessant tears, the tremulous energy
with which clasped me and held me for hours, all told the secret that I
wished not to know.  All that night she watched, as a mother watches a
departing and first-born child--tearfully--anxiously--but, overcome with
fatigue, and the fierce contention of emotions, as the morning dawned,
her face drooped away from mine, her clasping arms gradually relaxed,
and, murmuring my name with a blessing, she slept.  Did she ever sleep
again?  May God pardon me, I know not!

I hung over her, and watched her, almost worshipping, until two hours
after sunrise.  I blessed her as she lay there in all her tranquil
beauty, fervently, and, instead of my prayers, I repeated over and over
again my oath, that I would never desert her.  But some devil, in order
to spread the ashes of bitterness through the long path of my
after-life, suggested to me that now, as the frigate had sailed for some
time, there could be no danger in taking one last look at her; indeed,
the thought of doing so took the shape of a duty.

I stole out of bed, and crept softly round to the front of the house.
The place where the gallant ship had rode at anchor for so many weeks
was vacant--all was still and lonely.  I walked on to a higher spot;
and, far distant among the sinuosities of the romantic entrance to the
harbour, my eye caught, for a moment, her receding pennant.  I,
therefore, concluded that everything was safe--that I was cut off and
for ever, from my country.

A little qualm of remorse passed through my bosom, and then I was
exceeding glad.  The morning was fresh, and the air invigorating, and I
determined to walk down to the beautiful minutely-sanded beach, and
enjoy the refreshment of the sea-breeze just sweeping gently over the
bay.  To do this, I had to pass over a shoulder of land to my left.  I
gained the beach, and stood upon it for some minutes with folded arms.
This particular walk had been so long debarred to me, that I now enjoyed
it the more.  I was upon the point of turning round, and seeking the
nest where I had left my dove sleeping in conscious security, when, to
my horror, I beheld the _Eos'_ pinnace, full-manned and double-banked,
the wave foaming up her cutwater, and roaring under her sixteen oars,
rapidly round the rocky hummock that formed the eastern horn of the
little bay.  Her prow soon tore up the sand; and the third-lieutenant, a
master's mate, and the officer of marines, with four privates, leaped
ashore immediately.

For a few moments I was paralysed with terror, and then, suddenly
springing forward, I ran at the top of my speed.  I need not say that my
pursuers gave chase heartily.  I had no other choice but to run on
straight before me; and that, unfortunately, was up a rocky, rugged side
of a steep hill, that rose directly from the beach, covered with that
abominable vegetable, or shrub, the prickly pear.  I was in full view;
and, being hailed and told that I should be fired upon if I did not
bring to, in the space of a short three minutes, before I was out of
breath, I was in the hands of my captors--a prisoner.

I prayed--I knelt--I wept.  It was useless.  I have scarcely the courage
to write what then took place, it was so fearful--it was so hideous.
Bounding down the hill, in her night-dress, her long black hair
streaming like a meteor behind her, and her naked feet, usually so
exquisitely white, covered with blood, came Josephine, shrieking "Ralph,
Ralph!"  Her voice seemed to stab my bosom like an actual knife.  Behind
her came running her father, and a number of negro men and women.
Before she could reach me, they had flung me into the stern-sheets of
the boat.

"Shove off! shove off!" shouted the lieutenant; and the boat was
immediately in motion.  Like a convicted felon, or a murderer taken in
the fact, I buried my craven head in my knees, and shut my eyes.  I
would not have looked back for kingdoms.  But I could not, or did not,
think of preventing myself from hearing.  The boat had not pulled ten
yards from the beach, when I heard a splash behind us, and simultaneous
cries of horror from the boat's crew and those on shore; among which the
agonised voice of the heartbroken father rose shrilly, as he exclaimed,
"Josephine, my child!"  I looked up for a moment, but dared not look
round; and I saw every man in the boat dashing away the tears from his
eyes with one hand, as he reluctantly pulled his oar with the other.

"Give way! give way!" roared the lieutenant, stamping violently against
the grating at his feet.  "Give way! or, by God, she'll overtake us!"

The poor girl was swimming after me.

"Rattlin," said Selby, stooping down and whispering in my ear--"Rattlin,
I can't stand it; if it was not as much as my life was worth, I would
put you on shore directly."  I could answer him only by a long
convulsive shudder.  The horrible torment of those moments!

Then ascended the loud howling curses of the negroes behind us.  The
seamen rose up upon their oars, and, with a few violent jerks, the
pinnace shot round the next point of land, and the poor struggler in the
waters was seen no more.  Tidings never after came to me of her.  I left
her struggling in the waters of the ocean.  My first love, and my last--
my only one.

I was taken on board stupefied.  I was led up the side like a sick man.
No one reproached me; no one spoke to me.  I became physically, as well
as mentally, ill.  I went to my hammock with a stern feeling of joy,
hoping soon to be lashed up in it, and find my grave in the deep blue
sea.  At first, my only consolation was enacting over and over again all
the happy scenes with Josephine; but, as they invariably terminated in
one dreadful point, this occupation became hateful.  I then endeavoured
to blot the whole transaction from my memory--to persuade myself that
the events had not been real--that I had dreamed them--or read them long
ago in some old book.  But the mind is not so easily cheated--remorse
not so soon blinded.



CHAPTER FIFTY TWO.

THE CAPTAIN TAKETH TO TANTRUMS--AND KEEPETH ON BOARD MONKEYS, BEARS, AND
DISCIPLINE--IT IS FEARED, ALSO, THAT THE MOON HATH TOO MUCH TO DO WITH
HIS OBSERVATIONS.

Notwithstanding my misery, I became convalescent.  I went to my duty
doggedly.  Everybody saw and respected my grief; and the affair was
never mentioned to me by any, with one only exception, and that was six
months after, by a heavy brutal master's-mate, named Pigtop, who had
been in the pinnace that brought me off.

He came close to me, and, without preparation, he electrified me by
drawling out, "I say, Rattlin, what a mess you made of it at Aniana?
That girl of yours, to my thinking, burst a blood-vessel as she was
giving you chase.  I saw the blood bubble out of her mouth and nose."

"Liar!"  I exclaimed, and, seizing a heavy block that one of the
afterguard was fitting, I felled him to the deck.

The base-hearted poltroon went and made his complaint to Captain Reud,
who ordered him to leave the ship immediately he came into harbour.

We must now retrograde a little in the narrative, in order to show what
events led to the disastrous catastrophe I have just related.  Captain
Reud, having been lying for many, many weeks, apparently unconscious of
objects around him, one morning said, in a faint, low voice, when Dr
Thompson and Mr Farmer, the first-lieutenant, were standing near him,
"Send Ralph Rattlin to read the Bible to me."

Now, since my absence, some supposed I had been privately stabbed by one
of the few ferocious and angry marauders still left in the town; but, as
no traces of my body could be found, still more of my shipmates believed
that I had deserted.  In plain sincerity, these latter friends of mine
were, as our Transatlantic brethren say, pretty considerably,
slap-dashically right.  However, as the shock to the wounded captain
would have been the greater to say that I had been assassinated, they
chose the milder alternative, and told him that "they feared I had
deserted."

Captain Reud merely said, "I don't believe it," turned his face to the
bulkhead, and remained silent for three or four days more.  Still, as he
was proceeding towards convalescence, he began to be more active, or,
rather, ordered more active measures to be taken to clear up the mystery
of my disappearance.  Parties were consequently sent to scour the
country for miles round; but I was too well concealed to permit them to
be of any utility.  The only two seamen that had seen me near Manuel's
premises belonged to the frigate which had sailed before my captain had
recovered his faculties.

But I was not to be so easily given up; perhaps he remembered that what
remained of life to him was preserved by me, and, notwithstanding his
cruel usage, I well knew that he entertained for me a sincere affection.
As the _Eos_ got under weigh, after remaining so long at anchor in the
port, that the men observed she would shortly ground upon the beef-bones
that their active masticators had denuded, and which were thrown
overboard, the wind was light, and the boats were all out towing, with
the exception of the pinnace, which was ordered to sweep round the bay
and look into all the inlets, in order to seek for some vestige of my
important self.  For good or for evil, the heart-rending results ensued.

How short is the real romance of life!  A shout of joy--a pulsation of
ecstasy--and it is over!  In the course of my eventful life, I have seen
very fair faces and very many beautiful forms.  The fascinations of
exterior loveliness I have met combined with high intellect, unswerving
principles, and virtuous emotions, awful from their very holiness.  The
fair possessors of many of these lofty attributes I have sometimes wooed
and strove to love; but, though I often sighed and prayed for a return
of that heart-whole and absorbing passion, there was no magic, no charm,
to call the dead embers into life.  That young and beautiful savage
swept from my bosom all the tenderer stuff: she collected the fresh
flowers of passion, and left--It is of no consequence--Josephine,
farewell!

Let us talk idly.  It is a droll world: let us mock each other, and call
it mirth.  There is my poor half-deranged captain cutting such antics,
that even authority with the two-edged sword in his hand cannot repress
the outbursting of ignoble derision.  First of all, he takes a mania for
apes and monkeys; disrates all his midshipmen, taking care, however,
that they still do their duty; and makes the ship's tailor rig out their
successors in uniform.  The officers are aghast, for the maniac is so
cunning, and the risk of putting a superior officer under an arrest so
tremendous, that they know not what to do.  Besides, their captain is
only mad on one subject at one time.  Indeed, insanity seems sometimes
to find a vent in monomania, actually improving all the faculties on all
other points.  Well, the monkey midshipmen did not behave very
correctly; so, Captain Reud had them one afternoon all tied up to one of
his guns in the cabin, and one after the other, well flogged with the
cat-o'-nine-tails.  It was highly ludicrous to see the poor fellows
waiting each for his turn, well knowing what was to come; they never,
than when under the impression of their fears, looked more human.  That
night they stole into the cabin, by two or three, in the dead of the
night, and nearly murdered their persecutor.  This looked very like
combination, and an exercise of faculties that may be nearly termed
reasoning.

They were all thrown overboard.  The next phantasy was the getting up of
the forecastle carronades into the tops, thereby straining the ship and
nearly carrying away the mast.  That folly wore out, and the guns came
down to their proper places.  Then a huge bear came on board--a very
gentlemanly, dignified fellow; never in a hurry, and who always moved
about with a gracious deliberation.  Captain Reud amused himself by
endeavouring to teach him to dance; and a worthless blackguard who could
play on the pipe and tambour, and who probably had led a bear about the
country, was taken into especial grace, and was loaded with benefits, in
order to assist his captain in his singular avocations.

"Come and see my bear dance, do come and see him dance," was now the
little Creole's continual cry.  But the bear did not take his tuition
kindly, and grew daily more ferocious; till, at length, seizing his
opportunity, he caught up the diminutive skipper and nearly hugged the
breath out of his body, and almost rubbed his red nose off his yellow
face in endeavouring to bite him through his muzzle.  The star of Ursa
Major was no longer in the ascendant, and he was bartered away, with the
master of the first merchant vessel we met, for a couple of game-cocks;
and the bear-leader was turned back into the waist, and flogged the next
day for impertinence, whilst, two days before, the vagabond was too
proud to say "sir" to a middy.

But it would be ridiculous to enumerate the long succession of these
insane whimsicalities, each latter one being more _bizarre_ than the
preceding.

Whether a man be mad or not, Christmas will come round again.  Now,
Jack, from time immemorial, thinks that he has a right undeniable to get
drunk on that auspicious day.  In harbour, that right is not discussed
by his officers, but is usually exercised _sub silentio_ under their
eyes, with everything but silence on the part of the exercisers.  Even
at sea, without the ship be in sight of the enemy, or it blows hard
enough to blow the ship's coppers overboard, our friends think it hard,
very hard, to have their cups scored next morning upon their back; and,
indeed, to keep all a frigate's crew from intoxication on a
Christmas-day would be something like undertaking the labour of
Sisyphus, for, as fast as one man could be frightened or flogged into
sobriety, another would become glorious.

It was for this very reason that Captain Reud, the Christmas-day after
he had received his wound, undertook the task; and, as the weather was
fine, he hoped to find it not quite so hard as rolling a stone up a
steep hill, and invariably seeing it bound down again before it attains
the coveted summit.  Immediately after breakfast, he had the word
passed, fore and aft, that no man should be drunk that day, and that six
dozen (not of wine) would be the reward of any who should dare, in the
least, to infringe that order.  What is drunkenness?  What it is we can
readily pronounce, when we see a man under its revolting phases.  What
is not drunkenness is more hard to say.  Is it not difficult to
ascertain the nice line that separates excitement from incipient
delirium?  Not at all, to a man like Captain Reud.  To understand a
disease thoroughly, a physician will tell you that you will be much
assisted by the having suffered from it yourself.  Upon this
self-evident principle, our Aesculapius with the epaulettes was the
first man drunk in the ship.  After dinner that day, he had heightened
his testing powers with an unusual, even to him, share of claret.

Well, at the usual time, we beat to quarters; that is always done just
before the hammocks are piped down; and it is then that the sobriety of
the crew, as they stand to their guns, is narrowly looked into by the
respective officers; for then the grog has been served out for the day,
and it is supposed to have been all consumed.  The captain, of course,
came on the quarter-deck to quarters, making tack and half tack, till he
fairly threw out his starboard grappling-iron, and moored himself to one
of the belaying pins round the mizzen-mast.

"Mister Farmer," said he to the first luff, "you see I know how to keep
a ship in discipline--not (hiccup) a man drunk on board of her."

"I doubt it, sir," was, the respectful answer.  "I think, sir, I can see
one now," said he, taking his eyes off his superior, after a searching
glance, and looking carelessly around.

"Where is he?"

"Oh, sir, we must not forget that it is Christmas-day: so if you please,
sir, we will not scrutinise very particularly."

"But we will scru--scrutinise very particularly: remember me of scru--
scrutinise, Mister Rattlin--a good word that scru--screws--trenails--
tenpenny nails--hammers--iron--clamps, and dog-fastenings--what were we
all talking about.  Mr Farmer?  Oh; sobriety! we will--assuredly
(hiccup) find out the drunken man."

So, with a large _cortege_ of officers, the master-at-arms, and the
ship's corporals, Captain Reud leaning his right arm heavily upon my
left shoulder--for he was cunning enough, just then, to find that the
gout was getting into his foot--we proceeded round the ship on our
voyage of discovery.  Now, it is no joke for a man half drunk to be
tried for drunkenness by one wholly so.  It was a curious and a comic
sight, that examination--for many of the examined were conscious of a
cup too much.  These invariably endeavoured to look the most sober.  As
we approached the various groups around each gun, the different
artifices of the men to pass muster were most amusing.  Some drew
themselves stiffly up, and looked as rigid as iron-stanchions; others
took the examination with an easy, _debonair_ air, as if to say, "Who so
innocent as I?"  Some again, not exactly liking the judge, quietly
dodged round, shifting places with their shipmates, so that when the
captain peered into the eyes of the last for the symptoms of ebriety,
the mercurial rascals had quietly placed themselves first.

To the sharp, startling accusation, "You are drunk, sir," the answers
were beautifully various.  The indignant "No, sir!"--the well-acted
surprise, "I, sir?"--the conciliatory "God bless your honour, no,
sir!"--the logical "Bill Bowling was cook to-day, sir,"--and the
sarcastic "No more than your honour's honour," to witness, were, as we
small wits say, better than a play.

The search was almost unavailing.  The only fish that came to the net
was a poor idiotic young man, that, to my certain knowledge, had not
tasted grog for months; for his messmates gave him a hiding whenever he
asked for his allowance.  To the sudden, "You're drunk, sir," of Captain
Reud, the simple youth, taken by surprise, and perhaps thinking it
against the articles of war to contradict the captain, said, "Yes, sir;
but I haven't tasted grog since--"

"You got drunk, sir; take him aft, master-at-arms, and put him in
irons."

The scrutiny over, our temperate captain went aft himself, glorifying
that, in all the ship's company, there was only one instance of
intoxication on Christmas-day; and thus he delivered himself; hiccupping
on the gratifying occasion:

"I call that discipline, Mr Farmer.  The only drunken man in his
Majesty's vessel, under my command, aft on the poop, in irons, and that
fellow not worth his salt."

"I quite agree with you," said the sneering purser, "that the only
fellow who has dared to get disgracefully drunk to-day, is not worth his
salt, but he is not in irons, aft on the poop."

"I am sure he is not," said the first lieutenant.

"That is as--astonishing," said the mystified extirpator of
intemperance, as he staggered into his cabin, to console himself for,
and to close his labours with, the two other bottles.

The reader will perceive, from these incidents, that it was time that
Captain Reud retired to enjoy his laurels on his _solum natale_ in
_otium cum_ as much _dignitate_ as would conduce to the happiness of one
of his mischief-loving temperament.  The admiral on the station thought
so too, when Reud took the ship into Port Royal.  He superseded the
black pilot, and took upon himself to con the ship; the consequence was,
that she hugged the point so closely, that she went right upon the
church steeple of old Port Royal, which is very quietly lying beside the
new one, submerged by an earthquake, and a hole was knocked in the
ship's forefoot, of that large and ruinous description which may be
aptly compared to the hole in a patriot's reputation, who has lately
taken office with his quondam opponents.  With all the efforts of all
the fleet, that sent relays of hands on board of us to work the pumps,
we could not keep her afloat; so we were obliged, first putting a
thrummed sail under her bottom, to tow her alongside of the dockyard
wharf, lighten her, and lash her to it.

The same evening, by nine o'clock, she had an empty hull, and all the
ship's company and officers were located in the dockyard, and
preparations were made, the next day, for heaving the frigate down.  It
was the opinion of everybody that, had not our skipper been the nephew
of a very high official of the Admiralty, he would have been tried by a
court-martial, for thus attempting to overturn submarine churches and
cracking the bottom of his Majesty's beautiful frigate.  As it was, we
were only ordered to be repaired with all haste, and to go home, very
much, indeed, to the satisfaction of everybody but the captain himself.



CHAPTER FIFTY THREE.

A FEVER CASE, AND A POTION OF LOVE, IF NOT ALTOGETHER A LOVE-POTION--
WHAT ARE THE DOCTORS ABOUT WHEN MEN DIE DESPITE OF THEIR KNOWLEDGE, AND
ARE CURED WITHOUT IT?--RALPH KNOWETH NOT.

However, I must retrograde.  It may seem surprising that I have made so
little mention of my messmates, for it would seem that, to a midshipman,
the affairs and characters of midshipmen would be paramount.  To me they
were not so, for reasons that I have before stated.  Besides, our berth
was like an eastern caravanserai, or the receiving-room of a pest-house.
They all died, were promoted, or went into other ships, excepting two
and myself; who returned to England.  It must not be supposed that we
were without young gentlemen; sometimes we had our full complement,
sometimes half.  Fresh ones came, and they died, and so on.  Before I
had time to form friendships with them, or to study their characters,
they took their long sleep beneath the palisades, or were thrown
overboard in their hammocks.  This was much the case with the wardroom
officers.  The first lieutenant, the doctor, and the purser, were the
only original ones that returned to England with us.  The mortality
among the assistant-surgeons was dreadful; they messed with us.  Indeed,
I have no recollection of the names, or even the persons, of the
majority of those with whom I ate, and drank, and acted, they being so
prone to prove this a transitory world.

We were tolerably healthy till the capture of Saint Domingo; when, being
obliged to convey a regiment of French soldiers to the prisons at Port
Royal, they brought the fever in its worst form on board; and,
notwithstanding every remedial measure that the then state of science
could suggest, we never could eradicate the germs of it.  The men were
sent on board of a hulk, the vessel thoroughly cleansed and fumigated,
and finally, we were ordered as far north as New Providence; but all
these means were ineffectual, for, at intervals, nearly regular, the
fever would again appear, and men and officers die.

Hitherto, I had escaped.  The only attack to which I was subjected took
place in the capstan-house, for so the place was called where we were
bivouacked during the heaving down of the ship.  I record it, not that
my conduct under the disease may be imitated, but on account of the
singularity of the access, and the rapidity of the cure.

I had to tow, from Port Royal up to Kingston, a powder-boy, and, through
some misconduct of the coxswain, the boat's awning had been left behind.
Six or seven hours under a sun, vertical at noon, through the hottest
part of the day, and among the swamps and morasses, so luxuriant in
vegetable productions, that separate Port Royal from Kingston, is a good
ordeal by which to try a European constitution.  For the first time, my
stamina seemed inclined to succumb before it.

When I returned to Port Royal, at about four in the afternoon, the first
peculiar sensation with which I was attacked was a sort of slipping of
the ground from under me as I trod, and a notion that I could skim along
the surface of the earth if I chose, without using my legs.  Then I was
not, as is most natural to a fasting midshipman, excessively hungry, but
excessively jocular.  So, instead of seeking good things to put into my
mouth, I went about dispensing them from out of it.  I soon began to be
sensible that I was talking much nonsense, and to like it.  At length,
the little sense that I had still left, was kind enough to suggest to me
that I might be distinguished by my first interview with that king of
terrors, Saffron-crowned Jack.  "Shall I go to the doctor?" said I.
"No--I have the greatest opinion of Doctor Thompson--but it is a great
pity that he cannot cure the yellow-fever.  No doubt he'll be offended,
and we are the greatest of friends.  But, I have always observed, that
all those who go to the doctor begin going indeed--for, from the doctor
they invariably go to their hammocks--from their hammocks go to the
hospital--and from the hospital go to the palisades."  So while there
was yet time, I decided to go in quite an opposite direction.  I went
out of the dockyard gates, and to a nice, matronly, free mulatto, who
was a mother to me--and something more.  She was a woman of some
property, and had a very strong gang of young Negroes, that she used to
hire out to his Majesty, to work in his Majesty's dockyard, and permit,
for certain considerations, to caulk the sides and bottoms of his
Majesty's vessels of war.

Notwithstanding this intimate connection between his Majesty and
herself; she did not disdain to wash, or cause to be washed, the shirts
and stockings of his Majesty's officers of the navy; that is, if she
liked those officers.  Now, she was kind enough to like me exceedingly;
and, though very pretty, and not yet very old, all in a very proper and
platonic manner.  She was also a great giver of dignity balls, and when
she was full dressed, Miss Belinda Bellarosa was altogether a very
seductive personage.  A warrant officer was an abomination.  She had
refused the hands of many master's mates, and I knew "for true," to use
her own bewitching idiom, that several lieutenants had made her most
honourable overtures.

Well, to Miss Belinda I made the best of my way.  I am choice in my
phrases.  I could hardly make my way at all, for a strange sort of
delirium was supervening.  Immediately she saw me, she exclaimed, "Ah,
Goramity! him catched for sure--it break my heart to see him.  You know
I lub Massa Rattlin, like my own piccaninny.  S'elp me God, he very
bad!"

"My queen of countless Indians! dear duchess of doubloons! marry me
to-night and then you'll be a jolly widow tomorrow."

"Hear him! him! how talk of marry me?"

"Oh!  Bella, dear, if you will not kill me with kindness, what shall I
do?  I cannot bear this raging pain in my head.  You've been a kind soul
to me.  Pardon my nonsense, I could not help it.  Let one of your
servants help me to walk to the doctor."

"Nebber, nebber, doctor!" and she spat on the floor with a sovereign
contempt.  "Ah, Massa Ralph, me lub you dearly--dat sleep here
to-night--me lose my reputation--nebber mind you you.  What for you no
run, Dorcas, a get me, from Massa Jackson's store, bottle good port?
Tell him for me, Missy Bellarosa.  You Phebe, oder woman of colour dere,
why you no take Massa Ralph, and put him in best bed?  Him bad, for
certainly--make haste, or poor buckra boy die."

So, with the assistance of my two dingy handmaidens, I was popped into
bed, and, according to the directions of my kind hostess, a suffocating
number of blankets heaped upon me.  Shortly afterwards, and when my
reeling senses were barely sane enough to enable me to recognise
objects, my dear doctress, with two more Negresses, to witness to her
reputation, entered, and putting the bottle of port, with a white powder
floating at the top of it, into a china bowl, compelled me to drink off
the whole of it.  Then, with a look of great and truly motherly
affection, she took her leave of me, telling the two nurses to put
another blanket on me, and to hold me down in the bed if I attempted to
get out.

Then began the raging agony of fever.  I felt as one mass of sentient
fire.  I had a foretaste of that state which, I hope, we shall all
escape, save one, of ever-burning and never-consuming; but, though
moments of such suffering tell upon the wretch with the duration of
ages, this did not last more than half an hour, when they became
exchanged for a dream, the most singular, and that never will be
forgotten whilst memory can offer me one single idea.

Methought that I was suddenly whisked out of bed, and placed in the
centre of an interminable plain of sand.  It bounded the horizon like a
level sea: nothing was to be seen but this white and glowing sand, the
intense blue and cloudless sky, and, directly above me, the eternal sun,
like the eye of an angry God, pouring down intolerable fires upon my
unprotected head.  At length, my skull opened, and, from the interior of
my head, a splendid temple seemed to arise.  Rows of columns supported
rows of columns, order was piled upon order, and, as it arose,
Babel-like, to the skies, it extended in width as it increased in
height; and there, in this strange edifice, I saw the lofty, the
winding, the interminable staircase, the wide and marble-paved courts;
nor was there wanting the majestic and splashing fountain, whose cool
waters were mocking my scorched-up lips; and there were also the long
range of beautiful statues.  The structure continued multiplying itself
until all the heavens were full of it, extending nearly to the horizon
all around.

Under this superincumbent weight I had long struggled to stand.  It kept
bearing down more and more heavily upon the root of my brain: the
anguish became insufferable, but I still nobly essayed to keep my
footing, with a defiance and a pride that savoured of impious
presumption.  At length I felt completely overcome, and exclaimed, "God
of mercy, relieve me! the burthen is more than I can bear."  Then
commenced the havoc in this temple, that was my head, and was not; there
were the toppling down of the vast columns, the crushing of the several
architraves, the grinding together of the rich entablatures; the
breaking up, with noise louder than ever thunder was heard by man, of
the marble pavements; the ruins crushed together in one awful confusion
above me;--nature could do no more, and my dream slept.

The sun was at its meridian height when I awoke the next day in health,
with every sensation renewed, and that, too, in the so sweet a feeling
that makes the mere act of living delightful.  I found nothing
remarkable, but that I had been subjected to a profuse perspiration.

Miss Bellarosa met me at breakfast all triumph, and I was all gratitude.
I was very hungry, and as playful as a schoolboy who had just procured
a holiday.

"Eh!  Massa Ralph, suppose no marry me to-day--what for you say no yes
to dat?"

"Because, dear Bella, you wouldn't have me."

"Try--you ask me," said she, looking at me with a fondness not quite so
maternal as I could wish.

"Bella, dearest, will you marry me?"

"For true?"

"For true."

"Tanky, Massa Rattlin, dear, tanky; you make me very happy; but, for
true, no.  Were you older more fifteen year, or me more fifteen year
younger, perhaps--but tank ye much for de comblement.  Now go, and tell
buckra doctor."

So, as I could not reward my kind physician with my hand, which,
by-the-by, I should not have offered had I not been certain of refusal,
I was obliged to force upon her as splendid a trinket as I could
purchase, for a keepsake, and gave my sable nurses a handful of bits
each.  Bits of what? say the uninitiated.

I don't know whether I have described this fever case very
nosologically, but, very truly I know I have.



CHAPTER FIFTY FOUR.

A NEW CHARACTER INTRODUCED, WHO CLAIMETH OLD ACQUAINTANCESHIP--NOT VERY
HONEST BY HIS OWN ACCOUNT, WHICH GIVETH HIM MORE THE APPEARANCE OF
HONESTY THAN HE DESERVETH--HE PROVETH TO BE A STEWARD NOT INCLINED TO
HIDE HIS TALENT IN A NAPKIN.

During all the time that these West Indian events had been occurring,
that is, nearly three years, I had no other communication with England
than regularly and repeatedly sending there various pieces of paper thus
headed, "This, my first of exchange, my second and third not paid;" or
for variety's sake, "This, my second of exchange, my first and third,"
etcetera; or, to be more various still, "This, my third, my first and
second,"--all of which received more attention than their strange
phraseology seemed to entitle them to.

But I must now introduce a new character; one that attended me for
years, like an evil shadow, nor left me until the "beginning of the
end."

The ship had been hove down, the wound in her forefoot healed, that is
to say, the huge rent stopped up; and we were beginning to get water and
stores on board, and I was walking on the quay of the dockyard, when I
was civilly accosted by a man having the appearance of a captain's
steward.  He was pale and handsome, with small white hands; and, if not
actually genteel in his deportment, had that metropolitan refinement of
look that indicated contact with genteel society.  Though dressed in the
blue jacket and white duck trousers of the sailor's Sunday best, at a
glance you would pronounce him to be no seaman.  Before he spoke to me,
he had looked attentively at several other midshipmen, some belonging to
my own ship, others, young gentlemen who were on shore on dockyard duty.
At length, after a scrutiny sufficient to make me rather angry, he took
off his hat very respectfully, and said:

"Have I the honour of speaking to Mr Ralph Rattlin?"

"You have: well, my man?"

"Ah, sir, you forget me, and no wonder.  My name, sir, is Daunton--
Joshua Daunton."

"Never heard the name before in my life."

"Oh yes, you have, sir, begging your pardon, very often indeed.  Why,
you used to call me Jossey; little Jossey, come here you little
vagabond, and let me ride you pick-aback."

"The devil I did!"

"Why, Mr Rattlin, I was your fag at Mr Roots' school."

Now I knew this to be a lie; for, under that very respectable pedagogue,
and in that very respectable seminary, as the reader well knows, I was
the _fagged_, and not the fagger.

"Now, really, Joshua Daunton," said I, "I am inclined to think that you
may be Joshua, the little vagabond, still; for, upon my honour, I
remember nothing about you.  Seeing there were so many hundred boys
under Mr Roots, my schoolfellow you might have been; but may I be
vexed, if ever I fagged you or any one else!  Now, my good man, prove to
me that you have been my schoolfellow first, and then let me know what I
can do for you afterwards, for I suppose that you have some favour to
ask, or some motive in seeking me."

"I have, indeed," he replied, with a peculiar intonation of voice, that
might have been construed in many ways.  He then proceeded to give me
many details of the school at Islington, which convinced me, if there he
had never been, he had conversed with some one who had.  Still, he
evaded all my attempts at cross-examination, with a skill which gave me
a much higher opinion of his intellect than of his honesty.  With the
utmost efforts of my recollection, I could not call him to mind, and I
bluntly told him so.  I then bade him tell me who he was and what he
wanted.

"I am the only son of an honest pawnbroker of Shoreditch.  He was
tolerably rich, and determined to give me a good education.  He sent me
to Mr Roots' school.  It was there that I had the happiness of being
honoured by your friendship.  Now, sir, you perceive that, though I am
not so tall as you by some inches, I am at least seven or eight years
older.  Shortly after, you left school to go to another at Stickenham.
I also left, with my education, as my father fondly supposed, finished.
Sir, I turned out bad.  I confess it with shame--I was a rascal.  My
father turned me out of doors.  I have had several ups and downs in the
world since, and I am now steward on board of the _London_, the West
Indiaman that arrived here the day before yesterday."

"Very well, Joshua; but how came you to know that I went to school at
Stickenham?"

"Because, in my tramping about the country, I saw you with the other
young gentlemen in the playground on the common."

"Hum! but how, in the name of all that is curious, came you to know that
I was here at Port Royal dockyard, and a young gentleman belonging to
the _Eos_?"

"Oh! very naturally, sir.  About two years ago, I passed again over the
same common with my associates.  I could not resist the wish to see if
you were still in the playground.  I did not see you among the rest, and
I made bold to inquire of one of the elder boys where you were.  He told
me the name of the ship, and of your captain.  The first thing on coming
into the harbour that struck my eye was your very frigate alongside the
dockyard.  I got leave to come on shore, and I knew you directly that I
saw you."

"But why examine so many before you spoke to me?  However, I have no
reason to be suspicious, for time makes great changes.  Now, what shall
I do for you?"

"Give me your protection, and as much of your friendliness as is
compatible with our different stations."

"But, Daunton, according to your own words, you have been a sad fellow.
Before I extend to you what you require, I ought to know what you really
have done.  You spoke of tramping--have you been a tramper--a gipsy?"

"I have."

"Have you ever committed theft?"

"Only in a small way."

"Ah! and swindled--only in a small way, of course?"

"The temptations were great."

"Where will this fellow stop?" thought I; "let us see, however, how far
he will go;" and then, giving utterance to my thoughts, I continued,
"The step between swindling and forgery is but very short," and I
paused--for even I had not the confidence to ask him, "Are you a
forger?"

"Very," was the short, dry answer.  I was astonished.  Perhaps he will
confess to the commission of murder.

"Oh! as you were just saying to yourself, we are the mere passive tools
of fate--we are drawn on, in spite of ourselves.  If a man comes in our
way, why, you know, in self-defence--hey?"

"What do you mean, sir?"

"A little prick under the ribs in a quiet way.  The wanderings and
jerkings of the angry hand will happen.  You understand me?"

"Too well, I am afraid, sir.  I have never yet shed man's blood--I never
will.  Perhaps, sir, you would not depend upon my virtue for this--you
may upon my cowardice.  I tremble--I sicken at the sight of blood.  I
have endeavoured to win your confidence by candour--I have not
succeeded.  May I be permitted to wish you a good day?"

"Stop, Daunton; this is a singular encounter, and a still more singular
conference.  As an old schoolfellow, you ask me to give you my
protection.  The protection of a reefer is, in itself, something
laughable; and then, as an inducement, you confess to me that you are a
villain, only in guilt just short of murder.  Perhaps, by this bravado
sort of confession, you have endeavoured to give me a worse impression
of your character than it really deserves, that you might give me the
better opinion of your sincerity.  Is it not so?"

"In a great measure, it is."

"I thought so.  Now let me tell you, Daunton, that that very
circumstance makes me afraid of you.  But, still, I will not cast aside
the appeal of an old schoolfellow.  What can I do for you?"

"Give me the protection afforded me by a man-of-war, by taking me as
your servant."

"Utterly impossible!  I can press you directly, or give the hint to any
of the many men-of-war here to do so.  But the rules of the service do
not permit a midshipman to have a separate servant.  Do you wish to
enter?"

"Only on board of your ship, and with the privilege of waiting upon you,
and being constantly near your person."

"Thank you; but what prevents my impressing you, even as you stand
there?"

"These very ample protections."  And he produced them.

"Yes!  I see that you are well provided.  But why give up your good
berth on board the _London_?"

"Mr Rattlin, I have my reasons.  Permit them, as yet, to remain secret.
There is no guilt attached to them.  May I sail with you in the
capacity of your servant?"

"I have told you before that you cannot be my servant solely; you must
be the servant of the midshipmen's berth."

"Yes, with all my heart, provided that you pledge me your honour that I
shall never be put to any other duty."

I was astonished at this perseverance, and very honestly told him all
the miseries of the situation for which he seemed so ambitious.  They
did not shake his resolution.  I then left him, and spoke to Mr Farmer.
"Let the fool enter," was the laconic reply.

"But he will not enter but on the conditions I have mentioned, and his
protections are too good to be violated."

"Then I authorise you to make them.  We are short of men."

But Joshua would not enter; he required to be pressed; so I went on
board his own merchant-ship, according to previous arrangement, and
pressed him.  He made no resistance and produced no documents; he only
called the master of the ship, and the first and second officer, to
witness that he was a pressed man, and then, taking his kit with him, he
even cheerfully tripped down the side into the boat; and thus, for
nearly an eventful year, I was the instrument of placing my evil genius
near me.



CHAPTER FIFTY FIVE.

THE ART OF MISCHIEF MADE EASY--RATHER HARD UPON THE
EXPERIMENTED--"HEAVEN PRESERVE ME FROM MY FRIENDS!  I'LL TAKE CARE OF MY
ENEMIES MYSELF," SAY THE HONEST SPANIARDS, AND SO SAYS HONEST RALPH.

And so, filling our cabins with invalided officers, we sailed for
England.  We took home with us a convoy; and a miserable voyage we made
of it.

In taking my _soi-disant_ schoolfellow on board the _Eos_, I had shipped
with me my Mephistophiles.  The former servant to the midshipmen's berth
was promoted to the mizzen-top, and Joshua Daunton inducted, with due
solemnities, to all the honours of waiting upon about half a dozen
fierce, unruly midshipmen, and as many sick supernumeraries; and he
formally took charge of all the mess-plate and munitions _de bouche_ of
this submarine establishment.  There was no temptation to embezzlement.
Our little society was a commonwealth of the most democratic
description--and, as usually happens in these sort of experiments, there
was a community of goods that were good for nothing to the community.

I will give an inventory of all the movables of this republic, for the
edification of the curious.  Among these, I must first of all enumerate
the _salle a manger_ itself, a hot little hole in the cock-pit, of about
eight feet by six, which was never clean.  This dining-room and
breakfast-room also contained our cellars which contained nothing, on
which cellars we lay down when there was room--your true midshipman is a
recumbent animal--and sat when we could not lie.  For the same reason
that the Romans called a grove _lucus_, these cellerets were called
lockers, because there was nothing to lock in them, and no locks to lock
in that nothing withal.  In the midst stood an oak table, carved with
more names than ever Rosalind accused Orlando of spoiling good trees
with, besides the outline of a ship, and a number of squares, which
served for an immovable draught-board.  One battered, spoutless,
handless, japanned-tin jug, that did not contain water, for it leaked;
some tin mugs; seven, or perhaps eight, pewter plates; an excellent old
iron tureen, the best friend we had, and which had stood by us, through
storm and calm, and the spiteful kick of Reefer, and the contemptuous
"slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," in the galley; which tureen
contained our cocoa in the morning, our pea-soup at noon, and, after
these multiplied duties, performed the character of wash-hand basin,
whenever the midshipman's fag condescended to cleanse his hands.  It is
a fact that, when we sailed for England, of crockeryware we had not a
single article.  There was a calabash or so, and two or three sections
of cocoa-nut shells.

We had no other provisions than barely the ship's allowance, and even
these were of the worst description.  Bread, it is well remarked, is the
staff of life; but it is not quite pleasant to find it life itself, and
to have the power of locomotion.  Every other description of food was in
the same state of transition into vivification.  There is no
exaggeration in all this.  From the continual coming and going, and the
state of constant disunion in which we lived, it was every man for
himself, and God, I am sorry to say, seemed to have very little to do
with any of us.  So complete was our disorganisation, and so great our
destitution as a mess, that, after the first week, the supernumerary
sick young gentlemen were relieved from this candlelight den of
starvation and of dirt, and distributed among the warrant officers.

It was to wait upon our persons, to administer to our wants, and to take
care of our culinary comforts, that Joshua Daunton was duly installed.
It was very ludicrous to see our late servant giving up his charge to
our present one--the solemnity with which the iron tureen, and the one
knife, and the three forks, that were not furcated, seeing that they had
but one prong each, were surrendered: Joshua's contempt at the sordid
poverty of the republic to which he was to administer, was quite as
undisguised as his surprise.  I again and again requested him to do his
duty in some other capacity in the ship, but he steadily refused.

The silky, soft-spoken, cockney-dialected Josh got me into continual hot
water.  At first he seemed to consider himself as my servant only;
consequently, he was continually thrashed, and I, on his appeal, taking
his part, had to endeavour to thrash the thrasher.  Now, this could not
always be conveniently done.  The more I suffered for this Daunton, the
more ardently he seemed to attach himself to me.  But there appeared to
be much more malice than affection in his fidelity.  Nothing prospered
either with me or my messmates.  He contrived, in the most plausible
manner possible, to spoil our almost unspoilable meals.  He always
managed to draw for us the very worst rations, and to lay the blame on
the purser's steward.  In bringing aft our miserable dinners, his foot
would slip, or a man would run against him--or somebody had taken it off
the galley-fire, and thrown it in the manger.  Salt-water would
miraculously intrude into my messmates' rum-bottle, and my daily pint of
wine was either sour or muddy, or sandy, or afflicted with something
that made it undrinkable.  In one word, under the care of the good
Joshua, Messieurs the midshipmen ran a most eminent risk of being
actually starved.

Many a time, after we had gone through the motions of dining, without
eating, and as we sat in our dark, hot hole, over our undrinkable
potations and our inedible eatables, each of us resting his hungry head
upon his aching elbows, watching the progress of some animated piece of
biscuit, would Master Daunton, the slave of our lamp, which, by-the-by,
was a bottle bearing a miserably consumptive purser's dip, beside which
a farthing rushlight would look quite aldermanic--I say, this slave of
our lamp would perch himself down on the combings of the cable-tier
hatchway, in the midst of the flood of Heaven's blessed daylight, that
came pouring from aloft into this abyss, and very deliberately take out
his private store of viands, and there insultingly wag his jaws, with
the most complacent satisfaction, in the faces of his masters.  The
contrast was too bad--the malice of it too tormenting.  Whilst he was
masticating his beautiful white American crackers, and smacking his lips
over his savoury German sausage, we were grumbling over putrid bones and
weavilly biscuit, that we could not swallow, and yet hunger would not
permit us to desert.  It was a floating repetition of the horrors of
Tantalus.

Well, to myself, this rascal was most submissive--most eager in forcing
upon me his services.  He relieved my hammock-man of his duty; but,
somehow, nothing prospered to which he put his hand.  The third night,
the nails of the cleat that fastened my head-clews up to the deck above
me, drew, and I came down by the run, head foremost; and immediately
where my head ought to have alighted on the deck was found the
carpenter's pitch kettle, with the blade of an axe in the centre of it,
and the edge uppermost.  No one knew how it came there, and, had I shot
out as young gentlemen usually do on such occasions, I should, if I had
not been quite decapitated, at least have died by the axe.  Not being
asleep when the descent took place, I grappled with my neighbour, the
old fat assistant-surgeon, and he with the next, and the three came down
on deck with a lunge that actually started the marine officer--who,
everybody knows, is the best sleeper on board.  Happily for myself, I
fell from my hammock sideways.  Next, the accommodating Joshua got the
sole charge of my chest, and, though nothing was missed, in a short time
everything was ruined.  The cockroaches ate the most unaccountable holes
in my best uniforms, my shoes burst in putting them on, my boots cracked
all across the upper leathers, and the feet of my stockings came off
when I attempted to draw them on.

The obsequious Joshua was equally assiduous with his other six masters,
and even more successful; so that, in addition to being starved, there
was every possibility of our being reduced to nakedness.  This was no
pleasant prospect, running out of tropical latitudes towards England, in
the month of January.  In the course of six weeks, such a ragged,
woebegone, gaunt, and famished gang of reefers was never before huddled
together in one of his Majesty's vessels of war.  The shifts we were
obliged to have recourse to were quite amusing, to all but the
shiftmakers.  The only good hat, and wearable uniform coat, went round
and round; it was a happy thing for this disconsolate seven that we were
all nearly of a size.  To aggravate our misfortunes, we could no longer
get an occasional dinner, either in the captain's cabin or the
ward-room, for our clothes were all in rags.

In the meanwhile, Joshua Daunton grew more and more sleek, and pale, and
fat.  He throve upon our miseries.  He played his part at length so
well, as to avoid thrashings.  He possessed, in perfection, that which,
in classic cockpit, is called "the gift of the gab."  He was never in
the wrong.  Indeed, he began to get a favourite with each of the
individuals over whom he was so mercilessly tyrannising, while each
thought himself the tyrant.  All this may seem improbable to
well-nurtured, shore-bred young gentlemen and ladies; but midshipmen
were always reckless and idle--that is, personally.  On actual service,
they have ever been equally reckless, but commensurably active.  This
kindness of Joshua, in taking all trouble off our hands, soon left us
almost nothing wherewith to trouble ourselves.



CHAPTER FIFTY SIX.

AN ANTICIPATED DINNER--ALL THE ENJOYMENT SPOILED BY THE FIRST CUT--A
SUIT OF CLOTHES ILL-SUITED FOR WEARING--AND JOSHUA DAUNTON TRYING ON A
PAIR OF IRON LEGGINGS--MORE EASILY PUT ON THAN SHAKEN OFF.

This imp, this Flibbertygibbet, was killing us by inches.  At length,
one of the master's mates, no longer being able to starve quietly and
philosophically, as became a man of courage, was again determined, by
one last effort, to dine, and breakfast, and sup, in the captain's cabin
and ward-room as often as he could.  So, finding that there was enough
new blue cloth on board, with buttons, etcetera, to make him a complete
suit, he purchased them at an enormous price, _on credit_; and set the
ship's tailors to work incontinently.  By this time, we were, with our
homeward-bound convoy, on the banks of Newfoundland.  It was misty and
cold--and we were chilly and ragged.  In such a conjuncture of
circumstances, even the well-clothed may understand what a blessing a
new suit of warm blue must be--that suit bearing in its suite a long
line of substantial breakfasts, dinners, and suppers.  All this was
about to be Mr Pigtop's, our kind messmate, and respectable mate of the
orlop deck.  He had already begun to protest upon the unreasonableness
of rotatory coats, or of having a quarter-deck pair of trousers, like
the wives of the ancient Britons, common to the sept.  The ungrateful
rogue!  He had on, at the very time, the only quarter-deck-going coat
among us, which was mine, and which he had just borrowed to enable him
to go on deck, and report everything right below.

"Captain Reud's compliments to Mr Pigtop, and would be glad of his
company to dinner."

Angelic words, when the invited reefer has a clean shirt, or collar, and
a decent uniform.

"`Mr Pigtop's compliments to Captain Reud, and will be most happy to
wait on him.'  There, you dogs," said the elated Pigtop, "I say no more
lending of clothes.  Here, you, Josh, jump forward, and tell the tailor
I must have my uniform by four bells."

Josh jumped forward with a very intelligent grin upon his
tallow-complexioned but handsome countenance.

Now, the captain and ward-room officers all knew very well of the
unaccountable destruction of our clothes, which, they affected to
believe, was not unaccountable to them.  They said it arose from very
natural causes; a little of which was to be ascribed to dampness, a
little to the cockroaches, and a great, a very great deal to our
proverbial carelessness.  Well.  A midshipman careless!  But some people
_may_ libel with impunity.  Whatever they thought, they enjoyed our
dilemmas, both of food and of clothing.

An hour before the captain's dinner was ready, the much envied suit was
brought aft, and duly displayed on Mr Pigtop's chest.  The ward-room
officers, or at least those of them with whom he could take that
liberty, were invited out to view it.  It was pronounced, for
ship-tailoring, excellent.

Pigtop's elation was great.  So was Josh Daunton's; but all in a quiet,
submissive way.  Our envy was proportionate.  Josh was an excellent
barber, and he volunteered to shave the happy diner-out--the offer was
accepted.  Then came the turn of fate--then commenced the long series of
the poor mate's miseries.  It was no fault of Daunton's, certainly--but
all the razors were like saws.  The blood came out over the black visage
of Mr Pigtop; but the hair stayed most pertinaciously on.  The sufferer
swore--how horribly he swore!  The time was fast elapsing.  After a most
tremendous oath from the sufferer, which would have almost split an oak
plank, Joshua said, in his lowly and insinuating voice, "Mr Pigtop,
pray do--do, do, sir, try the razors yourself.  My heart bleeds, sir,
more than your face--do try, sir, for I think the captain's servant is
now coming down the hatchway to tell you dinner is ready."

In despair, the hungry depilator seized the razors: and, being
exasperated with hurry, he made a worse job of it than Joshua.  Where
Josh had made notches, Pigtop made gashes.  The ship's barber was then
sent for, and he positively refused to go over the bloody surface.

But Joshua Daunton was the true friend, the friend in need.  With Mr
Pigtop's permission, he would go and borrow one of Dr Thompson's
razors.  The offer was gratefully accepted.  In the meantime, dinner was
actually announced.  It is just about as wise to attempt to keep the
hungry tiger from his newly-slaughtered prey, as for a mid to make the
captain of a man-of-war wait dinner.  Reud did not wait.

However, the fresh razor did its work admirably, in the adroit hand of
Joshua.  The hitherto intractable beard flew off rapidly, and Joshua's
tongue moved more glibly even than his razor.  Barbers in the act of
office have, like the House of Commons, the privilege of speech.  They
are not amenable afterwards for what they say.  In the act they are
omnipotent, for who would quarrel with a man who is slipping a razor
over your carotid artery?  Not, certainly, Mr Pigtop.  Thus spoke
Joshua, amid the eloquent flourishes of his instrument:--

"Mr Pigtop, I've a great respect for you--a very great respect indeed,
sir.  If you have not been a good friend to me yet, you will--I know it,
sir; you are not like the other flighty young gentlemen.  I have a
respect for years, sir--a great respect for years, and honour a
middle-aged gentleman.  Indeed, sir, it must be a great condescension in
you to permit yourself to be only a master's--mate of a frigate, seeing
that you are quite an elderly gentleman--"

"Da--!"

"There!--that was very imprudent indeed, sir, of you to open your mouth.
It was not my fault, you know, that the brush went into it: indeed,
some people like the taste of soapsuds--wholesome, I assure you--very.
A stubble of your growth, sir, always requires a double lathering--don't
speak.  Oh, sir, you are a happy man--exceeding.  Your face will be as
smooth as a man's borrowing money.  You, boy, just run up the
after-hatchway, and tell the captain's steward that Mr Pigtop will be
in the cabin in the flourish of a razor, or before a white horse can
turn grey.  Permit me to take you by the nose; the true handle of the
face, sir: it gives the man, as it were, a sort of a command, sir, of
the whole head; he can box the compass with it.  Happy indeed you are,
sir, and much to be envied.  There was one of the captain's turtles
killed yesterday--Jumbo is a cook, a most excellent cook--a spoonful of
the soup to-day will be worth a king's ransom--a peck of March dust!
pooh!--I wouldn't give a spoonful of that soup for a hundred bushels of
it.  Take my advice, sir, and have soup twice, sir.  As it was carried
along the main-deck, I'm dishonest, if the young gentlemen didn't follow
it, with the water running down in streams from the corners of their
mouths, and their tongues entreatingly lolling out, like a parcel of
hungry dogs in Cripplegate, following the catsmeat-man's barrow.  One
more rasp over your upper lip, and you are as smooth as the new-born
babe--talking of lips, as the first spoonful of that turtle-soup glides
over them--the devil!  I'll take God to witness, it was an accident--the
roll of the ship!"

Joshua Daunton was on his knees before Mr Pigtop, who was in an agony
of pain, holding on his upper lip, which was nearly severed from his
face, whilst the blood was streaming through his fingers.

Doctor Thompson with diachylon and black sticking-plaster was soon on
the spot to the assistance of the almost dislipped master's-mate.  After
the best was done for it, the poor fellow cut but a sorry appearance;
still his extreme hunger, made almost furious by the vision of the
turtle-soup, so artfully conjured up by the malicious Joshua, got the
better of his sense of pain; and with a great band of black plaster
reaching transversely from the right nostril to the left corner of his
mouth, the grim-looking Mr Pigtop made haste to don the new uniform.

In the meantime, the protestations and tears of Joshua had convinced
everybody that the horrible gash was merely the effect of accident, for
the ship was rolling a great deal at the moment.  What the captain and
his guests were doing in the cabin above with the turtle-soup, it is
needless for me to state, for that same soup was never fated to gladden
the wounded lip of Mr Pigtop.

The hasty and famishing gentleman, in his very first attempt to draw on
his new trousers, to the astonishment of all his messmates, who had now
gathered round him, found them separated in the middle of each of his
legs.  He might as well have attempted to clothe himself with cobweb
continuations; they came to pieces almost with a shake.  The waistcoat
and coat were in the same predicament; they had not the principle of
continuity in them.  Everybody was lost in amazement, except Mr Pigtop,
whose amazement, quite as great as ours, was lost in his still greater
rage.  It was extremely unfortunate for Joshua Daunton that he had cut
the lip that day.  The kind doctor was still by during the apparelling,
or the attempt at it.  He examined the rotten clothes, and he soon
discovered that they had been saturated in different parts by some
corrosive liquid, that, instead of impairing, really improved the
brilliancy of the cloth.

During these proceedings, Captain Reud and his guests had eaten up the
dinner; but the captain, not being pleased to be pleasantly humoured
that day, sent word to Mr Pigtop to go to the mast-head till midnight
for disrespect in not attending to the invitation that he had accepted.
There was no appeal, and aloft went the wounded, ragged, famished hoper
of devouring turtle-soup.  Joshua looked very demure and very unhappy;
but Dr Thompson set on foot an inquiry, and the truth of the
destruction of the clothes was soon ascertained.  The loblolly-boy, that
is, the young man who had charge of the laboratory where all the
medicines were kept, confessed, after a little hesitation, that for
certain glasses of grog he had given this pernicious liquid to Daunton.
So, while one of his masters was contemplating the stars from the
mast-head, the destroyer of reefers' kits had nothing else to do but to
contemplate the beauty of his own feet, placed, with a judicious
exactitude, in a very handsome pair of bilboes under the half deck.



CHAPTER FIFTY SEVEN.

THE CAT-OF-NINE-TAILS BEGETS A TALE THE MOST ANNOYING TO RALPH--THE
STORY OF THE THREE CROWS BEATEN HOLLOW--SEVEN'S THE MAIN AND A LOSING
CAST--A PROMISED TREATISE ON ORNITHOLOGY PUT AN END TO RATHER ABRUPTLY
BY THE BIPLUMAL RESOLVING THEMSELVES INTO THE MERE BIPEDAL.

When fully secured, the poor wretch sent for me.  He was in a paroxysm
of fear: he protested his innocence over and over again: he declared
that he should die under the first lash; that it was for love of me only
that he had come on board of a man-of-war; he conjured me by the
fellowship of our boyish days, by all that I loved and that was sacred
to us, to save him from the gangway.  The easiness of my nature was
worked upon, and I promised to use my influence to procure for him a
pardon.  I went to Mr Farmer, but all my efforts were unavailing.  The
culprit passed a sleepless night in the intolerable agony of lear.
Before he was brought up to be flogged, Mr Pigtop had been fully
avenged.

The gratings are rigged, the hands are turned up, and Joshua Daunton is
supported by two ship's corporals in a nearly fainting state, and
stripped by another--he is too much paralysed to do it himself.  The
officers are mustered on the break of the quarter-deck, and the marines
are drawn up, under arms, on the gangway.  Captain Reud looks fierce and
forbidding, and Mr Farmer, for his generally impassible features,
really quite savage.  I come forward shudderingly and look down.  The
wandering and restless eyes of the frightened young man meet, in an
instant, what, most probably, they are seeking--my own.

"Ralph Rattlin, speak for me to the captain."  The words were in
themselves simple, but they were uttered in a tone of the most touching
pathos.  They made me start: I thought that I knew the voice, not as the
voice of Joshua Daunton, the mischievous imp that had tormented us all
so scientifically, but of some dear and long-forgotten friend.  "Ralph
Rattlin, speak for me to the captain--this must not be."

"But it shall be, by G---!" said the irascible Creole.

"Captain Reud," said I, "let me entreat you for this once only--"

"Boatswain's mate--"

"Oh, Captain Reud, if you knew what a strange sympathy--"

"The thief's cat."

"Indeed, sir, since he has been on board he has never stolen--"

"Mr Rattlin, another word, and the masthead.  Stand back, Stebbins!--
let Douglas give him the first dozen."

Now, this Douglas was a huge, raw-boned boatswain's mate that flogged
left handed, and had also a peculiar jerk in his manner of laying on the
cat-o'-nine-tails, and that always brought away with it little knobs of
flesh wherever the knots fell, and so neatly, that blood would, at every
blow, spout from the wounds, as from the puncture of a lancet.  Besides,
the torture was also doubled by first scoring over the back in one
direction, and the right-handed floggers coming after in another.  They
cut out the skin in lozenges.

I looked in the captain's face, and there was no mercy; I looked below,
and there appeared almost as little life.  After the left-handed
Scotchman had bared his brawny arm and measured his distance, and just
as he was about to uplift it and strike, Daunton murmured out, "Ralph
Rattlin, I knew your father! beware, or your own blood will be
dishonoured in me!"

"That voice!--they shall flog you through me!"  I exclaimed, and was
about to leap into the waist, and cover him with my arms, when I was
forcibly withheld by the officers around me; whilst the captain roared
out, "He shall have another dozen for his impudent falsehood--
boatswain's mate, do your duty."

The terrific lash, like angry scorpions, fell upon the white and
quivering flesh, and the blood spurted out freely.  It was a vengeful
stroke; and loud, and long, and shrill was the scream that followed it.
But, ere the second stroke fell, the head of the tortured one suddenly
collapsed upon the right shoulder, and a livid hue spread rapidly over
the face and breast.

"He is dead!" said those around, in a half-hushed tone.

The surgeon felt his pulse, and placed his hand upon his breast to seek
for the beating of the heart, and shaking his head, requested him to be
cast loose.  He was immediately taken to the sick-bay, but, with all the
skill of the doctor, his resuscitation was, at first, despaired of; and
only brought about, at length, with great difficulty.  The fact was, not
that he had been flogged, but very nearly frightened, to death.

And I was utterly miserable.  The words that Daunton had spoken at the
gangway, and the strange interest that I had taken in his behalf, gave
rise to suspicions that I felt to be degrading.  He had declared himself
to be of my blood; the officers and crew construed the expression as
meaning my brother.  I was now, for the first time, looked coldly upon;
I felt myself avoided.  Such conduct is chilling--too often fatal to the
young and proud heart; it will rise indignant at an insult, but guarded
and polite contumely, and long and civil neglect, wither it.  I was fast
sinking into an habitual despondency.  This confounded Joshua had
previously completely ruined my outward man: the inward man was in great
danger from his conduct, perhaps his machinations.  I was shunned with a
studied contempt; the more particularly as my messmates were the
subjects of the constant jibes of the captain and the other officers,
which messmates were of a unanimous opinion that Master Joshua ought to
have been hung, inasmuch as it is now apparent that their ruined apparel
was all derivable from his malice, and his "Practice of Chemistry made
Easy."  They all panted with impatience for his convalescence, in order
that they might see Mr Rattlin's _elder brother_ receive the remainder
of his six dozen.

I verily believe that, as I approached my native shores, I should have
fallen into a settled depression of spirits, which would have terminated
in melancholy madness, had I not been roused to exert my moral energies,
and awaken my half-entombed pride, by a stinging and a very wholesome
insult.

So soon as we were ordered home, Captain Reud's mental aberrations
became less frequent; but, when they supervened, they were more
extravagant in their nature.  He grew roguish, fretful, and cruel.
Though he never spoke to me harshly, he addressed me more rarely.  I had
not dined with him for a long while: he had taken the mysterious
destruction of my wardrobe as a valid excuse; and had gone so far, on
one occasion, in a very delicate manner, as to present me with a
complete change of linen, which perished like the rest, under the
provident care of Joshua.  But, after the claim of relationship by that
very timid personage, there was no consideration in Reud's look; and,
whenever he did speak to me, there was a contemptuous harshness in his
tone that would have very much wounded my feelings at any other time.
But, just then, I took but little notice of and interest in anything.

When I say that we were reduced to rags in our habiliments, the reader
is not to take the words _au pied de lettre_.  By taking up slops from
the purser, and by aid of the ship's tailor, we had been enabled to walk
the quarter-deck without actual holes in our dress; but the dresses
themselves were grotesque, for the imitation of our spruce uniform was
villainous, and our hats were deplorable; they were greased with oil,
and broken, and sewed, and formless, or rather multiform: bad as were
our fittings-out, we had not enough of them.

Through the rude and the cold flying mists of winter, after we had
struck soundings, we again saw England.  It was in the inclement month
of January: I was starved and half clad.  A beggar of any decent
pretension, had he met me in the streets of London, would have taken the
wall of me, though I had, at the time, more than three hundred dollars
in cash, Spanish doubloons and silver, a power for drawing bills for a
hundred a year, more than three years' pay due, and prize-money to a
very considerable amount.

Under these circumstances, my eyes once more greeted my native land.

I got into disgrace.  I record it frankly, as my boast is, throughout
this biography, to have spoken the truth of all the different variations
of my life.  Since the captain's incipient insanity, the _Eos_ had
gradually become an ill-regulated ship.  The gallant first-lieutenant,
formerly so smart and so active, had not escaped the general
demoralisation.  He was a disappointed man.  He had not distinguished
himself.  God knows, it was neither for want of daring nor expense of
life.  He had cut out everything that could be carried, and had
attempted almost everything that could not.  I am compelled to say that
these bloody onslaughts were as often failures as successes.  He was no
nearer his next step on the ladder of promotion than before.  His temper
became soured, and he was now often lax, sometimes unjust, and always
irritable.  The other officers shared in the general falling off, and
too often made the quarter-deck a display for temper.

The third-lieutenant--yes, I think it was the third--had mast-headed me,
about the middle of the first dog-watch; most likely deservedly, for I
had lately affected to give the proud and sullen answer.  Before I went
aloft to my miserable station, I represented to him that I had the first
watch; that there was now but three of the young gentlemen doing their
duty, the others having very wisely fallen ill, and taken the protection
of the sick-list.  I told him, respectfully enough, "that if he kept me
up in that disagreeable station from half-past five till eight, I could
not possibly do my duty, for very weariness, from eight till midnight.
It was a physical impossibility."  But he was inexorable.  Up I went,
the demon of all evil passions gnawing at my heart.

It was almost dark when I went aloft.  It was a gusty, dreary night,
bitterly, very bitterly cold.  I was ill-clad.  At intervals, the fierce
and frozen drifts, like the stings of so many wasps, drove fiercely into
my face; and I believe that I must confess that I cried over my crooked
and aching fingers as the circulation went on with agony, or stopped
with numbness.  It is true, I was called down within the hour; but that
hour of suffering had done me much constitutional mischief.  I was
stupified as much as if I had committed a debauch upon fat ale.
However, I was too angry to complain, or to seek relief from the
surgeon.  I went on deck at half-past eight, with obtuse faculties and a
reckless heart.

The frigate was, with a deeply-laden convoy, attempting to hold her
course in the chops of the Channel.  It blew very hard.  The waves were
bounding about us with that short and angry leap peculiar, in
tempestuous weather, to the narrow seas between England and France.  It
was excessively dark; and, not carrying sufficient sail to tack, we were
wearing the ship every half-hour, showing, of course, the proper signal
lights to the convoy.  We carried also the customary poop-light of the
commodore.

Such was the state of affairs at a little after nine.  The captain, the
first-lieutenant, the master, the officer of the watch, and the channel
pilot that we had taken on board off the Scilly Islands, with myself;
were all on deck.  Both the signal midshipmen were enjoying the comforts
of sickness in their warm hammocks below.  Now, I will endeavour to give
a faithful account of what happened; and let the unprejudiced determine,
in the horrible calamity that ensued, how much blame was fairly
attributable to me.  I must premise that, owing to shortness of number,
even when all were well, there was no forecastle midshipman.

A dreadful gust of icy wind, accompanied by the arrowy sleet, rushes aft
rather heading us.

"The wind is getting more round to the east.  We'd better wear at once,"
said the pilot to the master.

"The pilot advises us to wear," said the master to the captain.

"Mr Farmer," said the captain to the first-lieutenant, "watch and
idlers, wear ship."

"Mr Pond," said Mr Farmer to the lieutenant of the watch (a diminutive
and peppery little man, with a squeaking voice, and remarkable for
nothing else excepting having a large wife and a large family, whom he
was impatient to see), "wear."

"Mr Rattlin," squeaked Mr Pond through his trumpet, "order the
boatswain's mate to turn the watch and idlers up--wear ship."

"Boatswain's mate," bawled out the sleepy and sulky Mr Rattlin, "watch
and idlers, wear ship."

"Ay, ay, sir--whew, whew, whittle whew--watch and idlers, wear ship!
Tumble up there, tumble up.  Master-at-arms, brush up the
bone-polishers."

"What an infarnal nonsensical ceremony!" growled the pilot, _sotto
voce_; "all bawl and no hawl--lucky we have plenty of sea-room."

"Jump aft, Mr Rattlin," said the captain, "and see that the
convoy-signal to wear is all right."

Mr Rattlin makes one step aft.

"Are the fore-topmast staysail halliards well manned, Mr Rattlin?--Jump
forward and see," said the officer of the watch.

Mr Rattlin makes one step forward.

"Is the deep sea-lead ready?" said the master.  "Mr Rattlin, jump into
the chains and see."

Mr Rattlin makes one step to the right--"_starboard_, the wise it
call."

"Mr Rattlin, what the devil are you about?--where's the hand stationed
to the foresheet?" said the first-lieutenant.  "Jump there and see."

Mr Rattlin makes one step to the left hand,--"_port_, the wise it
call."

"Where's the midshipman o' th' watch--where's the midshipman o' th'
watch?" roars out the captain.  "By heavens, there's no light to show
over the bows!  Mr Rattlin, be smart, sir,--jump forward, and see to
it."

The chilled, the torpid, and half-stupified Mr Rattlin finally went
forward to the forecastle, where he ought to have been from the first,
and more especially as the boatswain was also on the sick-list.

The consequence of all these multitudinous and almost simultaneous
orders--to jump and see, when, by-the-by, it was too dark to see
anything a yard off properly--was, that one of the signal lanterns was
blown out, and the signal consequently imperfect--that the fore-topmast
staysail halliards were so badly manned, that those upon them could
scarcely start that then necessary sail from its netting--that the
people were not ready with the deep sea-lead--that little Mr Pond was
obliged to put down his trumpet, and ease off the foresheet himself till
relieved by the quarter-master; but, still, there actually _was_ a
lantern over the bows, and that in good time.

Well, the noble ship was no longer buffeted on her bows by the furious
wind: as the haughty Essex turned on his heel from the blow of his
termagant mistress queen, so did the _Eos_ turn her back to the
insulting blast, and flew rapidly before it.  Owing to the darkness of
the night, assisted by the weak voice of Mr Pond, whose orders could
not be very distinctly heard, perhaps a little to his lubberly manner of
working the ship, the bounding frigate was much longer before the wind
than necessary.  I was straining my sight near the cathead on one side,
and the captain of the forecastle on the other, but we could discover
nothing in the nearly palpable obscure.

On she dashed, and our anxious eyes saw nothing, whilst our minds feared
greatly;--she is at her utmost speed.  In her reckless course she seems
sufficiently powerful to break up the steadfast rock, or tear the shoal
from its roots at the bottom of the ocean.  On she rushes!  I think I
hear faintly the merchant cry of "Yeo-yo--yeo!" but the roar of the
vexed waters beneath our bows, and the eternal singing of the winds
through the frost-stiffened shrouds, prevent my being certain of the
fact.  But I tremble excessively--when, behold, a huge, long black mass
is lying lazily before us, and so close that we can almost touch it!

"Hard a-port," I roared out at the top of my voice.

"Hard a-starboard," sang out the captain of the forecastle, equally
loudly.

Vain, vain were the contradictory orders.  The frigate seemed to leap at
the object before her as at a prey; and dire was the crash that ensued.
As we may suppose the wrathful lioness springs upon the buffalo, and,
meeting more resistance from its horny bulk than she had suspected,
recoils and makes another spring, so did the _Eos_ strike, rebound, then
strike again.  I felt two distinct percussions.

The second stroke divided the obstacle.  The _Eos_ passed through it or
over it, and the eye looked in vain for the vast West Indiaman, the
bearer of wealth, and gay hopes, and youth, and infancy, manly strength,
and female beauty.  There was a smothered feminine shriek, hushed by the
whirlpool of down-absorbing waves, almost as soon as made.  It was not
loud, but it was fearfully distinct, and painfully human.  One poor
wretch only was saved, to tell her name and speak of the perished.

As usual, they had kept but a bad look-out.  Her officers and her
passengers were making merry in the cabin--the wine-cup was at their
lips, and the song was floating joyously from the mouths of the fair
ones returning to the land of their nativity.  The blooming daughters,
the newly-married wife, and two matrons with their innocent ones beside
them, were all in the happiness of their hopes when the Destroyer was
upon them suddenly, truly like a strong man in the darkness of night;
and they were all hurled, in the midst of their uncensurable revelry, to
a deep grave over which no tombstone shall ever tell "of their
whereabout."

Our own jib-boom was snapped off short, and as quickly as is a twig in
frosty weather.  Supposing the ship had struck, every soul rushed on
deck.  They thanked God it was _only_ the drowning of some forty
fellow-creatures, and the destruction of a fine merchant-ship.  We
hauled the single poor fellow that was saved on board.  The
consternation among the officers was very great.  It blew too hard to
lower the boats: no effort was or could be made to rescue any chance
struggler not carried down in the vortex of the parted and sunken ship--
all was blank horror.

Besides the consternation and dismay natural to the appalling accident,
there was the fear of the underwriters, and of the owners, and of
damages, before the eyes of the captain.  I was sent for aft.

"I had not the charge of the deck," said Captain Reud, looking fiercely
at the first-lieutenant.  "_I_ am not responsible for this lubberly
calamity."

"I had not the charge of the watch or the deck either," said Mr Farmer,
in his turn, looking at small Mr Pond, who was looking aghast; "surely,
I cannot be held responsible."

"But you gave orders, sir--I heard you myself give the word to raise the
fore-tack--that looks very like taking charge of the deck--no, no, _I_
am not responsible."

"Not so fast, not so fast, Mr Pond.  I only assisted you for the good
of the service, and to save the foresail."

Mr Pond looked very blank indeed until he thought of the master, and
then he recovered a great portion of his usual vivacity.  Small men are
always vivacious.

"No, no, I am not responsible--I was only working the ship under the
directions of the master.  Read the night orders, Mr Farmer."

"The night orders be damned!" said the gruff old master.

"I will not have my night order damned," said Reud.  "You and the
officer of the watch must share the responsibility between you."

"No offence at all, sir, to you or the night orders either.  I am
heartily sorry I damned them--heartily; but, in the matter of wearing
this here ship precisely at that there time, I only acted under the
pilot, who has charge until we are securely anchored.  Sure_lye_, I
can't be 'sponsible."

"Well," said the pilot, "here's a knot of tangled rope-yarn--but that
yarn won't do for old Weatherbrace, for, d'ye see, I'm a Sea William
(civilian), and not in no ways under martial law--and I'm only aboard
this here craft as respects shoals and that like--I'm clearly not
'sponsible!--nothing to do in the 'varsal world with working
her--'sponsible pooh!--why did ye not keep a better look-out for'ard?"

"Why, Mr Rattlin, why?" said the captain, the first-lieutenant, the
lieutenant of the watch, and the master.

"I kept as good a one as I could--the lanterns were over the bows."

"You may depend upon it," said the captain, "that the matter will not be
permitted to rest as it is.  The owners and underwriters will demand a
court of inquiry.  Mr Rattlin had charge of the forecastle at the time.
Mr Rattlin, come here, sir.  You sang out, just before this calamity
happened, to port the helm."

"I did, sir."

"Quarter-master," continued Reud, "did you port the helm?  Now, mind
what you say; did you, sir? because if you _did not_; six dozen."

"We did, sir--hard a-port."

"And the ship immediately after struck?"

"Yes, sir."

"Pooh! the case is clear--we need not talk about it any longer.  A clear
case, Mr Farmer.  Mr Rattlin has charge of the forecastle--he descries
a vessel ahead--he takes upon himself to order the helm hard a-port, and
we run over and sink her accordingly.  He is responsible, clearly."

"Clearly," was the answering echo from all the rejectors of
responsibility.

"Mr Rattlin, I am sorry for you.  I once thought you a promising young
man; but, since your desertion at Aniana--we must not mince matters
now--you have become quite an altered character.  You seem to have lost
all zeal for the service.  Zeal for the service is a thing that ought
not to be lost; for a young gentleman without zeal for the service is a
young gentleman, surely--you understand me--who is not zealous in the
performance of his duty.  I think I have made myself tolerably clear.
Do you think, sir, I should hold now the responsible commission I do
hold under his Majesty, if I had been without zeal for the service?  I
am sorry that I have a painful duty to perform.  I must place you under
an arrest, till I know what may be the port admiral's pleasure
concerning this unpleasant business; for--for the loss of the _Mary
Anne_ of London you are clearly responsible."

"Clearly" (_omnes rursus_).

"Had you sung out hard a-starboard, instead of hard a-port, the case
might have been different."

"Clearly."

"Go down below to your berth, and consider yourself a prisoner.  The
young gentlemen in his Majesty's service are not permitted to run down
West Indiamen with impunity."

"Clearly."

In these kind of capstan-head court-martials, at which captains will
sometimes administer reefers' law, "Woe to the weakest!"  A defence was
quite a work of superfluity; so, consoling myself with the vast
responsibility with which, all at once, I found myself invested, I went
and turned in, anathematising every created thing above an inch high and
a foot below the same dimensions.  However, in a very sound sleep I soon
forgot everything--even the horrible scene I had just witnessed.



CHAPTER FIFTY EIGHT.

DISTRESSING DISCLOSURES, AND SOME VERY PRETTY SYMPTOMS OF BROTHERLY
LOVE--WITH MUCH EXCELLENT INDIGNATION UTTERLY THROWN AWAY--JOSHUA
DAUNTON EITHER A VERY GREAT MAN OR A VERY GREAT ROGUE--PERHAPS BOTH, AS
THE TERMS ARE OFTEN SYNONYMOUS.

I hope the reader has not forgotten Joshua Daunton, for I did not.
Having a very especial regard to the health of his body, he took care to
keep himself ill.  The seventy-one lashes due to him he would most
generously have remitted altogether.  His eagerness to cancel the debt
was only equal to Captain Reud's eagerness to pay, and to that of his
six midshipmen masters to see it paid.  Old Pigtop was positively devout
in this wish; for, after the gash had healed, it left a very singular
scar, that traversed his lip obliquely, and gave a most ludicrous
expression to a face that was before remarkably ill-favoured.  One side
of his visage seemed to have a continual ghastly smirk, like what you
might suppose to decorate the countenance of a half-drunken Succubus;
the other, a continual whimper, that reminded you of a lately-whipped
baboon.

I concluded that Daunton was really ill, for he kept to his hammock in
the sick-bay; and Dr Thompson was much too clever, and too old a
man-of-war's man, to be deceived by a simulated sickness.

The day _after_, when I was enjoying my arrest in the dignified idleness
of a snooze in a pea-jacket, on one of the lockers, the loblolly-boy
came to me, saying that Daunton was much worse, and that he humbly and
earnestly requested to see me.  I went, though with much reluctance.  He
appeared to be dreadfully ill, yet an ambiguous smile lighted up his
countenance when he saw me moodily standing near him.

He was seated on one corner of the bench in the bay, apparently under
the influence of ague, for he trembled excessively, and he was well
wrapped up in blankets.  Altogether, notwithstanding the regularity of
his features, he was a revolting spectacle.  The following curious
dialogue ensued:

"Daunton, I am ready to hear you."

"Thank you, Ralph."

"Fellow! you may have heard that I am a prisoner--in disgrace--but not
in dishonour; but know, scoundrel, that if I were to swing the next
minute at the yardarm, I would not tolerate or answer to such
familiarity.  Speak respectfully, or I leave you."

"Mr Rattlin, pray do not speak so loudly, or the other invalids will
hear us."

"Hear us, sirrah! they may, and welcome.  Scoundrel! can _we_ have any
secrets?"

The fiery hate that flashed from the eye of venomous impotence played
upon me, at the very moment that the tone of his voice became more
bland, and his deportment more submissive.

"Mr Rattlin, your honour, will you condescend to hear me?  It is for
your own good, sir.  Pray be no longer angry.  I think I am dying; will
you forgive me?--will you shake hands with me?"  And he extended to me
his thin and delicate hand.

"Oh, no, no!"  I exclaimed, accompanying my sneer with all the scorn
that I could put in my countenance.  "Such things as you don't die--
reptiles are tenacious of life.  For the malicious and ape-like
mischiefs that you have done to me and to my messmates--though in
positive guilt I hold them to be worse than actual felony--I forgive
you--but, interchange the token of friendship with such as you--never!"

"Ralph Rattlin, I know you!"

"Insolent rascal! know yourself; dare to send for me no more.  I leave
you."

I turned upon my heel, and was about leaving this floating hospital,
when again that familiar tone of the voice that had struck the inmost
chord of my heart in his shrieking appeal at the gangway, arrested me,
and the astounding words which he uttered quickly brought me to his
side.  In that strange tone, that seemed to have been born with my
existence, he exclaimed, distinctly, yet not loudly, "Brother Ralph,
listen to me!"

"Liar, cheat, swindler!"  I hissed forth in an impassioned whisper,
close to his inclined ear, "my heart disowns you--my soul abhors you--my
gorge rises at you.  I abominate--I loathe you--most contemptible, yet
most ineffable liar!"

"Oh, brother!" and a hectic flush came over his chalky countenance,
whilst a sardonic smile played over his features.  "You can speak low
enough now.  'Tis a pity that primogeniture is so little regarded in his
Majesty's vessels of war; but methinks that you are but little dutiful,
seeing that I am some ten years your senior, and that I do not scorn to
own _you_, though you are the son of my father's paramour."

The horrible words shot ice into my heart.  I could no longer retain my
stooping position over him, but, feeling faint and very sick, I sat down
involuntarily beside him.  But the agony of apprehension was but for a
moment.  A mirth, stern and wild, brought its relief to my paralysed
bosom, and, laughing loudly, I jumped up and exclaimed, "Josh, you
little vagabond, come, carry me a-pick-a-back--son of a respectable
pawnbroker of Whitechapel--how many paramours was the worthy old
gentleman in the habit of keeping?  Respectable scion of such
respectable parent, who finished his studies by a little tramping, a
little thieving, a little swindling, a little forging--I heartily thank
you for the amusement you have afforded me."

"Oh, my good brother, deceive not yourself!  I repeat that I have
tramped, thieved, swindled, ay, and forged.  And to whom do I owe all
this ignominy?  To you--to you--to you.  Yet I do not hate you very,
very much.  You showed some fraternal feeling when they seared my back
with the indelible scar of disgrace.  I have lied to you, but it suited
my purpose!"

"And I have given you the confidence due to a liar."

"What! still incredulous, brother of mine!  Do you know these--and
these?"

The handwriting was singular, and very elegant.  I knew the letters at
once.  They were the somewhat affected amatory effusions of that superb
woman, Mrs Causand, whom I have described in the early part of this
life.  They spoke of Ralph,--of Ralph Rattlin--and described, with
tolerable accuracy, my singular birth at the Crown Inn, at Reading.

There were three letters.  The two first that I read contained merely
passionate protestations of affection; the third, that had reference to
myself, spoke darkly.  After much that is usual in the ardent style of
unhallowed love, it went on, as nearly as I can recollect, in these
words--"I have suffered greatly--suffered with you, and for you.  The
child is, however, now safe, and well provided for.  It is placed with a
decent woman of the name of Brandon, Rose Brandon.  A discovery now is
impossible.  We have managed the thing admirably.  The child is fair,"
etcetera, etcetera.

In the midst of my agitation I remarked that the writer did not speak of
the infant as "my child," nor with the affection of a mother--and yet,
without a great stretch of credulity, the inference seemed plain that
she was the parent of it, though not a fond one.

"Mysterious man! who are you, and who am I?"

"Your disgraced, your discarded, yet your legitimate brother.  More it
suits me not now that you should know.  I am weak in frame, but I am
steel in purpose.  You, you have been the bane of my life.  Since your
clandestine birth, our father loved me no more.  I will have my broad
acres back--I will--they are mine--and you only stand between me and
them."

"Desperate and degraded man!--I believe, even after this pretended
confession, that you are an impostor to me, as much as you are to the
rest of the world.  I now understand some things that were before dark
to me.  My life seems to stand in your way--and your cowardice only
prevents you from taking it.  You tell me you are a forger--these
letters are forgeries.  Mrs Causand is not my mother, nor are you my
brother.  Pray, where did you get them?"

"I stole them from our father's escritoir."

"Amiable son!  But I weary myself no more with your tissue of
falsehoods.  To-morrow we shall cast anchor.  I will leave the service,
and devote the rest of my life to the discovery of origin.  I will learn
your real name, I will trace out your crimes--and the hands of justice
shall at once terminate my doubts, and your life of infamy--we are
enemies to the death!"

"A fair challenge, and fairly spoken.  I accept it, from all my soul.
You refused my hand in brotherly love; for, by the grey hairs of our
common parent, in brotherly love it was offered to you--will you now
take it as a pledge of a burning, a never-dying, enmity between us?  It
is at present emaciated and withered--it has been seized up at your
detested gangway--it has been held up at the bar of justice; but it will
gain strength, my brother--there, take it, sir--and despise it not."

I shuddered as I received the pledge of hate; and his grasp, though I
was in the plenitude of youthful vigour, was stronger than my own.

This dreadful conference had been carried on principally in whispers;
but owing to several bursts of emotion on my part, enough had transpired
among those present to give them to understand that I had been claimed
as a brother, and that I had very hard-heartedly rejected the claim.

After we had passed our mutual defiance, there was silence between us
for several minutes; he coiling himself up like an adder in his corner,
and I pacing the deck, my bosom swelling with contending emotions.  "If
he should really be my brother," thought I.  The idea was horrible to
me.  I again paused in my walk, and looked upon him steadfastly; but I
found no sympathy with him.  His style of thin and pallid beauty was
hateful to me--there was no expression in his countenance upon which I
could bang the remotest feeling of love.  He bore my scrutiny, in his
weakness, proudly.

"Daunton," said I, at length, "you have failed: in endeavouring to make
a tool, you have created an enemy and an avenger of the outraged laws.
I shall be in London in the course of eight-and-forty hours--you cannot
escape me--if it cost me a hundred pounds, I will loose the bloodhounds
of justice after you--you shall be made, in chains, to give up your
hateful secret.  I am no longer a boy; nor you, nor the lawyer that
administers my affairs, shall longer make a plaything of me.  I will
know who I am.  Thank God, I can always ask Mrs Cherfeuil."

At that name, a smile, no longer bitter, but deeply melancholy, and
almost sweet, came over his effeminate features.  But it lasted not
long.  That smile, like a few tones of his voice, seemed so familiar to
me.  Was I one of two existences, the consciousness of the one nearly,
but not quite, blotting out the other?  I looked upon him again, and the
smile was gone; but a look of grief, solemn and heartrending, had
supplied its place--and then the big and involuntary tear stood in his
eye.  I know not whether it fell, for he held down his arm to the
concealment of his face, and spoke not.

Had the wretch a heart, after all?

As I turned to depart he lifted up his face, and all that was amiable in
its expression had fled.  With a calm sneer he said, "May I trouble you,
Mr Rattlin, for those letters which I handed over to you for your
perusal?"

"I shall keep them."

"Is your code of equity as low as mine?  They are my property; I paid
dearly enough for them.  And what says your code of honour to such
conduct?"

"There, take your detested forgeries!  We shall meet in London."

"Mr Rattlin forgets that he is a prisoner."

"Absurd!  The charge cannot be sustained for a moment."

"Be it so.  Peradventure, I shall be in London before you."



CHAPTER FIFTY NINE.

LISTENERS SELDOM HEAR GOOD THINGS OF THEMSELVES--RALPH AT A DREADFUL
DISCOUNT WITH HIS MESSMATES, BUT CONTRIVES TO SETTLE HIS ACCOUNTS WITH
HIS PRINCIPAL DEBTOR.

I left him, with a strong foreboding that he would work me some direful
mischief.

For the long day I sat, with my head buried in my hands on the sordid
table of our berth.  I ate not, I spoke not.  The ribaldry of my coarse
associates moved me not; their boisterous and vulgar mirth aroused me
not.  They thought me, owing to my arrest, and my anticipations of its
consequences, torpid with fear.  They were deceived.  I was never more
alive.  My existence was--if I may so speak--glowing and fiery hot; my
sense of being was intense with various misery.

Towards evening, another piece of intelligence reached me, that alarmed
and astounded me.  Since the laying on of the one lash on the back of
Joshua Daunton, our old servant had descended from the mizzen-top, again
to wait upon us.  He was, in his way, an insatiate news-gatherer; but he
was as liberal in dispensing it as he was eager in acquiring it.

The midshipmen were drinking, out of the still unbroken cups and two or
three tin pannikins, their grog at eight o'clock in the evening, when
our unshod and dirty attendant spoke thus:

"Oh, Mr Pigtop!--such news!--such strange news!  You'll be so very
sorry to hear it, sir, and so will all the young gentlemen."

"What, has the ship tumbled overboard, or the pig-ballast mutinied for
arrears of pay?"

"Oh, sir, ten thousand times worse than that!  That thief of the world,
sir, Joshua Daunton, is not to have his six dozen, after all, though he
did corrupt all the midshipmen's clothes, sir.  Dr Thompson has taken
him into his own cabin, and nothing is now too good for him."

"But hanging," said the indignant and scarred master's mate.  "If he's
not flogged, I'll have the life out of him yet, though he should turn
out to be the only son of Lord Dunknow-Who."  Pigtop was a wit, in a
small midshipman-like way.  "He's turned out to be some great man they
say, however--in clog or so, I think they call it; though, for my part,
I remembers him in irons well enough not more than a fortnight aback--
and he's had a taste of the girl with nine tails, however--that's one
comfort, to me, whatever he may turn out."

The vulgar have strange sources from which to derive comfort.

"But are you sure of all this, Bill?" said Mr Staines.  "Because, if he
should turn out to be somebody, I'll make him pay me for my traps;
that's as certain now as that he'll be sent to Old Davy."

"Certain sure.  He showed the doctor papers enough to set up a lawyer's
shop.  But that's not the best of it--hum--ha!  Do you think, Mr
Pigtop, that Mr Rattlin's caulking?"  (i.e., asleep).

"He has not moved these three hours.  I owe Rattlin one for bringing
this blackguard on board.  There may be something in this, after all.
He claimed Rattlin as his brother at the gangway, or something of the
sort.  Now, that makes me comfortable.  It will take our proud messmate
down a peg or two, I'm calculating--with his smooth face, and his little
bits of Latin and Greek, and his parleyvooing.  Oh, oh! but it's as good
as a bottle of rum to me.  With all his dollars, and his bills, and his
airs, I never had a brother seized up at the gangway.  And the captain
and the officers once made such a fuss about him!  Damn his smooth
face!--I've a great mind to wake him, and hit him a wipe across the
chaps.  He knocked me down with the davit-block, for twitting him about
that girl of his, that was drowned swimming after him.  I'll have
satisfaction for that.  The captain ordered me to leave the ship for
being knocked down.  Well--we shall see who'll be ordered to leave the
ship now.  I never caused a girl's death by desarting her.  Upon my
soul, I've a great mind to rouse him, and hit him a slap of the chaps.
I hate smooth faces."

"Well," said Staines, "you may depend upon it Rattlin _is_ asleep, or he
would have wopped you, Pigtop, for your compliments."

"He!  I should very much like to see it--the spooney."

"If Mr Rattlin is caulking," said our _valet-de-chambre_, "there can't
be no harm done whatsomever.  But they do say, in the sick-bay, as how
Mr Rattlin isn't himself, but that Joshua Daunton is he, and that he is
nobody at all whatsomever; though Gibbons says, and he's a cute one,
that if Mr Rattlin is not Mr Rattlin, seeing as how Joshua Daunton is
Mr Rattlin, Mr Rattlin must be somebody else--and as a secret, he told
me, as like as not, he must be Joshua Daunton."

"Well, here's comfort again.  If Mr Rattlin--_Mr_ indeed!--turns out
to be a swindler, as I'm sure he will, it wouldn't be lawful, nor right,
nor proper in me to pay him the money I owe him," said the conscientious
Mr Pigtop.  "Damn his smooth face!--I should like to have the spoiling
of it."

Here was important information for me to ruminate upon.  I was
determined to remain still as long as I could gain any intelligence.
But the conversation--if conversation we must term the gibberish of my
associates--having taken another turn, I slowly lifted up my smooth
face, and, confronting Mr Pigtop's rough one, I said to him, very
coolly, "Mr Pigtop, I am going to do what you would very much like to
see--I am going to wop you."

"Wop me!--no, no, it's not come to that yet.  I have heard something--
I've a character to support--I must not demean myself."

"There is my smooth face, right before you--I dare you to strike it--you
dare not!  Then, thus, base rascal, I beat you to the earth!"  And
Pigtop toppled down.

Now, all this was very wrong on my part, and very imprudent; for I must
confess that he had before beaten me in a regular fistic encounter.  But
it was really a great relief to me.  I longed for some vent to my angry
and exasperated feelings.  We were soon out in the steerage.  Oh! the
wolfishness of human nature!  That low and brutal fight was a great
luxury to me.  Positively, at the time I did not feel his blows.  At
every murderous lunge that I made at him, I shouted, "Take that
Daunton;" or, "Was that well planted, brother?"

Had we fought either with sword or pistol, the enjoyment would have been
infinitely less to me.  There was a stern rapture in pounding him
beneath me--in dashing my hands in his blood--in disfiguring his face
piecemeal.  In our evil passions we are sad brutes.  Pigtop had the
pluck natural to Englishmen--he would rather not have fought just then;
but, having once begun, he seemed resolved to see it out manfully.  The
consequence was--to use a common and expressive phrase--I beat him to
within an inch of his life, and then cried with vexation, because he
could no longer stand up to be beaten out of the little that my fury had
left him.

When the fray was over, my sturdy opponent had no reason to be envious
of my smooth face.

Rather inflamed than satiated with the result of my encounter, whilst my
opponent turned into his hammock, and there lay moaning, I, with both my
eyes dreadfully blackened, and my countenance puffed up, threw myself
upon the lockers, and there sleeplessly passed the whole night,
devouring my own heart.  If, for a moment, I happened to doze, I was
tearing, in my imagination, Joshua Daunton piecemeal, hurling him down
precipices, or crushing him beneath the jagged fragments of stupendous
rocks.  It was a night of agony.



CHAPTER SIXTY.

SOFT TACK, ONE OF THE BEST TACKS, AFTER ALL--THAT LEGS OF MUTTON
SOMETIMES PRODUCE FRIENDSHIPS OF LONG STANDING COMPLETELY PROVED, AS
WELL AS THE VALUE OF GOOD GRAIN BEST ASCERTAINED AFTER IT HAS BEEN WELL
THRASHED.

The next day we anchored in the Downs.  Weak, stiff, and ill, I surveyed
myself in my dressing-glass.  My battered features presented a hideous
spectacle.  But I cared not.  I was a prisoner--I should have no
occasion to emerge from the gloom of the steerage.  This was truly a
happy return to my native shores.

But I was not altogether left without commiseration--not altogether
without sympathy.  Both Dr Thompson and the purser looked in to see me.
The doctor, especially, seemed to feel deeply for my situation.  He
told me that he had heard a strange story; but that, as yet, he was not
at liberty to mention any particulars.  He assured me that he had
entirely acquitted me of any participation in a series of base
deceptions that had been practised upon an ancient, a distinguished, and
wealthy family.  He bade me hope for the best, and always consider him
as my friend.  The purser spoke to the same effect.  I told them that my
conviction was that it was they, and not I, who were the victims of
deception.  I stated that I had never pretended to rank or parentage of
any sort; I acknowledged that everything connected with my family was a
perfect mystery; but I asked them how they could place any faith in the
assertions of a man who was in a mean capacity when I met with him--who
had confessed to me a multiplicity of villainies--and who had
corroborated the truth of his own confessions by his uniformly wicked
conduct whilst on board.

To all this they both smiled very sapiently, and told me they had their
reasons.

"Well," said I, "you are wise, and, compared to me, old men.  You cannot
think this Daunton a moral character--you cannot think him honest.
Still, telling me you are my friends, you champion him against me.  And
yet I know not how or in what manner.  If he should prove my brother,
the world is wide enough for us both; let him keep out of my way, if he
can.  Depend upon it, doctor, he is acting upon an afterthought.  He has
been forced into a desperate course.  You marked his abject cowardice at
the gangway.  During the many hours that he was in irons, before that
punishment he so much dreaded was inflicted, why did he not then send
for you, and, to save himself, make to you these important disclosures?
Merely because he did not think of it.  By heavens--a light rushes on
me--he is a housebreaker!--he has committed some burglary, and stolen
papers relating to me; and no doubt he has followed me, first, with the
intention of selling to me the purloined secret at some unconscionable
price, and he has since thought fit to change his plan for something
more considerable, more wicked."

"My poor boy," said the doctor, kindly, "you are under a delusion.  Let
me change the subject, and puncture you with my lancet under the eyes--
they are dreadfully contused.  Well, Rattlin, we are to go to Sheerness
directly, and be paid off.  You may depend upon it, the captain will
think better about this arrest of yours, particularly as the two men at
the wheel positively contradict the quarter-master, and affirm that the
helm was put hard a-starboard, and not hard a-port.  It appears to us
that it was of little consequence, when the ship was first discovered,
how the helm was put.  The fault was evidently on the part of those who
so awfully suffered for it.  By-the-by, there has been a change among
the lords of the Admiralty--there are two new junior ones."

"Begging your pardon, doctor, what the devil is a change among the
junior lords of the Admiralty to a half-starved, imprisoned,
blackened-eyed, ragged reefer?"

Much more than I was aware of.

"Now," said I to the purser, "if you wish to do me a real kindness,
change me some of my Spanish for English money, and let the first
bumboat that comes alongside be ready to go ashore in ballast, for I
shall certainly clear it."

My request was immediately complied with; and my friends, for the
present, took their leave.

Those blessed bearers of the good things of this life, the bum-boats,
were not yet permitted alongside.  Every five minutes, I sent master
Bill up to see.  Great are the miseries of a midshipman's berth, when
the crockery is all broken, and the grog all drunk, and the salt junk
all eaten.  But great, exceedingly great, are the pleasures of the same
berth, when, after a long cruise, on coming into port, the first boat of
soft tack is on the table, the first leg of mutton is in the boiler, and
the first pound of fresh butter is before the watering mouths of the
expectants.  Aldermen of London, you feed much--epicures of the
West-end, you feed delicately; but neither of you know what real
luxuries are.  Go to sea for six months upon midshipman allowance, eked
out by midshipmen's improvidence: and, on your return, the greasy
bumboat, first beating against the ship's sides, will afford you a
practical lesson upon the art of papillary enjoyment.

It is, I must confess, very unromantic, and not at all like the hero of
three volumes, to confess that, for a time, my impulses of anger had
given way to the gnawings of hunger; and I thought, for a time, less of
Joshua Daunton than of the first succulent cut into a leg of Southdown
mutton.

The blessed _avatar_ at length took place.  The bumboat and the frigate
lovingly rubbed sides, and, like an angel descending from heaven, I saw
Bill coming down the after-hatchway, his face radiant with the glory of
expectant repletion, a leg of mutton in each hand, two quartern-loaves
under each arm, and between each pair of loaves was jammed a pound of
fresh butter.  I had the legs of mutton in the berth, and laid on the
table, that I might contemplate them, whilst I sent my messenger up for
as many bottles of porter as I could buy.  But I was not permitted to
enjoy the divine contemplation all to myself.  My five messmates came to
partake of this access of happiness.  As the legs of mutton lay on the
table, how devoutly we ogled their delicate fat, and speculated upon the
rich and gravy-charged lean!  We apostrophised them--we patted them
endearingly with our hands--and, when Bill again made his appearance
laden with sundry bottles of porter, our ecstasy was running at the rate
of fourteen knots an hour.

My messmates settled themselves on the lockers, smiling amiably.  How
sorry they were that my eyes were so blackened, and my face so swollen!
With what urbanity they smiled upon me!  I was of the right sort--the
good fellow,--damn him who would hurt a hair of my head.  They were all
ready to go a step further than purgatory for me.

"Gentlemen," said I, making a semicircular barricade round me of my four
quartern-loaves, my two pounds of fresh butter, and eleven of my bottles
of porter, for I was just about to knock the head off the
twelfth (who, under such circumstances, could have waited for
corkscrews?)--"gentlemen," said I, "get your knives ready, we will have
lunch."  Shylock never flourished his more eagerly than did my
companions theirs, each eyeing a loaf.

"Gentlemen, we will have lunch--but, as I don't think that lately you
have used me quite well (countenances all round serious), and as I have,
as you all well know, laid out much money, with little thanks, upon this
mess (faces quite dejected), permit me to remind you that there is still
some biscuit in the bread-bag, and that this before me is private
property."

The lower jaws of my messmates dropped, as if conscious that there would
be no occupation for them.  I cut a fine slice off the new bread, spread
it thickly with the butter, tossed over a foaming mug of porter, and,
eating the first mouthful of the delicious preparation, with a
superfluity of emphatic smacks, I burst into laughter at the woebegone
looks around me.

"What," said I, "could you think so meanly of me?  You have treated me
according to your natures, I treat you according to mine.  Fall-to,
dogs, and devour!--peck up the crumbs, scarecrows, as the Creole calls
you, and be filled.  But, pause and be just, even to your own appetites.
Notwithstanding our lunch, let us dine.  Let us divide the four loaves
into eight equal portions.  There are six of us here, and Bill must have
his share.  We will have more for our dinner, when the legs of mutton
make their appearance."

We drank each of us a bottle of porter, and finished our half-quartern
loaves with wonderful alacrity, Bill keeping us gladsome company.  My
messmates then left the berth, pronouncing me a good fellow.  The eighth
portion of soft tommy and butter, with a bottle of porter, I made the
servant leave on the table; and then sent him again to the bumboat, to
procure other necessaries, to make the accompaniments to our mutton
perfect.

In the meantime, Pigtop, who lay in his hammock, directly across the
window of our berth, had been a tantalised observer of all that had
passed.  I crouched myself up in one corner of the hole, and was
gradually falling into disagreeable ruminations, when Mr Pigtop crept
out of his hammock and into the berth, and sat himself down as far from
me as possible.

"Rattlin," said he, at length, dolefully, "you have beaten me
dreadfully."

"It was your own seeking--I am sorry for your sufferings."

"Well--I thank ye for that same--I don't mean the beating--you know that
I stood up to you like a man.  Is there malice between us?"

"On my part, none.  Why did you provoke me?"

"I was wrong--infarnally wrong--and, may be, I would have owned it
before--but for your quick temper, and that hard punch in the chaps.  I
have had the worst of it.  It goes to my heart, Rattlin, that I, an old
sailor, and a man nearly forty, should be knocked about by a mere boy--
it is not decent--it is not becoming--it is not natural--I shall never
get over it.  I wish I could undo the done things of yesterday."

"And so do I, heartily--fervently."

"Well--that is kindly said--and I old enough to be your father--and
twenty-five years at sea--beaten to a standstill.  Sorry I ever entered
the cursed ship."

How much of all this, thought I, is genuine feeling, how much genuine
appetite?  I was sorry for the poor fellow, however.

"Rattlin, owing to one crooked thing and another, we have lately fared
miserably.  The ship has been a hell upon the waters.  I am faint for
the want of something to support me.  Is that prog and that bottle of
porter private property?"

"They are my property.  I do not offer them to you, because I would not
that you thought that I was aping magnanimity.  For the respect that I
shall always owe to an old sailor, I say to you frankly, that, if your
feelings are sufficiently amicable towards me to take it, take it, and
with it a welcome and a wish that it may do you much good--but, if your
blood is still evil towards me, for the sake of your own integrity you
would reject it, though you starved."

"Rattlin, I break bread with you as a friend.  I am confoundedly sorry
that I have been prejudiced against you--and there's my hand upon it."

I shook hands with him heartily, and said: "Pigtop, I cannot regret that
I did my best to repel your insult, but I sincerely regret its
consequences.  Henceforward, you shall insult me twice, before I lift my
hand against you once."

"I will never insult you again.  I will be your fast friend, and perhaps
I may have the means of proving it."

It now became my turn to be astonished.  Instead of seeing the hungry
oldster fall-to, like a ravenous dog, he broke off a small corner from
the bread, ate it, and was in the act of retiring, when I hailed him.

"Halloa!--Pigtop--what's in the wind now?  My friend, you do but little
honour to my cheer, and I am sure that you must want it."

"No, no," said Pigtop, with much feeling--"you shall never suppose that
the old sailor sold the birthright of his honour for a mess of pottage."

"Well felt and well said, by all that's upright!  But, nevertheless, you
shall drink this bottle of porter, and eat this bread and butter--and so
I'll e'en cut it up into very excellent rounds.  You sha'n't accept my
friendship without accepting my fare.  I like your spirit so well,
Pigtop, that for your sake I will never judge of a man again, until I
have thrashed him soundly."

To the surprise of my messmates, when they assembled punctually to the
feast of mutton, they discovered me and old Pigtop, hand in hand across
the table, discussing another bottle of porter.



CHAPTER SIXTY ONE.

RALPH IS PLACED IN AN AWKWARD PREDICAMENT BEING PUT UPON HIS TRIAL TO
PROVE HIS IDENTITY, AND HAVING NO WITNESSES TO CALL BUT HIMSELF--ALL
VOICES AGAINST HIM BUT HIS OWN.

At this period, every day, nay, almost every hour, seemed to bring its
startling event.  Ere good digestion had followed our very good
appetites, bustle and agitation pervaded the whole ship.  It had been
telegraphed from on shore that one of the junior lords of the Admiralty
was coming on board immediately.  There was blank dismay in our berth.
How could my mess-mates possibly go on the quarter-deck, and assist to
receive the dignified personage?  Much did I enjoy the immunity that, I
supposed, being a prisoner gave to me.

The portentous message came down that "the young gentlemen, in full
uniform, are expected to be on the quarter-deck to receive the lord of
the Admiralty."  All the consolation that I could give was quoting to
them the speech of Lady Macbeth to her guests--"Go, nor stand upon the
order of your going."  The firing of the salute from the main-deck guns
announced the approach, and the clanking of the muskets of the marines
on the deck, after they had presented arms, the arrival of the lord
plainly to me, in my darksome habitation.  Ten minutes had not elapsed,
during which I was hugging myself with the thought that all this pomp
and circumstance could not annoy me, when, breathless with haste, there
rushed one, two, three, four messengers, each treading on the heels of
the other, telling me the lord of the Admiralty wished to see me
immediately in the captain's cabin.

"Me! see me!  What, in the name of all that is disastrous, can he want
with me?"  I would come when I had made a little alteration in my dress.
Trusting that he was as impatient as all great men usually are when
dealing with little ones, I hoped by dilatoriness to weary him out, and
thus remain unseen.  Vain speculation!  A minute had scarcely elapsed,
when one of the lieutenants came down, in a half-friendly,
half-imperative manner, to acquaint me that I _must_ come up
immediately.

The scene that ensued--how can I sufficiently describe it?  Had I not
been sustained by the impudence of desperation, I should have jumped
overboard directly I had got on deck.  I found myself, not well knowing
by what kind of locomotion I got there, in the fore-cabin, where was
spread a very handsome collation, round which were assembled some
fifteen officers, all in their full-dress uniforms, in the midst of
which a feeble, delicate-looking, and excessively neatly dressed old
gentleman stood, in plain clothes.  His years must have been far beyond
seventy.  He was fidgety, indeed, to that degree that would induce you
to think that he was a little palsied.

I cannot answer for the silent operations that take place in other men's
minds, but in my own, even under the greatest misfortunes a droll
conceit will more rally my crushed spirits than all the moral
consolations that Blair ever penned.

"If this be the _junior_ lord of the Admiralty," thought I, "how
venerably patriarchal must be his four seniors!"  I smiled at the idea
as I bowed.

Let us describe the person that smiled and bowed to this august
assembly.

Figure to yourself a tall youth, attired in a blue cotton jacket, with
the uniform button, a once white kerseymere waistcoat, and duck
trousers, on which were mapped, in cloudy colours--produced by stains of
black-strap, peasoup, and the other etceteras that may be found in that
receptacle of abominations, an ill-regulated midshipman's berth--more
oceans, seas, bays, and promontories, than nature ever gave to this
unhappy globe.  Beneath these were discovered a pair of dark blue
worsted stockings, terminated by a pair of purser's shoes--things of a
hybrid breed, between a pair of cast-off slippers and the ploughman's
clodhoppers, fitting as well as the former, and nearly as heavy as the
latter.  Now, this costume, in the depth of winter, was sufficiently
light and _bizarre_; but the manner in which I had contrived to decorate
my countenance soon riveted all attention to that specimen of the "human
face divine," marred by the hand of man.  Thanks to the expertness of
Mr Pigtop, my eyes were singularly well blackened, and the swelling of
my face, particularly about the upper lip, had not yet subsided.  Owing
to my remaining so much, since my arrest, in the obscurity of the
between-decks, and perhaps to some inflammation in my eyes, from my
recent beating, I blinked upon those before me like an owl.

"As-ton-ish-ing!" said my Lord Whiffledale.  "Is that Mr Ralph
Rattlin?"

"The same, my lord," said Captain Reud.  "Shall I introduce him to your
lordship?"

"By no manner of means--yet--for his father's sake--really--
ridiculous!--Henry, the fifth baron of Whiffledale--ah! black eyes,
filthy costume, very particularly filthy, upon my honour.  How is this,
Captain Reud?  Of course, my present visit is not official, but merely
to satisfy my curiosity as a gentleman; how is it that your
first-lieutenant permits the young gentlemen to so far disgrace--I must
use the word--the service--as you see--in--in my young friend, there,
with the worsted stockings, and swelled lip, and--black eyes--"

When I first made my appearance, all the captains then and there
collected, had looked upon me with anything but flattering regards; some
turned up their noses, some grinned, all appeared astonished, and all
disgusted.  At the conclusion of this speech, I was surprised at the
benignity which beamed upon me from under their variously shaped and
coloured eyebrows.  There was magic in the words "for his father's
sake," and "my young friend."

Captain Reud replied, "It is not, my lord, so much the fault of Mr
Rattlin as it would, at the first blush, appear to be.  He himself
pressed a wicked, mischievous young blackguard, who was appointed the
young gentleman's servant.  Incredible as the fact may appear, my lord,
he contrived, in a manner that Dr Thompson can best explain to you, to
destroy all the clothes of his young master merely in the wantonness of
his malice.  I know that Mr Rattlin is well provided with money, and
that he will take the first opportunity again to assume the garb of a
gentleman; and I do assure your lordship that no man becomes it better."

"Sir, if this youth be Mr Rattlin--I believe it--the very oldest blood
in the country flows in his veins--but it does seem a kind of species of
miracle how a scion of that noble house should stand before me, his
father's friend, with two black eyes and a ragged jacket--there may be
some mistake, after all.  I was going, Mr Rattlin, to take you with me
to my hotel, having matters of the utmost importance to communicate to
you; but, oh no!--I am not fastidious, so we had better first have a
little private conference in the after--gentlemen, will you excuse
us?"--bowing round--"Captain Reud will perhaps do me the favour to be of
the party?"

So, into the after-cabin we three went, I burning with impatience, and
speechless with agitation, supposing that the much-coveted secret of my
parentage would be at length unfolded to me.

Lord Whiffledale and Captain Reud being seated with their backs to the
cabin-windows, and I standing before them with the light full upon my
disfigured face, I must have had a great deal more the look of a
battered blackguard, being tried for petty larceny, than a young
gentleman on the eve of being acknowledged the heir to greatness by a
very noble lord.

There was a pause for some minutes, during which Lord Whiffledale was
preparing to be imposing, and the light of mischief began to beam with
incipient insanity in Reud's eye.  "Certainly," I said to myself, "he
will not dare to practise one of his mad pranks upon a lord of the
Admiralty!"  What will not madness dare?

His lordship, having taken snuff very solemnly, and looked round him
with a calm circumspection, fixing his dull eye upon me, and wagging his
head, with an equable motion, slowly up and down, spoke as follows:--

"There is a Providence above us all.  It is seen, Mr Rattlin, in the
fall of a sparrow--it has protected our glorious institutions--it has
sanctified the pillars of the State.  Providence is, Mr Rattlin--do you
really know what Providence is?  I ask you the question advisedly--I
always speak advisedly--I ask you, do you know what Providence is?  Do
not speak; interruptions are unseemly--there are few who interrupt me.
Providence, young man, has brought me on board this frigate to-day--the
wind is north-easterly, what there is of it may increase my catarrh--
there is the hand of Providence in everything.  I promised my most
honourable friend that I would see you as you are--how equipped, how
lodged, how `cabined, cribbed, confined.'  Apt quotation!--you are
cabined--you are cribbed--you are confined--_cribbed_--look at your
countenance--as I said before, 'tis the hand of Providence--"

"Begging your lordship's pardon," said Reud, submissively, with the
dubious twinkle in his eye for interrupting a nobleman who is so seldom
interrupted--"I rather think that it was the fist of Pigtop."

"Pigtop!--Providence--my quotation.  Captain Reud, I have not really the
pleasure of understanding you.  This young gentleman who has been so
lately under the chastening hand of Providence--"

"Pigtop."

"Is now about to receive from that bountiful hand some of the choicest
gifts it is in the happiness of man to receive--rank, wealth, a father's
blessing.  Oh! 'tis too much--I am affected--what can I possibly do with
him with those black eyes?  Mr Ralph Rattlin, you have not yet spoken
to me--indeed, how can you?  What words would be sufficiently expressive
of--of--what you ought to express!  Captain Reud, don't you find this
scene rather affecting?  Young gentleman, I am here to verify you--are
you fully prepared, sir, to be, as it were, verified?"

"My lord, my lord, I am bursting with impatience!"

"Bursting with impatience!  The scene is affecting, certainly--
touching--complete, with the exception of the black eyes.  What would
not Miss Burney make of it in one of her admirable novels!  But you
might have made use of a better word than bursting--I am ready to
dissolve with emotion at this tender scene--the discovery of his
parentage to a tall, ingenuous youth--bursting--you might have used,
first, burning--secondly, glowing--thirdly, consuming--fourthly,
raging--fifthly, dying--sixthly, there is perishing; but I will not much
insist upon the last, though it is certainly better than bursting.  You
mean to say that you are burning, not bursting, with impatience--it is a
natural feeling, it is commendable, it is worthy of a son of your most
honourable father--I will faithfully report to him this filial
impatience, and how eager I was to remove it.  I do not say satisfy it--
a person less careful of the varieties of language would have said
satisfy--an impatience satisfied is what? a contradiction of terms; but
an impatience removed is--is--the removal of an impatience.  This
interview will grow very touching.  Those blackened eyes--I would that
there were a green shade over them.  Are you prepared to be verified?"

I bowed, fearing that any other expression of my wishes would lead to
further digression.  His lordship then, putting on his spectacles, and
reading from a paper, commenced thus, I, all the while, trembling with
agitation:

"Are you the person who was nursed by one Rose Brandon, the wife of
Joseph Brandon, by trade a sawyer?"

"I am."

"What name did you go by when under the care of those persons?"

"Ralph Rattlin Brandon."

"Right, very good.  I shall embrace him shortly--my heart yearns towards
him.  Were you removed to a school, by a gentleman in a plain carriage,
from those Brandons?"

"I was."

"To where?"

"To Mr Roots' academy."

"Right--a good boy, an amiable boy, he was removed to Mr Roots': and,
having there imbibed the rudiments of a classical education, you were
removed to where?"

"To a boarding-school kept by a French gentleman at Stickenham, where,
in his wife, I thought I had found a mother--"

"Stop, we are not come to that yet, that is too affecting--of that anon,
as somebody says in some play.  Have you, Captain Reud, a glass of water
ready, should this amiable youth or myself feel faint during this
exciting investigation?"

"Perfectly ready," said the Creole, decidedly in one of his insane fits;
for he immediately skipped behind his lordship, and, jumping upon the
locker, stood ready to invert a glass of water upon his nicely-powdered
head, containing at least three gallons, this glass being a large globe,
containing several curious fish, which swung, attached to a beam,
directly over my interrogator.

Here was a critical situation for me!  A mad captain about to blow the
gampus (i.e. souse) a lord of the Admiralty, that same lord, I firmly
believed, about to declare himself my father.  I was, in a manner,
spell-bound.  Afraid to interrupt the conference, I bethought me that my
Lord Whiffledale would be no less my father wet or dry, and so I
determined to let things take their course.  So I permitted his lordship
to go on with his questions, at every one of which Captain Reud, looking
more like a baboon than a human being, canted the globe more and more.

"All very satisfactory--all very satisfactory, indeed!  And now, Ralph,
on whom have you been in the habit of drawing for your allowance while
you were in the West Indies?"

"Mr ---, of King's Bench Walk, in the Temple."

"Perfectly correct--perfectly"--(still reading).

"Are you a well-grown youth for your age?"

"I am."

"Of an interesting physiognomy?"

Here the malicious madman grinned at me in the most laughable manner,
over the devoted head of the ancient lord.

"I hope you will think so, my lord, when I have recovered my usual
looks."

"Ugh--hum--ha--of dark brown hair, approaching to black?"

"With intensely black eyes."

"No."--"YES."  Mine was the negative, Captain Reud's the affirmative,
spoken simultaneously.

At this crisis his lordship had made a very proper and theatrical start.
Captain Reud grasped the glass with both hands; and the severe, bright
eye of Dr Thompson fell upon the prank-playing captain.  The effect was
instantaneous: he slunk away from his intended mischief; completely
subdued.  The fire left his eye, the grin his countenance; and he stood
beside his lordship in a moment, the quiet and gentlemanly post-captain,
deferentially polite in the presence of his superior.  I understood the
thing in a moment--it was the keeper and his patient.

"I am particularly sorry, my lord," said the doctor--"I am very
particularly sorry, Captain Reud, to break in upon you unannounced; the
fact is, I did knock several times but I suppose I was not heard.  This
letter, my lord, I hope will be a sufficient apology."

His lordship took the letter with a proud condescension.  Captain Reud
said, "Dr Thompson's presence is always acceptable to me."

Lord Whiffledale read this letter over three times distinctly; then,
from his usual white he turned a palish purple, then again became white.
In no other manner did he seem to lose his self-possession.

"Dr Thompson," said he, at length, very calmly, "let me see some of
these documents immediately."

"Anticipating the request, my lord, I have them with me."  The doctor
then placed in his hands several letters and papers.  At length, his
lordship exclaimed:

"I am confounded.  It is wholly beyond my comprehension--I know not how
to act.  It is excessively distressing.  I wish, on my soul, I had never
meddled in the business.  Can I see the young man?"

"Certainly, my lord; I will bring him to you immediately."

During Dr Thompson's short absence, his lordship walked up and down
with a contracted brow, and much more than his usual fidgety movements.
Not wholly to my surprise, but completely to my dismay, the doctor
reappeared with my arch and only enemy by his side--Joshua Daunton.

The contrast between him and me was not at all in my favour.  Not in
uniform, certainly, but scrupulously clean, with a superfine blue cloth
jacket and trousers, white neckerchief; and clean linen shirt; he looked
not only respectable, but even gentlemanly.  I have before described my
appearance.  I may be spared the hateful repetition.

"And so," said his lordship, turning to Joshua, "you are the true and
veritable Ralph Rattlin?"

"I am, my lord," said the unblushing liar.  "The young gentleman near
you is my illegitimate brother; his mother is a beautiful lady, of the
name of Causand, a most artful woman.  She first contrived to poison Sir
Reginald's mind with insinuations to my disfavour; and, at last, so well
carried on her machinations as to drive me first from the paternal roof,
and, lastly, I confess it with horror and remorse, into a course so evil
as to compel me to change my name, fly from my country, and subject me
to the lash at the gangway.  If these documents, that I confide to your
hands, and to yours only, will not remove every doubt as to the truth of
my assertions, afford me but a little time, till I can send to London,
and every point shall be satisfactorily cleared up."

He then placed in Lord Whiffledale's hands the papers that had been so
convincing to Dr Thompson.  Captain Reud, now reduced by the presence
of the good doctor to the most correct deportment, stepped forward, and
assured his lordship that I, at least, was no impostor, and that, if
imposition had been practised, I had been made an unconscious
instrument.

"Perhaps," said his lordship, after scrutinising the papers, and
returning them to Joshua, "the young gentleman with the blackened eyes
will do us the favour, in a few words, to give us his own version of the
story; for, may I die consumptive, if I can tell which is the real Simon
Pure!"

Placed thus in the embarrassing situation of pleading for my own
identity, I found that I had very little to say for myself.  I could
only affirm that, although always unowned, I had been continuously cared
for; and that the bills I had drawn upon Mr ---, the lawyer in the
King's Bench Walk in the Temple, had always been honoured.  My lord
shook his head when I had finished, diplomatically.  He took snuff.  He
then eyed me and my adversary carefully.  He now waved his head upwards
and downwards, and at length opened his mouth and spoke:

"Captain Reud, I wash my hands of this business.  I cannot decide.  I
was going to take on shore with me the legitimate and too-long neglected
son of my good old friend, Sir Reginald.  Where is that son?  I come on
board the _Eos_, and I ask him at your hands, Captain Reud.  Is that
person with the discoloured countenance my friend's son?  Certainly not.
Is that other person his son--a disgraced man?  Knowing the noble race
of my friend, I should say certainly not.  Where is Sir Ralph's [?Sir
Reginalds's] son?  He is not here; or, if he be here, I cannot
distinguish him.  I wash my hands of it--I hate mysteries.  I will take
neither of them to London.  I am under some _slight_ obligations to Sir
Reginald--and yet--I cannot decide.  The weight of evidence certainly
preponderates in favour of the new claimant.  Captain Reud, perhaps,
will permit him to land, and he may go up to town immediately, and have
an interview with Mr ---, the lawyer; and, if he can satisfy that
person, he will receive from him further instructions as to his future
proceedings."



CHAPTER SIXTY TWO.

THE CONFESSIONS OF A MADMAN, WHICH, NEVERTHELESS, EMBRACE A VERY WISE
CAUTION--RALPH GETS HIS LIBERTY-TICKET--VERY NEEDLESS, AS HE IS
DETERMINED HENCEFORWARD TO PRESERVE HIS LIBERTY--AND, BEING TREATED SO
UNCIVILLY AS A SAILOR, DETERMINES TO TURN CIVILIAN HIMSELF.

Here Captain Reud interrupted the speaker, and told him that Joshua was
a prisoner under punishment, and waiting only for convalescence to
receive the remainder of his six dozen lashes.  At hearing this, his
lordship appeared truly shocked; and, drawing Reud aside, they conversed
for some minutes, in whispers.

At the conclusion of this conference, Captain Reud stepped forward, and,
regarding Joshua with a look of much severity, he said: "Young man, for
the sake of other parties, and of other interests, your errors are
overlooked.  Your discharge from this ship shall be made out
immediately.  If you are the person you claim to be, your three or four
months' pay can be of no consequence to you.  Have you sufficient money
to proceed to London immediately?"

"Much more than sufficient, sir."

"I thought so.  Proceed to London to the lawyer's.  If you are no
impostor, I believe that a father's forgiveness awaits you.  Forget that
you were ever in this ship.  My clerk will make out your discharge
immediately.  Take care of yourself.  You are watched.  There is a
wakeful eye upon you: if you swerve from the course laid down for you,
and go not immediately to Mr ---'s office, be assured that you will be
again in irons under the half-deck.  Have I, my lord, correctly
expressed your intentions?"

"Correctly, Captain Reud."

"Joshua Daunton, get your bag ready; and, in the meantime, I will give
the necessary orders to the clerk.  You may go."

With an ill-concealed triumph on his countenance, Joshua Daunton bowed
submissively to all but myself.  To me he advanced with an insulting
smile and an extended hand.  I shrank back loathingly.

"Farewell, brother Ralph.  I told you that I should be in London before
you.  Will you favour me with any commands?  Well--your pride is not
unbecoming--I will not resent it for your father's sake; and, for his
and for your sake, I will forgive the juggle that has hitherto placed
the natural son--that is, I believe, the delicate paraphrase--in the
station of the rightful heir.  Farewell."

I made no reply: he left the cabin, and, in an hour after, the ship.  I
shall not advantage myself of that expression, so fully naturalised in
novels, that "my feelings might be conceived, but cannot be expressed:"
for they _can_ be expressed easily enough--in two words,--stupefied
indignation.  After Joshua had departed, the other persons remaining in
the after-cabin followed shortly after, with the exception of myself;
for Reud told me to stay where I then was, until he should see me again.

In the course of an hour, Lord Whiffledale went on shore with his
_cortege_; and Captain Reud returned into the after-cabin, which I had
been, during his absence, disconsolately pacing.  He was a little
flushed with the wine he had taken, but perfectly sane.  He came up to
me kindly, and, placing his hands upon my shoulders, looked me fully and
sorrowfully in the face.  There was no wild speculation in his eyes;
they looked mild and motherly.  The large tears gathered in each
gradually, and, at length, overflowing the sockets, slowly trickled down
his thin and sallow cheeks.  He then pressed his right hand heavily on
the top part of his forehead, exclaiming, in a voice so low, so
mournful, and so touching, that my bosom swelled at its tones, "It is
here;--it is here!"

"Ralph, my good Ralph," said he, after he had seated himself; weeping
all the while bitterly, "we will take leave of each other now.  We are
true brothers in sorrow--our afflictions are the same--you have lost
your identity, and I mine.  Ever since that cursed night at Aniana, John
Reud's soul was loosened from his body; I have the greatest trouble to
keep it fixed to my corporeal frame; it goes away, in spite of me, at
times, and some other soul gets into this withered carcass, and plays me
sad tricks--sad tricks, Rattlin--sad tricks.  My identity is gone, and
so, poor youth, is yours.  We will part friends.  These tears are not
all for you--they are for myself; too.  I do not mind crying before you
now, for it is not the true John Reud that is now weeping.  You think
that I have been a tyrant to you--but, I tell you, Rattlin, there is a
tyrant in the ship greater than I--it is that horrible Dr Thompson.  He
is plotting to take away my commission, and to get me into a madhouse!--
oh, my God!--my God! remove from me this agony.  Hath Thine awful storm
no thunderbolt--Thy wave no tomb!  Must I die on the straw, like a beast
of burden worn to death by loathsome toil?--and so many swords to have
flashed harmlessly over my head, so many balls to have whistled idly
past my body!  But, God's will be done!  Bear yourself, my dear body,
carefully in the presence of all medical men.  They have the eye of the
fanged adder.  You know that your identity also has been questioned; but
your fate is happier than mine, for you can hear, see, touch, your
double; but mine always eludes me, when I come home, after an excursion,
to my own temple.  But, if I were you, when I got hold of the thing that
says it is, and is _not_, yourself, I would grind it, I would crush it,
I would destroy it!"

"I will, so may Heaven help me at my utmost need!"

"Well said, my boy, well said--because he has no right to get himself
flogged, and thus give a wretched world an opportunity of saying that
Ralph Rattlin had been brought to the gangway.  But do not let this cast
you down.  You will do well yet--while I--Oh, that I had a son!--I might
then escape.  God bless you!--I must pray for strength of mind--strength
of mind--mark me, strength of mind.  Go, my good boy; if misfortunes
should overtake you, and they leave me anything better than a dark cell
and clanking chains, come and share it with me.  Now go (and he wrung my
hands bitterly), and tell Doctor Thompson I wish to speak with him, and
just hint to him how rationally and pleasantly we have been discoursing
together--and remember my parting words--deport yourself warily before
the doctors, carefully preserve your identity, and sometimes think on
your poor captain."

This last interview with Captain Reud, for it was my last, would have
made me wretched, had it not been swallowed up by a deeper wretchedness
of my own.

Early next morning, we weighed, and made sail for Sheerness.  On
anchoring in the Medway, Captain Reud went on shore; and, as I shall
have no more occasion to refer to him, I shall state at once, that the
very fate he so feared awaited him.  Six months after he had left the
_Eos_, he died raving mad, in a private receptacle for the insane.

At Sheerness we were paid off.

As I went over the side of the _Eos_ for the last time, I was tempted to
shake the dust from off my feet, for, of a surety, it had lately been an
accursed abode to me.

In order entirely to elude all observation from my late companions, I
abandoned everything I had on board, not worth much, truly, with the
exception of my sextant and telescope; and took on shore with me only
the clothes (miserable they were) in which I stood.  I went to no hotel
or inn; but, seeing a plain and humble house in which there were
lodgings to let for single men, I went and hired a little apartment that
contained a press bedstead.  I took things leisurely and quietly.  I was
now fully determined to discover my parentage; and, after that event,
entirely to be governed by circumstances as to my future course of life,
and the resuming of the naval profession.

My first operations were sending for a tailor, hatter, and those other
architects so essential in building up the outer man.  The costume I now
chose was as remote from official as could be made.  I provided myself
with one suit only, leaving the rest of my wardrobe to be completed in
London.

Knowing that I had an active and intelligent enemy who had two days the
start of me, I was determined to act with what I thought caution.  I had
more than a half-year's stipend due to me; I accordingly drew for it
upon the lawyer, nearly 75 pounds, intimating to him, at the same time,
by letter, my arrival in England, and asking if he had any instructions
as to my future disposal.  This letter was answered by return of post,
written with all the brevity of business, stating that no such
instructions had been received, and inclosing an order on the Sheerness
Bank for the money.

So far all was highly satisfactory.  It proved two things: first, that
Joshua Daunton had not yet carried his machinations in the quarter from
which arose the supplies; and, secondly, that I should now have
considerable funds wherewith to prosecute my researches.  In the space
of three days, behold me dressed in the fashionable costume of the
period--blue coat, broad yellow buttons, yellow waistcoat with ditto,
white corduroy continuations, tied with several strings at the knees,
and topped boots.  It was in the reign of the "bloods" and the
"ruffians," more ferocious species of coxcombs than our dandies, and
much more annoying.



CHAPTER SIXTY THREE.

RALPH FINDS EVERYWHERE GREAT CHANGES--GIVES WAY TO HIS FEELINGS, AND
MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF--THIS CHAPTER WILL BE FOUND EITHER THE WORST OR
THE BEST OF RALPH'S CONFESSIONS, ACCORDING TO THE FEELINGS OF THE
READER.

Having stayed one week at Sheerness, and laid down my plan of future
action, I started in the passage boat for Chatham.  There was not much
room for recumbency.  I found it, however, and placed the only luggage
that I had, a small parcel, covered with brown paper, under my head as a
pillow.  The parcel contained my logs, and my certificates, and a single
change of linen.  Very providentially, I had placed my pay-ticket, with
my bank notes, in my pocket-book.

Once, as I opened my eyes at the explosion of an oath more loud than
usual, methought I saw the sudden and white-complexioned face of Joshua
Daunton hanging closely over mine.  I started up, and rubbed my eyes,
but the vision had fled.  I was determined to be watchful; and, with
this determination in full activity, I again fell asleep; nor was I once
more properly awakened until we had arrived at Chatham.  When I had
roused myself up, to my consternation, I discovered that my pillow was
nowhere to be found.  Many of the passengers had already gone their
ways, and those who remained knew nothing about me or my packet.
Indeed, I only drew suspicions on myself, as my paucity of baggage and
the pretensions of my dress were decidedly at variance.  The gentleman
in top-boots and with the brown paper parcel seemed ridiculous enough.
Seeing how ineffectual noise was, I held my peace, now that I had
nothing else to hold; got on the outside of the first coach for London;
and, by ten at night, I found myself in the coffee-room of the White
Horse, in Fetter Lane.

The next morning, when I arose, it was my birthday, the 14th of
February; and I stood at mine inn, a being perfectly isolated.  But I
was not idle; on descending into the coffee-room, I procured the Court
Guide; but my most anxious scrutiny could discover no such person among
the baronets as Sir Reginald Rattlin.  Paying my bill, I next went to
Somerset House, and drew my pay; I then repaired to the aristocratic
mansion of Lord Whiffledale, in Grosvenor Square.  "Not at home," and
"in the country for some time," were the surly answers of the indolent
porter.

It was a day of disappointments.  The lawyer who cashed my bills was
civil and constrained.  To all my entreaties first, and to my leading
questions afterwards, he gave me cold and evasive answers.  He told me
he had received no further instructions concerning me; reiterated his
injunctions that I should not endanger the present protection that I
enjoyed, by endeavouring to explore what it was the intention of those
on whom I depended to keep concealed; and he finally wished me a good
morning, and was almost on the point of handing me out of his office.

But I would not be so repelled.  I became impassioned and loud; nor
would I depart until he assured me, on his honour, that he knew almost
as little of the secret as myself, and that he was only the agent of an
agent, never having yet had any communication with the principal, whose
name, even, he assured me, he did not know.

I had now nearly exhausted the day.  The intermingling mists of the
season and the heavy smoke of the town were now shrouding the streets in
a dense obscurity.  There were no gas lights then.  Profoundly ignorant
of the intricacy of the streets of the metropolis, I was completely at
the mercy of the hackney-coachmen, and they made me buy it extremely
dear.  Merely from habit, I again repaired to the White Horse, and
concluded my nineteenth natal day in incertitude, solitude, and misery.

To Stickenham--yes, I would go there immediately.  But the resolve gave
no exulting throb to my bosom.

I went to that spot so consecrated to my memory by bright skies and
brighter faces; the spot where I had so often urged the flying ball and
marshalled the mimic army--it was there that I stood; and I asked of a
miserable half-starved woman, "where was the play-ground of my youth?"
and she showed me a "brick-field."

I walked a few steps further, and asked for the school-house of my
happiest days--and one pointed out to me a brawling ale-house.  It was a
bitter change.  I asked of another where was now my old light-hearted,
deep-learned, French schoolmaster, Monsieur Cherfeuil.  He had gone back
to France.  The _emigres_ had been recalled by Napoleon.

There was one other question that I dreaded, yet burned to ask--I need
not state how fearful it was to me, since it was to learn the fate of
her whom I had honoured, and loved, and hailed, as my mother--the
beautiful and the kind Mrs Cherfeuil.  I conjectured that she, too, had
gone to France with her husband, and the idea was painful to me.

"There have been great alterations here, my good girl," said I to a
young person whom I afterwards met.

"Very great, indeed, sir,--they have ruined father and mother."

"Your name, my dear, is Susan Archer."

"Bless me, so it is, sir!"

"And you seem a very intelligent little girl, indeed."

"Yes, I have had a good deal of book-learning, but all that is past and
gone now.  When Mrs Cherfeuil lived in that house, she took care that
we should always have a home of our own, fire in the grate, and a loaf
in the cupboard--she had me sent to school--but now she is gone!"

"Gone!--where?--with her husband?"

"Don't you know, sir," said she, with a quiet solemnity, that made me
shudder with dreadful anticipations.  "If you will come with me, I will
show you."

I dared not ask the awful question, "Is she dead?"  I took my gentle
guide by the hand, and suffered her to lead me slowly through the
village.  Neither of us spoke.  We had almost attained to the end of the
hamlet, when my sad guide gently plucked me by the arm to turn down to
the right.

"No," said I, tremulously, "that is not the way; we must go forward.
That lane leads to the churchyard."

"And to Mrs Cherfeuil."

"Go on, and regard me not."

In another minute we were both sitting on a newly-made grave, the little
girl weeping in the innocent excess of that sorrow that brings its own
sweet relief.

My at first low and almost inaudible murmurs gradually grew more loud
and more impassioned.  At last they aroused the attention of my weeping
companion, and she said to me, artlessly, "It is of no use taking on in
this way, sir; she can never speak up from the grave.  She is in heaven
now; and God does not permit any of His blessed saints to speak to us
sinners below."

"You are quite right, my good girl," said I, ashamed of this betrayal of
my emotion.  "It is very foolish indeed to be talking to the dead over
their damp graves, and not at all proper.  But I have a great fancy to
stay here a little while by myself.  Pray go and wait for me at the end
of the lane.  I will not keep you long, and I have something to say to
you."

"I will do as you tell me, sir, most certainly.  I will tell you all
about her death, for I was a sort of help to the nurse.  I know you now,
sir, and thought I knew you from the first."

I shall not repeat the extravagances that I uttered when alone.  I was
angry with myself and with all the world; and I fear that I exasperated
myself with the thought that I did not sufficiently feel the grief with
which I strove to consecrate my loss.  I remember, I concluded my
rhapsody thus:

"Again I call upon you by the sacred name of mother--for such you were--
and no other will my heart ever acknowledge.  I adjure you to hear me
swear that I will have all the justice done to your memory that man can
do! and may we never meet in those realms where only the injured find
redress, if I fail to scatter this sacred earth in token of dishonour
upon the head of him who has dishonoured you--were he even my own
father!  It is an oath.  May it be recorded, should that record be used
as my sentence of death!"

Having made this harsh and impious vow, the effect of over-excitement, I
tore a considerable portion of the earth from the grave, and, folding it
in my handkerchief I knotted it securely, and placed it round my heart
next to my skin, like those belts that are worn by Roman Catholics as
instruments of penance.

With a wish for something very like the shedding of blood in my heart,
and with a fervent prayer in my imagination and on my lips, I left Mrs
Cherfeuil's humble grave, and joined my companion.

In one little half-hour, I found my belt of vengeance so cold and so
inconvenient, that I heartily wished I was well rid of it: it is a
miserable confession, a sad falling off in my heroics; but the oath that
I had voluntarily and so solemnly taken prevented me from ridding myself
of the disgusting incumbrance.

According to the account of my companion, all was smiles, and happiness,
and sunshine, around Mrs Cherfeuil; when a person made his appearance,
by the description of whom I at once recognised that fiend, Daunton.
Domestic happiness then ceased for the poor lady; rumours of the worst
nature got abroad; her little French husband, instead of being as for
twelve years before he had been, her shadow, her slave, and her admirer,
became outrageous and cruel, and after the horrid word bigamy had been
launched against her, she never after held up her head.

She sickened and died.  Nor did Daunton succeed in his plans of
extorting money--but his scheme was infinitely more deep and more
hellish.  He had, _but not till after her death_, declared himself to be
her son.  This, instead of having any effect upon the outraged widower,
only made him more eager to drive the impostor from his presence; and,
the opportunity offering itself to leave the spot now so hateful to him,
and the country that had sheltered him and in which he had grown so
rich, he availed himself of it eagerly.  This account did not aggravate
my implacable feelings against this Daunton, for my hate was beyond the
capability of increase.

After hearing all that the little wench had to discover, and rewarding
her, I proceeded alone to wander over the spots that were once so dear
to me.  In this melancholy occupation, when the cold mists of the early
evening fell, I continued heaping regret upon regret, until a more
miserable being, short of being impelled to suicide, could not have trod
the earth.  About five, it began to grow dark; and, weary both in mind
and body, I commenced climbing the long hill that was the boundary of
the common, on my return to London.

On the Surrey side of the hill, for its apex separated it from another
county, the descent was more precipitous--so much so, that it is now
wholly disused as a road for carriages; and not only was it precipitous,
but excessively contorted, the bends sometimes running at right angles
with each other.  High banks, clothed with impervious hedges, and
shadowed by tall trees, made the road both dank and dark; and, at the
time that I was passing, or, rather, turning round one of the elbows of
this descent, a sturdy fellow, with a heavy cudgel, followed at some
distance by a much smaller man, accosted me in a rude tone of voice, by
bawling out:

"I say, you sir, what's o'clock?"

"Go about your business, and let me pass."

"Take that for your civility!" and, with a severe blow with his stick,
he laid me prostrate.  I was not stunned, but I felt very sick, and
altogether incapable of rising.  In this state I determined to feign
stupefaction, so I nearly closed my eyes, and lay perfectly still.  The
huge vagabond then placed his knee upon my chest, and called out to his
companion:

"I say, Mister, come and see if this here chap's the right un."

The person called to, came up; and, immediately after, through my
eyelashes, I beheld the diabolical white face of Daunton.  It was so
dark, that, to recognise me, he was obliged to place his countenance so
close to mine that his hot breath burned against my cheek.  He was in a
passion of terror, and trembled as if in an access of ague.

"It is," said he, whilst his teeth chattered.  "Is he stunned?"

"Mister, now I take that as an insult.  D'ye think that John Gowles need
strike such a strip of a thing as that ere twice?"

"Hush!--How very, very cold it is!  Where is your knife?  Will you do
it?"

"Most sartainly not.  There--he's at your mercy--I never committed
murder yet--no, no, must think of my precious soul.  A bargain's a
bargain--my part on't is done."

"Gowles, don't talk so loud.  I can't bear the sight of blood--and, oh
God!--of this blood--it would spurt upon my hand.  Strike him again over
the head--he breathes heavily--strike him!"

"No," said the confederate, sullenly.  "Tell ye--u'll have neither 'art
nor part in this 'ere murder."

During this very interesting conference, I was rallying all my energies
for one desperate effort, intending, however, to wait for the uplifted
knife, to grasp it, in order that I might turn the weapon against the
breast of one assassin, and then use it as a defence against the other.

"Would to God," said the villain, adding blasphemy to concerted
murder--"would to God that my hand was spared this task!  Give me the
knife now.  Where shall I strike him?--I have no strength to drive it
into him far."

"Tell ye, Mister, u'll have nought to do with the murder--but u'd advise
thee to bare his neck, and thrust in the point just under his right
ear."

"Hush!  Will it bleed much?"

"Damnably!"

"Horrible!--horrible!  Do you think the story about Cain and Abel is
true?"

"As God is in heaven!"

"Can't it be done without blood?"

"I'll have nothing to do with the murder.  But, Mister, if so be as you
are so craven-hearted, take your small popper, and send a ball right
into his heart.  It is a gentleman's death, and will make the prettiest
small hole imaginable, and bleed none to signify.  But, mind ye, this
'ere murder's all your own."

At this critical moment, as I was inhaling a strong breath, in order to
invigorate my frame for instant exertion, I heard two or three voices in
the distance carolling out, in a sort of disjointed chorus--

  "Many droll sights I've seen,
  But I wish the wars were over."

"Now or never," said Joshua, producing and cocking his pistol.  I leaped
upon my legs in an instant, and, seizing the weapon, which was a small
tool, manufactured for a gentleman's pocket, by the barrel with my left
hand, and this amiable specimen of fraternity by the right, the struggle
of an instant ensued.  The muzzle of the pistol was close upon my breast
when my adversary discharged it.  I felt the sharp, hard knock of the
ball upon my chest, and the percussion for the moment took away my
breath, but my hold upon the villain's throat was unrelaxed.  The
gurgling of suffocation became audible to his brutal companion.

"Ods sneckens!" said the brute, "but this 'ere murdered man is
throttling my Mister in his death-throe."

Down at once came his tremendous cudgel upon my arm.  I released my
grip, and again fell to the earth.

"He's a dead man," said Gowles; "run for your life!  Mind, Mister, I had
neither 'art nor part in this 'ere--"

And they were almost immediately out of sight and out of hearing.

At the report of the pistol, the jolly choristers struck up prestissimo
with their feet.  They were standing round me just as the retreating
feet of my assassins had ceased to resound in the stillness of the
darkness.

A voice, which I immediately knew to be that of my old adversary, the
master's mate, Pigtop, accosted me.

"Holloa, shipmate!--fallen foul of a pirate, mayhap--haven't slipped
your wind, ha' ye, messmate?"

"No; but I believe my arm's broken, and I have a pistol ball between my
ribs."

"Which way did the lubbers sheer off?  Shall we clap on sail, and give
chase?"

"It is of no use.  I know one of them well.  They shall not escape me."

"Why, I know that voice.  Yes--no--damn me--it must be Ralph Rattlin--it
bean't, sure--and here on his beam ends, a shot in his hull, and one of
his spars shattered.  I'd sooner have had my grog watered all my life
than this should have fallen out."

"You have not had your grog watered this evening, Pigtop," said I,
rising, assisted by himself and his comrades.  "I don't feel much hurt,
after all."

"True, true, shipmate.  But we must clap a stopper over all.  Small-shot
in the chest are bad messmates.  We must make a tourniquet of my skysail
here."

So, without heeding my cries of pain, he passed his handkerchief round
my breast; and by the means of twisting his walking-stick in the knot,
he hove it so tight, that he not only stopped all effusion of blood, but
almost all my efforts at breathing.  My left hand still held the
discharged pistol, which I gave into the custody of Pigtop.  Upon
further examination, I found that there was no fracture of the bone of
my arm; and that, all things considered, I could walk tolerably well.
However, I still felt a violent pain in my chest, attended with
difficulty of breathing, at the least accelerated pace.



CHAPTER SIXTY FOUR.

RALPH APPEARS BEFORE A MAGISTRATE, AND PROVES TO BE MORE FRIGHTENED THAN
HURT, THOUGH FRIGHTENED AS LITTLE AS A VERITABLE HERO SHOULD BE--A GREAT
DEAL OF FUSS ABOUT A LITTLE DUST, NOT KICKED UP, BUT FINALLY LAID DOWN.

We got on, nevertheless, Pigtop shaking his head very dolefully,
whenever I paused to recover breath.

We entered the first house that we came to; that of an agricultural
labourer.  We told our adventure, and the good man immediately proceeded
to acquaint the patrol and the constable.  I was anxious to examine the
nature of my wound, to which my old messmate would not listen for a
moment.  He was particularly sorry that he saw no blood, from which
symptom he argued the worst-looking upon me as a dead man, being certain
that I was bleeding inwardly.

I decided for a post-chaise, that I might hasten to town and make my
depositions; for I was determined to let loose the hounds of the law
after my dastardly enemies, without the loss of a moment.  The chaise
was soon procured; and, much to the satisfaction of Pigtop, we drove
directly to Bow Street--the good fellow having a firm persuasion that
the moment his make-shift tourniquet was withdrawn, I should breathe my
last.  I had no such direful apprehensions.

When we arrived at the office, the worthy magistrate was on the point of
retiring.  The clatter of the chaise driving rapidly up to the door, and
the exaggerated report of the post-boy, heralded us in with some
_eclat_.  The magistrate, when he had heard it was a case of murder,
very well disguised his regret at the postponement of his dinner.

Mr Pigtop insisted upon supporting me, although I could walk very
well--quite as well as himself, considering his potations: and insisted
also upon speaking.  He was one of the old school of seamen, and could
not speak out of his profession.  Accordingly he was first sworn.  We
will give the commencement of his deposition verbatim, as he is one of a
class that is fast disappearing from the face of the waters.

"If you please, your worship, I and my two concerts that are lying-to in
my wake, after having taken in our wood and water at Woolwich, we braced
up sharp, bound for London."

"What do you mean by your wood and water?" said the magistrate.

"Our bub and grub--Here's a magistrate for you!  (aside to me)--your
worship, down to our bearings.  So, as Bill here said, as how we were
working Tom Cox's traverse--your worship knows what that means, well
enough."

"Indeed, sir, I don't."

"It's the course the lawyers will take when they make sail for heaven.
I can see, in the twinkling of a purser's dip, that your worship is no
lawyer."

"This, sir, is the first time anyone has had the impertinence to tell me
so."

"Well, well, no offence, I hope, your worship?--there is no accounting
for taste, as the monkey said when he saw the cat pitch into the tar
barrel;" and then the worthy witness embarked into a very irrelevant
digression about land-sharks.  The magistrate, however, was patient and
sensible, and at length overcame the great difficulty arising from his
never having been to sea, and Pigtop never having been to law.

His deposition having been translated into the vulgar tongue, out of
nautical mysticisms, was duly sworn to; yet not without an interruption
when the magistrate heard that it was supposed that I had the
pistol-ball still somewhere in my body--he wishing me to be examined by
a surgeon immediately.  Mr Pigtop was opposed to this, lest I should
die upon the spot; but I gave the magistrate more satisfaction by
telling him I had good reason to suppose that the ball had not
penetrated deeply.

I was the last examined; and I almost electrified Pigtop when I deposed
that I knew well the person of my murderous assaulter, and that it was
Joshua Daunton.

At this announcement, my quondam messmate slapped his hand upon his knee
with a violence that echoed through the court, grinned, then looked
profoundly serious; but made me very thankful by holding his peace, and
shaking his head most awfully.  When I proceeded to give a very accurate
description of this wretch's person, looks of understanding passed
between three or four of the principal runners, who were attentively
listening to the proceedings.  When this business was concluded, the
magistrate said to me, "The young man who has committed this outrage
upon your person, we have strong reason to believe, is amenable to the
laws for other crimes.  He has eluded our most active officers; and it
was supposed that he had left the kingdom.  It appears now that he has
returned.  You have had a most providential escape.  The pistol will
give us a good clue.  There is no doubt but that shortly we shall be
able to give a good account of him.  Let me now advise you, Mr Rattlin,
to have your hurt examined.  Come into my private room; a surgeon will
be here in an instant."

Pigtop and I were then ushered into a room on one side of the office.  I
looked extremely foolish--almost, in fact, as confused as if I had been
charged with an offence.  The surgeon soon made his appearance; but, in
the short interval, the magistrate had begun to thrust home with his
questions as to who I was, what were my intentions, and the probable
motives of Daunton's attempt on my life.  All these I parried as well as
I could, without letting him know anything of the supposed consanguinity
between myself and the culprit: his motive I accounted for as revenge
for some real or imaginary insult inflicted by me when we were on board
the _Eos_.

Upon my persisting to refuse, for some time, to strip, that the wound
might be examined, the magistrate began to look grave, and the surgeon
hinted that it was, perhaps, as well not to seek for what was not to be
found.  The dread of being looked upon as an impostor overcame my shame
at the _expose_ of my romantic weakness.  Poor Pigtop had alarms upon
totally other grounds.  He watched with painful anxiety the unwinding of
his tourniquet, ready to receive me dying into his arms.  His surprise
was greater, I fear me, than his joy, when he discovered no signs of
bleeding when his handkerchief was removed.

"What, in the name of pharmacy, is this?" said the surgeon, detaching my
belt of earth; "but here is the ball, however,--it has more than broken
the skin; and there has been a good deal of blood extravasated, but it
has been absorbed by the mould in this handkerchief.  By whatever means
this singular bandage was placed where I found it, you may depend upon
it, young gentleman, that it has saved your life."

"I presume, Mr Rattlin, that you are a Catholic?" said the magistrate,
"and that you have been a very naughty boy: if so, the penance that your
confessor has enjoined you has been miraculously providential, and I
shall think better of penances for the rest of my life."

The lie so temptingly offered for my adoption, I was about to make use
of.  But when I reflected from whence I had collected that sacred earth,
I dared not profane it by falsehood.  So, with a faltering voice, and my
eyes filling with tears, I told the magistrate the truth.

"My young friend," said he, "these superstitious fancies and acts are
best omitted.  I am sure that you do not need this earth to remember
your mother.  Besides, it must be prejudicial to your health to carry it
about your person, to say nothing of the singularity of the deed.  Take
my advice, and convey it carefully to the nearest consecrated ground,
and there reverently deposit it.  We will preserve this ball, with the
pistol; and now let Mr Ankins dress your slight wound.  We must see you
well through this affair, and the Admiralty must prolong your leave of
absence, if it be necessary.  I should wish to know more of you as a
private individual--there is my card.  You are a very good lad for
honouring your mother.  Fare ye well."

With many compliments from the surgeon also, and a roller or two of
cotton round my chest, we mutually took leave of each other; the
gentleman very considerately refusing the guinea that I tendered him.

Having discharged the post-chaise, Mr Pigtop, his two companions, and
myself, left the office,--I bearing in my hand the handkerchief nearly
filled with mould.  What did I do with it--saturated as it was with my
blood, and owing as I did my life to it?  Perhaps, sweet and gentle
lady, you think that I preserved it in a costly vase, over which I might
weep, or had it made up by some fair hands systematically into a silken
belt, and still wore it next my heart, or, at least, that I placed it in
a china flower-vase, and planted a rose-tree therein, which I watered
daily by my tears.  Alas! for the lovers of the romantic, I did none of
these.  I told you before all my incidents turn out to be mere
matter-of-fact affairs.  Like a good boy, I did as the magistrate bade
me.  As I passed by Saint Paul's, Covent Garden, I turned into the
churchyard; and with a silent prayer for the departed, and asking pardon
of God for the profanation of which I had been guilty, I poured out the
whole of the dust, with reverence, on a secluded spot, and then returned
and joined my companions.

Taking leave of them shortly after, I repaired to the White Horse, in
Fetter Lane, and, eating a light supper, retired to bed early, and thus
finished this very memorable day.

On the day succeeding, I found my arm so much swollen, and myself
altogether so ill, that I kept my bed.  I need not mention that the same
surgeon attended me.  I took this opportunity of furnishing myself with
a few necessaries and a carpet-bag; so I was no longer the gentleman
without any luggage.

On the third day of my confinement to the house, sitting alone in the
deserted coffee-room, chewing the cud of my bitter fancies, Mr Pigtop
made his appearance.  Though I knew the man to be thoroughly selfish, I
believed him to have that dogged sort of honesty not uncommon to very
vulgar minds.  As, just then, any society was welcome, I received his
condolements very graciously, and requested his company to dinner.  My
invitation was gladly accepted; and he occupied the time previous to
that repast in giving me a history of his life.  It was a very common
one.  He was the son of a warrant-officer.  He was all but born on board
a man-of-war.  At the age of fifteen he got his rating as a midshipman,
and then rose to be a master's mate.  There his promotion ceased, and,
to all appearances, for ever.  He had been already twenty-five years in
the service, and was turned forty.

Never having had anything beyond his pay, his life had been one of
ceaseless privation and discontent.  He had now nearly spent all his
money, and had omitted to make those reparations to his wardrobe,
rendered so necessary by the malignity of Joshua Daunton.  He wished to
leave the service, and be anything rather than what he had been.  He had
no relations living, and positively no friends.  His prospects were most
disconsolate, and his wretchedness seemed very great.  However, he found
considerable relief in unburthening himself to me.

After our frugal dinner of rump steaks, and our one bottle of port, he
returned to the subject of the morning by asking my advice as to his
future conduct.

"Nay, Pigtop," I replied, "you should not ask me.  You are much more
capable of judging for yourself--you, who have been so much longer in
the world than I."

"There you are out of your reckoning.  I have lived more than twice your
years, and have never been in the world at all.  On shore, I'm like a
pig afloat in a washing-tub.  What would you advise me to do?"

"You have no relations or friends to assist you?"

The mournful shake of the head was eloquently negative.

"And yet you will not resume that life for which alone you were
educated?"

"I will not, and I cannot."

"Well, you must either go on the highway or marry a fortune."

"Look at this figure-head--look at this scar.  No--no one will ever
splice with such an old ravelled-out rope-yarn as Andrew Pigtop.  The
road is no longer a gentlemanly profession.  I intend to be a servant."

"You, Pigtop!--begging your pardon, who the devil would be encumbered
with you?"

"You, I hope--no, don't laugh; I know you to be a gentleman born, and
that you have a hundred a year.  By hints that I have picked up, I
believe when you come of age, and all is done right by you, that you'll
have thousands.  We have one view in common--to hang that rogue,
Daunton.  I certainly do not wish to put on your livery, without you
insist upon it.  Call me your secretary, or anything you like--only let
me be near you--your servant and your friend."

I saw the poor fellow's eye glisten, and his weather-worn features
quiver.  I looked upon his worn and shabby uniform, and reflected upon
his long and unrequited services.  Venerate him I knew that I never
could; but I already pitied him exceedingly.  I resolved, at least, to
assist him and to keep him near me for a time.

"Well, Pigtop," I at length said, "if you would be faithful--"

"To the backbone--to the shedding of my blood.  Stand by me now in my
distress: and while I have either soul or body, I will peril them for
your safety."

"Pigtop, I believe you.  Say no more about it.  I engage you as my
travelling tutor; and I will pay you your salary when I come of age--
that is, if I am able.  Now, what money have you?"

"Three pounds, fifteen shillings, and sevenpence-halfpenny.  Not enough
to take me down to the guard-ship, when I have paid my bill at the
tavern."

"Then, my good fellow, go and pay it immediately, and come back with all
possible speed."  The prompt obedience that he gave to my first order
augured well for his attention.

On his return, I addressed him seriously to this effect: "My friend, you
shall share with me to the last shilling; but, believe me, my position
is as dangerous as it is unnatural.  It is full of difficulty, and
requires not only conduct, but courage.  I have a parent that either
dares not, or from some sinister motive will not, own me; and I fear me
much that I have a half-brother that I know is pursuing me with the
assassin's knife, whilst I am pursuing him with the vengeance of the
law.  It is either the death of the hunted dog for me, or of the felon's
scaffold for him.  The event is in the hand of God.  We must be
vigilant, for my peril is great.  My implacable enemy is leagued with
some of the worst miscreants of this vast resort of villainy; he knows
all the labyrinths of this Babel of iniquity; and the fraternal steel
may be in my bosom even amidst the hum of multitudes.  That man has a
strong motive for my death, and to personify me afterwards.  Already has
he stolen my vouchers and my certificates.  The mystery to me appears
almost inscrutable; but his inducements to destroy me are obvious
enough.  I think that I am tolerably safe here, though I am equally sure
that I am watched.  Here is money.  Go now, and purchase two brace of
serviceable pistols and a couple of stout sword-canes.  We will be
prepared for the worst.  Of course you will sleep here, and hereafter
always take up your abode in whatever place I may be.  As you return,
you must find, in some quiet street, an unobtrusive tailor--he must not
have a shop--bring him with you.  I must put you in livery, after all."

"Why, if so be you must, I suppose you must--I'm off."

Pigtop did his commissions well.  He returned with the arms and the
tailor.  "I hope," said he, "you won't want me to wear this livery
long?"

"Not long, I hope.  My friend," said I, addressing the man of measures,
"this gentleman, lately in the navy, has had recently a very serious
turn.  He is profoundly repentant of the wickedness of his past life--he
has had a call--he has listened to it.  It is not unlikely that he may
shortly take out a licence to preach.  Make him a suit of sad-coloured
clothes, not cut out after the vanities of the world.  Your own would
not serve for a bad model.  You go to meeting, I presume?"

"I have received grace--I eschew the steeple-house--I receive the
blessed crumbs of the Word that fall from the lips of that light of
salvation, the Reverend Mr Obadiah Longspinner."

"A holy and a good man, doubtless; would that we were all like him!  But
our time will come--yes, our time will come.  As is the outward man of
the Reverend Mr Obadiah Longspinner, so would my friend have his
outward man--verily, and his inward also--improved unto sanctity."

The devout tailor snuffled out "Amen," and did his office.  Whilst
Pigtop's clothes were preparing, he was not idle.  He procured all the
requisites for travelling, and I sent him on a fruitless mission to
discover the residence of the Brandons.  He was told by the neighbours
that, a year back, they had all emigrated to Canada.  Everything seemed
to favour the machinations of my enemy, and to prevent my gaining any
clue by which to trace him out, or the object of my search.  However, I
had one chance left--an interview with the superb Mrs Causand, that
lady that Joshua had so kindly bestowed upon me for a mother.

In three days behold us in private lodgings, the Reverend Mr Pigtop
looking as sour as any canting Methodist in Barebones' parliament, and
quite reconciled to the singularly starch figure that he presented.
There was certainly a sad discrepancy between his dress and his
discourse.  However, it was a good travelling disguise, and very
serviceable to a petty officer breaking his leave of absence.

With my health perfectly recovered, dressed with the greatest precision,
and with a beating heart, I went to call upon Mrs Causand.  On her all
my hopes rested.  I knew that, as a schoolboy, she was extremely fond of
me, and I really loved her as much as I admired her.

I had never before visited her, and was consequently totally ignorant of
the style in which she lived.  I found the house which she inhabited,
for I always carefully preserved her address, to be one of those which
faced Hyde Park.  I was rather chilled as I observed its quiet,
aristocratic appearance.  The porter told me that if I would walk into
the adjoining parlour, and favour him with my name, he would go up
immediately she was alone and announce me.



CHAPTER SIXTY FIVE.

RALPH, FINDING HIMSELF IN PLEASANT PLACES, PREPARETH A LOVE-SPEECH WHICH
IS NOT UTTERED IN THIS CHAPTER--RALPH DESCRIBETH ONLY.

In about five minutes the servant returned, bowed, and led the way.  He
stepped up quietly and slowly.  There was an awe in his deportment that
chilled me.  He opened the door of the drawing-room with extreme caution
and gentleness, bowed, and closed it upon me.  As I stood near the
threshold, the last low tones of some plaintive and soothing melody,
sung in a tone much more subdued than that of common conversation, died
faintly away to the vibrating of a chord of the harp; and a youthful
figure, bathed in a misty light from the window recess, rose, and moving
silently across the room, without once casting her eyes upon myself,
disappeared through a door parallel to the one by which I had entered.

Whilst I remain in the darker portion of this saloon, it is necessary
for me to describe it.  I could not have imagined such a combination of
taste and luxury.  At first, I was almost overpowered by the too genial
warmth of the apartment, and the aromatic and rose-imbued odours that
filled it.  I trod on, and my step sank into, a yielding carpet, which
seemed to be elastic under my feet, and which glowed with a thousand
never fading, though mimic flowers.  The apartment was not crowded,
though I saw candelabra, vases, and side-tables of the purest marble,
supported upon massive gilt pedestals.  In all this there was nothing
singular--it was the work of the upholsterer; but the beautiful
arrangement was the work of a presiding taste.

At the further end of this superb room, stood two fluted and gilded
pilasters, and two pillars of the Corinthian order, the capitals of
which reached the ceiling: but they were not equidistant from each
other, the space from the pilaster to the pillar on either side being
much less than that between the two pillars.  Between the two former
there were placed statues of the purest marble; what fabled god or
goddess they were sculptured to represent, I know not; I only felt that
they personified male and female beauty.  I was too agitated to permit
myself to notice them accurately.  Between this screen of pillars and
statues, hung two distinct sets of drapery, the one of massive and
crimson silk curtains, entirely opaque by their richness and their
weight of texture, that drew up and aside with golden cords; the other
of a muslin almost transparent, how managed I had no time to examine.

When the draperies fell in their gorgeous and graceful folds to the
ground, they made of the saloon two parts, and the division that
embraced the windows had then all the privacy of a secluded apartment.
When the curtains were let fall, thus intercepting the light from the
bayed windows, there was still sufficient from the three sash-windows on
the left of this large apartment to give splendour to what would then
become the inner room.

The heavy draperies that hung between the pillars were drawn up, but the
light muslin was dropped even with the rich Turkey carpet, through which
I caught but a dim and glowing view of the recess.  It was, as nearly as
I can recollect, about three o'clock in the afternoon; and the sun, just
dallying with the top of the trees in the distant Kensington Gardens,
sent his level beams directly through the large windows, and the
orange-trees and exotics that were placed about them.

I advanced to the screen; and when close upon it, I perceived the
figure, though but faintly, of Mrs Causand, reclining upon a couch.  I
paused--I do not think, on account of the distribution of the light,
that she could have seen me through the veil that intervened between us.
I dared not break through it without a summons; and there I stood, for
two unpleasant minutes, endeavouring to imagine of what nature my
reception would be; and whether a lady surrounded by so much
magnificence would listen to the appeal of her former pet-playfellow.

At this time, it was the fashion, in full dress, to show the whole of
the arm bare to the shoulder.  At length, from out of the mass of rich
shawls, there was lifted the white, rounded, exquisitively shaped,
though somewhat large, arm of the lady, beckoning me to enter; but sound
there was none.  "She is delighted to play the empress," said I, as I
pushed aside the curtain, and stood before her in her odoriferous
sanctum.

Verily, in the pride of her beauty, she never looked more beautiful.
She was in full dress--and, as I surveyed her in mute admiration, and my
mind was busy at once with the past and the present, I pronounced her
improved since I had last seen her; for I could perceive no difference
in her countenance, except that her rounded and classic cheek glowed
with a ruddier hue, and her eyes sparkled with a more restless fire.

I stood before her at the foot of the couch, and my heart confessed that
the perfection of womanly beauty lay beneath my wondering eyes, but a
beauty which, if in smiles, would rather madden with voluptuousness,
than subdue with tenderness, and, if in repose, seemed to command
worship, more than solicit affection.

As I stood mutely there, I looked into her regal countenance for some
encouragement to speak--I saw none.  I then strove to read there the
sentiment then passing in her mind, and to my confusion, to my dismay,
it seemed to me that she was endeavouring to conquer in her countenance
the expression of pain.  I watched intently--I was not deceived--a
sudden convulsion passed over her features, succeeded by the paleness of
an instant, and then a gush of tears--I was moved, almost to weeping,
yet dared not advance.  Her tears were hurried off instantly; and then
again her dear smile of former days sunned up her countenance into
something heavenly.



CHAPTER SIXTY SIX.

RALPH BEGINNETH A CONVERSATION TOTALLY BEYOND HIS COMPREHENSION, AND YET
COMPREHENDETH MORE THAN THE CONVERSATION IS MEANT TO CONVEY--HE FEELETH
SOME INCLINATION TOWARDS LOVE-MAKING, BUT CHECKETH HIMSELF VALIANTLY.

"My own brave Ralph," said she, extending to me both her hands.

"Your schoolboy lover," said I: an immense weight of anxiety removed
from my mind, as I kissed her jewelled fingers.

"Hush, Ralph! such words are vanities--but ask me not why?  Oh, my dear
boy, make the most of this visit--"

"I will, I will--how beautiful you are! how very, very beautiful!"

"Am I?--I rejoice to hear you say so!  Ralph, speak to me as my own
devoted, my more than loved friend--by all the affection that I have
lavished on you, speak to me truly; do you, dearest Ralph, see no
alteration in me?"

"A little," said I, smiling triumphantly, "a very little, for there was
never room for much--you are a little more beautiful than when I last
beheld you."

"Thank you--you have given me more happiness by the fervent honesty of
that speech than I have experienced for days and weeks, nay, months
before.  Stand from me, and let me look at you--you, Ralph, are also
much, very much improved--perhaps there is a little too much cast of
thought upon your brow--that thought is a sad wrinkle maker--but, Ralph,
you are not well dressed.  But come and sit by me now, there, on that
low footstool.  I always loved to play thus with your pretty curls--I
wish that they were a shade darker; as you have grown so manly, it would
have been as well.  Truly, as I look into the ingenuous brightness of
your countenance, the joys of past happy hours seem to wing themselves
back, and whisper to me that word so little understood--Happiness.  But,
Ralph, we will be alone together for this day at least--you shall dine
with me here--we will have no interruption--you shall tell me all your
deeds of arms--and, you naughty boy, of love also.  Reach that bell, and
ring it--but gently."

I obeyed, and the same handsome young lady, whom I had before seen,
answered the silver summons.  She glided in, and stooped over to Mrs
Causand, as she lay on the couch, and their short conference was in
whispers.  As she retired, I was rather puzzled by the deep sorrow on
her countenance, and the unfeigned look of pity with which she regarded
her mistress or her friend.  When we were again alone, I resumed my low
seat, and was growing rather passionate over one of her beautiful hands,
when, looking down, apparently much pleased with these silly
endearments, she said, "Yes, Ralph, make the most of it; hand and heart,
all, all are yours, for the little space that they will be mine."

Strange and disloyal thoughts began their turmoil in my bosom; and
speculation was busy, and prospects of vanity began to dance before my
eyes.  Old enough to be my mother!  What then?  Mother! the thought
brought with it the black train of ideas of which Daunton was the
demoniac leader.  He had asserted that the superb woman before me might
claim from me the affection of a son.  I then felt most strongly that I
was not there to play any ridiculous part.

The protestations that I was about to utter died on my lips--I spake
not, but pressed the hand that I held to my heart.

"Now, Ralph," said Mrs Causand, "relate to me all the wonders that you
have encountered--speak lowly"--and she threw a white and very thin
handkerchief over her face.

"But, my dear madam, why may I not gaze upon the countenance that you
know is very dear to me?  And this setting sun--how glorious!  Do you
know that, at his rising and his setting, I have often thought of you?
Pray come to the window, and look upon it before it is quite hid among
the trees."

"Ralph, by all the love that I bore your mother, by the affection that I
bear to you, do not talk to me of setting suns!  I dread to look upon
them.  You ask me to rise--oh, son of my best friend--know, that I
cannot--without assistance--without danger--I am on my sick-couch--on my
dying bed--they tell me--me--me, whom you just now so praised for
improved beauty, that my days are numbered--but, I believe them not--
no--no--no--but hush, softly!--I may not agitate myself--you, my sweet
boy, have surely come to me the blessed messenger of health--your finger
shall turn back the hand upon the dial, and years, whole years of
happiness, shall be yours and mine."

"Inscrutable Ruler of heaven!"  I exclaimed, "it is impossible!  You are
but trying my affection--you do but wish to witness the depth of my
agony--you would prove me--but this is with a torture too cruel.  Say--
oh, say--my dear Mrs Causand, that you are trifling with me--you--you
are now the only friend that I have upon earth!"

"These emotions, my dear boy, will slay me outright--the monster is now,
even now, grappling with me--give me your hand."  She took it, and
placed it over the region of her heart.  The shock it gave me was
electric--that heart trembled beneath her bosom rapidly as flutter the
wings of the dying bird--then paused--then went on.  I looked into her
face, and saw again the instant and momentary pallor, that had surprised
me so much on my first entrance.  The paroxysm was as short as it was
violent, and her features again returned to their usual placidity of
majestic beauty.

"You know it all now, Ralph--the least motion sets my heart in this
unaccountable fury--and--alas, alas! every attack is more acute than the
last.  They tell me that I am dying--I cannot believe it.  I cannot even
comprehend it.  I have none of the symptoms of death upon me.
Everything around me breathes of health and happiness--you alone were
wanting to complete the scene--you are here--no--no, I will not die.
Had my hair whitened, my form bowed, my complexion withered--why, then--
I might have been reconciled--but, no--it is impossible--no--no--Ralph,
I am _not_ dying."

"Fervently do I pray God that you are not.  It also seems to me
impossible--but still, the youngest of us cannot always escape--hoping,
trusting, relying on the best, we should be prepared for the worst."

"But I am not prepared," she exclaimed, with a fierce energy that
breathed defiance; and then, relapsing into a profound melancholy, she
mournfully continued--"and I cannot prepare myself."

"Have you spoken to a clergyman?" said I, not knowing exactly what else
to say.  "Is not this some book of divine consolation?"

I took it up; it was the popular novel of the day, entitled, "The Rising
Sun."  What a profound mockery for a deathbed!

"I tell you, my dear Ralph, that you must not agitate me.  Talk of
anything but my approaching death--for know, that I am resolved _not_ to
die.  To-morrow there will be a consultation over my case of the very
first of the medical faculty in the world.  Ralph, do not you league
together with the rest of the world, and condemn me to an untimely
death."

"Untimely, indeed."

She had now evidently talked too much; she closed her eyes, and seemed
to enjoy a peaceful and refreshing slumber.  I sat by and watched her.
Was I then in a sick-chamber?--was that personification of beauty
doomed?  I looked round, and pronounced it incredible.  I gazed upon the
recumbent figure before me, so still, so living, and yet so death-like--
and moralised upon the utter deception of appearances.

At length she awoke, apparently much reanimated.

"My dear Ralph," said she, "why are you not in mourning?"

"I understand you--and I perceive that you are now in black.  But I must
not disturb you--yet, if I dared, I would ask you one question--oh, in
pity answer it--was she my mother?"

"Does death absolve us from our oaths?"

"I am not, dear lady, casuist enough to answer you that question.  But
do you know that I have become a desperate character lately?  I write
myself man, and will prove the authenticity of the signature with my
life.  I have renounced my profession--every pursuit, every calling,
every thought--that may stand between me and the development of the
mystery of my birth.  It is the sole purpose of my life--the whole
devotion of my existence."

"Ralph--a foolish one--just now.  Bide the course of events."

"I will not--if I can control them.  Through this detestable mystery, I
have been insulted, reviled--a wretch has had the hardihood, the
turpitude, to brand both you and me--me as the base-born child, and you
as the ignominious parent."

"Who, who, who?"

"A pale-faced, handsome, short, smooth-worded villain, with a voice that
I now recognise, for the first time--a coward--a swindler, that calls
himself, undoubtedly among other aliases--"

"Stop, Ralph, in misery!" and, for the first time, she sat upright on
her couch.  "The crisis of a whole life is at hand--I must go through
it, if I die on the spot--ring again for Miss Tremayne."

The gentle and quiet lady was soon at Mrs Causand's side.  There was a
little whispering passed between them, some medicines put on the small
work-table near the head of the couch, and, finally, a tolerably large
packet of papers.  She then cautioned Mrs Causand most emphatically to
keep herself tranquil, and, bowing to me slightly, glided out of the
room.



CHAPTER SIXTY SEVEN.

THE VEIL IS FAST DROPPING FROM BEFORE RALPH'S MYSTERIOUS PARENTAGE--
STRANGE DISCLOSURES, AND MUCH GOOD EVIDENCE THAT THIS IS A VERY BAD
WORLD--RALPH'S LOVE-SYMPTOMS ARE FAST SUBSIDING.

"Ralph," said the lady, when we were again alone, "I have, through the
whole of my life, always detested scenes, and, to the utmost of my
power, ever repelled all violent emotions.  I am not now going to give
you a history of my life--to make my confessions, and ask pardon of you
and God, and then die--nonsense; but I must say that your fate has been
somewhat strangely connected with my own.  I acknowledge to you, at
once, that I am a fallen woman--but, as I never had the beauty, so I
never had the repentance, of a Magdalen.  I fell to one of the greatest
upon the earth.  I still think that it was a glorious fate.  I know that
you are going to wound me deeply.  I will take it meekly; may it be, in
some measure, looked upon as a small expiation for my one great error!
But, spare me, as long as you are able, the name of this person you have
described with such bitterness--it may not, after all, be he who has
been almost the only bitterness that has yet poisoned my cup of a too
pleasurable existence--'tis pleasurable, alas! until, even in this, my
eleventh hour.  Tell me all, and then I shall be able to judge how much
it may be my duty to reveal to you."

It was a fine study, that of observing the gradual emotion of this
worldly and magnificent woman, as I proceeded with my eventful tale.  I
took it up only at that period when Joshua Daunton first made his
application to me to be allowed to enter the _Eos_.  The beginning of my
narrative fell coldly upon her, and her features were strung up to that
tension which I had often before observed in persons who were bracing up
their nerves to undergo a dangerous surgical operation.  They were
certainly not impassive, for, in the fixed eyes that glared upon me,
there was a strange restlessness, though not of motion.

The first symptoms of emotion that I could perceive took place when I
described the lash descending upon the shrinking shoulders of Daunton.
She clasped her hands firmly together, and upturned her eyes, as if
imploring Heaven for mercy, or entreating it for vengeance.  I
perceived, as I proceeded, that I was gradually losing ground in her
affections--that she was, in spite of herself, espousing the cause of my
pledged enemy; and when I told her of the defiance that I had received
in the sick-bay, she murmured forth, "Well done! well done!" followed by
a name that was not mine.

When I related to her the documents that he had shown me to convince me
that he was no impostor, she said, "Ralph, it is enough--it is of little
consequence now what name you may give him.  _He is my son_!"

"And my half-brother?"

"Oh no, no, young sir!  Disgraced as he has been, a nobler blood than
that of Rattlin flows in his veins.  Degraded, disgraced as he is,
neither on the side of the father nor of the mother need he blush for
his parentage.  But you are his sworn enemy--I can now listen more
calmly to what you have to say.  But, graceless as he is, he should not
have denied his own mother."

"Mrs Causand," said I, in a tone of voice more cold than any with which
I had yet addressed her, "it seems that you have, and that most
unreasonably too, taken part against me.  In no point have I sinned
against you or yours.  I have all along been the attacked, the aggrieved
party.  I will no longer offend your ears, or wring your heart, by a
recapitulation of your son's delinquencies.  He has done me much wrong;
he is contemplating more--only place me in a situation to do myself
justice, and silence on the past shall seal my lips for ever; but know
that he has stolen all my documents, and intends passing himself to
whomever may be my father, as his legitimate son, as myself."

"This must not be--foolish, mad, wicked boy!  That I, his mother, must
stand up his accuser! must act against him as his enemy! but I have long
ago discarded him--almost cursed him.  Oh, Ralph, Ralph! had he been but
like you--but, from his youth upwards, he has been inclined to
wickedness--no fortune could have supplied his extravagance--he has
exhausted even a mother's love.  I refused him money, and he stole my
papers--I never dreamt of the vile use that he intended to put them to.
Spare me for a little while, and I will let you know all; but should you
once get his neck under your heel, oh! tread lightly on my poor
William!"  She had evidently another and a most severe attack of her
complaint, which passed rapidly over like the rest; but she now had, for
the first time in my observation, recourse to her medicines.  When
sufficiently recovered, she continued:

"Ralph, neither you nor any one else shall know my private history.  It
is enough for you to understand that I was almost from infancy destined
to associate with the greatest of the sterner sex.  Early was I involved
in this splendid--degradation, the austere would call it, though
degradation I never held it to be.  Even appearances were preserved;
for, before my wretched son was born, I was married to one of the pages
of a German court, who was sixty years of age, and properly submissive
and distant.  To the English ear, this sounds like a confession of
infamy.  Let me not, Ralph, endeavour to justify it to you--I was taught
otherwise--now, if I could, I would not regret it.  Your father, then an
only son, sometimes visited at the house of the person over whose
establishment I presided, and--and, mark me, Ralph, injuriously as you
must now think of me, I presided over but one.  Deride me not when I
tell that to that distinguished personage I was chaste."

She paused, and I thought that her voice faltered strangely, and that
the assertion died upon her lips, and I made no reply.  I was by no
means astonished at this detail.  I could only look upon her most
anxiously, and await her future disclosures.

"I have," she continued, "lived for the world, and found it a glorious
one.  The husband of my heart, and the husband of ceremony, have long
both been dead.  I enjoy a competency--nay, much more--and yet, they
talk to me of dying.  To-morrow will decide upon my fate.  I have lived
a good life, according to my capabilities--it is no delusion--but,
should the sentence of to-morrow's consultation be fatal, then the
lawyer and the clergyman--"

"And why not to-day?"

"Because it is ours, Ralph, or rather, yours.  Well, your mother was of
good, though not of exalted, family--the daughter of a considerable
freeholder in our neighbourhood.  She was the eldest of many children,
and the most beautiful born of all in the county.  Her father sent her
to London; and she became thus, for her station and the period, over
educated.  She foolishly preferred the fashionable, and refined, and
luxurious service in a nobleman's family to a noble independence in her
honest father's spacious house.  It was her mistake and her ruin.

"Ralph!  I loved your mother--you know it--but as a governess in the
Duke of E's family, I hated and feared her.  I don't think that she was
more beautiful than I, but he--he whom I will never mention--began to be
of that opinion--at least, I trembled.  Reginald Rathelin loved her--
wooed her; I entered with eagerness into his schemes--his success was my
security.  Miss Daventry at first repulsed me; but, at length, I
overcame her repugnance--many ladies, notwithstanding my ambiguous
position, awed by the rank of my protector, received me--we became
friends.  The beautiful governess eloped--I managed everything--they
were married.  I was myself a witness of the ceremony."

"Thank God!"  I exclaimed, fervently.

"Reginald was wild and dissipated, poor and unprincipled--he cajoled his
wife, and suffered her again to return to her menial station in the
duke's family.  In due time there was another journey necessary.  It was
when you were born at Reading.  `A little while, and yet a little
while,' was the constant plea of the now solicited husband, `and I will
own you, my dear Elizabeth, and boast of you before all the world.'"

"My poor mother!"

"About two years after this marriage, Sir Luke, the father of Reginald,
fell ill, and the neglect of the husband became only something a little
short of actual desertion.  Your mother had a proud as well as a loving
spirit.  She wrote to the father of Reginald--she interested the duke in
her favour--she was now as anxious for publicity as concealment; but the
expectant heir defied us all.  He confessed himself a villain, and
avowed that he had entrapped your mother by a fictitious marriage."

"And _he_ my father!--but you, _you, her friend_?"

"He deceived me also.  He declared the man who pretended to perform the
marriage ceremony was not in holy orders.  He dared us to prove it.  His
father, bred up in prejudice of birth and family, did not urge the son
to do justice to your mother, but satisfied his conscience by providing
very amply for yourself: he first took credit to himself for thus having
done his duty, then the sacrament, and died.

"Your father, now Sir Reginald, in due time proposed for the richest
heiress in the three adjacent counties, and was rejected with scorn.  We
made a strong party against him--the seat of his ancestors became
hateful to him--he went abroad.  His princely mansion was locked up--his
estates left to the management of a grinding steward; and the world
utterly forgot the self-created alien from his country."

"Then, alas! after all, I am illegitimate."

"And if you were?--but, methinks, that you are now feeling more for
yourself than your mother."

"Oh no, no! tell me of her!"

"After this _expose_, she lived some few years respected in the duke's
family; but she changed her name--home to her father's she would never
go--no tidings ever reached her of the man she looked upon as her
seducer.  It must be confessed, however, that he took great care of his
child--he appointed agents to watch over your welfare, though I firmly
believe that he never saw you in his life."

"I think that he once made the attempt when I was at Roots' school; but,
before I was brought to him, his conscience smote him, and he fled like
a craven from his only and injured son."

"Most probably.  Rumour said that he had made several visits to England
under a strict incognito.  But I must pause--the evening is fast
waning--let me repose a little, and then we will have lights and
dinner."  She fell back upon her couch, and appeared again to slumber.



CHAPTER SIXTY EIGHT.

RALPH THINKS SERIOUSLY ABOUT CHANGING HIS NAME--GETS A LITTLE UNWILLING
JUSTICE DONE TO HIMSELF, AND GAINS MUCH INFORMATION--THE WHOLE WOUND UP
SUDDENLY AND SORROWFULLY.

It was nearly dark.  As I sat for more than half an hour by the side of
the impenitent beauty, I could not conceive that she was in any danger.
Whilst she discoursed with me so fully, her voice was firm, though not
loud, and, were it not for a short and sudden check, sometimes in the
middle of a word, I should say that I never before heard her converse
more fluently or more musically.

Whilst she yet reclined, the servants brought in lights, and made
preparations for our little dinner, a small table being laid close to
Mrs Causand's couch.  When this exquisite repast was ready, and Miss
Tremayne made her appearance, Mrs Causand rose, apparently much
renovated.  She looked almost happy: without assistance, she walked from
her sofa, and took her place at the table.

"There, Fanny," said she, quite triumphantly--"and not a single attack!
This dear Ralph has surely brought health with him.  Yesterday, this
exertion would have killed me."

"Do not, however," said the lady, "try yourself too much."

We dined cheerfully: she seemed to have forgotten her son, and I my
much-injured mother.  After the dinner was concluded, and Miss Tremayne
had retired, and my hostess had returned to her sofa, she sent for her
writing-desk, and then proceeded with her narrative.

"Your mother, my dear Ralph, yearned for your society.  She had saved a
considerable sum of money--she wished for a home, to procure which, she
married that little ugly, learned Frenchman, Cherfeuil--but even that
she did not do until it was currently reported, and generally believed,
that your father was dead."

"I admire the delicacy of the scruple--I honour her for it."

"Sip your wine, Ralph--you'll find it excellent--I will indulge in one
glass, let Dr Hewings say what he will--to your health, my little
lover, and may I soon hail you as Sir Ralph Rathelin!"

"How is it possible?"

"You shall hear.  We were talking about your good mother.  When she had
married this Cherfeuil, who was the French assistant at a large school,
she found out the agents to whom you were entrusted, and soon arranged
with them that you should be domesticated under her own roof--you were
removed to Stickenham, and she and you were happy."

"Oh, how happy!"

"Well, you know it was in those happy days that I had first the pleasure
of forming an acquaintance with the inimitable Ralph Rattlin."

"But why Rattlin?--my name must be either Daventry or Rathelin."

"Rathelin, of a surety--it was first of all corrupted to Rattlin by that
topmost of all top-sawyers, Joe Brandon--it having thus been so
established, for many reasons, concealment among the rest, your mother
thought it best for you to retain it.  Now, Ralph, mark this--about
eight, or rather seven, months ago, I took a short trip to my native
country in Germany.  Never was my health more redundant.  I left your
mother prosperous and happy, and beautiful as ever--she had heard of
you, and heard much in your favour, though you never once condescended
to write to any one of us.  Whilst I was in--your father returned, a
changed man--changed in everything, even in religion: he had turned
penitent and a Catholic; and so had his travelling companion, the very
man who had married him to your sweet mother."

"Then he was in holy orders?"

"He was."

"God of infinite justice, I thank you."

"The Reverend Mr Thomas came here to my very house, when I was away,
with a long and repentant letter from his patron--full of inquiries for
yourself; and for your mother, Lady Rathelin."

"Where is that inestimable letter?"

"Oh, where?" said the again agonised Mrs Causand.  "Ralph, much
mischief was done in that absence--my boy, my lost William: he, whom you
know as Joshua Daunton, broke into his mother's house, rifled my
escritoir, and carried off some of my most important documents--that
unread letter among the number."

"But how know you its contents?" said I, breathless with agitation.

"By the tenor of these succeeding ones from Sir Reginald and his
priest."

She opened her desk, and gave me two letters from my father to her.
They were, as she described them, repentant, and spoke most honourably
and most fondly of my deceased mother--praying Mrs Causand most
earnestly to tell him of the happiness and the whereabouts of his wife.

"And you did, of course."

"No, Ralph, I did not--look at the dates.  It was a fortnight after
these arrived before I returned home.  I weep even now when I think of
it--three days before I returned your mother had died, almost suddenly."

"Ah, true, true!" said I, mournfully.  But, a sudden pang of agony
seizing my inmost heart, I suddenly started up, and, seizing her roughly
by the hand, I said, sternly:

"Look me in the face, Madam--do you see any resemblance there to my
poor, poor mother?"

"Oh, very, very great--but why this violence?"

"Because I now understand the villainy that caused her death.  Your son
murdered her--see in me her reproachful countenance--oh, Mrs Causand,
you and yours have been the bane, the ruin of me and mine."

"What do you mean by those horrible words?  Ralph, beware, or you will
yourself commit a dastardly murder upon me, even as you stand there."

"Mrs Causand, I will be calm.  I see it all.  With the first letter of
Sir Reginald in his hand, he went to Stickenham; and, with the murderous
intent strong in his black bosom, he branded my mother with bigamy,
incensed the weak Frenchman against her, and, in twenty-four hours, did
the mortal work that years of injustice and injury could not effect."

"Good God, it must be so!--Ralph, I do not ask you to forgive him--but
pity his poor suffering mother--he has broken my heart--not, Ralph, in
the mystical, but in the actual, the physical sense.  In the very hour
in which I returned home, I found a warrant had been issued for his
apprehension as a housebreaker; and the stony-hearted reprobate had the
cruelty to insult his mother by a letter glorying in the fact, at the
same time demanding a thousand pounds for his secrecy and the papers
that he had stolen.  The shock was too much for me.  I had an attack, a
fit--I know not what--I fell senseless to the earth--my heart has never
since beaten healthfully.  Oh, perhaps, after all, it would be a
happiness for me to die!--Poor Elizabeth--my more than sister, my
friend!"

"But why do I waste my time here?" said I, starting up, and seizing my
hat.  "The reptile is at work.  Where lives Sir Reginald?--my demon--
like double may be there before me.  He may personate me long enough to
kill my father and rifle his hoards.  I must away--but, ere I go, know
that, with these abstracted papers, he sought me in the West Indies,
cheated me out of my name on my return to England, and, finally, waylaid
and attempted, with a low accomplice, to assassinate me on my return
from Stickenham."

"God of Heaven, let me die!--he could never have been son of mine--let
me know the horrid particulars."

"No--no--no--I must away--or more murders will be perpetrated."

"Stop, Ralph, a little moment--do not go unprovided.  Take these and
these--he stole not all the documents--let me also give my testimony
under my own hand of your identity.  It may be of infinite service to
you."

She then wrote a short letter to Sir Reginald, describing accurately my
present appearance, and vouching that I, and none other, was the
identical Ralph Rattlin, who was nursed by the Brandons, and born at
Reading.

"Take this, Ralph, and show it to Sir Reginald.  I only ask one thing:
spare the life--only the life--of that unfortunate boy!--and in his,
spare mine--for I am unprepared to die!"

"The mercy that he showed my mother--"

I had proceeded no further in my cruel speech, when a great noise was
heard at the door, and two rough-looking Bow Street officers, attended
by the whole household, rushed into the room.  They advanced towards the
upper end of this elegant sanctum.  Mrs Causand sprang up from her
sofa, and, standing in all the majesty of her beauty, sternly demanded,
"What means this indignity?"

"Beg your ladyship's pardon, sorry to intrude--duty--never shy, that you
know, ma'am--only a search-warrant for one Joshua Daunton, alias
Sneaking Willie, alias Whitefaced--"

"Stop, no more of this ribaldry--you see he is not here--I know nothing
concerning him--of what is he accused?"

"Of forgery, housebreaking, and, with an accomplice, of an attempt to
murder a young gentleman, a naval officer of the name of Ralph Rattlin."

Mrs Causand turned to me sorrowfully, and exclaimed, "Oh, Ralph! was
this well done of you?"  Her fortitude, her sudden accession of physical
strength, seemed to desert her at once; and she, who just before stood
forth the undaunted heroine, now sank upon her couch, the crushed
invalid.  At length, she murmured forth, feebly, "Ralph, rid me of these
fellows."

I soon effected this.  I told them that I was the culprit's principal
accuser; that I was assured he was not only not within the house, but I
verily believed many miles distant.  They believed me, and respectfully
enough retired.

Miss Tremayne, the companion and nurse of the invalid, now with myself
stood over her.  She had another attack upon the region of her heart:
and it was so long before she rallied, that we thought the fatal moment
had arrived.  When she could again breathe freely, her colour did not,
as formerly, return to her cheeks.  They wore an intense and transparent
whiteness, at once awful and beautiful.  Yet she spoke calmly and
collectedly.  I entreated to be permitted to depart--my intercessions
were seconded by the young lady.  But the now cold hand of Mrs Causand
clasped mine so tightly, and the expression of her eyes was so
imploring, that I could not rudely break away from her.

"But a few short minutes," she exclaimed, "and then fare you well.  I
feel worse than I ever yet remember--and very cold.  It is not now the
complaint that has cast me down upon a sick-bed that seems invading the
very principle of life--a chilly faintness is coming over me--yet I dare
not lay my head upon my pillow, lest I never from thence lift it again.
Ralph, here is a warmth in your young blood--support me!"

I cradled her head upon my shoulder, and whispered to Miss Tremayne, who
immediately retired, to procure the speedy attendance of the physician.

"Are we alone, Ralph?" said the shuddering lady, with her eyes firmly
closed.  "I have a horrid presentiment that my hour is approaching--
everything is so still around and within me.  Every sensation seems
deserting me rapidly, but one--and that is a mother's feeling!  You will
leave me here to die, amongst menials and strangers!"

"Miss Tremayne?" said I, soothingly.

"Is but a hired companion; engaged only since the occurrence of these
attacks.  Yes, you will desert me to these--and for what, God of
retribution!--to hunt down the life of my only son!  Will you, will you,
Ralph, do this over-cruel thing?"

"He has attempted mine--he still seeks it.  Let us talk, let us think,
of other matters.  Compose your mind with religious thoughts.  Your
strength will rally during the night; to-morrow comes hope, the
consultation of physicians, and, with God's good blessings, life and
health."

"To hear, to know, that he is to die the death of the felon!  Promise me
to forego your purpose, or let me die first!"

"I have sworn over the grave of my mother that the laws shall decide
this matter between us.  If he escape, I forgive him, and may God
forgive him, too!"

"And must it come to this?" she sobbed forth in the bitterness of her
anguish, whilst the tears streamed down her cheeks from her closed
eyelids.  "Will this cruel youth at length extort the horrible
confession!--it must be so--one pang--and it will be over.  Let me
forego your support--lay me gently on the pillow, for you will loathe
me.  A little while ago, and I told you I had been faithful to him--it
was a bitter falsehood--know, that my son, my abandoned William, is also
the son of your father--say, will his blood now be upon your hands?"

"Tell me, beautiful cause of all our miseries, does your miserable
offspring know this?"

"Yes," said she, very faintly.

"Yet he could seek my life--basely--but no matter.  His blood shall
never stain my hand--I will not seek him--if he crosses my path, I will
avoid him--I will even assist him to escape to some country where,
unknown, he may, by a regenerated life, wipe out the dark catalogue of
his crimes, make his peace with man here, and with his God hereafter."

"Will you do all this, my generous, my good, my godlike Ralph?"

"You and God be my witnesses!"

She sprang up wildly from her apparent state of lethargy, clasped me
fervently in her arms, blessed me repeatedly, and then, in the midst of
her raptures, she cried out, "Oh, Ralph, you have renewed my being, you
have given me long years of life, and health, and happiness.  You--" and
here she uttered a loud shriek, that reverberated through the mansion--
but it was cut short in the very midst--a thrilling, a horrible silence
ensued--she fell dead upon the couch.

I stood awe-struck over the beautiful corpse, as it lay placidly
extended, disfigured by no contortion, but on the contrary, a heavenly
repose in the features--a sad mockery of worldly vanity.  Death had
arrayed himself in the last imported Parisian mode.

At that dying shriek, in rushed the household, headed by the physician,
and closely followed by the companion, with the hired nurses.  Methought
that the doctor looked on this wreck of mortality with grim
satisfaction.  "I knew it," said he, slowly; "and Doctor Phillimore is
nothing more than a solemn dunce.  I told him that she would not survive
to be subjected to the consultation of the morrow.  And how happens it,"
said he, turning fiercely to the companion and the nurses, "that my
patient was thus left alone with this stripling?"

"Stripling, sir!" said I.

"Young man, let us not make the chamber of death a hall of contention.
Tell me, Miss Tremayne, how comes my patient thus unattended, or rather,
thus ill attended?"

"It was her own positive command," said the young lady, in a faltering
voice.

"Ah! she was always imperious, always obstinate.  There must have been
some exciting conversation between you, sir (turning to me), and the
lady; did you say anything to vex or grieve her?"

"On the contrary; she was expressing the most unbounded hope and
happiness when she died."

"And the name of God was not on her lips, the prayer for pardon not in
her heart, when she was snatched away."

I shook my head.  "Well," said he, "it is a solemn end, and she was a
wilful lady.  Do you know, Miss Tremayne, if she has any relations
living?--they should be sent for."

"I know of none.  A person of distinction, whose name I am not at
liberty to mention, sometimes visited her.  We had better send for her
solicitor."

Some other conversation took place, which I hardly noticed.  The body
was adjusted on the couch, we left the room, and the door was locked.
As I walked quietly, almost stealthily, home, I felt stunned.  Health
and mortality, death and life, seemed so fearfully jumbled together,
that I almost doubted whether I was not traversing a city of spirits.

My Achates stared at me when I described to him the late occurrences.

"So you have at length discovered him?" said he.

"I have--a voice almost from the grave has imparted to me all that I
wished to know--and something more.  I have sprung from a beautiful
race--but we must not speak ill of kith and kin, must we, Pigtop?"

"For certain not.  And, so your father actually did send that old lord
to look after you at your return from the West Indies.  Well, that shows
some affection for you, at all events."

"The fruits of which affection Daunton is, no doubt, now reaping."

"Well, let us go and cut his throat, or rather, turn him over to the
hangman."

"No, Pigtop; I have promised his mother that I will not attempt his
life."

"But I have not."

"Humph! let us to roost.  To-morrow, at break of day, we will be off for
Rathelin Hall.  See that our arms are in order.  And now to what rest
nature and good consciences will afford us."



CHAPTER SIXTY NINE.

MR. PIGTOP BELIEVETH IN GHOSTS, AND HATH SOME TRUST IN WITCHES, BUT NONE
AT ALL IN LAWYERS--A CONSULTATION AFTER SUPPER, AND, AFTER SUPPER,
ACTION.

Early next morning, Mr Pigtop and myself were seated in a post-chaise,
making the best of our way towards the western extremity of England.
When we had arrived at Exeter, where we found it necessary to sleep, in
order to gain some little restoration from the fatigues of our incessant
travelling, we made up our minds to hire three horses and a groom, and,
having very accurately ascertained the exact site of Rathelin Hall,
which was situated a few miles to the north-eastward of Barnstaple, we
arrived there towards the close of the day, and put up at a very decent
inn in an adjoining village.

The old and large house was distinctly visible, notwithstanding the
well-wooded park in which it was situated, from the windows of our inn.
A conference with our host fully realised our worst fears.  He informed
us that Sir Reginald was not expected to live many days; that his whole
deportment was very edifying; and, moreover, that his dying hours were
solaced and sweetened by the presence and the assiduities of his only
and long-disowned, but now acknowledged, son Ralph.  We, moreover,
learned that this Ralph came attended by a London attorney; and that
they, with the priest Thomas, in the intervals between rest, refection,
and prayer, were actively employed in settling his sublunary affairs,
very much to the dissatisfaction of a Mr Seabright, the family
solicitor, and land-steward of the estate.

"Where does Mr Seabright live?" was my question, instantly.

"Why, here, sir, to be sure, in our town of Antwick; and mortally in
dudgeon he has taken all this."

"Undoubtedly, and with justice," was my reply.  "So faithful a servant,
who has for so many years had the sole management of the Rathelin
affairs, should not be cast off so slightly.  Give us as good a supper,
landlord, as your skill and Antwick can produce, and let us have covers
for three.  Send your porter down to Mr Seabright--but I had better
write a note."  So I sent to him a polite invitation to sup with us,
telling him that two strangers wished to see him on important business.

To all these proceedings Pigtop demurred.  He was for the summary
process of going before a magistrate next morning, and taking out a
warrant to apprehend Joshua Daunton on the capital charge for which he
was pursued in London, and thus, at one blow, wind up the affair.

But I held my promise to Mrs Causand to be sacred, and determined to
give him, my fraternal enemy, one chance of escaping.  Pigtop's
repugnance, however, to the employment of a lawyer could not be
overcome; so, not being able to obtain his consent, I determined to try
and do without it, which my friend averred to be impossible.

At nine o'clock precisely, as the smoking dishes appeared, so did the
lawyer.  A sudden emotion was perceptible on his iron-bound visage when
his eyes first fell upon me, of the nature of which I could form no
idea.  Mr Pigtop bowed to him very stiffly; and it was some time before
the genuine cordiality of my manner could put Mr Seabright at his ease.

While we were at table, I begged to decline giving him our names, as I
was fearful that the intelligence might travel to the Hall, and thus
give some scope for further machinations on the part of Joshua.  But, as
is too often the case, we were prudent only by halves.

The groom that we had hired, not being enjoined to secrecy, had
unhesitatingly told everyone belonging to the establishment our
appellations.  The landlord and his household were much struck by the
similarity of the name by which I still went, Rattlin, and that of
Rathelin; and thus, whilst I was playing the cautious before Mr
Seabright, the news had already reached the Hall, and those most
concerned to know it, that two gentlemen, a Mr Rattlin and a Mr
Pigtop, with their groom, had put up at the Three Bells in the village,
and had sent for the lawyer.

When, after supper, we had carefully secured the privacy of our
apartment, amidst many nudges and objurgations from my former shipmate,
I proceeded to relate to the astonished solicitor who I was, and what
were my motives for appearing at that juncture in the neighbourhood.  I
also told him of the personation of myself that I understood was then
going on at the Hall, at the same time totally suppressing every other
guilty circumstance of Daunton's life.

When I had finished my recital, I produced my documents; and,
notwithstanding that he was almost breathless with wonder, he confessed
that he believed implicitly all my assertions, and would assist me to
recover my rights, and disabuse my father, to the utmost of his
abilities.

"You have lost much valuable time," said he.  "This impostor has now
been domesticated some days with Sir Reginald.  I think, with you, that
he has no ulterior views upon the title and the estates.  His object is
present plunder, and the inducing your father, through the agency of
that scoundrel London lawyer, to make him sign such documents that
everything that can be willed away will be made over to him.  We must,
to-morrow, proceed in a body to the Hall, and take the villains by
surprise.  I will now return home and prepare some necessary documents.
As this is a criminal matter, I will also take care to have the
attendance of an upright and clear-seeing magistrate, who will proceed
with us--not certainly later than ten o'clock to morrow."

He then took his leave, with an air of much importance, and more
alacrity than I could have expected from a man of his years.

When Pigtop and myself were left alone, neither the first nor the second
nor'-wester of brandy-and-water could arouse him from his sullen mood.
He told me frankly, and in his own sea-slang, that he could not
disintegrate the idea of a lawyer from that of the devil, and that he
was assured that neither I nor my cause would prosper if I permitted the
interference of a land-shark.  I was even obliged to assume a little the
authority of a master, in order to subdue his murmurings: to convince
his judgment I did not try--in which forbearance I displayed much
wisdom.  We each retired to our respective room, with less of cordiality
than we had ever displayed since our unexpected reunion.

I had no sooner got to bed than I determined, by a violent effort, to
sleep.  I had always a ready soporific at hand.  It was a repeating and
re-repeating of a pious little ode by a late fashionable poet.  It
seldom failed to produce somnolency at about the twelfth or thirteenth
repetition.  I would recommend a similar prescription to the sleepless;
and I can assure them that there is much verse lately printed, and by
people who plume themselves no little upon it, that need not be gone
over more than twice at furthest; excepting the person may have Saint
Vitus dance, and then a third time may be necessary.  I would specify
some of these works, were it at all necessary; but the afflicted have
only to ask, at random, for the last published volume of poems, or to
take up an annual, either old or new, and they may be _dosed_ without
the perpetration of a pun.

Three times had I slept by the means of my ode, and three times had I
awaked by some horrible dream, that fled my memory with my slumbers.  I
could draw no omen from it, for my mind could not bring it out
sufficiently distinct to fix a single idea upon it.  However, as I found
my sleep so much more miserable than my watchfulness, I got up, and,
putting on a portion of my clothes, began to promenade my room with a
slow step and a very anxious mind.

I had made but few turns, when my door was abruptly thrust open, and
Pigtop stalked in, fully dressed.

"I can't sleep, Rattlin," said he, "and tarnation glad am I to see that
you can't caulk either.  A dutiful son you would be, to be snoozing
here, and very likely, at this very moment, the rascal's knife is
hacking at your father's weasand.  It is not yet twelve o'clock; and I
saw from my window, from whence I can see the Hall plainly, a strange
dancing of light about the windows, and you may take an old sailor's
word that something uncommon's in the wind.  Let us go and reconnoitre."

"With all my heart; any action is better than this wretched inactivity
of suspense.  I will complete my dress, and you, in the meantime, look
to the pistols."

We were soon ready, and sallied forth unperceived from the inn.  We had
no purpose, no ultimate views; yet both Pigtop and myself seemed fully
to understand that we should be compelled into some desperate adventure.
I was going armed, and by night, like an assassin, to seek the
presence, or, at least, to watch over the safety of a father I had never
seen, never loved, and never respected.

The space that separated the abode of my father from the inn was soon
passed; and, a little after midnight, I stood within the gloomy and
park-like enclosure that circumscribed the front of the large old
mansion.  The lodge was a ruin, the gates had long been thrown down, and
we stumbled over some of their remnants, imbedded in the soil, and
matted to it with long and tangled grass.  I observed that there was a
scaffolding over the front of the lodge; but whether it were for the
purpose of repairing or taking down, I could not then discover.

As my companion and myself advanced to the front of the building, we
also observed that, lofty as were its walls, it was scaffolded to the
very attics, and some part of the roof of the right wing was already
removed.  Altogether, a more comfortless, a more dispiriting view could
hardly have been presented; and its disconsolateness was much increased
by the dim and fitful light that a young moon gave at intervals, upon
gables, casements, and clumps of funereal yews.

"And this," as we stood before the portals, said I to Pigtop, "is my
inheritance--mine.  Is it not a princely residence?"

"It looms like a county jail, that's being turned into a private
madhouse.  If so be as how witches weren't against the law of the land,
this seems the very place for them.  Do you believe in ghosts?"

"Verily, yes, and--no."

"Because I think that I see the ghosts of a hearse and four horses among
those tall trees at that corner."

"Then, Pig, we must be on the alert--for I see it, too; but the vision
has assumed the every-day deception of a post-chaise and four."

"Jeer as you will, it is a hearse: somebody's just losing the number of
his mess.  It will take away a corpse to-night, depend upon it.  That a
post-chaise!  Pooh!  I can see the black plumes waving upon the horses'
heads; and--hark at the low, deep moanings that seem to sweep by it--
that is not at all natural--let us go back."

"I was never more resolved to go forward.  There is villainy hatching--
completing.  Wrap your cloak closely about your countenance; don't
mistake the wind for groans, nor the waving branches of cedar-trees for
hearse-plumes, but follow me."

"Who's afraid?" said Pigtop.

His chattering teeth answered the question.

As I was prepared for everything, I was not surprised to find the
principal door open, and the hall filled with iron-bound cases and
several plate-chests.  As we stepped into the midst of these, completely
muffled in our cloaks, a fellow came and whispered to us, "Is all
ready?"

"Hush!" said I.

"Oh, no fear--they are at prayers in Sir Reginald's bedroom--he is going
fast--he is restless--he cannot sleep."

"Where are the servants?"

"Snoring in their nests."

"And who is with Sir Reginald?"

"Nobody but the priest, and his son, Master Ralph--without the lawyer
has gone up since; he saw all right about the chaise.  But am I on the
right lay?"

"Surely.  Joshua Daunton and I--"

"Enough--you're up to trap--so lend us a hand, and let us take the swag
to the shay--though swag it ain't, for it's Josh's by deed of law.  Sir
Reginald signs and seals to-night, as they say he can't live over
to-morrow."

"No there is no occasion to stir yet.  Which is the way to Sir
Reginald's room?  I must speak one word to Joshua before we start.  I
know the countersign--it will bring him out to me in a moment.  I would
advise you, in the meantime, just to step to the chaise and see all
right, and bring it up nearer the door quietly--mind, quietly, for these
boxes are damned heavy."

"You're right there," said the accomplice, and departed on his errand,
after previously showing me the staircase that led to the apartment of
my sick father.

When the rascal's steps were no longer heard, "Now, Pigtop," said I,
"show your pluck, help me to lock and bar the hall-door--good--so one
bloodhound is disposed of; he dare not make a noise, lest he should
rouse the establishment.  Now follow me--but, hark ye, no murder: the
reptile's life must be spared."

Pigtop made no answer, but pointed to his scarred and disfigured lip,
with a truly ferocious grin.

It is necessary for the fully understanding of the catastrophe that
ensued, that I describe the site of the old building in which such
startling events were passing.  The front approach was level from the
road; but on the back there was a precipitous, and rugged, and rocky
descent, up to the very buttresses that supported the old walls--not,
certainly, so great or so dangerous as to be called a precipice; for, on
the extreme right wing of the rear of the house, it was no more than a
gentle inclination of the soil, deepening rapidly towards the left, and
there, directly under the extremity of that wing, assuming the
appearance of a vast chasm, through the bottom of which a brawling
stream chafed the pointed stones, on its way to the adjacent sea.

Sir Reginald's sleeping-room was a large tapestried apartment on the
first-floor, the windows of which occupied the extreme of the left wing
of the house, and was directly over the deepest part of the chasm which
I have described.

All this part of the mansion was scaffolded also; the ends of the poles
having what appeared to be but a very precarious insertion on the
projections of the rocks below.  It had been the intention of Sir
Reginald thoroughly to repair his mansion; but, falling sick, and in low
spirits, he had ordered the preparations to be delayed.  The scaffolding
had been standing through the whole of the previous winter; and the
poles, and more especially the ropes that bound them to the cross-piece,
had already gone through several stages of decay.



CHAPTER SEVENTY.

CONCLUSION.

My associate and myself advanced stealthily and noiselessly up the
staircase.  We met no one.  The profoundest security seemed to reign
everywhere.  Favoured by the dark shadows that hung around us, we
advanced to the door that was nearly wide open, and we then had a full
view of everything within.  The picture was solemn.  Seated in a very
high-backed, elaborately-carved, and Gothic chair, supported on all
sides by pillows, sat the attenuated figure of my father.  I gazed upon
him with an eager curiosity, mingled with awe.  His countenance was long
and ghastly--there was no beauty in it.  Its principal expression was
terror.  It was evident that his days were numbered.  I looked upon him
intently.  I challenged my heart for affection, and it made no answer.

Directly before my father was placed a table, covered with a rich and
gold-embroidered cloth, bordered with heavy gold fringe, upon which
stood four tall wax candles, surrounding a mimic altar surmounted by an
ebony crucifix.  His chaplain, dressed in Popish canonicals, was
mumbling forth some form of prayer, and a splendidly-illuminated missal
lay open before him.  There was also on the table a small marble basin
of water, and a curiously inlaid box filled with bones--relics, no
doubt--imbued with the spirit of miracle-working.  The priest was
perhaps performing a private midnight mass.

The fitful attention that Sir Reginald gave to this office was painful
to contemplate.  His mind was evidently wandering, and he could bring
himself to attend only at intervals.  At another table, a little removed
from the one I have described, sat the person of the London attorney; he
had also two lights, and he was most busily employed in turning over and
indexing various folios of parchment.  But I have yet to describe the
other figure--the, to me, loathsome person of my illegitimate
half-brother.  He was on his knees, mumbling forth the responses and
joining in the prayers of the priest.  He was paler and thinner than
usual; he looked, however, perfectly gentlemanly, and was scrupulously
well-dressed.

As yet, I had not heard the voice of Sir Reginald; his lips moved at
some of the responses that the two made audibly, but sound there was
none.  At length, when there was a total cessation of the voices of the
other, and a silence so great in that vast apartment that the rustling
of the lawyer's parchments was distinctly heard, even where I stood--
even this hardened wretch seemed to feel the general awe of the moment,
and ceased to disturb the tomb-like silence.

In the midst of this, the prematurely-old Sir Reginald suddenly lifted
up his voice and exclaimed, loudly, in a tone of the most bitter
anguish, "Lord Jesu, have mercy upon me!"

The vast and ancient room echoed dolorously with the heart-broken
supplication.  It was the first time that my father's voice fell upon my
ear: it was so plaintive, so imbued with wretchedness, that the feeling
of resentment which, I take shame to myself, I had long suffered in my
bosom, melted away at once, and a strange tenderness came over me.  I
could have flung myself upon his bosom, and wept.  I felt that my
mother's wrongs had been avenged.  Even as it was, with all the secrecy
that I had then thought it my interest to preserve, I could not refrain,
in a subdued, yet earnest tone, from responding to his broken
ejaculation, from the very bottom of my heart, "Amen."

A start of surprise and terror, as my hollow response reached the ears
of all then and there assembled, followed my filial indiscretion.  Each
looked at the other with a glance that plainly asked, "Was the voice
thine?" and each in reply shook his head.

"A miracle!" exclaimed the priest.  "The sinner's supplication has been
heard.  Let us pray."

During this solemn scene, events of a very different description were
taking place at the inn which we had just clandestinely left.  Our exit
had been noticed.  The landlord was called up; he became seriously
alarmed, the more especially when the direction that we had taken had
been ascertained.  He immediately concluded that we had gone to Rathelin
Hall to commit a burglary, or perhaps a murder.  He summoned to his aid
the constables of the village; called up the magistrate, and the lawyer,
Mr Seabright; and, with a whole posse of attendants, proceeded to the
rescue.  We will conduct them to the door that Pigtop and myself had
secured when we barred out Daunton's accomplice, and, there leaving
them, return to the sick-chamber.

After the reverend gentleman had concluded his extempore prayer, but few
of the sentences of which reached our place of concealment, Sir Reginald
said, "My friends, the little business that we have to do to-night had
better be done speedily.  I feel unusually depressed.  I hope that it is
not the hand of death that is pressing so heavily upon me.  I would live
a little while longer--but the will of God, the Redeemer of our sins, be
done!  Bring the papers here--I will sign them.  My friend Brown, and
you, my poor and too long neglected Ralph (addressing Joshua), I trust
to your integrity in all this matter; for not only am I averse to, but
just now incapable of, business.  But, my dear Ralph, before we do this
irrevocable deed, kneel down and receive a repentant father's blessing,
and hear that father ask, with a contrite heart, pardon of his son and
of his God."

The parchments were brought and placed before the baronet by the
assiduous lawyer, and the son--for son to Sir Reginald he really was--
with looks of the most devout humility, and his eyes streaming with
hypocritical tears, knelt reverently down at the feet of the trembling
and disease-stricken parent.  His feeble hands are outstretched over the
inclined head of the impostor, his lips part--this--this--I cannot
bear--so, before a single word falls from our common father, I rush
forward, and, kneeling down beside my assassin-brother, exclaim, in all
the agony of wretchedness and the spirit of a newly-born affection,
"Bless me, even me also, O my father!--he has taken away my birthright,
and, behold, he would take away my blessing also.  Bless even me!"

"Ralph Rattlin, by all that's damnable!" screamed forth the
self-convicted impostor.

Thus, this apparently imprudent and rash step was productive to me of
more service than could have been hoped from the deepest-laid plan.  In
a moment we were on our feet, and our hands on each other's throats.
This sudden act seemed miraculously to invigorate our father; he rose
from his seat, and, standing to the full height of his tall and gaunt
figure, placing his bony hand heavily on my shoulder, and looking me
fixedly in the face, said, "If thou art Ralph Rathelin, who then is
this?"

"The base-born of your paramour!" and with a sudden energy I hurled him
from me; and he lay bruised and crouching beneath the large oriel
window, at the extremity of the room.

"It was unseemly said, and cruelly done," said the baronet, sorrowfully.
"Oh, but now my sins are remembered upon me!  I cast my sons loose upon
the face of the earth, and, in my dying hour, they come and struggle
together for their lives before my eyes!  Verily am I punished; my crime
is visited heavily upon me."

The other parties in the room were little less affected with various
emotions.  The London attorney was making rapidly for the door, when he
was met by the advancing Pigtop, who thrust him again into the
apartment, and then boldly faced the priest--the latter still in his
canonicals, the former dressed as a sectarian preacher.

Their antipathy was mutual and instantaneous.  But, ere the really
reverend gentleman could begin some pious objurgation at this apparent
interference with his communicant, Pigtop indulged in one of the
heaviest oaths that vulgarity and anger together ever concocted, and
straightway went and seized the crouching Joshua, and lugged him before
the agonised father, exclaiming, "Warrants out against him, Sir
Reginald, for burglary, forgery, and assassination--he is my prisoner."

The craven had not a word to say--his knees knocked together--he was a
pitiable object of a terror-stricken wretch.  Sir Reginald already began
to look down upon him with contempt: and my heart bounded within me,
when I already found him leaning parentally on my shoulder.  "Speak,
trembler!--is this person the veritable Ralph Rathelin?"

"Pity me, pardon me, and I will confess all."

"Splits!" said the attorney, and vanished through the now unguarded
door.

"Speak!"

"This gentleman is your lawful son--but I also--"

"No more--escape--there is gold--escape--hide yourself from the eye of
man for ever!"

"No," said Pigtop, giving him a remorseless shake.  "Do you see this
scar?"

"Let him go instantly, Pigtop!--obey me--I have promised his mother--it
is sacred."

"For my sake!" said Sir Reginald.

At this instant, the steward rushed in, partly dressed, crying out, "Sir
Reginald, Sir Reginald, the constables and the magistrates have broken
down the hall-door, and are now coming upstairs, to arrest the
housebreakers--they have packed up all the plate, and it lies in the
hall, ready to be carried off?"

"My God!  It is too late," said Sir Reginald, wringing his hands.

"No," said I; "let him escape by the window.  Be so good, sir," said I
to the priest, "to secure the door--we shall gain time.  Hold it as long
as you can against all intruders.  The scaffolding will enable the
culprit to reach the ground with comparatively little danger."

The priest obeyed; and not only fastened the door, but also barricaded
it with furniture.

"Now, Pigtop," said I, "if you wish to preserve my friendship, assist
this poor wretch to escape--he is paralysed with his abject fears.
Come, sir," addressing Joshua, "you will certainly be hung if you don't
exert yourself."

"He'll be hung yet," said Pigtop sulkily.  "But I am an old sailor, and
will obey orders--nevertheless, I know that I shall live to see him
hung.  Come along, sirrah!"

Between us, we led him to the window.  We then thrust him out, and he
stood shivering upon the cross-boarding of the scaffolding level with
the window-sills.

"Slide down the poles, and run," said I--and Pigtop together.

"I can't," said he, shuddering; "the chasm is awfully deep."

"You must, or die the death of the felon."

"Oh, what shall I do!"

"Cast off the lashing just above you," said Pigtop; "pass it over the
crosspiece over your head, make a running noose, put it under your arms,
and keep the other end of the rope in your hand.  You may either cling
to the pole with your legs as you like, or not--for then you can lower
yourself down at your ease, as comfortably as if you were taking a nap."

"Come away, Pigtop--shut the window, close the shutters--the constables
are upon us!"  I exclaimed.  This was done immediately, and thus was the
immaculate Joshua shut out from all view.  As the attacks on the door of
the apartment became more energetic, and we concluded that Joshua was
now safe, we were going to give the authorities entrance, when we heard
a dreadful crash on the outside of the window.

"The lubber's gone by the run, by God!" said Pigtop; "he'll escape
hanging, after all!"

"Let us hope in mercy not," said Sir Reginald, shuddering.  "I trust it
is not so.  I hear no scream, no shriek.  I am sure, by the sound, that
it was the toppling down of the boards; he has most likely displaced
some of them in his descent."

"Shall we admit, Sir Reginald, the people who are thundering at the
door?"

"Not yet: let there be no appearance of disorder--remove these"--
pointing to the small altar and crucifix--"and would it not be as well,
my friend, to divest yourself of those holy vestments? they are
irritating to heretical eyes.  Assist me, sir, to my chair."

I placed him respectfully nearly in the position in which I first
discovered him.  All vestiges of the Catholic religion were carefully
removed, and the door, at last, thrown open.  The crowd entered.

Hurried explanations ensued; but we could not conceal from the
magistrate that a robbery had been planned and nearly effected, and that
the real culprits, for whom, at first, Pigtop and I had been mistaken,
had escaped.

At length, the master of the inn suggested that perhaps they had passed
out of the window, and might be still upon the boarding or the
scaffolding.  The shutters were hastily thrown open--and, sight of
horrors!  Joshua Daunton was discovered hanging by the neck--dead!  Sir
Reginald gazed for some moments in speechless terror on the horrible
spectacle, and then fell back in a death-like swoon.

The body was brought in, and every attempt at resuscitation was useless.
He had died, and was judged; may he have found pardon!  Some thought
that he had hung himself intentionally, so completely had the noose
clasped his neck; others, among whom were Pigtop, thought differently.
The old sailor was of opinion, from the broken boards that had given way
beneath his feet, that, when he had got the noose below his chin, and no
lower, his footing or the scaffolding had failed him; and that, letting
go the other end of the rope, it had taken a half hitch, and thus jammed
upon the cross-pole.  However the operation was brought about, he was
exceeding well hung, and the drop represented to perfection.  As Pigtop
had prophesied, the post-chaise in the shrubbery was turned into a
hearse, in order to convey his body to the inn for the coroner's
inquest.

"I knew I should live to see him hung," said Pigtop, doggedly, as he
bade me good-night, when we both turned into our respective rooms for
the night, in the house of my father.

Contrary to all expectations, the shock, instead of destroying, seemed
to have the effect of causing Sir Reginald to rally.  He lived for six
months after, became fully satisfied of my identity; and just as he was
beginning to taste of happiness in the duty and affection of his son, he
died, having first taken every legal precaution to secure me the quiet
possession of my large inheritance.

My grief at his decease was neither violent nor prolonged.  After his
burial, I was on the point of repairing the old mansion, when I found
myself involved in three lawsuits, which challenged my right to it all.
I soon came to a determination as to my plan of action.  I paid off all
the establishment; and, having got hold again of my foster-father and
mother, Mr and Mrs Brandon, I rebuilt the lodge for them comfortably,
and there I located them.  I shut up the whole of the Hall, except a
small sitting-room, and two bedrooms, for Pigtop and myself; and thus we
led the lives of recluses, having no other attendants than the Brandons.

By these means I was enabled to reserve all my rents for carrying on my
lawsuits, without at all impairing the estate.  In eighteen years, I
thank God, I ruined my three opponents, and they all died in beggary.
The year after I came into undisputed possession of my estates, the next
heir got a writ issued against me of "_de inquirendo lunatico_," on the
ground of the strange and unworthy manner that I, as a baronet with an
immense estate, had lived for those last eighteen years.  I told my
reasons most candidly to the jury, and they found me to be the most
sensible man that they had ever heard of, placed in a similar position.

After having thus speedily settled these little matters, as I was fast
approaching my fortieth year, I began to alter my style, and live in a
manner more befitting my rank and revenues; yet I still held much aloof
from all intimacy with my neighbours.

I am now in my forty-first year, and grown corpulent.  It is now
twenty-one years since I saw my unfortunate parent interred, and I walk
about my domains Sir Ralphed to my heart's content--or, more properly
speaking, discontent.  Old Pigtop is a fixture, for he has now really
become old.  I cannot call him my friend, for I must venerate him to
whom I give that title, and veneration, or even esteem, Pigtop was never
born to inspire.  My humble companion he is not, for no person in his
deportment towards me can be less humble than he.  He is as quarrelsome
as a lady's lapdog, and seems never so happy as when he has effectually
thwarted my intentions.  Prince Hal said of the jolly wine-bibber, Jack,
that "he could have better spared a better man!"  Of Pigtop I am
compelled to say more--"I could not spare him at all."  He has become
necessary to me.  He was never very handsome; but now, in his
sixty-second year, he is a perfect fright; so, at least, everybody tells
me, for I don't see it myself.

His duties about my person seem to be continually healthily irritant;
the most important one of which is, to keep me a bachelor, and scare
away all womankind from Rathelin Hall.  He controls my servants, and
helps me to spoil them.  Such a set of heavy, bloated, good-for-nothing,
impudent, and happy dogs, never before fed upon a baronet's substance,
contradicted him to his very face, and fought for him behind his back.
The females in my establishment bear but a most niggardly proportion to
the males--in the ratio of Falstaff, one pennyworth of bread to his many
gallons of sack: and these few are the most hideous, pox-marked,
blear-eyed damsels that the country could produce--all Pigtop's doing.

Never shall I forget the consternation, the blank dismay of his
countenance, when, one fine, sunshiny morning, I announced to him my
intention of installing in the mansion some respectable middle-aged
gentlewoman as my housekeeper.  It was some time before he could find
his speech.

"Blood and thunder! bombs and fury! what have I done, that you should
turn me out of your house in my grey hairs--now I'm dismantled, as it
were, and laid up in ordinary?"

"Turn you out, Piggy! what could put that in your foolish noddle?"

"If madam comes in, I cut my cable, and pay off Rathelin Hall right
abaft--even if I die in a ditch, and am buried by the parish.  Take a
housekeeper!--oh Lord! oh Lord! oh Lord!  I would just as soon see you
married, or in your coffin."

"But some such a person is absolutely necessary in an establishment of
this extent; so a housekeeper I'll have, of some sort."

"Why the devil need it be a woman, then? why won't a man do--why won't I
do?"

"You?"

"Yes, me--Andrew Pigtop.  I ask the appointment--do, there's a good Sir
Ralph, make it out directly.  Clap your signature to it, and let it run
as much like a commission as possible.  I ask it as a favour.  You know
the great sacrifices that I have made for you."

"The first time I ever heard of them, upon my honour.  Pray enlighten
me."

"Why, you must be convinced, Sir Ralph, if I had not left the navy to
attend you all the world over, as the pilot-fish sticks to the shark, I
should, by this time, have been an old post-captain, and very likely
C.B. into the bargain."

"You, who remained one quarter of a century a master's-mate during an
active war, should rush up through the grades of lieutenant and
commander to be posted during another quarter of profound peace!  But,
perhaps, you would have depended upon your great family interest.  Well,
if I make out your commission as my housekeeper, will you do the duties
of the office?"

"On course."

"And wear the uniform?"

"On course, if so be it be such as a man might wear; I bar petticoats
and mob-caps, and female thingamies."

"Will you carry the keys?"

"On course."

"And see that the rooms and the passages are well swept, and that the
maids are up betimes in the morning?"

"Damn them!--on course--certainly."

"And, when Lady Aurelia Cosway and her five beautiful daughters drive up
to the door, will you go and receive them in the ball; and, making them
a profound curtsey, beg to conduct them into a dressing-room?"

"No; because, d'ye see, no ladies ever came further than your door."

"And whom may I thank for that?"

"Me, assuredly," said Pigtop, very proudly.

"I do."

I did not make out his commission, which vexed him; but, on the other
hand, I did not get me a housekeeper, which, at first, a little vexed
me; but, really, my friend, in an ex officio manner, does most of the
duties of the office to which he aspired extremely well.

Without vanity, I still preserve my good looks, though I must confess to
a little unbecoming obesity of figure; yet, through my indolence, and
the perseverance of Pigtop, and perhaps certain recollections of a green
and bright, bay in one of the summer islands, I do fear that I am a
confirmed bachelor.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rattlin the Reefer" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home